Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cheviot Hills Counterfeit

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

John 'Schecky' Caldwell and Jen Leo played in a rotating home game among their friends in the L.A. area. Two years ago, I had the opportunity to play with them for the first time. The stakes are relatively small considering the amount of collective wealth among the players in the game. It's a friendly atmosphere with the emphasis on fun while embracing the social aspect of poker. For example, the first time that I played in the Beverly Hills home game, the evening had a dual celebratory purpose; poker night and a doggie's birthday party.

Sometimes I wonder who eats better? A person in a third world country or a pooch in Beverly Hills. It's a coin flip. I mean, the doggie had freshly baked birthday cup cakes from the Sprinkles, the posh bakery in Beverly Hills where people line up for hours to purchase those savory treats.

I apologize for the philosophical tangent. Canines are a peculiar phenomenon. The DEA uses them to sniff out smugglers, wealthy Westerners treat them like royalty, while in some countries they are considered lunch.

Moving on...

My first Beverly Hills home game featured an sundry assortment of eccentric characters such as a 91-year old woman, a Rabbi, a television writer, a former entertainment lawyer, a comedienne, a former NBA basketball player, a travel writer, a CEO of a global media empire, a 16-year old girl from Beverly Hills high school, and a film producer. And how could I forget everyone's favorite hemp-toking former child actor turned studio exec turned poker scribe...Change100? I made the money that night and came in third place after the high school chick busted me with a Royal Flush.

On Wednesday night, I played in a home game hosted by Cora Caldwell (the adorable offspring of Jen Leo & Schecky). How many kids do you know began a media empire with her own blog and website by the age of three months? She has since expanded into tournament operations. Her first event was held in the lush Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles, a mere six minute drive from our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills.

The game attracted a similar cast of characters including the foul-mouthed rabbi and an infomercial gazillionaire who added to his fortune with his latest products; knock-off versions of the Snuggie and Sham-Wow.

I know! Total shocker there. I saw those commercials all the time and I thought, "Who would be so fuckin' retardedly stupid to actually buy one of those Snuggies?" Well apparently, our nation is made up of millions of knuckle-heads who desperately craved a blanket with sleeves.

Sure, I was there to see some friends and eat some amazing Mediterranean food. But I definitely had my mind on chiseling away at that massive Snuggie/Sham-Wow counterfeit fortune.

The special event attracted a couple of pros in Rafe Furst and Joe Sebok. Rafe arrived after the start of the tournament and missed registration. We successfully dodged a bullet since Rafe happens to be a WSOP bracelet winner. I avoided Sebok. He was not at my starting table, but Change100 had everyone's favorite Poker Road personality not named Shronk seated to her right.

My starting table included some familiar faces such as Jen Leo, John Caldwell, Mark (the cool guy who owned the vast estate where we played), Gloria (who does videos for Poker News) and two-thirds of the Wicked Chops Poker crew (Snake and Addict).

The last time that I played in Cheviot Hills, shortly after the WSOP, I busted out early that night because I played like a maniac. My strategy shifted. My goal was to stick around, socialize, and mingle during the early levels and let some of the inexperienced players knock themselves out. But then again, I was pretty much card dead for the opening levels. I folded shit hand after shit hand.

On the very first hand of the tournament, Schecky and one of the Wicked Chops Poker boys tussled in a pot. It was a six or seven multi-player pot after everyone limped. Schecky checked his option from the big blind with the Hammer. He flopped two pair and turned a Hammer Boat. If Addict made his flush draw, he would have gone busto. Alas, he was crippled and Schecky took an early lead.

Rafe Furst showed up mid-way through the first level. He spotted a baby's pacifier on her table in front of an empty stack.

"Is Phil Hellmuth here?" he said.

That zinger got a hearty chuckle from the peanut gallery. Alas, it was Jen Leo's stack and sometimes the baby sat on the table with the chips.

We had a slight error in the computer program that our TD Shig used to set up the tournament. Blinds jumped from 25/50 to 175/350. We only started with 4,000 in chips so pretty much everyone barely had 10 big blinds. The structure was amended at the next level to 200/400 but mostly everyone busted during that stretch including Change100 and Joe Sebok.

Despite the escalation in blinds, I made the final table as the shortest of short stacks.
Final Table:
Seat 1: Jen Leo
Seat 2: Snake from Wicked Chops Poker
Seat 3: Foul-mouthed Rabbi
Seat 4: Your Hero
Seat 5: Miguel (aka the Locomotive)
Seat 6: Sue the comedienne
Seat 7: Mark the Snuggie guru
Seat 8: Gloria
Seat 9: Schecky
Joe Sebok was kind enough to deal at the final table. I had a super-mega-stack to my left in Miguel. He steamrolled the field and knocked out a slew of players en route to the final table. Mark had the rest of the chips while everyone was kinda short with yours truly the shortest among that group.

I was at a point of super-shortness when I should have shoved with any two cards. Sebok gave me continuous shit that I played "like a pussy." Change100 even remarked, "I had never seen you fold this many hands before."

I didn't see any decent cards and had very few opportunities to pick up orphaned pots. The only pot I had won prior to the final table was a hand when I bluffed Schecky with the Hammer on an Ace high board. Aside from that, I had few opportunities to make a move. Perhaps my tight play could have been attributed to state of inebriation, or lack thereof. I was dead sober. I had not had a sip of booze since I departed from the Bahamas in mid-January. I had not had a smoke in hours. I took some generic pain medication for a lingering migraine, but that really didn't do much aside from dull the pain from intolerable to manageable.

In my stone-cold-sobriety I patiently waited to pick a spot. I almost open-shoved with Q-10 but glanced to my left. A couple of my opponents peeked at their cards before I made my decision. It was very obvious that at least one or possibly two people were about to play. I put them on better hands and folded. They were both actually favorites against me. However, I would have flopped trip tens and possible tripled up. You usually only get one shot and I thought that I blew my one chance.

On the next hand I found Js-8s. I should have shoved but folded. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Miguel (to my left) reached down to his stack. He was about to raise it up so I folded. Another bad idea. I would have turned a flush and could had tripled up. I blew two opportunities and had to make a stand with my big blind. I found a decent holding in A-9. Gloria raised 2.5x. I insta-shoved. She called with As-5s. I flopped a nine and turned trips. I doubled up and had some breathing room.

Short-stacked Jen Leo moved all in from UTG. Sebok continued to deal and hooked me up with pocket Aces. I re-raised 5x what Leo shoved for. Sue tanked for a few minutes and moved all in with her short stack.
Sue: 8c-7c
Jen Leo: 9-9
Your Hero: Ah-Ac
Sue flopped a flush draw, turned an eight, and rivered an eight. I faded the flush draw but trip eights spelled doom. Sue busted Jen Leo and doubled through me. Aces snapped off.

A couple of more players busted as we approached the bubble. The top 4 places paid. The shitfaced Rabbi sat to my right and we constantly bantered back and forth. The more that he drank, the saucier and spicier his language got. Cunt this. Fuck that. He guzzled pint glasses filled with cranberry juice and Skyy vodka. I was in awe. He wasn't the first Rabbi that I ever met who dropped a few F-bombs, but out of all the Rabbis that I knew, he drank them all under the table and with the same enthusiasm and professionalism as a Catholic priest.

As the foul-mouthed Rabbi continued to bleed chips, I went in for the kill and sent him on mega-tilt. He opened with a min-raise. I shoved all in with A-5. He called with A-J suited. I flopped a five and rivered a five. Shipithollaballs. I doubled through the Rabbi and he unleashed a tirade of profanities.

"I hate you, Cunt Face," he screamed and then took a swig on his drink.

He didn't last too much longer. The Rabbi ended up the Bubble Boy. On the next hand, I crippled Gloria when I flopped a Ling-high straight with Q-10. I bet out on the flop and she shoved all in with a pair and a Broadway gutshot. My hand held up and I jumped into second place in chips.

I forgot how I busted Mark... I think we were racing and I ended up on the good side of that hand. I knocked out Gloria in third. My A-9 came from behind against her pocket fours. There were two pairs (higher than her fours) on the board and I won with my Ace kicker.

I trailed Miguel by a few chips. At that point, I sensed that everyone wanted to end the event, so I played almost every hand. Heads up only lasted a dozen or so hands. We got in all in preflop on the final hand. I was behind but we were racing.
Your Hero: A-Q
Miguel: 6-6
The flop had two Kings and a rag. The turn was a ten. I had so many friggin' outs to win with two overs and a gutshot, not to mention that a ten would seal the victory for me.

The river? A ten. Miguel's two pair were counterfeited. My kicker played and I won the pot and the tournament. I also collected a last longer bet from Change100.

I played tighter than a nun's snatch and advanced to the final table where I waited to catch a wave of good fortune. Poker is never a fair entity. The best hand I had all day were Aces and those got viciously beaten down like a Russian dissident in the only significant pot that I had lost... all day. It was the day of the dogs because I prevailed every time that I got it all in as an underdog. I sprang back to life and doubled up against the tilty-vodka-soused-foul-mouthed Rabbi and then caught two sweet counterfeited rivers against low pairs as I marched towards victory.

I was gonna have a blast regardless of the outcome. But it's always a lot more fun when you walk away the winner, especially in Cora's first home game.

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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Conceptual Paranoia

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA
"Suffering is the origin of consciousness." – Dostoevsky
I achieved Iron Man status on Full Tilt for a sixth consecutive month. I shall pause a moment while I bask in the warmth of your thunderous applause.


Thanks. I needed that acknowledgment of my consummate brilliance. That meaningless pursuit shocked me. Iron Man, I am. Now there's a promotion that just prays on poker junkies as Full Tilt's fat cats get rich off of the rake that you generate in pursuit of said promotion. We're just a bunch of monkeys trying to fuck a football.

I actively set a goal and played a specific about of time every day during the first two months of Iron Man. Since then, I never focused on that promotion. It just happened because I have been grinding it out at the cash game tables the last four months. The insomnia has been especially brutal the last few weeks. I passed the time playing online poker and re-reading some of my favorite authors such as Thomas Pynchon and William Styron.

I played more online poker in the last six months than I have in any previous six month blocks over the last few years. Why have I all of a sudden been playing a ton of online poker? It's simple. The economy blows camel testicles.

It's a matter of time before we have civil unrest in the streets like the econo-riots currently in Iceland. Mass hysteria. Anarchy. The end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine because I'm rolling up a stake and prepping for the impending doom. Currently as we speak, Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot is stocking up our Armageddon cabin in an undisclosed mountainous location with ammunition, canned goods, and a collapsible fishing rod. And don't forget about your copy of Surviving the New World Order manifesto by the Human Head, which is necessary reading material before you set up your panic room or move your family to the Great White North.

In the meantime, the pillars of capitalism slowly implode in a controlled demolition as the economy mutates into a socialist model. I'm not wasting any time and supplementing my income by fleecing the trout and preying off of desperate souls who are pissing away the last of their online poker accounts in a perplexed frenzy.

Conceptual paranoia. In desperate times, people do completely retarded things. That's when you really figure out what makes a person tick. Carefully observe how they react in a crisis situation. It's hard to mask your liabilities when the shit hits the fan. That's when you discover your true character and realize that only the strong shall survive.

The last few weeks of weirdness on the intertubes reminded me of the last few days on Party Poker before my favorite online poker room pulled the plug on US operations and left our beloved soil. Talk about some frantic souls on Party in the last days, like all those helicopters landing on top of the U.S. embassy during the fall of Saigon with the desperate folks clinging to the bottom of the copters while the Viet Cong surrounded the compound. Anyway, the last few days on Party Poker were a feeding orgy for sharks. Lots of people pissed away the last bits of their bankrolls.

For some reason, I sensed a growing desperation among many of my opponents. The bad beats that I issue sting just a little more than normal.I'm getting a lot more lip from the dweebs. The disastrous economy affected my opponents' decision making abilities and I'm taking advantage of their mistakes. Aggressive players have slowed down a bit and they're thinking more about capital preservation (their bankrolls) instead of playing their natural game. The average investor lost 40% of their savings and all of a sudden they're playing like a bunch of fuckin' pansies.

Technically, that's tilt. The basic definition of tilt is not playing under optimal circumstances. Yes, the economy is tilting the masses. The sheep. The goats. The baboons. The ferrets. The ostriches. The striped sea bass and the remainder of lowly inbred shitstains who infest the online waters. Oh the horror, the horror. Exterminate all the brutes

If you play scared and delirium abounds, I'm gunning for you. I have set my targets upon thee. I have no fear at the tables. I want the last of your bankrolls. And you should be afraid that I smell your fear because I have Phish summer tour to fund and it's not going to be cheap. Plus my girlfriend is a known-ganja addict. That's an expensive hobby.

As Sun Tzu said, "Rapidity is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness."

I rarely write about my poker play. When I'm not playing there's no bad beats to bitch about or interesting hands to brag about, so during the down cycles I make up some shit on the fly and publish that tripe.

Although I'm playing a significant amount over the last few months, I'm still not writing about my play. Why?

Well, here's seven random reasons...
1. Yawn. Writing about my poker hands has as much depth as a recurring character on Sesame Street. Writing about every single poker session is not as interesting to me as it once was. I'm looking at long term results and I don't obsess over every hand that I play. I guess it's also the zen of poker. Once a hand is over, it's over. I might take notes on my opponents but that's not stuff I'm going to publish. I basically don't dwell on the past and just focus on the now. After all, it's just a state of mind.

2. Burned. Part of my lack of personal poker content can be attributed to sheer burnout after writing about tournaments and the poker industry non-stop for the last few years, not just here but for dozens and dozens of clients over the last half-of-a-decade.

3. Shifty. I have been reducing the amount of actual poker writing that I do, not just here but everywhere. Over the last twelve months, I increased the amount of fiction writing and music writing. My focus and priorities are shifting. Writing about poker is a job. Writing about other interests like music is my pleasure (and new job).

4. Hidden. There's a part of me that doesn't want to reveal how I play by scribbling down the inner workings of my mind as a hand develops. Seriously, does anyone really care about how I play Jacks in early position? I know that's the last thing that I'd want to read about first thing in the morning. But that's something my opponents would be interested in and if they are any sort of real player, they will exploit that edge and inside information.

5. Appeasement. Give them what they want. Life is tough. Readers want to laugh and I like to bring a smile to your faces... she smelled like a Tijuana whore... guess who I pissed next to in the Bahamas... Michalksi loves playing 'cornhole'... Otis tilts every time Isabelle walks by him... when was the last time you hate-fucked a Las Vegas hooker?

6. PMA. Positive Mental Attitude. Why fill the intertubes with negativity and heartache? There is so much of that in everyday life, the main reason you are here reading this right now is that you're escaping from the day's grind as you are sunk deep into corporate slavery and want to be entertained. Only small minority of you come here for strategy, much to the dismay of my buddy Stormwind who wishes that I'd write more strategy posts or as W would say strategery. The strategery whores can soak up the static on 2+2 or buy Harrington's books in bulk.

7. No sexy time. I played a significant amount of limit hold'em which is ABC poker. And as we know, ABC poker is not sexy. It's not interesting. However, ABC poker pays the bills.
There you go. Seven simple reasons why the day-to-day half-baked musings about my online poker play has been absent.

Time for me to go. I have a book to finish writing and an Armageddon to prepare for.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chasing the Dragon

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It's safe to assume that the majority of my readers had experiences in the drug subculture (both above ground and underground). I mean, our new President admitted to snorting cocaine and smoking the rope. And everyone on Capitol Hill knows that many moons before W became born again, he was one of the biggest coke fiends in Texas.

But here in America, we don't judge people in power based on the substances they ingest or the shit they shoot up. Imagine if we did just that and judged the occasional abuser and rounded up all those hedonists and tossed them into Gitmo? Then we'd have no botox-riddled movie stars to fawn after and no steroids-addled athletes to admire and definitely no Obamamania. What's left? A bunch of Mormons in the White House. That's what. And my incarcerated self would be trying to figure out how to to divvy up the ad revenues on the Tao of Jail to a harem of wives.

At some point, we've all dabbled. A little weed here, maybe a few pills there, or a fistful of magic mushrooms from time to time. A few of you might be lit, buzzed, or crunked right now. Heck, I bet a bunch of you were total yopo junkies. Some days I look at Michalski and I think, "For fuck's sake, the sot is all yopo'd up. We've lost another brave soul."

And don't get me started about Ibogaine.

For those pure souls out there who don't know, the term chasing the dragon is drug slang. Simply put, you're chasing the dragon if you are smoking heroin instead of snorting or shooting it.

Ancient Chinese culture, art, and history is shrouded with dragon mysticism. The term chasing the dragon had origins back in days during the opium epidemics in the US and the UK. In the end of the 20th century, the slang was applied to smoking heroin.

These days, the term can be applied to any sort of morbid addiction.

Oh, poor Suzy. She's chasing the dragon again. That's her third Triple Espresso today.

We all have one thing that we habitually do that we shouldn't do. I happen to have like ten of those things. Pot Limit Omaha is by far the worst of my poker liabilities. PLO is my own personal heroin. When I play PLO cash games, all I'm really doing is chasing the dragon. Chasing that high. I've been struggling to kick that savory affliction. I tried other games like Badugi, but that was just methadone and only prevented me from getting physically sick. I craved more. I needed more. I desired more.

I don't feel normal unless I'm playing PLO.

Some medical geeks attribute pathological gambling addiction to a brain disease that is both "chemically and genetically driven." Most gambling junkies experience a chemical change to their brains when they are in the act of gambling. The gambler's high. And the moment that they are done (and by done meaning busto with no more money left to gamble) they experience high levels of depression.

Sometimes, I used to think that my post-gambling sadness had everything to do with the all that Catholic guilt about losing money. But it was not the case. The onset of the blues had everything to do with the fact that I chemically felt abnormal when I stopped gambling.

The banality and absurdity of every day life is utter torture. I don't know how some people put up with it. Maybe that's why so many people are on happy pills and other prescribed psychiatric medication.

I have hobbies and activities to keep me sane in an insane world. But all of those distractions are addictions. The key to beating an addiction is to find something that is less harmful and self-destructive to get addicted to. In the end, that's all we do, right? Swap addictions.

Smokers develop addictions to eating when they quit smoking. When addicts kick drugs or booze or gambling, they get hooked on religion, working out, or become addicted with the recovery process. And let's not forget sex. One of my friends from college who has been in and out of rehab numerous times told me that the craziest sexual encounters he ever had were at rehab centers.

"Orgies on the roof," he would tell me.

Our personalities are defined by the choices we make which are often ruled by our addictions. There's some expressions that I have heard along the way that really explains the quagmire that addicts are constantly dealing with. Potheads will tell you that nothing beats the first high of the day. Nothing. All you are doing is chasing that high for the rest of the day.

And one of my favorite cokehead jokes is this...
Q. When is the best time to snort a line of cocaine?
A. After you just snorted a line of cocaine.
You see the logic. It's a never ending relentless pursuit towards futility. Like a puppy chasing its tail like a fiend. Add cocaine and that's one fucked up pooch.

The inevitable confrontation occurs. The moment of truth when you actually catch the dragon and have to stand face to face with your own addiction. Do you slay the dragon? Does the dragon light your ass up and you're burned to the crisp? Or do you come to a mutual understanding that you both are linked together in a twisted relationship. One could not exist without the other.

St. Augustine wrote extensively about temptation. He said that they were necessary in order to achieve spiritual progress. One of Augustine's most famous passages from his epic screed Confessions involved lust...
"There seethed all around me a cauldron of lawless loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, and I hated safety... To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. I defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness."
Ah, the hell of lustfulness. Sounds a lot like the streets of Las Vegas, doesn't it?

Addiction defines the majority of your behavior. We're addicted to many things in life, some obvious and some not-so obvious. Your behavior is a collection of decisions that you make. Each of those individual decisions add up. And at the end of the day, we're all just trying to make the best possible decisions so we don't give into temptation. That we don't lose our will.

It's easier for some than others. Some folks can walk right past a craps table without stopping. People can wander by a Dunkin' Donuts without feasting.

Poker is like any street drug. The more that you ingest, the bigger the tolerance that you develop. NL was just a gateway drug to PLO. Four cards. Double the action. Fix me up a fuckin' speedball, Johnny! Let's get it all in with a gutshot and a flush draw and an over pair.

Over the last few years, I have gone through various periods of time when I'm playing a ton of poker or on the contrary, I'm rarely playing. Sometimes, you just have to play. You need to play. That's all you think about. That's your main priority. Everything else becomes secondary. You can't even take a dump without missing a hand so you drag your laptop on the shitter with you.

I had a horrible bout of sports betting and I kicked my craving for big action before I lost a significant amount of cash. I got lucky that way. Most people learn lessons after they went broke and got their leg broken by a thug named Yuri. I was able to walk away with a profit and learned one of life's harsh lessons in the process. There is a happy ending to my story. I was one of the fortunate ones and caught myself before I really took a nose dive into the abyss.

As I wrote extensively in the Born to Gamble series, sports betting has always been in my life for as long as I can recall...
One of my earliest memories was watching the Superbowl XI in 1977 with my father. The Raiders beat the Vikings and my old man was extremely enthusiastic about the win since he had both the Raiders and the over in the game. He hit his parlay and that unstuck him for the NFL playoffs. Watching my first televised sporting was coupled with my first experience with gambling. The two began symbiotic relationship, that still exists in my mind today. From the moment Super Bowl XI ended, I presumed that my father had bet on every sporting event on TV over the next several years. Instead of asking him who won the Jets game, I'd say, "Did you win your bet?" - Born to Gamble Part I: Where It All Begins
I can stay out of the pits. I'm don't get off on black jack like I used to. Craps is fun when you have a bunch of friends with you, but other than that, I don't have an urge to roll the bones. And the slots? Don't turn me on.

Pai Gow is a whole other story and I ran into some festering problems with deviant bouts with Pai Gow. Alas, that was just one of those ugly moments in my life when I swapped one addiction (sports betting) for another (Pai Gow). I was still in the process of overcoming one addiction and became hopelessly addicted to the other. Two for the price of two.

I have since successfully kicked both. It took a lot of determination, discipline, and understanding of the root of why I gambled such large sums. It's pretty obvious. I'm a thrill seeker. I want the buzz. Writing gets me higher than any drug I have ingested. So any other activity doesn't compare to that vivacity. I was doomed with gambling.

Two dimes on a game. At the time, I justified it because I could afford to lose that much. It was at a weird time in my life when I was making so much money with different websites, and playing online poker, and as a freelance writer. The size of the bet had to mean something to me. I started the escalation in wagers.

My brazen betting habits began at the tail end of the 2006 NFL season and spilled over into the playoffs. I was in Melbourne, Australia at the start of the NFL playoffs. That was in the wake of the UIEGA and Neteller froze my account in January 2007. I could not fund nor cash out of my account at my favorite online sports book. I was caught in limbo. Ah, temptation was just around the corner. The Crown Casino had a sportsbook. I quickly found out that they charged too much juice. A couple of local bookies were recommended to me and they welcomed my action.

I escaped Australia without any damages to my sports betting roll. If anything, it swelled thanks to a nice run in the playoffs. I went into the 2007 March Madness tournament with too much confidence. I broke the majority of my basic sports betting rules. I tried to bet on as many games as possible. Again, recklessness paid off and I went 17-5-2 in the opening weekend.

Nice profit. Let's keep pressing it.

I headed out to Las Vegas for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games with my brother and best buddy Senor. That's when things got ugly. I had one of those moments of sheer agony when I lost one muthafucker of a game. A lot of my friends were watching the game with me at Red Rock Casino. It was a $6,000 swing. I wanted to die. I couldn't speak. I couldn't eat. I couldn't breathe. All I wanted to do was crawl up in a ball and just make it all go away... not because I lost the money, but because I missed that high.

The rush. Tip-toeing on the edge of the abyss and spitting into the darkness.

Most of my profit was wiped out. But instead of walking away, I decided to chase. I should have lost everything. Instead, I won back a bunch in the Final Four. I was covering the EPT Grand Finale and I had to watch the championship game from my hotel room in Monte Carlo where I frenetically paced back and forth during the second half. I won my wager that game and made a promise to myself and the gambling gods that I would not longer place big bets. No more betting one, or two, or even three dimes a game.

A couple of weeks later, I returned to Las Vegas for two weeks to cover the WPT Championships at the Bellagio and the WSOP Circuit Event at Caesar's Palace. It was the middle of the NBA playoffs. I covered both tournaments for Poker News and on my breaks, I ran over to the sports book to place bets or to anxiously sweat the games that I had bet on. I was betting relatively small compared to what I had been doing during March Madness.

I went on a horrendous losing streak during the 2007 WPT Championships. I basically blew my entire Poker News paycheck for the Bellagio gig on a serious of devastating NBA bets. It got so bad that I asked Erick Lindgren about his lock of the day. When that did not pan out, I started chasing the dragon and began increasing the amount of my bets. I was on the brink of hitting rock bottom and losing my entire Caesar's Palace paycheck, I caught a much welcomed wave of luck. I had one dime on a game. It was a blow out and I won. I doubled up on the next game and hit that when I got lucky covered at the last second. I pressed my winnings for one final game. That hit and I had won back my Bellagio paycheck and then some.

John Caldwell from Poker News was concerned about my degeneracy. We both were about to embark upon a monster of an assignment -- the official coverage team of the 2007 WSOP. Although he knew that I could handle the pressure of the assignment, he was more worried about my sports betting which had spiraled out of control. He didn't want me to lose my entire paycheck at the Rio's sportsbook.

"You don't bet on baseball, right?" he asked.

Of course not. Only a true degenerate would do that.

Alas, my girlfriend was also worried. She knew that I wasn't betting any amount that I could not afford to lose, but she pointed out how depressed and moody and irate I would become after a gambling binge. It altered my personality and thereby affected the people around me including her. That's when I made vow. A promise. A pact. I would not place a sports bet until the 2007 NFL season. I went the entire 2007 WSOP without setting foot in a sports book. I did get sloppy in other areas such as lime tossing with Otis, but that's a post for another time.

When the NFL season rolled around, I was in London covering the 2007 WSOP Europe. There was a betting shop a few feet from the entrance to my hotel near Trafalgar Square. I walked past no less than a half a dozen on my way to the Empire Casino in Leicester Square. Billy Hill. Ladbrokes. They were everywhere. Action. Temptation. The highs. The buzz. Just one bet away from achieving nirvana...

I placed wagers at the betting shops, but I only bet small. I somehow managed to decrease the amount substantially and still gain some sort of pleasure at the same time. Although I lost one bet on a soccer match when Mike Lacey gave me a tip about Ireland in some sort of international game. I bet on the Irish and I lost when their opponents tied the game in extra time and the game ended 1-1. My British colleague Barry Carter scolded me, "That's what you get for taking a tip from an Irish football fan."

Despite my first and last foray into soccer gambling, I finally achieved a healthy balance by betting small again.

One year later, I continue to struggle. It's a day to day thing. Some days are better than others. But for now, I have sports betting and PLO under control. I chased the dragon and survived.

Now if I can just get this fuckin' monkey off my back...

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Lost City of Tunica

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

What happened to Tunica?

Tunica, Mississippi has become the lost city of poker. It suddenly disappeared and collapsed into the Mighty Mississippi and flushed out to sea. Never to be seen ever again. A wispy apparition. Like New Coke and Tae Bo.

For decades, Tunica was the center of the poker universe. Every January like clockwork. The small gambling Mecca was just a quick thirty minute drive south of Memphis, TN. The town itself was nothing special and included a couple a no-tell motels and a Waffle House a few miles down the road, but for a week or so every year, Tunica was the place to be in poker.

Tunica was one of the few stops on the tournament trail that I skipped. I always regretted that decision. Friends of mine, like Amy Calistri, made dedicated pilgrimages every year. It was the WSOP, the Masters and, the Kentucky Derby all rolled into one for Southern rounders.

Tunica attracted a bevy of regional poker players from the deep South and the Southeast in addition to wealthy types with disposable bankrolls; disgusting oil rich Texans, shyster lawyers from Atlanta, and half-baked dotcommers from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. The side games were juicy. The craps tables were packed. Tunica featured some of the biggest PLO cash games on the tour. Big action attracted the Big Dogs and Eurosharks as players from all over the US and world flocked to Tunica to engage in utter degeneracy and a shot to start off the new year with a big score.

I was in Atlantic City in 2006 when I heard the first whispers about the guy in Tunica who drove his car through the lobby of one of the casinos. That sort of absurdity added to the allure to a dump like Tunica. You just had to check it out for yourself because you'd never know what sort of peculiar event might happen.

I missed Tunica in 2006 because I covered the Borgata Winter Open for the Borgata. In 2007 and 2008, I headed Down Under to cover the Aussie Millions for Poker News. This year, I went to the Bahamas to cover the PCA for Poker Stars. It wasn't until the last day in the Bahamas when someone asked me if I was going to Biloxi.

"Why the fuck would I go there? Isn't Tunica going on? What about the annual Jack Binion World Poker Open?"

Tunica was a faded memory. No one was talking about it in the Bahamas. The next destinations for players and media included the Borgata, Biloxi, and the LAPC at Commerce. Tunica? Not on anyone's itinerary.

Tunica. Over night it became a ghost town.

Last year, there were two stops in Mississippi on the WPT (Tunica & Biloxi). Who knew that state was so worldy? The Gulf Coast Poker Championship at Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS was added to the WPT schedule for Season 6. Bill Edler won the first ever event in Biloxi. Capt. Tom's Penis was at the final table and finished in sixth place.

Anyway, this year Tunica was dropped from WPT Season 7, but Biloxi got the nod with slight change in name. The Gulf Coast Poker Championship was dropped in favor of the Southern Poker Championship. The tournament was still hosted at Beau Rivage in Biloxi but moved from September to January... an obvious replacement for the void that Tunica left. The annual Jack Binion World Poker Open was nevermore.

The World Poker Open organizers switched the dates on their big tournament series. It was moved from January to October. That changeover was in effect in October of 2008 which meant that they hosted two WPOs in 2008. I'm assuming that the declining numbers of entrants were to blame for the change and the reason they were dropped from the WPT schedule. The WPO in January also had to compete with the ever popular PokerStars PCA , the Aussie Millions, and the Borgata Winter Open.

Take a peek at the declining numbers...
Number of Entrants at the WPT Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica:
2003: 160
2004: 367
2005: 512
2006: 327
2007: 294
2008: 259
In 2003, Devilfish won the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica after he beat Phil Ivey heads up in one of the more memorable episodes of Season 1 of the WPT. Phil Hellmuth finished in 10th place that year.

In 2004, Barry Greenstein won $1,278,370 for first place. He beat Randy Jensen heads up and the final table also included a rare TV final table for Chip Reese and one of my favorite players in C.K. Hua. Eskimo Clark came in 10th that year.

2005 was a record setting year in poker, not just for Tunica. Unknown John Stolzmann won a whopping $1,491,444 when he beat Chau Giang heads up for the title. Also at that final table? Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, and The Grinder. Talk about stacked.

2006 was the first year that numbers started to decline. Scotty Nguyen won a shade under $1 million when he beat The Grinder heads up for the victory. Josh Aireh took 13th place and Liz Lieu finished in 18th place.

There was another decline in 2007 in one of the first major WPT events in the post UIGEA-era. Unknown Bryan Sumner won $913K and beat Daniel Negreanu heads up. JC Tran also made that final table.

In 2008, the number of runners at the WPO slipped to 259, the lowest since 2003. Amateur player Brett Faustman won $892,413. He beat Hoyt Corkins heads up for the crown. Also at the final table? Men the Master, Freddy Deeb, and John Spadavecchia.

Wanna talk about some impressive names who finished second at the WPO in Tunica? Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Chau Giang, Hoyt Corkins, The Grinder, and Randy Jensen.

And of course, Tunica was also won by a handful of unknowns who haven't done much since; Brett Faustman, John Stolzmann, and Bryan Sumner.

And if you don't know, Clonie Gowen actually won the main event at the World Poker Open at the Gold Strike in October of 2008. The second installment of the WPO kicked off without a lot of hype. I forgot about the WPO switcheroo and it would have been a total afterthought if Clonie did not win it. The main event was reduced to a $5,000 buy in; halved from the original $10,000 buy in. And there were less than 70 players in the main event. Essentially, Clonie won a seven table SNG for a $193,224 score. That was the second tournament that she had won since the $433K score at the Bellagio Cup in July.

Tunica in January is no longer a destination for the elite poker players on the planet. Tunica has morphed into a haven for slot-addicted bluehaired church groups bused in from Memphis and other parts of the South. The rest of the riverboats were filled with slack-jawed yokels at the craps tables juiced up on bathtub gin and tweakers jacked up on a fresh batch of crank.

Perhaps, Biloxi was a more attractive choice for the WPT in 2009. The Southern Poker Championship at Beau Rivage attracted 283 players which is a couple of more runners than last year's WPO in Tunica and last year's Gulf Coast Poker Championship (which had 256 entrants). Although the Beau Rivage's overall numbers are up, it happened to be the second smallest field on WPT Season 7. Only Barcelona had less players.

Alas, it appears that Biloxi is trying to become the new Tunica.

Ah, Biloxi. I spent a lot of time in Biloxi when I was a college student in Atlanta. We made frequent trips to the riverboats in the mid-1990s. It was a 400 mile journey from Atlanta. We'd take I-85 to Montgomery, Alabama then catch I-65 south until we linked up to I-10 and drove that to Biloxi. The drive took six hours on average. We once did it in five and drove like maniacs the entire way. The Biloxi Bell and Casino Magic were popular stops. I was primarily a black jack player and only played Seven-card Stud when I was almost out of money and wanted to kill some time before we left.

Most of our trips to Biloxi were spur of the moment gambling sojourns. Like the one Friday afternoon when a bunch of us drank a handle of Jim Beam on the porch of my fraternity house and decided to drive to Biloxi. We hotboxed Jerry's car and listened to Dead bootlegs on the way. A friend of mine got sick eating a gas station sandwich, but we made it safely and gambled all night playing black jack. My buddy Chicago Bob went on a heater and was betting so high enough that the pit boss comped all of us breakfast. We took turns driving back to Atlanta the next morning and got back just in time for me to play an intramural softball game.

OK, so the real reason I have yet to set foot in Mississippi in almost a decade is due to a speeding ticket that I acquired just outside of Biloxi in 1998. I was driving from New Orleans to Biloxi with my current fling at the time when I get tagged by old Smokey on I-10. The speeding ticket did not have a price listed on it. I got a letter in the mail several weeks later stating that I owed close to $600. It was doubled because I was supposedly speeding in a construction zone. Friends of mine who were lawyers suggested that I write to the judge and tell him that I was broke and to ask for a reduced fine. I blew it off. $600 was a ton of money in 1998. And I figured, when the hell would I ever be back in Mississippi?

Well it turned out that I passed through Mississippi a couple of times at the end of the century, mostly on Phish tour. I made my girlfriend at the time drive the car during the Mississippi stretches. I did not for the life of me want to get pulled over by the cops in Mississippi. I was a total long-haired hippie back then, and a Yankee too, and probably holding. You know they'd have a field day inserting god knows what into my rectum had I fallen into custody.

I safely avoided Mississippi and protected my anus. Alas, my outlaw past caught up to me many years later when I started covering poker. I desperately wanted to check out the Tunica scene, but I couldn't take the risk. I opted for other assignments, all of which happened to be amazing in their own right, so I felt as though I really didn't miss anything.

The risk far exceeded the reward. And I never set foot in Tunica which is a shame because it slowly fades away into obscurity. A place that used to be hip. A place that used to be a gathering place of poker's elite. We're living under a new world order of leaner economic times and the once rich oases of poker in the middle of nowhere are quickly drying up.

The ebbs and flows of the poker universe. Who knows which enclave will become the next hot spot or which current popular destination begins to sing it's swan song?

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Link Dump: AVN Photos, the Poker News Industry Round Table, and the Borgata Poker Blog

First off, a couple of friends are down at the Borgata blogging the Borgata Winter Poker Open. Check it out especially if you are looking for details and the schedule on upcoming tournaments.

I participated in a poker industry Round Table over at Poker News. They asked a panel of various personalities in poker a series of questions. I happened to be invited to the Round Table along with Jeffrey Pollack, Barry Greenstein, super agent Brian Balsbaugh, Nat Armen, and Matt Parvis from Bluff. I was honored to be among that elite group of poker people. Check out what everyone had to say on a variety of topics about the current status and future of poker. I'd definitely take note of Barry Greenstein's answers. He had a bunch of fascinating things to say about the state of the union.
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 1
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 2
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 3
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 4
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 5
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 6
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 7
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 8
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 9
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 10
Lastly, I hope Flipchip gets combat pay for his rough work. I mean, taking pictures of scantly clad porn stars and strippers at the adult entertainment expo is hard goddammed work. Alas, Flipchip was there and took a shitload of NSFW pics of lots of dirty dirty dirty girls. It's a must see for all you porn enthusiasts...
2009 AVN AEE Day 1 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 2 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 3 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 4-A Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 4-B Photos
God bless Flipchip.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

German Chicks on Sleds, the Bahamas Belch, and Lime Tossing

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I played online poker this morning at JFK airport at 7am as I waited to board a flight to Burbank. My opponents included a German, a Canadian, and a Dutchman. Sounds like the beginning to a crude ethnic joke, right? Sadly, it wasn't. No one said a peep in the chat, even when I put a wicked beat on the German. Silence.

I quit up $5. That barely paid for my greasy biscuit at the food court.

$5. What can you buy for $5 these days?

Beers cost $7.14 at the various bars in the Bahamas. Shit, I can't even get a dime bag for $5. But seriously, what am I going to do with $5? Just smile and book the win. At least I completed a winning session. I had been bogged down in the middle of a rough losing streak and even a $5 win can be a slight ego boost.

I watched women's luge the other day and all I could think about is how the hell can I bet on it? I really think that after an hour or so of watching the Women's Luge World Championships that I have it all figured out to the extent that I know I can turn a profit predicting winners.

I became fascinated and enthralled with luge. Chicks on sleds. I think it's the whole Nordic blondes in slippery latex outfits fulfills a certain fantasy of mine that gets me all hot and bothered. One thing for sure, the Germans and Austrians fembots dominated the world championships save for one Norwegian hold out.

I have been betting small on the NFL playoffs. The home dogs in the opening round were too good to pass up. I turned a small profit. I just bet enough to keep my interest in the games. If I don't wager on a game, it becomes utterly meaningless like one of those no-name college bowl games. The Clitoris Bowl.

Going into this weekend, I have no idea who to pick. I might just go with some advice I heard from the old Jewish guys who sit in the back booth at this Greek diner that I frequent in the Bronx. They're calling for an Arizona vs. Pittsburgh Super Bowl. I think they are biased because those guys are hardcore Giants fans and they can't stand to see Philly one up them.

* * * * *

Ever have a belch a couple hours after a great meal and the taste of the belch is so good that you get to re-live the savory meal for just a second?

Here's the Bahamas belch... or stuff that I forgot to include in a previous post.

Bahamas is on the fringe of the Bermuda Triangle and infected by Island Time where the locals and service people shuffle along at a snail's pace whether it's checking you into a hotel, or bringing you food, or while waiting in various lines at the Nassau airport. The first line was to check into JetBlue. That was the fastest moving line of the day. Next up was a first round of security. I managed to cut the lengthy line by sheer accident. I took advantage of the situation and ended up jumping in front of EPT hostess Kara Scott.

"You cutting me, Pauly?" she said with a smile.

I shot her a hungover look and she winked and let me pass. I survived two lines and then came the dreaded customs/immigration line which you have to clear before you get on your flight so when you land in the States, you can simply exit. Immigration was held back by all the international passengers who needed to have their palms scanned. I saw one of Benjo's colleagues get harassed by the overzealous border guards.

Lucky for us, someone figured out that they needed to open a US Passports ONLY line. Lucky for me, I was one if the first persons picked out of the long line to get funneled to the new line. I saved a good forty-five minutes.

The immigration guy grilled me about how much money I had. He kept asking if I had more than $10,000.

"How much do you have?"

A couple of grand.

"How much exactly is a couple a ground?"

Two or three.

"I'll ask you one last time, how much exactly do you have on you?"

$2,870. I failed to mention the Euros I had on me, but he never inquired about those.

I stood in a second security line and when I survived that I was finally inside the departure area. I wandered around the small and crowded gates. I spotted a handful of poker pros heading out. Some where off to the next stop on the tour whether it was Mississippi, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, or even Las Vegas. Greg Raymer, Bill Chen, Chad Brown, Ylon Schwartz, Brian Townsend, and Marcel Luske milled around the dozens and dozens of hungover and sunburned souls who were on the tail end of their vacation.

I wonder if those guys were grilled about how much cash they had on them?

* * * * *

Everyone wanted to know if I engaged in any degenerate lime tossing with Otis in the Bahamas. The answer is a resounding... no.

Not once. Sincerely. This was the one time of year we do not partake in our favorite past time. First of all, limes are out of season. Nothing is worse than tossing a non-ripe lime. It doesn't bounce quite right.

And secondly, I have been getting a steady stream of hate mail from pro-fruits activists who have been getting on my case for my many documented instances of cruelty to citrus fruits.

For fuck's sake people, lighten up! Once I buy a lime (or a Corona which happens to be accompanied by a lime 97.6% of the time in North America), the lime ceases to have any rights. I own and retain all rights to said lime.

And if I want to drown the lime in warm piss and shove it into the mouth of my beer, then so be it. And if I want to meaninglessly toss limes for competitive prize money, then it's my God-given right as an American to do so. Thomas Jefferson would not have stood for an of that bullshit.

With that said, I'm looking forward to a new season of lime tossing with Otis. I heard that he's getting Tommy John surgery this off season, so I'm feeling good about my chances.

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Breaking News: John Caldwell Resigns from PokerNews

By Pauly
New York City

No mas Scheckytime

I just got some surprising bit of information. My good friend and colleague, John 'Schecky' Caldwell, will be leaving PokerNews as Editor-in-Chief.

Here's the press statement:
Longtime PokerNews honcho John Caldwell has called it quits after nearly five years at PokerNews.

"I just felt it was time," said Caldwell, "I'm looking to change focus, and now felt right. It was, quite simply, time to go."

Caldwell started when PokerNews had two employees, and was still doing business as Currently, PokerNews owns 100+ poker domains, and employs 200+ people all over the world.

"PokerNews is extremely grateful for the contribution John has made to our company. On behalf of all PokerNews staff, I would like to wish John and his family all the best for the future," PokerNews CEO Damon Rasheed said.

"I'm really proud of what we accomplished at PokerNews. In a matter of a little over three years, we went from three guys in a tiny room to one of the largest poker sites on the web. PokerNews will always be a chapter in the book of my life that I am proud of. I have really enjoyed working with PokerNews. I’ll continue to contribute as a consultant on an ad hoc basis. I wish Tony, Damon, and everyone at PokerNews continued success."
I have to say that the main reason PokerNews is where they are today is because of Caldwell's relentless work and dedication to the company. He lived and breathed PokerNews and he couldn't stay away from the company for even a couple of hours without having to deal with some sort of emergency or problem. Best example I saw of that was during a holiday to Australia's Gold Coast after the 2007 Aussie Millions. Brandon Schaefer, Caldwell, and I headed on a trip up to Surfer's Paradise to see the Big Day Out music festival. But Caldwell spent most of his time working instead of enjoying some much needed R & R. That demonstrated both his work ethic and his dedication to the company... and I'll never forget that instance. The guy goes on vacation but he's still working.

I wish Caldwell and PokerNews the best. His departure is sort of like a hall of fame coach calling it quits. PokerNews will have some big shoes to fill with the absence of Caldwell.

I have been very lucky in the poker industry and that has a lot to do with several key figures in the poker world who were admirers of my work on Tao of Poker such as John Caldwell. At the end of 2006 when the UIGEA hit, I lost several clients and had to take a drastic pay reduction with the majority of them. It was the same time when Caldwell approached me and decided to bring me aboard Poker News to help out legitimizing their tournament reporting side of the company.

What started out as one gig for Poker News with the Aussie Millions turned into over two years of reporting where I was sent all over the world, including three month-long visits to Australia. For those epic experiences, I'm eternally grateful to both Caldwell, Tony G, Damon, and Poker News. They treated me with the utmost respect and paid me my full rate and then some.

The poker industry is constantly changing and it is obvious that Poker News is headed in a different direction with their decision to scale back tournament reporting and even more so with Caldwell's abrupt departure.

At this point, I have mixed feelings. I'm always elated when friends of mine find the opportunity to leave the poker industry. However, I'm incredibly sad that Caldwell made the decision to resign from Poker News. He was the glue that held Poker News and all of their other sites together.

I will find it very hard to work for PokerNews in the future without John Caldwell as the anchor. Back to the sports analogy, he was the coach who brought me over to play for his team and once the coach leaves, it's very hard for me to stay and play. I'm never one to speak in absolutes, but Caldwell's resignation, has put me in a position where I am seriously mulling the decision to leave Poker News as well. One of the few positive traits that I have is loyalty.

So if Caldwell leaves Poker News, then I shall follow.

And if that's the case and I end up making a decision to leave Poker News, I too want to thank everyone at the company especially Damon and Tony G for their support and the opportunity to work with them. I want to wish Damon, Tony, and Haley best of luck. Perhaps we can do some work down the line, but for now, the news of Caldwell's resignation was a total shock and it will make me carefully examine my future with the company.

Let's end this on a good note... the next time I have a lunch with Caldwell, I can expect an interruption-free meal with his Blackberry not ringing a dozen times during our time together.

Farewell, good friend. The poker world will not be the same without you. Now that you have some time off, you wanna join me on Phish summer tour?

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

Monday, January 12, 2009

PCA Afterthoughts: Midnight Ravers

By Pauly
New York City

"Never let a Scandi cokehead do a pot deal in the Bahamas for you," he said.

Getting your gambling fix on the tournament trail is easy. There's always a juicy side game or some sort of casino to heal your daily jones for action. If you have particular tastes for pharmaceuticals, powders, or herbal supplements, then finding those luxury items on the road in foreign lands can prove to be a overwhelming exercise.

But the Bahamas was different. The 200 islands and several hundred cays that comprise the Bahamas are a haven for bootleggers. Centuries ago, it was rum. These days, it's drugs. One of the first things I noticed was the disclaimer letter that I found moments after I checked into my room. The management encouraged their guests to not rent from the jet ski guys because they were not affiliated with the property and to avoid them due to insurance reasons. Although that was true, the main reason was that the jet ski guys were the black market entrepreneurs. Whatever your vice, they either had it or knew where to get it. After all, it's a small island. And it went on everywhere on the islands. Of course, if the Atlantis could properly regulate the drug trade on Paradise Island, then it would totally be kosher to buy from anyone. You'd be able to buy a bag of overpriced shitty ditch weed with your hotel room key but they'd hit you with a "deforestation surcharge" and a 15% gratuity.

No matter what country you visit (including America) the majority of cabbies are often immigrants to that country. Despite that fact, I have discovered that cab drivers hold the most knowledge about the local vice scene; drugs, sex, rock and roll. They know where to take you because they cross to the other side of the tracks quiet frequently. Some are even pimps, hustlers, and drug dealers thinly veiled as a cabbie and those are the mast dangerous to encounter.

Otis and Benjo had interesting cab rides to Atlantis. Benjo's driver was pouring himself a stiff cocktail while he drove, while Otis' cabbie dispatched sagely advice on double dipping and the scams that the working girls often pulled on unsuspecting johns like the "you're hurting me because you're too big routine." The locals might move and work slow, but they can roll you in the blink of an eye.

Mine were not as effervescent. The guy who drove me in barely said a word to me. On my departure, the driver wanted $30 to take me to the airport and I got her down to $20 plus a tip. She was short. Very short. And looked like the mother from What's Happening. She wore a bright green jacket and matching skirt and drove a big van with four rows of seats. I hopped in the back row with a couple from France who sat in the second row. We lazily made the trek off of Paradise Island over the eyesore slab of concrete that makes up two bridge expanses that connect the main island to Paradise.

Traffic was heavy on Elizabeth Street, a two lane winding road that was cluttered with limousines and airport vans. It was rush hour for tourists since it was peak checkout time and hordes of tourists needed to be herded to the airport. We eventually converged on Bay Street, the main drag on Nassau.

My driver pointed out Anna Nicole Smith's grave. The French couple gave each other a bewildered look, like they should know who that is, but don't. Hey, it's not like ANS was Simone de Beauvior. She was a tramp, a famous one at that, and unleashed a karmic path of doom. The gold digger dug her own grave and became a tourist attraction for the ravenous appetite of the many visitors who got bored of swimming with dolphins. Alas, her end was in the Bahamas and we whizzed by on the way to the airport. Aside from pointing out the grave, my driver was silent.

* * * * * *

The Costa Ricans have to be my favorite group of international media. The amicable bunch always traveled in a pack and you rarely saw them standing around solo. They were always in pairs. And they were everywhere clad in blue and white bowling shirts. I never saw one without either a cocktail in their hand or a camera dangling around their necks. Sometimes, they had both. They wore headsets and used walkie talkies, which made them look even cooler. They had a fondess for Jagermeister and Jim Beam and consumed them at a rapid pace until the wee hours of the morning, yet they were always on the ball. If something big was happening in the Imperial Ballroom, they were on the scene. Two of them, of course.

One of my favorite parts about the EPT is the collection of international media from various countries. I wrote for PokerStars and the expanded team included bloggers from the UK, Italy, German, Poland, Sweden, Brazil, and Spain. The PCA used to be a part of the World Poker Tour and now it's the most popular spot on the EPT.

The Bahamas has become a Mecca for online players, particularly those who are under 21. The PCA is often marks the debut of the latest prodigy that nobody has met or see play live before. Most of those players cannot set foot in a Las Vegas casino so they have flown under the radar of traditional poker media. That's why stops on the international circuit (where the playing age requirement is 18 years instead of 21 in most US casinos) have become widely popular destinations. And the PCA is sort of like summer camp and the WSOP rolled into one event.

The PCA also gave players the opportunity to meet their friends and nemesis for the first time. They might hav played together for years but never met face-to-face until they crossed paths in the Bahamas. That exchange was a frequent happening so it was not uncommon to witness a first-time meeting between players.

"What's your screename?" seemed to be a popular question.

And the lobby of the Coral Towers was the nesting spot for the majority of the players. A small bar hugged the corner and that's where Otis and I spent the evenings away our per diem with bottles of Kaliks. Poker players were spread out all over the lobby. The wifi connection is the strongest in the lobby and it was a who's who of online poker legends. Even season pros like Erik Seidel and Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler frequented the lobby, along with Gavin Smith who was a fixture at the bar.

On the other side of the room, the tables were peppered with twenty-something kids on their laptops playing online poker. Gobboboy and his friends sat at a different table and played Magic: The Gathering for cash. A couple of guys were engaged in a high stakes beer pong match for $2,000 a game, while Stevie "I Won 100 Seats to the 2008 WSOP" Chidwick was bogged down in a high stakes Chinese Poker game with the Scandis.

We frequently held court at one table in the corner of the lobby, the same table with a marble top where one of our Costa Rican colleagues snorted a line of crushed up Smarties... for free.

"Next time, don't do it for free," said Otis who offered him up some quick advice on unusual prop bets.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tao of Pokerati: Benjo in NYC

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Shortly before I headed to the Bahamas, Benjo visited New York City for a couple of days and we taped a couple of episodes of Tao of Pokerati. Episode 7.1 is by far my favorite.
Book 7: Big Apple Benjo
Episode 7.1: Jailhouse Rocks and Maniacs (3:15)
Michalski went AWOL and we speculated his potential whereabouts which eventually led to a discussion on poker in prison.

Episode 7.2: The (French) Year in Review (4:49)
A serious episode. For once. I asked Benjo to give me the 2008 highlights in the French poker world.

Episode 7.3: Hookers around the World! (5:06)
Benjo shared his stories about working girls in Marrakesh and I let him on about the ads in the back of the Village Voice.
And don't forget that you can always check out the Tao of Pokerati archives.

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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 PCA Final Table

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

The final table of the PCA is set. A record number of players (1,347) forked over 10K each as the prize pool swelled to over $12,674,000. $3 million is up for grabs for first place. Will the Brazilian bracelet winner go wire-to-wire? Or can BelowAbove come from behind to win it?
2009 PCA Final Table:
Seat 1: Tony Gregg (2,245,000)
Seat 2: Alex Gomes (8,080,000)
Seat 3: Pieter Tielen (2,510,000)
Seat 4: Dan Heimiller (1,440,000)
Seat 5: Benny Spindler (3,352,000)
Seat 6: Kevin Saul (1,640,000)
Seat 7: Dustin Dirksen (765,000)
Seat 8: Pooyra Nazari (6,790,000)
I will be live blogging the event over at PokerStars Blog with Otis, Bartley, and Howard.

You can also follow along at home by watching

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

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Tao of Pokerati Episode - Bahamas Edition

New Tao of Pokerati Episode - Bahamas Edition

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

We taped what might be the last ever appearance of Benjo on the Tao of Pokerati. You see, everyone's favorite chain-smoking malcontent Frenchman is going on strike because he's demanding higher wages. No word yet on whether or not Michalksi will cave into Benjo's demands.
Book 8: The Islanders
Episode 8.1: International Hotspot (3:25)

Anyway, here's how Michalski described the latest episode of Tao of Pokerati...
Pauly and Benjo escape from the bitter gray snow of NYC to report from the high-70s breezes and clear ocean skies of Paradise Island at the Atlantis Resort, where what looks to be the biggest poker tournament outside of the United States in all of history — the 2009 PCA — is getting underway. If poker is dying, that word clearly hasn't made it yet to the Bahamas.

Follow the on-table action at PokerStarsBlog, and the off-table adventures at Tao of Poker and LV-OTR. Or just listen to Pauly's report for a conchilicious taste of all the pokery gayness goodness going down right now in the Bermuda Triangle as the ever-French Benjo threatens to disappear sans a contract for podcast big-bucks...
Stay tuned for more developments in this new found drama.

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

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Welcome to Hog Island

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

I sat on my terrace in the swanky Atlantis resort on Paradise Island overlooking the azure tinted water of the Caribbean. The world around me is imploding, but I'm hunkered down in Paradise. A cover band next to the pool performed melodious reggae versions of classic Motown tunes along with several hit songs from Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet. They butchered a version of Margaritaville but I don't think anyone cared or noticed.

The Bahamas have always been the playground for the filthy rich including European royalty and the uber-wealthy American aristocrats such as William Randolph Hearst who frequently vacationed on Paradise Island. That's what it's called now, but many moons ago, this same place was known as Hog Island before it was purchased by the heir to the A&P supermarket fortune who promptly changed the name from Hog Island to Paradise Island.

Over the last couple of decades, Paradise Island was a hot potato. It has changed hands several times. The supermarket heir sold the island to Donald Trump for almost $80 million. Trump flipped the island for almost five times his buying price to TV guru Merv Griffin, who eventually sold the island to Sol Kerzner (the South African version of Steve Wynn). Kerzner envisioned a Las Vegas style property at the Bahamas and he built the mega-resort Atlantis.

Hog Island. I prefer the original name. It's fitting consider that every January, Hog Island becomes the number one destination for online poker players. And poker players are often the epitome of the Seven Deadly Sins particularly gluttony, greed, and pride.

Young online poker players flock to the Bahamas to play in the Caribbean Adventure because you don't have to be 21 years to buy-in. The remainder of the pros on the tournament circuit dig the Bahamas since it's a welcomed change of locale instead of the same dreary stops on the tour.

The PCA started out as a cruise and evolved into the land based event that we see today. Originally part of the World Poker Tour, the PCA is now a stop on the European Poker Tour, which means that the 2009 PCA will feature schools of fishy North American online qualifiers sharing the same shark infested waters as the menagerie of Eurodonks that escaped the harsh winters of their continent for a sunnier and much warmer climate.

Although I have been to the Bahamas before, I had never been to the PCA. This will be Otis' fifth straight event. I spent the last two Januarys in Australia covering the Aussie Millions for PokerNews. This year, I'm covering the PCA for Poker Stars Blog and joining a roster of some of the best scribes in the business including Otis and the two Brits; Howard and Bartley.

The journey to the Bahamas was a lot easier than heading Down Under since it was a quickie flight of less than three hours from New York City. When I first arrived at JFK, I stood in line at security and overheard a page on the intercom. There was a flight to the Bahamas that was being held up. They called out two names that happened to be names of pros. I recognized both; Pearljammer and his girlfriend.

Of course, getting out of New York City proved to be a troublesome task. I sat around the brand new JetBlue terminal reading a book about John Coltrane's sound awaiting to hear the status of my delayed flight. We were told it was mechanical failure and after ninety minutes, they couldn't fix the plane in time and we were given a new plane and a new gate and a new departure time.

Instead of arriving in the Bahamas in time to watch the NFL playoffs and catch the sunset on a beach, I was stuck on an airplane cruising at 38,000 feet somewhere on the edge of the Bernuda triangle. Luckily JetBlue has inflight TVs and I viewed the first half of the Atlanta/Arizona game. I liked all of the road teams in the opening weekend of the playoffs. I love hammering home dogs especially in the playoffs. I went with 3 out of the four dogs. Two of them hit on Saturday and as I'm writing this post, Baltimore has a commanding lead over Miami.

Immigration is notoriously long at Nassau airport. It's because of Island Time. Things go at such a slower pace that tests the patience of a Zen monk. Benjo arrived a day earlier and said that there was a steel band playing in the immigration room to entertain everyone while they waited and waited.

I survived immigration and breezed through customs. Matt from PokerStars' PR firm was also on my flight and we agreed to share a cab. We headed outside to the taxi stand. Airports can be tricky especially in places where all of the locals are trying to hustle the tourists. I negotiated a fare to Atlantis with a driver before we got in the cab. I got a decent deal for the both of us and we sped off into the darkness of Nassau. By the time we arrived in the Bahamas it was night time. I could hear the waves crash but barely saw them.

We arrived at the swanky Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. I patiently waited at the front desk to check-in. I was sweaty, jonesin', hungry, and eager to find out the score of the football game. My room was located on the other end of the sprawling Atlantis complex. It took me several minutes just to locate my tower as I wandered down lengthy corridors with cheesey carpeting featuring images of crustaceans and other tropical fish.

My room was freezing because the AC was jacked up. The room included a king size bed and a safe. Half of the lights did not work but I had a terrace with an ocean view. I was starving and ordered room service. With the exception of Monte Carlo, the food prices in the Bahamas are the most expensive on the tour. $22 for a Mayan cheeseburger (not including fries). I also drank an iced tea. With a surcharge in addition to an automatic 15% gratuity, my bill came to almost $40. Sweet Jesus! I have a $100/day per diem and within five minutes of my arrival, 40% was gone on just a simple snack. But, at least I had an ocean view.

I joined Otis downstairs at the closest bar and we watched the end of the San Diego/Indy game while we drank the local beer called Kalik, which looked a lot like Corona. I picked San Diego but missed most of the second half. There was a party for PokerStars staff and we caught the tail end of the festivities. I mingled among the staff and we swapped stories about our New Years Eve festivities. Otis inquired about the results of the game. We almost forgot and bolted towards the casino. We stood at the Atlas Bar and watched San Diego come from behind to tie the score in regulation. We decided to skip the overtime and returned to the post-party which had migrated to a different bar.

I blew the rest of my per diem buying rounds and rounds of overpriced beers at $7 a pop with a built in 15% tip. When it was time for last call, I rushed to the bar and waited ten minutes to get acknowledged by the listless barkeep. I ordered a six pack of Coronas because that bar ran out of Kaliks. Odd, I thought. How could they run out of local beer?

Isabelle stopped by and gave Mad a kiss but forgot to bestow Otis with one. Within seconds, he slipped into the depths of Mega-Isabelle Tilt (MIT). Whenever Otis hits MIT, it's time to encourage him to get into some prop betting hijinks. Sadly, we were warned by the powers to be that we could not engage in any type of gambling including prop betting (and specifically lime tossing) during the duration of the PCA.

I woke up early on Sunday, shrugged off my slight hangover, and migrated to the terrace. I read more about John Coltrane and wrote with the waves crashing up on the beach before me.

It's now Sunday afternoon, and I'm losing connection speed by the minute as more and more online poker players check into the hotel and log onto PokerStars to play in the Sunday tournaments. The lobby of Atlantis is where everyone will be hanging out tonight as they play the Sunday Million.

The PCA officially kicks off on Monday and I'll be providing coverage over at Poker Stars Blog. And if you happen to be playing in the PCA, stop by the media desk and say hello.

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

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Three Way Tie for Tao of Poker Football Pool!

By Pauly
New York City

The NFL regular season is over and the playoffs are upon us. I thought that I'd be bumming out because I have a work assignment the next two weekends and would have to miss some of the games. However, the Jets fizzled and failed to make the playoffs. Now, I have zero emotional investment in the playoffs which is good because I might actually accumulate some extra pocket change.

Congrats to jaguar9499 (r. zacharki), The Kuntmissioner (S. Faherty), and Rummy's TaoPicks (E. Rummel) for all coming in first place in the Tao of Poker football pool. Over 100 people signed up. I finished in 23rd place in this pool (whereas I luckboxed my way into first place in my other pool).

If you are one of the three winners, shoot me an email ASAP.
The Top 10:
1 jaguar9499 (r. zacharki) 175
1 The Kuntmissioner (S. Faherty) 175
1 Rummy's TaoPicks (E. Rummel) 175
4 PatsRevenge2008 (E. Kalis) 174
5 The Great Cornholio (D. Goerisch) 171
6 chitwood's picks (G. Shields) 170
7 Oyster Bay Moore (J. Moore) 168
8 Niggling Groin Injuries (G. Elliott) 167
8 pdxrogue (B. Moos) 167
10 Zappa (W. White) 166

Click here to view the final standings.
* * * *
The NFL playoffs start today. I like all of the road teams in the opening round games. I usually like to bet home dogs, especially in the playoffs.

If you want a playoff fantasy football fix, then head over to Fantasy Sports Live. We are running contests throughout the playoffs. In addition, the NHL contests are super soft and heck, if I can win one of the numerous daily NBA contests, then anyone can.

Best of luck on the gird iron today. Remember kids, if you're not betting on the right side of the fix, then the fix is on you.

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

Friday, January 02, 2009

Help Jeff Out

By Pauly
New York City

I never met Jeff, but he's one of VinNay's friends. He caught a bad beat recently and could use some help.

Here's the skinny from VinNay...
A friend of mine, Jeff, has had an unfortunate Christmas. His home was destroyed by a fire on christmas morning and declared a total loss. Fortunately, he was not home at the time and no one was hurt, but he did lose his cat Maurice, along with all of his possessions. The fire was started in his tenants apartment, and quickly spread throughout the house. To make matters worse, he was just laid off from his long time manufacturing job.

Jeff is a home game poker player, and reader of many of your blogs. He is a RPG'er, and beer drinker. He is a hard-working fucker who has battled dyslexia his whole life. He's a toker, and he only has one ball. He’s a flyers fan (I guess I can forgive him for that). He’s one of the most generous people I know. And he needs some help.

We have set up a site to help raise some money for him to help get him back on his feet. If you can give that would be great, but please do me a favor and link up the site for me.
Improve your karma. Spread the word and help out if you can. Thanks for your time and best of luck to Jeff.

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

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009 and Thanks to My Top Referrers in 2008

By Pauly
New York City

Happy 2009 everyone. Thanks to all of my readers for your support in 2008. I'd especially like to thank the folks who send me the most traffic!
Tao of Poker - Top Referrers in 2008:
2. Wicked Chops Poker
3. Tao of Pauly
4. Shaniac
5. Aaron Gleeman
6. AlCantHang
7. Guinness and Poker
8. Up for Poker
9. Deal Breaker
10. Pokerati
11. Pot Committed
12. Mean Gene
13. Benjo
14. Wall Street Fighter
15. Busted Coverage
Thanks again and best of luck this year.

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