Monday, April 16, 2012

A Letter to Ndugu

16 April 2012
California, USA

Dear Ndugu,

I hope you are well. I received all of your letters and read every single one at least a dozen times.

I apologize for not sending you money over the last twelve months. After the events of Black Friday on April 15th of last year, I no longer had the available funds to donate to your orphanage. Before Black Friday, I earned a redonkulous amount of blood money from online poker sites. It was embarrassing that a hack like me should be compensated for writing pedantic trite on Tao of Poker, so in order to feel better about myself, I used a percentage of that windfall to fund humanitarian efforts like feeding organic foodstuffs to hippies, supporting odalisque single mothers twirling on the pole, and of course... sending money to your foster program in Tanzania.

I know it's been approximately 111 days since my last letter and I have no excuses, expect that I had nothing meaningful to say. Nothing. For the last few years, I've felt like a fraud without a sincere message. I hate repeating myself and my schtick is nothing more than a derivative of something I already said much better years before. I'm supposed to be imparting pearls of wisdom to you, but instead I've done nothing but brag about what it is like dabbling in the Dionysian lifestyle (smoking too much grass and popping waaaaay too many pills), while promoting the genius of degenerate gambling.

I was a peddler of broken dreams -- a postmodern Pusherman -- shoving online poker down the throats of whomever wandered into this corner of the web. I should've been executed five years ago by a firing squad for crimes against humanity.

There's something to be said about the Seven Deadly Sins. The Jesuits used Dante's Divine Comedy to teach them to me in Latin -- acedia (sloth), avaritia (greed), gula (gluttony), invidia (envy), ira (anger), luxuria (lust) and superbia (pride). I often indulge in at least four of them at any given time. Sometimes I brazenly juggle all seven and it's like trying to catch searing fireballs. Even though I release them as quickly as possible, those fireballs of sin still char my flesh.

It's impossible to wake up every day without being driven by one of those sins, and let's be honest, living a life of purity isn't all that much fun. Johnny Hughes once told me, "You need one vice, one drug, and one girl. But never more than one of each, otherwise you have real problems."

Ndugu, I can't stress the importance of this: if you realize you're juggling more than three sins, then it's time to take a break because each sin is like a vat of acid that corrodes your soul into a bubbling mist of despair.

Life has been good to me. Too much so. In the buffet of life, I overindulged myself. Can you blame me? I'm a curious person, which has often gotten me into trouble, but it's definitely saved me from living a life of mundane comfort.

I lived in cheap motels in Las Vegas and clients put me up in luxurious hotels all over the world. I spent many hungover mornings sitting in international airports gazing at the beleaguered faces of other harried business travelers. I can't believe that I'm somewhat sane after jumping more time zones than I can count, acting as a missionary for the Church of PokerStars, blazing trails into uncharted territory and trying to convert the locals by preaching salvation via online poker. When that failed to work, I became an economic hitman resorting to the oldest trick in the Gringo Manual on Latin American Commerce -- tempt them with glossy images of the celebrity culture and wave a fistful of cash until they start drooling.

Poker is a game of skill, but greed is a deadly drug. Sometimes it's not easy to differentiate between the two. Unfortunately, you really can't become the best at whatever you want to do without being greedy. Conflicts arise when greed spills into other aspects of your life. You want more. You consume more. You covet thy neighbor's wife. You covet thy neighbor's oxen. You hate and despise those whom have more. You make fun of those whom have less. It's just the nature of the game. Once we're in... we're in for life. It's like getting on a superhighway without any off ramps and exits. If you slam on the brakes, then you're going to be crushed by an 18-wheeler. You have no choice but to keep driving until you reach your final destination... death.

While caught up in the pursuit of material items, humans forget that we're just a bunch of animals and a single chromosome away from being a chimpanzee. After all, we share something like 98% of the same DNA. Whether it's God or a bunch of alien geneticists -- whoever created us pretty much carved us out of a similar mold.

It's through greed that they control us. Who is they exactly? The collective cloud of capitalism. The gears of commerce. The massive machine of consumption.

The Ned Beatty character explains it the best in the 1976 film Network, when he rips Howard Beale a new asshole for speaking out against the system....
"It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity. It is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petrol dollars, electro dollars, multi dollars. Reichsmarks, Rins, Rubles, Pounds and Shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today...

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations... inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime.

I don't have to explain to you how absolute power corrupts all institutions. You've seen the heavy hand of colonialism come smashing down on your continent. Your rare minerals are extracted to build mobile phones. Your clean water is stolen and converted to Coca-cola. Your glistening gems eventually are draped around the emaciated bodies of cocaine-eyed starlets posing for the paparazzi on red carpets in Hollyweird.

Bad beats are something you experience every single day and the fact that I'm even complaining about my situation makes me a vapid wanker. I don't have to tell you about tyranny and inequality through imperialism because I'm preaching to the choir. You've seen the daily horrors of predatory capitalism disguised as national hegemony. Corrupt officials worldwide padded their overseas bank accounts after becoming perverse corporate-owned puppets. The nefarious rulers of banana republics take bribes in exchange for allowing their lands to be raped, polluted, looted and destroyed by ruthless multinational conglomerates, meanwhile the same unscrupulous leaders are pimping out its powerless citizens as cheap slave labor.

We live in a use and abuse society. If you aren't using someone, then you're being abused.

Those atrocities will never end. And how do I try to change the world? I don't, so I wallow in Catholic guilt which just makes me even more miserable.

For almost a decade, I easily distracted the masses from the maelstrom of evil that has engulfed the world by churning out misogynist rhetoric about the glamorous rockstar lifestyle of a professional poker player. I don't mean to rag on pros because I have a sincere respect for what they really do. They are an eclectic breed of rebels and rogues, born with an innate and uncanny knack for cards, and the majority of them work their asses off. The day-to-day life of a pro is nothing close to being swanky and upscale, rather it's utter terror with nonstop pressure and many of them struggle to avoid drowning in their own self-doubt.

The same can be said for anyone running the rat race. Doesn't matter if you're Phil Ivey or Lloyd Blankfein, because most of the time, everyone is emotionally beaten by the daily grind so they insulate themselves from reality by adopting the "balla" persona.

Deep down we all know what we're doing is complete bullshit anyway... so it's better to live it up now and relish the present (dare I say, carpe diem?) rather than rue the past or be fearful of the unpredictable future.

From that perspective, the prevailing sense of anomie is what justifies the means. We feel devastatingly empty about how we earn a living, so we surround ourselves with material items that are supposed to symbolize and replace intangible feelings of self-worth and accomplishment. If the material items don't work, then we indulge in carnal pleasures -- drugs, sex, rock and roll. And if that doesn't work, then we turn to religion and find solace worshiping invisible entities.

You never realize how much you miss the sun, until you're covered in complete darkness. That reminds me of a Bill Withers lyric, "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone."

One day I will die. Maybe in 25 years? Maybe tomorrow? The "when" never really matters because we all die. Sometimes I wonder if Neal Cassady was right about life being like driving on the open road... "We are four dimensional beings in three dimensional bodies, looking out two-dimensional windshields."

I briefly mentioned the car accident in previous letters, but I didn't want to scare you about the severity of my injuries. In case you were wondering the details... my girlfriend wanted to sleep in, so I drove myself to breakfast. I was completely sober, which is ironic, because had I been a little buzzed, I would have been driving a little more cautious. But then again, almost everything in life is out of our control. All it takes is one jerkoff to run a red light and then you're done. Fade to black.

The good news is that I'm almost fully recovered, which is a miracle. I still walk with a slight limp, but I thank the universe every day for having the chance to see the sun rise and then set. I'm living on borrowed time. I'm not afraid of dying. Death is inevitable. I'm more afraid of barely being alive. The fact I'm not crippled baffles me. The paramedic took photos of the crushed car and he often shows it to his colleagues. When he was driving my battered body to the ER, he told my girlfriend that I luckiest guy in Vegas because walked away from what should have been a fatal accident. A monster-sized SUV spearing the driver's side of a mid-size car at a high rate of acceleration usually results in 85% mortality rate. I sucked out big time. I'll never complain about losing money in Las Vegas again, because last July, I won a priceless jackpot -- a second chance at life.

I should've perished underneath the blazing Nevada sun and inside a twisted heap of metal and granulated glass. I would've been a ghost wandering the Las Vegas valley for eternity, yet for some cosmic reason, it wasn't my time to go. But, I can't let an hour pass without thinking... "Why am here?" I'm struggling right now because I'm ashamed that my existence is and was utterly meaningless.

What difference did I really make in this world? What have I contributed to this society?

Nothing. I failed. There's no way to spice up that glaring and disappointing fact that I lived a shallow life. Warren Schmidt said, "Once I'm dead and everyone who knew me dies too, it'll be as though I never existed."

That's how I feel right now.

Hey, but don't worry about me. I won't beat myself up too much, after all, I had an absolute blast. This was one wild ride and one I never expected to take. I fell ass backwards into this nebulous world and for many years, I called it my home. This long, strange trip was fun... while it lasted. I've been waiting for a time when I can finally say, "This has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way." Alas, I won't fret too much and I'll fondly look back at the halcyon moments and allow the infectious smiling faces of friends to become permanent memory burns on my brain. And all the bad beats and petty stuff, like the surplus of assholes who caused me turmoil? They'll get deleted from my memory banks. Every one of them. You'd be surprised how quick a few rum cocktails helps you forget the sullen times.

I wish you the best, Ndugu. Always remember that you have your whole life ahead of you. I hope you can learn from my mistakes and actually do something constructive and meaningful with your life. Don't be a selfish tosser like myself. Live a life of integrity. Try to make a positive impact in this world.

Be good. Do good. But most importantly... be yourself, Ndugu.

Death is the eventual end point of life. One day we miraculously show up. Then one day we depart and return to the void of nothingness. So while we're here, right now, we have to make it count. Life is all about small, simple pleasures. Never forget that. Cherish every single moment. Every. Single. Moment.

I don't want to say that this is my last letter to you, because I cannot predict the future, but let's be honest, Ndugu... this will probably be my last letter because I've said everything I wanted to say and I can't keep going on forever. Ken Kesey, the great writer and ringleader of the Merry Pranksters, summed it up the best: "Impermanence is impermanence.... nothing lasts."

Your friend,

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flashback: Black Friday Anniversary - 4/15/11

Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker on 4/27/11. I hate repeating myself, so it's just easier (and better) to re-post this original piece.

* * *

Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

"Is it true? No Gringos can play online poker?"

Roberto Brenes, also known as Robertito among his fellow Costa Ricans, is the youngest son of Humberto Brenes, a.k.a. the Godfather of Poker in Latin America. The shark shtick might have worn out its welcome north of the border, but in Central and South America, Humberto commands the respect and reverence of Doyle Brunson with the added cult-like following of Johnny Cash. Robertito is regular on the LAPT and unfortunately, he was the bubble boy at the LAPT Lima. He was still shaking off a bit of tilt from a the hand that busted him, but was morbidly curious about the validity of Viernes Negro and the news that rocked the entire poker industry on April 15th -- "a day that will live in infamy" for many Americans associated with the online poker industry.

Citizens of Latin America have an extremely polarizing view of Anglo-American hegemony, so many of them weren't surprised with the DOJ indictments, which essentially decimated the postmodern online poker landscape. Latin Americans have been getting screwed over by American politicians, Wall Street bankers, and corporate interests for the better part of a century, so they chalked up the DOJ indictments of Absolute, Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars as another bad beat -- but just one of thousands they've witnessed.

"Los gringos estan con el dedo metido en el culo!" said one my Costa Rican colleagues.

"Si. We the Gringos are properly fucked," I responded. "Online poker is not rigged... America is rigged."

* * *

I sat in press row at the LAPT Lima, covering the tournament for PokerStars Blog with Short-Stacked Shamus, one of my personal heroes. These days, I'm semi-retired from covering tournaments, instead focusing on fear mongering, trading silver futures, and writing fiction. I reduced my 2011 workload to exclusively covering the World Series of Poker for Tao of Poker, but accepted assignments in exotic locations on the international circuit for the opportunity to visit a new country. I was excited to shake off a little rust and treated the LAPT Lima as Spring Training for the upcoming WSOP. Visiting Peru for the first time was an exhilarating experience, especially a side trip to Machu Picchu, one of the Top 5 locations on my bucket list.

Shamus noted we should have known that the Lima trip was doomed when we spotted a dead body along Circuito de Playas on our way from the airport to Miraflores. The ocean and beach is separated by a highway with 300-foot cliffs looming overhead. I saw a bunch of military guys in berets and combat boots from a distance who stood on the cliff side of the road, where a huge crowd had gathered. My immediate reaction -- workers were on a strike and the military police were there to keep things in order -- but as we got closer and the cab slowed down, a film crew and thirty or so pedestrian rubberneckers gathered around a limp body curled up on the ground.

"Two bodies," said the driver in English.


"They jumped."

I was dubious. Smelled like a hit to me -- maybe they got involved with the wrong guys and were tossed off the side of the cliff? Failure to pay back a loan shark? Drug deal gone bad? Although I only saw one body, I was slightly surprised that the cops did not cover up the carcass. Instead, a news camera guy straddled the body and filmed what appeared to be a close up.

Ten minutes later, the cab made its way up a winding path of cobblestones to reach the top of the cliffs and the affluent Marifores section of Lima, but the image of a desensitized cameraman hovering over a bloodied body still prevailed.

* * *

In January 2007, I was in Melbourne, Australia when the Neteller fiasco went down. It took me two days to sort stuff out with Neteller's customer service in order for them to allow me to access my account (to cash out) while I was in a foreign country, but that crucial lost time screwed me and I got five figures stuck in Neteller. I eventually got my money back ten months later, but I was flagged for an audit the next year. To this day, I don't see that as a coincidence.

I was in London and Amsterdam in September 2008 at the peak of the subprime mortgage fiasco and financial meltdown of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers. So, to keep up with my string of being abroad when the shit hits the fan, I was out of the country once again -- this time in Lima, Peru for Black Friday. It was truly a surreal experience being out of America when Shamus, F-Train and I got the news that American online poker was nevermore. Vanished. Nada.

The only comparison I can come up with was how my friend Senor explained to me what it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks in a bar in Vietnam while he was on vacation. You get a hopeless and helpless feeling on the inside, meanwhile everyone around you is sort of thinking, "You had it coming."

Fortunately, my CrackBerry service failed for an unknown reason in Lima. As a result, my phone was not blowing up with calls and text messages from my friends, many of whom were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The bad beat from my international phone provider was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to ignore the crisis and focus on the task at hand -- covering a poker tournament -- which very well could have been the last tournament I covered for PokerStars or anyone else for that matter. I wasn't naive about the source of the money that funded the majority of poker media. I worked directly with Full Tilt and PokerStars in different capacities as a freelancer, but the rest of my clients (various magazines and websites) derived a significant amount of their operating revenue from Full Tilt, PokerStars, and UB. Unless they could adapt quickly, this was definitely "last call."

I finally understood what it felt like to be in the band on the Titanic, as they bravely playing on as the ship sunk into the frigid North Atlantic.

* * *

The LAPT is four seasons old, but like most international tours, the LAPT had its growing pains and rough patches. I was in the room when the LAPT Mexico was shut down by the federales, who impounded the tables, chips, and millions of dollars worth of film gear belonging to 441 Productions.

I hope that you never have to hear... "Pack up your computer, grab all your things, and get the fuck out of the room ASAP!"... but that's what I heard the last time I was in Mexico. I vaguely recall that moment, trying to be super slick and removing my press badge as I rushed out of the tournament room right behind Otis and my girlfriend, thinking that not having a press badge around my neck would save me from incarceration, or worse, ending up in a mass grave with all of the other troublemakers in the media that happen to cross Los Zetas.

But that was in December of 2008 when El Presidente Bush Dos was a lame duck. This was 2011 -- in a new era, basking in the warm glow of El Presidente Obama's hope and change. Life, liberty and the pursuit of online poker was supposed to be different, right? Little did we know, it was Obama's cronies on Wall Street that would ambush us -- in more ways than one.

In the race for supreme domination of the poker world, Full Tilt and PokerStars were ensconced in a cold war with an ongoing arms race to determine which one would bow down to the other. I always saw Full Tilt as post-World War II America -- a bunch of G.I. Joes, real American heroes -- an emerging super power, fresh off a tremendous victory crushing fascism, while spreading freedom and commerce across the globe. PokerStars always reminded me of the United Kingdom of the 19th Century -- driven by imperial colonialism, where the sun never set on the Empire -- especially after Stars rapidly expanded into markets propelled by their international tours (EPT, APPT, LAPT, NAPT) and regionally-branded circuits (ANZPT, UKIPT, etc). At times it seemed the Stars empire was stretched too thin, hence why I got the call as a hired gun to cover the LAPT Lima, mainly because their blogging A-team of Otis, Change100, and Howard were covering the NAPT Mohegan Sun.

Even with the news of Black Friday and the subsequent disintegration of the NAPT, I knew that outposts like the Latin America were going to get a marketing boost. Job security never seemed more prevalent for my friends on the LAPT. Looking around the tournament room at the Atlantic City casino in Lima, Peru, the poker world continued on with the all the ordinary sights and sounds of poker in Latin America... one guy in shorts, flip flops, tank top, and a brimmed Panama hat was all-in and slammed his open hand on the table three times as his opponent in an Argentinean soccer jersey cruelly slow-rolled him, and while the dealer dealt out the flop, the guy in the hat continuously banged his hand on the table and begged for a low card by screaming "Chiquitita! Chiquitita! Chiquitita!" at the top of his lungs.

Business as usual.

* * *

When Spanish conquistadores led by Pizzaro first arrived in South America, the Incas did not fight them and instead welcomed them. The Incans viewed the Spanish visitors as gods from their lore because of their unusual white skin and bushy beards. That critical error became costly for the Incans.

In the 1530s, the Inca Empire was torn apart by its own civil war, which gave Pizzaro an edge in conquering the region, thereby pilfering Peru of its natural resources including gold and silver. Some Incan leaders were dubious from the moment the Spanish arrived and wanted to kill them by setting fire to their barracks when they slept, but those opinions were opposed by their king, Atahualpa, who walked blindly right into a trap.

In this analogy, I can't decide if the politicians or the PPA are the sleeping Spanish conquistadores. We all know the elected jackals in DC are used-car salesmen by day and pimps by night, willing to whore out your grandmother for $14 if they could get away with it.

And don't get me started with the PPA. They lost me at hello, when they couldn't even figure out a simple mission statement. I've never seen an opening strategy so poorly executed since Greedo shot first in the Cantina Bar on Tatooine.

What was the point of even sending the PPA to Washington? Instead, we should have sent a hundred masturbating chimpanzees to lobby for online poker -- they would have accomplished the same fucking thing as the PPA, but at least we'd have some cool YouTube videos of monkeys jerking off on the steps of the Capitol.

* * *

"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes;
you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi

Something was rotten in Denmark and it wasn't the batch of used condoms rotting underneath Gus Hansen's bed. It was the foul stench of the UIGEA as it got queefed out of the collective arses on Capitol Hill. Sure, we all knew that Arizona Senator Jon L. Kyl was a genuine teetoller and well-known opponent to all forms of gambling, but Jim Leach (R-Iowa) was a virtual unknown at the time. In 2007, I didn't do my due diligence, otherwise I would have discovered that Leach served for six years as the head of the powerful House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. It was during that reign when Leach drafted an act that eventually led to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

In 1999, Jim Leach sponsored the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (a.k.a. the Financial Modernization Act), which repealed provisions of the the Glass-Steagall Act (a piece of legislation put forth in 1932 the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 which created the FDIC in addition to other safeguards to prevent future Ponzi schemes). Leach's bill essentially eliminated a provision from Glass-Steagall that made it illegal for a bank to also own financial firm.

At the time, everyone on the street knew that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was created to allow Travelers (insurance company that owned investment house Salomon Smith Barney) to merge with Citigroup to create Citicorp -- the largest financial services company in the history of banking. When President Bill Clinton signed the Act in 1999, no one anticipated that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed banks to own financial firms, would eventually lead to the creation of complex derivatives, which nearly imploded the entire financial system. Warren Buffet called those derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

In the parlance of our times, those degen donks on Wall Street took advantage of their bitch Jim Leach, and orchestrated the largest smash-and-grab job since Danny Ocean and his misfits knocked over the Bellagio.

I overlooked Leach's connection to Wall Street banks when he introduced the UIGEA. At the time, most of the ire was directed at Senator Jon Kyl and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. If there was ever a man that was more hated in poker than Russ Hamilton, it was Bill Frist. To this day, one of the funniest pieces of vernacular to come out of the UIGEA was the term "Frist Fucked," because after he attached the UIGEA to the Safe Port Security Bill, he gave online poker players deep, penetrating, fist fucking... wrist watch and all.

With spotty internet in Peru, I asked my girlfriend to assist me with a little research about campaign contributions. All of the information she gathered is public knowledge available on She posted some of her findings over at Pot Committed in Follow the Money: Online Poker and Political Contributions.

Check out Bill Frist for yourself and take special note to the #1 contributor to his combined Campaign Committee and Leadership PAC in 2004 and 2006...
Bill Frist (R-TN) - Top Campaign CMT & PAC Contributors:
2004 - Goldman Sachs ($109,999)
2006 - Goldman Sachs ($142,249)
From the years 2004-06, Goldman Sachs dumped a quarter of a million dollars into Senator Frist's PAC. No need to hide those marionette strings... they lead right to CEO Henry Paulson and his den of thieves at Goldman Sachs.

What's so bad about Goldman Sachs? Matt Taibbi explains in The Great American Bubble Machine...
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
I'm sure the tin foil hat-wearing, silver hoarding, Max Keiser disciples are going to love this, but I'm sharing this thought that has been bugging me ever since I dropped acid at the top of Machu Picchu....

A cabal of Wall Street bankers including the Federal Reserve colluded behind our backs to sink the online poker industry by paying off politicians to push forth the UIGEA.

It's pretty fucking obvious. The Big Banks control everything, which is why I don't understand why the majority of the poker community is misdirecting their anger at politicians. It's like a flashback to my Catholic school days when Sister Mary Margaret got pissed off at one of the special ed kids because he took a shit in the urinal. All the Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world weren't going to change his mental capacity.

Yes, Virginia, I just said politicians are retards who can't figure out where to shit. They've always been corporate shills, so transforming into self-righteous twits (a la Michael Moore) and hounding politicians is futile because their power is limited to what their corporate overlords will allow them. In essence, the more powerful the politician, the shorter the leash.

You really should be pissed off at the Big Banks. They pwn Obama, and in essence, they also pwn your ass.

Before the FBI hauls me off to a FEMA camp the moment I set foot back on American Soil, please watch this short documentary film titled The American Dream...

And if you're not a documentary film type of person, don't worry because The American Dream is actually a 30-minute quick tutorial (in a snazzy, snarky cartoon format) on the shadow banking industry and the long, powerful reach of the Federal Reserve.

* * *

Why are the Fed and the Big Banks on Wall Street the bad guys?

Well, have you looked into Ben Bernanke's eyes? He's evil personified and makes Alan Greenspan look like St. Francis of Assisi. Bernanke has been printing so much money with his magical printing press that a $100 bill is really worth less than a sheet of toilet paper. Single ply.

The philosophical main directive of Big Banks has always been to control the flow of money. That's the key to understanding Black Friday -- it's not a political issue -- it's a money issue disguised as a political issue. Those suits are clever motherfuckers and implemented a classic divide and conquer strategy. While we were too busy arguing about politics and personal freedoms, they were pushing the DOJ to snoop around. But then they got lucky -- they might have been snooping around for another four or five years if a tip about Daniel Tzvetkoff's whereabouts didn't fall into their laps, and then the scared rat quickly rolled on the online sites.

By the way, anyone want to set over/unders as to when Tzvetkoff dies in a mysterious car crash? Or perhaps he has an unexpected heart attack? As Fat Tony would say... "Accidents happen."

Besides controlling the flow of money, think about all those potential transactions (and more importantly transaction fees) that the Big Banks are missing out on. Remember that parody commercial from Saturday Night Live about the bank that gives change? At the end of the clip, the banker says, "How do we make money? Volume."

Thanks to Chris Moneymaker, hole card lipstick cameras, and a disenfranchised computer-savvy populous, the online poker industry in America practically blew up overnight and to its own detriment, the industry grew too big, too fast. Millions, no wait, billions of dollars were being passed around, back and forth, between players in countries all over the world.

But when it comes to controlling the flow of U.S. dollars, well, that's the Big Banks' racket, and just like in mafia movies, the online poker industry never payed homage to the Godfather and his crew. They should have cut them in, because if and when the heat closed in, the online poker industry would have had the protection of the Godfather.

Sure the DOJ might be sniffing around Wall Street about some of the fraud and shennigans perpetrated during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but have they indicted any of the major players? Will they? Doubt it.

The problem I have with the indictments was not that the DOJ went after the online poker sites for committing fraud, but rather that nearly every company operating in the financial services industry has committed fraud and gotten away with it. It's impossible to police the entire financial sector, but selective enforcement of the financial fraud is absurd.

I'm reminded of an NFL Films clip from the 1980s of former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Sam Wyche. He pulled a young offensive lineman aside and chewed him out for getting a couple of holding penalties during their last possession. The player pleaded, "But Coach, I'm holding on EVERY play." Wyche deadpanned, "Then keep doing what you're doing, son!"

That sums up Wall Street, or rather the rampant financial fraud that occurs every single day without being policed.

If the DOJ and the feds are going to turn off online poker because of fraud committed by the parties involved, then shouldn't they shut down the entire derivatives market until it can be regulated and monitored? Shouldn't the top cops investigate the biggest incident of fraud in history and the subsequent fleecing of American people?

* * *

In the poker world, when Bobby Bellande, David Benyamine, or Eskimo Clark goes busto, the entire community doesn't bail them out. But in the modern financial world, if one of the big boys runs up gambling debts they can't pay, well, they get billions of dollars in bailouts from the Federal government, which in theory comes out of your pocket.

I refuse to pay for TJ Cloutier's losses at the craps table, but to put things in perspective, what if Phil Ivey, Durrrr, and Phil Galfond lost all of their bankrolls betting on Jai Alai? And Howard Lederer decided to take out 50% of everyone's Full Tilt bankroll, without your consent, to get Ivey and Durrr back in the game against crazy Scandis? You'd be pretty pissed, right?

Luckily, those sorts of practices don't happen in poker. Capitalism is applicable every day in poker because we allow those undesirables to fail. Those with money continue to play another day, but those without funds get stuck on the rail until someone is stupid enough to give them a stake. Alas, the end of the day, the money should get distributed to the better players. Although the player with the most short-term luck might get the money that day, over the long haul the money should flow upward to the best of the best. Should flow -- and that's the beauty of poker because at any given time the wealth can be redistributed from the haves to the have nots. It frequently happens in tournaments when the donk du jour comes out of nowhere to win. You would like to think that that money will flow back into the poker community and return to the coffers of the poker haves, but it's going to take them a little time and effort to regain those initial losses. That's what is supposed to happen on a level playing field.

We've seen different aspects of the financial markets manipulated or rigged in favor of the plutocrats, so the money flows out of the hands of the have nots and right back into the grubby hands of America's oligarchs. In some instances, like with ARM mortgage loans, the have nots never had a chance against the modern day robber barons.

Proponents of the Nanny State claim its up to the government to save our souls from the evil clutches of poker, because if you didn't know... online poker is rigged. For fuck's sake, are we that stupid? Lotteries are the biggest sham since taking insurance in blackjack, yet brokedick dreamers line up around the corner to blow a day's wages on a "dollar and a dream."

Then again, these are the same sheeple who bought Snooki's book. Try explaining to the orange spray-tanned Jerseylicious crowd exactly how Moodys and other ratings agencies rated bundles of CDOs as AAA (the highest rating indicating the lowest risk), and then the Wall Street brokerage houses sold those toxic derivatives to clients (from Arkansas to Dusseldorf) and at the same time, the suits turned around and bet against the same investments they were selling in the form of credit default swaps.

The more I think about it, the redistribution of wealth is something that the richest families in the world have been fighting against since the dawn of calculated wealth. Hence, why it's always been a primary motive for the banking elite to control the flow of money, but more importantly, to control the flow of money away from the have nots.

Poker, especially online poker, posed a threat to the banking elite and kleptoocrats in charge because the community itself would determine (through cash games and tournaments) how the wealth would be distributed. At the same time, online poker created an alternative currency. How many times have you swapped T$ or traded money on one site for another? For my March Madness pool, friends paid for their sheets with online poker transfers. I've paid prop bets with Full Tilt transfers and a high percentage of my freelance clients often paid me with online poker transfers.

Ever since the Bretton Woods gathering during WWII, when the U.S. dollar became the world's reserve currency (abandoning gold), it's always been crucial for the Big Banks to control the flow of money. Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and since then our currency has been backed by the U.S. military. To further keep tabs on the oil-rich nations, any crude oil purchases had to be made into U.S dollars. As a result, Petrodollars flowed out of the Middle East and flooded Wall Street banks. These days, Narcobucks (laundered money acquired from the sale of illegal drugs) and Petrodollars are the only real deposits keeping the banking industry humming (don't get me started about Ben Bernanke's printing press and his quantitative easing policies that have juiced up the stock market like Barry Bonds on the Clear). A few years ago, two of the biggest banks in the U.S. (Wachovia and Bank of America) and HSBC in London were laundering billions of Narcobucks for the Mexican drug cartels. Did any of those suits go to jail? Nope, they got a few slaps on the wrist and paid paltry fines that paled in comparison to the billions of Narcobucks that flowed through the banks.

You've all seen The Wire, so you know how the hustle works.

But what about PokerStars dollars or Full Tilt dollars? What about the alternative online poker currency that the industry created out of thin air? That's a no-no. Only Ben Bernanke and the Fed have the power to create and distribute wealth. The Big Banks want to wrap their slimy tentacles around your T$ and online bankrolls. Narcobucks and Petrodollars aren't enough. Their hubris is our downfall. Unfortunately, Stars and Tilt failed to cut the Big Banks in for whatever reason, and that didn't make the Godfather and the rest of the shylocks very happy.

So who is the Godfather? In 2006 it certainly wasn't the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, because he was a Randian, name-dropping, social-climbing muppet for the banking elite. He's no better than the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. The head of the Five Families was Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs before El Presidente Bush Dos nominated him as the Treasury Secretary in 2006. Since then, the big cheese has been Lloyd Blankfein, the current Goldman Sachs CEO.

Yes, Blankfein has the juice and the online rooms never paid the Godfather his cut, so he mercilessly castrated the entire industry.

To sum up... Jim Leach had been a trustworthy puppet after he allowed Big Banks to degen it up once he helped repeal provisions of the Glass-Stegall Act, which eventually nearly crippled the entire financial system with the catastrophic fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. And with another more innocuous bill, Leach stemmed the money flow in and out of online poker sites. Instead of putting a severed horse's head in his bed, the boys at Goldman paid off Senator Frist to guarantee that the passage of the UIGEA. At that point, it was a matter of time before the vampires at the Fed and the Sack sucked the blood out of the poker economy.

* * *

So what's next?

If the current principals (Stars and Tilt) and former (Party Poker) want a shot at obtaining the smallest percentage of action in the market when the federal government (or individual states) eventually legalizes online poker, then they need to partner up with the banking elite like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. That's where PokerStars and Tilt screwed up by dumping money into the pockets of lobbyists and politicians, and then teaming up with land-based casinos. The online rooms should have wired their bribe money directly to Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs. Those two are the Phil Iveys of financial deception and fraud.

JP Morgan is the OG aka the original gansta. My favorite JP Morgan story? During the Civil War, he bought defective surplus rifles for $3.50 from the government and then turned around and sold the same defective rifles back to the Union Army for $22 a pop. That's huge fucking balls and an indication of the type of highly-trained professional criminals we're dealing with here. The bloodsuckers on Wall Street are the type of criminals that the online rooms should've allied themselves with the entire time or at the very least, hired as consultants to pick their brains about how to commit fraud and never get caught.

The online rooms grossly miscalculated and jumped into bed with the snake oil salesmen in Washington, who crudely took turns cornholing them until they all bled out.

It could have been a beautiful union -- online poker rooms and Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs joined forces with PokerStars and continued their imperialist quest for global dominance. It could have been very simple if online poker was legitimized and PokerStars got taken public by Goldman in one of the biggest IPOs since the dotcom bubble. Instead of a laughable union with Station Casinos, Full Tilt could have teamed up with JP Morgan to create, meanwhile the shylocks at Goldman would have partnered with PokerStars to create where if you win the Sunday Million, then Goldman opens up an IRA for you at no charge.

That's where Stars fucked up. Steve Wynn was never going to be their savior, but Lloyd Blankfein could've been their sugar daddy.

* * *

Black Friday was a sobering reminder that the poker industry fell for the ruse that politicians were the linchpins who controlled the future of online poker, but in the end, the banking elite continues to tug at the strings of the muppets in DC. Writing your local politician does nothing except stroke their ego because they know with every email and letter, they are treacherous criminals who found another sucker who thinks they wield any power.

Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to get an audience with the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world. Alas, your only way at inciting a revolution is to bring down the banks from the inside. I know a fringe group of financial anarchists who want to crash JP Morgan by gobbling up physical silver. I can't say for sure if that tactic will work, but silver (and precious metals) is a wise investment as a hedge against inflation and a devalued dollar. In the end, if hoarding silver helps bring down a major Wall Street bank, especially the ones responsible for tweaking the livelihood of my friends -- then so be it -- off with their heads.

Believe me when I tell you that you're not the first group of people to get fucked by the banking junta. Look around on forums for Anonymous operations, read, follow @TaoFear on Twitter, watch videos created by Truth Never Told (especially Your Indoctrination and The Rigged Game [see video below]) , and talk to friends outside of poker -- because you'll discover that there's thousands if not millions of people with similar bad beat stories.

If somehow, someday, we can all figure out how to come together and incite true revolutionary change, then we can overthrow the La República del Plátano that Wall Street installed in Washington. Our first order of business would be the dismantling of the Fed and wrestle free of the suffocating death grip of the banking elite. Maybe then, and only then, can we finally begin to live in truly free society.

Online poker isn't rigged. America is rigged. What are you going to do to fix it?

* * *

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tao of Poker - 2011 Year in Review

By Pauly
New York City

Time flies, eh?

Hard to believe that 2012 is around the corner, but I'm kinda glad that 2011 is over. This year was one of the roughest, saddest, and most excruciating that I experienced since I ventured into the poker world. I can only be optimistic about the future, because it can't get any worse... right?

I'm burned out beyond belief. It's definitely time for me to take an extended break. I need some time to unplug and write for a while. If you need a poker fix, I encourage you to read the best of the Tao of Poker from 2011...

* * *

January 2011

God's Cell Phone Number - Things got a little crazy while betting on the NFL playoffs and I successfully pulled off a Band of Brothers reference...
Sometimes I refer to God as Gretzky. At least, that's what I have him labeled on my cell phone. I'd hate for someone to steal my phone and than have a direct number to God. Hence, why He's coded as GRETZKY. He doesn't gives those out to anyone. It's one of the perks of attending a Jesuit high school. You learn Latin, Greek, and get God's cell phone number... MORE

Dispatches from the PCA: You Enjoy Myself - My lovely girlfriend won a satellite to the Ladies Event, so I flew down to Paradise Island in the Bahamas to attend the PCA as a civilian and professional railbird. I also drunk a shit-ton of rum and gambled at the sports book.
The cabbie pulled into Atlantis and I tipped him fairly decent, enough that he tried to sell me a bag of blow. I politely declined. Do you know the six words that aptly describes cocaine from the Caribbean? Clumps together, but only cut once... MORE
Dispatches from the PCA: Divided Sky - I spent a lot of time watching the Dead People Channel and then hung out on the rail to sweat Change100 during her victorious run in the Ladies Event.
It's no secret that I feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed at any Ladies Only events because I'm getting thousands of daggers shot at me from evil glances from the players, many of whom on principle hate men, not to mention a slew of female players who think I'm an asshole because my writing glorifies misogyny and the poor treatment of women by condoning prostitution and promoting stripping... MORE
Tao of Pokerati Podcast: Bahama Mama - Change100 Scores Ladies PCA Title - Listen to a super quick podcast that I recorded with Change100 after she beat Lauren Kling heads-up to win the PCA Ladies event.

Looming Municipal Debt Crisis the Key to Online Poker Legislation? - The majority of the states in the union were faced with severe budgetary problems at the start of 2011. I hypothesized that some states will look to legalize online poker in order to make a dent into their ginormous debt obligations.
The future is grim no matter how you look at it. That's why there's very little chatter in the media about the looming municipal debt crisis. It's sort of like an asteroid ready to crash into Earth -- it's much easier to be the ostrich with its head buried in the ground, and let everyone go about their daily lives, rather than clue them in on the reality of the situation and that the end of the world could be right around the corner...MORE

Dan Shak's Hedge Fund Nearly Blows Up the Gold Market - Speaking of finance... did you hear the one about Dan Shak nearly causing a financial tsunami?
Talk about a trader who has a set of titanium balls! That's what I love about Dan Shak -- he made a ballsy trade, it went south, he cut his losses, shrugged it off, and wants to get back in the game... MORE

Eight Voices and a Sea of Trouble - I broke down the eight different voices inside my head that often get me into gambling trouble.
Accessing the future for my own financial gain is an unattainable pipe dream. I meet people all the time in Vegas and in poker circles who claim that have foolproof systems for blackjack, roulette, the horses, stock options, etc. I've met lots of shit-talkers, but I've never crossed paths with a legitimate psychic who can accurately predict the future. Believe me, I scoured the world for a seer and found lots of charlatans, but came up empty...MORE

* * *

February 2011

Your Hands and Feet Are Mangos, Part 1 - For one week, I conducted an experiment -- do nothing except drink rum and bet on sports.
In the last few years, what used to be a ravenous love affair with sports betting had become a coarse, listless, co-dependent relationship. Each bet used to be like riding a rollercoaster for two hours while jacked up on cocaine. But not anymore because watching each game was more like being prisoner on a cruise ship adrift in stormy seas that's inducing you to puke your nads out....MORE
Your Hands and Feet Are Mangos, Part 2 - Here's the second and final installment of my rum-inspired sports betting diaries, which started out as a social experiment but over a long weekend, I nearly lost my shirt on college hoops and had an accident that left our kitchen floor all... sticky.
"Good news and bad news," I barked and then inspected my soaked jeans. "Bad news is that the kitchen floor is pink and sticky. Good news is that thanks to the supreme technological advances in developing plastics, the shatter-proof bottle prevented the rum from exploding."...MORE

Syracuse Point-Shaving Rumors Debunked; Major College Basketball Betting Scandal Averted? - The Syracuse point-shaving rumors blew up overnight and what would have just been whispers among paranoid bettors, until it became a national scandal.
College athletes have become pawns for corporate entities. All of those annoying redundant commercials during March Madness made you nauseous, but it's a clear indication at the significant money that is thrown around by major advertisers. Someone is making a buck on college athletes, everyone except the athletes themselves....MORE

Tao of Pokerati Podcast: Exotic Betting on the Super Bowl with Change100 - I recorded a quick podcast with my girlfriend, who was excited to bet on how long it was going to take Christina Aguilera to sing the National Anthem.

Live Sumo Is Rigged - If you didn't know, the national sport of Japan has a shady past of rigging matches.
Taking a dive was a dishonor yourself, let alone a sincere dishonor to the entire Sumo community of wrestlers, trainers, promoters, fans, and even the guy who gets paid to wipe the arses of ginormous wrestlers.... MORE

The Bluff Power 20; Howard Lederer Has the Juice - Howard Lederer was named the most powerful person in poker.
Deadhead. Former bookie. Poker pro. Online poker visionary. Top dog. Top gun. King of the Hill. The Godfather... MORE
* * *

March 2011

Closing the Sahara - I took a walk down memory lane when I found out that the Sahara Casino in Las Vegas was closing its doors.
Las Vegas rose up out of the nothingness of the sand. A former Mormon missionary outpost had transformed into a gambling Mecca by gangsters, real estate developers, and bankers. Mecca is actually an inappropriate word to describe Las Vegas because there's nothing religious about a pilgrimage to modern day Sodom and Gomorrah -- the epicenter for the orgy of consumption... MORE

Orphaned Cards - I cannot explain why, but sometimes I find random cards in the middle of the street.

Rolling Out the Magic - If I was a TV exec and I could rig a final table, I'd pick nine specific personality types.
Television executives in poker are faced with two rigorous obstacles: 1) inaction at the tables, and 2) lack of stimulating dialogue. Both are detrimental to ratings. Lackadaisical ratings gave poker a blemish, which is why the suits in charge of programming banished poker to uncoveted late night slots, where stoners and insomniacs alike watched with an indifferent glaze. The few remaining programs were lost in the shuffle at the farthest ends of the satellite spectrum, embroiled in fierce competition against 1,000 other stations.... MORE

Sweating Sachin Tendulkar - New low as a degen gambler... I bet on cricket.
Despite being plagued with a short attention span, an 8-hour sporting event like cricket is a definite commitment, both physically and mentally, but due to medical breakthrough and advances in technology, 8-hour long cricket matches are conductive if you have proclivities to specific time-released pharmaceuticals.... MORE
* * *

April 2011

Down With Diseased Monkeys - I began the month betting on baseball and went on a horrid losing streak.
Sports betting is a huge life leak, but it's also a life sweetener, or a bottle of hot sauce that spruces up mundane aspects of daily life, which is why it's inherently dangerous. Finding the perfect balance between entertainment, merriment, stroking the ego is essential to healthy lifestyle. It's when you cross over the proverbial demarcation line in the murky, cloudy grey area that you takes strides away from the light and rush toward the dark.... MORE

Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 1,000 Masturbating Monkeys - I was in Lima, Peru when Black Friday hit and waited until after I finished climbing Machu Picchu before I wrote about my take on the worst day in the history of online poker.
What was the point of even sending the PPA to Washington? Instead, we should have sent a hundred masturbating chimpanzees to lobby for online poker -- they would have accomplished the same fucking thing as the PPA, but at least we'd have some cool YouTube videos of monkeys jerking off on the steps of the Capitol.... MORE
* * *

May 2011

Aunt Emma - Another installment of the infamous Pai Gow Diaries.
A disheveled woman sat down next to me. She wore a green terry cloth jacket. For a second I thought she walked into the casino wearing her bath robe. But she smelled like she had slept in her car, woke up, blew a snot rocket, smoked the ends of three week-old cigarette butts, then walked over to the Pai Gow table.... MORE

PokerStars Offices Raided in Costa Rica - I just happened to know a few friends in Costa Rica who were around when the federales raided the San Jose offices of online poker rooms.

Black Friday Fallout: Offshore Sportsbooks Fleeing U.S. Soil - The sportsbetting industry also took a hit when they experienced residual fallout from Black Friday.

14 Fun Moments from the 2010 WSOP and 14 More Fun Moments at the 2010 WSOP - I was reminiscing about some fun times I had in the summer of 2010.

Fading the Rapture - I love betting against Jesus Freaks, especially those predicting specific dates for Armageddon.

Glow in the Dark Dragons
- And what's the WSOP without kicking it off by going on dealer tilt at a Pai Gow table?
The new line of Pai Gow bots will not arrive until late in 2011, which means I only have to deal with older version, which are prone to glitches and the occasional error. I guess that's the only good thing to come out of the Japan quake. Sure, Japan is drowning in radiation soup while traces of radioactive material flutter its way toward North American airspace, but at least I won't have to worry about an upgraded version of the Pai Gow bots.... MORE
* * *

June 2011 and August 2011

Thanks to Alexander, I got to be on the cover of The Circuit. here's my interview...

I covered my 7th World Series of Poker on Tao of Poker. Here's the index of coverage...

Let's start with a couple of posts that were published before cards went in the air on Day 1. Among those were a few tidbits about the Ivey/Full Tilt lawsuit.
2011 WSOP: Before the Madness Begins - A prelude to the seven-week fiesta of poker.

WTF? Phil Ivey Suing Full Tilt Poker - In one of the most peculiar news stories since Black Friday, Phil Ivey announced he was leaving Full Tilt, suing Tiltware, and sitting out of the WSOP. All of these important announcements were made on his Facebook fan page. Whaaaaa?

Full Tilt's Angry Response to Phil Ivey's Lawsuit - The drama-filled start to the WSOP continued with an angry response from Full Tilt's HQs. That's the fastest they ever responded to anything in the wake of Black Friday.

Finding Pil Ivey and the Doctor Is In - The video crew at Bluff Magazine did an awesome job with their videos this summer, especially the bit Finding Ivey. I got tapped to tape an interview and you can see a teaser in this video.

The Circuit Cover and Interview - I was fortunate that Alexander asked me to be a part of his amazing photo project -- The Circuit. Check out what went down behind the scenes during the photo shoot, including a candid interview about what life is really like on the road following around the tournament circuit.

Okay, and now here are the daily recaps from the 2011 WSOP...
Day 1: Welcome to the Jungle and Phil Ivey's Titanium Balls - The 2011 WSOP kicked off with lots of questions swirling around about which pros would toe the company line and support Full Tilt Poker, and which red pros would ditch the patches and other FT branding. Phil Ivey fired the first shot with his lawsuit (announced via Facebook), but did he incite a mutiny with other red pros following his lead?

Day 2: Ivey's Hippodrome and Bare-Chested Scandis - Gus Hansen wandering around with his shirt undone and the ongoing saga between Phil Ivey and Full Tilt were among the more dramatic topics on the second day of action.

Day 3: Moneymaker and Johnny Fucking Chan Win Grudge Matches and Men the Master Cheating Accusations - A Made-for-TV event occupied the Mothership with Chris Moneymaker and Johnny Fucking Chan winning their Main Event "grudge matches". Meanwhile, in the real WSOP, Men the Master was the center of hurricane of shadiness when he hypocritically accused Hollywood Dave of shorting a pot. A shouting match ensued and both were on the verge of being disqualified.

Day 4: Jake Cody's Emos, Hooligans, and Hat Tricks - Jack Cody, the latest British wunderkind made history when he became only the third member of the Triple Crown club. His victory did not come without a little rail rowdiness along the way.

Day 5: Apocalypse Now (Guest Post by Change100) - Yes, I had the day off and Change100 stepped up to pen an atmospheric piece on the tension in the air at the start of the 2011 WSOP -- the first series in the wake of Black Friday and "money getting stuck on Full Tilt" fiasco.

Day 6: Ho-most for Maria Ho - The lovely Maria Ho went deep in the 5K NL event and came within one spot of winning her first bracelet.

Day 7: British Invasion, Vampire Squids, and the Devil - After the first week of nonstop poker, the first zombie begin to appear at the Rio. The zombies in turn attract the Devil along with treacherous vampire squids.

Day 8: The Marked Cards Conspiracy and the Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To - It's not the WSOP unless there's a controversy involving the cards. There's always something wrong with the decks. At the 2011 WSOP, a couple of the decks had a printing error that was only visible underneath the groovy purple grow-lights inside the Mothership.

Day 9: Cocking Blocking the Brits - The Brits launched an all-out assault on Las Vegas once again as they threatened to win another bracelet but the bloody 10-level rule was the only thing that prevented them from shipping another bracelet.

Day 10: Banning Booze, World Series of Mormons, and Sweating the Mavs - Despite the financial woes bringing America to the brink of ruin, the WSOP continued to thrive in the face of external adversity on both the political and financial fronts. The influx of players always brought with it a wave of fervor on the rail during final tables. The powers to be did not anticipate a Mardi Gras-like atmosphere inside the Mothership that is a fragile TV set and not a country-western bar. As a result, booze was officially banned at the final table.

Day 11: Social Media in Poker and Tex Dolly Blows Chunks - The poker world has changed for the better (or worst) because of the heavy influence of social media. Oh, and we found out through Twitter that Texas Dolly got ill during the middle of a tournament because of something he ate.

Day 12: Hellmuth Chokes and Prohibition Ends at the Mothership - Phil Hellmuth was on a mission to win his 12h bracelet, yet his attempt was thwarted. Meanwhile, much to the delight of the alkies in Vegas, booze was permitted to be consumed inside the Mothership. Yes, the short-lived prohibition was over.

Day 13: Tweaker City, USA - I experienced a rather sketchy encounter in the parking lot at the Gold Coast while hanging out with Benjo.

Day 14: Subterranean Homesick Alien and Brits Snag Third Bracelet - By the end of the second week of the WSOP, everyone is ridden with homesickness. Despite the malaise, another Brit won a bracelet, meanwhile, we decided to pay homage to old school Vegas with a trip downtown to where it all began -- Binion's.

Day 15: Triple ElkY and The Mark is the 22nd Best PLO Player in the World - The French surged during the beginning of the third week of the series. They won three bracelets in a short period of time and ElkY became only the fourth player to win the Triple Crown. Meanwhile, a close friend of the Tao of Poker went deep in a PLO event. Yeah, The Mark fell short of his first WSOP final table.

Day 16: Le Deux; French Snag 2 Bracelets in 24 Hours - The French surge continued with their second bracelet within a 24-hour period.

Day 17: Mike Sexton Heads-Up for Bracelet and Liquidating the Sahara - The Ambassador of Poker, Mike Sexton, went deep in the Stud 8 event, only to have it suspended due to the 10-level rule. Sexton was heads-up when his tournament was halted. Meanwhile, the big liquidation sale at the Sahara kicked off. Jerome and Camille shot a stunning video of that dreary sale day.

Day 18: No Country For Old Men; Barry Greenstein and Mike Sexton Denied Bracelets - Two poker greats came very close to winning bracelets, yet they fell short of the mark. In addition, the Senior's Event kicked off with everyone standing to attention when the Stars and Stripes were played.

Day 19: The Donkenator and Eating Death - Dominating a donkaments are never an easy task. Woever wins that bracelet damn well deserves it. I delve a bit into Milton's Paradise Lost in this recap. Enter at your own risk.

Day 20: The Egregious Case of the $9 Pizza and Stein Shines - It was a matter of time before I went off on an old-fashioned anti-food rant because of the horrendous $9 pizza that the Poker Kitchen tries to pass off as a culinary delight.

Day 21: A Day in the Life; Hellmuth Denied 12th Bracelet (Again) - This is my favorite piece of the summer, mainly because most of the hijinks happened outside the Amazon Ballroom that eventually morphed into my first Memento moment of the WSOP. Anyway, I went on a classic bender at the Gold Coast while Phil Hellmuth went deep once again and tried to win bracelet #12.

Day 22: Slowdown, Rocky Mountain High, and Chau Giang Confirmed Alien - The WSOP caught its breath at the start of the fourth week of play, while I determined that Chau Giang is really an alien.

Day 23: Timex Flashback, Jason Mercier Wins PLO Bracelet, and More Sordid Tales About Chasing the Dragon - I squeezed in a little personal Pai Gow degeneracy in between a recap about Jason Mercier's victory in the PLO event along with a flashback about the origins of Timex.

Day 24: Dwan Song, Revelry, and Hooligans - Whenever Tom "durrrr" Dwan makes a final table, the entire poker world stops to watch. With a few million in prop bets on the line, Dwan's final tables always have an added element of excitement. Alas, it was the Brits who sucked up all of the attention in the Amazon Ballroom as they railed their boy Middy and even drank Jager bombs out of their shoes.

Day 25: Rubber Soul, Electric Daisies, and Two-Tabling Pai Gow - The Electric Daisy Carnival swept through Vegas and a quarter million ravers invaded Sin City. Fabrice Soulier shipped a bracelet and became the third Frenchie to win one in 2011. Ah, and I also engaged in a live session of Pai Gow again and two-tabled it. I'm lucky I didn't get 86'd.

Day 26: The Sickness - If you've spent a significant amount of time in Las Vegas, then you've seen those afflicted with The Sickness. I spoke about some of my experiences with the dreaded disease.

Day 27: Shaking Down Ravers; November Niner Snags Bracelet - I had a situation when I should've rolled a couple of schwasted ravers in the elevator, but I couldn't cross over to the dark side and take advantage of the party people on the last day of the Electric Daisy Carnival.

Day 28: The Glass Onion; Lamb Leads POY - Donkey slayers, Brazilians, and Ben Lamb seizing the top spot in Player of the Year race.

Day 29: Carnival at the Mothership; Akkari Wins Bracelet - I went to cover a final table and a Brazilian soccer match broke out. The Mothership was transformed into a World Cup final when Brazil's native son Andre Akkari advanced to the final table and was heads-up for a bracelet.


Days 30-33: OFF

Day 34: Happy Birthday, America - On the Fourth of July, America celebrated with its annual Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. Only in America can we boast about binge eating to celebrate our creation and independence from British tyranny.

Day 35: Catching Up - After a brief holiday away from the Vegas grind, it was time to catch up on everything I missed.

Day 36: Don't Stop Believen' - Hellmuth and the 50K hit a hard stop. Grumbles ensued.

Day 37: Another Runner-Up Finish for Hellmuth; Whiffs on Three Flush Draws to Lose Bracelet#12 - Hellmuth had another disappointing evening after he whiffed on three big flush draws only to lose to Brian Rast, who won his second bracelet in 2011.
* * *
2011 Main Event Coverage

Prelude to the Killing Fields - The 2011 Main Event
With a Little Help From My Friends: The Michael Stevens Story by Change100
Day 38- Main Event Day 1A: Dolly's Abyss
Day 39 - Main Event Day 1B: Luck Rack of Lamb
Prope Bets with Remkos and Micros WSOP Episode
Day 40 - Main Event Day 1C: One More Saturday Nite
Day 41 - Main Event Day 1D: Spiderman Big Records, Perma-Bans, and 6,865
Day 42 - Main Event Day 2A: Torturing the One-Eyed Clown, Hellmuth Awakes, and the Euro Surge
Day 43 - Main Event Day 2B: Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Day 44 - Main Event Day Off; Annie Duke Wins Media Tournament
Day 45 - Main Event Day 3: Poirier and Jace Are Million Men and Tilt-A-Scandi
Day 46 - Main Event Day 4: Soft Bubbles, Zombie Apocalypse, and the Reincarnation of JRB
Day 47 - Main Event Day 5: There Must Be Some Way Out of Here
The Skinny: Day 6
Day 48 - Main Event Day 6: House of the Rising Sun; NOLA's Ryan Lenaghan Leads with 57 Remaining
The Skinny: Day 7
Day 49 - Main Event Day 7: Buy the Ticket, Survive the Ride
2011 November Nine Set
* * *

And here's the Best of Tao of Pokerati... which are some of my favorite episodes of the Tao of Pokerati podcast that Michalski and I recorded from the 2011 WSOP featuring special guests Benjo, Snoopy, KevMath, Remko, and AlCantHang.
Episode 6: Ivey's Lawyer (4:17) - Dan and Pauly chat about the Ivey drama that transformed the opening days of the WSOP into the "World Series of Phil Ivey." Dan also shares some inside info on Ivey's lawyer, renown criminal attorney David Chesnoff.
Episode 7: Sahara Liquidation with Remko and Benjo (6:12) - Benjo and Pauly discussed the Sahara Casino liquidation sale/auction with one of the members of the Dutch press, Remko. Both Remko and Benjo expressed a keen interest in acquiring a slot machine for super cheap, while Pauly has his eyes set on a Pai Gow table. Meanwhile, Benjo and Remko try to figure out how to ship a slot machine from Vegas to France and Holland.
Episode 12: The Tweaker Edition with Benjo (4:02) - Benjo and Pauly hang out at the Gold Coast and watched a tweaker get 86d by security. They later encounter the tweaker in the parking lot, and Benjo asks Pauly for a quick tutorial about the seedy Las Vegas meth scene.
Episode 14: Old School Cheats with Johnny Hughes (6:02) - Pauly sat down and chatted with a special guest -- the legendary Johnny Hughes -- who has been in poker circles for 50+ years. Pauly asks Johnny to share some stories about old school poker cheats and the "fear" of getting caught, which kept a lot of shady characters in line.
Episode 16: Brickless Cash Games Reprise (3:22) - Dan and Pauly recorded a quick follow-up to their previous episode while they hang out on the rail of the high-stakes cash games. They spot Eskimo Clark, "Cowboy", and other broke dicks lingering around seeking handouts from the high rollers.
Episode 17: WSOP Fashion Report with KevMath (5:10) - Pauly chats with KevMath, who is a self-described "fashion expert." The two compare and contrast the different styles of clothing worn by members of the media. KevMath also reveals why he won't wear shorts.
Episode 19: KevMath Keno System with KevMath (6:01) - Pauly and KevMath hang out at the dive bar in a bowling alley at the Gold Coast. KevMath was in the middle of crushing a video Keno game, when Pauly asked him to share a couple of his big secrets to beating the game.
Episode 20: Adieu, Benjo (8:40) with Benjo - After almost a week of speculation and rumors, Benjo confirms that he's leaving Las Vegas and heading home to France. His brief stint at the WSOP is officially over. One chapter ends, and a new one begins. Dr. Pauly, Dan and Benjo hang out in the dive bar inside the bowling alley at Gold Coast to listen to Benjo bid his farewells.

Episode 21: New Dynamic Duo with Snoopy (5:59) - Pauly holds auditions for a new sidekick with only one requirement -- a outrageous accent. Snoopy, a writer from London, nails the audition. In this episode, they discuss modeling their new dynamic duo on the Batman & Robin television series, in addition to re-locating the Bat Cave to England and installing bat poles in the press box.
Episode 23: Brazil's Mothership Invasion with AlCantHang (2:50) - Pauly and AlCantHang are on the rail inside the Mothership watching the heads-up battle between American Nachman "The Landlord" Berlin and Brazil's native son Andre Akkari. Al and Pauly record a quick episode moments after Akkari won a decisive pot to cripple Berlin, and the Brazilians went berserk.
Episode 26: Main Event Begins! (6:34) - The Main Event is upon us and before the cards went in the air, Pauly is hanging out and listening to TD Jack Effel's long-winded introduction and a quick rundown of the rules to all Main Event players. Jack then introduces Texas Dolly to utter the famous phrase, "Shuffle up and deal!"
Episode 27: Almost Famous with Snoopy (3:32) - While players return to their seats after the dinner break, Pauly and Snoopy notice Jason Alexander posing for pictures with fans. Snoopy explains why Seinfeld wasn't a big hit in England and Pauly discovers someone dressed as Snow White in the crowd. Pauly also wonders if Snoopy would ever dress up in a costume for the Main Event.

Episode 29: Media Mania and Golden Toilets with Change100 and AlCantHang (3:08) - Pauly is still in the media event, so Change100 takes the opportunity to chat with AlCantHang. They both busted rather early, especially AlCantHang, who won a dubious honor of being the first player to bust out. His reward? A Golden Toiler trophy for last place.
Episode 33: Two Brits, One Irishman with Snoopy (5:09) - Snoopy gives Pauly the latest British report with three tables remaining in the Main Event. Snoopy clues us in on the two Brits (Sam Holden and JP Kelly) still alive along with Eoghan O'Dea from Ireland. Even though O'Dea is Irish, Snoopy and Brits are still keeping an eye on their "adopted" player.
Episode 36: KevMath WSOP Exit Interview with KevMath (8:50) - Kevin "KevMath" Mathers is officially done with his WSOP assignment, but he stopped by the Rio to watch the action on Day 8. He bumped into Pauly, who sat him down to discuss his favorite moments (and least favorite) during his first ever WSOP. Pauly also quizzes him on any strange "fan" encounters along the way.
Episode 37: Pseudo-Final Table (6:02) - Dan and Pauly are on the rail of the Mothership as action resumes for the pseudo-final table of ten, otherwise known as the November Nine bubble. Plenty of tension in the air because the final table will be set with just one more elimination.
Episode 39: Bruno's New Toy (4:20) - Fun Warren brought a batch of dolls to the WSOP. The dolls, resembling famous poker pros, were custom made in London . He left a couple behind for Pauly and Dan. Pauly got Phil Hellmuth, while Dan seems a little disappointed with Daniel Negreanu. Dan suggests that he'll probably give the Negreanu's doll to his dog Bruno, so Bruno will now have a new play toy.
If you want to listen to more episodes from the 2011 WSOP, visit Tao of Pokerati podcast archives.

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August, September, and October 2011

I took three months off and moved to San Francisco. I only posted 19 times in that stretch. Less is more, eh? Here's a few gems from the hiatus months...
Hot Sauce
A Brief Letter to Full Tilt Poker: Fuck You, Pay Me
Full tilt Ponzi Poker
Rocketman and Welcome to the Ice Palace
The Degen Market
I Didn't Know I Was That Far Gone
Superstitions, Jinxes, and River Rats
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November 2011

I returned to semi-regular poker writing with the November Nine on the agenda and the conclusion of the 2011 WSOP Main Event Championship.

Betting guide to the 2011 November Nine
2011 November Nine - Sunday LIVE Blog
November Nine Down to Three; Germany's Pius Heinz = Chip Leader
2011 WSOP November Nine - Tuesday Live Blog
Pius Heinz Wins 2011 WSOP Main Event
Michalski and I also recorded a few special Tao of Pokerati podcasts....
Tao of Pokerati Podcast - 2011 November Nine Edition
Episode 1: Evolution
Episode 2: Naming Names
Episode 3: Betting on Belize
Episode 4: Non-Silence of the Lambs
Episode 5: Giannetti Lives
Episode 6: Quad Lambs
Episode 7: Poker Hall of Fame Ceremony
Episode 8: First Hand Fireworks
Episode 9: Heads-Up Outfits
Episode 10: The Final Hand
Episode 11: Hooker Bar Farewell

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December 2011

The year ended with the annual blogger gathering to Vegas, which inspired a three-part trip report and as the year ended and I began to reflect on 2011, I sounded off on a few topics.
Four Haikus - Lost Vegas
Ocho - WPBT, Part 1
Ocho - WPBT, Part 2
Ocho - WPBT, Part 3
Zombie Poker Apocalypse

Puppeteers of America
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That's it. The highlights from 2011. I hope you have a happy new year.

And if you like what you read, I encourage you to vote Tao of Poker for Best Poker Blog in Bluff's Readers Choice Awards. Thanks for your support.

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