I have two distinct lives. One in the trenches of low-budget film and television, the other in professional gambling. Because of the feast-or-famine nature of show business I need a reliable income... gambling. So here you will read about both worlds. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ship It Holla Ballas - book review

Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

We've all seen the movies about what happens when guys go off to college.  Think Animal House, American Pie 2, or Van Wilder. There is usually a central party house, and guys who suddenly have no restrictions tend to go a bit overboard with sex, drugs, and crazy amounts of alcohol. Now imagine what would happen if every one of those guys was making five or ten thousand dollars PER WEEK playing online poker. If you are imagining complete partying insanity you would be exactly right.

The book follows a group of teenagers, starting in about 2004.  Online poker is exploding, and this group of high schoolers starts putting in a lot of hours playing. And they find they have an aptitude for the game. This is not just luck, they start reading books, and when not playing they find each other in the twoplustwo poker forums. They start improving, and raising their stakes, and start making serious money. Now it is time to go off to college, but seriously, if you had a choice between a boring poli sci lecture, or playing some online poker and making $500 an hour which would you do? These guys, with names like Good2cu, Raptor, and Apathy start becoming online friends. One is in Texas, another in Michigan, but they immediately bond. They are failing college but making gobs of money. Someone gets the idea to rent a mansion in Vegas, and all go out there for the summer, and the World Series of Poker. It turns into a frat house, with a giant table in the dining room filled with computers and laptops. Cases of Dom, and Cristal, many nights at the strip clubs that result in 5-figure tabs. Someone gets the bright idea to buy a bunch of fireworks, and a bottle rocket fight breaks out INSIDE THE HOUSE. Yes, this is Animal House on steroids.

If you're going to form a posse you have to have a name right? One of my first blackjack teams called itself the A Team. (Okay, so we weren't very creative.) Jman suggests they come up with a "gay" name so it will be funny every time an ESPN announcers has to talk about them. He suggests the Pushbotting Panthers, but it is Good2cu who comes up with the Ship It Holla Ballas. If nothing else these guys are media savvy. They know there is money in being a name player, and they already know they are going to rule the poker world. I mean who else would ESPN want to talk about? (Ah to be 19 again.) But when the WSOP rolls around there is just one problem. NONE OF THEM IS OLD ENOUGH TO PLAY! Sure they can sneak in and play some cash games, but the events require ID and a social security number, and none of these guys is 21 yet.

One day Good2cu wakes up about noon, and it is about 100 degrees in his bedroom. He heads downstairs, and everyone awake has already gone to the Rio. He tries to fire up his laptop, and it won't come on. The XBox is out, and the refrigerator light is off. He walks over to the neighbor's house to ask if their power is out, but their power is working fine. A few house guests are waking up, and convince him to call the power company, which he does. When the guy comes it turns out to be just be a circuit breaker. He turns the power back on, and explains that if it happens again just unplug a few things, and flip the breaker. They fire up their laptops, and the bong, and sit down to play poker. About an hour later the power blows again. Good2cu wonders - where is this circuit breaker thing the guy talked about? Someone suggests it's in the basement. This is Vegas, there is no basement. Screw it, let's go to the Rio where there is air conditioning. A few hours later Good2cu gets a call from Jman, telling him to come home. Good2cu says he already knows the power is off. No man, we've been robbed. when the cop arrives he sees the house full of beer cans, spent bottle rockets, and garbage.

"Whoever did it really trashed the place," he says. "Terrible," Good2cu replies, "Just terrible."
"So what exactly got stolen?"
Everybody starts talking at once. Fourteen laptops. A couple desktop computers, and flat screen monitors. A few digital cameras and iPods. Bonaphone's video camera - considered priceless because it contained footage of Good2cu chucking the pool ball through the neighbors window. Around $10,000 in cash and casino chips.
The cop puts down his pen. These kids are clearly shitting him. "You know insurance fraud is a serious crime."
"It can't be insurance fraud," Raptor assures him, "when you don't have insurance."

The kids learn some life lessons.
If you plug in 27 computers, laptops, XBoxes, and Playstations you might blow a circuit.
Strippers don't make the best girlfriends.
Not everyone you allow to owe you $50,000 is going to pay it back.

As I read this book I would alternate from laughing out loud, to cringing, thinking, "This is not going to end well." But you know what? They grew up, and most of them have not crashed and burned. Some realized that sitting in front of a computer screen for 16 hours a day was an empty life, and did things to change that. Some went back to school, but some are today's top pros. Andrew Robl (Good2cu) has over $3 million in winnings, as does David Benefield (Raptor) and Tom Dwan (Durrr) is considered one of the best players in the world. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it.

Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

No comments: