Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks to the Tao of Poker's Top Referrals in 2010

By Pauly
New York City

The subject line says it all. Thanks for the traffic, y'all!
Top 10 Referrals:
1. Wicked Chops Poker
2. Twitter
3. LasVegasVegas
4. Pokerati
5. Tao of Pauly
6. 2+2
7. Coventry Music
8. Benjo
9. Shaniac
10. Poker Road
Thanks to everyone else for the links, Facebook blurbs, and Tweets directing your friends to Tao of Poker. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tao of Poker - 2010 Year in Review, Part 2

By Pauly
Providence, RI

Well, let's get to it... the second part of the 2010 Year in Review kicks off with highlights on Tao of Poker beginning in June featuring in depth WSOP coverage.

* * * *

June 2010

I began the month in Las Vegas covering my 6th WSOP on Tao of Poker. If you'd like to listen to different episodes of the Tao of Pokerati podcast, the fastest poker podcast on the intertubes, then you should check out the Tao of Pokerati archives page.

I got an amazing Tao All-Stars guest post from Change100 titled WSOP Fashion Report: Alarming Trends.

Here's the daily recaps of the WSOP...
Day 4: Band of Brothers and Here Comes the Russians Reprise - The Brothers Mizrachi made waves when two of them (The Grinder and Robert) advanced to the final table of the 50K Players' Championship. Also advancing to the final 8 was a mysterious wealthy Russian businessman named Vladimir Schmelev. I hopped on the phone, made contact with an old friend in Moscow, and got him to spill the vodka-infused beans about the unknown Russian.

Day 5: Redemption Song - The Grinder Wins Player's Championship - The Grinder achieved redemption, something very few poker players have a shot at. Along the way, he had to knock out his brother and survive a heads-up battle against the mysterious Russian, Vladimir Schmelev, who proved to be a worthy adversary.

Day 6: Welcome to the Sausage Factory and the Return of Triple Draw Fargis - I arrived at the Rio in the middle of a massive dealers' shift change. That got me wondering and thinking that the WSOP reminded me of a factory -- a sausage factory -- to be precise. Meanwhile, a blast from the past, Chris 'Triple Draw' Fargis, re-emerged after stepping away from the pro circuit to take a real job on a trading desk down on Wall Street.

Day 7: The Marvelous British Invasion - After a conversation with one of the British scribes, Snoopy, I was convinced that he was warning me that the Brits were going to make a waves at the WSOP and gobble up as many bracelets as they can while the Scandis were sitting out the preliminary events. Little did we know, that Snoopy was being overly conservative about the potential British dominance during the opening weeks of the WSOP.

Day 8: Darth Hellmuth - The Dark Lord returned to the WSOP. He's the villain that everyone loves to hate. Hellmuth went deep in a donkament which got everyone inside the Rio buzzing during his hot pursuit of bracelet #12.

Day 9: God Save the Queen Reprise and Seven for Men - Less than a week after his prediction that a British player will win a bracelet, Snoopy looked like the oracle when his fellow countrymen, Praz Pansi and James 'Flushy' Dempsey shipped events. Oh, and much to the dismay of Men the Master haters (or I should say, people who despise cheaters), the slow-rolling controversial figure won his 7th bracelet.

Day 10: Most Likely You Go Durrrr's Way (And I'll Go Mine) - Tom 'durrrr' Dan had the entire high stakes poker community by the collective balls when he went deep in one of the donkaments. They all had to squirm on one side of the Amazon Ballroom, sweating millions of dollars in potential lost prop bets, as durrrr took center stage and played heads-up for a bracelet. Looking back, Day 10 was one of the most exciting nights at the WSOP that I ever experienced.

Day 11: Durrrr Hangover, Hooker Quota, and Orange Tossing - The night after the durrrr saga left many at the Rio walking around in a daze. Not much to report aside from everyone experiencing a durrrr hangover. I managed to squeeze in a bit of commentary on the decline of working girl sightings at the Rio and a witty story from Flipchip about pros betting on orange tossing during the olden days of the WSOP at the Horseshoe.

Day 12: The Kassela Chainsaw Massacre - The 10K Stud World Championship included a stacked final table featuring six known pros and two Russians: Jen Harman, Steve Zolotow, John Juanda, Frank Kassela, Chainsaw Kessler, Dario Mineri, Vladimir Schmelev and Kirill Rabtsov. After several hours of brawling, it came down to a heads-up battle between Frank Kassela and Chainsaw Kessler. The event went late into the night and was not settled until 4:20am as Kassela emerged victorious. That win would thrust him into competition for the Player of the Year race.

Day 13: The Carter Phillips Show - Going into the final table of NL six-handed, everyone assumed that Carter Phillips was going to win the bracelet at one of the youngest final tables ever assembled at the WSOP. It was essentially a race for second place as Carter joined an elite group of players who won an EPT event and a WSOP bracelet.

Day 14: No Soup for Yellowsub - I had fun writing this post which included a brief history lesson about the origins of the Beatles album Yellow Submarine. Meanwhile, Jeff 'yellowsub86' Williams made a deep run in the 5K NL event but got sunk in third-place, despite the echos of his friends chanting the chorus to Yellow Submarine.

Day 15: Dude Looks Like a Lady and Get Baked - Every year, the Ladies Only tournament stirs up controversy. How come most people are silent 364 days a ear (and 365 on leap years), and then only bring up the issue on the eve of the event? At any rate, even though at the root, I'm against Ladies events, I sounded off on the reasons why I would never play in a Ladies Only event (simply put -- out of respect). As long as it's on the schedule, let them play I say.

Day 16: God Save the Queen... Thrice - The third Brit, Richard Ashby, collected a bracelet in a two week period and by that point, the mainstream poker press caught onto the British Invasion, even though thanks to Snoopy, we were chatting about this story before it even happened. Oh, and all of this happened on the same day that the US tied the English's squad in World Cup play.

Day 17: Durrrr's Grandma, Dutch Boyd 2.0, and the French Win...a Ladies' Bracelet - A little fun with captions after I saw a hysterical photo of an old woman sitting at the same table as Tom 'durrrr' Dwan. Oh, and just in case you missed it... new bracelet were awarded to the (still) controversial Dutch Boyd and a French woman who won the Ladies Event.

Day 18: Sammy Farha Wins a Bracelet, Flushy Leading the POY Race, and Orphaned Notes - The ever cool Sammy Farha took down a bracelet, meanwhile one of the British bracelet winners jumped out into the POY lead. I also shared a bunch of orphaned lines from my notebook. I figured that even though they didn't fit in anywhere specific, they were too good to flush down the toilet.

Day 19: Shorthanded Eels, the Russian Surge, and the Year of the Yang - I hoped that I bet on the right side of the fix as the NBA finals were coming down to the wire, and everyone's favorite degen sports bettor, Phil Ivey, took center stage as more media were interested in what he was betting on, than the cards he was playing. Alas, I embedded myself on the rail and noticed some unusual things such as the run that former world champion Jerry Yang was making.

Day 20: Femme Fatales, Hallway Punches, and the Bubbling Eel - Another dull day inside the ropes, but lots of action outside the ropes. I caught a pro bringing a hooker back to his room and someone sucker punched David Levi in the hallway. Meanwhile, a friend from Madrid, Spanish pro Javier 'anguila' Etayo, had bubbled off the final table of a 6-handed event.

Day 21: Pappa Johnny Road - The official end of the third week mark of the WSOP was not without any side drama not to mention -- drunken girls roaming around the Amazon Ballroom and the Rio's hallways. I also breakdown the game plan that different pros have when deciding what events to play in the WSOP.

Days 22-24: OFF

Day 25: Phil Ivey Beats Supercomputer for Bracelet Ocho - Phil Ivey is the real fucking deal after he beat a supercoputer heads-up for his 8th bracelet. Ivey also collected an unknown sum (worth millions I'm told) in prop bets. One thing is for sure, humans prevailed over the machines in this battle as Ivey proved that he is truly superhuman.

Ivey Ocho

Day 26: Dispatches from the Razz Event - Swollen Testicles, Ivey's Hoodie, and Vigorous Confusion - Razz is never fun to watch, but one good story to come out of this event was the Phil Ivey hoodie story involving Mickey Doft.

Day 27: Kassela Wins Dos, Sinking Norwegian Queen, and Ivey's Bracelet Ceremony - Frank Kassela distanced himself from the rest of the pack when he won his second bracelet inside of a month. And the pavilion was a buzz during Ivey's bracelet ceremony, meanwhile, Annette Obrestad came up short in an attempt make a final table American WSOP debut.

Day 28: About My Very Tortured Friend, Phil Hellmuth - I couldn't believe that I was going to write about Phil Hellmuth again, but I did trying to fully understand what it's like to be the tortured soul.

Day 29: Redemption Songs, Part II: Gavin Smith and Dean Hamrick - Bracelets were won by two people seeking redemption. Las Vegas is a city where a lot of people are looking to exorcise past demons, but very few people get an actual shot at doing so.

Day 30: The Sun Wields Mercy; Gavin Smith Wins First Bracelet
- Breakthrough day for Gavin Smith as he won his first bracelet.

Day 31: TOC Hoopla, Flashmob of Brazilians, and Erik Seidel Goes for Number Nine.... Number Nine... Number Nine... - It was TOC day at the Rio, and I sound off on all of the controversy surrounding the event from the voting to players trying to big-time the event thereby changing the schedule of the event. I also gave my suggestions for three different versions of the TOC.

Day 32: Le Boucherie, Ripple In Still Water, and TOC Day 2
- The donkanments have turned into something that would resemble a butcher shop, meanwhile, the TOC seems like it's more of nuisance than a celebration as the middle of the fifth week of the WSOP becomes a dead zone.

Day 33: You Are What You Eat and Watch What You Tweet - Food and social media are among the topics of discussion. Ah, I also three everyone a bone and included an installment of Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To...
I also made a cameo on the first episode of This Week in Poker, which also featured Jen Tilly.

The month ended on a high note with the publication of Lost Vegas.

* * * *

July 2010

I started the month in the South for Phish tour after I took off a couple of days to relax before the start of the Main Event. Luckily, I relied upon the Tao All-Stars to keep things afloat. Check out two of their stellar posts...
Frightfully British Invasion by Chris Hall
Everything All the Time: The WSOP's Identity Crisis by Change100
Once I returned to Las Vegas, I was ready to tackle the arduous task of covering the Main Event. Here's those daily recaps...
Day 39 - Main Event Day 1A: The Seekers - The Main Event is off and running and I pay homage to the courageous souls who said, "I don't give a fuck!" and plopped down $10,000 in pursuit of a dream.

Day 40 - Main Event Day 1B: Great Expectations - Annette Obrestad's first WSOP Main Event and all of the hoopla surrounding the 21-year old Norwegian wunderkind's first appearance on US soil is the subject of my musings. I also wondered if she could ever live up to the hype and hysteria that we created for her in the media? It also made me question how much of an impact that we the media have in potentially setting up certain pros to fail?

Day 41 - Main Event Day 1C: The Odium of Hellmuthstein - Ah, the spectacle of the Phil Hellmuth Entrance. If you hate him you can skip this one. If you really hate him, you'll end up reading it twice.

Day 42 - Main Event Day 1D: The Unluckiest Champion in the World - Robert Varkonyi took his seat in the Main Event, but without the pomp and circumstance of other former champions. I examine the story of the unluckiest champion in the world.

Day 43 - Day 2A: Moneymaker - The Shadow of a Dream - I love comparing Chris Moneymaker to Jay Gatsby. While Robert Varkonyi chases Moneymaker's shadow, Moneymaker has to constantly chase his own shadow. Will he ever win a second bracelet or does it not even matter because after all, he's Chris Moneymaker?

Day 44 - Day 2B: The Last of the Mohicans - I was wicked hungover after getting hustled in bowling the night before. I phoned it in for this piece. Don't even bother reading it. My apologies.

Day 45: OFF - Media Day

Day 46 - Main Event Day 3: Johnny Fucking Chan, the Butcher Shop, and Here Come the Scandis - Johnny Fucking Chan made a run and I got to proudly write "fucking" instead of bleeping out his infamous nickname. The field continued to thin itself out on Day 3 while a couple of Scandi sleeper cells were activated and sprung into action.

Day 47 - Main Event Day 4: I Want to Take You Higher - Inspired by a Sly and the Family Stone song, I riff about the ghosts wandering around the Amazon Ballroom, brutal casualties of the killing fields.

Day 48 - Main Event Day 5: Fookin' Bonkers, Scandi Ambush, and Disco Inferno - Tony Dunst began the day as the leader while most of the Amazon Ballroom began to empty out as the field was thinned to just 204. The Scandis continued their assault while a Dutch pro named Fokke Buekers became everyone's darling. Meanwhile, California's Breeze Zuckerman became the Last Woman Standing in the Main Event.

Day 49 - Main Event Day 6: Never Mind the Mizrachis, Here Come the Scandis - The Scandi sleeper cell was in full effect as everyone remaining in the Main Event was jockeying for a spot during the homestretch of the November Nine. Meanwhile, all four Mizrachi brothers cashed in the Main Event, but Robert and the Grinder could not replicate their 50K Players' Championship feat with both of them advancing to the final table.

Day 50 - Main Event Day 7: Shine A Light - With 27 players remaining, the next superstar was sitting in front of me. I reflect on previous Main Events specifically on the first hand that I can recall watching from the rail that each former champion played leading up to the final table.

Day 51 - Main Event Day 8: Meet the November Nine
- The Grinder advanced to the final table after a marathon November Nine bubble.
FYI, here's the 2010 Main Event Semi-Live Blog Links: Day 1A - Day 1B - Day 1C - Day 1D - Day 2A - Day 2B - Day 3 - Day 4 - Day 5 - Day 6 - Day 7 - Day 8

I appeared on a couple of radio shows/podcasts plugging Lost Vegas including Gavin Smith's final episode as the co-host of Poker Road Radio and a cameo on Jesse May's podcast.

And in non-WSOP postings...

Uncle Ted gave a dramatic reading of Lost Vegas.

Psycho Killer: Ron Fanelli the Mad Yank is my reaction to the news that a former poker player murdered his girlfriend in Thailand.

The month ended with Recap: 50K Players' Championship, a piece about the televised version of the 50K Player's Championship that was won by the Grinder.

* * * *

August 2010

I took off most of the month off. But I managed to squeeze in a few tidbits including Cocaine Cowgirl: Paris Hilton Arrested in Las Vegas for Cocaine Possession and Overall Stupidity. The title says it all.

I posted Want a Job in Poker? Read Lost Vegas and Watch Almost Famous, a bit of sound advice that got lots of eyeballs.

I started watching episodes of the 2010 WSOP Main Event on ESPN. I didn't bother writing about the plethora of episodes about Day 1, and instead I started with Day 2. Check out... Recap: 2010 Main Event Day 2A on ESPN - March of the Mizrachis and Dannypalooza.

Wolynski shared some of her favorite photos from the WSOP.

I ended the month with a conspiratorial rant titled The Lone Gunman. Here's a toke:
"Poker is riddled with cheating even though all the powers to be do their best to keep the game clean. It's in the industry's best interest to run a fair game. Unfortunately, angle shooters are constantly concocting get rich quick schemes in an attempt to exploit flaws in the security apparatus. When in doubt, if you can't circumvent the machines, you can always bribe a human to look the other way while you do your dirty deed. Those shitstains have no qualms about ripping off players and undermining the credibility of the online sites. They have a skewed sense of entitlement and pathological criminals who operate without any semblance of remorse (similar to the Worm character in Rounders)."
* * * *

September 2010

For the comforts of my own couch, I recapped episodes of the 2010 WSOP Main Event on ESPN. Here's those...
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 2B on ESPN - Happy Jacks, Action Dan, the Jenny Crank Diet, and Pancakes with the DonkeyBomber
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 3 Main Event on ESPN - The Rudiments of Gruel
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 4 Main Event on ESPN - Money Money Money
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 5 Main Event - Wie Geht's Detlef Schrempf and OMG Runs Good
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 6 Main Event - Life Is Just to Die
Just when you thought that the nosebleed action was drying up, the second installment of the Durrrr Challenge kicked off with The Durrrr Challenge 2.0: Tom Dwan vs. Dan "jungleman12" Cates.

I posted another installment of Tao of Five and interviewed Las Vegas cabbie Mr. Funk from the Las Vegas Cabbie Chronicles.

British scribe Chris Hall posted another Tao All-Stars guest post with Brit Watch: The New Golden Age.

Oh, and I made a second appearance on This Week in Poker and got to discuss Lost Vegas.

More philosophical musings with The Reykjavik Gambit.

I sounded off on the importance of WSOP bracelets in something titled Bracelets: Nouveau Riche Bling or Traditional Badges of Honor?

* * * *

October 2010

I continued to write recaps of the 2010 WSOP Main Event on ESPN with only one in the month. That was titled Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 6 Main Event (Continued) - The Surging Scandis and the Lone Mizrachi.

I made a cameo on the Hardcore Poker Show and got to plug Lost Vegas.

Michalski's dog died and I posted a special tribute episode of Tao of Pokerati, the one when Michalski's dog won't stop sniffing my pocket.

I wrote Casino Magic, a story about my college days in the South including our introduction to riverboat gambling in Biloxi. Here's a nugget:
"the Brazilian lived across the hall. He was like a suave micro-version of Ricardo Montalban, but maybe that's a little too obscure of a reference, so the Brazilian was more like a younger version of that guy in the Dos Equis commercial, you know, the "most interesting man in the world." The girls in Theta (the sorority with all the hot Southern girls) swooned over the Brazilian, and they loved everything about him, especially his his impeccable neatness because he compulsively wore a white Polo dress shirt, with sleeves rolled one quarter of the way up his forearm and perfectly tucked into a pair of khaki pants. On random afternoons, the Brazilian blasted the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera and drank an exotic cocktail called a Mojito, which he made with limes and a special bowl and tool that he had brought back from his last trip to Rio de Janeiro. I'd walk down the hallway and peek into his room and he'd be mixing a cocktail in one hand, dragging a Dunhill in the other, as a dozen Thetas somehow squeezed onto his couch and uncontrollably giggling and groping one another. I was perplexed. We were in awe of the Brazilian's ability to attract swarms of gyrating women. A decade later, the Brazilian came out of the closet which explained the fancy cocktails, show tunes, and the fact his room was Mecca for all the Southern fag hags at my school."
Change100 and I embraced a self-indulgent project called Rounders Reprise when we get to share our half-baked commentary of Rounders. You have to view the videos in Rounders Reprise... Part 1: Mike McD loses his roll at Teddy KGB Game & Part 2: Joey Knish is a stoner and the Judges Game and Part 3: Mike McD Has a Shitty Girlfriend and Meet the Worm & Part 4: Worm and Mike McD = Old Partners.

The Hall of Fame committee welcomed Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel as the inductees into the 2010 Class of the Poker Hall of Fame.

And how about a Tao of Pokerati flashback? Let's go back to 2008 and Budapest with special guest Benjo.

* * * *

November 2010

Election Day came and went and I posted the most apolitical politically-themed post titled Apolitical Poker Politics: Harry Reid Sucks Out on River, GOP Revolution, and Real World Celebrity Politics.

Timtern wrote up the 2010 November Nine Profiles as a guest post for the Tao All-Stars.

I headed back to Las Vegas for the November Nine. I covered the event in a semi-live blog as the final table went from 9 to 2, and I also covered the heads-up match in a semi-live blog. If you don't know by now, Jonathan Duhamel won the Main Event.

Before I left Vegas, I squeezed in a degen session of Pai Gow, which meant I posted another installment of The Pai Gow Diaries titled The Cult of the Dragon. Here's a bit:
"The Pai Gow tables are not brushed as often as it should, and a thin layer of ash covers some of the farthest corners of the torn and frayed felt, as black bits of expired cigarette papers mix in with shades of grey and white that form miniature mountains of soot. Remnants from previous gamblers are warning signs to those who want to be warned, because the last person who sat in your space attempted to chain smoke their way out of their losing streaks, and in the end all they had to show for it were a couple of watered down cocktails, an empty pack of Reds, and a series of bad beats from a porcelain doll-like dealer from Vietnam named Hong."
I covered the NAPT Los Angeles in my adopted hometown. The final table of the Main Event was moved from the Bike to the Crystal Casino in Compton. Here's the Dispatches from the NAPT Los Angeles...
Moneymaker Survives the Cut, Meat on a Stick, and the Ice Cream Man Cometh
Meatsticks and Spoons
When I Called Off, I Got a Sawed Off
Joe Tehan Wins NAPT LA Main Event
Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin Wins NAPT Shootout in Compton
On Turkey Day, Dr. Chako won Turkey Cup.

The month ended on a high note with a couple of my favorite pieces of the year such as Bingo Halls: Dots Across America. Here's a sample:
"Four Loko is a dangerous energy drink, sort of like the PCP of Malt Liquor, and it will put hair on your chest -- that is, if you can actually wake up the next day after blacking out, but not before you chugged three Four Lokos, took a dump in the back of a taxi cab, then punched three holes in your bathroom door by head-butting it."
I offered up another installment of the Pai Gow Diaries with Lucky Cards. Here's a bit:
"This bot was non-Asian, which through me off for a few minutes because she looked like someone I knew. That's when I figured it out -- my dealer was the 40-year old version of Kelly Osbourne. She was relentless. She was brutal. She was an incorrigible and continuously beat down any of my stellar hands. I got caught in that horrible bad trip where she constantly beat me out by the slimmest of margins. If I had a straight and a pair of sevens, well she had a bigger straight and a pair of eights. If she showed J-10 up top, I was behind with J-9. I couldn't win anything. Even when I tossed in a desperate chip to the Insurance circle, I came out a loser."
And the last thing I posted in November was something called Anatomy Is Destiny. Yeah, the title is an obscure reference, but it was definitely a standout because I got to piss off a bully.

* * * *

December 2010

I let you have a glimpse into the frantic mind of a sportsbettor in The Portland Sweat.

Tao of Poker got the perennial nod from Bluff Magazine for Best Poker Blog. If you like what you have read here, then please vote for Tao of Poker!

I returned with yet another installment of the Pai Gow Diaries titled The Whale, the Goldfish, and the Toothless Old Man.

I headed to Vegas with my brother for the annual WPBT bloggers gathering. I penned a two part trip report with a "Moving on Up" theme... The Dream, Moving the Line, and Stay Away from My Sister and Coolers, Proposals, and Buy the Fucking Dip.

And I couldn't end the year without tales of degen gambling on sports and Armageddon.

* * * * *

If you haven't seen it yet, here's Part 1 of the 2010 Year in Review.

And if you like what you read, I encourage you to vote Tao of Poker for Best Poker Blog in Bluff's Readers Choice Awards. Thanks for your support.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tao of Poker - 2010 Year in Review, Part 1

By Pauly
New York City

Well, it's that time of year again when I re-read everything on Tao of Poker and get all gushy and warm about the previous year. In actuality, I'm pointing out the few highlights and wish everything else I regurgitated on the web would disappear.

2010 has been an interesting year poker-wise for me because I barely played online poker. This is the first year since the poker boom began where I don't have a surplus from playing poker. When I was in hanging out Las Vegas, I spent more time in the pits trying to get unstuck at the Pai Gow tables than actually playing poker. At the least, the Pai Gow binges inspired a series about struggling with addictions in the Pai Gow Diaries.

The nature of the beast had me focusing a lot more on the business side of things in 2010 and less on the daily happenings in the poker world. I spent a significant part of the early 2010 working on the re-write of Lost Vegas and the headaches that ensued with the publishing process. I eventually got back into the swing of things with a trip to Uruguay and an invite to the WPT Invitational where I recorded a bunch of Tao of Pokerati episodes.

So if you have a short memory span, or haven't been by the Tao of Poker in a while, here's the best of Tao of Poker in 2010 from January through May...

* * * * *

January 2010

So much for making Lofty Goals for 2010. I definitely missed the mark on a few poker-related things that I promised I'd do (like monthly version of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly and playing more live cash games at the local LA casinos).

The Tao of Five series returned with an interview with author Michael Craig, who revealed a few things about Phil Ivey that I betcha didn't know about.

I also interviewed TD extraordinaire Matt Savage for the Tao of Five. Savaged shared insight into the first ever Iron Man live tournament.

I took off from daily blogging to work on Lost Vegas and Benjo stepped up with a trio of Tao All-Stars guest posts. Benjo went to the Bahamas to cover the PCA and he shared a few tales...
Benjo in the Bahamas: Dispatches from the Coral Bar - Volume 1
Benjo in the Bahamas: Dispatches from the Coral Bar - Volume 2
Benjo in the Bahamas: Dispatches from the Coral Bar - Volume 3
I headed to Las Vegas to cover the porn convention. That's right, I got a press credential via Tao of Poker to attend the 2010 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo. I posted three pieces about the expo. Foreplay: The 2010 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo covers my intro to the porn world (both many moons ago and at that moment in Las Vegas).

Melts in your mouth...

My second piece from the 2010 AVN AEE's was called The Carnival of Flesh. And here's a bit:
"Some of the actresses are noticeably not into the autograph sessions. They are exhausted and drained. Others don't mesh too well with the public and are fighting every bit of social anxiety. And some are handling such a high volume of requests that it's impossible to fool around with the fans. But Alexis? She enjoyed every second of the spotlight. Boundless energy. Always smiling. If she was my favorite star and I waited twenty minutes in line for a photo, I'd be super pumped because she was super excited to meet me. Then again, maybe it was the ecstasy pumping through her blood system?"
The third installment from the 2010 AVN AEE was titled Fetish Theatre. Here's a sample:
"A blonde in a Catholic school girl outfit tried to get me to buy porn beer coosies. A young guy in his 20s with an L.A. Dodgers hat dragged a blow up doll through the crowd. A Japanese film crew slowly navigated through the crowd while a tiny female presenter stopped people to ask questions. Another busty model offered me a pamphlet on flavored lube. I got caught up in a traffic jam in front of Diamond Foxx's booth as she signed autographs for a group of 60-year old Japanese guys. You could park a motorcycle in her cleavage."
The Battle of the Tonight Show was the only thing people in Hollywood were talking about. I had a few things to say about poker strategies that Conan O'Brien should use in dealing with Jay Leno and NBC suits.

Graveyard is one of the posts when I dig deep into the dark side of Las Vegas. Not for the faint of heart.

Rush Poker took over the poker scene. Here's my succinct review of Rush Poker.

I also wrote a haiku about Rush Poker PLO.

And the post that everyone was talking about... Memoirs of a Rush Addict. Here's a bit:
Day 9... Been up for over 200 hours. Maybe 210? 220? Who knows. Whoever came up with that Rush concept should be skull-fucked. Lives are going to be ruined. Marriages destroyed. Houses lost. Cars repossessed. Children taken away and tossed into foster care. Emergency rooms are going to flooded with junkies OD'ing on Rush. Thick purple circles around the eyes. Fingers perpetually stuck in a claw-like pose. Covered in urine and feces because once you get hooked, you're unable to move. The Religious Right is going to have a field day with this. The moralists are going to find some brain-dead Rush addict and parade his drooling ass slumped in a wheel chair on all of the talk shows. Cavuto. Beck. George Lopez. Everyone will want to talk to the innocent honor student who was corrupted by the dark side of the force. They will use this as an excuse to ban the internet outright. And if you get caught playing online poker, you'll get tossed into the new Gitmo with the Islamic Fundamentalists and have to do the naked pyramid nightly to amuse the guards otherwise you don't get any meat. And don't even think about the fuckin' pudding either. We might let the prisoners of war pray to Mecca, but we sure as hell don't give them dessert.

* * * * *

February 2010

I had one last thing to say about Rush Poker in something called Rush Poker Epilogue: I Said No.

All of the talk about my Rush Poker piece from late January got me an invite on Jeremiah Smith's podcast Cash Plays.

El Diablo details my struggles with the devil. Here's a sample:
"Hell is a whorehouse in Tijuana with cockroaches crawling over piss-warm beers, hookers older than Joan Rivers, Coldplay screeching on the jukebox, a midget eating a jar of pickled eggs, and a bandito in the corner fondling a butcher knife.

That's the beauty about life. Someone might find Tavern on the Green as a personal hell, while others hope to God that heaven is a brothel south of the border."
I sounded off on what High Stakes Poker was like in the first year after A.J. Benza.

Change100 and I created a podcast for Lost Vegas. We recorded three episodes...
Lost Vegas Podcast

Episode 1 - Final Draft... The re-write is over and Change100 explains how she knew how/when Lost Vegas was finally done. She even tosses a Wonder Boys reference into the mix, while I remain moody and evasive.
Episode 2 - Lost Translation... Change100 and I discuss the French version of Lost Vegas, which is currently being translated by Benjo. Chapter 1 in French is complete and we figure out how my favorite (yet grossly overused term) "douchebag" gets properly translated.

Episode 3 - Inspiration Inebriation... Change100 ambushes Pauly about the real inspiration behind Lost Vegas, and she gets him to reveal trade secrets.
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to play in the 2010 WPT Invitational at the Commerce Casino in L.A. I gathered enough material for a two-parter: The WPT Celebrity Invitational, Part 1: Welcome to Hollyweird and Part 2: I Could Use Some Brass Knuckles.

The opening piece, Welcome to Hollyweird, chronicled what it was like to be wandering around a poker tournament among the Hollywood scensters. Here's a bit...
"I fuckin' love Hollywood for the absurdity and plasticity. Stephen Elliot, author of The Adderall Diaries, wrote that L.A. is the perfect place to be discovered and hide out simultaneously. I'm paraphrasing here... but since everyone in the City of Angels is desperately seeking attention, all you have to do is stand still and you'll disappear. That's one of the most accurate description of L.A. and Hollywood that I've come across. Elliot simply summed up one the main reasons why I migrated to the left coast and settled down in La-La Land -- it really is easy to disappear within the city limits and become invisible. Lost in the shuffle."
And in the second part titled, I Could Use Some Brass Knuckles, I shared my experiences playing with a really really drunk guy from ER and then getting busted from one of the actors from Band of Brothers. Here's a sample:
"The positives of sitting next to Nick far outweighed the negatives. For example, Nick is a handsome actor who knew an impressive number of actresses in the room. A steady stream of starlets stopped by our table to flirt, schmooze, and sneak in a few seconds of camera time. I didn't mind the starlet parade one bit."
During the WPT Invitational, Michalski and I took some time to record three special episodes of the Tao of Pokerati...

Tao of Pokerati - 2010 WPT LA Invitational Episodes

Episode 1: Slumming It in Not-So-Beverly Hills... Michalski explains... "As Pauly and I are prone to do whenever we get together, we couldn't help ourselves from kicking into 3-minute-podcast mode in Los Angeles this weekend as we both got ready to take on the Hollywooded up field at the WPT Celebrity Invitational for the LAPC... and explore How-TF we got into the field in the first place."

Episode 2: Commerce She Bangs... Michalski explains... "Pauly and I arrive at the Commerce to see more big-name degens than we do celebrities, but it's still early..."

Episode 3: Newcomer's Welcome... Michalski explains... "We were still waiting for cards to get in the air at the WPT Celebrity Invitational when we found the red-carpeted smoker's terrace at the Commerce. The first ever PartyPoker Party in LA, too -- LA: It's Very Different than America -- as Tao of Pokerati runs into its first ever security issue."

Episode 4: A Roomful of (Hollywood) Cliches... Michalski explains... "Your intrepid player-correspondents catch up on the first break at the star-studded WPT Celebrity Invitational to talk about how the tourney is going... I've battled back from chip-and-a-chair conditions at a table full of pros (and rebought with Pauly money) to stay alive, while Pauly has been taunted by errant nipples and offered blow in the bathroom. We're not even deep, but we're already taking note of would-be final tableist Trishelle Cannatella, too, before getting distracted by the pathos of Commerce steerage."

Episode 5: ATM Roulette... Michalski explains... "I'm still alive, but Pauly’s out. Before bringing our Hollywood poker weekend to a close, we decide we should get a firsthand taste of the real Commerce degen experience, so Pauly escorts me to the ATM to make good on an a charitable WPT rebuy acquired-at-the-table debt before he jets off to Uruguay."
And I ended the month in Uruguay writing about what a dirty job I had to do being surrounded my exotic Brazilian models.

* * * * *

March 2010

I began the month in South America, which was a strange place to watch the Winter Olympics with Spanish-speaking commentators. I wrote something called Dispatches from Uruguay: Big Deuce and the Olympics.

I went to G-Vegas for Mastodon 2.0. My recap was titled All Things Reconsidered - Mastodon Weekend. I even recorded a Mastodon podcast and spliced together a Mastodon video.

The Tao of Poker finally got a long overdue facelift.

I came up with a Top 10 List for the Top 10 Ways to Annoy Chat Beggars.

Through a Glass Darkly: The Search for Isildur1 is an investigative piece that took me all the way to Sweden in search of the mysterious Isildur1. Here's a sample of an interview with Isildur1:
"It's political. I'm an anarchist and I thrive on chaos. The best way to disrupt society is to implode the entire financial system. I want to win money from capitalist American pigs and Eurotrash elite to bankrupt them and bring them to their knees. You have to understand something. I'm Swedish. I didn't pick that. I was born into it. I blame my parents who spawned me against my will. That's why I dropped out of school when I was ten years old to become a poker pro."
On St. Patrick's Day, I penned my annual post to the Lady Luck. The 2010 version is simply titled Lucky.

Don't ask me where the hell I got the idea for Phil Hellmuth and Tony G - White Man's Burden. It just happened. Here's a bit...
"Because poker is not regulated and the major tournament circuits do not test players for narcotics or performance enhancing drugs, Hellmuth resorted to injecting himself with nandrolone, HGH, HBT, synthetic hemoglobin, and some sort of protein extracted from Rhinoceros semen. Within a few weeks, Hellmuth pumped himself up and has been training with a couple of MMA fighters for an impending cage fight with The G."
The Return of the Sun King is a dose of philosophical waxing on gambling-heavy topics such as March Madness and Big Deuce.

With the announcement of theTOC being opened up to a popular vote with all WSOP bracelet winners eligible, I decided to stump for Eskimo Clark. Yes, did you Vote Eskimo?

* * * * *

April 2010

The greatest thing since sliced bread.... the Benjo Booshit t-shirts! We also have thongs too.

Full Tilt was being investigated by the DOJ, and I came up with a short list of Top 5 Lawyers Full Tilt Should Hire.

I headed to Connecticut for the NAPT Mohegan Sun. I wrote up a bunch of dispatches over three days including Men the Master's Shrimp, Phil Woods, and Mohegan Cougar. Here's a bit...
"I turned the corner and a pack of cougs were spread out in the lobby in front of the theatre. Sixty or so women were in search of tickets to that evening's show. Three groups were visible: professional cougs in tight jeans that only hipsters on the L train wear, timid cougs-in-training (recently separated), and twenty-something girls with so many fashion faux-pas that my girlfriend can write an entire book on the tragic cliches."
I did a little head shrinking with Mental Mazes. I broke down poker players into different categories including the Nebbish Goober, Reckless Gambler, Fraidy Cat, and Confident Warrior. Here's a sample:
"The confident warrior is Clint Eastwood is all of his spaghetti westerns and the Dirty Harry movies. He's an angry muthafucker looking for trouble because he knows know no one can stop him. And if he dies, so fuckin' what. We live in a godless chaotic universe and all die a miserable death. Why not now? Any day is a good day to die. Let's not go down like a bunch of pansy pussies! Durrrr and Ivey are modern day samurais and gunslingers averse to shy away from battle. They are willing to perish at any time which makes them dangerous... and wealthy men."
I listed my Top 5 choices for "intro" music if I ever made a televised final table. Do you liek Curtis Mayfield, Beck, GirlTalk, the Beasties Boys, or Phish?

I penned the first installment of The Pai Gow Diaries with Mr. Pai Gow. Here's a bit:
"The second operative, the bad cop, was a silent assassin. I'm sure you have come across the type of cooler who does not say a word, nor respond to any of your banter. At first I thought she was a bot, but then I discovered she was dealing to slow to be a machine. Her silence was eerie and outright spooky. She purposely acted like that in order to induce tilt. However, the silent treatment failed to send me off the reservation. I was not digging deep into my pocket for multiple rebuys, instead, I was grinding away and beating them at their own game."
I had some thoughts about the redesign of the 2010 TOC in TOC Musings: The Real World, and I suggested that the powers to be cast the TOC like they were trying to cast the upcoming season of the Real World.

You can tell the times of the year when I've been delving into literature, and that was never more evident when I wrote Russian Roulette, Three Bullet Mow Mow, and Joseph Conrad. Here's a toke:
"It's hard to say when exactly Russian Roulette was invented because the origins are shrouded in ambiguity. Historians point to WWII during the Nazi's siege of Stalingrad where suicidal officers engaged in the game. Other historians insist that Russian Roulette began in 19th century prisons or in the early 20th century gulags when bored guards made prisoners play the savage game of chance. The barbaric guards wagered on which unlucky prisoners would blow their brains out. Stories also exist about starving Russian peasants playing the game in an all-in or nothing wagering proposition for rubles. If they won and survived, they'd have enough money to eat. If they lost, then they died a quick death, avoiding a gruesome end via starvation."
I finished off the month with a light-hearted post by listing my Top 5 Hilarious 2+2 Threads.

* * * * *

May 2010

The month began with a discussion about Hunter Thompson's inspirational coverage of the Kentucky Derby, and other forms of degen betting in Depraved Derby, Mayweather-Mosley, and Betting on Wookies.

I had a little more to say about the TOC, particularly the chances of a rigged voting procedure with TOC Musings, Vol 2: Rigging Kingfish.

Shamus invited me to be a part of a Roundtable on Betfair. Yes, I am Camelot!

Busto Bobby is one of my favorite pieces of the year. I have an affinity for understanding the dark emotional side of being a degenerate gamblers, which is why I offered up five suggestions to Bobby Bellande on what he could do to get back in the game.

I posted a WSOP Flashback and wrote about the incident at the 2007 WSOP when Erik Lindgren almost died! Check out 2007 WSOP Flashback: The Lindgren Golf Bet. Here's a toke:
By the end of the third round, Lindgren's friends thought that he was on the brink of cracking. He endured temperatures that peaked out at 106 degrees and showed obvious signs of fatigue, dehydration, and sunstroke. After 54 straight holes of golf, he lost almost ten pounds.

"I don't have a will, but if I die today, I'll leave everything to Gavin Smith," joked Lindgren."

I got all philosophical and offered up some amateur head shrinking again with a piece titled Negative Ned and Negative Nancy. Here's a nugget:
"Part of the reason why I have actively discouraged sensitive people from entering poker because it's an industry of pissed off people. No wonder I don't look forward to moving to Las Vegas every summer because I'm forced to interact with people in a pissed off environment for seven weeks. By the time I escape Vegas, I'm fucking miserable and need to hang out with old hippies and blissful tree huggers in Colorado in order to get my forlorn chakras back into the correct rotation."
Ever wondered what the Tao of Poker's Top 10 Degen Gambling Flicks of All Time are? You'd be surprised to see what films made the list.

Gary Coleman passed away. The actor and I shared something in common that was very close to my heart. You see, my PokerStars avatar is a publicity still of Gary Coleman during his stint as Arnold Drummond. I had to give my av a fitting send off with RIP Gary Coleman.

With the WSOP around the corner, I gave newbies to the poker industry andan inside scoop on the Top 5 Summer Jobs in Las Vegas.

The 2010 WSOP festivities kicked off at the end of May. I arrived in Las Vegas a few days before penned a preview titled The Calm Before the Storm.

I wrote also three days of 2010 WSOP recaps...
Day 1: The Cold Open - Opening lines to several great novels inspired the opening post of the 2010 WSOP, but none more fitting than Charles Dickens. The 50K Players' Championship also kicked off the WSOP, while many scribes and photographers were on alert just in case the federales were going to drag away a couple of the poker pro owners of Full Tilt Poker.

Day 2: Not So Easy Rider - The official WSOP live updates page crashed more times to count due to a crush of traffic. It turned out that a hamster and a drunk Lithuanian was to blame. Editor's Note: This particular piece got me into a little bit of hot water with the humorless powers to be.

Day 3: Scandi Mafia and Donkulus' Comet - The first potential headache of the WSOP arrived with the field in the $1,000 Donkulus event got decimated at a much faster pace than expected. Could the elusive donk get extinct at the 2010 WSOP? Meanwhile, as the 50K Players' Championship progressed, the Scandi Mafia arrived on the rail to keep a keen eye on the outcome.
* * * * *

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Year in Review and a recap of June through December.

And if you like what you read, I encourage you to vote Tao of Poker for Best Poker Blog in Bluff's Readers Choice Awards. Thanks for your support.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lost Vegas e-Books

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Merry Christmas to everyone. Were you a good boy/girl and did Santa hook you up with a new Kindle, Nook, or iPad? If so, you're in luck because the e-book version of Lost Vegas is only a few clicks away!

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for Kindle and iPads

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for the Nook

For print copies, you can always head directly to page for Lost Vegas, or if you want to save a few bucks, right now through December 31st, you can get 10% off of print copy of Lost Vegas via Lulu using coupon code: PEARTREE.

Thanks for your support.

Merry Christmas!

By Pauly
New York City

36 years ago today

* * * * *

Here's a Christmas tradition where I suggest you read Auggie Wren's Christmas Story written by Paul Auster, which is one of my favorite short stories written by one of my favorite NYC authors.

Also, Flipchip penned The Night Before Christmas in the Poker Room.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SIZ10, the Corner Trey, and George Peppard

By Pauly
New York City

Ash Wednesday 2010. A friend at the Sack (Goldman Sachs) floated a tip/rumor that JP Morgan was sitting on a naked short position in silver futures for $3 billion. Kid Dynamite recently debunked JPM's $3 billion short silver myth, but something was amiss, and in Shakespeare's parlance -- something was rotten in Denmark. I heard/read rumors about JPM's manipulation of the silver market including one theory that suggested that the Fed was using JPM to keep the price of silver low in order to attract investors to the fledgling U.S. greenback. A few friends went long in silver and I piggybacked their bets taking a plunge into silver futures picking up a mini-contract. I bought a few more and by the time the 2010 WSOP began, I was sitting on a 5,000 ounces.

Shortly after Turkey Day, a viral campaign led by Max Keiser lit up the intertubes. I still can't put my finger on his exact angle -- at best, Max was acting self-righteous and altruistic in his attempt to battle one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the financial world, bu at the worst, Max concocted a sinister plot to hype up the JPM $3 billion short myth and persuade the public to buy as much silver as possible. It sounded like a classic "pump and dump" scheme so he could sell off his silver positions and walk away with a nifty profit. Perhaps Max's intentions were a hybrid of both? At any rate, shortly after Max's "Crash JP Morgan, By Silver!" videos went viral, and coincidentally, the price of silver shot up and raced past $30.

Sometimes it feels fucking good to be on the right side of the fix. In the last few weeks, I embarked on paranoid-induced dystopian view of the financial world. I converted a small portion of fiat money to actual hard currency. With gold prices rocketing into the heavens, I found myself seeking out South African Krugerrands. Heck, just last week, Flipchip and I went smurfing for pre-1965 dimes and WWII-era nickels at various pawn shops in Las Vegas. If the U.S. dollar tanks and the system collapses, my allotment of precious metals will allow me to barter in the post-apocalypse world.

Sure, I'd love to profit from the public putting all of their cash back into the stock market by Buying the Fucking Dip, but these recent commodities conversions (a fancy was of saying 'hoarding') are an emotional hedge against rumblings that a monster storm is coming in 2011 that's going to be ten times worse than sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008.

I got a stern warning from my former mentor on Wall Street shortly before Bear Sterns went under in March 2008. I pulled a Hamlet, and my indecision to moved some of my money out of the market cost me a chunk of my portfolio. At the same time, I'm kicking myself in the nuts for not shorting financial stocks in early 2008. So now, when I'm getting forecasts about a tumultuous storm looming on the horizon, I don't want to have a repeat of two years ago.

If things really get out of control, the masses might begin rioting in the streets of America when extended unemployment benefits dry up. Without any new jobs being created, combined with evaporating civil liberties and clampdowns on personal freedoms (the TSA cock check was a jarring line in the sand from the public who finally got fed up with the latest procedures set in place by the Nanny State), that's a recipe for a system collapse and potential civil war. Sure, that's the worst case scenario, but don't forget Nero stood around like an oaf as Rome burned. And if you haven't watched any international news recently, Rome is currently burning after anarchists went on a bombing spree earlier today.

If I see any indications of a system breakdown, I'll be moving to my TEOTWAWKI cabin in Colorado with weapons, bullets, bear spray, Krugerrands, cans of beans, water filtration devices, and a collapsible fishing rod.

* * * *

With a slew of grave ('sobering' and 'depressing' are better adjectives, but I'm trying not to freak too many of you out...that's what Tao of Fear is for) decisions bogging me down the last few weeks and logging double digit hours every day reading about financial matters and keeping an eye on the European sovereign debt crisis, I found a ton of enjoyment letting off steam by betting on a random game. I limit my TV time and only zone out to the boob tube on Sundays because a heavy diet of sports betting and fantasy football (like Sunday's with Dr. Pauly on Fantasy Sports Live). But in the last two weeks, every night I've been looking for something light and fluffy to to help me unwind. A small wager on a late college hoops game or west coast NBA match up often does the trick as a perfect distraction. When I bet on a game, I have a built-in excuse why I'm wasting my time (on a non-Sunday) watching what would be a meaningless event.

The Tim Donaghy scandal turned me away from betting the NBA, especially after I saw some of the investigative research done by Haralabos Voulgaris, a major sportsbettor, who accurately broke down one of Donaghy's games, which included videos of some atrocious calls. I occasionally bet on an NBA playoff game, but most of my hoops action went on college games. Alas, in the last few weeks, I found myself betting more than ever on the NBA. My buddy Chicago Bob crunched numbers about obscure stats like the charting the corner three-point shot, which is the closest three-pointer that a player can hit. There was value in exploiting teams that poorly defended three-pointers and especially the corner trey. Depending on the situation, you bet on the total over or bet the better three-point shooting team against the spread.

I hammered the Knicks heavily during their big 8-game streak (betting them either straight up or betting the overs). The Knicks strung together a winning streak and outgunned their opponents with strong perimeter shooting from Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari (aka the Italian knockoff version of Tony Kukoc). Everyone knows that the Knicks are putting up plenty of points courtesy of Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offensive philosophy. Gone are the days of the brute Knicks when Charles Oakley and Antony Mason beat the shit out of their opponents in contests where the winner struggled to score 88 points. I watched the Knicks-Cavs game online and the Cavs announcer straight up said, "The Cavs have a shot tonight (because) the Knicks don't play defense."

The Knicks almost beat the Celtics at the Garden. They proved that on any given night, they could hang with the top dogs in the East and could potentially be a #4 seed once the playoffs roll around next spring. The Knicks didn't win, but Celtics failed to cover. That was a close one for sure, but the Kicks as a home dog paid off.

I have no idea what I was thinking when the Knicks took on the Heat. Call it simply: clouded by greed. My theory was that the Knicks would bounce back, alas, the Heat were en feugo entering the game with their own winning streak. After a rough start to the season, the Heat got their shit together. The turning point was LeBron James' controversial return to Cleveland (and subsequent thrashing of the Cavs). Then they went on a heater. As my buddy Chicago Bob said it best, "Finally! This is the unstoppable Heat that everyone expected to see."

LeBron dropped a triple-double against the hapless Knicks, who were embarrassed at the Garden. I was pissed with a bad bet on the Knicks and the OVER because I let my emotions get the best of me. I really liked the Dallas-Utah game but bet the Knicks instead. Once I knew that the Knicks OVER was toast, I doubled up with the Mavs. Thank God for time zones! The late game gave me a chance to chase my losses. Once again, I was relying on a German to bail me out of the day's financial trouble. The Mavs won a I turned a profit for the day. But I knew it was dirty money because I forgot a crucial principle for investing/gambling: you cannot win over the long run if you have to rely on a "get even" bet to bail you out. When will I learn?

Once the Knicks cooled off, I avoided betting them. In the meantime, Chicago Bob and I have been looking for better opportunities with teams who can't defend the corner trey.

Moving the line at the Imperial Palace was definitely the highlight of my December NBA betting binge. That was always a dream of mine -- betting so much action that a Vegas sportsbook adjusted the point spread. I never thought it would be the Imperial Palace for a Knicks game. In reality, I didn't even bet that much on the Knicks compared to the nauseating sums I previously wagered during the height of my addiction in the Spring 2007. However, despite the heavy action back then, I never once moved the line because I was betting at big books like Caesar's and the Bellagio. Without a doubt, my brother and I were big fish in a small pond when we moved the line at the IP. But being a big fish at the IP, is like being a dead fish floating in the toilet at the Bellagio.

* * * *

With hoops on the back burner, I welcomed the college football Bowl Season which kicked off with the New Mexico Bowl. I couldn't resist the urge to wager something on the game because I'm a friggin' junkie and wanted to justify why I wasted three hours sweating two 6-6 teams on a perfectly good writing day (rainy afternoons in SoCal are rare but make for optimal writing conditions because of lack of distractions). UTEP's QB had a bum ankle, meanwhile BYU's corn-fed magic-underwear wearing Mormons were lead by a super-frosh who was highly touted as their best QB recruit ever, which is a lot of shit-talking considering some of the talent they had over the last few decades. A bet on BYU seemed easy, even though I was giving up almost 10 points. That game seemed more enticing than the other two games where the spreads were -1 or -2. If I want to flip coins, I'll bet on hockey. So yeah, I was betting on a bunch of Mormons on Saturday. Just another reason why I'm going to hell.

In NFL betting news... the Chargers of San Diego are a tough team to beat in December. My biggest fuck up from the Vegas WPBT trip was not betting the San Diego/Kansas City game. Talk about a complete brain fart. I overlooked that game in favor of the New England-Chicago game. I made sure that didn't happen last week, even though San Diego had to play on short rest with a Thursday night game. The Niners were struggling offensively and I didn't think twice about making the Chargers my big bet of the week.

As Hannibal from the A-Team said it best: "I love it when a plan comes together."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hump Day Nugs: Future of Poker Media, WSOP/Market Crash Savior, Heads Up with Einhorn, Goat's Lost Vegas Review, and the Micros

By Pauly
New York City

Been in transit. Flew into JFK via the redeye from LAX. Talk about a rough flight. Anyway, here are a few poker-themed news stories to masticate on hump day of all days! Enjoy...
How the World Series of Poker Saved Me from the Market Crash: Part 1 is a remarkably well-written piece that Amy wrote. As you might already know, we worked together in the summer of 2007 covering the WSOP at a time when she wasn't able to keep an eye on her investments. Here's the detailed story of what she did that ended up averting her from the disaster that plagued so many of us when the market took a downturn in 07-08. (Aimlessly Chasing Amy)

Remember David Einhorn? He went deep in the WSOP Main Event a few years back. It seemed strange at the time that he was going to donate all of his winnings to charity. Sure he was head of a major hedge fund, but at the time I had no idea that he was pulling in beaucoup bucks by betting against Allied and Leham Brothers. The gang at sat down to chat with Einhorn about his recent book. Check out Heads Up Play with David Einhorn. (DealBreaker)

Kim from Sweden (via Norway) gives us a no bullshit assessment of the current state of poker media. I even got a shout out. Thanks Kim! Anyway, you really need to carefully examine some of Kim's points in The Future of Poker Media. (Infinite Edge Gaming)

By the way, I'm a fan of news aggregation and PoRo is one of my daily stops for poker news. (PoRo Report)

Thanks to Julius Goat for penning a spectacular review of Lost Vegas. You are way too kind, sir. Thanks also to AlCantHang and FullTilt Poker for running the piece. (Poker From the Rail)

And lastly, the Micros are back with a special holiday themed episode starring Erik Seidel...

That's it for today. NGTFOOMO!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WPBT Moving on Up, Part 2: Coolers, Proposals, and Buy the Fucking Dip

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The IP only spread one Pai Gow table. What the fuck? Were times that tough, or did they wise up and install conveniently-located black jack tables to fleece the WPBT crew? Everyone knows that the casino doesn't generate as much income from Pai Gow as they do with blackjack and slot machines, but what happened to catering to the customer's needs?

If there was one aspect that set this Vegas trip apart from previous years, it was the amount of high-stakes black jack going down that I heard incessant whispers about. At one point, I deciphered via cryptic tweets that the G-Vegas crew and Missouri boys were on the verge of being 86'd from the MGM for counting cards, meanwhile G-Rob went on a heater at the IP. That's when the pit boss changed the odds to 6-5. What a crock. The handsome one got up and left.

When the IP finally opened up a second Pai Gow table, StB and I instantly made a fly by. An attractive cowgirl (one of the most attractive that I had ever seen playing at Pai Gow table) nursed a healthy stack of redbirds in front of her in Seat 4. The table was empty and the Asian woman in the box was definitely not a bot. The cowgirl didn't mind that we sat down to her left. StB bought in for a couple of hundred and I already had a few black and green chips in my pocket from a previous not-so-fun session.

Everything seemed to be going well at the new table: both the dealer and cowgirl was friendly, StB was getting fast cocktail service, and I won an early bet. But all of that sunshine and rainbows disappeared a cloud of Darkness recklessly descended upon us. A sketchy guy, drenched in a foul-smelling meth-induced sweat, saddled up to an empty chair. He took Seat 5 next to the cowgirl. His body odor quickly scared off the cowgirl in less than two hands. The sketchy guy also flashed a despicable look, you know, that filthy leering pedophile glance that you gives you the creeps. She went all-in and lost all of her red chips, and then didn't rebuy. She disappeared into a wall of rodeo fans who watched in bewilderment at the Lady GaGa impersonator.

And then Chilly sat down. No, no...that wasn't a play on words...and Chilly was not the sketchy smelly dude. Chilly sat down and actually scared off the pedophile, who left in haste as he stumbled into the crowd.

A new dealer took her turn in the box and I lost a couple of hands. I couldn't tell if Chilly was going to be the "Cooler" of the weekend. No blogger ever wants the Cooler label thrust upon their shoulders, it's sort of like wearing a scarlet letter, because you instantly become a pariah for the weekend. Sure, it's sorta a badge of honor to be Gigli, but being the ultimate Cooler is worse than being a World Series Goat like Bill Buckner.

Alas, you can't fuck with history. The past is all we can go by and historically speaking, someone always ended up the Cooler during the WPBT. Wherever they went, other bloggers fell under a cloud of miserable gloom, as they embarked on a torrid losing streak moments after the Cooler stops by. Craps. Blackjack. Pai Gow. Roulette. Sportsbook. Doesn't matter. Once you discover who the Cooler is for the trip, you have to avoid them at all costs.

One year, I was so paranoid about multiple coolers that I freaked out when Waffles tried to talk to me. It was during one of the Holiday Classics hosted at Caesar's. Waffles busted early and walked up to my table to chat with me. That's when I got dealt pocket Kings. I raised, got two callers, and an Ace and a Jack hit the flop. I insta-folded and told Waffles and his obvious cooler powers to scram.

Waffles put his potential Ultimate Cooler powers to the test when Pablo was sweating a wager on the Miami Heat. Pablo thought he had his bet all locked up until Waffles wandered over to watch the game. Pablo was so stressed out that he couldn't watch the end of the game, but in the end Waffles proved everyone wrong! He wasn't going to be the Cooler on the trip.

But if the Cooler wasn't Waffles, then who would it be?

* * * * *

We had already encountered one casualty of the night with a broken ceramic pipe. That's why with pressing urgency, I attempted to clean out a clogged one-hitter on the pedestrian bridge between the MGM and New York, New York. A steady flow of tourists stumbled out of the MGM and at least 50% of them stopped to take cell phone photos of the Strip.

Without an accurate eye in the sky, the middle of the pedestrian bridge was a perfect spot for panhandlers and pick pockets to operate as long as no heat were around. Derek thought that one panhandler stopped a tourist and got down on his knees to beg for money. Instead, we were watching a marriage proposal. A random guy stopped his girlfriend on the bridge, got down on his knee, displayed a ring, then popped the question. She said yes and a small group of innocent bystanders clapped.

My initial reaction was, "I'm glad she said yes." But that quickly subsided and I thought, "Hmmmm.... that looks like a great distraction for a sophisticated ring of pick pockets."

How I perceived that incident is a litmus test about my current level of cynicism. I immediately patted down my jeans to make sure I had a wallet and CrackBerry. Sure, I can be romantic sometimes, but even in the Adult Disney World, we're amidst rough times, so you can never be too careful because someone down on their luck is always try to fuck you over when you least expect it.

In 2000, I witnessed a proposal in Las Vegas for the first time. Two years later, I wrote about that incident in a Truckin' short story titled A Phishy Proposal.

* * * * *

Many thanks to AlCantHang, Dave McCarthy and the gang at Full Tilt who covered the tab for the private room, food, and booze at the Lagasse Stadium at the Palazzo. We were able to watch the NFL games and even had an outside veranda, which was an added bonus for the few smokers in the group who wanted to sweat games and chainsmoke. Thanks again to Full Tilt, especially for the schwag, which make for awesome last minute Christmas presents. Re-gifting is a the best possible way to expand the brand.

I was so dehydrated on Sunday morning that I walked around with a Big Assed Iced Tea (a pitcher of iced tea that I asked for after the absent-minded waitresses kept forgetting to bring one back for me).

I split my medium-sized picks for the day (the fucking Lions de-railed me after they upset Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers got hurt, however the Falcons came through and covered once again). On a high note, I nailed my big bet of the day... the Patriots giving three points at snowy Soldier's Field in Chicago. Most of the suite was pro-Chicago led by Mattazuma's Ditka-era sweater. I went with my gut, fought the public's sentiment, and put a big bet on the Pats. It didn't matter that the Jets lost a vital conference match up against Miami, my only solace was cashing my winning ticket on the Pats.

Nothing beats that adrenaline rush when the cashier counts out a stack of hundred dollar bills. I got to engage in that giddy process a couple of times during the weekend. It was rare that I didn't have too many losing tickets to rip up. Overall for the weekend, the sportsbetting was kind to me and I converted more winning tickets than losing ones. I didn't play as much Pai Gow as I would have liked, which is why I didn't leave Vegas in a huge hole.

* * * * *

Narratives are difficult when it comes to trip reports. That's why a concept like Twitter is perfect for trying to figure out what's going on at that precise moment. Sometimes, I write down things in my notebook (some were actual tweets, others never made it into cyberspace) which don't really fit together with other segments when I'm trying to cull together a story. A few years ago, I posted a collection of one-liners and odd thoughts at the conclusion of a summer session of the WSOP. I'm going to do the same thing here, and the final section of this year's report will resemble the Hemingway-succinct descriptions that my brother provides for his annual home run of a WPBT report.

- Four hour drive from LA to Vegas took six because of a fatal accident on I-15. I was wired when I arrived at 3am on Thursday morning, but not yet ready to engage in social gambling, so I stayed up until almost 8am raging solo. Of course, I was playing Pai Gow. That's an entire subject for a new installment of The Pai Gow Diaries, so I won't launch into any conspiratorial rants about bots in the Castle's Pai Gow pits.

- For a Thursday night, the Geisha Bar not as packed as previous years because more people were scattered throughout the IP at the poker tables and in the pits. The joint was cleaned up a bit in the harlot department. Definitely many more cowgirls than working girls. The Hos outnumber the Hookers.

- Derek and I saw a guy face plant in the middle walkway of the IP. He fell in between the roulette tables behind a crowd that gathered to watch a female Dealertainer in a jean skirt belt out a country tune. The guy was in his 50s and he had whiskey legs. Three members of his group, also in their 50s and obviously in town for the rodeo, frantically hoisted him off the soiled IP carpet. The drunk stood erect for a second before his knees buckled and he crashed against two of his friends. They propped him back up and slowly ushered him through the crowd.

- All the cabbies I encountered were bitching about one of two things: cowboys not tipping and/or the introduction of more cabs on the streets of Vegas. I hopped in a cab to the MGM with StB and Derek. We overhead a call on the radio for a pickup at the Redneck Riviera, who was obviously a stripper looking for a ride to Hustler. We had her room number and real name (Jennifer by day and who knows what sultry stage name she chooses to use every night).

- The #14 button in our elevator was broken. So was the #9. You would hit either, but it wouldn't light up and if that was your floor, you had to gamble on whether or not the elevator would stop for you.

- I offered $20 to Pablo for a food prop to eat a discarded half-finished muffin that sat on a room service tray in our hallway for almost two days. He declined.

- Right behind the Geisha Bar, we watched in curious bewilderment as a sloshed StB tossed a few bills into a a Press Your Luck slot. I had no idea what was going on, but the pretty lights were enticing. He got to the bonus part with "No Whammies" and somehow racked up enough points to cash out with a $9 surplus.

- Miserable Fuck sighting at the IP. Standard uniform: shorts, scowl, cloud of misery hanging overhead.

- "We don't ever bet money on Otis when he's throwing dice." - One of the Missouri boys

- It was way past 2am as Thursday spilled over into Friday. I hit the 40 hour mark -- and had been up since Wednesday morning and pulled the plug on trying to get even with Pai Gow. When I went to crash for the night, I checked the hotel clock. 3:33am. If you go to bed at 3:33, then the aliens will visit you in your sleep.

- Outside Casino Royal one afternoon, we wandered through a chorus of porn slappers. I felt like a giant among hobbits as I made my way through the car wash-like assembly line of smut peddlers. Derek stopped to point out the 80 year old woman who was handing out business cards for escorts. Grandma hustling on the Strip as a porn slapper. Times are tough.

-I ate donuts for dinner one night. I stormed the Castle with the unusual suspects and we met up at the Sherwood Forrest Bar. Derek grabbed a few donuts for me to munch on because I forgot to eat dinner that night. When we first hung out at the Castle in 2004, it was a sleepy over-sized casino with zombie locals glued to slots and tons of cowboys wandering around. The latest version of the Castle had a much hipper 20-something vibe with stripper poles and blackjack tables up front. It might be time to ditch the IP and upgrade.

- StB and I gave Kat and a few curious investors on what it means to Buy the Dip, and how that will make us all rich. Click here for more information on our latest Ponzi Buy the Dip scheme.

- "You're the Pot Jesus. People just want to take your bread." - Waffles

- Waffles took a nap in the IP sportsbook. The eye in the sky must have noticed because they send out two thugs to wake him up. They told him to go to his room, but he couldn't remember what room he was in. I told the guards that he was with us and that his roommate was playing in a poker tournament and that Waffles was waiting for his return so he could go to sleep. The guards told him to stay awake, otherwise they were gonna 86 him. Luckily, Waffles evaded a backroom scuffle with roughnecks because he stayed awake long enough to get into his room. He described the situation much better than me...
"Next thing I know some faggot in a yellow shirt is waking me up. Oh wait. It was security. Fat black cop wanted to beat me with his stick. Who the fuck makes these stupid rules up anyways? No sleeping in the Sportsbook. sheeesh. Luckily I always hang with people who run up huge bar tabs and they were able to get me out of trouble."
- I sorta expected to lose money over the weekend and even budgeted something called "social gambling funds" which I didn't care if I lost because the point was to hang out and have fun. That's why I was surprised when I was getting ready to leave and noticed that I was driving home with more cash on me than I expected.

- I left Vegas on a Monday night. I spent Monday afternoon hitting up pawn shops with Flipchip and trying to horde silver just in case we have a total collapse of our financial system.

* * * * *

So much has changed in Las Vegas since the first time I made the inaugural December trip. I departed Vegas in 2004 after being blindsided by the WPBT weekend, and on my flight home to JFK, I flipped through a notebook full of scribblings about a dozen or so strangers who would eventually become some of my closest friends and business partners.

Six years after the fact, I drove out of Vegas through the darkness of the desert replaying the new batch of memories that I acquired on the trip. Whenever I saw a mile marker for LA, my thoughts drifted toward making good time driving back to LA so I would have enough time to head to a Christmas tree lot before it closed and buy a tree for our apartment. But within a few miles, my thoughts drifted back to the hijinks in Las Vegas and I'd blurt out, "Buy the fucking dip, already!"

Click here to read Part 1: The Dream, Moving the Line, and Stay Away from My Sister.