Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011 WSOP: Before the Madness Begins

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I'm slightly hungover.

That's a good sign. It means I'm starting the 2011 WSOP with a gaggle of positive and alcohol-drenched memories rattling around inside my head after an evening of beer bowling and Pai Gow. I gotta say, I didn't bowl a single frame and I only played a couple of hands of Pai Gow from 2:30 to 3:00am before the dealer made fun of me for almost falling asleep at the table. At least she didn't egg me on about playing the Fortune Bonus.

Fleeting flashes of images from last night are slowly coming into focus. Landon gave me guff for misspelling his name (Langdon). I met an avid reader and I kept calling him Andy because I forgot his name (my apologies -- I have a pothead's shot-term memory). I chatted with RJ Bell from PreGame.com about more topics related to sportsbetting than I could count. There was a Liz Lieu sighting. One of my friends offered to give me a book about marijuana cultivation.

The later the evening got, the weirder the discussions got, and that's when the hijinks occurred. I offered Chip Bitch $5 to piss in the sink. He obliged. Marty offered him money to drown a shot of motor oil...but we hesitated because we thought, "Shit, that might kill him. He's kinda small."

A drunk local named "C-Dogg" decided to crash our party (after his own friends ditched him) and I gotta admit, I thought he knew me or was a friend of a friend and I started talking to him before I realized we didn't know each other. I wanted to ditch him, but he pointed at Eric Morris and said, "I'm gonna kick his ass!"

"Whoa!" I interjected. "You don't wanna do that. He's a nice guy. He's my boss at Bluff Magazine."

C-Dogg made a bee-line for Eric and spent the next hour screaming drunk jibberish and dry humping his leg. C-Dogg was 86'd shortly later, but not before he ran behind me and said, "I think I'm going to jail."

That's when security walked into the dive bar at the bowling alley and escorted him out. C-Dogg apparently bled out after cutting himself and the security guards had to put on white gloves while hauling him out.

Just another Monday (as it bled into Tuesday morning) in Vegas, eh?

* * *

Before the WSOP kicked off, I found us a house to live in. My roomies this summer are Benjo and Change100. Someone told me that the majority of property and houses in Las Vegas is underwater, which meant there were hundreds of thousands of free places to stay if I had the balls to squat and could find a generator for power. Shit, the entire monetary system is on the brink of collapse, so why would I actually pay to live in a house when we had plenty of options?

Yes, we may or may not be squatting this summer. It will definitely make for an interesting sequel to Lost Vegas.

* * *

The WSOP kicks off today at the Rio. although a bracelet was given out on Sunday for the WSOP-Circuit grand champion. Some guy named Sam Barhart won it and a couple of Team Pokerati players advanced to the final table.

This will be my 7th WSOP. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I'll tell as many stories about the action (mostly off-the-felt action) here on Tao of Poker. I will be having a few guest posts along the way as the Tao All-Stars step in and pinch hit when I take a few days off to see 5 Phish shows at random intervals over the next month.

Oh, I do have some great news.... Change100 will be joining Tao of Poker as a regular contributor. So if you're a fan of her writing, you're in luck. Check out her most recent post Darkness on the Edge of Town.

FYI... there's a silly rule about hourly updates, so I am prohibited to post more than once an hour on Tao of Poker, which is why you need to follow me on Twitter to get updates throughout the day.

Just a reminder, my main Twitter account is @taopauly.

Over the last few years, I developed a routine where I tweet'd throughout the day and acquired as much info and notes for my juicy end of day recaps on Tao of Poker. You can (at least) expect that similar coverage this year, but who knows if I'm going to be posting a lot during the days on Tao. I guess you'll have to tune in and find out.

And not to fear, I will be recording podcasts with Michalski and Benjo for Tao of Pokerati, which as you know is the quickest poker podcast on the web. Here's the quick link to subscribe to Tao of Pokerati on iTunes.

Okay, that's it for now. I gotta get a couple of rum cocktails in my system to help cure this hangover. A wise man named AlCantHang once told me the best batch of Vegas advice I've ever heard: "Avoid hangovers... stay drunk."

Stay sloshed my friends.

Photo courtesy of Flipchip

So, are you ready? Seriously, are you really ready for the WSOP to begin? If so, it's time to eat whatever happy pills you have in your stash, smoke 'em if you got 'em, and keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. It's going to be a wild seven-week ride and I'll be your jungle guide. So just remember,under no circumstances should you feed the animals.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Episode of Tao of Pokerati Podcast: We're Back and Woe Is Benjo

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I know you missed us, which is why I have amazing, stupendous, and sensational news! The fastest poker podcast on the web is back with a brand new episode. Yes, wake the neighbors because the Tao of Pokerati has officially returned for the 2011 WSOP. Dan, Benjo, and I recorded and episode during our reuinion meal at a sushi joint away from the Strip.
2011 WSOP - Episode 1: Woe Is Benjo (3:59) - Pauly, Dan, and Benjo returned for their first episode of the 2011 WSOP. Dan and Pauly are upbeat about the upcoming summer, meanwhile Benjo reveals he's not looking forward to the suicidal tendencies which crop up three weeks into the WSOP. Dan and Benjo also discuss a potential prop bet about whether or not Howard Lederer makes an appearance at the 2011 WSOP.
For more episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Subscribe to our podcast via iTunes here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Glow in the Dark Dragons

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I made a triumphant return to the Gold Coast after finishing a much-anticipated screening of The Hangover 2. With visions of the smoking, drug-dealing monkey on my mind, all I kept thinking was: "I want a monkey as a mascot in the press box for the WSOP."

But my better sense suggested that WSOP suits would never allow it. For one, there's health reasons. For another, my pet monkey might go ape shit when he passes the Poker Kitchen and realizes they serve kangaroo meat as the base of the burger mix.

Depending on which starchild you talk to, humans are made of mostly monkey DNA with just a sprinkling of alien DNA. Even if you don't believe in aliens, and ignore your inner Agent Mulder and take a more scientific like Agent Scully, it's impossible to ignore the fine line between man and monkey. Even if poker players have no clue about genetics, they've seen peculiar monkey business happening at the tables.

If you've got your ass kicked during a donkament by inferior players, then you'd wonder if the person across the table has more simian DNA than human DNA. Ergo, monkeys can play in the WSOP, they can't be mascots for the press, nor chip counters. Oh well, so much for my idea of hiring cheap labor to actually publish chip counts on Tao of Poker this year.

Besides, where the fuck are we going to get all those bananas to feed the monkey?

My apologies for the tangent...

I turned on my phone as I exited the theatre. Homer sent me a message -- Pai Gow. How could I not indulge in a few hands on my first night in Vegas? Homer had fastened himself to the far corner seat at a Pai Gow table in the gambling pits of the Gold Coast, our humble home away from home every summer. Homer was ensconced in a serious session lasting several hours before I arrived with Change100. He was saucy, which was a total shocker because when was the last time you saw a Brit binge drink in Las Vegas?

Also at Homer's table were Timtern and Landon. At first I thought Landon was shithoused drunk because he talked kinda funny, but that's when I noticed he was sipping coffee and recalled he was Australian. This is his first WSOP as a member of the press corp and he dove head first into the late night madness.

"Get used to this," I mentioned to Landon. "We're do gonna this every fucking night for the next seven weeks."

I sat down in seat 2. Two civilians were also at the table, but we chased one of them off rather quickly and Change100 took that seat. We had a rail when KevMath and Marie showed up. The waitress brought me rum drinks and that's when the carnage began.

The first dealer was the slowest Pai Gow dealer I've ever experienced. Holy shitballs, I expect slow service when I go to a Waffle House in Bumblefuck, Georgia, but when I'm jacked up on pure Vegas adrenaline and have a stack of greenbirds in front of me, I want to see as many Pai Gow hands as possible.

The slow dealer was giving me questionable hands and the ones that appeared to have value were brutally ravished by the dealer's seven cards. Slow dealer and a bad beat? Talk about getting both your testicles sliced and diced.

They finally sent in a new dealer, but as per usual, she was a bot from the Nagai Corporation in Japan. I might have caught a break this summer because after Japan suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami (which cause a meltdown of multiple nuclear reactors), the country's industrial production shut down for many weeks and is slowly getting back online. The new line of Pai Gow bots will not arrive until late in 2011, which means I only have to deal with older version, which are prone to glitches and the occasional error. I guess that's the only good thing to come out of the Japan quake. Sure, Japan is drowning in radiation soup while traces of radioactive material flutter its way toward North American airspace, but at least I won't have to worry about an upgraded version of the Pai Gow bots.

Homer became my personal hero when he slowrolled a dealer. The dealer showed trip 4s. Homer had cheekily set his five-card hand. When the dealer turned it over, only four cards were exposed. Two of them were sixes, the other two were blanks. The dealer fished the covered card out of Homer's hand and flipped over the 6 of diamonds.

"Eat that you fucking bot," I muttered under my breath. "You just got slowrolled by a sschwated Brit who consumed his body weight in booze!"

Homer 1, Bots 0.

I lost a couple of $100 hands (yes I was betting 10 to 12 times the $10 minimum because I'm an action junkie), but I'll spare you the morose details. Bad beats, of course. I always get my money in good at a Pai Gow table.

It's gonna be a long summer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Need a Poker Fix? Introducing Rise Poker

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I'm going to be working on a new project this summer -- Rise Poker.

I'm sure you've heard whispers about Rise Poker, or maybe even you read the press release, but if you don't know, Rise Poker is a free poker site (totally legal and legit in the Nanny States of America) and it will launch on May 31st.

Rise Poker is a collaborative effort between a couple of heavy hitters in the poker industry. Zen Gaming will be providing the platform, so now you finally have a bit of methadone to get you through the horrendous shakes and cold/hot sweats after suffering from online poker withdrawal.

But be warned... I'm not gonna bullshit you... if you've an online grinder with a penchant for multi-tabling a dozen or more SNGs at once, or if you used to make six figures a year as an "online pro", then Rise Poker might not be your cup of tea.

However, if you're a casual (yet semi-serious) player who wants to play online poker with friends every once in a while, or if you're just an online poker junkie and you're jonesin' hard to see some sort of virtual flop, then check out Rise Poker.

Rise Poker is also giving away a WSOP Main Event seat, so if you're looking for a cheap option to get your golden ticket to the Main Event, then Rise Poker might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Here's the tagline on the Rise Poker website:
  • Legally play online poker in the United States.
  • Compete for up to $100,000 in monthly cash prizes and choose from hundreds of daily Texas Hold'em tournaments.
  • Compete for entries into premium events like the $10,000 Main Event championship.
  • Instantly connect with fellow poker players at your tables, in our forums, and on our blog.
  • Rapidly improve your game with poker strategy and tips from our team of poker pros.
  • Earn membership benefits and rewards.
  • Interact with our RISE Poker Team Pros and compete against them daily in our pro bounty tournaments.
By the way, Rise Poker is full engaged in the social media world. Check out Rise Poker's Facebook page and follow @Rise_Poker on Twitter.

Don't forget that May 31st is the launch. Oh, and stay tuned for an announcement on the Rise Poker-centric project I'll be working on during the 2011 WSOP.

Friday, May 27, 2011

2010 WSOP Review Reprise

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Photo courtesy of Benjo

The 2011 WSOP begins on Tuesday and for a 7th summer in a row, I'll be live from the floor of the Rio providing coverage for Tao of Poker. I'll also be tweeting (@taopauly) updates, recording podcasts, selling both copies of Lost Vegas and my newly released novel Jack Tripper Stole My Dog, and doing press for the French release of Lost Vegas. I'm also doing a little work for Rise Poker this summer, and of course I'll be engaging in plenty of hijinks like beer bowling, Pai Gow, lime tossing, rum parties, and sharing new forms of silliness along the way.

Wow, hard to believe that in 2005 I moved out to Vegas to cover my first ever WSOP. To quote my favorite band, "What a long strange trip its been."

Anyway, I'm in the process of moving to Vegas as we speak. So since it's a holiday weekend, kick back and enjoy a recap of the 2010 WSOP by delving into last year's coverage on Tao of Poker.

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.

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.

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...

Day 34-38: OFF

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... 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

* * * *

FYI... here's November Nine coverage:

Jonathan Duhamel Wins 2010 WSOP
Semi-Live Blog November Nine Heads-Up: Duhamel vs. Racener
Semi-Live Blog November Nine: 9 to 2
November Nine Episodes: Tao of Pokerati Podcast

That's it for now. Thanks for following along last summer and all of those previous summers. And I'll thank you in advance for following Tao of Poker this summer. I always say that this might be my last summer, but this year I'm more uncertain about my future than ever. That's why you have to tune it, because if it's gonna be my last WSOP, then I'm definitely going out with a bang.

BTW, after providing six summers of free entertainment, I think it's only fair that you purchase a copy of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker, or help support independent writers and buy a copy of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Thanks and see ya Tuesday for comprehensive WSOP reporting.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jack Tripper Stole My Dog Now Available

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The moment has finally arrived. You can now buy a print copy of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. The best way is to use this link:
Please note the Kindle/e-book version will not be available until mid-June.

In case you missed the trailer...

Click here to buy a copy.

Here's some info like the website, FAQs, Facebook page, and @JackTripperBook on Twitter.

I also recorded a podcast with Change100 titled The 10-Day Novel and Flushy.

Jack Tripper Stole My Dog Podcast: The 10-Day Novel

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I recorded a brand new podcast (around 5 minutes in length) to promote the release of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Change100 interviewed me about the accelerated writing process surrounding the novel and she questioned me about the highly controversial scene involving someone's head getting flushed in the toilet.

Listen here...

If you want to download the mp3 and listen to it later, click here to obtain the link.

Buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Follow Jungleman, Find Jungleman, Win a Seat into the WSOP Main Event

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Ever want to play in the Main Event and get rewarded for your stalking abilities? Then follow Dan Cates aka @junglemandan on Twitter and if you track him down in Las Vegas, then you're eligible to win a seat into the WSOP Main Event.

It's a wacky promotion, but with so many broke dicks running around the WSOP, this stunt has the possibility of getting crazy with a flash mob of Twitter freaks knocking over old ladies in wheelchairs to find the elusive @JunglemanDan and secure the golden ticket for that day.

Then again, I can't think of a better way to win a $10,000 seat by getting drunk in different Vegas casinos fending off the advances of hookers, while compulsively refreshing Twitter every six seconds while waiting to ambush @JunglemanDan. You bet your ass I'm gonna do it.

Here's the skinny from Jungleman's blog...
I had a great idea to show all of the poker fans around the world how much I appreciate them. I decided to give away a $10,000 WSOP buyin to the main event to any poker player who’s never played a main event before. Lately with all the stuff that has been going on, it’s made me think about back when I was playing low stakes in college and made me grateful for all the success I’ve had. It’s made me want to give something back to the average poker player who is where I used to be, and stir some excitement as well. I included a video for all of you guys including some of the rules relevant to the giveaway. During the series I will be updating my blog regularly, so subscribe to my twitter to get updates. Come this WSOP and support me!
Here's the contest rules.

If you don't want to read the fine points, check out the video here.

Don't forget to follow @JunglemanDan and stalk him this summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recommended Summer Reading: Poker Books and Sportsbetting Books

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Spring time is always a busy time for the publishing season. I finally dusted off a pile from last year and delved into some new titles. Here's some suggestions for summer reading om the beach, at the pool, or the summer home. And if you recently acquired a Kindle, here's a few items to add to your virtual library. So let's get to it...

For Richer, For Poorer by Vicky Coren

From last year's "To Read" pile, I finished Vicky Coren's For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker. She's a fantastic writer and an astute storyteller as she weaves her own personal story through the murky, yet hilarious world of the London poker scene (and eventually winning the EPT London). Incidentally, I'd love to hire Vicky to do the audio version of Lost Vegas. She has such a commanding, yet alluring voice that she can make my rubbish sound like Shakespeare!

Master Omaha 8 Poker by Lou Krieger and Mark Tenner

One of the first books I ever read about poker was written by Lou Krieger. I was an out-of-work writer at the time and couldn't afford to buy any poker books but I religiously hung out in the poker section of Barnes and Noble in Union Square and read every poker book they had in stock including a few of Lou's titles. I never expected at the time I'd move to Vegas to become a poker reporter, but as luck would have it, I met Lou during my first day on the job at the 2005 WSOP. He'd become a fan of my writing and eventually gave me a huge break when he hired me for a new poker magazine.

Anyway, I've always looked up to Lou as one of pillars in the poker writing community. He has a new book which he co-authored with Mark Tenner titled Mastering Omaha/8 Poker. Omaha 8 is my least favorite game of poker, but you know what? I read the entire book. For someone who doesn't play O8, the book was a good primer on the subject. It's also a testament to the writing skill of the authors because they were able to hold my attention in my least favorite game.

I was happy to see a chapter devoted PLO8. I'm a PLO junkie and friends often told me I was missing out on some juicy games because of my Omaha 8 bias. Maybe it's time to give it a whirl?

Mental Game of Poker by Jared Tendler and Barry Carter

The dynamic duo of Jared Tendler and Barry Carter created a book, Mental Game of Poker, that sheds insight on poker psychology. It's a topic that is not discussed very often, yet happens to be one of the most vital aspects of the game.

Here's a glimpse of what the book covers...
"Proven techniques to permanently fix problems such as tilt, handling variance, emotional control, confidence, fear, and motivation. With the games getting tougher, now is the time to take these problems head on."
I'm a tilt monkey and finished the book with the confidence knowing I can diminish tilting at the tables. I hope to apply it to Pai Gow as well!

* * *

Although these aren't poker books, here's two books on sportsbetting that I finished reading and highly recommend...

Gaming the Game

The real title is called Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen. Written by Sean Griffin, the book follows around a professional gambler from the Philly burbs named The Sheep. He was a former bookie who became a money mover for the biggest sportsbettors in the world including Billy Walters. The Sheep also was the guy who first found out referee Tim Donaghy (and some other refs) manipulated outcomes of the NBA games because Donaghy was a degen gambler and had wagered on a specific side. The book detailed what happened next, the games that were fixed, and how they got caught by the FBI. Amazing story and makes me wonder how many refs in the NFL help manipulate those games as well?

Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street

I found out about Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street through a podcast on PreGame.com when Betting Dork interviewed the author, Elihu D. Feustel, who is a former consultant for offshore books like Pinnacle. And holy shitballs, I bought a copy before the podcast even ended. Conquering Risk is a must have for intermediate to advanced sportsbettors (and a few bookies who might read the Tao). Fesutel's books is sort of similar to the Mathematics of Poker, except Feustel broke down complex game theory terminology and formulas into a much easier to understand language. He wrote this book to help make sportsbettors sharper with their picks, and along the way he shared some thoughts on the Kelly Criterion and Poisson distributions.

* * * *

And here's a piece of fiction that I can't recommend more...

Same Difference

Shamus writes for free over at Hard-Boiled Poker so please support his efforts by buying his pulp novel Same Difference. And stop by his blog to tell him to hurry up and finish his second novel!

* * * *

Updates on Lost Vegas and Jack Tripper Stole My Dog

The French version of Lost Vegas was released last Friday and kicked off to rave reviews! More details here.

I've officially made it as a writer -- I got published in French -- one of the most prestigious honors a writer can achieve. I'm honored and pumped because French people buy more books than Americans. I'm hoping I will get invited to discuss Lost Vegas on one of those late night French TV talk shows where they smoke cigarettes and sip wine.

My first novel, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog, comes out this week. Follow @JackTripperBook on Twitter for special advanced info on the official release date. You can also visit Jack Tripper's Facebook page to get a peak at the cover.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Black Monday: Another Round of DOJ Indictments; Shutdowns Include Doyle's Room, TruePoker, Bookmaker.com, BetEd, and FunTimeBingo

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Hat tip to Kevin Mathers for the info on the latest round of indictments from the DOJ which targeted sportsbook, and in the process a few online poker rooms like Doyle's Roomwere nabbed as collateral damage. Here's the official press release.

The covert investigation is something out of The Wire or out of a Hollywood pitch meeting. The Feds (a joint task force with Homeland Security, IRS, and Customs Agents) created a fake payment processor, Linwood, and the online casinos, online poker rooms, and sportsbooks approached them to do business. The Feds acquired a plethora of inside info during their two-year sting, which they used to build a case and bring down a new batch of online gaming sites.

Domain shutdowns on Monday included DoylesRoom.com, BookMaker.com, BetEd.com, TruePoker.com, 2Betsdi.com, Funtimebingo.com, Goldenarchcasino.com, Betmaker.com, Betgrandesports.com, and Betehorse.com.

BookMaker is one of the larger online sportsbooks in the sportsbetting industry. I don't have an account there, but I had one at BetEd. Just last week I had the VIP manager offering me an unbelievable bonus to fund my account.

The even nabbed a Keno and bingo site. Professional Keno Player Neil Fontent just lost his sponsorship and I know he's pissed. And how about all those grandmas sitting at home and hopped up on pharmies? What are they gonna do now without Funtimebingo.com?

By the way, Doyle Brunson left Doyle's Room recently. The Godfather bailed before the shitstorm. Good timing for Dolly, eh? Or did he get tipped off ahead of time?

Will there be more indictments to come? Is this the end of everyone who ran over and migrated their online rolls to the Merge network? Is this the Black Friday for the sportsbetting world, or is this just one of many more shakeups in the online gaming world?

* * *

I'm starting a running link dump as info comes forth, feel free to drop links into the comments....
First of all, CrazyMarco and gang at QuadJacks Radio are broadcasting live about the breaking news of the second wave of indictments. Listen here.

Gambling web sites, international bank accounts seized in federal sting. (The Republic)

Online poker "payment processor" admits U.S. charges. (Portfolio)

Baltimore feds target online gambling. (Baltimore Sun)

More Domains Seized. (Subject Poker)

Inside the Indictments and Inside the Press Release (Subject Poker)

Black Friday continues-True Poker and Bookmaker indictments 5/23/11. (2+2)

Feds Seize More Online Gambling Websites (G911)

The Ghost Hand: Maryland law enforcers aim to take the pot by secretly sitting at the online gambling table (Baltimore City Paper)

Black Monday? has a list of the laws violated by the sites in question and links to the indictments. (Pokerati)

Linwood Affidavit. (Scribd)

Ten More Sites Seized in New Poker-Related Indictments (Bluff)
Thanks again to KevMath for his research assistance.

Stay tuned for more info...

Monday Morning Nugs: Eight Years Later, WSOP Flashback, Blackjack Whale, and the Monday Morning Pills

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

First of all,my condolences to BJ on the passing of his dog Rhapsody. He's in doggie heaven now. RIP Rhap.

Okay, now onto some pokery nuggets of news bits on this Monday morning. I don't have any time to waste, so here's a quickie...
Today in Poker History: Shamus waxes about Chris Moneymaker's momentous victory at the 2003 Main Event (back when the WSOP was played in May) eight years ago today in The "Boom" Eight Years Later. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

WSOP Flashback: Change100 shared a flashback from 2008 in Leaving Los Angeles. (Pot Committed)

Poker and the Law: I enjoyed this post from Grange95 that he posted a couple of weeks ago...Regulation, Segregation, and a Cereus Case of Déjà Vu. (crAAKKer)

Whale: Some random guy won $15 million at the blackjack tables in AC. H/T to KevMath for this tale of a little guy busting up the casinos. (Deadspin)

Fear Mongering: There's a brand new Monday Morning Blue Pill (compiled by Change100) and Monday Morning Red Pill (compiled by yours truly). (Tao of Fear)
That's it. Happy Monday. NGTFOOMO!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Nugs: Backroom Beatdowns, Size Matters, Account Segregation, and the Biggest Losers Worldwide

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Normally I'd tell you to enjoy these savory links while grinding out the Sunday tournaments, but now I'll just tell you to enjoy these links while killing time in between the Canucks-San Jose game and the Heat-Bulls game.

Some pokery nuggets...
Angry Poker Players: Here's video(s) of the infamous "Don't Touch Me!" nutjob from the Bellagio. Awesome paparazzi-like camera work from Micon.(DonkDown)

Vegas Backroom Beatdowns: Charles Oakley is suing Aria for getting a beatdown by security? Wait, Oakley losing a brawl? He should have had Anthony Mason watching his back and that never would have happened. (Vegas Inc, LasVegasVegas)

Sportsbetting: Here's a stellar post about the importance of bet sizing when it comes to sportsbetting... Sizing Matters (Buffalo Hold'em)

Dude, Where's My Money?: Bill Rini explains how player account segregation. (Bill's Poker Blog)

PPA Backlash: And while you're at Bill's site, check out his latest assessment about the PPA spiraling out of control. (Bill's Poker Blog)

Degens: I enjoy personal essays on addiction, especially gambling problems... The High Is Always the Pain and the Pain Is Always the High (The Morning News)

Old Vegas: The Grump bids adieu to the Sahara with a series of stories. (Grump)

International Degens: I want to open up a sportsbook in Australia and a casino in Singapaore. What? That's where the biggest gambling losers live. I love graphs and here's one that shows The Biggest Losers.

Stats: RIP Macho Man Savage. Here's a statistical breakdown of Macho Man's minor league baseball stats during his short stint as an aspiring professional baseball player. (Deadspin)
That's it for now. Go Canucks (and Bulls too). NGTFOOMO.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

BOOM: The Trailer

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's the trailer to a new documentary film about the glorious poker boom, aptly titled...Boom...

For more info... visit Boom's facebook page.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fading the Rapture

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I made a bet with one of those May 21st Rapture freaks. He bet me that the world was going to end on May 21st because Rapture was imminent. The prop bet is win-win for me. When the sun comes up on Sunday morning, I'll be a little more wealthier (and even more cynical of religious zealots), but if by a slim chance the skies open up and army of angels arrives on the Mothership, then the entire world is fucked anyway and I'll die from a bombardment of fire and brimstone before I have a chance to settle up.

In case you have no clue what I'm talking about, then here's a witty video explaining the hysteria surrounding May 21st...

To answer your question... yes, at the end of the video, there's aliens smoking DMT.

Okay, so moving onto the apocalypse...

The world will end on May 21, 20111. It will also end on December 21, 2012. Then again, if you read Zero Hedge fourteen times a day like I do, you are well aware Tyler Durden has been preaching the end of the world will happen at the end of each trading day.

So who can you believe? Don't trust anyone, especially me.

The end of the world as we know it already happened the day John Lennon got whacked when he was gunned down in NYC by Mark David Chapman. Everything since that cold December day in 1980 has been nothing short of making tiny steps in a slow march toward Armageddon.

I'm envious at how the greatest fear mongers in the world successfully monetized paranoia -- from crooked corner street preachers to that company that created X-ray body scanners. Fear mongers rake in big bucks, because anyone scared shitless with a lot of material items to protect will pay top dollar and practically give up all of their individual freedoms to quell paralyzing psychological fears, whether it's buying a shotgun or enduring a cock check at the airport.

As much as I'd love bilk sheeple out of millions by scaring the bejesus out of them, my mission is altruistic, because I'm trying to use this corner of the web to unplug those whom want to be unplugged. In many ways, it's up to you to determine your path in life and I'm here to remind you there's always another way. Ergo, the Tao, which is translated into "the way" or "the road."

In case you were wondering, we're not going to experience a single cataclysmic event like 2012. There's no invisible brown dwarf or a Planet X (aka Nibiru) or a comet flying by Earth at the end of the year that will make Yellowstone Park explode. Even though the tin foil hat crowd chatter is hyping up a "false flag alien attack" orchestrated by the Illuminati to create a one-world government, well that's definitely not going to happen either.

So what is going to happen on May 21, 2011 and December 21, 2012? Business as usual. Ponzi schemes will continue to run rampant. Politicians will continue to lie to you. The media moguls will rake in billions providing you with propaganda and distractions, while bankers pilfer your retirement funds to pay for their coke and hooker habits. Meanwhile, old powerful men will continue to send young men off to foreign lands to fight proxy wars against rogue states corrupted by the same multi-national corporations that put our politicians into power.

The only difference is more people are waking up after finally exiting the denial stage of "life is rigged" and delving into a volatile phase of anger and rage. From this point forward in the age of instant communication, it will be tougher for the haves to retain their power as the have nots slowly wake up a few million at a time. As a result, the haves will ramp up brainwashing techniques, forge a deeper political and religious division amongst the have nots, and stay in power by any means necessary like creating a kill switch for the internet. Hence the backlash has begun as sweeping violent revolutions flared up in North Africa and the Middle East, along with the ongoing riots in Greece and Ireland as we speak.

Even Americans woke up from their deep opiated slumber as protest movements in Madison, Wisconsin inspired many more disenfranchised and pissed off citizens across the nation to stand up against government corruption. Millions more Americans are on the verge of exiting the denial stage and about to dive head first into a cauldron of anger. The system is broken and we need shake things up and remove the puppets backed by the oligarchs pulling the strings in Washington and in every state capitol.

And that's what the Mayans were trying to tell us -- not that the world is going to end, but rather we're experiencing a massive paradigm shift. For those whom cannot adapt to change, it will seem like the end of the world (e.g. old school newspaper editors) as the systems in which they previously found comfort is on the verge of collapsing. For those who rise to the challenge, it will seem as though they achieved a higher level of consciousness because they were aware of the changing market conditions and either went with the flow (and got lucky) or tweaked their life plan to prosper during the changeover.

Adapt or die.

But zealots like the Family Radio crew have such rigid beliefs that it's no wonder their interpretations of warnings are also rigid in nature. They are predicting rapture on May 21, 2011 because of a rudimentary mathematical formula that Bill Chen could have debunked in is sleep.

Whenever you hear about unproven theories about WWIII in the Middle East, 2012, May 21st Rapture, alien invasions, Planet X, nuclear meltdowns, earthquakes on the New Madrid fault line, or California falling into the ocean, then you essentially have four ways to react to the news.

Your four choices...
1. Accept the end is nigh and freak out by following around a religious zealot or building an Armageddon compound.

2. Accept the end is nigh and party like it's 1999.

3. Ignore everything and put your head in the sand. Rapture? Pffft... did you see what Kim Kardashian tweet'd?

4. Call bullshit on the fear mongers and keep living man. L-I-V-I-N.
I'm a hybrid of #2 and #4. I've been trying to wake up everyone in #3, but not about the Rapture, rather other more menacing things. Alas, some sheep don't want to be disturbed while grazing on mainstream fodder, which is probably best because the last thing you'd want is to see a caravan of millions of self-righteous Family Radio followers blocking traffic wherever they go.

I was going to treat Saturday like any other Saturday, but since I have a bet on the outcome of May 21st as the end of the world, I'm going to be listening to a Judgement Day mix a friend made and paying close attention to the skies to see if the Mothership has returned. I'm excited for an old fashioned stake out while on Armageddon Watch!

I'm making as many bets possible and I'm fading the Rapture.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

14 More Fun Moments from the 2010 WSOP

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Photo by Flipchip

The memory is a funny thing. Depending on your mood, you can focus on the light or darkness of a situation. Sometimes when you rewind a situation in your head, it's fuzzy. Other times it's as vivid as HD and you're locked into your consciousness at the present moment. But after you get shellshocked and spend seven weeks in one place (not to mention six WSOPs), some of the experience bleeds together. Thanks God for electronic documentation -- Tao of Poker and @taopauly on Twitter (and to a lesser degree, my Twit pics) -- because they can fill in the gaps where my memory goes blank. Sometimes it only takes a keyword or two to trigger a memory. On the contrary, sometimes I'll re-read an old notebook and flip through the pages and wonder what the fuck I wanted to say when I have a couple of unrelated words. Obviously, those keywords failed to trigger a memory or illicit an emotion.

Anyway, last week I posted about 14 fun memories from the 2010 WSOP that popped into my head as I quickly jotted them down. Each of the 14 bullet points could have trigger its own essay -- a few could even inspire a screenplay, a 17,000 word David Foster Wallace-esqu essay (with 4,200 words of footnotes), or in the case of Lesbian Kisses, a piece of gonzo porn.

With that said, here's a few that popped into my head shortly after chatting with some friends about the original (14) fun moments. Again, these are in no specific order, rather, it's just what I see when I close my eyes and play "Press Your Luck" with my memory banks. All of these images are rapidly flickering and I yell, "No Whammmmies! Stop!" And then this is what I get...
1. A couple of colleagues in the pressbox were on a baking kick. Kudos to Laney, Jess, and Gloria for sharing their home-baked goodies with the members of the press. Sweet treats go a long way.

2. Ty Stewart set aside an entire box of Jack Links Beef Jerky for me to share with the press box. We had a love/hate relationship with the jerky. In a pinch, the bags were a godsend.

3. I threw out my back in the press box. I was out of pharmies but luckily Matt Waldron cracked my back and Friedman scrounged up a few Percs for me.

4. The Grinder won the 50K Horse event to bail him out of trouble with the tax man, but more importantly, I saw Patrik Antonius (The Grinder's backer) actually smile when he shook his hand when the final table was finally set.

5. David Benyamine so concerned with losing a prop bet against Tom Dwan, that he spent a significant time sweating Durrrr on the rail.

6. After a month of tilt-inducing delays, the proofs of Lost Vegas finally arrived. Kara Scott bought a copy of Lost Vegas and spent Day 1 of the Main Event with the book underneath her chair.

7. Scoring VIP access to see Snoop perform at the PokerStars party.

8. Writing about Arvidas was one of my favorite pieces of the WSOP. I pissed off a few suits so I must have been doing something right.

8. Inspired by a picture of Winnie the Pooh beheading Eeyore, I wrote about the Scandi mafia and the comet that wiped out all the donkeys from the face of Rio.

9. Old lady with a disposable camera asked me to take a photo of that "jerk" Phil Hellmuth. Oh, speaking of grandmother types... a sweet old lady did some shit talking with Durrrr.

10. Appearing on the inaugural episode of This Week in Poker. I opened up for Jen Tilly...

11. Schwasted girls wandering down the hallway at 2:40am. Change100 saw one puke in a garbage can.

12. Mickey Doft's story about Phil Ivey's hoodie.

13. A well-dressed Gavin Smith won his first bracelet.

14. During the final table bubble for the November Nine, people were passed out all over the Amazon Ballroom -- including media row, the pressbox, the stands around the final table and the spillover area.
Just in case you haven't seen it, here's the original 14 Fun Moments from the 2010 WSOP.

Here's an index of Tao of Poker's 2010 WSOP coverage.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sahara Doesn't Live Here Anymore

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Editor's note: In honor of the Sahara closing its doors, he's a re-post of something I wrote a couple of months ago...

The Sahara Casino is closing.

The Sahara represented my parents' Las Vegas and the innocent simplicity of the sepia-tinted photos of early 1960s: waking up late, eating room service omeletes, lounging by the pool, sipping tikki drinks next to perfectly-coiffed Don and Betty Drapers, eating a surf and turf dinner, consuming more tikki drinks, catching a glamorous show with Louis Prima or Don Rickles, then gambling the night away in the casino playing roulette, craps, or blackjack until the wee hours -- only to wake up late the next day and repeat the process. My parents and their generation experienced the original desert Paradise, meanwhile, I got Paradise Lost, or the watered-down, sold-out, corporatized version of Vegas. Ergo, Lost Vegas.

One of the original six casinos in Las Vegas, the oasis known as the Sahara opened its doors in 1952. The owner, former bingo parlor magnate Milton Prell, was chummy with Col. Tom Parker (a.k.a. Elvis' manager). Elvis supposedly got married in Prell's suite at the Sahara (although some accounts credited the Aladdin as the location of Elvis' nuptials).

Sahara's designer, Del Webb, owned the NY Yankees in the post-War II era (before selling to CBS, who then sold the team to George Steinbrenner). Webb eventually purchased the Sahara from Prell in 1961-62. Webb-Nevada became the first public company to own a major casino. In subsequent decades (1982, 1995) the Sahara traded hands among other big business interests until it landed in the hands of Sam Nazarian and SBE Entertainment Group. At the turn of the century, the casino added a rollercoaster and a NASCAR theme to capitalize on middle America's fascination with auto racing. A decade or so later, the doors are closing. But for good? Will the fate of the Sahara be the face of things to come in the next few years as more Strip properties close its doors?

A gaming conglomerate could swoop in, renovate the joint, whore out restaurant, bar, and retail shopping space to a bunch of other corporations and then re-open its doors. A hedge fund manager could get bored gambling on Wall Street and on a plutocratical whim, buy an authentic casino instead. Heck, maybe Gahdaffi will finally hand over power to Libyan rebels and relocate in Las Vegas in the top 3 floors of the Sahara? Or maybe a wealthy social media gajillonaire will buy the property, implode the old Sahara, and build a spanking-new casino? But does anyone want to party in a non-hip part of town on the north end of The Strip?

The Sahara in its physical nature will eventually cease to exist, but the once-alluring spirit of the casino will live forever in photographs. I'm glad someone documented the old Vegas. Kudos to those citizen documentarians.

Here are a five photos of the Sahara...

The Sahara
(photo via Vintage Vegas)

Louis Prima rocking the Sahara's Casbar Lounge in the 1950s
(photo via Vintage Vegas)

Sahara Pool in the 1960s
(photo via Vintage Vegas)

Modern Sahara with Monorail
(photo by Wolynski)

Modern Sahara
(photo by Flipchip)

* * * *

Las Vegas rose up out of the nothingness of the sand. A former Mormon missionary outpost had transformed into a gambling Mecca by gangsters, real estate developers, and bankers. Mecca is actually an inappropriate word to describe Las Vegas because there's nothing religious about a pilgrimage to modern day Sodom and Gomorrah -- the epicenter for the orgy of consumption.

Las Vegas has very few relics of the past. When you visit European cities like London, Paris, and Barcelona, you glimpse many centuries into the past with historic churches, preserved ruins, and other very old buildings that blended in with the modern architecture. However, Las Vegas' visionaries look to the future by erasing the past. Casinos used to be sanctuaries of brazen fun, but have since become oil wells that suck the Nevada desert dry of wealth. When the owners realized their well reached peak production, they scrambled to find potential buyers -- clueless new owners who were blinded by greed instead of realizing the the law of diminishing returns of a casino. Alas, when wells were no longer profitable to operate, they were unceremoniously shut down until the skeletal remains of the casino got imploded on local TV.

Instead of rusty derricks and rigs peppering the barren landscape of Saudi Arabia's Gahwar region or tumbleweeds-ridden West Texas, the Vegas barons don't let their old wells sit around for too long. I must admit that the casino/well analogy doesn't exactly fit in this instance because you can't re-tap the same well after all the oil has been extracted, but Las Vegas casinos owners have repeatedly rebuilt new, glitzy, modern monstrosities on top of rickety, languishing dinosaurs of yesteryear. And yes, they still rake in the cash.

The Sahara dominated the Las Vegas universe fifty years ago when it had a lot less competition, but that might has well been 500 years ago because lot has changed in the last century, let alone the last decade, yet for better or worse, the Sahara failed to stay ahead of the curve. The desert oasis is on the verge of becoming completely wiped out from Vegas landscape.

From nothing, it was born, and back to nothing it shall return.

* * * *

October 30, 1998.

"Isn't that adorable?" said the old lady in the hot seat, pointing at a faded pack of four disheveled wooks wandering through the casino in a search of the elevator to their room.

"Yes, they decided to wear their hippie costumes a day early," agreed her husband.

The old lady flashed a peace sign at the quartet of scraggly troubadours.

"Ma'am, they're not wearing costumes. Those neo-hippies dress like that all the time," I said after doubling down on an 11.

"Why would anyone want to look like a homeless person?"

I didn't want to tell them that the kids were in town to see the same band I was in town to see, so I changed the subject. I played a ton of blackjack that weekend, more than poker, grinding it out at a lowly $1 table waiting for forty fucking excruciating minutes to obtain a piss-warm Corona from one of the surliest cocktail waitress I have ever encountered in Vegas.

I played blackjack with a smattering of friends including an acquaintance from Olympia who detailed how she smuggled hash from Holland into Germany, then sold it to troops on the Air Force base where she worked as a sous chef in the Officers Club. Meanwhile the rest of my extended circle of friends sat in the poker room behind the blackjack tables. I lived in Seattle at the time (five years before I'd even opened up a Party Poker account) and a my poker buddies got hooked on hold'em after Rounders was released in theatres that summer. A bunch of us from my home game flew down to Vegas to meet up with another group of friends from New York City for an epic Halloween party weekend bender. We stayed up for two nights straight, gambled on college football at the Mirage, got kicked out of Olympic Gardens, and caught two Phish concerts at Thomas & Mack Arena (highlighted by an entire set on Halloween when they covered Velvet Underground's Loaded in its entirety).

The Sahara was the main base of operations that Halloween weekend with two rooms for 8 people, which cost us $10 a piece per night. Everyone was scattered between the Casbar Lounge, the poker room, and slumming at the $1 blackjack table. That weekend was a long blur. Trying to record the events as it happened proved to be difficult, let alone trying to rewind the events in my head 12.5 years later. Despite the foggy hallways of my mind, one moment stood out: late night after the Halloween concert when we actually walked from Thomas & Mack Arena back to the Sahara via a pit stop at a bar inside the MGM. Sounds so cliche, but it was Halloween, I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and tripping balls on The Strip after (accidentally) ingesting several double-dipped hits of blotter. Double the visuals, double the fun. I was a lit monkey for a week.

That trip also marked the best buffet fried chicken I had ever devoured in Las Vegas (or the South for that matter). The chicken was so delicious that I ate it at the buffet twice that weekend. Can't say I've ever eaten it since.

* * * *

When I moved to Las Vegas in 2005, I bunked with Grubby in Henderson. We often drove to the Sahara to play in their nightly 7pm tournament -- mainly because the poker room provided free sandwiches to their players during the first break and they let you buy back in if you busted in the first couple of levels. We played a few times a week and Grubby usually made the final table, but I always fucking bubbled the final table. Although I grinded my buy-in back at the soft cash tables, it still used to bother me that I couldn't break the nagging streak of not making a final table.

The free food was a decent promotion. The food wasn't anything special -- everyone got a piece (or two) of a six-foot deli sandwich. I think the poker room order three or four. A homeless guy showed up exactly at break time every night. He snuck into the back entrance to the poker room and filled up on a couple of sandwiches that he stuffed into a plastic bag before he escaped out the side door.

Winning (or chopping) the Sahara tournament (either the 7pm or the 11pm one) became a badge of honor among my friends -- many of whom hold that dubious distinction. Shit, I'm still embarrassed that I couldn't final table that sucker once, let alone win it outright. The Sahara had my number. I just couldn't string together any run good in their tournaments.

After a while, the Sahara nightly tournament lost its luster among perpetually grumpy locals and it couldn't compete when the mid-Strip casinos expanded their poker rooms. Once the Venetian and Caesar's began their daily tournaments, they locked up the hard-to-please locals and it got increasingly hard for the Sahara's poker room to keep up. Same goes for the rest of the casino. The NASCAR shtick in a sluggish economy wasn't profitable enough anymore.

(photo by Flipchip)

I had not gambled at the impoverished Sahara in several years. I'm pretty sure the last time I played poker at the Sahara -- I went busto due to a vicious bad beat, oozed with negativity and was probably thrilled to death to leave that dump. Alas, never had any incentives to go back once I migrated from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Since then, I spent next to no time hanging out in that demilitarized zone north of the Wynn and south of the Stratosphere, aside from the odd sojourn to Olympic Gardens.

My Sahara poker memories are few but Halloween 98 sticks out as one of my all-time favorite trips to Sin City. Those incriminating stories (many of which occurred inside the Sahara) were trimmed from the final draft of Lost Vegas, but I guarantee those hijinks will be included in the Phish book (as soon as get around to finishing that).

I have one last memory of the Sahara that I want to share. Luckily, the moment was captured forever on film by Hollywood. I'm talking about a scene from Leaving Las Vegas, when Elisabeth Shue's character did the nefarious "hooker limp" in front of the palatial lobby of the Sahara.

Appropriate tribute.

The ghosts of the Sahara limp into the dark of night. The Sahara is nevermore.

* **

Check out Wolyniski's pics of the moment Sahara closed its doors.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Aunt Emma

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A disheveled woman sat down next to me. She wore a green terry cloth jacket. For a second I thought she walked into the casino wearing her bath robe. But she smelled like she had slept in her car, woke up, blew a snot rocket, smoked the ends of three week-old cigarette butts, then walked over to the Pai Gow table.

She tossed her player's card at the dealer. I could sense she was one of those bossy people who treated anyone in the service sector like they were inferior peasants. Her vibes exuded darkness. I reduced my bet right away. I felt a dismal storm coming and it wasn't gonna pretty.

I should have gotten up to leave, but I liked my table. Everyone was having fun considering it was a Pai Gow table. The WWII vet in the three seat was shithoused drunk on Budwesiers and kept the table loose, especially the two super quiet older Chinese guys at the table sitting on each respective corner.

I also liked my waitress. She was pregnant, but moved with the agility of a quarterback running the option. The casino was crowded for that time of day or night, it was hard to tell, which is why Vegas sessions often take on a narcotic-induced dream-like state. The pit was crowded and the waitress remembered to bring rum drinks on every pass, which was just the right amount of time before I was thirsty or before I took a bad beat and needed to drink off the steam.

The lady who sat to my right irked me on the first hand. I rarely (like 1% of the time) play the fortune bonus. The odds are nowhere close to what they should be. The house has an extra edge with the bonus, and that's how casinos squeeze a profit out of Pai Gow -- from degens chasing the Dragon and degens chasing the bonus.

"I don't play the bonus," I said politely.

"That's stupid," she snapped.

I ignored her and smiled at the dealer instead. I was trying to retain a semblance of focus and remain positive, but my eyes wandered across the pit to the other Pai Gow tables. Only one spot was open. I probably should've bailed at that moment, but I stayed. I wasn't going to let a crabby twat run me off of a Pai Gow table.

But, she kept pestering me about the fortune bonus. Needling me. Provoking me. I've gotten better at control my anger at the Pai Gow tables. I only snap at dealer's from the Imperial Palace because Harrah's employs bots and other alien hybrids to deal in the pits. I can get away with giving them guff because they know... 1) the real odds are much favorable than the gaunt odds Harrah's offers, and 2) they are trying to upsell me on something I don't want because if I wanted it -- I would have fucking bought it in the first place.

"Stupid," said the crabby twat every time I didn't play the bonus and it hit.

I remained silent. I knew what I was doing. I played a nauseating number of Pai Gow hands and due to that high volume, I would have lost more money if I played the bonus. I don't hit enough monster hands to justify it. Perhaps if I had a predisposition to quads and straight flushes, I would be playing the ENVY bonus every friggin' time. However, it is not the case, so I've save myself a little money in the long run and use that money for charitable causes like the Save the Stripper Fund of Nevada.

When players tell me to play the bonus (with the exception of Grubbette, because I know she's going to lay into me if she see my bonus circle bare), I flash them the NYC stink-eye to let them know to back the fuck off. I would never tell them to buy insurance at blackjack, and I would never, ever dare tell them how to bet in Pai Gow, so I ask the same respect in return.

But the woman next to me wouldn't shut the fuck up. I gave her enough stinkeyes to fumigate all of Toldeo, but either she was a recently released mental patient, or she secretly worked for Boyd Gaming as a cooler. I couldn't figure out why the hell she was badgering me because one of the other players didn't play the bonus and she didn't give him any guff.

She was catching me amidst semi-Pai-Gow-Tilt. Just before she sat down, I lost a big hand with a nine-high Pai Gow. That's not a typo.

Nine. High. Pai. Gow.

I didn't think it could get any worse, but it did. The Pai Gow gods were having a blast cold-decking my ass. I got the absolute worst fucking hand possible in Pai Gow. 2-3-4-5-7-8-9. Two hands later, I got dealt a ten-high Pai Gow. At that point, I was ready to pack it in and play three-card monte against crackheads on once of the pedestrian bridges over Las Vegas Blvd.

My internal tilt meter reached full throttle. Mega-Pai-Gow-Tilt was about to burst out of my forehead. Not only was I running bad, but the few times I won a hand with a straight or rare boat, the twat told me I was stupid. I think the stupid count was reaching 30 at that point.

Then it happened... the tipping point. I unfurled my hand and saw what I thought was a lock: 8-8-8-J-4 and 5-5. The dealer peeled off a flush and pocket sevens. Fuck me.

"Stupid!" the twat taunted. "Stupid! You lose, stupid!"

I snapped. "For the love of Buddha, will you shut the fuck up?"

I swear, the entire casino stopped and turned around. Of course, I looked like the bad guy -- the surly drunk sore loser yelling at a nice old Chinese woman.

I pointed across the pit and blurted out, "There's an open seat over there. I'd prefer it if you played at that table because you're annoying the shit out of me. So please stop yapping about the stupid fucking bonus and stop calling me stupid, otherwise, take a hike, Aunt Emma."

The pit boss heard my f-bomb and sheepishly darted over. We made eye contact and I instantly apologized for the crude language, but quickly explained to him what happened before he called in the thugs to taser my ass.

"She called me 'stupid' like 30 times," I said and my complain sounded a lot lamer than the severity of the insulting barbs.

The old drunk guy at my table slurred, "She's lucky she didn't say that to me. I would've slugged her."

I tried not to laugh, because I would've loved to have seen it happen. The twit pic would have been epic.

"Look, she's a bitter local," I told the pit boss, "I'm a tourist who had a long week and an even longer day of meetings and traveling. I came to your casino to have fun, get drunk, and gamble without being harassed. But she's ruining my good time by pestering me to bet the bonus when I politely explained I don't play the bonus, and then badgering me with taunting names. Sweet Jesus, if I wanted to be ordered how to live my life and told that I was stupid for my decisions, then I would have went to my mother's apartment in the Bronx and played her heads-up Pai Gow while she got shitfaced and berated my life choices."

I pushed my green chips to the center of the table and requested a color up. I mumbled something about going to the Bellagio where they have a more sophisticated clientele. That's when the pit boss actually did something surprising -- he asked me to stay and ordered the lady to sit at the table across the way. Wait, what? Usually the staff sides with locals on all disputes.

The twat cursed in an unintelligible dialect and snatched the rest of her chips (at that point she had almost blow through her entire buy-in) and kicked her chair backward with an unexpected back kick like a mule. Her chair toppled to the ground. I whirled around and picked it up.

The pit boss apologized and wrote me up a comp (it was for the fucking buffet, but a nice gesture) and apologized again for the woman's rude behavior.

"She's a troublemaker," he explained.

The dealer, who had been silent the entire time, nodded in agreement. Oh now she responds? A better dealer would have seized control of the table the moment she noticed the twat was busting my balls and berating a fellow player. That's when I noticed the dealer never blinked once. I thought the dealer might've been a bot, or one of those Reptilian shape-shifters I've been reading about on 2012 forums.