Friday, September 30, 2011

A Brief Letter to Full Tilt Poker: Fuck You, Pay Me

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Dear Full Tilt Poker,

Fuck you. Pay me.

* * *

Update: Since the Frenchies just signed acquisition papers, I will re-publish my statement in French courtesy of my translator, Benjo...

Cher Full Tilt,

Rien à foutre. Tu paies!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Full Tilt Poker's License Revoked

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Here's some recent developments in the recent Full Tilt Poker scandal (via the gang at Subject Poker)... Alderney Gambling Control Commission revoked Full Tilt's gaming license. Also, the DOJ released a statement about FTP, specifically regarding a possibility of the DOJ paying back players.

And this just in... Full Tilt released a new statement. More hot air.

And here's one of my favorite scenes from Syriana...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hump Day Nugs: The Secret World of Hollywood Poker, Frenchy Full Tilt Investors, and Feel the Shame (a.k.a. Jesse May Calls Jesus a "Little Scumbag")

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

How about some Hump Day nugs? These are heady, tasty, and will definitely distract you for a few moments while you eagerly countdown the hours until the weekend begins...
The Secret World of Hollywood Poker is a detailed account of the history of one of the biggest and most secretive underground games in the hills of Hollywood featuring Tinsel Town's most famous actors (Leo and the guy who played Spiderman and misspells my last name), industry heavyweights, and afew filthy-rich professional athletes (A-Roid). (Hollywood Reporter)

How Much Money Do French Investors Need to Buy Full Tilt Poker? That is a damn good question and los hombres are digging deep. I heard a rumor this summer than a Ruskie oil baron offered up $1 Billion and it was rejected. But now, a group of French investors led by Laurent Tapie, are eyeballing the site everyone now loves to hate. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Jesse May is the shit, and I'm not just saying that because he scored me a 12th row ticket to see Bob Dylan this summer. Anyway, Jesse's latest piece -- Feel the Shame -- is classic Jesse May with a little extra hot sauce. Wow. I've read it fourteen times and just... wow. And yes, Jesse called Jesus a scumbag. (Poker Farm)

How to Cheat Your Friends At Poker sounds like something written by Russ Hamilton! It's an awesome infographic by Sean Lind. Take a peek. (Silver Oak Casino)

I appeared as a guest panelist on Type II Cast, a podcast about the band Phish. Check out it out if you want to hear me pontificate about music as a talking head in the jamband scene. (Coventry Music)
That's it for now. You know the drill... NGTFOOMO!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Josh Axelrod's Gold Watch

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

A couple of years ago I was at the Bellagio and Shaniac told me I should tell a story at a Moth Storytelling event. They storytelling sessions originated in New York City and had a couple of caveats -- no notes and the story had to be true. Los Angeles hosted a few Moth events from time to time, and back when Shaniac and I both lived in SoCal, we always said we'd hit one up. He told me the insane story he wanted to tell, while I had three or four of my own.

We never got the chance to attend a Moth event -- but I'm hoping we will someday. Live moves on. For different reasons we fled the sunny skies of Southern California and migrated north, and Shaniac crossed the border into the Great White North to continue his career as an online poker pro, while I settled in the foggy Bay Area to move onto the next stage of my writing career.

Last week, I loaded up the latest episode of the Moth podcast featuring Josh Axelrod, the author of Repeat Until Rich: A Professional Card Counter's Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars As a former card counter and poker player, Axelrod's story centers around his degen life as a distraught gambler amidst a horrid losing streak, particularly at the online poker tables.

"There are two things gamblers don't do," said Axelrod, "Get a real job and go to Gambler's Anonymous."

Click here to listen to Josh Axelrod's The Gold Watch.

Learn more about Moth Storytelling.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Absolute Morality and Full Tilt Ponzi Links

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

It's been a wild 48 hours ever since the DOJ attached the pariah-like words "Ponzi Scheme" to their investigation into Full Tilt Poker. Whenever I have my mom waking me up with a frantic call, grilling me about if I was swindling money from people in that "Tilty Ponzi Poker"... then you know it's a big fucking story.

Anyway, here's a few items of note that you should check out...
Terrible Tuesday Podcast: F Train and Chops chat about Terrible Tuesday. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Full Tilt's New Brand Identity: More proof than my girlfriend is a better writer than I am with this gem Full Tilt's New Brand Identity: Ponzi Scheme. (Pot Committed)

A Poker Ponzi Scheme?: Writer Alec Wilkinson spent some time with Jesus and he shared some of his thoughts including one line that stood out..."The Justice Department people I spoke to were clearly burned at not being able to shut sites such as Full Tilt down." (The New Yorker)

Durrrr In the Well: Tom Dwan answers questions about Full Tilt Poker on the most famous poker forum in existence. (2+2)

What Does It Mean? Shamus had an excellent post about What Does Poker Mean Today? (Hard-Boiled Poker)

DOJ's Civil Complaint v. Full Tilt: Barry Carter and Matt Kaufman posted a thorough index of the complaint, which also includes a video of Tom "durrrr" Dwan on Fox Business News. (Poker Strategy)

Talk About Red Pros: More thought-provoking fodder from Shamus about Full Tilt and the DOJ. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

Where to Next? Bill Rini has some thoughts on the next step for Full Tilt Poker. (Bill's Poker Blog)

* * *

One day, you're the toast of the town, and the next day, you're kicked to the curb with yesterday's garbage.

Al Pacino pontificated about morality during an exquisite scene from David Mamet's masterpiece about shady real estate swindlers in Glengarry Glen Ross...
All train compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don't mind it. That's the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die you're gonna regret the things you don't do. You think you're queer? I'm gonna tell you something. We're all queer. You think you're a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Get shut of it. Shut it out. You cheat on your wife, you did it. Live with it. You fuck little girls, so be it. There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. You think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me.
You can video that clip here...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Full Tilt Ponzi Poker

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

PokerStars is looking a helluva lot like Wall Street giant JP Morgan, compared to Full Tilt Poker mirroring JT Marlin, the chop house investment firm in the film Boiler Room.

Unless you've been in a coma or trapped in a mine the last few weeks, the big news of the day -- the DOJ called out Full Tilt Poker as a global Ponzi Scheme. Man, I know something really bad happened in the poker realm when non-poker friends are emailing me Wall Street Journal articles, such as.... U.S. Alleges Full Tilt Poker Was Ponzi Scheme.

Ponzi scheme? Full Tilt Poker? Full Tilt Ponzi Poker.

Shouldn't the DOJ be knocking down doors of 200 West Street or 23 Wall Street and locking up the real career criminals responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 and bilking taxpayers for billions in bailouts?

While thousands of disgruntled Americans are protesting in the streets of the financial district in a movement called Occupy Wall Street, the DOJ is focusing their attention on Howard Lederer and Jesus Ferguson. It's not JP Morgan head vampire, Jamie Dimon, that the federales are after, but rather, public enemy number one, two, and three were a former computer geek and bookie who teamed up with a semi-successful day trader, Ray Bitar, to pull off the greatest incident of fraud in the poker realm with the inception of Full Tilt Ponzi Poker.

I knew Rush Poker was too good to be true.

Yeah, by now we know that some of the guys running Full Tilt Ponzi Poker were crooked greedheads from the get go, but then again many of us in the insulated online poker world thought we were untouchable and assumed manna was going to rain out of the heavens for the next decade. Maybe some of the management at Full Tilt wanted to clean shit up once regulation occurred, or maybe they never intended on cleaning things up and instead were hoping to dump the company for a sack of cash and gold bullion, then let the new owners worry about cleaning up the books?

Then again maybe, just maybe, the shysters at Full Tilt Ponzi Poker were over their heads and the Full Tilt Ponzi Scheme got too big, too fast, and they couldn't keep up with what was going on. The poker boom was a swift beast that swept through Las Vegas and sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the world. Even to this days, some places on the planet are experience aftershocks from the Moneymaker Effect -- over eight years later.

I've seen what excessive sums of money generated overnight does to people -- in Vegas, in Hollywood, on Wall Street -- it drives some people crazy, and makes others do horrible things. What exactly happened at Full Tilt Ponzi Poker? We'll never know. Maybe someday we'll find out, like the other mysteries of the world like who shot Kennedy and did aliens really build the Pyramids?

If you haven't read my initial thoughts on Black Friday, don't forget to take a peek at Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington .

* * *

* * *

By the way, I'm starting a hedge fund in San Francisco. Who wants in?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rocketman and Welcome to the Ice Palace

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

"What the hell was that lunar stuff?"

"Huh?" I muttered waving a soupy cloud of smoke away from my face.

"You know," Big Dog gestured, "That strain the astronauts grew up on the space station?"

"Oh, the Lunar Kush. If you got stuck up in the international space station for months on end without anything to do, you bet your ass I'd grow my own weed. You couldn't smoke it because a lit match would blow the entire fucking station to smithereens, but I betcha they made a lot of ganja desserts. Where did you think the term -- space cake -- originated? The Lunar Kush."

"Ah... Lunar. Kush. Cosmic. Woof."

"Rocketman. You know that Elton John song? That's all about growing weed in space."

A long pause was broken by stoner-like laughter.

"I'm gonna be high as a kite by then..." I belted out in my best Elton John falsetto.

"Lunar Kush?"

"Yeah, you get the gist," I said as I shuffled the cards. "It's muthafucking cold in space. You gotta eat space cakes to keep you warm until you finally get to return to Earth."

* * * *

I've heard some of the most peculiar and fascinating conversations at a poker table. At the Imperial Palace in Vegas, I almost saw two guys come to blows over an innocuous chat about labor unions. At the Taj in Atlantic City, I got bogged down in a discussion on where exactly Roman centurions hammered nails into Christ's hands during the Crucifixion. One guy said all the iconography and crosses in Church were inaccurate -- because you couldn't hang a person with a nail through each hand because the weight of the body would rip the flesh off the nails. He insisted they nailed Christ through a spot in between a couple of major bones below the wrists. That conversation lasted a hour. The Jesuits at my high school would've been pleased that I held my own during a post-modern symposium debunking of crucifixions.

The conversations in my new home game are a hodge podge mainly because of the eclectic nature of the players. A city like San Francisco is filled with unique people from all over the spectrum and Halli's home game is representative of the diverse nature of my new city. Her game has been running on and off for over seven years -- just around the time Chris Moneymaker became poker's messiah -- and on Monday nights you could always count on a game being played in the back of the Ice Palace hosted by Halli and her brother, Skye.

Why the Ice Palace?

Because it's fucking cold, cold, cold. It's like stepping into a freezer. The back of Halli's ridiculously spacious apartment could be used to store a month's worth of steaks for Peter Luger's. She lives on the entire floor one of those picturesque Victorians that are synonymous with San Francisco. Change100 and I were thisclose to moving to Colorado this autumn when Halli offered us a sweet deal to share her apartment in the Slums of Pacific Heights. My girlfriend fell in love with the place and any thing was better than living in Vegas or hellacious Los Angeles, so we jumped at the chance to stay with Halli for a couple of months. In addition to a kick ass apartment, we also inherited a weekly home game. Hence, the Ice Palace.

Sure, I have an itch for online poker, but online poker is antisocial in nature and often feels more like playing a video game. I stopped playing video games (er, Tiger Woods golf and chess) in favor of online poker because I felt if I was going to waste my time zoning out at a computer screen, then I might as well make some money at it. I was never good enough at chess to hustle for dime bags in Washington Square Park, and in real life I've only broken 100 once on a golf course. Once I realized I lacked the necessary passion, skills and discipline to become a true professional poker player, I found a regular day job whoring myself out to various tentacles of the murky online poker industry (disguised as "media outlets") to pay my bills and support my art, and looked at online poker as a profitable hobby to help pay for my insatiable desire to travel and do cool things with friends. But ever since the inception of the UIGEA and the subsequent "pulling of the plug" on Black Friday, the broke-dick used car salesmen in DC insist that online poker is the root of all evil, just like running with scissors or wearing white pants after Labor Day. Without online poker, I'm bummed out that I have to turn to live sports betting (don't even think about online sports books, because the DOJ is in the corner gunning for you!) and make trips to Vegas sports books to help fund my addiction to traveling and music, but part of me doesn't actually miss the vacant feeling of sitting alone in the dark, worshipping the muted glow of multiple LHE tables, which induced frothing Pavlovian responses to the slightest alert sounds.

I'm still enraged with the cowardly political decisions that prevent me from exercising my right to liberty and pursuit of happiness by playing online poker, however, I don't actually miss the physical act of playing online poker. I was never that obsessed with online poker that I'd relocate to Canadia to play. But if I was a sensational MTT player like Shaniac or Matt Stout, you bet your ass I would've set up shop overseas within 90 days of the introduction of the UIGEA. There's a part of me that wants to be able to place sports bets on Pinnacle or The Greek, so I entertained the thought of re-locating to Vancouver (they have great nugs there and too many civilians are dying in Mexico because of the atrocities of the [losing] War on Drugs, but that's a whole other series of posts that would be better suited for an in-depth report on Tao of Fear). But at this point, I'd rather rent a lake house on Tahoe and make a short trip to Reno or Stateline to bet on football and hoops.

I don't have an itch for online poker, but I deeply missed playing social poker on a weekly basis. It's funny in a sad way (like when a alcoholic clown dies of liver cancer), that the original attraction to poker for me was the social element and interaction with opponents in an egalitarian way, but one of my favorite past times got ruined because my work/play worlds collided and all of a sudden the lines were blurred between two opposing aspects of my life that I should have walled off from each other. I was foolish and thought I could mix the two, but as a result, the toxic concoction nearly killed me in more ways than one.

I lived the cliche -- one day after a couple of years on the circuit, I woke up and realized poker wasn't fun anymore. What used to be fun had become a job, and by all definitions jobs suck. It happens to all of us at some point -- whether you're teachers or chefs -- you have a passion for something like teaching or cooking, but all of a sudden society thrusts labels on you as the responsibilities grow exponentially and instead of an educator or a cook, you're now a Sixth Grade Science Teacher or Executive Sous Chef. You quickly forget about the passion that used to flicker inside you like a raging volcano, and you've become like every other working class stiff who loathes their job and constantly watches the clock tick down to the precise moment they can act like Fred Fucking Flintstone and run down the tail of a brontosaurus to get the fuck out of the gravel pits and race to the closest bar where you celebrate happy hour by soaking your brain in cheap booze while you grovel with other malcontents about how much everything sucks.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I hated going out to bars infested with douchebags and Snookis. Change100 and I always wanted to host a home game, but everyone who played wouldn't be able to get ripped to the tits because they'd have to drive home, and if you live in LA, then you know that "parking" is a fucking deal breaker, especially in our neighborhood of the Slums of Beverly Hills, which had no available parking so we were shit out of luck with a home game. That's part of the reason why I enjoyed hosting Saturdays with Dr. Pauly on PokerStars to have some semblance of a weekly gathering with friends to hang out, bullshit, and have a blast without worrying about carrying around the weight of the world's problems.

I entered the traveling circus as a member of the poker media, which meant that I leapt out of the "normal linear life" that many of you lead, and accepted a life of constant movement and uncertainty. Once I left NYC in the Spring of 2005 to move to Las Vegas to cover my first WSOP with Flipchip, I essentially kissed a regular home game goodbye. In the last six years or so whenever I heard the intro to Monday Night Football, I always had flashbacks to the Blue Parrot, the Midtown location of the weekly Monday game. Our host Ferrari always made sure the football game was always on in the background. I met a couple of amazing people at Ferrari's weekly home game like F Train, Ugarte, Coach, Swish... just to name a few. It's also where I met the infamous Dawn Summers -- and I almost spit out my entire Red Stripe on the table when she frowned upon playing Stud and begged to play "that game with the floppy thing in the middle."

That was then. The Ice Palace is now. I've played a few times and on one evening we had two tables of players with a waiting list. I expect to write more about our weekly hijinks in the upcoming months. I sincerely missed playing in a regular home game and I even missed writing about the highlights the next morning. When I first started playing at Ferrari's in 2004, I recapped the games on Tao of Poker, mostly for the regulars in the game to share a few laughs and talk smack. For the dozen or so readers I had at the time, I gave them a glimpse into my Monday night madness. I'm hoping I can kick it old school and return to where it all began.

Life flew by in the last seven years and I encountered so many rapid changes both personally and professionally that I really lost touch with the original poker fire inside of me. I'm hoping that some time in San Francisco can help me get reacquainted with one of my former passions. And if it doesn't, then so be it. I can't resist change, I can only adjust to the changing conditions. The Taoists and Zen Buddhists have a saying... Life is like water -- it can flow, or it can crash. Surrender to the flow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rick Perry vs. Teddy KGB

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

While reading up on a bit of political fodder at Rolling Stone (penned by Matt Taibbi, one of the best political writers in America), I stumbled across an interesting and chuckle-inducing Rounders reference. Taibbi even linked up a video of the infamous scene when Mike McD takes on Teddy KGB during a heads-up match in the third act of Rounders.

Here's Taibbi's introduction paragraph to Rick Perry's Social Security Extremism...
Presidential debates aren't often interesting, but last night's GOP "standoff" was – a little bit, anyway. It was a little like that final scene in Rounders where Matt Damon draws cowboys and takes out half of Teddy KGB's stack on the first hand. The field did the same thing to Perry last night, taking out one of his legs in his coming-out party.
I never thought I'd hear Rick Perry and Teddy KGB mentioned in the same breath, but that's why I'm a huge fan of Taibbi -- because you never know what sort of pop culture reference he'll use to help demonstrate his point.

By the way, if either Rick Perry and Michele Bachman inch closer toward an actual GOP nomination for the White House, I'd love to jump on their press corp and cover the campaign. I gave up writing about politics a long time ago (back when I actually thought the "people" actually had a say in how they were governed before I realized we're just a bunch of fucking monkeys on a grinder throwing shit at each other, while those in power hand out big sacks of cash to professional degen gamblers on Wall Street who go busto and get bailed out by taxpayers). Yeah, I'm a long, long shot to get press credentials, but you never know, because I never thought I'd become a poker reporter, but I went from watching final tables on TV while sitting on my brother's couch to sitting in the front row. So, anything can happen. This is America, after all, right? I have a legit shot as long as there is no... ahem... drug test, because I think it'll be awesome to eat a shitload of pharmies and follow around the GOP contender for a few months as they zig zag across the country preaching fiscal responsibility to angry Tea Party survivalists, and then trying to steal away votes from jaded, moderate Americans who feel duped by Obama's vision of hope and change. As is, I'm just going to keep an eye on the circus from a far until my number is called.

In the meantime, I spent all of my summer vacation embedded with hippies in more ways than one. You can read all about some of the hijinks...
8.5.11 - Gorge Quickies Night 1 (George, WA)
8.6.11 - Gorge Quickies Night 2 (George, WA)
8.8.11 - Hollyweird Bowl (Los Angeles, CA)
8.15.11 - UIC 1 - Monday Night En Fuego (Chicago, IL)
8.16.11 - UIC 2 - Chicago Disease, Gimps, and Golden Heat (Chicago, IL)
8.17.11 - UIC 3 - Tweaker City (Chicago, IL)
9.2.11 - The S Show (Denver, CO)
9.3.11 - Diseasetweeze (Denver, CO)
9.4.11 - Ghost-Forget (Denver, CO)
I have one more quick sojourn to Vermont for a Hurricane Irene charity benefit concert to report on this week, then it's back on the poker/gambling train. Until then...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Radio WCOOP Launched

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Yesterday marked the debut of Radio WCOOP.

What the hell is that? Radio WCOOP is a "Morning Zoo" format starring Joe Stapleton and Nick Wealthall. Those two recap all the goodness and goofiness called the 2011 WCOOP.

You all know about WCOOP, it's that yearly tournament series on PokerStars that finally inspired a group of rogue Americans to re-locate overseas so they can get their online MTT fix. I don't blame them. I'm not what you would ever call an "online grinder" but I've been feeling the itch to play online poker the last few weeks. It's like have a limb amputated and you reach down to scratch... nothing.

Why the hell am I not living in Vancouver? They have awesome Chinese food, an awesome NBA franchise, British Columbia's phinest herbs, plus I can play online poker legally and open a Pinnacle sportsbetting account. Well, shiiiiiiiit, if I didn't just move to San Francisco, I'd consider migrating to the Great White North.

Anyway, while American online pros scrambled to find residences in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada... the folks at PokerStars have been hard at work behind the scenes creating new facets of multimedia to keep you up to date with all the happenings in WCOOP. Earlier this year during SCOOP, they launched a daily highlights show and now, they went old school with a radio show.

If you are multilingual, or trying to bang exotic strippers, then Radio WCOOP will also be launched in other languages -- Russian, Spanish, and German. Wait, no French, WTF? That's Booshit!

For more details, visit the PokerStars Radio WCOOP page.

To listen to the debut episode of Radio WCOOP featuring the uber-chatty Daniel Negreanu, click here.