Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wet Sunday

By Pauly
New York City

Sometimes I spend my Sunday mornings scanning It's a gambling/football thing. I'm seeking edges. The weather can be an edge. I'm checking up on the weather in certain cities because that can affect the outcome of a couple of games. It's going to be cold in Green Bay today. I just hope it snows a bit. Snow and wind can be good and bad depending on the circumstances. A colleague of mine in Australia wants to start a gambling website where you can bet on the weather. I love the concept.

And it's raining in NYC right now. So much for a Sunday morning jog. Or even if I was too lazy for a jog, which I was, I considered a nice morning stroll. The exercise would be nice and the time to clear the mind would have been even more welcomed. I contemplated a walk along Riverside Park with a spliff and a Radiohead bootleg. Alas, I stayed up too late on Saturday night as it bled into Sunday morning. I crashed for a couple of hours but my lazy self could not pull the trigger and head outside at 8am. Instead, I was the poster child for sloth and grabbed my laptop. I checked email and did my fantasy picks while I was still in bed.

It had been drizzling all morning but then it started raining. Steady. Then heavy. No one likes to walk in the cold and rain. And I wasn't about to. That's when I headed for I wondered what the status would be between 4 and 7pm. The Jets have a big late afternoon game at home against Denver. And at home means across the river in New Jersey. I'm still not 100% comfortable with the Jets playing out in New Jersey. Never been. And it's been decades since the migration from Queens to the Meadowlands. I'm a Yankees fan and never liked the Mets but I respected Shea Stadium all of these years because that's where the Jets played on Sundays.

The Jets and Brett Favre is a big game against Denver. I say it's a big game because Gang Green has to keep on winning, especially a big game at home against an inferior opponent. This will be the first time I get to watch a Jets game from my brother's couch in a longtime. I missed at least half of the football season this year because of work and travel obligations stuck working in places like London and Atlantic City on a Sunday. I caught a couple of games with Derek earlier in the season but over the last month, I was in Budapest and Vegas for work and did not watch any of the games. I was LA twice on a Sunday and one of the Jets game was on the NFL channel which I don't get so I had to watch bits and pieces of it online. I got lucky last week and CBS aired the Jets game in LA at 10am. That's was awesome. But this week, I have to wait until 4:15pm to get my fix.

About time I get to see a Jets game in NYC! Which means, I'll jinx them and they lose. Time to bet against the Jets. But then again, it's going to rain. Denver has to play in the snow, but can they play in a soggy Meadowlands?

I found an old Sidney Bechet CD and I have been listening to that while I write. Actually, it's while I re-write. Big difference. I prefer writing instead. Re-writing and editing is a chore when I don't feel as though I'm working when I'm cranking out words and words and words in a stream of consciousness. The more plodding and methodically aspect of re-writing is exhausting because it takes a higher level of focus. MeanGene and Nicky both mentioned that they loved that part about writing. I guess that I'm a one take or in the moment kind of writer. First drafts are always the funnest part. It's like smoking a fresh/green hit of ganja. Re-writing is like scrapping the inside of your bong and drudging up resin to smoke like a desperate junkie.

Late nights, my editing and writing binges have been fueled my non-drowsy cold medication and Dr. Brown's black cherry soda. The meds give me a small dose of speed to keep me up. By no means am I high. It just keeps me pecking away at the keyboard or when I'm re-writing it keeps my eyes from closing when I get too tired reading words and words and words and making sloppy corrections with a green sharpie because I can't find a red pen anywhere.

The Dr. Brown's is a throw back from my young. We drank a lot of soda when I was a kid and my mom would bitch and moan that we drank it too fast. She would only buy Coke or Pepsi... or whatever was on sale that day. Sometimes she bought RC Cola from the supermarket which was much cheaper and more syrupy. And once in a while we got a treat... Dr. Brown's cherry soda. That came around every blue moon and I would savor every single drop.

I'm not a soda person anymore. If anything, I'm an iced tea freak. But when I saw a six-pack of Dr. Brown's on the floor of my mother's kitchen, I sort of stole it for myself. Late nights around 2 or 3am, I slowly sip the Dr. Brown's cherry soda as I wait for the Sudafed to kick in.

I finished the biography about Hunter and have been reading random selections from Conversations with Woody Allen. Most of the time he gets very specific with random details about different flicks of his over the years. It's a big book and I bought a used copy for Nicky. I figured it would be good to have a copy on the West Coast and some of the passages could be helpful for Nicky's screenplay project.

I also have been reading different parts of The Paris Review Book. The actual title is... The Paris Review Book: of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, Art of Writing, and Every Else in the World Since 1953.

The literary mag that was edited by George Plimpton, released a hardcover book a couple of years ago for $30. It was the best of best of their literary magazine featruing interviews, short stories, and poetry. It's a massive 750 page anthology with scribblings from some of my favorite writers such as John Updike, Toni Morrison, and Nabokov.

I found a used copy one day for under $6 (including shipping charges). The Castle Rock, CO library was selling it on I figured the proceeds would go towards a good cause... the Castle Rock library system... so I bought it from them even though there were a couple of cheaper offers. At first, I was surprised that a volume of work that included several of the best writers in the history would fetch such a low price.

The rain subsided a bit. Time for breakfast.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lazy > Busy

By Pauly
New York City

There is a fine line between lazy and busy. Since my return to New York City, I have had bouts of sheer and utter laziness wrapped around moments of insane and frantic work.

I watched a lot of sports. Knicks suck. Rangers are still out in the front. Everyone in New York including the old Jewish guys at the Greek diner is starting to talk about a Jets/Giants Superbowl. And I'm like, hey Jets, let's first make the playoffs and win a first round game before we can talk about playing Eli and the Giants.

I have been playing online poker. On and off. A couple of private tournaments including Turkey Cup, which Daddy won. I had been on a losing streak at cash games when I was in LA and now I'm on a modest winning streak in New York.

I finished reading Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson which was an biography put together by Corey Seymour and Jann Wenner. Johnny Depp did the intro and Wenner insists that he never canceled Hunter's life insurance when he sent Hunter to Vietnam.

I was also blown away that late in his career, Hunter fucked up the opportunity to make $120K a year writing for Rolling Stone. He was offered a 1,500 word column for $10,000 a pop. That was over a decade ago. Sadly, Hunter either lost his writing edge or the endless amount of coke fried his brain and he was unable to construct all those paranoid rambling thoughts a coherent sentence. Shit, $10K for a 1,500 word article in Rolling Stone? That's my dream job - one monthly assignment that can more than pay for my entire expenses for the month.

I re-read excerpts from Conversations with Woody Allen.

I have been keeping an eye on BBC news for their coverage on the Mumbai attacks.

I have also been re-writing a lot of different drafts such as my Bluff column and Truckin' stories. I usually don't have the time to put into it my assignments and into Truckin'. However, I had some free time to work on those things. It felt good to actually get a second and third crack at a draft. I also worked on a different project - which included a lot of re-writing and editing. Not as much fun as writing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

By Pauly
New York City

Black Friday is one of the worst aspects of our society. At a WalMart out on Long Island, one of the non-union low-wage flunkies was trampled to death. Eager consumers bust down the doors, ran over the guy and stomped him to death, all because they just had to buy shit. Someone was killed. Wrong place. Wrong time. This is what we have become.

Head over to AdBusters to check out Buy Nothing Day. Yes, it is what it says. Be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. Avoid material items. Spread love and goodwill this holiday season.

Thanks to Kat and Otis for the links.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day and Turkey Cup

By Pauly
New York City

I'm hosting a private tournament tonight on PokerStars called the second annual Turkey Cup. Derek won it last year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Last 5 Books...

By Pauly
New York City

I've been on a reading binge again...
Last 5 Books I Purchased...
1. Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
2. The Swing Voter of Staten Island (The Five Books of Moses) by Arthur Nersesian
3. Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle For Palestine by Jonathon Schanzer
4. Home Before Daylight: My Life on the Road with the Grateful Dead by Steve Parish
5. Garcia: A Signpost To New Space by Charles Reich and Jann Wnner

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

I was up before sunrise on Monday pecking away at the laptop in the darkness of the apartment. I was up before the can fairies arrived to dig through the dumpster and way before a lot of East Coasters began their morning commute. Travel days kill any sort of rhythm or productivity, so I needed an early start to my day. I wrote for an hour and attempted to squeeze a full day of work inside of two hours. That was an impossible task. I was sorta pissed because I actually wanted to relax and enjoy the holidays instead of working on Friday and over the weekend which will be the result. While everyone else rests... I have to play catch up.

Nicky and I ate our customary breakfast at Nick's. I always eat there on the morning before I depart for the airport. It took me less than five minutes to pack since I traveled as light as I ad every been. I stuffed a hoodie and a long sleeve shirt in a bag along with my laptop and iPod. That was it. I didn't bring a larger backpack that I normally lug everywhere I go. Just the clothes on my back. I opted to go super light especially during Thanksgiving week. I had a bundle of winter clothes and lots of toiletries in NYC so I didn't need to bother.

At the last second, I packed my laptop. I have three other laptops in NYC but my worst fears convinced me to bring the laptop. Nothing is worst than getting stranded at the airport during the holiday season because of a delayed flight or some other snafu. Plus, I never knew when inspiration would strike 30,000 feet in the air and I'd want to write something.

The drive to Long Beach was surprisingly easy and quick. Zero traffic from LA. Nicky and I expected the worse and we had plenty of time to kill when I got there thrity minutes early. We hung out in the waiting lot and smoked a bit before it was time for me to go.

If you don't have any bags to check, air travel can be a breeze. The self-service kiosks make checking a simple task. It took less than a minute to secure my ticket. Security lines are always a pain in the ass. When I first started flying in and out of Long Beach (as an alternative to LAX), their small airport was a blessing. Everything was fast and easy. Sure they had limited options as far as food went, but I sacrificed that to avoid the nightmarish clusterfuck of LAX. Over the last couple of years, JetBlue expanded their Long Beach routes which meant that the tiny four gate airport was servicing twice the volume. The result? A slow security line and congested areas near the gate.

I survived the security checkpoint and wandered over to the gate. There were four strollers in plain sight. I let out an exasperated sigh. I knew what was up. I was going to be on a flight full of kids. I'm a well experienced traveler and know how insane Christmas and Thanksgiving can me. That's why I packed ultra light and only took my laptop and the clothes on my back. I purposely picked a Monday afternoon to travel because it was cheaper and I knew it wouldn't be as crazy as the days closer to Thursday when every single flight is packed to capacity and the airports are teaming with late, pissed off, and inexperienced travelers.

Half of the kids at the gate were quiet and the other half were rambunctious. I never knew what I wanted. On one hand, the rowdy kids might expend all their energy and then pass out on the plane. Of course, that's fools gold. Anyone with kids knows that they have boundless energy sort of like us in our 20s when we just scored and eight ball and would be bouncing off the walls until we started to sober up and then snorted a few more gaggers and went ape shit all over again. When I see rowdy and loud kids at the gate, I expect them to continue on that behavior on the plane and hope that their parents can minimize their disruptions. And the quiet kids and sleeping babies? Ah, they are just volcanoes waiting to erupt. Luckily Nicky gave me two Xanax pills before I left. I took one before I boarded. Too bad I didn't have Valium.

My flight was on time and JetBlue boards from the front and rear of the planes to speed up time. Great in theory. I made my way to the back and was held up by a guy who clogged up the aisles and took several minutes to get everything sorted out despite the numerous idle threats from the happy-pill popping flight attendants to step aside and let other passengers get to their seats. The guy was with his wife and young daughter, who I noted was one of the louder kids at the gate. They were seated in the row behind me but the mother kept barking orders at the guy to get stuff out of various bags. They had more than his allotted number carry on bags with them. So much so that they took over the space that should have be allotted to my row. I had to stash my stuff across from me, same goes for the young woman who took the middle seat. She was a dead ringer for Nicky circa 2002, read One Thousand Years of Solitude, and she even wore the same Uggs that Nicky sported.

The inflight TV system didn't work for the first hour. That sucked because the kid behind us screamed and yelled and kicked the seat in front of her, which belonged to the Nicky look-a-like. She started out with the patience of a Zen monk but the kid's outbursts tested her. I blasted My Morning Jacket my iPod and did my best to drown out the kid. Every few minutes, I felt the back of my chair move because the father had to get up out of his seat and retrieve something from the overhead bin. This went on constantly.

I read the new issue of the Economist which featured a few articles on the G20 summit at Bretton Woods. The last time the world powers met at Bretton (in the days following WWII), they created the IMF and the World Bank. Those institutions were essential in the decades after WWII, but now they have been part of the problem for their failure to forecast the huge risk of derivatives markets and credit default swaps.

At Bretton Woods II, I doubt that the G20 will have the necessary time to come up with a solution that will solve the world's financial ails. It's more like a summit of today's economic powers. They're really their to discuss China's currency and how the devaluing of their currency allowed them to become a manufacturing giant.

There were a few articles on the auto bailouts. Another bad idea. They can bounce back in a few years without the government's help if they can create cheaper cars to supply the emerging BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and not worry about making Hummers and SUVs for American douchebags.

Yes, no more bailouts. The bailouts are favors from sleazy politicians in Washington baling out their rich friends who helped get them elected in the first place. You don't actually think you and me help get Presidents and Senators elected, do you?

I was against the AIG bailout. The Wall Street bailouts. Especially the Citibank bailout. Let everyone take responsibility for themselves and let their examples be a warning to their competitors. Put their heads on stakes down on Wall Street. That will force everyone to get their collective shit together or they too will get flushed down the toilet.

Instead, the US government is throwing out life preservers to people who don't even know how to swim and shouldn't have been in the water in the first place. Now everyone who can't swim will jump overboard since Washington keeps tossing out life preservers. All those life jackets add up. Designed in Sweden. Made in Malaysia. Transported in Chinese ships. Thrown out to Ivy League schmucks. Who's paying for them?

I was also immersed in reading about the depravity in the Congo. Same old story of insatiability in central Africa. Blood thirsty rebels waging civil war against corrupt government fat cats who were propped up by Anglo-American and European business interests. The horrific results were anarchy, massacres, rape, and more child soldiers. But since black people in Africa were killing other black people - it's not newsworthy. But Sarah Palin and the dead turkey gets plenty of airplay. Which I thought was fuckin' hysterical.

Ah, sorry for the tangent on politics and world economics and to disrupt you with the depressing aspects of our world. Back to my flight from California to New York...

When the TV system finally got up and running, they gave us a complimentary flicks. I watched Stepbrothers... a stupid, dopey, retarded film with some hysterical parts where I laughed out loud, so much so that the people around me had to look to see what I was howling about. The acapella Sweet Child of Mine scene blew me away.

My JetBlue TV experiences are usually the same. WWII footage. Bourdain. Sports highlights. Yeah, I flipped back and forth between the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and ESPN. It felt good to see everyone on the different ESPN channels kiss the Jets ass after the Breet Favre led Gang Green knocked of the undefeated Titans on Sunday. As always, I avoided the alphabet news networks. Propaganda. Misinformation. Monkeys throwing shit at each other from both sides of the fence.

During the last hour or so, the kid behind us continuously got worse and worse. The chick next to me had been patient and calm for 80% of the flight until the kid kicked the back of her seat one too many times. She whirled around and barked, "That's enough! If you can't stop her from crying, then please stop her from kicking my seat!"

The mother did nothing except give her lip. The flight was full and she couldn't get another seat. She had to gut it out for one more hour. Lucky for me, the Monday Night Football game was finally on.

I picked New Orleans despite all the pundits blowing smoke up the asses of Green Bay. Sometimes, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that those guys on ESPN are told to slant their feelings towards one side (that case Green Bay) in order to get the amateur bettors and stuck gamblers to bet that way because the Vegas casinos have a lot of action going the other way and would like to balance it out a bit. At any rate, my gut told me that the Saints were going to win at home despite the injuries. My picks have been better than average, dare I say almost good? I had been near the front of the pack in Pauly's Pub for the last five or six games. After the Saints win, I ended up tied for first place. Sweet. Now, I hope I don't choke.

My flight landed ten minutes early to the brand new JetBlue terminal at JFK. I experienced it on my way out of New York a couple of weeks ago. I was happy to discover that a few food places were still open. The deli had a massive line and I didn't want to wait. I grabbed a pre-rolled chicken wrap and rushed out to the taxi line. As soon as I stepped outside, a wet snowflake hit me. A wintry mix. Some sleet with lots of rain. Awesome.

When I left LA, it was sunny and 68 degrees. When I arrived in NYC, it was cold, dark, wet and half the temperature. Now, all I have to do is survive Turkey Day and then I can breathe until Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stop that Train

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Just when I got into a routine, it's time to shake it all up again. I'm a creature that feeds off of my environment. If my surroundings are dark and down, well, I'll slip into the depths of hell. If it's sunny and cheerful, well then I quickly adapt and radiate the light. I have to be careful about what and where I allow myself to meander, and I often try to put me in a position where I can absorb positive energy and inspiration... since both are few and far between. But most of the time on my travels, I find a cool and hip spot and want to chill out there for a while, but then life intervenes and I have to bail.

Another flight. Another assignment. Another deadline. Another location. Another event to host. My time? Seems like it's always devoted to someone else.

Sometimes, my ideas get lost in the shuffle. Wandering through airports. Sifting through hundreds of emails. Deleting thousands of words that just don't seem right.

I often wonder when will be the day when I can sit in one spot for more than two or three weeks at a time (that won't be an extended stint in Las Vegas for the WSOP). I wanted to write three or four months in an orgy of creativity, but that's impossible. I'd love to get thirty days of unstructured and unfettered time. If I get three, I'm considered lucky. I proved to myself that one week of solitude would do wonders for honing my craft and healing my body and soul --- bruised and weathered from so many months and years on the road.

It's easy to reflect on a series of experiences when I'm in one stationary place and mellow headspace. When I'm constantly on the move, it just goes against my nature to dwell upon the past. I have to live in the moment and part of that is just simply survival mode since there are so many random encounters on the way.

Not to mention the wayward artist in me who has picked up a lot of bad habits that many of my colleagues in the poker media are notorious for... and by those bad habits, I don't mean cool shit like drug, sex, or gambling addictions. I mean, I already had all those and in someone I'm sure those negative traits of mine are rubbing off on those folks. Rather, I'm concerned that I acquired a slew of poor writing habits. Shortcuts. Overall laziness and apathy. It's rampant these days. Some kids just don't get paid enough to really care about their work and the the veterans are too jaded and simply embittered to give a rat's ass about the overall quality of their work. Sometimes I look back at some of my previous assignments and I cringe that I got paid to spew and spin that utter horseshit, while other times I'm simply amazed at how I managed to string together sentences and a paragraphs without a net and on such short notice.

I write less and less by hand these days. In my early 20s, I always had a notebook. Always. Of course, at the time, I did not own a computer let alone a lap top. I have boxes back home in NYC that are filled with old journals and notebooks. I wrote a ton of stream of consciousness back them. Some lines I plucked out of thin air and some of those are staggering in simplicity and complexity in the same breath. You can never be a budding artist again and I have warm memories of those moments when I scribbled together a poem about an old lady I saw on the subway or the daggers of pain you experience in the middle of losing someone's love or just riffing on the quirkiness of the big city. Someday, I'd love to string all that together in a book about my 20s living in Brooklyn on the fringe of society.

I say this a lot. "This would be a good book."

I already wrote four and a half novels. I started/stopped the Vegas book so many times now that I don't even know what the fuck I was trying to achieve. And let's not forget all those grandiose ideas that I'd love to turn into screenplays. Seems like I have plenty of ideas for new projects and plenty of unfinished ones. Yet, I never can find time to work on the old ones and instead I'm cluttering my plate with new assignments. I keep waffling back and forth between the now and the future. I need to make money in the now to secure my future, but spending too much time working for others tends to make me grumpy and my ability stagnates.

Of course, I have this conversation with myself and Nicky and my friends every few weeks. I infest my blog with these brain dropping at least once a month. I realized that I've been sending mixed messages, often confusing, to many of my clients. Am I in? Or am I out? That's a good question. They never doubt the quality of my work if I'm in. They know that I'm a dedicated writer. But although I often get to the point where I want to leave poker and as many hints that I drop to say that I'm going to leave... I never actually do so. Too many responsibilities. The pay is too good which makes me a whore. It's like my life is this huge runaway freight train and I can't stop it. The only way for me to change any sort of direction is to jump off when no one is looking. That way, no one can track me down and I can complete those projects that are most dear to me, yet seem to be the ones that I neglect the most.

It's mot enough to say that something is important to you, you have to prove it.

The last few days haven't been dedicated to writing, rather, I have been scanning my electronic notebooks - which includes Twitter, orphaned doc files, and other pages of my journal (in laptop format) that no one gets to see. I don't know what I'm searching for. Maybe, I'm just trying to pick out a trend or theme that seems to be bubbling to the surface but I have no idea it exists. Yeah, that was part of it. I finally recognized that one thing that had been egging me on for sometime. Now that I identified it, what will I do with it? Will I just brush it under the rug or will I make the necessary changes in the upcoming weeks to make it a life that fits into my vision instead of the convoluted vision that others around me (other includes society, family, friends, the poker industry, and my inner demons) have influenced?

Or maybe, I can keep the train roaring down the tracks and sneak off without anyone noticing and catch up with the train at a later destination? That would be a perfect solution in my dream world. But in my reality, there's simply too much. Football. Holidays. Family. Friends. Girlfriend. Gatherings. Deadlines. Tournaments. Blogs. Too many blogs. And not enough time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Home and Daylight

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I picked up Nicky at LAX late on Thursday night. I didn't mind. I like driving the empty streets of Los Angeles around the midnight hour, especially with the windows down and music cranking.

Nicky booked herself an odd return flight from Poland. She flew from Warsaw to Munich, Munich to San Francisco, and San Francisco to Los Angeles. Talk about one bitch of a journey just to get home. In her abscense, I had to fend for myself which meant that I had to cook every meal. I only cooked for myself the last two nights after I sorta got sick of eating out for dinner the first five nights. I was caught in a weird sleeping schedule and my feeding times were usually at 7 o'clock... AM and PM. Every twelve hours it was time to feed the monster. I was usually at Nick's coffeeshop the first thing in the morning for a greasy breakfast and then I'd retreat to the apartment and write all morning and afternoon before I took a break for dinner. I had a good cheesesteak one night and actually ate a salad the other night. I needed the greens to counterbalance all of the oxy that polluted my system. After dinner, I'd get ripped to to he tits wasted. Sometimes I dove back into the creative pool for a frenetic late night writing session from Midnight to sunrise. Other times I played online poker - sadly to some awful results. I've been in a bit of a losing streak over the last week. And when I wasn't writing or playing cards, I was slumped on the couch watching random movies.

I watched several random flicks such as A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints starring Robert Downey, Jr. Saints was a coming of age tale set in Queens in the 1980s and based on a memoir by Dito Montiel. Nicky told me that project came across her desk four years ago and she rejected it. It ended up being the darling of Sundance but made no money and has been in heavy rotation on the Sundance and IFC channels. Saints had some interesting scenes and shot on location in Astoria.

I have been reading "Home Before Daylight" written by Steve Parish a long time Grateful Dead roadie. He started working for the Dead in 1969 when he left New York at the age of 19 and migrated to the Bay Area. He ended up becoming one of Jerry Garcia's closest friends and spun a hilarious and behind the scenes look at the circus that accompanied the Grateful Dead. The book is particularly interesting because I'm fascinated as a Deadhead and someone who has essentially been on the road constantly for the last four plus years. I definitely related to several passages describing the loneliness of sitting in an anonymous hotel by yourself late at night along with the sheer exhaustion that accompanies road-weary souls.

Reading tons of stories about the Dead got me nostalgic for their music, particularly the stuff from the early 1970s. With the advances of the internet, the music of the Grateful Dead is widely available. It's amazing that I can find shows from a particular year within minutes. Fifteen years ago, heck ten years ago, it was a chore to find a copy of a specific show. You had to contact a lot of fellow Deadheads and sort their their bootleg collection to see if they had a match for you, then you'd have to work out a trade and hook them up with something they were looking for. The process was drawn out and took a lot of patience, but I'd got apeshit when that cassette arrived in the mail. New music was manna from the gods.

I listened to a ton of Phish, specifically the Roxy shows which wee released this week. I've been on Grace Potter and John Coltrane kick. The other night in a stupor, I blasted Blue Train on a loop. Not the entire album, just the title cut. Endlessly. Twenty? Thirty times? Too hard to count. It started around 1am and I slid into the depths of a narco-scribbling binge which didn't stop until sunrise and several thousand words later. I wonder if I pissed off the guys who lived upstairs?

I was raging solo for almost eight days. I only saw one person and it was Schecky. We met up for breakfast one morning in LA. I barely took any phone calls either. My goal was to retreat and withdraw and write. Overall, it was a productive week. Just wish I could get more of those in the future.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Radio FreePauly and Tao of Pokerati Episodes: The Hooker Bar Featuring Otis

Hollyweird, CA

I have been getting a slew of emails requesting the audio portions of the Hooker Bar hijinks. Ah, and Tela the hooker makes a cameo at the end of Episode 5.2.

Well, here you go...
WSOP Addenda: Tao of Hooker Bar (feat. Otis and Howard)

Episode 5.1: Boundless Nature, Las Vegas (6:05)
Episode 5.2: Hurricane of Hookers (7:25)
Episode 5.3: Cage-Savvy Coochie (3:05)

Description by Michalski: Your WSOP Experience is hardly complete without a drink or seven at the notorious Rio hooker bar ... and while I skipped out early on post-coronation festivities, Pauly stuck around to yuk it up with Otis and Howard (from, and England). Frightening observations of obese depravity lead to existential musings on the pathetic existence of all who domicile in Vegas (umm ...) and while the trio don’t talk with Peter Eastgate as he walks through the Rio casino eerily alone for a guy who just won $9 million, they do interview one of the working girls ... and before you know it they're negotiating a deal to shoot a tag-team porno, all of which eventually deteriorates into threats of a lawsuit.

Hey, that's just how things float early after sunrise on a Wednesday morning at the Rio.

* * * * *

And here's the last batch of November Nine episodes....

Book 4: WSOP Final Table

Episode 4.11: Deal or No Deal? (5:33)

Description by Michalski: When the security guys came out with the money in silvery aluminum briefcases — 9 million semi-real American dollars — a few of us in media row joked about telling the story that the guys left at the final table had decided to chop up the remaining prize pool and play for it Deal or Ne Deal style. (Ha ha, we are so damn funny.) But on this episode of Tao of Pokerati, Pauly and I take the issue a bit more seriously, and break down what’s really at stake for Ivan and Peter — who became friends recently playing on the EPT on PokerStars' dime — beyond just the $3.34 million in prize differential between 1st and 2nd.

Episode 4.12: Dealer or No Dealer? (3:31)

Description by Michalski: Pauly and I discuss what goes into becoming a WSOP final-final table dealer, his crazy series of prop bets with Otis, Lou the Dealer's up-close observations about the heads-up action (both were nervous, and Peter Eastgate kept messing up his bets in early hands), and the Linda Tran vs. Jena Phillips controversy, both of us unaware that Lou (my pick) would end up winning the side-action on who deals the final hand a few hours later.

Episode 4.13: Web Player Down! (3:31)

Description by Michalski: You can' tell from the groovin' tunes in the background, but Pauly y yo are in the PT Theater as the heads-up battle is just one hand from completion — and I'm suffering from severe WSOP separation anxiety tech tilt as Pokerati goes offline at a fairly critical time, presumably at the hands of loyal Tao of Pokerati listeners. (Bastards.) From there we speculate on the future of the WSOP's relationship with Milwaukee's Best Light, particularly in light of a pretty major biz merger we missed during the start of the regular WSOP.

Episode 4.14: That's a Wrap (3:49)

Description by Michalski: The 2008 WSOP has come to an end, and with crews tearing down the set... Pauly and I give our after-the-fact analysis of heads-up play and The November Nine Experiment.

You can always visit the Tao of Pokerati archives to listen to older episodes.

* * * * *

Ah, and in case you missed my token appearance on Lou Krieger's radio show Keep Flopping Aces, you can download the episode from 11/13/08 here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Did I Keep Thinking It Was Wednesday?

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had to write TUES on my hand. I kept forgetting what day it was. I've been binging, mostly on the written word. And since I'm raging solo, I'm on my own internal clock where in my universe days are 30 hours long and I sleep for three hours every 27 hours or so.

I woke up at dawn on Tuesday and wrote for a couple of hours. I drove to O'Groats at 7:30am for breakfast. I had been going to Nick's every morning and wanted to switch things up. Traffic was light at that time of the day aside from a couple of SUVs dropping off their snooty kids at private schools up and down Pico.

The pancakes at O'Groats are heavenly and their iced tea is strong. I couldn't finish the home fries. I sat at the counter and read Home Before Daylight which written by a Grateful Dead roadie. Steve Parish was also the manager of Jerry Garcia Band. He chronicled his life on the road with the Dead for several decades.

Reading those stories about the Grateful Dead made me miss Jerry Garcia. When I was in Budapest, I finished Garcia: A Signpost to New Space by Charles Reich & Jann Wenner. They interviewed Jerry at his house (when he lived with Mountain Girl) and he shared some wild stories about the acid tests back in the mid 60s before it was illegal.

Man, I missed following the Dead and the excitement of getting dropped off in the lot and having only $20 and a bag of ditch weed on me and that was it. Not even a ticket and my goal was to score a dose, shrooms, and/or a ticket within an hour and still have some money left over for a grilled cheese.

After breakfast, I drove home and went for a walk. For the first time in days, the air was smoke-free. The fires subsided and I'm still in a bit of disbelief that it's summer-like weather in SoCal.

My goal for Tuesday was to unplug and hunker down on Truckin'. I pieced together the next issue and wrote two new stories. Yeah, fiction. It didn't feel like work, ya know? It was fun and satisfying to write about a topic other than poker. December is the pseudo-Christmas issue and will include a couple of Christmas-themed stories. However, the first story I wrote did not fit in with the holiday theme. I had a peculiar incident happen to me the other day and I wrote about it.

Here's the teaser...
I have this odd fear that I'm going to get shanked by a gangbanger with a spork or mugged by one of the homeless people who lived behind the dumpster and feasted on half-eaten Jumbo Jacks and pieces of raggedly yellow leafs that they passed off as lettuce....
A couple of hours after I wrote that story, I realized that I really should have something Christmasy in there. Last year I penned something about a dead junkie musician and this year I wanted to write something more cheery. The result was a sad tale with funny moments centering around a 80-something year old great-grand mother who interrupts Christmas dinner and announces t everyone that it's going to be her last Christmas since she's dying.

Here's the teaser...
I adore the way you look. But your mother disapproves. It's that black shoe polish you have on your lips. When I was your age, the only people who dressed like that were whores who stood on corners down in the Mission.
I wrote the first draft of my column for Bluff and then devoted a couple of hours to a different project. In all, I scribbled in excess of 10,000 words on Tuesday. It was a productive day and I lost time for a while. I forgot to play in a private poker tournament with one of my favorite British writers Tony Holden. I signed up but never showed up. I was in the zone and it wasn't until I took a piss break when I realized the time and what happened.

After a productive day, it was time to relax and go on a mini-bender. I got sloshed and watched North Carolina whoop on Kentucky. I missed college hoops.

I bought the latest live Phish release. Eight CDs. Three complete shows from 1993 in Atlanta. And yes, I went to all of them when I was in college. With a sprained ankle. I busted it during an intramural hoops game against the meathead fraternity next door to us. Anyway, it's been 15 years since that three night run, hard to grasp that concept sometimes. Man, I did a ton of acid at those shows. I could hear my buddy Bob scream out at one point.

The Roxy shows are great writing music and I stayed up all night listening to them from start to finish. I even sat through Bouncin. OK, I did wandered off to take a piss then, but it still played nonetheless.

What stood out the most was Page's playing especially to a cover of Loving Cup which kicked off the three show run. Page was the anchor and glue back then that held Phis together. I missed how the boys used to bust out the for bullhorn for Fee.

Moby Dick > Bowie made me smile because I went bonkers when I initially heard the Zeppelin intro to Bowie 15 years ago. I was in a heavy Zeppelin phase back then. And how could you not lose your shit on a head full of acid when Fishman wanders out to the front of the stage for a vacuum solo? Seriously, that Bowie was jam packed with lots of gems... Simpsons language, plenty of Moby Dick and Manteca teases, even a quick happy birthday to Fishman.

The vocal jam at the end of YEM freaked me out. At one point I thought I heard cats meowing. Page's parents were also at the show and Page dedicated Lawn Boy to them. Jimmy Herring (back when he was the the ARU) elevated the gang during his sit in for Funky Bitch. And of course, Fishman was back with a vac solo during Love You.

Ah, enough Phish talk. Time to read a bit then get back to the grind.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I'm kinda in a funk. I'm having trouble finding some work as a writer. Never thought that day would come, but alas, that's my reality. The economy is poor and my rates are too high. Even after I discounted my blood work, I'm still struggling to plug holes into my schedule. I was told by one client, "I'd love to have you, but I can pay three people the amount that I have to pay you."

Flattered and stunned.

I'm struggling to find a middle ground to figure out a happy medium where I'm compensated an amount that I'm worth but at the same time adjust to the lack of available money floating around there.

Anyway, as I try to sort that stuff out, I have dug in deep and really pushed myself to write better. Since I'm not getting paid to write the next few weeks, I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to hone my craft and work on personal projects. As my buddy Johnny Walker said, "I really love it when you have down time from running around all over the world covering poker, this is when, in my opinion, I read your best material."

Well put, Johnny. This weekend was a breakthrough for me and I penned a couple of high quality pieces over at Tao of Poker.
Emissaries from the Land of Indulgence

Peel back the layers and expose Las Vegas for what it is; a playground for the filthy rich amidst a cesspool of hopelessly addicted souls representing the decay of modern society. Just when I thought I knew a town like the back of my hand, I got shamefully slapped upside the head by a dose of poignant reality.

I spent the last four summers in Las Vegas. The first year it felt like a journey to Fantasy Island. The second year was as joyous as a sojourn to summer camp. The third year was a brutal prison sentence and the fourth was a pivotal self-imposed exile.

The bean counters used to say that gambling towns are impervious to recessions because at the core root, humans will resort to drastic measures during desperate times. Gambling your last $500 on black seems like a more logical choice than jeopardizing your money in risky situations like signing away your pension money to the shysters on Wall Street, who have about as much credibility these days as a drunken used car salesman. Credit default swaps turned our most prestigious financial institutions into blathering crack whores.

I caught a glimpse of the economic crunch on the streets of Las Vegas. Construction projects halted. Rusted steel beams shot out of concrete blocks on unfinished architectural superstructures. The vertical ghost towns cluttered the Las Vegas skyline. The illumination of Sin City, once glorious and majestic as the morning light at the dawn of the new day, has been dulled by a morass of financial gloom, so much so that even the languorous hookers were bitching. Shit, everyone was bitching. Cocktail waitresses. Poker dealers. Cab drivers. Valets. And even the crackling snaps of pamphlets from the porn slappers seem a little sullen these days.

... More

* * * * *

Existentialist Conversations with Hookers: Maelstrom at the Hooker Bar

We were outnumbered 3 to 1 by a spirogyra of working girls. Otis, Howard, and myself sat at one end of the bar when no less than nine of them had taken up refuge at the other end. Sounds like the beginning to a crude joke... Otis, a British journalist, and Pauly sat in the Hooker Bar... Alas, it was just another day in the life.

As the Nevada sun slowly crept over the mountains, we were lost in a supernatural time warp with a distorted concept of time and space. We sat in the darkness of the Rio wanting to be left alone. We sipped moderately chilled beers and shared stories about our exotic travels (Otis in Costa Rica, Howard in Barcelona, and my drunken escapades in Budapest) while several classic rock tunes cranked out on the sound system. In the blink of an eye, they appeared. First one, then two, and a couple of more. We only had a few minutes before they pounced on us. After all, we were the only marks left standing at that time of the morning.

The prostitution industry felt the full force of the credit crunch and quality tricks were few and far between. It's a numbers game. Less conventioneers meant less potential clients. The hookers at the Rio were a combination of famished vultures and parched vampires ready to pick apart any carcass. Any john. Any drunk. Anybody in their path. They were evil personified and depending on who you talked to, they were the absolutely best/worst thing about Las Vegas.

We were their imminent prey and in the vernacular of Otis, we were illequipped.

We had a hurricane a brewing on the western front. The torrential downpour and relentless winds sprang up as soon as they spotted the trio of us. After all, we were drinking at the bar named for them. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. We had to endure the tantalizing menagerie for a couple of hours. Luckily, we all lived to tell about it. No one got rolled. No one got a rash. But there might be a hooker's rotting corpse stuffed in a utility closest somewhere in the Rio.

... More

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cosmo and Sal

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The ring of fire encircled the city of Angels. I can smell the thick smoke with the door shut and the windows closed. Sometimes when I step outside, it makes me choke when I catch a whiff of a bad batch mixed with smog. My eyes water because the smoke is everywhere. The folks at the coffeeshop said that parts of the freeway were closed in the OC. Fires raged all over LA County, the OC, Riverside and up in Santa Barbara. I have plenty of water but my pharmies and herb supply is running low.

I'm waiting for the looters to show up. I'm armed with a putter and a switchblade that Flipchip gave me for Christmas last year. Perhaps I should gas the car up ASAP, just in case I need to flee?

The fires made the sky radiate odd colors just before sunset. Shades of pink and orange hues speckled the sky. The always ominous Nakatomi Plaza located a few blocks away was absent from the skyline and lost somewhere behind a morass of smoke.

Ryan sent out a tweet... "Can barely see the Hollywood sign for the smoke. This is unusual, here, even on the smoggiest days."

So this is what the Armageddon will look like? And smell like? Something out of the Wasteland by T.S. Elliot. Then again, nothing was more horrific than the stench of death in lower Manhattan in the weeks after 9.11.

Otis told me he was learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone. The commercials are on all the time. I checked their website and that shit is pricey. It will be cheaper to hire a Mexican maid for $20/hour and have her teach me Spanish. I go to Mexico in two weeks. If I hire a maid to come by everyday the apartment will be spotless and I'll learn to count to 100 and learn the proper vernacular on how to score some good generic painkillers from the local pharmacias.

I watched a weird Australian comedy show on HBO. I got sucked in mainly because I was too lazy to grab the remote from off of the floor when it fell off the coffee table. They used the word "bogan" frequently in the show. That's the local Aussie slang for redneck.

One of my freelance writing clients is actually an Australian based company. I took three trips there in the last two years for various work assignments and several of my colleagues were Aussies. One afternoon on a slow day of work, we were engaged in a cultural exchange of idioms and slang. I wanted to know what they called white trash or rednecks. I showed them photos of traditional good old Southern rednecks. As soon as they glimpsed at the photos, they said, "Bogans!"

Bogans in Australia consume shitty beer, drive pick ups, listen to country music, and knock up their cousins just like their American counterparts. But they bogans also love AC/DC. Angus Young is their god.

You've been thundersruck.

Going into the Sunday night football game, I was 12-1-1 in my picks this week and gunning for the top spot in Pauly's Pub. A near perfect week with the exception of a rare tie and an upset that everyone in the pool missed. I had one of those difficult moments as I watched the Dallas/Washington game on Sunday night. Conflicted. I picked Washington to win and if they won, I'd be tied for first place in my pool. However, Tony Romo was the starting QB for Uncle Jodd's Band in the Lamont Jordan Fantasy Football League... and his first start since he broke his pinky after trying to shove it up Jessica Simpson's snatch. Senor and I lost two straight weeks and slipped to 5-5. We desperately need a win in order to have a shot at making it as a wild card team in the playoffs. First place pays something like $3,000 in our pool so every game, every play, and every yard counts.

The best possible outcome would be a shootout with Washington winning 42-35 and Tony Romo tossing 3 TDs with 350 yards. Alas, the results were bittersweet. Dallas won 14-10 and Romo threw for 200 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. We're up by 27 points and our opponent has Marshawn Lynch left to play on Monday Night Football. Lynch has not scored more than 25 fantasy points in a game all season which means he'll score 28 and we'll lose. So Uncle Jodd has a shot at making the playoffs, but I had a minor setback in Pauly's Pub.

I watched Entourage and was surprised that it was the next to last show of the season. It seemed like it started only a few weeks ago. Can't believe we got to know Turtle's real name... sort of like Cosmo Kramer.

I watched a weird documentary on the BBC about legalization of marijuana in the UK. It was a snoozer and I barely watched five minutes of it before I switched over to Almost Famous instead.

Never make friends with the rockstars.

Reminds me of what I have to do for a living. I always did my best to remain at arms length away from poker pros. I have befriended a few over the years but our friendship susually evolved away from the poker scene. For the most part I need to maintain a healthy distance in order for me to objectively write about everything without bias.

I intended on taking the day off from writing. I actually didn't work on anything new. I managed to dust off an old project. I had several different themes and side stories running through a larger body of work. I wanted to see what it would look like if I removed one particular secondary story line and spliced it together from beginning to end (well, the end meaning where I stopped working on it). The secondary story line was was sprinkled throughout the manuscript and weaved itself in and out and around the main story.

I decided to shake things up and flip things. I made the backstory become the main story. Anyway, the newer version started out at 13,000 words. I cut 1,500 words and added 2,000. It needs a ton of work but I'm digging the new spin. Wonder if it will get inspired to work on it. Ah, if I only had four months in a row to write...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On and Off

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Thursday afternoon, I dug in deep and unleashed the inner monster. Might have been the most satisfying writing binge that I had in months. Maybe longer. I really can't recall the last time that I wrote with such speed, ease, edge and with such intensity. I had a lot to say, so much so that most of the regurgitation will never been seen by anyone but me. I cranked out several thousand words somewhere near 10,000 in total. and then when I was done, I deleted them all.

I can't explain it, other than this way... it's like slaving away in the kitchen for several hours and cooking up a four course meal then plating all the food and after a couple of glimpses, you throw all the food out. Not one morsel to be tasted by anyone.

The process is the most important thing to me right now. I had to get used to the grueling process of writing lengthy pieces. The process of connecting all those thoughts into sentences. After a couple of hours of an intense writing workout, I deleted at least 80% of my work. I saved 15% for vanity reasons and I'll end up publishing 5% of the output in some form or another on the interwebs.

I was also mentally drained. So much so that I had to take Friday off and zone out in front of the TV.

I'm at a critical point in my career where there are obstacles and pitfalls around every corner. And the only way I'm going to improve is to keep pushing myself and challenging myself. Too often I get caught up in "earning a paycheck" mode than actually coddling my craft. It's not enough that I want to improve, I actually have to set aside the time and then dedicate myself to taking the necessary measures to evolve and hone and make an artistic breakthrough.

I welcomed the opportunity to have a week to myself because it is exciting and invigorating to set my own schedule and live on my terms. At the same time it's a daunting and haunting moment because I know that it's time for me to hunker down every morning and crank out the jams. The pressure is immense due to time constraints. In a perfect world, I would have unfettered and unstructured time to create, but there are things like unwanted responsibilities and impending holidays and looming deadlines and impatient high maintenance friends that are standing in my path.

Perhaps I'm stubborn and want to succeed by having it both ways... but deep down I'm afraid that I know the real answer and I really won't be able to fully ascend to the next level without withdrawing from the mainstream. Most of the time, I'm utterly confused and don't know what to do. It's simply easier to maintain the status quo than aggressively apply necessary changes to your life.

I fell into the zone on Thursday, so much so that I forgot to eat dinner. Words mattered more than food. Music blasted. Coltrane. Phish. The Joker's De La Soul mix. Friedman's musical debut. Dead in Egypt. Miles. My iPod worked overtime.

I woke up groggy and faded on Friday. I had one of those slacker days that I often longed for the last couple of years. I did my best to stay on the couch with the remote and bong within close reach. There were tons of stuff on TiVo that I had to catch up on the latest episodes of Entourage and Heroes. I also got sucked into a few flicks such as Wonderland and a gem titled Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. I never heard of that flick before and it pleasantly surprised me. I only started watching it because Philip Seymour Hoffman starred in it. I was sort of turned off by the prospects of watching anything with Ethan Hawke in it but the supporting cast was so deep and strong that I overlooked him. Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei were both in the flick about two brothers in dire financial straights who botch up a robbery attempt.

I also watched an anti-war documentary directed by Phil Donahue called Body of War. There has been an influx of ill-timed anti-Iraq flicks but this documentary about a ex-soldier turned anti-war activist is a poignant tale. Definitely worth looking into.

I also watched a bunch of basketball on Friday including catching the Lakers first loss of the year to the Detroit Pistons. I also finally won my first ever NBA contest on Fantasy Sports Live. I have been so busy that it felt satisfying to play fantasy basketball and then actually watch the games that featured some of my players.

I woke up early on Saturday. There was an odd odor lingering. I wandered over to Nick's Coffeeshop. I sat at the counter and instead of reading Marty Beckerman's book, I was focused on the TV. LA was surrounded by a ring of fire due to the gusty Santa Ana winds. That lingering odor? The smoke from the fires. Some of the smoke wafted over the Hollywood hills and that's all anyone could talk about at the diner.

I'm in my own world. There could be a fire six blocks away, but I wouldn't even know it because it was time for me to jump back into writing. I was sober and ready for another intense workout. I decided that my week would be best used by alternating days designated for writing binges. Thursday on. Friday off. Saturday on. Sunday off. Monday on. Tuesday off. Wednesday on. Thursday off.

Saturday was an on day and within a few hours, I had cranked out over 10,000 words. To put that in perspective, NaNoWriMo novels are 50,000 in length. In a mere two days, I would have completed 40% of that project. One piece that I wrote for Tao of Poker clocked in at almost 6,000 words which I cut down in half. Sometimes I'm amazed at what I can accomplish when I don't have a small window of time to write... which is usually the case 50 weeks out of the year.

Just because I put the time in, doesn't mean that it's good. It's still not optimum, but I'm inching closer and closer. The sad part is that I know all of this ends in a few days because Nicky comes home and then I have to fly back to NYC for Turkey Day. Family functions always tilt me and then I have a short work assignment in Mexico followed up by a multi-day Las Vegas bender. Before I know it, it's Christmas and New Years. I only have a handful of days between now and then where I might have some free time to write but more than likely, I have to use those days to catch up on work or email or the websites or securing future assignments. I'm caught up in an endless cycle that keeps me busy but prevents me from actually taking the time to improve as a writer. Alas, that's the quagmire of my life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

hollyweird > las vegas > hollyweird

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had one of those super quick trips to Las Vegas. In and out for work. No bullshit. No one got hurt.

In some regards,the Vegas sojourn reminded me of a typical work assignment where I have to cover a smaller poker tournament. It really didn't feel like am extension of a hellacious bitch of a seven-week assignment that I fondly refer to as the World Series of Poker. For those readers who don't follow the poker thing, the final table of the WSOP championship was delayed 117 days in order to create buzz for a made-for-TV event. Ah, welcome to the world of sports entertainment. I had to return several months later for the conclusion.

Lucky for me, Nicky was hired to cover the even for the official coverage team which included a free room at the Rio. I crashed in the room, which are really small suites. During the last four summers, I never stayed in the Rio. Plenty of friends did, but I avoided staying on the property to preserve my sanity.

On the first night in town, we met up with Otis for a steak dinner and caught up on life. Afterwards, we had a couple of drinks with other friends including Michalski and Jen. And even Dr. Chako made a token appearance. The former military doctor is enjoying the private sector. Since we had to get up at 7am for work, we called it an early night. I dunno if I ever did that before in Las Vegas.

I ordered in room service. It's usually taboo in my world since I travel so much and know how ridiculous the prices can be. Room service is a sure way to bleed money while on the road. But we ordered in out of convenience. It saved us an extra 30 minutes or so which we could use towards sleep. Actually, I didn't get much sleep. I was out by 1am and wide awake by 4am.

I wandered downstairs to pick up my media badge and spotted one hooker sitting alone at the hooker bar. Poker tournament usually start around noon and sometimes later especially in Europe. Final tables usually kick off around 4pm. This one was slated for 10am... on a Sunday. Right smack in the middle of football. I missed an exciting Jets game and had to follow along via Derek's text messages.

I was inside the Penn & Teller theatre around 9am and didn't leave until past 1am. I was up for almost 24 hours finishing up some work.

I was scheduled to work at 10pm on Monday night and tried my best to sleep in late. Nicky and I played a little poker that day and met up with Otis for Mexican food.

I got out of work around 3:30am on Tuesday morning. I headed right for the Hooker Bar for cocktails. One turned into many and I have a sad/hysterical/haunting tale about what happens at the Hooker Bat at 7am in the middle of an economic credit crunch. Hookers were swarming and we even got one of the working girls to make a cameo on a Tao of Pokerati podcast. Stay tuned for a full report that I'm still in the process of writing.

I crashed at 8:30am or so and we slept in until Tuesday afternoon. We finally got up and the sun was going down. We grabbed dinner and watched the final table on ESPN. Afterwards, we headed to the Gold Coast for Pai Gow, drinks, and bowling with Otis, Matt, and Michalski. Nice mellow way to end my last night in Vegas. If I'm gonna lose money, I'd rather lose it to friends prop betting on bowling.

While I was in Vegas, I secured my next gig... an assignment in Mexico on the Latin American Poker Tour. Poker News hired me as a reporter and as a photographer. I'm working solo and wearing two hats instead of being a part of a bigger coverage team. Otis hired Nicky for PokerStars for the same event. They will be working together. So Nicky and I get a free trip to Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Although we will be working, we will find time to get into hijinks with Otis. The quick trip to Mexico will be the weekend after Turkey Day and the weekend before I go to Vegas to hang out with my friends for Gracie and Pablo's wedding. And yes, there will be a Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot sighting that weekend.

On Wednesday morning, we checked out of the Rio and met Flipchip and Poker Prof for lunch at the Blueberry Hill diner. Schecky originally took me there for breakfast during the summer. I dug it because Vegas really doesn't have old school diners with aging waitresses and good tunes. Nicky and I ate there a lot this summer with Mean Gene. And I was dying to go back because of their chocolate cake.

The drive from Vegas to LA went quick. I was a bit hung over, we listened to a ton of Phish, and Nicky drove the entire way. Usually we stop half-way and switch drivers. We were making such great time that we didn't stop once and drove straight through. That might have been a bad idea because we both had to piss once we hit downtown LA and got stuck in the last bits of rush hour traffic. I was tempted to whip out my penis and piss out the window on I-10.

Nicky and I arrived in our neighborhood and I was never so happy to see the slums of Beverly Hills. After I pissed for like five straight minutes, we headed out to a nice dinner.... Indian food. It would be Nicky's last decent meal in a while. She was scheduled to fly to Poland the very next day. She was going to Warsaw for a work assignment and I was staying behind in Hollyweird to write and catch up on work. I would have her car and the entire apartment to myself for one week.

I wonder what sort of hijinks I could get into?

Friday, November 14, 2008

The End of Wall Street

By Pauly
Hollywerid, CA

Several of my friends have been talking about an article penned by Michael Lewis called The End of Wall Street. Lewis is one of my favorite writers and the author of Liar's Poker which chronicled his days as a bond trader in the 1980s. He's back to give you an in depth look at the end game. Thanks to a few folks who pointed out the piece including Kid Dynamite.

His first sentence is eerie, mainly because I felt the same way, except that I was 23-years old and not 24...
To this day, the willingness of a Wall Street investment bank to pay me hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense investment advice to grownups remains a mystery to me. I was 24 years old, with no experience of, or particular interest in, guessing which stocks and bonds would rise and which would fall. The essential function of Wall Street is to allocate capital—to decide who should get it and who should not. Believe me when I tell you that I hadn’t the first clue...

...the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people’s money, would be expelled from finance.
The article is long but a must-read.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Radio Free Pauly on Lou Krieger's Radio Show

Hollyweird, CA

I'll be making a rare radio appearance tonight on Lou Krieger's weekly show called Keep Flopping Aces. We're going to talk about the November Nine and perhaps my adventures in Budapest and London.

Head over to Rounders Radio to listen in at 9pm ET or 6pm PT.

There is a call in number... 810-496-3428... if you are dying to ask a question.

And if you miss tonight's program... don't worry. You can always download it as a podcast in a couple of days.

Helpful links.... Keep Flopping Aces archives and Rounders Radio.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Couple of Work Pics

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

My biggest regret when I head out to Las Vegas for work, especially for the World Series of Poker, is that I focus all of my attention on the Tao of Poker and making deadlines for freelance clients that the content suffers on my other sites particularly... Tao of Pauly. It's an extremely frustrating thing that I must endure and weather.

Anyway, Michalski took some photos the last few days. I want to share two with you.

Working in media row with Otis, Jen, and Fipchip

With Lou the Dealer

A couple of us had been betting on which poker dealer would deal the final and winning hand of the WSOP broadcast on ESPN. There were three or four selected for the final table including Lou (pictured above). Michalksi actually picked Lou and his friend Linda. I had the other two dealers. I lost.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Kid Won $9 Million

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Peter Eastgate from Denmark won the 2008 WSOP and $9 million for first place. He's 22-years old and dropped out of college to play poker professionally. The WSOP was his first tournament that he ever played in Las Vegas.

Peter Eastgate - 2008 WSOP Champion
Photo courtesy of Flipchip

If you want to read more? Visit the Tao of Poker.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tao of Pokerati - The November Nine Edition

By Pauly
Las Vegas. NV

I'm in Las Vegas on assignment covering the 2008 WSOP final table. Michalski and I taped several episodes of our half-baked poker podcast otherwise known as Tao of Pokerati.

All of the descriptions were penned by Michalski. So, here you go....
Book 4: WSOP Final Table

Episode 4.1: WSOPenn & Teller (2:04)
Pauly and I are back ... watching the biggest sit-n-go in the history of poker, very live-ish from the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio. As fans were filing in, chips were being unbagged, and 4 months of semi-hyped anticipation was getting underway, we are nice guys looking to share our observations with you.

Episode 4.2: Root, Root, Root for the Short Stack (3:17)
As action gets underway, Pauly and I check out the crowds and the difference in expectation between Dennis Phillips' and Kelly Kims' fans before debating the name of the whole shebang — November Nine, bleh — while paying homage to Robin Leach and noting that the PBR Rodeo, which is also in town, is going nuts over the chance for a cowboy to win $1 million. Puhlease.

Episode 4.3: Double Up! Double Up! (1:20)
I'm having some trouble with properly title-ing this stuff ... but follow along, as "Book 4" is definitely the event going on here at the Penn and Teller Theater that we are discussing. This time, Pauly and I witness a double-up by Kelly Kim, much to his fans delight, who are suddenly fueled with new hope for a better poker day.

Episode 4.4: Bustin' Outs (2:43)
The action picks up, with Craig Marquis and Kelly Kim busting out ... Kim had some of the best fans, and for Marquis, it's all sickness ... sick to go out when he did, sick to go out how he did, and as a result, he goes home with nada, or at least nada mas. Kim, on the other hand, has an extra $300k ... and we can only assume his friends and fans are out celebrating that achievement.

Episode 4.5: Boo Berry (4:18)
Last Woman Standing Tiffany Michelle shows up and gets an unwarm reception from the crowd, perhaps inspiring her to play up her "bad girl" image? Oooh.

Episode 4.6: Poker Rogue (1:05)
I go rogue to bring you the bustout of David "Chino" Rheem — supposedly the most serious pro at the table, but also the guy with the most serious criminal record. Dude knows how to play hardball, though, as we’ve all seen him on ESPN get hella lucky to get here, and the (unconfirmed) word buzzing around the room is that he was a contract holdout with PokerStars, reportedly threatening not to wear his gear without more money attached to it. To be sure, much of this is just rumor second-hand from quasi-reliable sources, but on Tao of Pokerati — especially without Pauly to keep me in check and Benjo to keep it funny — does that really matter?

Episode 4.7: Pokerstarzistan (2:04)
At dinner break, Dr. Pauly and I discuss Chino Rheem's bustout interview and its political inspiration, along with PokerStars' domination over Full Tilt. (Four Stars players left, one Full Tilter.) In fact, there’s even a rumor we start discuss about PokerStars' intentions to start its own country — which would be theoretically feasible, and would probably have the best prisons.

Episode 4.8: Livin' on a Prayer (4:57)
Upon reaching the Final Four, Pauly coins Dennis Phillips as "Mr. F-in' Rollercoaster", and from there we look at the strategy in play, make assessments of the time (and playing styles) it will take to get to the final two, and officially declare victory for PokerStars.

Episode 4.9: The Novembrists (5:31)
Ylon Schwartz check-raises with nothing into the nuts of Peter Eastgate, and Pauly and I begin the countdown and begin speculating on what two Eurokids (and maybe even Dennis Phillips) will mean for poker/PokerStars... and where poker is in Europe these days. But are Russians dead money or just scary? Maybe a little bit of both? Plus advanced blogging strategy by Dr. Pauly.

Episode 4.10: Ivan Moneymaker (3:29)
Either that or Peter Hellmuth. As we wind down the day yesterday and look forward to tonight’s action, that’s what’s at stake — either we'll have a new youngest main event champion ever, or the Ruskies will have a new national hero. Meanwhile, Dan gets his facts wrong, but does Pauly even care when he can’t see the final f-in table.
To listen to old episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

* * * * *

The conclusion of the final table of the 2008 WSOP will begin at 10pm local time on Monday night (or at 1am ET).

Head over to Tao of Poker for live updates from the Rio in Las Vegas.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The WSOP Final Table

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I'm in Las Vegas for work covering the final table of the 2008 WSOP. You can follow the action over at Tao of Poker where I'll be live blogging the final table.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
New York City

I had another one of those quick stops in New York City. I arrived at the dreadful Delta terminal JFK airport on Monday night and knew that I'd be back at the same airport within 48 hours which included $150 in cab rides to and fro the Bronx. All those taxis add up over a year... heck, over the last four years. At least it's a legit business expense.

The routine is the same. Empty my bags. Do laundry. Check the weather where I'm going on Repack my bags according to the season and locale. Southern California was warm and sunny and I ditched whatever heavy clothes I took with me to Hungary.

I sifted through a small pile of mail, nothing like I have gotten in the past, but snail mail nonetheless. I sorted through the junk mail and all those free offers for credit cards or organizations trying to get me to give them money. Ah, and those cheeky alumni magazines from high school and college. They look sleek with high glossy pages, but I know better. I only read the happenings of my particular graduating year. Guess what? More people that I never spoke to breeding and bragging about their jobs. The gems among the rough? I discovered a couple of paychecks and several magazines that I wrote for.

I made a list of things to do. Things I forgot to do. And things I wish I had more time to do. I like lists. I like crossing off items on my list more. Gives me a tiny semblance of accomplishment.

I charged up all of my electrical equipment. iPod. Phones. Bose headphones. It's on my checklist of things to do and necessary. I also had to switch back to my old laptop that busted when I was in London. I brought the British one to Budapest because I wasn't 100% percent confident in the repair job on the old one. Since it was a work assignment, I couldn't take the risk. I'm bringing the old one to the left coast with me. Now I have two functioning laptops back in NYC... my powerbook and the British one and I have the old one on the left coast. Let's see how it handles Hollyweird and Las Vegas.

I backedup tons of files from the new one and transferred newer files over to the old one. I fucked up that process and left a few things on the British one that I sorta need like pics and videos of the infamous apple bets. Alas, I'll have to wait until Turkey Day to access those files and upload those hysterical videos.

I also think I fucked up a Pauly's Pub update email which is sitting in my inbox on the other machine. Oh, well. I had to resend that on Friday.

I spent my short time in NYC catching up on work, running errands, enjoying local foods, and hanging out with my brother. The Greek Diner reopened when I was away. I ate a breakfast sandwich there two days in a row. The necessary fuel I needed for my morning writing sessions.

The trip to the airport went fast. I had the Big Pussy lookalike drive me to JFK. He wanted to know how I was doing betting on the NFL this year. I told him that I don't bet on sports anymore and he laughed at me. He mentioned that's a good thing, but won't last.

"It's in our nature to gamble," he explained somewhere on the Van Wyck Expressway.

He dropped me off at the brand spanking new JetBlue terminal which used to be part of the TWA complex. Holy shit. I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the new terminal. JFK in itself is massive. Each of the nine or so terminals are bigger than many airports at major cities all over the world. In a way, it's like nine smaller airports rolled into one. JetBlue's T5 is the newest and most modern airport terminal that I have seen in a very long time. They needed it. Desperately. JetBlue originally had a smaller terminal and couldn't keep up with the expansion.

The lighting is sharp and the new terminal is spacious. Plenty of kiosks to check in. More room. The baggage drop is interesting. You stand in a line, get a tag from a staff, then walk behind them and drop the bag on the belt yourself.

Security lines were always a clusterfuck at JFK, especially early in the morning and during holidays. The new lines moved faster. What sometimes takes 30-40 minutes to check my bag and pass the security checkpoint only took 10 minutes in total.

I roamed around the terminal and checked out all the new stores and shops and spaces. The food court has a couple of new eating options including a pomme frites joint and a philly cheesesteak place. I opted for the Boar's Head sandwich shop. Always a tasty and wise choice.

There are a couple of high end stores which I'll never shop in, but it looks nice. There's free wifi in the new terminal and many more seats per gate. I played a little online poker while I waited for my flight to Burbank. The board said it would take 6 hours and 40 minutes to fly from New York to Burbank. I know that's a bogus number. I've flown the the left coast numerous amount of times to know that real number is under 6 hours. These days the airlines incorporate the tarmac congestion into the flight times. I was flying out at 6pm. That's peak time at JFK for international flights leaving NYC. I feared that we'd be sitting in line for a lengthy amount of time waiting to take off.

That's when I popped a sliver of oxy. I was out of Xannies and went for the next available narcotic. By the time we boarded, I was a puddle. Mush. That was good because the delay didn't bother me as much and flights to Southern California always have a bunch of LA douchebags and self-absorbed vanityfreaks who have no clue how to wipe their ass by themselves let alone board an aircraft. Lost in a sea of schmucks, I welcomed the warm fuzzy feeling...

My personal TV set did not get ten or so channels out of the 36+. I could have complained, but didnot. Those broken channels included the alphabet news networks which was fine with me. The hype on the day after Obama's victory would have irritated me to no end. As is, I watched the Travel Channel, the Food Network (I still want to do deviant sexual things to Rachel Ray while she cooks up a batch of cookies), and VH1 Classics which ran a documentary on The Doors. Yes, Jim Morrison is te Lizard King and he managed to convey a few pearls of wisdom on writing.

I also watched an NBA double-header as I drifted into my own little world. Sadly, no Knicks games. And don't get me started on the whole Stephon Marbury debacle. He's been a cancer ever since he left Minnesota in the late 1990s.

I never really slept but I'd nod out for a few minutes at a time. The old lady next to me did not speak English. She wanted a glass of wine and it cost $5. JetBlue only takes credit cards. She didn't have one. The fight attendant was sort of giving her a hard time. She wasn't really being a bitch, but she wasn't super friendly and accommodating like they are supposed to mainly since it was a full flight and the old lady was slowing down the drink service. I stepped in and offered up my Amex gold card. I solve problems with pieces of plastic. The old lady handed me the $5. I should have charged her $7.

My pilot made up some time in the air and we arrived at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at least 30 minutes early. I beat Nicky to the Valley. I know she loathes driving over the hills and into the Valley, but that's where Burbank airport is located. It's actually closer than heading down to Long Beach, and I hate flying into LAX's domestic terminals.

My bag was the 27th to pop out. It appeared faster than I anticipated. When I returned from Budapest, my bag was one of the last to pop out as I waited forever. The baggage claim at Burbank is outdoors and I noticed that the weather was a little brisk.

I checked my voicemail and my attorney from Las Vegas called. I hired him to fix a ticket. When I got into a car accident in June, I got a citation for a moving violation and had to appear in court. I thought it was bullshit since a fire engine running a red light was the source of the accident. Lucky for me, the lawyer got the court date pushed back and then got the overall violation reduced to a parking ticket. My total cost? $90 instead of several hundred more and points on my license. Thanks again to Marissa for the recommendation.

I wandered outside and it was around 9:30pm. Nicky pulled up to the curve shortly afterwards and she wore a sweater. It wasn't that cold in general terms, but super cold for LA people. Pussies.

We drove back into LA over the Hollywood hills and passed the Hollywood Bowl. I saw the marquee. It read "Astral Weeks by Van Morrison." I had forgotten than Van was doing two shows this weekend where he plays the entire Astral Week album. We wouldn't be able to go since we'd be in Vegas.

I had not been in LA since late August. I had some mail to sort through and more importantly I had to check out my birthday present. Nicky redecorated the spare room which is my office. I finally have a desk (although I still prefer writing at the living room table in the mornings with the window open and the California sunshine peeking through the palm trees in the alley) and a comfy chair. I had seen pictures and even a video of my new office, but it was the first time I got to sit there and experience it. It was a remarkable gift and I hoped to put it to good use.

When I got home, I was pretty faded still. That stuff I took was strong and it kept me down for almost a full day. Time released buzz. Nothing quite like it.

We passed out sort of early and I was up by 4am. I did some work and then crawled back into bed. I woke up an hour or so later and finished up the latest issue of Truckin'. I also wrote the first draft of a Bluff column about my Budapest adventures. Nicky and I headed to Nick's coffeeshop. I had not feasted there in months and missed their iced tea and their breakfast sandwiches. It wasn't until I took the first bite when I realized that I was officially back in Hollyweird.

I spent the remainder of the day waiting to sober up. I watched a couple of things on TiVo like the last couple episodes of Weeds. Nicky and I headed to the Grove and saw a flick.... Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. I dug some of the soundtrack and the actress who played Nora has a huge rack. The flick was fast which was fine. Sometimes I pass out in movie theatres during films that last two hours or more.

We headed to Whole Foods to pick up dinner. I found a slice of chocolate cake in the ice cream section that was pretty tasty. Nicky whipped up blackened chicken. I came up with the idea of the side dish... pesto potatoes. Yeah, it was delicious.

On Friday, I finished up a couple of assignments. I researched a bunch of content for the WSOP final table which takes place this Sunday. I completed a couple of other assignments in my new office.

Nicky and I headed to O'Groats for breakfast. Delicious. The owner calls me by my first name, which is slightly amusing but also very soothing. There's something to be said about not visiting a frequent eatery for 10 weeks and then showing up one day and the owner still remembering your name.

The only time I usually see movies is when I'm in LA with Nicky. I have a dozen or so that I want to see and we were catching up. We headed to the Landmark to see the newest Charlie Kaufman flick. It was his directorial debut in Synecdoche, New York. I ot lost about halfway through and ended up confused and disappointed. My buddy Ryan (who reviews films for a living) mentioned that he loved it and I'm going to have to make him watch with me again so I understand the complicated parts. I really enjoyed the first half of the flick and Philip Seymour Hoffman shines as always in his performance based on the tortured innards of Charlie Kaufman.

After the flick, I went home to pack. On the road again. This time, we're driving to Las Vegas for a couple of days. I have some unfinished business to attend to. Head over to Tao of Poker if you have no idea what I'm talking about....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Special: Just a Flick I Want to See

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

ere's the skinny from ....
Michael Rapaport thinks he can fly, even when he’s landed face first on the floor. But at least he has a sunnier outlook on life. In new indie flick Special, Rapaport plays Les Franken, a meter maid whose unremarkable life gets a much-needed dose of excitement when he enrolls in a trial for an experimental antidepressant. A dark comedy about pharmaceuticals, Special may be the perfect antidote to Hollywood's superhero mania.

The drug Les takes soon has him feeling groovy, but it’s not the increase serotonin levels. It makes him think he’s gained superpowers, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he hasn't.

In his mind, Les begins developing powers of levitation, mind reading, and walking through walls. And, like so many comic book fans, Les decides that these new powers morally obligate him to don a parka and fight crime. His superhero antics quickly come to the attention of the drug company, who, fearing unwanted publicity, send their agents to keep him in check. Of course, Les' drug-addled brain interprets these "Suits" as his new nemeses, bent on using him to create an army of evil supermen.

Writer-directors Hal Halberman and Jeremy Passmore began showing Special on the festival circuit in 2006, and it will be opening in limited theaters on November 21.
Truckin' - November 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 11

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

And we're back with a new issue of your favorite literary blogzine. This one features two new writers and a couple of veteran scribes. Check it out...

November 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 11

1. Jupiter Four by Paul McGuire
Cal never had a chance. After one season of winter ball in the Dominican Republic, he walked away from baseball. He was miserable down there. His Spanish was bad. He caught a nasty parasite and his girlfriend constantly begged him to come home.... More

2. A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Conviviality by May B. Yesno
The voice crackles and chatters. The sum and substance of the call is an invite to play with resistors and transistors and bread boards, hot solder and imagination. One of the customers wanted company. His wife was off chasing her particular dreams of sustenance some six hundred miles away across two mountain ranges... More

3. Luna Moth by Betty After Dark
Then you flipped me. On my back. Crawling on top of me. Hovering over me, you pushed my arms above my head. I imagined you had tied me up. You fumbled. We giggled... More

4. The Green Chip by Jonathan Bennetts
In just over twelve months Alex had hit rock bottom and it seemed like he had been there forever. He plummeted headlong into being a hopeless drunk who'd lost everything; his sole reason for living now was to raise five bucks daily for his quart of Orillia Tiger Ruby Red Port wine... More

5. Pizza and the Party by Matt Moon
tried talking and joking with Brittany but she was giving one-or-two-word responses. She was not digging me. She'd rather stare out the backseat window than associate with me. That was very unfortunate. I was really hammered and she had some cute aspects to her. I kept trying to progress the conversation but failed miserably every single time.... More

I can never thank the writers enough for writing for free and exposing their guts, blood, and soul to the universe. Their art and dedication inspires me and I hope it inspires you too. Tell your friends about your favorite stories. The writers definitely appreciate your support. And if you are interested in writing for Truckin', visit the website and check out the submission guidelines.