Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sleep Deprivation & Fucksticks

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Think about how much you sleep each night. Six hours? Seven? Eight?

I get that much sleep per week during the summers when I cover the WSOP.

I forgot how tired I get at this time of year and that I spend most of my mornings shuffling around like a zombie.

Oh yeah, I found out some fuckstick has been ripping passing off my work as his own. Same shit, different year. No sleep. Content thieves. C'est la vie.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Podcasts from Las Vegas: Four Tao of Pokerati Episodes

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Here's four episodes of the shortest podcast in the poker world featuring yours truly and Michalski...

The other night, Michalski and I headed down to South Point and recorded a couple of episodes during a heated heads-up bowling match. You probably saw the video already.

On the first day of the WSOP, we also took some time out to chat about the early happenings of another summer in Las Vegas.
Tao of Pokerati at the 2009 WSOP

Episode 11.1: How We Roll (2:42)

Episode 11.2: Questionable Tactics (2:57)

Episode 11.3: High School Musical (2:50)

Episode 11.4: Getting Pissy (3:19)
To listen to older episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Last Few Days

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I can already feel the pressure to post here every day while I'm in Las Vegas and not having enough time to do so. I might have to amend my "ten minutes a day" rule and reduce that number to "five minutes a day" because it actually takes twenty to thirty minutes to write, publish, edit, and pimp.

Anyway.... when we last left off...

On Monday night, as Nicky and I returned home from Jen's surprise birthday party, we rode the elevator with a guy on our floor and a lady of the night that he picked up. Our condo is already known as Stripper Central, and that was the first run in with a local and a working girl.

On Tuesday, I woke up to the news about Prop 8 in California. Little perturbed by the ruling. A gay friend of mine flew to California last year in order to get married and the good thing is that his marriage will still stand. However, no more new unions for gays in California. What the fuck? As one poker pro stated (and I was a little surprised at his passion for politics), that ruling was a clear violation of church and state since the Mormons in Utah were the power brokers behind funding the campaign against gay marriage. Why Mormons in another state would care about what citizens in another state did with their lives is beyond me. Yet, that's what happened.

Fear the buying power of the Mormons. They just purchased God's so-called will. Horseshit.

Anyway, on Tuesday afternoon, Nicky had a staff luncheon with her company and I got to tag along since it was all-you-can-eat BBQ at Lucille's at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson. Last year, Poker News held their meeting there as well, except there was twice as many people at that feast. They definitely have a reduced staff which is indicative of the times. The poker media has been contracting over the last 12-18 months which reflected both the economy, the anti-gaming legislation, and the ever-waning hipness factor of poker.

The food was delicious as per usual and I got to see some old friends and colleagues who I only see in the summers. In 2007, I had a shitty assignment, but luckily worked with some kids/interns who really saved my ass a couple of times during that brutal assignment for Poker News. Both guys (Dave and Drew) are back with them this summer which is cool because they were top notch reporters. Drew was the goalie for UNLV's hockey team and as we all know, goalies are tough as nails but a little weird. Both traits suited me fine and we got along very well. And Dave, he was my right-hand man. I couldn't have done anything without his loyalty and work ethic. I'd go into battle any day with both guys on my side. The media side of the poker industry is infested with a majority of shitheads, wanna-be poker players, scensters, slackers, and other reporters who couldn't hack it in the real world. However, it was refreshing to meet and work with two guys who really cared about their production. I guess that's why they are still in the industry.

Anyway, on Tuesday night, Michalski and I had a small get together of friends. We went beer bowling at South Point for two reasons... it was close to our condo at Stripper Central. And two, the bar is super cheap. AlCantHang approved.

About a dozen of us gathered and drank in the bar and we picked up two lanes right in front of the bar. Awesome locale and we could bowl and head to the bar with relative ease. Michalski and I had several bets. See the video below for some of the action. I smoked him in both games and it wasn't even close. I also had a side bet with Tom Bostic which I thought I was a sure loser because he posted the highest score in the first game.

Anyway, it was a fun evening and something I desperately wanted since I knew once the WSOP began that those fun times are few and far between. Work always took a priority and as much as I always wanted to stay out until the wee hours drinking and gambling, I always opted to go home early and write until sunrise. Beer bowling doesn't pay the bills, but churning out half-baked assertions of the poker world somehow manages to keep me flush with cash.

Tao of Poker is still a gold mine and I gotta keep digging until all the gold runs outs.

On Wednesday morning, I drove to South Point for breakfast. Nicky went to work out at the gym in our condo. There's always strippers in there and I encouraged her to befriend our neighbors who worked on the pole. Anyway, while she was on the treadmill in between two strippers, I sat at the counter in the cafe at South Point. They have amazing breakfast specials from Midnight to 6am which for as low as $2.95. Since I was there during normal hours of operation, I ate something called the South Point special. It was essentially a bowl of grease.... the bottom layer was home fries or some sort of potato base with onions and green peppers that was lathered in melted cheese and bacon bits sprinkled over the top. And then three eggs any style were tossed over everything. Wow. Talk about a heart attack in waiting. I barely ate 55% of my bowl and vowed to never eat that again. Too much grease.

I headed down to the Rio for the first time this year. It's short of mixed emotions walking into the convention center for the first time. This is my fifth WSOP and some of the best and worst moments of my life since 2005 happened in the Amazon Ballroom at the Rio. It's where I amassed a fortune and carved out a name for myself as a writer. However, it's also a black hole for sanity and the location of some of the most abhorrent actions that you will ever witness.

Walking down the hallways felt like I was wandering through the hallways of high school. Plenty of nostalgia and mixed emotions. Everything that I missed became all warm and fuzzy inside while everything I loathed jumped out and smacked me in the face. Alas, this is what I chose to do in life. It's a massive war and I'm nothing more than a war profiteer and taking advantage of the chaos. Disaster capitalism at its finest.

I picked up my badge and it was good to see old friends. I hung out for a little bit and collected enough notes for an article. Benjo stopped by and wanted to go to Red Rock Canyon. It's my favorite place in Las Vegas and I go as much as possible in order to relax, center myself and touch the rocks. I honestly believe that I write better after I touch the rocks.

Photo by Benjo

We made a quick hike and I took some pictures. I dropped Nicky back off at the Rio for a meeting while I met the Poker Prof and Flipchip for dinner. We went to an old school diner out of the way that I loved. It's away from the Strip and a hidden gem. Schecky told me about the place last summer and it became a favorite eatery of Nicky and myself. We frequently went there with Mean Gene during dinner breaks.

For dinner, I ate a half-pound cheeseburger served on a French roll. It was one elongated rectangular patty that fit on the bread. Oh, and the bread was actually garlic bread with a patty on top. The burger was lathered in cheese with diced onions. I removed the offensive lettuce and tomatoes. It was so big that I barely touched my fries. After the greasy breakfast and the massive burger, I was stuffed. I need to jog three miles to work off all the grease. I might join Nicky downstairs at the gym along with all of the other strippers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And It Begins....

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

The WSOP kicked off yesterday at the Rio Casino in lovely Las Vegas. I wrote my first recap over at Tao of Poker called No Respect.

And in a couple of hours, the live blogging updates will begin. Wake the kids. Tell the neighbors. And bookmark the Tao of Poker.

And yes, I will be using Twitter frequently this summer to accompany the Tao of Poker's coverage. Click here to follow me on Twitter.
Beer Bowling (aka Easy Money)

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Beer bowling with Michalski is an extremely profitable adventure. It's like stealing money. I haven't make easy money that since my old Wall Street days when complete strangers blindly gave me their life savings to invest in various Ponzi schemes.

On Tuesday night, we bowled a couple of games at South Point and it wasn't even close in the prop betting realm. In all fairness, Michalski was on lame-Facebook-tilt but he was no match for my mediocre bowling prowess.

Here's some of the action...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The First Las Vegas Photo Dump of the Summer

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

It's not quite the WSOP, yet. During the last few days, I got together with friends from all over who I have not seen in a while. We Drank. Ate. Gambled. Usually stuff for Las Vegas.

More pics? Click here to view my gallery via Flickr.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

$140 tip

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

The strippers are around and about my condo. They walk their dogs at odd hours. They tan themselves by the pools in the afternoon. The even work out in the massive 24-hour gym. Sometimes, you gotta love Las Vegas.

On Sunday afternoon, after we settled into the condo, Nicky took a nap in order to get back on Vegas Time. In LA, we were on a routine that most "morning people" followed. We were both up by 7am and Nicky was in the gym by 10am and sometimes earlier. I have been staying up to about 3am anyway and waking up around 7am. I know that once the WSOP starts, I'll be crashing around 5 or 6am and getting up at 9am.

We went out on Sunday night and met up with some folks around 10:30pm. AlCanthang had arrived in town a few hours earlier and although I wanted to rest up and relax, I had to see my good buddy. However, with AlCantHang, you know that there's no such thing as one drink. It's a commitment to fuckedupness. I accepted that mission. With AlCantHang in town all summer... it's gonna be a long summer and no shortage of binge drinking.

Garry mentioned that he was going to buying drinks for some of his crew at a place called the Yard House. It's sort of a chain brewery with tons of beers and located in the Town Centre area, which reminded me a lot like The Grove in LA minus the LA douchebags. Lots of high-end stores, a movie theatre, and places to eat and drink. Essentially, a yuppified mall minus the hordes of tourists.

AlCantHang grabbed a cab to the Yard House and it was a five minute drive from our condo. We met up with Eric (one of Nicky's Poker News colleagues) and Felipe (along with two of his friends from Portugal). We settled in at the far end of the bar. The Yard House was packed with locals. That's what is great about some of these bars off the Strip.... it has very few tourists and mostly locals drinking after a long day on the job.

I bought a round or two, but for the rest of the night, I drank free on either Garry or Al's tab. I did my best to stay away from SoCo. But at some point, I finally surrendered to the flow. Two lesbians sat down next to Al and he tried to set Garry up with one of them. Unfortuantely, they didn't like cock, so Al's attempt at playing cupid fizzled out. He did managed to WOW the cute bartender after he left a generous $140 tip on a $64 tab.

It's gonna be a long summer.

So yeah, I got a little sloppy at the Yard House mixing Carlsbergs and SoCo. I wasn't knock down drunk, but I had a strong buzz. Later that night back at the condo, I passed out after a few bingers. I guess that I was tired. I woke up a few hours later, still in my clothes, but somehow in bed, yet over the covers. The AC vent was located right above me and shot out batches and batches of cold air.

Yes, I woke up with a cold and I also woke up with a minor hangover. Both got progressively worse over the morning. And we had nothing to eat in the apartment. Just water. Nicky finally woke up and drove to Whole Foods so we can stock up. She's been on a sincere health kick the last few months and we've been trying to cook our own food as much as possible. Having a Whole Foods less than five minutes from the condo is clutch. The hard part is finding the time to cook meals during a crazy WSOP schedule.

After Whole Foods, we had to find batteries. Specifically, the gate opener for our condo had a bunk battery. I found a replacement at Fry's, a massive electronic store with millions of items constructed in China for mere pennies. I can spend hours inside that store and have over the last few years. In fact, the last time I was there, I saw Las Vegas cops hauling away a shoplifter. Anyway, Nicky had to pick up a wireless router. We have free internet in the apartment, but it's attached to a hard line. Once she set up the router, we had much better access. Wifi really is clutch and allows me to write on the terrace and on the shitter.

I spent the rest of Memorial Day afternoon, drifting in and out of sleep on the couch. I watched some of the Land of the Lost marathon and kept an eye on the Yankees score as I slowly nursed my health.

Nicky and I went to a surprise birthday for Friedman's wife, Jen. It was a nice gathering of some of their friends at an Italian restaurant. The food was better than average and the endless picthers of Sangria were tasty. Jen was pleasantly surprised with the evening, which was great since Friedman put a lot of thought and effort into the evening.

On a side note, I noticed that there's a fine line between a surprise party and an intervention. The difference is that at a surprise party, they don't tell you how much of a junkie you really are.

Monday, May 25, 2009

hollyweird > las vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

For a fifth straight summer, I packed up my bags and headed to the middle of the Nevada desert. Las Vegas. During the first summer sojourn, I stayed at the now infamous Redneck Riviera in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip. Writing about those fringe experiences would eventually thrust the Tao of Poker into the cosmos. The Lost Vegas book contains several elongated and expanded scenes from the Redneck Riviera. I was happy to never go back.

The second year, I shacked up with Grubby in Henderson where we lived in a condo in a gated community nestled in the foothills of swanky Anthem Hills. My only complaint was the traffic getting to work. And one night, I almost fell asleep at the wheel because I had been up for 24+ hours covering a tournament.

The third year, Nicky and I drove through bat country and moved into a place we called Del Bocca Vista. It was in a gated community close to the Rio. At the height of the housing market, we sorta got a bad deal on the place only because I went through a corporate housing company and their commission was pretty steep. The entire process was easy though and we took the first apartment we saw. And the condo was less than five minutes from the Rio. However, the bed was built for hobbits and there was a human smuggling ring going on in one of the adjacent apartments.

Last summer, we lived in the posh Summerlin suburb and stayed at Scheckytown which included a pool and hot tub. We had roommates that included pro Kristy Gazes (who later moved out) and of course Schecky and Jen Leo. At the time, Jen Leo was several months pregnant which meant lots and lots of random food stuffs. I had never lived with a pregnant woman before (unless you count my mother when she was carrying my brother around in her womb, but that was in 1975 and details are fuzzy regarding 1995 let alone 1975). Anyway, Schecky had a Wii and Nicky went nuts in an attempt to perfect Guiatr Hero, while I settled in and played Tiger Woods golf.

This summer? Nicky's company put her up in a place modeled after New York City. Our one bed room apartment is almost as big as our two bedroom place in the slums of Beverly Hills. There's a 24-hour gym on the premises and I can see it right now as I write this on our balcony. Mean Gene lived in the same complex last summer and said that there were lots of strippers around. He wasn't joking. When we moved in Garry told us that all the strippers walk their little yapping dogs at 10:30am. It's 9:32am as we speak, and I've seen a couple of pole dancers letting their purse poodles shit on the front grass.

At this point, I try to travel as light as possible because I know that if there's anything I need, I can buy it in Las Vegas. Last summer, I took the usual items which come with me on the road with me in addition to my Swedish pillow, a printer and an indoor putting green. I barely used the putting green and used the printer only a handful of times. This year, the putting green stayed in LA and the printer made the cut along with my coveted Swedish pillow.

I had a very small load while Nicky packed several bags in addition to kitchen supplies. She intended to cook more this summer and packed a ton of spices and kitchenware and even the George Foreman grill.

And yes, her "shoe bag" is bigger than my largest bag. Such is life. It weighed 200 pounds. We needed to hired a Mexican-immigrant-day worker from Home Depot to carry the bag on his back like a Sherpa traversing the Himalayas.

We're Las Vegas veterans at this point and didn't stress too much about the summer move. Instead, we relied upon experience and lists. Yes, a well thought out list is the key to not forgetting anything in addition to organizing exactly what you need. We didn't start to really begin to pack until 12 or so hours before we intended to leave. We essentially packed everything before we went to bed and then woke up, loaded up the car, checked our lists and hit the road.

Last summer, I forgot a couple of things. In December, I forgot an entire garment bag of clothes. This time? I didn't forget anything.

Ah, of course, we stopped off at Nick's coffee shop before we left. My last meal in LA always has to be at Nick's and they played the Beatles on the radio. Sunday Breakfast with the Beatles.

Slight flashback... on Saturday afternoon I had a minor accident. In the dead time between the Yankees come from behind win over the Phillies (courtesy of a bottom of the ninth home run by A-Roid to tie the game) and before the Lakers-Nugs game started, I managed to discloate my pinky finger... by grazing an empty cardboard box. Talk about a freak accident. The sucker popped off the hinge. It looked like this photo from the last time I dislocated my pinky.

And yes, it hurts like hell.

Without any insurance, I had to perform a self-procedure. I couldn't get a good grip after a stressful five minutes. I asked Nicky for her help. She was very freaked out at the site of the mangled finger. I showed her the two bones and how one needed to be pulled back into place. She grabbed and pulled to no avail. She couldn't get a good grip so she gave up. I took a deep breath and snapped the finger back into place. Yes, it hurt like a son of a bitch, but once it was back in place, I was elated as a wave of euphoria came over me because I don't have health insurance. A trip to the ER was out of the question. I had no choice but to fix it myself, which I did. Fuck the system. The system is in place to keep you alive along enough to bankrupt you.

The last time my finger was dislocated in the US (circa 2002), I had to go to the ER which cost me over $3,000. I could only imagine the cost to be double today. And yes, the last time this happened to me in October of 2007 (see the pic I linked up above), I was in Sydney, Australia. My friend Nigel took me to the ER in his neighborhood. Although the nurse said they would charge me $100 AUD, they never bothered to send me the bill. Nigel was enraged that they would even dare charging me since health care is free in Australia. I told him how $100 (in Aussie bucks which was like $90 USD at the time) is such a bargain compared to what I'd have to pay in the US... even if I had insurance!

Anyway, since I knew my hand was gonna hurt all afternoon, Nicky said that it was acceptable for me to take a pain killer. I had a legitimate reason. I had been clean for over a month and it took me at least two weeks to kick all the physical symptoms of opiate withdrawal. I knew that my tolerance was lower so I made sure I packed what I could and did any major work before I took the half of a painkiller.

And yeah, I was faded most of the night and thankfully packed (with lists in hand) before the pharmies kicked in. My tolerance was much lower and I got shitfaced. When I woke up on Sunday morning in a pharmie phase, the finger was still black and blue. I can only write with nine fingers.

Nick's car was packed and we successfully left L.A. in record time. The freeways were empty for Sunday morning. Even with a gas up and a second piss stop, we still made excellent time... a shade over 4 hours. And luckily, our condo is South of the Strip which meant we were a few minutes closer.

Garry checked us into the new condo. Haley, one of my editors (along with Nicky's as well) lives in the apartment above us. Smoke rises which means she's gonna get a contact high at some point this summer.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lobster Face

By Pauly
Hollywerid, CA

The last bits of fun in the sun and beach relaxation therapy have come to a close. The Memorial Day weekend is upon us and the last place we want to be is stuck with masses who are flocking to the various beaches in Southern California as we speak to bask in the sun during this three-day weekend.

Summer is officially here, but before all the hoopla began, Nicky and I visited Malibu four times in the last five days. A secluded Malibu. The best kind of Malibu. We welcomed and took advantage of the quiet before the storm. Over the last week, Zuma Beach became our morning destination and we worked out along the beach before we rested on the sand where I finished up the last bits of brain nourishment.

Even a couple of douchebag hipster surfers showed up. With their boards attached to the roof, they drove a golf cart into the parking lot and parked next to us. Yes, the signs of impending summer were all around. There was lifeguard training classes running on the beach. The sheriff's department were in the middle of exercises involving ATVs. And the spam planes were back. On Friday, Nicky and I saw the first batch of planes dragging banners behind them. They flew up and down Zuma in circles and hawked iced tea and advertisements for the new Terminator flick. I ignored the sky spam and buried myself into a book.

Alas, the book binge is also coming to a close as I rush to finish three books simultaneously before we move to Las Vegas. Two of those are re-reads and one I've been skimming one heavily since it's a monster of a book. The other re-read is supper slim and the choice of words is so eloquent and rich and that's why he's one of the best novelists in the 20th century. I'm being vague on both titles for my own personal reasons. I'm keeping those secret because I firmly believe that those reads will "tip my hand" and my strategy for the upcoming WSOP. Then again, maybe I don't even draw upon those themes at all. Who knows. The bottom line is that I wanted to be prepared to write about something just in case the first week is super boring and there's nothing going on.

The last couple of months included one of the most epic reading binges in the last five years. I had more time to read and made a conscious effort to block out and set aside two times a day to read. Amazing how much free times magically appears when you spend less time watching TV and less time dicking around on the internet.

The books that I read fell into several categories...
1. Re-reading classics.
2. Recommendations from friends.
3. Current (global) events
4. Business-themed
5. General interest
Of course, all of those books served a secondary purpose... sort of a required reading for what I'm trying to achieve this summer as I embark on multiple adventures to cover both the WSOP and Phish's summer tour. It's almost like fighting a two-front war, which as history indicates, very few nation-states were successful in achieve supreme victory on both sides. That's why I needed all the help I can get both physically (friends and hired guns to help me out and yes, I realized that the Tao of Poker All Stars is sort of like me outsourcing my WSOP coverage to Blackwater special ops) and mentally (reading all those books on different subjects) to prep me for an all-out war this summer.

I'm ready from the written side of things. Working on Lost Vegas since January (heck, over the last four years) made me a better self-editor and the results have been amazing. I usually write the first draft in my head and the second draft comes out when I unleash the words through my fingertips. Very seldom do I go in for a third draft and sometimes things are a little hectic and sloppy. If the energy is there, then that matters the most. But technically speaking, there are some flaws in even the best drafts. Over the last few weeks, I recognized my biggest flaws. Some were evident and others were shocking (and humbling) to discover. On a good note, now that I have more self-awareness in my writing, I have been actively taking steps to eliminate those deficiencies in my scribblings. I have Nicky to thank a lot for that during our tedious line-by-line read through of Lost Vegas.

I also guess that's why the last ten chapters of the book contained the least amount of edits. By that point in writing the book, I knew what to trim before I even wrote it. In the end, that saved both time and energy. I trimmed almost an entire NaNo book from the original draft to the current draft. People go nuts over writing 50,000 words inside of 30 days. I spliced that off and rejected a similar amount of words in a matter of days. It took years to write but just a second to hit delete.

I guess what I'm saying is that the book did not make me a better writer, but it made me a much better editor, which in the long run will make me a better writer.

And reading helps. If you want to be a top chef, you have to eat food prepared from the best chefs in addition to sampling different dishes from a variety of influences. If you want to become a better writer, you have to read. And I'm not talking about the garbage out there on blogs. Real literature. The big boys and girls. That's why I have been jumping back and forth between fiction and non-fiction and switching from business marketing to international politics to social sciences to economic theory to military strategy to rock-n-roll and music criticism. I have been devouring words from some of the best scribes in their individual fields.

The best part? With the exception of one or two books, I enjoyed every single book that I wrote. And that's why I keep wanting to keep reading. OK, I was a tad disappointed with Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis. It's a collection of essays and articles about the major financial crashes since the 1987 stock market crash. It was not as in depth on the current situation as I had hoped. His contributions were spot-on and were some of my favorite pieces in the book. Then again, the book wasn't billed as something of that sort... more of a primer and a thorough recap of the previous situations which created panic and instability in our financial markets.

Ryan recommended a book called Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization by John Robb. He's a former air force intelligent officer and heads up the Global Guerrillas blog. You hear a lot of partisan and religious chatter about the various wars on terror and other skirmishes in the world, and Robb gives a different perspective on things specifically how technology has enabled smaller groups to effectively wage war on larger and better equipped adversaries.

And then sandwiched in between, I read the book about my favorite burger joint...
In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. Which means that I wake up every morning craving In & Out burger!

And yes, I had it twice this week. Once when Nicky lost a bet to me and the other on the way back from Zuma. I have to give Nicky tremendous credit about her discipline to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. She went through the drive through and did not order anything as much as I knew she was dying to bite into a juicy burger drenched in cheese and grilled onions. Yeah, my special order is a 3x3 with grilled onions and spread... no lettuce or tomatoes. I'm considering getting a 4x or maybe 4 patties with just 3 pieces of cheese. That would make it a 4x3. Or a 3x4? I have no idea since it's off the menu and have never ordered it before.

Oh, and I've been brewing my own iced tea using extra mason jars that we acquired over the last couple of months. The first batch was Green tea with mint flavoring. It was a success and then I tried Earl Grey since we had an entire box that was never used. That ended up being the best of the bunch. I also used distilled water. The entire point of brewing your own iced tea is to create a cheap and healthy beverage. Sure the bottled water increases the expenses incurred to make the tea, but it's worth it. The tea tastes better when brewed with bottled water than the local tap water. Shit, I might brew up another batch as soon as I hit publish.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Twitter on The Poker Beat

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Thursday afternoon, I made an in-studio appearance as a guest on The Poker Beat over at Poker Road Radio, co-hosted by Scott Huff and John 'Schecky' Caldwell and featuring journalists in the poker industry. If you have never listened to the Poker Beat, it's Poker Road's version of ESPN's The Sports Reporters.

This week's discussions included Twitter and poker along with the upcoming WSOP.

Click here to listen/download to the Poker Beat on Poker Road Radio.

I had a ton of fun with this episode. Thanks again to Scott & Schecky for having me on.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Down by the Beach

By Pauly
Hollywerid, CA

Since Sunday, Nicky and I drove up to Malibu three times. Yeah, we were beach bums three times in the last four days with Zuma Beach as our intended destination. That location makes me happy and is one of my favorite places in California. I have been waiting for months for this time of the year, which gives me a chance to relax and recharge and get ready for an all out mental brawl and physically demanding assignment. And the best part? The beach has been empty in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend.

The first trip to Zuma on Sunday featured blah weather, not so great for basking in the sun, but perfect for working out. The weather improved on Monday, but conditions were far from ideal. We skipped Zuma on Tuesday because Nicky had a doctor's appointment and I had to finish up an assignment. We headed back to the beach on Wednesday and the weather was fantastic and the best it had been all week.

We developed a routine where we worked out along the beach and jog up and down before we settled in on the beach and did next to nothing. We always seem to attract a lot of sketchy folks up in Zuma. Lots of freaks hang out in Malibu. One old guy wore just shorts and a headband. He carried around two small dumb bells and ran in place and did exercise in front of our parked car. That lasted like two hours.

I also caught one guy jerking off in the bathroom. I was taking a leak in the new flush-less urinal when I heard groaning. I thought someone was taking a shit, but he was standing up and clearly whacking his pud. I never got a look at the person. I pissed as fast as I could and left. I told Nicky that I think I caught a masturbator and she thought that was gross. I noticed that a large group of high school kids were laying out on the beach near the bathroom. I suspected that the guy was a horny high school kid who couldn't handle seeing all of his female classmates in bikinis, or the guy was a pedophile getting off on young people wearing very little clothing.

Anyway... the beach is one of my favorite places to read. I like to read, soak up the words, and gaze out to sea to let them sink in... the words, the messages, the themes, the stories, the images. Everything.

After the last few months, my brain is in deep reading and editing mode. Still haven't picked up Lost Vegas, but I edited ten upcoming Truckin' stories including two contributions from yours truly about a pickle factory worker in Norway and a gaggle of speed freaks down under. The other eight contributions were top notch and I'm feeling very confident in the next few issues.

My other blogs languish during the previous four summers. I always make a promise to write more, but in the end, Tao of Poker and other freelance assignments take priority since that's what pays the bills. I don't feel warm and fuzzy about neglecting my other sites, but it's sort of been the case than Tao of Pauly, Truckin', and Coventry are regularly maintained ten months out of the year.

I really hoped to change that philosophy starting last year. Coventry was held together by my friends' contributions anchored by the Joker's leadership. My friends also helped me out with Truckin' and sent me stories in advance so I had more time to work on them. Alas, Tao of Pauly still suffered. I simply don't have enough time and energy.

I attempted to write more on Tao of Pauly in the last few months in order to make up for the time I'd be away over the summer. With the WSOP and Phish tour to keep me occupied from June through August, most if not all of those stories will be published off of this site. Who knows, maybe I'll maintain that "ten minute" principle and post here every day, or do a lot of cross-posting.

The ebbs and flows of blogging. Sometimes I wished I had just one monster site.

I finished Shock Doctrine and sections of the book about disaster capitalism were eye-opening. I'm currently re-reading an old classic that I first read when I was in 8th grade. Actually, I'm in the middle of two classics... one very short and the other lengthy. I've been skimming one while devouring the other. I know that once the WSOP begins, I won't have the chance to pick up a book, unless I need something to read during my morning shit.

I had a bet with Nicky on Tuesday night. The Lakers were playing the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. I was rooting for the Nuggets and even wore a Nuggets t-shirt that the Joker bought for me. Nicky was confident that her hometown Lakers would win that she bet me... with the point spread. The Nugs were getting six points and that was a lock because I thought that the Nugs had a chance to win outright, let alone getting six points. We settled on a fair wager. The Nugs blew the lead and lost, but the Lakers failed to cover, so I won the bet... which was a trip to In-N-Out Burger once the game ended. Nicky had to drive me to get a double-double and it was delicious.

Yes, that's the second time I ate at In-N-Out this week. We also had a second earthquake that I barely felt. We had two 4.0+ quakes inside a 48 hour period. The epicenter was similar to the one on Sunday night. Hmmmmm.... maybe my trips to In-N-Out is causing the quakes?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Pic Dump: Early May Version

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Here are some pics that I took over the last week...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beach, BBQ, and Quakes

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I love this time of the year in LA.

During the last three years, I spent the week before Memorial Day in Southern California. It's the perfect place to prep for a lengthy assignment at the World Series of Poker. Since I'll be indoors most of the summer stuck inside a casino surround by utter degenerates, I welcome the chance to soak up the sun and listen to the waves roll up on shore. Outdoors. Nature.

It's the time that I spend at the beach with Nicky that matters the most. We understand how special and soothing the beach time is for us. We relish the calm before the storm. It's one of the only times when we just relax and read books and look out into the ocean and just sit and unplug and stay away from the intertubes and being chained to our laptops. We travel so much for work and have such a weird lifestyle that getting time together to do nothing is rare.

Nothing is more magnificent than an empty beach. Isn't that what everyone wants? A secluded beach all to themselves. Alex Garland wrote a book (that was turned into a Leo flick) about that quest for a secluded utopia. It's so hard to find an empty patch of beach in Southern California without douchebag meatheads acting like jagoffs trying to pick up chicks, or a day without a family who pitched a couple of tents with a dozen rugrats scurrying around in between. And the worst inhabitants of Malibu? Annoying Daddy's Little Princess from the Palisades yapping on their cell phones.

I prefer, the sounds of the ocean and that squishing sound of your feet twisting into the sand. Everything else is just static and exactly what I've been trying to avoid during a pursuit of the simple life.

We drove up to Malibu and hung out at Zuma Beach over the last two days and never managed to actually be completely alone. It was still off-season though, and the beach was nearly empty, even on a Sunday morning. And on Monday? Even fewer souls around. They consider this "winter time" and it only costs $6 to park at Zuma.

Zuma will become more popular starting this weekend and the Memorial Day rush, but by that time, Nicky and I are already on our way to Las Vegas. So basically, we strategically planned to take advantage of the last week before the official beach season begins to bask in the warmth of the sun and enjoy a sparsely populated beach.

I thought that I was going to read Lost Vegas, but I haven't had the urge to pick it up once. I can't get excited to read it. I'm really sick of it all. I won't force the action, but I definitely need at least one read through before I hand it off to a few chosen proofreaders/previewers. That needs to be completed before I leave for Las Vegas in one week.

I'm almost finished with Shock Doctrine trying to read chapters at the coffee shop in the mornings and at the beach in the afternoons. I also printed up news stories that I haven't had a chance to read. Finally caught up on a slew of backlogged reading. Now, if I can only hire a virtual assistant to sift through all that e-mail and all that Twitter-shit clogging up my TweetDeck.

Before we actually dig our toes deep into the sand, Nicky and I have been working out up at Zuma Beach. On Sunday and Monday we completed a three mile jog along the beach. We ran harder on Monday. The overcast skies over the last two days made it perfect workout weather and it wasn't too hot or humid. Kinda cool with the wind whipping off the water. Nicky preferred the locale than working out inside a gym with hipsters there to be seen. I have a long summer ahead of me and I've been trying to get myself prepared for a mentally and physically challenging assignment. After kicking pharmies, I might be in the best shape I've been in, in well over a year. Definitely the best since the accident last summer.

On Sunday, we visited Nicky's parents in Westwood for a BBQ. It was a combination of a Mother's Day dinner, along with a welcome home celebration for her sister Mandy who was in Mexico for several months shooting the Real World. And of course, it was a goodbye party for Nicky who won't be around for two months.

Mandy had plenty of dirt to dish about the Real World and what it was like being behind the lines when the Swine Flu beta test was unleashed. I bought steaks at Whole Foods and Nicky prepped the food on her father's grill. She also made shrimp. Pretty tasty.

We were home for about thirty minutes and lazily digesting the BBQ. I heard a ruckus. It sounded like the guys upstairs were jumping up and down and then fell over. The ceiling shook and that's when I realized that we were having an earthquake.

It was my fourth since being in L.A. full time. The first one happened during breakfast at O'Groats. It felt like a subway rumbled underneath the restaurant. The second one happened when Nicky was away on assignment. I was sitting at the dinning room table when I thought I heard the guys upstairs making noise while playing video games. Turned out it was a mini-quake. A couple of weeks ago, there was another mini-quake. It felt like a truck raced down the street. Nicky was driving down to Hermosa Beach and didn't feel it in her car. I was sitting in the same spot at the dining room table and I barely noticed it.

However, the tremors on Sunday night last about fifteen seconds. The first five were when I looked up at the ceiling and wondered what sort of shenanigans the guys upstairs were doing. Then the ceiling shook and Nicky bolted for the doorway leading to my office and our bedroom. My instinct was to grab my laptop on the dining room table and duck underneath. Instead, I stopped and ran towards Nicky and the doorway until it stopped.

The guys upstairs wanted to bet on the magnitude. Nicky, the quake-veteran put it on the low 4s. I figured 4.8. The guys upstairs went with 5.2. We quickly checked the earthquake site that all California natives have book marked. I have it bookmarked too.

We refreshed a couple of times until the official report was posted at 8:39pm PT. Originally it said 4.7. A few minutes later it was upgraded to a 5.0. On Monday, then downgraded to a 4.7. I was closest and won.

The epicenter was near Inglewood and less than one mile from where the Lakers used to play their games. In the hood! That quake was the closest I've experienced. Maybe that's why we felt it.

The next hour including reading different reports on Twitter and waiting for aftershocks, which I wanted to bet on as well. I have been reading a lot about disaster capitalism in New Orleans post-Katrina and in Iraq post-invasion, that it seemed inevitable that I'd try to capitalize off the act of God.

Monday, May 18, 2009


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I first noticed the peculiar flatbed a year or so ago.

The engine was loud. You expected it to break down in the middle of the palm tree-lined street. It was out of place in my mind, but more common that I thought in this part of L.A. Every once in a while, an older Mexican guy in a black hat and a long sleeve blue denim shirt drove a beat-up flatbed truck through the neighborhood. On the back of his truck, two or three shopping carts were strapped down, usually two metal ones and a red one from Target.

I always wondered what the old Mexican guy was doing with the shopping carts. He looked like he was from a dystopian future as he slowly made his way up and down the side streets and hauling around shopping carts.

It's not uncommon to see abandoned shopping carts in and around L.A., especially the slums of Beverly Hills which are peppered with lots of "For Rent" signs and random yard sales (more and more frequent every weekend in this atrocious economy). The neighborhood has plenty of side alleys and back alleys. The small apartment buildings have dumpsters and recycle bins which attract homeless people in search of cans. That's there main source of income. They are mostly harmless, very polite, and diligent at their task at hand. Most of them haul around bottles and cans shoved into trash bags and carted around in shopping carts. I used to think that they stole them from the stores, but who needs to when the streets were cluttered with them. It gave homeless dumpster divers a free source of transportation which in turn increased their earning potential.

How did the abandoned shopping carts magically arrive from the stores to the streets? Who stole them? And why?

It doesn't reek like alien involvement such as the cattle mutilations. But there's something odd going on for sure. My curiosity increased over the last couple of weeks. My paranoid self wondered about the random things in my eclectic neighborhood. In the past, I went into detail about the plight at Jack in the Box, the Chinese cooks sleeping in their cars, and the shady things going on next door at odd hours.

The abandoned shopping carts have been a mystery yet a growing problem in both L.A. and the surrounding municipalities. Uptight local neighborhood association types and overzealous politicians grew frustrated with the epidemic of abandoned shopping carts. They decided to hold the establishments responsible for the plight in the community. Glendale had such a bad problem with abandoned shopping carts that they fined stores money if their shopping carts ended up abandoned on the local streets.

A special enforcement unit was installed... the abandoned shopping cart police. They went around inspecting all of the abandoned shopping carts and handed out fines to Home Depot, Ralphs, etc. depending on the branding on the sides and handle bars. That sounds like a job that a pothead slacker character out of a Judd Apatow film would have, but it does indeed exist.

In addition, an abandoned shopping cart removal industry sprung up overnight. That's what the old Mexican guy with the flatbed truck did. He was an independent contractor and picked up abandoned shopping carts in the slums of Beverly Hills. He brought them in somewhere... where, I have no clue.

Some people, like the old Mexican guy, have interesting jobs in this world as a result of corporate incompetence (from companies like Ralphs) and the public's willingness to steal other people's property (even if it is a nameless faceless soulless multi-national corporation that exploits their workers) that's not locked down.

I thought that the old Mexican guy with the beat-up flatbed truck had a monopoly on the area, until, I bumped into his competition.

Not even one block from my apartment, an abandoned shopping cart sat idle behind a parked SUV. A white van abruptly stopped next to the SUV. A scruffy and huskier version of Oscar de la Hoya with work gloves on jumped out of the passenger seat and we made eye contact. For a split second I had that fight or flight moment where I was ready to bolt down the alley and scale the wall (I know my neighborhood very well and have planned escaped routes just in case of situations when guys jump out of vans and try to kidnap you).

He said hello to me and then opened up the back door. He grabbed the shopping cart in one swift motion and quickly closed the door. He waved at me and jumped back into the passenger side. Those guys were also a part of a local abandoned shopping cart removal service. The van took off and I overheard the Lakers game on the van's radio.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Third Verse

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

We finished the read through around 7pm on Friday night. Sorta anti-climatic. I printed up the entire draft and then I put it away. I'm taking the weekend off and will re-read the third draft of Lost Vegas on Monday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Kids Are Different Today

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had a long talk with a friend of mine. He's veteran poker writer who has done a little bit of real journalism before he wandered into poker, I told him that we really should be lucky to do what we do. We're living the good life. We have lots of bad days and sometimes we have to deal with utter nimrods and plenty of scenesters in our profession. Plus I get sent all around the world and we frequently work in Las Vegas, aka America's playground which can also just beat you senseless. However, I'd say I would not want to do 95% of the other jobs out there... which means I'm working in a dream job. We're extremely lucky, and we could be smuggling cigarettes in the Balkans or working the oil fields of Alberta.

Which leads me to the third draft of Lost Vegas. I no longer loathe the editing sessions and they are slowly growing on me. Some days I can't believe how close I am to finishing this project. Over the last two weeks, I conducted a tedious line-by-line read through of every single word in the 149K manuscript. We're about 80% done. My goal is to be finished by Friday night. I'm gonna take the weekend off, print up a final copy, and then take the third draft to Malibu on Monday, dig my feet into the sand, and read it from start to finish.

I have been ruthless with the edits. I trimmed more fat in first half of the book. So far the second half of the book has been escaping the butcher knife. We had to cut one line about Guatemalan fruit and cum shots. I fought to keep it in, but in the end, I understood why it needed to be omitted. At least the 'douchebag' count was lower than we expected. I was told to curtail my usage of the word and I managed to find suitable replacements.

I really need to rest my eyes and my brain because I have been living, talking, seeing, breathing, thinking about Lost Vegas non-stop since I got back from the Bahamas in January. Heck, I'm even blogging about it right now. It can't escape me and I need a vacation from the book. I'm gonna take the summer off and work at the WSOP and go see a few Phish shows and then when all of that is over, I'll sit down and read it start to finish. I'm sure that I'll get a couple of ideas or two during the time off and I might even add or re-write a couple of the weaker chapters. (Not that there's weak chapters, but rather some are significantly stronger than others).

Six or seven weeks away from the project will give me much better perspective before I sign off on Lost Vegas. Then I'll finally have closure on so many things that I need to let go. Then I can focus on re-writing Jack Tripper Stole My Dog in 2010 and completing the Phish book in 2011. That is, if I can pull that off. Time is money and free time costs more money than you think. Obviously, I'm hoping to set aside 25% of the proceeds from Lost Vegas to fund the next book... essentially covering my rent and basic expenses for a couple of months while I work on the next project.

It's mind-boggling that I sliced away over 60,000 words since the first draft (actually the third of four versions of the first draft, that's a very long story but it's not important right now). I mean, NaNoWri novels are 50,000 words (Jack Tripper is like 55K) and I'm flushing the equivalent of that and then some down the crapper. Then again, there's a reason why I'm cutting those sections, usually because there are obvious passages that are speed bumps and slow down the pacing, which means it's long-winded rambling run-on sentences where my mind takes several twists and turns and never really settles on one coherent thought so it kinda annoys the reader sometimes, but then again, sometimes the words form into a nifty rhythmic pattern.

I woke up early on Thursday to write my column. These days, I have been writing about high stakes cash games at the online poker sites. For non-poker people, the size of some of these pots is absolutely astounding. It's not uncommon to see at least one pot per day that is more than I make in a year. The pots surge over $250,000. Sometimes they get as high as $350,000 and $400,000. Huge swings for some of these pros. Millions of dollars exchange hands back and forth every day between hot-shot young guns from America, Las Vegas sharks, and a group of Scandis and Fins. And yes, I get paid to write about that decadent depravity without even leaving my apartment. I wrote the column with the bong in one hand, Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain playing in the background, and yes, I wasn't wearing pants, just my boxer shorts while sitting in the living room with the windows open as the early morning Los Angeles pushed out all the stagnant hashish remnants from the night before. Yeah, I'm nothing more than a swill merchant and a whore for the online poker industry. But that racket pays my rent and allows me to tip the kind folks at the coffee shop at least 35-40% every morning.

After I finished my column, I walked over to the coffee shop. I forgot about the apartment building across the street where attractive woman lived. She walked a white shaggy shi tsu on a long red leash every morning, and walked the shi tsu again when she gets home from work. In the morning she's wearing sweat pants and flip flops. I've seen her in a robe and even wearing her pajamas and either holding a cup of coffee or talking on her cell phone. At night she wears all black and I think she's a waitress or works for a catering company because she comes home, walks the shi tsu while smoking a cigarette, then hops in her Jetta and goes back to work.

Anyway, that morning she was clad in gray sweat pants and a tie-dyed tank top. The shi tsu took a dump on the lawn of the building next door in front of a wooden FOR RENT sign. I snickered and continued my short walk to the coffee shop. A trio of under cover cops sat in the back booth, while the cooks whipped up a chorizo burrito for a couple of nurses sat in the front booth. I wondered if any of them actually worked in the numerous medicinal marijuana dispensaries in our neighborhood? Since we lived on the fringe of Beverly Hills, the dispensaries were in the perfect place to cater to high end clients. Rich potheads.

I passed a new "weed store" the other day during a 2.2 mile jog through the neighborhood. I told Nicky about it and she never knew it existed. It was literally the closest place to legally buy weed without actually being in Beverly Hills. The street it was located on the actual demarcation line. On the right side was Beverly Hills, on the left side was the office building with the dispensary.

I sat down at the counter and ordered a breakfast sandwich. I finished Panic by Michael Lewis and I did not have a new book to read. Instead, I read an old copy of L.A. Weekly, which is their version of the Village Voice or Seattle Weekly. When I lived in Seattle, I always wanted to write for them. It seemed like I was spamming them every other week with something. Rejected every time. I think they felt sorry for me and published one of my letters to the editor.

I thumbed through the music section of L.A. Weekly and scoffed at the bands that I'd miss during the summer when I worked in Las Vegas. A couple of bands I wanted to see where playing at the Hollywood Bowl or at the Wiltern Theatre in June. I also kinda laughed when I saw some of these nostalgia acts from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s hitting the road. It's usually billed with two or three similar bands from that era. I think I saw the that tickets were on sale for the Doobie Brothers, who were opening for the Allman Brothers at the Greek Theatre. Man, that would have been an awesome show in 1971, when Duane Allman was still alive. And don't get me started at the flashback show at the Greek with Jefferson Starship, Canned Heat, Tom Constanten, Ten Years After, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Country Joe McDonald.

In some random music trivia, Tom Constanten played with the Grateful Dead from 1968-70. He appeared on Aoxomoxoa and Anthem of the Sun. If Jerry, Janis, Jimi, and Morrison were all still alive, you think they'd be hamming it up and playing summer festivals? I mean, Leonard Cohen played Coachella for fuck's sake, so that probably answers my question.

On Thursday night, I went to the store to pick up dinner and on my walk back to the apartment, I saw the woman with the shi tsu. She must think I'm stalking her or something because I saw her twice today. Anyway, there's also a high school girl who lives in the same building. Every afternoon, she and two of her friends stand outside and smoke cigarettes. Only one of them is actually smoking the other two are sorta faking it while they smoke and text and talk on the phone. I wonder if any of them are on Twitter and making fun of me.

"OMG, creepy pedophile across the street leering at us."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Close the Laptop > Open the Mind

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

For several odd reasons, I have been consuming books at a rapid pace. Voraciously zipping through hundreds of pages a day (while I'm also conducting a line-by-line read through and word-by-word examination of Lost Vegas).

After a quick brainstorming session, I know a few reasons why I'm gobbling up the written word. First of all, the Yankees suck. Even though I purchased, specifically I upgraded HD version, which means I can see the Yankees suck in an even more clearer and crisper picture. I only watch a couple of innings of atrocious baseball before I angrily shut off the game. The Yanks' shitty performances have opened up large chunks of unstructured time. These days, baseball games are four hour affairs. By shutting the games off in the third inning after watching Joba get rocked, I'm saving anywhere from two or three hours of my life instead of wasting away watching baseball.

I have been filling the void with books.

I abandoned TV. All garbage. Pure Americana trash. I did catch a couple of scenes from Caddyshack on the Golf Channel for old time's sake, but aside from that, I avoid TV at all costs. That's how "they" brainwash you. Through TV, Hollywood, and social media websites.

I watched a little bit of the NBA playoffs (the Bulls/Celtic series was actually quite enthralling), and even then I'm remotely paying attention because I'm no longer betting on the games. I have no reason to watch... zero financial investment in the games. Sports cease to have any relative function unless I wager on the outcome. That's when something of ill-significance takes on some sort of value.

After along day of work, Nicky watches TV on at nighttime including random things like Lost and American Idol. I don't watch either show which makes me a freak and a very weird dude according to the average American who does nothing but watch TV. Even when they sleep, they dream about either watching TV or being in their own reality show.

Hey folks, every fuckin' day we're in our own reality show. It's called.... life.

Yes, I'm a freak because I rarely watch TV. Then again, less than 10% of all Americans actually read a book last year and here I am about to try to sell a book in a country where people don't read.

Maybe I should have written a book about Lost or American Idol? Dare I say, best seller?

Alas, I'm pissing in the wind because I'm trying to pitch a book to an illiterate populous. That's OK. The people who actually read books are people I want to associate with anyway. The lack of boob tube time has enlightened my mind, and it will do wonders for you. I feel smarter every time I finish a book which is amazing because every day it seems like the world around me is getting dumber. Perhaps there's a correlation between the inbred nits that we have to deal with on a daily basis and the fact that Perez Hilton is the heaviest reading they will do all year. 150 words segments with faux-cum dribbling from the mouths on doctored photos of random celebrities.

Well, shit, I can't compete with that a splotch of jizz on Britney's face.

I read something like 2,000 pages and five books in the last 15 days or so. Devouring the written word. Like crack. I seek out knowledge. Books are a major source of knowledge. Feed your brain instead of numbing it.

Here's another reason why I have more time to read.... I spend significantly less time on my laptop. It sounds so easy to do, but in reality, it's so hard to pull myself away from the machine.

I finally figured out that the laptop shuts down when I close the lid. Remarkable. You have no idea how differently I act in a room when the laptop is open versus closed. When it's open, I'm compelled (rather, utterly addicted) to know what's going on out there.

Email. Bloglines. Twitter. Email. Google Reader. Email. Twitter. Hatemail. Blogger. Email. YouTube. Twitter. YouPorn. Email. Shoot me now.

However, when the laptop is closed, I only feel compelled to hop on if absolutely necessary. It's like I don't want to wake up the sleeping baby. I used to open up the laptop every morning and left it open until I went to bed. Sometimes that meant the laptop was on for 20-24 straight hours and I probably spent 75-90% of that time chained to the keyboard.

These days, I close the lid several times a day on my laptop which helped to significantly reduce the time I wasted away doing absolutely nothing to improve my intellect and instead numb the senses. Although watching "AlexJonez" chemtrail videos and downloading leaked copies of Wilco's new album hardly constitutes nothing. Those are both vital to my existence. But you can make a solid argument that even those things are simple distractions as I allow a political and financial coup to take place right in front of us.

In high school, we had a Latin teacher who used to say, "Close the books and open the minds." I flipped it around... "Close the laptop and open the books." Or perhaps, "Close the laptop and open the minds."

Breaking the shackles of Vicodin addiction, TV addiction, sports betting addiction, and internet addiction is refreshing and I have been celebrating my new found freedom by delving deep into books on different subjects. I also re-read a couple of classics, or at least chapters and excerpts of my favorite books.

On Wednesday, I set aside time to write a short story that will eventually appear in Truckin'. The theme was inspired by some of the chapters on smuggling and drug abuse in from McMafia and Mr. Nice. The overall story and characters materialized quickly and some of my favorite things that I write about simply rolled off the finger tips. The story about a bunch of speed freaks in Australia literally wrote itself. I have no idea if I can turn any of it into an actual novel or screenplay, but I can definitely revisit these characters at some point in the future. That's what was the beauty of Jack Tripper and Sweet Nothing. Those were two NaNo novels that I completed and were inspired by characters (Ivan the Russian cab driver along with both Baby & Winky) that I originally wrote about in Truckin' short stories. (You can sift through my Truckin' archives to find those stories)

In cooking terms, it's sort of like whipping up a large meal and having plenty of leftovers, so you freeze them for a later date when you thaw it out and feast on it again. Sometimes you use it in a different dish and sometimes it stays just the same.

Which reminded me of something I read about how McDonalds is the largest purchaser of potatoes in all of America, perhaps even the world. No single entity buys more. And you know what? They freeze them all before they are soaked with so many different chemicals to make it taste... appealing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twitter, Tweets, and Twats

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Lots of chatter in the mainstream media about Twitter these days, thanks to Oprah and that Ashton jagoff for exposing the latest social media darling to the lowest common denominators, which makes it even less appealing to me. Anytime I'm lumped in with homemakers and booger-eating tards, I get a little antsy.

The day my 66-year old mother asked me about Twitter was the day when thy shark hath been jumpeth.

I was always on the fence about Twitter (moreso the moral and social applications, not to mention the vapidity of it all) and in the 15 or so months since I signed up for an account I employed many practical uses. Twitter enhances what I do as a living. Updating poker tournaments and set lists at concerts via Twitter is a helpful tool.

Most importantly, as a writer, I use Twitter as my own little black notebook to jot down thoughts (in 140 character or less) than will eventually get turned into concepts for blog posts or other literary endeavors. The fact that I can let others glance into that process is just a byproduct of the voyeuristic nature of Twitter.

Twitter is a means towards a larger goal. Each thought (or rather tweet) might be used in some sort of literary project. In 2005, I utilized Tao of Poker as an electronic notebook during the World Series of Poker. Instead of writing down notes with a traditional pen and pad, I posted those notes to my blog. At the end of the day, I cleaned up the blog notes and wrote a cohesive end of day recap. Some of those recaps were enhanced and weaved together into magazine articles. And some of those articles were eventually morphed into excerpts of Lost Vegas. The blog platform was a crucial element towards the completion a book project.

Now, let's apply similar concepts to Twitter. I'm using Twitter as an electronic notebook, but it's more like a single leaf of paper torn out of the notebook. I have to unleash my inner Hemingway and construct a concise thought. I'm sort of compressing a larger idea into a brief sentence, which I'll be able to revive at a later date. Some of these thoughts on Twitter are the genesis for posts on Tao of Pauly or short story ideas for Truckin'. You catch a glimpse of my madness on Twitter and sometime in the future that will get manufactured into... some sort of larger literary project. At least I hope so, otherwise I'm just shouting into the void.

Something serendipitous happened with the Tao of Poker. In some odd way, it's the raw and unedited live blog updates in the summer of 2005 that became wildly popular with poker fans and helped fuel a fervent following on the Tao of Poker. I doubt that the taopauly Twitter feed will ever come close towards the success of Tao of Poker. After all, more than 50% of my followers on Twitter are bots. The rest are degenerate poker players and stoned-to-the-gourd Phisheads.

I also found that Twitter can be helpful in a pinch. For example, earthquake survivors in China were discovered via Twitter. One journalist in the Middle East let his friends sand family know he was imprisoned when he simply tweeted, "captured." Since I'm in an Earthquake zone, Twitter might come in handy if the Big One hits and if I ever get pinched on Phish tour, the twitterverse will find out about it. And hopefully you guys can find me a local lawyer and raise bail.

Otis used Twitter to field book suggestions. Nicky picked up a smoothie recipe from a model-friend of ours. And me? I got plenty of responses when I wondered about synonyms for the word douchebag.

Iggy and I have talked at length about the positive and aspects about Twitter including the future of the latest fad. We decided that Twitter is what you make of it. I think that a lot of new users become frustrated because they are selfish sheeple and not imaginative types. Because every single day, creative types find new usages for Twitter. Social butterflies and scensters use Twitter to inflate their self-worth and making them feel better about themselves with hordes of new followers or fake friends. Savvy business types are using Twitter to potentially make a quick buck or promote their existing products/companies. And curious folks are simple giving it a test-run to see what all the fuss is about.

And yes, every other person on Twitter seems to be an SEO/Social Media Expert. I usually fart in their general direction.

At the same time, frustrated bloggers (either burnt out or lacking ingenuity or passion) embraced Twitter because they can get the same highs during a blogging fix but in a more compact manner. The pundits call it micro-blogging, but I like to call it fast-food-blogging. I'm happy that some of my friends who fit into that category are back sharing their wit. They were missed and reading their tweets breaks up the stresses and/or monotony of the day.

I'm trying to focus on the positives and discovered ways where Twitter is helpful, useful, and fun for me. Those perks far outweigh the negatives (and there are many). But just as I had a wave of trepidation come over me for many years before I actually joined the Twitter-cult, I continue to have doubts and fears about the latest web fad. The doubts are about the influx of new users. It went from something like 1 million to 10 million in a single month. And with so much fuckin' traffic, the site is a target for money-grubbing internet moguls who want to figure out how to generate Twitter into a golden goose and never ending stream of revenue. That's why I'm afraid that if someone swoops in and buys Twitter that it's a matter of time before it goes into the shitter.

For now, enjoy it while it lasts.

I was told about Twitter in 2006 by one of the original project members. They were an avid reader of Tao of Poker and encouraged me to give it a try. I didn't actually blow them off, but I didn't exactly embrace the idea. I had other stuff going on with work and the rest of my life. Highschool kids, hipster doofuses, and pedophiles propelled MySpace, as it ruled the interwebs. Meanwhile, Facebook (before it became a front for the sea-aye-eh) was slowly gaining on them. I had a dour outlook on social media websites in general because they were a waste of time, the scourge of the internet, and extending the retardedness and redunkulousness of high school antics into our adult lives. I wanted no part of those reindeer games. I was someone who preferred to live out on the fringe and hang out in places away from the masses.

Two years after the original invite to join Twitter, I made the leap. Two of my friends, Wil and Ryan, were early adopters. They were self-professed geeks in addition to being writers. I kept tabs on their Twitter feeds... mainly because I was interested in what they were doing with the new technology. Ryan often used Twitter to update his progress in poker tournaments. I have staked him in the past, so Twitter was an excellent way for me to keep tabs on my investment. A few other friends were early adopters of Twitter and I had a dozen or so friends already entrenched into the scene when I dove head first into Twitter 15 months ago.

And since then? It's been an interesting ride. I watched Twitter grow exponentially and I saw how inside of a 30-day period, every hipster in poker jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. Almost over night, the same people I have to deal with on a daily basis for work all of a sudden invaded my twitterverse which I sort of insulated myself away from mainstream poker. I loved the fact that not to many poker people were involved with Twitter. It was sort of like a dive bar that no one went to except my friends and then all of a sudden it got popular.

Yeah, I'm a little bitter because I can't make fun of poker people on Twitter. And the worst part? That inane industry politics in real life had taken root onto the intertubes. I started getting those, "Why aren't you following me on Twitter?" emails from scensters. (And I have sent a similar email on occasion but that was to point out that someone was following the wrong feed. My main feed is taopauly, but I also locked up DrPauly and taopoker before someone else snagged those and tried to exploit those Twitter names for their own financial gain).

I felt pressured to follow people that I really have no desire or interest in knowing what they had to eat everyday or how they busted out of a poker tournament. For the first time, I seriously considered ditching Twitter. But then I realized that I have a book coming out and need all the self-promotion that I can get.

I firmly believe that individuals should do whatever they want with blogs and art and things like Twitter. That's why I laugh and get angry when a group of followers get pissy about the content on Twitter and blogs. For example, Wil had a large city of followers (something like 573K). He's a hockey fan and likes to tweet during playoff games. These are among my favorite tweets from Wil. However, a group of his fans get so angry almost on the verge of a riot over his subject matter. Do they have any right to complain? Simply unfollow him. Or perhaps they should have a little patience. The hockey playoffs will end soon and Wil will return to discussing things more to their liking. Heck, I'm not into most of the same geek stuff that Wil is into, but I don't berate him for tweeting about comic cons or other weird stuff.

Selfish nits bitching about tweets. Shit, I'm even more lame for writing about them. OK, maybe not that lame. I'm defending my friend and my friend's right to complete ownership over his content.

I have to remind myself that as I criticize how others use Twitter. In the end, I have no say and I'm going against my general philosophy of do what you wish, with the one exception of locked/protected updates which I think is pretty lame. As the Bloggess stated, "What you’re drinking at Starbucks is not national security. It makes me want to create a page for my cat and make it private because it's that stupid."

Funny thing, is that I know someone who made a Twitter account for their cat. Too. Fuckin. Funny.

Overall, I respect everyone's right to speak their mind, but that doesn't mean I'm going to follow along. In the last few weeks, I gave up on many folks. I had a similar situation a couple of years ago with the vast expansion of poker blogs. So many new ones popped up and were simply... awful. I was wasting my time reading all that horeendous content that I slapped myself in the head and said, "Stop reading."

I'm taking that to heart with Twitter. I stopped following feeds with little to no nutritional value to my daily internet readings. After monitoring them for weeks and months and even a year, I realized that I wasn't missing anything important. And the folks who followed me and then stopped? They feel the same way.

In order to manage my time better, I have been actively weening myself on the time I spend on the internet. Since my career and businesses are based on the intertubes, I'm forced to deal with those situations. That's why I curtail the remainder of internet-related activities. That especially means Twitter, which is the most popular site that I visit. I have since cut back my time on twitter by 50% over the last 100 days, thanks to TweetDeck. It really helps filter out the static.

By the way, thanks to Maigrey who pointed out a funny blog post about Twitter and that's what sort of triggered this post.

And yes, you can follow me on Twitter here. And for you music lovers, we created a separate group feed for Coventry Music Blog.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Over the weekend, I finished a book inside a 48 hour period. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. That page turner? In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules.

I'm a loyal fan of In-N-Out burger. I loathe all sorts of fast food, but In-N-Out gets a pass. If you are familiar with the chain, you know why it has a cult-like following... and it's not because of the religious messages stamped underneath their cups or on burger wrappers. Simply put, it's a delicious food. Simple. No bullshit.

Harry Synder, founder of In-N-Out Burger back in the late 1940s had a mottto... "Do one thing and do it the best you can." For he and his wife, Esther, that meant building a tiny burger shack in Baldwin Hills (just outside of L.A.) and focus on making the best burgers in Southern California.

Snyder slowly expanded and did things his way unlike his competitors the McDonald Brothers (and later on Ray Kroc). As McDonalds grew and expanded exponentially, the quality of their food suffered. Add in the fact that their workers are paid slave wages, then you have a recipe for mediocre food and mediocre service. Over at In-N-Out Burger? They get paid some of the highest wages in the service industry. No wonder everyone is in such a good mood when you eat there.

The book discussed the history of In-N-Out and the rise of the family business. When the owner died, he passed control over to his youngest son Rich, who took more of an interest in the family than the older son, Guy, who spent more time drag racing cars. Rich was a devout Christian and implemented the markings on cups and wrappers indicating different scripture versus. The company flourished even more so under Rich's direction as In-N-Out expanded to Arizona and Nevada.

Rich died in an unexpected plane crash and his older brother had to step in. Guy was plagued with drug addiction most of his adult life (stemming from a nasty car crash where he got addicted to pain killers). His stint at In-N-Out was cloudy, at best, and he died of an overdose. At that point, the 80-something year old Esther Snyder, the wife of the original founder and mother of both of her deceased sons, took control of the company. Since it was a family business, the next in line to inherit the massive fortune? Lynsi Snyder, Esther's only grandchild (and Guy's daughter).

Once Esther died, an ugly court battle ensued between executives who had been at the company for decades versus the so-called Burger Princess, Lynsi, who most people close to the company felt as though the spoiled Burger-heiress didn't deserve full-control considering she barely spent her time in the company (as opposed to he Uncle Rich who basically lived and breathed In-N-Out Burger).

The controversial Lynsi Synder Martinez currently controls In-N-Out Burger. She was homeschooled by a devout Christian mother and her current opposition within the current company feel as though religion should play less of a role within the company. When good old Harry Snyder was running the company in the 1950s and 1960s, he didn't mess with those kinds of things and focused on making good burgers.

Anyway, the book is a fascinating read. Of course, with every new chapter all I could think about was.... "I want an In-N-Out Burger!" On Saturday morning, I woke up so famished that I waited until In-N-Out opened at 10:30am. I was there are 10:34am and I as the 9th person served that morning. Yep, I ate In-Out Burger for breakfast.

Nothing beats In-N-Out at what they do. And their simple menu is not the only menu because there's a super secret menu that only their most loyal customers know about (well, that was before the company's website posted their secret menu on the intertubes). It's the secret menu offers up things such as a 3x3 (a triple cheeseburger and my personal favorite), Animal Style fries (see pic below - smothered in special sauce and grilled onions), and Animal Style burgers (which are cooked in mustard).

In honor of the completion of reading the In-N-Out Burger book, here's a gallery of In-N-Out photos from my Flickr account...


Animal style fries

The stamps of Jesus freaks

Burger Porn

Monday, May 11, 2009


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

My apartment search in Las Vegas has been somewhat complicated and downright annoying. I found a moderately priced apartment in a perfect location. It was exactly what I wanted. But Nicky quickly vetoed the place for safety reasons. All that research and emails back-and-forth was wasted.

I found a second place, but from the get-go the shady owner was trying to rip me off. He originally advertised $950/month for a two-bedroom and yet he quoted me $1,500. I told him that his original quote was too steep (let alone his new quote) and that I was not interested. He emailed me back and lowered his price by 10%. He spouted some bullshit about that he was doing me a favor and that he'd only be breaking even. In short, the guy was trying to play me for a chump.

I told him that I used to live in Las Vegas and that I knew a lot more than he gave me credit for. That's when he spouted off several lame excuses why he was justified in over-charging me. Then he tried the hard-sell and said that he was showing his place to several people this weekend and that I had to accept right away or he'll rescind the 10% discount. I wished him luck and noted that I'd be expecting an email from him on Monday morning meeting my latest offer.

Of course, on Sunday night he emailed me back several hours earlier than I anticipated. Either he had no one looking at the apartment or the ones who did also declined his ridiculous rents. He knocked another $100 off the rent, but refused to even come close to my final offer (which was $100 below his originally published rate). I simply deleted his email because he's a shyster and any more discussions about the apartment is just a waste of time.

You can tell a lot about someone during negotiations and I knew right away that he's someone that I don't want to deal with and he's definitely someone I don't trust. At this point, there's no way I'd actually sign over a "security deposit" to this guy. I already know that he's going to do everything in his power to keep it. Times are tough, especially in Las Vegas, a city full of liars and cheats and scumbags.

After stellar accommodations at Sheckytown in Summerlin last summer (pool + wii), it looks like I'm going to get stuck somewhere that I rather not be. I'm not thrilled with that prospect because it's very important for me be comfortable with my Vegas surroundings in order to enhance the creative experience. Working in a media room or in the press box is something that I must deal with 16-18 hours a day, but it's the solace of home which is something extremely important. A welcome escape from the insanity.

Luckily, last summer I had an entire area of the house all to myself and even got to write on Jen Leo's grandfather's desk. Lots of history there and I definitely feel as though my writing was positively affected by my peaceful environment in Scheckytown.

I got fucked this year because I had to wait to until three weeks before the WSOP began before Nicky found out about her work assignment. We could not make any plans until her deal was finalized. Relationships are give and take, but it seems as though I always get the short end of the stick in these instances when I have to defer to Nicky's employment situation.

So yeah, I tentatively marked down two weeks from today as my last possible travel day to Las Vegas and I don't have a place to stay. I was supposed to be spending this time relaxing on a beach in Malibu and reading books, but instead, I'm stressing out...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Dead in L.A.

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The Dead, 5/9/09 L.A. Forum, Ingelwood, CA

Set 1: Viola Lee Blues > Bertha > Viola Lee Blues > Caution > Viola Lee Blues, Black Peter, Cosmic Charlie

Set 2: Shakedown Street > New Speedway Boogie > Scarlet Begonias > Fire on the Mountain > Drums > Space > Dark Star > Wharf Rat > Dark Star > Satisfaction

Encore: Donor Rap, One More Saturday Night
I was excited about my first West Coast Dead show after attending 46 Grateful Dead shows from 1987 through 1995... all but one on the East Coast or in the South. Last May, Nicky and I caught Phil Lesh & Friends play a gig at the Greek Theatre, but that was the closest I came to capturing a glimpse of what a Dead show would have been like in California.

I finally had my chance. This was my fifth or sixth show seeing The Dead/The Other Ones grouping. After more than a dozen or so shows already performed on this tour, I had a good indication on the vibe of Dead shows based on personal accounts from friends who attended the shows on the East Coast and from listening to a few shows including the simulcast from Philly a couple of weekends ago. Regardless, I went to the Forum with very low expectations. I'm glad that I did because I was pleasantly surprised.

Getting to the show was a slight pain-in-the-ass. Traffic. LA. Uuggh. I blame myself for not giving us more of a cushion. Alas, Nicky and I both had work-related stuff and did not have a chance to show up at the Forum early and hang out in Shakedown. We rolled up a little later and we go stuck parking in the $20 lot in front of the Hollywood Park racetrack. As we parked, a guy in a tie-dye holding a nitrous balloon in his mouth took a piss in between two cars.

The line to get into the venue was confusing. It seemed like two lines were criss-crossing in opposite directions and lots of people were cutting the slow-as-fuck moving line. The lack of available entrances slowed down the entire process. We were inline around 7:15pm and didn't get to our seats until 8:10pm.

While standing outside, we heard the show start and the gang kicked off with Viola Lee Blues. By the time we reached the security check, the opening lyrics of Bertha floated out through the open doors. We finally got inside and realized that were went into the wrong entrance. We navigated through a dense crowd in the hallways and then used the narrow inner walkway inside the venue to reach our section. At that point, the Dead segued back into Viola Lee Blues which they wove in and out of the entire first set. By the time we found our seats and fired up, they were in the middle of a dissonant jam. Sort of muddled and a clusterfuck, much like the previous hour of my life trying to get inside.

I was unimpressed with Caution, but I appreciated the significance of the old school song. I smoked tough and patiently waited for them to return to the final verse of Viola Lee Blues. I had mixed-feelings of Black Peter. It made me miss Jerry and I wanted to hear the song, but I felt it was poorly executed. Just when I was completely bumming out about the first set, they closed with Cosmic Charlie. Talk about a set/show saver. Sort of like watching your favorite football get blown out in the first half and then miraculously score a touchdown on the last play to go into halftime with momentum.

I thought that the Forum was ill-equipped for the show based on the logistical issues of getting people inside in a timely matter. And then they ran out of bottled water. Everywhere I looked during the setbreak, I was shutout. I had to settle on a couple of Dos Equis, which cost me $20. Blah.

During the setbreak, we spotted a guy a couple of rows in front of us. He was in his mid-50s with white hair and glasses. He looked a bit like Dick Cheney, except he had his t-shirt off and wandered around shirtless and clutched two glowsticks. It looked a lot like the guy was rolling for the first time (the signs were all there... glowsticks + shirtless = roll kicked in). I begged him to keep his pants on.

I did not like Set 1. It was a C+ and that's because Cosmic Charlie saved it. However, the band built off the momentum from Charlie and the second set was substantially better than the first set. It was like two different bands were up on stage. A funk-driven Shakedown Street perked everyone up. I gotta admit that I was happy they saved it for the second set. And the New Speedway Boogie sorta came out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting it and was more than thrilled because it's easily one of my top 10 Grateful Dead songs.

The crowd erupted for a second time in the second set after the jam out of Boogie when they got teases of the first few notes to Scarlet Begonias. At that point, through the first three songs of the second set, the band more than made up from their not-so-stellar performance in the first set. Once they segued into Fire on the Mountain, I forgot all about the mediocrity from just an hour earlier.

I told Nicky that Drums > Space segments of Grateful Dead shows was the part where people who were on really bad acid freaked the fuck out, or if you were riding high on on sensational psychedelics then you loved every single beat. We sat down and smoked tough. There was a lesbian in military fatigues with a crew cut sitting next to us. I should say, she was passed out in the seat next to us. Out cold. I saw a lot of that. Lots of older heads who forgot their age and tried to party like it was 1994 1984 1974 1964.

Just at the moment when the band pulled out of space, one drunk guy in our section screamed, "Pride of Cucamonga!" Alas, the band slowly noodled into Dark Star and then jammed into Wharf Rat with both Bobby and Warren Haynes sharing verses. Warren sang the "motherfucking crime" lyric and I howled. At my last ever Grateful Dead show at the Meadowlands, their version of Wharf Rat was absolutely atrocious. I think Jerry was super-smacked out that day and had no idea what the hell was going on.

They finished up Dark Star and I heard a few licks to what sounded like Satisfaction. I know that they played the Rolling Stones cover on back East so I was pretty confident that they were snaking their way out of the Dark Star jam and into Satisfaction. Usually, I loathe Bobby when he cheeses out... but this instance... he was alright. Nice work, Bobby. Loved Warren's solo on that. The entire Forum was dancing and grooving at that point, well, everyone except the passed out militant lesbian next to Nicky. She was so far gone that even a bong-rattling cover of Satisfaction could not shake her from a coma.

The second set? Smoking. I saw some Grateful Dead shows circa 1993-94 that were craptacular, so I was impressed with the song selection and execution of the second set in L.A.

As expected, Phil Lesh spoke about organ donations before they played a one song encore... One More Saturday Night. It was a rocking version, but the biggest disappointment? Where was West L.A. Fadeway? I was hoping for a West LA > Sat Nite to cap off the show, but you know what? After that delicious second set, how could I complain.

The band took a bow to a thunderous applause and they reminded us to remember what it felt like to experience the vibes, excitement, and pleasantness of the concert. They said, "It feels good. Take it home and do something good with that."

As we walked out, a group of paramedics rushed past us with a stretcher. Uh oh, someone was going to wake up in the hospital. Next time, just snort one line of molly... and not two.

We wandered through the last remnants of Shakedown. A spun-out wookie offered to sell us nugs and doses. We had plenty of medicinal marijuana and I wasn't about to buy bunk doses off the spunster. Nicky marveled at all the stray tour dogs that meandered through Shakedown and the influx of baby strollers that heady mommas where pushing around after the show.

Yeah, to sum up... hectic arrival. Blah first set saved by Cosmic Charlie. Second set was rocking and that's what I remember the most... the crowd going apeshit during Shakedown and Scarlet. Biggest complaint? Less Bobby and more Phil.

Am evening with The Dead is what you make of it. For me? I had a fun Saturday night.

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Coventry Music Blog.