Friday, July 31, 2009

Phish Finally Returns to Red Rocks

By Pauly
Denver, CO

It's been 13 years since the boys from Vermont threw down at Red Rocks. For many Phisheads (not too mention scores of Colorado locals who were unable to see their favorite band at their favorite venue in the Denver/Boulder area), the ban at Red Rocks was utterly devastating. Red Rocks Ampitheatre is the most amazing outdoor venue in the world. Sure there's the Gorge or Deer Creek, but nothing compares to Red Rocks and the spiritual energy and natural beauty carved out of rust-colored mountain side.

Phish made a triumphant return during the first of a four night run. The Hampton reunion was a magical moment and I was happy just to hear them play again even though everything sounded too tightly rehearsed. The first leg of summer tour was the first time that Phish opened up and displayed traces of the exploratory and improvisational jamming that brought them notoriety. On a couple of nights, I caught glimpses on Phish 1.0 and it made me realize just how many average shows they churned out during the less-than-stellar Phish 2.0 years. Alas, they were back to old form.

Now that they had a full leg of a summer tour under their belt, the boys shook out the cobwebs and we ready to kick off a four-night stand at Red Rocks. I tried not to over-hype the shows and went in with very low expectations. I found it was better to downplay a concert/festival because that way the event will always surpass my expectations.

The Joker secured us spots on the Basics Fund party bus. We headed downtown for a quick bite at Great Wall before we wandered into Sancho's for a few cocktails while we awaited the arrival of the party bus. The bar was packed for a Thursday afternoon with plenty of Phish on the jukebox. The yellow school bus finally arrived and Charlie checked us all in. He introduced us to the driver... Larry... and said that Larry was a bad ass and that we were in good hands.

There were about 24 of us who stumbled onto the bus and I knew more than half the crew including the Joker, Nicky, Jonas & Katie, Wildo, the Charlie Sisters, and friends of friends from Wyoming. The Joker dragged his cooler onto the party bus and Jonas mixed together a few cocktails. We were able to smoke up freely, since anything goes on the bus, and Larry took off like a bat out of hell. We sat in the last few rows and we felt every little bump as Larry sped down the freeway on the way to Red Rock. He got us there in record time and we pulled into the Lower North parking lot at exactly 5pm. That's when Larry the driver disappeared.

The Joker headed off to sell Lost t-shirts and we wandered around scoping out the scene. Nicky had never been to Red Rocks before, so we wandered around a bit. The boys were in the middle of their soundcheck and Jonas excitedly grabbed my arm.

"Dude, that was a sick jam from Trey in the middle of Billy Breathes."

I also heard them noodle around with Time Turns Elastic before soundcheck ended. I bumped into some folks that I knew and we eventually made our way inside around 7pm. The patdown was super light and the line up top was only like a dozen or so people in front of me. Talk about smooth. Unable to get a spot for a the entire group, we spread out in different areas. Nicky and I decided to head up near the top where there was more space to groove and it was a lot closer to the bathrooms. The Joker joined us and the lights went down shortly after 8pm. Phish was finally back to Red Rocks.
7/30/09 - Phish Red Rocks Ampitheater, Morrison, CO

Set I: Divided Sky, Ocelot, The Wedge, Poor Heart, Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Possum

Set II: Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove > Ghost > Wolfman's Brotha, Limb by Limb, Billy Breathes, Squirming Coil > David Bowie

E: Loving Cup
Iggy remarked that Phish was like church music because it looked like everyone was at a religious revival, something he noticed at his first shows when he noticed everyone's arms thrust towards the heavens during Divided Sky. For many fans seeing Phish for the first time, they were in sheer ecstasy. The sound dropped out for a bit at the beginning and that would be the only technical difficulty the entire show.

Ocelot was the only new tune that they played, when I sort of expected two or three to be played every night. It's one of my favorites from the new tunes, but the jam out was much weaker than the versions we heard last leg. The Joker bailed mid-way and grabbed a batch of Supreme Nachos.

The Wedge is one of my all-time top Phish songs dating back to 1993 when I caught my first ever live version. I haven't seen too many Wedges since then. They only played it five times during the 2.0 era, yet this was the third time I caught The Wedge this summer. Sweet.

And just when they started getting things cooking, it was time to spice up the stew with some Mile High funk and Moma Dance. The Joker and I went nuts and luckily there was plenty of space for us to get down. I was very critical of Fishman's playing at Hampton and during the initial shows in June, but he really pulled it together during the Great Woods > Camden > Asheville run. The sensational news is that he's back in the driver's seat. It took him a little longer to gel than it did is bandmates, and now, Fishman is the strongest he's been since the reunion. Only good things can come from this revival.

Horn was quick, yet tasty, and Stash took plenty of twists and turns during an 18-minute version. I was dying to take a leak and gave in right after they started the jam as I made a sprint towards the Visitor's Center. Jonas noted that they delved into some Type II jamming and I caught the peak of the post-Stash jam before Phish switched gears and mellowed out the crowd with Horse > Silent. They closed the set with a juicy version of Possum, which threw me for a loop. It was around the 1 hour 15 minute mark and I figured they were good for one more tune like Character Zero or Cavern, yet they ended the set after Possum.

I was pretty hammered the first set, probably the most inebriated I had been since Bonnaroo. I made an effort to see most of the first leg relatively sober so I had a much clearer perspective of the music. Depending on the party favors, I often say I liked a show much better than the reality of the situation. Yeah, it's the drugs talking. But for the first set, even though I was pretty far spun, I thought that it was slightly above average. My personal highlights were Moma and The Wedge, and they last bit of Stash had several interesting moments. However, I knew that first set was just the first of eight epic sets that Phish was going to play.

But the second set... blew me away.

Three members of Phish took the stage as Trey announced Mike Gordon, not once, but twice as he stepped out from the shadows and took a bow. And then they promptly ripped into Mike's > Hydrogen > Weekapaug. Mike was the MVP during the first part of the second set and things got a little peculiar during Ghost. As the Joker explained, they didn't exactly build up to a crescendo, and instead the jam took lots of sharp turns. Jonas noted that Trey had been patient most of the night and he deferred to Page and Mike during Ghost. I sorta labeled it "faded funk" with the heavy-legged ass-shaking grooves. At one point, they teased something from Fatboy Slim. I thought I was hearing some weird stuff, but Scotty B confirmed it.

To cap off the marvelous forty-minutes of infused fury, the boys ended their monster sandwich with a heady Wolfman's Brother. Page really stepped it up and that was some of his best playing of the night.

The first half of the second set was so delicious, that I had zero expectations for the rest of the show. It was all gravy. Fishman shined on Limb by Limb and I knew Jonas was pumped to hear a rare Billy Breathes. This was the first version in the 3.0 era and it was only played two other times since 2000.

I'm always on the fence about Coil. The first half was a Pauly Takes a Piss Song because I couldn't hold it any longer. I returned for the last half because I didn't want to miss Page's savory solo. I thought that they were going to end the set with Coil, but they hooked us up with a fatty Bowie, and a much cleaner version than the flubbed trainwreck in Burgettstown.

I love Loving Cup because Page always tears it up. I wondered if we'd get a nice one-two punch with the encore, but they only played the Rolling Stones cover and quickly left the stage. The first show was over and it was time to go home. I was happy that I got to see this show with my girlfriend. She went to Hampton but had to sit out the entire first leg of summer tour because of work. She was more than pleased with her first ever Red Rocks experience.

We headed back to the lot, but the bus was empty, Larry the bus driver was nowhere to be found. Eventually each member of our group made their way back to the bus... but Larry the driver was still AWOL almost an hour after the show started. In the meantime, the Joker broke out the cooler and served up brews while he chased an ocelot around the lot and heckled the crew in the bus next to us for not having a nitrous tank.

One of the guys from a different bus said that his driver and Larry left the lot to get some grub but the police would not let them come back into the area until everyone left. Larry the driver was not the slimmest of guys in the world, and if you know Red Rocks, you know that even the fittest of people have a tough time legging it out up those steep inclines. Larry the driver had to huff it from the entrance to the upper lot. Drenched in sweat, Larry the driver finally stumbled into the lot with a sad limp as the entire crew jubilantly cheered him on as he made the last steps over the gravel. Everyone hopped on the bus and Larry the driver sped off like he didn't even miss a beat as the Charlie Sisters danced away as Michael Jackson's Rock with Me blasted over the sound system.

One down. Three to go. And it's only going to get better.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

hollyweird > denver

By Pauly
Denver, CO

LAX. Tourists. Businessmen. Families going on vacation. Another airport during the morning rush. But this time, I put up with the hassles of LAX because I was going on a trip for pleasure and not work. A true holiday. I didn't even let the screaming kid in row 3 tilt me one bit, and I didn't have to resort to crying baby repellent (clinical name: Xanax) to get me through the 2 hour flight from SoCal to Colorado.

Colorado is the perfect way to counteract the insanity of Las Vegas. Ever since I started my venture into poker 5+ years ago, I always made a point to visit Colorado either before or after my two-month assignment for a long weekend of music and getting sloppy. That's the best way to describe it. The people I know in Colorado love to kick it... and they throw down hard. And Colorado is the crossroads for so many of my favorite bands and musicians. Someone of significance is always playing in Boulder, Denver, or at Red Rocks.

I started pre-partying the moment I returned to L.A. after Las Vegas. Benjo and his friends were in town for a few days and we drank in hip bars on Sunset Strip and in Hollywood. That's something I rarely do. I just don't drink in L.A. for some reason. But I welcomed the evenings out in order to get my bloodstream used to a steady barrage of liquor. The air is thinner in Colorado and the booze hits me twice as hard.

I had tweaked my back before we left Vegas and took small dosages of painkillers to get me through the day. I ran out of the soft-edged generic Vicodin and resorted to the heavier hitter... my old friend Mr. Oxycodone. Of course, at nights, I was pushing it a little hard and doubling up. It helped me sleep better but I was also prepping for a five-day bender in the Rockies and four nights of Phish at Red Rocks.

Our flight arrived earlier than scheduled. A welcomed gesture for sure considering we've both had some bad plane karma in previous months. I had a coupon for the Super Shuttle and that was a breeze, although there was an Amish woman in front of us. Or maybe she was one of those Mormons who look like they walked off the set of Little House on the Prairie.

The Joker was still at work, but we had the keys to his pad so Nicky and I made ourselves at home. We got the last bits of work done before we switched into full-on party mode. I popped a half of a pharmie and lost $79 playing online poker. I began the trip in the hole.

We met up for dinner at Mexican joint that had old Mexican comic strips plastered to the walls of the men's room. Our waiter was the biggest stoned out space cadet I had seen in years. The Joker's buddies Wildo and Wendy joined us. Wildo is an admitted degenerate gambler who reads the Tao of Poker. He's a poker freak and said that he favorite thing to do in the world is stand at a craps table for six plus hours getting free drinkings and throwing dice.

I drank Mojitos, Nicky knocked back Margaritas, and everyone else drank Tecates. I slowly soaked up the scene. Denver is another planet compared to L.A. and Las Vegas. Talk about three contrasting cities. Out of the three, Denver suited my vibe the most and I get the same feeling when I'm in Amsterdam.... relaxed and eager to chat with the friendly locals. Some of them are outright freaks (in the true sense of the word) while others are aliens hiding inside human bodies and roaming around the streets of Denver waiting for the mothership to take them back home.

And yes, they sure know how to party in the 303 area code. At one point, I realized that all of PKPNF's friends are raging cokeheads. But in a good way. LA Cokeheads are straight up douchebags and all the druggies in Vegas are black holes.

Like veteran Phisheads, we gathered up all of our goodies, party favors, and tickets before the run kicked off. The Joker finally had all of his tickets in hand after going through some tough times to get them including sniffing out two people trying to scam him. That's how hot these tickets to Phish at Red Rocks are... some of them are going for $200 and higher per ticket. Original price was $49.50. I paid a shitload for tickets forboth Nicky and myself.

The Joker has his shot together and even arranged transportation to/from the venue so none of us had to drive. Yes, we'll be on the party bus which means even more deviant hijinks.

On Wednesday night, we hit up a couple of the local Denver hippie bars for some musical enjoyment. Our first stop was at Owsley's which featured Green Sky Bluegrass. Nicky was a little skeptical of any band that has a banjo, but the Joker insisted that the scene was more entertaining than the actual music. There's some sort of monkey-theme with the fans and half the crowd (of a hundred or so) wore monkey hats with ears and tails. The rest of the crowd were out-of-towners who flew in to see Phish and looking to score party favors for the rest of their weekend.

The bluebgrass band was originally from Michigan, but found a tremendous amount of support in Colorado. Hippies dig bluegrass. We were able to toke outside of Owsley's. I used to be able to do that at the Wetlands in NYC before they shut it down. Too bad LA didn't have similar bars, otherwise we'd be there more frequently. Despite some technical problems to start the set, the gang at Green Sky Bluegrass met my limited expectations. Yonder, they are not, but we caught a few tunes including a cover of On the Road Again.

We head over to Quixotes to see The Heavy Pets. That venue did not have all of the monkeyfreaks. While the Heavy Pets were setting up, we headed next door to Cervantes for a few tunes from a group of musicians including two guys from Particle and one of the guys from Karl Denson's band.

We could have kept the party going all night but we decided to conserve our energy for the Phish shows. We didn't want to burn out before the shows even started and headed back to the house to wind down the night.

Nicky cooked us all breakfast burritos this morning while we plotted out our game plan for today. We weren't happy to see the rainy skies and hoping it all clears up before show time. Then again, I have no problems dancing in the cool Colorado rain.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Video: What Does Benjo Think?

By Pauly
Denver, CO


Every year at the WSOP, Otis and I come up with one activity that we do to keep things interesting when we're bored or to keep us sane during the insane moments. In 2005, it was the Hooker Bar. In 2006, it was the Tilted Kilt. In 2007 and 2008, it was Lime Tossing. And in 2009, we came up with... What Does Benjo Think?

If you have no idea what we're talking about, here's the premise...

Real questions by degenerate gamblers. Real answers from an angry Frenchman. It's a prop betting game that Otis and myself play where we wager on what we think Benjo would answer a series of random questions.

For the original installments....
What Does Benjo Think Vol. 1
What Does Benjo Think Vol. 2
What Does Benjo Think Vol. 3
What Does Benjo Think Vol. 4
What Does Benjo Think Vol. 5

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Get Down On It

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I have been in creative limbo the past week and swamped with non-challenging catch up freelance work yet itching to finish off Lost Vegas. I didn't have enough time to finish it inside of a week, so I made a tough decision (and a better one) to not start-stop the most important part of the book... the final cut. I'll get to it at the middle of August. Instead, I've been writing for others and in the downtime heavily self-medicating myself to numb the anxiety.

I'm rarely anxious because I love to live in the moment. Most people are anxious about the future. They can't sleep because they worry about the fact that they do not control their future. I know I don't have complete control, but I do have some say it what goes on. Hard work, discipline, and diligence puts you in a position to get lucky. I know enough that I have to always go with the flow and seize the moment as it approaches. The best advice that I give friends or a few people who I mentor is that when there's noting going on... that's the time to prepare for a time when something major is going on. They'll be better prepared.

I don't sleep much because I wake up and there are so many things that I want to do right now. So instead of falling back asleep, I jump out of bed and fire up the laptop and start writing. Sometimes, there are so many things that I have to do for my own businesses that they list is too long to find on one piece of paper. And let's not forget about all of the story ideas that I have. Artistic projects. Collaborations. If I live four lifetimes, I wouldn't have enough time to write and paint and travel to all the places I want to see. That's the core of my fleeting depression... that I don't have enough time to express myself. I guess that's a good problem to have... an overabundance of the thirst for life. So many people I know are parched and just want to crawl up in a ball and die. That's why working for yourself is extremely empowering.

My buddy Chicago Bob said it best, "Working for yourself is the hardest job in the world... the benefits, freedom, and sense of self-accomplishment are amazing... but all of that success and enjoyment comes at a price."

He's right. He was a lawyer in a big bank in Chicago and quit that to start his own business with his brother a few years back. And now? He decided Chicago was too cold and he wanted to check out California, so he picked up everything and moved to L.A.... because he could since he had the freedom of self-employment.

Although I have to work for others sometimes (and I usually don't mind working with/for people I respect and trust), I feel very fortunate that I have really created a bubble where I'm working by myself independent of the entire system. I made a nice chunk of change in poker and I've been trying to make as much as I could so I could live the rest of my life outside of the system. By working for myself, I limited the amount of shit (and personal side drama) that I have to deal with in exchange for a heavier burden and workload. Like Bob said, the perks are far more satisfying.

These days, offices have turned into extensions of high school and the entire air of professionalism has been swept out the door. I've never been one to play reindeer games and wanted to be involved in the personal psycho dramas that people allow to spill over from their personal lives into their professional lives. That's one of the biggest reasons why I avoided the office culture for a long time. Sadly, I've had to take freelance positions where I had to deal with a large group of unstable people. Let's not forget that most of these folks were misfits to begin with and ended up in poker because they had no other place to go or thought "it would be cool to work in poker." Heck, I chose poker because I wanted to stay away from all of that bullshit office politics, but a few years ago, I found myself a middle manager having to deal with all of these abrasive personalities.

I've had so many jobs over my life... too many to count... in both the professional and service environment. I can't recall how many times I slacked off, dogged it, or mentally checked out while punching a clock in my 20s. After working for myself the last five years or so and now that I've been having to pay employees, I realized that I had an unprofessional attitude and should not have deserved my full paychecks. Most of the time I was overqualified (education and experience) for my work, but that self-righteous attitude was off base. The reason I was being paid a low wage was because the work wasn't valued more than I thought it should. It's about the task and not the person. I took it way too personally because I was an insecure person still trying to find myself and I had been coddled too much by the academic world and bought into the forced-fed propaganda that I was supposed to go to college and there would be a fat job waiting for me upon completion of my courses. What a crock of shit.

In short, I humped McJob after McJob. I was expendable and decided to put forth as minimal effort without getting fired. Isn't that the American way? For a while, that way of thinking and viewing the world hurt me as an individual. It gave me an excuse to be lazy and as a result, I was a bottom feeder like everyone else. I was the worst kind of parasite... one who thought the world owed them everything.

I cherished laziness and an apathetic attitude, instead of taking pride in doing a good job regardless of compensation. We have lost the quest for attributes like honor and integrity in pursuit of material items. And that's why we have a nation of sheep and lambs being led to the slaughter.

Welcome to the United States of Sheeple.

Most people are smart enough to not be total corporate slaves, but they never end up more than a house slave or at best a slave master, the guy cracking the whip for the cabal fat cats who vacation in Aspen and eat $45 appetizers because they can.

I also realize how easy I used to have it back in my 20s, because if I wasn't there mentally or physically (like a legit sick day), then I could slack off and still get paid. The downside for self-employment is that I'm unable to hide on a bad day and phone it in especially with meaningless tasks. That's why these days I've been adhering to the "Work hard and play harder" mentality. Work is work. That means no fucking around and we go balls to the wall. And when it's time to play (like in 50 or more hours when Phish tour begins), it's time to go nuts. I found myself drawn towards those with a similar attitude, and at the same time, I lost a tremendous amount of respect for colleagues who fuck around in their jobs, and worse, have the audacity to complain about it incessantly. And yes, these people often spend more time on Facebook or playing online poker than taking the necessary steps to finding a more fulfilling job or improving their weaknesses. Complaining about your bad beat in life is a lot easier than taking the tough steps towards improving your situation. No wonder they are so miserable.

I finally mustered up the courage and picked up Lost Vegas for the first time in two months. The time away has been good. The writer in me went through a horrendous (albeit shortened) assignment in Las Vegas, and the artist in me had his brain fried a few times on a collection of mind-altering substances. I was extremely concerned that after a couple of hits of liquid sunshine where I finally shook out all the cobwebs that have been festering, that I'd read Lost Vegas and hate every single word and want to delay the release of the book for a fifth re-write.

I'd love to put my life on hold for a few more months while I delve into that... but that's not possible. I already took off four months at the beginning of the year and skipped out on a ton of work (and money) in order to finally finish it. Luckily for me, that didn't happen. I printed up the first 100 pages in the font and size of the impending publication. I took about 40 pages with me to the beach and read them as the waves rolled up and little kids frolicked all around. I forgot a red pen, so I did not stop every few lines to mark up the pages. Instead, I was able to read through each chapter in one breath. I made mental notes at the end of each chapter but did not want to delve more than a minute or two before I started up reading the next one.

That's when it hit me... I was sitting on Zuma Beach in Malibu, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and digging my toes into the sand while I edited my own work. Even when I'm playing... I'm still working.

I'm always a harsh critic of my scribblings and that's why I don't like re-reading old things because it makes me cringe because all of the cliches, weak analogies, grammar & types stick out. I know I could have done a better job but there's nothing I can do about that. It's already been published and I've already been paid. And for the blogs? I have zero desire to fix anything up. Once I start doing that with one old post, I'll have to do the entire thing... times that by four blogs as far back as seven years. Impossible task and that's why I love blogging in the first place because it's supposed to be this raw filter. I'm not even going to go back to the top and re-read this or edit it. Why? Because I said what I said and that's now I said it at the time that I said it. And that's that. We can't go back and edit our conversations and that's just what it is. An internal conversation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pale Blue Again

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"The inhabitants lack any sort of depth that you have to walk around completely numb from in order to endure the emptiness of it all."

I wrote that almost forty months ago. From the moment I set foot in L.A. in early 2006, I maintained a steady state of inebriation considering I spent a significant time on the road in the years since then most of the time trying to chase down a cheap high instead of actually enjoying one. Underneath the lush hills of Hollywood, I found no problems whatsoever finding plenty of options... a tasting menu of intoxicants... everywhere.

There were roving bands of artisans willing to drop the goods off by motor scooter, or you struggled to find parking in West Hollywood on the street your lazy Russian dealer lived. You know who I'm talking about... that Hummer-driving tattoo-riddled thug who sold nosebleed inducing blow so shitty that you wouldn't even let your maids snort it.

The instruments of self-medication varied, and as expected, the usual suspects were involved. The most dangerous, of course, were the ones manufactured by corporations, packaged under nifty names, and dispensed by white-coat wearing uninspired shills for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Those gave me the cleanest high, yet it was also the most addictive.

The sunshine in Southern California is magnificent and that's the only reason why most sane people deal with living in an insane city like L.A., shit, even I often question my own sanity. Aside from the sunshine, the reasons I stay here is because of the potent marijuana, it's cheaper than living in NYC, and a fleeting dream of selling a million dollar screenplay. L.A. is Nicky's hometown and that's another reason, but we both travel so much that our time in L.A. together is always sporadic.

Parts of the city are prowling cougars who got their bankrolls after their lawyers carved up their first or second husbands' empires. Most of them end up lonely like everyone else, since freedom (from marriages/unrepairable long term relationships) doesn't automatically mean you're gonna be anymore happy. The desperate cougars cruise boys town looking for bored boytoys to go shopping or to pilates with them.

The relentless traffic becomes so excruciating that you need something to keep your mind off of the urge to freak out about inching alone for one a mile in forty-five minutes. After a while, you've listened to every single song, over 4,635 items, at least seven times. Sometimes you get so sick of your own music that you'd rather listen to conservative talk radio and listen to a pill popping former bible-salesman rant and rave about those knuckleheads in Washington... those damn liberal hippie communists.

OK, maybe not. I'll listen to Pale Blue Eyes for the 239th time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Double Feature: Shrink and Watchman

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

On Friday afternoon, Nicky and I had the opportunity to check out Shrink, which was released at one theatre in LA nearby. I think it was an advanced screening with the film set to be released in a few weeks.

Shrink features Kevin Spacey as a pot-toking shrink to Hollywood's elite. It's not so much a dark comedy as it is a heavy drama with plenty of hysterical moments. Plenty of Hollyweird cliches pepper the screen among the characters and the scenes, but most of them are spot on including a whoring starlet and a struggling writer trying to pre-package real world problems into an edible film script.

The third act was lame, much like every studio film these days that churn out a semi-happy ending even with the most flawed and fucked up characters.

Here's the trailer for Shrink...


Nicky tweaked her knee working out so she tapped into my pharmaceutical expertise to relieve the pain. I told her that a tube of Ben Gay would be fine during the post-workout, but I also suggested a half of a Soma (muscle relaxer) to help her sleep and allow her to avoid waking up with any tightness. The result? She passed out cold shortly before Midnight and slept for he next twelve hours. Me? I was stricken with a horrible batch of insomnia. I managed to get around three hours of rest (to contrast our sleep regimen, she got four times the amount of me) and the rest of the time I struggled to sleep.

What do I do when I have insomnia? I watched Sporstcenter. I played online poker and lost $300. I probably should have lost more. I wrote a short story and a half-a-post which I'll eventually clean up and publish. I listened to all of Beck's Odelay and then I finally gave up and decided to buy The Watchman via OnDemand. It cost $3.99 and it was almost three hours long. About midway through, I fell asleep for a total of five minutes, but when I woke up I was totally lost in the flick. They compact so much plot and story twists that I needed to rewind and see what the hell I missed. I nodded out towards the end and when I woke up on Sunday, I re-watched the last twenty minutes.

Here's the trailer for The Watchman...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturdays Used to Be Saturdays

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Saturday mornings. They used to have special meaning for me throughout my life. These days? I live such an abnormal existence that work weeks and singular days loose all types of meaning being self-employed freelancer and someone who is constantly on the move. I've lost all sense of linear time.

When I was a child, Saturdays meant cartoons and cereal. Those are the memories floating around my head. A darkened apartment with only the glow of the TV illuminating the living room as my parents slept off their hangovers.

The younger version of myself (twenty and thirty years ago) was up before the dawn in the days pre-intertubes and cable TV. I almost had more fingers on one hand than available channels in New York City (2,4,7,9,11,13). That was CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and two local independent stations. Fox was still a decade or more away.

Only one or two dedicated programming to children, yet I was glued to those channels. Sometimes I woke up too early and the only show of interest was the religiously-themed Davey and Goliath. When normal programming came on around 8am, Superfriends and Scooby Doo were my escapes.

Let's think about that for a second... I was infatuated with crime fighting self-righteous superheros in flamboyant clothing... in addition to worshiping a bunch of hungry hippies driving around in a van with a talking dog, while runnign away from ghosts and other spooky things. Man, I love the subversiveness of the late 1970s and early 1980s Saturday morning programming.

And in the mid 1980s, knee deep in Reagan America, the War on Drugs heated up so we were bombarded by all these anti-crack and anti-marijuana slogans. "Crack is whack," was the parlance of the times along with "This is your brain on drugs."

Shit, when I was a kid, those messages were not a deterrent, rather an enticing commercial. I couldn't wait to grow up and get my hands on the exact things that the mass media was trying to dissuade me from partaking in.

During my 20s, I worked on Saturdays. During the Wall Street days, it was absurd to think about taking Saturday off when that was the best time to get stuff done in the office since 75% of the rest of my co-workers were not there to distract me and more importantly, potential clients were at home on Saturdays. Sadly, there were times I worked on Sundays.

I also lost Saturdays as an off day when I embraced the bohemian lifestyle (and yes there were times wen all I had was a mattress on a hard wood floor - e.g. Park Slope and Seattle) worked fringe jobs in the service industry (also including stints as a museum security guard, bar back, telemarketing scams). At that point, I found more pleasure in having a week day off. I got more errands done since more stuff was open and less crowded than the weekends.

In our post-modern world, Saturdays crop up on me. When I'm in Vegas, I know it's a weekend by the influx of dressed up tourists and whiskey tango chicks pushing the edge with walking the fine line between dressing up like a Hooker or Ho.

When I'm in Los Angeles, I know it's Saturday by the lack of cars on the road and the smoother flow of traffic. And since I live in a predominately Jewish neighborhood, I just have to take a few steps outside of my apartment before someone smiles at me and wishes me a good Shabbas, even though I'm a non-entity in their eyes being born and raised as a Catholic.

This morning? I woke up and wanted to stay in bed, but that was useless. I shuffled out to the laptop, fired up iTunes, and wrote. I had no idea it was Saturday. To me, it was just another day in the life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Link Dump

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here are some things (most of which I wrote) to keep you occupied this weekend...
Phish Festival 8: Halloween in Indio, CA (Coventry Music)

Special tournament tomorrow! Saturdays with Dr. Pauly: ONE TIME ONLY (Tao of Poker)

I made an in-studio guest appearance on The Poker Beat Podcast (Poker Road)

The Story of the Ghost (Tao of Poker)

Pink Dragons (Truckin' - June 2009)

Trading Pickles (Truckin' - July 2009)

Argentina Bar Fight (Bluff Magazine)

Los Angeles Douchebagicus (Rapid Eye Reality)

Phish Mix: Summer Tour - Leg 1 (Coventry Music)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Re-Adjusting

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It took me a few days before I realized that Vegas time is only appropriate for Las Vegas. I had conditioned my body and mind to stay up until sunrise which is a necessity during my assignment in Las Vegas where I don't necessarily have a set work schedule. It would be nice to know that I only had to work from 8:30am to 5:30pm everyday. But that's nit the case. Some days it's like 9am to 6am. Other days it's like 10am to 1am. You just never know but your body is prepped to maintain vampire hours.

However, in the days after I returned from Sin City, the Vegas time has lingered. The result has been late rising days in California. Before the summer began, I used to be up before the dawn pecking away and these days it seems like its' like 2 or 3pm before I get into the meat of the work I have to do, which means half of my day is shot. I preferred completing all of my stuff by late afternoon so my evenings would be free to write or hang out with Nicky or play poker.

In order to shake things up, I went on a bender the last two days in order to try to get back to being a morning person instead of a mischievous night owl. By the time Mighnight rolled around, I was more than faded. I crashed hard... so hard that I slept through my alarm and even stay asleep when the can faries bad a ruckus out back.

Benjo and couple of his French friends visited California after the World Series of Poker ended. They rented cars and drove from Vegas to Cali with stops in national parks, San Francisco, and the Pacific Coast Highway. Talk about a lovely vacation. They all arrived in Los Angeles the other day and were all happy to leave Las Vegas and bask in the warmth of California sunshine. Benjo wanted to book the Chateau Marmont for his entire stay here, but it was ridiculously expensive so he only got one night out of it before he moved down the street to the Standard.

Chateau Marmont is where lots of reclusive Hollywierd types live or where famous people chose to hole up when they go out to the Left Coast or are in the middle of a divorce or looking for a good old fashioned drug stupor. After all, John Belushi died there in Bunglow #2. The prices are so high that that automatically keeps out the riff raff.

Benjo spotted Kurt Cobain's daughter waiting for her car at the valet. Nicky mentioned that Frances Bean lives there and has been living there for some time. The only other celeb that Benjo saw was a French actress that mostly everyone else had no idea who she was.

We ate dinner on Sunset Strip up the street at one of the rare 24 hour diners in L.A. located inside the Standard Hotel. The lobby of the Standard itself is quite the adventure with a live model lounging around inside a box behind the reception desk. They have these egg-shaped clear chairs chained to the ceiling almost like swings. We sat there as we waited for our party to arrive as I channeled my inner L.A. Douchebag.

The burgers at the Standard are top notch and we ran up a nifty bar tab. Benjo had booked us a table at Bar Marmont for 10pm. The last time he tried to go, they wouldn't let him inside, so he made sure he got a table for six... four French people (one high stakes professional poker player, a player manager/sometimes player, his architect grilfriend, and Benjo who these days is a famous a TV commentator in France) along with me and Nicky.


The Bar Marmont was designed after saloons from Vietnam in the 1920s and 1930s, except there were no Vietnamese hookers hawking their cookies to prospective johns. I did see a handful of coke sluts huddled at the end of the bar. Nicky had not been inside Bar Marmont in several years. There was a time when she used to hit that place up a few times a week with the rest of her early 20s peers who worked in the motion picture industry. Those days are a distant memory, but it was interesting to see all of the different cocktails (and more so the explanations but without any prices - after all, if you have to ask the price then you probably can't afford it) on the menu. Benjo went for a 3-4-5-4 Margarita which happened to be Hunter Thompson's personal recipe. Mojitos. Mai Tais. Old Fashioneds. Lots of booze. Nicky got soused.

I decided to go very ghetto and ordered two bottles of Stella. I asked the waitress to bring both at the same time. I was thirsty and knew that she was an actress waiting for her big break which meant she was good looking, but a terribly slow and shitty waitress.

For the rest of the evening, we sat in the corner with wafting emotions of self-importance that lingered around from the other guests. So that's what the pretty people do on a nightly basis... that's the part of L.A. I avoid like the plague.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Semblance of Sanity

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I forgot about my old routine. I'd wake up in the darkness and sit down at the dining room table and await the glow of morning hover over the palm trees, as homeless people sneak down the alley to the dumpster and rummage through for empty beer bottles that the guys from upstairs threw away. I missed writing just to write along to music. The sounds of my favorite bands and musicians inspired me to write and write and write until it was time to stop. It's like turning on a faucet and I go and go until it stops flowing.

After a positive session, I grab a book and walk two blocks to the diner. This time, I carried along a new book that Michalski gave me called The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. I quickly read through the section on apples and Johnny Appleseed and I'm in the middle on a section about tulips and the big tulip crash in the Netherlands many many moons ago.

It was sunny out for my first morning back. Bright with a light blue sky, just like I remembered the morning sunshine in Southern California, but not as intense as the intense Nevada heat. I slowly walked down my palm-tree lined street. I walked past people, real people, some of them going to work, others working out, and others walking their dogs. They were not like the people I passed every morning in Las Vegas, where the first person I'd see every morning was an ethnic maid pushing a cart down the narrow hallway of the Gold Coast hotel.After I exit the elevator, I take a step into the casino and a bank of slot machines.. It's sad when some of the first negative images you see every morning are old ladies gambling away their savings while waiting to die.

It was refreshing to see some normal people doing non-gambling activities. Working out. I forgot how people in SoCal are obsessed with their bodies. They would never even consider an all-you-can-eat buffet, let alone eat anything with carbs. A few exercise people rushed by and I picked up my pace. I weighed myself and was about four pounds over. I had actually lost one pound when I got to Vegas and dropped another five on Phish tour. In the last three weeks, I packed on a quick ten. Since I was back in SoCal, the portions would decrease and the overall healthiness and freshness of my daily intake would substantially increase once Nicky returned to cooking the majority of our meals. No more casino food. Thank God.

There were plenty of FOR RENT signs up and down my street. Some of the older places got filled with new tenants, while new ones cropped up. I made my way across the street and noticed that Nick's had fixed their broken front window. A few months ago, someone was wasted and plowed through the sidewalk and crashed into the side of the building. The owner lost space for two tables but still remained open for business. They simply worked around it.

The gang at the diner (from the owner's adult kids, waitstaff, and cooks) were happy to see us. They asked where we went and I mentioned that we were away on an assignment. The owner's daughter thinks that Nicky is a spy because she's always going off to a strange and exotic locale. Come to think about it, my entire career would be the perfect cover for intelligence gathering. Hmmmmm....

We have been running errands the last few days to prep for the next leg of Phish tour. I had to pick up some random camping supplies and other stuff. Target had a few items in stock and we stopped in there. It's located in a not-so-great part of town. The clientele is very colorful and lots of lower-middle class families with multiple kids running amuck through the aisles. Apparently, if you leave your cart unattended, someone with steal it... with the items inside. It happened five minutes into our trip. I found a hipster hat that Nicky wanted to see what it looked like in a mirror. She left the cart unattended for ninety seconds in the aisle and when she returned, it was gone. She was pissed and looked around the adjacent aisles only to find the cart nowhere in sight. She rushed up to the front to find another.

I bought a cooler with wheels. It was too big to put into the cart (even though it barely fit), so I carried/wheeled it around solo. I was kinda faded when we went to Target, so I was a little loopy when I passed the snacks aisles. I got lost in the cookies and chocolates section. I left the cooler in the aisle unattended for a minute when Nicky caught someone trying to take it! At that point, I dumped the cooler into the cart. If someone wanted to steal our cart with all the stuff inside, than so be it.

If our Target experience wasn't weird enough, the credit card machines at the checkout counter were not working properly or the cashier didn't have a clue. I'm gonna go with the clueless cashier. Both my credit cards were declined even though I have a zero balance on both.

Instead of throwing a hissy fit, I simply paid cash. Sometimes, it's your time to get screwed over by the Man... fucked by the system... run over by the Matrix. It's nothing personal. Sometimes, it just happens and it's your turn to get shit on by a slave wage nit or a malfunctioning computer from a multi-national corporation who is trying to cut corners.

Most of the time, I'm amazed that things run so smoothly in America (as opposed to plenty of places overseas - some of which would blow your mind about having backwards and mind numbing slow and horrible customer service). So when it's my turn to get a bad beat by the Matrix, I simply take it in stride. Maybe it's from playing a lot of poker where I'm used to losing out on something when I had the percentages in my favor.

A couple of times since I returned, I went into my office and closed the door and played music. I forgot how much I enjoyed the privacy and ability to work in peace and quiet instead of the zoo like the press box. Sometimes it got as loud as a bar at happy hour. I always adapted to my surroundings, ut I discovered that I get work done faster when I limit the distractions... no friends tapping me on the shoulder to gossip, no phones, no email, no Twitter... just sitting down, listening to music, and writing...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: Sunshine, Jesus Freaks, and the Afternoon Shift

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"This work is an attempt to understand the time I live in." - Albert Camus
Bad Blood flew into Las Vegas for a little post-WSOP hang time. After five summers, he's the only one of my friends who figured out that poker media types have zero to little time to socialize during the WSOP. He strategically picked the days after the completion of WSOP to get sloppy as we embarked on some of the best misadventures that I had in a very long time.

Bad Blood and I go back, way back to the warm and fuzzy Party Poker days shortly after Moneymaker's epic win in 2003. We used to play several times a week together and developed a bond that has lasted over a half of a decade. Bad Blood was the one who introduced me to the Procedure; a three-pronged evening that entails drinking, strip clubs, and poker.

I've been fortunate to have taken part in more than one Bad Blood-captained sojourns to strip clubs in both Las Vegas and his hometown of G-Vegas. In fact, just a month earlier during my time away from the WSOP, both Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot and I had the pleasure of tagging along with Bad Blood to one of the local South Carolina gentleman's clubs. Talk about the other side of the tracks. The best looking dancer in G-Vegas could possibly hump the day shift at the Rhino if she could somehow kick her meth habit and drag her three kids across country with her.

The afternoon shift at the Rhino features the bottle of the barrel for Rhino girls, however, when compared to the rest of the stripping gene pool, they are still the tip of the sword. Most of the girls who end up on the afternoon shift at the Rhino are usually damaged goods in some form or another. It's a place for newbies to the pole who are desperate for cash, 40+ year old strippers a few years past their heyday, and single moms with multiple children who couldn't find decent day care. Where as some work places in Europe have day care centers on site for their employees, the Rhino doesn't exactly have a swing set out back. There's a Romper Room in the darkest corner, but the activities in that place should not be viewed by anyone under 21. Let's just say, that the Rhino does not actively promote "Take your daughter to work day" unless she happens to be a 18 year old former gymnast that knows how to shake her booty to Flo Rida's latest album.

Bad Blood arranged free passage from the cab driver since they get kick backs to funnel horny walking ATMs to various clubs around Sin City. The Rhino looked different during the day as you approached it. It was 110+ degrees and the mid-afternoon scorching sun gave everything outside a white glow. Even with shades on, your eyes were bombarded with the glare. It took several moments to adjust to the darkness inside the Rhino. Murky figures moved quickly in the shadows, sort of like the Vietcong ready to spring an ambush on a batch of fresh grunts in the jungle.

In the past, I made a beeline to the bar since it was the only lit area in the place. I was able to inspect the goods better that way. That time, however, we sat down at a table near the stage. Bad Blood turned down the first young girl in a plaid skirt who saddled up to him. He did not resist the second wave... a 6 foot tall Nordic beauty with breasts the side of medicine balls... sat down next to him.

Someone snuck up from behind and put her hands over my eyes.

"Guess who?" she said in in twang.

It sounded Southern maybe even East Texas. I didn't know who it was. She was just a random bleach-dyed blonde stripper with collagen injected lips who decided to pounce on me. It was her lucky day. My girlfriend approved of the trip to the Rhino and I had a wad of bills in my pocket after a score in the Dream Team Poker event.

"I'm Sunshine. Can I sit down?" she asked.

I nodded and a waitress wandered over. I had a two drink tickets and offered to buy Sunshine a cocktail.

"Sorry honey, I don't drink," she said as she leaned in to whisper, "I'll have an ice water. Get a double and ask for a water back. That way they won't charge you for the water."

I nodded and repeated her suggestion to the waitress. By that point, Bad Blood's bald head had disappeared into the bosoms of his girl.

"Where are y'all from?" asked Sunshine.

"I'm from South Carolina," said Bad Blood. "And he's from... where you calling home these days?"

"L.A.," I answered. "These days it's L.A."

"How do you know each other?" asked Sunshine.

"We went to school together," said Bad Blood.

"Yeah, we played hockey at Cornell together."

Bad Blood's girl stroked his head and Sunshine hopped on my lap.

"So you're hockey players?"

"Not anymore. That was like 15 years ago in a galaxy far far away."

"What do y'all do now?"

"He designs hot air balloons. He used to be a pilot but now he's a designer. Me? I'm a writer."

"In Hollywood? For who?"

"I'd rather not say."

"That's so cool. I knew there was something special about you. We're very similar. I'm a creative person too. I wrote, directed, and acted in my own film last year."

For the next five minutes, Sunshine revealed the intricate details of her film... a low-rent inter-galactic gangbang flick with sci-fi undertones.

"I even did my own stunts and we have special effects! In the final scene I fuck this alien with two cocks."

"Are you influenced by Philip K. Dick?" I asked wondering if she was also a fan of my favorite sci-fi writer.

"Bill Dick? Is he the black guy with the 14-inch cock who gives all those girls facials in Cumfiesta?"

Philip K. Dick. Bill Dick. Same guy.

An aging porn actress latched herself onto me. Luckily she seemed more interested in discussing the arts instead of trying to hustle me for lapdances in the VIP room.

Some of the entertainers perform under a persona and role play during their shift. You never learn anything about them since they're supposed to be globs of clay and become whatever erotic fantasy that you wish. Others just change their name and have no qualms telling you their daily bad beats and tragic "how I ended up on the pole" stories. Within three minutes Sunshine gave me the run down on the last three decades. She grew up in Texas near the Louisiana border. She got pregnant in high school and had a back alley abortion that got botched. So she could no longer have kids. She lived in New Orleans for a spell and married a Cuban coke dealer who went to jail for killing an undercover narc. She was afraid that the thugs who he worked for were going to come after her, so she fled for El Paso, then worked in Las Vegas for a spell before she ended up in Chatsworth, CA. If you know that little enclave in the Valley, then you know it's the porn capitol of the world.

Sunshine was one of the thousands of workers who fell into the booming sex industry in the 1980s. VCRs made it possible for any pervert to wank off to pornographic material without leaving their own homes. Dingy and sticky porno theatres became a thing of the past. At the time, she was a raging sex addict and cocaine addict. The porn industry catered to both of her needs. One year turned into a decade. Her 20s were a daze. All of a sudden, she woke up one day and it was 1999 and she was strung out, completely broke, and accumulated thousands of dollars in medical bills for a lacerated rectum after a tragic dildo incident.

She spent the last decade in and around Vegas. For a while, she hustled whales at the Mirage as a high end escort but that didn't work out after she got thrown over a couch by her pimp and broke seven ribs. While she healed, she worked in a call center specializing in bondage fantasies. She did everything possible to extract the credit card numbers and other personal info from her sex-deprived callers. One of her bosses used that info for an international identity theft ring. She got arrested but her boss fled town. After a short stint in jail, she was released and ended up on the pole to pay her legal fees.

In the last few years, she used the money at the Rhino to fund her own porn films. She told me her website name and made me say it out loud five times so I would not forget. Since she loved sci-fi stuff she wanted to incorporate those themes into her orgies on film.

"That's a remarkable way to target multiple audiences," I said. "Plus sci-fi geeks usually can't get laid so they'll be the ones buying this porn in bulk."

She offered up a lap dance first before we headed into the VIP room.

"I want you to test drive the car before you buy it," she said as she stood up and pulled me into the corner.

Before she danced, she asked if she could give me a psychic reading. She closed her eyes and put her hand on my chest above my heart. She said that she then asked the universe for a sign. Images pop up in her head and that's her psychic vision.

"I'm envisioning your father. He's not a creative person like you. He wore a gray uniform. I'm seeing a large bus. Was he a bus mechanic? I have this vision of a man in gray fixing a bus."

I told her she was wrong. However, she was almost correct and onto something. My old man was a suit who humped a desk job for an insurance company in midtown Manhattan. He wore a gray suit every day and took the subway to work. Either Sunshine was somewhat psychic, or full of shit and got lucky.

I arranged a very good deal for the VIP room at a discount. I even greased the bouncer to make sure we got a few extra songs. Bad Blood was in one of the dark corners while I sat in the other. Sunshine revealed her average sized breasts under a bluish light. She was in her mid-40s but her body was well maintained and had curves like a 30 year old.

"You used to have implants?" I blurted out.

"How did you know?"

I rubbed the scar underneath one of her breasts.

"I'll probably get them again in ten years when they really start to sag. For now, all of my money for cosmetic surgery goes to my face."

She pointed to her lips, eyes, and forehead.

Over the next few minutes, she gave me a sampling of her raunchy phone sex lines. She also revealed that she hasn't done coke since 9/11. She's been sober from booze for thirty months and that she attended Sexaholics Anonymous meetings twice a week and had not had sex since Christmas 2007. She admitted that she blew a guy on July 4th of last year, but that was because he offered her $5,000 for her a suck and a swallow. She was late on her rent and the AC on her car broke. Everyone has a price. Even those who are recovering addicts trying to live life on the straight and narrow.

She abruptly changed the subject and spoke about her recent relationship with Jesus that had been intensifying. She mentioned how she tries to channel all of her sexual frustration towards the heavens. She has been getting into a couple of Christian rock bands and often masturbates to the Kronicles. At that point, I had to cut her off. I didn't like the path she was leading me down. I was either trying to convert me or about to tell me some freaky shit involving a crucifix that I really did not want to think about. After all, I was on vacation and all I wanted was to have her rub her titties in my face while she told me some great stories about her daily encounters of life as a sex industry worker. Jerking off to Jesus was not one of the topics listed on the Rhino's afternoon symposium.

Before I left the VIP room, she asked to give me another psychic reading. She put her hand on my chest and close her eyes. She quickly opened them and said, "I had this vision that you gave me a $100 tip."

Talk about a sneaky hustle. I shrugged my shoulders and started to walk out when she grabbed my arm.

"I know you got it. I felt that bulge in your pocket."

"I'll tell you what. Why don't we play a game. You close your eyes and count to twenty. That will give me enough time to pull out my ca..."

Before I could finish, she put her hands over her eyes and started counting loudly.

By the time she got to seven, I snuck out of the VIP room.


Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Comment Trolls

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I usually delete anonymous comments especially those who are sock puppets, troublemakers, and those spewing hate.

But this one was just too funny. And weird. Check it out here.

Out of all of the comments I got this year, that one made me chuckle and cringe the most... at the same time. Sometimes, you don't know what to say.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

las vegas > hollywerid

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

For the first time in a very long time, Nicky and I both woke up and smiled because we knew that we'd be leaving Las Vegas after moving out to the Nevada desert two months earlier. I had a much shorter prison sentence and squeezed in the first leg of Phish tour in the middle of the grueling WSOP. Nicky was not so lucky and she endured one of her toughest assignments to date. In short, she was miserable, forced to take a pay cut, and it didn't help that I skipped out for a while and had a balls out fun summer while she had to sit inside a casino and watch me blog, tweet, or text about my adventures.

I also detected the eye daggers and slings and arrows from some of my work colleagues who weren't so lucky and got stuck in the trenches for seven plus weeks humping shitty assignments for their ungrateful employers. For the most part, my work friends were all happy for me because they knew how much pleasure I get from migrating from place to place and soaking up music from my favorite musicians. However, that's not to say that I put them on slight tilt when I returned in good spirits and well rested for the hardest three weeks in the entire poker industry while they went through a multitude of personal pyscho-dramas.... life tilt, work tilt, relationship tilt, gambling tilt... you name it.

On my fifth attempt at covering and surviving a two-month summer assignment, I finally figured it out how to cover the WSOP without killing myself. It usually took me weeks and even months to recover from the brutality of working everyday for seven weeks (even on days off, I was still working to some extent). One summer, I was not right until October and most of the time, it took me until Labor Day to recover. That's how intense the WSOP can be physically, mentally, spiritually, and creatively.

At this point, I've been in LA for less than 24 hours and I'm on the verge of my fastest recovery. Physically and mentally... I've never been better at this juncture of the summer. The Phish sojourn helped and reducing the amount of days I spend in Las Vegas did wonders. That city really drives you crazy.

I can bounce back within a few days. If anything, I have the burden of Lost Vegas looming overhead and scrambling around trying to run a gagillion errands before I head back out on the second leg of summer Phish tour. I have trips to Colorado, San Francscio, Portland, The Gorge, and Seattle planned... not to mention heading back east to NYC for Phish shows in Hartford, Maryland, and upstate New York. Oh, and not to mention my first game at the new Yankee Stadium with my brother. Aside from a week or so in LA, I'm going to be constantly on the road for the rest of the summer but the good news is the 10+ days in NYC.

Sadly, I had to turn down two assignments. One in Russia and the other in Slovakia. I wish I had the time but I'm in the final stretch for Lost Vegas.

Ironically, actually wanted to stick around in Las Vegas for a few more days. That's rare for me but when I'm on a good run of cards, I want to maximize my good fortune and keep pressing my luck. I was anxious to get out to play poker on Friday. And the results were astounding. The number I won was not as important as the speed that I generated that profit... in less than two hours. Seriously, if I could realistically make $600 an hour playing poker, I would be playing a shitload more than sitting on the sidelines writing about poker and fluffing up douchebags that I wouldn't even talk to on a daily basis but have to in order to keep the wheels of the online poker industry moving and moving.

Anyway, I wrote up my adventures at the Venetian casino on Friday afternoon where I really pissed off a cute German goth chick. Check out... Germans, Goths Chicks, and Mai Tais.

After a mellow Friday night (packing up all of our shit and posting a final winning session at Pai Gow), we woke up early on Saturday morning and loaded up the car. We checked out of the Gold Coast where I had been living for the last three weeks. It's become the norm for me. That's my life. I live in hotels (some luxurious while others basic) where little ethnic women carrying white towels barge into my room if I don't leave a sign hanging on the door. I regularly eat overpriced room service and 90% of my meals are consumed inside a casino of some sorts. Even if I don't gamble in the pits, the corporations that own the casinos still shake me down every time I want to eat or hit up a bar to drink. Alas, that's the Las Vegas hustle. At any given moment, someone is trying to suck money out of your pockets. It used to be the mob, now it's a bunch of suits... not to mention the other operatives and dark forces such as angle-shooting degenerate gamblers, working girls, and junkies of all sorts.

Since the AC in our condo busted mid-way through the summer, we had to relocate to a casino. That in itself was a major headache and I'm stuck with most of the bill. Nicky essentially brought our entire kitchen to Las Vegas so she could cook her own meals so we wouldn't have to be forced fed overpriced and greasy and unhealthy casino food. Once we lost the condo and the kitchen, we had no more opportunities to cook our own food. Most of our stuff was stored in Michalski's garage.

We met up with him for breakfast at the Cracked Egg on Saturday morning. It was a goodbye meal of sorts at a breakfast joint that ended up being our favorite place to eat breakfast and a much tastier and healthier alternative to room service. Last year, we got addicted to OHOP. This year, it was the Cracked Egg.

We gathered up all of our things and packed everything into the car. We also leave with a little more shit than we came with... lots of schwag from online poker sites and magazines and books. This time, I had two trophys rattling around in the back seat. I have never won anything in poker worthy of recognition and I don't really play for the cups and trophys. I just want the money! However, it's been a long time (decades) since I got any sort of trophy. My sports days are long gone and it was a sincere pleasure to place the silver cup and the crystal trophy on top of our entertainment center.

The ride from Vegas was fast. Usually it seems like it takes forever to get back to LA. We went door-to-door in under four hours with a ten-minute piss and smoke break in Barstow and slight traffic near downtown LA. I could not have been more happier when I saw my first real palm tree. I was near tears when we drove down our pal-tree lined street and the dashboard thermometer read 81 degrees. It was 120 at one point as we sped though bat country.

For the moment, I'm happy to be sitting on my couch and pecking away inside a familiar place. I have to enjoy this momentary pit stop while it lasts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 7

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

It was late the last two months. I have no excuse aside from being swamped with the WSOP. Anyway, here you go, the latest issue of Truckin' with three familiar faces and a rookie...

July 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 7

1. Trading Pickles by Paul McGuire
Sven worked in the largest pickle factory in Western Norway. It was a dreary town, but Sven's options were limited since he had a terrible habit of holding a steady jobs. In the four and a half years since he graduated from university, he held no less than 76 jobs. All of them had something in common... he was fired from all 76... More

2. Learning to Steal in the Boy Scouts of America by Johnny Hughes
We had a code similar to the Boy Scout code in some ways. There was no stealing from the mom and pop grocery stores that were on every other corner. No stealing from houses. No vandalism. And as I said, we did not steal while in our Boy Scout uniforms... More

3. Yellow No. 2 By Betty Underground
He had pulled the mirror and the little box from the coffee table shelf and was cutting and lining up the next round. It was the 90s in Los Angeles. We had fallen into the alteration that cocaine had provided for our creative minds. Neither of us addicted to the drug, but walking a fine line of destruction to our relationship. Being almost unable to communicate with each other without it... More

4. The Grays by Milton T. Burton
We froze and they smirked, their bright, gleeful eyes drinking in our fear. Then two of them pulled knives. Large knives. I put my arm around my daughter and drew her close. Cozart was calm beside me but I could hear him whispering a prayer in what sounded like Latin. Old habits die hard, I guess... More

5. Justin Masterson By Broseph
The game was interesting enough, but I needed more excitement. I noticed two young ladies standing on the rail near us, decked out in Bosox regalia and holding a bottle of sun screen. About my age, they were attractive and fit the profile of girls I would normally bone sober... More
Help spread the word about Truckin' and your friends and family and co-workers about your favorite stories.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Conceptual Alienation

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

New Orleans. Amsterdam. Las Vegas.

Those are my top three party places on the planet. There used to be a time when I hopped on a plane and flew out to the Nevada desert to party my ass off. Gambling was secondary to having a good time. I drank. I smoked. I snorted.

Then there was a time when I went to Las Vegas primarily to gamble, and having a good time became secondary. Parlays. Double Downs. Check-raising all in.

And when I lost, I was miserable and having a good time was non-existent. Depression is the root of all misery. Sinking to the lowest depths of despair in Sin City is utter torture.

When I realized there was a bigger payday involved in working in and around Las Vegas, I found myself hopping on flights from JFK airport or driving through bat country from Los Angeles. Instead of tossing around money in the pits, I found myself holed up in hotel rooms or short-term rentals pecking away at the keyboard, and avoiding temptation at every turn. Sometimes I faded the demons. Other days I got sucked right into the fracas.

After spending more time on the sidelines watching people gamble rather than actively participating in the degenerate act of gambling, I noticed a few things. Horrible things. I stumbled upon the dark side of humanity that was glossed over by clever marketing ploys, flickering neon, and all-you-can-eat buffets.

A couple of years ago, I lost the enthusiasm for Las Vegas... the soused circus, a bloated mirage, a scintillating cesspool, and a surrogate prison where ephemeral dreams go unfilled.

I used to bubble over with excitement weeks and days before a trip to Las Vegas. After a while, I dreaded my time here and couldn't wait to get out. I knew something was quite unordinary when I actually preferred the shallowness of Hollywood to the coruscate multi-colored lights of Las Vegas.

This year, I vowed to rekindle the fire and excitement that I once had. In short, I wanted to have fun. I missed running rampant down the Strip and trying to outrun the gambling ghosts. I missed playing cards for the sure joy of the game. I missed looking out into the darkness of the Valley from my hotel room and thinking about all the financial possibilities. After a while, all I could see was the plight and the darkness of the void.

I'm still not quite there yet. I dunno if I'll ever be. But for the first time in a while, I caught a glimpse of what having fun in Vegas it used to be like. And you know what? There are very few things in life that are greater than being on top of the world while living it up Las Vegas. It has nothing to do with how much money you won or how many chicks you banged or how many souvenir cups of Margaritas that you downed. Rather, it has everything to do with your mindset. That's the trick and the key to not getting slaughtered by the gambling gods, demons, and ghosts. Positive mental attitude. It goes a long way out here and the minute that you slip, you get flushed right down the toilet.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One More Day...

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

This is my last day of the WSOP. In previous years, this day lasts into the next day. I arrived at work around 11:30am and do not expect to leave until a few hours past sunrise. I'm prepped for the long haul. I have Clif bars and some generic vicodin.

A friend of a friend is going very deep. I'm supposed to be impartial as a member of the media, but poker media is not real media, so I can root for Ludovic Lacay. He dropped out of law school to play poker for a living. The Frenchman from Toulouse is also good friends with Benjo.

And of course, there's a guy named Phil Ivey. They call him the Tiger Woods of golf because he's a black guy who looks like Tiger. But you know what? He's equally good at what he does. Ivey has already won two bracelets this year and he's looking to advance to the November Nine.

I'm done with Las Vegas. Nicky can't wait to get back to the slums of Beverly Hills and sleep in our bed. I never long for L.A. more than when I spend ungodly amounts of time in Las Vegas.

The end if near. Follow along with the last day of the WSOP over at Tao of Poker.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tao of Pokerati Wins Dream Team Poker III

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Stop the presses... Tao of Pokerati won first place in Dream Team Poker III for a cool $33K. Although LJ busted early on Day 1, Michalski and I both advanced to Day 2 (the final three tables) and although we both missed the final table, we managed to have a low enough score to win overall first place in the team category. I finished up 13th overall and Michalski took 17th.

Congrats to Kenna James for winning it all in the individual category. He was by far the most experienced player among the final 27 players. I'm glad he won because I shipped my stack his way on my elimination hand. My A-7 lost to his 6-6. I could not come from behind to double up and I busted out in 13th place, while Kenna went onto win.

Thanks so much for the gang at Dream Team Poker for putting on a festive event. And the entire vibe of the tournament would have been possible if it weren't for the jovial and upbeat performance of Alex Outhred rocking the mic as the emcee.

Here are some pics courtesy of Mean Gene...




And you can check out our winner's interview from Raw Vegas TV...



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

Monday, July 13, 2009

Running Good at Dream Team Poker

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I run good in Dream Team Poker tournaments. Just the other day, I made the final table and took third place in the media event run by Dream Team Poker. There was no money invovled in that freeroll, but I managed to win money that would be donated to the Nevada Cancer Institute.

But on Sunday, Dream Team Poker had their third event... for money. I missed the first one last November but Michalski and I played with Shaniac (a well known online pro from L.A.) for Team Tao of Pokerati at the previous event at Caesar's Palace in March.


Team Tao Pokerati: LJ, Pauly, and Michalski

This time with Shaniac unavailable and the DonkeyBomber (pro player from Arizona who was our alternate) was still playing in the Main Event, we added LJ to the roster. She had a decent score earlier in the WSOP when she made the final two tables of a HORSE event.

I don't have too much time to go into details, but both Michalski and I cashed and advanced to Day 2 or the final three tables of 27 players. 122 teams signed up or 366 total players. Since we're the only team with two players remaining, the overall team championship is well within our grasps. We both have to make it to the final two tables to win it outright.

I finished Day 1 in the Top 8 in chips with 158K. My highlights included sitting across from a shirtless Tom McEvoy (former WSOP champion) and I also busted Men the Master's wife. And it was cool that Michalski's dad was in town and cheering us on from the rail. He was very excited whenever we won a hand. It was definitely a treat to have Nicky and friends and colleagues stop in and check up on our progress. Thanks for the support.

Here's how Dream Team Poker works.. they split the prize pool and pay out the Top 10 teams and the Top 36 places. They only count the top two finishers per team. We have a great chance at winning it all...


Photo by Owen Laukkanen

Yeah, the re-start is for 2pm on Monday at the Rio Casino. I'll be updating my progress via Twitter, so follow along if you care.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm So Tired

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

The Beatles song keeps playing over and over and over...

George Costanza busted out of the Main Event. I met the actor who played him, Jason Alexander, for the first time inside a casino back in 2006. Wil Wheaton introduced us at the WPT Celebrity Invitational. Out of all the celebs who I crossed paths with in poker, I gotta say, I was most excited at meeting Can't Stand Ya.

Alexander played on the TV table the last couple of days before he was eliminated on a bad beat. Not very pretty.

The only celebs left are French singer Patrick Bruel and Lou Diamond Phillips. Yes, LDP lives. He's one of my brother's favorite actors and he's about to cash in the Main Event.

Day 4 starts on Saturday and if LDP can survive the day, he'll win at least $21K. I woder what his La Bamba residual checks are these days?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Prop Bets with Frenchmen

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Real questions by degenerate gamblers. Real answers from an angry Frenchman. Here's the latest installment of What Does Benjo Think? It's a game that Otis and I play in the press box to keep things loose. We wager on what we think Benjo would answer a series of random questions...
Volume 1 & 2
1. Who is the worst U.S. President?
Otis: Nixon
Pauly: W Bush
Benjo said, "Nixon. Because I just watched Frost/Nixon."
Result: Otis wins (0-1)

2. Who is the biggest influence on rock & roll in America?
Otis: Beatles
Pauly: Bob Dylan
Benjo said, "It has to be a British band. Led Zeppelin. Because the Beatles is pop and Dylan is folk."
Result: Push (0-1-1)

3. Hottest chick in poker?
Otis: Alexia Portal
Pauly: Lacey Jones
Benjo snapped called with, "Lacey Jones"
Result: Pauly wins (1-1-1)

4. The home state of the next American girl he hooks up with?
Otis: Arkansas
Pauly: Texas
Benjo said, "California."
Result: Push (1-1-2)

5. How big is Tony G's bankroll?
Otis: $20 Million
Pauly: $17 Million
Benjo said, "$1.5 million."
Result: Push (1-1-3)

6. Between an enema, a vasectomy, and a punch in the nose... which one would you prefer to wake up to?
Otis: Enema
Pauly: Punch in the Nose
Benjo said, "Punch in the nose."
Result: Pauly wins (2-1-3)

7. Who is your favorite character on the Sopranos (not including Tony Soprano)?
Otis: Paulie Walnuts
Pauly: Silvio
Benjo looked up characters on the internet and then blurted out, "Johnny Sac."
Result: Push (2-1-4)

8. Who is the best looking male in poker?
Otis: Patrik Antonius
Pauly: Random Scandi
Benjo almost went for Patrik Antonius, before he refused to answer the question because we'd give him guff and unleash a round of 'gay' jokes. He picked Dan Harrington.
Result: Push (2-1-5)

9. How many shots of Southern Comfort does it take to get AlCanthang drunk?
Otis: 7
Pauly: 14
Benjo asked how big were the glasses of SoCo that Al drank. After we told him, he said, "27."
Result: Push (2-1-6)

10. Which sex tape of a poker couple would you like to see?
Otis: Benyamine/Schoenberg
Pauly: Harman/Traniello
Before I could complete the question, Benjo blurted out, "Benyamine. Anything he does? I'm interested in."
Result: Otis wins (2-2-6)

Volume 3
1. What is the combined weight of Doyle Brunson, David Benyamine, and Steve Diano?
Otis: 1200
Pauly: 1100
Benjo said, "That is tough. I say 1000."
Result: Push (0-0-1)

2. How many pros were rolled by a hooker last night?
Otis: 1
Pauly: 3
Benjo said, "Rolled by hookers? Three."
Result: Pauly wins (1-0-1)

3. In a fight between Melissa Castello and Dario Minieri, how long does it take Melissa to win?
Otis: 2 minutes
Pauly: 30 seconds
Benjo said, "Dario has little fists that hurt. He can punch fast. If he has a proper helmet, he can last three minutes."
Result: Push (1-0-2)

4. If Dario is allowed one non-lethal weapon to use in the ring against Melissa, what would it be?
Otis: Scarf
Pauly: Piano Leg (getting 2-1 on this selection)
Benjo said, "Scarf. He'll tie it around her neck and choke her."
Result: Otis wins (1-1-2)

5. What Michael Jackson song will Benjo sing on American Idol?
Otis: Billie Jean
Pauly: Beat It
Benjo said, "The Jackson 5 song I Want You Back. It was the greatest song of the 1960s."
Result: Push (1-1-3)


Volume 4
1. What is weight (in pounds) of a whale's vagina?
Otis: 120 lbs
Pauly: 500 lbs.
Benjo said, "Fish have proper sex organs? Whales have vaginas? Someone actually weighed one?"
Otis said, "Yes. Whales are mammals so they have vaginas."
Benjo said "I have to say 50 lbs."
Result: Push 0-0-1

2. If the WSOP gets a new sponsor in 2010, what industry will it be in?
Otis: Alcohol
Pauly: Feminine Hygiene
Benjo said, "Well, the WSOP have taken a step down from Mr. Peanut to beef jerky. I have to say that a new sponsor will be something like diapers for incontinent old people. At the Seniors event instead of free beef jerky, you get free diapers. Smaller lines at the bathrooms on the break."
Result: Push (0-0-2)

3. If you could date one female pro for one month... Isabelle Mercier, Kathy Liebert, Erica Schoenberg, and Vanessa Rousso... who would it be?
Otis: Erica
Pauly: Vanessa
Benjo said, "That is tough, but Erica. I'm interested in everything that David Benyamine does. Although my second choice is Isabelle."
One random European media rep passing through the press box piped in, "Oh Isabelle? I'd pick her. Everyone that I know who slept with her says she's crazy in bed."
Result: Otis wins (0-1-2)

4. How many tricks does an Amsterdam window hooker turn in an average day?
Otis: 13
Pauly: 11
Benjo said, "Let me see, if they work 8 hour shifts and each guy is twenty minutes, but maybe five minutes if he cums fast, so I'd say 25."
Result: Push (0-1-3)

5. In a 100 yard dash... which writer from Poker Stars Blog would win? Otis, Bartley, Howard, or Lina?
Otis: Lina
Pauly: Bartley
Benjo said, "Otis? Out of the question. No offense. He could beat me in a race though. Lina? She smokes, so no. Howard is slim and is a non-smoker. Bartley is a ginger. No way. So, I have to say Howard."
Result: Push (0-1-4)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Trey for Charity

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I took third in the annual WSOP media tournament. I made the final table in 2005 and finished 6th and donated the winnings to the Charlie Tuttle Foundation. This year, I did not have a choice of the charity, however, it went to a worthy cause... the Nevada Cancer Institute.

It was also a team event and my team Tao of Poker finished in a tie for third place. MeanGene and Nicky played with me.

Anyway, if you wanna know specific details, you can read the recap... Third Place for Charity.

Check out this pic from Rob Gracie...


Click to enlarge to see some of the reaction on people's faces on a hand I probably should have lost but beat rendunkulous odds to win.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Not Quite Bullets

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Once the Main Event of the WSOP rolls around, I barely have time to post here. Sadly, the Tao of Pauly slacks. Coventry slacks. And Truckin' is always late.

And with Twitter... it takes away even less time away from this little corner of the interwebs.

Alas, instead of taking ten minutes to write, I'll go with a bunch of short bursts on Tao of Pauly as I try to squeeze in random thoughts throughout my day...

... I woke up on Wednesday morning before my alarm went off, but I could have used another 2 straight days of sleep. I stayed up very late writing a satirical piece about poker agents. The good news is that I only have about one more week of this hellacious schedule. Then we go home to L.A. and go to the beach and relax and not think about poker.

.... I fly to Colorado in three weeks to see Phish at Red Rocks. That could come sooner.

... I'm addicted to The Cracked Egg. Sensational breakfast and a much healthier and cheaper option than that crap they serve us inside casinos. For example, if Nicky and I order room service breakfast for two (Denver omelete with coffee and bacon & eggs with ice tea) it costs almost $40 with tip. And this is ain't the Bellagio, it's at the lowly Gold Coast. This morning I went for the banana and chocolate chip pancakes at Cracked Egg. I've eaten there three times since last Saturday.

... I had to go to the bank, which is always an adventure in Nevada. Luckily, I got someone who knew what they were doing and I was able to conduct a few complicated and complex transactions. The tellers in LA always seem to screw that stuff up but the tellers in NYC are always on the ball. I lucked out with the Vegas branch. I now have cash to pay my writers!

... I have a small piece of a friend of mine from London who is playing in the Main Event. If he wins $1 million, I'll be able to buy my brother a car and take Nicky to Hawaii.

... I have eaten In-N-Out burger or at the old diner at least six times in the last seven days. I have been gambling on In-N-Out meals. I lost one to a British colleague last week and I'm gonna owe Benjo two trips. I have a feeling were going tonight for our dinner break.

... One of the Wayans brothers is playing in the WSOP. Also here? Jason Alexander otherwise known as George Costanza. He played on the TV table with former world champion Greg Raymer. Alexander advanced to Day 3.