Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Decorations that Boggle the Mind

Why is Santa carrying a decapitated reindeer head on a stick?

Why is this cat walking upright? And carrying a cake?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

71,987 Miles

71,987 miles. That's the balance on the frequent flier account I opened 11 months ago with American Airlines. And I still have two trans-continental trips and a bunch of bonuses still left to post.

That's a lot of time on an airplane. And I'm about to get on another. Crossing my fingers for a business class upgrade to go with the on-board wifi. Praying to whatever supreme being is up there that there isn't a screeching child sitting within five rows of me.

I spent the last week in New York City doing three things. Visiting Showcase, who migrated from West Hollywood to Midtown Manhattan last May, visiting Ben, one of my best friends for the last 15 years, and catching Phish's magnificent three-night run at Madison Square Garden. Coventry, of course has some excellent reviews from Pauly, Kid Dynamite and Mr. Fabulous.

I get only 36 hours at home to jam in a week's worth of work before I make the haul up I-15 to Las Vegas for WPBT weekend. I'll be at the tournament at Caesar's on Saturday-- get ready for Team Tao of Pot (me, my beloved, and Derek).

Whether you're venturing out on your first blogger trip or a seasoned vet, everyone should check out one of my all-time favorite Tao posts, Pauly's Bloggers Invading Las Vegas Tips.

I'll see many of you this weekend. Safe travels, and don't forget to tip your waitresses.

Friday, November 13, 2009

WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack Ankles Harrah's

Jeffrey Pollack introduces the 2008 November Nine

Pauly crawled into bed around six this morning and nudged me awake. Ever since Joe Cada wrapped the Main Event bracelet around his wrist early Tuesday morning, there had been rumors that a big story was about to break in the poker world.

"Jeffrey Pollack is out."

Say what? Sure I was already horizontal and only semi-conscious, but you could have knocked me over with a feather.

The poker media lost a huge ally today in Pollack. Say what you want about exclusive media rights and all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing that came with it, but Pollack never censored independent voices in media row, most notably my beloved and the Tao of Poker, but also sites like Wicked Chops Poker-- not exactly the type of guys who will sugar-coat a story to satisfy a bunch of corporate suits. These guys write about the Hooker Bar, "Ass Girl" and the real, serious degen-ing that surrounds the world's most prestigious poker tournament. Pollack didn't simply allow these outlets to function, he embraced them.

Poker fashion has also lost one of its shining stars. Back in April, I named Pollack one of my Top 10 Poker Fashionistas in a piece on PokerNews. I don't know how he did it, but the man always looked fresh as a freakin' daisy, even after a 20-hour final table. Seriously, I've never seen him look bad. His pinstripe suits were always pressed, and he made bold style choices with his pastel shirts, colorful ties, and coordinating pocket squares. I even composed a haiku ode to the Commish over the November Nine weekend:

Hair cropped like Caesar
Navy suit is wrinkle-free
Real men wear pastels

The WSOP will not be the same without Jeffrey Pollack. Who is going to tweet the "Song of the Day" next year, even if it is a rotating mix of U2, Coldplay and Steely Dan?

Fare thee well Commish. And best of luck. But as you well know now, in our game, it's not about luck.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Heads-Up, At Last

"Baby/ I go crazy/ There's fever in the funk house now" -The Rolling Stones

The line to get in stretches for more than a hundred yards. People have been here since morning, waiting for their chance to witness history. They played cards, read best-sellers, and thumbed through dog-eared copies of Bluff as they waited. And waited. And waited.

Now, many of them have seats inside the Penn & Teller Theatre. Tournament Director Jack Effel is introducing the players. Jeffrey Pollack is looking sharp in one of his trademark pinstripe suits. Yellow-shirted Cada fans are continuing their two-day liquor fest as they cheer on their man. That Jack Link's Beef Jerky Sasquatch thing is wandering around. And I'm back up in the skybox with my media brethren, waiting to watch it all unfold.

Barry Greenstein predicted 28 hands. I said 66. And only a few hours from now, poker will have a new World Champion.

For hand-by-hand action and chip counts, head over to PokerNews. For all the behind the scenes flavor, hit up my beloved at the Tao of Poker where he'll be live blogging all the action.

You can also follow us on Twitter:

Sunday, November 08, 2009

WSOP November Nine Fashion Report

At the start of yesterday's 17.5-hour odyssey that left us with our final two players in the WSOP Main Event (Joe Cada, the young luckbox and Darvin Moon, the old luckbox), I penned this fashion report for the Tao of Poker. I'm a fan of group costumes, so I was tickled to see that many November Nine fans arrived to cheer for their guys in custom-made shirts. Check it out.

Darvin Moon - Everyone's favorite Maryland logger chose a black polo, jeans, and his beloved New Orleans Saints hat for his final table outfit. No logos. No patches. Nada. Personally, I was hoping for him to play up his country-bumpkin image with a plaid shirt (totally hot this fall) and overalls, his supporters all carrying mini-chainsaws that they'd rev up each time their man won a pot. Instead, Moon's rural brethren are all sporting Wheeling Casino T-shirts that say "Bad Moon Rising" on the front. Eh. Points do go to those "Moonies" who brought heads-on-sticks, featuring their man's image.

James Akenhead - "The Limey" might very well be wearing the same clothes he played Day 8 in-- a black button-down shirt and a matching black Full Tilt hat. He has fans here but they are not in costume. FAIL.

Phil Ivey - Pauly tried to get Otis to bet on the color of Ivey's Full Tilt hat, offering him the field against baby blue. Otis wisely told my beloved to go fuck himself, knowing that's the biggest sucker bet he'd be offered all day. Indeed, Ivey chose his trademark sky-blue cap, pairing it with a black button-down. His superstar entourage, including Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Jen Harman, and sorta-freakish but totally adorable superfans Mel & Pat Humphries all have prime spots onstage.

Kevin Schaffel - Schaffel is wearing the standard PokerStars sponsored player uniform of a black Stars shirt and matching hat, paired with smart tan trousers. He's not exactly lighting the fashion world on fire with that outfit, but at least he didn't take his ninth-place money and hit up Versace for some vertigo-inducing silk shirts. Schaffel's 80 supporters are all decked out in "Schaffel Up and Deal' shirts with a cartoonish rendition of their man on the front-- the weakest of the group fan costumes, IMO.

Steve Begleiter - Begs must be at least a little superstitious because he too is in the same clothes he wore when he made the November Nine back in July-- a navy polo and a red Full Tilt hat. ESPN's continuity peeps must be happy about that choice. His fans, however, get top marks from me for their blue "BEGS, BEGS BEGS!" shirts.

Eric Buchman - Black PokerStars hat. Black PokerStars shirt. No group costumes. Moving on...

Joe Cada - While Cada is in his black PokerStars uniform, his fans went for neon with garish yellow sweatshirts that made my eyes bleed after looking at them for five minutes in the hallway. The pullovers say "Cada" on the back. Just like that, in quotes. Like it's his nickname. But it's his actual name. I'm confused.

Antoine Saout - As much as I'd have loved to see him in a beret, Saout is dressed in head-to-toe Everest swag. Snooze. His fans are packed into the stage left balcony, all wearing royal blue soccer jerseys that say "Saout" on the back (and "Everest Poker" on the front, of course). Their nationalistic pride is showing, as a number of French flags have been spotted in their section. Personally I'd have gone for baguettes-- they're easily visible on-camera and can double as snacks.

Jeff Shulman - I saw Happy sauntering down the hallway earlier in a maroon Phish T-shirt (points for that), which he has now unfortunately covered with a ratty navy CardPlayer hoodie (booooo). It doesn't look like he's been to the barber (or bought a razor) since play finished up last July. Dude...even Pauly cleaned up after Festival 8 and lost the tour beard. In the immortal words of the joker-- "Get your shit together, man!"

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Offstage at the November Nine

One year ago I sat less than ten feet from the final table as Peter Eastgate took down the 2008 WSOP Main Event. This year I'm a hundred feet in the air, hunkered down in the press "skybox" with a PokerNews badge around my neck but without a specific assignment. Sure, my alter ego Nicole Gordon will be scribbling away on several feature articles for the front page of PNews, but unlike previous years, I won't be doing any final table play-by-play. Can't say I'll miss it too much, save for the excitement of being right in the thick of the action. It'll be nice to string more than a few sentences together and feel more like an actual writer than a hand-logging robot.

For live reporting from the floor, check out the PokerNews Live Reporting page, where F-Train, Don Peters, and Eric Ramsey will be covering the action.

If it's behind-the-scenes action, dirt, and all the stuff most other outlets can't print, get thee to the Tao of Poker. I'll be contributing a few fashion reports in my (copious amounts of) downtime and will also be on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Waiting Room

There were 24 people inside the waiting room of a clinic in a moderately sketchy section of the city where the southern fringes of Hollywood meet the northern border of Koreatown. I sat among them for three hours this afternoon and in between chapters of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and outlining a piece for PokerNews I watched them. A lot. There really wasn't much else to do as I waited until 3:30 p.m. to be seen for my 12:45 appointment. All of us had one thing in common-- we had no health insurance.

Number of women: 22

Number of men: 2

Number of flamingly gay men: 1

Number of women carrying Louis Vuitton purses: 2

Number of women carrying Chanel totes : 1

Retail price of a Chanel 2.55: $2,250

Number of students from Hollywood High School: 5

How many of those students were passing the time by doing homework?: 0

How many textbooks were in their backpacks?: 0

Really?: Not a one.

How do I know they were from Hollywood High School? The student IDs around their necks.

Number of people reading books in the room: 3

Ethnicities of people reading books: White, Filipino, Asian

Number of people using texting devices and/or cell phones: 15

How many of those devices were iPhones? 11

Bad television shows that played out during my wait time: Some sort of talk show, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, and Divorce Court.

People who were playing along with Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? 4

Number of them who are smarter than a fifth grader: 1

Number of phone calls the actress sitting next to me received from her agent: at least 10

Number of auditions she missed while waiting for her 1:30 "appointment": seemingly one really important one

Total time spent in waiting room: 2 hours, 46 minutes

Total bill for a year's supply of birth control: $769.00

Number of times I said "fuck" out loud after being presented with the bill: at least 3

So that breaks down to... what exactly?: $2.11 a day to not burden myself, my boyfriend and society-at-large with a child. Which actually is a lot cheaper than actually having one.

Silver lining: At least I was home by 4:20.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Month at PokerNews

It's been a crazy month at Casa Change. In addition to my daily duties at PokerNews, I covered the WCOOP for PokerStars Blog and didn't see the sun for many many days. Which was mostly OK with me, because the basin has been quite the inferno these past few weeks. That, and I love the weird shit that comes on television around 4:30 a.m., like infomercials for fitness contraptions and 1980's movies-of-the-week. Still, the nocturnal hangover lingers a week later, as I continually fall asleep at random times during the day and still feel no desire to head to sleep before three in the morning.

Just in case you missed it, here's a look at some of the pieces I wrote for PokerNews this month. The Sebok piece came out yesterday.

Though I may be an exceptionally lazy blogger when it comes to this space, I do flutter around the Twitterverse daily, if you'd care to follow my half-baked musings there.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The New Gig

So, I alluded to something a few weeks back here on the blog , but never exactly cleared up the whole mystery of my new writing gig. There's no mystery about it at all, actually and I've already been at it for about two weeks.

As many of you know, Matt Parvis (formerly of Bluff Magazine) took over the reins as Editor-in-Chief over at PokerNews at the beginning of the month, and as part of what will be a dramatic re-structuing of the site, he brought me on as a full-time writer and editor along with Michael Friedman and Elaine Chaivarlis. The three of us are presently writing the bulk of the content on the front page, and since change100 isn't exacly a byline-worthy moniker, my pieces appear under the name Nicole Gordon.

Then, come September, PokerNews will get another all-star team member when Pauly starts his Sunday Op-Ed Series that will run through the end of the year. How's that for a score?

September will be busy under this roof. I'm also on the Otis-captained WCOOP coverage team for the fine folks at PokerStars Blog which will render me partially nocturnal, while Pauly is finishing up the final edits on Lost Vegas. It's turned out to be creatively thrilling to watch the book come together for him. It inspires me. It helps me to see the future, something I haven't been all that adept at lately.

In other news, it's hot as fucking balls outside and this apartment is a mini-oven with the exception of the one slice of couch I'm perched on at the moment, which happens to be in the direct path of the portable air conditioner, which is blasting on high. Oh, also the cable is broken and there is allegedly not a single technician in all of Los Angeles who can fix it today. Fuck you Time Warner.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cook with Change: Shrimp & Orzo

Good God. After two weeks on the road eating a combination of lot food, fast food and greasy spoon diner food, I was so utterly psyched to pick up some fresh ingredients and make myself a proper dinner. The result was so damned tasty I'm sharing it with you immediately. This dish was inspired by the Walla Walla sweet onions I tasted up in Washington State and the huge, succulent shrimp I saw on display at Pike Place Market in Seattle. If organic ingredients are available to you, use them whenever possible.

Sweet Onion and Cherry Tomato Orzo with Grilled Shrimp and Fresh Basil

(Serves 2)

1/2 lb. wild-caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/4 lb. orzo pasta
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 generous squeeze of lemon juice
olive oil
red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

While bringing a pot of lightly salted water to a boil (for the orzo), place the shrimp in a shallow bowl. Season with salt, pepper, 1 clove chopped garlic and the chopped thyme. Drizzle shrimp with 1 tbsp olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Mix by hand, coating the shrimp and let sit about 10-15 mins.

Cook the orzo for 8-10 minutes, drain, and rinse with lukewarm water. Set aside. Heat a saute pan, (or a grill if you have one) and cook the shrimp for 2 minutes on each side. Remove shrimp from the heat and set aside. Add another dash of olive oil to the pan and add in the sweet onions, garlic, and as many red pepper flakes as you can handle (I used about 1/4 tsp). Sweat the onions for 2 minutes before adding the cherry tomatoes. Cook another 3 minutes.

Add the orzo, shrimp, chopped basil, and parmesan to the pan. Mix together and let everything heat through for about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Embedded With Hippies

I woke up from a mid-flight nap just as we were about to touch down in Denver. After two straight years of heavy international travel, I forgot how easy a two-hour flight could be. Wake up in L.A. at 6:30, touch down in another time zone by noon.

When it came to boozing it up and partying down in Las Vegas this summer... I couldn't participate in very much of it. My schedule was punishing and when I did find myself with a few moments of downtime, they were largely used to suck down a bowl of Sour Diesel or to catch up on articles for other outlets. I returned home on July 18th positively exhausted and spent the ten days since attempting to recharge. I got back in the gym. I stocked the fridge with my favorite organic foods. I picked up my knives and cooked a few nice meals. I pulled bong hits and caught up on shows like Weeds and Entourage. It was refreshing to live a normal, domesticated American life again.

All that downtime served as preparation for what is to unfold over the next two weeks: my first Phish Summer Tour.

First tour, you say? Shamefully, yes. Though I caught about half a dozen Phish shows in my late teens and early twenties in locales like Tinley Park, IL and Irvine, CA, those were my workaholic years, defined by a cult-like devotion to producing musical theater on my college campus (late teens) and an equally cult-like devotion to working eighty hour weeks for peanuts on the lowest rung of the Hollywood ladder (early twenties). By the time I'd earned my executive stripes and found myself with more flexibility of time, thousands of heads were already washing Coventry mud off their boots and I'd have a long five-year wait before seeing Phish again.

So here I am in Colorado. We've loaded our bellies with brekfast burritos and a few hours from now, we'll be on a party bus headed up to Red Rocks for the first night of Phish's four-show run. Next week I'll be on the road again, on a 1,200 mile journey from Los Angeles, to the Bay Area to Central Washington where I'll camp for the first time in my 32 years. Pauly has painstakingly educated me in some of the finer aspects of camping, like pitching a tent and assembling a sun shelter. If you would like to wager on whether or not I'll end up sleeping in the car at least one night for fear of wild animals and little bugs crawling into my sleeping bag, feel free. I'd put that at about 4-1 right now.

As a special added bonus, I got a phone call confirming that I'll be taking part in what I think will be an exciting new project in the poker world. I can't divulge much yet, but I'm very happy that someone I respect immensely has put his trust in me and invited me aboard. For the first time in over three years, I kind of have a regular job and it is one that can easily fit into my nomadic lifestyle. Color me stoked.

To follow along with all our antics this weekend, check in with the Coventry Music Blog, where Pauly and the joker will be updating regularly.

You can also follow all of us on Twitter:


Now, as the joker would say... "it's time to WAKE UP and RAGE!"

Monday, July 06, 2009

Suze Orman Meets Dead Money Joe

Suze Orman: OK, next caller. Welcome to "Can I Afford It?" What would you like to buy?

Dead Money Joe: Hi, Suze. I'm Joe from Rockville, MD and I'd like to play the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.

Suze Orman: And what does that cost?

Dead Money Joe: Ten thousand dollars.

Suze Orman: OK, Joe. Tell me a little bit more about your finances.

Dead Money Joe: I'm 34 years old and I take home about $4,500 a month. My mortgage payment is $1,200 and I have two kids. I have about $9,000 in credit card debt and I lease a Honda Accord for $269 a month.

Suze Orman: 401(k)? Savings?

Dead Money Joe: I have a 401(k) but it's lost like 40% this year. I had a savings of about $6,000 but had to use it to pay some medical bills.

Suze Orman: Hold on a minute. You take home $54,000 a year, you're in credit card debt, have no savings and what little investments you had tanked? Where are you going to get the $10,000?

Dead Money Joe: Well I won an $11 satellite on Poker Stars, which got me into a $160 double shootout and then I won two sit 'n goes and got my buy-in.

Suze Orman: What?

Dead Money Joe: Let's just say I won the $10,000 on an $11 investment.

Suze Orman: And you're asking me if you should go gamble that money?

Dead Money Joe: Poker isn't gambling. It's a skill game.

Suze Orman: I don't care what skills you have. YOU CAN'T AFFORD THIS, JOE!

Dead Money Joe: But there's an $8 million first place prize. And it's my lifelong dream. And there is so much dead money in that field.

Suze Orman: No, Joe. You're the dead money. Take that $10,000, wipe out that credit card debt, and you'll almost have enough money to make next month's mortgage payment. Next caller!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Base Camp Two

While I'm on the road and awake in the middle of the night, I tend to watch some really strange television while trying to fall asleep in the dawn hours. Ice Road Truckers. I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. Documentaries on the financial crisis. And those Discovery Channel specials on insane lunatics that climb Mount Everest. This morning, while the sun was peeking though the spaces between the blinds, I drifted off while our intrepid climbers reached Base Camp Two. They weren't quite halfway through their climb, but were still high enough that they had to dip into those oxygen tanks for a few hours a day.

That's pretty much where we're at when it comes to the WSOP. Not quite halfway there. We're in the thick of things. Nearly everyone has the thousand-yard stare. Those that are spending their nights trying to grind it out at the tables are telling their bad beat stories with a little more frequency and frustration. 4 a.m. feels like midnight used to, and thankfully, I already had my mental breakdown during the first week of the series, so I'm just trying to focus on myself and my own well-being as I trudge up the mountain. I cover two more events start to finish and then we're at the $50K H.O.R.S.E.

I've been climbing solo for the last two weeks, with my beloved off on the first leg of summer Phish tour, researching his next book. I'll admit it was difficult reading all his posts and Twitters from the road, clearly having the time of his life while I was stuck grinding out a paycheck at the Rio. But at the same time, those dispatches brought a smile to my face during some of the darkest hours in this building.

Check out the Best of Bonnaroo Twitters on Coventry to relive their adventures.

I also cracked up at this post Bonnaroo and Craigslist from Broseph, who pilfered through the "Missed Connections" section and uncovered some gems.

Pauly also has his Bonnaroo recap up.

I've downloaded all the Phish shows from Fenway Park to St. Louis and am slowly making my way through while cranking out articles and driving back and forth to the Rio. Today's selections were from the Asheville show, where they played a killer Divided Sky, but then went into some random country song about a cactus where Mike Gordon started yodeling. WTF? At least after that, they busted out with Bold as Love, which sizzled and made me happy, despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-15.

For now it's another late night at the Rio, a $10,000 stud 8 or better tournament, and Dutch Boyd's tragic hoodie staring me in the face.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tao All-Stars: The WSOP Fashion Report, Week 1

I'm honored to be one of the Tao All-Stars at this summer's WSOP and just contributed my first of several Fashion Reports. Check it out.


I'm back working for PokerNews at the WSOP and so far, the experience has been more similar to the fresh hell of 2007 than the far more manageable 2008. Basically, the entire official live reporting team was thrown together only two weeks before the start of the series due to protracted negotiations with Harrah's/Bluff, and things are far more disorganized than they were last year. A smaller staff, everyone taking pay cuts (myself included), fewer days off and lots of housing and transportation-related snafus have turned us all into a grumpy bunch pretty quickly. We're eight days in and I already have the thousand-yard stare. To make up for the pay cut I took, I'm still writing three pieces a week for the front page of PokerNews so I can afford to pay rent on my empty apartment back in L.A. and my editor is ready to throttle me, as I've blown every deadline since I got to Las Vegas. Typically I get home around 2 or 3 in the morning and have another couple of hours of work, usually getting to bed around 5. Now I know what Pauly goes through every single night at the WSOP. It's not pretty.

I feel like I haven't seen anyone since I got here. I pass people like Al, LJ, California Jen, Mean Gene, and the PokerListings guys in the hallway and don't have time for more than a passing hello. I haven't had time for a single drink at the hooker bar. I haven't played a hand of poker or Pai Gow. I can't even think about squeezing in a friendly dinner with folks or playing a satellite to try and make a few bucks. It's all about just getting through the day at this point.

Sorry to be such a downer, but that's where I'm at right now. I wish I could spend time with friends, have a laugh or two, and enjoy a nice meal, but with the way things are going at the moment, it's simply not in the cards. And if this $10K Mixed Event ends up going four days instead of three... well, there goes my day off.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Run-Good Challenge: WSOP Edition

I've done abnormally well in the PokerListings Run-Good Challenge. I won the first Grand Final and was runner-up to Kid Dynamite in the second one. I actually think Matt Showell secretly named the challenge for me because that was exactly what I had to do to finish in those spots. Run-Good is populated with the cream of the crop when it comes to the bloggerati, including Check-Raising the Devil authors Tim Lavalli & Amy Calistri, voice of French Poker Benjo, EPT goddess Mad Harper, Jay "WhoJedi" Newnum, the Luckbox, Spaceman, Shamus, AlCantHang, at least one of the Entities that comprise Wicked Chops Poker, Michalski, and my beloved among others. The best part of these tournaments is getting to play with friends. There were many in the field I hadn't seen in a while and it got me pumped up for the impending poker media reunion at the WSOP.

My starting table had Pauly on it and that was less than ideal. Not because we were playing from the same location, but because that donkey likes to call me in position with junk and flop miracles, then run around the room crying "Ship it holla balls!" in a gleeful falsetto when I fold. In his recap on the Tao of Poker he described our starting table:

Seat 1: Mad Harper - Everyone's favorite British ex-pat living in Spain played "fast and furious" because she had guests coming over for a dinner party

Seat 2: Amy Calistri - She's been beating up the financial markets ever since she stepped away from poker, but not before she helped pen Check-Raising the Devil with the Poker Shrink and Mike Matusow

Seat 3: change1OO - Everyone's favorite Hollyweird blonde was living the California Dream. The tournament started literally minutes she came home from the gym and fired up a binger of medicinal goodness.

Seat 4: F Train - Former regular at the Blue Parrot games, he shed his suit and tie and left the mean streets of Brooklyn for Sin City.

Seat 6: AlCantHang - The walking party. The next incarnation of the Dali Lama. Flowing robes. Grace. Stunning.

Seat 7: Matt Showell - Everyone's favorite Mac Daddy. He schooled me for a bunch of Hungarian bucks in Budapest on an apple eating prop bet at 4am.

Seat 8: Your Hero - Your hero almost missed the tournament because of Big Brother Tilt. I was slightly paranoid about reading a controversial book in public in a coffee shop frequented by LAPD, who kept peering over at my attempt at opening my mind.

Seat 9: DrunkBlonde - Unfamiliar with this person. I'm assuming it was a bot. Long live the machines.

Unfortunately, I wouldn't last long in this edition of the Run-Good. I folded T-T in one spot when Michalski opened for 300 from late position and Amy Calistri shoved for 615 from the button. I had about $1,650 and put her on a decent pair or a big ace and Michalski on a weaker holding, maybe K-J, K-T, Q-T, or a small pair. With F-Train still left to act behind me in the big blind it was definitely a shove or fold situation for me because I didn't want Michalski to call. I ended up folding, not wanting to race with or be crushed by Amy's hand, but Michalski called, showing Q-9 to Amy's A-K. I would have flopped a set when it came down K-T-3 and turned a boat, but I'm still OK with the fold there. I think.

I met my end when I had about 13 BB left with the blinds at 50-100. The action was folded to me in the small blind and with A-Ko, I raised to 300 hoping that F-Train would shove on me. He did exactly that and I snap-called. I was in good shape against his A-8, but the A-8-7 flop sent me packing.

I promptly left the house and went to Sephora where I cured my tilt by spending more than $200 on makeup and skin care products. When I came home, Spaceman and the Poker Grump were heads-up for the seat. After a lengthy battle, Poker Grump came out ahead and stamped his ticket to a $1,500 donkament this summer.

There is one more Run-Good tournament next Saturday, where PokerListings is giving bloggers a shot at not one, but two $1,500 donkament seats. I'll be spending my final hours in Los Angeles before departing for the Nevada desert playing in that tournament... and hopefully faring a little better than I did today.

Congrats to the Poker Grump and many many thanks to those wacky Canucks at PokerListings for putting this on.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Change's Turkey Chili

Several in the Twitterverse were curious about my turkey chili recipe. This is one of the few dishes I make that is both healthy and Pauly-friendly, though he complains about the size of the dice on my celery every time without fail.

For the curious and the rest of you, here's my ever-evolving concoction:

2 tbsp. olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pot)
1 package extra-lean ground turkey (about 1-1 1/4 lbs.)
1 small-medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 of a large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 roma tomato, seeded and chopped
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can each of black beans and white beans
4 cups chicken stock
chili powder
cayenne pepper

Coat the bottom of a large heavy pot with the olive oil and turn up the heat to med-high. Let the oil heat for a minute or so, then break up the ground turkey and add it to the pot. Season with 2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin and cayenne pepper to taste (I shake out about 1/4 tsp, but I like it spicy). When the turkey has browned and nearly cooked through, add in the onions, celery and green peppers. Stir it around and let the veggies soften, about 3-4 mins. Next, add in the tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno pepper and garlic. Stir it around again and let it cook another 3 mins or so. Drain the juices out of the two cans of beans, then add both the black beans and the white beans to the pot along with the 4 cups of chicken stock. Stir that shit up.

Let the chili come to a boil, then turn the heat down low and let it simmer for about 90 minutes. When it's thick enough to your liking, remove from the heat and let it rest about 10 mins. Taste and adjust spice if necessary. Top with finely minced red onion, sour cream or cheese if you'd like.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Memory of Justin Shronk (1981-2009)

"When Patrik Antonius folds his cards, they turn into doves and fly away."

That's only one of the many "Shronkisms" that left me in stitches during the all-too-brief time I knew Justin Shronk. Without fail, every time I saw the guy, he'd make me laugh, make me smile, or even just play some random YouTube clip he'd come across that would brighten my day. This afternoon, I found myself in tears in Mar del Plata airport when I heard of his passing, and now, flying the red-eye home from Buenos Aires, I'm completely exhausted, but still can't sleep. I tear up every time I think of him and can’t imagine the devastation his family must feel right now.

I met Shronk at the Commerce Casino in early 2007. I was covering my first tournament for PokerNews, the L.A. Poker Classic, and had already heard a slew of hilarious Shronk stories from Pauly, who had just returned from working with Shronk at the Aussie Millions, where the now-infamous Vegemite Prop Bet had taken place. It was only last month that Shronk was up for “Best Actor in a Tao of Pauly Video” for that performance and he naturally launched an online campaign for himself, pimping for votes on the PokerRoad forums and getting his friends to stuff the virtual ballot box.

I got to know Shronk the most, though at the 2007 World Series of Poker when he was working as the Multimedia manager for PokerNews, shooting and editing video pieces and interviews. We discovered that we were both unabashed fans of writer Aaron Sorkin, who created both Sports Night and The West Wing. We’d constantly trade our favorite quotes from the show and one day I casually proposed a West Wing trivia contest.

“You have no shot. I’d smoke you!” said Shronk. “Dude, I’ve seen Two Cathedrals 60 times,” he added, referencing his favorite episode.

Shronk was not the best traveler and unfortunately for him, our jobs involved a great deal of it. Shronk wanted his American food, his American television, and the comforts of his own apartment rather than living out of hotels and ordering foreign cuisine in a foreign language. While on an EPT stop in Barcelona, Spain, Shronk was introduced to the ways of European showers— cramped, tiny, and often doorless. I can’t tell the story nearly as well as our former editor John Caldwell can, but let’s just say that Shronk’s first shower in Barcelona ended with a phone call to housekeeping to bring twenty towels up to his room to sop up the quarter-inch of water that was now sloshing around his bathroom floor.

A few weeks after Barcelona, we were wrapping up the WSOP-Europe in London. By now the whole PokerNews crew had been on the road for the better part of a month. Poor Shronk had sprained his ankle on an uneven part of road and was hobbling around Leicester Square with all his gear. Apparently he couldn't find a laundromat close enough to hobble to because in desperate need for clean underwear, Shronk decided to send out all his skivvies to the hotel laundry. That month, PokerNews received an invoice from Shronk including his laundry bill which came to 400 GBP. Yup, $800 to wash Shronk's shorts. We never let him forget that one.

Shronk's passing leaves a huge hole in the hearts of everyone in the poker media. I’m going to remember the guy who would hand me a memory stick full of episodes of Top Chef, just so I could catch up on the show and he could finally talk about it. I’m going to remember the guy who walked into an Australian liquor store in search of cheap vodka and bellowed in complaint when he saw the $60 price tag on a bottle of Absolut. I’m going to remember the guy who photoshopped John Caldwell’s head onto a photo of M.C. Hammer with the caption “Stop, Schecky time!” while John was en route to his victory in a PokerNews Cup event. And I’m going to remember how happy he was when he cashed in his first and sadly only WSOP event.

Shronk loved poker. He loved the game, the people who played it and most of all his band of fellow misfits who covered it. The great injustice of his premature exit from this world made me recall a scene he loved so much from that episode of The West Wing that he'd seen 60 times. President Bartlet's longtime secretary Mrs. Landingham had been killed by a drunk driver and he railed against Latin... while standing alone in National Cathedral after her funeral.

"Gratias tibi ago, domine. Aec credam a deo pio, a deo justo, a deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem. Tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui; officium perfeci. Cruciatus in crucem --eas in crucem."

I sit here in shock, trying to think what the hallways of the Amazon Room will be like this summer without his booming voice, hilarious one-liners, and a love of the game that inspired us all. My heart goes out to his family and close friends in what has to be an unbearable time. Rest in peace, buddy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Music Festival Style Guide

I'm off to Argentina this morning for another LAPT event (and this time I get to go with Pauly!). So while I'm fending off crying infants on a crowded airplane, take a look at this piece I wrote for Coventry over the weekend-- Part I of Change100's Guide to Music Festival Style.

For now, though, excerpts from the Evita soundtrack fill my ears as I prepare for the long journey to Buenos Aires...

Monday, March 23, 2009

In Transit

"You've probably flown more in the last eight or nine months than I have in my entire life" said my father as we careened down the wide part of La Cienega Boulevard that takes one out of Baldwin Hills and deposits them in the L.A. basin at 55 MPH (depending on traffic, of course). He had retrieved me from LAX after a rather pleasant direct flight home from Santiago, Chile.

I looked at the odometer on the dashboard of his eight-year old Infiniti G20. 108,000 miles in just under seven years. He'd logged enough miles on the L.A. freeway system to earn himself Executive Platinum status on American Airlines. I tried to multiply that into hours as I stared at the lines on his face.

Yesterday afternoon I landed at LAX again, after nearly 24 straight hours of travel from Punta del Este, Uruguay. It's roughly a 6,700 mile journey from Punta, to Montevideo, to Miami International Airport, to my door in the slums of Beverly Hills. Uruguay is one of those places like Hungary or Bangladesh or Guam that one never believes they'll visit. Now it sits on my list along with Chile and Poland and Denmark. Even Pauly cheekily refered to Otis and I covering the "LAPT Uganda" when in fact we were at a tournament in a picturesque South American beach town with Monte Carlo prices.

The frequent filer miles I earned on this journey pushed me over the mark for Gold Elite status on American. Between the miles logged on this journey, the one to Chile, and a couple of trips back and forth from the east coast, I can finally get myself an upgrade at least one way the next time I have to spend 14 1/2 hours in the air. Surprisingly enough, despite all the traveling for tournaments, I've never been an elite anything on any airline.

On this journey, we endured delay after delay. We didn't take off from Miami to Montevideo until 1:20 in the morning, and our return flight was over six hours late, finally departing at 2:45 a.m. Thankfully, Joe Giron, our talented photographer for the PokerStars blog, is like Mega-Platinum Diamond Mine Status and was cool enough to get Otis and I into the Admirals Club both times we were stuck in the airport. That place is like the antidote for travel tilt. Free wi-fi, nice leather seats, a beer or glass of wine before boarding, low lighting, no screaming children, and Greg Raymer playing $40-$80 Badugi in the next seat while I bubble a $27 SNG.

Then, you get on the plane. Back in steerage with the rest of the world.

An infant wailed for eight of the nine hours it took to fly from Montevideo to Miami. I'd sleep for maybe 15 or 20 minutes before being woken up. The Xanax flowing through my system was all that kept me from locking it in the lavatory. I landed in Miami at 10:30 a.m., having blown my connection to LAX hours before. I was re-booked on a 3:30 flight home but was desperate to make one that would take off at 1:20. After clearing customs at MIA, I booked it to the ticketing desk. At the entrance to the queue, I was met by a woman in a bad mood.

"I'm trying to get on standby for an earlier flight, can I do it here?"
"The manager says no standby today."
"Really. My friend just did it."
"Well, there's no standby today."
"You know what? I'm going to talk to someone else."

Good thing I did. After I explained the flight debacle from Uruguay as well as my newly acquired Gold Elite Status I was not only put on standby, but bumped up to #4 on the list of 21. All by finding someone in a better mood.

I was the last person to get on that plane. I had perhaps the worst seat, a freezing, narrow middle one in an exit row that didn't recline all the way, but at least I wasn't spending another two hours in an airport. Next to me was a girl who played on the Australian Womens' Netball team. She was only six hours into a 36-hour trek from St. Maarten to Miami, Miami to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Canberra. I didn't feel quite as bad after hearing that, though my back didn't quite agree.

And when I walked through my door, he had flowers waiting for me. As always.

It's time to sink back into routine after the better part of 16 days on the road. Waking up at normal hours in my own bed and cooking dinners for two in the evenings. Shopping for fresh food instead of ordering off a plastic menu. Unfreezing that gym membership again and feeling the rubber-on-rubber pound of the treadmill. Hitting the keys at regular intervals. Pounding out articles, the clock ticking toward the WSOP and another summer in Las Vegas.

AND getting back to American Idol, if I can stomach it. (I have a lot of catching up to do on the episodes, but knowing that Alexis Grace bit the dust last week I have to tell you, my enthusiasm is down and my tin foit hat on.)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Phish: Reunited

Liftoff inside the Mothership

The intertubes in our hotel aren't quite what they were yesterday, as every hung-over Phan in the building is currently downloading last night's epic Phish reunion show, which is available for FREE on right now, Pauly included.

Pauly and the joker are blogging their ass off on Coventry and there are already all sorts of goodies up from last night. Check 'em out:

Phish 3/6/09 Hampton Live Blog

Friday Hampton Pics
Phish Setlist - 3-6-09 Hampton, VA Reunion Show
Phish Videos - Bouncin' and Harry Hood 3-6-09

You can also follow all three of us on Twitter for live updates throughout the weekend.

Follow Pauly

Follow Me
Follow the joker

Pauly was tweeting the setlist so fast last night he was actually beating Phish's official Twitter feed!

Another two shows await us. It'll be another long afternoon in line, but it's an absolutlely gorgeous day outside, which greatly pleases this Californian.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American Idol Wednesdays: A Blind Guy, a Puerto Rican and a Gay Meat Loaf Fan Walk Into a Bar...

Your final 12 victims took the stage last night

This week we’re treated to a triple cocktail of Idol—last night’s performances by the Top 36’s final group of 12, tonight’s results show, and Thursday’s one-hour wild card show, where the judges will bring back their favorite performers who missed the cut when it came to America’s vote. I thought this group graced us with more quality performances than the first two combined. Sure, there were a couple of hot messes but I found myself pleasantly surprised by performers like Ju'not Joyner, Jorge Nunez, and Lil Rounds. So how’d they do?

Von Smith - "You're All I Need to Get By" Von had the unenviable task of opening the show and I thought this was actually an inspired song choice. . It was rangy, it let him belt a little and have some quieter, more emotional moments as well. There was hardly any sign of the crazy gay musical theatre guy that blasted away the straight-tone tenor notes at the first audition. Though I’m really not buying his whole “ZOMG I HAS NO IDEA I WUZ CLAY KLONE” routine.

Taylor Vaifanua - "If I Ain't Got You" Yeah, Taylor rocked the vocals on the chorus but there was something so vanilla and cabaret about the whole thing. She may have a standout voice somewhere in there, but didn’t give a standout performance. Paula actually pointed out something interesting in her pharmaceutical haze - Taylor actually sang this song during Hollywood Week. Now tell me something-- why on earth would you trot that one out again when you have the opportunity to pick any song out there? And wow is she tall… she dwarfs Seacrest like Jordin Sparks did two years ago.

Alex Wagner-Trugman - "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" Dude… the dorky dancing, the faux-growl in his voice… I didn't remember this guy from Hollywood Week and I tuned him out after about 30 seconds of his schtick. I thought his whole neo-Joe Cocker thing was affected and stagey. That performance might be OK if it was given by Michael Cera in the second act of a Judd Apatow movie, but not on American Idol.

Arianna Afsar - "The Winner Takes it All" This poor girl was so far behind the band and never was able to get back on the beat. She obviously has a great voice judging by the few money notes she did get in there (though she cracked at the end), but this was a disaster of a song choice. I mean…when they cut to your parents in the audience and even they look like they know you fucked up, well… that’s bad. The judges were right on target, criticizing her dated song choice. It's a shame her performance was so dreadful because it's easy to see she has a really good instrument.

Ju'not Joyner - "Hey There Delilah" I kinda dug this one, dawg. There were some moments in this song when he was really moving and effective. Ju’not did quite well done. The guy whose cute kid got him the sympathy vote to Hollywood actually turned out to have some decent pipes. He could be a dark horse in this competition if he makes it through to the Top 12.

Kristen McNamara - "Give Me One Reason" Kristen is a karaoke host and after this we can really see why. Everything was wrong about this, from the song choice, to the little orphan Annie dress, to the affected performance elements. This is not a difficult song. I can get through it on key and almost remember all the lyrics even after five cosmopolitans. Memo to Kristen: If you have the voice to take on a big-ass song, why not do it? It's now or never baby! Unfortunately, I don’t think this performance will stand out enough to let her advance.

Nathaniel Marshall - "I Would Do Anything for Love" Crazy pierced emo kid hit the stage dressed like it was Saturday night at Limelight in 1987. It was all very weird and gay and retro-disco and odd. Kara did declare that he was "the guy I want to go to karaoke with!" Well yeah, everyone wants to go to karaoke with the weird gay kid, especially if he has good drugs. Don’t think we’ll be hearing from Boy George Jr. again anytime soon.

Felicia Barton - "No One" You’ve gotta love how there's no mention of exactly WHY Felicia ended up back in the top 36 after being cut in the final round of Hollywood Week (thanks Joanna Pacitti!) but lemme tell you, this girl has a VOICE. I'm down with the styling, I'm down with the vocals, I still don't really know what kind of artist she'll be, but it's a vast improvement over the last time we saw her. I don’t think she’ll bet the votes, but she could be a wild card candidate.

Scott MacIntyre "Mandolin Rain" I was sort of over Scott when he did Daughtry's "Home" at the piano during Hollywood Week. Yeah, he's blind and everything but his vocals just can’t compete with this crop of singers. I do think Simon is dead-on when he says Scott will sail through to the Top 12—the sympathy vote from kids and old people alone will get him there, but it won’t benpurely on the strength of this performance. Yeah, I’m picking on the blind guy, but c’mon, you’re all thinking it too, right?

Kendall Beard "This One's For the Girls" Kendall looked like a little yellow ray of sunshine in that dress didn't she? Too bad she ended up delivering a tight, scared vocal and a stiff performance. This was actually a good song choice for an aspiring Carrie Underwood like Kendall, but she just doesn’t have the vocal chops to execute it properly. Kudos for defining yourself as an artist, babe, but sorry, you don't have the talent.

Jorge Nunez - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" Tonight's Randy Jackson "Blow it Out the Box" award goes to Puerto Rico's Jorge Nunez, who exploded said box with a thrilling vocal and a commanding performance of the Elton John classic that has become an Idol standard for guys with big voices. If Jorge doesn't go through after this performance, I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you people. PLEASE put him through instead of the blind guy! Viva la Jorge!

Lil Rounds - "Be Without You" After being compared to Mary J. Blige by Randy Jackson, why not sing Mary? Lil delivered a solid vocal and defintiely threw down, saying “here's what you're gonna get if you record an album with me.” What a way to close the show. Great dress, great styling, superstar performance. It's gonna be a horse race tonight, folks.

My predictions – I think Lil and Blind Guy are shoo-ins. The third slot could go to either Ju’not or Jorge.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pink Uniforms

In this photo:

* One is a Harvard Ph.D
* One went to rehab
* One is a Catholic school teacher
* One speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese
* One is a high school principal
* One is an attorney
* One worked for NASA
* One is an ex-D-Girl now scratching out a living as a writer

Consider it my first-ever authorized internet photo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hollyweed & Vine: Your Wednesday Morning Linkage

Since we have to wait another day to feast on the remains of the second set of 12 American Idol semi-finalists, how about some more linkage? Here's some of the highlights of my morning news-noshing:

The CW Greenlights 'Melrose Place' Pilot. I'm a closet fan of the new 90210 (did I really just say that out loud?) and will wait for this new hourlong trashy delight with bated breath. And the dude who directed An Inconvenient Truth is helming the pilot? What?

Studios Weigh Star Packages.
In a shining example of recession-minded, risk-averse Hollywood, the two hottest film packages being shopped around this week to studios are an Adam McKay directed comedy starring Will Ferrel and an action flick starring Matt Damon scripted by Bourne Ultimatum writer George Nolfi.

NY Post Drops Liz Smith. Even the 86-year old gossip stalwart can't escape the budget cuts at News Corp.

Could Porn Payout Help Octomom Keep Kids? Vivid Video has evidently offered Octomom $1 million and a year of health insurance to do one porno with them. My favorite line - ""We've had many single mothers work with us over the years, and their income from Vivid has been very important to them."

Americans Growing Kinder to Bud?'s Nate Silver crunches the numbers and predicts that the tide of popular opinion that is swinging toward the legalization of marijuana will reach the 60% mark between 2022-2023.

Andrew Sullivan thinks we should Grow Our Own, which I have no problem with.

And if we all grew our own legally , the police wouldn't find shit like 500 pounds of reefer on Fabolous' tour bus.

And now, let's pause and re-live the Pineapple Express skit from the Oscars. My bowl is packed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Taxing Weed, the Death of Defamer, and Oscar Night Blind Items

* Seriously, God bless my home state. A state assemblyman out of San Francisco is arguing that in these trying financial times-- oh, let's face it, the state is BROKE-- California should move toward legal, regulated production of its largest cash crop. And you know what that is, boys and girls. Marijuana!

The proposed measure would tax and regulate weed in the same manner as alcohol, meaning you'd have to be over 21 to toke (as opposed to 18, the current minimum age for a medicinal marijuana recommendation). It could mean an additional $1 billion in revenue for cash-strapped Cali.

From the L.A. Times: Taxing pot could become a political toking point

* Defamer has been part of my morning reading since it came into existence, so imagine my shock upon reading that it was being folded into Gawker and would live on only as "Gawker's Hollywood Column." The domains have already been moved, now re-directing to

Defamer: Defamer folds into Gawker; editors to pursue careers in bearded hip-hop

Change= sad

In their swan song week, Defamer did collect together some of Oscar night's best blind items from all the tabloids. Here are a few of my favorites. Feel free to make your own guesses.

"Which actor snorted cocaine in the bathroom during an Oscar after-party, while a slimmed-down stoner actor smoked pot outside with his pals?"

"It's too bad [the star] from above doesn't share the same dealer as this current C list television actress on a hit television drama who has B+ name recognition because they could maybe get a discount. People couldn't stop commenting on the track marks on her arms when one of her long sleeve tops rolled up her arm. When she discovered it was up she quickly put the sleeve back down and whispered something about medication. Uh huh."

Which Hollywood actress kept the Oscar ceremony seat warmer unusually busy with her frequent trips to the loo to 'powder her nose'? The poor man kept having to hop into her seat during every ad break."

"Which Oscar-nominated actress let loose a string of obscenities at one of the Academy Awards after parties? She looked gorgeous in her long gown, and simply glowed the entire evening. However, the party was crowded, and a famous actor accidentally stepped on the train of her gown. She let out a little shriek, and the man sheepishly apologized and moved his foot. Instead of reacting graciously to the error, our normally well-behaved actress tugged her train towards her and swore loudly enough for several people to hear."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pot Committed's 2009 Academy Awards Live Blog

Last year, at Academy Awards time, Pauly and I were holed up in a hotel room in Copenhagen, Denmark on a misty Scandinavian night. The Oscars were supposed to come on around 1 a.m. our time, but for some reason, Danish television wasn't carrying it live, so we had to settle for staying up all night watching alpine skiing. I'm fairly positive that it was the first Oscars I missed since I knew there was an Oscars.

This year, we're off the road, settled in the Slums of Beverly Hills and I'm about to start cooking up a pot of chicken and andouille jambalaya to enjoy while ogling at the parade of designer gowns during the red carpet pre-show festivities. And for dessert, some of Southern California's finest medicinal brownies are chilling in the fridge.

So, why not live blog the whole shebang? That's what I'll be attempting to do throughout the day and evening, or at least until the pot brownies render me completely incapable of coherent thought. David Denby may pooh-pooh snark, but I'm all about it today. Snark was practically invented for shit like the Oscars.

***Live Updates***

12:50 pm - Ingredients for jambalaya are bought. Time to start chopping up veggies for the mirepoix, which boyfriend will no doubt find offensive.

1:33 pm - The 'poix is chopped. Onto slicing up chicken and andouille. Current cooking music= John Coltrane.

2:05 pm - While my veggies are caramelizing to a golden brown, let's remind ourselves of this year's nominees. Here's the major categories:

Best motion picture of the year

*"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
*"The Reader"
*"Slumdog Millionaire"

Performance by an actor in a leading role

* Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor"
* Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon"
* Sean Penn in "Milk"
* Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
* Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler"

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

* Josh Brolin in "Milk"
* Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder"
* Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt"
* Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight"
* Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road"

Performance by an actress in a leading role

* Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married"
* Angelina Jolie in "Changeling"
* Melissa Leo in "Frozen River"
* Meryl Streep in "Doubt"
* Kate Winslet in "The Reader"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

* Amy Adams in "Doubt"
* Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
* Viola Davis in "Doubt"
* Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
* Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler"

Achievement in directing

* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher
* "Frost/Nixon" Ron Howard
* "Milk" Gus Van Sant
* "The Reader" Stephen Daldry
* "Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle

Adapted screenplay

* "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
* "Doubt" Written by John Patrick Shanley
* "Frost/Nixon" Screenplay by Peter Morgan
* "The Reader" Screenplay by David Hare
* "Slumdog Millionaire" Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original screenplay

* "Frozen River" Written by Courtney Hunt
* "Happy-Go-Lucky" Written by Mike Leigh
* "In Bruges" Written by Martin McDonagh
* "Milk" Written by Dustin Lance Black
* "WALL-E" Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

3:02 pm - Jambalaya is simmering. Kitchen is clean. Here's a quick tutorial on how I made it.

2 cups onions, 1/2 cup each of celery, green pepper and red pepper.

Caramelize veggies in pot with oil for 20 mins until golden brown.

Consume pot brownie, if desired.

Add 1 lb. andouille and cook 10 mins. Add 1 pound cubed chicken coated in creole seasoning. Cook another 10 mins.

Add 2 cups chopped tomatoes, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 3 bay leaves and some fresh thyme

Add 2 cups of rice. Stir it around and get it happy.

Finally, add 2 quarts chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, then leave it on low heat to cook down.

Stay tuned to see how it turns out.

3:10 pm - Miley Cyrus gets interviewed by Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. Her dress totally sucks. Pauly thinks it's right out of a debutante ball in Charleston, South Carolina. "Who's Africa Bambaata in the background there?" he adds. "She's gotta be like, the Pope of Africa with that hat."

3:21 pm - We still can't bear to turn the sound on the TV and are watching it muted with Medeski, Martin & Wood on in the b.g. Giuliana Rancic painfully interviewing song and dance man Hugh Jackman.

3:23 pm - First sighting of Slumdog Millionaire kids on red carpet. Dev Patel is like the pimp daddy of Mumbai right about now.

3:31 pm - WTF is Jennifer Grey doing at the Oscars? And that gay kid from High School musical and his beard girlfriend?

3:45 pm - Awwww look at all the cute little Indian children! Seacrest tries to talk to the littlest one, who does not speak a word of English. He switches over to the little girl. "Oh, this one speaks good English!" he says. Nice, Seacrest.

3:54 pm - First effects of pot brownie being felt. Yowwwwwza!

3:56 pm - Jambalaya is off the heat, green onions and flat-leaf parsley have been stirred in. Will be ready for consumption just in time for 4:20.

3:57 pm - "What are they on? #1"- Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. He's going for the loosened-tie look on the red carpet. "Danny's a Brit, he's probably drinking" says Pauly. "Yeah, listen to that slurred speech."

3:59 pm - Oh. my. God. You can't get gayer than that spray-tanned creature standing next to Giuliana Rancic.

Pauly: I think I could walk up to that guy and light my bong.

OMG with the instant replay fashion analysis. "Freeze it right there! LOOK AT THAT NECKLINE!"

4:03 pm - Amy Adams: awesome dress, flawless hair and makeup, but what is that wreath around her neck?

4:10 pm - Seth Rogen arrives on the red carpet. You know he's high.

4:11 pm - "OMG I'm freaking out! Sarah Jessica Parker can do NO WRONG!" screams the fashion fag. Well, yeah, if you think 10 yards of beige tulle is perfectly acceptable.

4:13 pm - What are they on? #2 - Amanda Seyfried. "She's high on Scientology."

4:16 pm - Sign I've been out of Hollywood for too long - I have no idea who these Twilight actor kids are. The British dude is hot though.

4:18 pm - SJP attempts to introduce her husband to Ryan Seacrest as she steps up for an interview. "Oh I've heard of Matthew" says Seacrest. Epic fail. He asks what color her dress is. "Barely Mint" she coos. Still looks beige to me. Broderick has blond highlights in his hair. Total sign of a mid-life crisis. Carrie Bradshaw is totally on valium.

4:20 pm - Seth Rogen steps up for an interview. Seacrest asks him how he's losing the weight for The Green Hornet. "I vomit a lot" says Rogen. Seth Rogen @ 4:20 = awesome coincidence.

4:23 pm - I could eat this jambalaya forever. Pauly thinks it needs bacon and cheese.

4:26 pm - What are they on? #3 - Pauly said, "Marissa Tomei is on pills. Most likely some sort of Vicodin family of substances. You could see it in her glassy eyes. She looked pissed at Seacrest... 'I'm smooth and don't feel a thing. But you're a fuckin' retarded American Idol flunky. I can't believe you brought up the Vinny fuckin' movie you pillow biter."

4:30 pm - Mickey Rourke tells Seacrest that he'd rather have two more years with his dead chihuahua, Loki, than an Oscar. Rourke is also wearing a photo of said deceased canine around his neck.

4:33 pm - "Freeze it right there!" Giuliana and queer boy use the Glamastrator Replay System to analyze Anne Hathaway's gown, which does happen to be stunnnnnning.

4:35 pm - Wow. At least two of my former employers are on the red carpet, including the Big Man.

4:37 pm - Evan Rachel Wood looks like a lovely 21 year old girl should on the red carpet after ditching Marilyn Manson and the accompanying goth styling. But will TMZ catch her tonguing Mickey Rourke at the after party?

4:39 pm - "OMG ITS BRANGELINA" screeches Giuliana Rancic. "WE HAVE THE FIRST SHOT OF BRANGELINA" she reports breathlessly, as Angie exits her limo, dressed in a black strapless gown, and waves at the crowd.

4:42 pm - Commercial break. Here's a look at the finished jambalaya.

4:44 pm - So I guess everyone ignored the whole "recession-chic" thing.

4:45 pm - Eating the second half of the brownie. Prepared for blast-off around the time they're presenting best documentary feature.

4:52 pm - Kate Winslet. Love her, love the periwinkle-pewter color on the dress, love the hair. She's dressed like someone who knows she's going to win.

4:58 pm - Seacrest gets two sentences out of Brad Pitt, which is one more than he got at the Golden Globes.

4:59 pm - Robert Downey Jr. gives Seacrest a long chat. Totally forgot he got nominated for Tropic Thunder, which shockingly enough, I have not caught yet on a transcontinental flight. Clean living looks good on him. I used to know his wife way back in my D-days. She's a badass and a damn smart woman.

5:00 pm - Switching from E! to the official pre-show on ABC. Which is good, because I was long past my Giuliana Rancic limit.

5:03 pm - OMG Tim Gunn! Tim Gunn > J. Alexander

5:04 pm - Matthew Broderick looks sedated. And like he wants to cry. SJP again attempts to introduce him to the interviewer, who clearly knows who he is. Want to smack her.

5:05 pm - "Richard Nixon could not be here tonight, but we have Frank Langella." Yeah, BECAUSE HE'S DEAD.

5:09 pm - Tim Gunn fawns over "icon of style" Valentino, who is spray-tanned within an inch of his life.

5:10 pm - Mickey Rourke again mourns his fucking dead fucking chihuahua. In addition to the dead dog necklace, he points out a dead dog photo on his lapel.

5:13 pm - Again, with the High School Musical kids? WTF?

5:16 pm - Behold, the OSCAR DOOMSDAY CLOCK has flashed onscreen. 14:05 to go and WHERE IS BRANGELINA?

5:17 pm - "Your Armani Prive gown is simply staggering" says Tim Gunn to Anne Hathaway.

5:19 pm - OK, I've finally decided that the Miley Cyrus dress looks like a wedding cake with glitter.

5:20 pm - Tim Gunn schtick going south fast, as he proclaims that the Price Waterhouse Coopers accountant guys with the ballots "really make it work." Wah, wah wahhhhh....

5:23 pm - What are they on? #4 - Jack Black. "Pills, weed, and probably Viagra."

5:25 pm - Marisa Tomei shows off her lavender Versace gown to Tim Gunn as photos of her Oscar gowns past flash in a corner of the screen. "It only arrived this morning" she says. Pauly says it looks like a MC Escher painting. I agree. It's covered in these fanned-out "staircases" of fabric. Or maybe I'm just... wow, this brownie is awesome.

5:30 pm - Here we go...

5:31 pm - with your host HUGH JACKMAN!! That was kind of awkward.

5:32 pm - OMG Hugh Jackman musical theatre. "I didn't know Hugh Jackman was gay" says Pauly.

5:38 pm - Am I just soooo wasted like Katie Holmes in The Ice Storm or were the freaky gay dancers and the "I Haven't Seen the Reader" segment not fucking genius? And kudos to Anne Hathaway for chanelling her inner New Jersey high school musical theatre star and singing with a spray-tanned Australian in front of like a billion people.

5:40 pm - Why are Meryl Streep and her daughter wearing matching dresses?

5:46 pm - "What's that on Goldie Hawn's lips?" / "Those are her lips." Over/under on lifetime cc's of collagen?

5:47 pm - Penelope Cruz wins best supporting actress. "Has anybody ever fainted here?" She thanks Woody and Almodovar but Almodovar gets the applause. She is stunning in a 60-year old vintage gown and really quite poised in the moment. She breaks into Spanish at the end.

"Now all the maids know she won!" screeched Pauly in a fit of giggles.

If brownie level was a 6 before it's an 8 now.

5:52 pm - Tom Collichio is doing Diet Coke commercials. I'm so depressed.

5:53 pm - What's Steve Martin doing with Sarah Palin?

5:56 pm - Sarah Palin has pretty nice cleavage for a grandmother.

5:57 pm - Dustin Lance Black wins best screenplay for Milk. Yay, one for the gays! Let them get married! Also, for a guy whose day job is as a writer/producer on Big Love, his stock just went wayyy up in this town.

6:01 pm - The favorite wins - Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire. Just discovered that Pauly made online Oscar bets. He was getting 7-1 on the field and lost in this category.

6:03 pm - Jennifer Aniston walks onstage. Pauly makes cougar noises. Then cat noises. He's trying to tempt her and Angelina into a cat fight.

6:05 pm - "Kids movies are so trippy these days. I'd like to see The Carolina Kung Fun Pandas on some good molly," said Pauly.

6:10pm - "Domo Arrigato Mr. Roboto?" said the Japanese animation Oscar winner.

6:16 pm - SJP and New Bond Daniel Craig present Art Direction award. SJP's dress is actually way nicer-looking under TV lights than on red carpet. Wow, people. I am high. I have to get it together.

OK Benjamin Button wins for art direction, avoiding a total shutout. That's a "phew" for Paramount, sorta.

6:21 pm - Big hats for Keira Knightley win Costume Design Oscar for The Dutchess. I thought Fergie was the dutchess.

6:23 pm - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins for Best Makeup. Pauly unexpectedly leaps from his seat and runs around the room. "Clutch!" he screams.

6:25 pm - "Oh my God, is that the girl from Mean Girls?" Amanda Seyfried and the hot British dude from Twilight present an ode to cinema romance together. Pauly thinks she's a Scientologist but can't explain why. A Coldplay song runs behind the clip reel. I still don't know what all this Twilight shit is and feel quite unhip. And old.

6:30 pm - OCT-O-MOM! OCT-O-MOM! Viva la National Distraction!

6:34 pm - Ben Stiller aping Joaquin Phoenix even makes Ron Howard peal with laughter. Pauly chants for his bet on Benjamin Button in the cinematography category, but Slumdog Millionaire notches another win.

"You look like you work in a Hasidic meth lab"= best line of the Oscars so far.

6:39 pm - Jessica Biel talks about the kinetiscope and has fabric inexpblicably hanging from the front of her dress.

6:44 pm - Pausing while we SCREAM at the Pineapple Express skit, especially the gay parts. Hate to say I love Judd Apatow shit. Props to victim Januz Kiminski.

New favorite line of Oscar telecast: "Who is a better actor, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama?" / "Dude, that's Robert Downey, Jr."

6:47 pm - Spielzugland. I'm going to say that over and over again. Spielzugland. Then Spielzugland wins for Best Live Action Short. Pauly pumps his fist having bet on the Germans to win.

6:52 pm - Hugh Jackman is tap dancing. Is this real life? Is this going to be forever?

The level of musical theatre schtick is so thick here that Showcase calls. "There is red shit hanging from Beyonce's vag" he laments.

There are chorus boys in top hats. There is a medley with nods to Dreamgirls, West Side Story, Chicago, and Mamma Mia. It's really all too much for me in this state. I'm flashing back to 1997. It's so vivid it's shocking. The character shoes. The red bouttoniers. The kick lines. I am 20 years old and in New York City and in a rehearsal room at 890 Broadway. I am 18 years old and in a dance studio in Evanston, Illinois on a freezing winter morning. I am 21 years old and in the audience high on ditch weed while Showcase sings a solo in our college musical.

Where am I? Is this real life? Is this going to be forever?

7:03 pm - Here come the old supporting actor winners...but we know Heath is gonna win.

7:09 pm - Heath wins. It's sad and the camera pans to celebs crying. Ledger's family gives props to Chris Nolan and his agent, CAA's Steve Alexander. Go Death Star. Sis Kate acknowledges his daughter, "beautiful Matilda."

7:14 pm - Bill Maher presents Best Documentary Film and plugs his own in the process. Shill that shit! The Oscar goes to Man on Wire.

7:17 pm "Nhem Em!" chants Pauly, rooting for his horse on Best Documentary Short Subject. The Oscar goes to Smile Pinki. Booooo.

7:22 pm - Denise Richards is on Dancing with the Stars? It's astounding how this woman continues to find more last grasps at fame.

7:24 pm -A tribute to action films? Really? With the state of action films today?

7:28 pm - While I was in the kitchen starting a grilled cheese, Benjamin Button won for visual effects and The Dark Knight won for sound editing. Because that's what you do during categories like visual effects and sound editing. Apologies to visual effects and sound editors.

7:35 pm - Indian dude wins for sound mixing for Slumdog Millionaire and is completely overwhelmed. Slumdog picks up another when Chris Dickens wins for Best Editing right after that.

7:43 pm - Neuvo-Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy presents Humanitarian Oscar to Jerry Lewis, who is one of those people whom I thought was dead up until this moment. The grilled cheese was perfectly grilled and buttery.

7:48 pm - "This is the lull in the event where they give out the second-rate Oscars so they can give the big stars time to go outside and smoke a cigarette, go to the bathroom and snort a line, or hang out with Seth Rogan and Merly Streep and smoke a doobie," - Pauly said.

7:51 pm - It's true. Most stars do go and take a piss during one of these categories. This Henry Mancini thingamagic is prime star pissing time.

7:55 pm - Ship it to India, it's Slumdog Millionaire's A.R. Rahman for Best Score.

8:00 pm - "And the Indian-flavored themed song and dance number... I don't recall those parts from Batman."

8:02pm - That Jai Ho song wins from Slumdog Millionaire. Showcase texts: "Get me the stage rights to Slumdog ASAP!!!! It's gonna be FUCKIN HUUUUUUUUGE!!

8:06 pm - @ScheckTwit writes on Twitter: all of this slumdog love is so that hollywood can film cheap in India, and so that indians start going to the movies. pokerstars is rigged

8:07 pm - Departures wins Best Foreign Language Film. "Haki haki I'll be back!" declares its director. Tranlation= Hollywood sez: "Japan, we want your money!"

8:12 pm - Applause surges for Michael Crichton, Harold Pinter, Roy Scheider, Isaac Hayes, Stan Winston, Anthony Minghelladuring Queen Latifah's dead people montage. Cheers for Sydney Pollack and Paul Newman.

8:16 pm - Only Director, Actor, Actress and Picture left to give away.

8:19 pm - "Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon." I bet she likes the way that sounds.
She wears an odd blue and black dress and presents Best Director. Danny Boyle wins, naturally.

8:27pm - Shirley MacLaine gets Anne Hathaway all verklempt. French chick who won last year introduces Kate Winslet with a fawning tribute. Halle Berry attempts to relate to Melissa Leo via their common thread of being nominated for indie films (?) Oh God, Sophia Loren looks like a hot mess paying tribute to Meryl Streep in the beige version of Molly Ringwald's prom dress from Pretty in Pink! And Nicole Kidman is ever the ice princess in a gleaming silver gown adorned in crystals and feathers as she fetes nominee Angelina Jolie.

8:32 pm - And the Oscar goes to...the heavily favored Kate Winslet. Thankfully, she does not lose her shit like she did on the Golden Globes. Winslet gives a classy, prepared speech her voice shaking with emotion. She gives props to her agent Hylda Queally, husband Sam Mendes and the late great Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack.

8:38 pm - Good Botox on Michael Douglas. The sunshine in his Bermudan tax shelter home is working wonders. He introduces Best Actor nominee Frank Langella, followed by Robert DeNiro doing the same for Sean Penn (paparazzi joke= check). Adrien Brody practically chokes up over Richard Jenkins (whom I agree, does deserve to get recognized. The man kicks ass in every film he's in). Anthony Hopkins looks tan and fresh off the South Beach diet paying tribute to Brad Pitt, and Ben Kingsley, immaculately sharp in his black tuxedo and white silk tie intros Mickey Rourke.

8:42 pm - And the Oscar goes to...Sean Penn! NOT Mickey Rourke. Pauly pumps fist, having won a 4-1 bet.

"You Commie homo-loving sons of guns!" exclaimed Penn as he took the podium.

What can I say. Hollywood loves the gays. Hollywood wants the gays to marry. This could be good for that.

Penn also gave props to the resurgent Mickey Rourke before leaving the stage.

8:47 pm - Jackman brings out Spielberg. Best Picture, finally.

8:52 pm - There's an actual drumroll as Steven Spielberg reads off Slumdog Millionaire as this year's Best Picture winner. All the little Indian kids get to go onstage and look adorable and pathetic. On the other side of the world, Mumbai explodes with celebration much like it did at the end of the film itself.

Hollywood sez: "India, please invest in our films."

8:55 pm -Telecast runs over by 25 minutes. Hugh Jackman bids us goodnight. The Indians celebrate. And the brownie has all but worn off. Well, maybe not worn off, but I'm certainly on the way down.

Thanks for tuning in. I'm going to pass out in front of the Barbara Walters special now.