Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Born to Gamble Part II: Southbound

"Like most New Yorkers, my family did not believe that a glass of beer or a game of cards imperiled their souls, and there was something ugly and silly about those who insisted they did." - Edward Conlon, Blue Blood
When my internship at the NY Commodities Exchange ended in late May, I was offered a full time position with the brokerage house that I had been working with. At the age of 17, I made $500 a week plus overtime. That seemed like all the money in the world to me. (The sad part is that a decade later at age 27 as a struggling writer and artist, I'd make substantially less per week including inflation than when I was 17.)

I picked up at least $40 a day in prop bets on the floor of the exchange. For $20 a pop, I'd make crank calls to brokers' ex-wives and ex-girlfriends. I'd willingly say things like, "How would you like to make $14 the hard way?" or "How many cocks have you sucked today, you dirty slut whore?"

Most of the time, I pretended to be a doctor suggesting that one of their ex-lovers tested positive for the AIDS virus and that they should get tested immediately. It was a fucked up thing to do, but I was 17 years old and that was probably the least crazy thing I did. After work, I would go to the bars with the other brokers and clerks. Yeah, I wish I was 17 again drinking $1 mugs of beer at the Dugout in the East Village and trying to pick up rich stoner girls from schools like Fieldston or Chapin.

During my last week of work in August of 1990, the markets went completely crazy. The stock market and gold market were at new highs and oil futures went through the roof when some insane guy in Iraq named Saddam invaded an oil rich neighboring country. That was the first time I understood how international politics and war affected the financial markets. I saw it with my own eyes. During the seven months I worked on the floor, I never witnessed that much chaos as I did when Saddam attacked Kuwait. Everyone who had an account was gambling on the future. War is good for the economy and everyone was trying to position themselves to earn as much (or lose as little) money as possible during the impending showdown in the first Gulf War.

"You're lucky you're going to college," my supsenders-wearing boss with slicked back hair told me, "otherwise they'd be shipping your ass off to the desert."

* * * * *

Parts of college were a blur for me. I blame the mushrooms and Jim Beam, which caused partial memory loss. I didn't learn all that much in Atlanta while I dabbled in hedonism for four straight years. Although you can make a solid argument that 16 years later, I'm still caught up in my Dionysian lifestyle. The foundation of my intellectual knowledge was given to me by the Jesuits who taught me a classical education in high school which included learning four languages (Latin, French, Russian, and Greek), while studying Russian, Victorian, and early American literature, Advanced Calculus, Economics, and four years of theology.

Since my prep school was so rigorous academically, my classes in college were a joke. I took classes like Bowling, Stress Reduction and Flexibility, Social Problems in Modern Society, and the Presidency. No wonder I'd show up to class stoned, drunk, or both.

I wasn't challenged. College reminded me of watching Wheel of Fortune just after watching Jeopardy. It was a waste of time. I spent less time in classes and most of my time drinking in Atlanta bars, sitting on the porch of my fraternity house make cat calls at the sorority girls who jogged down Fraternity Row, or roadtripping to New Orleans or following the Grateful Dead throughout the South.

I also gambled in my late teens. Heavily.

My fraternity held a football pool and a March Madness pool, and I was in contention for both every year. I won the March Madness pool when UNLV beat Duke and guys in my house were verbally abusing Christian Laettner as they shouted homophobic references at the TV about his "close relationship" with point guard Bobby Hurley.

Most of us gambled on football every weekend. I had a bookie back home in NYC. Karate Tony started his own book during college and we used his services. My buddy Chicago Bob had a bookie in Atlanta and we'd phone up both bookies and go with the one who had the better spread. During my senior year, we had an amazing run and won seven weekends in a row. I have still yet to match that rush.

Sometimes on weekends when there wasn't anything going on, we'd roadtrip down to the riverboats in Biloxi, Mississippi to play blackjack. That's the first time I played poker in a casino, was on a riverboat. I was down to my last $30, so Chicago Bob and I played Seven-card Stud with a bunch of WWII vets.

During senior year, eight of us rented an RV and drove to Mardi Gras. We parked the large beast on Chartes Street in front of a church and went on a three day bender which included the consumption of massive qauntities of liquor, narcotics, and groping half-naked college girls from Texas. On the way back to Atlanta, we stopped off in Biloxi and headed to a riverboat casino. We needed to win enough money at the tables to pay for gas for the ride back.

My friends and fellow fraternity brothers started asking me to place bets for them. I would phone in their bets to Karate Tony or Chicago Bob's bookie. They lost more than they won and I started booking their action... myself. I stopped passing the bet along to Karate Tony unless it was so huge that I was afraid to cover it myself. Although I had one or two problems collecting money (and it was always from the rich kid who drove a nice car that refused to pay), I made enough scratch that I quit my part-time job cold calling alumni for donations. At best, I was a low level thug making a couple of hundred bucks of the degeneracy of the rich kids in my fraternity who would drop $100 on the Eagles because they were rooting for their hometown Philly team and betting with their hearts instead of their brain. All my bookie money went to pay my bar tab at Dooley's Tavern and to pay for tickets to Grateful Dead shows.

We played cards all the time in my fraternity house. There was a period of time when everyone played Spades and we even had a house-wide tournament. Spades is played with four players comprised of two-person teams. Rib was my partner and we were one of the best teams in the entire house. We would spend hours and hours playing and drinking cheap beer and smoking bad weed while listening to Widespread Panic bootlegs on the stereo in Rib's room.

We would play drinking games with freshmen girls who would wander down to the house. We'd try to get them hammered drinking Malibu Rum or some other conncoction that I came up with... lemonade and Southern Comfort. We'd play Asshole most of the time and some of the girls would be doing the "Walk of Shame" sometime around 8am.

We also played poker in college and the games were intense. We'd play in the living room of our fraternity house. One weekend we had a huge party where a band played in the formal room. After the party ended, we left the stage there for a week maybe longer. We threw green felt over one of the dinner tables and we started a poker game. That game lasted for a week straight as brothers and friends of ours would sit down and play rotating in and out. It was our version of the Big Game. Playing up on the stage under the bright lights with a small crowd gathered around made the players in the game feel like they were doing something extra special. We'd drink Jim Beam like it was water and chug Beast Lite, tossing empties into the fireplace or out the window. We made pledges go fetch us food, buy us more liquor, and clean out the gravity bong for us. Guys were afraid to go to class, take a nap, or have lunch with their girlfriends because they were worried they'd lose their seat in the game.

When it got too big we moved the game off campus. One of the dorky brothers in my fraternity complained that we were gambling in the open and that we could get our charter revoked for such aberrant behavior. It was just cards and not a big deal, but we got yelled at anyway. I thought it was a hypocritical decision since our other degenerate behavior was still allowed like the rampant drug abuse, giving our pledges alcohol poisoning, and the occasional date rapes.

My buddy Jerry lived off campus with Rib and his three-legged cat, Smooth, that was addicted to marijuana smoke. I guess if you were missing a leg, you'd get stoned all the time too. During the spring of 1994, two NYC teams were in the playoffs. The Rangers ended their 44 year drought and brought home the Stanley Cup. And the Knicks were bounced by the Houston Rockets in the NBA finals after John Starks went 1-87 from the floor in game 7.

Every night for a month straight, a NY team was playing in the playoffs so there was a different game to watch on TV. We'd be huddled around the TV and when the games ended, we'd play poker until sunrise. There would be 14-16 people playing with two tables going. The girls who lived across the hall got hooked. This went on all summer long.

We played dealer's choice with the emphasis on a four card guts game called Four Barrel where 4s and 8s were wild and flushes and straights don't count. Those games would get ugly and it would not be uncommon to lose a couple of hundred dollars in a Four Barrel pot. This was a lot of money considering we'd start out the night with nickel and dime antes. Even the sorority girls across the hall were hooked on Four Barrel. The second table would break around 2am when the people with "real jobs" had to crash. The first table would continue until sunrise when we'd go back to campus, pass out, then wake and bake and start the routine all over again.

I didn't work at all that summer. During Memorial Day, I went on a rush and won $2K playing two hands of blackjack at the same time at the Casino Magic in Biloxi. I made enough money to cover rent and food for the entire summer. I guess you can say that my first job out of college was being a professional gambler.

One guy in our game had spiraled into in a big losing streak. Dutch lost so much money that he had to use IOUs, which he scribbled on yellow Post-It notes. We nicknamed those IOUs "Dutch Bucks." They were as good as gold. My friends and I would use Dutch Bucks as currency. If Jerry bought me a twelve pack of Beast, I'd pay him with $5 in Dutch Bucks. At one point I had almost $200 in Dutch Bucks and I traded that in for a free round of golf (cart included) at Pinehurst, NC, a ticket to a Phish concert, and a big bag of mushrooms.

We'd all bring cash or jars of change to play in Jerry's homegame. Dutch would bring Post-Its. I still have a few Dutch Bucks to this day.

One night Teddy B (our version of G-Rob) got so drunk that he gambled away gift certificates that his girlfriend gave him for his birthday. She was still in school and didn't have much money. She knew Teddy B loved watching flicks, so she bought him $50 in gift certificates at Blockbuster. He was stuck pretty bad one night trying to bluff at a big pot in Four Barrel and "Zeke" got the best of him. He didn't have cash to buy back in and busted out the book of gift certificates. He promptly lost every single one. When his girlfriend found out she was furious. When we offered to give them back, she refused to accept them.

"Don't give them back. Let him learn this valuable lesson," she said. They broke up soon after.

... to be continued

Editor's Note: FYI, check out Born to Gamble Part I: Where It All Begins if you haven't read it already. Part III of the Born to Gamble series will be posted on Monday.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Born to Gamble Part I: Where It All Begins

I was born a gambler. I crashed the party of life in 1972, the Year of the Rat. Chinese and Japanese astrologers have believed for centuries that the rat is a symbol of good luck and wealth. If you have credence in those sorts of hokey superstitions, then that explains part of the reason why I've been extremely fortunate in life.

One of my earliest memories was watching the Superbowl XI in 1977 with my father. The Raiders beat the Vikings and my old man was extremely enthusiastic about the win since he had both the Raiders and the over in the game. He hit his parlay and that unstuck him for the NFL playoffs. Watching my first televised sporting was coupled with my first experience with gambling. The two began symbiotic relationship, that still exists in my mind today. From the moment Super Bowl XI ended, I presumed that my father had bet on every sporting event on TV over the next several years. Instead of asking him who won the Jets game, I'd say, "Did you win your bet?"

One of my first sad childhood memories involved my parents getting into a huge argument over gambling. My father's best friend wanted to go to see the Belmont Stakes. He could only go if my father went. I dunno why that was, but the guy's wife was a hardass. My mother wanted to go shopping and told my father he couldn't go. My uncles went to the track and OTB all the time. So did my father and I didn't think it was such a big deal. My overbearing mother thought otherwise. The transcript from that argument has long been forgotten, but I do have vivid memories of my mother throwing things at my father. He skipped the Belmont Stakes that year.

There was an OTB near the subway station in my neighborhood where I grew up. If you don't know, OTBs are legal spots where you can place horse racing bets in New York City. Before the internet and cable TV, those were the only places you could catch the races unless you physically went to the track. I had many humiliating memories of those testicle shrinking moments when your parents boldly reminded you that you were just a kid with absolutely zero rights and that adults will always rule the world. By New York State Law, I was not allowed inside an OTB. I'd have to wait outside while my father or uncles would place a bet or cash a ticket.

As soon as I was old enough (or tall enough), I could peek into the window where I'd see a crowd of degenerate gamblers shrouded in a thick veil of cigar and cigarette smoke as they had their blood shot eyes glued to the monitor as the 3rd race at Aqueduct was about to go off.

I didn't have an infatuation with horses or betting on the ponies. But I desperately wanted to be inside the OTB. Like so many things I'd experience in life, I wanted to do it because I couldn't.

Before I could ride a bicycle, I learned how to read a racing form and spent hours memorizing the sports pages from the newspapers. My parents read the Daily News everyday and the NY Times on Sundays. Before Sportscenter and the internet were ever invented by Al Gore, the newspapers and the four minute segment from Warner Wolf on the nightly news were the only two outlets for me to get my sports fix. I'd read and re-read every page of the papers, memorizing records and point spreads. I studied the stats page in the NY Times sports section on Sundays because they listed the batting average of every player in the majors.

I played cards when I was a kid, but mostly Crazy Eights, Rummy, and Spit. We played some poker, but most seven year olds didn't have a chip set or disposable income to gamble with. We'd flip for baseball cards in the schoolyard, but that was the only high stakes action that I got as an adolescent. I attended Catholic school and there was a phase were we all played Spit religiously during recess and before school started. The nuns actually allowed that card game to be played.

As children, Derek and I only played board games and card games a small percentage of the time. We were Atari video game junkies but spent a large amount of time outdoors playing various sports. We were both somewhat athletic and we didn't have too much space growing up in an apartment so we spent a large portion of play time in the playground attached to our apartment building or in the schoolyard. We played football, basketball, baseball, Stickball, and Stoop. Nobody plays Stickball anymore. All you needed was a bat, a ball, an imagination and at least two people and you had a game. And I don't think anyone who didn't live in an urban environment understands the concept of Stoop. All you needed there was a ball and a bunch of steps.

Man, I'm starting to sound like one of those grumpy old people...

When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, we were so dirt poor that the only thing we could play was Stoop where we'd roll up the carcass of a disease-ridden cat and hurl it against the front steps of the soup kitchen while the shoeless, lice-infested, starving neighborhood kids shoved each other out of the way. Whoever snatched the dead mangled feline out of the air would get to take it home and eat it for dinner that night. The rest of us would go hungry until the local parish priests offered us bread and soup if we played "Touch the Monkey" with them behind the rectory.

On Wednesdays during football season, my father would come home from work with betting slips. They were either yellow or white parlay tickets that I thought a guy in his office ran. I found out many years later that the Mafia ran the betting slip ring at the local bar called the Leprechaun where my old man spent many of his waking hours knocking back beers with cops and firemen.

My father gave Derek and I one betting slip each and we'd pick anywhere from 3 to 10 teams for a parlay in both college and pro-football games. Being Irish Catholic, my father was a huge Notre Dame and Boston College fan. I found myself picking them and Army a lot. I usually stuck to college games. I can't explain why, but I liked the bigger point spreads. I always took one of the biggest underdogs every week and began my system on picking home dogs. That was also during the same era when the Steelers dominated football. You bet your ass I picked them every week.

I attended a prestigious all-boys Catholic high school downtown and one of the priests ran a football pool. He would give out 5% to the winner and send 95% of the prize pool to a mission in Africa. Father Duffy had been running that pool for decades and I won it a couple of times. It cost 15 cents to enter and one week I took down a whopping $2.65. It was all for a good cause, but among my friends, we were competing for bragging rights. These were some of the same kids who were in the Young Economists Society where we'd have contests to see who'd earn the most money with a mock portfolio of stocks. And yeah, I was a member of that club.

Freshman year I played Stratomatic baseball in the cafeteria and I drafted the 1985 Kansas City Royals. I played them for most of the year and held my own against some of the biggest dorks in the five boroughs. By then I had a Commodore 64 and started playing video games on my computer. I had a copy of Strip Poker and quickly developed excellent skills playing Five Card Draw because I was a horny teenager who wanted to whack off to pixelated images of naked women, who would only get naked if I beat them heads-up.

Sophomore year I discovered two things that would change my life: Liquor and Girls.

Particularly Catholic high school girls. I'm 33 and things haven't changed since I turned 15. I still have an unhealthy penchant for girls wearing plaid skirts and knee socks. Bobby Walters, the coolest kid from my homeroom, once told me that the girls from St. Michael's were all loose sluts who would give you hand jobs in Central Park if you got them stoned and sauced up on wine coolers.

Well, like most rumors you heard in high school, it was a vast exaggeration. And like many of our first sexual experiences, it was confusing and unsatisfying. After Colleen McMurphy chugged a Bartles & James strawberry wine cooler and smoked three hits off a joint, she only let me feel her up for fifteen seconds before she said she felt dizzy and threw up in the Sheep Meadow.

Our basketball team was pretty good and we'd travel frequently to play in various Holiday festivals in Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut. In the postseason, we'd usually qualify for the NY State regionals in the small schools division and we'd play upstate in Albany, Glens Falls, or Buffalo. We were on the road a lot and the guys on the team would play poker to kill time. The games of choice were Baseball and Chicago which were variations of Seven Card Stud. That's when I started playing for money the first time and developed my skills as a Stud player. I don't recall winning much, but I definitely didn't lose much either. I was a break even player. Where I made all my gambling money was on the betting slips.

When my father would come home with the slips, I'd take them to school and photocopy them. Then, I'd pass them out to my friends before school and collect the tickets and money by the end of the day. Later that night, I gave them to my father who dropped them off to the Westies a.k.a. the crazy ass fuckers in the Irish mob (I recommend State of Grace, a film starring Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, and Sean Penn that's about the Westies).

Once Karate Tony found out about the racket I was running, it quickly ended. We called him Karate Tony because he knew karate. By the age of 10 he was a black belt and appeared on the show That's Incredible busting bricks with his roundhouse kicks. Karate Tony was an Italian kid from Staten Island. His family was in the waste management business and since he knew karate, I was doomed. I was getting squeezed by the school bully and the extremely hairy son of a reputed mobster. There wasn't anything I could do about it.

When we were in the 9th grade, Karate Tony was the only kid in our class who shaved everyday. He looked 21 when he was 15. He would buy beer and porn for all the kids in school and mark up the prices. No one was going to argue with a guy who could kick your ass in two seconds. He also took over my book making operation without any resistance from me. I was such a pussy I continued to photocopy the slips and collect the money which I gave to Karate Tony. All I got in return was $5 which barely covered the cost of the copying fees. I was afraid to tell my father because then I'd end up igniting a war between the Italian and Irish mafias.

During the second half of my senior year in high school, I had a full-time internship where I worked as a runner on the floor of the New York Commodities Exchange, located on the 8th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower. That was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. Everyday for seven months, I witnessed legalized gambling as commodities brokers, corporations and the world's wealthiest investors speculated on the futures of precious metals, livestock, oil, natural gas, and orange juice. I marveled at the lights on the big boards and got goosebumps listening to all the brokers and traders shouting orders at each other. I was caught in the middle of the mayhem, darting in and out of the labyrinth of desks and phone booths to hand brokers orders in the trading pits.

That was when I first was introduced to prop bets and Liar's Poker (which inspired the title of Michael Lewis' book Liar's Poker) where you use one dollar bills and try to form the best poker hand with the serial numbers. The guys in the Silver Options pits were total psychopaths. They were Ivy League coke fiends who partied all night in clubs in the meatpacking district and banged 16-year old Danish models in the back of taxis. They played Lair's Poker all day for $1,000 a hand. One broker had such a horrible week that he lost his Porsche after going on mega-tilt. I was afraid to play and only watched.

One afternoon during a slow trading session, one of the brokers I worked for in the gold pit was in a tremendous slump. He decided to bankroll me against his nemesis in heads-up Liar's Poker. I only won a couple of hands, but nothing can compare to the rush I got bluffing that trader from Paine Webber. That's when I was first introduced to the intoxicating rush of gambling, where the outcome didn't matter as much as the orgasmic feeling that seized my entire body. It was all about the rush, and the moment of jubilant euphoria that seemed to last forever. I tasted the grandiose gambler's high and was addicted. Immediately. I've been addicted to many things in life, but the gambler's high is one of the hardest to kick. I'd end up chasing that titillating surge of adrenaline all over the world during the next decade and a half of my life.

... to be continued

Editor's Note: Yes, that is me who appears in all three photos. And to my knowledge, no cats were actually harmed during the blogging of this entry.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Truckin', May 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 5

We're back with the new issue of Truckin' featuring five new short stories and some poetry.
1. Kentucky Waffle House by Tenzin McGrupp
That Waffle House was the late night magnet for the lowest strata of society which included raccoon-eyed meth dealers, repugnant hookers, Glock-packing pimps, drunken frat boys, and several deranged members of the local homeless population... More

2. Losing Grip by Sigge S. Amdal
The skin around my nails was always hard and white. You could pull off chunks, but it wouldn't bleed noticeably, and another layer would grow. I could never stop picking it... More

3. Ten Years Later by Novice
The stage is almost bare. There's just a couch, with some hideous print upholstery. I walk out, sit on it. I realize that it's the same couch that once had the moss green velveteen... More

4. Violent by Sean A. Donahue
I couldn't stand him for whatever opinion he misspoke he infuriated others and drove me crazy. All Ken did was pick at people and give them a reason to hate him... More

5. Sheet Lightening by John Beck
Sheet lightening. Rippling waves of black blank black blast. What the fuck is that cat trying to tell me... More

6. The time trials a poem by Barrett Crawford
Obscure and misunderstood
If you only knew what I know
of the fibers of time
I have been trapped in thought of these... More
Thanks for returning back to another issue of Truckin' featuring several of your favorite writers including Sigge, Sean Donahue, Novice, and yours truly. The May issue includes two new writers John Beck and Barrett Crawford.

Here's where I ask you, the reader, for a huge favor... if you like these stories, then please tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. The other writers certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.

* * * * *

Happy Belated Birthday Tao of Pauly

My main blog turned four on Thursday. Happy Belated 4th Birthday to the Tao of Pauly!

And I totally forgot. Thanks to Jenna who pointed it out to me.

Encouraged by my old college roommate and author of The Daily Dave 2.0 (at the time it was just The Daily Dave), I began the Tao of Pauly in May of 2002 to use as a notebook and scratch pad during my time at work on Wall Street.

Since then, I started numerous other blogs. I always wanted to start my own literary magazine and did so. Truckin' will turn four years old next month and in August my poker blog will be three years old. I also wanted to start a music blog, and at the end of this summer, my group Phish blog will be two years old. In about seven or eight months, I'll start up my political blog again to gear up for the 2008 elections. I've also started up a couple of photo blogs.

The past year has been a special one for the Tao of Pauly. Although its sister site the Tao of Poker has been mentioned in numerous publications and drew one million visitors in a week last summer, the Tao of Pauly will always be my favorite blog. Over the past few months I made a bigger effort to publish better writing on the Tao of Pauly. The results have been positive. It's becoming more and more popular everyday.

The Tao of Poker is by far the Tao of Pauly's biggest referral, followed by AlCantHang. Thanks, Al! It feels good to know that the daily readers of this blog are clicking over to the Tao of Pauly. If you don't have the Tao of Pauly linked up on your blogroll, then what are you waiting for? Feel free to subscribe to the Tao of Pauly feed via Bloglines.

As Joaquin the Rooster once said, "I read the Tao of Pauly first. Somedays I'm sick of poker and sick of poker blogs. Thank God for the Tao of Pauly. Besides, I think that's where your best writing is."

Thanks always to Dave for inspiring me to blog. Without the Tao of Pauly being born, the Tao of Poker would never exist.

Friday, May 26, 2006

World Blogger Championship of Online Poker

Thanks to Poker Stars for setting this up. All you need is a blog to be eligible. Any blog. If you don't have a PokerStars account, then you can download the software here.
Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7330476

Here's what you can win...
(1) World Series of Poker Main Event Seat (worth $12,000!)
(8) World Series Of Poker $1,500 Certificates For Any Event
(1) $1,000 Online Heads-Up Match With Team PokerStars' Wil Wheaton
(10) $370 Seat In The PokerStars WSOP 150-Seat Guaranteed Tournament
(20) 4GB iPod Nano
(10) $215 Seat In Sunday Million
(4) PokerStars Letterman's Jacket
What? No phone call from Daddy for 65th place?

Here is how you can enter:
1. Download the PokerStars software and create an account (if you don't already have one).

2. Sign up for the World Blogger Championship of Online Poker by clicking here.To sign up you must have a blog that is at least two months old and regularly updated. PokerStars reserves the right to determine player eligibility.

3. When you receive confirmation of your entry, you will receive a code that you will need to place somewhere on your blog so PokerStars can identify you as the legitimate owner of the blog. You will not be notified once you have been registered as this is a manual process. You can check to see if you are registered by clicking "Events," "Special" and then "World Blogger Championship of Online Poker" in your PokerStars game lobby.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gate 4 and Nolan Dalla

I'm sitting in those uncomfortable grey chairs at Gate 4 again. I've been wasting too much of my life sitting in random airplane terminals waiting for my flight to take off. This is one of the main reasons why I bring my laptop with me, so I can catch up on email and reading blogs. The only time I have to read through my bloglines folder is when I'm in airports.

Long Beach has wifi which means I can play a few orbits of Party Poker and skim poker and political blogs while I multi-task writing this post and praying that the old Jewish lady that looks like Bea Arthur with the dog will not be sitting next to me on my flight back to JFK. I'm liking my chances of winning that coinflip.

I spent almost a week in Hollyweird and I have a few good stories. I also finished a recap of Knit Ball if you are interested in reading about a night of music and weirdness that I endured last Friday.

The other night, I played a $5 HORSE SNG with Change100 on Full Tilt after some heavy partying. She would play Hold'em, Omaha 8, and Razz. I took over during the Stud and Stud 8 rounds since I'd rather shave my testicles with a cheese grater than play Razz and Omaha 8 back-to-back. Change100 was in 4th place when Stud came along. I picked up a lot of chips to move up to second. By the time Stud came around a second time, she was second with three players remaining. The shortstack busted in third and I took a monster pot heads up to take over the chip lead. I ended up busting when the other guy rivered a backdoor flush on me. I started out with A-J/A and picked up two pair on 5th Street, yet he kept calling me down with junk until he caught his card on the river. Second place is better than bubbling.

Heading back to NYC for a few mellow days before I have a crazy month of June that will take me to Foxwoods, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Boulder, LA, and finally Las Vegas for the 2006 WSOP.

Make sure you listen to Hold'em Radio with Lou Krieger and Amy Calistri. The guest on Thursday's show will be Nolan Dalla. Those are some of my favorite three people in poker and I was fortunate to meet all of them last summer at the WSOP.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Right now some friends of mine are hurting pretty badly. This post is dedicated to them. If you guys need anything... just ask. I'm here for you all.

The Up for Poker guys lost one of their close friends this past weekend. I encourage you to stop by and read everything they had to say about Gulfman.

Last night, Flipchip's grandmother (and the Poker Prof's great-grandmother) passed away. She was 101. Flipchip is a guy who rarely displays his emotions in public, but he opened up his heart in a post called A Sad Day.

Over the last year, I really got to know Flipchip very well. We spent everyday at the WSOP in the trenches together and I can't think of any other photographer that I'd want to work with. Flipchip has also taken over the father figure role in my life offering me up advice and emotional support during difficult times. I'm grateful that he's always been there to help me deal with the curveballs that life throws at you everyday. He's hurting right now, I know that the Poker Prof is too and that affects me as well.

I'm incredibly sad today because I know so many close people in my life that are grieving. On days like today, things like poker and blogs and my stock market loses seem utterly meaningless to me. I spend too much time worrying about life instead of living it. We all do. It takes these tragic moments like this for us to realize how lucky we are to be alive.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bloggers on TV and Gapped Toothed Hookers

My Type A personality sinks to a B- whenever I'm on the West Coast for more than two days. I kept putting off writing two freelance articles and found myself having to crank them out in less than 30 hours. I had to write a concert review of Friday night's Knit Ball for a German music magazine. Knit Ball was one of the best parties I've ever been to in Hollyweird, featuring two of my favorite bands Lotus and Particle in an event that the promoters described as "A mix of '70s space rock ala Pink Floyd, the swinging wah wah sass of a '70s porno soundtrack, and the speed, grandeur, inspired soloing and dexterity of '70s fusion." Along with my tournament column at Poker Pro Magazine, I had about 2000 words to write by Monday at 6am and I was unmotivated. The sun, smog, music, and medicinal marijuana tweaked my brain.

On Saturday afternoon, I sat at Change100's dining room table desperately trying to write about the Mirage Poker Showdown when my cell phone rang.

"Dude, are you in front of a TV?" Derek said without saying hello.

My initial thought was "What the fuck just blew up?"

"Put on the Game Show Network. Joe Speaker is on."

Derek was right. I flipped on GSN and Joe Speaker's episode of Greed was being aired. It was awesome to see Mr. Speaker on the boob tube. He was even dressed better than host Chuck Woolery.

"He looks so young!" commented Change100.

The other night I caught an old episode of The Weakest Link featuring Star Trek actors including Wil Wheaton. The chick host was tooling on Wil for only having one "L" in his name. I was waiting for him to ask her to remove the trout out of her twat that John Bonham shoved up there in a drunken stupor back in 1969.

I've been begging, tricking, and prop betting my way to get Change100 to show me episodes of the TV show she worked on as a former child actor. No such luck.

* * * * *

partypokerad.gifI dropped about $150 playing 5-10 on Party Poker this weekend. I made a call that makes me a 10 on the Fish Scale. With four aces on a board, I called a river bet with Queen high. I raised preflop with Q-9o on the button. Daddy calls Q-9 the "Gapped Toothed Hooker." The BB called and three aces flopped. We checked the flop and the turn. The case ace fell on the river and he bet out. I called. He had a King and I got properly fucked by The Gapped Toothed Hooker.

I watched the final episode of the Heads-Up Championship. Gabe Kaplan is hilarious. I almost pissed my pants when he made the Linda Tripp joke. The first televised poker I ever saw was almost ten years ago on ESPN2 at 4am. I was sitting on Senor's couch in Murray Hill and we were coming down after a night of partying with liquid sunshine. His roommate's girlfriend (who's now a suburban soccer mom) had too much to drink. She was passed out and rolled up in the fetal position on the floor of the bathroom. We couldn't find anything to watch when we stumbled upon televised poker. Kaplan hosted an old WSOP main event (I'm not 100% positive but it might have been the year that Stu Ungar won) and we thought it was the strangest thing in the world to see a poker tournament on ESPN.

I was bummed out that ESPN replaced Kaplan. The last WSOP that Kaplan announced was the year that Robert Fishkonyi won. For the past three years, I had to listen to those other two douchebags. OK, that's harsh. One douchebag and one stiff. I never met Lon but talking to a doorknob seems more exciting. Norman Chad was a complete dick to me at last year's WSOP. Gabe Kaplan never would have barked, "Get the fuck out of my way!!"

If I could have my dream poker broadcasting team, it would be Gabe Kaplan and Otis.

* * * * *

By the way, my buddy Senor wants to name his son Kain. I'd take a bullet for Senor. I'd donate a kidney to him if I had to. And I wouldn't be a good friend if I allowed him to ruin his son's life by giving him an awful name of negative biblical proportions. It's the only name that he and his Thai wife agree on. If he names him Kain, I'll refuse to call him that. Since he's Senor's second kid, I'll be calling him "Dos."

Do you have any name suggestions? I'll send them to Senor.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tao of Keno: The Answers

TripJax asked but I'm not one for structure. Here are my answers:

1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL Keno table?

Not playing enough cards.

2. Why do you play Keno?

Keno offers up everything that's great about America. For a very small investment, you can get lucky and without any skill or intelligence you can win millions of dollars and get your own reality TV series. In addition, I hate my country's leaders and rather sit on my ass and play online Keno to buck the system and screw Uncle Sam out of his potential tax revenue.

3. If you weren't playing Keno, what would you be doing?

I'd be trying to pick up pothead sorority girls off of MySpace by playing Satellite by the Dave Matthews Band on guitar for them in Central Park.

4. What is your favorite Keno book and why?

Play Keno Like the Pros by my good buddy and professional Keno player Neil Fontenot. Neil is nihilist. He believes in nothing. That's why he plays all the numbers. His Top 10 Keno numbers should be memorized by anyone who wants to become a better Keno player. My other favorite Keno book is the Theory of Keno by David Sklansky.

6. Who is your favorite Keno player and why?

Without a doubt my buddy Neil. He's the most successful Keno pro that I know. He's not a degenerate and fuck up like the average Keno pro. He's got his shit together. He's engaged to a JC Penny model. They live in a two bedroom starter house in Glendale, but he just purchased a jetski. He's also using his earnings on the World Keno Tour to buy a new condo in Del Bocca Vista in Florida.

7. Which Keno player do you dislike the most and why?

That dumbass Dutch Boyd. I hate it when he does tricks with Keno crayons. So rude.

8. Do your coworkers know about your blog?

Hell no. They'd never let me hang out with them. Admitting that you are a blogger is the most embarrassing thing you can tell someone you have to see five days a week. Seriously, the next time you meet a hot chick (or guy or donkey) in a bar, the first thing out of your mouth is NOT going to be, "I spend all of my free time blogging about my hobby and playing online in my underwear with my malcontent online friends." The only thing more embarrassing is having a MySpace account.

9. What is the most you have won in a KENO cash game or tournament (both live and online)?

I won $420 once when I went for Abdul's bunching strategy and took four numbers close together.

10. What is the most you have lost in a Keno cash game or in one day total (both live and online)?

I lost my dignity online during a dark night when I spiraled to that evil and hellacious place that we don't like to talk about. That's the tipping point where you take one of three paths...
1. You go suicidal and kill yourself.
2. You go pyschopathic and kill other people, then yourself.
3. You get your shit together and finally realize that the fat fuck Buddha was right all these years... that life is all about suffering. So suck it up. Smoke a joint. Fuck a stranger. And stop taking yourself so seriously.

11. Who was your first Keno blog read?

I found Guinness and Keno and was hooked ever since. Iggy would get drunk and repost excerpts from hilarious Keno trip reports on RGK. I also found the Keno Grub at the same time. Grubby got me hooked on online Keno. He'd show me how to Keno-whore in Las Vegas and get free stuff like windbreakers and tickets to see Kool & the Gang at the Klondike. One of the first blogs I read was Professional Keno Player Chris Halverson. My favorite all time is The Crayon Speaks. HDouble's musings are sensational. His series "HDouble and Keno at the Movies" is some of the best writing you'll find on the internet. My favorite post all time is Brokeback Mountain and Keno: Why Vaseline Is Your Friend.

13. Why do you blog about Keno?

I read on 2+2 that if you have a popular Keno blog, then hot and horny women come out of the wood work to have sex with you and give you blowjobs in the Bellagio's parking deck. Because you know, there's some really intelligent and super hot Brazilian lingerie model out there who's addicted to online Keno and loves my Keno blog. She's been reading me for three years and holding back her infatuated crush that have bubbled over into a sea of volcanic lust that is ready to burst after she stalks me at the World Series of Keno. Plus, If you have a popular Keno blog, online Keno sites pay you ten dollars a month to put up their banners and shill their sites. I also heard that Keno tournament writers make $17,000 a year! If I did that for a living, then I can quit my job writing about poker and make a real living. I won't have to stay at the Castle anymore. I'll be able to afford the Luxor.

14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog?

I have all 347 Keno blogs on Bloglines. And I skim them all except SirFKenoman. I re-read his post at least three times a day. When I try to pick up old hookers in poorly lit casino bars in Atlantic City, I often quote stuff I read from my fellow Keno bloggers.

15. Would you rather play Keno for a living than do what you currently do for a living?

Yeah. I think if I work hard enough, I can become a world class Keno player, like my buddy Neil Fontenot. He used to work at Dairy Queen and drove a Geo Metro. He had a pregnant girlfriend, who already had two kids from two previous marriages. Now he's got a Ford Tarus and he broke up with the pregnant chick. Now he's going to marry a model and recently signed an four figure endorsement deal with Crayola. He's the new spokesman for Crayola the official Keno crayon on the World Keno Tour.

16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion?

No. But I wrap my penis in foil because I heard that's what Bobby Bracelet, the 23rd Greatest Keno Player in the World does for good luck.

17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great Keno player have (or do) that separates them from an average player?

Balls. A pair of testicles. Enough guts to say, "Fuck it. Working at Dairy Queen is for sheep. And sheep get slaughtered. I'm good enough to be a professional Keno player. All I have to do is read every Keno book, watch Keno on TV, and play forty Keno cards at once. Then I'll win the World Series of Keno and go on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Then and only then will all the guys who hang out on the Keno message boards will respect me and stop sending me soiled condoms in the mail."

18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas?

The Keno Nerd is cooler for naming his new kid Keno.

19. What is your primary Keno goal and are you close to accomplishing it?

To get invited to the Playboy Mansion and sell my screenplay. It's not just about Keno, it's about life and the frailty of friendships. An up and coming Keno player loses all his money to an Albanian Mafia boss in an underground Keno club in Hilljack, Indiana, then solves an enigmatic riddle to discover that it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Andy Wharhol, clues visible for all to see, and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter. I don't want to ruin it for you, but Lou Reed is really Jesus' kid. He speaks the truth in the Velvet Underground's song Heroin:
I don't know just where I'm going
But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son

20. What is your primary online site and why?

The fish play on Party Keno so that's where I play. I also shill for a few other sites. I earned enough points to get a free oil change at Jiffy Lube. I gave it to my ex-girlfriend for Valentine's Day. I also like playing online at Keno Stars because former child actor Claire Danes hosts weekly tournaments called My So Called Keno.

21. What site do you dislike and why?

I hate Noble Keno and Titan Keno. The worst software in the industry. I should be shot for shilling for them, but I was running bad at Keno that month and was starving. They offered me $25 and a pecan roll.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On the Road and Quality Posts

I won $40 in an American Legion daily raffle last week. I usually win once a year. The most I ever picked up in one drawing was $100. The Bronx County American Legion mailed me a check and everything. I guess I'm feeling lucky. My mother had a free room at Showboat in Atlantic City and left this morning. I almost went with her but I'm flying out to the left coast in a few hours. I'm heading out of pollen-drenched NYC and going to Hollyweird for several days. I'll be at the Knitting Factory in West Hollywood on Friday night to catch Knit Ball which is a collection of several groups of the space porn genre, including two of my favorite bands Particle and Lotus.

Last night, I dropped a buy-in playing 10-20 on Party Poker even though I cracked A-A with J-J and busted A-K with A-Qs. I dropped down in levels and won it all back. Go figure. I lost a PLO SNG when I flopped quads and made a terrible decision and slow played them only to get busted by runner runner quads over quads.

I also watched some of the WPT Borgata Winter Open last night. The Grinder beat Erick Lindgren heads up this past February and I caught the action live from media row. Check out my live blogging coverage of the WPT Borgata final table which includes photos. John D'Agstino made a huge laydown with 10-10. The board was all rags, but Lindgren flopped a set of 4s. He raised two million and D'Ags eventually mucked. The dealer rabbit hunted and Lindgren would have rivered quads.

The new WPT host and former model, Sabina Gadecki.
The new WPT hostess and former model Sabina Gadecki

By the way, Flipchip took this photo of the new WPT hostess Sabina Gadeki last night during the taping of the final table of the WPT Mirage Showdown. He posted it over at Las Vegas and Poker Blog. Thanks for the pic! BJ posted something called Introducing Sabina Gadecki. Take a peek.

Check out Grubby's Red Rock Casino Poker Room Tips. He offers some great advice including some food tips! Grubby and I played at Red Rock on my last night in Las Vegas. It's one of the few places on the planet that spreads Omaha Hi. I can't wait to return and win my money back from Capt. Glass Eye.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the side bar and added several posts to my Quality Posts and Best of the Tao of Poker category. There are over 30+ posts in there. Here are the new additions:
Haleywood Homegame
Hammers, Hilton Sisters, Dial-a-Shots, and other Post-Modern Poker Vernacular
Circles & Poker
Bloggers in Wonderland: Part 4
Turn This Mother Out
Gilligan's Island and Poker
Market Corrections, Bozos, and Bolos
Bukowski & Poker
Strippers & Blow
April Sojourn
2006 WPT Championship
Glass Eyes and Red Rocks
Taoism and Bruce Lee Part I
Through the Looking Glass: April Maelstrom
Wall St. Game
Those quality posts are why Felicia mentioned me in her recent post where she listed her favorite poker blogs. She admits, "He writes the way I like. He runs the gamut of writing styles, maybe because he's stoned all the time, go figure."

I wonder if my bad allergies can qualify me for a medicinal marijuana card in California?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hump Day Pimp Day: Grinding Limit, Sabina Gadeki, and WSOP Bound

Been writing about poker, music, and competitive eating over the last two days. Worked on two freelance articles with deadlines this Friday and Monday. One assignment is my online poker column for Poker Player Newspaper and the other is a recap of the WPT for Poker Pro Magazine.

I've also been playing online like a spider monkey jacked up on Ritalin. I've been sticking to cash games. Grinding is not fun. It's not glorious. The details are hardly blogworthy. But as Joey Knish said, "It's pays my bills. Alimony. My kids eat."

He's right. Lucky for me I have zero ex-wives and zero kids, at least that I don't know about. I have this fear that there's a dark haired five year old kid running around Iceland that looks like a mini-version of me, but with an Icelandic accent. One of my greatest nightmares is that a leggy blonde Icelandic Air stewardess with high cheek bones shows up at my door with my illegitimate offspring. Blondes and booze impair my judgment and withdrawal skills.

"You left this inside of me five yeas ago. You can have it back now."

Moving on...

For the first time in several months I cashed out a small percentage of my bankroll from my Party Poker account to spend on myself. I'd rather use that cash for personal enjoyment than have some assclown and fucktard bad beat it out of me. I've been following a winning formula. I play 10-20 at nights and weekends when I'm ultra focused. I usually play 5-10 when the right fish are biting. And I multi-table 3-6 on Party Poker because according to Poker Tracker that's where I'm the most profitable.

To keep my poker mind fresh, I've been playing PLO SNGs on Poker Stars. If you don't know, Poker Stars is running several promotions such as double VIP points and a shot at winning a bonus if you get dealt the 5 Billionth hand. So I've been lurking on Poker Stars getting my PLO fix and trying to get lucky with the jackpot.

I've been playing Limit on Full Tilt when I sweat friends in tournaments. I was on the rail when Change100 took second place (out of 151) in yesterday's MTT action. The night before she cashed in two huge multis taking 15th and 16th. The 15/2000 on the $3 rebuy on Poker Stars was impressive since she was shortstacked most of the tournament. Looks like everyone's favorite Hollyweird Junkgrabber found her groove in MTTs. Like I suggested to her, you need to figure out where you are most profitable and maximize that aspect of your game.

For me it's Limit and as I said earlier, playing limit is plebeian and not titillating. It's ABC poker where you're folding lots of hands, raising when you are ahead, and calling (or raising) when you have big draws. Unlike NL, you can pound the hell out of your draws in Limit and those are usually the biggest hands that you scoop, especially when you catch those cards in multi-way pots.

For a while I felt ashamed that I was a Limit player since NL is sexy and popular. But I decided that being a winning Limit player was more fun than being a losing or breakeven NL player. I play for enjoyment and to make money and to take out my frustrations. Sure there's more money to be made in NL, but I'm still prone to making too many mistakes and somedays I can't control my descent into tiltdom. I started playing Limit online about a year ago because I made too many poor decisions at the NL tables. I folded way too much to players moving all in on me and I bluffed to much out of position. Bottom line... I don't trust myself enough to play NL consistently, especially online. If I do play NL it's always live where I'm a much better overall poker player. Besides, NL tournaments are fools gold.

I still play NL and I play the occasional NL tournament online, but I don't rely on that to pad my bankroll. Those games along with PLO are for fun for me, while the Limit tables are all business. But then I can use the money I grinded away in Limit for fun things like concert tickets to Bonnaroo or to Widespread Panic.

* * * * *

The fifth season of the WPT began this week with the Mirage Poker Showdown in Las Vegas. I skipped this event. I'm not going to cover any poker tournament between now and the WSOP. I need to rest up.

Here's the final table chipcount (courtesy of Poker Wire) which included my favorite ass-worshiping, feet jizzing pro David Williams:
1 Stan Weiss $2.437M
2 Robert "I'm the brother of the Grinder" Mizrachi $2.019M
3 Devin Porter $964K
4 David Williams $921K
5 Harry Demetriou $822K
6 Steve Frederick $545K
If you're looking for chipcounts visit my friends Jen, Heather, and Amanda at Poker Wire. And if you want live updates, check out Spaceman's coverage at Bluff Magazine. Plus Flipchip has taken some photos so stop by Las Vegas and Poker Blog to see them.

Of course the buzz around the WPT this week is that the lovely Courtney Friel has been replaced. I dunno if she got the ax or she quit. The first time I ever met Courtney was at the Borgata in Atlantic City last September. It was my birthday and she was standing around BJ and the Poker Wire girls who wished me b-day greetings. Courtney turned around and gave me a big birthday hug. To which I replied, "How yooooooo doin?"

Of course, there were the tickle fights with BJ and Courtney (both pictured here at the five Diamond Classic at the Bellagio) in press row and that made me insanely jealous. Whenever I'd see Courtney she'd always say hello calling me by my first name. Steve Hall said that she's a bright girl and reads your name on your press badge before she says hello and that Shana Hiatt was never quick enough to pick up on that. Everyone called Shana Hiatt the girl next door. I always saw Courtney Friel as that popular cheerleader in high school or the hot sorority chick that you gave your Chem notes to because you were convinced that she was going to repay the favor by going down on you.

Now, we have a new girl named Sabina Gadeki. She's a cutie. Wicked Chops Poker has some of the first photos of the new WPT hostess including a student film that she did in NYC. She's a former Miss Teen Poland or something like that who's an aspiring actress. She's got a sweet gig. She gets to travel all over the world and get hit on by scumbag overweight poker players who haven't showered in days. But at least she's on TV and gets to have tickle fights with BJ.

* * * * *

Finally, I was happy to see this email in my inbox. It's from one of the executives at the WSOP. I'm officially going to be covering my second WSOP in a few weeks and I can't wait!
Dr. Pauly,

Thank you for your interest in the 37th annual World Series of Poker. I am pleased to inform you that your application for press credentials has been approved.

You can pick up your press badge at the media credential office in the World Series of Poker tournament area beginning June xx.

Please note, you will need to provide a photo identification that confirms your age in order to receive your credentials. Also, please be aware you will need a wi-fi enabled laptop computer if you plan to file reports from the World Series of Poker media center. "Hard" data lines will not be available this year.

By submitting your application, you have agreed to abide by the media guidelines posted at Please review those terms in advance of your arrival at the World Series of Poker and feel free to contact the media relations team with any questions.

We look forward to seeing you at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino this summer.

Be sure to take a peek at the revised 2006 WSOP schedule.

* * * * *

Recent Poker Playing Music...
1. James Brown
2. Particle
3. Tea Green Leaf
4. Grateful Dead
5. John Coltrane

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

LaFelta Vermouth and the Village Drunk

Last year I traveled to the Midwest for a three day bender that spread across three states. Inside of a 48 hour period, I won a tournament in Hilljack, Indiana, puked in Daddy's car, saw a Reds game, attended a concert, and played cornhole at the Hoffbrauhaus in Kentucky at 2am. After that memorable trip, I returned for more hijinks. We had several returning characters in the sequel, including a couple of new and familiar faces.


It had been a while since I flew an airline other than JetBlue, which doesn't fly into Cincinnati. I booked Delta, which I used to fly all the time when they were one of the best in the industry. These days, JetBlue gets all my business... 11 flights since November and I have two coming up in the next week. Since Delta doesn't offer free TV, I listened to my iPod and read Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live.

If there's one guy I want to be... it's Klosterman, that lucky fuck. He's has both Spin magazine and ESPN on his writer's resume and gets paid to write about music, pop culture, and sports. Anyway in his recent book, Spin sends the neurotic pot smoking Klosterman to random locations all over America where famous rockstars died. He headed out on a roadtrip to several infamous landmarks such as the Chelsea Hotel in New York City on 23rd Street, around the corner from where I used to live. The Chelsea Hotel was the spot where the Sex Pistol's talentless bass player Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in an alcho-narcotic-driven stupor. Klosterman also visited the field in Mississippi where Lynard Skynard's plane crashed and at the intersection in Macon, Georgia where Duane Allman was killed in a traffic accident when his motorcycle was (supposedly) hit by a peach truck.

Iggy picked me up at the airport before we drove around Kentucky looking for a Cracker Barrel. We didn't find one and took the backroads to Belterra Casino. I spotted a sign for a tractor pull just before we crossed the Ohio River into Indiana. The Belterra is a riverboat casino and degenerate gamblers from Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky flock there because Indiana is the only state in the area that allows gambling.

The Belterra's luxury hotel is located on land, but the casino is on an actual riverboat connected to the hotel. The casino floor area is small with hundreds of blue hairs shoving their social security checks into the maze-like rows of slot machines.

"Heaven's waiting room," is what one friend of mine called the slots area in casinos.

Iggy frequently plays poker in the crescent moon shaped room at Belterra. We arrived just after lunchtime with four tables of action going. As we waited to be seated, I found a copy of Poker Player Newspaper. That particular issue featured the first running of my new column on online poker. I was a little bit giddy as I showed it to Iggy. It took me a year to get promoted to regular columnist. Click here to download the current issue.

We played poker for a few hours. Iggy and I sat at the same 3-6 and 4-8 tables. I lost $73 against a bunch of elderly good old boys with Southern accents and rural twangs. We quit to go eat and drink. Iggy ordered two beers at once at the bar because our bartender was slow. She was horrible.


After eating at a Cracker Barrel in Kentucky, we picked up Maudie at the airport and checked into the hotel in Covington, Kentucky just over the river from Cincinnati. Last year, Daddy and I walked over the bridge to go to the Reds game. And just like last year, Iggy rented out a suite. We actually had the same exact suite. Daddy and BG drove in from Indiana for some pre-partying before the evening Reds game. BG told us about his tryst the night before with a gal wearing a trucker's hat while we played a variation of Chinese Poker that had a few Go Fish elements. It's basically Chinese Poker but you can draw up to 4 cards. We played three-handed and I lost quads over quads on several instances. BG picked up a few bucks from both me and Daddy, who got smoked.

Iggy's buddy Dann works for the Reds and hooked us up with amazing seats. He helped Iggy put out the message on the Jumbrotron welcoming for us to the game. It was cold and soggy night, but we drank and ate through it, despite the Reds loss.

After the game I played six handed NL in the suite with BG, Maudie, Daddy, GMoney, and Iggy. I got felted three times and never bought back in after I went on serious tilt. I was playing Iggy's mucked cards since he was two seats to my left. On two instances I went broke, one time with SMTL against BG's Hiltons. Maudie knocked back tequila and walked away the big winner the first night.

At 4am, I accompanied a very drunk Daddy to the Waffle House a few blocks away. On the way to the Reds game we were told by our cab driver that the Waffle House was considered the dirtiest in the area and was cited for several health code violations. That Waffle House was the late night magnet for the lowest strata of society which included raccoon-eyed meth dealers, haunty hookers, Glock-packing pimps, drunken frat boys, and several deranged members of the local homeless population.

My friend Lori (who went to law school in Covington) warned me, "That's were people disappear from. You know, like so-and-so was last seen at the Waffle House before going missing for three weeks. Then the police find their rotting and raped corpse floating in the Ohio River."

Alas, you can't keep a drunk fat man away from hashbrowns and pecan waffles, despite the dangerous circumstances.

We survived our dining experience with no problems as Daddy hit on all the waitresses including one scary looking chick with gang tattoos behind her both of her ears. I have enough material for a Truckin' story, perhaps two. I'm going back to Hollyweird this week so I can pitch them a new reality series where Daddy and I travel around America eating in Waffle Houses and Denny's at 3am after we drink beer and huff airplane glue in the parking lot. It can also be a ground breaking documentary film. Degenerate cinema. I might even pitch the idea to European venture capitalists. Those Germans with film almost anything.


I woke up early to buy Widespread Panic summer tour tickets at Red Rocks, Colorado and for two shows in LA. We drove to the Anchor Grill for breakfast. Five hungover souls squeezed into a small booth in the 24 hour dive that specializes in goetta, which is oats and sausage. It looks like a fried, flattened horseshit but is considered a delicacy.

"Goetta is an acquired taste," I'm told from the locals.

I took two bites and that was enough. I should have tried it with syrup but I was scared. They had a jukebox and Iggy played Patsy Cline for Maudie.

We played poker in the suite and drank for about 10 hourswhile some of Iggy's buddies showed up to play such as Huggie Bear, Dann, Jim, The Sheriff, TDub, Mr. Fabulous, and GMoney who brought all the kick ass tunes. We also had a special guest blogger... Duggle Bogey!

The real drama started when the infamous Fast Eddie arrived. I've seen pictures on Iggy's blog and heard the stories. Fast Eddie was an admitted redneck and hick with a six figure bankroll who played 10 SNGs at once.

"Is the entire floor revolving, or is that just the restaurant?" Fast Eddie asked in his slow drawl as he stared out the window of the suite. Two floors above us was the rotating restaurant. Our floor was stationary.

Fast Eddie would go on a tear after he had just $8 in chips remaining. When he tripled up, he left faster than he walked in. Lucky for me we had 12 players at that point and had to split the game up into two tables. I sat at the "kiddie table," a nickname that we (Daddy, TDub, GMoney, Duggle, and Dann) gave our game since the average pot was about $4. The other table (Iggy, Fast Eddie, Mr. Fab, Maudie, BG, and Sheriff) had players going all in on almost every hand. The pots were huge and everyone in that game had to rebuy at one time.

I started out winning a few prop bets from Duggle after we started picking "high card" out of the muck. When I was heads up with Daddy, we'd play Vegas Hold'em rules where we both got to see one of each other's hole cards. I bluffed him out of a pot with the Hammer. He had A-Q. His ace was exposed and my 2 of diamonds was exposed. The flop was K-Q-x with two diamonds. The turn was the 2 of clubs. I moved all in and Daddy mucked his A-Q face up because he thought I turned a set with 2-2. I did a similar move with 3-3 earlier in the night. I showed the Hammer bluff. Grubby would be proud. He's the originator of both the Hammer and Vegas Hold'em and I utilized both in the same hand.

After singing the lyrics to The Band's Don't Do It for the 347th time, Daddy admitted he was going to name his first born daughter "LaFelta Vermouth." That would be a great name for my jazz band. I think that Daddy was inspired from Drizz naming his newborn daughter Vegas.

I was down early and came back when I put GMoney on slight tilt after I sucked out on him twice. We eventually combined the two tables and I ended up winning back the money I lost the night before. Daddy lost a few bucks doing Roshambo with Iggy on Friday night. He picked up some cash on a prop bet when he chugged an entire grape Smirnoff Ice. It was one of those nights when everyone was drinking, laughing, and playing cards. I'm glad that I had the chance to party it up with my friends, hang out with Iggy's Cincinnati homies, watch Maudie shoot tequila, and play in a homegame with Duggle.

Just before 6am, we returned to the sketchy Waffle House so Daddy could eat another plate of triple hashbrowns topped with Bert's chili. He hit on the same pear-shaped waitress from the night before along with every female employee inlcuding the one who was missing a few teeth. The sun slowly crept above the Kentucky hills as we stumbled out of the dirtiest Waffle House in the South. Folks were getting up to go to church, as we capped off another epic night of drinking and gambling.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Klonopin and Kentucky Bourbon

I completed a three day, three state bender. No one got arrested. No one puked. The following paragraph is what I scribbled into my notebook. It sums up my last 70+ hours...
5:30am... Sunday... Covington, KY... Daddy hit on 3 different Waffle House waitresses while he devoured a triple order of hashbrowns topped with chili and a pecan waffle on the side... the 20 year old pear-shaped waitress with three kids had a tattoo on her wrist that read "Total Bitch" in faded aqua ink...
I gambled this weekend, playing poker at a riverboat in Southern Indiana and then donking off chips with bloggers in Kentucky. Post pending. You can look at some random pics of the weekend over at the Tao of Pauly.

By the way, thanks to Iggy for making this possible:

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Routine: A Guest Post from Daddy

Editor's Note: As you know, I'm away for the weekend and Daddy has control of the Tao of Poker. Here's another one of his guest posts.

"Never play poker when you're tilted."

"What's up? Bad night again?"

"Yeah, I lost seven buy-ins. My head wasn't in it."

"Do you ever think about giving up the game?"

"Of course not. I only played bad because I threw off my daily routine."

"Oh yeah? And what kind of routine is that?"

"Well, I always masturbate in the shower, and yesterday I couldn't because I had just taken a shit and it smelled so bad I couldn't tug one off."

"Wow. That's powerful."

"Yeah, I tried to start, but it wasn't happening. My poop was pretty foul. I haven't shit a solid turd in months, and this last batch would've passed right through a screen door.

"So, you've never had sex in a cow pasture?"

"Can't say that I have. Why would I?"

"It's exhilarating."

Daddy is a donkeyfucker from Hilljack, Indiana. You can buy an official Snail Trax shirt and merchandise by visiting the SnailTrax Store.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Bad Beat Story: Part II... A Guest Post from Daddy

Editor's Note: I'm at the gate in LaGuardia airport about to leave NYC for four days. I'm sitting next to a guy that smells sour milk and cat piss. With my luck he'll be sitting next to me on my flight into the heart of darkness. Anyway, I begged the suits at Fox Sports to send me on a non-poker assignment. Since I'm the low man on the totem pole, I get to visit Northern Kentucky to cover a competitive eating contest. If all goes well, I'll have enough material to start up my new competitive eating blog... the Tao of Fink. (I know Mean Gene got that obscure reference!)

I'll be back on Monday. For now, I'm handing over my blog to Daddy for a few days. He returns with the follow up to his classic guest post from January. If you don't know, Daddy erased his blog and I'm fortunate that his rare public apperances have been here on the Tao of Poker. You should reread Daddy's original guest post A Bad Beat Story.

A Bad Beat Story: Part II

"Hey man, what's up? I haven't talked to you since the day after New Year's. How are things?"

"Good. Certainly a lot better than the night you last saw me. I still have nightmares about that bitch, and I haven't had Mexican food in over four months."

"Yeah, man, that was a truly horrific beat. I've told tons of people about that, and they all laugh, but only because it didn't happen to them."

"Sure as shit it didn't happen to them. But that's not the point. I was calling for two reasons. First, to see if you are going to Eric's wedding, and second to talk 'friend to friend' about a problem I've been having."

"Yeah, I'll be at the wedding. I'm flying in Thursday, and flying back out Monday morning. You want to talk then?"

"No. I need someone to talk with now. It's poker. It's driving me insane."

"How much are you down?"

"It's not about being down. It's about poker controlling every single thing that I do. I have dreams about flops, turns, and rivers for crying out loud. It always ends badly too. Usually it's a two-outer, sometimes a miracle backdoor runner, but regardless it's always bad. I wake up every night in a cold sweat not knowing where I'm at or who I am. Candice thinks I need professional help, but I ain't gonna go see no shrink. Not for this."

"Jesus, dude. That's way fucked up. Maybe you should just take a break from the game for awhile or something."

"I can't. It's everywhere. If I'm sitting in traffic I'm playing license plate poker with every tag that I can see. Dollar bills, credit cards, raffle tickets, anything that has numbers represents a hand. I can't separate poker from my real life, and it's scaring the shit out of me."

"And you're not losing?"

"Of course I'm losing, but that's not the point. The point is that I think I'm losing my mind. These nightmares happen every night, and sometimes they don't involve actual poker hands that I'm playing, but have something else relating to poker. Last night for example, I had a dream that I was watching a World Championship of Poker where every country had a poker team kind of like the Olympics. I don't even know if this exists yet, but it was real vivid in my dream."

"Who won the gold?"

"That's the thing, bro. I didn't even see the final match but I do know that it was between Costa Rica and Vietnam. They started to announce the teams, and each guy came running out of a tunnel to loud music as their name was called. First it was Humberto Brenes, Alex Brenes, and Jose Rosenkrantz for Team Costa Rica. The crowd was going nuts and they were waving flags and singing Costa Rican fight songs. The announcer introduced Team Vietnam next and Men the Master, Scotty Nguyen, and Chau Gaing came out. But for some fucked up reason when it was time for Chau to come out of the tunnel a group of like twenty hairy fat guys came running out."

"Man, maybe you do need some help. Do you have any idea what that signifies? I'm horrible at interpreting someone else's dreams. I can't even translate my own."

"Oh, I know what it signifies. All of the big fat guys were wearing shirts that said CHOW GANG and they were running over everyone in their path and eating everything in sight. Next thing I know I'm transported to my house where I'm sitting on my porch reading Harrington Vol. II, and I hear this rumble coming from down the street."

"The Chow Gang?"

"Sure as shit. By this time there were probably fifty of them. They ran right into my house and I tried to stop them, but two of them threw me down and started in on me pretty good. I remember not being able to get up, but I could hear the carnage coming from inside my house."

"Christ, man, that's crazy."

"Yeah, that's not even the best of it. Finally, I'm somehow able to get up, but they have my door blocked off with three fat guys. I walk around my house and look in my kitchen window and my fridge is on its side, and it's completely empty. There's just boxes, jars and food scraps all over the floor. There were also two guys standing over my stove pouring every can of soup I had into a giant pot. They just kept chanting 'Chow Gang! Chow Gang! Chow Gang!'"

"That'd be a pretty sweet T-shirt to have now that you mention it. Of course it would only be funny to us."

"Dude, that's not the point. This isn't funny at all. Next thing I know I'm walking around my house and I climb up over my back fence and I see six of these guys standing around my fire pit. I snuck up to get a closer look, and there it was, my oldest cat, Frank, skinned and skewered roasting on a spit. Poor Frank, roasting like a Memorial Day hog surrounded by a bunch of fat guys chanting 'Chow Gang! Chow Gang!'"

"Aw fuck. I loved Frank."

"Yeah, me too. I loved it when he would lay on my chest and watch the World Poker Tour with me. Anyway, so, instead of jumping back over the fence and getting the hell out of there, I pulled out my cell phone and called information asking for PETA’s phone number."


"Yeah, like I said, these dreams have been getting crazier by the day."

"What did PETA say?"

"Well, I got this old lady on the phone and I tried to best describe what was happening at my house. She asked for specifics, and when I told her about Frank I could practically hear her fainting on the other end. That's when I finally asked her if she knew anything about this Chow Gang and if they've ever been reported before."

"What did the old lady say?"

"She said, and I quote, 'Chau Gaing? The poker player? Those fucking Cambodians will eat anything.'"

Daddy is a donkeyfucker from Hilljack, Indiana. You can buy an official Snail Trax shirt and merchandise by visiting the SnailTrax Store.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hump Day Pimp Day

This is barely a post compared to my two and three thousand word entries over the past three weeks. I don't have much time this morning since I'm going away on an assignment tomorrow, so I'll be quick.

The Travel Channel is airing the WPT Tunica, MS event tonight (check local listings) that Scotty Nguyen won back in January. Our buddy Gavin Smith also made the final table. In totally unrelated news... I was invited to cover Scotty Nguyen's Poker Challenge II in Tulsa, OK in mid-June. They even offered me a free room! I declined because I'm going to the Bonnaroo music festival instead.

I've been lurking on Party Poker over the past week. I'm making solid decisions and the variance has been tame which is why I booked 17 winning sessions out of my last 20. I played 10-20 full ring and 5-10 shorthanded 6-max all weekend. I even cashed out 1/3 of my Party bankroll after the weekend sessions. I scooped a monster in a six-way pot when I rivered a runner runner flush with AKs. I love chasing nut flushes and hitting on the river in LHE.

Spaceman is in Las Vegas covering the WSOP Circuit event at Caesar's Palace for Bluff Magazine. Check out his photos and coverage. Flipchip took some photos too and posted them over at Las Vegas and Poker Blog.

If you haven't looked at Amy Calistri's blog Aimlessly Chasing Amy, then what are you waiting for? I know Amy is married, but I would casually grope her in the hallways during the 2005 WSOP after drinking Red Stripes at the hooker bar with Otis at dinner break. That is when she wasn't getting hit on by former world champions.

My buddy BJ (who is pictured with me in the photo above) has been working on his website. Expect a guest post from him on the Tao of Poker in the future.

Lou Krieger has been keeping tabs on the Goodlate Bill on his blog. Take a look at what he had to say over the last few weeks.

Quest of a Closet Poker Player recently had an excellent post on Children and Poker.

BG wrote up a kick ass article on the Top 10 Best (and Worst) Hallmarks of the Poker Boom. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?

The dudes at Wicked Chops Poker were just in Las Vegas. Read their trip reports.

Yesterday was Iggy's birthday! And it also marked the second birthday for Derek's blog... Poker in the Weeds. He had some funny things to say in his birthday post, so take a peek. In the immortal words of legendary music writer Lester Bangs, "The only true currency in this bankrupt world... is what you share with someone else when you're uncool."

By the way, I'm having issues with Haloscan, the folks who host my comments. They erased random ones and some are not even being published. The same weirdness happened on Tao of Pauly. Bare with me.

That's it for now. I'll have a special treat for you tomorrow.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Wall Street Game
"You have to decimate before you get decimated." - Jeff Spicoli
The Tao of Spicoli is how I lived my life in the trenches on Wall Street. Who would have thunk that the half-baked wisdom of a California surfer could keep me focused? I took note of his acute assessment of relating Pac-Man to surviving in everyday life. I reminded myself his words before I showed up at the infamous "Wall Street Game."

I walked in the game expecting a fight. That was my mind set. I was ready to get jumped. It wasn't going to be a fun night of drinking and cards with the boys. This wasn't going to be a low-limit table on the Strip in Las Vegas with sunburnt tourists. I was playing in one of the biggest games in New York City and going to battle against some of the most talented minds in the financial industry.

Those guys were wealth personified. They shit Gucci cufflinks. They all had memberships at exclusive country clubs that still don't allow women and minorities on the links. These are the rare breed of suits that have people mercilessly killed. They rig elections and prop up puppet governments. They buy off the cops. They bring rival corporations to their knees. They pay $800/hour to have their testicles shaved by dominatrixes. They'll sell their own children into sexual slavery if it was feasible.

This encounter was not going to be just a fight, but a dirty street brawl with biting, kicking, and junk stomping. And I was completely alone. I was not going to be judged on my poker acumen, rather it was going to be one of those gut-check moments in life. The game would be a test of my mental and physical toughness. I lost part of that hardened shell that I developed when I worked on the Street two or three lifetimes ago and I secretly wished I had it back.

Several months ago, I ate a $300 sushi lunch with Briana and her father, Harry Buttons. He's a tall and lanky man with grey hair dominating 90% of his head. He looked a little bit like Harrison Ford (during his Jack Ryan days) but in personality he reminded me of Jimmy Conway's character from Goodfellas. He's a guy that "didn't take shit from nobody." Instead of going into the family elevator button business, Harry Buttons carved out his own path. He headed to Harvard Law and eventually settled into investment banking in the late 1970s. He married into a very influential family, one of New York's oldest and elite. Briana's parents have a hate-hate relationship with each other. And her mother hates me with a passion because she thinks I'm trying to steal her families money. That was enough for Harry Buttons to take a quick liking to me as he shook my hand and paraphrased Sun Tzu's Art of War, "My enemy's enemy is my friend."

When Harry Buttons found out that I went to a prep school around the corner from his palatial Park Avenue penthouse, his interest in the guy who was sleeping his daughter and secretly plotting to steal his wife's inheritance increased twofold. When he discovered that I wrote poker for Fox Sports, he nearly jizzed in his pants.

He quickly told me about his homegame. It's not really a homegame, but several friends of his broke away from an exclusive ivy league club where they frequently played cards. They had a dispute with one of the trustees and decided to start up their own game. They are in the process of finding a permanent property. Three times a month they rented out a suite in a hotel. The location always changed, but they always have a place to play. This is not an underground card room run by the Ruskie mafia, rather it's a bunch of rogue white rich guys who got sick of dealing with their stuck up blue blood cronies. Suits on the fringe. My kind of guys.

Harry Buttons is a stud player and got killed playing in the NL Hold'em cash game. That's when he hatched a plan to get me involved. Even though I told him I wasn't a NL cash game specialist, he ignored me.

"I can't keep up with these kids. These fuckin' sharks!"

When I asked him how much he lost in the game he shook his head and said, "Let's just say I could have bought Daddy's Little Princess a 2006 s350 (Mercedes) and instead I lost it all playing Hold'em."

After that conversation, I convinced him to play to his strengths, which was Seven-card Stud. Alas, he was livid that he couldn't crack the Hold'em game. Harry Buttons is an A-type personality. He's been successful at everything he did over the past 35 years, with the exception of his first marriage and poker. He wanted tips and I suggested that he read poker books and DoubleAs' blog.

"I'm a busy man!"

He wanted me to read the books and then give him a twenty minute summary. I told him that if he was serious about improving his game, he'd make the time. He decided that it would be better to get me in the game now while he took my advice brushed up on his NL game. He even downloaded Party Poker using my bonus code and learned how to play different styles from a rock like Dan Harrington to a loose cannon like Layne Flack to a cagey mofo like The Rooster.

I had been on the road for the first 1/3 of the year so I never had the opportunity to play in the Wall Street Game. When I got sick, one of the things I regretted not doing was taking shots at higher stakes poker games. And if didn't want to risk my bankroll, then I'd have to find backers and investors with disposable income. I found two backers for the Wall Street Game; Briana's father and my old mentor Mack, the guy who trained me and was my original jungle guide on Wall Street. They both loaned me $2K each for a month. I agreed to play in at least two games and at the end, they'd decide if they want to do... either cash out or let it ride or cut the losses. I had to sell off 60% of my action... 30% each of them. They wanted 35% each and actually Mack wanted 40%! I wanted to sell off 25% each and we negotiated to 30%. Heck, I'm not going to complain. If I can double up my $2K buy-in, that would be worth an $800 for me considering I don't absorb any of the liability if I get busted and lose my stake.

I brought $1K out of my own bankroll just in case. I met up with Mack first down on Maiden Lane and he made me sign a contract. Then I had to head to midtown to pick up some more money from Harry Buttons before I headed to the suite with $5K. That's the most money I ever took to the tables. When I rode the subway to the hotel, I looked around at all the stiffs on the train. The evening commuters had that wary Wednesday look on their faces. I used to be like them... barely awake as I shuffled through life. I had more money in my pocket than they made in an entire month. I was about to gamble the equivalent of their monthly paycheck, while they were rushing home in time to grab a slice of pizza before Lost came on the boob tube and they wasted a few hours before they had to so to sleep and get up to go back to work.

I thought about that old saying, "If you ain't living, then you're just waiting to die."

That fired me up to play even more. I found Briana's father in front of the hotel fifteen minutes later. He insisted that he take a taxi from his office in midtown. I took the subway, made two calls, then grabbed a calzone from a fake Original Ray's Pizza. I still beat him downtown.

We took the elevator up to one of the top floors. The entrance to the suite had double doors, and a six-foot tall woman wearing a tight black cocktail dress with flowing dark hair answered thirty seconds after we rang. I assumed that she was the hostess. The jewelry around her fingers and neck looked fake. I couldn't tell because I'm a straight guy and I kept staring at her breasts. But she wore Manolos. I know they distinct brand well after Briana and I once got into a fight and she tried to bash my head in with one of her shoes. I can't tell you if Manolo Blahniks are comfortable shoes, but they hurt like a motherfucker when malcontent blondes chuck them at your head like John Elway hitting Rod Smith in the numbers on a slant pattern.

The hostess' distinct Middle Eastern features stood out and I wanted to run my fingers over her shoulders and feel her smooth tanned skin. She could have been Greek, Israeli, or Syrian. I was dying to know as I came to conclusion that both her tits were fake.

She took Harry's jacket as we walked into a small room where two guys smoked cigars. They both wore dark grey pants, blue shirts with white collars, and suspenders. Harry stopped to talk to them as the hostess led me into a big room with two leather couches and two poker tables. A small bar sat in the corner and opposite the bar, the Yankees game was on in the background. Jaret Wright was pitching a one-hitter.

"Everything's free. Booze and food. Whatever you want," Harry said before he paused a beat and elbowed me. "Except for the women of course."

A guy with a funny accent came over and asked to see my driver's license. He looked like Alan Cumming and he smelled like cheap cologne. He gave me a weak handshake then asked for $100. Harry forgot to tell me that there's no rake, but they take $100 up front. That helped covers the cost of the suite, food, and liquor.

A buxom blonde who was about a foot shorter than the hostess walked over to me. She wore heavy concealer to cover up the rings around her eyes. The runny nose was a dead giveaway that she was on the sauce.

"Do you vant a drink?" she asked me in a thick Russian accent.

I declined. I was worried that they were going to lace my drinks and I'd wake up with my asshole the size of the Lincoln Tunnel and find my bankroll and both my kidneys missing.

I sat down at the NL table while Harry took a seat in the 20-40 Stud game. His table had 5 players all guys in their 50s and up. I was the only non-suit in the room besides the two hookers.
Here's my table:

Seat 1: Bertrand the Venture Capitalist... it's natural that a venture capitalist would be a loose poker player. They liked to spread their money around especially on long shots because they know it's gonna be a huge payday if the investment hits. Bertrand had a funny accent. I think he said something about being half-Welch and half-Belgium, but he grew up in Connecticut.

Seat 2: Palmer aka the Former Master of the Universe... at one point this guy was the Phil Ivey and Tiger Woods of his industry. When I was a rookie on Wall Street, he was the most successful fund manager in the world who used to date models and snort coke off their tits. Now he's a vegan health nut who's broke, yet addicted to poker and has two alimonies to pay.

Seat 3: Pauly... Your hero was originally a bond trader. The former rookie of the year left the industry abruptly in the mid 1990s before ending his retirement in late 2001 by accepting a position with JP Morgan as a stockbroker focusing on the pharmaceutical industry.

Seat 4: Drunk Guy.... Didn't get the broker's name. I think it's Steve or Sam or something with an S. He's the only guy who didn't give me a business card. He showed up drunk and knocked back Scotch all night. At one point I nicknamed him "Shakes the Clown" because his hands shook so much when he moved all in.

Seat 5: Larry Hedge... Hedge Fund managers are the boring in nature. He ran an Asian stock market hedge fund in the late 1990s and now is working with a major firm hedging currencies. Hedge funds are basically a way to reduce volatility and take smaller risks in an attempt to preserve the capital in the fund. That way they can deliver a positive return under any condition. Tightest player at the table. His wife also picks out his ties.

Seat 6: Vince Vaughn... Vince Vaughn didn't really play in the game, but this guy looked and sounded just like my boy VV. He's a cocky investment banker who makes more money in a year than A-Rod, and he had a much better season. He has houses in Westport, in Colorado, the Hamptons, and in Bermuda.
When I walked in that room that maniacal feeling quickly came back. I was ready to inflict pain. If anyone punched me, I was going to punch back twice as hard. The stakes were 5-10 NL. The buy-in ranged from 1K to 2K max. Since everyone had 2K in front of them, I bought the max. Harry told me that guys rebuy for as little as $500 and usually half of them will go into their pockets two or three times over the night. The most he won was 4K in one session and he's lost 8K in a night twice. Harry was the biggest fish in the room and he wasn't even sitting at my table. No wonder the guys were pissed I took his spot.

I had to choose one guy out of the five that I was going to pick on all night, otherwise I was going to be everyone's bitch. I focused on the drunk guy, but I had a feeling that Vince Vaughn and I were going to get into some big pots together. I didn't bring anything to take notes with, so my post lacks a lot of details. I took a few smoke breaks and went downstairs and called my voicemail to leave messages on my progress, but that was the extent to my documentation of the game. I also did not bring a camera either.

On the second hand I found the Hammer and raised to $30. I figured 3x would be a standard raise. Nope. I quickly got reraised to $100. I folded. I discovered that the standard raise was $50 preflop. The re-raise would be about $150. There were usually four players to a flop which meant that $600 was in the pot before we ever saw a flop. Talk about action!

I didn't catch any cards and folded almost every hand in the first hour. I tried to study the players and pick up on tells as they stole my blinds.

Harry would check up on my every ten minutes or so. He told me to get some food every time. I finally got a drink and the hookers would walk over and brush their breasts up against my shoulder as they brought over my beer.

During the second hour I grew frustrated. I got blinded down and waited for a hand that I could see a flop for $150 with but was card dead. VV amassed some chips early with some wild play until he lost a big pot and most of his stack against the drunk guy who beat him with bottom pair. VV tried to bluff with just a gutshot and drunk guy pushed. I kept having those moments where I wished I played in more pots. I'd fold marginal hands that would end up being winners.

When I finally found a hand and reraised to $150 with Q-Q, I got three callers. The flop had a King of spades and two baby clubs. VV moved all in UTG for almost $1K. I called. He had 9-9. One of them was the nine of clubs and both of my Queens were red. The turn and river were clubs. Flushed out by the table asshole. My testicles shrunk to the size of peanuts. I was down to like $525 in chips.

"Rebuy!" I shouted as Harry slouched in his chair.

The guy with the cheap cologne ran over and sold me $1500 more chips. I had $1500 more in cash on me, but if I had to rebuy one more time, I'd be using my own money.

"Good call," Palmer said as VV stacked his chips "Shitty river. You'll get it back."

"If I win a few more pots, I can afford both of you lovely lades," VV taunted the hookers.

Since the drunk guy to my left kept slurring his speak, I couldn't understand him. I ended up talking to Palmer most of the night. I doubt that he knew that I knew who he was. And deep down I hoped that no one read my blog, especially Palmer.

VV routinely teased Palmer about his mental breakdown seven years ago and his subsequent trip to rehab. He lost his job, his penthouse, his model wife, his limo and driver, and he lost his dignity. He also discovered that his mistress was pregnant with twins. After the birth, when one of the kids looked like neither of them, he suspected something was up. Palmer looked like a husky Ron Howard but with more hair, and his mistress was a strawberry blonde. The twins were fraternal which meant they were two different eggs. And each egg was fertilized by a different father. Palmer was one and a shoesalesman at Macy's originally from Nigeria was the other. Palmer discovered the horrible truth when his mistress sued him for child support for the twins. Since he was the father of only one, the court ruled that he only had to pay half of what she wanted. It totally sounded like a bad episode of LA Law.

At some point the conversation got focused on me, part of the standard conversations that New Yorkers have when they meet you for the first time... "What do you do? Where do you live? Who do you know?"

I told them I used to work on the Street on two different occasions.

"I'm retired," I said.

"Smart man," added Palmer.

"Of course he's smart. He's banging Harry Buttons' daughter," VV said loud enough that Harry could hear. "She's got more money than Paris Hilton."

By the third hour I noticed that a few of the guys would leave the table for 15-20 minutes at a time and retire in the bedroom with one of the hookers, while the other one served drinks.

The buxom Russian came over and asked me if I was hungry. She handed me a room service menu. If she made the food, I was going to make sure she washed her hands. I ordered a club sandwich with double bacon in homage to Daddy.

I finally got used to the flow of the game. I could sense when players were weak or strong. Instead of guessing blindly in the first hour, I got a decent read on the table. I was still down almost $2K with $1500 on the table when VV bragged the new Porsche that he bought. That's when I raised his big blind with Snowman Tater Legs. He called. The flop was Q-8-4. He bet $400 and I raised to $1000. I smelled weakness even though he reraised me all in. I called as he whispered, "Shit."

He had A-4. The turn and river were both Jacks and my SMTL held up. I waited almost four hours to win a decent hand. I had over $3K in chips and became quickly energized with confidence. That's when I shifted gears. When someone would raise, I re-raised. I wanted to be in early position because I wanted to move all in on the flop before anyone else did. My aggression paid off because I had close to $5K within an hour. Harry's stud table broke and he went home while the other suits got their salad tossed before they caught their trains back to the burbs.

The Hedge Manager left after he lost his buy-in and the game was five handed. Including the hookers and the guy with cheap cologne who ran the game, it was just eight of us in the suite. Sportscenter played in the background as the venture capitalist took a phone call from his agitated wife. We'd lose him eventually and the game was down to four players. Me. Master of the Universe. Vince Vaughn. And the drunk guy.

The action picked up and everyone flop was four handed. Palmer scooped a pot from me when his A-J outkicked my A-10. I took a pot off of drunk guy when I flopped a set of 5s. I missed two big flush draws on consecutive hands and lost about 1/3 of my stack to VV. I got it back when I bluffed VV out of a pot that I thought he was going to fold. On the turn I had bottom pair and a gutshot draw and I re-raised VV about $1500. He thought about it for five minutes before he folded. I let him see one of my cards and he picked the 3 of diamonds. He said he put me on two pair. With Q-Js, I also rivered two pair on the drunk guy when he flopped a pair of Queens with K-Q.

Around 2am the game broke and I had a little over 4K on the table. I played too tentative in the first hour or so, but finally took control of the game at the right time. Overall, I made good decisions. I made the right laydowns and got a few lucky cards. The game had one or two decent players but the rest were loose maniacs and kamikaze gamblers. I'm lucky I didn't lose all my money.

I bought in for 3500 and I walked away with 600 or so. VV dropped about 4K, while drunk guy won 9K. Palmer broke even. The drunk guy passed out on the couch as VV threw his arms around the shoulders of both hookers and led them into the bedroom. He never said good bye. He was pre-occupied.