1. Why is there such a dearth of good writing about poker? I can think of only a handful of decent books about poker (Alvarez, the first Holden, McManus) but a ****load of dross - why is this the case?
I don't have a good answer. There are some writers in the industry who are top notch like Brad "Otis" Willis, Jay Greenspan, and the folks at Blonde Poker (Snoopy, Jen, Homer) but they often get overlooked because lots of poker publications would rather have a average piece written by a named pro than an exceptional piece written by a real writer. And the funny thing is, most of the pro's articles, books, and blogs are ghost written by real writers. I also think that the fault lies within the group of writers itself. A lot of people who cover poker are more interested in the "hipster lifestyle" and stay out all night partying or/and spending their time playing poker after hours instead of focusing on honing their craft.
2. On a related topic, when are you going to write the ultimate poker novel? Get cracking!!
I don't think I'll ever write a poker novel. As soon as I get some time off, I'll attempt to write a non-fiction book about my experiences in Las Vegas and on the international poker trail. I have written two screenplays and five unpublished novels including my first one titled "Jack Tripper Stole My Dog." I might self-publish that book sometime in the future under Wil Wheaton's publishing company. We've discussed it a couple of times, but that's as far as it has gotten.
3. Your blog makes frequent references to the joys of strippers, boozing, gambling and recreational drug use - please provide a link to the most debauched tale of yours involving one or some (but preferably all!) of the above.
Check out anything I have written involving the series called Existentialist Conversations with Strippers. Actually, that could be a great book someday, right?
4. You're lucky enough to travel lots on the poker circuit - outside of America, what would be your preferred country to live in and why?
Yeah I've been luck to get to travel to cool places instead of getting stuck in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Spain is an amazing country. I'm a big fan of Barcelona. I could live in Australia (where I'm currently covering the Poker News Cup) since it's such a beautiful country with laid back people who like to party, plus they speak English down under! I've always had a great time in Holland, so that's probably the place for me, particularly Amsterdam. Parts of it remind me of my hometown of New York City, and then there's all the hashbars and coffeeshops....
5. Who is the biggest degenerate on the professional poker scene and why?
Mike Matusow is a notorious sports bettor and routinely loses tons of money betting on American sports. One day he's sitting on a few million and the next day he's busto. TJ CLoutier might be one of the best tournament players of all time... but he's constantly broke because his biggest weakness is craps. It's sort of cliche, but you will actually find Cloutier at the craps table moments after he cashes in a tournament. Erick Lindgren is also known to be a heavy sports bettor.
6. Is High Stakes Poker a set-up for the cameras? Sssssh, we won't tell anyone....
I don't think it is. With most televised events, the crew shoots for several hours and the editors use a small percentage of the hands that were actually played. So it appears that there's lots of action, when they probably pick twenty or so hands out of hundreds. In reality, you miss all the folding and folding and folding.
7. What's your opinion of the current president of the US of A? Who (of the major contenders, no fantasy Liz Lieu presidencies please) would you like to succeed him and why?
I'm not a fan of George W. Bush, but I also realize that he's just a figurehead and there are plenty of people behind the scenes who are really calling the shots, such as Dick Cheney. Remember the TV show the X-Files? And the cigarette smoking man? Well, that's Dick Cheney. Bush is a muppet and takes all the shots from the press and the haters allowing those really in power to operate in the shadows. I voted for Ralph Nader in the last two presidential elections. I would have voted for Howard Dean in 2004, but he got knocked out of the race in favor of John Kerry. TIn 2008? Barack Obama seems like a logical chocie for me, after all he plays poker. How anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton is beyond me. Anyone who had no idea that her husband was banging Monica Lewinsky should not be the leader of any country (OK, maybe France). But I honestly think that US elections are rigged... so it doesn't matter who I really vote for. We have the illusion of democracy in America.
8. Are you sick of the 'corporatisation' (if that is a word ) of poker, even though this provides you with your livelihood?
The 'corporatisation' of poker is something that is reflective of a lot of aspects of society. If I were to work in Hollywood as a writer, I'd be working a corporate gig so there's no escaping it. Corporations is where the money and power is these days. The power used to be with the church centuries ago, then nation states took control. Now it's corporations who are raping and pillaging everything in the world. I dunno if it can be stopped.
9. If there is a 'soul' of poker, has it been sold out to the highest bidder and Disneyified beyond belief a la the current WSOP circus?
That's a funny statement, because Disney owns ESPN which has a lot to do with shaping how poker is presented to the public in America. Yeah, poker has been whored out to folks like Corum watches and Milwaukee's Beast Lite. But that's happening all over the place. You can't watch a TV show or a film without seeing some sort of product placement. Once someone reaches any level of fame, they start shilling. Can you blame them? If a company throws tons of money at you to plug their product, why wouldn't you? Buy the way, play on PokerStars!
blondes or brunettes? BLONDES
East Coast or West Coast? EAST COAST
lemons or limes? LEMONS
natural or silicon? NATURAL
Amsterdam or New Amsterdam? AMSTERDAM
Hemmingway or Mailer? HEMINGWAY
Tournaments or Cash? CASH
Showing a monster bluff with The Hammer at the final table of the WSOP ME or writing a Booker Prize winning novel? NOVEL
11. Is there something ironic about this from someone who makes his money from building up the pros? For example during the WSOP you had a section on "last 5 pros I pissed next to".
If you took the time over the last few years reading my work, you would know that the last thing I do is celebritize the pros. As far as the Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To... it's just a big joke, which quickly became a fan favorite.
12. I haven't read very much of your blog. I was linked to it a few times and I thought you were a good writer. But I was turned off by the fact that every second sentence was "then I went to play at PokerStars, which is one of my favourite sites along with Full Tilt Poker , etc". It looks like you don't have as many affiliate links now. Is this partly due to the UIGEA or is it just coincidence?
First off, thanks for thinking I'm a good writer. Now onto the answers...
At one point, I had dozens of online poker accounts at various sites. It's the truth when I say things like... Stars is one of my favorite sites. I can't seem to win there, which is why I play a lot of FT. I used to love Party Poker and the games were so fishy, but I can't play on Party anymore due to the UIGEA.
I write for free on the Tao and being an affiliate is a way to make a few extra bucks. Poker writers don't earn much. Ask Dev and he'll tell you. Believe me... I'm one of the top paid writers in the industry and it's peanuts. Also, my RSS feeds gets nicked a lot by douchebags who try to make money off of stealing my original content and passing it off as their own. Embedding the affiliate links into my posts is a way for me to get a few bucks back from those scumbags who steal my stuff. Maybe I'll get a click through or two. Maybe not. But I have to do something to protect myself. The majority of my readers already have accounts on those sites you mentioned, so they simply pass over it. Also, no one is forcing you to click through the links, so it's never been an issue.
13. Do you feel it is difficult to comment objectively on internet poker sites when you work as an affiliate for so many of them?
I have never had a problem. If something sucks about a site, I'll write about it. The best part about my affiliate deals is that the online sites have no say over what I write on the Tao. However, when I wrote for PokerStars Blog at the 2006 WSOP, I felt that I had to toe the company line because after all I was getting paid to promote PokerStars and their players.
14. Where would you place the top female pros in terms of top 100 players in the world. (take a stab)
That's a tough question because how do you quantify "the best"? Is it by overall poker skill? Cash games? Tournaments? I think that players like Jen Harman, Cyndy Violette, and Liz Lieu are solid cash game players. Kathy Liebert, JJ Lui, and Annette_15 are among the best NL tournament players. Kristy Gazes and Annie Duke are excellent all around players (in games like Omaha 8 and Stud).
15. Daniel Negreanu appears to be a very affable chap . Tell us of his dark side.
He can get preachy when he talks about religion on his blog. I'm not against religious people. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school. But I'm turned off when people try to push their religious beliefs on you.
16. Do you think a rule should be placed into Poker to penalise blantant slowrollers. (Eg If a player slowrolls should he be warned by the dealer and if reoffending penalised in some way. Or is this something we just have to put up with.)
I loathe slowrollers. I don't think it should be a rule, but it's definitely one of those instances where slow rollers should get the crap beat out of them in the parking lot.
17. Vegas -> Have any of the famous poker players been robbed/mugged with large poker winnings to your knowledge.
Like someone mentioned, Doyle Brunson was robbed at his house and faked a heart attack. Two thugs tried to rob Greg Raymer at gunpoint at the Bellagio a couple of years ago. The Grinder's brother and his wife were robbed in the parking lot at the Rio at the 2006 WSOP. And don't forget about all those stories about pros getting rolled by hookers. It happens a lot. A friend of mine was robbed at gunpoint... Las Vegas is a dangerous city with lots of crime.
18. Do the 'mob' have a big say in what happens in Vegas or is it the year 2007?
Nah, the mob hasn't been in Vegas in decades. Some of them run the illegal card rooms in NYC, but they're long gone from Vegas. Sadly, a bunch of suits run Vegas now.
19. What the most you've ever won in a hand and describe the action.
I won a big hand in one of the $1,500 NL donkaments at the 2007 WSOP which helped get me in a position to cash in my first WSOP tournament for like $4,700. Here's how I described the hand on my blog...
I found 7c-7h and raised 2,100 from the cutoff. LA pro CK Hua was to my left and he jammed for 7,100. Everyone folded to me. And I sat looking at CK Hua's hands. He wore a bracelet. I dunno from what event, but he was showing his bling. I tried to put him on a range of hands. CK Hua could have any two cards. Then I started thinking about what was in his bag. CK Hua always has a man purse with him and wears while playing. What was in there? Cash for Chinese Poker. Cell phone. Vinnie Vinh's stash? Nah. But what the **** does CK Hua have in his man purse? I had to shake off those thoughts and focus on the hand. If he had big cards, I was risking my tournament life on a coin flip. If he had a small pair, I was way ahead. If CK Hua woke up to a monster I was ****ed.
Big time pro vs. me. Time to make a stand. That's why people play in these events? The chance to take down a professional. Sticking it to someone who lists professional poker player on their tax returns. I told myself that I wouldn't let CK Hua push me around. That's when I noticed a swarm of media surrounding the table. If I busted, the world would know about in within ninety seconds. No fear. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose everything to get ahead in life.
"I'm all in," I said.
"I call," CK Hua quickly said.
"Do you have a pair?" I asked.
He shook his head as I showed him my Sevens. He showed Ad-Jc.
"Fifty percent," I said.
"Fifty percent," he said.
We both stood up as the dealer put out the flop. Usually I have perfect clarity over big hands. It's my job and what I get paid to do. That instance, I could not recall a card. All I know was that I still lead. On the turn CK Hua picked up a gutshot. The river was a blank and I doubled up. I was stunned. I couldn't move. I doubled through CK Hua and all I could think about was what the **** was in his bag. CK counted out my chips since I couldn't speak and he shoved chips my way.
I sensed that I tilted CK Hua. It took me twice as long to stack my chips because my hands were shaking. I did exactly what I said I was going to do. CK Hua hooked me up and I was above average up to 23K.
20. Have you ever played strip poker ? Describe the cheating action.
Unfortunately... no. I know, that's pretty lame.
21. Do you practice any BR management for your sports betting?
I should... but I don't. I have a roll that I use during the NFL season. I start out betting small and later in the season I'm betting a lot on just one or two games. Whatever I have left I use for the March Madness college basketball tournament. What I win... I use for travel. If I lose, then I start from scratch.
22. Was there ever a prop bet you regretted taking part in?
Perhaps the one when I offered Otis $400 to eat two Keno crayons at the Gold Coast. It was like 4am and a few friends of mine got hammered at a Pai Gow table and Otis was quickly stuck $1K. He got comped a couple of free meals at the cafe since he was betting like $800 a hand at one point on a $5 table. We went to eat steak and eggs. I was joking around and didn't think he'd actually eat the crayons. But he was wasted and stuck a lot and the next thing I knew... he was shoving them in his mouth. There's a You Tube video of it. Here's the link
. If it doesn't work, just search for... Otis Keno Crayons. And yes, that's Wil Wheaton making a cameo in the video.
23. On average how many people visit your site weekly?
50,000 per week. It's much higher during the WSOP... sometimes as much as 100,000 a day.
24. What's your favorite poker book & non-poker book?
My favroite poker book is "The Biggest Game in Town" by Al Alvarez. My favorite non-poker book is tough. I dig almost anything written by Henry Miller, Hunter Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and Spalding Grey.
25.Family Guy or the Simpsons?
26. Have you ever tried to write a nove
I wrote five unpublished novels...
1. Jack Tripper Stole My Dog
2. Sweet Nothing: The Baby and Winky Story
3. The Blind Kangaroo
4. Barhopping with Buddha
27. When u were younger what did u want to be?
When I was a kid, I wanted to play third base for the NY Yankees. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, because my grandfather was a doctor, but that never happened. In high school, I got an internship on the floor of the NY Commodities Exchange in the World Trade Center and I was hooked on the financial sector. In college I wanted to play in a band... but that never materialized. I wasn't a good enough guitar player and I was too lazy to practice. After college I took a job on Wall Street as a bond trader, but I dreamed about being a novelist. I quit my job to write, and the rest is history. Sort of...
28. If u could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I probably would have worried less about things that I had no control over. It's weird how you get obsessed with some things which drive you crazy ike what people think about you. If I could learn to let go of those things when I was younger, I might have been a lot happier and less bummed about.
Also, I probably would have spent more time with my friends and family appreciated what we had... because you always think that you might be tight with some folks forever, but in reality, that rarely happens. People change and relationships evolve. Had I known that there's a shelf life on friendships, I would have appreciated it more at the time.
29. Do u put money aside every week akin to a pension plan?
I invest regularly on my own. I recently paid off my college loan and all my credit cards, so I'll have some more opportunities to invest on a monthly basis. Or maybe I'll just waste it all on strippers and blow...
30. Any thoughts on the future of UIGEA?
I think it's going to stick around for a while, but not be enforced. I doubt that it will get overturned in the near future... because it's difficult to change existing laws in America. It's easy to pass them, but it's a long pain in the arse process to actually overturn them.
31. Any thoughts on why Atlantic City never seemed to take off?
The corruption of their local politicians and the influence of the mob really made the city unattractive. The tax money that they got from the casinos was embezzled instead of being invested into the infrastructure of Atlantic City. It's really a bad area with a lot of crime. The cheap package deals to fly to Vegas seemed more appealing that a trip to AC. When Connecticut allowed Indian casinos like Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, gamblers who lived near there stopped coming down to AC. It's sad. It used to be a great place to vacation when my parents were kids. Now it's a dump with the exception of a few casinos like the Borgata.
32. Would you encourage your kids to play poker?
I don't intend on having children. But if I did, I would focus more on the math & statistics side of poker than the gambling aspects. Poker can be a good tool to teach children about understanding risk assessment and learning negotiation and survival skills.
33. Any extra titbits of info you can give us on the various Brandi Hawbecker incidents, other than whats already in the public domain?
Not really. She always smiled at me when I walked by her at the WSOP. But I think she just wanted media attention. I was bummed out that I never got to see her strip over at the Spearmint Rhino. There were some odd things going on with her and David Sklanasky, but I think she's too old for him. He likes very young girls.
34. What did you think of JerryYangs "I will glorify your name Lord. With the money I make, I will glorify your name” praying?
I thought it was cheesy, but he honestly believed that God helped him win, so be it. How can I argue against that? At least he's going to do some good things with his money by donating to charities instead of blowing it at the craps table or buying too many bottles of Cristal.