Friday, August 31, 2007 EPT Barcelona Day 2: The JFC Factor and Pros Love Barcelona

By Pauly

I never had a chance to write up my notes on Day 1b, so some of those stories will be included here, like three of the more popular pros playing in the field on Day 1b such as Greg Raymer, Daniel Negreanu, and Johnny Chan. Most Europeans don't fawn and gawk over celebrities like Americans, so it was unusual to see excited expressions on the faces of spectators and players when they spotted Fossilman, Negreanu, or Johnny Fuckin' Chan.

Before Day 1b started, the big three were busy chatting with fans and posing for photos. They were extremely accommodating. Over the past couple of years, I've witnessed Raymer and Negreanu's interaction with fans and the general public. Those two are probably the best in the business and extremely generous with their time when anyone approaches for a quick photo or autograph or to recant a bad beat story. That's rare in poker where it's a cut-throat selfish "me" world and pros want all the media publicity they can get without giving back. Chan has a reputation for being aloof, but not in Barcelona. He was chatting up fans and having a blast playing props (betting on the color of the flop) with Sorel Mizzi.

After their interview with Chan, Shronk and Schecky mentioned something to me about the Johnny Fuckin' Chan factor in poker, something that gets overlooked. The introduction of hole cams, televised poker, and the availability of online poker all helped contribute to the poker boom, but don't forget that JFC is a big factor as well. The reason he's known as JFC is all due to that famous scene in Rounders. And every player in the poker room at the Barcelona Casino had seen Rounders at least once. Johnny Chan was the top player in the game a decade a go and he's still regarded as one of the best in the world. Chan represented the Goliath and Mike McD was the Davey in that scene where he bluffed Chan at the tables in Atlantic City.

Although I was already a gambling junkie, when I saw Rounders at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle back in the summer of 1998, I was instantly hooked on Texas Hold'em. All the guys from my homegame in Fremont were hooked as well. Like monkeys jacked up on crack, we added Hold'em to the rotation of games that we played in the crowded kitchen of the Trout House, where hundreds of empty Labbats bottles were stacked in boxes and the aroma of dank nugs swirled around the house as we flung plastic chips around acting like we were the biggest swinging dicks in poker. We wanted to take down Johnny Fuckin' Chan since he was the ominous symbol of poker royalty.

It was amazing to see several of Europe's top pros pay homage to JFC as most of them came over at some point to pay their respects, kind of like a scene out of The Godfather. One Scandi kid in capri pants and designer sunglasses actually bent down on his knee and kissed JFC's ring. That's respect.

Negreanu looked tired on Day 1b and spent most of his time at the tables getting a massage. He had flown from Manila to Barcelona and had a little jet lag. Like most of the US-based pros, he was digging Barcelona.

"I love Barcelona," he said continuously. "Have you seen all the beautiful women?"

David Williams and Kirk Morrison echoed his sentiments. They had fallen in love with Barcelona. They all had the same looks on their faces that Brandon Schaefer had in 2005 when we first hung out. When you visit Barcelona for the first time, you become enraptured with everything... the amazing architecture, the history, the food, the nightlife, the vibe, and the women. I always felt that Paris was overhyped and overrated, while Barcelona was vastly underrated as one of Europe's top cities.

"I fuckin' love Barcelona," Morrison said as he sipped a glass of wine and asked me where my drink was. He told Shronk that he needed to move out of Las Vegas because, "That place will eat your soul alive."

Kirk Morrison showed up in Barcelona out of the blue. We had no idea he would be playing and neither did he. Morrison told us a funny story how he went to the Bicycle Casino in LA and stood in line waiting to buy into the WPT Legends of Poker when a dozen or so players asked him to buy them into the event. He knew they were horrible players and kindly said no. That's when it hit him.

"What the fuck am I doing here? I'm going to Barcelona to play instead!" he said.

And just like that in true rock and roll fashion, Morrison went to the airport and flew to Barcelona. Even though he'd bust out early, he knew that he made the right choice. Barcelona is an experience and EPT is one of the best tournament circuits in the world. They actually outdrew WPT's Legends of Poker... 543 entrants to 485... and the EPT had a higher buy-in ($10,600 US to $10,000). Congrats to John Duthie, PokerStars, and the EPT for that epic milestone.

Anyway, 543 total players entered the event and by the end of Day 2, only 56 remained. Action was stopped just as the money bubble burst. The remaining players all made the prize money.
End of Day 2 Chipcounts:
Mohamad Kowssarie (Sweden) - 332,200
Mark Teltscher (UK) - 300,600
Patrick Bruel (France) - 267,000
Pete Giordano (USA) - 253,900
Adam Junglen (USA) - 227,800
Mika Paasonen (Finland) - 213,600
Christopher Ulsrud (Norway) - 197,000
Michael Wong (USA) - 193,800
Jean Baptiste Tomi (France) - 147,100
Sander Lylloff (Denmark) - 142,500
Tronde Eidsvig (Norway) - 141,200
Philip Yeh (Sweden) - 134,200
Dag Martin Mikkelsen (Norway) - 130,600
Martin Wendt (Denmark) - 130,400
Bjorn Erik Glenne (Norway) - 126,700
Thomas Fjelleheim (Norway) - 125,300
Javed Abrahams (UK) - 120,100
Ola Brandborn (Sweden) - 112,300
Nickolaos Panopoulos (Greece) - 110,600
Jan Sjaavik (Norway) - 106,200
Voitto Rintala (Finland) - 101,300
Kees Alblas (Holland) - 98,100
Giovanni Spadavecchia (Italy) - 97,000
Greg Dyer (USA) - 95,200
Daan Ruiter (Holland) - 92,200
Andrey Zaichenko (Russia) - 84,800
Alessio Isaia (Italy) - 84,700
Ian Woodley (UK) - 82,900
Juan Maceiras (Spain) - 74,300
Eric Hardt (USA) - 70,500
Nikolaus Jedlicka (Austria) - 67,700
Tutev Yovor (Bulgaria) - 62,300
Aditya Agarwal (India) 61,400
Fabrice Soulier (France) - 60,000
James Higgins (UK) - 56,500
Alexander Roumeliotis (Sweden) - 56,300
Michael Greco (UK) - 49,700
Daniel Dodet (Belgium) - 47,400
Borge Dypvik (Norway) - 45,200
Henrik Sorensen (Denmark) - 45,000
Cort Kibler-Melby (Germany) - 43,000
Phil Starrs (UK) - 39,900
Mark Vos (Australia) 38,300
Stefan Mattsson (Sweden) - 35,000
Jean Paul Pasqualini (France) - 34,600
Daniel Stern (USA) - 32,500
Massimiliano Rosa (Italy) - 31,200
Kitai Davidi Jacob (Belgium) - 31,100
Ole Gabriel Holgersen (Norway) - 26,200
Henrik Jensen (Denmark) - 25,200
Mika Puro (Finland) - 25,100
Jerome Ferron (France) - 23,100
Jesus Manuel Garde (Spain) - 20,400
Katja Thater (Germany) - 19,200
Ryan Jones (USA) - 7,200

Prize Money (in Euros):
1 - 1,170,700
2 - 673,000
3 - 388,800
4 - 301,000
5 - 250,800
6 - 196,500
7 - 154,700
8 - 104,500
9-10 - 64,800
11-12 - 46,000
13-14 - 33,450
15-16 - 25,100
17-24 - 20,900
25-32 -16,700
33-39 - 14,650
41-48 - 12,550
49-56 - 10,500
Players busting on Day 2 included... Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Thomas Wahlroos, Brandon Schaefer, Phil Gordon, Annette_15, Paul Wasicka, Thor Hansen, ActionJeff, ElkY, Sverre Sundbo, Patrik Antonius, and Noah Boeken.

Day 3 begins at 5pm local time, where the remaining 56 players will play down to the final table. In case you were wondering, the final table is scheduled for Saturday. You can follow the live updates of Day 3 over at which will be provided by Change100 and yours truly. Don't forget to check out amazing photos from Felipe and kick ass videos from Shronk & Schecky.

Check out this video with Mark Vos...

* * * * *

Bouncin Round the Room: Barcelona Casino Version...

Around Midnight on Day 1b, several big cash games started. There were three 50/100 Euro NL tables running and the list was deep. Some of the players at those tables included Jan Boubli (The Godfather of French Poker and 2005 EPT Barcelona Champion), Greg Raymer, Mads Anderson, John Duthie, and Dario Minieri. Raymer had a stack of plaques to go along with his chips and even tried to do a chip shuffle with them.

Lee Jones and I have been having a "Live Music Moment" for about fifteen minutes everyday. You might know Lee Jones as the author of Low Limit Hold'em or from being the former poker room manager of PokerStars. He's currently doing commentary for the EPT and only a handful of people know about his passion for music. On Day 1b, he played Little Feat for me and we talked about a book I should read called Hotel California, which is about the Laurel Canyon music scene in the 60s and 70s features CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and The Eagles. Last night, he played a video for me that he taped at a music conference in Canada, specifically an Appalachian style jam with a banjo, guitar, and two fiddle players that took place in a dirt floor covered log cabin. Those brief chats with Lee have been a pleasure and kept me sane during the grind of covering a poker tournament.

Sadly, my buddies, Brandon Schaefer and Johnny Mushrooms both busted out on Day 2 and failed to make the money. Johnny Mushrooms had his Aces cracked by Fabrice Souiler. Brandon was busted by Mark Teltscher, who ended Day 2 among the chipleaders.

The media room at the Barcelona Casino is held inside the disco, and we have our own bar and bartender. It was packed on the first two days and if you didn't get there by 3:15, you didn't get a spot. The casino opens up at 3pm and the tournament starts at 5pm each day. You must arrive to the media room/disco as soon as the casino opens to save a spot. On Day 2, the EPT cracked down on some of the shady media teams which helped ease the congestion. The internet is still crappy most of the time. I've had posts eaten several times, but having less media in the room made the internet go a tad faster. The downside is that the hot Swedish girls were booted. To quote our multimedia guru, Shronk, "I like it when they talk (in Swedish)."

The tournament area was super congested. People could walk right up to the tables and sweat anyone. On Day 2, they started policing the area and allowed only media to wander inside. After a while, the crush of media was so intense that several players complained and we all were booted from inside the ropes with 84 players remaining. I spent the bubble standing up on a chair with Homer from Blonde Poker trying to catch the bust out hand. Change100 positioned herself on the rail next to Owen from Poker Listings and did her best to get chip counts. The place was a zoo with media reps and spectators standing five and six deep on the rail with many other hoisted up on chairs hoping to check out the action.

And back by popular demand, here's the Barcelona installment of...
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next to...
1. Jan Sjaavik
2. Juha Helppi
3. Paul Wasicka
4. Julian Thew
5. Thor Hansen

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

Thursday, August 30, 2007

PokerStars EPT Barcelona - Day 1b Videos

By Pauly

Our crack multimedia team (Shronk & Schecky) were hard at work taping interviews with players on Day 1b of the PokerStars EPT Barcelona. Here are three PokerNews interviews that you should check out with Patrik Antonius, Kirk Morrison, and Daniel Negreanu.

Click here to view the complete video gallery from the past two days that also included interviews with EPT creator John Duthie, Johnny Chan, Liz Lieu, Greg Raymer, and Paul Wasicka.

Don't forget to check out the live updates of Day 2 over at Poker News.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

EPT Barcelona Day 1a: Avoid the Local Sausage

By Pauly

The casinos in Europe are not like the ones you experience in the States. Most of them are not open 24 hours. They are virtually smaller places and don't have the massive floor with thousands of geriatrics pissing away their social security checks in slot machines. Although the Barcelona Casino is made up of two floors, most of the action is downstairs, where the pits and the poker room are located. The upper floor has about half the space as the former Barbary Coast, which is filled with slot machines.

The casino usually opens up at 3pm and closes at 4am. We left the apartment around 2:15 and hopped on the subway, which was packed with beach goers. The stop before the casino is La Barcelonetta where a lot of the beaches are located. The casino stop is actually the Olympic Village stop and the casino is less than three blocks away along the waterfront.

On our way to the casino, we bumped into Brandon Schaefer and Jimmy "Gobboboy" Fricke. We chatted with them for a few minutes. Gobboboy is a good kid that brims with confidence about his poker ability. He was hoping for a table with four or five soft spots so he could attack the weak-tight players. He got a lot of crap for being a luckbox at the Aussie Millions when he lost to Gus Hansen heads up and finished in second place. His overall aggressive play was overlooked by a few suckouts. For several days, he dominated that event and at one point at the final table, seasoned pros like Gus Hansen and Andy Black had no idea how to handle Gobboboy.

Gobboboy was excited (much like many online American pros that are under 21) to play in his first EPT event. He doesn't have the opportunity to play many live events and the ones he does are outside the US where the legal gambling age is 18. He said that he'd be at the WSOP-Europe in London where he hopes to become the youngest bracelet winner.

We still had a few minutes to kill before we were allowed inside the casino. Change100 and I hung out near the entrance with the coverage team from Poker News that featured the multimedia team of John Caldwell and Justin Shronk along with our photographer Felipe (from Portugal). Felipe was already a great photographer when I met him in Monte Carlo several months ago. After spending seven weeks along side Flipchip this summer at the WSOP, he improved even more so.

We caught up with with Conrad from PokerStars and Daniel Negreanu wandered over to chat us up. He busted out of the PokerStars APAT event in Manilla early and hopped a plane to Barcelona to play in another PokerStars sponsored event. He seemed in good spirits and compared sunglasses tan with Change100.

Once the doors opened, I rushed inside. Normally, you have to go up to a front desk to show your passport and pay a fee to enter the casino. Yes, casinos are not free in Europe which often keeps the sketchy ones away. Imagine if you had to pay to walk into the Bellagio?

They had me on file from my visit in 2005. They scanned my passport and I told them I was media which meant I got free admission for one week. They hand you a ticket which you have to present to another security person before you enter the gaming floor. There's a barcode on that and when that gets scanned, your picture pops up on a computer screen to verify your identity. It's something freaky out of a Philip K. Dick short story and right out of Orwell's 1984. When I visited the Cosmopol Casino in Sweden a week earlier, they snapped my photo before I could walk inside. I'm on the European grid. As far as Interpol is concerned, I'm a hash head gambler.

The press room was held inside the disco. There were random tables set up and a few were on the dance floor. Several media reps sat in plush booths which was normally reserved for the VIPs with bottle service. Since we were inside the disco, the press room came with its own bar. Outstanding! In Monte Carlo, there was a bar a few steps away from their massive press room. You have to love Europe.

We set up space for Team Poker News while the other spaces quickly filled up. I recognized some faces from the WSOP and EPT Championships, while others were brand new to me. That's when the air started to fill up with other languages; French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Danish, and of course English. Their conversations were interrupted by English poker terminology like "flush" or "set" and the occasionally "donkey."

Day 1a started a few minutes late as the players stood in line for their seating assignments. Tournament Director Thomas Kresmer set up eight level days (of an hour each) for Day 1a and Day 1b. The action would be nine-handed and on Day 2 it would become eight-handed. I like that format a lot since it induces a little more action. The buy in was 8,000 Euros or roughly $10,600 US. Players got a starting stack of 10K with blinds at 25/50.

I quickly scanned the room for familiar faces and I could only recognize a few Americans such as Brandon, Gobboboy, David Williams, John "Pearljammer" Turner, Phil Gordon, Paul Wasicka, William Smurfit, and Pete "The Beat" Giordano. There were a few Europeans I knew such as Katja Thater, ElkY, Ram Vaswani, Annette_15, William Thorson, Johnny Lodden, Noah Boeken, Roland deWolfe, and Rob Hollink. And of course the two Aussies in the field... Mark Vos and Johnny Mushrooms.

I spent a lot of time catching up with media reps that I knew. I found Mad Harper and Howard from PokerStars Blog. Homer and Jen from Blonde Poker were around not to mention David from Gutshot. I would need their help later on in identifying second and third tiered British and European pros. For the most part, there were 264 players on Day 1a and I only knew a handful. That can be intimidating when trying to figure out who to cover.

Luckily, Pearljammer and Annette_15 were at the same table so I hovered around there for a while. Next to them was a table with William Thorson and ElkY. It was a lot harder to get hands and chip counts due to the congestion in the aisles. During the early levels, there is an extremely liberal policy where almost anyone can walk around inside the ropes and sweat a table.

While I wandered around, I heard someone shout, "Pauly!"

I turned around and I met Javier, an avid reader from Madrid. We met briefly at the WSOP in the past and I had taken a photo of his card capper. We chatted for a few moments and he gave me the run down of a few Spanish players in the event. We wandered over to sweat Phil Gordon's table. Javier said that watching Gordon was boring since he folded the majority of his hands. Gordon is a tight tournament player in the early rounds, but all the action was the guy sitting next to him.

Here's what Change100 wrote in an entry called Lost in Translation:
After losing a small pot, Phil Gordon got up from his table and walked over to his pal, Roland De Wolfe.

"Hey Roland-- how do you say 'donkey' in Italian?" Gordon asked.

"Philo Gordino!" was De Wolfe's reply.

"Pretty close," said Gordon with a laugh.
During one of the breaks, Gordon came over to me and Javier. We discussed a horrible player at Gordon's table. Gordon insisted that he was easily the worst 5 players he's ever encountered. The guy obviously had no idea how to play the game and would pick up his cards off the table to look at them instead of the usually bend and peek method. The donkey thought any face card was like picking up Aces and played it hard. He had no idea how to bet and Gordon had to show him what chips to put into the pot.

At one point, Change100 told me that there was a Liz Lieu sighting. I rushed outside and found her. She gave me a big hug and said that she'd be playing on Day 1b. She recently relocated to London and was excited that I'd be there.

The gave us random sandwiches in the media room along with an open bar that not too many media reps abused, despite the fact that they ran out of coke. They serve food at the bar near the poker room and I feasted on a bikini which is basically a grilled cheese with ham. It hit the spot. Schecky didn't have the same luck.

"I made a bad decision," mentioned Schecky. "I ordered the local sausage."

On one of the breaks, I sipped a beer and ate my bikini sandwich at the bar while seated next to two hookers. They weren't like the traditional Las Vegas working girls. Rather, the ladies of the night in posh places like Monte Carlo and at the casino in Barcelona were a sophisticated bunch. $300 for a rub and a tug wasn't going to cut it. These were high priced hos that got paid with expensive jewelry and trips to the French Riviera. The two hustlers were in their early twenties and hung on the arm of a guy that was in his 60s. Change100 could rattle off the designer labels that they wore, but it was obvious that the guy hired the ladies as the sipped champagne and massaged his arms and inner thighs.

Around Midnight, there was a minor buzz in the casino when Johnny Chan was spotted. Johnny Fuckin' Chan in Barcelona? JFC? Holy shit. Last year, Phil Ivey showed up and took second. Who knows what JFC will do this year.

There were several bustouts on Day 1a including Johan Storakers, Erik Friberg, Alan Smurfit, Mickey Wernick, Johnny Lodden, William Thorson, Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi, Roland de Wolfe, Jon "Pearljammer" Turner, Jani Sointula, Jimmy "gobboboy" Fricke, and Ram Vaswani.

Out of 264 runners on Day 1a, only 99 players advanced to Day 2. Among those were my roommate in Amsterdam, Johnny Mushrooms. He was among the chipleaders for a while and even busted a player with quads. He played great and always took a few moments to crack a few jokes with me.

Also among the 99 players advancing to Day 2 were 2006 EPT Barcelona champion Bjorn-Erik Glenne, Mark Vos, Pete "The Beat" Giordano, Julian Thew, Brandon Scahefer, Noah Boeken, ElkY, Katja Thater, Phil Gordon, Paul Wasicka, David Williams, Annette_15 and Rob Hollink (a Dutch player who beat Brandon Schaefer heads up at the Season 1 EPT Championships).
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts:
Gregory Dyer (USA) 76,500
Mark Teltscher (UK) 67,300
Mark Vos (Australia) 64,300
Sander Lylloff (Denmark) 62,600
Sverre Sundbo (Norway) 60,500
Massimiliano Rosa (Italy) 60,100
Cort Kibler-Melby (Germany) 59,500
Bjorn Erik Glenne (Norway) 56,700
Andrey Zaichenko (Russia) 56,000
Jose Roldan Vicente (Spain) 53,000
Day 1b should be starting shortly with big names such as Greg Raymer, Daniel Negreanu, Patrik Antonius, Isabelle Mercier, Johnny Chan, Liz Lieu, Thomas Wahlroos, and Humberto Brenes in the field. You can follow the action over at Poker News where I will be providing the live updates. Don't forget to check out the photo gallery and videos from the EPT Barcelona.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Inspiration Daydream

By Pauly

Two years ago, I showed up in Barcelona with a camera (that Flipchip gave me), my laptop and my backpack with a couple of days of clothes. I was alone, in a foreign country, working on spec. I paid my own way to Spain and lined up a couple of publications to buy a couple of articles that I'd write once the final table of EPT Barcelona was complete. I knew that I'd be losing money on the trip and didn't care. After a long summer in Las Vegas living at the Redneck Riviera, I needed to get out of Nevada and out of the country. I heard about the EPT from Otis and said, "Fuck it. I'm going."

Luckily, Mad Harper helped me out. She was an British ex-pat living in Spain and had worked with Otis at Poker Stars. She offered to put me up for a few days in Sitges (a beach town just outside of Barcelona) and showed me around Barcelona. She secured me a fantastic deal on a hotel room and allowed me to tag along with her. That's how I met a slew of people at Poker Stars.

Shortly after Joe Hachem won the 2005 WSOP in Benny's Bullpen at the Horseshoe, I emailed the creator of the EPT, John Duthie, and asked him about press badge for the Barcelona event. He was thrilled that an American writer would be interested in covering his little tournament. At the time, there were no press procedures for season two of the EPT. He told me to show up at the casino and that I'd be allowed to take photos and live blog the event on Tao of Poker. At the time, there were about five or six of us there including Rolf Slotbloom (Poker Pages), Tom Murphy and Mike Lacey (The Irish guys from Antes Up), David Lloyd (Gutshot), Howard Swains (Poker Stars Blog), and myself. We were huddled around a table underneath the stairs. At the EPT Barcelona this year, there were over 100 media reps from all over the world. The EPT and poker has come a long way in just 24 months.

Two years ago, I met Brandon Schaefer at the bar next to the poker room of all places and said that he loved reading my blog. We'd hang out a lot during that trip and became good friends. Not only did I have a blast covering my first event outside the States, but I also got asked to announce the feature TV table and then the final table.

Announcing the final table... in 2005

I might have been the first American poker writer to come across a good looking skinny kid from Finland named Patrik Antonius. He made the final table along with Gus Hansen. I couldn't believe what had happened to me, as I was overcome by one of those existentialist moments like... how the fuck did I get here? Just six months earlier I was unemployed, broke, and homeless. Then all of a sudden, I had a microphone in my hand and was doing my best Johnny Grooms imitation for the crowd.

The Barcelona Casino has a special place in my heart and was a monumental place on my journey through poker. I was given a rare opportunity to visit a new place, make new friends, and have an original mind-blowing experience. After the final table was over (and after a long night of drinking), it was 6am and I managed to get a taxi to drive me to La Sagrada Familia. It was closed, but I sat in amazement on a bench in a park across from Gaudi's infamous church that has been under construction since 1882.

I had a religious experience that morning as I gazed up at the church, something that I had not spoken about to anyone. Until now. Ever get that feeling that you're supposed to be where you are at that specific moment? That's what happened. I was overcome with emotion and wept for a few moments. Not too many people are given second chances in life, and I was awarded a golden ticket. I vowed not to screw up anymore in life and pushed myself harder than I had ever. Even though I made some mistakes along the way over the last two years, I look back at Barcelona in 2005 as a major turning point in my life and the development as a writer.

When Poker News offered me an assignment to cover Season 4 of the EPT Barcelona, I immediately said yes. I would get to travel to Spain for free with my girlfriend and be reunited with a lot of friends I made along the way. And during my time in Barcelona over the past couple of days, I reflected about the last two years of my life. The words humble and lucky come to mind. On Monday morning, I returned to La Sagrada Familia. I didn't cry (although Change100 admitted that the building was so powerful and full of energy that she was on the verge of tears) this time, but I felt overjoyed that I was able to return to the sacred place that inspired me and kept me going over the last 700 days of my life. I also made another promise to myself. Maybe someday I'll tell you what that was.

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good Bye Amsterdam, Hello Barcelona

By Pauly

Before we moved out of the canal apartment on Sunday morning and flew to Barcelona, we had a last minute gambling binge in Amsterdam.

I had been waking up super early to play online poker over at PokerStars. The Left Coast is nine hours behind, so I have to be up around 6am to catch them at prime time and those wacky East Coasters donking around at Midnight. I actually did the same thing on this morning in Barcelona, in order to get an hour or so of playing in. Once my work assignments start, I don't have time to play online poker, and whatever free time is set aside for partying or catching up on deadlines.

Anyway, over the past two weeks, I played three different Chinese Poker games. The first was a three-way match between myself, Benjo, and RK (who had picked up the nickname Johnny Mushrooms courtesy of Benjo and over the last few days, that's the only name he'd answer to). Johnny Mushrooms was the big winner there and Benjo had skipped town without settling up. I hope that Johnny Mushrooms does not dispatch a pair of Aussie thugs to northern France to collect a Chinese Poker debt.

The second game was another three-way match among myself, Change100, and Johnny Mushrooms. I was behind for most of that match and stormed back to take the lead. The third game is a heads-up match between myself and Change100, which has now spilled over into a second country. We expect to continue it all the way to London. At last check, I cut a 22 point deficit in half and only trail by 11. I picked up a flurry of good hands at the airport and again at a cafe on La Rambla in Barcelona.

On Friday night in Amsterdam, I fell down in true Otis-fashion. There's a trendy bar/cafe a couple of blocks from our apartment called De Vergalde Gaper. The main menu was in Dutch, which meant it was a total locals place. They had outdoor seating with slanty tables and chairs overlooking a canal. We drank and played Chinese Poker for a couple of hours. The cards kept falling to the ground. At one point I bent over to pick up the five of hearts and leaned the wrong way. I started to fall and was forced to make a quick decision. I could have balanced myself by grabbing the table, but that also meant I would have spilled our pints of beer. I decided to take the fall and tumbled sideways onto the cobblestone street. Someone on a bicycle swerved out of my way. I popped back up as the waitress rushed over to ask me if I was OK. The owner and her stood near the entrance and saw everything happen. He said something to her in Dutch that maybe I was too wasted. Far from it. I was relatively sober and the waitress told him that she had just brought over my second pint.

That could have been embarrassing... falling down in front of a restaurant full of people. But since the "almost shit my pants" incident, falling down was minor.

In my notes, I scribbled down...
11:20pm... fell out of chair playing Chinese Poker.
After that, we headed to another bar where we drank at a week earlier. Johnny Mushrooms wanted to do more Absinthe shots. Even for fake Absinthe, those get me super wasted. Change100 had never tried it and we gobbled down two rounds. On the TV above the bar, EuroSport broadcasted Sumo matches from Nagoya, Japan. Johnny Mushrooms and I wagered on a dozen or so. Since we had no idea who was who and the majority of sumos looked alike, we'd shout out, "Fat guy on right!" or "Left!" to indicate who we picked. After a while, I had all the guys on the left of the screen, while Johnny Mushrooms had the guys on the right. After several exciting matches, I had pulled ahead by four units. Yeah, my sumo guys went 12-8. Ship it.

"Live sumo is so fuckin' rigged," muttered Johnny Mushroom as we stumbled out of the bar.

When he was in Sweden, Johnny Mushrooms picked up a book called Dice Man. I thought it was a biography on comedian Andrew Dice Clay. It's not, and instead it reveals the story of a character who becomes addicted to dice and makes all his decisions based upon the roll of the dice. I found an old backgammon set in the basement and gave the dice to Johnny Mushrooms. He took one with him at all times and would occasionally roll it to make life decisions. Here's an example... when we couldn't figure out what to eat for dinner, Johnny Mushrooms assigned each number a different type of food. 1 was shoarma. 2 was Chinese. 3 was Indian. 4 was Italian. 5 was fast food and 6 was "roll again." We stopped on a canal bridge as he bent over and rolled the dice, which spun on a cobblestone and then stopped at 1. Shoarma for dinner!

Since we also ate near the Leidseplein, we wandered over to Rookies to continue our Chinese Poker match. We alternated between coffeeshops and bars and eventually found ourselves in the Red Light District around Midnight. Prime time. Hordes of horny wasted guys wandered up and down the streets looking for action, while curious tourists sauntered by, and there was even a tour group going on at that hour. The women look more like animals in the zoo and have become part of the freak show. They should get a cut of the tour group fees. But then again, I'm the last guy who should be standing up for hooker's rights. They have unions for those sorts of things.

Moving on...

Placa de les Drassanes

Change100 found us a nifty apartment in Barcelona. The rent is super cheap (less than 70 Euros a night compared to the hotels neat the casino that were over 200 Euros). The apartment is much smaller than our digs at Del Bocca Vista in Las Vegas and substantially a lot smaller than the 5+ story canal house (where my roommates and I each had two floors) in Amsterdam. The walls are pink in our Barcelona apartment. The lovely female rental agent suggested that the colors might inspire me to write better. The apartment is equipped with wifi and a balcony which overlooks the bustling street below.

The apartment is a few steps behind the Santa Maria del Mar church and just off El Born. If you know Barcelona, you know that we're smack in the middle of a nice little area with plenty of gelato shops, bars, and tapas restaurants. The Barcelona Casino is about a twenty minute walk down the road. The Picasso Museum is a few blocks up the street and La Rambla is a ten minute walk from the apartment.

I officially end my hiatus and return to work on Tuesday, when the EPT kicks off their fourth season. I was here in Barcelona two years ago for the start of the second season. Both the international poker scene and the EPT have come a long way since then.

Day 1a of the EPT Barcelona starts at 5pm local time on Tuesday. Since Barcelona is a late town, the tournament will be held from 5pm to 4am every night... no exceptions, since the casino closes at 4am. We're not in Las Vegas anymore.

You can follow the action by checking out live blogging updates over at We don't have the massive army of reporters like we had during the WSOP. This unit is much smaller and the vibe is more relaxed in Europe, so that should reflect upon the coverage and the event itself. I'm not too worried.

This is just a warm-up for the WSOP-Europe in London in about two weeks, where PokerNews will be providing live updates for that event. I have been on the sidelines ever since Jerry Yang won the 2007 WSOP and enjoying every moment of my time away from poker. I have one full day to soak up Barcelona before the tournament begins. Hasta luego.

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tao of Bacon and Friday Pimp

By Pauly

Back in Amsterdam for a few days before I fly to Barcelona for work. The lovely Change100 arrived yesterday. We will be on the road together for the next four weeks all the way through the WSOP-Europe in London.

For all of you bacon junkies out there, check out my new blog... Tao of Bacon. This was inspired by AlCantHang.

I updated an old project and created two new photo sets via Flickr. The Sweden and Amsterdam pics were all taken in the last two weeks. I also updated my food gallery with tasty food images that I snapped so far in Europe. Check them out...
Sweden (23 pics)
Amsterdam III (62 pics)
Pauly's Food Pics (144 pics)
You can click here to view all 19 of my photo sets which include pics from all of my travels for work, holiday, and music festivals over the past two years.

* * * * *

By the way, Felicia Lee has been having a rough time with her health as of late. She spent almost a month in the hospital with pancreatitis. She has a couple of surgeries upcoming. Send her your warmest thoughts via an email.

DoubleAs interviewed me a couple of weeks ago. Check out... Las Vegas Trip Advice from Pauly.

Karol mentioned this to me... Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society. It was founded by Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson, who "views poker as a game of skill that can be used as a teaching tool at all levels of academia and in secondary education. The concept is to use poker to teach basic life skills, strategic thinking, geopolitical analysis, risk assessment, and money management. The goal is to create an open online curriculum centered on poker that will draw the brightest minds together, both within and outside of the conventional university setting, to promote open education and Internet democracy.".

Rich sent me this link called 11 Reasons Why Poker Players Make Great Forex Traders. I have been dabbling in the currency trading on and off this year. It is something that I might get into when I have more free time. Anyway, check out the article.

Congrats to Iggy and his partnership with Yahoo with his latest venture... UFCJunkie.

Check out Flipchip's stellar Las Vegas and Poker photo gallery.

Go read Short-Stack Shamus. He wrote two pieces on the WSOP Ladies Event. Excellent stuff.

And of course, JoeSpeaker is writing about... being a Super Dad... over at Offsprung. Check out his blog Don't Forget to Flush.

And if you haven't signed up for a Fantasy Sports Live account, then what are you waiting for? The new football season is just around the corner...

Bonus Code: Pauly

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sweet Sweet Sweden

By Pauly

"Do you want to go to Sweden?" Benjo asked me a couple of weeks ago.

Sweden. The land of Ikea, Abba, and the Swedish Bikini team, not to mention the homeland of NY Rangers goalie Henrik Lundquist. I dreamed of going to Sweden and finally had an opportunity.

Benjo is friends with several guys from the OnGame Network in Stockholm. He did some freelance work for them in the past. Some of them happen to be avid readers of my poker blog. When they heard that I was in Europe, they not only invited me to a conference, but they flew me in and put me up at a swanky hotel a few blocks from their offices. Benjo and our roommate RK was also invited to attend.

We left Amsterdam on a sluggish rainy Monday morning. I traveled super light and only brought my laptop and two days of clothes with me. I flew non-stop to Stockholm on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). They did not serve free food or drinks, but you could buy stuff priced in either Euros or Swedish Kronors (SEK). $1 US = less than 7 SEKs.

The flight to Sweden from Amsterdam is less than 100 minutes. Stockholm is in the same time zone, but to the North. I passed out on the flight for about fifteen minutes and when I woke up, we were on the descent into Arlanda airport. I looked out the window and saw dense forests and lots of blue sky with white fluffy clouds.

Two stoic people in blue uniforms greeted you before you could step off the jetway. A middle-aged woman said something to me in Swedish. I handed her my passport. She glanced at it and said "Thank you," in English.

I changed $300 US for about 2000 Kronor. The airport is about a twenty minute drive from Stockholm and linked up by an express busses and a train. The line for train tickets into the city was too long, so we opted for a cab. They have a flat rate posted on the outside of the cabs. 440 SEKs. That was over $60 but I had been dealing in Euros so I thought 44 Euros wasn't so bad. It didn't matter anyway since it was a business expense.

The first ten minutes of the drive featured plenty of trees and reminded me of Seattle or Portland in the summer. The land was lush and as we slowly approached the city, more of the landscape took on an urban vibe.

We had about an hour to kill before the conference. I showered quickly and watched five minutes of Swedish TV before Benjo and I headed downstairs to a fast food burger joint called Max. It is the equivalent of In & Out Burger for Sweden. I stopped and stared at the window advertisement of a Frisco Burgermal (with those funny dots over some of the letters). It made my mouth water... bacon, cheese, special sauce on a sourdough bun.

I walked up to the counter and the workers wore all white. Two of the most adorable girls worked the registers. There are so many beautiful women in Sweden that some of them actually work fast food jobs. One was a blonde and the other had dyed bright red hair. The freaky one took my order. 61 kronors for the Frisco Burger, Orange Fanta, and fries. We ate outdoors and soaked up downtown Stockholm.

Ah, the bacon cheeseburger... good stuff. Better than BK and definitely better than McDs.

We walked a few blocks to a gigantic glass building across from the Central Station and the World Trade Center. The company we visited had offices the top five floors. As I stood on the 11th floor in front of the receptionist, I could see an amazing view of the city courtesy of the glass walls.

We met up with our contact Kim and was given a tour. Everyone was dressed casually. I met almost everyone in the office and did my best to memorize names. They all spoke English and of course, I spoke no Swedish aside from a few curse words.One room housed just pinball machines. Another room had a sweet poker table with classic hardwood chairs. They also had a room with a ping pong table where two guys were playing. They asked if I played, and I said, "Only for money."

That got a hearty laugh. The Swedes have a reputation for not showing too much emotion. That's why they make excellent poker players... since the are difficult to read.

Their various conference rooms and bigger offices were named after Las Vegas Casinos. Our conference was held inside the Bellagio Room.

"Almost like home?" Kim joked.

For three hours, I took part in a panel where the execs picked our brains about different things in the poker industry. Benjo and myself represented the media and RK was there to give the perspective of a poker pro (especially someone who plays a ton online). I was nervous for the first few minutes. I don't normally speak in front of people, especially for individuals where English is their second language. I started out slow and by the end of the conference, I spoke fluidly and cracked more jokes.

After the conference, we were treated to an amazing dinner down on a boat. Since the sun sets a lot later in Sweden during the summer, we were also treated to an amazing sunset. The weather was splendid... warm with an occasional breeze off the water.

We drank at the bar while our table was prepared. I asked Nils what is a good Swedish beer to drink. He said that he usually drinks Carlsberg (which is Danish). That's one of my favorite beers and I saw it on tap. I was afraid to order it without a proper recommendation. When Senor and I visited Iceland in 2001, I had been drinking a pint of Carlsberg when the bartender scolded me. He dumped it out and then poured me a fresh Icelandic beer called Viking. I didn't want to offend the locals so I decided to ask my hosts. Since they were drinking something I liked, there were no problems.

There were eight of us at dinner and I sat with Tobais, Lisa, and Nils. They translated the menu for me and ordered a variety of items from the tappas menu; such as lamb sausage, another were sauteed mushrooms in a red sauce, and then there was a traditional Swedish dish called Toast Skagen Med Lojrom... which was basically shrimp salad with lots of mayo on toast with a bit of fish eggs on top. Not only did I take a photo, I ate the entire thing.

We drank plenty of wine at dinner along with endless beers. The conversation drifted back and forth between poker and random things. Since it my first time in Sweden, they wanted to know my initial impressions. I told them that everyone was friendly and didn't hesitate to speak English. Stockholm is clean and beautiful, made of several islands (sort of like NYC) and there was plenty of water and bridges around. It's a pedestrian city. Amsterdam is ruled by bicycles, where Stockholm has waves of people walking around... and yes, many of them were drop dead gorgeous Swedish women.

For my main meal, I went with a Tuna burger served with a spicy Thai sauce. Scrumptious. After dinner, we continued to drink. Just before Midnight, Sam missed his last train home, so he partied with us until the next train... at 5:30am. We closed out a Belgium beer bar and then ended up at the Cosmopol Casino which was two blocks from our hotel. You paid 30 kronors to get in. Like most of the European Casinos I visited, they scanned your passport. These guys also took my photo. Great. So much for keeping myself off the European grid.

When we walked into the casino, Benjo bumped into another Swedish friend of his. Thomas had been drinking with friends and joined us. We headed up to the poker room, which was hidden away on the fourth floor. You walked down a long corridor and up a flight of stairs, past a gaming room before you took another side exit, then up three more flights of stairs which reminded me of being inside a fraternity house. The stairwell walls were covered with photos of various winners from previous tournaments. They also had playing cards framed according to their nickname... such as "Walking Sticks" for 7-7 and "Cowboys" for K-K.

The room had a dozen or so tables (and about five tables going) with a bar off to the side. There were a couple of fruit baskets at the end of the bar. The bananas cost 5 kronors. We drank more beer while the two Swedish guys in our group constantly made fun of the bad players that happen to frequently play at that poker room.

"They are horrible. These retards are giving their money away. Just watch for ten minutes then get in the game."

The tables in front of us spread 20/20 (kronors) NL. There was also a 50/50 NL game going. Swedish poker players also have a reputation of being competitive and playing crazy. They raise a lot pre-flop and play any two cards. They are super tough to put a hand on. I kinda wanted to play, but not really. I was having too much fun at the bar.

I flipped through a copy of Bluff magazine (the European edition) while I drank more beers and listened to the Swedes tell us about the local poker scene or their hilarious Las Vegas stories. Benjo and RK eventually made their way to the blackjack tables and were playing 50 and 100 kronors a hand.

After the blackjack session, those guys continued to gamble but not inside the casino. When the hotel security wouldn't let them play cards outside the hotel, so they managed to find empty outdoor tables in front of one of the closed bars across the street. They played reduced deck (32 cards... minus the 2,3,4,5, and 6s) Omaha Hi, where flushes were better than fullhouses. Talk about an action game.

* * * * *

Here are some random pictures from Sweden. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged view.

The menu at Max

Sign near the subway

View from my hotel room

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tao of Four

By Pauly

I'm celebrating the Tao of Poker's fourth blog birthday in Amsterdam. I've come a long way and it's fitting that I celebrate this milestone on the road. Earlier in 2007, Tao of Pauly turned 5 years old as did Truckin'.

In the summer of 2003, my friends started a mutiny on Tao of Pauly and demanded that I start a new blog to post the massive influx of poker content. Bullies. Never thought anyone would read the new blog. One's man's trash is another man's art. God bless the internet.

A couple of months after I started Tao of Poker, I stumbled upon Iggy's blog Guinness and Poker and noticed his blogroll. I soon discovered other blogs like Royal, HDouble, MeanGene, BoyGenius and Grubby. Those strangers eventually became my friends and peers. Together, we helped build a community with other bloggers (too many to mention - you know who you are) which continues to thrive today. And within a year of contact, we started the first of many excursions together to Las Vegas.

Those initial friendships and bonds were important. Without the support of my brother, loving girlfriend, and friends over the last four years, I never would have gotten out of the life slump I was stuck in. The fact that this blog has been around for so long is due to their existence in my life. For that, I'm eternally humbled and grateful.

Had I taken a temporary desk job somewhere in Manhattan or moved to Japan to teach English (which I was in the process of doing four years ago)... then I wouldn't have taken the first steps in the journey through poker. I never gave up and kept gambling during the dismal losing streaks and kept writing during the uninspired stretches. Gritty and courageous determination or utter and foolish degeneracy? Who knows the real reason why I stuck Tao of Poker. Probably a little of both.

Ripples. Every little decision you make in life does matter.

The major highlight of the past year came to light when John Caldwell hired me for PokerNews to cover the Aussie Millions at a point when I lost the majority of my clients due to the effects of the UIGEA.

The best part of this ride has been the people I have met along the way. I had the opportunity to become friends with many amazing and inspirational people despite working in an industry rotten to the core. They are the ones who should get the accolades and praise. They helped guide me through a vicious world.

I often remind myself that when things are not going right, it's not that big of a deal since I'm sitting on a big stack in life. I'm been extremely fortunate over the last couple of years. Should cash out now and walk away with a monster profit? or keep playing on while risking everything with the chance that I'll lose it all?

Greater men than me have fallen aside in this wicked world. I'm foolish to think I can keep up this pace without sacrificing more of my sanity and soul. However, I'm intoxicated by the endless possibilities of the path I'm on. The ride, the path, the road, the way, the Tao... is an undescribed entity which has played a tremendous role in the development of my career, craft, social life, and understanding the unique situation that I have found myself in.

There are too many majestic places that I've been itching to see and too many unanswered questions that have been haunting me. Some of them are still within the realm of poker. Thus, the incandescent journey continues...

Next stop, Sweden.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Amsterdam Apartment

By Pauly

I arrived in Amsterdam over the weekend. On Monday, I moved into an apartment in the Jordaan neighborhood about four blocks from the Anne Frank House and around the corner from the window hookers. After being on the road for the last three years, I'm totally sick of living in hotels and rented two different apartments (the other one in Barcelona) during my six weeks in Europe.

The Amsterdam apartment is over five stories high and occupies an entire building along a canal. The owner told us that the house was built in 1650. My roommates include Benjo (a famous French poker journalist) and RK who is an Aussie poker pro. Those two have been gambling non-stop on heads-up blackjack, a game called poker dice, flipping coins, and picking out numbers 1 through 9. Not too mention random sessions of online poker like RK beating Thomas Wahlroos heads up in a $500 PLO SNG.

Anyway, we rented the flat for two weeks. The lovely Change100 arrives next week sometime. I've been getting plenty of rest, lots of exercise, and been sitting in coffeeshops reading books by Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Michel Houellebecq. I've also been writing a fair amount and taking tons of pictures. Head over to Tao of Pauly to read all about my adventures in Europe including the occasional picture dump.

Check out a short video tour of our apartment that I whipped up on You Tube.

Click here to view the Amsterdam video via RSS or Bloglines


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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Low Life, the Rat Pit, and George Washington's Poker Blog

By Pauly

I have been on a reading kick since the WSOP ended. I'm finally finishing off a few books that I started, yet never finished. That's been my goal for the rest of 2007... to read more and alternate between new books and older books (that I once picked up to read but for some reason never finished). I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer, where he explores the violent history behind the Mormon religion. I finished it on Zuma Beach in Malibu. I started it in 2003 and failed to complete it.

When I returned to NYC last weekend, I picked up Low Life by Luc Sante. I read excerpts and chapters over a decade ago. I always wanted to finish it and finally started from the beginning and read all the way to the end. Sante wrote an exceptional book about the seedy underbelly of New York City from the 1840s to the 1919. It's broken up into four sections and Part Two is devoted to "vice and entertainment - theatres and saloons, opium and cocaine dens, gambling and prostitution."

For many decades in the early 19th Century, New Orleans was the gambling Mecca in North America, with Mobile, Alabama a close second. Attention eventually shifted to New York City shortly before the Civil War and eventually out west to Las Vegas in the middle part of the 20th Century.

All the derelicts and sketchy characters of the day ran rampant down the filthy streets of the Lower East Side in New York City. They had a particular fondness for the Bowery... the epicenter of the underbelly. At that time, the Bowery made modern-day Las Vegas seem as squeaky clean as Salt Lake City. Lawlessness ruled as a dark blanket of vice blanketed that section of New York. It was not uncommon to find a bar, a brothel, and a backroom casino all in one building. Debauchery flourished at a time when the politicians and cops were as crooked as the criminal enterprises that set up shop. Heck, most of the men in power frequented those seedy establishments, which is why so many of them were able to continue to operate.

In his chapter titled Saloon Culture, Sante wrote about the insane spectacles that occurred at Kit Burn's Sportsmen Hall also known as the Rat Pit, a three-story building which doubled as both a bar and a whorehouse, where vices were pursued on every floor...
"But none so famously as its matches to the death between terriers and rats, held in a pit in the first-floor amphitheater, hence the resort's more common name, the Rat Pit. Rat-baiting was the premier betting sport of the 19th century. Its prestige can be gauged in economic terms, circa 1875: admission to a then illegal prize fight between humans cost fifty cents, to dogfights and cockfights $2, while a fight pitting a dog against rats ran anywhere from $1.50 if the dog faced five rats or fewer, up to $5, in proportion to the number of rats.

For a while, dog-vs.-racoon contests were popular, but rats were so readily available that they came to dominate the scene; boys were paid to catch them, at a rate of five to twelve cents a head. The dogs were always fox terriers, and they trained for six months before being sent out.

Matches drew no fewer than a hundred betting spectators, from all walks of life, with purses starting at $125. A good rat dog could kill a hundred rats in a half an hour to forty-five minutes."
Just think that 130 years earlier, on the same block in New York City where I spend too much money on imported beer in dive bar overrun by hipsters, there were daily dog-rat fights to the death in the same building as the local hooker bar.

Before the inception of off-track horse betting and before organized team sports, the gambling vices of the day involved wagering on animals trying to kill other animals. The ASPCA eventually banned rat-baiting in NYC by the turn of the century, and the degenerate gamblers had to get their fix wagering on other things like bear fights.

New York City was a dark and evil place filled with hustler, hookers, pimps, and street thugs that didn't think twice about slashing your throat to rob you out of your last nickel.
"The golden age of gambling in New York lasted from shortly after the Civil War until just after the turn of the century. During that time, there were untold hundreds of gambling house of all sorts for all classes and for every specialty.

This period also saw cheating and fakery achieve new heights. Three-card Monte and its cousin the shell game clew in from the West and flourished; they are believed to be the only major gambling games invented in the United States."
(Luc Sante, Low Life)
One of the scam games introduced was banco, which was also known as bunco, hence the term bunco-artist. It's a game played with eight cards or eight dice. It's a game where you're not supposed to win and even the author Oscar Wilde got caught up in one bunco scheme where he donked off $5,000. The thieves running the ring foolishly accepted a personal check. After Wilde figured out what went down, he was able to get his bank to cancel the check. But the majority of the bunco victims were not so lucky.

Swindled like a fool. Ship it.

This is probably my favorite passage from Sante's chapter titled Chance...
"Tammany Mayor Robert Van Wyck (1898-1901) let gambling house run wide open all over town. Broadway and the Bowery were both chockablock with joints offering 'high play at cards,' roulette, dice, off-track-betting, and wagering on prizefights, dogfights, and cockfights, while in Chinatown there were scores of places specializing in fan-tan and pi-gow."
Pi-gow? That's what they used to call Pai-Gow. Yeah, if you wanted a Pai Gow fix at the turn of the century, you ended up in Chinatown.

* * * * *

Gambling has always played a part in America, even before this land was called America. Native Americans tribes engaged in gambling events and rituals way before they had their first encounters with European colonists. According to David Schwartz's epic book Roll the Bones, gambling in the American Southwest was a serious and sacred pursuit among the Native Americans.

The Navajos played a game where two different sides took turns hiding a ball (or usually a small rock or pebble) in one of eight moccasins that were buried in the sand. Each side took turns guessing where the ball was and depending how far off you were, each team lost points. The origins of the game were rooted in a disagreement between the animals of the day and the animals of the night. Each group of animals wanted either perpetual darkness or never ending sunlight. The animals met at twilight and played hide the pebble game. They could not determine a winner, so their match was a push... and the cycle of night and day continued.

By the early 18th century, the wealthy colonists in Virginia had been engaging in a deeply rooted gambling culture which included cards, dice, backgammon, and billiards. They also had an intense passion for horse racing and held informal races in the fields on their plantations or engaged in formal races at tracks. When the British took control of New Amsterdam in the late 17th century, they renamed it New York, they also set up a racetrack.

During the Revolutionary war, widespread gambling was common in base camps on both sides of the line. Even though George Washington dabbled in gambling from time to time, he had a famous quote stating that, "Gambling is the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity, and the father of mischief." He frowned upon gambling among his soldiers. According to Schwartz's chapter titled Star-Spangled Gamblers...
"Despite George Washington's mild fondness for gambling, he demanded that his troops put down their cards for the good of the nation."
Washington might be the first ever poker blogger. He kept detailed accounts of his gambling ventures in a journal. Between 1772 and 1775, he played cards about twice a week. Although he had more losing sessions than winning ones, he never had a losing session where he lost more than six pounds and his winning sessions were usually big ones. Washington's strategy was to limit his losses, while waiting for the big score. His card playing philosophy carried over to the battlefield during the Revolutionary War. Washington might have lost more battles than he won, but in the end, he prevailed.

George Washington... not only did he grow marijuana, but he also played poker and wrote about it. God Bless him.

During the war with the British, many of the colonies started up lotteries to help pay for the escalating costs of war. Freedom had a price and the best way to raise money quick was to have a drawing amongst the populace, where the proceeds went to a worthy cause. In one instance, a citizen could win a few bucks gambling and help expel the British at the same time. Gambling for freedom. Only in America.

* * * * *

Here is some more information about the books that I mentioned in this post:
Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling by David Schwartz
Low Life by Luc Sante
Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer
And just in case you were wondering, not one rat or dog was harmed during the writing of this post.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Truckin' - August 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 8

We're back with the last issue of the summer featuring some of your favorite writers.

1. Pyramid by Paul McGuire
I quickly discovered that Seattle was a bastion for the super weird. You needed to have layered eccentricies in order to stick out among the masses of freaks. Goth-dykes with foot fetishes might freak people out in conservative cities and small towns, but in Seattle, that puts you in the core group of "normal people."... More

2. Cross-word by Sigge S. Amdal
Her hair was in explosive disarray across the pillow like the blood spurt pattern from a shotgun blast. It was slightly blond, streaked with brown and very beautiful. It looked like the crossroad of infinite options where only a handful suggested returning to the bed. She was fast asleep... More

3. Meeting Mama McGrupp by Change100
I had yet to meet Mama McGrupp. Pauly assured me it was for a good reason. All I knew about this woman was that she was five feet tall, chain-smoked, had a wicked New York accent, was overly fond of Amaretto, and never had anything nice to say about anyone... More

4. Kansas Clouds by Susan B. Bentley
Click. I got a photo of Kat just before she gave me the finger. Lying back down, I moved the lens across the sky, trying to capture a cloud on its journey. I sat up and took a picture of the track ahead. Nothing but mud and dust, bordered by fields of corn slowly moving in the breeze, nothing but empty for miles ahead... More

5. Summer Story by May B. Yesno
Friends are a difficult thing. As a matter of fact they are almost impossible. Difficult to find for the first thing and just as difficult to keep - especially in a mobile society... More
The August issue Truckin' features veterans such as May B. Yesno, Susan B. Bentley, Change100 and everyone's favorite Norwegian writer... Sigge S. Amdal. I also penned a short story about a bad job that I held when I first moved to Seattle.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories.

Thanks to the writers who exposed their souls to the world and wrote for free. I'm lucky that you were willing to take that leap of faith with me.

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

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Paranoid Android

By Pauly

Over the last two weeks, I racked up an unknown number of hours playing online poker. A year ago at this time, there were a myriad of fish swimming around the abundant waters of Party Poker. I'd log into my account on a nightly basis and cast out my net. The results were staggering. The 15/30 games were beyond juicy. I'd hop onto the $1,000 buy-in PLO tables, which became the equivalent of printing money. I had many Hellmuthian moments when I just sat there and basked in the warm glow of my own greatness and patiently waited as my opponents donked off their stacks and willingly pissed away their stacks to me. At the end of last summer, I'd log off almost every session with more money that I started with.

The games were soft. The players were atrocious and abundant. Then like the Mayans... they vanished without a trace.

Shortly before I moved to Las Vegas for the 2007 WSOP, the online games had become increasingly tougher over the prior six months, particularly at the limits I had been playing. The 15/30 and 30/60 LHE games used to be super soft. I knew regular joes from all over who were making a killing at those tables and happily lived off of those winnings. They bought luxury cars, made house payments, paid for tropical vacations, and accumulated other nonsensical material items.

In a short time, online poker had become a post-modern gold rush. Like a prospector in California during the 19th century gold rush, adventurous personalities of my generation set out for unchartered waters of online poker to stake a claim. Some of them became successful and vacuumed up wads and wads of cash, while more inexperienced newbies jumped online an attempted to strike it rich... and consequently succumbed to the better players.

These days the tides have turned. Perhaps it's my own deeply-rooted paranoia or lack of confidence, but a few months ago, I became a mark at those tables. Once infested with trout that could barely swim, the games had become dominated by sharks. I was no longer one of the hunters. I had become the hunted.

At any given time at a full ring table (nine handed) there are approximately three players who usually play higher limits. There are three people who are "punching their weight" and there are three people who should be playing lower limits and for whatever reason... they are taking a shot or straight up gambling. Those are the players I always gun for. When I sit down at a 8/16 LHE table, I'm slumming. Yet when I sit at 30/60, I'm that guy who is playing over his head and I have a big red bullseye located over my avatar.

I took a shot at 30/60 before the WSOP started and although I made solid decisions, I played tentative at times (which is expected at a new level but still that's no excuse) and I eventually lost a few grand... 50% of it in one hand to David Grey on Full Tilt who flopped a set of 3s against my Big Slick when I missed a nut flush draw.

In the last week or so that I've been in NYC, I went back to taking another shot at 30/60 LHE. After a couple of sessions on PokerStars, I have almost wiped out those initial loses. On Tuesday night, I took down consecutive monsterpottens... the first one with Ks-Js and on the next hand, I flopped a set of 7s.

I'm much better about detaching myself from the monetary value of chips in play and pot sizes. When I used to lose a big hand in PLO, I'd say things like... "That jizzmopper sucked out on me and cost me the equivalent a round-trip ticket to Paris..." or "Fuckwad over here cracked my set and that could have paid for half of my new laptop." And these days, I don't blink.

If I want to play and succeed at higher levels, I have to implement a total detachment from money and play every hand as they come. I'm winning and losing pots the size of what my total bankroll used to be a couple of years ago. The swings are tremendous. Heck, in only a handful of hit and run sessions I nearly wiped out a 2K loss. Chasing a loss in lower limits would have taken me weeks or even months to grind myself out of that hole.

Sometimes, you have to take chances and risk losing some of your profit in order to gain experience and to make some money. One of my fraternity brothers from college had an odd saying that we used to scream out when we gambled on the riverboats in Biloxi. Teddy B uttered the infamous words... "To win big, you gotta (be willing to) lose big."

I have a stop-loss in place so I won't lose more than a specific percentage of my bankroll playing 30/60. I have friends who took shots at higher limits and lost it all. That's my biggest fear so I set aside an amount of money I am comfortable losing and that I'm willing to gamble with. I'm sticking with the hit and run strategy until I suffer a defeat at the hands of a couple of losing sessions in a row before I abandon the 30/60 level. My goal is to accumulate as much as possible during my hit and runs so that my bankroll is sufficient enough to make that jump completely.

Over the last two weeks, I played LHE anywhere from 8/16 to 10/20 on FT and playing multiple tables at 10/20, 15/30, and 30/60 on PokerStars. Finding full ring limit cash games on FT is tough. The players are softer but the infrequency of games is what sucks the most. There are plenty of full ring cash games on PokerStars, but the players are much better - which means that I have to be more careful about the tables I select. There are a few fishy players that I hunt down and track, but aside from them, I avoid some of the better players that I have come across. My goal is not to beat the best... my goal is simply to fleece the worst... before they go busto and are never heard from again.

My fundamental philosophy on making money in poker is to find the one thing that you are the best at... then maximize your earning potential within that genre. Since LHE cash game skills are the most profitable for me, I play those tables as much as possible. I encourage my friends to find their edge in poker, and then maximize it. Whether it's online NL MTTs or PLO SNGs or live cash games, you must figure out what your "bread and butter" game is... and stop fucking around the places where you are not profitable.

Of course, I am a walking contradiction at all times. I have been ignoring my own philosophy out of sheer boredom. I should be playing LHE cash games non-stop, but I find myself dabbling in other games... for entertainment value. I don't mind investing my time and money into educating myself and learn how to play a certain game (like PLO) better... because over the long term that's a winning investment. But, I have been farting around too much in places where I'm not as profitable... such as the 1/2 and 2/4 NL tables. I have to cut back in that area and stick to mid-level LHE.

I have been dabbling in NL SNGs to switch things up. I used to be an SNG guru back in the day under the sage-like advice of HDouble, The Poker Penguin and the (original) Poker Nerd. (Side note: I wish all three would start posting again!) I used to clean up on the $30 and $50 SNGs on PartyPoker. I'd start my sessions at a low-limit NL table and try to double up early. I'd use my winnings to play SNGs. Things were going great for several months until I hit a cold streak. That's when I decided to focus on Limit cash games and I never looked back.

I started playing token SNGs on FT earlier in the year to win a few cheap seats to different blogger events like Miami Don's Big Game. In fact, the one time that I won the Big Game in February, I had qualified via a token. I missed the excitement and instant gratification of playing SNGs. Shortly after the WSOP ended, I found myself playing $50 and $100 NL SNGs during late nights when I couldn't sleep in Las Vegas or in Hollyweird. The results have been luke-warm to moderate. I turned a small amount, but deep down I'm playing those more out of entertainment than to make money.

Of course, my inner action junkie takes over from time to time and I find myself at the turbo PLO SNGs or playing short-handed 1/2 PLO. That is just flat out gambling... but then again, I want to become a better short-handed PLO player, so whatever experience that I can get... I'll take. I love it when I can justify aberrant behavior to myself.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have not been using PokerTracker. I have individual notes on players and have been using those when applicable, but for the most part in between a fried laptop and setting up a brand new one, I haven't had the chance to install PokerTracker to my new computer. That's been good for me because I'm not obsessing over the numbers for my daily sessions. I base the quality of my sessions on the quality of my decisions. If I made solid decisions and minimized my mistakes, then it's a positive session. If I played like shit with too many errors, then I had a bad session.

The monetary outcome often skews my perspective of results. Too many times in the past, I played like crap, but since I won a few bucks, I shrug off my less than optimal play instead of sitting down and reviewing my mistakes. On the other hand, there were numerous instances when I made excellent decisions and played a nearly flawless session, yet the cards didn't fall my way or I encountered too many suck outs which translated into a negative session. I tend to be too hard on myself during those days when I need to ease up and admit that I played well. Variance got the better part of me.

I play with more confidence when I'm not paying attention to daily wins/losses and focusing more on the bigger picture... to make solid decisions and limit my mistakes.

And of course, the cycle continues. As soon as I get into the swing of playing everyday again... it's time for me to hit the road.

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Butterfly Dreams

By Pauly

After ten weeks of being on the road in Las Vegas and Hollyweird, I have returned to New York City. My time here is short and I'm prepping for another arduous journey. In the next couple of days, I'll board a flight to Amsterdam which begins a six week stint in Europe with work assignments at the EPT Barcelona and the WSOP-Europe in London.

Upon my arrival home (it's not really home per se, more like base camp) after a long trip or assignment, the snail mail backs up. I have a pile of mail to sift through and a stack of packages to check out. PR reps, publishing companies, and literary agents send me books to review on the Tao of Poker or the other places I write. Most of them are poker or gambling books, but I also get random CDs from indie bands that I never heard of. After writing for a German music magazine, I was placed on a weird mailing list from a small PR firm based out of Toronto that handles record labels on the east coast that I never heard. I have a stack of CDs from bands like Panda of the Purple Promise, Muppets Collide, Miserable Neptune, and my favorite new band... Crank Detour. I'm not usually fond of four guys in Ed Harvey t-shirts with messy hair that can't play their instruments fronted by a chick covered in tattoos who sounds like Cyndi Lauper getting anally raped by a garden hose... but when a band has a name like Crank Detour and sing songs about meeting Jesus in an A.A. meeting in downtown Oakland and then skipping out early to shoot dice in the alley, I quickly hit their MySpace page and see if they are touring.

One thing that I like to do before a long adventure is to get a haircut. Vinny the barber is my go to guy. I've been seeing him on and off for the last twenty or so years. When I had long hair in my 20s, I saw him once a year. He was the only person I trusted not to fuck it up. As my hairline began the retreat into oblivion, I rely on him to make it look good. He always does top notch work. A true artist.

Our discussions during the haircut always revolve around local sports and gambling. Over the weekend, he touched briefly on A-Rod's 500th homerun, Barry Bonds and the legalization of steroids in sports, the non-smoking rules at the Borgata in Atlantic City, playing golf in Westchester, and his favorite topic... the buffet at the Wynn.

Vinny the barber is from the old country. Originally from the rough and tumble streets of Sicily, he came to America in the late 1950s. As a teenager, he ended up making money as an amateur boxer who fought in the dimly lit and smokey armories and gymnasiums in the Bronx and in Manhattan. After getting his nose broken a few times, he decided the life of a pugilist was not his calling. Instead, he fought until he saved up his money to pay for barber school. The rest is history.

Vinny the barber turned to running in the 1970s and became a marathon runner. At one point, he was my running coach when I ran a series of 10K races during grammar school. He's a guy who has always been in good shape ever since I met him. These days, his sporting activity of choice is no longer boxing or long distance running... it's golf. All three are similar to poker in that they are solo pursuits (not a team activity). Boxing is like a heads up match. Golf and running are like MTTs where you are competing against a large field. Ultimately, all three hinge on the individual making solid decisions. The slightest error or mistake, and everything you worked hard at is in jeopardy.

At the tail end of my haircut, Vinny the barber and I were figuring out a good workout routine for my week in NYC. I told him that ever since I made an effort to eat smarter and exercise (when I could), that my body was able to survive a rigorous travel schedule, a slew of partying, and a lot of late nights at the WSOP.

And he said, "You have one body. You have one mind. Don't fuck up either."

It was not just important to get in better physical shape. He said that I needed to be in a good head space as much as possible. I have been living a lifestyle where every few weeks everything around me is different; including the city, the people, the food, the climate, the local TV, the accents, the laws, the attitudes, and the vibe. That's enough to make your head spin. Having to adapt and adjust on the fly is something I'm forced to deal with. I have no alternatives. A flexible mind is something that I must have in order to survive.

The wisdom of my barber reminded me of the teachings of Zhuangzi (also known as Chuang Tzu). He wrote a text titled Zhuangzi (yeah, it was named after himself) which is considered the second foundational text for Taoist philosophy. He was born around 370 BC and died around 300 BC. Zhuangzi was a hermit and looked like one.

Zhuangzi suggested a retreat from societal pressures and recommended pursuing "an individual life of freedom." A life of self-cultivation was more enriching than a life of self-sacrifice. Many of his teaches laid the groundwork for modern Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.

One of his most famous discussions involved a butterfly. He dreamed that he was a butterfly floating and fluttering around. He had no concept of being a human. When he woke up, Zhuangzi was back to being himself. He could not figure out if he was a person who was dreaming that he was a butterfly or rather, a butterfly who was dreaming that they were a person. In his text, he called that "The Transformation of Things."

The butterfly dream ended up being one of the most influential dreams in Chinese philosophy. According to C.W. Chan, "This shows that, although in ordinary appearance there are differences between things, in delusions or in dreams one thing can also be another. The transformation of things proves that the differences among things are not absolute."

Perception. Reality. For centuries philosophers have debated both concepts. Nietzsche wrote a lot about dreams and concluded that reality is subjective and that dreams are objective. Nietzsche said that dreams would be a good guide in our daily lives. Zhuangzi's take on the butterfly dream was that in reality... we are dreaming. The fact that his dream was about a butterfly is interesting since butterflies flutter and float. They have no set pattern.

Zhuangzi's teachings can be broken down into three points:
1. Be open to new ways and flexible in incorporating them in your own way of life.
2. Understand both the usefulness and limitations of convention.
3. Cultivate skill to the point of spontaneous flow.
I apply Zhuangzi's philosophy to writing, poker, and everyday life. The third point is what Howard Lederer often talks about with regard to Zen and poker. What you do at the poker table is neither an action or reaction... it just is.... playing poker with all of your focus on the present moment, without worrying about the past or the future.

There are a handful of online players like RainKhan, ElkY, and the (original) Poker Nerd who could easily play thirty SNGs at one time. Whether they knew it or not, they are examples of cultivating skill to the point of spontaneous flow. They were Zen masters and seamlessly made instant decisions for in more than thirty separate scenarios.

I'm at point in my online poker game where I'm comfortable playing up to four or five limit cash tables at once. I play ABC poker and almost all of my actions replicate a bot. It's sort of like driving on speed control. You're not pressing down on the gas, but at any moment you can speed up or slow down depending on the situation. I have evolved into a Zen bot... with fishlike tendencies.

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If you are a food junkie, then you have to check out a project of mine that I have been working on over the last seven months. It is a Flickr gallery made up of over 120 photos of food that I encountered along the way over the last year or so.... Pauly Food Photo Gallery.

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