Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

"Is it true? No Gringos can play online poker?"

Roberto Brenes, also known as Robertito among his fellow Costa Ricans, is the youngest son of Humberto Brenes, a.k.a. the Godfather of Poker in Latin America. The shark shtick might have worn out its welcome north of the border, but in Central and South America, Humberto commands the respect and reverence of Doyle Brunson with the added cult-like following of Johnny Cash. Robertito is regular on the LAPT and unfortunately, he was the bubble boy at the LAPT Lima. He was still shaking off a bit of tilt from a the hand that busted him, but was morbidly curious about the validity of Viernes Negro and the news that rocked the entire poker industry on April 15th -- "a day that will live in infamy" for many Americans associated with the online poker industry.

Citizens of Latin America have an extremely polarizing view of Anglo-American hegemony, so many of them weren't surprised with the DOJ indictments, which essentially decimated the postmodern online poker landscape. Latin Americans have been getting screwed over by American politicians, Wall Street bankers, and corporate interests for the better part of a century, so they chalked up the DOJ indictments of Absolute, Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars as another bad beat -- but just one of thousands they've witnessed.

"Los gringos estan con el dedo metido en el culo!" said one my Costa Rican colleagues.

"Si. We the Gringos are properly fucked," I responded. "Online poker is not rigged... America is rigged."

* * *

I sat in press row at the LAPT Lima, covering the tournament for PokerStars Blog with Short-Stacked Shamus, one of my personal heroes. These days, I'm semi-retired from covering tournaments, instead focusing on fear mongering, trading silver futures, and writing fiction. I reduced my 2011 workload to exclusively covering the World Series of Poker for Tao of Poker, but accepted assignments in exotic locations on the international circuit for the opportunity to visit a new country. I was excited to shake off a little rust and treated the LAPT Lima as Spring Training for the upcoming WSOP. Visiting Peru for the first time was an exhilarating experience, especially a side trip to Machu Picchu, one of the Top 5 locations on my bucket list.

Shamus noted we should have known that the Lima trip was doomed when we spotted a dead body along Circuito de Playas on our way from the airport to Miraflores. The ocean and beach is separated by a highway with 300-foot cliffs looming overhead. I saw a bunch of military guys in berets and combat boots from a distance who stood on the cliff side of the road, where a huge crowd had gathered. My immediate reaction -- workers were on a strike and the military police were there to keep things in order -- but as we got closer and the cab slowed down, a film crew and thirty or so pedestrian rubberneckers gathered around a limp body curled up on the ground.

"Two bodies," said the driver in English.


"They jumped."

I was dubious. Smelled like a hit to me -- maybe they got involved with the wrong guys and were tossed off the side of the cliff? Failure to pay back a loan shark? Drug deal gone bad? Although I only saw one body, I was slightly surprised that the cops did not cover up the carcass. Instead, a news camera guy straddled the body and filmed what appeared to be a close up.

Ten minutes later, the cab made its way up a winding path of cobblestones to reach the top of the cliffs and the affluent Marifores section of Lima, but the image of a desensitized cameraman hovering over a bloodied body still prevailed.

* * *

In January 2007, I was in Melbourne, Australia when the Neteller fiasco went down. It took me two days to sort stuff out with Neteller's customer service in order for them to allow me to access my account (to cash out) while I was in a foreign country, but that crucial lost time screwed me and I got five figures stuck in Neteller. I eventually got my money back ten months later, but I was flagged for an audit the next year. To this day, I don't see that as a coincidence.

I was in London and Amsterdam in September 2008 at the peak of the subprime mortgage fiasco and financial meltdown of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers. So, to keep up with my string of being abroad when the shit hits the fan, I was out of the country once again -- this time in Lima, Peru for Black Friday. It was truly a surreal experience being out of America when Shamus, F-Train and I got the news that American online poker was nevermore. Vanished. Nada.

The only comparison I can come up with was how my friend Senor explained to me what it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks in a bar in Vietnam while he was on vacation. You get a hopeless and helpless feeling on the inside, meanwhile everyone around you is sort of thinking, "You had it coming."

Fortunately, my CrackBerry service failed for an unknown reason in Lima. As a result, my phone was not blowing up with calls and text messages from my friends, many of whom were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The bad beat from my international phone provider was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to ignore the crisis and focus on the task at hand -- covering a poker tournament -- which very well could have been the last tournament I covered for PokerStars or anyone else for that matter. I wasn't naive about the source of the money that funded the majority of poker media. I worked directly with Full Tilt and PokerStars in different capacities as a freelancer, but the rest of my clients (various magazines and websites) derived a significant amount of their operating revenue from Full Tilt, PokerStars, and UB. Unless they could adapt quickly, this was definitely "last call."

I finally understood what it felt like to be in the band on the Titanic, as they bravely playing on as the ship sunk into the frigid North Atlantic.

* * *

The LAPT is four seasons old, but like most international tours, the LAPT had its growing pains and rough patches. I was in the room when the LAPT Mexico was shut down by the federales, who impounded the tables, chips, and millions of dollars worth of film gear belonging to 441 Productions.

I hope that you never have to hear... "Pack up your computer, grab all your things, and get the fuck out of the room ASAP!"... but that's what I heard the last time I was in Mexico. I vaguely recall that moment, trying to be super slick and removing my press badge as I rushed out of the tournament room right behind Otis and my girlfriend, thinking that not having a press badge around my neck would save me from incarceration, or worse, ending up in a mass grave with all of the other troublemakers in the media that happen to cross Los Zetas.

But that was in December of 2008 when El Presidente Bush Dos was a lame duck. This was 2011 -- in a new era, basking in the warm glow of El Presidente Obama's hope and change. Life, liberty and the pursuit of online poker was supposed to be different, right? Little did we know, it was Obama's cronies on Wall Street that would ambush us -- in more ways than one.

In the race for supreme domination of the poker world, Full Tilt and PokerStars were ensconced in a cold war with an ongoing arms race to determine which one would bow down to the other. I always saw Full Tilt as post-World War II America -- a bunch of G.I. Joes, real American heroes -- an emerging super power, fresh off a tremendous victory crushing fascism, while spreading freedom and commerce across the globe. PokerStars always reminded me of the United Kingdom of the 19th Century -- driven by imperial colonialism, where the sun never set on the Empire -- especially after Stars rapidly expanded into markets propelled by their international tours (EPT, APPT, LAPT, NAPT) and regionally-branded circuits (ANZPT, UKIPT, etc). At times it seemed the Stars empire was stretched too thin, hence why I got the call as a hired gun to cover the LAPT Lima, mainly because their blogging A-team of Otis, Change100, and Howard were covering the NAPT Mohegan Sun.

Even with the news of Black Friday and the subsequent disintegration of the NAPT, I knew that outposts like the Latin America were going to get a marketing boost. Job security never seemed more prevalent for my friends on the LAPT. Looking around the tournament room at the Atlantic City casino in Lima, Peru, the poker world continued on with the all the ordinary sights and sounds of poker in Latin America... one guy in shorts, flip flops, tank top, and a brimmed Panama hat was all-in and slammed his open hand on the table three times as his opponent in an Argentinean soccer jersey cruelly slow-rolled him, and while the dealer dealt out the flop, the guy in the hat continuously banged his hand on the table and begged for a low card by screaming "Chiquitita! Chiquitita! Chiquitita!" at the top of his lungs.

Business as usual.

* * *

When Spanish conquistadores led by Pizzaro first arrived in South America, the Incas did not fight them and instead welcomed them. The Incans viewed the Spanish visitors as gods from their lore because of their unusual white skin and bushy beards. That critical error became costly for the Incans.

In the 1530s, the Inca Empire was torn apart by its own civil war, which gave Pizzaro an edge in conquering the region, thereby pilfering Peru of its natural resources including gold and silver. Some Incan leaders were dubious from the moment the Spanish arrived and wanted to kill them by setting fire to their barracks when they slept, but those opinions were opposed by their king, Atahualpa, who walked blindly right into a trap.

In this analogy, I can't decide if the politicians or the PPA are the sleeping Spanish conquistadores. We all know the elected jackals in DC are used-car salesmen by day and pimps by night, willing to whore out your grandmother for $14 if they could get away with it.

And don't get me started with the PPA. They lost me at hello, when they couldn't even figure out a simple mission statement. I've never seen an opening strategy so poorly executed since Greedo shot first in the Cantina Bar on Tatooine.

What was the point of even sending the PPA to Washington? Instead, we should have sent a hundred masturbating chimpanzees to lobby for online poker -- they would have accomplished the same fucking thing as the PPA, but at least we'd have some cool YouTube videos of monkeys jerking off on the steps of the Capitol.

* * *

"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes;
you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi

Something was rotten in Denmark and it wasn't the batch of used condoms rotting underneath Gus Hansen's bed. It was the foul stench of the UIGEA as it got queefed out of the collective arses on Capitol Hill. Sure, we all knew that Arizona Senator Jon L. Kyl was a genuine teetoller and well-known opponent to all forms of gambling, but Jim Leach (R-Iowa) was a virtual unknown at the time. In 2007, I didn't do my due diligence, otherwise I would have discovered that Leach served for six years as the head of the powerful House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. It was during that reign when Leach drafted an act that eventually led to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

In 1999, Jim Leach sponsored the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (a.k.a. the Financial Modernization Act), which repealed provisions of the the Glass-Steagall Act (a piece of legislation put forth in 1932 the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 which created the FDIC in addition to other safeguards to prevent future Ponzi schemes). Leach's bill essentially eliminated a provision from Glass-Steagall that made it illegal for a bank to also own financial firm.

At the time, everyone on the street knew that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was created to allow Travelers (insurance company that owned investment house Salomon Smith Barney) to merge with Citigroup to create Citicorp -- the largest financial services company in the history of banking. When President Bill Clinton signed the Act in 1999, no one anticipated that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed banks to own financial firms, would eventually lead to the creation of complex derivatives, which nearly imploded the entire financial system. Warren Buffet called those derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

In the parlance of our times, those degen donks on Wall Street took advantage of their bitch Jim Leach, and orchestrated the largest smash-and-grab job since Danny Ocean and his misfits knocked over the Bellagio.

I overlooked Leach's connection to Wall Street banks when he introduced the UIGEA. At the time, most of the ire was directed at Senator Jon Kyl and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. If there was ever a man that was more hated in poker than Russ Hamilton, it was Bill Frist. To this day, one of the funniest pieces of vernacular to come out of the UIGEA was the term "Frist Fucked," because after he attached the UIGEA to the Safe Port Security Bill, he gave online poker players deep, penetrating, fist fucking... wrist watch and all.

With spotty internet in Peru, I asked my girlfriend to assist me with a little research about campaign contributions. All of the information she gathered is public knowledge available on She posted some of her findings over at Pot Committed in Follow the Money: Online Poker and Political Contributions.

Check out Bill Frist for yourself and take special note to the #1 contributor to his combined Campaign Committee and Leadership PAC in 2004 and 2006...
Bill Frist (R-TN) - Top Campaign CMT & PAC Contributors:
2004 - Goldman Sachs ($109,999)
2006 - Goldman Sachs ($142,249)
From the years 2004-06, Goldman Sachs dumped a quarter of a million dollars into Senator Frist's PAC. No need to hide those marionette strings... they lead right to CEO Henry Paulson and his den of thieves at Goldman Sachs.

What's so bad about Goldman Sachs? Matt Taibbi explains in The Great American Bubble Machine...
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
I'm sure the tin foil hat-wearing, silver hoarding, Max Keiser disciples are going to love this, but I'm sharing this thought that has been bugging me ever since I dropped acid at the top of Machu Picchu....

A cabal of Wall Street bankers including the Federal Reserve colluded behind our backs to sink the online poker industry by paying off politicians to push forth the UIGEA.

It's pretty fucking obvious. The Big Banks control everything, which is why I don't understand why the majority of the poker community is misdirecting their anger at politicians. It's like a flashback to my Catholic school days when Sister Mary Margaret got pissed off at one of the special ed kids because he took a shit in the urinal. All the Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world weren't going to change his mental capacity.

Yes, Virginia, I just said politicians are retards who can't figure out where to shit. They've always been corporate shills, so transforming into self-righteous twits (a la Michael Moore) and hounding politicians is futile because their power is limited to what their corporate overlords will allow them. In essence, the more powerful the politician, the shorter the leash.

You really should be pissed off at the Big Banks. They pwn Obama, and in essence, they also pwn your ass.

Before the FBI hauls me off to a FEMA camp the moment I set foot back on American Soil, please watch this short documentary film titled The American Dream. And if you're not a documentary film type of person, don't worry because The American Dream is actually a 30-minute quick tutorial (in a snazzy, snarky cartoon format) on the shadow banking industry and the long, powerful reach of the Federal Reserve.

* * *

Why are the Fed and the Big Banks on Wall Street the bad guys?

Well, have you looked into Ben Bernanke's eyes? He's evil personified and makes Alan Greenspan look like St. Francis of Assisi. Bernanke has been printing so much money with his magical printing press that a $100 bill is really worth less than a sheet of toilet paper. Single ply.

The philosophical main directive of Big Banks has always been to control the flow of money. That's the key to understanding Black Friday -- it's not a political issue -- it's a money issue disguised as a political issue. Those suits are clever motherfuckers and implemented a classic divide and conquer strategy. While we were too busy arguing about politics and personal freedoms, they were pushing the DOJ to snoop around. But then they got lucky -- they might have been snooping around for another four or five years if a tip about Daniel Tzvetkoff's whereabouts didn't fall into their laps, and then the scared rat quickly rolled on the online sites.

By the way, anyone want to set over/unders as to when Tzvetkoff dies in a mysterious car crash? Or perhaps he has an unexpected heart attack? As Fat Tony would say... "Accidents happen."

Besides controlling the flow of money, think about all those potential transactions (and more importantly transaction fees) that the Big Banks are missing out on. Remember that parody commercial from Saturday Night Live about the bank that gives change? At the end of the clip, the banker says, "How do we make money? Volume."

Thanks to Chris Moneymaker, hole card lipstick cameras, and a disenfranchised computer-savvy populous, the online poker industry in America practically blew up overnight and to its own detriment, the industry grew too big, too fast. Millions, no wait, billions of dollars were being passed around, back and forth, between players in countries all over the world.

But when it comes to controlling the flow of U.S. dollars, well, that's the Big Banks' racket, and just like in mafia movies, the online poker industry never payed homage to the Godfather and his crew. They should have cut them in, because if and when the heat closed in, the online poker industry would have had the protection of the Godfather.

Sure the DOJ might be sniffing around Wall Street about some of the fraud and shennigans perpetrated during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but have they indicted any of the major players? Will they? Doubt it.

The problem I have with the indictments was not that the DOJ went after the online poker sites for committing fraud, but rather that nearly every company operating in the financial services industry has committed fraud and gotten away with it. It's impossible to police the entire financial sector, but selective enforcement of the financial fraud is absurd.

I'm reminded of an NFL Films clip from the 1980s of former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Sam Wyche. He pulled a young offensive lineman aside and chewed him out for getting a couple of holding penalties during their last possession. The player pleaded, "But Coach, I'm holding on EVERY play." Wyche deadpanned, "Then keep doing what you're doing, son!"

That sums up Wall Street, or rather the rampant financial fraud that occurs every single day without being policed.

If the DOJ and the feds are going to turn off online poker because of fraud committed by the parties involved, then shouldn't they shut down the entire derivatives market until it can be regulated and monitored? Shouldn't the top cops investigate the biggest incident of fraud in history and the subsequent fleecing of American people?

* * *

In the poker world, when Bobby Bellande, David Benyamine, or Eskimo Clark goes busto, the entire community doesn't bail them out. But in the modern financial world, if one of the big boys runs up gambling debts they can't pay, well, they get billions of dollars in bailouts from the Federal government, which in theory comes out of your pocket.

I refuse to pay for TJ Cloutier's losses at the craps table, but to put things in perspective, what if Phil Ivey, Durrrr, and Phil Galfond lost all of their bankrolls betting on Jai Alai? And Howard Lederer decided to take out 50% of everyone's Full Tilt bankroll, without your consent, to get Ivey and Durrr back in the game against crazy Scandis? You'd be pretty pissed, right?

Luckily, those sorts of practices don't happen in poker. Capitalism is applicable every day in poker because we allow those undesirables to fail. Those with money continue to play another day, but those without funds get stuck on the rail until someone is stupid enough to give them a stake. Alas, the end of the day, the money should get distributed to the better players. Although the player with the most short-term luck might get the money that day, over the long haul the money should flow upward to the best of the best. Should flow -- and that's the beauty of poker because at any given time the wealth can be redistributed from the haves to the have nots. It frequently happens in tournaments when the donk du jour comes out of nowhere to win. You would like to think that that money will flow back into the poker community and return to the coffers of the poker haves, but it's going to take them a little time and effort to regain those initial losses. That's what is supposed to happen on a level playing field.

We've seen different aspects of the financial markets manipulated or rigged in favor of the plutocrats, so the money flows out of the hands of the have nots and right back into the grubby hands of America's oligarchs. In some instances, like with ARM mortgage loans, the have nots never had a chance against the modern day robber barons.

Proponents of the Nanny State claim its up to the government to save our souls from the evil clutches of poker, because if you didn't know... online poker is rigged. For fuck's sake, are we that stupid? Lotteries are the biggest sham since taking insurance in blackjack, yet brokedick dreamers line up around the corner to blow a day's wages on a "dollar and a dream."

Then again, these are the same sheeple who bought Snooki's book. Try explaining to the orange spray-tanned Jerseylicious crowd exactly how Moodys and other ratings agencies rated bundles of CDOs as AAA (the highest rating indicating the lowest risk), and then the Wall Street brokerage houses sold those toxic derivatives to clients (from Arkansas to Dusseldorf) and at the same time, the suits turned around and bet against the same investments they were selling in the form of credit default swaps.

The more I think about it, the redistribution of wealth is something that the richest families in the world have been fighting against since the dawn of calculated wealth. Hence, why it's always been a primary motive for the banking elite to control the flow of money, but more importantly, to control the flow of money away from the have nots.

Poker, especially online poker, posed a threat to the banking elite and kleptoocrats in charge because the community itself would determine (through cash games and tournaments) how the wealth would be distributed. At the same time, online poker created an alternative currency. How many times have you swapped T$ or traded money on one site for another? For my March Madness pool, friends paid for their sheets with online poker transfers. I've paid prop bets with Full Tilt transfers and a high percentage of my freelance clients often paid me with online poker transfers.

Ever since the Bretton Woods gathering during WWII, when the U.S. dollar became the world's reserve currency (abandoning gold), it's always been crucial for the Big Banks to control the flow of money. Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and since then our currency has been backed by the U.S. military. To further keep tabs on the oil-rich nations, any crude oil purchases had to be made into U.S dollars. As a result, Petrodollars flowed out of the Middle East and flooded Wall Street banks. These days, Narcobucks (laundered money acquired from the sale of illegal drugs) and Petrodollars are the only real deposits keeping the banking industry humming (don't get me started about Ben Bernanke's printing press and his quantitative easing policies that have juiced up the stock market like Barry Bonds on the Clear). A few years ago, two of the biggest banks in the U.S. (Wachovia and Bank of America) and HSBC in London were laundering billions of Narcobucks for the Mexican drug cartels. Did any of those suits go to jail? Nope, they got a few slaps on the wrist and paid paltry fines that paled in comparison to the billions of Narcobucks that flowed through the banks.

You've all seen The Wire, so you know how the hustle works.

But what about PokerStars dollars or Full Tilt dollars? What about the alternative online poker currency that the industry created out of thin air? That's a no-no. Only Ben Bernanke and the Fed have the power to create and distribute wealth. The Big Banks want to wrap their slimy tentacles around your T$ and online bankrolls. Narcobucks and Petrodollars aren't enough. Their hubris is our downfall. Unfortunately, Stars and Tilt failed to cut the Big Banks in for whatever reason, and that didn't make the Godfather and the rest of the shylocks very happy.

So who is the Godfather? In 2006 it certainly wasn't the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, because he was a Randian, name-dropping, social-climbing muppet for the banking elite. He's no better than the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. The head of the Five Families was Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs before El Presidente Bush Dos nominated him as the Treasury Secretary in 2006. Since then, the big cheese has been Lloyd Blankfein, the current Goldman Sachs CEO.

Yes, Blankfein has the juice and the online rooms never paid the Godfather his cut, so he mercilessly castrated the entire industry.

To sum up... Jim Leach had been a trustworthy puppet after he allowed Big Banks to degen it up once he helped repeal provisions of the Glass-Stegall Act, which eventually nearly crippled the entire financial system with the catastrophic fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. And with another more innocuous bill, Leach stemmed the money flow in and out of online poker sites. Instead of putting a severed horse's head in his bed, the boys at Goldman paid off Senator Frist to guarantee that the passage of the UIGEA. At that point, it was a matter of time before the vampires at the Fed and the Sack sucked the blood out of the poker economy.

* * *

So what's next?

If the current principals (Stars and Tilt) and former (Party Poker) want a shot at obtaining the smallest percentage of action in the market when the federal government (or individual states) eventually legalizes online poker, then they need to partner up with the banking elite like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. That's where PokerStars and Tilt screwed up by dumping money into the pockets of lobbyists and politicians, and then teaming up with land-based casinos. The online rooms should have wired their bribe money directly to Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs. Those two are the Phil Iveys of financial deception and fraud.

JP Morgan is the OG aka the original gansta. My favorite JP Morgan story? During the Civil War, he bought defective surplus rifles for $3.50 from the government and then turned around and sold the same defective rifles back to the Union Army for $22 a pop. That's huge fucking balls and an indication of the type of highly-trained professional criminals we're dealing with here. The bloodsuckers on Wall Street are the type of criminals that the online rooms should've allied themselves with the entire time or at the very least, hired as consultants to pick their brains about how to commit fraud and never get caught.

The online rooms grossly miscalculated and jumped into bed with the snake oil salesmen in Washington, who crudely took turns cornholing them until they all bled out.

It could have been a beautiful union -- online poker rooms and Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs joined forces with PokerStars and continued their imperialist quest for global dominance. It could have been very simple if online poker was legitimized and PokerStars got taken public by Goldman in one of the biggest IPOs since the dotcom bubble. Instead of a laughable union with Station Casinos, Full Tilt could have teamed up with JP Morgan to create, meanwhile the shylocks at Goldman would have partnered with PokerStars to create where if you win the Sunday Million, then Goldman opens up an IRA for you at no charge.

That's where Stars fucked up. Steve Wynn was never going to be their savior, but Lloyd Blankfein could've been their sugar daddy.

* * *

Black Friday was a sobering reminder that the poker industry fell for the ruse that politicians were the linchpins who controlled the future of online poker, but in the end, the banking elite continues to tug at the strings of the muppets in DC. Writing your local politician does nothing except stroke their ego because they know with every email and letter, they are treacherous criminals who found another sucker who thinks they wield any power.

Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to get an audience with the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world. Alas, your only way at inciting a revolution is to bring down the banks from the inside. I know a fringe group of financial anarchists who want to crash JP Morgan by gobbling up physical silver. I can't say for sure if that tactic will work, but silver (and precious metals) is a wise investment as a hedge against inflation and a devalued dollar. In the end, if hoarding silver helps bring down a major Wall Street bank, especially the ones responsible for tweaking the livelihood of my friends -- then so be it -- off with their heads.

Believe me when I tell you that you're not the first group of people to get fucked by the banking junta. Look around on forums for Anonymous operations, read, follow @TaoFear on Twitter, watch videos created by Truth Never Told (especially Your Indoctrination and The Rigged Game [see video below]), and talk to friends outside of poker -- because you'll discover that there's thousands if not millions of people with similar bad beat stories.

If somehow, someday, we can all figure out how to come together and incite true revolutionary change, then we can overthrow the La República del Plátano that Wall Street installed in Washington. Our first order of business would be the dismantling of the Fed and wrestle free of the suffocating death grip of the banking elite. Maybe then, and only then, can we finally begin to live in truly free society.

Online poker isn't rigged. America is rigged. What are you going to do to fix it?

* * *

Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Friday: Ten Days Later - Consensus Says PPA Must Go

By Pauly
Cusco, Peru

I'm still in South America rounding up freedom fighters to assist us in overthrowing El Presidente Obama as the puppet in La República del Plátano de los Estados Unidos. Until my return to American soil, here's a few noteworthy items that you should be reading...
Matt Matros' Op-Ed: After the Dept. of Justice shuts down online poker, a poker pro defends his game (Washington Post)

The biggest joke played on us all...the PPA! (2+2)

The PPA Meets Or Exceeds Expectations (CrAAKKer)

The PPA is pathetic. (Bill Rini)

PPA Needs to Be Stopped (Riding the F Train)

Epic thread: Online Poker Players: Before and After (2+2)

Follow the Money: Online Poker and Political Contributions (Pot Committed)
That's all I got. I started penning a post about Black Friday, which I hope to finish shortly. Planning revolutions is rather time consuming and cuts into my writing time. Until then... GTFOOMO!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Flashback: Strip Clubs with Grubby on Easter Sunday

By Pauly
Cusco, Peru

Grubby sent out a semi-cryptic tweet this morning which reminded me of an event that happened on Easter Sunday six years ago in 2005. I was in Vegas for March Madness and had just locked up my first ever WSOP assignment with Poker Prof and Flipchip. To celebrate, Grubby and I headed out to a few strip clubs, not really aware of the fact that Easter Sunday would be one of the worst days of the year to hang out with strippers. We had to assume that a few were more religious than we had anticipated.

Anyway, this portion of Existentialist Conversations with Strippers got cut from the final draft of Lost Vegas, something that I was really bummed about, but I understood why my editor(s) felt that the subject matter was redundant.

So, let's take a ride in the Tao of Poker time machine and head back to 2005...

Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, Part III
"I would believe only in a god who could dance." - Nietzsche
We wandered past the credulous tourists and devoted gamblers onto the casino floor. I was staying in Vegas for another day but Senor had to get back to Rhode Island for work. Grubby agreed to drive Senor to the airport and we had about fifteen minutes to kill. Senor wanted to play Pai Gow Poker at some point during his trip. We never had the chance with all the time we spent at the Mandalay Bay's sports book gambling on college basketball, or playing regular poker, and hanging out at strip clubs. We wasted a few minutes after we got slightly lost and stopped to ogle at all the hot college girls on spring break. We resumed our quest for a Pai Gow table and finally found one. The only problem... it was a $50 minimum table... when we were looking for a $5 or $10 table.

Caesar's did not spread any low limit Pai Gow. There were six tables and half of them were empty. We walked over to one table where a pit boss was talking to the dealer. Grubby asked the suit if he could drop the minimum bet to $25 since we wanted to teach Senor how to play. We told him we were going to leave in five minutes to take him to the airport. The pit boss agreed. Our dealer Lee, a middle aged Korean woman, quickly explained the rules to Senor. We bought in for $100 each and got four green chips. I won the first few hands and pushed the rest. Senor won $75 in three hands and walked away after he tipped Lee $10. He won enough money for dinner and was satisfied with his first Pai Gow experience. Grubby and I played for a few more hands. I went up $100 then decided to walk away. Grubby was a winner too. On our way to the cashier's window Senor mentioned, "You won yourself enough money to cover dinner and a few lap dances."

Grubby drove Senor to the airport but we encountered traffic trying to get out of the labyrinth called Caesar's parking garage. Grubby avoided the crowded Las Vegas Blvd. and drove down side streets en route to McCarran Airport. Grubby was officially a local and had been living in Vegas for three months. It felt cool to have a different perspective of a city that was so heavily populated with dipshit tourists and jaded locals working in the service industry. After we said good-bye to Senor, Grubby sped off in our quest to do a little strip club hopping. We had already hit up Sin a few days prior, which I loved -- especially Jessina. Grubby suggested a handful of places. He and his sister, Grubette, had had a crazy night at Club Paradise a few nights earlier and he wanted to try a different place. We headed to the North part of the Strip and decided to check out Olympic Gardens.

As we drove up to the club, a Las Vegas Metro squad car sat out front with it's doors wide open. An animated guy spoke very loudly to the two cops as they stood with their arms crossed.

"That doesn't look promising," I said.

We parked and walked inside. Grubby pointed out that the doors were wide open and how that was also another bad sign. We took a peek inside and it was empty. We didn't even bother sitting down and walked right out. I could only imagine what might have gone down twenty minutes before we showed up. maybe we missed a good fight? Or an extremely drunk and frisky customer getting rowdy with the dancers?

We found our way to Treasures and the parking lot looked empty. That's when I remembered that it was Easter Sunday night.

"It's not like strippers are religious or anything," Grubby explained on the walk to the entrance of the lavish strip club.

We paid the cover charge and made our way inside. It reminded me of a cross between an art museum and Anne Rice's house in a weird fusion of Goth meets Italian Renaissance. A stage with funky lights and a stripper pole sat up front with winding stairs leading up to a balcony which wrapped around the room. If you removed all the smaller tables and booths along the walls, the strip club could have been a great venue for live music. We found a table and a few minutes passed before a waitress came over. I did not spot any available strippers. In the booth across from us, a bald accountant from Ohio happily sat with two strippers. They were laughing and sipping cocktails and the black girl erotically rubbed his chest and while the blonde girl applied more lipstick as we watched and a small wave of envy flashed over us.

"This is just like a regular bar. I'm being ignored," Grubby said in a dejected tone.

"Easter Sunday," I reassured him that it wasn't us, just the fact that strippers were more religious than we anticipated.

Our waitress eventually arrived with our over-priced beers and I scanned the room for available strippers. One danced on the stage as bad Eastern European techno music blasted over the sound system in the near-empty room. A few dancers were scattered around and busy entertaining other guests. At Sin it seemed that strippers constantly walked around and offered their services for a dance. At Treasures, the most action we got was watching the bald Ohio guy get double teamed by the Silicone Twins.

That's when Julie stumbled over.

Extremely wasted women are a turn off... unless they are completely passed out (Sorry, bad frat boy joke). She was so ripped to the tits drunk that she didn't even bother using her stripper name and blurted out her real name. Julie then sprawled out on my lap and slurred, "Spank me!"

I obliged and she screamed again motioning towards Grubby, "Spank me!"

He spanked her and I followed up with another "whack." I wondered if I could add that to my resume?
Special Skills: Knowledge of Java. I also speak three languages fluently, can make a bong out of any household item, and spank strippers.
How could I not get hired with those mad skills? Julie asked us if we wanted a dance. Grubby gave her a quick thumbs down and I reluctantly agreed. She sat up and waited until the next song. She slumped over me and I could smell the liquor on her breath. That's when I uttered, "You know, Nietzsche died of syphilis."

That comment went right over her head.

Out of the hundreds of strippers working that night, I was matched up with the Tara Reid of strippers. The new song began and she took off her top and began her tipsy lap dance. A couple of times she lost her balance and slipped off my lap. I caught her each time and was worried that if I dropped her, one of the bouncers would rush over and kick me in the junk. It was a horrible experience and I pissed away $20 on half-assed grope from a soused stripper. Normally, a half-naked woman grinding away to Rick James' Give It To Me Baby is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I wasn't aroused by Drunk Julie and couldn't wait for our moment to end. Our four minutes together was like ordering a bowl of soup and having it served cold with a dozen cockroaches floating around in there and glazed with both a urine and semen sample.

We walked out of the strip club and passed the bouncers. I shrugged my shoulders and looked up into the desert sky. I smiled because I found myself on the bitter end of karmic payback for attending a strip club on Easter Sunday.
* * *

Thus end our Tao of Poker flashback. Oh, and Happy Easter to Grubby!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Listen to Change100 on RJ Bell's This Is Sports Betting Podcast

By Pauly
Aguas Calientes, Peru

After a breathtaking ascent of Machu Picchu, I'm still in Peru for a few more days... maybe more. I'm returning to the Peruvian jungle this weekend to drink Ayahuasca and round up more revolucionarios to assist with my newest cause in overthrowing the banking cartels who have infiltrated the American government and set up El Presidente Obama as the puppet in La República del Plátano de los Estados Unidos.

Due to the spotty internet connection in the Andes Mountains, I was unfortunately unable to appear on RJ Bell's podcast This Week in Sportsbetting. Luckily, my better half Change100 was able to fill in for me. RJ interviewed Change100 earlier this week about Black Friday and the fallout.

Click here to listen to TiSB with RJ Bell and Change100.

Until my return to America, I leave you with the wisdom of my new mentor Che... "Better to die standing, than to live on your knees."

Viva la Revolucion!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Micros: Black Friday Episode

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

It's fitting that The Micros are back with a DOJ-themed episode...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Exile on Main Street Reprise

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

I wrote Exile on Main Street in October 2006 when the UEIGA was introduced by those fucking crooks and snake oil salesmen in D.C.

Flash forward to today: U.S. Federales Charge Pokerstars, Full Tilt, AbsolutePoker with Bank Fraud, Money Laundering, and Illegal Gambling.

You can also read the full indictment here. Thanks to Pokerati for the link.

So contemporary drug lords in Mexico and Colombian king pins from Cocaine Cowboys era of the 1980s laundered billions of dollars through U.S. banks and washing their cash via Wall Street investment houses. Shit, after the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2008, the only people funneling cash into American banks were drug dealers!

When you click through Tao of Poker's affiliate links, you get this awesome message from the fucking Nanny State...

Or click here for an enlarged version.

I'm listening to The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street right now in Lima, Peru. My Costa Rican colleague offered to help me and my girlfriend to find a house in San Jose. Hmm... Costa Rica is a beach paradise.

Then again, maybe I'll just walk away from Tao of Poker and write novels. Or I can focus on fear mongering and my music blog. Hey, if I skip the WSOP this summer, I can do all of Phish summer tour. Instead of pushing online poker onto the masses, maybe I'll return to my roots by slinging pharmies in the lot?

I said this almost five years ago and I'll say it again...
As is, I'm an expatriate living in America. I finally understand the reference by The Rolling Stones... "exile on Main Street."
* * * *

Update: Friday afternoon

Here's some links...
Reuters: Full Tilt Poker, Pokerstars and Absolute Poker charged with illegal gambling (2+2)

Meet The Boy Genius Who Just Took Down The Online Poker Industry (Business Insider)

U.S. Government Moves To Shut Down World's Biggest Online Poker Companies (Forbes)

Poker Panic '11 (Pokerati)

About Time! (Infinite Gaming Edge)

House of Cards (Riding the F Train)

Thunderstruck (Hard-Boiled Poker)

A Personal Look at Black Friday
(Terrance Chan)

The Morning After (Bluff Magazine)

So What's Up with This Falling Sky? (NoahSD)

The End of the (Poker) World as We Know It (Pot Committed)

Black Friday & Poker Player Sponsorships (Poker Royalty - Business Blog)

The Fallout from the Full Tilt/PokerStars Pullout. (Bill's Poker Blog)

Poker en ligne aux USA: Ça sent la fin (Benjo at Wam-Poker)

The (More Shocking?) 80-page Civil Complaint (Pokerati)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

LAPT Lima Time

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

It's been a wild, fun, and certainly interesting last 24 hours. I arrived in Lima, Peru have a quick 8 hour flight from LAX. Shirley Rosario was also on my flight and she was heading down to Peru to play in the second-ever LAPT Lima. I was flying down to cover the event for PokerStars Blog. My partner in crime will be Short-stacked Shamus. Hopefully, I can be Earl "The Pearl" Monroe to his Walt "Clyde" Frazier. Regardless, expect us to lots of swishing and dishing for PokerStars Blog over the next four days while we bring you coverage of the LAPT Lima.

Shamus already wrote about the dead body that we saw as our taxi drove along a road that separated the ocean from massive cliffs. The driver said that there were two bodies and that both people jumped. I'm dubious and suspected they were thrown off the cliff by local rogues.

Hunter Thompson said it best, "Never burn the locals."

I got put up in a hotel around the corner from the Atlantic City Casino, where the tournament will be played. I got hooked up with a swanky loft/duplex. Check out the video here.

We met up with our Costa Rican colleague Rey, who wanted to watch the Real Madrid-Tottenham game because he heard that I had bet the dog, Tottenham, and a buddy of his who handicaps soccer said that they were getting some good value with the lines. I placed my bet online (I was 2-0 at that point for the day betting on soccer) but Rey said that the AC casino had a sportsbook (owned by an offshore book who partnered with the casino to handle the wagering/line setting).

We rushed around the corner, sprinted up a circular marble staircase, and wandered into a quaint sportsbook. A young woman manned a desk with a TV screen behind her head that flashed MLB moneylines. Shamus, Rey, and I pooled our money and bet on Tottenham. We were going to watch the game in a dive bar, but the sportsbook had a few tables and a big-ass screen to watch the game on. We settled in for the game and I was fighting back fatigue. I had been up for almost 50 straight hours at that point and almost fell asleep at half time. On a good note, we got free food and beers, compliments of the house. Oh, and thanks to Tottenham's butterfingered goalie, we lost 1-NIL. Oh well.

Welcome Parties at any PokerStars branded tours are eerily similar. Once you've been to one, you can expect that the rest will be similar with a few local, flavorful exceptions (food and booze). In this instance, Peru is notorious for their ceviche (celebrity chef/traveler Anthony Bourdain said that what you can get for $2 in Lima, chic eateries in NYC and LA would charge you $18-20) and the local drink called a Pisco Sour. Both held up to their lofty expectations.

The party was hosted at a restaurant in the Mariflores neighborhood of Peru, adjacent to the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid. We got a tour of the ruins, which were dated to around 400 A.D. Supposedly, they sacrificed virgins and ate shark meat during rituals to the ocean (and perhaps ancient oceans Gods?).

Here's a video I shot of the Huaca Pucllana Pyramid...

Thus concludes the Cliff Notes version of my first day in Peru. I also wrote an expanded version of my journey from Los Angeles to Lima over at Tao of Pauly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Morning Nugs: Bookies Busted in Queens, Legal Poker in D.C., Man in Black, Detecting Deception, and British Postmodern Funk

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Happy Monday. If you have a case of the Mondays, then I'm sorry because it's like having a case of the morning beer shits. I feel your pain. Part of the reason I took a vow of poverty as a writer was so I would never, ever have to feel the gut-wrenching pain of sitting in a cubicle on Monday morning and snorting lines of Sweet-n-Low in order to get motivated to do any semblance of work for the day. Luckily, you're here to kill some time, or dare I say, this is like your bump of artificial sweetener...
Busted: A huge bust in Queens went down last week after the federales pinched a couple of wiseguys who were running a sports betting operation that supposedly netted over $8 million. The bookies in custody have alleged ties to the Bonanno crime family and were using an offshore site,, as part of their operation. (NY Daily News)

Poker Legislation: More hype? Or will someone finally pull the trigger on legalized online poker? Supposedly, the District of Columbia is about to become the first part of American soil to allow online poker. Supposedly... as is with all things political and poker, I'm skeptical that anything will happen. I hope I'm wrong in this case. (Wall Street Journal)

Gaming Stats: Were you wondering if the economy has been improving or declining? Don't listen to the talking heads on the biz news channels. Instead, do what I do and take the pulse of the gambling community. David Schwartz breaks down the last six months of gaming revenue in the state of Nevada. (The Die Is Cast)

Psych: Joe Navarro knows if you've been naughty or if you've been nice. He's not Santa Claus, but rather a former interrogator for the FBI, and I imagine that he'd be able to get a read on Old St. Nick if need be. Although this is not a poker or gambling article, I thought this was an interesting read and has some applications to poker... Four Opportunities to Detect Deception (Psychology Today)

Snoopy: Ha, Snoopy gets his own category! I wished that Snoops, one of my favorite scribes, wrote more often. I enjoyed his latest post... Puppy Tilt ...and yes, I read it aloud in a Midlands-heavy British accent. (Black Belt Poker)

Flashback: This is a flashback of sorts from the November Nine. I never linked up my article about Jonathan Duhamel winning the Main Event. Better late than never, eh? Dispatches from the November Nine: The Man in Black. (Bluff Magazine)

Music: Here's a sample of non-poker writing for your amusement, it's the first installment of a series that I'm working on the contemporary funk scene in the U.K.... British Postmodern Funk, Vol. 1: The New Mastersounds. (Coventry Music)
That's it. All of you punks and punkettes know the drill by now...NGTFOOMO!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Hello Rock Bottom, My Old Friend

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I gave a friend of mine in London a tip on Cocoa futures earlier in the week. It'll be good for a quick pop if he wanted to gamble on a spike in cocoa prices. The political situation in the Ivory Coast has grown worse and worse every day. How bad has it gotten? Mercenaries are burning people alive and the French sent in troops. While the Anglo-American Junta are cockblocking Europe, Russia and China for control of the remaining oil reserves on the planet, the French want to make sure they have control of coffee and chocolate. The French have refined tastes. Us boorish Americans want to refine oil. Petrodollars are king.

Gold is too expensive for a small-time investor like me. Plus, I'm no Dan Shak. I am, however, a silver bug. My passion for the precious metal began as a hedge against a declining dollar. Silver has doubled in price in a year. I have long positions (there's my disclaimer) and since December, I've been telling everyone I know to do their own homework about silver, yet to be wary of all of the silver conspiracies and disinfo out there (but the Silver Bears are fucking hysterical though). Another colleague joked that if he was tailing a mutual friend's basketball picks, then he'd be able to buy silver, per my recommendation. Silver passed $40 and it's racing toward the all-time high when the Hunt Brothers attempted to corner the silver market in the 1980s. I've read about some projections that suggest it's going to the fucking moon (in the hundreds of dollars), but I'm targeting $45 by Memorial Day, $50 by July 4th, $60 by Labor Day, $70 by Halloween, and $80 by the holidays and over $100 this time next year.

Yeah... silver, cocoa and basketball.

As you know, I've been struggling with betting on baseball. It's hard to quit cold turkey, but I've re-focused my attention on basketball, which has always been my bread and butter much like the pick and roll. I had a decent Friday night and missed hitting a 3-team parlay with the Clippers. The fucking Clippers, the lowly Clippers, the red-headed step-child of the NBA. I heard whispers that the Maloofs want to move the Kings from Sacramento to Anaheim (I'm not even 40 yet, but I was about to type... I remember when I was a kid and I'd open up the newspaper to check the standings and back then the Kings were in Kansas City), which would put three teams in SoCal and the Clips would still be mooks of the NBA.

For Saturday, I swapped addictions. My girlfriend went out of town and all hell broke loose! Instead of betting on baseball, I dove head first into soccer (both British and French leagues), NASCAR, and golf. I've often joked that NASCAR is even more degen than baseball, and that I wouldn't hit rock bottom until I was betting on NASCAR.

Well... hello, Rock Bottom, my old friend...I've come to bet with you again, because the lines softly moving, left its point spread while I was sleeping, and the over/under that was planted in my brain, still remains, within the sound of silence.

I'm a half-step away from attending my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting after I pulled the trigger on a NASCAR bet. I took the keen advice of Buffalo66 (yes, he's from Buffalo and I know what you are thinking... 'what the hell would a Yankee know about NASCAR?'). B66 has been sharp with his NASCAR selections this year, so I decided to tail him for shits and giggles.

I'm an Ipswich fan only because a British colleague Simon (aka the Suffolk Punch) is a huge supporter of the Blue. I decided that I was going to get behind the Blue as well after Simon told me a bunch of former Ipswich players were extras on the sensational 1980s film Victory! starring Pele, Sly Stallone, and the greatest living actor... Michael Caine. I got into the spirit of Ipswich and started consuming Blue Hawaiian rum drinks and watched every single John Wark videos on YouTube. I needed a gambling fix after I gave up baseball, and figured soccer would be a dose of methadone to keep away the "shakes." I made a wager on Ipswich to beat Crystal Palace in an English League Championship match. I woke up at 6am to write for an hour before I sweated the game. And what a game it was... some teenager named Josh Carson scored two goals and Ipswich held on for a 2-1 victory. I can definitely get into this soccer, er... sorry, football fever.

I also bet on Benjo's hometown of Lille in a French league game. They were a favorite and I knew I could watch the match online. It's on in the background as I watch the Yankees-Red Sox game on mute. I can't stand listening to Joe Buck, who is Bob Costas Lite. If I want Bob Costas, I'll listen to Bob Costas, not some vanilla-flavored yes man.

When I lived in Atlanta, I religiously watched the Masters. Last year, I tuned into the freak show because it was Tiger's first major back after he cheated on his Scandi wife she found out on it, and she teed off on his face. But this year I needed incentive to watch the Masters, so I placed a prop bet on Tiger's third round. I'm pretty sure I'm betting with the sheeple on this one with a UNDER 70 bet, which means he's gonna shoot a 75 today. But I don't care... at least I'll feel as though I'm not wasting my time by listening to Jim Nantz's snooze-worthy commentary.

The soccer bets and the Tiger bet are simply tiding me over until the NBA games tip off. I'm going back to basics and fading the Washington Wizards on the road.

OK... so French soccer, British soccer, NASCAR, golf, and the NBA. Is there anything else I could bet on today that is not baseball? Wait, there's a college hockey game on right? Michigan vs. Duluth-Minnesota. Any one know anything about college hockey?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Nugs: PokerStars/Wynn Fiddy-Fiddy, Swedish Court Ruling, Life After Football, and Background Beats

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's Friday. Congrats to all of you for making it to the end of the week. So, while you're on the cusp of letting it rip for an epic weekend, here's newsworthy items semi-related to poker and a few more that stretch beyond the poker realm...
Big Business: How monumental is the recent partnership between Steve Wynn and Poker Stars? Scarlet broke down How PokerStars Won Wynn and Made It Fiddy-Fiddy. (Pokerati)

Poker Legislation: The Swedish courts ruled that poker is both a game of luck and skill. Typical Scandi response, eh? That'll happen when you live in Scandinavia, where ten-year olds have bankrolls larger than the GDP of Portugal. (The Local)

Arms Race: Speaking of Scandis... Kim (an old friend from Norway) shared his thoughts on the escalation of high roller events with The Big Buy-in Arms Race Is an Affront the Game. (Infinite Gaming Edge)

NFL Lock Out: How can the impending NFL lockout affect the local Vegas economy? David G. Schwartz sounds off on Life After Football. (Vegas Seven)

Politics: One of my favorite writers eloquently penned an Open Letter to President Obama. (Rapid Eye Reality)

Pop Culture: The Goat (or the alien living inside the Goat) never ceases to amaze me. I'm digging his Time Delayed Oscars series. Check out his latest gem about the 1999 Time-Delayed Oscars. (The Goat Speaks)

Pimp: Writing in metaphors again... Extra Butter. (Tao of Pauly)

New Music: Have you listened to the latest edition of Background Beats - April 2011? My buddy Jonas posted the latest installment of his monthly mix, which is perfect background music for daily activities: working out, showering, writing, having a booty call, driving to work, or grinding it out at the virtual tables. (Coventry Music)
Have a sensational weekend. Yes, by now you know the drill. NGTFOOMO!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Down With Diseased Monkeys

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Every once in a while, a lyric gets stuck in your head on constant repeat which becomes more distracting than entertaining, and eventually drives you utterly insane. When I was in college, the Captain Crunch theme song invaded my brain for an entire semester. I blamed the ether that one of my fraternity brothers stole. His nickname was "Luggage" and he swiped ether from the chem lab. My inner axis shifted ever so slightly after that brief experiment.

At the present moment, there's a catchy hook playing on a constant loop inside my head...
Waiting for the time when I can finally say
That this has all been wonderful but now I'm on my way
But when I think it's time to leave it all behind
I try to find a way but there's nothing I can say to make it stop
The song is aptly titled Down with Disease and performed by one of my favorite bands. I dug the title so much I considered using it for the Las Vegas manuscript, and at one point the working title was Down with Disease: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker. Luckily I came to my senses and determined that Lost Vegas was more appropriate title.

My disease du jour is sports betting. I haven't had an itch festering so badly since the Spring of 2007. My monthly income was much higher four years ago when I was grinding cash games online and before the fall out from the UIGEA completely squeezed the freelance writing market. I often used the Charles Barkley defense back in 2007 -- "You don't have a gambling problem if you can afford to lose." I didn't necessarily have a losing year, but I experienced a few massive swings that negatively altered my mood and extracted all the fun out of the process of sports betting. I miraculously emerged from the bender with a profit, but I got lucky because mostly everyone else in my situation crashed and burned before they ate the pavement when they hit rock bottom. I had enough semblance to slam on the breaks when I was ahead before it got too late and I ended up another senseless tragedy of Sophoclean proportions.

But that was four years ago in what seemed like a galaxy, far, far, away.

The fucking itch is back. The feeling can only be described as if a small monkey burrowed itself underneath my skin and it's trying to kick it's way out. The omnipresent itch is threatening a mutiny. All out anarchy. Itches create leaks. Leaks create messy problems. Messy problems induce life tilt. Life tilt leads to depression. Depression leads to self-destructive behavior. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Sports betting is a huge life leak, but it's also a life sweetener, or a bottle of hot sauce that spruces up mundane aspects of daily life, which is why it's inherently dangerous. Finding the perfect balance between entertainment, merriment, stroking the ego is essential to healthy lifestyle. It's when you cross over the proverbial demarcation line in the murky, cloudy grey area that you takes strides away from the light and rush toward the dark.

Sports betting is a vacuous vice that sucks you into a vortex of degradation and spits you out into the musty basement of a church, sitting in a semi-circle, sipping a sludge-like substance masked as instant coffee, and re-hashing bad beat stories with other recovering addicts.

Betting on our national past time of baseball is dangerous because of the 162-game season starting in April and ending in October. Football is condensed into Sundays (with a bail-out game called Monday Night Football, one of the most evil inventions ever created) and bettors have a week to make a decision. But baseball is an everyday temptation, just like junk food and vapid reality television. Despite my many battles with multiple vices and frolicking on the perilous fringes of Sin City, I somehow avoided betting on baseball. I had drawn a line in the sand and it was baseball. I knew that whatever morally hazardous behavior I engaged in would always be kosher as long as I wasn't betting on baseball. It had become my self-imposed Mendoza Line of sports betting.

That is, until a week ago.

I sent Mendoza his pink slip. I embraced the relaxation of the rules just like the thugs on Wall Street celebrated when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999. Within a decade, Wall Street gamblers nearly imploded the entire financial system after betting on the unregulated derivatives market and repackaging toxic debt as low risk investments.

Sometimes inside information is too damaging because it entices you to take risks you normally would never otherwise. Greed is one of the most rehabilitating of the Seven Deadly Sins. Greed is Gordon Gekko's mantra and the primary cause of the majority of self-destruction in the financial and gambling world. I've been privy to a barrage of tips over the last week. I set aside a tiny portion of my March Madness surplus and decided to fart around on a few games here or there. My plan was to wait until I got tipped off to what Billy was steaming... if the time/points were right, then I'd tail his pick. I entered the Killing Fields with every intention of being an "opportunity investor" by taking advantage of added value due to fluctuations in the betting lines.

It takes money to make money, and I was aware of the hazards of betting on baseball. My buddy Plump is a very savvy bettor and former college player, so he gave baseball shot a few years back. The results were not good. He got an ass whooping. A different friend of mine lived in Vegas in the early 1990s. He and his college buddies using a computer model to predict run totals in baseball. After a horrid losing streak a month into the season, he spiraled into hell and by Labor Day, he had become a full-blown heroin addict. Talk about a pair of pillars of death -- being a junkie and a degen baseball bettor.

I studied the so-called prospectus and accepted every risk before I took the plunge. I opted for a conservative route on Opening Day and cherry picked the best of the best. One game. Just one game. Alas, the monkey's itch flared up. Searing jolts of vibrating anxiety rocketed throughout my body and I succumbed to the impulsiveness of the inner action junkie. The revolution had begun and I also bet on CC Sabathia and the Yankees.

Viva la revolucion!

That was such a rube mistake, yet I pulled the trigger anyway, intoxicated on three decades of loyalty to my Bronx Bombers. I knew better than to bet on hometown teams, especially the Yanks, because every sharpie in Vegas will preach that east coast teams (Philly, NYC, Boston) in every pro sport are usually overvalued because of the stubborn-fanatic following by their lifelong fans. Millions of them. Betting like mushes. As a result, the punters on the east coast bet with their hearts instead of their brains, which is why I always went the opposite route, the road less traveled, and faded my hometown teams as an emotional hedge. Little did I know it was the correct strategy that the wiseguys exploited for decades.

I nearly jizzed myself after an auspicious start to the baseball season, going 2-0 with a well-informed bet and an impulse buy. The moment of glory was short-lived and the slide began. I lost one, then another, then another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another, and another.

I whiffed on ten consecutive bets.

I couldn't believe it. Wait, what? Ten? Are fucking shitting me? How can you lose ten baseball bets in a row. Overs shit the bed. Unders shit the bed. Aces got smoked. Chumps looked like Cy Young. I felt like one of the players on Butler chucking up brick after brick during the championship game.

The 10th consecutive loser nearly shattered my left testicles into seven thousand pieces. I had bet the Pirates and sweated the action courtesy of my girlfriend's swanky iPad and my newly purchased subscription to She had just left for a trip to NYC and fortunately left her new toy with me. I had unfettered access, but instead of dicking around on Angry Birds or playing backgammon, I fired up the MLB app and streamed the Pirates-Cardinals game. I freaked out the hipsters who lived upstairs from us every single time I shouted, "ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!"

They must hate me. If it's not the random expletives I scream at the television, it's probably the Tito Puente records that I blast at 3am. During the game, I chatted with Mean Gene, a lifelong Pirates fan, who sat in his local corner pub and played video poker while the game flickered in the background. We were trying to determine which one of us was having a more pathetic existence. I felt as though I was the biggest loser in the world who wasn't a TEPCO executive. After all, Mean Gene lived in Pittsburgh and was a life-long fan so his actions were perfectly acceptable behavior, whereas, I was a self-absorbed degen gambler who should have been writing fluffy pieces about the poker industry, but instead, got schwasted, ripped bingers, and didn't blink twice about betting on the yellow marauders.


The Pirates lost -- sigh -- and for a moment I understood the emotional turmoil that plagued Pirates fans for decades. I had walked a mile in Mean Gene's moccasins (well maybe not a mile, but at least nine inning worth) and when the Pirates made the final out, a rumbling lingered in my stomach, like the nauseating moment before you puked up a batch of lime-green bile. Alas, I keep my cookies down and regain composure, but for a moment I understood why beleaguered Pittsburgh natives escaped their summer of despair by extolling the quarterbacking virtues of a known sexual predator.

0-10. Sweet Jesus. OH. FOR. TEN. Talk about one of the worst streaks in my entire life -- and it happened in less than 100 hours. I smacked my head on the pavement. Rock bottom, eh?

I had to quit. Cue the bass line to Down with Disease.

But wait...I'm not a quitter. I'm stubborn and stuck it out for another day. I finally snapped the losing streak and improved to 3-10. I kept firing away, but once I reached 5-15, I reluctantly threw up the white flag. It took a lot of courage to surrender because it's so friggin' easy to keep firing away...and firing away...and firing away.

I try to find a way but there's nothing I can say to make it stop.

On Thursday morning, my CrackBerry chirped a dozen times. Text messages. Vital intel from a friend in Vegas. He updated me on morning line moves, but I was still foggy and groggy at that hour to pay attention. I stayed up late, too late, eating spiked brownies and hitting the hash pipe during four hours worth of Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War (I got sucked into the 1863-64 campaigns and determined that Sherman was a far better tactician than Grant). I passed out shortly before dawn and could have used an extra half hour of rest, but Thursdays in the major leagues is also get-away-day which meant that a lot of teams scheduled early afternoon ballgames. The first one was slated for 12:35pm ET or 9:35am west coast time. I never told my bud that I was going to stop betting on baseball. I crawled out of bed and eventually stumbled into the coffeeshop to grab a quick breakfast before the Yankees-Twins game started at 10:05am PT. I got distracted by the TV in the coffeeshop that reported a 7.4 earthquake in Japan and I missed a valuable window of opportunity to tail a pick that the betting syndicates were pummeling -- the UNDER in the Reds/Astros game. I mentioned the tip to Iggy and he said "Great American Ballpark is a hitter's park" and that 8 runs was vulnerable. The syndicates moved the run line from 9 to 8. I didn't like the number but it didn't matter because by the time I tried bet, the first pitch had been thrown and I got shut out.

Murphy's Law would have told ya that the final score was going to be 3-2. I missed a winner by thirty seconds. Fuck me. I needed to get my fix somehow after getting shut out, so I quickly forgot my ban on baseball betting. I decided to fade the public and bet against the 0-5 Red Sox. The -190 moneyline on the Sox was inflated because of 1) east coast bias, and 2) everyone was betting with the 'Sox have yet to win a game, they have to win eventually' mentality. I bet the Indians the other way for +164. I really put in that bet expecting to lose. That's no way to live life -- expecting to lose like that -- but something extraordinary happened and the Indians won a nail bitter by the score of 1-0, and the Sox dropped to 0-6 for their worst start since 1946.

Yes, I won my last ever baseball bet.

And that's my last bet...for now. The difficult part begins while I resist the urge, the temptation, the insatiable desire to be taunted by that fucking monkey who is hiding somewhere underneath my skin. If you keep scratching an area on your body long enough, you will eventually draw blood.

Can I get the monkey out before I bleed to death?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Hump Day Nugs: Bwin/Party Stock Tumbles, WSOP Rematches, Omar and The Wire, WPT Bad Idea?, and Tax What, Eh?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Happy hump day. I hope you get laid today. If not, rub one out for me. In the meantime, here's a couple of nuggets of poker news to keep you distracted this afternoon....
WSOP News: The WSOP announced they will be getting into the Rematch business. Yes, they're hosting three re-matches featuring some of the most historical heads-up battles at the Main Event. The top billing goes to Chris Moneymaker/Sammy Farha. The other headliner is Johnny "Fucking" Chan/Phil Hellmuth. The third match will be determined by (Facebook) fans by voting (on Facebook): Seidel/Chan, Jonathan Duhamel/John Racener, Jamie Gold/Paul Wasicka, and Greg Raymer/David Williams. I'm bitter that they did not included the infamous T.J. Clouiter vs. Jesus matchup or Hugh Vincent vs. Russ "Pig in a Poke" Hamilton. (

Business News: shares of (a newly formed junta after Bwin merged with Party Gaming) tumbled in London trading after German politics proposed a special gambler tax in excess of 16%. H/T to Kid Dynamite for the article. Disclosure: I do not own any shares of Party Gaming. (Bloomberg)

Pop Culture: HDouble penned one of my favorite posts of all-time is The Poker Wisdom of The Dude. Well, Hank returned to his roots with another epic investigation into The Poker Wisdom of Omar and The Wire (The Cards Speak)

International Tax Laws: What would the infamous Trailer Park Boys say about having to pay taxes on poker winnings? "Fuck that, eh!" Luckily we have an expert, Gaming Counsel, to break down the intricacies of Canadian tax law. GC shared his assessment of this important topic if you're a Canadian poker pro.... Taxation of gambling winnings in Canada. (Pokerati)

Poker Cinema: I wish I had Shamus a professor in college...I'd actually go to class more. If you dig cinema and have an affinity for the classic Robert Altman flick California Split, then take a peek at California Split and First Impressions. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

Arms Race: The pissing content continues! And thus begins the over-saturation of High Roller events. Los hombres sounded off on the new trend in a post titled The WPT Has a Bad Idea? (Wicked Chops Poker)

Gambling Lit: The literati chimed in about March Madness... In Praise of Distraction. (The New Yorker)
That' it for. You know the drill. NGTFOOMO!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Feed Me Billy's Picks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"Please, dude, feed me Billy's picks when you get them," begged Plump, a poker buddy who used to play college baseball. "It's never entirely wise to be on the other side of Billy. He's a sick fucking freak. I'd give him a friendly neck massage of he was stressed."

If you bet on sports, then you know about Billy Walters -- the J.P. Morgan meets Phil Ivey of the sports betting world. Bookies won't take Billy's action because they are afraid of him. As a result, Billy has to employ hundreds of runners from the farthest corners of the planet to place bets for him in Vegas, with regional bookies, and online at offshore sportsbooks.

During the March Madness run, I tailed many of Billy's picks. It's usually easy to find out what he bet after his runners put in the bets, but by then your value has decreased because the sportsbooks adjusted the lines and you're not getting the best possible number. But this Spring, I obtained Billy's picks a few minutes before the rest of the street heard about them. I won't say from whom, but I'm definitely benefiting from the relaxed rules regarding using phones in Vegas sports books, so word travels fast. I'm convinced that Billy was part of the reason why the NGC outlawed mobile phones in the sportsbooks in the late 90s and early 00s. But, the suits eventually realized that Billy and other betting syndicates were able to obtain real time line changes due to subscription services over the intertubes. The cell phone prohibition was a futile effort and has since been rescinded.

The ultimate goal is to find out Billy's bet before he bets it. In other words, find out what Billy is going to do before he moves the line. That critical piece of inside information is nearly impossible to unearth unless you work for Billy, or a competing syndicate, or an actual sportsbook. But the cliche fits -- time is of the utmost essence. The sooner I learn about Billy's bet, the better chance I'll have to get a decent number by shopping around as quickly as possible. In the end, that's how you end up making money over the long term as a sports bettor, which you can even apply it to Wall Street as a stock speculator. You can also come out ahead if you predict which side Billy will eventually bet and bet that number before he moves the line, and if he moves the line substantially, then you're fucking golden.

I explained to my buddy Plump that in the time frame I get Billy's picks and shoot him a text, the lines have already moved. Billy's picks are only helpful for him if he's dealing with his local corner bar bookie in the Midwest, and that's only if the bookie was not on top of up-to-the second line moves. If Plump exploited any lag time in updating the lines, then and only then could he make money on Billy's picks.

On Saturday an hour before tip off, my source in Vegas revealed that Billy was steaming the UNDER in the UCONN/Kentucky game. I was leaning toward the under, but didn't pull the trigger. I quickly changed my stance from a lean to a GO when I heard Billy buried UNDER. I jumped all over it and all I could see in my head was an image of a waterfall but instead of water, hundred dollars bills were cascading down the side of the cliff. The line only moved a point so I was still getting some value. I clued in Plump and he couldn't have contacted his bookie fast enough. The Midwest line only moved a half point because his bookie is a little slow. Plus it was always good to know if I might be able to manipulate a lagging bookie in the future.

And the outcome? Easy money.

It was more like printing money. I finally knew what Federal Reserve felt like, creating money out of thin air! That's what makes sportsbetting so fucking alluring and attractive, the fact that any mook at any given time can get free money.

That is to say if you bet the right side, and in some dire cases, the right side of the fix.

Over the weekend, Plump and I tailed the biggest swinging dick in Vegas and made a nifty profit. In just one afternoon, I made more money than I could as a poker writer in five weeks of freelance work, ergo, now you know why I haven't been writing much about poker.

I made my picks for Monday's championship game once the final two teams were set on Saturday night hoping to lock in the best prices because I anticipated the lines to move (against me) I went with my gut and went with the favorite UCONN -3.5 and the OVER 128 total. I kept a percentage of my roll in reserve to pounce on any major moves in my favor. I said a Hail Mary in Latin that Billy or the wiseguys weren't going to bury the other side of my bets.

About two hours before Monday evening's tip off, the line in Vegas moved from 129 to 131. I poked around a couple of online books and noticed the line had moved to 131.5. By the time I talked to Plump, the line had moved again to 132. At that point, everyone in the know knew that Billy and company were steaming the OVER. I couldn't have been happier. Call it genius or blind luck, but I bet on the same side as Billy before he moved the line. The line moved a total of 4 points since I locked it in. Over the long run, bettors will be profitable if they lock in the best possible numbers.

By the way, I don't know how Plump finagled a 128.5 total with his Midwest bookie! Now, we definitely know who to call in the future when I have an old tip on a Billy bet. That's why it's always important to have different avenues to bet. I'm fortunate to have access to Vegas casinos, offshore books, and the traditional bookie. If you're smart, you have a couple of bookies, multiple accounts, and people you can trust in Vegas to make a bet for you without fucking it up. In addition, it's imperative that you shop lines to boost your edge. If you want to purchase a new TV or a car, you're going to do some research and check out a different stores to compare prices before you make your purchase. Same goes for betting on sports.

None of us (pundits, bookies, Billy, Charles Barkley, the Pope) expected a black swan event to kick us in the junk on Monday evening. I figured this year's March Madness had already been chock full of black swans (how else could you explain VCU and Butler in the Final Four?), so the championship game should play out as expected -- UCONN winning by 5 or 6 with at least one team scoring 70 points. Alas, the unexpected became the norm; black is now white, and white is now black. Something peculiar happened on Monday, perhaps it has to do with Planet X, or solar flares, or Fukushima radiation, but no one could hit a fucking shot in the first half. The CBS suits were cringing at their fugly product, wit their finger on speed dial ready to call up Charlie Sheen and beg him to run onto the court and drop his pants. Butler looked worst than atrocious; they were simply pathetic. I couldn't help but think that VCU would have given UCONN a better run for the money.

Another friend of mine from New Zealand was watching the game at work (it was Tuesday at noon the next day for him) and he shot me a text message, "We should suit up." The Kiwi had a valid point. Could we do worse? I'm out of shape and haven't played organized ball since my senior year in college (I started at shooting guard for my fraternity in a highly competitive intramural league, which incidentally drew more fans than the varsity team at my D-III university) and couldn't run down the court more than three times without having chest pains, but I'm confident I could have hit at least one shot out of ten. Both teams were horrendous in the first half and I hadn't seen any individual shoot that poorly, let alone an entire team (er make that two teams), since John Starks' anemic performance in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA finals.

A black swan shit all over on Billy's grand parade and we both lost the OVER bet. Oh well. If given the chance, I'd make the same bet again, especially if I was gifted four extra points. I wondered how much Billy lost on the OVER? $500,000? $1,000,000? More? Or did he make some/all of it back on a second half bet?

On a positive note, once I knew my OVER bet had shit the bed, I saved face on a second half bet. The total was set at 68. Both teams had struggled to score 41 in the first half combined. Even my girlfriend, who barely paid attention to the game and multi-tabled two Rush MTTs while playing Angry Birds on her iPad, declared the UNDER was going to be a lock. She was right. I shoved all-in with the rest of my online bankroll and hammered the UNDER 68.

And it wasn't even a close sweat. Both teams scored 53 total points in the second half. I recouped my losses from the OVER bet and then some. UCONN pulled away and cruised to an 8-point victory to win their third title since 1999. I cashed a UCONN money line bet at -175 and they also covered the spread. Printing money.

"We're going to Sizzler," I joked to my girlfriend.

In reality, we ate dinner at a deli. Pastrami tastes so much better after you bailed yourself out of a hole. I had a profitable Final Four and bounced back after a lackluster NFL playoff season. The good news is that I now have a sturdy bankroll just in time for the NBA playoffs. By the end of June, I'll either be completely busto, or will have generated enough money to fund the second leg of Phish's summer tour.

I will never have the balls, discipline, or passion to be a full-time professional gambler, but if I pick my spots carefully, I can supplement my paltry salary by betting on a few games here or there in order to pay for a month-long bender at the end of the summer.

Easy money, right? All I have to do is continue to cherry pick the best bets on the board and hopefully I'll get lucky and get an opportunity to tail a few of Billy's NBA picks.