The Blogfiles: Tao of Poker
Blogging has fueled the fulmination of poker, and Paul McGuire is living many a poker blogger’s dream. His site—Tao of Poker—was a primary source of WSOP coverage for the poker blogging community. He’s taken on poker coverage as a full time gig, writing for Poker Player Newspaper and Fox Sports. In the first of an ongoing series, we spotlight “Dr. Pauly” and his site, Tao of Poker.
WCP: Give us a little history on Tao of Poker...
Pauly: I authored a regular blog called the Tao of Pauly and some of my friends were getting pissed that it contained too much poker content. One of them politely requested that I start a new blog and move the poker content off my main blog. Since my blog was the Tao of Pauly, it seemed natural that I call my new blog the Tao of Poker...
Pauly (continued): That happened a little more than two years ago. At that time in my life, I never played online and was driving up to Foxwoods casino in Connecticut once a week to play and I’d write about those experiences. I was also frequenting card rooms all over the city.
WCP: Having lived in New York, you’ve played in some backroom poker games. Many people have the impression of these New York card rooms as dank, Teddy KGB-esque shitholes with shady ass characters spewing chips and insults. What was your take on that whole scene?
Pauly: Before my jump into online poker, I played most of my poker in the clubs in New York City. At one point, according to my friend F Train, he said that there were 12-14 rooms operating in the city. That ranged from a few new rooms to some of the more popular ones like Play Station and the Players Club (both of which were shut down by NYPD shortly before I moved to Las Vegas). It really depends on the owners. Some of the newer clubs are trying to look legitimate and put a lot of money into the décor of the room. They also hire hot cocktail waitresses. Other rooms are owned by sketcky people who pocket all the profits. They invest very little into maintaining the room, chips, tables, etc. In the end, poker has always been played in an “underground” format. It’s been going on forever and the demand for games will always means that someone is willing to take a risk providing a place to play for poker junkies. Don’t forget that Dan Harrington, Erik Seidel, and Howard Lederer all used to play together at the Mayfair in the 1980s.
WCP: You’ve traveled across the country playing in other people’s home games. What are some of your best stories from the road?
Pauly: Before I moved to Las Vegas, I went to the Midwest to hang out with Daddy and Iggy. Daddy took me to a tournament at someone’s house in Southern Indiana. We were drinking and partying all day while playing golf. I drank even more during the tournament and knew I was going to puke. It was down to three players and I waited until I played my button, then ran into the bathroom and promptly blew chunks in this dude’s bathroom. I quickly cleaned up, went back outside to the game, and ended up winning the tournament! On the ride home, I puked in Daddy’s car. He seemed pretty excited about that, “Dr. Pauly christened my sled!” was one of the few things I remember him saying.
I also played poker on a bullet train in Japan when I was traveling from Fukuoka to Osaka. I was following the band Phish on their Japan Tour with Senor and Beano, some of my good friends from college. We managed to play a few hands to kill some time.
WCP: You’ve produced a blogzine going on four years now as well. What's up with Truckin’…
Pauly: Truckin’ was one of the first blogs I started over three and a half years ago. It originally was a forum for my friends to post their own travel stories. Since then I expanded it to include fiction and other short stories. In this past issue, Grubby submitted a play. Over the past year or so, I’ve depended heavily on my fellow poker bloggers to send me a steady flow of material. I publish it monthly and I’m shocked it’s still going! Truckin’ is almost four years old and has outlasted pretty much every job and every serious relationship I’ve ever had.
WCP: You’ve recently signed on to contribute to Poker Hacks along with many other famed poker bloggers. What will be your focus in the book?
Pauly: I’m gonna tackle the non-strategy oriented topics. There are dozens of other bloggers who are better poker players and know a ton more strategy than I do. At any rate, I was honored to be asked by Double As to contribute.
WCP: As we mentioned in the intro, your site was a prime source of WSOP coverage. Aside from living in a slum motel frequented by hookers, what was your favorite memory from this year’s WSOP?
Pauly: There are a few. I got goosebumps when Barry Greenstein told me he was going to dedicate his win in a WSOP event for Charlie Tuttle. Less than two hours later, he did it. That was a special moment, especially because Charlie died of complications from cancer one day after he found out about Barry’s win. I also got to see Johnny Chan become the first player to ever win 10 bracelets, and then Doyle Brunson won his 10th a few nights later. I also got to meet and hang out with Wil Wheaton and Lou Krieger, both of who are two writers that I deeply admire. Oh, and I almost forgot about knocking Shannon Elizabeth out of the WSOP media/celebrity tournament when I cracked her pocket Aces with J-J. I asked the dealer for a Jack on the river, and he delivered!
WCP: Were you ever even a little tempted though to “make friends” with one of those hookers at the motel?
Pauly: I offered one $20 to do my laundry instead of a handjob like she had been soliciting. She refused my counter offer.
WCP: One thing that struck us at this year’s WSOP was the way our perception of certain players significantly shifted. Did any pro twist the preconceived opinion you had of him/her this year (good or bad)?
Pauly: Yeah. I met Josh Arieh and his wife and I was surprised because he’s really a nice guy. When he won a bracelet this year, the first person he called was his father. He got a bad rap by ESPN last year. For the most part, in general terms, everyone was pretty cool to me. Man, even Phil Hellmuth gave me a few minutes for an interview. I was especially impressed with how Marcel Luske went out of his way to call Charlie Tuttle when he was in the hospital. Marcel would always ask me how Charlie was doing. When he found out that Charlie died, Marcel was visibly upset by the news of his passing. Plenty of other pros like Max Pescatori, Jen Harman, John Juanda, Barry Greenstein, along with Marcel Luske all rallied behind Charlie’s cause. Some of the fiercest poker players in the world showed a vulnerable and compassionate side. That was impressive and unexpected.
WCP: Give us 1) a non-poker book you recommend, and 2) a poker book you recommend.
WCP: You went to college at Emory in Atlanta. What were your favorite spots to hit and where do you think Atlanta women (eg. Atlanta's Vanessa Hoelsher, pictured, Sept. Playmate and grad of Chop's high school) stack up against girls from other cities?
Pauly: Atlanta was a different city a decade ago! I used to practically live at a bar in Emory Village called Dooley’s. I frequented bars in the Virginia Highlands like Neighbors, Dark Horse Tavern, Atkins Park, and Limerick Junction. Back in the day, I was very fond of Southern girls, not just those from Atlanta. I dated a few Georgia girls but was ga-ga over a girl from Kentucky and another from Virginia. It’s probably the accent and willingness to drink in the afternoon that gets me every time.
WCP: Finally, you pull up a seat at a live 6-person SNG. Who would you fill out the remaining seats with (can be living, dead, or fictitious)?
Pauly: Let’s see… Stu Ungar, Isabelle Mercier, Phil Hellmuth, Jerry Garcia, and Hunter Thompson. I want to play against Phil just so I can drop the Hammer on him and get him on mega-tilt. Jerry Garcia and the members of the Grateful Dead used to play cards all the time while they were on the road. Hopefully Jerry would play a few tunes on his guitar in between hands. Isabelle is there because she’d add grace and elegance to the table. Stu Ungar is a remarkable person from what I’ve read about in Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson’s book. I would have loved to hear some of Stuey’s stories first hand. And lastly, Hunter Thompson would bring the best party favors.
WCP: That's all we got for now. Thanks Pauly for the great interview. We'll be blogfiling Las Vegas and Poker sometime over the next couple weeks. And check out our Heads-Up with the Tiltboys tomorrow.