Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Link Dump: Dear MGM, Online Transfers, Brandon Adams/60 Minutes, and Puppycide

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The weekend is almost here, which is the perfect time for a link dump. It will give you something to do while you are waiting to get the hell out of the office and let loose for the weekend.
Dear MGM is an open letter to the MGM from one of my favorite Vegas bloggers. We find out exactly when cabbies, specifically this one, doesn't like the MGM. Amazing glimpse into a side of Vegas that you don't get to see as a tourist. (Las Vegas Cabbie Chronicles)

Tilt Transfer OK? One half-baked conspiracy theory on the UIEGA is that the banking elite forced the legislation in order to outlaw online poker accounts as an alternate form of currency Think about how many random transaction you've done with your friends by shipping them money and vice versa. Anyway, FTrain gets down to the nuts and bolts about online poker transfers. (Riding the F Train)

Brandon Adams appeared on 60 Minutes singing the praises of Adderall. Weeeeeeeeeee! (Wicked Chops Poker)

Happy blog birthday to Shamus. He authors one of my favorite poker blogs, and in a short time he has ascended to the top of the poker media food chain. Three cheers to Shamus! (Hard-Boiled Poker)

I wrote something on Tao of Pauly that got me a piece of hate e-mail. I think the dissenter did not take their meds or anything. Anyway, the post was one of the few things that I really had fun writing last week. Check out Puppycide. (Tao of Pauly)
OK, kids. That's it for now. Get the hell out of my office.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Top 5 Hilarious 2+2 Threads

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The other day, I heard giggling echoing from my living room. I popped my head out of the office and found Change100 sitting on the couch and having laughing seizures over a collection of photoshopped images of Phil Ivey getting a massage at the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo. She tweet'd the link with the note "thread delivers."

I was gonna toss the thread into Friday's link dump, but decided to whip up a Top 5 list of my favorite 2+2 threads (with lots of photoshopped pics) for your personal amusement. Five years ago, I spent 20+ hours a week sifting through 2+2 threads, and luckily, if I missed anything, I had Iggy to post the highlights on Guinness and Poker. These days, I'm no longer a regular and miss Iggy's uber-posts. I'm usually sifting through the rubble of 2+2 once a week or so for work reasons to conduct research or verify information. I rely on my friends to send me links of the best of the best, hysterical photoshop pics, and the random bit of salacious gossip.

My hats off to the contributors at 2+2 displaying excellence with their photoshop skills. Indeed, some of the best I had ever seen on the intertubes. You are true artists. Please send your resumes to NASA -- they would like to hire you to assist in doctoring images from Mars (removing anything "alien") and to later help in a fake Mars landing in 2015.

Anyway, I've been yapping too long. My meds must be kicking in. Let's get down to it. Here they are...
Tao of Poker's Top 5 Hilarious 2+2 Threads...

1. Phil Ivey Photoshop Potential

2. If They Never Played Poker

3. Why Esfandiari Can Never Beat Laak

4. Ziigmund drunk with NYC Cop

5. Shaun Deeb Photoshop Contest

Bookmark this post for when you're having a bad day and need a good chuckle to get you off of tilt.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TOC Musings: The Real World

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Is the Tournament of Champions a TV show, part of a slick packaged nugget of sports entertainment?

Is the TOC a legitimate poker tournament, and an event to really determine who is the best no-limit tournament player?

I guess that all depends on who you talk to. I think it's just like everything else in life... an over-hyped event put on under the guise of placating the masses by honoring the best of the best, when in fact it's just a dog and pony show, and nothing more than a well-crafted money making scheme concocted by the international-entertainment-poker complex.

The TOC is a mixed bag of things... a spectacle, pissing match, PR event, a haven for product placement, infomercial for online poker rooms, and an exhibition of poker skill. It's really hard to define the TOC, but much like life, it's all about the perception of the individual. Since the public gets to vote on the participants, they determine if the TOC is a popularity contest or a true tournament of champions like The Players Championship in golf. The only catch is that the rest of public might not agree with your philosophy of voting.

When the news of the TOC returning to the 2010 WSOP got out, I penned a quick post about random bracelets winners that I thought you should vote on by breaking them into different categories.

Change100 wrote an op/ed over at Poker News titled Casting the Tournament of Champions. Since she's an avid American Idol fan and channeling her inner theatre geek, she compared the voting system of the TOC to American Idol. She made a couple of interesting points including...
As I mulled my choices, however, I also put myself in the position of a television viewer. Who did I want to watch play poker for two hours? What conversations did I want to "overhear" as the tournament unfolded? What clash of styles would be the most interesting to watch? This is what’s at stake when it comes time to cast your ballot.
I feel as though the TOC should be similar to a Players Championship in golf, but instead, the TOC is more like an NBA or MLB all-star game when the fans pick the starters. Now in the pro sports realm, the coaches pick the bench players or pitchers so they can give votes to deserving players who fall under the radar of the public. The WSOP is without a commissioner these days and tournament poker lacks a unified governing body, so there's no one to really qualified to select players worthy of a seat. Harrah's has a couple of sponsor exemptions -- which will probably go to the pros who missed the cut and who make for "great TV."

If the TOC is going to be a TV show, then why vote on merit, seniority, or skill? Let's just go after the reality show archetypes, which were first introduced almost 20 years ago by the casting directors of MTV's The Real World. I'm sure they had no idea that reality TV would shake up the entertainment industry and that their casting methods would become a formula for ensuing reality shows in the new millennium.

If you put nine similar personalities at the table, then it's going to be boring. That's why those "Bad Boys" of poker themed-shows never took root. However, if producers are aware of people's strengths and weakness, then they can manipulate the situation by casting people who will eventual engage in conflict with one another. Conflict is the core ingredient to drama. Without conflict, you have the potential of losing the viewer to something a little more spicy.

While Change100 is taking an American Idol approach in selecting her ballot, I'm going the reality TV show route and voting for the players who will make for "great TV." The term "good for poker" is a hackneyed cliche that often gets tossed around, so let's just be honest and acknowledge that the entire point of the TOC is to have an entertaining program filled with fame whores and players with deeply psychological issues that can be manipulated at the tables.

One of the greatest moments in reality TV occurred when Steven bitched slapped Irene in front of the cameras during The Real World: Seattle. Wouldn't that be awesome if ESPN's cameras caught an actual brawl or mele? Fights occur all the time in hockey, sort of the old school way of settling personal grievances. NBA players love to tussle, and how many brawls have you seen at baseball games when pitchers give the opposing team a little too much chin music. But poker is sort of tame. Lots of trash talking but that's about it.

I dunno about you, but I've been cover poker since the 2005 WSOP and I'm waiting for a good ass kicking to happen at the tables. I've been in a poker room (and in a hand with one of the guys who got his ass kicked by a drunk at the table) when a fight broke out, so these things happen. Maybe you voters can pick out two pieces of dynamite and happen to rub them together.

Every entertaining reality show needs a villain, or a total douche bag in the parlance of our times. There are plenty to choose from like voting in Russ Hamilton for example.

How about the smart girl who has always been in her own shell and is looking to breakout?

Never forget about the random Asian. This role will be easy to cast because there are many worthy candidates. Juanda. Scotty. Chan.

Then there's the drunk/druggie who is always the source of drama. How about we combine the WSOP and Intervention. Wait. Scratch that horrible idea about having an intervention inside of a casino. OK, my bad. But druggies and drunks make for hysterical reality TV, plus everyone loves watching a train wreck when the wastoids might fall hard and spiral into the deepest depths of abuse, only to hit rock bottom.

The token black guy (TBG) is a term coined by Hollywood suits. In order to make Hollywood films see non-racist, or perhaps to appeal to a more "urban" audience, they always cast one black actor. The TBG is usually one of the cops or the sidekick to the QB of the football team. In horror or war films, the TBG has a 95% chance of dying in the first act of the film. Hate to say that Phil Ivey wins this role by default. I doubt he'll get whacked by a serial killer, though.

Everyone loves a brooding artist and misunderstood soul. Hellmuth thinks he should be cast in this role even though he's a shoe-in as the asshole.

Crazy chick. Never ever cast a reality show without one woman with serious psychological issues who will become the center of attention as the drama queen. Sometimes she's also the slutty girl who hooks up with every guy in the house, but without a doubt, she has serious problems. Daddy issues, mostly.

Everyone loves grandpa, right? That's how Ronald Reagen got elected. Gipper was propped up by the GOP who thought that America was looking for a grandfatherly type of leader to guide through the 1980s during the height of the Cold War. So, how can you not have Doyle Brunson at the table?

Everyone likes a bad boy, at least, all the girls want to date a bad boy, while all the good guys wish that they could be the bad boy. Don't confuse the bad boy with the douche bag or asshole, because deep down, the bad boy actually has a heart of gold. It's just a front he puts up because he too fears intimacy so much that he puts up the bad boy facade. Who's the Han Solo of bracelet winners?

I'm the black sheep of my family, and chances are, many of the people I know in poker are considered the black sheep of their family. Who's the black sheep of the poker world? The pariah? The prodigal son? So many pros to choose from in casting this role.

Every show needs a random European. Heck, let's add two. One that hates everything to do with America (a Brit or Frenchman would suffice) and the other Euro has to be silly/wacky/zany who cracks jokes like Yakoff Smirnoff, but knows all of the words to every Bruce Springsteen song of off Born in the USA.

We're all commoners wishing that we are royalty. There's zero nobility in America, only in Europe, so we have to judge our nobility on the level of fame and amount of attention you garner in the press. That can be vexing for many average citizens, which is why they need an everyday man's man to root for. Joe Six Pack. That's why Chris Moneymaker helped ignite the poker boom. As amateurs, we all saw ourselves in him. We wanted to play the roll of the Cinderella story who came out of nowhere to take down the world's biggest poker tournament.

And we can't cast anything in the entertainment world without including a homosexual. So who's going to be the gay dude or lesbian? I view poker as a sport and not entertainment in matters dealing with sexual preferences, because gays are commonly out and proud to be fabulous in the entertainment industry, however, homosexuality is taboo in professional sports (unless you're a lipstick lesbian). Poker echoes sports in that no one dares to out themselves as someone who bats for the other team. At this point, all you get is rumors and gossip. Poker media is an echo chamber, and you won't hear a whisper about this issue in a public forum. So I don't expect to see an openly gay person represented at the final table, by chances are there will be -- just someone who prefers to keep their personal life on the down low.

Since we can't have a queer, how about a metrosexual or pretty boy? You have to give the ladies at home something to look at.

The Mormon. How we could we have a reality show about Las Vegas and not toss a Mormon into the mix? I can't think of better conflict here. Find a Jesus Freak and have him/her constantly quote scripture at the table and mock their opponents because they are all going to hell.

Well, those are just a few of the archetypes that have been casted on The Real World over the last two decades. I'm sure there are more, these are just a dozen or so that I rattled off the top of my head. I hope this post serves as a useful guide in how to vote for your ballot. Voting is still open. Vote early. Vote often.

Click here to vote. Click here to see who's in the Top 50 in votes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Russian Roulette, Three Bullet Mow Mow, and Joseph Conrad

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Russian Roulette scene from The Deer Hunter stands out as one of the most poignant and exhilarating scenes in cinema history. If you are not familiar with the film, a group of buddies from a coal mining town in Pennsylvania go off to Vietnam together. They get captured, thrown in a POW camp where they are submerged in an underwater cage. They only let out for routine beatings and to play heads up Russian roulette as a form of gambling amusement for the VC.

For the few of you who don't know, Russian Roulette is a true walk on the wild side because you load a revolver with one bullet, spin the cartridge, and then pull the trigger. You have a 1 in 6 chance of putting a bullet in your skull on the first try, or a 83% chance of surviving. Are you willing to take those odds on something grave as life and death? How much are you willing to wager on your life? Do you flirt with death to finally know what it feels like to be allive? Are you addicted to the ultimate rush poker -- creeping to the edge and then pulling the trigger?

It's hard to say when exactly Russian Roulette was invented because the origins are shrouded in ambiguity. Historians point to WWII during the Nazi's siege of Stalingrad where suicidal officers engaged in the game. Other historians insist that Russian Roulette began in 19th century prisons or in the early 20th century gulags when bored guards made prisoners play the savage game of chance. The barbaric guards wagered on which unlucky prisoners would blow their brains out. Stories also exist about starving Russian peasants playing the game in an all-in or nothing wagering proposition for rubles. If they won and survived, they'd have enough money to eat. If they lost, then they died a quick death, avoiding a gruesome end via starvation.

In The Deer Hunter, the VC were crazy Asian gamblers mixing business with pleasure while gambling on the outcome of heads-up Russian Roulette between captured GIs, in this case the characters played by Bobby DeNiro and Christopher Walken.

You probably should watch the scebe again to refresh your memory. The Deer Hunter's Russian Roulette scene is unembeddable, so you have to go to YouTube to watch it.

DeNiro is a fucking bad ass in The Deer Hunter. He's been outrunning variance his entire tour in 'Nam and under intense pressure, he conjured up an escape scheme using the one game that the VC used to amuse themselves. Russian Roulette. It would either be his end, or his ticket to freedom. Either way, he was finally getting out of there. DeNiro planned to get it all in on a coin flip.

"Three bullets," he demanded.

One six-chambered gun. Three bullets? Clearly this man is insane, or he's a math whiz who knows his odds because DeNiro was the Bill Chen of his unit. His plan was simple -- if he didn't blow his head off with the first bullet (a coin flip), he knew that he'd have a 40% chance to escape.

He pulled the trigger Nothing.

I guess the Russian Roulette Gods were paying attention that day because DeNiro caught a break and won the first coinflip. Christopher Walken trembled knowing that there were 3 bullets and only 2 empty chambers. 60-40.

He pulled the trigger and... click. Nothing.

Walken miraculously whiffed on his turn. The general handed the gun back to DeNiro, with three bullets in four chambers. Only one chamber was empty with a 75% chance that the next pull of the trigger would result in a discharged bullet. The guards were cackling because they knew he was fucked. In DeNiro's eyes, he was slowplaying the nuts. Instead of putting the gun to his temple and pulling the trigger, he shot the general in the head, then dropped two others. He acquired a machine and took out the rest of the guards with Walken. That winning round of Russian Roulette sparked a dramatic escape.

An afterthought... the final Russian Roulette scene in Vietnam after the war pretty much secured Walken an Oscar for Best Supporting Role. Well deserved performance.

Not to sound too morbid, but it's a matter of time before MMA becomes passe, like pro wrestling, and a sadistic entrepreneur and promoter starts streaming live Russian roulette matches from a remote Brazilian village with real participants, using live ammo.

Instead of Monday Night Football, the latest rage among the entertainment-junkies and other mindless urchins will be Monday Night Russian Roulette, co-hosted by Dennis Miller (with his snarky over-your-head-with-too-many-obscure-reference-socio-political-commentary) and Dick Vitale, who share announcing duties of the weekly death sport.

Welcome back to the Heart of Darkness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pai Gow Diaries: Mr. Pai Gow

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Everyone has their guilty pleasures.

Pai Gow is the core of my degeneracy. We have had a long abusive relationship along the lines of Ike and Tina Turner, except Pai Gow is Ike and he's beating the piss out of me with the heel of his boot. Self-destructive co-dependent relationships rue the Las Vegas valley, and neither of us is able to walk away. Well, I attempt to walk away more often than not toward the sunset in the dusty Nevada sky, but something always lulls me back and I succumb to the fleeting temptations.

It's harder than you think to describe how easy it is to cross the line. The struggle to stay away from Pai Gow is an entirely different story. I could write a book about it. Perhaps I can devote an entire section to Pai Gow in the follow-up to Lost Vegas.

The nightmare cliche is waking up in the middle of the night with the cold sweats after being terrorized by your deepest fears and insecurities. But for me, since I sleep so little, I experience waking nightmares which strike at random times -- walking through an aisle at Whole Foods, riding a subway, or waiting in taxi line at an airport. I feel the invisible ants marching on my skin, beads of sweat stream off my scalp, my heart rate accelerates and I'm suddenly ill with wretched pain.

The only thing that can help?

Pai Gow. Seven cards. Two hands. Me versus the dealer.

That's sort of the fight and visceral experience that I'm looking for... me versus The Man. The main reason that the casinos have a love-hate relationship with poker is a money issue. Generally speaking, poker rooms do not generate as much income as a section of slot machines. As one industry exec pointed out to me, "Ben and Jerry's stores located inside casinos pull in more money per day than poker rooms."

Now there's a novel idea... put a "toking" poker room inside of a Ben & Jerry's in order to cater to counter-culture gamblers; all of those pot-smoking Baby Boomers of yesteryear battling against the new wave of herb-friendly neo-hippies.

I apologize for sharing my pipe dream with you. Let's get back on track here... the suits, who only care about the bottom line, aren't keen on poker since players are playing against other players. Thereby the poker room only secures income in the form of raked pots and tournament fees.

Brick and mortar poker is a battle between myself and fellow humans. Online poker is not quite man versus the machines, even though at times I'm playing against cyborgs, part-humans and part-machines, especially with tracking software and other data mining programs being utilized.

But Pai Gow is a showdown between me versus The Man in an old school wild wild west showdown at high noon, except that I'm stoned to the tits and it's 3pm in the afternoon.

I don't want my peers' money; I want the corporate bucks. My goal is to take down Big Business one Pai Gow hand at a time. This is a momentous task considering that I often feel as though the powers to be are conspiring against me.

Yes, yes, yes... I know I'm sounding paranoid, but I'm not one to wear tin foil hats. If anything, I constantly deconstruct those half-baked conspiracy theories using Occam's Razor and my Dick Cheney Illuminati secret decoder ring. And, I don't have concrete evidence that The Man is using dirty tactics to remove ever single Benjamin out of my pocket. These matters are always so vague to prove, besides, The Man has clever agents at his disposal.

Casinos are crawling with operatives. The Imperial Palace is loaded with mostly robots that Harrahs' purchased from Nagai Systems in Tokyo. The Nagai Bots (NB) are cold and emotionless, similar in demeanor to the Scandis but wrapped in the body of a five foot Asian woman.

The Gold Coast is bot free, but those operatives were easy to spot during the mid-afternoon. The Gold Coast specifically caters to locals, budget gamblers, and crazy Asian gamblers. The north end of the pit is always packed because that's where the baccarat tables are located, and people stand three-deep sweating the action. I made a lap around the gambling pit at the Gold Coast. It's not very large compared to Strip casinos, but they have five or six Pai Gow tables running during peak hours. The Emperor Challenge Bonus Pai Gow tables happened to be filled, so I took the only available seat at a regular Pai Gow table with three Asian grandmothers and a middle-aged Asian guy. Two spots were open, both flanking the guy. I sat to his left so I could get a crack at the Dragon hand before he did. I bought for $500 and requested only green chips. He took one look at me and left the table. I guess he didn't like half-breeds.

Two of the old ladies on the right side of the table didn't say a peep. They conservatively bet the minimum bet of $10, however, they were pounding the fortune bonus with $5 bets. The third old lady sat to my left and admitted that she was still learning the game. It took her several minutes to set her hand, much to the dismay of the two other old ladies. I didn't mind the delay at all because it slowed down the game which worked in my favor. I tend to avoid tilt when I see less hands per hour. Usually you want to see as many as possible, but I discovered that I play optimally when the game slows to a turtle's pace. You see, the bots are the ones who deal super fast. The Man knows that in the long run the odds are in his favor (ahem, insert the "the house always wins" comment anywhere into this post) so if he can generate more hands per hour with the bots, then that means more potential revenue at the end of every shift.

It took me a while, but I figured out that I have spread out the Pai Gow buzz over an extended period of time. Part of the reason why I love sports betting is that games last at least 2+ hours (college hoops and the NBA), with many 3+ (NFL and MLB). That's a sustained high, sort of like eating time-released opiates. Craps, blackjack, and roulette are the crack cocaine of the pits. Online poker is the marijuana of the gaming world that makes you sit on the couch for hours of endless tedium coupled with unpredictable fits of psychosis and a tinge of paranoia. Ah, and how could I forget about the munchies. Do you ever see craps players chomping on a sandwich while rolling the bones?

The old lady to my left wondered if she should bet the Fortune Bonus.

"Look, here's the deal... you either do it all the time or don't do it at all," I said.

"You don't do it," she noted, then pointed at the other two ladies at the opposite end of the table, "But they do it all the time."

"It's up to you. If you're feeling lucky and think you're going to hit a couple of huge hands -- then go for it."

I'm not a bonus person, much to the protests of Grubby and Grubbette. I see some value betting the bonus as as a hedge with a flush or straight because more often than not, if you're setting one of those as your five-card hand, then you probably have a weak two-card hand which eventually ends up in a push. The bonus gives you a chance to get something back on a pushed hand. However, the bonus is only profitable over the long run if you hit a couple of big hands to cover the cost of the bet. I know some people who bet the bonus because they once hit a straight flush or quads, so they feel obligated to keep betting it. Yet, at this point I'm fairly certain that they have since pissed away all of those winnings.

I'm never one to tell someone how to behave in Las Vegas unless you're actually like a total douchebag and going to get me 86'd due to guilt by association. Vegas is one of the few places where you can go ape shit in the Nanny States of America. Vegas is one of the few bubbles that the Nanny State directives are not followed and aberrant behavior is encouraged. That's why I kept my mouth shut at the Pai Gow table.

The old lady thought about it for a few minutes then came to the ultimate decision to play the bonus. Within thirty minutes, she hit three full houses, two flushes, and quads... twice. That lucky bitch is going to play the bonus now and every fucking day until she dies.

The Man sent in two operatives to seize my bankroll. I had only two dealers during my first session, and kept my cool against both. They tried the good cop/bad cop routine and it didn't work. I only had a single instance when I began to tilt but caught myself. I accidentally set my hand wrong. I thought that I had a busted gutshot, even with a Joker, so I set a pair of treys with a weak-Ace up top. The dealer turned over my hand and shook her head. She was taunting me for setting my hand wrong.

Rookie mistake. I felt like a gimp.

I was seething in anger, but had to let it go. Mistakes happen. As George Harrison wrote many moons ago: "With every mistake we must surely be learning, still my guitar gently weeps." All I could do was make sure that it did not happen again during that session and in future sessions. Once I shook off that ugliness, I played even-tempered for the remainder of the session.

I bet $25 a hand and if I won I'd progressively increase my bet to $50, and if I won that, I'd bet $100. If I lost a hand, I'd reduce the wager to $25. I never got as high as a $200 a hand, because I never won more than two hands in a row (including pushes) without losing.

Back to the good cop/bad cops. The first operative was the good cop sent in to butter me up. The Man likes to use young woman as operatives. The Man thought that he could use sex to lure me over to the dark side. I'm sure if they had their way, The Man would have their operatives dressed up like Japanese schoolgirls from those erotic anime and manga comics.Although the dealers have to hide their sexuality behind casino uniforms, some of the operatives pull out all the stops with subtle glances and the constantly licking of their lips. This one was fresh off the boat and barely looked 21 years old. She laughed at my jokes, or rather, at anything I said. She couldn't tilt me. I refused to allow it to happen.

The second operative, the bad cop, was a silent assassin. I'm sure you have come across the type of cooler who does not say a word, nor respond to any of your banter. At first I thought she was a bot, but then I discovered she was dealing to slow to be a machine. Her silence was eerie and outright spooky. She purposely acted like that in order to induce tilt. However, the silent treatment failed to send me off the reservation. I was not digging deep into my pocket for multiple rebuys, instead, I was grinding away and beating them at their own game.

After a while, I deviated from my gameplan and mixed things up by betting $50 or $75 a hand. At that point, all of the old ladies let me have the dragon every time. They were kind in that way and didn't have to, but I appreciated the respect. I also noticed a trend -- they often asked me how to set their hands instead of looking to the dealer for help. In fact they wouldn't set a hand unless I nodded in approval. They must have assumed that I was a pro or a heavy roller, because why else would they seek my advice on how to set a hand?

I half-expected them to start showering me with gifts and bundles of food like that scene with Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino when all of the old Southeast Asian women on his block left food on his doorstep to pay homage to the local neighborhood hero/vigilante.

After I won a $150 hand, one of the old ladies referred to me as "Mr. Pai Gow" in broken Mandarin.

Yes, I am Mr. Pai Gow.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Link Dump: Ethical Bookies, David Williams Wins WPT Championship, The Last Supper, and NBC Heads Up Pics

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here are a few things to peruse on a lazy Sunday. Be back tomorrow with regularly scheduled programming...
The WPT Championship's numbers had sunk to pre-Moneymaker levels, but the even though the field was smaller than it had been it the past, it was still stacked. David "Nat X" Williams took it down and now he'll have a nice little roll to play with during the 2010 WSOP. (Pokerati)

Phil Hellmuth World Series Entrance - A Counter Proposal is more hysterical British wit as they take the piss out of everyone's favorite egomaniac. (Melted Felt)

I love a good trip report, especially one ending in prop betting for tattoos. (Bad Blood on Poker)

Are Bookies More Ethical and Smarter Than Goldman Sachs? Amy Calistri delves deep into that question... unscrupulous investment bankers or shyster bookies.... who can you really trust? (Aimlessly Chasing Amy)

Thanks to the Poker Shrink for pointing out a link to 50 Versions of Last Suppers featuring some of your favorite pop culture heroes including The Simpsons, McDonald's characters, and even one for Phish. (Popped Culture)

Flipchip posted some pics that he took during the 2010 NBC Heads Up Championship. As always, stellar stuff from the Vegas vet. (LasVegasVegas)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Intro Music

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Music is the essence of the soul.

A couple of weeks ago, Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot pointed out a Phantasy Tour thread (PT is the 2+2 equivalent for jamband fans) where the users debated on... "If you were a baseball relief pitcher, what song would you come out to?"

PKPNF picked 2001 by Phish. I couldn't decide, torn between... Led Zeppelin's Trampled Under Foot or the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise). However, nothing can top Mo Rivera trotting out to the mound with Enter Sandman blasting. Even the boys at Metallica paid tribute to Mo.

Poker players are wanna-be athletes and most of us in the poker media treat them like sports figures. Party Poker's Big Game IV featured intro music to their participants as they walked onstage. Pokerati posted about the intro/walk-on music a couple of weeks ago. As expected, Roland "Hungry Like" de Wolfe entered with Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf. Good to see The Clash and LL Cool J represented. You really get to know someone by the music they listen to, so it was interesting to discover that Neil Channing is fan of The Smiths. You can see a complete playlist for Big Game IV players here.

A friend of mine wondered what would my potential walk-on song be. A good question for sure. I was stumped for a few days, but during a drive from Las Vegas to L.A., I narrowed down my choices to a diverse list of five songs.

I'm assuming the first 60 seconds are the most crucial element of the walk-on song, so I selected five with a couple of quick grooves and hooks. I could write a 20,000 word essay on why I picked those songs, but I'll spare you the rambling rhetoric. Instead, here are the five songs...
1. Pusherman by Curtis Mayfield

2. Play Your Part (Pt. 1) by GirlTalk

3. Brass Monkey by Beastie Boys

4. Down With Disease by Phish

5. Devil's Haircut by Beck

By the way, just missing the cut were Big Pimpin' by Jay Z, The Vicodin Song by Terra Naomi, and Peace Frog from The Doors.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Link Dump: Liv Boeree Slays Eurodonks, Eyjafjallajokull, New Baseball Rules, and Happy Birthday Pokerati

By Pauly
Las Vegas, MV

Photo by Gene Bromberg

I'm super busy with WSOP meetings and other stuff, but for now, masticate on this hump day link dump...
Liv Boeree is the real deal, eh? Liv outlasted a massive field of Franco-Italian-Eurodonks to win her first major at the PokerStars EPT San Remo. How long before the British bombshell ditches UB and signs a deal with Stars? Or how long until UB locks her up to a multi-year deal? (PokerStars Blog)

The length of baseball games seems to be a touchy subject these days. Hunter Thompson tackled the subject ten years ago in one of my favorite pieces called Baseball has become unruly, where Hunter calls for the elimination of the pitcher (inserting a robot instead) to speed up games. (ESPN)

Happy 6th Birthday to Pokerati! It's been a remarkable run,e specially over the last couple of years. Let's hope there are six more years left (for the both of us). (Pokerati)

Volcano Eyjafjallajokull managed to strike doom over the weekend. The plumes of smoke and ash stranded a Yank who couldn't play in the Sunday Million. (Melted Felt)

Shamus is heading to the dcotor's today but before his appointment, he sounded off on my Monday post in A Metaphysical Check Up. (Short-Stacked Shamus)

Amusing Ourselves to Death is a wake up call. Thanks to the Joker for pointing it out. If you're a fan of either George Orwell or Aldous Huxley, then it's a must read. (Recombinant Records)

I'm gushing over the new series Treme which takes place in New Orleans three months post-Katrina. (Tao of Pauly)
That's it for now, so get the hell out of my office.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Letters to Pauly: Hold'em with Hodge and Glass

By Trisha Lynn
New York City

Editor's Note: Trisha Lynn returns with another installment of Letters to Pauly. In this edition she gets to play a charity event with one of my heroes, Ira Glass. Enjoy! - P
Dear Pauly,

I'm glad that you had a great time off the grid in NYC. It's a shame we couldn't hang out, but as may have seen from my Twitter messages, I was pretty busy last weekend.

When it comes to poker, I'm a total neophyte. Despite all I've learned about the game for over a year playing in my monthly home game in Harlem, there's still a lot I have to learn, and I will take every opportunity to learn how to shore up my game.

Such an opportunity presented itself last Saturday in Park Slope in Brooklyn at the second annual celebrity charity Texas Hold 'em tournament to benefit 826NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the creative and expository arts for kids and teens. This year's tourney offered players a chance to play against (and possibly bust out) John Hodgman (the PC guy in the Mac ads and special correspondent from The Daily Show) and Ira Glass the host of the hipster-popular This American Life radio and short-lived TV show.

John Hodgman

In fact, true poker geeks will recall that TAL covered the 2001 World Series of Poker for one of their episodes called "Meet the Pros," which was the year after the one where Jim McManus came in fifth place and gathered the material for Positively Fifth Street. For 26 minutes, you can hear Glass and his associate Starlee Kine do things like follow Jen Harman to a Tuesday night session at the Bellagio and lose against Phil Gordon and Rafe Furst in Roshambo; listening to a re-run of this show six years ago is one of the things that piqued my interest in the game.

Anyhow, the way this tournament was set up was pretty simple. For a donation of $25, you could get signed into the tournament. Every additional dollar you raised through your friends, family, co-workers and anybody else you could reach who had access to your donation website page would add to your starting stack. Also, on the day of the event, you could add even more to your stack before the start of the event with a two hour limit on re-buys and re-stacking.

This sounded like a really cool event to participate in, and after some discussion, only three of us ended up playing at various stack sizes. Our regular host and house dealer The Doc was seated at what he called "the kiddie table" which held players who had the shortest stacks, and Lyss and I held about $200 each which is typical for a $1/$2 tournament. Of course, that didn’t place us anywhere near Hodgman or Glass’ table because they were starting off with about $500 to $1,000 in chips so for me, being able to survive until our table broke would be a worthy-enough goal.

I’m not going to bore you with our various bad beat stories, but I will mention that I tripled up on an all-in just before the break when my K-9o beat a top pocket pair when my second king paired on either the turn or the river. After the break, and with blinds at $25/$50, I held on long enough to see a few more people leave our table.

I got moved to Ira Glass' table where he still held a respectable amount of his initial starting stack. Alas, because Glass is also one of my personal writing heroes, I got so flustered that I got into some pots I had no business playing, and left the table nowhere near finishing position.

Ira Glass from NPR

Later that night at our satellite location in the Bronx, the Doc mentioned that though this was a fun event, the poker player in him felt that the way the fundraising part was done really handicapped players like him who just couldn’t raise that much money on ten days' notice and couldn’t go very deep at all. He said he was going to start working on a letter to 826NYC executive director Scott Seeley and make suggestions that would help bring everything to a more even starting point while at the same time encouraging people to donate more money.

Which is fine with me, because that just gives me one more year to learn how to better play this game.

Trisha Lynn

P.S. The attached photos should be credited to Terry "The Doc" Chu. And here's a pic of the winners, Steve Trifon and Jerad Mione, who won last year.

* * * * *

Dearest Trisha,

Thanks for sharing your experience with Ira Glass, who as you know is one of my own personal heroes. One of my many aspirations is to be interviewed by Ira for NPR someday. That would totally give me street cred among the hipsters.

I'm thrilled that you put some of my donation to good use. I'm all for actively pushing and inspiring kids to write. The world needs more writers and it's sad that what 826NYC is trying to achieve is not in the regular public school curriculum. That's why programs like 826NYC need help from citizens willing to donate their time, money, and extra supplies.

Teach our children to write effectively and creatively, and their future, heck our future, will be brighter ten fold.

I'm glad that you had a fun night, I'm going to do as much as possible to play in next year's event for 826NYC.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Mental Mazes

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA
"Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears." - Bobby Jones

During the Masters coverage, I read a quote from Bobby Jones that a bevy of sportswriters and golfers ostentatiously tossed around referring to Tiger Wood's off-the-course issues (you know, that licentious habit of banging every chick in his path that wasn't his Swedish wife). Talking heads wondered if the overbearing scrutiny would affect his golf game after a five-month layoff where he became fodder for mainstream media. These days it's hard to distinguish TMZ from CNN, nonetheless, Tiger's cock was the center of discussion for sensationalist gossip hounds.

Technically speaking, Tiger Woods is still one of the best golfers who ever teed up at Augusta National. However, the questioned remained... how would the Fellini-esque circus surrounding his personal life affect his play on the golf course? That's why many writers lazily sought wisdom from Bobby Jones quip to depict Tiger's struggles. It's all mental, they say.

Tell that to his penis.

Tiger is passionate, ruled by his emotions, and personifies Hemingway's "grace under fire" on the fairway, but off the course, he's just like every other human. Our personality flaws occur when we are unable to keep our disruptive emotions in check. But there are no trollops running around the golf course to distract Tiger, so you figure that he was finally in his element. What could possible go wrong?

Golf is solitary pursuit. Sure, man versus nature is an integral component, but the real battle is you versus yourself. As the saying goes, you are your worst enemy. Well not you, but the voice inside your head. Your thoughts. Those whispers of self-doubt. That's what really drives us. Do we ignore them or give in?

During one of Tiger's rounds, the microphones set up by the production crew to amplify the delicious sounds of pristine tee shots, accidentally captured Tiger berating... Tiger.

"You suck, Tiger!" he matter-of-factly shouted.

I actually heard an F-bomb prior to his sadistic self-affirmation after he shanked his tee shot. It's all mental, right? Instead of saying, "Come on Tiger, you're better than that...", he pumps himself up by admitting the stone cold truth. That shot sucked and Tiger didn't bullshit himself.

With professional golf, no coaches are roaming the sidelines and spewing obscenities with every miscue or questioning your manhood in a huddle during a timeout. It was up to Tiger to police himself and put himself back on track when he veered off course, not just on the course, but with his home life that he destroyed by his demonic flaws.

* * * * *

Education is important. Doesn't matter what it is. You should always be feeding your mind. There's always something new to learn, especially when you head off the beaten bath. Shit, tournament poker is rapidly evolving every few months. Just when I get a grasp on things, I find myself behind the curve once again struggling to keep up. But that's why those pros who are on the cutting edge of strategy are usually the ones who are the most profitable at the present moment. When the chase pack catches up to them, they better adapt or they become dinosaurs. The best of the best, whether they are artists or poker pros, are always two steps ahead of the herd.

Continuing your poker education is a essential because the game is constantly evolving and players from different backgrounds and styles are entering the pool. I can't vouch for training videos or paying online pros ridiculous amounts of money to share their secrets, but for some people it has worked. Like most things in life, it's the student who determines how much they want to apply what they learned to their lives. However, all the training and coaching in the world isn't going to prepare you for the mental battle against yourself.

Life coaches can only help you so much, because in the end, it's your life to live.

We all have five or six versions of ourselves. Some of us have more, some have less. It usually depends on your mood and setting which one you reveal. For example, you probably have an "office version" where you don't reveal all of your nasty habits and your political views are slightly more mainstream so not to upset the partisans. In short, you're acting and playing a role, sort of like The Truman Show meets The Matrix, but the ammunition is live and you can get killed. There is no spoon, but you continue to play the "model worker" version of yourself.

I have a similar version but since I don't work in a conventional office environment, I have Citizen Pauly. He's clean shaven, well dressed, sans cuss words, dead sober, charming, polite, and full of manners. Those special performances are reserved for formal gatherings like job interviews, interactions with law enforcement types, when I met my girlfriend's parents for the first time, or if I ever get an audience with the Queen of England. I rarely reveal that version of me, but he exists, just hidden in the back of my mental closest somewhere behind the Hawaiian shirts and a botched marijuana-grow operation.

For the most part, we all have three versions of ourselves as poker players: the confident warrior, the reckless gambler, and the nebbish goober.

The nebbish goober is someone I see all the time whining in the chatbox. The dejection oozes from their eyes when they sit at your table in brick and mortar rooms. If they were a cartoon character, a couple of rain clouds would constantly follow them around pissing down buckets full of hail and sleet. Nebbish goober's aces always get cracked. Snapped into a millions pathetic pieces. Their opponent always gets there on the river...every...fucking...time. Nebbish goobers can't win a race to save their fucking kittens' lives. The nebbish goobers get scared the moment they come across a pocket pair because they know it's a matter of time before those get sodomized. Each hand is neurotic nightmare because they're always thinking about the worst case scenario. The nebbish goober often eats anti-depressants and writes self-loathing live journal posts about how everyone is colluding against them... Dick Cheney, their ex-wife, Full Tilt Poker, and the stoner chick who works at Starbucks who constantly fucks up their order.

Most of the time, I let the reckless gambler drive the bus. It's more fun that way. More trouble. More excitement. "I didn't come to Vegas to fold!" is my favorite expression. The Reckless gambler fights his way out of the San Juan whorehouse and escapes without a scratch. The reckless gambler brazenly books any prop bet that passes by. Life is incredibly boring and mundane unless you wager on the everyday banalities. Try it next time. You can gamble on anything as long as you have that desire inside you that wants to swallow the red pill. The dangerous part is that once you cross the line and dive into the abyss... you pass over to the other side... it's impossible to go back. Sort of like flying first class or having sex without a condom. That's why you hear those sad stories about guys like Archie Karas or MC Hammer who had millions then lost it. They couldn't never downshift into low gear. That's my fundamental problem. I only have one gearshift... balls to the fuckin' wall.... as the lyrics goes, "the high gear of my soul."

The confident warrior is Clint Eastwood is all of his spaghetti westerns and the Dirty Harry movies. He's an angry muthafucker looking for trouble because he knows know no one can stop him. And if he dies, so fuckin' what. We live in a godless chaotic universe and all die a miserable death. Why not now? Any day is a good day to die. Let's not go down like a bunch of pansy pussies! Durrrr and Ivey are modern day samurais and gunslingers averse to shy away from battle. They are willing to perish at any time which makes them dangerous... and wealthy men.

There's actually a fourth poker personality, but I didn't mention it because technically that's not an active participant, for the fraidy cat sits on the sidelines shivering in fear and drenched in his own urine. Unable to make any decisions, they freeze up. Most of us fall into that category when we're severely scarred from an demoralizing experience whether it's online poker, dating strippers, or dabbling in commercial real estate.

* * * * *

Poker is just one of those mental pursuits where even the best in the world can turn to jelly in seconds. I've seen it happen in real life to pros, to my friends, and to myself. When you begin to slide into the depths of tilt... it's all over.

There's probably thirteen different kinds of tilt and at one time I've fallen into all categories. And like most things relating to poker, you can substitute general life or something else in there (instead of poker tilt, you have work tilt or relationship tilt or travel tilt). Here are three of those categories...
The Subtle Downfall: You can subtitle this Digging Your Own Grave. This doesn't happens instantly, rather it incubates over a complete session. Maybe you take a beat early on and that's all it takes to become infected. It slowly comes on and you eventually piss away your chips because you were unable to recognize that you were tilting and unable to make adjustments on the fly. Profitable players plug leaks in real time instead of waiting to analyze your sessions with computer programs and friends.

Head First into The Abyss: You know a few of these folks who go from being normal to full blown tilt in a half of a second. Mike Matusow is a perfect example of this form of tilt. The littlest thing sets them off and... wham! One moment they are calm and cool and in control, and one suckout or bad beat shoves them off the edge. These people are equally dangerous in bars, and around sharp objects and psychedelics. These are people who don't want to cut off on a Los Angeles freeway because they might pull a Glock on you. However, if you can handle a charging rhinoceros, then you can profit immensely off a player who can implode on a single hand. Usually, they tilt off their chips within an orbit so you better act fast.

Never Get Out of This Maze: This is probably the worst category of tilt to overcome because you know you're tilting but unable to get the fuck out. You're stuck, lost, and trapped. There's an exit point, somewhere out there, but you're having difficulty getting around because you run into a dead end at every corner. This is the type of tilt that doesn't happen in one night, rather it happens over a period of weeks and months. I know a few pros who will tell you this paragraph accurately explains their current losing streak. At this moment, a buddy of mine is texting me.... "Bro, you just describe my marriage."

* * * * *

Bobby Jones is the "Alan Watts meets Yoda" for his era. Maybe those sportswriters were gratuitously throwing around Bobby Jones' quote because after all it makes perfect sense and aptly describes everyone's everyday struggle on that "five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Daniel Tzvetkoff (Owner of Third-Party Online Payment Processors) Arrested by the Feds for Money Laundering

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Cue the COPS theme song.

Very few things can get me out of bed. One of them is an earthquake, the other is breaking news about arrests in the poker industry. On Friday, 27-year-old Daniel Tzvetkoff from Australia was arrested by the federales in Las Vegas. The FBI and ICE were both involved with the arrest.

Tzvetkoff is the founder of Automated Clearing House (ACH) and Intabill, and the feds are accusing him of laundering $540 million for online poker sites such as Full Tilt, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, and UB.

Yes, the Feds are officially going after third-party payment processors.

According to the Herald Sun, if the Feds prosecute Tzvetkoff to the full extent, he could face up to 75 years in prison "on four counts including bank fraud, money laundering, gambling conspiracy and processing electronic funds illegally."

However, there's more to this story. According to the Feds, Tzvetkoff stopped processing payments in March of 2009 after a couple of online poker rooms accused him of stealing $100 million.

I wonder if this is just like a scene from Law and Order and the Feds are gonna hotbox Tzvetkoff and hope that he rats out the online poker sites and roll on Jesus and Lederer? Or will he take his lumps like a man and keep his mouth shut?

The more I read about him, this Tzvetkoff clown is more slippery than an eel in KY jelly.

I want to say this is bad for poker, but I usually like to hold off for a few days to assess the situation. But, it's hard to not say that this can't be good for other third-party processors. The Feds are going after the money right now. The paper trail is vast. Does it lead back to you? Time to start hiding behind the secrecy of those Swiss bank accounts. Or maybe, I'll just relocate to Holland. I always wanted to live in Amsterdam full time.

So will this affect day to day operations? Or will business continue on as usual? Time will tell.

Editor's Note: Hat tip to Michalski from Pokerati for digging up this story.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Tony G Soliloquy Contest

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Did you always want to be a star? Are you a whore for attention? Do you often wonder what it's like to be Tony G? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then you should enter Tao of Poker's latest contest. I know that my readers have twisted senses of humor and are also very creative, which is why this contest is perfect for you.

Deliver the best Tony G Soliloquy.
1. Pick a scene (Tony G berates Ralph Perry or Tony G acts like a dick at the Aviation Club).
2. Record your version. Be creative but stick to the script.
3. Upload your video to You Tube and send me the URL.
4. The best version wins fame and fortune, and gets to bask in their 15 Minutes of Fame with your video posted on Tao of Poker.
The winner also gets an autographed copy of Lost Vegas. The runner up gets a tricycle.

Everyone is eligible... except Tony G and Phil Galfond.

You have one week to submit your video. The deadline for submissions is April 23 at Midnight PT. Leave your video's URL in the comments section of this post or email me the link. Once I review all of the videos, I will finally an announce a winner.

Here's a video to help you with your scene. Ralph Perry scene starts at 0:07 and runs to 0:59. The Aviation Club scene runs from 1:00 to 1:55.

Good luck. Have fun mimicking The G.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hump Day Link Dump: Party Poker Big Game, Getting Silly with Kara Scott, Day in the Life, and the durrrr Commercial

By Pauly
New York City

My sincerest apologies for the slack the last few days. I was bogged down in a lot of business-stuff (Lost Vegas and the 2010 WSOP) during the last couple of days at Mohegan Sun. When I returned to NYC, I decided to do my own thing and ignore the blogs. That's one of the benefits of working for myself... because I make the call... and this time I decided to sit it out and enjoy my last couple of days in New York City. If you want, you can check out some twit pics of my wanderings around the city.

Anyway, the poker world continued to revolved around the center of the universe, and that center is none other than Tony G. Here's some tidbits to feast upon until I return to the Left Coast and resume normal broadcasting...
I'd love to get silly with Kara Scott. That's what she's doing right now in London while hosting Part Poker's Big Game. In her last post, the game had been running for 48 straight hours while the lovely Kara has been logging the night shift on the sidelines. (Party Poker Blog)

And in case you missed it, Isildur1 did not show up to play in the Big Game. He backed out at the last minute. It seems that Viktor Blom did not want to play in a Kermit the frog mask. I don't blame him, masks should only be relegated to Halloween, Mardi Gras, and fulfilling sexual fetishes. Then again, maybe Isildur1 is just like some of my favorite reclusive writers (Pynchon, Salinger) and refuses to enter the public eye. (Party Poker Blog)

Shamus waxes on Women and the WSOP. As always, well written and thoroughly researched. Kudos. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

The Day in the Life of the Maven made me cringe. However, the parody video made me do seven spit-takes and howl at the moon. (Wicked Chops Poker)

I love a great con, like the Frenchman who nearly convinced a club team in Bulgaria to sign him, even though he was an impostor. (Wall Street Journal)

Did you see the new Durrrr commercial yet? Gotta say, some good stuff. Good to see some new blood in black and white pimping the site. (Pokerati)

And if you ever wanted to read short stories and fiction from yours truly, check out the index of Truckin' stories that go back as far as 2002. (Truckin')

Today in Tao of Poker History.... let's flashback to 2008 and something I penned titled Nothing to Do and Nowhere to Go.
That's it for now. I'll be back shortly with some other goodies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NAPT Mohegan Sun: High Rollers Final Table

By Pauly
New York City

The $25,000 High Rollers shootout drew 35 players. Six remain. My pick to win it is Matt Glantz, even though the Atlantic City high-stakes pro is primarily a mixed-game specialist.

Shootout Final Table:
Matt Glantz, USA
Sam Stein, USA
Shawn Buchanan, Canada
Jason Mercier, USA (Team PokerStars Pro)
Faraz Jaka, USA
Luiz Vazquez, USA
The winner-takes-all final table kicks off at noon. Check out PokerStars Blog for live coverage.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NAPT Mohegan Sun Final Table

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

The final table is set. You can watch the live stream over at NAPT Live starting at noon ET.
NAPT Mohegan Sun Final Table:
Seat 1: Scott Seiver - 1,125,000
Seat 2: Cliff Josephy - 1,940,000
Seat 3: Vanessa Selbst - 4,545,000
Seat 4: Derek Raymond - 1,545,000
Seat 5: Mike Beasley - 4,985,000
Seat 6: Mike Woods - 2,950,000
Seat 7: Jonathan "FatalError" Aguiar - 1,555,000
Seat 8: Alistar Melville - 2,940,000
First place gets $750,000. I maybe be tweeting from the sidelines. Check out @taopauly on Twitter.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dispatches from Mohegan Sun: NAPT Day 3 - Mohegan Cougar

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

I returned to my hotel room to retrieve my CrackBerry charger. The elevator door opened and the air quickly filled with clashing perfumes. One-by-one a pride of cougars sauntered past me. It felt like I walked through the cosmetics section of Bloomingdales.

Fifteen minutes later. Foggy and a little groggy, I slid in and out of the dense crowd, passing a dude with a Nomar jersey hobbling on crutches. The casino was busy most of the week, but for the first time since I arrived, I found it difficult to navigate through the casino. That's when it hit me... Friday night.

I turned the corner and a pack of cougs were spread out in the lobby in front of the theatre. Sixty or so women were in search of tickets to that evening's show. Three groups were visible: professional cougs in tight jeans that only hipsters on the L train wear, timid cougs-in-training (recently separated), and twenty-something girls with so many fashion faux-pas that my girlfriend can write an entire book on the tragic cliches.

They were in search of tickets to the sold out Chelsea Handler show. I had no idea who that was.

"She's a hysterical comedienne," my Costa Rican colleague clued me in. "All her jokes and books are about banging young guys and bragging that she's a whore."

The Mexican restaurant was virtually empty all week, but the tequila bar out front was packed with cougs, forty, maybe fifty of them, dressed like the orange chick from The Jersey Shore, were slamming Margaritas faster than Boston frat boys can shotgun cans of Natty Lite.

"It's like a wildlife preserve," commented Otis.

Welcome to Mohegan Cougar.

My Costa Rican colleague is 21-years-young but he looks like he's sixteen. He's prime-A beef in the minds of Catholic priests and cougars. I told him to walk with extra caution when traversing through the casino. I wondered if some of them were here to gobble up a couple of online pros. Cougs plus online twenty-somethings is like drenching C4 with kerosene.

* * * * *

As expected, the money bubble popped during the second level of play on Day 3. 104 players were awarded prize money and in an event where more than half the field qualified via PokerStars satellites, you definitely had a few guys turtling into the money.

By mid-afternoon, the field caught up to end of Day 2 chipleder Jordan Morgan. Three players amassed 1 million in chips: Dale Jamison, Brandon Hall, and Vanessa Selbst.

Phil Ivey started the day in a semi-grumpy mood. He was not thrilled with his original seat because his back was to the wall which projected the Masters. Ivey had to sweat the action, but it wasn't meant to be because of his seat draw. He borrowed an iPhone to watch the game until he was moved to a new table with a seat facing the wall.

I tried all morning to secure action on a wager... Phil Ivey AND Tiger Woods both winning on Sunday. No one would give me action! Too bad for them because Ivey bailed out in 29th place. Inc ase you were wondering, Phil Ivey of golf shot -2 for his round on Friday which put him in a tie for third place.

Action at the NAPT Mohegan Sun was stopped when the field was whittled down to 24 players. Vanessa Selbst advanced to Day 4 holding the chiplead with almost 2.3 million. Scott Seiver had an amazing Day 3... he began with a mere 40K and went to work. When Day 3 ended, he found himself ahead of everyone else (with the exception of Selbst). Also still alive are Jonathan Aguiar, Johnny Bax, Brandon Hall, Vanessa Rousso, and Jordan Morgan.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dispatches from Mohegan Sun: NAPT Day 2 - Phil Woods

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

The drama in the sporting world surrounding Tiger Woods unfortunately overshadowed the second day of the NAPT Mohegan Sun. Americans love to hype up anything, but this time, we had a good excuse after five straight months of poking and prodding Tiger Woods. I had never seen someone's sex life deconstructed, bisected and analyzed by pundits like Woods. The last time the press had a field day with a high profile sex scandal was when Slick Willy got caught diddling his intern with a cigar.

Tiger Woods couldn't keep Little Tiger in his pants. It used to be a secret, but nevermore. Some of my friends (who wear tin foil hats, hoard weapons, and listen to too much Art Bell and Alex Jones) have a theory that Tiger was thrown under the bus by a shadow government in order to distract the public from two wars, health care debate, and the next wave of the implosion of our financial system.

My theory is a lot simpler and more plausible: Tiger was involved in a prop bet with Jesse James (Sandra Bullock's soon-to-be ex-husband) -- which one of them can long-dick the most chicks without getting caught. Alas, Tiger's philandering ways were eventually discovered after he got involved in a domestic dispute with his Swedish wife. Lesson learned, don't fuck with pissed off Scandis. After emerging in a dream-like haze induced by a mixture of booze, painkillers, and Ambien (or what I usually call 'dessert'), Tiger crashed his SUV after his wife teed off on his car and his head with a 3-wood. Who knows for sure. The local po-po did a great job at being discreet and keeping tight lips on the actual incident. Once word got out, Tiger quickly became the butt-end of jokes from late night talk show hosts, while the folks in the morality police scorned Tiger about tarnishing his milk and cookies image with his rampant infidelity.

Tiger Woods is one of the very few things can penetrate the unyielding bubble of the poker world where current events and anything not-related to gambling ceases to exist. I can only think of a few instances when poker players took note of the external world...
- When Michael Jackson died during the 2009 WSOP, word spread quickly around the Amazon Ballroom, which gave bored players something to talk or joke about.

- During the 2006 WSOP, the final table of a preliminary NL event was paused so the players, including Max Pescatori, could watch the shootout between Italy and France in the World Cup championship match. The score was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and the Italians won 5-3 in a shootout. Max Pescatori, inspired by his home country's victory, went on a tear when play resumed. The Italian Pirate shipped the tournament for his first bracelet, on the same day Italy won the World Cup.

- And let's add Tiger Woods, the NAPT Mohegan Sun, and the 2010 Masters to the list.

Photo by Joe Giron (PokerStars Blog)

The Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun features 30-feet-high ceilings with a TV projected against one of the sliding walls. On Day 1, the jumbo projection aired a baseball game -- the heated rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. On Day 2, golf was king. Even though Tiger Woods wasn't scheduled to tee off until 1:42pm (and ESPN wouldn't begin coverage until 4pm), a graphic counted down to Tiger's eventual return to golf. Because Tiger's infidelity made national and international headlines, his opening round at the Master drew the attention of hardcore golf fans and curious observers. Plus, let's not forget all of the Tiger haters out there were waiting for him to shank his tee shot into a couple of Georgia pine trees.

The Masters has a deep rooted tradition at Augusta National, the majestic country club which hosts the most prestigious golf tournament of the year. The winner is awarded a Green jacket. That's similar to the Main Event champ taking home the coveted bracelet. Not too many men can boast about a Green Jacket hanging in their closet. The Masters' champions belong to an exclusive club, kind of like Main Event winners.

Then there's the whole Tiger Woods/Phil Ivey comparison, both physically and in terms of talent. So, it wasn't shocking when word got out that Ivey was prop betting on... the "Phil Ivey of Golf" to win the Masters. Ivey had one significant prop bet with David Singer getting 5-1 odds. Who knows how many other wagers Ivey made with some of his buddies back in Vegas. Bottom line is this... first place in the NAPT Mohegan Sun pays out $750,000, and Ivey probably has more money riding on Tiger Woods winning the Masters.

Sometimes I wonder if tournament poker is a chore for Ivey, sort of like having to sit in your cubicle and file a TPS report as you begrudgingly get the job done with minimal emotional investment and exerting as little energy as possible. Obviously, Ivey wasn't going through the motions at the 2009 Main Event, which is part of the reason why he advanced to the November Nine. But everything else seems secondary to the Life of Ivey: high stakes cash games (live and online), shooting dice for sickly amounts of cash, sports betting, and other deg prop bets. Ivey plays tournaments to give him something to do while he's sweating a bet, like all those events he played during the 2008 WSOP when he anxiously waited the outcome of a $1 million wager against a uber-wealthy Russian that the LA Lakers would win the NBA championship.

With a decent stack in front of him, Ivey cruised through Day 2 of the NAPT Mohegan Sun as he kept one of his crazy eyes on the Masters and the other on his table.

You rarely witness Ivey display any sort of human emotion at the poker table. Perhaps, he's a Terminator sent back in time by SkyNet or maybe he's really an alien-hybrid who escaped the Mothership. Who knows for sure, but the only time you catch a vulnerable Ivey is when he's sweating a bet. And you know what? He does the same shit you and I do. He hangs on every shot. Every back swing. Every putt. He cheers for his hero when he does well and shakes his head in disappointment when he doesn't. Ivey has 100% control over his emotions at the poker table, and even though he's conscious that everyone in the room is watching him watching Tiger Woods, he still can't contain himself. An animated Ivey did not hold back when Tiger eagled #8 and followed that up with a birdie on #9.

I couldn't help but wonder if Tiger Woods and Phil Ivey were part of the same alien-DNA experiment. Would make sense why the look so much alike, like all of those twins that popped up in Argentina after Nazi geneticists fled Germany after WWII and relocated in South America.

The media room did not have a jumbo projection of the Masters and I had to watch the round online. We had the feed going along with ESPN3's live streaming coverage. I was definitely distracted from the tournament and paid more attention on golf, something that rarely do. I might watch an hour or two of the final round of the Masters, but that's about it. I guess I was like the rest of the masses who tuned in to see the alien-hybrid sex-addict shoot 4 under par in his first competitive round in five months.

Phil Ivey ironically finished up 13th in chips at the end of Day 2, while his doppelganger Tiger Woods finished his opening round tied for 7th place.

Tiger wasn't the only big sporting news of the day. Did you know that the WNBA draft was held on Thursday? I had no idea until I overheard several conversations in the hallway of the convention center. The Connecticut Sun play their home games at Mohegan Sun arena, so the teams execs holed up in one of the conference rooms and set up a war room for the draft. I know nothing about the WBNA, but I heard suits talking about Allison Hightower. I googled her name and found out that the player from LSU. And who had the #1 pick? That's right... the Connecticut Sun. Their pursuit of the best player in women's college basketball was a mere afterthought compared to the NAPT event going on downstairs and the hoopla surrounding the return of Tiger Woods. By the way, the Sun ended up picking Tina Charles (center from UCONN) with their #1 pick and selected Hightower in the second round with the #15th overall selection.

WNBA. Tiger Woods. Phil Ivey. Just another Thursday, right?

* * * * *

Despite the distraction on Day 2, the tournament was reduced from 463 to 125 players. Day 1 chipleader, David "Nat X" Williams, lost the lead early on. When Day 2 ended, Jordan Morgan finished up as the chipleader sitting on 705K. Vanessa Selbst, James Akenhead, Ryan D'Angelo, Sorel Mizzi, and Phil Ivey were among the notables in the chase pack. And how about Tab Duchateau, the TD from the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City? He also advanced to Day 2 with 225K in chips. The top

104 players get paid prize money. The bubble should burst in the second level of play on Day 3. They will pay down from 104 to 24 on Friday, and 24 to 8 on Saturday with a final table set for Sunday.

Jesus Goes to Hollywood, Free Tigers, Rush Poker, and Mouse Smashing

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

I'm wicked hungover today to pen a recap of Day 2 of the NAPT Mohegan Sun, however, I do have enough energy to whip up a Friday link dump to entertain you while you eagerly await the weekend to begin.
I was a little surprised to see Jesus Ferguson mentioned on Nickki Finke's highly popular Hollywood and entertainment industry blog. Check out Vegas Poker Star Chris Ferguson Raises Stakes For New Film Venture RCR Pictures. Looks Like Jesus and Ray Bitar are funneling some of their Full Tilt duckets into investing in a production company. No wonder the Full Tilters aren't worried about the DOJ breathing down their necks. Hollywood beckons thee. I wonder if they will bankroll a sequel to Rounders? Maybe it's time to send three of my spec scripts to Jesus? (Deadline Hollywood)

Since we're speaking about the film biz... Hollywood Attempts to Cock Block Betting Markets on Film Revenue is a compelling read about the money side of Hollywood and the slithery eels on Wall Street who are trying to create a futures market for films. Heck, I've been betting on opening weekend grosses on films for over a decade. What could possible go wrong if the fat cats in Hollyweird trying to do the same? (NY Times)

Do you ever want a pet tiger? Does your kid pester you to get a pet? Well, then you're in luck because Golden Tiger Casino is giving away 15 tigers! I've come across some pretty wacky and retarded marketing schemes in my day, but this one leaves me dumbfounded. Reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons. Thanks to Kid Dynamite for the article. (Business Insider)

Only recently did I start using a mouse with my laptop, so I now get the frustration that mounts while playing online poker. I have yet to throw my mouse across the room after a horrendous beat, but I've come close -- a couple of times. I usually rip a nasty nasty bong hit after a bad beat to calm me down. Anyway, Tommy Angelo has a brilliant piece titled The Math of Mouse Smashing. Amazing breakdown. (Tommy Angelo)

Julius Goat posted a new chapter of Stupid/System. The subject? Rush Poker. Sensational. (The Goat Speaks)

If you have an open mind about music and are seeking out new sounds, then you have to download and listen to 1st Quarter Results 2010 Mix by BTreotch. My buddy BTreotch has turned me onto some amazing bands over the last few years. Luckily, he posts a mix every three months of an eclectic selection of music. This batch from BTreotch has a personal touch, which is why you should give it a listen. (Coventry Music)
That's it for now. Get the hell out of my office.

Oh, and if you want to random NAPT Mohegan Sun update, then follow me on Twitter (@taopauly).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dispatches from Mohegan Sun: NAPT Day 1 - Men the Master's Shrimp

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

It felt weird attending a PokerStars player's party in North America. Then again, we were technically on a Native American reservation in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut surrounded by woods with America a few miles away. The North American Poker Tour brought the traveling freak show to Mohegan Sun casino. The best part about this sojourn? I only had to board one airplane for a mere five hour flight and then drive two hours to get to here on a route that I used to traverse too many times to count. Mohegan Sun's location was much easier to get to compared to the three flights and a van ride during my previous assignment for the LAPT Uruguay.

The only downside to a non-LAPT event... no Brazilian and Argentinian models trying to improve the overwhelming male to female ratio at the Players' Welcome Party. I wandered into the club fashionably late after a dinner at Bobby Flay's joint with my buddy Senor and Change100. On my way inside the party, I passed Chainsaw Kessler, who was on the way out. Chainsaw was the first pro I crossed paths with at Mohegan Sun, which obviously set the tone for this event, sort of like coming across a black cat on Friday the 13th.

As per usual, most of the people inside the party hung out in their own cliques. I found my friends huddled in a circle and consuming free booze at a near-record setting rapid pace. Mohegan Sun instituted a Draconian law that prohibits patrons from consuming more than one alcoholic drink at a time. No double fisting (well, at the bar...if you want to pay a high-end escort for double-fisting duties -- that's still fair game). Yep, you are unable to get a head start on the next cocktail while finish up your original one.

Busty waitresses carried trays of random foods and aps. Men the Master chowed down on shrimp cocktail. It was almost like a scene out of The Simpsons, when Homer gobbles up two and shoves it in his mouth then grabs the arm of the waitress as she attempts to walk away. Men was maximizing his consumption of free shellfish. I'm surprised the waitress didn't just leave the entire tray with him. And yes, I don't want to be the guy who got stuck next to Men on Day 1. Men's shrimp farts is something I don't wish upon my worst enemy.

A couple of us left the party early and retreated to Leffingwells on top of Wombi Rock. It was like we were drinking on a mountain top with stars projected on the dome-like ceiling. I watched the end of the Yankees-Red Sox game with the score tied 4-4 and held my jubilation when the Yanks emerged victorious for their first victory of 2010.

The first day of any multi-day tournament is always rough: I'm hungover, wrought with insomnia, and bombarded with a begrudging desire to lock myself inside a casino for almost a week straight. Alas, this is the life I have chosen. This is what we do -- shake off the hangover and head to work. After all, we're professionals aren't we?

An hour before start time on Day 1, I arrived at the media registration desk and found Otis standing in front of a neutral background. He was in the middle of having his head shots taken by Joe Giron, one of the best in the business.

"Make sure you capture the bulge in his pants," I hinted to Joe.

I checked in with Garry, the Mad Harper of the NAPT, and I had my badge all squared away. I set up shop in the press room which appropriately had padded walls on two sides of the room. Lord knows that by Saturday, we're all going to be stir crazy. That's the problem with being in the poker media... if the booze and the gambling doesn't get to you, your sanity will eventually succumb to the dark side... and the next thing you know, you''re carving hand histories into your forearm with a tooth pick and splattering blood all over the cocktail waitresses. That's the kind of avant-garde "statement" that get's you an exhibit at the Guggenheim, however, in the gaming industry, any sort of public display of mental deficiencies is highly frowned upon. And that's why I'm pumped we have padded walls in the media room so I can bang my head repeatedly without fear of long-term injury.

It was still 11am when I spotted that 2009 Main Event Champion, Joe Cada, in the middle of a sit-down interview. Unlike the rest of his fellow pros, Cada did not have the luxury of sleeping in on Day 1 and arriving an hour or two late to feast on the fishy qualifiers. As the World Champ sponsored by PokerStars, Cada's schedule is dictated by certain obligations including having to sit through a blitz of pre-Day 1 interviews.

I walked into the tournament room with 60 empty tables. The calm before the storm. The big screen listed 603 runners with 30 minutes to go. A total of 716 players bought into the second US-based event on the NAPT for a prize pool of over $3.2 million (minus 3%). The numbers failed to surpass the Venetian's 872, but 700+ is still an impressive field for a $5,000 buy-in event on the East Coast. The winner of the NAPT Mohegan Sun will walk away with $750,000 (minus expenses, taxes, make-up, paying off backers, and whatever other odd debts they might have incurred).

When the players eventually took their seats, the event resembled the PCA minus the Island vibe and without a bunch of 19 year olds pros wandering around in flip flops. The veterans arrived late including Barry Greenstein. He mentioned that he forget to reset his watch and he was stuck on Pacific time. He was so tired that he admitted (via Twitter) that he mistakenly wandered into the ladies bathroom. He realized he was in the wrong spot after he discovered zero urinals and Kathy Liebert standing at the sinks. Barry busted early and he should hang out with my buddy Senor who knows all these hot Thai chicks from Providence. If all else fails, there's always the Foxy Lady.

Phil Ivey turned heads as waltzed through the convention area and signed a couple of autographs while Heather B. quickly slapped a Full Tilt patch on him and pulled a black hat out of her bag. Tom Dwan, also among the late arrivals, showed up in normal clothes and quickly changed to fulfill his losing end of a prop bet. Durrrr donned a Team Canada hockey jersey and a Canada hat for the entire day before he busted out near the end of Day 1.

I bumped into Chau Giang who clutched a Starbucks cup. Chau looked dazed. I didn't know if he was blazing up with the hippie girls who work at Ben & Jerry's or hadn't slept after playing cash games all night. Or how about both?

Sean Deeb came out of retirement to play Mohegan Sun. He opted for a hipster-look instead of the typical collegiate stoner get up and tossed aside his usually hoodie, shorts, and NY Yankees cap. Instead, Deeb wore shades, a straw hat, and a striped dress shirt. He must be buying clothes from Jeff Lisandro's favorite mail order clothing company from Staten Island... L.L. Goomba.

I also saw Action Bob, the Atlantic City legend, who told me that he was stuck in the poker room with about ten spillover tables.

"My table is tough," Action Bob said. "It's filled with solid online pros. Men the Master being the only soft spot."

That's when I began to hear disgruntled whispers from tournament players who drew the poker room, which included players who registered last night or on Day 1. That meant no internet qualifiers. The pros were miffed. They wanted to feast on some of the fishies, but got stuck on the spillover tables. When some tables (with higher caliber pros) were broken before others, those pros cried shenanigans. The gang at PokerNews tried to get a definitive answer on breaking order, but it seemed that there was no clear answer. Perhaps the staff could have reserved a couple of the #10 seats in the tournament room for last minute qualifiers and tardy pros? On the flip side, some of the internet pros who qualified or bought in directly days earlier, were irked because they were stuck playing against other internet players when they wanted to maul the stack's nitty live pros.

Who knows what was going on, but the pros quarantined in the poker room were not happy campers. Wait, unhappy poker players? Old news. Man bites dog.

* * * * *

David Williams, sporting his Nat-X look, emerged as the chipleader in late afternoon. He finished up atop the leaderboard with over 230K. A total of 443 players made the cut for Day 2, including Phil Ivey and LJ (with a shortstack).
End of Day 1 - Top 10 Chip Counts:
David Williams - 230,900
Vanessa Selbst - 214,200
Lars Bonding - 177,100
Matt Woodward - 165,500
Firas Massouh - 157,000
Dennis Tuttle - 155,300
Brandon Cantu - 145,500
Eric Levesque - 134,000
Christopher Lindh - 128,400
Clayton Mozdzen - 127,700
That's it for now... check out PokerStars Blog for live updates from Otis, Howard, and Change100.

You can always follow me on Twitter (@taopauly) if you want real-time snarky and random comments from the floor of the Mohegan Sun.