Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bracelets: Nouveau Riche Bling or Traditional Badges of Honor?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


That's what it's all about, at least what all of those rap and hip-hop videos I watched on MTV were trying to relay to me. Bling is good, and when it comes to poker, we're blinded by the bling bracelets.

I've written about bracelets in the past. It's definitely not the most manly thing in the world, nor is it practical or meets societal standards of affluence (like say a Rolex). However, bracelets are a tradition, and the WSOP has a deep-rooted history, so it's natural that bracelets are an integral part of that tradition.

In these tumultuous times, we're confronted with one of those "what came first -- the chicken and the egg" quandaries...

Have bracelets become a manufactured goal that keeps amateurs and pros chasing the dream, sort of like the donkey cart and carrot analogy?

Are bracelets important when assessing a player's ability and/or career because we say they are important, or have bracelets always been important and we're just reacting to the need to quantify things in life?

And another question I've come up with is for the post-modern poker pro -- do pros play in bracelet events because they consider bracelets are the best judge of skill, or do they strive for a bracelet because that's what they've been told is vital since the moment they started playing poker?

Everyone has opinionated answers on those questions. I've heard them all and even came up with different potential half-baked answers along the way, not to mention more questions, which happens when you actually sit down to think about these matters. The fact of the matter is that right now bracelets are immensely valued. Draw your own conclusions if they are over-valued or under-valued, but the current perception in the marketplace is one of immense value. Bracelets will continue to matter now and in the future unless alternative forms of judging skill and/or merit come along -- whether it's a new tournament series to determine supremacy or a new program that computes an overall score based on a complex formula (incorporating both live/online play and tournaments/cash games) created by Bill Chen that determines a player's rank at any given moment. It's sort of like a golf handicap, credit score, Q rating, and batting average all rolled into one. We'll call it Chenmatrics, and only Bill Chen, the Pope, and Kevin Mathers know where the secret database is located.

The problem with a universal ranking system is that poker is too big to quantify. You got online play. You got brick and mortar. You have tournaments and cash games. You have Vegas, Reno, AC, LA, Tunica, Melbourne, Paris, and London... not to mention everywhere else in the world where a sanctioned poker game is being played. But shouldn't underground games count? How about high-stakes Chinese Poker matches among the titans of the universe? And how about all those sick sick sick cash games being played in Malibu and in the Hollyweird Hills where studio execs and young actors are blowing their wads for a shot to play against the Big Dog du jour, who got whisked into SoCal via private jet? Hypothetically speaking, if Durrrr wins a $400K pot off of Leo, shouldn't that count too?

The nerds and geeks constantly want validation in terms of grades and scores. You can't blame them. It's a nerd thing deeply rooted in being awesome in the academic world for so many years and getting shit on in real life, so, they nerdy academic types base all of their self-worth on grades and rankings, and want to push forth that stringent quantitative system onto the world, especially when it comes to poker. But even the best educators in the world think it's absurd that doing well on a single exam or series of exams proves extreme and thorough knowledge of an individual subject.

Poker is difficult to grade. Many organizations keep some statistics and for the most part, that's what we (the royal we as in the poker industry) use to determine a player's worth in poker. Agents use stats to determine if a potential client's past performances can be translated into a valuable piece of player marketing to online websites. Backing syndicates and stakers scrutinize online stats when determining which horses they want to add to their stables. Poker reporters often check the stats to see if someone has been flying under the radar, or if they indeed have come from out of nowhere. But the drawback of using those databases, is that they sometimes create more confusion when you have players with a common name (e.g. James Carroll and David Baker), or foreign players who use different spellings of their names or have names don't translate perfectly into English.

As a poker writer and reporter, the Hendon Mob database is a handy tool to conduct research on the fly when covering a live tournament. Pocket Fives continues to be essential in tracking online tournaments.CardPlayer and Bluff both have built comprehensive databases tracking online and live players. PokerTableRatings and HighStakesDB track the high-stakes online cash games.

But even if a higher authority, let's say Bill Chen's super-program Chenmatrics, compiled statistics from a number of categories and morphed them with cash games stats in order to spit out an actual grade, would that even suffice? Do poker players want numerical grades like school children or health food department handing out grades for clean restaurants? For most of the year, Gus Hansen struggled at the online tables. So should the Great Dane walk around with a scarlet "F" etched onto his muscle t-shirt? But, Hansen had a profitable September with all As in both online and live play, so what does that exactly mean?

The nerds in the poker community are not the only ones who are demanding a ranking system. The players themselves want something that they can look at to see how they stack up against their peers. In the rigid and competitive world of sponsorships, players want to be able to show their overall worth -- but right now, there's a half a dozen different leader boards for Player of the Year honors. Bluff and Card Player each have their own, along with WSOP. Even the WCOOP on PokerStars tracked player of the series, in addition, Stars and other online sites track their own players' yearly results in order to give them recognition and to even spur competition.

In the last year or so, the bracelet prop bet has overshadowed actual bracelet events. The perfect example was June 6, 2010 at the WSOP which I chronicled in a recap titled Day 10: Most Likely You Go Durrrr's Way (And I'll Go Mine). The high-stakes community in poker is very small. It's an elite fraternity of players and they all held their collective breaths that evening in June when Tom Dwan almost won a bracelet, which many of them were betting against. For the richest of the richest players in poker, the bracelet does not mean as much to them as it does to other players. Many of them look at bracelets as something of personal amusement and used for betting purposes, sort of like credit card roulette and lime tossing. For some of those pros, they don't care about titles or bling. They just want the money and you can't blame the purity of that pursuit, which is why many of them are cash game specialists. The Phil Iveys and Chip Reeses of the world often said that tournaments are a waste of time, sort of like that chain email that you've gotten a thousand times before that said it was a waste of time if Bill Gates picked up a penny. Tournaments are kinda like that for Phil Ivey. I often wondered if the brain trust running Full Tilt decided to lay out all these bracelet prop bets to entice their jaded players to play in the WSOP? If so, it's a brilliant idea. It's hard to ask a guy like Ivey or Dwan to jump out of bed every day and grind it out at the Rio for seven weeks straight. I covered the WSOP for the last six summers and after the second or third week, you hit the wall and contemplate suicide, then spend the rest of the time anxiously counting down the days until the WSOP is over, but in the meantime, you self-medicate with whatever is available. Any pro that's worked an entire summer in Vegas will tell you it's insane. Even the ones running good will tell you that it's impossible to remain focused during the entire WSOP. So the extra incentive of winning prop bets for bracelets increases the risk and makes the pursuit that much more juicier for pros who would rather skip the majority of the WSOP and play in only a handful of events instead of 30, 40, or even 50.

Bracelets are all we have at this point, but the numbers are skewed. Depending on who you talk to, bracelets are more valuable in the 1970s because they didn't give away as many, or, bracelets in the 2000s are important because the number of bracelets available per number of WSOP entrants has dramatically decreased. Sure 62 bracelets seems like a lot, but more players are taking a shot for one than ever before.

Then the discussion delves off into the legitimacy of the WSOP-E bracelet. Are those worth the same? Some pros don't, especially the ones making prop bets stating that winning a WSOP-E bracelet is handled differently than a regular WSOP bracelet.

Here's when I toss out my standard suggestion to the folks who run the WSOP (Ty + Seth) and ask them to decrease the number of bracelets if we're going to use bracelets like we used the "gold standard" in our financial system.

My proposal? 50 bracelet events with 40 events at the WSOP and 10 at the WSOP-Europe. This proposal has two intentions: 1) reduce the number of bracelets, therby increasing their value in the long term, and 2) increase the legitimacy of the WSOP-Europe.

The 40 events at the WSOP in Las Vegas will reduce the stress of the WSOP by at least one week, maybe even two. From a logistical standpoint, how can anyone in the poker industry argue against a shortened summer of hell? Sure, Harrah's hates that idea because it's less money for them, but that is something that will have to be compromised if poker wants to take serious steps into developing a universal ranking system.

Also, reduce the amount of donkaments and donkuli. Let's just settle on a $1,250 buy-in event and continue have at least one a week, and the weekend warriors, which are the bread and butter poker customers, have an opportunity to live out their dreams by taking a shot at a bracelet.

The added events in London should include a couple of the donkaments in order to entice North Americans to go across the pond (and to attract Brits and Europeans with modest bankrolls). Let's face it, mostly everyone who has played in the WSOP has been to Vegas many times before, so how about a new destination (and especially one where Americans won't be intimated because they speak English in England, but don't be too discouraged if you run into someone from the Midlands and you don't know what they are fookin' saying and it feels like a surreal scene from a Guy Ritchie flick)?

London has already become a hotbed of poker for the month of September with the WSOP-E and EPT London. The WPT added their London stop to coincide with the other events in London in order to maximize the limited time that out of town pros were in the UK. Well, why not start the WSOP-E a few weeks earlier with donkaments at the beginning of the WSOP-E schedule so amateurs can use their vacation time to take their family to London and get a unique poker experience out of it?

Trimming the WSOP to 40 events, and expanding the WSOP-E to 10 events means only 500 bracelets will be awarded over the next decade. That's a nice round number.

Photo by Flipchip

Alas, this is just one suggestion to a mammoth problem that has been plaguing poker since I got into the business. Poker has so many other complicated issues with cheating scandals, online legislation, and the fallout from rapid international expansion, that I'm afraid the bracelet issue is just something that everyone has an opinion about, but it never evolves past the discussions phase. If there's one thing I learned in poker -- it's that a lot of people like to talk shit, me included, but very few people actually want to lead and initiate change. And the ones who do, are often ostracized and belittled. In the real world, those who stand for change are the ones who are usually at the top of potential assassination lists. So sadly, I'm afraid that this debate will continued to be a heated debate among my friends, colleagues, pros, and on the forums -- until someone takes steps to figure out a overall authority or governing body. But then again, doesn't the creation of a centralized governing body go against the entire outlaw nature of poker, where everyone seems to thrive on anarchy?

Until that happens, the story remains the same. Bracelets matter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 6 Main Event - Life Is Just to Die

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I pulled up Tao of Poker's semi-live blog for Day 6 and a list of Main Event money winners, and followed along with the action on ESPN. It was kinda fun to do that and see which bustout would get recorded or what hands were chosen to support whatever major and minor plotlines for the Day 6 episodes. So much happened because they couldn't squeeze in all the drama into two hours of footage.

Day 6 of the Main Event began with 205 players with Evan Lamprea out in front.
Top 10 Chipcounts:
1 Evan Lamprea - 3.564M
2 Michael Skender - 3.527M
3 Joseph Cheong - 3.357M
4 Duy Le - 3.186M
5 Theo Jorgensen - 3.088M
6 Bryn Kenney - 2.902M
7 Matt Affleck - 2.896M
8 Alexander Kostritsyn - 2.564M
9 Johnny Fucking Chan - 2.559M
10 Sebastian Panny - 2.442M
* * * * *

Oh Sweet Nuthin'

Chan on Day 5

The most tragic story of the day included the destruction of Johnny Fucking Chan's big stack. He began the day among the leaders and for the third day in a row garnered a significant amount of attention from the media and spectators. The former champ was by far the "biggest named pro" remaining and showed no signs of decay. Alas, even the mightiest of empires come crumbling to a halt, and the Chan dynasty imploded in two hands.

Chan began the day like he had been doing for most of the tournament steamrolling his table. He brushed aside Matt Keikian in one hand and Chan was just getting his funk on when it happened... he got moved tables.

Sometimes your fate in the Main Event comes down to which seat change card your given by the floor. The luck of the draw, right? Johnny Fucking Chan took his new seat at Robert Mizrachi's table and it might as well been an electric chair. On the first hand he was deal, Chan woke up with pocket Kings. He got into a raising war with Robert Pisano. For most of the tournament, Chan was playing back at anyone who tried to three-bet him -- and he was winning that battle. It happened again and Chan four-bet Pisano. However, Pisano wasn't fucking around with Chan. He held two black beauties -- As-Ac -- and five-bet-shoved. Chan called, and any glint of confidence got sucked out of his skull when he flipped over his Kings and Pisano tabled Aces. Pisano's won a pot worth over $4 million as he rocketed into the lead. A stunned Chan shipped over columns of chips to Pisano's end of the table.

Chan looked like a wounded animal. For the previous year or so, Chan has been having off the felt issues that affected his play, that is in the few events that he played. Chan seemed uncomfortable whenever I saw him inside the Rio, perhaps it had something to do with his failed attempt at trying to corner the energy drink market with All-In third rate sugar water? Supposedly, he had fallen out of the good graces with the spheres of businessmen who call the shots at big events like the WSOP.

Anyway, Chan's uneasiness at the tables disappeared around Day 2 of the Main Event. The confident and menacing Chan, who I witnessed win 10th bracelet in 2005, was back. Yes, it was not John Chan, but the original Johnny Fucking Chan was back. Until... he ran his Kings into Aces

All of that brio evaporated into thin air. Chan knew his run was over, and it would matter of time before he was done. A close up of a somber Chan reminded me of Cinderella watching the clock at 11:58 and knowing her stint in dreamland was almost over.

You could see a semblance of calm in Chan's eyes on his final hand. Chan had shoved with Jacks and hoped for a double up, but he unfortunately ran into Jon Driscoll's pocket Aces. Chan's Jacks got beaten down like a dissident in Tienanmen Square and he was eliminated in 156th place. The episode actually ended with Chan amidst the walk of shame out of the Amazon Ballroom.

* * * * *

White Light, White Heat

"The story of family" was mentioned in the intro. The Mizrachi clan, which by now you've grown to know and love, sent four brothers into the killing fields. All four survived the initial waves of bloodshed, however, by the sixth day of the butchery, only two remained. One was the light, the other the heat. I'm still trying to figure out who is who, but the Grinder and Robert remained because they won pots at the right times. Sounds so simple, right?

When the Grinder got moved to Peter Jetten's table, those two got into it right away. The board read Kc-10d-9d-Ac-5c and the Grinder threw his weight around. Jetten scurried away in fear of the Grinder. It seemed as though no one wanted to challenge the Grinder as he raced up the leader board.

Meanwhile, Robert had a lot of work ahead of his as one of short stacks in the room. He survived an all-in against overall leader Pisano when his A-Q held up against A-rag. Robert flopped a Broadway straight and doubled up. Later on in the episode Robert won a race with pocket sevens against A-Q. Robert doubled up yet again, and Norm accused the Mizrachi brothers of roiding it up.

Duy Le, a law school dropout, was not happy to have the Grinder at his table, because Grinder pummeled him into coughing up a nice chunk of his stack. Like a bully pushing around a nerd at recess. The Grinder seized the lead.

* * * * *

Train Round the Bend

Matt Affleck pissed away a big stack at last year's Main Event. The 22-year old simply lost his mud after he fired away at a pot with 10-high and got picked off. That hand sent him into a tailspin and he busted out shortly after. During his couch interview, Affleck mentioned that people often bring up the ugly incident from 2009.

"You were chipleader in the Main Event, what happened?"

Well, Affleck is a year older and for online players that's like dog years. He said he's 10x better than last year, and he definitely played with more restraint. He understood the marathon concept to the Main Event and didn't have to sprint out and play every hand -- but he still played his style of seeing a lot of flops. Affleck was given a rare chance at redemption a year after his mistake, which is amazing because some pros go years and decades before they can exorcise any lingering Main Event demons.

Affleck won the first hand of the episodes showing you how the online kids play power poker. Even though he missed the flop with Kd-10h, he chased away two opponents when he came out firing at the flop.

Affleck managed to avoid trouble when he sensed he was behind in hands. Danny Chamberlin was way ahead in one hand with pocket Queen against Affleck's Ace-sooted. Chamberlin tried to induce a bluff from Affleck, but Affleck avoided the trap.

On one of the last hands of the second episode, Danny Chamberlin's Jc-8c outflopped Affleck's Ac-2s with a Jack on the flop. When the 3s fell on the turn, Affleck picked a flush and gutshot re-draws. The river was the Qs, and Affleck rivered a crackbaby flush. Affleck checked his slim holdings, Chamberlin bet small, and Affleck did the math in his head. He called and wondered if Chamberlin held a bigger flush. Nope. Affleck won the pot and ended the episode on a high note.

* * * * *

Rock and Roll

Former tennis pro Nick Rainey got lots of face time on the featured TV table with Matt Affleck. Rainey was one of those former athletes who turned to poker after their careers fizzled out. Rainey's claim to fame is that he's Patrik Antonius' personal assistant, which means he fetches him grub, picks up his dry cleaning, and helps Antonius shave his chest.

During his fifteen minutes of fame for his couch interview, Nick Rainey explained how he met Antonius while teaching tennis at the Hilton in Las Vegas. The two became friends and Antonius offered him a chance to take care of his affairs, while Rainey saw it as an opportunity to improve his poker game from being around one of the most graceful human beings who ever walked the planet.

Rainey must have learned a thing or two from Antonius, although the Finnish boy toy is most known for his skills at the cash game tables. Rainey played with a little Finnish aggression in his loins during a hand with Christian Harder. Holding Jc-7d Harder opened and Rainey called Kc-9s. The flop was Qs-10d-4d. Harder fired away with nothing and Rainey called with nothing. The 10h fell on the turn, and it came down to which one of them was going to be more aggressive. Rainey was the first one in the pot and Harder bailed.

Rainey tried to be a little cagey, but couldn't trap Affleck, who was playing with heightened Spidey senses. Affleck's pocket eights were up against Rainey's Big Slick. Rainey flopped trips, but Affleck had been sniffing out trouble all day and avoided losing more chips in that hand.

* * * * *

Who Loves the Sun?

The Scandis love the summer because of all those bleak winters that they have to endure. No wonder that the Swedes commit more suicide per capita because of the harsh winters. I guess you can say that online poker saved lives in Scandinavia because it gave their depressed citizens something else to be depressed about aide from desperately waiting to feel the warmth of the sun.

The Scandis made a run on Day 6 of the Main Event, and you only caught a small sample of what happened as the Scandi sleeper cell was putt forth into action. Maybe we'll see that story line unfold in the next episode, but this week we got to see Norway's Johnny Lodden and Denmark's Jesper Hougaard.

Lodden got pushed off a pot from James Carroll. Carroll happily showed him TPTK. Things were not so peachy over at Hougaard's table that also included Bobby Bellande. The two instantly butted heads. On a board of Ac-3c-As-7s-6s, Hougaard shoved and Bellande folded Ah-Kd face up, and figured he was beat to a boat or flush. A part of him feared that he was folding the same hand as the Scandi. We never got to see Hougaard's hand, but Bellande was convinced he was behind.

Things got really bad for Hougaard during a hand with Pascal Le Francois. Hougaard flopped two pair, and thought he ambushed Pascal's pocket Aces. Hougaard got it all-in and Pascal was about to get sent home. However, the board paired on the turn. Pacal's Aces up would win the pot and he doubled up, avoiding an elimination. Hougaard jumped out of his chair. Scandis are usually stoic and expressionless, but he walked away muttered a trail of Danish curse words -- something about being the whore of a motherless goat -- I couldn't tell for sure because my Danish slang is not so good these days.

* * * * *

I'm Waiting for the Man

Unluckiest Man on the face of the Earth?

Bobby Bellande might be one of the unluckiest people in poker, or that's how he's being portrayed these days. The guy ran good during the WSOP, caught several breaks, won flips, and made several big calls down the stretch. He picked off a bluff from Pascal. The French-Canuck had whiffed on his flush and gutter draws, but fired at the pot anyway. Bellande nonchalantly called with only a pair of tens (I think it was second pair). Bellande won the pot with a hero call. Someone at the table uttered, "Good call."

Bellande scoffed at the compliment. "You kidding? That's a terrible call! You can't bluff a donkey."

When Bellande called an all-in with Ad-Ac, he prepped for the worst. However, much to his dismay, his Aces held up and he sent David Peters to the rail.

Then Bobby Bellande called another all-in. He held As-Ad against Jose Nadal's Kd-Kh. Bellande sensed it was coming, especially when Nadal turned a straight draw. But it wasn't a runner-runner suckout. Instead, Bellande's Aces were snapped off by a two-outer when the Kc spiked on the river. All of the Spanish players on the rail went nuts as Nadal survived and doubled up.

"It's not you... it's me," yowled Bellande.

* * * * *

Run Run Run

Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin was the focus on the secondary table with Adam "Roothlus" Levy, Russell Rosenbloom (who final tabled the Main Event the year Varkonyi won), last woman standing Breeze Zuckerman, and David "Not Bakes" Baker.

Last woman standing Breeze Zuckerman got involved in one hand with basebaldy, but he knew he was behind and bailed.

Basebaldy got a couch interview where he described himself as the "everyday all-American kid" story. He played college baseball and then turned to poker as one of those former athletes who missed competition in their lives. He won a bracelet last year and made a deep run in the Main Event, but it seemed more action was going on among his tablemates, like Original David Baker, than with him.

* * * * *

Beginning to See the Light

A few of the November Niners were mentioned including...

- Joe "subiime" Cheong was introduced after winning an early hand. Cheong ended the episode after dragging a monsterpotten. His As-Ad knocked out Chris George's Qh-Qd. That pot thrust Cheong him into the lead with almost 6 million.

- Candio the wacky Italian was in the middle of a massage when his A-rag missed the flop. He still got his opponent to fold. He must have been intimated by the massage?

- John Racener got some face time in a three-way pot. Racener flopped a set and that's all she wrote. He vacuumed up more chips for his big stack.

* * * * *

Lonesome Cowboy Bill

Here are some of my orphaned notes that included somber tales of eliminations, or solo mentions in the episodes...

- David Benyamine was virtually ignored, mainly because he doesn't say much at the table, so they didn't have much on him aside from one hand when he doubled up with Kings.

- Russell Rosenbloom wished the November Nine was around back in the days before the boom. He could have been a semi-superstar, at least gotten a bit more out of his former fifteen minutes of fame, which expired a year after he final tabled the 2002 Main Event. Not much has happened for the pro since then, except a decent showing in the Main Event. Alas, his run came to and end when he got it all in with deuces against A-K. He was sweating his exit and knew it was coming. A King spiked on the river and Rosenbloom was done.

- Jesse Martin busted out when his Ac-Kd lost to German former hoops player Michael "Detlef Schrempf" Skender's pocket Queens. You might have caught my ugly mug standing behind Jesse when he busted in 157th.

- Theo Tran's A-7 (aka the Tourist) won a flip against Pisano's deuces. Tran caught a fortutious Ace on the river and lived to see another day...or at the least a few more hands.

- Galfond was all-in with pocket sixes against pocket Jacks... and Galfond couldn't come from behind. OMGClayAiken hit the road in 141st place.

- Short-stacked Tony Dunst's got it all in with Ac-Kd in a three-way pot -- versus Qs-Qc and As-10h. A King on the flop was all Tony needed and he avoided an elimination.

- French pro Gabriel "Yellow Hat" Nassif sat at the TV table. He was involved in one hand with pocket eights against Danny Chamberlin Qh-7d. The fop was 6s-6c-3c. Chambelin fired at the flop and Nassif called. The turn ws the As. Chamberlin fired out half the pot for 120K. Nassif insta-called. The river was the 2s. With a flush on the board, Chamberlin bet 120K. Nassif reluctantly called ... and it was good.

* * * * *

Head Held High

Russian pro Sergey 'gipsy' Rybachenko joined the TV table and he was involved in two hands with Canadian amateur Gary Kostiuk, who has MS. He's been living in the moment before his MS progresses to a stage where he'd be unable to play poker. Even at the present moment, he had trouble stacking chips from time to time. He won a $330 satellite to get into the Main Event and parlayed that into a decent cash, but more so, he had a once in a lifetime experience.

Kostiuk was short and got it all-in with Big Slick against Gipsy's pocket Queens. Kostiuk turned a King and he doubled up. Kostiuk couldn't hold onto those chips after he lost a crucial pot against Christian Harder. Harder's turned two pair with Ah-5h against Kostiuk's As-Qs. They got it all-in and Harder doubled up.

But then Kostiuk got a second chance at Gipsy's charitable donations. Gipsy opened with Ad-10d and Kostiak shoved his shorty with As-9d.

"Good luck, you're gonna need it," joked Kostiuk.

"I must break you," mumbled Gipsy.

The flop was Ad-9h-7c and Kostiak took the lead as he promised. The turn and river didn't help Gipsy, and Kostiuk doubled through the Russian a second time.

* * * * *

Thanks to Flipchip for the WSOP photos.

Here's previous Tao of Poker recaps of the Main Event on ESPN:
Day 2A - March of the Mizrachis and Dannypalooza
Day 2B - Happy Jacks, Action Dan, the Jenny Crank Diet, and Pancakes with the DonkeyBomber
Day 3 - Scotty Nguyen and the Rudiments of Gruel
Day 4 - Money Money Money
Day 5 - Wie Geht's Detlef Schrempf and OMG Runs Good
For in depth coverage of Day 6, read about the straight dope on Day 6 Semi-Live Blog, and don't forget about the end of day recap of Main Event Day 6 - Never Mind the Scandis, Here Come the Mizrachis.

And don't forget about other episodes of the Tao of Pokerati podcast that Michalski, Benjo, and I recorded live from the floor of the Rio.

For more of your WSOP fix, visit the Tao of Poker's Index of WSOP coverage.

See ya next week.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Nugs: Liv Boeree Signs With PokerStars, I'm Still Here, Glam Rock, ACH Day, and Artsy Girls Smoking Cloves

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm at the tail end of a non-poker writing binge, so I'll return to regular scheduled writing tomorrow. In the meantime, here's some breaking news and cool new music for you to enjoy...
Liv Boeree became the latest addition to Team PokerStars Pro. Yes, she finally signed a deal with Stars. Seemed like the two were negotiating for quite a long time, but nothing like the NY Jets dealing with the Revis holdout. let's hope that Liv doesn't pull her hamstring during her first event as a PokerStars sponsored player at the EPT London. (PokerStars Blog)

This is hipster/beatnik fetish porn... photos of artsy girls smoking clove cigarettes. (The faster Times)

If you're a fan of 1980s Glam Rock, then this recent mix that we posted, Glam Rock Vol. 1: Glitter Geekin', is a must have. (Coventry Music)

If you dig the Disco Biscuits, then listen to this mix Mirror Ball and Glowsticks by Hal Masa, a friend of ours from Japan. (Coventry Music)

I posted a mini-review of I'm Still Here, a documentary/mockumentary from Casey Affleck. (Tao of Pauly)

By the way, Happy Birthday to AlCantHang! Here's a video montage/homage I spliced together for ACH...

Yep, you know the drill. NGTFOOMO.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Nuggets: Matt Savage on TWiP, Art of Fiction, WSOP History, Mad Men Haikus, and Just Conjecturin'

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sunday is the best day to kick back and relax and play online poker. After all, Sunday is grind day in the virtual world. Here are a few items of note for you to enjoy while grinding away the Sunday, or sweating your fantasy football league and NFL bets...
In case you missed it, check out the last episode of This Week in Poker featuring Matt Savage and Bill Parks. (Wicked Chops Poker)

The Art of Fiction is an interview with Benjo's favorite French author, Michel Houellebecq. (The Paris Review)

Investigative poker journalist Haley Hintze has been trying to sift through all of muck and paper trail that is known as the UB/Absolute Poker cheating scandals. She posted a new installment of Just Conjecturin'... Who or What is Riviera, Ltd.? (Haley's Poker Blog)

If you haven't read the conclusion and epilogue of Mr. Funk's epic tale The Ticket, then what are you waiting for? (Las Vegas Cabbie Chronicles)

Shamus shares his thoughts on the gaps in World Series of Poker history. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

I wrote up a bunch of haikus inspired by Mad Men. (Tao of Pauly)
That's it. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. NGTFOOMO!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Nuggets: Hellmuth London GaGa, Pyschic Octopus, Dear Penthouse, and Anti-Penny Rant

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's a bunch of juicy items for you to enjoy while waiting for the weekend to officially begin. I won't waste any more of your precious time with the intro.
The WSOP-Europe is in full swing. The Main Event began and of course, Phil Hellmuth craves attention and pulled off another grandiose entrance. This one included a double decker bus and a shitload of Lady GaGa impersonators. Didn't know Hellmuth was into transvestites. A new wrinkle into the muddle mind of the one we call Hellmuth. Update: Here's Part II of the Hellmuth entrance. (Wicked Chops Poker)

The Pickleman discusses scientific analysis in everyday poker commentary in his latest column titled The Octopus Is Psychic. (Bluff Europe)

Johnny Hughes sent me The Road Gambler - The Hughes Strategy, which he shares a bit of his Texas wisdom with a European audience. (Bluff Europe)

Venerable author David Scwartz tackled the complexity of The Wire Act in one of his recent papers. (Mary Ann Liebert Publishers)

Kid Dynamite pens one of my favorite economic theory and financial blogs. His recent gem is Dear Penthouse? or New York Times? (Friday in Vegas)

Speaking of finance, here's a vlog that features the most amazing rant I have ever seen about the uselessness of a penny. (Freakanomics via NY Times)

Congrats to Da Bidz for winning Week 2 of Sundays with Dr. Pauly. (Fantasy Sports Live)

I penned an econo-recap of a Furthur concert at the Greek Theatre in LA featuring members of the Grateful Dead. (Coventry Music)
Have a groovy weekend. NGTFOOMO!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 5 Main Event - Wie Geht's Detlef Schrempf and OMG Runs Good

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

There's a new sheriff in town according to the sleek intro by 441 Productions, with b-roll of the wilting luster of Las Vegas of yesteryear fading to black as an ominous time relapsed image of the moon disappeared behind the flickering lights of downtown Las Vegas. Talk about an amazing foreshadowing montage, which hinted at the theme to Day 5 episodes of the WSOP Main Event.

The set up was simple: the old guard (brick and mortar dinosaurs) vs. the new guard (online pros). We've been witnessing similar skirmishes across the globe. The internet revolution is upon us and decaying paradigms such as newspapers and poker are in the middle of a major shift as the ones seizing power are the ones who are control the internet. The virtual world has been a battleground for the hearts of minds of consumers, but it's also been a training ground for the current titans of the universe in poker. A handful of old school pros adapted to the playing style of online players, and unless everyone else tweaks their game, they will be the only ones to survive this potentially cataclysmic revolution. Adapt or be overcome. The Phil Iveys and Tom Dwans of the world are hybrid masters -- handling the best of the best in real life and online.

Day 5 began with 574 remaining out of 7,319 runners, and Tony Dunst as the chipleader with 1,546,000. For an overall list of players who cashed, click over to the 2010 WSOP Main Event money winners.

* * * * *

OMG He Runs Good

Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond held court on featured table with Jimmy Tran, and Kevin Boudreau (wearing an over-sized Peter Jetten button). Galfond, the former philosophy major at Wisconsin, was heavily featured in the first half of coverage. I was once told by a family member that "only burners study philosophy" in college. Galfond dropped out of college when he realized that playing cash games for a living paid much better than jobs that require PhDs in philosophy.

The PLO cash game guru was among the leaders at the start of the day, and doesn't play too many tournaments. Yet, Galfond played a healthy number of events the last two summers.

"The WSOP is a mandatory business trip," was some of Galfond's personal philosophy that got shared with everyone.

I know the feeling. The WSOP is a seven week bazaar of poker and some of the biggest money deals are going on in the hallways of the Rio and not exactly inside the Amazon Ballroom. Galfond has a training school, and where better to meet potential students than the WSOP. At the same time, the WSOP brings together the best poker minds in the world. If you're able to sit down and pick some of these brains, you can leave with a wealth of knowledge.

During his couch interview, the action-starved Galfond couldn't pry himself away from an online cash game. Galfond mentioned that he sometimes plays 70 hours of poker a week. Heck anything over 35 in considered full-time employment, so he's definitely putting in double time. Plus, playing at those nosebleed stakes means that he's engrossed in constant high-pressure situations on average of ten hours per day. That mental fatigue has got to wear on you after a while.

Galfond was permitted to set up his laptop in the interview room. What a better way to promote online poker! Pure genius. Galfond played while the producers fired away questions. He was in the middle of a juicy session of PLO and dropped 20K during his couch interview. I think he was playing on PokerStars, at least that's what it sounded like. Galfond nonchalantly mentioned that his biggest lost was 900K in a day, and on his best day he netted 1.6 million. I'm sure the IRS suits had a hard-on with those minuscule numbers.

"Disassociate" was a word that Galfond used to explain what it takes to play for such large stakes without sweating. And this is coming from a guy who has dropped almost $2 million to Ivey online.

It helps when you're talented and running good. For the majority of the first episode, you didn't see Galfond lose a single pot and rushed toward 2 million in chips, almost more than his entire TV table. How good was Galfond running? When one opponent held Aces, Galfond easily flopped trips which gave him the pot.

Galfond finally lost a hand when he knew he was gambling with pocket fives against anothe rpair of pocket Aces. He couldn't suck out and he doubled up a Eurodonk. He lost the overall chip lead to Matt Affleck after that hand, but even Galfond admitted that having 1% of the chips in play meant nothing on Day 5. Survival was the real key.

* * * * *

Candio and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

Seemed like Galfond had the most trouble with the unpredictable Felippo Candio. The lovable Italian got his very own couch interview where he spoke in broken English and used a plethora of stereotypical hand gestures. Candio agreed that he "loses his mind" when he wins a big pot, and even he described himself as an "emotional professional poker player." He was definitely one of the loudest non-barkers in the Amazon Ballroom during the Main Event.

Cadinio also describes poker as "the dream", which isn't far from the truth. Most of the time, I wander around the Rio in a dreamlike state. It's the combination of the paranoia from the constant surveillance, pumped in oxygen, sleep deprivation, and a combination of marijuana and whatever pharmie cycle I'm on (uppers and downers). The Amazon Ballroom feels like a dream most of the time, and watching episodes of the WSOP triggers insane flashbacks, both good and bad. If you're a player, staff member, dealer or a media rep, then you know exactly what I'm talking about while watching these episodes -- so many trigger points that it's tough to pay attention to every episode.

Candio has been running good all tournament, so much so that we referred to him as Candonko on numerous occasions. He definitely made many unorthodox plays as he navigated through the field. He added even more chips to his pot during an Eurodonk-on-Eurodonk crime spree when Candio knocked out Finn MacNamara. Yeah, you know Kings are gonna be no good when you're all-in preflop against Candio's A-rag. An ace on the flop gave Candio the hand and MacNamara was running off to the closest bar to drown his sorrows.

* * * * *

From Prince to Brokedick

Scotty Nguyen

Scotty Nguyen was one of two former Main Event champions still alive at the start of Day 5. Only one, Johnny "Fucking" Chan, would continue to fight on Day 6.

Scotty lost a big hand early on to a young Asian kid who apologized. Why? Out of respect. When you wear that much bling and piss him off, you best say you're "sorry" or suffer the consequences.

Scotty was moved to the secondary table where his time was short-lived. Scotty had some fireworks right away when turned a set against two pair and induced his opponent "Fast Eddie" to re-shove on the turn. He won the pot to double up. Scotty became Fast Eddie's nemesis on another hand when Scotty flopped a set, but Fast Eddie turned a straight, yet Scotty boated up. Fast Eddie got away from the hand when he knew Scotty was ahead. He was right and made the correct fold. Scotty showed the nuts.

Cagey young gun James Carroll trapped Scotty Nguyen. Carroll flopped a set of tens against Scotty's Jacks. Carroll turned a boat and induced Scotty to shove. Carroll doubled up as Scotty lost half his stack, which marked the beginning of the end for Scotty.

On the final hand, Scotty got it all in with As-Js against a Scnadi's Kings. Benjo would call the random unknown Scandi... Jan Randomsen. So, Jan Randomsen's Kings survived the flop, but Scotty picked up a Broadway draw on the turn. Alas, Scotty couldn't get there on the river and Jan Randomsen won the pot.

Scotty went out in 209th place and Johnny "Fucking" Chan was the biggest named pro and last champ standing.

* * * * *

The Mizrachis - From a Trio to a Duo

The Mizrachis began the tournament with four brothers. Each of them advanced to the money. Eric busted out and three brothers began Day 5, but only two of them would make it to the end of the day.

Robert helped his cause when he doubled up with Kings against Jason Mercier's pocket fives. Robert later found himself pitted against Alex Jacob, who is a Bob Dylan impersonator during his time away from the felt. Jacob's pocket nines could not beat Robert's Q-J with a Queen on the flop. Jacob was out and back to singing Tom Thumb Blues, while Robert breezed to the end of the day.

The Grinder, wearing a backwards Deliverance Poker hat, found himself all-in on a flop with Kings against a flush draw and overcard. He faded the draw and avoided an elimination. He doubled up in another key flip that he'd win en route to his march to the November Nine.

As you guessed it, Donny the Magician was about to meet his fate on Day 5. He lost a shitload of chips against a Ginger. He eventually got knocked out when he went up against a Scandi. Yep, the Scandi sucked out and sent the second of four remaining Mizrachi brothers to the rail.

* * * * *

The Randomness of Day 5: Vanessa Pressure, Tony Cuff Links, and Meet More November Niners

Tony Dunst

Here are some random notes that I jotted down...

- Tony "Bond18" Dunst began Day 5 as the overall leader, until Galfond took the first pot of the episode and seized the lead. Bond got some face time and Norm commented that he was wearing one of his thirty suits. Dunst looked a bit like a secret service agent from a far, but when you get close up you realize that Dunst has a lot more style than a civil servant. Look closely at Dunst and you'll see that he's wearing cuff links. Anyone can wear a suit, but cuff links is classy.

- Vanessa Selbst sat on the secondary table along with Roothlus. Selbst didn't spend too much time because she lost most of her stack when she her Kings cracked by a Eurodonk's set of tens. She sensed that Kings were probably beat when she called an all-in on the ten-high flop, and even considered check-calling the flop but admitted that it would be tough for her to get away from her Kings, and as is, the Eurodonk doubled up. She eventually busted out with Ah-2h. She was hoping to steal the pot pre-flop after she shoved, but got called by an Aussie's Kh-Jh. Even though she was ahead, she had a bad feeling about the outcome... and was right. The Aussie flopped a Jack and that's all she wrote. Lots of pressure was thrust upon the shoulders of Selbst this year after winning NAPT Mohegan Sun. It's almost kiss of death to win a big event before the WSOP because lots of expectations all of a sudden get added to the daily pressure of playing at the WSOP.

- Sammy Farha's 2010 bracelet victory got mentioned. He was heads up with Flushy in a five-hour long match for the ages. Farha prevailed and picked up the bling. His run in the Main Event was over after he got crippled by an internet kid. He didn't seem to upset because he was in the middle of a massage. The ultra-cool and relaxed Farha went out shortly after.

- James Carroll got previous face time, but this episode the kid got a couch interview. In an earlier episode, Negreanu gave Carroll a compliment when he sat down and mentioned that he told to avoid Carroll. Hellmuth did not have similar nice things to say. In fact, Carroll shrugged it off and laughed at Hellmuth's negative tone. Hellmuth called him the worst player ever, which Carroll took as a sincere compliment. When brats and trolls go out of their way to trash you and say how bad you are, then that means you're doing something right.

- November Niner Soi Nguyen was introduced to the audience when he won a pot with a full house and jumped into 4th in chips. He also had a FT commercial hyping up the fact he's a dad humping an 8-5 job. Nice marketing ploy.

- Gary Kostiuk, a player from Canada who has MS, said the Main Event was one of those things to do before he died. You gotta figure there's a couple hundred of those buy-ins every year. I just think 2010 had more than usual.

- Bobby Bellande got it all in with Kings against Queens. You almost thought he was going to get outflopped, but for once Bellande's bad luck took a hand off as his Kings held up.

- PokerStars TeamPro Jason Mercier ran into a Francodonk's Aces and hit the road.

- Those lucky hands... Jonathan Duhamel's Ac-5c outflopped A-10. The French-Canadian pro doubled up and more importantly, he avoided an elimination. That's how you advance to the final table -- sometimes you gotta get in bad and get lucky.

- Note for Norm... less Rambling Wreck jokes, more Lady GaGa jokes.

- Theo Joregsen busted two players, did a weird dance, and then took the chip lead toward the end of Day 5 episodes.

* * * * *

Wie Geht's Detlef Schrempf?

I referred to Michael Skender in my notes as "Detlef Schrempf" as an homage to the former German NBA star who played ball for the Dallas Mavericks. Gotta love Detlef Schrempf's haircut -- something you could set a watch to. Detlef Schrempf's work ethic was amazing, which was well documented during his storied NBA career.

Michael "Detlef Schrempf" Skender is not good enough to play in the NBA, but he's a professional on the German pro circuit who made a name for himself at this year's WSOP. Detlef Schrempf got involved in one hand with Christian Harder. Detlef Schrempf called Harder "a crazy guy" after folding to his all-in shove with Big Slick. This was after a different hand against another player, when the German screamed "Don't fuck with me!"

Detlef Schrempf's antics and height earned him couch interview. His 15-minutes of fame are ticking. Wonder if that's enough for Dickhead Dolan to add him to the Knicks' squad? Anyway, during his couch interview, the faux-Detlef Schrempf, mentioned that televised poker was the gateway to his new-found addiction. Yep, he caught episodes of poker on German TV. I imagine poker is broadcast late nights, and up against public access channels and talk shows hosted by chain-smoking communists in turtlenecks discussing Nietzsche and existentialism while playing Velvet Underground records in the background. The rest of the TV is dominated by documentaries about Wagner, Heidegger, and David Hasselhoff, and seventeen stations that show nothing but healthy and fit Germans doing calisthenics along with the TV out of some bizarre scene from Orwell's 1984.

I apologize for the obvious tangent on my impressions of German TV. I'm told by a good friend it's just like American television -- lots of crap but with dubbed episodes of The Simpsons. Moving back on topic...

Skender aka Detlef Schrempf revealed that televised poker hooked him into the game. He and his teammates quickly caught the bug and played extensively on road trips. The German pros travel by bus. In Europe, travel is usually dominated by trains. Planes are a second option for the baller football teams who fly private jets to their games in the premier leagues. Hoops is not even the fourth favorite sport among Germans and ranks somewhere in between curling and the uber-gay two-man luge. That's why pro hoopsters in Germany have to ride the bus -- just like AA minor league baseball teams in the States. Detlef Schrempf cut his teeth during those arduous bus journeys from Düsseldorf to Bremerhaven. He went from the back of the bus to the bright lights of the WSOP. He ended Day 5 second in chips overall. Welcome to the big time.

* * * * *

Thanks to Flipchip for the WSOP photos.

Here's previous Tao of Poker recaps of the Main Event on ESPN:
Day 2A - March of the Mizrachis and Dannypalooza
Day 2B - Happy Jacks, Action Dan, the Jenny Crank Diet, and Pancakes with the DonkeyBomber
Day 3 - Scotty Nguyen and the Rudiments of Gruel
Day 4 - Money Money Money
For in depth coverage of Day 5, read about the straight dope on Day 5 Semi-Live Blog, and don't forget about the end of day recap Day 5 - Fookin' Bonkers, Scandi Ambush, and Disco Inferno

Benjo and I recorded one of my favorite Tao of Pokerati episodes on Day 5...
Tao of Pokerati - Episode 68: Fun with Names: Fokkin Bonkers with Benjo - After realizing that Dutch pro Fokke Beukers has the best name left in the Main Event, Benjo and Pauly search the remaining players list and attempt to pronounce the truly obscure and difficult names.
And don't forget about other episodes of the Tao of Pokerati podcast that Michalski, Benjo, and I recorded live from the floor of the Rio.

For more of your WSOP fix, visit the Tao of Poker's Index of WSOP coverage.

See ya next week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 Phamily Poker Classic - Halloween Charity Tournament

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Poker with hippies? Yes, it's true.

I will be playing the 2010 Phamily Poker Classic -- a charity poker hosted at the Tropicana in Atlantic City slated for October 30th at noon. All proceeds will benefit the Mockingbird Foundation, a non-profit organization set up by fans of the band Phish. Previous donations raised by Mockingbird Foundation created music education grants for kids in 43 states. Yes, you'll be helping out a worthy cause.

Here's some back story -- Phish is playing three concerts in Atlantic City at the end of October including a highly anticipated Halloween show. The Phish scene is not just for party people, but there are also lots of fans with big hearts. Because we were all going to be hanging out in Atlantic City for three days, a charity poker tournament seemed to be the right thing to do to help raise money for children music education.

Entry fee is $120 and there will be random bounties.

Tournament begins at noon on October 30th at the Tropicana. This is a two-day event. Because we all have to go to the concert, the tournament will be stopped at 6pm or when the final table is set -- whichever comes first. The final table (or remaining tables) will return on Halloween to play down to the champion.

If you want to reserve your seat, click here to buy in now. The charity tournament is capped at 100 players.

Click here for more information on the 2010 Phamily Poker Classic.

Click here for tournament rules.

If you have any questions, please let me know. If you can't play in the tournament but would like to support to the Mockingbird Foundation (and more importantly music education for kids), then click here to donate.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Reykjavik Gambit

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I visited Iceland in 2001. It really wasn't my idea. I had a horrible run betting on the college bowl games and got wiped out. This was in a time way before I even heard of online poker or became a regular in underground card room scattered around New York City.

The depletion of my entire gambling roll was a minor problem compared to the rest of malaise on my plate. Broke financially, heart-broken romantically (still struggling to deal with the dissolution of a relationship 16 months earlier), and unable to write a single word (I don't believe in writer's block, but at the time, I had given up all hope after five years of nonstop rejection letters).

"Let's go to Iceland," Senor said on the phone. "It'll be awesome."

Senor, my best buddy and partner in crime for so many hijinks in my 20s, was a true patron of the arts. He had a job, a well-paying one in the financial sector, and I was his perpetually broke hippie-beatnik freak of a friend. He funded most, if not all, of our adventures. I always felt guilty and self-conscious about being the recipient of his charity, but he always convinced me that he wouldn't have as much fun if he went on many of these excursions by himself.

"Besides, I got a great deal -- two for one flights on Icelandic Air."

Senor's roommate subscribed to GQ magazine. He thumbed through the rag during an early morning dump and came across an article written by an American who had just returned from Iceland bragging about the easiness of Icelandic women. "Sexual predators," was how they were described. Plus, as the lore goes, Icelandic women were among the most beautiful in the world -- the product of impeccable genes due because the Vikings pillaged the hottest of the hotties during their numerous raids centuries earlier. As a result, all of those kidnapped women ended up in Iceland, a tiny island somewhere in between North America and the European mainland.

At the turn of the century, the best way to describe Senor is to conjure up images of Vince Vaughn's character in Swingers.

"Think about all those beautiful babies!"

The Swingers analogy fit. I was the moody brooding lovelorn John Faverau character, and Senor/Vaughn took it upon himself to snap me out of the funk. And that's how I ended up in Iceland.

"All we have to do is show up and we'll get laid."

Easier said than done. I knew it was bullshit, nothing more than a travel shill article concocted by the Iceland bureau of tourism. Nonetheless, I had nothing else going on, so I accepted the invitation to visit Iceland... in the middle of January. I packed light and brought along 60 pages of the novel that I began five years earlier, yet never finished.

My goal was to write my own Iceland travel piece and try to sell it to a magazine. I imagined something similar to David Foster Wallace's essay on cruise ships, but without the boat and endless snarky footnotes. When I returned from Iceland, I sat down and wrote something that ended up rejected by more places than I could count. Most of the mags that I submitted never bothered to send me a rejection letter. Par for the course. I was used to the rejection, so that didn't bother me at all. Besides, the piece wasn't really that good. A few years later, I would pull out excerpts and self-publish it on Truckin', but the rest of that trips has been buried deep into my memory banks. In the short story, I wrote about buying a chocolate donut from the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A decade later (and even though I lived in the shadows of the hills of Hollywood the last few years), I still say that the hottest woman I have ever seen worked at a bakery in Reykjavik.

It's dark in the Icelandic winter, something like 20+ hours of the day. But during that twilight, I sat in a cafe in Reykjavik and edited parts of a manuscript. I quickly realized that it was shit. As I stood on Iceland's volcanic-rich soil, I made the tragic decision to kill the novel. To this day, it remains shelved. Maybe a decade from now I will revisit that manuscript and write up a better version of what it was like being a museum security guard. But at the time, I was hopeless and not much of a fighter. I got knocked square in the jaw, fell to the canvas, and decided to stay down. Indeed, parts of the Iceland trip were painful.

Upon my return to the States, I all but stopped writing, but found a different creative outlet -- painting. I dunno what happened in Iceland, but upon my return, that's all I could think about -- painting. I had no formal training, but I had seen enough art to know what I thought was good, and what I thought was pretentious bullshit. If anything, the trip triggered something inside of me and I embarked on a brief binge that spawned numerous paintings.

I painted all summer and spring, spending my days in museums and galleries studying other artists. I had lengthy conversations with artists about post-modern art, and spent endless hours at the Strand bookstore thumbing through massive art books. That's when I had one of those "a-ha!" moments. I knew that painting was a temporary form of expression, something to keep me from jumping into the abyss before I eventually found enough inner strength and courage to write again. But I took note of my crash course in art education and needed to apply that philosophy to writing, specifically -- I needed to study my contemporaries and review classic writers much like I had been doing with painters. I'm a voracious reader, even back then because I didn't even have cable (couldn't afford it), but I was devouring books on Eastern religion and philosophy, and not much in the fiction genre. I knew that had to change, so even though I wasn't writing, I added a dose contemporary fiction to my regular reading diet.

The hiatus lasted from late 2000 through mid-2002 (when I started Tao of Pauly), and it marked the last time that I did not write what I consider "everyday."

I look back on the hiatus as an important stage in my writing career. As ugly as it seemed, it was necessary because I would have never gotten to this point today without that period of malaise. I often scrutinize the series of decisions that I made as a result of the Iceland trip, and if I didn't go to Iceland, I would have gotten discouraged from writing without finding inspiration to paint, which eventually led me back to writing -- but from a different and refreshed perspective.

Today, I'm not having issues with writing. If anything, I have too much to say and not enough time to say it. My issues are with poker because I'm in the middle of the longest hiatus since the poker boom. I haven't played a lick of online poker since Memorial Day, save for a couple of Double or Nothing SNGs a month ago for an investigative column, because those tournaments were rumored to be dominated by collusion rings from Communist countries (former or current), and I wanted to see for myself if any shenanigans existed.

I'm drawing comparisons with the current poker hiatus to the writing hiatus of 2000-02, because even though I'm not playing poker, I'm playing other games that (according to my half-baked theory) will eventually allow me to have a refreshed approach to the game upon my return.

So what have I been doing? Playing a lot of backgammon and chess. Change100 bartered for an iPad at the end of the WSOP (delish trade too -- a bit of cash, a bag of MMJ, and a fistful of Xannax). While she's spent most all of her free time trying to beat Angry Birds, I used her iPad to play four simultaneous matches of Scrabble against Aunt Maudie, Gracie, Cherie, and Change100's sister Mandy. The rest of the time, I used her iPad to play traditional board games against the computer in an attempt to re-develop strategic thinking. My backgammon game is average but I rapidly improved over a couple of weeks. My brother Derek and I used to play backgammon and Othello when we were kids. I know that my mom tossed the Othello board, but I wonder if the old backgammon set is sitting in the bottom of a closest somewhere?

Playing backgammon the last few weeks has been a pleasure, because I'm learning more and getting better every time that I play. It's fun and has a little bit of action to it. However, my chess ability has plateaued and it's been an annoying fucking grind. I got stuck on one specific level and couldn't beat the fucking AI on the iPad to save my life. I even tossed a few obscure opening sequences at the AI/iPad in hopes to confuse the machine, but to no avail. It's embarrassing to lose in less than a dozen moves, but it happened too many times to count. I'm stubborn and I will not give up. I must beat the machine. Otherwise, SkyNet will eventually take over the world.

In college, Derek and some of his fraternity brothers were involved in hyper-competitive chess matches, which seems like some sort of a paradox that a bunch of frat boys pounded beers in red Solo cups, blasted Sublime, ripped bingers on a 3-foot long bong, and played intense matches on a Simpsons chess board made out of Simpsons characters. My brother got me back into chess in the late 90s, but after that short spurt, I stopped playing. That's why it took my iPad chess game a lot longer to come around.

Some of the best Scandi poker players in the world have a background in competitive backgammon. The Russians and Eastern European poker pros are all former chess players. Hmmm... is there something to that? I wanted to find out. But a couple of months dicking around with a few iPad aps is not going to automatically turn me into a world class poker player. However, I definitely see the positive attributes about approaching poker in different terms -- thinking about the game as a chess player or how a backgammon player would. Dare I say, perhaps this will help me make better decisions against Scandis and Ruskies at the tables.

As long as I'm playing one of those two games while I'm sitting out at the virtual poker tables, I'm doing something to keep my mind fresh. Never stop educating the mind.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Nuggets: Liberace Museum Closing, Phil Laak Wins WSOPE Bracelet, Shaun Deeb Ships WCOOP Bracelet, Greek Bonds, and Hiding Your Stash in Paris

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's Friiiiiiiiday, so procrastinate as much as you can before the weekend begins. You can waste time today by masticating on these savory links that are a mixture of poker and non-poker stuff.
Shaun Deeb semi-retired from the MTT grind, but has returned with vengeance. He shipped a tournament on Full Tilt last week and on Wednesday night, he took down a WCOOP bracelet. Read Change100's recap of that final table... What Retirement? (Poker Stars Blog)

Across the pond, the WSOP-Europe kicked off at the Empire Casino. While everyone wondered if Phil Ivey or Durrrr win bracelet prop bets, the actual poker playing flew under the radar. The Unabomber seized the day and won his first bracelet. (Wicked Chops Poker)

The Liberace Museum is closing. Wait, what? Yes, You have one month to visit one of the few traces of old Las Vegas. And man, where the hell am I gonna score diet pills that we crush up and snort in the press box on long nights at the WSOP? (LasVegasVegas)

Congrats to PrimeTime420 for winning Week 1 of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. If you're a fantasy football junkie and would like to participate, then click here for more details. (Fantasy Sports Live Blog)

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite writers. His book, Liar's Poker, was recommended reading when I took my first job on Wall Street as a bond trader. He recently penned Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds, an article discussing the Greeks defaulting on a shit-ton of debt. (Vanity Fair)

I heard rumors that it was big, but woooow.... Guess Where Paris Hilton Smuggles Drugs? Paris is a modern day Han Solo, except instead of smuggling contraband into the floor panels of the Millennium Falcon, she's hiding it... well... you know.... in that gaping shaved hole of hers below the equator. (The Superficial)

Everyone likes to make fun of hipsters. Here's a bit of British humour poking fun at East London hipsters... Being a Dickhead's Cool. (Coventry Music)
Before I hit the road, I'd like to take the time for a little shameless self-pimping. My poker writing represents an iota of my weekly output. To better phrase that -- poker writing and freelance work fund my overall passion for writing, whether it's Lost Vegas or future book projects. I write diligently about a variety of topics at three other corners of the web including music related content at Coventry, or a group literary mag at Truckin', and daily musings (about everything that's not poker) at Tao of Pauly. If you like what you see here, I encourage you to support the other sites by giving them a read. You won't be disappointed. And if you don't like those blogs, then I promise to give you a money back guarantee.

Have a groovy weekend. NGTFOOMO.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Case You Missed It... This Week in Poker

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's my appearance on This Week in Poker that we recorded live on Tuesday afternoon in the This Week In studios in Santa Monica. Other guests included Lacey Jones (video call from London in bed and in a bathrobe) and Jess Welman (aka the Tina Fey of poker).

During my segment, we discussed Lost Vegas, but touched on the Phish book that I'm also writing and I snuck in a little rant about the media being nothing more than propaganda.

Thanks for the gang at Wicked Chops Poker for having me on This Week in Poker.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 4 Main Event on ESPN - Money Money Money

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Action in the Main Event resumed with two episodes focusing on Day 4, which included the ultra-exciting money bubble that the gang at 441 Productions covered magnificently. It's hard to replicate the energy and magic of the bubble bursting inside the Amazon Ballroom. 441 did a awesome job and captured the last four eliminations before the bubble (in 15 minutes of TV time), which gave everyone at home a taste of the prolonged nature (and the hurry up and wait aspect) of hand-for-hand play.

* * * * *

Johnny "Fucking"Chan

Johnny "Fucking' Chan held court on the featured TV table with Brett "Get Crunk" Richey nearby. Old Buddha himself dispatched a couple of pearls of wisdom including, "Never underestimate your opponents." And how about this gem: "Try to win it one pot at a time."

Yep, that's the Tao of Johnny Fucking Chan for you. Not to be outdone, Action Dan Harrington attempted to dispatch his sagely advice, "Get in bad a couple of times and draw out." Yep, gotta love that mantra. I couldn't think of a better way to live your life -- constantly getting it in bad and sucking out. Screenwriters call that a deus ex machina, which drives Robert McKee absolutely crazy.

Sorry for this abrupt tangent, but this is one of my favorite scenes from Adaptation...

Vegas legend Bob Stupak originally gave Chan his moniker "the Orient Express" when he witnessed Chan nun right over a final table. Mike McD popularized the term Johnny "Fucking" Chan and to this day I dunno if I can say it without the gratuitous f-bomb. Chan admitted that people call him "Jackie Chan" instead of Johnny Chan, but I wonder if they call him Jackie "Fucking" Chan?

On the first hand of the event, Chan has his Kings savagely cracked when his opponent flopped a set of Jacks. Chan pissed away 1/3 of his stack, but got some chips back when he rivered a Wheel against a different opponent. Chan value bet the river and induced a call from a internet player, a move he's been doing before the kid was even born.

During Chan's couch interview, the producers dug deep into the archives and showed a few seconds of footage from his 10th bracelet victory in 2005. If you freeze-frame the episode you can find me the background for a millisecond with Mike Paulle. Ah, 2005... that was first ever WSOP. I was so young and innocent at the time -- which happens to be the last time Chan won a tournament.

Chan's remarkable feat of back-to-back Main Event championships will "never be broken" according to the man who set the record. I agree. It's sort of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or like Wilt Chamberlin's 100-point mark. Players might get close (like Kobe Bryant), but too much pressure is involved which makes the feat seem even more improbable.

Chan had no qualms about fucking around with former Aussie boxer Jeff Fenech. Chan bullied the boxer around like he was a nerd in the lunchroom. Fenech was way ahead in a hand, but slowed down on the turn. When Fenech checked, Chan smelled weakness. That was enough wiggle room for Chan to seize an opportunity so he shoved all-in with just an OESD. Wow, Johnny "Fucking" Chan made a move on a punch-drunk boxer....and it worked.

Chan's Spidey-senses were in flux on Day 4. He easily sniffed out value-bet-river-bluff from a Costa Rican player.

Chan seemed like he was cruising until he was unable to deliver a knock out blow when Fenech was on the ropes and all in for his tournament life with Q-Q. Chan couldn't connect with Big Slick and Fenech doubled up with pocket Queens.

* * * * *

The Mizrachi Four

Here's my notes on the Mizrachi clan...

- The Grinder and the Big Randy (of Pokerati fame) were involved in a hand. The Big Randy was pushing him around and the Grinder decided to fold, but not before he showed and Ad.

- Donny the Magician is the only non-pro among the brothers.

- Robert runs good? He snapped off Aces with a set with pocket Jacks.

- The Grinder avoided an elimination when he doubled up with A-J versus K-Q sooted. It seemed like a meaningless hand at the time, but it's those little things that add up to a November Nine appearance.

- During the brothers group couch interview, they cited their parents as major influences on their proclivities to gambling. "It's in our blood," explained Eric. Both parents were more than casual gamblers, which is why they were cool with their sons' entrance into the gambling world... where it's a hard work to make an easy living. On a good note, the Grinder admitted that his momma loved him the best. Yep, I pegged him for the Momma's boy in the ground.

- The Grinder was on his CrackBerry a lot during this episode, obvious checking up on his brothers via Twitter.

The Grinder cracks out on his CrackBerry

* * * * *

The Gavin Smith and the Great White North Show

- The Grinder and Chris Bjorn were moved to Gavin Smith's secondary table. "Donny is my favorite Mizrachi," joked Gavin Smith, but the Grinder blew him off and didn't even dignify that joke. In fact, I kind a got the impression that the Grinder didn't like the amicable Gavin Smith.

- Amateur opened with A-K. Gavin Smith shoved with Jacks. Amateur called and Gavin was flipping for his entire future, but he had nothing to sweat because Jacks held up. He avoided an elimination and doubled up his stack as action approached the money.

- Gavin later flopped two pair with 5-4 to snap off pocket Queens because his opponent tried to slow play his pocket bitches. Gavin's opponent folded so he didn't get paid off, but that hand almost guaranteed that he'd cash.

* * * * *

Odds and Ends... Mostly Ends

- Barry Greesntein busted out and Jason Somerville got an autographed copy of his book. "Like most fans, Jason plans to sell the book on ebay," joked Norm, one of his better zingers of the night.

- One of the few celebs still in the Main Event on Day 4 was Hank Azaria until he got it all in for his tournament life with Q-Q vs A-K, then promptly got rivered with the Ah spiked on the river. Another drowning EuroDonk saved on the river. Norm was incensed and screamed: "The kid just killed Chief Wiggum!"

- Current WSOP POY leader, Frank Kasella, got some face time and finally sat down for his couch interview where he discussed the impact of two bracelet victories in 2010. He admitted that he understood what it really meant to run good and he kept pushing that edge as much as possible. He got moved to the secondary table with the Grinder and Gavin Smith, to make things a bit interesting with Grinder who has an outside chance at tying Kasella for the POY title. If the Grinder wins the Main Event, then Casella has to share the top spot. Kasella wins POY outright as soon as Grinder busts out of the November Nine.

- Italian Felippo Candio picked up an unlit ciggie from the rail and did his best Sammy Farha imitation for Sammy who was at his table. Candio was not mocking him, rather, the young Italian struggle to tell him that he's his favorite player. "For me, great respect," said Candio in broken English. Farha is the definition of cool.

- 2009 ME Bubble Boy, Kia Hamadani, got a couch interview. Hey, how many Bubble Boys do you know get a chance at redemption during his 15 minutes of fame?

- Ted DouchBort barked in the intro and Norm threaten to call Clark County animal control. If you make enough complaints, animal control will eventually show up. I'm watching Animal Hoarders all the time now and discovered that all you have to do is drop a dime on the hoarders, and your local animal control (a.k.a. the animal Gestapo) will come to the hoarder's home and extract the neglected pets. Sadly, they have to put down the ultra-sick animals. Anyway, someone should have put that Doubebort and his bark to bed on Day 2. I guess karma caught up to him, because Ted Bort finally busted out before the money bubble without any more barking, thank God.

* * * * *

The Bubble Hath Burst

Insanity on the bubble

The second episode of the night (#12 overall) featured the actual money bubble. The top 747 players make the money in the 2010 Main Event. The episode began drenched in drama and just four places away from the money.

During that time...

- Kido Pham went out before bubble, with photographer extraordinaire Joe Giron in background snapping action shots of the player who won the pot.

- Grubby lookalike Anthony Rivera survived an all-in and doubled up.

- Tim McDonald's Queens were toast after his opponent flopped a full house and he went out as the Bubble Boy. By the way, the Bubble Boy usually gets a buy-in to next event, the bubbling the bubble is the worst because you don't get jack shit and zero recognition.

Listen to the Tao of Pokerati episode that we recorded during all that mayhem....
Tao of Pokerati - 2010 WSOP

Episode 66: Bubblicious - Pauly and Dan were hanging out in upper level of the Jack Links' beef jerky lounge keep tabs on the entire Amazon Ballroom from the high ground when the bubble burst. They captured the announcement of Tim McDonald's 748th place elimination thereby becoming this year's Bubble Boy. They also recorded the jubilant celebration from the players who made the money in the 2010 Main Event.
* * * * *

Post Bubble Coitus

Here are some notes from action after the bubble...

- Gavin Smith's table (that included the Grinder and Frank Kasella) got moved to featured TV table. Smith got knocked out by Max Casal right after the money bubble burst.

- Eric Buchman was the last 2009 November Nine still alive and admitted that he hasn't watched the November Nine episodes... for obvious reasons.

- Eric Mizrachi hits the rail and became the first Mizrachi brother to bust out. On a good note, the brothers made history as the most number of siblings to cash in the same Main Event. Eric went into professional railbird mode and bounced back and forth around the Amazon Ballroom as he sweated his other three brothers. Donny, with Eric right behind him, tripled up in a hand against David Benyamine, who whiffed on a flush on the river. Or dare I say... le whiffe?

- November Niner Jonathan Duhamel was introduced to the audience in a hand with Phil Galfond.

- Johnny "Fucking" Chan won a fucking pot with a fucking flush against fucking amateur's two fucking pair. A fucking value bet on the fucking river was fucking good enough to fucking push the fucker over 1 fucking million in chips.

* * * * *

Frank Exits Stage Left

Frank Kassela got it all in with K-K in a three-way pot. He battling against pocket Queens and a Eurodonk named Jan Boye who shoved with A-Q.

"I got an Ace," said the Grinder.

"I didn't want to hear that," commented the superstitious Kasella.

The case Queen, the Queen of spades hit the flop which gave Kasella's opponent a set.

"Are you kidding me?" said Kasella. "A one outer?"

But that wasn't as ugly as what happened. Two spades were on the flop and a thrd hit the turn, which gave the Eurodonk a flush draw. Yep, he promptly four-flushed pocket Kings and pocket Queens with A-Q after a spade spiked on the river, which sealed Kasella's fate. The WSOP POY (leader) was nevermore.

"That's alright, you gotta gamble," said Kasella.

Norm did not have nice things to say about the Eurodonk: "(Jan Boye) is Darvin Moon with an accent."

Here's a footnote... The Grinder was waiting for the Eurodonk to ship chips to his end of the table. The Grinder got it all in with 10-10 against pocket sevens. Despite the pleas of a seven from the Eurodonk, the Grinder avoided an elimination and doubled through Jan Roye. Eric Mizrachi was in the crowd at the TV table to witness another one of his brothers stay alive. At that point in the tournament, Eric was the good luck charm for the entire Mizrachi clan.

* * * * *

Thanks to Flipchip for the WSOP photos, oh and Benjo too.

Here's previous Tao of Poker recaps of the Main Event on ESPN:
Day 2A - March of the Mizrachis and Dannypalooza
Day 2B - Happy Jacks, Action Dan, the Jenny Crank Diet, and Pancakes with the DonkeyBomber
Day 3 - Scotty Nguyen and the Rudiments of Gruel
For in depth coverage of Day 4, read the Main Event Day 4 Semi-Live Blog and the end of day recap titled Main Event Day 4: I Want To Take You Higher.

And don't forget about episodes of the Tao of Pokerati podcast that Michalski, Benjo, and I recorded live from the floor of the Rio.

For more of your WSOP fix, visit the Tao of Poker's Index of WSOP coverage.

See ya next week.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Week in Poker - Today at 7pm ET/4pm PT

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm heading over to the Mahalo studios as we speak to record an in-studio and live appearance on This Week in Poker. I'm going to chat about Lost Vegas. Other guests this week include Jess Welman, Lacey Jones, and Andy Bloch.

You can view the episode at 7pm ET or 4pm PT at...

Feel free to submit questions to this interactive broadcast during the UStream broadcast. Send replies to @twi_poker on Twitter and make sure to use the #twipkr.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Week in Poker - Pimpage and Pluggage

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Los hombres at Wicked Chops Poker host This Week in Poker, a weekly webcast about all things poker. This Week in Poker is part of This Week In web TV network.

It airs every Tuesday at 7pm ET or 4pm PT. You can watch the episodes live at

I will be a guest on this week's episode talking about Lost Vegas. Other guests this week include Lacey Jones, Andy Bloch, and Jess Welman (aka the Tina Fey of poker).

Tune in live tomorrow. You can even ask questions during the webcast on the site or via Twitter. Send your questions via @replies to @twi_poker.

Anyway... I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the inaugural episode of This Week of Poker with Jen Tilly. You can watch that episode below...

Here's last week's episode with Scott Huff...

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow at 7pm ET/4pm PT to watch This Week in Poker.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Morning Nuggets: J.D. Newitt Subpoenaed, Trippy Poker Art, WCOOP, Angle Shooting, and Yacht Rock

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The first Sunday of the NFL season is officially upon us. The 2010 WCOOP is in full swing. And as always, Sundays is the big day for online poker MTT grinders. So here a link dump of items that will keep you entertained at halftime or while folding hand after hand after hand in today's tournaments.
The Feds want to chat with a former Full Tilt Poker employee. J.D. Newitt Subpoenaed By New York District Court, but I doubt that he'll be the one to spill the beans. But if he does, I wonder which red pro will pull a Jack Ruby and whack the patsy in the parking garage? (Wicked Chops Poker)

Wanna see some trippy poker-themed art? And man, I'm impressed with Michalski's foray into art criticism. I think he might have found his second calling in life. (Pokerati)

Shamus waxes on the Prahlad Friedman dead hand incident in Finding the Right Angle. He summed up my feeling the best: "I fall on the side of those who do not believe Friedman did anything particularly egregious or intentional here, but rather was simply the very fortunate beneficiary of a pretty obviously bad call." (Hard-Boiled Poker)

Here's the 2010 WCOOP schedule. Events are running every day over the next two weeks. Satellites are running 24/7. (Tao of Poker)

Brit Watch: The Golden Age is a guest post that Chris Hall wrote about the recent re-emergence of British players dominating the circuit. (Tao of Poker)

Are you a fan of Yacht Rock? Or do you like to sit on boats, sip champagne, and do blow? If so, you have to listen to the latest mix that uploaded featuring some of your favorite bands/acts from the late 1970s and 80s.... Yacht Rock Volume 4. (Coventry Music)

And just in case you've been on vacation, woke up from a coma, or just got out of prison, here's a few pieces I wrote in the last week or so:
Cocaine Cowgirl: Paris Hilton Arrested in Las Vegas for Cocaine Possession and Overall Stupidity
The Lone Gunman
Tao of Five: Las Vegas Cabbie Chronicles
Recap: 2010 WSOP Day 3 Main Event on ESPN - The Rudiments of Gruel
Yep, that's it. Now, GTFOOMO.