Saturday, July 17, 2010


My copy of Lost Vegas arrived a couple of days ago. I hadn't eagerly anticipated receiving something in the mail that much since I waited for my ill-fated pslyocibin mushroom grow kit in college. Lost Vegas is the first book from Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire. It is a memoir of his years reporting on the World Series of Poker in Vegas. It covers the years of the poker boom, which has come and gone, and the blogosphere boom, which continues unabated. It is a must read for fans of Dr. Pauly's many entertaining blogs, but it would also appeal to people interested in the poker industry in general, and the WSOP in particular. It is not a gossipy, sordid tell-all. It is instead an unflinchingly honest story of one man's trip through the internet, media, and poker worlds.
Mr. McGuire carries on Hunter S. Thompson's proud legacy of gonzo journalism, debauchery, and pill-popping. It is no coincidence that they were both drawn to write about the same city. Mr. McGuire has a unique style of not simply describing things, but actually generating a visceral feel that you are there with him. You can almost smell the stripper perfume.
Like all great books, Lost Vegas is about people, not places or events. Some of the most endearing parts of the book are the stories of the wacky cast of characters that Mr. McGuire has met and befriended over the years. The stories of odd prop bets, random encounters, and bonding in the poker media trenches are humorous and revealing.
Lost Vegas also reminds me of one of my favorite books, Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell. Both books are autobiographical journeys exposing the seemy underside of outwardly glamorous places. In Orwell's case, it is the fine eating establishments of Paris, and in Mr. McGuire's case it is the fine gambling establishments of Las Vegas. Both books offer heartfelt, insightful looks at what lurks below the surface. Lost Vegas particularly reminded me of Down and Out in the passages about the Redneck Riviera, the ultra sketchy, low rent motel Mr. McGuire lived in during his first summer in Vegas, which were my favorite parts of Lost Vegas.
Fans of the Tao of Poker, Mr. McGuire's poker blog, will recognize some of the stories in Lost Vegas, but the tales have a better flow and more of a permanence when read in a well designed book that you can actually hold in your hands. Call me old school I guess. Lost Vegas is self-published and available exclusively on The books are printed per order, and Lulu seems like a great site that helps continue the democratization of the publishing world, and puts control and hopefully the lions share of profits where they belong: in the writer's hands.
Not exactly a love letter from Mr. McGuire to Sin City, Lost Vegas is more of a Dear John letter, but you come away with the feeling that they're going to get back together. In a way, it is also similar to a letter that an addict in a twelve step program has to write to their drug of choice. Sometimes it sounds like Mr. McGuire is trying to convince himself why he doesn't want to do Vegas anymore. But you just know he's going to relapse.

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