Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sky City Poker

By Pauly
Auckland, New Zealand

Our hotel in Auckland is located only a couple of blocks away from Sky City Casino. Change100 suggested we take a peek. We had nothing specific planned and my mood was slightly sour since we left Queenstown. I had fallen in love with the sleepy little ski town also known as the adventure capital of the world. After toiling for two and a half weeks covering the Aussie Millions inside the Crown Casino in Melbourne, I relished the last two weeks outdoors basking in the sun and enjoying the southern hemisphere's summer in the hippie/surf beachy resort town of Byron Bay, Australia and the bucolic enclave of Queenstown, New Zealand.

There was a casino (also called the Sky City Casino) in Queenstown and although we were tempted to go inside and find the poker room, we avoided it and opted to play Chinese Poker instead while sitting outside in front of the local bars. We also got our gambling fix by prop betting on miniature golf, which we played every day (and twice one day on two instances).

We reluctantly left Queenstown and the luscious south island of New Zealand and headed to the north island and Auckland to finish up our holiday before we fly back to Hollyweird. When we discovered that our hotel was so close to the casino, we decided to investigate the scene.

The Sky City casino reminded me of the Star City Casino in Sydney. Heck, I've been to casinos all over the planet and no matter where you go, you'll always find a geriatric zombie glued to a slot machine, pissing away the last of her spare change while she awaits her turn to dive into the unknown depths of the afterlife. I ignored the pits an the -EV games. There was no Pai Gow, so we headed for the poker room.

The poker room was located at the second floor and we found it completely empty. A huge sign that said, "The Poker Zone" hung on the back wall but the area which held six tables was deserted. Another sign near the front desk showed the times that the poker room were open. On weekdays, the poker room started up at 5:30pm and sign ups for the wait list began at 5pm. It was only 4pm so we left and decided to return at 6pm.

When we returned, there was only a 1/2 NL game running and I got on the wait list for 1/2 NL and 2/5 NL. There was an interest list for 5/10 NL and not one limit table. I signed up and gave them my mobile phone number. They texted me when they opened up a new 2/5 NL table. Change100 sat down at a newly opened 1/2 NL table.

There's no time charge at the NL tables at Sky City, but the rake is rape. They take out 10% up to $15. Unreal. I thought that the Star City Casino in Sydney was bad rake-wise, but that was ridiculous.

I had the big blind in the first hand. Old Kiwi in Seat 6 raised to $25. Action was folded to me and I peeled back my cards. I found two Jacks and tossed out four more red chips. The flop was Q-7-3 rainbow. I checked. Old Kiwi bet $35. I thought that was odd and considered a check-raise to find out where I was in the hand. I have no idea why I just called. The turn was another Queen. I fired out a bet about 2/3 of the pot and Old Kiwi moved all in. I tanked for about four minutes.

"I can't believe I'm going to go broke on the first hand," I said aloud. "Do you want me to call?"

The old guy sat and breathed heavily. If he had flopped a set and turned a boat (or turned trips) he would have not moved all in. I put him on A-K. My gut told me that I was ahead and I called. I tabled my Jacks and he did not show his hand. The King of clubs spiked on the river and I almost shit a brick.

"Show me your Big Slick," I said as I slid my hand in my pocket ready to rebuy.

The Old Kiwi flipped over a pair of tens. My Jacks were good and I doubled up on the first hand.

Since I had been talking during the hand, the rest of the table knew I was American. It appeared that everyone else at the table were locals and knew each other.

"The Yank sniffed out your shit," the guy next to me said.

Then he said a phrase that I cringe whenever I hear it..."You're not that blogger are you?"

As I raked in the pot, I sighed. There I was in a random casino in New Zealand, and a fan of the Tao of Poker was sitting to my left. I told him that I was who he thought I was.

"You guys better not play like a retard," he announced to the rest of the table. "Otherwise Dr. Pauly will write about how bad you play on his blog."

Luckily no one else was a reader (or at least they didn't admit that).

On the second hand, I found Kd-Qd in the small blind. I called a $15 raise from the cut off. The big blind called. The flop was Q-4-3. I fired out $30. The big blind min-raised and the original raiser folded. I called. The turn was a blank, and we both checked. The river was a King. I bet $100 and he called with 4-3. I showed my bigger two pair and won the pot. That's when I got the nickname, "The Lucky Yank."

A couple of orbits later, I felted two players on the same hand. Crazy Asian in Seat 1 raised $15. An androgynous person (who was a dead ringer for Pat from Saturday Night Live... you know that infamous recurring sketch, "A lot of people say, what's that? It's Pat!") called. I found Ks-Qs in late position and called. The flop was K-Q-9 rainbow. Crazy Asian bet $40. Pat called. I re-raised to $220. Crazy Asian moved all in for about $140 more. Pat called off the remainder of his/her stack worth about $100. I tabled my cards and they did not show theirs. The board ran out 5c on the turn and the 8h on the river. Pat insta-mucked and the Crazy Asian showed the Kc and mucked his other card. I dragged the pot. I was up three buy-ins in twenty-five minutes.

An orbit later, the Crazy Asian in Seat 1 got revenge. He limped. I raised with As-10s from the cutoff and he called. The flop was A-Q-J. He check-called a $40 bet. The turn was another Ace. I bet $100 and he called. The river was a low card (3 or 4... I can't recall). He checked. I bet $100 and he check-min-raised me. Wow, that's a play I see Scandis do all the time. I put him on a full house, but for $100 more I had to call and see just in case he was bluffing. Usually, when you get check-raised on the river (especially a min-raise) you're fucked. I pulled out a stack of red chips and he quickly showed his K-10o. He flopped the joint and I walked right into it. That Ace on the turn spelled my doom. I should have gotten away from that hand.

I played another hour and won one medium sized pot with Js-6s. I was up 2.5 buy-ins and decided to take the money and run, even though everyone at my table was super friendly and having a good time. I went to the bar and drank a beer and waited for Change100. She quit within an hour and we both walked away winners.

"I have never had a losing session in the Southern Hemisphere," she remarked as we walked out of the casino and headed across the street to a liquor store. We decided to celebrate our nice run in New Zealand, as she bought a nice bottle of wine.

P.S. While I was writing this post, a PokerStars commercial came on New Zealand TV. It starred Isabelle Mercier with Princess Leia hair kick boxing. I had never seen that one before.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Return of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly

By Pauly
Queenstown, New Zealand

See you on Saturday (Feb. 2) at 4:20pm on Poker Stars!

I first launched a private series of tournaments on PokerStars in November of 2005. Geez, has it been that long? Well, I sincerely thank those of you who patiently waited for the return of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly.

The format will be PLO (Pot-Limit Omaha). Buy in is $10. And the start time is at 4:20pm ET (or 16:20pm according to the PokerStars clock). Why 4:20pm? Because I wanted to pick a time where all of my international friends can play. So that's 10:20pm in Stockholm, Madrid, Munich, and France. It's 9:20pm in the UK and in Ireland. It's 6:20pm in Brazil. It's 1:20pm on the Left Coast and in Vegas. It's 11:20am in Hawaii. And of course if you live on the other side of the globe, it's actually Sunday Mornings with Dr. Pauly... if you live in New Zealand (10:20am on Sunday) or Australia (8:20am).

I'm hoping that the event will bring together poker players from all over the world. And naturally, PokerStars was the best place to run the tournaments. I have worked for them in the past and continue to shill for them on a constant basis. They have been extremely good to me, so when I was approached about running another series of tournaments, I couldn't say no.

Unlike previous events, there will not be a leaderboard.

I have zero intentions on keeping score. Why? Well, I point to a scene in Caddyshack when Judge Smails asked Ty Webb what he shot that day on the golf course. Ty Webb said that he didn't know because he didn't keep score.

"So how do you measure yourself against other golfers?" Judge Smails asked.

"By height," responded the zen-like Ty Webb.

I'll do my best to play every weekend, but there's no guarantee with my schedule. My philosophy for this series of events is to have a weekly gathering place of laid back folks from all over the world. Saturdays with Dr. Pauly is sort of like that cool out of the way bar (like Cheers where everybody knows your name) where you can just hang out and there's no pressure. Life is tough enough, and playing poker is even harder. Saturdays with Dr. Pauly is an option. Everyone is welcome. Come as you are.

Look for the tournament in the private tournament tab. It's not hard to find.

Hope to see you at PokerStars on Saturday for some PLO fun. And if you can't make it this weekend, there will always be next weekend.

If you don't have a PokerStars account and would like to open a new account, you can download the software by clicking here.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Soon Come: Saturdays with Dr. Pauly

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

Yes, the rumors are true. Saturdays with Dr. Pauly will be making a return starting this February. Stay tuned to Tao of Poker for more details.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Johnny Hughes Book Review: Texas Poker Wisdom

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

Matthew "Slick" O'Malley has been a Texas road gambler for fifty years. He wants to teach his nephew, Dylan, everything about poker: its strategy, culture, language, history, pitfalls, songs, movies, books, gambling joints, and web sites. "Did you ever want to be anything other than a gambler?" Dylan O'Malley asked his uncle... "There's no percentage in regrets, boy. To me, it's always been about time, not money. I found early on that I was up for about fifteen hours a week of hustling as a gambler. I have always watched everyone hurrying off to work. Not me." Dylan had saved $250,000 in poker winnings in two years. He said, "I love poker. I can't see going back to renting my life out by the hour. I can go anyplace I want all over the world and no-limit Texas Hold 'em will be there waiting for me. It's the purest form of freedom." - from the Inside Flap of Texas Poker Wisdom
Novels are tough to write. I've done it a few times and have a sense of respect for those scribes who complete a manuscript. Writing a poker novel is an even more difficult task. Not only does it have to be compelling, but also the poker scenes have to be accurate, believable, and exciting. I have thumbed through dozens of new poker novels over the last few years, but none of them stood out or held my attention long enough to read them.

That is until Texas Poker Wisdom came my way.

Johnny Hughes contacted me shortly before the WSOP. We had never met, but started a series of email exchanges. He was a fan of my work and often had complimentary things to say about me in various forums. He's always rushed to my defense when I got flamed on a 2+2 thread and offered me up plenty of advice. I guess you can say he had been sharing pearls of wisdom which he gained from being a Texas road gambler.

He also sent me stories which I would end up publishing in Truckin'. He had a knack for writing, and possessed the great gift of story telling.

Johnny Hughes eventually sent me a copy of his novel. I still have the doc file. It was cool that I got to read one of the final drafts before it went to the publisher. Although I was familiar with the material, I couldn't wait to dig into a real copy of the book. Hughes sent me the fifth overall copy, right out of the first box, and he even wrote a warm inscription to me. I was pleased that he included Truckin' as one of the numerous publications he had written for.

The book is a novel. I guess you can say it's a crime novel or a poker novel. There's a murder within the story and lots of poker. The protagonist, Matt, is a older gentleman from Lubbock, TX. He's a man of routine who has been living in and around the Lubbock for most of his life. He spends his mornings as a frequent caller into the local political themed talk radio show. Then he spends his afternoons looking for a good poker game at the various rooms and games around town..

One afternoon during a poker game, Matt comes across Dylan, a young hotshot and realizes that he's his long lost nephew. The first act of the book focuses on the reluctant relationship between Matt and Dylan. Matt's brother (aka Dylan's father) was murdered twenty years earlier, which remained unsolved. In a poignant scene, Matt takes Dylan to the location where he was shot and left for dead.

The second act is located in Las Vegas. The two embark on a trip to Sin City. While Matt prefers the seedier downtown, Dylan can't wait to play at the Bellagio. Dylan eventually gets backed by Matt and goes on a rush.

I won't go into specific details of the third act, because I don't want to ruin the ending, however Matt and Dylan get caught up into some big trouble and have to trust each other if the want to get out of a jam.

My only criticism was the last part of the book felt rushed since the first two thirds seemed to move at a much slower pace.

Aside from that, Texas Poker Wisdom is a fast read at 208 pages. I cranked it out during a cross country flight from NYC to Hollyweird. It's a great subway book or perfect to read on three-day weekend.

Johnny Hughes delivered a fascinating and entertaining novel with Texas Poker Wisdom. He accurately portrayed the underbelly and the shady side of the poker culture with his vivid characters and flavorful dialogue.

Oh and yes, my poker blog, Tao of Poker, is referenced by one of the characters. Pretty cool, eh?

Click here to buy Texas Poker Wisdom.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Aussie Millions Players Party Pics

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

After the Aussie Millions final table ended, I headed up to the player's party at one of the nightclubs in the Crown Casino. Last year, the final table went late and I showed up at the party very late. This year, I got to hang out longer, because the final table ended just at the same time as the party started.

I guess you can say that I had a rough 24 hour span... starting from the night before the final table when I drank waaaaaaaaay too much and paid for it the next morning. On Sunday I struggled through a category 7 hangover all day and made myself puke before the final table started so I could actually function. Best decision I made in a while. Of course, once the final table was over... I jumped right back on the horse and continued my bender. I dunno when I'll be in Australia again, so I took advantage of the open bar and partying with some new & old friends from the Poker News crew. Yeah, I went a little nutty.

That's the end of the night pic of me icing up my black eye. Falling down is not something that happens to me... at all. I've hung with AlCantHang's crew and managed to always stay on my feet, despite the obvious damage to my internal organs.

Yeah, a rare incident happened. At the end of the night, I experienced an Otis-esque spill after drinking a Jagerbomb, when I fell down after I tripped over a lounge chair. The result? A banged up knee and a black eye. Luckily I didn't break my glasses or my camera. Despite the fall, I had a blast. I hope that I'm fortunate enough to be invited back to Australia and the Crown to cover future events. I have spanned the globe following poker over the last three years, and Melbourne is by far one of my favorite places to visit.

And yes, I have more pictures of the night's festivities. Feel free to pass them around. You can click on the individual photos to get a larger view.


Yes, that's Brandon Schaefer dancing in the cage....

Hope you liked that. Feel free to check out more pics in my Australia 2008 photo gallery.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.