Los Angeles, CA
On May 25th, 2002, the Tao of Pauly was birthed into existence. Eleven years ago today.
It all started after I reconnected with an old college friend Dave Simanoff (a former roommate who was a journalist at a major newspaper). He authored a "web log" called The Daily Dave. It was the first personal blog I ever read. Simanoff encouraged me to start one of my own by opening up a free account at Blogger.com. I had just seen the Tao of Steve film and thought it was a hysterical flick. I was also dabbling heavily in Buddhism at the turn of the century and was inspired by the word "Tao." In Chinese, "tao" is loosely translated as "the way" and the same Kanji script character translated into Japanese means "the road." If you want to get literal, it means The Way of Pauly or The Road of Pauly. Inspired by Tao of Steve, I tweaked the title and created a new blog.
Tao of Pauly was born. Cue the music. The rest is history.
It's funny how technology and creativity often evolve together. When I look back at how I used Blogger in 2002 (via dial-up modem access), it looks a lot like how I use Twitter today (sharing links to news stories and random pop culture fodder). I occasionally opened up a bit and wrote rambling posts, but that was the rare exception. I had about a dozen readers, mostly my friends in NYC bored to death at work and a few tech geeks from Seattle. In 2013, I use Tao of Pauly primarily as a platform for long-firm writing, utilize Tumblr to post music, and use Twitter to share links to stuff.
Over the last 12 years, I immersed myself into creating shit both on the web (websites) and in real life (books). I'm loyal to Blogger. Despite a few hiccups here and there, I can't complain over a free service. I used MT and Word Press (and Tumblr) for different project, but in the end, I'm loyal to the crew at Blogger. I'm sure at some point in the future I'll migrate away from this platform, but for now, I think of the earliest days of blogging with fond memories. This was at a time when Facebook and Twitter were... nonexistent... and MySpace was quickly becoming the epicenter of the social media revolution. How have times changed in less than a decade.
Tao of Pauly was birthed in late May of 2002 when I was still hustling on Wall Street and struggling to make my quota as a glorified salesman. It was only eight months after 9/11 and we had yet to go to war with Iraq. I had given up aspirations to be a novelist and screenwriter and donned a Brooks Brother suit and elbowed other commuters for space on the downtown express. I thought I had given up on my dreams and settled into a life as a shyster broker, trying to dig out of debt (crippling credit card bills and a school loan) by churning the accounts of widows living in New Jersey. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that starting this blog would become a launching pad for an epic Hoartio Alger-esque journey that would eventually indirectly land me a job in Vegas (and inspire a book) and help secure myself a career in which I traveled the globe as a poker writer, before I shacked up in Los Angeles with the love of my life.
Never. In. My. Wildest. Dreams.
If you don't take a shot, you'll never succeed. Simple as that. Thanks to Dave Simanoff, I started Tao of Pauly. Eventually it would spawn a sister site, Tao of Poker, that would also inspire to create at least one book, Lost Vegas, and an inevitable sequel about sports betting.
Once I started, this I couldn't stop. Tao of Pauly. Truckin'. Tao of Poker. Coventry Music. [DELETED Politics Blog.] Tao of Bacon. Tao of Fear. Ocelot Sports.
I also dabbled in other social media platforms like Flickr (where I built up extensive photo galleries from my travels and meals) and Tumblr (which I used as a go-between a blog and Twitter). Along the way, I was involved in the launch of a couple of other websites (Fantasy Sports Live) and defunct blogs (LasVegasVegas.com and Las Vegas Business and Politics).
Here's my blog history:
2002: Tao of Pauly and Truckin'
2003: Tao of Poker
2004: Coventry Music and [Defunct Politics Blog]
2005: LasVegasVegas.com Vegas Blog
2006: Flickr (Pauly Pics) and LasVegasVegas.com - Business and Politics
2007: Fantasy Sports Live
2008: Tao of Pokerati [Podcast]
2009: Tao of Bacon
2010: Tao of Fear and Lost Vegas [Book]
2011: Jack Tripper Stole My Dog [Book]
2012: Tumblr (Tao of Pauly and Ocelot Sports Betting)
2013: Ocelot Sports
Check out the evolution of the Tao of Pauly and how it slowly morphed into what you see today:
I create shit. It's what I do to stay sane and prevent myself from crawling inside a bottle and wasting away as an alkie. Ask Nicky. Sometimes I paint over old paintings... just to fucking paint. God knows how much tripe I cranked out here since 2012. A couple millions words? That's disgusting. I should be tried for crimes against humanity for butchering the English language and writing thousands of words about taking a dump on airplanes or about my vapid neighbors in the Slums of Beverly Hills. What good is a million words if that is the equivalent of loose stool and other nasty fecal matter?
Over the last decade, I also turned down work on websites that I never spoke about publicly. Some of it I can't talk about. Some of it, well, I'm embarrassed to talk about it. Like the guy who wanted to do a poker/porn site. I even once got offered my own sportsbook by a guy with a lot of vowels in his last name... and wisely declined that offer (that I almost couldn't refuse). I also got plenty of bad advice (the worst of which was a serious suggestion that I turn Tao of Poker into a sanitized and PG-rated site, and then creating a second anonymous poker blog and use an online pseudonym where I could write about the dark side of poker.) I also got screwed over by a bunch of shady fuckers. Nothing is more demoralizing than doing a ton of legwork and writing a shitload of content for a potential new website... and then you never get compensated for your work. I got scammed once slaving away on a start up and another time financing fell apart a week before the launch date. Shit happens.
Oh, and then there was a time when I got blackmailed by a shady motherfucker in Reno who wanted me to write a weekly column for his website -- for free -- otherwise he was going to tell all the major publishers in the poker world to not publish Lost Vegas. He went ahead and tried to cockblock the publication, but in the end, I was not going to back down to a bully. I went my own way...the right way... and looks like I won because poker enthusiasts all over the world are still buying Lost Vegas three years after its initial release. I luckily caught lightning in a bottle with Lost Vegas by capturing the city at the apex of the online poker boom up until the rehabilitating Financial Crisis of 2008.
Writing is my wheelhouse, so I'm was approached by "web entrepreneurs" looking to launch gambling-themed websites. I worked on dozens of those sites as a consultant, site builder, or old-fashioned content generator. Some of those projects I completed using my real name while others were done with a pseudonym (some obvious and not-so-obvious).
You meet a lot of dreamers and hustlers in and around the gambling scene in Vegas and Atlantic City. The poker world has no shortage of angle-shooters and assholes who will do everything to exploit you. Every summer during the WSOP, I got pitched a variety of business ideas about everything you can imagine from poker schools, to poker clothing companies, to poker-themed game shows, to a marijuana grow operation specifically catered for poker pros.
For every successful project, there's a dozen scattered carcasses from projects that fizzled out, or never took flight, or crashed and burned. I'd hate to tally up how many months (un-paid) I lost working on those duds that never got out of the development stage or in a couple of extreme cases the ones that blew up in the pre-development stage.
It took me a while to finally figure out that a great idea is only as good as its execution. I'm not opposed to working on start-ups, but I have to 100% believe in it before I take the risk and gamble with investing my time in something without the possibility of getting paid. If you get involved in a bad situation, you can't dodge the primary question that haunts you: "why do I want to work on someone else's shitty start-up?"
If you do not believe in something, then you should not be doing it. If you fake it, or force it, then it will never develop organically. If there's one thing you must believe in more than anything else... is you. But once you start doubting yourself, then you're totally fucked.
Luckily, whenever things got too weird, I can always come back to this specific space and unleash my thoughts. It's like Cheers... a place where everyone knows my name... and I'm a regular who can slump at the end of the bar and hang out and be myself. Tao of Pauly one of the most comfortable places I have ever been a part of (both virtual and IRL), which is why this tiny corner of the web often extracts some of my favorite pieces of writing.
It's been a wild run for sure. 11 years of Tao of Pauly? I never celebrated my 10th blog birthday last year because I took most of 2012 off while I was living in San Francisco with Nicky and Halli, and ensconced in my I'm Not There moment, in which I needed to shut everything down and do nothing for a while as I sorted out a bunch of existentialist shit inside my head. Once I got stuff worked out, I could not wait to return to the Tao and pick up where I left off.
In the modern era of social media, you are your own TV network, which my blogs are like TV shows. Some of them were cancelled (like the DEFUNCT POLITICS BLOG). Some of them became quirky late night stoner shows (like Tao of Pauly). Some became mega-hits (like Tao of Poker and Coventry Music). Some of them are niche with their own fervent cult following (like Tao of Fear and Tao of Bacon). And some were shows that were on forever and critically acclaimed, yet no one ever watched (Truckin'). I like to use the TV show analogy with blogs mainly because a blog cannot go on forever. Even some of my favorite TV shows only lasted for a couple of seasons. Heck, some of my favorite bands never toured for more than a couple of years before they broke up. How I was able to maintain a popular site for so long continues to baffle me. Any moron can get lucky. I am that moron.
I never know which way the winds will blow, which is to say I never know where my interests will be at any given time in the future, which is why all of those blogs experience ebbs and flows. How long can I keep it up? That's a question I don't know if I can ever answer.
So what's next?
I have no idea. Well, I have ideas... but I cannot predict the future. I wake up every day and write for pay to keep a roof over my head and then wander over here, which most nights seems as amateurish as open mic night at your local comedy club. I first began screaming into the void on May 25th, 2002 and I'm still screaming 11 years later.
Thanks for tuning in.
P.S. If you have enjoyed Tao of Pauly (or any of my other deviations) over the last decade, I encourage you to buy one of my books.