I may not know squat about poker but I’ll read any of you douchbags under the table at any time so I usually can figure out what makes up a great read and that is what you get in Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.
Take one sick puppy and drop him down in one sick town and you get an awesome read. Just finished Lost Vegas by Paul “Dr. Pauly” McGuire. In it we get a view of Vegas the tourists never see and the tourist board would rather not be known, at least that would be their public face. The Doctor paints a picture of the truly sinful part of Sin City and it all ain’t necessarily the kind of sin Vegas wants to promote with a wink and a nod yet is the type of manifesto that, for some perverse reason, would probably make a number of people go looking for some of the experiences he so artistically paints with his words. Of course I doubt if anyone really would wish to stay at the Redneck Riviera but curiosity does give one an itch to at least drive by to look, the same way people gawk at train wrecks and car accidents. Given the amount of pharmaceuticals he describes imbibing, not to mention the ever present organics one kind of wonders how Pauly could even see the keys on his laptop to regale us with his worm’s eye view of the desert city let alone remember as much as he did. Whoever made his personal recorder should be signing him to an endorsement contract.
The first half of the book is dominated by the story of a man starting at the bottom of his chosen vocation and looking to find the path onward and upward and the stories surrounding his walk through the bottom strata of a city that is ready to suck the life out of those who come there with dreams that never materialize. The poker is actually little more than backdrop or maybe the reason for the story but not the story itself. His life in those surroundings, hell, the surroundings themselves, are just much more interesting and intriguing. As the story goes on and the intrepid doctor climbs ever upward on the path of respectability the poker stories become more integral to the process as his surroundings become the more mundane vistas of suburbia, even if it is Las Vegas suburbia. Even so there are still snippets of drug fueled concert gatherings, afternoons spent in strip clubs and nights in the Hooker Bar to keep our interest in the seamier side of life.
In the second half of the book the poker has come more to the fore and we get stories that never quite made it in the local newspaper or on ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP. Stories about Matasow’s bi-polar disorder, Vinnie Vinh’s strange antics, some stories about various players who hit the skids and never returned and even Tiffany Michelle’s amazing run a couple years ago and what went on away from the table. Only thing Pauly did leave out that I was hoping he would have had some insight in to was what was behind that action of hers in calling the clock on Snead. At the time it didn’t come off real well on TV though I read later that Snead took a lot more time than was shown but still, 2 tables left in the ME and basically his tourney at stake does make one wish for a bit more insight as to what was going on there. But if I can only find one thing to carp about in the whole damned book I guess it can’t be too bad. (Other than the fact it ain’t in hardcover and how the hell I’m going to get my copy signed. Hey, I’m a collector, sue me.)
The good Doctor leaves us with some heavy thoughts as to the nature of the human experience and the role Sin City plays in it as he closes out the book. After roaches in the kitchen (and the ashtrays), crack whores in the stairwells, lap dances to orgasm, Helmuth rants and media wars among the various poker media and websites it is positively metaphysical in nature but it fits. All in all, highly recommended.
Thanks for the listen.