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Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Blog, Las Vegas, Sports Betting | 9 comments

How Peter Falcone Conned Me Out of $37,000 (Part 1)

 

peter-falcone

Thief

.

I.

Peter Falcone.

That’s a name I’ll never forget.  And it’s a name you should commit to memory.  I suspect this slime might be planning his next con out there somewhere — and his next victim could be you.

It’s said you can’t con an honest man, which I suppose is partially true.  Greed is tasty bait at the end of a very sharp hook.  And just when it seems you’re nibbling on a sure thing, the con man suddenly snaps this line and fishhooks a fresh catch.

In the summer of 2006, I became the fresh catch.  Nolan Dalla — Catch of the Day.

II.

I was the perfect target.

Trusting?  Check.  Distracted?  Check.  Cash on hand?  Check.  Stupid?  Check-mate.

Just days before the 2006 World Series of Poker was to begin, a six-week marathon I’d be working from start to finish, often 12 to 16 hours a day with no breaks, I was approached by my “friend” Peter Falcone.  We met at a local coffee shop.  Falcone announced he wanted to “talk business.”

Before getting into the details of that conversation, allow me to provide some background about Falcone and our friendship.

I initially met him and his wealthy girlfriend through some very trusted friends.  At the time, Falcone was dating an eccentric older woman named Betsy Superfon (yes — that’s really her name).  Betsy lived in a multi-million dollar mansion in the Malibu hills, which is one of the richest areas of the country.  She had made tens of millions of dollars as the purported queen of “1-900” phone sex lines back during the 1990’s.  In fact, she even knew Ruth Parasol, the woman who made her initial millions the same way (phone sex) and who later created PartyPoker.com (who became one of the world’s richest women).  Given her well-known connections to the phone sex business, Betsy Superfon was often jokingly called “Superphone.”

No doubt, Betsy was the real deal.  Nice, sincere, always fun to be around — she was a welcome addition to any social gathering.  And for several months she always showed up in the same circles where I hung out — casinos, cardrooms, parties, fancy restaurants in both Las Vegas and Los Angeles — with a somewhat younger man introduced to everyone as Peter Falcone.

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Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in Blog, Essays | 19 comments

What Sex Scandals Really Teach Us

 

prostitute

 

Today’s column makes me feel dirty for writing it.

Not because today’s column is about sex — because I see nothing wrong with two consenting adults engaging in physical acts as natural as eating and drinking.  And not because the salacious “crime” of prostitution is hereby alleged, which is perfectly legal in the world’s more advanced countries where local laws aren’t written by Bible-thumping hillbillies.

I’m sickened by writing today’s column because it forces me to expose myself to the tacky musings of bottom-feeding creeps who revel in the lascivious details of others’ sex lives.

You know who you are.  In recent days you’ve posted “breaking news” to Facebook.  You’ve used your Twitter accounts.  You’ve made wicked comments at the various poker forums.  You look at scandal as entertainment.

Well, I have a question or two for you.

What fucking business is it of yours (or mine) who is having sex with who?  And if you’re really that interested in details, then why is this so?  Is your own sex life so utterly unfulfilling that you must project your natural curiosities upon others — more specifically those who are more successful that you are?  Please tell me — what does this say about you?

Furthermore, why is this the media’s business?  Moreover, why is this law enforcement’s business?

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 3 comments

Roman Catholic Revulsion

Pope Benedict

 

I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church.

To this day, most my family are practicing Catholics.  I attended Catholic School (Holy Trinity in the Oak Lawn section of Dallas) — the same school run by the priest who gave President Kennedy last rights.  I attended mass regularly (strong emphasis on the past tense).  I was a member of the Knights of Columbus.  I once played on the church soccer team, which was called the “Crusaders” (seriously).  My Godfather graduated from the University of Notre Dame.  That’s as Catholic as it gets.

But over the years, I’ve gradually come to see the Catholic Church for what it truly is — an archaic, oppressive, lying institution that’s hopelessly out of touch with 21st Century realities, which destroys millions of lives around the world and has done unspeakable evil throughout human history.

The excesses stem not just a few bad apples.  The root cause is institutional corruption.  In Catholicism, according to Canon Law, everything flows downward from the very top.  This means the Vatican ultimately bears responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Strong words?  Hardly.  If anything, those words aren’t strong enough.

The Roman Catholic Church remains wielded to the Dark Ages.  And its not just because a bunch of men chose to walk around in black robes speaking a dead language that went out of existence 500 years ago while waving containers full of ash dust, or nuns suppressing their own individuality in observance of unconditional servitude.

Look at the facts:  Catholic policies towards women are degrading.  Catholic commandments on birth control creates imminent poverty for millions who starve and die in developing countries.  Catholic beliefs toward basic human rights are often are cowardly and self-serving.  Catholic teachings on sex are Neanderthal.  Catholic practices on economic and social issues are reprehensible.  And Catholic teachings on so-called “morality” are duplicitous.

All this aside, the Catholic Church’s policies and practices in the tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of sexual abuse scandals around the world involving priests is downright disgusting.  Many heads need to roll — starting with just about every Pope dating all the way back to the 4th Century.  Indeed, the Vatican has been a collaborator in innumerable crimes and cover ups since the fall of the Byzantines.

The Catholic Church is an empire of corruption.  This has nothing to do with matters of faith or a belief in God.  It has everything to do with making the appropriate choices as to which institutions in our society deserve our reverence and trust.

The Catholic Church and the Vatican deserve neither.

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Posted by on Dec 15, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Rants and Raves | 3 comments

When the Worst Thing is to Do Nothing — A Reaction to the Tragedy in Connecticut

 

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS:  TO DO SOMETHING VERSUS NOTHING

 

The horror of the Connecticut school shooting impacts us on so many emotional levels.

Just about everyone I’ve spoken to, or correspnded with, has endured a gambit of reactions over the past 24 hours since the tragedy — from shock, to anger, to sorrow, to (again) outrage, and ultimately (for some) to a renewed sense of determination.

Today’s column is a difficult one to write.  It’s probably the most complicated issue I’ve addressed, to date.  I admit experiencing a sort of “writer’s block” to this terrible tragedy, something that doesn’t strike me often.  The bottom line is — what is there to say?  What can be said?

But as the hours pass, I’ve come to realize that to say nothing is grossly irresponsible.  To do nothing, even more so.

Hence, I shall address the Connecticut tragedy in multiple parts.  First, there’s a purely emotional reaction to these unfathomable events.  As one might expect, these feelings are accompanied by a demand for action.  I’ve also included what I believe to be a few  partial solutions which seek to reduce the frequency and severity of these horrors.

Once again, this is a terribly difficult problem to face.  But we must look to these victims and honor their memory with something better than what we have now.  And then, we must look inside ourselves.  We must do it.  We must do it now.  Righteousness demands nothing less.

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Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Blog, Travel | 3 comments

Stealing John Dillinger’s Pants

 

Northwest Indiana is famous for some things.  Well, on second thought, it’s not really famous for anything.

The mishmash of small working-class suburbs encrusted by lead smelters, railroad tracks, and oil refineries — mostly filled with people with unpronouncable last names that don’t contain a single vowel — is utterly indescript.  Gary and Hammond and East Chicago and Highland and Hessville and Munster and Calumet City and all these places in between are to greater Chicagoland what North Jersey is to New York City — little more than a warehouse and freightyard to a far more vibrant place.  It’s bascially like a giant Self Storage unit the size of a county, with plumbing pipes and electrical wires running along every roadway, railroad track, and field.  That’s the picture I see when now think of Northwest Indiana.

Indeed, Gary and Hammond — where I’m staying and working over the next few weeks — are nestled right across the Illinois-Indiana state line.  These are old industrial cities that pretty much look unchanged since the post-WW2 boom.  Red brick buidings.  Cracked sidewalks.  Old storefronts littered with faded out “For Lease” signs that more symbolize a loss of hope rather than any possible prospects of gaining a tenant.  As the great writer-biographer Robert Caro would more eloquently write of another time and place, this is where “windows, glassless except for the jagged edges around their frames, stared out on the street like sightless eyes.” (Footnote 1)

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