The Salad Days of Poker

Reading Dr, Pauly’s Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers and the World Series of Poker was a guilty pleasure. I had always been an avid reader. But when I was freelancing, so much of my effort had to be concentrated on outflow versus inflow.

Starting sometime last year, however, my reading drought ended and became a floodwater. I devour academic papers on any interesting topic. A lot of them have to do with finance, investing, regulation and economics. But they have also included studies on farmland allocation, pain and pain perception, and the ability of pigeons to learn probability.

I read a number of papers that demonstrated idiotic sports betters, en masse, are more efficient at determining the betting line than the pros — and how a sports-betting approach is now being used to select drugs for clinical trials and forecast sales at high tech companies.

I scour dozens of articles from five newspapers and three financial websites each day. My book queue, which once looked like dozens of imposing stalagmites growing up from my office floor, has been reduced to a few innocent piles.

But for all my voracious reading, I suspect Dr. Pauly’s book was the feast I enjoyed most this year. And not just because it was well-written and included the delicious cynicism (replete with crack whores and degenerate gamblers) we’ve come to count on from the good doctor. Anyone who loves poker will relish the shocking tails of professional poker as viewed through Pauly’s Thompson-esque lens. But I loved it because it so beautifully captured the salad days of poker.

Lost Vegas triggered more than the many tournaments Pauly and I covered side-by-side or the pros we came to know. Like a drug flashback, it started an avalanche of memories about the times we shared with a small community of poker writing pioneers – in part represented in proxy by my blogroll.

For poker writers, 2005 was our “summer of love” and the few years that followed were wondrous.

In 2005, I first got to meet the likes of Pauly and Al Can’t Hang in person and spend time with the depraved, yet ironically naïve, DanM. It was the summer that Jen Leo and John Caufield fell in love. I got to see the poker world through Flipchip’s experienced lens, both literally and figuratively. I woke up each day, looking forward to my dose of Jay Greenspan’s decidedly jaded and detached sense of humor.

The book reminded me of all the brilliantly silly moments, bellied up to the Hooker bar with Pauly, Gene and Otis, after putting in a 12 hour day at the World Series of Poker. I can still hear BJ Nemeth and me, reading article drafts aloud to each other at 2:00 am, our voices echoing through the cavernous Amazon room.

I found myself thinking back to the Malibu rum and cranberry juice cocktails I shared with Gracie as we discussed the ridiculous advantage of playing a suited 9-T and how Katitude and I both love poker and knitting but hate bridges. Maudie’s smile hung in the air above me as I read, like the Cheshire cat’s.

It made me remember how I once believed Iggy really was a dwarf and how I didn’t realize Wil Wheaton really WAS Ashley (blunk drogging tell) Wesley Crusher (I just thought people called him that because he kinda looks like him — which of course he does — because he actually is).

But more than anything, It reminded me that I belonged to a cadre of writers — as united by our passion for poker and for each other as we were diversified by almost every other metric.

And of course it reminded me of a time when writing about poker was a hard way to make an easy living — made so much better by the company we kept.

Over time, many of our lives have changed. There have been new marriages, new children, new jobs, new challenges and new perspectives. Many of the blogs that were filled with daily hand histories or tales of a hammer-handed victory are quieter today. Blog content often includes our new non-poker passions and realities. But like a medium, Pauly magically conjures the spirit, insanity and joy of poker’s salad days.


  1. Posted November 14, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Umm… it’s WESLEY Crusher. Don’t want to piss off legions of fans.

    Great post, as usual. Got my copy of Lost Vegas right here.


    PS. Feel free to delete this comment if you so choose. 😉

  2. Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I leave it up as a cautionary tale for future drunk bloggers…

  3. Posted November 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    That reminds me, I need to reread Lost Vegas, I inhaled it the day I got it!

    And speaking of knitting, there are more of us! Here’s to the KPT (Knitters Poker Tour) *grin.

  4. bayne
    Posted November 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Iggy allows pictures to be published now?

  5. Posted November 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I would never publish a picture of Iggy — or change100 for that matter.

  6. Posted November 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Tyvm for adding me :)

    I’d already heard good things about Lost Vegas, but based on your review I think I might have to buy it :)