Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No Exit and Broken Mirrors

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

"Fuck!" I screamed.

Change100 and I were in our new Las Vegas apartment for less than ten minutes when I broke a mirror on the wall in the bedroom. I rented a furnished apartment in the Del Bocca Vista close to the Rio in a gated community to keep out all the tweakers and gangbangers. Unfortunately for me, I accidentally knocked a mirror off its nail and it crashed on the floor. A large sliver broke apart from the mirror and I was overcome with emotion. The last thing I wanted to do in the first hour I was in Las Vegas was break a mirror. Even if you don't believe in that superstition, its never a good sign.

The number 13. A black cat. A $50 bill. SirWaffles. Someone touching your head. What do all of these things have in common?

Most people associate those things with bad luck. Within an hour of that mirror breaking, the internet in the apartment wouldn't work. I lost $300 playing online poker and then I scratched Change100's new car trying to pull out of the parking space.

"Fuck!" I screamed again as I inspected the damage.

"I'm gonna drive," she said sensing that I was on mega-broken-mirror-tilt.

When I eventually calmed down, I played some poker at Red Rock. When my name was called the kid at the desk said, "Table 13."

The illusion of control allows gamblers to feel more comfortable about their fate. By eliminating anything associated with bad luck, gamblers feel more comfortable at the tables and while they gained a slight cosmic edge over the casino and other players. Their x-factor is their symbol of good luck. Whether it's old ladies at bingo parlors with their good luck trinkets or Cyndy Violette and her lucky stones or Derek Jeter rubbing the head of Don Zimmer before every game (Ah... no wonder the Yankees have not been doing well! No more Zim as a good luck charm) people engage in rituals that they believe will affect the outcome of their gambling ventures.

The over-inflated beliefs and the illusion of control is one of the biggest contributing factors to problem gambling. It's a shortcut or easy excuse that consistent losers use to justify why they dire loses at the tables instead of owning up to the fact that they either lack the necessary skills to play the game or simply fell on the bad side of mathematics and probability. Pocket Aces are supposed to lose a percentage of the time and against Pocket Kings, they might be an overwhelming favorite... but Aces get beat by underpairs. That's the beauty of poker and why I love playing against superstitious people. They are easy to tilt and as soon as you sense that they are succumbing to the dark side of bad luck... go in for the kill.

Rituals are things that make people comfortable, like flipping the on and off switch to the lights eight times before you leave the apartment or why I used to knock twice on the outside of a plane in the jetway before I boarded any flight. I firmly believed that touching the outer shell of the plane would prevent it from crashing and improve my flight karma which meant avoiding sitting next to babies, chatty people, and folks with morose body odor.

The inflated expectation of winning by adhering to superstitions is the ultimate downfall to any gambler that sets foot in Las Vegas. You will not get blackjack or flop a set if you do or do not follow the delirium of a specific superstition. The randomness of luck is more powerful that your willingness to increase your edge with lucky items or fulfilling a ritual that's nothing more than a waste of your time and your crutch against facing the harsh realities of the world.

Gambling is a chaotic, godless, and random universe.

Asian people view luck in vastly different ways than those of us in the Western world. Chinese people believe that the ebbs and flows of luck can be predicted by astrology. The firmly believe that you can gain an edge by taking advantage of an instance when celestial luck is in your favor. That's why Chinese New Year is a popular time among Asian gamblers. They believe that winning at any form of gambling on New Year's Day will bring them positive luck for the rest of the year.

In some Asian cultures, people save up for decades before checking the stars to find out the right time to head to Macau, Las Vegas, or a local casino. They feel that the outcome for the remainder of their life is up to the gambling gods. If they are supposed to lead a blessed and wealthy life... then they will score big on their gambling sojourn. If they lose on that epic trip, then they accept the fact that they are not predispositioned to have a fortunate life and can accept the role of mediocrity or poverty for their remaining years.

There's a Vietnamese saying, "Winning is luck. Losing is bad luck."

Some poker players will find some truth to that statement. There is a sort of randomness associated with the shuffle of the cards along with the shuffle of luck. When you are running bad, the player at the other end of the table is often referred to as a "luckbox" or a "lucky fucker." But if you get sucked out on, you might chalk up your negative experience to a run of bad luck.

Is a run of bad cards just a run of bad luck? Or is simply... a random event?

That depends on the belief systems and psychological temperment of the person experiencing the rush or the dismay of the awful run of cards. When I get J-J and two overcards flop five straight times, it does not mean I have bad luck or failed to adhere to a silly superstition (I forgot to recite the Our Father in Latin... Pater Noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.) set forth to ensure that I flop a set. There are many instances when mathematics and statistics dictate the flow of the cards. Of course if you are running bad and on mega-tilt, you tweak the stats in your favor.

I used to give bums on the subway $1 bills if I encountered them on my way to the Blue Parrot. I didn't associate my good luck with helping out a homeless person buy food or score some malt liquor, but I felt that my overall karma would improve by helping out the homeless. Good karma might come back in a form of a winning session at the tables.

Last night, Change100 had A-A three times at our table. They held up every time. Was that good luck or the fact that Aces win more statistically than any other hand preflop? If she got them cracked three times, our favorite Hollyweird blonde would have been steaming and alluded to a run of bad luck and called her opponent a douchebag or cumstain.

Why did her K-K hold up against a guy with Q-5 and when did my cowboys lose to Q-5? Are her stars aligned in a way that she's more apt to catch a string of good cards? Or did my Kings get cracked because I broke a mirror and my soul was drowning in unfortunate circumstances?

One of the hardest superstitions to shake is the theory that bad luck is passed along from one player to another like a wicked case of the clap or the bird flu. Derek and I often joke around that certain bloggers are "The Cooler." We have a running theory that specific bloggers were symbols of death at the tables. I won't out The Coolers, but there were instances when blogger XYZ walked up to the blackjack table and Derek picked up his chips and walked away. At the IP last year during my awful run at Pai Gow, I walked away when a blogger/cooler walked into the pits.

I have a specific example involving SirWaffle. Is it proof that he's a cooler and he's the reincarnation of Semyazza? If you read his blog regularly, you know that the gambling gods have a hard on for fucking with Waffles. His karma is a black hole of bad luck. Sometimes it rubs off on others. At one of the blogger gatherings, he had just busted out of the tournament and came over to talk to me. I found K-K. I flashed him my hand and he said, "That sucks because you know an ace is going to flop."

The door card was an Ace and I snapped at Waffles, "Get the fuck out of here! You're bad luck is infecting my card mojo."

I was joking, of course. If I had flopped a set I still would have told Waffles to bugger off. I've been around enough casinos to know that bad luck does not rub off on other people. However, I do believe that negative people attract negativity and have a proclivity to the darkside of the universe. I try to avoid those people in life, not just at the tables. If I'm sitting next to a Prince or Princess of Darkness... I ask for a seat change right away.

During March Madness, Miami Don and I discussed certain sports bettors who historically lost. If you found out they liked a certain team, then you bet big against them everytime. One of our cocktail waitresses was the perfect example of someone whom we faded their picks. During one morning, we already put our bets in and the waitress came by to hang out and shoot the shit. We asked her who she liked.

"North Carolina," she said. "I bet that one."

A panicked look blanketed Derek's face as he shook his head. We bet UNC heavily and the fact that our waitress bet them did not bode well for all of us.

"We should have made our bets after we spoke to her," he said.

And yes, UNC lost but not because our waitress bet on them. However, at the time of desperation when gamblers are on the brink of insanity, your decision making processes are seriously impaired and you allow thoughts like "SirWaffle is a Cooler" or "Fade my cocktail waitresses picks" to seep into your mind.

Believing in luck whether it is good or bad is a form of tilt. Stat and math geeks will tell you that there is no such thing as a rush and pushing your luck is nothing more than feeling confident about your cards. Conversely, when stuck in a losing streak, worrying about the outcome of your hands due to an unlucky streak is simply playing without confidence. Like I said, math and science rule the universe over hokey superstitions. That is... if you believe in that.

Some people believe in God and some people firmly believe that praying to God will affect the outcome of your cards. I come from the school of thought that if there is a God, the last thing he wants to do is to turn off the doom switch on PokerStars for you or help you catch your two outer on the river.

Here's a tip... the next time you are in Las Vegas, realize that you are hanging out in the post-modern version of Sodom or Gomorrah. Didn't God send his angels to burn those cities to the ground?

Poker dealers are often associated with good or bad luck. Ask Linda to tell you stories about the regulars who view her as their good luck charm or the sign of the apocalypse. It's simply easier to project your losses onto someone else and blame the dealer. Sit in a locals casino for a few hours and watch the expressions on the faces of the players during a deal change. Some are happy to see a dealer go.

"That bastard cold decked me," they would say.

Or if the dealer had a history of giving them good cards, they would be giddy with excitement like a little kid on Christmas morning.

"Thank God you're here! I've been waiting for my luck to change."

Sometimes I laugh because I see these people playing their hands terribly. Their excuse for poor playing or lack of decent skills at the tables is all because of the dealer. Yes, all poker dealers are just vehicles for the poker gods. They get messages whispered to them by the consortium of angels (or fallen angels if you think that God has abandoned casinos and they place is run by Satan and his crew of Hell's Angels) and determine whether or not you catch your flush or get busted out of a tournament by a donkalope with A-2o.

You have heard of all those wacky superstitions such as a hat on a bed is bad luck or having a dead person in your dream means that someone close to you is going to die. Then there are the universal ones... like a black cat or walking under a ladder or having SirWaffles railbird you. I don't believe in any of those because once you start to believe one... you have to believe all of them and then you become a slave to your superstitions. Well fuck... why ever leave the house when there's too many ominous signs of bad luck?

There is one tiny superstition that I have and it's all because of Grubby. It involves $50 bills. I refuse to carry them in my wallet. Why? Because $50 bills are historically bad luck for gamblers.

The hardest part about traveling overseas is getting an influx of 50 bills whether it was Aussie bucks or Euros. I freak out when changing US dollars and get 50s. I quickly ask for a wad of 20s which often pisses off the person at the change booth. They obviously had no concept of Grubby's $50 rule or they would not have given me guff. In Las Vegas, workers at the cage are so used to the $50 rule that they rarely give out $50 bills because they know most of the people will give it back. And if you walk up to the cage to change a $50 bill, they'll quickly do that transaction for you. After all, a happy gambler is better than a grumpy gambler. And if you feel like you are having a string of good luck, you are more likely to gamble more than when you are soaked under a wet blanket of bad luck.

Aside from the $50 bills, I don't have any superstitions. I don't say three Hail Marys when I am dealt pocket Queens. I don't believe in the "secret" and ask the universe for good cards at the tables. I don't wait until both cards are dealt to me before I peek at them.

I often find myself avoiding unlucky people in life (or rather people who feel they are unlucky) not because I'm afraid it will rub off on me... but rather because I'd rather not be around negative people. Hearing about people's bad beats in life is probably the least entertaining thing for me in the universe. Just as Jean Paul Sartre explained that hell is other people in his play No Exit, to me... hell would be me locked in a small room and having to read bad beat hand histories posted by bloggers or listen to poker players tell me their bad beat stories... for the rest of eternity.

People who believe that bad luck is the reason why they lost are simply gamblers who are lazy or selfish and are unwilling to accept that they are bad players and did not accept the fact that they played poorly and made bad decisions. Even the top pros in the world rarely play flawless poker. People make mistakes at the tables and it's easier to mask their bad play under a string of bad luck.

Sartre's character Garcin said it best in No Exit, "I made my choice deliberately. A man is what he wills himself to be."

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Darfur Charity, Heart of Darkness, and the Shark Attack

By Pauly

I had an unusual week that featured tremendous swings and fluctuations that I had not seen since I started playing poker. After taking shots at higher limits, I posted several records winning sessions along with record losing sessions. However, in the end, I got smoked at 30/60. The short term results are not good but I made solid decisions and aside from one or two hands that I misplayed, I would have not changed a thing with my sessions this week at the 30/60 level.

The biggest pot that I lost happened at a rare full ring table of 30/60 at Full Tilt. It happened at noon ET too on a weekday. I was at David Grey's table and I lost a pot worth $852. I raised UTG with Ah-Kc and had four callers. The flop was all rags with two hearts. I bet out and was raised by Grey. I called because I can't lay down Big Slick. The turn was the Kh. I had top pair with a nut flush draw. I bet out, Grey raised, and I re-raised. He called. The turn was the 6s. I bet out and he called. He showed 3s-3c for a flopped set. My over-aggression with Big Slick hurt me. The tight play would have been to fold on the flop but I was playing loose and not giving Grey enough credit for a made hand. In NL, I fold right away to a raise on the flop. Since it was Limit, I knew it would only cost be a couple of big bets to see the river card.

On Saturday, I had one of the darkest days that I ever experienced in poker. I didn't play bad and made good decisions at the 30/60 tables on PokerStars. I won several small pots, but I lost three big ones which cost me close to 1K. When I got my J-J cracked by Qd-8d (I was rivered), I walked away. I was at the cusp of my stop-loss of 1K per session and had to log off. The hard part was that I didn't feel that I was on tilt and was on top of my game. The results were shitty and I wanted to keep on playing. Alas, I held up to the rules I set forth when I play online poker. No matter how I'm running, if I pass a certain losing mark, I stop playing for the day. If I broke my own rule, then I'd set precedent and I'd be tempted to do it again in the future when I am on tilt. That stop-loss keeps me in check and ensures that I will never lose my bankroll (let alone more than 5% to 10% of it) in a single day.

The 30/60 experiment is coming to a close. I've been playing a lot of online poker the last three weeks and had a firm grasp of the players in that game... something that eludes me when I travel a lot and I'm rusty at the tables. I head to Las Vegas on Tuesday and won't have time or the attention span to play 30/60 for at least two months. Although I lost at my initial entry at the 30/60, I'm comfortable with my game and realized that there are some awful players at that level which makes the games profitable as long as I stay away from the sharks or possible cheating teams. Back to the minors for another season.

* * * * *

It felt good on Sunday morning when I won back 24% of the previous day's loses in less then twenty minutes after hitting and running at the 10/20 tables on PokerStars. I donked around the micro NL tables and won enough money to cover my buy-in and rebuys at the Darfur Charity event.

On Sunday afternoon, I played in the Darfur charity tournament over at PokerStars. Thanks to everyone who blogged about the event. Karma points are headed your way. And thanks to bloggers who played such as Yestbay, Garth, Kat, AlCantHang, Drizz, Bayne, StatikKling, Derek, and Change100. (I apologize in advance if forgot to mention you.)

I tried to get 1,000 entrants and although we fell short of the mark, I was happy to see 744 players in the mix. $20,900 overall was raised through that tournament along with the awareness of the tragedy of Darfur to several people who had no idea of some of the horrific crimes that are being committed on a daily basis in the war torn region of the Sudan.

My friend Ingrid has been blogging about the crisis in the Sudan for the last four years over at Sudan Watch. You should add her blog to your reading list.

Mad Harper & Change100 were at same table. Mad was the subject of a great e-mail prank last week when she thought George Clooney was pissed off at her for something she wrote about him in her blog. Alas, the culprit was her friend Conrad who had Mad in a tizzy thinking that Mr. Clooney actually read her blog. Mad made the final table in the first Darfur charity tournament.

I found myself at Humberto Brenes' table and I quickly typed, "I fear the shark!" into the chat box. I had a couple of railbirds, as did Brenes.

In the first level, I tripled up with 10-10. One player raised. Another called and I moved all in for 2410. Brenes called as did the original raiser. Brenes flipped over 8-8 and the third player had Ad-Qd. I was ahead and my hand held up. My stack was up to 6.5K. I typed, "Pauly 1, Humberto 0" into the chat.

On the next hand, I flopped a nut flush. I called a raise with Kd-7d. I called a small bet on the flop of Ad-Jd-8d. We both checked the turn of 5s. The river was the 4c and my opponent bet 240. I raised to 480 and he called with As-Th. That 1560 pot pushed me into 34th place.

A couple of hands later, I called an Humberto Brenes raise with Qh-Jh in the big blind. The flop was Qd-Qc-3h and I bet out 270. Brenes raised to 720! I pushed all in and he mucked. Brenes typed "DrPauly 2, Humberto 0" in the chat. I moved up to 25th place.

I lost a big pot with J-J. I put out a huge re-raised preflop and a donkalope called me with K-3. He flopped two pair and I doubled him up. I lost another big hand with Qd-6d. I called a small stack who pushed all in on a board of Kh-10d-8d. Sadly, he had Ad-Jd. He turned a straight and I rivered two pair which was worthless. That pot was 7K and I slipped to 3.7K.

I got chips back against Brenes. My 8-8 held up to his overcards. All the money went into the flop of Qh-10c-3c. My pair held up against his open-ended straight draw even though he picked up more outs on the turn with a flush draw. Here's the ensuing chat:
Change100 [observer]: weeeeeeeeeeee
DrPauly: You are shark, i am fish
Humberto B.: Pauly 3 Humberto 0
Derek [observer]: haha
That hand put my stack around 5.6K. I was in 122th place out of 536. I moved up to 8.7K after I turned a full house with 7-7. By the first break (and re-buy period ended), I was 91st out of 452 remaining players. I had 10.7K after the add-on. John Duthie was among the chipleaders and he was moved to AlCantHang's table.

I lost half my stack in one of the first hands after the break. I found Ah-Kh in the big blind and after a button raise of 300, I reriased to 900. He called. The flop was A-Q-9 and we both checked. I bet the turn and was re-raised all in. I called and he flopped a set of 9s. I slipped to 224th place with 5.6K in chips.

Duthie and I busted out at almost the exact time. I headed to the rail in 399th place. I had three dead stacks at my table. One player limped in and from the button, I raised all in with A-9. There were two dead stacks in the blinds and I just wanted to take it down right there. The player who limped from UTG waited until the last second before he called with Ac-2c. I was ahead on the flop and it appeared we were going to chop by the turn but the river was a 2 and I was eliminated.

Derek went deep and finished 55th place. And Garth was 2nd in chips late with about 100 or so to go. He remained in the Top 10 for a while before he finished in 22nd place. Well done, Kangadonk!

* * * * *

Ah, I forgot to mention that I came in 4th place in a 261 person NL MTT on Full Tilt last week. Yes, not only did I play a NL tournament, but I actually made the final table and promptly blew a final table chip lead. I doubled up early with J-J and then lost most of my stack when my pocket Kings lost to Ac-Qc. He limped UTG and called a monster raise preflop. I moved all in on the flop that had two clubs. He called with the nut flush draw and rivered me.

When it got close to the money, I won a big pot when I made a move with A-Q from the blinds after missing the flop. I sensed weakness from one player and check-raised him all in. He mucked as that hand put me past the 50K mark. I played like a maniac when there were 10-14 players left and our table was short-handed. I pushed everyone around as I went from the middle of the pack to the chiplead.

At the final table, one player found A-A twice and K-K twice in the first 25 hands at the final table. I lost a big hand to him when I ran into Kings with A-K. I lost the lead but the hand that really crippled me was losing with J-J against A-J.

With the blinds 1500/3000 and 400 antes, a player raised to 9K UTG. I reraised him to 52K or what would have put him all in. I had Jh-Jd. He called with Ah-Js. The flop was 7d-5h-5d and I was ahead when the turn was a blank. The river was the Ad and I typed, "Nice catch comestain!" into the chat. That pot was worth 108K and I was in next to last place with 8 players.

I made a run to stay alive and outlasted a few more players before I eventually busted out in 4th place. My K-7 could not win a race against 4-4 and I was out. At least I cashed and made a final table.

* * * * *

My main blog, Tao of Pauly, recently turned 5. Yes, that blog birthday marked my fifth year of blogging. Head over to read my birthday post where I highlight the past year including links to some of my best posts over the last twelve months.

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Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Birth of Cool

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Editor's Note: I sent this email to a friend of mine who was struggling at poker. I cleaned up the capitalization and punctuation but I'm too lazy to actually formulate this rambling and stream of consiousness e-mail into a coherent blog entry. Enjoy...

I have no illusions about my poker game. I'm not a pro and never want to be. After spending two long years on the road following around the carnival-like atmosphere of tournament poker all over the world (along with the side elements of legal casino cash games and not-so-legal underground clubs and rooms), I've come to the conclusion that there are several traits that I don't have (or more so, willing to develop and work on for several years) in order to be a successful professional poker player. And even if I was able to master those traits and be at the top of my game, there's the luck element that comes into play which makes it even more impossible to earn enough money to provide financial security over the next decade in order to weather the mentally tough times, losing streaks, paying taxes, and uncontrollable worldly events (stock market crash, real estate bust, terrorist attack on Las Vegas, or a natural disaster). With too many pitfalls to side step, vultures to fight off, and temptations to duck out there on the road, in Las Vegas, and surrounding the poker world, it's just a matter of time before a player goes broke or goes insane.

Yet every single day, I get emails from people and readers telling me that they are dropping out of school or quitting their jobs to move to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player. While I admire their gutsy ambition and applaud them for following their dreams, I send them my standard "that's a bad idea" email, encourage them to take up the life as a semi-pro (have a regular job and play on the side) and wish them luck. What I don't tell them (and probably should) is that 99% of them will either burn out or go broke within the year and at some point, I'll run across them waiting on my table at a restaurant or dealing poker to me at a locals' casino. They were better off going to law school or starting their own business instead of moving out to the most violent and deviant city in America.

It's poker players like that who have no semblance of their poker ability and game (and on a greater scale no semblance of who they are as a person which ends up destroying their lives and dreams) that make guys like Phil Ivey uber-rich and can afford baller watches that cost twice as much as you bust your ass in a year. The semi-pro life is where its at. Those folks tend to be the happiest that I run across on the circuit. They have smiles on their faces. They have tans. They look fit and fresh. They play poker seriously but not full time which means they have a more fruitful and balanced life and do not have to rely upon their daily outcomes in order to eat, pay bills, and save for the future. In short, they are there because they want to be there not because they have to.

In the end, playing poker for a living is a job and most folks forget about that vital aspect when they make a hastily decision to go pro. By definition, all jobs suck because you are doing something that you'd rather not do but have to because it makes you money. These days, winning $1 million is insignificant in the bigger picture. In order to live the rock star lifestyle of some of the pros you see on TV, you need a score that's close to $5M or $6M. Otherwise, you have to grind that amount out at the cash game tables.

The illusion, the dream, the mirage... it's what makes players go busto. The few smart ones realize that the rock star lifestyle is a fabrication and unessential. Hearing about pros going to bed early, or working out, or investing their money and living modestly seems super boring. But you know what? Those guys and girls rarely go broke.

I know where my heart and talent lies and that's where I'm focusing most of my energies these days. My real passion is writing so I spend most of my free time improving my craft or working on the business end of that to ensure that I can keep writing the rest of my life. When I'm not doing that, I've been spending time with my brother and friends or enjoying as much music as I can and traveling for myself.

The goal of a true professional poker player is to earn enough money so they don't have to run the rat race or wear a tie for 50 hours a week while taking guff from some dickwad of a boss. As a writer, I'm trying to put myself in a position where I can have enough financial security and become independent of the system instead of relying upon it for work which I've learned in the past drains me of both energy and creativity. Writing is a solitary profession and can be extremely frustrating at times. However, it's not as frustrating as getting your teeth kicked in after losing to a three outer on the river.

I'm a low limit grinder and in the last couple of years, I built $200 into almost $19K with the bulk of that coming from getting lucky in a couple of tournaments along the way or grinding it out. My bankroll is strong enough that even if I suffer a massive losing streak and have to jump down in levels, I can and still have enough bullets to compete at that level and survive an initial bad run of cards.

I played multiple 3/6 tables for the longest time because the stats didn't lie... I was exceptionally successful at that limit so played as many tables as I could handle. It's kind of strange that I struggle at 5/10 limit, but had a better than average hourly win rate at 8/16, 10/20, and 15/30. Most recently I took a few shots at 30/60 and the short term results have not been too good, but I haven't played enough hands to determine if I can play at that level. For now, I'm comfortable playing as high as 15/30 and can handle the big swings that come with those games. These days I'm winning or losing pots that used to be the size of my online bankroll three years ago.

Some people are not impressed with my win rate or with the fact I play limit Hold'em or what I do for a living. And I could care less. As soon as you live your life by how others think of you... you cease to be living a life of your own. You become a clone and lack originality.

I've gotten to where I am today as a person and a writer because of a little luck, plenty of hard work, and a strong "I don't give a shit what you think of me" attitude. So far, I like the results. Because people tend to worry about what others think of them, that's what ultimately holds them back from being a complete person. Even those who do achieve success within that fucked up structure of a life (for the benefit of looking cool), they often find that their lives are shallow and meaningless, because in the end they lived a life that wasn't their own and ruled by people whom you so desperately tried to impress. Life is too short so don't waste it trying to impress others.

I've always been great at math and the writer in me has always been an asset at the live tables in regard to reading people. My bankroll management has been solid. That's why I've been a winning player over the last couple of years and endured a couple of junk kicking losing streaks. And I finally filled the leaks in my game with lacking mental toughness and playing the appropriate game at the proper level. That's what hurts most poker players and killed me for a while... they are either playing too above (or too below) their skill level or they are playing the wrong formats.

You basically have three choices; game, format, and levels. Game is simple... Texas Hold'em, PLO, Stud 8, Razz, HORSE, etc. Format comes in two subcategories... cash games or tournaments. Cash games come in two other subcategories... full or short-handed. The last choice is levels... Hi, Mid, or Low and that applies to both cash games and tournaments.

I'm pretty simple. I'm a Limit Hold'em player. That's my bread and butter. I play that as much as I can to make money. A bigger bankroll gives me the necessary confidence to play better. Plus the more I win, the more I can spend on my family and friends. That way, everyone is happy. I have no illusions of becoming the next greatest NL tournament player or a PLO cash game specialist. When I play a tournament or PLO, I'm playing for fun and any loses I incur I write off as entertainment.

Every day I see players with excellent poker skills but they are fucking up by not playing at the right places. The old boxing adage fits... you have to punch your own weight. I see too many people lose their bankrolls by playing too many $10K events after a big score. I witnessed one kid take down $200K at the Borgata early last year and by Christmas he was broke. Now he's got the taxman after his ass because he forget to take out the correct amount and he owes the government. He should have realized that he got lucky and played much smaller events (between $1K and $2K) instead of hitting the tour and blowing his wad on $10K buy-ins to WPT events and racking up tons of expenses like air travel, car rentals and hotels. Had he played smaller events, he could have played anywhere from 5x to 10x more tournaments in fields that he was one of the better players instead of playing against some of the biggest sharks in poker.

Many people I've come across are more concerned about what others think about them and end up making terrible decisions. Winning poker is about making correct decisions. NL tournaments might seem cool but the bottom line is that you can and lose your bankroll quicker if you are not a solid player with proper money management. Playing too many tournaments and not cashing destorys your bankroll. What a lot of these people at home watching tournaments on TV is that the majority of the pros are backed and/or have percentages of each other. The rest of them have solid sponsorship deals or have condos in Vegas to cut down expenses.

Grinding (in a non-sexual Spearmint Rhino kind of way) is not sexy, but it pays the bills. Trying to impress your friends in the short term is a shortcut to disaster. If you really want to impress your friends, play the proper levels and grind out a living as a pro for an entire decade. They'll be super jealous that you didn't waste ten years of your life as a cubicle monkey and instead got to sit around your house in your underwear.

I know you read blogs and too often you hear the same sad story about how blogger XYZ won a big tournament online and then blew his/her winnings playing every tournament under the sun. The hardest point to overcome is the high school and mob mentality that has been ruling not just the poker scene, but most of America for the last two or three decades. Players are more concerned about what's going to make them look cool instead of making intelligent decisions. That's all the entire advertising industry is... to prey on your low self-esteem and trick you into buy their product because you think it might make you look cooler than you actually are. Whether it's sneakers, cars, music, or poker... there too much negative imagery out there that's a constant reminder that you're a loser. I'm not surprised more people don't go on more rampages and mass killing sprees since you can't surf the web, change the channel on the TV, or drive down the street without a constant reminder that you suck... so buy this because others will think you are cool and you'll finally get laid.

The suits are preying on your pyschological weaknesses in order to turn you into consumer-driven robots. The highschoolification of America continues and it's only going to get worse.

Same thing applies to poker. Play what makes you happy and play the specific format that is going to make you the most money. Make these decisions devoid of outside intervention. Otherwise, you're wasting time, money, and energy in a pursuit of coolness. The poker table is the last place in the world you should be working out unresolved behavioral and self-esteem issues or trying to correct a miserable childhood. There's too much money at stake there and if you bring your emotional garbage to the tables... in the end you will go broke.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you need to figure out who you and get you're shit together before you sit down at the tables. And more importantly, don't feel pressured to follow the herd. Because in the end, the herd always gets slaughtered.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Las Vegas Manuscript Excerpt

By Pauly

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from my untitled Las Vegas book. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Chapter 1: Loaded
"And life is just to die." - Lou Reed
Sometimes you get lucky before you even set foot on a plane bound for Las Vegas. I should have been arrested on the spot at Sea-Tac airport. Instead, I talked my way out of fines and imprisonment. More importantly, I avoided a huge legal tab from a over-priced criminal attorney wearing an off-the-rack suit whose sole job would be to try to find loopholes in my multiple drug possession charges. Sure, my good friend Senor was a high priced attorney in New York City but he had no juice on the left coast. All he could do was pick up the phone and hope that he could find a former law school chum in the greater Seattle area who owed him a favor. Otherwise, I'd be fucked. Properly.

1998. I was a long-haired cynic living in the slacker life Seattle trying to write screenplays while I smoked too much pot, slept with bored housewives from Vashon Island, and sat in bars listening to rambling dissertations from too many West Coast philosopher types, many of which I considered my close friends. That was back in a time way before airports took security seriously and you could travel with a horde of drugs on your person and not think twice about taking the risk. I had an ounce of high grade marijuana in my left pocket. In my right, a half an ounce of magic mushrooms was concealed. My sole job on that particular mission was to bring as many drugs as I could down from Seattle to Las Vegas.

My buddy Ty and I were supposed to meet up with Senor and his brother Javier at the Sahara Casino in Las Vegas. Senor flew in from New York City and Javier flew in from New Orleans, where he went to college. We had two Phish concerts on the agenda including their Halloween show, which we anticipated was going to be the biggest party of the year. Senor and I were vibe seekers. We traveled the planet looking for the right balance of energy, fun, and originality. Our quests took us many random countries, cities, and towns. Two months before, Senor flew out to Seattle for a three-day bender just so we could drop peyote and take long walks in the woods. On a head full of peyote and overlooking Lake Washington, we focused our frazzled thoughts for a few minutes and decided that we were going to Las Vegas for Halloween. We had been to Las Vegas before, but never together.

Senor was in charge of securing the hardest individual Phish ticket to get up until that time. Halloween 1998. He called in a favor with Phish's accountant. It seemed that Senor's law firm used the same guy. Talk about killer coincidences. Who would have thought a NYC law firm and an eclectic band from Vermont like Phish would share the same bean counter? Senor got the accountant drunk and took him to Scores for lap dances before he requested four tickets to Halloween. Like Mariano Rivera, Senor came through in the clutch. We were put on the band's special list. We had to pay for tickets at face value, but at least we got them without having to risk going to a scalper or ticket broker, who quoted Senor a price tag of $250 per ticket.

The tickets were set. Phase two included securing and transporting the proper drugs. A successful Las Vegas bender would not be complete without the right assortment of party favors and mind altering substances. We only knew one Vegas, the one that Hunter Thompson described in his epic manuscript Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Hunter and I shared so many weird things in common. We were both writers with warped minds and our sidekicks were quirky attorneys with fire in their bellies who showed no fear.

A friend of mine was a nurse at one of the hospitals on Pill Hill. She was also the biggest pothead that I knew. During one of her breaks, she met me in the parking lot of I.H.O.P. and sold me almost two ounces of White Widow, which was one the best strains of high grade marijuana around Seattle. Sapid to the taste buds, sticky to the touch, all the dense crystals made it looked white, with occasional slivers of lime green. I took a half of an ounce of the White Widow and swapped it for mushrooms with one of the guys I played poker with on Monday nights at the Trout House. Ty and I sampled both the pot and the shrooms the weekend before Halloween. High quality stuff indeed. I knew Senor would be pleased.

Senor and I were friends from college along with Slinger, who was my screenwriting partner and Ty's roommate. Slinger and I had two-thirds of a script done without any thoughts on how to write the final Act III. That screenplay ended up being one of my many incomplete writing projects that took up space on my hard drive. Ty and I hung out a lot and played whiffle ball. He also got me into a regular poker game with his work friends. He tended bar at an Italian restaurant downtown where I drank frequently. Ty resembled Jesus with long sandy-blonde hair and a beard. I guess you can say that most of my Seattle friends had a disheveled appearance. None of us aside from Ty had real jobs. We had not cut our hair in years and rarely shaved. Seattle was crawling with hipsters and dot-commers in 1998. The scared away all the hard-core hippies who preferred the more mellow towns like Bellingham or Olympia. One night when the group of four of us walked into Ty's restaurant to see him, the hostess announced, "The Grateful Dead are here to see you."

We were definitely poster children for "probable cause" which meant that we were a target to be searched all the time by the cops and law enforcement officials. Senor looked like one of them… clean cut, with slick hair, and newly shined shoes. He never got searched so he always held the stuff. He'd just smile and they'd let him through without a fucking clue and he'd have a hunk of Moroccan hash the size of an ostrich egg in his pocket. No such luck for me. I always got hassled, whether I was holding illegal substances or not. The team relied upon Senor in those situations for smuggling duties. Without Senor's help, I had to sneak the pot and mushrooms on the plane myself.

Ty and I stood in separate lines at the security check. My small backpack was filled with a long sleeve shirt, a Hawaiian shirt, two pairs of underwear, socks, my notebook, two pens, a Spalding Gray book and my toiletries bag. With memories of Billy Hayes stuck in a Turkish Prison from Midnight Express bouncing around my head, I double wrapped the drugs in Ziplock baggies. The mushrooms were small and odorless. That package was about the size of my wallet which I shoved into my front right pocket along with my wallet. The pot reeked. Badly. The more pot stinks, the better it is. I did my best to conceal the smell of some of the best shit I smoked in over a year. That package was about the size of a John Grisham novel. I wore cargo pants and it fit perfectly into one of those enlarged pockets.

As I walked through the metal detector, a guard who looked like Cheech Marin stopped me when the buzzer went off.

"Fuck!" I mumbled.

I forgot to take off my belt. While I stood to the side, he manually searched me, running a magnetic wand over my body. He zeroed in on the belt when it his wand went off. Then he started a pat down. He never went inside my pockets but he felt something bulging. It was the big bag of smelly pot. He touched it and squeezed my pants leg. He touched it again.

"What's this?"

"Nothing metallic," I snapped.

This is America I reminded myself. Not Turkey. This is the land of the lazy and inept. He would overlook what he discovered, at least I prayed that's what he'd do. Instead, the guard paused. I tensed up even more. Ty stood several feet ahead of me in shock after he cleared security. I nodded to him to indicate that he should keep going. He quickly ran off towards the gate. I eyed the group of overweight security guards standing in the corner bored off their asses. I was certain they were about to be called over to do a full body cavity search. I had harsh visions of some $6 per hour flunky shoving his finger up my ass searching for a condom filled with smack or looking for a cheap thrill. That's when the security guard who looked like Cheech grumbled. He miraculously told me that I could go.

That one intense minute of agony felt like it lasted three hours. I walked away happy, paranoid, and shocked. Either my security guard was clueless or he just didn't care that I was carrying enough drugs to get everyone on my flight completely shitfaced for two days. Like I said before, sometimes you got lucky before you even got to Vegas.

I met up with Ty at the gate, he was never more happier to see me.

"I thought you were pinched for sure," he said.

"So did I. That was close," as I gave him a high-five peering over my shoulder to make sure no one followed me.

I went into the bathroom and put the mushrooms and pot into my backpack. We eventually boarded a Southwest airlines flight to Las Vegas. I had the aisle seat. A dreadlocked-kid wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt sat down next to me. He smelled like a combination of my bong and roasted garlic.

"You going to see Phish?" he asked.

"Yeah. You?"

"Just Friday night. Don't have a ticket to Halloween. You have any extras? I can trade you some pharmies. I got a ton."

I might have looked like a dirty hippie in crowd of J. Crew models, but next to this dude, I looked like a narc. How the hell did that guy sneak in his stash? He must have hid it in his natty dreads. He opened up a small pill wooden box. He offered me a valium. I declined. He popped two.

"You smell weed?"

"No. Why are you holding?"

"Nope. Just pharmies."

The rest of the flight, he drank beers in between passing out for a few minutes at a time. I quietly read my book and went to the back of the plane to chat with Ty. As he waffled through waves of consciousness, the hippie guy tried to tell me about the crystal store that he and his girlfriend wanted to start in Alaska. The more he spoke, the more he slurred his speech. That was my karmic payback for circumventing airport security; I had to sit next to the annoying drunk and faded hippie dude for two hours and twenty minutes.

When the plane finally landed in Las Vegas, I stood up to get my backpack out of the overhead compartment.

"Don't you smell that? Who's got the skunky funky dank weed?" he said.

I smelled it for sure. The source was my luggage. The damn recycled air on the plane was circulating the aroma of marijuana throughout the entire cabin. I ignored the valium-freak who smelled like garlic for the rest of the time I was on the plane.
Ty made a rookie mistake and he checked his bags in Seattle. I tried to get him not to, but he took too much stuff with him and had no choice. While we milled around the baggage claim area, I spotted the hippie guy again. He ran towards me with a huge smile on his face.

"Dude," he yelled. "You're holding the dank! I knew it was you, brother."

"Shut the fuck up man!" I screamed. "There are tons of cops all over the place. Keep that info on the DL. What are you fucking crazy? This ain't Seattle anymore. We're in Nevada. The cops kill hippies everyday here. Why don't you announce to everyone in the airport that I got weed on me? They'll bury both our asses alive in the desert."

"OK, relax, brother. It's all good."

He tried to give me a hug and I darted away. We grabbed Ty's bag and slipped out to the taxi stand which was crowded for a Friday afternoon. We got screwed by the taxi driver who took us the long way, via the highway. I looked out at the mountains and never realized how close they were to the city. We arrived at the Sahara thirty minutes later.

When we got to the room, I tossed the drugs on the bed.

"How did you sneak this here?" Senor asked.

"In my pockets."

Javier burst into a laughing fit. He thought that was the funniest thing he ever heard. That was before I told him about almost getting busted.

"You got balls, man," added Javier.

"Just doing my job," I said.

Senor handed me a small envelope that contained several hits of acid.

"We're saving this for Halloween."

"How the hell did you sneak that here?"

"In my pockets," Senor answered.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, May 21, 2007


By Pauly

Last Monday, I lost my first prop bet in NYC when Dawn insisted that The Rooster would show up for his first ever Crackhouse tournament. I originally gave her 3-1 odds but reset the number when The Rooster texted Karol about getting specific directions. Brooklyn was far away from The Rooster's usual hunting grounds, so I figured he would not make the effort to travel to an outer borough. When he called from the subway station, I had lost and I paid Dawn.

On Tuesday, I lost at credit card roulette. I went out to dinner at Chat & Chew near Union Square with Spaceman, Rachel, Derek, and F Train. I asked Derek and F Train if they wanted to treat our out of town guests and play some credit roulette in the process. They agreed and we fanned out our three cards for the waiter to pick. Alas, our very gay waiter took mine as I screamed, "D'oh!" Lucky for me that the food was relatively inexpensive for NYC as we avoided getting liquor at dinner. I did get free drinks afterwards at McManus' pub.

On Thursday, I hung out with the Joker, his buddy Jeff, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot who was in town for various reasons. I did my best to entice random prop bets. One of them never materialized but involved the Imagine memorial for John Lennon in Central Park.

We wandered through Strawberry Fields and came upon the Imagine memorial. Several old hippies and Beatles fans mingled around snapping photos. Someone took flower petals and made a peace sign on the memorial. Two green apples sat inside the peace sign and I offered Jeff $20 to run up and take a bite out of the apple. It was the forbidden fruit at the time and he deliberated about doing it for a few minutes. He ended up declining. I bumped the offer to $40. He wouldn't do it. I didn't blame him. If any of those Beatles freaks caught him desecrating John Lennon's memorial they would have beaten him to a bloody pulp and then lynched him on one of the oak tress in Strawberry Fields. They give peace a chance but not when it comes to messing with the homage to their idol. John Lennon is still a draw these days even almost 27 years after he was whacked by the CIA. Wait, did I just write that? I mean... after he was whacked by Mark David Chapman who happened to be carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in his back pocket when he was arrested by NYPD in December of 1980.

We discussed the possibility of urinating on the Imagine memorial. I offered $100 for that task and Jeff declined. Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot thought about gathering up dog shit from all over the city and smearing it on the memorial. I would have given him $200 for that, but he pussied out.

It was only the late afternoon when we left Central Park and started drinking at Firehouse. We sat outside and waited for the Rooster to arrive. In the meantime, I managed to lose a prop bet to Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. We had a sizzling hot waitress who quickly became the object of our desires along with our degenerate gambling. She had curves in all the right places, puffy lips, and amazing eyes to match her equally luscious smile. We were all smitten by her natural looks and detected a slight accent. I offered up a prop bet... "Guess what country our waitress was from?"

The last time I played Waitress Geography was in Byron Bay, Australia with Schecky and Brandon Schaefer... and I lost.

I put our waitress on Brazil but gave Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot first choice to let him know that I wasn't rigging the bet. I had never met her before and had not been to the Firehouse in over two years.

He picked Brazil. Fuck me. I had to go with my second choice of Spain even though I knew it was a losing cause. Jeff went with Portugal.

"Excuse me," I asked our waitress after she dropped off another bottle of Stella for me. "What's your name?"

"Helene," she said.

"And where are you from?"

"Brasil," she said.

I tossed $100 to Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. Lucky fucker. Waitress Geography is so fuckin' rigged.

I think we freaked out our Brazilian waitress and we got a different one for the rest of the time we were there. Our second waitress was a cute blonde with a European accent. I asked her if she was German and she mentioned that she was from Finland.


"Yes!" she emphatically said.

I guessed correctly and asked her of she knew anything about poker. She nodded.

"Do you know Patrik Antonius?"

"Antonius? Yes I do! He used to date my best friend. He asked her to move to Las Vegas with him."

"Isn't he dreamy?" I said.

"Yes. I think so."

I also dropped the names of Thomas Whalroos and other famous Finnish players such as Juha Helppi and Jani Sointula. She knew all of them and went to university with a couple of them.

She asked me if I was a poker player and the Rooster told her that I was a famous poker writer. She pointed at Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot and said, "You look familiar. I have seen you before. In a Finnish magazine? Maybe on TV?"

Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot destroyed the competition at the 2006 Scandinavian Keno Championships. He picked up a fan along the way.

In true Roosteresque fashion, he asked our Finnish waitress to join us later in the night.

"I have a previous engagement," she said. "But so far you guys seem more fun than him."

We left that bar and went down the street to Prohibition. That's where Jeff fell in love with the bartender. Swear to God, she was named Amber. And she was blonde too.

We sat at the bar and the Rooster quickly jumped into action. "Yo Pauly Drama, we have to set an over/under line. Jeff should do it. How many times a night does Amber get hit on by customers."

Jeff said 7 and I laughed. I would have set the line at 27 1/2. A chick that hot is a magnet for every guy in the tri-state area. We both said over and didn't end up betting. Of course, we were shocked when Amber revealed the actual number

"Five," she said, "Guys are intimated by me, especially when I'm behind the bar."

Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot asked her to tell us one quirky thing about herself. He admitted that he didn't like onions and she revealed that she didn't like sour things like drinks or licking any sour candy.

"Anything else that you don't like to lick?" said Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot with a straight face.

She blushed and changed the subject. She told us how she had an addictive personality and jumped from hobby to hobby. She admitted that she used to play poker thanks to the influence of her ex-boyfriend. She played Hold'em and used to have a Party Poker account. She erased the software from her laptop and closed her account the day after they broke up.

"I have such an addictive personality," she continued. "I need something new to get addicted to."

"Hi, I'm Jeff," he said beating the Rooster to the punch.

After bar hopping with the Rooster to a few other places, we ended up at Bar 75, a hipster joint on the Upper West Side that featured over priced drinks and plenty of board games to play. We grabbed Connect Four and began a series of heads-up matches. I schooled Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot and went 2-0. The matches weren't even close and they ended as quickly as they started. He left and went to see if a gaggle of wealthy yuppie freaks wanted to shoot dice on the steps of the brownstone next door.

That's when the Rooster sat down. He humbled me after winning the first game. He's a cagey mofo. It doesn't matter if the game was poker, women, or Connect Four. He's a tough competitor. He set me up in the first game and I lost in a fairly quick match. Down 0-1, I fought back in the second match which lasted almost ten minutes. I emerged victorious and tied it up after I picked off the Rooster when he failed to see my diagonal build up. The last match went fast. The Rooster couldn't handle my deft Connect Four skills and he busted out quickly. I think he was distracted by a quartet of twenty-something chicks that sat on the couch next to us. As soon as he lost, he headed over to chat up the ladies. Always be closing.

I went home that night knowing that I crushed the Connect Four heads-up battles and felt great about my game. I'm considering starting a new blog... Tao of Connect Four.

Here's a video montage of the last two weeks in NYC.

Click here to view my NYC video via an RSS feed or Bloglines.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Big Game and Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament

Miami Don's Big Game is tonight. I won my token yesterday morning.

Also, one week from today on Sunday May 27th, PokerStars will be hosting a charity tournament to raise money for the humanitarian disaster in the Darfur region of the Sudan. If you cannot play, fnd out how you can donate money or help raise awareness.

If you have a blog (any blog) and have not blogged about this charity event... then shame on you. It's time for you to step up and do something positive with your little piece of the internet. Instead of bitching and moaning about bad beats or instead of bragging about how great of a poker player you are... do something extremely important and spread the word about this tournament, which happens one week from today. You can improve your karma and help out a worthy cause with one simple post.

We got less than 300 players in last week's charity tournament. That was pathetic. My goal is to get at least 1,000 players in this tournament. I need your help. Let's spread the word!

PokerStars is running the Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament next Sunday afternoon at 3:30pm ET.

PokerStars is teaming up with the cast of Ocean's Thirteen to help stop the suffering in the war-torn region of Darfur in the Sudan. If you have not been paying attention, over 400,000 people have already been killed. They launched Not On Our Watch. Their mission is to..."focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities. Drawing on the powerful voice of citizen artists, activists, and cultural leaders, our mission is to generate lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for the vulnerable, marginalized, and displaced."

PokerStars is donating $1 million and you can help out by playing in two diffeent charity events. You have a shot to win a ticket to the Ocean's Thirteen premiere in Los Angeles. See below for specific details.
Overview of the Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament:

These tournaments are special re-buy tournaments - the entire prize pool will be matched by PokerStars and donated to the Darfur relief efforts. At the conclusion of the event the prize pool, which will be temporarily awarded to the 1st place finisher, will be removed from the 1st place finisher's account. The amount will then be matched by PokerStars and sent forward to the Darfur charity. Thank you for participating — go re-buy crazy! — it's for a good cause. Good luck!

Date: May 27th 2007, 15:30 ET
Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys.
Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to June 5th premiere in Los Angeles plus 2 nights hotel and $2k for travel/spending. Top 18 receive autographed copy of "Oceans 13" DVD. Total prize pool will go to charity. PokerStars will match the donation. The tournament is open to all players. Good luck!
I will be playing in next Sunday's event on PokerStars. Hope to see you there and please spread the word about this tournament. Online poker players are painted by the mainstream press as degenerate criminals. Here's a chance to show the world that we can do some good with online poker.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Tao of Laughter and Forgetting

By Pauly

I had been playing a slew of online poker upon my return to NYC. The results have been tepid, at best with plenty of tremendous swings. I was on a heater for a bit until I had a horrendous session at the 15/30 tables on PokerStars. I managed to recoup those loses and for now I'm back on even ground.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines and resting for the upcoming WSOP, I spent the majority of the past week entertaining friends as they visited NYC. Aside from the WeHos Crackhouse game, that's been the only poker that I've played since Sunday. There's been zero sports betting action from yours truly. I made a pact with myself that I would not place any sports bets until the 2007 NFL season kicked off in September.

The only other gambling I've done is with the stock market. Just when I thought my Brasil Telecom stock pick was toastier than a Buddhist monk setting himself aflame to protest the Vietnam War, it rallied back. Big time. I bought it at 15, and it sunk as low as 10. Most people would have freaked out, but I knew that investing (much like poker) is all about performance over the long haul and weathering the rough moments. Right now, the stock is trading at its all time high and right where I expected it to be when I bought the fucker one year ago. My outlook is for the long term, much like poker. You maximize your profits today without losing sight of the bigger picture.

I've been playing 15/30 and 10/20 full ring games. I'd prefer to play those at Full Tilt, but there are never any full ring games running. Sometimes there are full 10/20 games and plenty of short-handed 15/30 games. Even an action junkie like myself knows that I don't have the testicular fortitude and the iron stomach to handle the swings at shorthanded 15/30.

So if I want a bigger limit game, I'm forced to play at with the sharks at Poker Stars. I've been hitting and running at the 15/30 tables with some success. The swings are huge. Pots are well over $400 a pop and those hands are limited to two or three players at the most. You figure that you're spending at least $115 per hand. If I'm going to play a pot in Limit, I'm coming in with a raise so that's $30 from me to see the flop. Add 2.5 more big bets and that's a $115 investment not including raising on any of the streets.

I took a big hit the other day when I had a 1K swing inside of twenty minutes. I was up a bit when I lost five pots. I started to go on mega-tilt and left before I could do any more damage to myself or my bankroll. Here's what happened.

I had scooped two big pots early on with Jh-7c in the big blind and with Ks-Qs from the CO. I flopped trips both times. Then I found Kh-Kc. Betting was capped preflop with three players. We went all the way to the river capping on the flop. When the Qc fell on the turn, I slowed down just in case one of them had a set. I only called on the river and ran into Ac-Ah. Ouch. That was a $477 pot.

I lost two other pots with my overaggressiveness. Even after checking the hand histories, I would have done the same plays again. Sometimes your opponents can't fold bottom pair or flat out think you are trying to steal and call you down with nothing only to pair up on the river. I can accept those beats.

I took a bad beat when Q-J beat my 9-9. My donkolicious opponent rivered a Jack and even though I raised pre-flop and on the flop, he couldn't let go of a hand where he was only drawing to six outs. I was wicked pissed after that beat and used up all of my patience to quell the steaming volcano within.

Then I found Kc-Kh and was in another capped pot preflop. It was only heads-up on that instance and there was no way I could be up against another player with Aces. I was check-raised on a flop of 7s-5c-2c and the Hammer looked awesome at that point. I had to put him on a set or Aces so I raised to see what he had. He capped it. I called the turn and river and wasn't surprised to see As-Ac. Ouch.

I lost with Kings against Aces twice inside of a twenty minute period. Add a bad beat and two suckouts and that's how you have a 1K swing. I took my buddy Singer's advice about online poker... "If you take a horrendous beat, turn off your computer right away."

I took his advice and didn't play for the rest of the day. Luckily, I had posted a winning session earlier in the day on 10/20 at Full Tilt so the overall day's loss wasn't as bad as it could have been. In the days following that rough session I managed to wipe out those loses.

Then everyone came into town, so I didn't have a chance to play much since then. I managed to play couple of tournaments on Sunday which included the PokerStars Ocean's 13 Darfur Charity event, AlCantHang's Riverchasers Bracelet Race, and FTOPS event #3.

I busted out early of the PokerStars Darfur event and was disappointed to see that less than 300 people participated. I hope more of you can play in the next charity event on May 27th. All proceeds go towards an amazing cause. If you're around, you should play. If you can't play, please help get the word out and blog about it.
What: Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament
Date: May 27th 2007, 15:30 ET
Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys.
Where: PokerStars
Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to June 5th premiere in Los Angeles plus 2 nights hotel and $2k for travel/spending. Top 18 receive autographed copy of "Oceans 13" DVD. Total prize pool will go to charity. PokerStars will match the donation. The tournament is open to all players. Good luck!
I played in AlCantHang's bracelet race and I took 12th. I barely beat Ghost Gracie who's dead stack outlasted several players.

That event was running at the same time at the $300 NL FTOPS Event #3. I bought in directly and decided to play on a complete whim. I never play any big NL events and cannot explain to you why aside from the fact that I have an impulsive personality which often gets me into trouble.

There were a shade under 3,000 players and the prize pool was close to 900K. I doubled up early when my A-J beat out Ac-7c. There was an Ace and two clubs on the flop and that's when all the money went into the pot. My hand held up and a slew of railbirds commented in the chat including the Poker Geek, Miami Don, Weak Player, Change100, Filpac (from Portugal), and Derek. The chatbox filled up quickly and my railbirds started to tilt the table. I was in total control until I got moved to Berry Johnston's table.

Berry is a five time WSOP bracelet winner and last year he fought for the lead in overall WSOP cashes with Phil Hellmuth and Men the Master. For a 71 year old guy, he's still on the top of his game. He ended up busting me from the tournament.

I lost most of my stack when I doubled up a short stack with 9-9 against A-A. I always seem to run into Aces in the big blind. I slipped to around 1280th place out of 2000 remaining players.

I busted out in 1549th place with the squeeze play. Two players limped in the pot and I found 9-6o in the small blind. With the blinds starting to shoot up I decided to move all in and pick up the antes, big blind, and the two limpers' bets. I moved all in and everyone folded... except Berry Johnston. He had limped with 9-9 and called. My hand didn't improve and I was out.

Mike Matusow busted right after me.

That was the last time I played online poker. Over the last six days I've been hanging out with the likes of visitors... Boy Genius, Bobby Bracelet (and his new lady friend), Spaceman, Mrs. Spaceman, Maigrey, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot.... who all hit up NYC over the past week.

I wanted to rest up and write and play online poker this week, but out-of-town friends are more important to me than padding the online bankroll. The last of the out-of-towners should leave by Friday which means I'll have a quiet weekend to myself where I can finally get some sleep, work out, read, write, and mentally prepare for seven weeks of WSOP insanity.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Welcome to the Crackhouse

By Pauly

I wandered into Brooklyn for a WeHo's tournament at the Crackhouse hosted by Dawn and Karol. The Crackhouse had neither hos nor crack. Sorry to destroy that illusion. Yeah, I know, I was a tad disappointed too. I was hoping to score some rock and blaze up in the hallways with Pookie from New Jack City, or find myself in a scene out of Luc Sante's book Low Life where street walkers, degenerates, swindlers, and thugs were taking turns feasting on the intestines of immorality.

The only visible drug was poker and about twenty people or so came from all over the city to play in a special Monday night tournament thrown in honor of Spaceman and Mrs. Spaceman, who were in town visiting. It also happened to be my first ever appearance at the infamous Crackhouse. I was eager to check out the action first hand after reading about it on several blogs. Heck, the night was so special that even The Rooster ventured to an outer borough and wore an outfit fit for a Guatemalan pimp who hoarded a gaggle of underaged prostitutes in the back of his Lincoln.

The day started out early for me (be sure to read Livin' over at the Tao of Pauly for a complete recap of the day's events) and I met Spaceman and Mrs. Spaceman at the Museum of Natural History to check out the dinosaurs and the butterflies. My back and knee bothered me so I took a half of a muscle relaxer that the Poker Shrink prescribed to me the last time I was in Las Vegas. Add some allergy medicine, liquor, and herbal supplements, and I was shitfaced hammered for a good fifteen hour period.

We met up with Karol at her apartment and then we left for Brooklyn. We made stops at Coney Island and Di Fara's pizza where we happened to bump into Shaniac.

Di Fara's is best pizza in the city and people wait an hour to ninety minutes for the pies because they're so fuckin' good. Dom, the old guy behind the counter freshly cuts pieces of basil on your pizza. I have pics over at the Tao of Pauly.

Anyway, it was freakish to bump into Shaniac at Di Fara's. NYC is the capital of the "bump into" but Brooklyn was the last place I expected to see a professional poker player who lives in Hollyweird. Even though Shaniac and I were both NYC guys and grew up here, we had never actually run into each other in the city. This year alone, I have seen Shaniac in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Monte Carlo, and Australia. It's a small world.

Before the tournament started, I played Spaceman heads up Chinese Poker while Mrs. Spaceman, Dawn, and Karol played Scrabble. Dawn bluffed a couple of times with words that were not official words. Spaceman and I had a back and forth match. I scooped him on one hand with my Quad Aces. I think I was up 4 points when everyone arrived for the tournament.

The Crackhouse game featured some old friends I had not seen in a very long time such as comedian Charles Star, Ferrari, Maigrey and Toni. The night was a reunion for me with friends I used to play with in other NYC homegames. Toni ran The Townehouse game at her flat while Ferrari was the host and owner of the infamous Blue Parrot. It's through Charles Star aka Ugarte that I knew almost everyone in the room. Six Degrees of Charles Star.

The biggest shocker was when The Rooster showed up. I gave Dawn 2-1 odds that he wouldn't come. Alas, he showed up dressed in his "Cuban farmer goes to the discotheque" outfit and I shipped $10 to Dawn.

I was seated at a good table. It might have been the featured TV table. But the only hole cams were a hidden camera in the bathroom that an old Russian guy in the apartment next door monitored for his own sexual pleasure. I rubbed it out twice to give him a good show. Usually, I charge extra for that.

I was seated in Seat 2 between Maigrey and Mrs. Spaceman. I didn't play any pots early on. Fisch flopped a set of Jacks and got in all in against Spaceman who had A-Q and just the nut flush draw. Although he picked up more outs on the turn with a gutshot, he missed and was crippled to just 75 or three chips. He tripled up on the next hand and tripled up again with Kings. Fisch ended up busting out when he ran into Maigrey's pocket Aces. Spaceman was out next.

Over at the other table, Toni cracked Ferrari's Aces with 7c-4c. That made Charles smile.

I found 4c-4h and raised in EP. The Rooster was on the button and raised me. I told him that I was behind but as going to flop a set against him. I called.

The flop was Q-6-4. I bet the pot and he raised me. I moved all in and he called. He flipped over A-K and my set held up. I had over 4K and looking good.

I won another big pot against Mrs. Spaceman when my Varkonyi held up and was up to 6K. I don't know how I got up to 8K.

I made the final table.

Final Table (photo courtesy of Karol)

When the tables consolidated, I was third or fourth in chips but not by a lot. Elana took most of my stack when she flopped a set of 5s against my A-Q. I shoved all in on a board of A-5-2 and lost the monsterpotten.

I was out in seventh place a couple of hands later when Mary's suited Ace held up against my K-Q.
Here's the money winners:
1. Elana
2. The Rooster
3. Mary
4. Maigrey

I vaguely recall being shitfaced in Dawn's kitchen drinking Brooklyn Lager and eating Twizzlers with Fisch. I didn't play any cash gamed even though there was a juicy one going on. I stuck around and waited for The Rooster to bust out since we were going home on the subway together. He finished in second place and I hazed him the entire time at the final table. He played OK but I gave him shit for every sketchy decision he made. I must have used the nouns "pussy" and "skirt" at least a dozen times each to describe his play.

Despite the lack of crack cocaine on the premises, I had a blast. I had not played in a homegame in a very long time and it was good to meet Dawn and Karol's friends and play cards with some old NYC friends.

We live in a crazy, stressful, and unforgiving world. It's a pleasure to engage in lighthearted activities from time to time. The right mixture of poker and friends always leads to a +EV night. Hopefully I will be able to make another one of those events sometime in the next twelve months... schedule permitting.


The Rooster and I took the train back to the city and we switched trains at Jay Street. We sat in dimly lit a car on the A train with six black guys.

"Yo Pauly Drama," whispered The Rooster, "where's the only non-brothers on this subway."

It was 1am. We were in Brooklyn and The Rooster was ready for a fight just in case we got jumped. I'm shocked that we didn't. He sported his Guatemalan pimp or "Cuban farmer goes to the discotheque" outfit and was an obvious target. I had been jacked up on muscles relaxers, weed, and beer all day and ubiquitously slurring my speech. I should have been mugged and The Rooster should have been beaten to a pulp for wearing white shoes before Memorial Day. Thank God the brothers on the train were not fashionistas and they let The Rooster live to see another day.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Poker News and the 2007 WSOP

By Pauly

I will be working with Poker News for the 2007 WSOP providing live coverage on their site. They partnered up with Bluff, who is the official media provider for the WSOP. Poker News will be providing live updates and chip counts for every single event during the 2007 WSOP.

I will be also writing on the Tao of Poker and contributing to and writing copy to accompany Flipchip's amazing WSOP photos.

Due to new media rules, I am prohibited from live blogging at the Tao of Poker. I have been cleared by Harrah's and Bluff to write one post per day on the Tao of Poker.

I am going to repeat the last two sentences so you understand... Due to new media rules, I am prohibited from live blogging at the Tao of Poker. I have been cleared by Harrah's and Bluff to write one post per day on the Tao of Poker.

My posts are going to resemble what I did during the 2007 WPT Championships at the Bellagio. If you want specific live updates and chip counts, head over to Poker News. If you want the straight dope on the behind the scenes action at the WSOP, head over to the Tao of Poker.

Poker News mentioned the news in last Friday's article called Announces Partnership with Bluff Media to Provide Exclusive Live Updates and Chip Counts For The WSOP:
PokerNews announced today the signing of an agreement with Bluff Media, LLC, to provide live-update and chip-count services for the World Series of Poker. The agreement includes the complete WSOP schedule itself, plus future WSOP Circuit and other WSOP-branded events. PokerNews will provide live 'play-by-play' reports from the tables and chip counts for the site, information also to be available here at PokerNews... more
Here's what others are saying about the recent partnership with Bluff and Poker News:

Lance over at the Poker Biz blogged a blurb last week titled PokerNews given rights to WSOP chip counts and live updates.

The boys at Wicked Chops Poker were crushed to learn that Card Player did not get the gig this year. Alas, CP won't be the whipping boy this summer. Check out Noooooooooooo!!! to Replace Card Player as Official WSOP Chip Counting and Live Reporting Source.

I'm honored, thankful, and grateful that I've been hired by John Caldwell and Poker News to be apart of their team. When Schecky put toegther his first coverage team for the Aussie Millions, fortunately, I made the cut. Since then, I've covered tournaments on three different continents for Poker News including the EPT Championships and the WPT Championships. They have a dedication to providing the best possible coverage and are willing to spend the necessary funds on assembling the preemiment reporters in the poker industry.

I've been working with some of the best in the business over the last few months and the results have been outstanding. Poker News will be adding several other familiar faces. Stay tuned for more details.

I move to Las Vegas in 15 days. The 2007 WSOP starts in 18 days. The Tao of Poker will be there for the third year in a row.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Top 10 Referrals, Ocean's 13 Darfur Charity Event, and AlCantHang's Bracelet Race

By Pauly

Just a quick thanks to the Tao of Poker's Top 10 Referrals for the month of April!
1. Tao of Pauly
2. Wicked Chops Poker
3. Las Vegas Vegas
4. Aaron Gleeman
5. NeverWin Poker
6. Shaniac
7. Chris Fargis
8. Iggy
9. Pokerati
10. Up for Poker
* * * * *

PokerStars is running the Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament. The first one is this Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm ET.

PokerStars is teaming up with the cast of Ocean's Thirteen to help stop the suffering in the war-torn region of Darfur in the Sudan. If you have not been paying attention, over 400,000 people have already been killed. They launched Not On Our Watch. Their mission is to..."focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities. Drawing on the powerful voice of citizen artists, activists, and cultural leaders, our mission is to generate lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for the vulnerable, marginalized, and displaced."

PokerStars is donating $1 million and you can help out by playing in two diffeent charity events. You have a shot to win a ticket to the Ocean's Thirteen premiere in Cannes or in Los Angeles. See below for specific details.
Overview of the Ocean's Thirteen Darfur Charity Tournament:

These tournaments are special re-buy tournaments - the entire prize pool will be matched by PokerStars and donated to the Darfur relief efforts. At the conclusion of the event the prize pool, which will be temporarily awarded to the 1st place finisher, will be removed from the 1st place finisher's account. The amount will then be matched by PokerStars and sent forward to the Darfur charity. Thank you for participating — go re-buy crazy! — it's for a good cause. Good luck!

Date: May 13th 2007, 14:30 ET
Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys.
Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to May 24th premiere in Cannes plus 2 nights hotel and $2k for travel/spending. Top 18 receive autographed copy of "Ocean's 13" DVD. Total prize pool will go to charity. PokerStars will match the donation. The tournament is open to all players. Good luck!

Date: May 27th 2007, 15:30 ET
Buy-in: $10 plus rebuys.
Prizes: Top 4 receive tickets to June 5th premiere in Los Angeles plus 2 nights hotel and $2k for travel/spending. Top 18 receive autographed copy of "Oceans 13" DVD. Total prize pool will go to charity. PokerStars will match the donation. The tournament is open to all players. Good luck!
I will be playing in today's event on PokerStars. Hope to see you there.

* * * * *

Don't forget about AlCantHang's bracelet race tonight on Full Tilt.

AlCantHang is hosting the bracelet race in conjunction with Riverchasers. It is open to both readers and bloggers. See you there.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Pimps: AlCantHang, Charles Star, and Charity

My buddy Neil Fontenot is raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I found a glimmer of warmth in my cold black heart and donated. If you have some spare change and need a karma boost, head over to find out how you can donate. If one hundred of my readers each donate $10 each, well, that's a very good start!

* * * * *

My buddy Ugarte aka Charles Star is a stand up comic in NYC. I you are in the NYC area and are looking for something to do, why don't you go see Charles Star. He's funny. Check out a video clip of his stand up and see for yourself. If you walk up to him and tell him, "Pauly thinks you're a pussy!" I will give you $10.

Here are his gigs:
FRIDAY, May 11 @ 11:59PM
Gut Bucket at UCB Theatre
Free Show
307 W. 26th St. @8th Ave.

TUESDAY, May 15, May 22, and May 29th @ 9:00PM
Agents Don't Come to Astoria @ Waltz
$7 minimum
Ditmars Blvd. @ 24th St. (Astoria, Queens)

* * * * *

By the way, do you wanna play in a $1500 WSOP event but not pony up the cash because your wife will shit an egg roll if you take little Chloe's college fund to chase a dream of winning a bracelet and check-raising Phil Hellmuth along the way? If you want a shot at playing in a WSOP event, then there's a bracelet race this Sunday on Full Tilt!

AlCantHang is hosting the bracelet race in conjunction with Riverchasers. It is open to both readers and bloggers. See you there.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Decorously Significant Online Hands

By Pauly

I finally have time to play online poker and I dove head first into the shark infested and trout-centric waters. I played 15/30 and 10/20 on Poker Stars along with 8/16 and 10/20 on Full Tilt. I donked around the 2/4 Limit tables and played some HA on Full Tilt.

And, I played another Limit tournament. I didn't cash but I used up all my mojo in that tournament when I cracked A-A three times inside of an hour. I rivered a flush with As-Qs and I flopped sets with Q-Q and J-J to take down a trio of Pocket Rockets. That must have been the reason I had a devastating Tuesday at the cash game tables. I had a tough run on PokerStars and lost 40 big bets in one session but stormed back last night thanks to a monsterpotten that I scooped after flopping a set.

I also played in The Mookie last night for the first time in I don't know how long. And of course, I didn't cash.

Here are some interesting hands that I played over the last couple of days:

7c-7h 10/20 Limit on Poker Stars

UTG raised and I called with 7c-7h. The button and both blinds also called. Five people saw the flop of 7d-6s-2h. The blinds checked and UTG bet out. I raised with my set because sets are vulnerable in limit hold'em and I never slowplay online. The button folded but the small blind check-raised. The big blind smooth called, but the UTG capped it at four bets. We all called. I put one of them on an underset, another on two-pair, and one an over pair. Four players. The turn was the 9h. The small blind bet, the big blind and UTG both called, and I popped it. Everyone called my raise and I felt that I was way ahead. Four players still left. The river was the Qs. I prayed that none of those yahoos held the Hilton Sisters. Everyone checked to me and I bet. The small blind called, the big blind folded, and UTG called. My set of 7s held up against the small blind's Ks-Kh and the UTG's Js-Jd. That was a $477 pot.

9d-8d in The Mookie $10 NL MTT on Full Tilt

You gotta gobble up chips early in blogger events so whenever I see coinflip situations, I take them. I doubled up in Level 1 when I rivered a straight with 9d-8d. The flop was Qd-10d-7h and I picked up an OESD and also had a gutshot straight flush draw. I bet out 405 or the size of the pot. PirateLawyer re-raised to 810. I typed "Let's gamble!" and pushed all in. He called with Kc-10c and was ahead. The 10s on the turn gave him trips but the 6s spiked on the river filling in my straight.

As-Ks in The Mookie $10 NL MTT on Full Tilt

A few minutes before the first break, I busted out when I pushed with another draw. Second in chips at my table with 2960, I limped-called a raise UTG with As-Ks. I flopped a nut flush draw with two over cards on a board of 8s-7s-2h. I bet the pot or about 1K. Papi Justify waited until the last possible second and moved all in for 3295. If I won that pot, I would have been the chipleader or near the top. I called hoping he had a middle pair like 9s or 10s. He flipped over Jh-Jd and I missed all of my outs. I was eliminated.

9h-7d at 10/20 Limit on Full Tilt

I titled this hand, "Why you should not slowplay!" I'm in the small blind with 9h-7d and everyone folded to me. I raised and the big blind just called. the flop was Js-7s-5h. I bet out and the big blind called. the turn was the 4d. I bet out and he raised me. He could have been slowplaying the Jack or turned two pair or made a straight or was simply trying to steal the pot with a bluff or semi-bluff. I called. The river was 9c which gave me two pair. I bet out and he called with Ad-Jd. That hand would have materialized differently had he raised me pre-flop or on the flop. If he three-bet preflop I'd call and fold once the flop comes down. Even if he smooth called pre-flop and raised me on the flop, I quickly fold with second pair. Once I got to the turn, I was going to see the river no matter what. He got fancy, tried to trap, and missed two opportunities to get me out of the pot.

9c-6c at 8/16 Limit on Full Tilt

I had not played any pots in a while and decided to make a move. In middle position I raised with 9c-6c and the button called. The small blind re-raised and I called along with the button. Three players. The flop was 9h-9s-4s. Small blind checked and I bet my trips. The button raised me and I had to put him on A-9 or K-9. the small blind called as did I. The turn was the 5s. If that other player was on a flush draw, I was fucked. The action was checked to the button who bet. We both called. The river was 6h. The small blind checked, I fired out, and the button raised to $32. The small blind folded and I re-raised my boat. He called and was all in. My boat held up and he mucked his hand. I checked the hand history and he had As-Qc. Nice bluff raise on the river with Ace high when I had a boat.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.