Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Nugs: WSOP Identity Crisis, Too Many Tourneys, $250,000 High, Thoughts on the New Poker League, and Explaining the Bank Bailouts to Sheeple

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's the worst time of the week, right? Monday mornings suck. Just when you get used to doing your own thing, you gotta suck it up and take guff for the next five days. I feel your pain. That's why I whipped up this batch of poker-related goodness to help dull the pain of Monday Morning. So kick back with a cup of java or something stronger if you're fortunate enough to get shit-faced at work by sneaking a few swigs of Irish coffee...or even harder if you decided to eat pain killers at work today, which if the case, kudos to you! Enjoy your faded Monday.
Will Jeffrey Pollack's Federated Poker League Work? Los hombres formulated their opinion on the latest venture from former WSOP Commish Jeffrey Pollack. They interviewed a few industry insiders who shared their initial reactions on the long-term future of Pollack's new league. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Are there too many poker tournament series these days? John Katkin tackles the subject in an Op/Ed Too Many Tourneys. I'm kinda siding with Katkin on this one. A consolidation in the international and domestic schedule would be welcomed from many facets of the industry to create an off-season. All other pro sports have a season (with a pre-season and post-season) with a lengthy off-season. Poker used to have a few lulls in the schedule, but not anymore. (Pokerati)

Last summer, one of the best things written about the 2010 WSOP was done by a guest poster. Yep, Change100 contributed an editorial for the Tao All-Stars about the WSOP's identity crisis: Everything All the Time. When the 2011 WSOP schedule was announced last week, she penned a follow up piece critique: Everything All the Time Reprise. Pot Committed)

Erik Seidel won the $250,000 (Aussie Bucks) Highest High Roller event at the Aussie Million. He's been running good in high roller events. Maybe he shouldn't play anything under a 25K buy-in anymore? Anyway, read Shamus' "Hard to Relate" take on the 250K. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

The newly added PokerStars Home Games are going to be a gold mine according to one European gaming insider. (Infinite Edge)

I had fun writing this post How to Take Over a Politically Unstable Country in Six Easy Steps. Little did I know that Egypt would fall within 48 hours. I hope that doesn't get me on any watch lists. (Tao of Pauly)

If you work in the financial sector, then here's a funny video riddled with inside jokes about the bank bailouts. If you don't know much about the bailouts, then check this video that a friend of mine on Wall Street dubbed "a fucking cartoon to explain to the sheeple that they got fucked by the bailouts." (Tao of Fear)

Funk Mix is a collection of music for those of you with proclivities to ass-shaking funk. This is the perfect mix for working out, playing poker, or even writing half-baked link dumps like this one. Warning: the mix might cause you to stop what your doing and want to freaky... (Coventry)
Happy Monday. You know the drill...NGTFOOMO.

Photo credit: Me

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dan Shak's Hedge Fund Nearly Blows Up the Gold Market

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Dan Shak almost caused a tsunami in the gold futures market.

This sounds like a story for Tao of Fear. But, it's real life and my Wall Street world has just collided with the poker world. Enter... Dan Shak.

For someone who is an investor and Hedge Fund Manager like Dan Shak, $10,000 poker tournament buy-ins are peanuts to the millions that hes been gambling on in gold futures.

"Must use poker winnings to buy more gold!"

There's an inside joke among poker media that sometimes Shak randomly set up his laptop in the pressbox during tournaments. On his breaks, he sprinted to the laptop, checked his spreads, and randomly barked orders into his cell phone, "DEEEZ! DEEEZ!"

Because I was one of the rare members of the poker press who used to work on Wall Street, I knew that Shak wasn't crazy...he was simply attempting to buy December futures contracts (the abbreviation is "Z" but it's also known as "Dec" or pronounced "deese" instead of "deck"). Alas, my snarky colleagues exaggerated his trade lingo so much so that Shak's nickname was often "Deez." Oh, and you don't want to know the not-so-charming nickname that we have to his ex-wife Beth. I'm afraid if I reveal that, she'll try to sue me for slander with a mergers and acquisitions attorney and shut down Tao of Poker .

During one recent tournament, I glanced at Shak's laptop and noticed his was trading gold futures, I asked him, "How you doing today?"

Shak told me his chipcount in the tournament. I guess Shak had no clue that I used to be in the business, or rather, he didn't want anyone to know what he really did for a living.

Before he started his hedge fund, Shak was a trader on the floor of COMEX located on the 8th floor of the former World Trade Center. That's exactly where I got my start as a runner and later as a clerk as an internship in high school, and later as a summer job just before I started college. I never went back to the trading floor in subsequent stops on Wall Street (post-college, I trained as a bond trader, and then returned post 9/11 as a stockbroker).

Shak's hedge fund, SHK Asset Management, at one point controlled almost 10% of the total U.S. futures market and worth almost $850 million. It's important to point out that futures contracts cost a small percentage of the actual price of the future. All of these contracts were bought on margin. When the price of gold tanked at the start of 2011, Shak was going to be on the hook for a massive loss. Like a smart poker player, he got in over his head (look at in as a hold'em hand and by the turn with most of his stack in the pot, he knew he was drawing to a one-outer or possibly drawing dead), so he folded his hand. Closing his trade cost somewhere around $7 million. Rumor suggested that the board at COMEX forced him to cut his losses, but in an interview, Shak was stern when he said that he got out on his own when he was down 70%.

It's also important to note that Shak made a spread trade -- essentially betting on both sides (long and short positions) of the gold market.

The Wall Street Journal can explain it better:
It isn't an outright bet on gold prices, but rather on the degree of movement among different contracts. The fact that the sale came from a spread trader, rather than a gold holder, could put some investors' minds at ease.

Spread trading often flies under the radar of regulators and exchanges, as it is regarded as involving little risk. Therefore, traders are able to use high leverage to command a big number of contracts with only little capital.

For example, with as little as $135, a trader can control a spread trade, which is nominally valued at more than $260,000 at today's price.

In comparison, traders need to put up $6,751 to invest in one futures contract. Mr. Shak's positions were extended as far as December 2015, according to exchange data.
I got tipped off on this story by my friend Marissa. You can read more about the saga from the Wall Street Journal's article Small Gold Trader Makes Big Splash: Daniel Shak's Aggressive Bet Grabbed Sizable Chunk of Contracts, But Prices Fell and Wager Went Bad.

The gang at Zero Hedge even took notice and wrote a post: Meet The Man Behind The Liquidating Hedge Fund That Blew Up The Gold Market.

One of my favorite Wall Street blogs, Clusterstock, also weighed in on the situation This Poker-Playing Hedge Fund Manager Sent Shocks Through The Gold Market Last Week.

The best line in all of this, which I hear from degenerate gamblers (poker, craps, sports betting, whatever) all the time, is what Shak told the Wall Street Journal: "This is not career ending. I'm not stopping trading."

Talk about a trader who has a set of titanium balls! That's what I love about Dan Shak -- he made a ballsy trade, it went south, he cut his losses, shrugged it off, and wants to get back in the game.

Instead of dicking around trying to get his chip count, maybe I should ask Shak if I can have a job at his hedge fund?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eight Voices and the Sea of Troubles

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Something supernatural occurred the moment that my plane landed in the Bahamas. My buddy Storms failed to convince me that his cooler abilities were responsible for hexing me, even though he was coincidentally present when something amiss affected games that I wagered, whether it was the Knicks, Ravens, or Butler.

Fucking Butler.

My blood continues to boil thinking about the poignant bad beat on Butler. Storms and I were the only ones on the island who bet on that "added game" at the Atlantis sports book, and we even moved the line a half a point. Instead of blowing our winnings at the Coral Lobby Bar, we looked like chump stains and tore up our losing tickets. Butler failed to cover, shit, they didn't even win the game. We got our testicles stomped by a mid-major squad that barely had a winning record.

Why the hell was I betting on Butler in the first place?

The answer is complex, disturbing, yet predictable.

If I saw more than three episodes of LOST, then I could come up with a witty allegory linking sports betting and Hurley's numbers that would explain the downswing in Bahamas. However, something unearthly happened on the island, and I'm unable to pinpoint the whats and whys. Until I can find some answers, I'm wandering the vast wasteland trying to pick up the pieces of my shattered betting life.

I ended 2010 riding an emotional high with a heater. Everything I bet was golden. Silver futures. NFL. NBA. College Hoops. European Team Handball. I even bought the fucking dip! It was one of those streaks that bettors dream about. During the streak, I heeded sound advice from Buffalo66 on college hoops, and an acquaintance who works in a major off-shore sports book down in warmer climates clued me on any major lines moves in the NFL. I devised a half-baked system for NBA games (always betting against Washington on the road, and betting on the Knicks on the road especially when they are dogs). I also reduced the amount of bets on NFL games to only two every weekend: one big bet and a small bet. In poker terms, I played fewer hands, but aggressively played the ones I selected.

With positive aspirations for the new year rattling around my head, 2011 started off just how it ended -- en fuego. I planned on doubling my bankroll at the sports book in the Bahamas. Instead, the streak was halted, when I slid into a sinister black hole of suck.

If I could have one special power it would be the ability to peek into the future. I can't tell you how much I'd abuse that special ability for evil purposes by gambling on the financial markets and on sporting events. Although I hated all of the sequels to Back to the Future, my only favorite scene/storyline is Biff getting his hands on a sports almanac from the future, which he uses to become one of the most successful sports bettors in their alternative universe.

Man oh man, if I could only have the ability to see the future for one week -- I'd quickly amass a fortune until all of the bookies and sports books cut me off, then I'd have to pull a Billy Walters and hire hundreds of runners to make bets for me in Vegas.

Accessing the future for my own financial gain is an unattainable pipe dream. I meet people all the time in Vegas and in poker circles who claim that have foolproof systems for blackjack, roulette, the horses, stock options, etc. I've met lots of shit-talkers, but I've never crossed paths with a legitimate psychic who can accurately predict the future. Believe me, I scoured the world for a seer and found lots of charlatans, but came up empty.

I experienced a clairvoyant encounter one late night after I ate too much Adderall and had a lengthy conversation with Oma, aka the ghost of Change100's dead German grandmother. My favorite place to write in our apartment is the dining room table that belonged to Oma. If you put your palms on the table, you can feel it vibrating with energy, which is the primary reason why I love writing at it. Oma's spirit is heavily attached to the table because it was the center of many of her happiest memories. Almost one hundred years old, the heavy table is made out of solid oak and it's a bitch to move. They definitely don't make furniture like that anymore, and these days you're stuck with Ikea's disposable crap made for pennies in a Chinese sweatshop out of balsa wood.

When I'm sleep deprived or jacked up, I can feel the presence of my girlfriend's dead grandmother. Oma always started conversations in English, but then trailed off into German. I didn't understand what she said and politely asked her to return to English. I'm not going to lie to you -- I've tried to angle shoot a ghost. I pestered, prodded, and grilled Oma about the future. Unfortunately, she was unable to tell me the outcomes of the next day's basketball games. I sensed that she was uncomfortable with my devious questions. I didn't want to upset her because the last thing I needed was a German spirit haunting me the rest of my life. I dropped any gambling talk during our other encounters. We mostly talked about her childhood in Munich and how she didn't like it when I made Nazi jokes (although she loved the Gestapo Knock-Knock joke, wich is only effective if you can do a perfect German accent).
Knock. Knock.
"Who's there?"
"Zee Gestapo"
"The Gestapo who?"
"Vee vill be zee onez asking zee questions!"
Unable to get ghosts to spill the beans about the future, I found myself back to square one and just another lowly piker. I take out my gambling frustrations in literature where I dream up alternative dimensions where time travel is possible and I earn millions betting on games that I already know the final score. Maybe I'll eat a shitload of speed one weekend and write a Philip K. Dick-inspired pulpy-sci-fi screenplay that is a hybrid of Time Cop meets Bringing Down the House -- the Gambling Police from the MGM/Mirage Junta are leaping through worm holes to track down an eclectic group of rogue time traveling gamblers (including ringleader Seth Rogen, a random hip-hop artist to play the wise-cracking sidekick and be the token black guy, and a well-known British actress in the role of the bald-headed savant pre-cog).

The Bahama Incident has been bothering me ever since I returned to California. Maybe it's because I was on the fringe of the Bermuda Triangle that my betting mojo is all out of whack? Maybe I lost all of my run good and it got transferred to my girlfriend? I'm thrilled that she shipped the PCA Ladies Event for a well-needed score, but while she was experiencing the winner's high, I was slumming the the loser's doldrums. I blew through two dimes as my bankroll got decimated and I got beat down like a Russian dissident. Every single wager was a heart breaker and the brutality did not let up. I hoped that the losing juju remained on the island, but somehow, it lingered and the losing streak carried over into the following week. I couldn't hit a bet last week and my mood grew from grouchy to sullen. When I finally nailed a much-needed slump buster, it was a total suck out with a fortuitous break (two missed free throws from an excellent shooter). In the ensuing days, I struggled with a string of .500 days. Breaking even on paper (6-6 in the NBA) is nothing to be proud about because all of the juice adds up in the long run. Sure, I finally stopped the heavy bleeding, but I'm still dragging ass while ensconced in a break-even malaise.

The blood trickles ever so lightly.

Just like in poker, whenever I'm mired in a sports betting losing streak, I reverted back to basics (A-B-Cs of gambling), and carefully scrutinized m betting history to identify and plug any leaks. I accounted 25% of my losses to overzealousness, greed, and junkie tendencies when I bet on games that I had no business betting. But it's harder to say no than you think, when I'm in a distorted reality. It's difficult to refrain from action during a losing streak because when I finally win bet, I instantly try to kick-start a new streak and attempt to get some rhythm going with an additional bet. At the same time, never underestimate the gripping effects of walking away when you're chasing a loss. That's a sign of a problem gambler, and that's what separates the Big Dogs from the annoying yapping poodles -- knowing when to push your edge and knowing when to walk away.

I chalked up 25% of my recent losses to poor bet selection and impulsive decision-making, but was I really variance's bitch on the other 75%? Or was I just getting bad intel?

It doesn't matter if it's the lottery, stock market, roulette, or sports betting because everyone who is a frequent participant in a gambling event feels as though they have a rock-solid system that will make them a winner over the long term. The demoralizing aspect of losing never deters them, in fact, it makes them even stronger in their blind conviction that the gambling gods will finally even things out for them after years of futility and they'll hit a monster score. Casinos make billions of dollars every year in slot machine revenue on gambler's misguided faith.

That gambler's philosophy is why my grandmother played Lotto twice a week from the time that New York installed it to the day she died. While on her death bed in the hospital, my grandma still inquired about her numbers. Gambling is truly in my blood; Lotto was last thing on my grandma's mind before she entered the hugest lottery of them all: heaven, hell, or purgatory.

I was raised Catholic and we're supposed to believe that our time on Earth will determine our fate in the afterlife. We supposedly in control of our destiny. Our moral or immoral actions will lead us to in one of three places: heaven, hell, or purgatory.

I had many internal discussions on the afterlife, including inventing a controversial theory about purgatory and reincarnation. My theory is this: we are not actually alive, but rather, we are dead and Earth is purgatory. Our current consciousness is in a state of purgatory and we're all old souls (or to simplify things, we're ghosts) living out a temporary existence in our current forms before the powers to be determine if our collective soul is going to heaven, or going to hell, or doomed to roam purgatory for the rest of existence (albeit in a different vessel). Essentially, depending on how you view your existence, purgatory can be also be heaven on Earth or hell on Earth. But if you're caught in a dead end job and unable to escape from the grapples of your mundane existence, then you've officially been exiled to perpetual purgatory.

And no, I'm not on speed or psychedelics at the present moment, but, I will admit that during one mind-melting incident at the set break of a Grateful Dead concert, I formulated my theory of existence -- that Earth is actually purgatory and we're just lost souls in a waiting room.

Some day I hope to find out if I'm correct or if I'm totally wrong. In the meantime, I gladly bet on meaningless sporting events to cure the tedium in life's waiting room. If we're reincarnated spirits hanging out in physical vessels awaiting a transformation into a more superior form of consciousness, then why would I waste my time doing anything else except partying it up and gambling nonstop?

You just witnessed the philosopher inside my head jump behind the wheel of the bus, as he made a solid existentialist argument why I should engage in bad behavior and just be. That convincing fucker gets me into a lot of trouble, but I'd get into more if I wasn't engaged in an on-going battle against a cabal of eight voices in my head....
1. Gordon Gekko is the slick-haired snake oil salesman who may or may not be a plant from the devil and a distant cousin of Stuey Ungar. Gekko is compulsively clad in striped shirts, polka dot ties, suspenders and a belt. He constantly pressures me to bet more and take bigger financial risks like attempting to corner the cocoa market.

2. The Philosopher is a doppelganger for the Dude from The Big Lebowski. He's always convincing me to say "Fuck you!" to the Man, goof off and get stoned while pondering life's deepest mysteries. He frequently parties with aliens and encouraged me to learn Mayan so I can converse with them via my third eye.

3. The Moralist looks just like Fr. Duffy, my high school theology teacher. He's tall, lanky, wearing a black suit and white priest collar. Whenever I screw up, he waves his wrinkled finger in my direction reminding me that God will condemn me for my sins. I usually don't have to worry much about Fr. Duffy because the committee inside my head is mostly atheist, so they tie him up and toss him in a utility closet so they don't have to hear his incessant sermons.

4. The Artist is a mix between Salvidor Dali and Andy Kaufman. He sports a funny mustache, carries around a couple of pet ocelots, wears a white jumpsuit, and talks in foreign accents. The artist is constantly brooding with vicious mood swings but he's responsible for creating grandiose images in my head that I try to replicate in word form. It's not easy painting the word picture with keystrokes, yet somehow, the artist nudges me to create something out of nothing even though it's a painful process for me to extract and execute his concept. When I say I have five or six major projects inside me, it's really the artist scribbling down a "To Do" list on a blackboard inside the hallways of my mind. The artist calls me a sell out when I take a quick buck for less than what I'm actually worth as a writer. He calls me a fraud when I can't think of anything original to say, and he's the one who encourages me stray away from the herd.

5. Gaia influences my nurturing side. She looks like Meryl Streep circa the 1970s, although I have no idea why, it just is and she has perfectly shiny hair. Gaia is part siren, part muse, and part Mother Earth. Gaia-Meryl speaks to me in contrasting yet impeccable accents. She gets on my case when I treat women like shit in my scribblings or when I buy bottled water. She also reminds me to call my mother on holidays and not to use the c-bomb in the company of other women.

6. My ever-important Legal Counsel sounds like President Bartlett from The West Wing. Yep, I have Martin Sheen's voice with Aaron Sorkin's rhetoric rattling around my brain when I'm bombarded with complicated legal matters. He talks me out of the Fortune Bonus in Pai Gow and tells me not to speed more than 10 miles over the posted limit when I'm "driving dirty." My internal attorney also talks me out of foolish pursuits including get-rich-quick schemes or writing a book about the Mexican drug wars.

7. My Id is a mixture of Homer Simpson, Bluto from Animal House, and Holden Caufield. That amalgam is the reason why I'm wasted most of my waking hours and think everyone is a fucking phony. My id acts like a cocky fraternity brother who gives me guff when I want to leave a bar and go home early, and he questions my manhood when I consider declining a third hit of liquid sunshine.

8. The Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) is controlling my super-ego because he's the guy who secretly governs everyone else. The CSM (similar to the character from The X-Files) manipulates the other voices, who in turn influence and tell me what to do, but all along, I think it's the other voices who are responsible, when in fact it's the CSM's master plan all along as he lurks in the shadows. Maybe he's God's messenger? Or a microchip implanted by the CIA? Regardless, the CSM is mastermind who drew up the plans to Take Over a Politically Unstable Country in Six Easy Steps, but used Gekko as a proxy to persuade me to take decisive action in trying to corner the cocoa market. The CSM is the one who confirmed alien existence, but tricks the Dude into telling me about the aliens. The CSM is the most dangerous voice inside my head even though I barely hear him talking. He whispers mostly. When he speaks (it's in a pronounced British accent and I suspect he was a former Shakespearean actor) all of the other voices listen attentively. I had not heard much from the CSM in the last few weeks aside from last Sunday morning when he matter-of-factly uttered, "Bet the Packers of Green Bay and buy cocoa futures."
That's an accurate run down of the eight prevailing voices inside my head, sort of inspired by the canceled FOX sitcom Herman's Head (a Freudian-inspired comedy featuring a protagonist who battles with his inner personalities). My life is doubly complex which is why I have a committee of eight trying to steer me on the proper path in life. More voices exist, like the one Spanish-speaking woman dressed up like Charo who yells out the most random things. I probably should learn more Spanish to figure out what she's saying, because who knows, maybe she's giving me tips on college hoops? I have no clue why she's there or what her purpose is, but until I can figure that out, I just drown out her voice.

I'm still in a rut and unable to break free from the shackles of a losing streak that has haunted me since I stepped foot on Paradise Island. Despite my conversations with ghosts and the voices inside my head, I have been unsuccessful devising a system to see into the future. For now, I rely on my instincts, sift through stats, listen to tips from friends, and filter out all of the chatter inside my head to figure out who I should bet in the Super Bowl.

Green Bay or Pittsburgh, that is the question, right?

Shakespeare summed it up best: "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles."

Art Image by Banksy

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 World Series of Poker Schedule Announced

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Photo courtesy of Flipchp

The day of reckoning has arrived. The 2011 WSOP schedule is now available! You have 58 chances to win a bracelet, and for pros like Durrrr and Phil Ivey, they have 58 chances to win millions in prop bets.

Event #1 of the WSOP kicks off on Tuesday, May 31st with the Casino Employees event and a newly added $25,000 Heads-Up NL fiesta.

The Main Event dates are July 7th through July 19th. Once again, Day 1 will be split into four flights (July 7, 8, 9, and 10).

The $50,000 Players' Championship (Mixed 8-Game) got pushed back to just before the Main Event.

For all of you budget players, there's at least 5 Donkulus ($1,000 NL) and 7 Donkaments ($1,500 NL). That's doesn't include the three other $1,500 NL events that are either 6-Handed, Shootout, and Triple Chance formats.

A few changes for 2011 that will include overall length of play each day and later registration times. According to Seth Palansky's press release:
Player comfort is also being addressed by new rules regulating the duration of daily play. Excluding the Main Event, gold bracelet tournaments will begin at 12 noon and 5 PM Pacific Time each day, with a maximum of 10-one hour levels being played for the noon starts; the 5 PM events will be comprised of a maximum of eight one-hour levels on Day 1. Day 1 play is expected to conclude at 12:45 AM for noon starts and 2:00 AM for the 5 PM starts. For those advancing past the first day, re-starts for noon bracelet events will be at 2:30 PM, and 5 PM tournaments will restart at 3 PM, with a maximum of 10 levels being played each day until a champion is crowned. The Main Event features two-hour levels, with play beginning at 12 noon each day.

Registration for all bracelet events will remain open through four levels of play – or until all available seats have been sold. This is twice as long as previous years. The only exception to this is the Main Event, which will remain open for it’s customary two levels (or four hours of play).
For more information on discount hotel bookings, pre-registration, and blind structures then visit the WSOP website.

Click here for a complete 2011 WSOP Schedule.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Looming Municipal Debt Crisis the Key to Online Poker Legalization?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

If online poker has a shot at legalization in the next 12-24 months, it's not going to be on a federal level spearheaded by Barney Frank or Harry Reid. Rather, if online poker has a legitimate shot at legality, it's going to be because your state is flat broke.

In the parlance of our poker times, almost 80% of the states in the union are broke dicks like Eskimo Clark. Here's why:
1. States are crippled with budgetary woes after spending more than their tax revenues can generate. If states cannot refinance their debt quickly or come to an agreement with their unions, they will be screwing the proverbial pooch.

2. Collectively, our states are sitting on a ticking time bomb with underfunded pensions in excess of a $3 trillion dollars. How deep of a hole is your state? This state-by-state interactive map of underfunded pension plans will show you some startling numbers.

3. Due to the budgetary crunch, states will have to cut back on providing funding to municipalities. As a result, many towns and even some of America's biggest cities (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Miami, not to mention smaller cities like Detroit and Oakland) will default on their debt obligations, that were once considered low risk investments, but now approaching junk status, especially in California. The city of Vallejo, CA was the first city to declare bankruptcy. The bad news is that the CEO of JP Morgan said that he expects more municipalities to go bankrupt in the immediate future.

4. The domino effect of the muni debt defaults will eventually ripple into the financial sector. At this moment, munis took a pounding last quarter for their worst performance since 1994. Over on the muni bond fund side of the equation, there has been a mass exodus and sell off. If cities go busto, then banks guaranteeing muni bonds with letters of credit will incur a catastrophic hit. Individual investors of bonds will be not be paid back because they will be at the back of a line of hordes of other creditors. Mutual funds that were vested in munis will also take a nose dive.

5. Unlike the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in 2008, do not expect the Fed to bail out the states. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke clearly stated: NO BAILOUTS. The Fed only helps banks. If anything, they will most likely bail out any banks that got caught in the cross fire, but they certainly won't help the fledgling states. And don't think a Republican Congress, sprinkled with Tea Party members, are going to come to the rescue. State bailouts are not the GOP's thing either.
With all of the impending doom laid out on the table for you, there's a glimmer of hope that states might turn to online poker legalization and regulation as a solution to dig themselves out of an apocalyptic budget crisis. Don't get me wrong, the states' budgetary problems are ginormous and way too complicated to think that flipping the switch on online poker will easily fix everything. A few million dollars a year in tax revenue siphoned from online poker is just putting a band-aid onto a gaping gunshot wound.

However, if some states are simply unaware of the severity of the situation, or if they have gotten so desperate that they don't know what to do, then maybe...just poker would look like a plausible and immediate solution to bridge a budget gap. Just last year, the state of Colorado helped balanced their budget using $9 million in revenues derived from medicinal marijuana. It makes sense that broke states will possibly explore the marijuana route and some form of legalized online gambling. In fact, the two states that have taken the first steps to legalize poker on a state basis are New Jersey and California. It's not a coincidence because those states are about to be swallowed up by their own debts.

California supposedly has over $500 billion in underfunded pensions and they are staring down the barrel of a $19 billion budget deficit. When Prop 19 failed to pass last November, any chances of marijuana legalization went up in smoke. California is currently a medicinal marijuana state (a law that has been on the books since 1994), but even the marijuana-related sales tax revenue generated was not enough to make a difference.

Even the city of Los Angeles is on the verge of economic collapse. The police have gone from a law-enforcing organization to a revenue generator. Cops were told to write more tickets instead of allocating their time to fighting real crime. How bad is it in Hollyweird? If you're caught jaywalking, you will get slapped with a $191 ticket.

California desperately needs legalization of both marijuana and online poker in order to make a dent in their deficit. In the months after marijuana legalization was defeated, California politicians considered the possibility of legal online poker. That's the good news. The poker industry's biggest hurdle in California is the tribal gaming conglomerate, who is obviously opposed to opening up the state to online poker operators (especially European-based gaming companies).

New Jersey is in a horrendous financial situation (crushed by the real estate bubble, loss of thousands of jobs, ballooning budget, lower tax revenues), that's why they ushered in medicinal marijuana and the state legislature approved of an internet gaming bill. NJ really doesn't have a choice but to consider those two possibilities: weed and online poker.

And how bad off is the city of Chicago? In 2008, in order to generate income to plug a budget hole, the city sold off their parking meters to a group of investors from Abu Dhabi. Yes, for a mere $1.1 billion lump sum, the oil-rich Arabs now control the parking meters in Chicago for 75 years. What was the first thing that happened? A widespread increase in parking fees across the city.

Illinois is one of the most troubled states in the country. They recently hiked taxes in order to improve their state's muni bond credit rating in a desperate attempt to make their bonds more attractive to investors. But as the saying goes, "You can put as much lipstick you want on a's still going to be a pig."

Although Business Week says that the muni debt fears are "overblown", the reality probably lies somewhere in between nirvana and Hades. It seems improbable that every state will default on their debt, but then again the CEO of JP Morgan warned the public that municipal bankruptcies are imminent.

With other states scrambling to refinance their debt, a few of them might have no other alternative but to legalize online poker. Otherwise, if local and state services get shut down, and retirees all of a sudden see their checks bouncing, expect mass uprisings and anarchy.

There's an interesting twist to this saga. Right now, a bill is quietly being introduced into Congress that will allow states to declare bankruptcy. Only cities and towns can seek protection under bankruptcy laws, but that might change within a few weeks. Cash-scrapped Congress is secretly in favor of the new bill permitting states to declare bankruptcy, because then Congress won't have to buckle under pressure from their angry constituents to bail out the states.

I'm not the only one who thinks that state bankruptcy is a bad idea. As Kid Dynamite explained in a recent post titled Fix the Underlying Problem, any solutions that the states are exploring only fix past problems and fail to address future woes along with the cause of the problem in the bigger picture.

I don't see anything good that could come out of busto states getting bankruptcy protection. For one, you can kiss any hopes of legal online poker goodbye because states won't have to worry about raising cash overnight. At the same time, state bankruptcies will disrupt the daily lives of hard working Americans. If you or a family member is a teacher or fireman who has a state pension or if you own muni bonds for a state and that state declares bankruptcy, then you'll have to stand in the back of the never ending line with the rest of unsecured creditors. In short, it's like being one of Eskimo Clark's backers -- I doubt they'll get paid.

The future is grim no matter how you look at it. That's why there's very little chatter in the media about the looming municipal debt crisis. It's sort of like an asteroid ready to crash into Earth -- it's much easier to be the ostrich with its head buried in the ground, and let everyone go about their daily lives, rather than clue them in on the reality of the situation and that the end of the world could be right around the corner. The major players involved (governors, state comptrollers, and treasurers) are scrambling around like speedfreaks trying to figure out how to dig themselves out of a black hole. They started slashing their budgets left and right, but then what? If they can't come up with a quick (and long term) solution, then it's inevitable that the masses will finally revolt.

No body wants blood spilled on the streets. Depending on where you live and how desperate your politicians are, online poker might become a savior to your state. If one courageous state pulls the trigger, expect more insolvent states to jump on the online poker bandwagon. That's why you should be paying close attention to the state bankruptcy bill that's being introduced to Congress in the upcoming weeks. Also, keep tabs on the muni debt crises in three of the largest states in the union: California, Illinois, and New Jersey. These are the battle ground states for the future of the poker industry. If legal online poker can sneak into the mix via these atrociously broke states, then you can expect a few other cash-strapped states to follow suit.

Who would have thunk that poker might gain a step up on the legalization front because your state's comptroller failed to balance the budget and re-fund underfunded pensions? If that one-outer hits, well, you heard it here first.

Photo Credits: "Eat the Art" courtesy of Banksy; Anarchy courtesy of MatrixPhotos

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Micros - Episode 2

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Very excited about the latest episode of The Micros, which is a joint production from John Wray and Jay Rosenkrantz. Looks like Full Tilt is picking up the bill for production costs. Good to see some bit of cash flow into the comedy side of poker entertainment.

Sunday Nugs: Flipchip's AVN AEE Pics, Trust, Mafia Busts, Isildur1 Owes 1 Billion in Back Taxes, and the American Dream

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Big day for me today because it's the NFL's version of the Final Four. After today's games, the Super Bowl teams will be set. My Jets are just one victory away from advancing to the Big One. But if you're not into the games today and need something to keep you occupied while grinding Sunday Majors, then check out these links...
Flipchip went to the the porn convention. What could be better than pics of your favorite porn stars in action? Check out his galleries: Day 1 Gallery - Day 2 Gallery - Day 3 Gallery - Day 4 Gallery (LasVegasVegas)

One of my favorite original poker bloggers is back! Check out HDouble's letter to America titled Chasing the Dream. Maybe he'll be able to return to Southern California some day and re-instate the infamous Murders' Row home game? (The Cards Speak)

Speaking of Murders' Row alums, take a peak at Bill Rini's take on PokerStars Home Games. (Bill's Blog)

Deuces Cracked coach NoahSD wrote an intriguing and fascinating post about trust issues in poker. Must read. (NoahSD)

If you don't know, many key figures in the mafia were picked up by the feds in a massive sweep. Among the charges were running illegal poker games. (Wall Street Journal)

It's tough being a professional poker player if your from Sweden with all of their weird tax laws. Viktor "Ilsudr1" Blom's main reason for maintain a secret identity is that he's a vigilante and dons a cape to fight crime. The other reason is because the Swedish government wants a huge chunk of his poker winnings. Supposedly, Isiludr1 owes over 1 billion (Swedish Kronors) or roughly $150 million in back taxes. Yep, the the Scandi phenom is having tax woes. Maybe he'll become a member of the Swedish Tea Party? I hope he's putting some of his recent winnings toward a good tax attorney. He should check out H&R Block because they will look at your tax return for free. (Anti Luck, The Local)

Debunking the America Dream. I love this subversive cartoon trying to "cushion the heaviness of the subject matter, aptly explains what's really going on with the banking junta, the housing bubble, and the so-called American Dream." (Tao of Fear)
That's it. NGTFOOMO.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Uber Degens: Billy Walters

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Thanks to Johnny Walker for pointing out this amazing clip from a 60 Minutes interview with legendary sports bettor Billy Walters...

I've seen this clip four or five times and every time it's over, I have to sudden urge to want to place a bet!

By the way, one of the best books that I ever read on sports betting is by Michael Konik titled The Smart Money: How the World's Best Sports Bettors Beat the Bookies Out of Millions. Awesome read. Check it out.

Good luck betting on the "final four" teams in the NFL. The winners of the Bears/Packers and Jets/Steelers games will be going to the Super Bowl. Which ones?

Friday, January 21, 2011

PokerStars Home Games

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Buckeye's monster hand
Blue Parrot (c. 2005)

I haven't played in a regular home game in almost six years. Once I got my first gig in the poker industry, I left New York City and the comfort of my regular Monday night home game at the beloved Blue Parrot. I used to play weekly poker with a couple of lawyers, where the host, Ferrari, would make homemade guacamole and his cats would dart back and forth under the table. I always brought a six pack of Red Stripe with me and used to get stoned in the stairway. I had never met any of the players before, but one of the regulars, Charles aka "Ugarte", was an avid reader of the Tao of Poker and in early 2004, he invited me to join them. Basically I showed up and never left. Here's my recap of the first encounter with the crew.

I methodically recapped the hijinks at the Blue Parrot on my blog for my six readers and the other guys in the game (many of whom became household names like Coach and Swish). Little did I know that those rudimentary reports would become the template for covering actual poker tournaments. Seven years ago, I was an unknown writer with three unpublished novels, struggling to make ends meet, ensconced in a horrible relationship, grinding out .25/.50 cent NL tables on Party Poker, and getting my ass kicked in an underground card room on the Upper West Side. And you know what...despite the turmoil, it was one of the most memorable times in my life. Poker hasn't really been the same for me since then.

After I caught my big break and moved out to Las Vegas to cover the 2005 WSOP, I never went back to NYC. Instead, I set up shop in Henderson with Grubby and spent the next few years constantly on the road covering the circuit all over America and overseas. It wasn't until I met a nice California girl before I settled down in the Slums of Beverly Hills, yet in the last two years, I found myself intermittently dividing my time between Las Vegas, international stops on the tour, and crisscrossing America following around Phish with a bunch of spun out hippies.

Although I played in Schecky's home game a couple of times with his buddies in Beverly Hills and Cheviot Hills, it just wasn't the same as the good old days at the Blue Parrot. In short, I missed a regular game. Change100 and I considered hosting a game in our apartment, but the biggest hurdle was parking. If you ever lived in LA, then you realize how much of a hassle and deterrent that lack of parking can be. Ever since I played my last game at the Blue Parrot, I have been jonesin' for a regular game ever since.

Sometimes it's flat out weird when someone verbalizes what you're thinking. In this specific case, F Train had read my mind on Thursday afternoon.

"Has it been that long since we used to play a home game together?" F Train wondered.

Rick, one of the regulars at the Blue Parrot, had left NYC for the Bay Area. At the same time, his law school classmate had moved back into the city. That's when I met F Train for the first time when he took up the empty seat to my left. He can tell you many stories about me tilting off my stack in Omaha 8. In fact, whenever I went on a heater, the regulars called a round of O8 to cool my ass down.

Life is strange. If you asked both F Train and myself in 2004 if we pictured ourselves playing in an online home game for poker media hosted by a Dutchman...we'd probably laugh in your face. Yet, that's where we ended up.

Remko, one of my colleagues from Holland, quickly embraced PokerStars latest addition -- Home Games. Remko set up a home game for the poker media. When Stars announced the new setup, I was in the Bahamas and didn't really have time to check it out. But when I was taking a break from writing on Thursday, I saw a tweet from Remko announcing that he was going to start a home game. I figured...why not give it a try?

Home Games on Stars is similar to real need an invite to play. Remko had sent me his group ID and the password. I punched it in and waited for him to approve me. That's a vital aspect of the Home Games on Stars -- that the host controls who can play and who gets denied.

I sat down at a 6-handed table for mixed games... 8-Game Mix to be precise. I really wanted to extract money from the host. My overall financial goal in 2011 is to accumulate physical silver and DUTCH BUCKS. Yeah, I told Remko that I was gunning for his bankroll.

I don't recall too many of the hands, aside from getting my nuts blown off with a futile triple barrel bluff with Ace-high against a flopped boat. Ah, that didn't matter because I had a lot of fun donking off my stack over a ninety minute period to a couple of familiar faces from the press box such as Jess Welman, Merchdawg, and the one and only Kevin Mathers. Midway through the game, F Train took a seat and a flood of memories came back.

I could have played longer, but I had to get back to writing and besides, Change100 wanted to play a few orbits so I let her take my seat. I logged off and returned to work, but couldn't help thinking... "Man, that was a lot of fun."

I'm looking forward to playing with Remko again in my quest to conquer Dutch Bucks. In the meantime, I will be "beta testing" my own home game over the next few weeks. If all goes well, then I will create a regular game for Tao of Poker readers, probably PLO similar to Saturdays with Dr. Pauly.

For now, I'd really like to reunite some of the original crew from the Blue Parrot and play a few orbits for old times sake. If you were a regular at the Blue Parrot and want to play, please contact me. And if we lost touch, please shoot me an email so I can give you the details and we can figure out a time to play.

Also, pay attention to me on Twitter (@taopauly) over the next few weeks. I will most likely throw together a spontaneous game based on an odd work schedule and a terrible case of insomnia.

Click here for more information on PokerStars Home Games. If you'd like to play in a future Tao of Poker home game, and you don't have an account, then I suggest you download the PokerStars software and sign up today!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Nugs: Russ Hamilton Verbally Eviscerated, Live Televised Poker, New Pro Poker League, and Poker and Film in American Culture

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's been a while since I pointed you to a few corners of the web that might have a few stories of interest for you. Heck, a lot has happened in the last two weeks since I got stricken with the wook flu and then jetted off to the Bahamas with my girlfriend and promptly drank myself into a rum coma for five straight days.

So, let's get to it...
The biggest story of the week is the recent creation of a brand new professional poker league with a name that is TBD. One thing is for sure... former WSOP Commish Jeffrey Pollack spearheaded the new business venture with a horse racing junta. Former UB pitchwoman (now we know part of the reason she bailed) Annie Duke is the acting commissioner of the new pro league that will offer "juice free" tournaments. All of the finer details have yet to be finalized, but you can check out Dan Michalski's take on the matter along with reading the press release. (Pokerati)

Shamus is not only a fantastic poker writer and novelist, but he's also a college professor. This semester he's teaching a special course titled Poker in American Film and Culture. Man, if I had Shamus as my prof, I would have not ditched class to follow the Grateful Dead and I would have actually gone to class (albeit, I would have been stoned to the bejesus, but at least he's teaching a subject that I'd be thrilled about). Anyway, you can imagine how thrilled (and floored) that I was upon learning that Shamus selected a chapter out of Lost Vegas as part of the required reading for the course. I can't believe that I'm in the mix with the Mount Rushmore of poker scribes, along with several of the most historical pieces of gambling/poker cinema in the history of film making. Now, if I can just figure out how to audit that class... (Hard-Boiled Poker)

Astute observation from los hombres about Can Live Tournament Poker on TV Work? They have an opinion about the novel concept after they watched the semi-live feed of the PCA Main Event final table on ESPN 2, which was produced by the same crew, 441 Productions, that produced episodes of the WSOP on ESPN. Because I was actually in the Bahamas and sweating an NFL game and Change100's run at the final table of the Ladies Event, I never got to watch the event on ESPN 2 aside from seeing a few hands aired on the big screen in the tournament room. My two cents from what I did see at the PCA... the production seemed top notch. The hardest thing about any televised final table is getting amicable and talkative players. The second hardest thing is the dearth of inaction, because most final tables are boring affairs with only a few incendiary moments. In our short-attention span world, it's not easy retaining viewership over an eight to ten hour period. (Wicked Chops Poker)

I first got wind of the Russ Hamilton sighting on Twitter when Jon Aguiar twit pic'd a photo of the legendary shit stain himself. What followed was an epic encounter with a couple of 2+2'ers at a 5/10/20 NL table where one of them tilted old Russ, who ended up calling the floor on him. The floor asked the 2+2'er to stop tormenting Russ...and hilarity ensued. Read all about the encounter in one of the better threads I've read in some time: Russ Hamilton Verbally Eviscerated. (2+2)

While I was on vacation, the one and only Human Head filled in for me with an installment of the Monday Morning Blue Pill and the Morning Morning Red Pill. The Head points out a few of his favorite stories. (Tao of Fear)
OK, that's it and you know the drill... NGTFOOMO!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dispatches from the PCA: Divided Sky

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Paradise Island, Bahamas. It's hard to write every morning when you wake up hungover to all hell and snap off a half of a codeine before you even open your eyelids, just to be able to function and crawl across the room to sip on a $6 bottle of water. The TV was left on to a local channel that I dubbed the "Dead People Channel" because it broadcast ads for recently deceased locals. "Religious" wouldn't be the correct wording, rather "spiritual" seems to be the best way to describe the locals. Call if a deep-rooted faith in Catholicism brought over by Spanish missionaries centuries ago, or some sort of Anglican derivative influenced by the British colonialists, not to mention a few dabblers into an offshoot of Haitian voodoo, where the Ghede rules over the contrasting aspects of fertility and death.

When my father was a broke college student in the 1950s, he and his buddies would read the local newspapers in search of funerals to crash. Irish last names were a lock for an open bar with two chances to drink at the wake and again the next day after the funeral. Flash forward 60 years later and I was scanning the local TV station for funeral announcements, which displayed photos of the deceased along with specific times and locations of the funeral services. It would be intriguing to crash a Bahamian funeral, but not for the free booze, rather to experience the spiritual flavor of the islands. Nothing is more stimulating to me than the presence of death. After being surrounded by the fabricated cheeriness of the tropical paradise called Atlantis, I felt as though I needed to get off the island and hop over to one of the locals' islands to witness a dose of death/revival in order to peek into the true side of humanity.

OK, that's not necessarily true, after all, I was on a vacation and not really there for an existential expedition. It's hard to question the whys of the universe when digging your toes into the white granules of sand while chugging a fruity rum concoction. But I definitely considered sitting in a sweltering hot church for a local funeral instead of standing on the rail sweating Change100's run on Day 2 of the PCA Ladies Event. It's no secret that I feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed at any Ladies Only events because I'm getting thousands of daggers shot at me from evil glances from the players, many of whom on principle hate men, not to mention a slew of female players who think I'm an asshole because my writing glorifies misogyny and the poor treatment of women by condoning prostitution and promoting stripping. If you don't believe me, I should show you some of my hate mail.

Yes, now you know why I wanted to crash a Bahamian funeral. The prospects sounded like a lot more fun. No one wants to be in a place where they are not wanted, yet that's what I walked into.

"Get the fuck out!" jokingly shouted Maridu on Day 1.

Brazilian Team Pro Maria "Maridu" Mayrinck and I are friends and go way back to the 2006 WSOP when she was shooting a documentary film. We fall into "it's a small world" category because she went to high school in Manhattan down the street from mine. On Friday night as the opening day of the Ladies event reached the Midnight hour, Maridu kicked me out of the vast tournament room. Heck, I wasn't even close to her table where she sat to Change100's right. I stood at least a few tables over and chatted away with my buddy and fellow author, Storms Reback. I actively attempted to avoid becoming who I loathed the most -- the annoying drunk guy on the rail wanting a chip count every five fucking minutes. I kept my distance and hung out with Storms while we caught up on life and future writing assignments. I knew that Change100 didn't like railbirds so early in the tournament, so I maintained a safe distance -- so I thought. My lil sis Mo was still alive too, and I stopped by her table to watch her play against the legendary Kathy Liebert. Mo held her own against the consummate professional and was genuinely excited when she described winning a pot against Kathy.

Although Change100 couldn't see me, Maridu spotted me mucking it up with Storms in the corner. Maridu's voice is distinct with an almost perfect East Coast American accent and just a hint (2%) of a Brazilian spice. It boomed over the clattering of chips.

"Get the fuck out, Doct-ah," she screamed and pointed at Change100. "You stay away... she wins pots. You come in here... she loses pots."

Apparently Change100 had surged to the head of the pack until I walked in the room. As I sipped my pink cocktail in a plastic cup (I should add that the security guards were mostly sitting down and not looking too authoritative, unless you stumbled into the tournament room with any sort of glass in your hand, and then and only then they quickly pounced and kindly asked that you poured whatever booze you were consuming into a plastic Atlantis cup), and I tried not to spill it on me. Nothing is worse than a sloppy drunk on the rail and that's the territory where I was headed. Ah ha, then Maridu 86'd me before I could get really obnoxiously drunk.

"You better go," warned Storms.

He was correct. No one wants to be on the shit list of a pissed-off Brazilian. Besides, if I was being a cooler to my girlfriend, then it was probably wise that I fled the scene. I took up refuge in the Coral Lobby Bar, where behind every nook and cranny you could find an online regular holed up in a makeshift grind station, usually within 5-10 feet of a power outlet. The writers and international media who were done with their shift all sat at the same table. They were amidst a gambling frenzy on the last bits of their per diem. Ah, one of the negatives about having the itch to gamble while binge drinking is that you might get stuck with a hefty tab while playing the Bahamanian version of credit card roulette -- each drinker tossed their room keys onto the waiter's tray, then the waiter fished out one by one, eliminating the lucky drinker from having to pay for that entire round, and once the waiter had a single room key left, that unfortunate sot who owned said key got stuck with the round -- which could have been anywhere in upwards of fourteen cocktails. No wonder some of my colleagues ran out of per diem more than half way through the trip. For poorly paid writers, that's as high-stakes as we're going to get. At the rapid rate of rum and whiskey consumption from that crew, some of them were going to actually lose money on the assignment with their salary going to cover their exorbitant tabs from the Coral Lobby Bar. And yes, the rumors were true. In order to improve service, the Atlantis assigned a personal bar manager to the media. He followed them around from bar to bar expediting drink orders and facilitating rounds of Bahamian room key roulette.

While I sat with my colleagues pounding pink bombs of spiced rum, they were all curious about Change100's progress. We considered migrating to the tournament room, but the last thing I wanted to do was lead a charge of rowdy drunks into the room to hoot and holler on the rail. For the few left in the field who hated me, that would give them even more reason to think that I'm a jerkoff. Instead, I snuck back into the room for an update and hoped that I wouldn't draw the ire of Maridu. Upon my arrival, I noticed that she was gone. Change100 snagged the chiplead after busting Maridu in the biggest pot of the tournament. Maridu had her Kings snapped off by a runner-runner flush.

I learned that they were going to wrap up play around 1am and I quickly left. Maridu was right because Change100 played better when I wasn't in the room. I returned to the bar. When play was suspended at the end of Day 1, only 16 ladies remained including Change100 (chipleader) and Mo (short stack).

Upon her arrival at the Coral Lobby Bar, Change100 got plenty of congrats from her peers and friends. They were all gushing and hyper excited about her run. If they were all sober, they would have been a lot less vocal about her holding the lead in hopes of not jinxing anything, but with the booze flowing they tossed all forms of superstition out the window and they acted as though like she had already won it. If anything, we raged hard with a cause to celebrate, that is everyone except Change100 who kept her Bahama Mama consumption in check to insure that she did not wake up the next morning with a throbbing headache.

Nope, that was my job. Morning headaches in the Bahamas are a given. By Saturday morning, I had almost gotten used to waking up for a third day in a row with a wicked hangover. It's all that excess sugar in the rum and fruit punch that makes the dehydration even worse, hence the pounding headaches that make you want to crawl up in a ball and die, unless you quickly jump back on the horse and start drinking rum again, where as the hangover begins to let up and you return to a near-nirvana state of inebriation. Yes, to avoid hangovers in the Bahamas, you have to continuously drink.

Luckily, I have a friend who is an amazing chef and whipped up a batch of special cookies for the excursion in the Bahamas. Let me tell ya, the Atlantis should sell groovy edibles to their highly toxic rum-infused patrons because it will instantly cure any symptoms of any hangover, and thereby allow them to drink more booze. I only nibbled on a half of a cookie because any more would make me fall over and cause a ruckus on the rail. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass my girlfriend even further, so I moderated my special cookie intake and only sipped the fruity drinks instead of pounding them like the night before.

I also had a major sweat on the NFL playoff games. Saturday's action included Green Bay in Atlanta and Baltimore playing in Pittsburgh. I made a play in the Balt/Pitt game with a small moneyline bet and a huge bet +3.5. I somehow managed to persuade one of the staff members to put the game on one of the big screens in the tournament room so I can sweat both the game and my girlfriend playing in Day 2's re-start of the Ladies Event. I spent the majority of the time divided between the tournament and my eyes locked onto the TV screen. If you didn't know any better, it looked like I was just gazing up at the sky.

The tournament was very stressful because I knew how much Change100 really didn't want me there until it reached the final table, and I hate not being able to control the outcome of events, especially when the Ladies Event slowed down as played approached the money bubble. Unfortunately, Mo was the first one out and lost with a race to finish in 16th place. They had not reached the money yet (the final table of 8 paid out) when the Balt/Pitt game kicked off. In order to stave off any anxiety about the tournament, I threw most of my sweat energy into the football game.

"Did she win a big pot?" asked Storms.

He walked over to me and noticed that I was pumping my fist.

"I have no clue, but Baltimore just scored a TD."

Baltimore expanded their lead to 21-7. At that point, Change100 had lost the lead to Rikki Lake's stack in excess of 200K. But Lake took a hit in a hand against Lauren Kling, which propelled Kling to near the front with Change100.

When the broadcast for the PCA Main Event final table got underway, I lost the ability to watch the football game inside the tournament room and they aired the final table feed instead. I popped up to my room to publish a Twitter update and check the score. As soon as I left the tournament area, Change100 won a decisive three-way pot to re-take the chiplead. She also knocked out two players on the bubble. When I returned to the tournament room, six players remained and Change100 sat on the lead. I hung out on the rail with Jen Shahade and Daniel, not to mention a gaggle of random media friends who hovered nearby.

The rest of the tournament and evening was a bit of the blur. Apocalyptic anxiety took over and discomfort ensued with the nervous energy that I unleashed with every hand that was dealt. The cookie hit me harder than I thought and the booze intake increased from sipping to heartily drinking to pounding as the night wore on. The football game eventually got tied at 21 all, meanwhile Change100 found herself in a heads-up battle with Lauren Kling.

Two big moments were on the cusp of resolution -- the bet on the game and the conclusion of the Ladies Event. It would be nice to say that I made a silent prayer to the gambling gods and humbly asked them to give whatever run good I had in me and transfer it over to Change100. But I didn't because she had increased her lead to almost 8-1. She definitely didn't need any of my help. She was on the verge of locking up the win. If anything, I was the one floundering and in desperate need of charity.

I never saw the touchdown from the Steelers which sunk my bets. Instead, I was silently screaming "Hold! Hold! Hold!" when Change100 got it all in with Q-Q against Lauren's pocket eights. The cards were a blur as the dealer dealt out the flop, then the turn. I couldn't see the river and instead watched Change100's angelic face. Her reaction told me the result. She took a couple of steps, embraced Lauren, and a tear trickled down the side of her cheek. The tears swelled when she finally found me and ran over to the rail. I whispered something to the effect of, "I love you dearly. I'm proud of you. Enjoy your moment."

That's when I stepped back into the crowd of media and well wishers. I snuck away to find the final score of the Balt/Pitt game. Alas... I had lost. Normally being on the shit end of a losing streak is one of the most depressing feelings that a gambler can experience. I can't think of any instance when the pains of losing were diffused and thwarted. I should say that was until Change100 shipped the PCA Ladies Event because the brilliant joys of her surreal victory were enough to numb the sanguine agony of defeat.

Congrats to Change100 for an amazing and inspiring run. I'm glad that I skipped the funeral and hung out to watch the tournament. She thinks that all this was supposed to happen. How can I argue against that?

* * * * *

If you haven't read the initial installment of Dispatches from the PCA: You Enjoy Myself , then I encourage you to do so. In addition, I wrote a bit more about the wild weekend in the Bahamas over at the Tao of Pauly in a post titled The Ramblings of the Bahamas: Sweet T'ings.

Also, check out Change100's two-part stunning recap of the PCA Ladies Event... Beyond the Fairy Tale, Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Tao of Pokerati Episode: Bahama Mama - Change100 Scores PCA Ladies Title

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

We kick off the new year with a special new episode of the Tao of Pokerati, aka the fastest poker podcast on the intertubes. We recorded a special episode with Change100 at the swanky Atlantis resort in the Bahamas during the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
2011 PCA: Bahama Mama - Change100 Wins Ladies PCA Event - Pauly chats with Change100, the newly crowned Ladies Champion at the 2011 PCA. She explained how she threw out her back and while nursing herself back to health, she parlayed a tiny investment into a satellite seat into the Ladies Event. Upon her arrival in the Bahamas, she advanced to Day 2 and the final table before she eventually secured a victory.
For more episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Congrats to Change100!

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Sometimes, good things actually happen to good people.

I'm extremely proud that Change100 won the PCA Ladies Event on Saturday. I'm too hungover to write anything more coherent than this, but just like you, I'll be looking forward to her recap of the event over at Pot Committed.

Thanks to all of our friends for the good vibes over the last two days. Special thanks to the PCA staff, especially Thomas, for all of their help.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dispatches from the PCA: You Enjoy Myself

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Our cabbie took off from the airport without asking us where to go. Change100 was slightly concerned, but I reassured her that everything was cool. He was obviously engrossed in the middle of an important phone call. I tried to put together what he was saying, but it was a combination of English and Bahamanian Creole.

After driving about five minutes the driver put his call on hold. He turned around and apologized to us, before he asked for our intended destination. I blurted out Atlantis' Coral Towers. He nodded and repeated what I said before he quickly returned to his call. His conversation lasted for only a couple of more minutes.

"My bookie," he tried to explain, which he didn't have to.

I really didn't give two shits. I'm the last passenger on the island that would want to disrupt a transaction between a man and his bookie.

"I wanted Pick 4 tickets," he said as he passed a slow moving pickup. "Florida and New York."

Wow, a lottery degen. That's hardcore. I didn't ask if he wanted an actual ticket or if this was some sort of side action, like the mob running numbers back in the old neighborhood. Somethings in life I don't want to know about.

The cabbie pulled into Atlantis and I tipped him fairly decent, enough that he tried to sell me a bag of blow. I politely declined. Do you know the six words that aptly describes cocaine from the Caribbean? Clumps together, but only cut once.

* * * * *

It's hard to be anything but a tourist in a place like Atlantis.

I pride myself on being a traveler, and not one of those gaudy tourists in floral print shirts clashing against their pinkish sunburned skin sipping tropical drinks while carrying around a mass market paperback. It is nearly impossible to blend in with the locals in the Bahamas. If anything, I feel like a parasite contributing to the downfall of modern society perpetuating neo-colonialism. The capitalist inside my head reminds me that hundreds if not thousands of Bahamanians would be without jobs if this monstrosity of a beach resort was not constructed on a small patch of coral and sand.

In many ways, the island's original name of Hog Island seems more appropriate than it's re-branded name of Paradise Island. Paradise seems elusive when you're paying $25 for a cheeseburger. I feel more like a hog rooting around in its own feces than someone in search of spiritual revitalization. I blame David Foster Wallace's remarkable essay about his experience on a cruise ship for ruining whatever fun I should be having. DFW made me question the stark fact that most vacation destinations are by definition gaudy and would be a hell of a lot better if tourists were not even there. I can't help but wonder what the island would look like without the resort -- I imagined only two shacks sprinkled along the beach, one that only sells conch and the other that had bottles of Kalik, the local brew, sitting in semi-lukewarm buckets of water.

When I took a long stroll on the beach with my girlfriend, I tried to imagine that we were all alone, just the two of us, feet sinking into the moist white sand with every step and dodging the run off of the waves. That illusion only lasted for a few fleeting moments before reality returned and I felt sorry for the lifeguard, who resembled a sherpa bundled up in a wool hat and several layers of clothing. He didn't look like someone ready to dart into the water and rescue a tourist from a shark attack. Then again, no one was actually swimming in the water because it was too cold and way to windy. The lifeguard's biggest challenge was avoiding frostbite.

* * * * *

I haven't been here for 30 hours and I already acquired two hangovers and ran up a $1,000 tab that included meals, booze, Big Deuce debts, and a redunkulous roaming charge for using my wireless aircard for less than 15 minutes.

The intertubes in the Bahamas are a problem. In one way, I'm sorta glad that the internet connection also operates on island time, which is a polite way of saying "slow as snail shit." I'm in a rare situation where I'm actually on vacation and not really here on an assignment. This trip came together at the last moment. On the day after Christmas, my girlfriend won a seat via PokerStars to the PCA Ladies Event. Well, so much for me taking the first month of 2011 to edit and re-write a novel. Back on the road again, but this time for a little fun in the sun as I welcomed the opportunities to unplug for long batches of time. Between the alphabet news stations and the static on Twitter, my brain has been turned to mush. Sure, I'm dicking around on my laptop to write, but I've practically shed my morbid attachment to the CrackBerry...for now.

Alas, for the majority of online poker players, one of the toughest aspects of the PCA is the horrendous internet situation. By now, everyone knows that the lobby in the Coral Towers has become a haven for online pros, however, the origins of the daily/nightly gatherings has less to do with the fact that they wanted to bond together as a group, and more to do with the fact that the wifi only works in the lobby. The social aspect had become of byproduct of the desire to have a steady connection without timing out in the middle of a hand.

One Team PokerStars Pro mentioned to Change100 that they rejected an offer to stay in the swankiest hotel in the complex called The Cove. Running at almost $1,000 a night, the rooms at The Cove are among the most elegant in the world. But for that price, you still can't get a decent internet connection that is barely a step below a "dial up" connection. Instead, the team pro opted for a different hotel down the road because it had a more stable and consistent internet connection. It's hard to argue against their needs, because if you earn the majority of your income via the internet, then it goes without saying that you need the fastest and most reliable connection around.

Aside from a steady internet hookup, marijuana is the other most sought after item on the island. With the exception of Jamaica, the Caribbean is not what you would call the golden triangle of Mary Jane. You'd be lucky to score a baggie of ditch weed from your cabbie moonlighting as a dealer.

I wasn't even here a few hours when a dozen of my friends in the media mentioned that several players were looking for me. As my buddies Waffles explained during my last trip to Vegas, "You're the pot Jesus."

I showed up empty-handed because although I might be a known drug fiend, I'm not a drug dealer. That did not deter random online pros in desperate search of bud. I arrived at the tail end of the PCA, and at this juncture, everyone is jonesin' hard. They either blew through their stash or have been unsuccessful procuring the local produce. I told one kid, who held more cash in his pocket than I make in six months as a writer, that he should use some of his bankroll to buy an adjacent cay and set up a pot farm. I know plenty of growers in Colorado who would be happy to act as their consultant.

Whoever figures out how to create a steady wifi connection in the Bahamas and/or starts up a pot farm on one of the old plantations is gonna become a multi-millionaire overnight.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gambling on Celebrity Drug Busts

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'll take Lohan. You got the field.

This "list" was published in the New York Daily News. My brother and I got a good laugh when we saw it. This list should just be labeled Top 10 celebrities Who Are Known Drug Fiends.

How come there are no politicians on the list?

I particularly love the irony that NFL players are jacked up on who knows what steroid, but the minute they drag a little reefer, they are pegged as a drug freak. 2-1 for any NFL player. A little biased, eh?

My buddy Fink has an awesome Andy Dick story about how Dick tried to molest a friend of his while walking out of a bar in Hollywood, then Dick begged them incessantly for cocaine. When Dick found out that they were driving from LA to Vegas, Dick practically invited himself along for the ride. Fink and company managed to ditch Dick, who then got really sloppy, got into a fight, then ended up in jail.

Any thoughts on who should have made the celebrity drug bust list? Any poker players?

Monday, January 10, 2011

God's Cell Phone Number

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"Are you OK?" Change100 asked as she saw me wince in pain in between commercials of the Baltimore Ravens/Kansas City Chiefs playoff game.

I shook my head indicating that it wasn't a flu symptom. It was sports-acerbated-stomach pains.

"How much do you have on this g-?"

She knows better to ask that question. We've been dating for five years. She realized that she asked the wrong question and I walked out of the living room before she even finished.

"Oh, I get it. I don't want to know."

Somethings in life are too horrifying that we must protect the women and children from ever knowing they exist. Among these atrocities that we must never speak about are big bets on NFL playoff games.

I walked into my office. The bright Southern California sun illuminated the pile of papers (the most recent draft of a novel) on my desk. I could hear the faint notes of a violin from upstairs. My neighbor was practicing. Her studio is right above my office. Normally, those classical music sounds inspire me to write better, but in that instance, the Vivaldi was making me even more nauseous. I thought of that scene from The Titanic, when the ship was sinking, yet the band played on.

I quickly exited my office. It was no place to sweat a heavy bet with a prevailing sad soundtrack rattling overhead.

I ducked underneath the covers in the bedroom. Even the warmth of the goosedown comforter could not block out the sounds of the game echoing from the living room.

I jumped out of bed. I felt like I had sea legs. I wobbled through the apartment, attempting to pace back and forth. Back. Forth. Back. Forth. Back. Forth.

Matt Cassel threw an interception. I pumped my fist like Tiger Woods. But I still felt like I wanted to puke.

I walked outside but before I went into the alley, I pulled the blinds aside so I could see the TV from outside looking in. I couldn't hear the sound, just images flashing on the box in the middle of our living room. We have a statue of Buddha flanking the TV on the right. A karaoke machine flanks the TV on the left. I avoid making eye contact with Buddha. But BIG B knows that I would never ask him for help with a wager.

God, on the other hand, is on speed dial. I pester Him all the time. I imagine God looks like either Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazard or he looks like a young Wayne Gretzky. The Bible said that God made us in his own image. Why not the Great One?

And yes, sometimes I refer to God as Gretzky. At least, that's what I have him labeled on my cell phone. I'd hate for someone to steal my phone and than have a direct number to God. Hence, why He's coded as GRETZKY. He doesn't gives those out to anyone. It's one of the perks of attending a Jesuit high school. You learn Latin, Greek, and get God's cell phone number.

* * * * *

In Band of Brothers, many of the 101st Airborne soldiers from Easy Company were scared shitless of Dog Company's commander Lt. Ronald Speirs. Word spread fast that shortly after D-Day, Speirs gunned down six unarmed German soldiers in captivity. Conflicting reports swirled around the European Theatre. One witness said that Speirs handed out smokes to the captured soldiers and waited until they all lit one up before he mowed them down. Another witness said that he killed a dozen Nazis.

Many months later, after Speirs and his unit survives the brutality of Bastogne, one of his fellow officers inquired about the incident. Speirs made an off the cuff remark that all the stories surrounding the shooting also had someone who knew someone who was there, but no one actually really saw it happen. Speirs never confirmed it, but he didn't deny it either. Facts didn't matter much to him as much as reputation.

In Dick Winters' actual memoir, he mentioned that Speirs was one of the fiercest officers that the US had on the ground in Europe during WWII because of he was fearless and never thought twice about engaging the enemy. Winters also mentioned that Speirs had no qualms about killing for shock value. Side note... Winters passed away last week in Pennsylvania.

Some people make careers out of reputations. In Speirs case, his actual actions on the battlefield solidified his reputation.

* * * * *

"Why is everyone afraid of him?"

My girlfriend pointed at Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after he brought down Kansas City running back Jaamal Charles.

"Because, he supposedly killed someone."


"No one knows for sure. But after a Super Bowl party in 2000, Lewis and his crew got into a brawl with a bunch of other guys. When the dust settled, two guys were stabbed to death and Lewis was wearing a bloody suit."

If you don't know the story about Ray Lewis, he was originally charged for manslaughter, but the police were unable to locate the "bloody suit." His attorneys got that charge dropped in exchange for a testimony against two members in his entourage. Lewis got slapped with an obstruction of justice charge, and eventually both of his buddies were acquitted of manslaughter.

Whether it's just an urban myth or a partial truth, some folks are deathly afraid of Ray Lewis. His reputation off the field was enough to scare the shit out of his opponents on the field.

Ray Lewis is the Lt. Speirs of the NFL.

* * * * *

I couldn't wait for the NFL playoffs to begin. For sports bettors, it's like having a decade of Christmases at the same time. The only other time of the year I get excited for sports is mid-late March for March Madness and October (but that's only if the Yankees make a run in the playoffs).

October retains the only semblance of purity because only complete degenerates bet on baseball. For that time of the year, it's simply for the love of the game. I know, I probably should bet on baseball games to justify why I'm wasting 4 plus hours of my life listening to Joe Buck pontificate about his own airheadedness. But if I start betting on baseball, then I'd be in complete agony. I can barely handle a two-hour sweat with a college hoops game, let alone a three-hour sweat for NFL games. Four and five hours of prolonged bettor's anxiety? That's enough to cause a major heart attack.

The new year ushers in the new second season of the NFL. Everything else is just foreplay and fodder for fantasy football geeks. Week 17, the final week of the regular season, was utter torture because of the majority of meaningless games on the schedule. With the exception of a couple of games, the playoffs teams were almost set. Week 17 offers up very little opportunity to make money, unless you're certain that a team is in a must-win situation. That's why the playoffs have tremendous value -- because every game is a must-win situation.

The line setters know what they are doing. How many times have you lost a game by a half a fucking point? It's like they were seers who could glimpse into the future and read the boxscore. I often wonder if there's a cabal of Ace Rothsteins sitting around a table with MIT-geeks in ballin' high-roller suite somewhere in Vegas (and/or in a beach-side villa in Costa Rica). They are the select few determining a market-wide price for NFL playoff games, sort of how the OPEC determines the price of a barrel of crude oil. Maybe it's just me wanting to push forth my worldview that wealthy men chomping down on tightly-rolled Cuban cigars sitting around mahogany tables are determining the fate of the world, let alone the betting interests in the NFL playoffs.

But if you've ever bet on a trap game, or if you've been smart/lucky enough to sniff one out, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The basic corner bookie wants even action of a game. Take the Jets/Colts game for example. My old man's bookie, Nine and a Half Fingered Vinny, would gladly accept $10,000 in wagers on the Jets at -1.5 and another $10,000 on the Colts. In the end, he's going to collect $1,000 in juice (that is, if everyone pays, but in the old neighborhood, everyone paid. There's a reason why Vinny lost a half a finger. If you're ever behind a week in a payment, his bagman is more than happy to share with you the story about how that missing digit came to be).

Ah, long live the vig. An even split on betting action is a perfect world for a small time bookie who wants to grind out a modest income. But the corporate betting shops in the UK, the big books in Vegas, and the offshore books in the Caribbean have their eyes set on a bigger payday. Every now and then they try to bait the public to bet one way. If everyone falls for the rouse and 95% of the action is on one side, and the other comes in, then the book is looking at a massive payday.

That's why you hear about some small time bookies going out of business during a massive upset, or on a rigged game that they had no idea was not on the straight. Heck, even the big boys in Vegas took a hit a few years ago when the NY Giants upset a near-perfect New England Patriots team in the Super Bowl. I know for a fact that that two bookies in New York who lost their books after getting too greedy with those Super Bowl bets. Instead of laying off some of the action in Vegas, or with the offshore books, or with other bookies, they decided to gamble themselves.

I guess they were Jets fans or had zero faith in the G-Men. Then again, you can't fault the bookies for going with their gut. If you re-play that Super Bowl 99 more times, the Patriots probably win 97-2. It just took a freak pass from Eli Manning to destroy a perfect season and make scores of gamblers who hammered the Giants a little wealthier.

* * * * *

Emotional hedges are like credit default swaps. It's an insurance policy just in case the shit hits the fan. That's why I usually bet against the Jets. When they lose, then I get compensation. If they win, I don't care about any lost money because the elation of winning far outweighs the negative emotions attached to losing a CDS/emotional hedge.

The Jets pulled it out courtesy of some clutch defense and kicking. Something happened to Nick Folk ever since the Rex Ryan foot fetish video surfaced. He started to kick better and more consistently, even though the media was having a field day with foot fetish jokes about Ryan asking Folk to kick barefoot in practice so he could get off.

The Jets game was fun to watch on Saturday, only because the Jets finally beat Peyton Manning. On the flip side, the Baltimore-Kansas City game was torture on Sunday. It felt as though I was getting waterboarded by angry lesbians. I felt like I was drowning in my own anxiety the entire game. If you can't tell by now, the biggest bet I placed in a very long time was riding on Baltimore covering by three points.

Instead of betting on every game, I've been trying to get my stack all-in on one key game. In the opening round of the playoffs, the game that stood out was Baltimore. Maybe it's Ray Lewis' reputation or simply put that the Ravens defense play much tougher once the calendar hits January.

The final score did not indicate how close the game was in the first half. KC's rushing attack seemed unstoppable early on. The Ravens had not given up that many rushing yards in a while and it seemed as though Matt Cassel and company were going to give Baltimore a headache in the second half, especially when they finally got WR stud Dwayne Bowe involved into the offensive mix. But, a few turnovers in the second half changed the momentum of the game. The Ravens D shut down Bowe and the passing game deteriorated on every ensuing possesion. Cassel went from looking like a perennial Pro Bowl QB to looking like Vinny Testaverde at the height of his color-blindness affliction.

Here's an old NY Jets joke.... In case you were wondering, Testverde is Latin for "color blind."

It wasn't until four minutes were left on the clock before the knot untied itself from my stomach. For almost three hours, I felt sicker than I had been all week, and I had been out of commission with a nasty case of the wook flu.

Even a batch of Northern California's finest Blue Dream failed to settle my stomach. I looked so wrought with uncertainty, my girlfriend handed me a Xanax hoping it would calm me down. I handed it back to her. Xanax comes in handy if there's a crying baby on a flight from JFK-LAX that won't shut the fuck up. For a bet on the NFL playoffs, I needed something stronger. Of the poppy derivative. Alas, black tar is not my bag, so I had to absorb the agony without any pharmaceutical enhancements.

I hovered over the toilet at least a dozen times thinking I was ready to spew up my breakfast every time that the Ravens had to punt. I even bent over a bush in the alley thinking I was about to hurl. My head was spinning in both directions. I know drug addicts that pay top dollar for the same buzz. I've dabbled and experimented with my share of illicit products. Nothing matches the high you achieve the moment you cash a winning sports bet.

Hardcore gambling addicts in GA meetings all over America will tell you that the best part is the rush that happens before the outcome of a bet. That's why people buy lottery tickets -- their heads swell with sugar plum dreams about what they'll do with their windfall worth millions of dollars.

That's why you play craps -- to feel the tidal wave pick you up and you get that moment of weightlessness before you're tossed away and crash into a coral reef.

That's why you play poker -- to utter that silent prayer to the poker gods, begging for that one-outer to spike on the river.

What's a bigger rush? The moment before the dealer flips over the river? Or when the card is revealed?

Depending on how you answer that question will determine what type of person you are in life. Sure, I can say that I thrive on the moment before it happens, but live for the actual outcome. I can say that, but we all know better. The rush before the rush. I play for the rush. I play for the rush before the rush. I even get goosebumps writing about the rush before the rush before the rush.

I'm a sick sick man. And I can't wait until next weekend.