Monday, December 26, 2011

Tao of Poker - 2011 Year in Review

By Pauly
New York City

Time flies, eh?

Hard to believe that 2012 is around the corner, but I'm kinda glad that 2011 is over. This year was one of the roughest, saddest, and most excruciating that I experienced since I ventured into the poker world. I can only be optimistic about the future, because it can't get any worse... right?

I'm burned out beyond belief. It's definitely time for me to take an extended break. I need some time to unplug and write for a while. If you need a poker fix, I encourage you to read the best of the Tao of Poker from 2011...

* * *

January 2011

God's Cell Phone Number - Things got a little crazy while betting on the NFL playoffs and I successfully pulled off a Band of Brothers reference...
Sometimes I refer to God as Gretzky. At least, that's what I have him labeled on my cell phone. I'd hate for someone to steal my phone and than have a direct number to God. Hence, why He's coded as GRETZKY. He doesn't gives those out to anyone. It's one of the perks of attending a Jesuit high school. You learn Latin, Greek, and get God's cell phone number... MORE

Dispatches from the PCA: You Enjoy Myself - My lovely girlfriend won a satellite to the Ladies Event, so I flew down to Paradise Island in the Bahamas to attend the PCA as a civilian and professional railbird. I also drunk a shit-ton of rum and gambled at the sports book.
The cabbie pulled into Atlantis and I tipped him fairly decent, enough that he tried to sell me a bag of blow. I politely declined. Do you know the six words that aptly describes cocaine from the Caribbean? Clumps together, but only cut once... MORE
Dispatches from the PCA: Divided Sky - I spent a lot of time watching the Dead People Channel and then hung out on the rail to sweat Change100 during her victorious run in the Ladies Event.
It's no secret that I feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed at any Ladies Only events because I'm getting thousands of daggers shot at me from evil glances from the players, many of whom on principle hate men, not to mention a slew of female players who think I'm an asshole because my writing glorifies misogyny and the poor treatment of women by condoning prostitution and promoting stripping... MORE
Tao of Pokerati Podcast: Bahama Mama - Change100 Scores Ladies PCA Title - Listen to a super quick podcast that I recorded with Change100 after she beat Lauren Kling heads-up to win the PCA Ladies event.

Looming Municipal Debt Crisis the Key to Online Poker Legislation? - The majority of the states in the union were faced with severe budgetary problems at the start of 2011. I hypothesized that some states will look to legalize online poker in order to make a dent into their ginormous debt obligations.
The future is grim no matter how you look at it. That's why there's very little chatter in the media about the looming municipal debt crisis. It's sort of like an asteroid ready to crash into Earth -- it's much easier to be the ostrich with its head buried in the ground, and let everyone go about their daily lives, rather than clue them in on the reality of the situation and that the end of the world could be right around the corner...MORE

Dan Shak's Hedge Fund Nearly Blows Up the Gold Market - Speaking of finance... did you hear the one about Dan Shak nearly causing a financial tsunami?
Talk about a trader who has a set of titanium balls! That's what I love about Dan Shak -- he made a ballsy trade, it went south, he cut his losses, shrugged it off, and wants to get back in the game... MORE

Eight Voices and a Sea of Trouble - I broke down the eight different voices inside my head that often get me into gambling trouble.
Accessing the future for my own financial gain is an unattainable pipe dream. I meet people all the time in Vegas and in poker circles who claim that have foolproof systems for blackjack, roulette, the horses, stock options, etc. I've met lots of shit-talkers, but I've never crossed paths with a legitimate psychic who can accurately predict the future. Believe me, I scoured the world for a seer and found lots of charlatans, but came up empty...MORE

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kindle Versions - Lost Vegas and Jack Tripper Stole My Dog

By Pauly
New York City

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Were you a good boy/girl this year? Or were you a naughty troublemaker? Did Santa Claus stiff you with a pair of socks? Or did he hook you up with a new Kindle Fire? If so, you're in luck because you can support independent writers and fill up your new virtual library in one swoop! The e-book version of Lost Vegas is only a few clicks away...

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for Kindle and iPads.

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for the Nook

Click here to buy a print copy of Lost Vegas on

* * * *

And if you're interest in trashy smut, feel free to indulge yourself and pick up the e-book Kindle version of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.

I recorded a podcast with Change100 when the novel was first published in May 2011. She asked me questions about the origins of Jack Tripper. If you haven't heard it yet, well, here it is via SoundCloud...

JTSMD - Episode 1: The 10-Day Novel by taopauly

* * *

If you like opera or really fond of Carmen, then check out the trailer for JTSMD...

Thanks for your support and cashola. Every book you buy continues to support my habit and dream. The more books you buy, the more incentive I'll have to crank out more cheese-lathered tripe.

Happy Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, and Kwanza.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Puppeteers of America

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

One of my favorite political writers is Matt Taibbi, columnist at Rolling Stone magazine, who also penned a few books such as The Great Derangement, which included an astute observation about politics and Big Business...
"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi
Black Friday more than put a wrinkle into the lives of American poker players, it decimated the entire online poker landscape. On April 15th, we all discovered that we could no longer play on our favorite online poker sites. Just the day before on April 14th, Americans went about their lives with the ease and comfort knowing their bankrolls were safe in a virtual bank somewhere overseas. We were under the impression that we could exercise our right to gamble... or choose not to gamble... because after all, we're adults protected under the Constitution of the United States. We have the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Online poker could be one of those, or it could be all three. I know I spent too many hours logged onto a different online poker site bogged down in the pursuit of happiness, only to get sucked out by a one-outer, which sent me on mega-LAGtard-Scandi-tilt.

Online poker was a short-term escape from the harsh reality that we live in corporatocracy. Our nefarious politicians are pwned by oligarchs and plutocrats, all of whom don't give a rat's ass about your personal liberty to engage in any sort of activity (gambling or otherwise) on the internet. If you haven't been paying attention to SOPA or the NDAA, then you should get off your ass and do some research. Uncle Sam and Big Brother are now one in the same while a shadowy cabal of international banksters are pulling the strings.

Remember that scene from The Godfather, after the ailing Don handed over the reigns of the Family to his son, Michael Corleone?

"You are like me," mumbled Don Corleone. "We refuse to be fools, to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by other men."

I'm still trying to figure out why some activities in America are considered a crime and why other things are permitted, but then again most laws these days defy all logic. We're living in a rigged political system that is rotten to the core. Corruption is the grease that keeps the wheels of Big Business churning. Corruption is what re-balances the manipulated scales of justice.

Who were the real culprits behind online poker prohibition in America? After doing some research and "following the money" trail, I pointed fingers in a post titled Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 1,000 Masturbating Monkeys. Almost eight months later, I continue to search for more concise answers. Sure, we have the names of the unscrupulous politicians leading the witch hunt, but like Don Corleone explained, someone else is tugging at those puppet strings.

Who are the puppeteers?

Why did they cock block us?

What is so terrifying about online poker?

What kind of crimes against humanity did we commit by sitting around in our underwear and playing cards?

How did the simple act of playing online poker become threatening to the Establishment?

I guess the answer to my last question is this: poker players are rebellious in nature and free thinkers. Many of us would not have taken the courageous leap into the virtual waters at online poker sites unless we were strong-willed, determined, and seeking an alternative way to live our lives. Online poker provided income, happiness, purpose and validation instead of following the herd and the Master Plan (college > job > marriage > mortgage > kids > college fund > retirement) that had been beaten into our heads since birth. We were conditioned to conform from the moment we popped out of our mother's womb. We've been corralled into institutions like cattle, stripped of any semblance of individuality, brainwashed into living a life that we think is what we're supposed to do -- obey, consume, reproduce -- all of this without questioning authority and expressing an independent thought. The moment any of us stray from the path, we're ostracized and marginalized, and if that doesn't deter us, then agents of the state (paid by our tax dollars) will beat the shit out of us until we get back in line. And those whom stay on the path and do not upset the herd are thrust into a fabricated world in which the entire point of existence is to...
1. Become obedient cubicle slaves exploited by corporate overlords.

2. Generate tax income for the bloated state.

3. Create profits for the banking cartel in form of debt creation -- credit cards, car loans, school loans, small business loans, mortgages and second mortgages.

4. Buy cheap stuff (Made in China) that we don't need, which proliferates ginormous profits for Big Business.

5. Breed children so a new generation of consumers and debt slaves will continue this maddening cycle.
I was drawn to poker because of its anarchist nature, but since then it's been bastardized both economically and politically. Do you want me to scare the shit out of you? Many pundits vehemently against online poker are convinced online poker sites (and other online gambling sites) launder money for terrorist networks. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed the other day, which gives the military the green light to scoop up American citizens and detain us indefinitely as an enemy of the state if we're suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist groups and anti-American organizations. Say goodbye to "innocent until proven guilty."

"Theory of Poker" translated into Farsi

Under the NDAA, our totalitarian government can demonize anyone, including online poker players, by simply labeling them enemy combatants. Many of you thought not being able to play in the Sunday Million sucked, just wait until the military shows up at your front door, bags a black hood over your head, then whisks you away to Gitmo or some other secret prison, where you're forced to do the naked pyramid with other freshly-detained Jihadists.

What the hell has this country come to? It's poker, for fuck's sake! It's just a card game. A game. An all-American game. Texas Hold'em. The Cadillac of Poker. "It takes seconds to learn and a lifetime to master," according to Mike Sexton, the ubiquitous ambassador to poker, whose name will now pop up on the FBI's Watch List in between Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah and Husayn Muhammad al-Umari.

Any way you look at it, unsuspecting Americans were squeezed by the government and we all got caught up in this shakedown when the UIGEA passed in 2006. Our last hope is to sway politicians to alter the laws, just like Matt Taibbi said in his famous quote... "You don't elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal."

The sobering reality is that all the letters and emails in the world won't change the mind of our licentious elected officials. The poker industry dusted off hundreds of millions in a concentrated effort to lobby Congress, yet those we trusted to get the job done dropped the ball time and time again. We must think outside the box to solve the problem, and resort to drastic measures in order to re-install the freedom to fire up online poker sites once again. It will take a shitload of cash and gold to persuade the immoral muppets in DC to end online poker prohibition. If bribes don't work, then we'll have to call in a favor with the wiseguys. Because all it takes is just one severed, bloody horse's head in the right politician's bed to shape policy in our favor. Then, and only then, will we be able to play online poker again.

While we wait for the proverbial horse's head, the time has come to say farewell to a couple of dear friends. RIP online poker. RIP America.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New "Insider" Column: NFL Week 15 Picks

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

"Hey guys, I got this great stock tip... ever hear of Zynga?"

It's time to pimp my latest column for Wicked Chops Insider. I'm writing about sportsbetting and shared my picks for Week 15 of the NFL season. Just a heads-up, Insider is a paywall site, but gosh darn it... I'm worth it.

Here's the link: Dr. Pauly's Picks - NFL Week 15.

I almost had a perfect Week 14 going 4-1 with my selections. I'm sure I'm gonna jinx myself by saying this, but the "Step into the Teaser" picks have been 3-0 so far this year.

Also, I have to commend F Train on his stellar piece on Insider capturing The Rise and Fall of Ray Bitar. If I were to pick a Top 10 piece for poker writing in 2011, F Train's article would definitely make my list.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Zombie Poker Apocalypse

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

The public's fascination with zombies is rooted in an underlying irony. Hollywood recycles genres every couple of decades or so, including zombie-themed films. In the 1950s and 1960s, movie houses across America featured a plethora of B-flicks including zombie films by Edward Cahn. In the late 1970s, a slew of low budget zombie flicks entered the consciousness, many of which found a second life as home rentals in the 1980s courtesy of the VCR. And now as 2012 approaches, all-things zombie are kitschy again.

Zombieland. World War Z. Walking Dead. 28 Days Later. Zombies. Zombies. Zombies.

Zombies are everywhere and I'm not talking about the lifeless zombies you'll see in Las Vegas hunched over a slot machine, nor am I talking about the Aussie zombies sitting in the dark in Oz grinding away at online pokies. Nope. I'm talking about those rancid, flesh-devouring cannibalistic monsters who hunt down and devour the few remaining humans in a post-apocalyptic world.

Although the zombie genre features the un-dead feasting upon the living, there's a deeper socio-political message embedded in each film -- the real world is cluttered with dead souls corrupted by materialism, sucking out the life force and destroying every iota of individuality. In the parlance of our snarky times, the sheeple are the zombies. For those among us that are enlightened, we must fear the herd because the herd of zombies will eventually trample us, eat us, or infect us with their affliction.

What do zombies love to eat? Brains. Human brains. Highly symbolic if you ask me, because zombies eat brains to eradicate intelligence. The zombies don't think. They just consume. More. And more. And more.

So where's the irony? The sheeple love zombie movies. Zombie movies are subversive movies about sheeple. Therefore, the sheeple are really in love with movies about themselves becoming brainless monsters, yet their collective reality is too distorted to realize what is really happening.

Zombie flicks are hot today, but all of this will change in a couple of years, when the public loses interest in brooding teenage vampires and zombie-strewn dystopia. Eventually the suits in Hollywood will recycle another genre. In the meantime, I shall tolerate zombie flicks and snicker at the absurdity of their popularity, yet I eagerly await the return of erotic, campy women-in-prison flicks and Blaxsploitation films. Seriously, when the hell are they gonna re-make Superfly?

I often wonder if the American public will ever become interested in poker-themed entertainment again? Will poker ever get recycled? Can poker, during online poker prohibition, become a centerpiece of popular culture?

Unless one of the Kardashians starts banging Phil Ivey, I doubt the sheeple will give a damn about poker.

During the gravy years of the glorious poker boom, it was hard to keep up with the over-saturation of poker programming on the boob tube. Even with a thousand cable stations, there still isn't 24-hour poker channel in America. That omission is stunning, but the bean counters in Hollywood only care about the bottom line. And the current bottom line is this... only hardcore poker enthusiasts and degenerate gamblers will watch anything poker-related. Sure, the WSOP on ESPN might attract a small stream of curious non-poker people, but until Americans develop an appetite for more poker programming, we won't see any new shows -- especially since Poker Stars and Full Tilt aren't around to fund new poker-themed entertainment projects.

But, I have a brilliant idea that I revealed to a studio exec during a recent meeting in Burbank. Here's my three second pitch: washed-up celebrities playing poker.

Think about it. Who wouldn't want to see a bloated David Lee Roth check-raise a strung-out Dustin Diamond (aka Screech from Saved By the Bell)? Wouldn't you want to see an angry Vanilla Ice go on mega-tilt after getting sucked out by Gary Coleman?

Here's another mind-blowing pitch... it's a Vegas-based reality show comprised of bankrupt former child stars who live at Panorama Towers and receive daily tutorial sessions by Matt Stout and Tony Dunst. The former child stars compete in a weekly tournament in which the winner gains "immunity" and a free comp to the Bellagio buffet, while the rest of the child stars argue incessantly over which one of them gets kicked out of the Towers. Former Hollyweird child stars in Vegas is 100% pure comedy gold. Think about all the juicy B-roll you can obtain while following them around Sin City... hustling paid appearances on the Strip to take photos with tourists from the Midwest, then blowing their paychecks on an over-priced 8-ball that they scored in the parking lot of Olympic Gardens from a one-eyed pimp named Rummy.

Or better yet, here's one more high-concept pitch... lock up any eight D-list celebs in a penthouse at the Palms, feed them booze, pills, and enough speed to keep the entire state of Wisconsin up for a month... then film the ensuing surreal trainwreck as the schwilly D-listers attempt to play low-stakes PLO. We'll hire Gabe Kaplan and Gary Busey to do the color commentary and have Shana Hiatt conduct side-line interviews with hysterical celebs after they get bitch-slapped by the chick who played Six on Blossom.

Ah, just call me cynical. We're waiting on a ghost train. Poker's gravy train arrived at the turn of the century, then abruptly departed the night before the UIGEA was tacked onto the Port Security Bill. The gravy train, fueled by online poker rooms quest for domination, might never return in my generation, which is why I spend many of my waking hours writing up half-baked pitches so I can justify scoring a free lunch at Mo's with desperate development execs seeking the next big reality show.

Okay, I have one last brilliant pitch... strip poker featuring coked-up 20-something starlets and botox-riddled cougars. Meg Ryan has not cashed a big paycheck in a while and we know Lindsay Lohan is looking for work.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ocho - WPBT, Part 3

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Several hours after the marathon, I found myself in a late-night jam session at the Monte Carlo poker room. The session musicians included Dr. Chako, Iggy, G-Rob, Otis, Marty, Poker Peaker, Bad Blood, and Drizz.

Here's the setlist...
12/4/11 - Monte Carlo Poker Room, Las Vegas, NV

Set 1: Possum, Nougat Farm > Extra Large Aspirin > Pillow Talk, Danny England Ain't from England, Madras > Marty Ain't Russian > Madras "It's a drink, it's a rug, it's a shirt" Jam > Marty Borrows*, Ziggy Stardust > Iggy's Toothache > Pusherman, Otis Tries to Stand Up^ > Otis Sticks to Beer**, Aces High, Antelope

Encore: Suzy Greenberg > Madras Reprise

* Last time played 12/5/2008
^ Otis solo acoustic
** First time played
I dropped two buy-ins... one each to Otis and G-Rob. Fucking G-Rob would open by sliding a stack of redbirds over the betting line. $100 bet in a 1/3 game? Yep. It was one of those nights when the dealers loved us or hated us. Whenever a new dealer sat down in the box, everyone pre-toked the dealer at least $1, sometimes more. Whenever Otis dragged a pot, he showered the dealer with every white $1 in his newly acquired stack -- which usually amounted to a tip anywhere from $8 to $10. G-Rob convinced another dealer that he not only owned a nougat farm, but that Iggy was actually former NHL stars Zigmund Palffy. To which I said, "Ziggy? He's no Guy LaFleur."

Oh, and we played some poker too. Biggest pot of the night? Three-way all-in on the flop. Set over set against a flush draw. Iggy's set of Aces held up. Drizz doubled him up and Bad Blood was felted. Drizz said that if he had won that monsterpotten, then he would have had enough money for his own private lap dance for a month. I was confused on the math, then again, strippers in Minnesota must be dirt cheap. As my brother aptly said, "Strippers without teeth cost a lot less."

* * *

Las Vegas is a city built on cliches. The biggest cliche of the weekend? Four New Yorkers eating faux-NYC-style pizza in the bowels of City Center.

I knew it was too good to be true, but a leggy model was fixated on me as she walked through Cosmo. As a rule of thumb, any woman that makes eye contact with me after Midnight in Vegas is almost always a working girl or a Mossad agent. She kept starring at me in an extremely uncomfortable manner as she got closer and closer. She passed us, stopped on a dime, and whirled around.

"Where did you get the pizza?" she asked.

My brother pointed at the unidentified hallway across from the pool table. She mumbled "thanks" and sprinted (in high heels) to the secret pizza joint that sold over-priced slices, yet was the closest attempt at NY-style pizza that I devoured in all of Las Vegas. I had heard about the secret pizza place for a few months, but had never visited it mainly because I usually do everything possible to avoid the Strip. April and Mo discovered it earlier in the trip and gave us perfect directions on how to find it. The pizza place with no name. Open til 5am. What more could you ask for?

My brother noted that four New Yorkers were chowing down on slices -- the both of us, FTrain and Timtern. We had become a cliche of cliches. The pizza wasn't even that good, but I was schwilly after a long day and night of gambling and consumption that I was thrilled to find any sort of food substance at City Center that cost under $10.

The worst part of the secret pizza excursion was the art vending machine debacle. I heard about the different vending machines in Cosmo that offered up pieces of artwork for as little as $5. I was a little schwasted when I saw F Train walk up to an old-school cigarette machine that had been refurbished to house the special art. I thought the machine was selling decks of cards with different themes. I saw "abstract oil painting" and thought a fancy deck of cards would make a nice stocking stuffer for the holidays. I pulled a $5 bill out of my pocket and jammed it into the slot. I tugged on the handle, but to my dismay, that style was sold out. I grabbed an adjacent handle -- also of the "abstract" genre -- and I heard a large thud. I reached into the bowels of the machine and pulled out a block of painted wood.

"What the fuck? I just got hustled by a fucking vending machine."

The group did nothing to hide their laughter. I was the consummate Vegas veteran yet I got my ass handed to me. The machines won. Vegas won. Me? I was humiliated beyond belief. I survived seven WSOPs which amounted to seven summers of sheer torture. I wrote a book about the surviving the murky world of the poker industry, yet I could not evade the classic "Las Vegas hustle." So, I stood in the Cosmo with a painted piece of wood as I could hear the entire choir of angels in heaven jeering me. The gambling gods have a unique sense of humor, so much so, that I owe someone a swift kick in the junk.

Hustled again by Vegas. When will I ever learn? Next year, we should move the WPBT to Reno. At least that way if I get hustled again, I could just jump in Lake Tahoe and drown myself.

* * *

Iggy told me about the drunk in the Mickey Mouse costume panhandling on the Strip while drinking liquor from a bottle. The only street people I came across was a busker on the pedestrian bridge connecting Crystals to the Cosmo. I heard a raspy, young female voice singing along to an acoustic guitar. She looked more like a neo-punk rocker than a earthy-crunchy hippie chick, and she wasn't what you'd call... good. But, she sang out of tune and played anyway. After I ate pizza and got hustled by the old "piece-of-painted-wood-in-a-vending-machine" trick, I wanted to return to Aria and drown my sorrows at the sports book bar. I still had a few drink tickets left over. On our way back to the Aria, the same punk girl was sitting on the bridge and butchering a Tom Waits song.

"You should tip her a nug," whispered my girlfriend.

I had some Lemon Kush in my pocket and decided to do the right thing. Pay it forward. I slowly walked in front of her. She had her eyes closed but opened them as soon as she smelled the Lemon Kush.

"Here," I said.

She stopped playing. "Really?"

I nodded, handed her the nug, and continued along my way.

"Ohhhh. Myyyy. Gawd! So fucking awesome! Awesome!"

I heard her saw "awesome" at least four more times as we walked away. She was so stunned by the heady tip that she stopped playing, and thereby, stopped butchering the horrendous cover. Tom Waits would be proud.

* * *

Not everything in life can be summed up in a nifty narrative or setlist. So many inside jokes happened during my time in Vegas that I could write 15,000 words and yet, the situation would be funny for only a few of you. Sometimes some things are just left unsaid. We came. We saw. We conquered. But most of those things aren't fodder for social media and arcane trip reports. My friends would lose their spouses, their houses, their jobs. Dignity? We all checked that at the door as soon as we arrived in Sin City.

With that said, here's a random list of orphaned lines/sentences that missed the cut from the other parts of Ocho - WPBT....

- I spent a good hour talking about refs fixing basketball games with Pokah Dave and Grange95. Grange used to ref high school hoops and shared some perspective on the mentality of the game from the zebra's eyes. It also made me sick to my stomach to think about how many more NBA games were "manipulated" over the years. If you believe that crooked ref Tim Donaghy was an "isolated incident" then there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. Oh, and Dick Bavetta? I'm looking at you pal!

- So if Texas April now lives in California, and California April now lives in Maine, then who lives in Texas?

- Derek hustled G-Rob, Change100, and I at a video version of Greyhound racing. The Monte Carlo had a silly video game in which you could place bets on different virtual dogs. We realized that you didn't have to play the game for a race to go off -- so we decided to bet on each individual race that was comprised of six different dogs. You basically picked a number and shouted it for about thirty seconds before a winning greyhound was determined. That kept us entertained for about thirty minutes before we realized that Derek was winning all of our money. That inspired one of my favorite quotes from the entire weekend: "It's hard to handicap fake dogs."

- My second favorite quote? I don't know who said originally said it (so please let me know, so I can give you proper attribution), but FTrain referenced the gem one late night: "If it's after Midnight in Vegas and you're smoking a cigarette while carrying a baby... then you're definitely white trash."

- This is not a WPBT note, rather a general Vegas observation, but I fucking hate it when I'm trying to grab a cab in front of a casino and a doorman asks me where I'm going. I know he's doing it to trying to hustle a few bucks just in case I'm going to a strip club, but to hell with their intrusive antics. I once pissed off a doorman at the Rio over the summer when he asked me where I was headed. "I'm going to a new club," I said. "It's called None of Your Fucking Business." In the last year or so, I have been lying to the doormen, then correcting the destination to the driver as soon as the door closes. Most Vegas cabbies actually like me more when I tell them what I did. Mr. Funk (@LVCabbieChronicles) would be pleased at how I've been treating nosey doormen. Hey, my destination is an intimate exchange between me and my cabbie. Everyone else can bugger off. And if growing up in NYC taught me anything, you NEVER give the driver your exact destination especially when it's going to a residence. It's always wise to ask to get dropped off a block away or give them an address somewhere nearby. Vegas is so large that it's hard to get them to drop you off a block from a casino or the airport. But even then, I try to give a fake airline. "I'm flying on Blue Star airline. It's near the JetBlue counter."

* * *

My brother published his quarterly post, which happens to be a recap of his WPBT adventures. Derek rarely writes, but his trip report are among my favorites to read. Check out... Holiday Classic Recap: Words With Friends.

And you can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of my series titled Ocho - WPBT. Until next year, I bid you farewell...

Friday, December 09, 2011

Ocho - WPBT, Part 2

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Saturday morning. I sidestepped a German couple at the Aria and felt like the Joe Walsh song Life Is Good. On top of the world. Rested. Catching the first buzz of the day. Itching to gamble. In the previous years, I stayed up way too late raging hard on Friday night and staggered into the tournament on little to no sleep on Saturday at noon. This year I booked a room in the same casino where we played, so all I had to do was walk downstairs. Perfect scenario, especially if/when I busted early I could drop stuff off in my room, check the scores on a few games, then head back downstairs and sweat friends at the final table.

* * *

"I live in hotels, tear out the walls."

I woke up with college basketball on my mind. I placed a few bets on the UK-UNC game, schedule to tip off at Noon EST or at the horrendous 9am hour in Vegas, so I set my alarm in order to get a bet in. The first business of the day featured a quick meeting in front of the sports book. I felt confident with a hot tip from G-Rob.

"I watched every minute of every Kentucky game," explained G-Rob. "I watched every North Carolina game too. Seen every game both teams played. I'm telling you... Kentucky wins, covers, and the score will be low. Bet the under."

G-Rob spoke with the sincerity of a Sunday preacher, yet his assessment on the game seemed like a well-crafted pitch from slick boiler room stockbroker. It's hard to resist G-Rob because of his secret weapon -- perfectly coiffed hair. My brother Derek always suspected he was a member of a CIA black-op mind control project to keep the sheeple under constant hypnosis. With disdainful ignorance, I heeded G-Rob's advice and without hesitation I marched up to the window at the Aria's sports book.

I also tailed a college football pick from the legendary Johnny Detroit and bet Southern Mississippi +13.5 against the Houston Cougars. All of the so-called experts on the boob tube were all over the #6 ranked Cougars. The public was also betting Houston heavily, but the "Wiseguys" syndicate were all over Southern Miss. I trusted their intel and tailed their pick, rather than bet on the same side as the schwill-drinking, booger-eating, "Jersey Shore"-loving dickwads bumping chests in the sports book. Sometimes,you gotta fade the public.

* * *

"They say I'm crazy, but I'm having a good time."

The 8th Annual Winter Classic was hosted at the Aria's poker room for a second year in a row. The staff liked the gang at the WPBT so much (and tolerated all of our peculiar quirks) that they invited us back. Phil Ivey's high-roller's room was idle while we played and he was nowhere to be seen. Otis spotted him in Maccau earlier in the week, but if Ivey is the Ivey I know, he's been holed up in a nosebleed cash game with Chinese oligarchs. For the meantime, the only celebrity in the room was former L.A. Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser. Ironically, he wouldn't be the only former big leaguer that bloggers would play cash games with someone in our crew.

Jordan pulled a few strings at and secured a fistful of cash to sweeten the team last longer side bet. Teams were comprised of three players and the best team finish wins the motherload of cash. Change100 and Derek were my teammates on Tao of Fear. I had special hats made for the occasion which incorporated Tao of Fear's grey alien logo. The ETs live among us and have been assimilated for decades. They infiltrated the casino business as robotic-like Pai Gow dealers, surly doormen, and chefs manning omelet stations in the breakfast buffets.
WPBT OCHO - My Starting Table:
Seat 1. (EMPTY)
Seat 2. BrainMC
Seat 3. Lightning36
Seat 4. AGSweep
Seat 5. Mrs. Chako
Seat 6. Falstaff
Seat 7. Kat
Seat 8. Yestbay
Seat 10. Jess Welman
The first thing I noticed... the majority of the field was relatively sober. AlCantHang didn't show up at the crack of dawn to force-feed Southern Comfort down the throats of a forty bloggers. In previous years, at least half the field was juiced up from pre-game cocktails or still drunk from a hell-raising bender from the night before trying to keep up with the AlCantHang Experience. Only one or two people had the zombie-like stare that you get when you stayed up all night gambling and lost all of your soul. One of them was Grubby. I was getting ready to crash around 4:30am when Grubby sent me a text wanting to degen it up. I politely declined in order to finish reading A Treatise on Money by John Maynard Keynes. In order to write a report for Tao of Fear, I plotted to crash a hedgefund mangers convention at the Venetian later that week, so I had to brush up on Keynesian economic theory in order to bullshit my way into the door.

Sorry for the tangent. Moving on...

Action progressed slowly for a blogger tournament. Aside from the lack of serious binge drinking, I suspected the field (save the few Cannucks who had access to online poker) was rusty in the wake of Black Friday. It had been almost 8 months since many of us played online poker on a regular basis. Fucking federales.

I had a copy of Gigli with me. I handed out the DVD as a joke during the first WPBT tournament at Sam's Town in 2004. The "Bennifer" movie is so appalling that it's a fitting departing gift for the first one out of the WPBT Winter Classic. Bill Rini took down the first Gigli, and it's become a tradition ever since. Unlike the posh "Hammer" trophy that Iggy spends big bucks to present to the winner, I paid next to nothing for the Gigli DVD. It cost $0.01 on Amazon. Serious. A fucking penny. It cost $3 to ship, though. Therein lies the hustle.

No one busted out in the first two levels. Yestbay came close in the first orbit when his Aces were snapped off by Mrs. Chako's set. He somehow managed not to go broke, but he found himself on life support. Mrs. Chako embarked on a heater and jumped out to an early lead in the opening level. She was a set monster and vacuumed up chips from everyone at my table. I evaded one of her traps when she flopped a set of 7s against my pocket 10s.

Once the third level began, I wondered when someone would bust. We had eight tables with only a couple of "shorties" including Shane Nickerson. That's when PokerVixen wandered over to collect her boobie prize. Even though she was wearing a Micros' "run good" t-shirt, she was jinxed because she had just given up her citizenship to that weird land to the north of us... "Canadia"... where its citizens interject the letter "u" into random words and also attempts to pass off "ham" as bacon.

I took out Yestbay and collected one of my favorite bounties to date -- a YES greatest hits CD. I was always above average, but I misplayed a couple of hands. I blame Jess Welman's radiance for my live "misclicks." I exposed my hand twice when action was still going. One time it cost me a chance to double up against Jess. And the other? It didn't matter because I ran into a cooler.

OhCaptain moved to my table after Yestbay busted. I only sat with him for a few hands before I got involved in a hand that marked my demise. Kat open-shoved. OhCaptain raised all-in. I had both him and Kat covered and I called with Kings. I think Kat held A-Q, but OhCaptain tabled Aces. Fuck me. Kings into Aces. Crippled. Two hands later I moved all in with 8d-7d. Jess Welman busted me and won my bounty -- an autographed copy of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.

The funniest moment of the tournament occurred after a Grubby moved to our table. He had pounded Kettle and cranberry drinks for a few levels and was a little tipsy when he got to our table. On his elimination hand, he got it all-in against Jess. She busted him and Grubby stumbled over to shake her hand.

"Where's my bounty?" he blurted out.

A perplexed Jess smirked. "Wait, a second," she hollered, "where the heck is MY bounty?"

It took a few seconds before Grubby noticed his error. He apologized and said he had forgotten his bounty in his hotel room that he hadn't seen in days because he had been up for a couple of days chasing the progressive jackpot on Rockin' Olives slots at the Bellagio.

I was the first member of Tao of Fear to bust, but Derek and Change100 were knocked out in the next level. Our team was dunzo. At that point, I went to the bar and grabbed some grub before returning to the final table to sweat the action. I had just missed AlCantHang and Otis' elimination hands. With three to go, it was down to Timtern, Melissa Hayden, and quiet random guy that we later found out was Chilly's friend from St. Louis who had never played a live poker tournament before. Figures. Murphy's Law, right?

Timtern busted in third place and Melissa was heads-up against the random guy. She took him down to win the WPBT Winter Classic, and more importantly the trophy. She didn't really care about the money; rather, she really really wanted the trophy. Congrats!

* * *

"I'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime."

After eight hours in the poker room followed up by an hour or so at the bar drinking overpriced beers, the time hath come to go slumming at the Imperial Palace. The IP used to be home base, but we opted to spend a few extra bucks and stay at the Aria this year and not worry about contracting Legionnaires Disease.

"It smells like socks and hairspray in there," said Joe Speaker as he took a long drag off a cigarette. He stood outside getting some fresh air because the IP was its usual zoo for a Saturday night. Dealertainers that were bad dopplegangers for Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift belted out popular songs. Bloggers milled around the pits and rubbed elbows with Budweiser slurping cowboys, hipsters dressed like cowboys, and meth-addled hookers dressed like David Bowie. AlCantHang held court at the Geisha Bar and kept the tab running. I stood around for about an hour saying nothing but just watching people, mostly of the Whiskey Tang variety. You learn a lot about humanity on a Saturday night in Vegas. You don't wander inside the IP unless you're looking for a cheap thrill. Hunter said it... buy a ticket, take the ride.

The IP was as low-brow as you can go for the Strip. The simplicity of the cheap thrill irked me. Maybe it was the putrid odor? JoeSpeaker was right. The IP reeked of sweaty socks and hairspray.

I bailed as soon as came to my senses. Playing heads-up middle-stakes Pai Gow at the swanky Aria seemed a thousand times more appealing. I didn't care if they the pit boss sent out a dealer who was a bot or alien. I just wanted to flee the IP before the rash on my forearm spread to other parts of my body.

"It's hard to leave when you can't find the door."

I gazed out the window of our 34th floor hotel room. The Palms was visible in the near distance.

"That's where Otis and Jose Canseco are," muttered Derek. He referenced the insane cash game that a few of the G-Vegas boys found themselves playing against Jose Canseco. The word "worst player" was a popular phrase used to describe the former baseball player. I only wished I jumped in a cab to the Palms instead of trying to go slumming with cowboys and hookers at the IP. I missed my opportunity at free money and lost a shot at padding my bankroll with steroid-induced Canseco bucks.

Sunday morning. A new day. I had finally gotten back on track at the sports book after a profitable Saturday. Kentucky only won by one and failed to cover 6, but I won the rest of my bets, including So. Miss upsetting Houston to win outright and cover. After a dismal start to the trip, I finish Saturday with a decent profit. I was pumped to make some more bets and hit up the sports book first thing on Sunday morning. The lines were already wrapped around the wall. I got word that the Wiseguys were betting Carolina big all over town. Carolina, led by Cam Newtown, was originally a 2.5-point underdog but once word got out that Tampa Bay's QB Josh Freeman was sitting out, the line jumped to Carolina -1.5. I bet Carolina along with New Orleans, the Jets, the Pats, and Atlanta. I had a few other teasers, but those were not as important as my monstrous bet on the Pats laying 20.5 against the winless Indianapolis Colts. When I showed F Train the ticket, he shook his head then pointed at his crotch and uttered, "Huevos."

"Si. Mucho grande huevos."

The rest of my friends thought I was crazy. Crazy? Maybe. Stupid? Definitely. Last year, I told Dawn Summers to bet her final table winnings on the Pats. She didn't listen to me and missed a chance to turn $1,500 into $3,000. This year, I was riding the Pats again. My blind faith in Tom Brady and Bill Bellichek became my downfall. I'll spare you the bad beat story, but New England had the game covered going into the 4th quarter before all hell broke loose and they blew a three touchdown lead. I lost my big bet and was scrambling the rest of the day to try to get unstuck. I whiffed on Atlanta and lost an impulse bet on the Cowboys. The Jets won and when I cashed that ticket, I let it ride on the Saints. I doubled down on the Sunday Night Football game hoping it would help cover the day's losses.

We watched the game inside the Skybox sports bar adjacent to the sports book. The staff had no clue what to expect from our group which bum rushed them as soon as the doors opened. I greased the staff and the found us a nice spot in the corner. Jordan secured $1,000 from Pokerist to fund the Sunday debauchery. $1,000 lasted just under an hour before we had to start paying for stuff by ourselves.

The highlight of the day was the intricate cake that Pokerist surprised us with. The cake cost $500 and took up the entire table. Classy. The cake tasted good and it was the only thing I actually enjoyed on Sunday while sweating the games. Losing the big Pats bet put me in a bad mood and nearly killed my spirit. The cake helped me rally and I was ready for the next item on our agenda... the half-marathon.

* * *

"Lucky I'm sane after all I've been through."

The plan was simple... sweat the first half of the SNF game at Mandalay Bay, then cheer on our friends at the finish line of the half-marathon. It didn't occur to me the logistical nightmare of hosting a 44,000 person race. Mandalay Bay was packed but sort of looked like a refugee center. Friends and family of the runners were scattered throughout the casino as they tried to stay warm.

Heather and April found a spot in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd near the front of Mandalay Bay. About 15-20 of us stood and watched random runners jog by us. Derek hung over the rail and smoked a cigarette, while StB pounded a beer. It would have been a perfect spot to burn down a doobie, but there was an undercover police car nearby.

In order to keep warm, I blurted out random things to runners as they passed us. I can't recall most of what I said, but all I know was that by that point of the night, I was roasted, faded, and drunk. Grange95 had a few pops in him and he kept the chatter lighthearted. The guy in the Borat costume passed us and all he wore was a green thong. Many other runners took the opportunity to don superhero costumes, wear pink tutus, and dress up like Elvis (or is it Elvi?).

Mrs. Otis posted Otis' split times on facebook. We got word he was a couple of miles away. I told everyone it was a perfect time to practice our chant, so we belted out "O-tis! O-tis! O-tis!" We were loud and in tune. All we had to do was wait.

I spotted Poker Peaker whizzing by. At first I didn't think it was him until I recognized the Colorado flag symbol on his running shirt. He posted the fastest time out of the group. Bad Blood flew by us not much longer and barely looked like he had broken a sweat. We wondered about Chako, Mattazuma, G-Rob, Curtis, and of course Otis.

We almost missed Otis. I knew he was wearing a green fluorescent shirt and we had an approximate time he'd be near us, but that was it. Luckily, he came to us when he spotted Grange or Drizz's head on the rail. He snuck up on us with a flyby and we hesitated a few seconds before everyone belted out the chant.

"O-tis! O-tis! O-tis! Oooo-tis!"

He ran for a few seconds than thrust his arms in the air forming a fluorescent green V. It's something I'll never forget. The V. Otis had been through hell the previous week, yet that did not deter him from completing a task he set out to do. After 13 exhausting miles, he neared the finish line -- something both tangible and personal. His resplendent V piercing through the dark, freezing night is one of the most inspiring symbols I had ever seen in Las Vegas.

"Life's been good to me so far."

To be continued...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ocho - WPBT, Part 1

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA


It's hard to believe we've been emissaries for eight years. The WPBT's annual Winter Gathering thrives even in the wake of online poker prohibition. Black Friday did not deter an eclectic group of a hundred or so people from descending upon Las Vegas for a weekend of lurid debauchery.

The WPBT began as a bad inside joke like a half-baked Saturday Night Live sketch that morphed into a global phenomena and yearly pilgrimage. In his next book, Malcolm Gladwell should write about the compelling story of how an innocuous weekend in Las Vegas became a sanctuary for an unusual group of people, which originated from a couple of potheads from the Bronx and two cynical brothers from Michigan. For as long as I can remember, I flew from NYC to Las Vegas twice a year with my brother to occupy the sportsbook for a couple of days (March Madness in the Spring and another sojourn at the end of the year to bet on football). Our trip in 2004 was enticing to our friends, BG and Bobby Bracelet (back before he was even given the "Bracelet" moniker by my brother), and they instantly joined in the fun. Once the peanut gallery found out, the trip ballooned to over 30 poker enthusiasts.

When I (loosely) organized the first Winter Classic with the Poker Prof, we thought it was going to be just a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet virtual friends, many of whom we had never met before. The first trip was a whim for many of the participants involved, yet the first gathering spawned a yearly pilgrimage. The group grew. Fast. Infectious. Huge. Then things got out of control as it became a flash mob of several hundred, inebriated degenerates clashing with cowboys on the Strip.

Eight years later, the weekend still exists which is a testament to the people involved. The original weekend in 2004 was never about online poker, gambling or a pissing match -- rather it was a whimsical leap of faith in an attempt to nurture a sincere, yet genuine connection that we all made through the virtual world with online poker as our portal. Many of us originally booked their flights because we were seeking out a shared visceral experience in Sin City. The rest is history.

The inaugural WPBT gathering occurred right smack in the middle of the glorious poker boom during the halcyon days of "blogs" before Facebook and Twitter hijacked the social media cloud. From the outset, we were a rag-tag bunch of geeky writers and online poker addicts, which is why the Big Business vultures were circling around our gatherings. They dispatched savvy marketing agents and seized the weekend as an opportunity to bribe the poker blogging community. Any publicity is publicity. Simply put, the slithery tentacles of the poker industry octopus would hand out free shit with hopes that we'd write about it (and link it up) on our blogs. Fair enough.

Everyone loves two things: kittens and free shit. Alas, handing out furry adorable felines inside a poker room seems a little weird, even by Vegas standards, but the rest of the free stuff was welcomed. Over the last eight years, major online poker rooms competed with each other to get the attention of the WPBT. Some marketing ploys succeeded. Some definitely missed. Some of the online rooms outright exploited us. Maybe it wasn't a fair deal for everyone involved, but in the end we all had a good time and acquired some free shit. Let's not forget the last-longer pots were sweetened and the liquored flowed, while the industry unloaded tons of free trinkets (made in China, of course) like decks of playing cards, card cappers, t-shirts, and hats.

The annual weekend had become an orgy of consumption, yet this year took a slightly healthier bent when a small group of friends decided they wanted to run the Las Vegas half-marathon. If you haven't heard, the race was plagued with logistical issues and it's remarkable that everyone finished despite the clusterfuck. Regardless, the race was the perfect example of the quirkiness of our group -- from the runners in the half-marathon to the bunch of us screaming like banshees near the finish line.


We've done this eight times. Nothing can top the first one, but the eighth one will always stand out.

* * *

I arrived Friday and was already stuck. I asked StB to put a bet down on a college basketball game on Thursday. It lost. Even though the game was not on TV (nor could I find it online), I was sweating the score via my CrackBerry while seeing the film J. Edgar with Change100 at a theatre around the corner from our apartment in San Francisco. The movie was so boring that I refreshed the score every few minutes. I didn't even get to the airport and I was already down. That was an ominous sign that the gambling gods were going to fuck with me all weekend.

I departed San Francisco on Friday morning and ran into Katitude at the airport, which was odd because she's Canadian and supposed to be flying from Toronto to Vegas, yet she had a random layover in SFO. Even more weird? She was on my same flight. SFO > LAS.

I checked into Aria and had a Jerry Seinfeld moment at the front desk because of the reservation snafu. I found paid StB slamming Widmer at the bar in front of the sportsbook and I paid my debt. We went inside and studied the lines for upcoming games. I scanned the different screens back and forth when my brother piped up, "What the fuck is Lingerie Football?"

StB checked his iPhone and discovered the Lingerie League was a legit league with 12 teams of women playing football in pads and... lingerie. It's the kind of sports entertainment that strikes an angry nerve with feminists and even makes sport purists squirm. Even with a competitive angle, Lingerie Football is classic Americana Whiskey Tango Entertainment. Heck, it's nearly soft core porn which is why it only appeared on PPV. Even if we bet on the game, we couldn't watch it. What's the point to betting on something you can't watch? You have no sweat equity.

Fantasy versus the Crush. The Fantasy were the favorite and laying 8.5 points. I had no clue if that was good, or not. I couldn't even tell you the cities the teams were from. In case you were wondering -- Cleveland and Orlando. But which one was the Fantasy?

We bet on it anyway. Our first impulsive degen moment of the weekend. Five minutes before kickoff, we stood in front of the sportsbook and pooled our money -- Derek, Chilly, Iggy, StB, Maudie and myself. StB walked up to the window. My only regret was that we didn't bet more.

StB sprinted to the window and tried to joke around with a humorless woman in a Jim Kelly Buffalo Bill's jersey. She took our bet on the Limgerie Football game, but didn't care for our shtick. Too bad she wasn't working when we cashed our winning ticket, because StB would've rubbed it in. Bad.

Our career as a Lingerie Football betting syndicate was short-lived. No other games were scheduled while we were in town, so we'd have to disband the group indefinitely. At least we turned a profit. In fact, Lingerie Football was the only bet I'd win on Thursday or Friday. I was mired in a slump after whiffing on a college hoops game (I tried to fade the Ivy League and took Loyola Marymount -9 against Columbia) and a college football game. In a Six Degrees of Separation moment, Chilly randomly mentioned that he knew the head coach of the team I had bet on.

"What the fuck, Chilly? Why didn't you tell me? Send him a text and tell him he better score lots of points."

Around Midnight, Chilly hustled me in a prop bet -- how many of his toes were painted with nail polish? He gave me 7-1 odds and I instantly bombarded him with questions. After I extracted some answers, I barked out: three. I was wrong as he took off his shoes and socks to settle the bet, much to the delight of the eye in the sky. Chilly revealed his toes, which normally would horrify most sane people, yet the Friday night crowd was distracted with the edifice of Elvis -- a bust near the entrance to Viva Elvis, his new Cirque du Soleil show. A steady flow of tourists stopped in front of the bust all night and snapped photos with the bronzed statue of Elvis' head. A pack of soused cougars took turns molesting and making out with the head, but that all that sexual frisson overshadowed a semi-circle of shit-faced degens standing around Chilly as he wiggled his toes.

Whenever someone new showed up at the bar, Chilly attempted to run the same hustle. We didn't get busted so I suspect whoever was watching the eye in the sky was a foot fetishist and/or had a thing for portly bald guys.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Four Haikus: Lost Vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Photo by Flipchip

Four Haikus - Lost Vegas

Stale cigarette smoke
Boulevard of broken dreams
Cowboys shooting dice

Wafting puke odor
Bright lights of white trash city
Cheap liquor cheap thrills

Porn slappers on post
Hustling cocaine-eyed strippers
Hooker or a ho?

Cougars and hipsters
Desperate degradation
Vast cesspool of filth

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New "Insider" Column: NFL Week 13 Picks

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I wrote another column for Wicked Chops Insider. The topic? NFL and sports betting. I'm divulging my Week 13 NFL picks including a tip I got from a chicken in Chinatown. Yes, a chicken.

I'm also putting my money where my mouth is and betting my picks in Las Vegas this weekend. Yep, I'm heading to Vegas this weekend for the 8th annual Holiday Classic otherwise known as the #WPBT -- a gathering of poker bloggers that spawned out of an annual trip to Vegas with my brother. I'm surprised that the group is still going strong, but then again, I'm not because that's a testament to the cool people involved that I've met over the last eight years. Sure, blogs have become dinosaurs in the nebulous social media universe and we can't play online poker together anymore, but that is not going to deter 50 or so people from converging on Sin City for a weekend of debauchery. Man, eight years? Has it been that long? It's been a wild ride for sure.