Playing the game

Let’s face it: Getting laid takes a lot of work. There are the bars, clubs and parties, and then the pining, the insecurity, the rejection. Why does it have to be so difficult to find a suitable mate?

Let’s face it: Getting laid takes a lot of work. There are the bars, clubs and parties, and then the pining, the insecurity, the rejection. Why does it have to be so difficult to find a suitable mate?

It’s no wonder that most of us hardly even try. For every one of us who has no problem getting dates, there are hundreds who see that special guy or girl across the room and don’t act on their instincts. Maybe you think they are too hot for you, too smart or too cool. Maybe your confidence left you when you became an adult.

Well, there are people out there dedicated to helping you. It’s the pick-up game and it’s becoming more and more popular, with a VH1 reality show dedicated to it (The Pick-Up Artist), a bestselling book (The Game) and hundreds of websites telling you the secrets of the game. But does it work?

To test it out, Vanguard copy editor Joe Kotsovos agreed to learn some basic tactics (stolen generally from Mystery, of The Pick-Up Artist fame, and Neil Strauss, a.k.a. “Style,” who wrote the popular book The Game and just released a new pick-up guide called Rules of the Game.

Here are his exploits with expert criticism from Pick-up Artist contestant and current seduction teacher Joe Doyle, known around the country as “Joe D.”

For one night, Joey became his alter ego, “Durex,” and set off to find some love. Embarrassing details have not been spared.

About the expert: Joe DoyleJoe Doyle, commonly known as Joe D., entered into the world of pick up when he was a contestant on last year’s VH1 reality show The Pick-Up Artist. He placed third and has gone on to help teach seduction seminars around the country with Mystery, host of the show and renowned expert in the field. His next seminar is in Las Vegas from Feb. 15 to Feb. 17.He graduated from University of Oregon and now lives in California. For more information or to schedule a seminar or private one-on-one coaching session with Joe D., contact [email protected] or visit

About the subject: Joe KotsovosJoe Kotsovos became interested in learning seduction techniques after reading Neil Strauss’ book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. Since then he has been practicing and practicing the game, until one day–he hopes–he will become friends with Mystery.

Learn the lingo

IOI (Indicator of Interest)When a potential mate touches your arm, asks for your name or gives you other hints that they are interested.

Neg A slight insult, usually told with a smile, told to targets that are used to getting excessive compliments.

Set A group of people the artist will approach. The larger the set, the more difficult it can be to get their attention.

DHV/DLVDemonstration of high value or demonstration of low value. You want to tell stories that make your self-worth higher.

Peacock Wearing something ridiculous or outlandish and making it your own. It can help start a conversation. (See Mystery’s goggles.)

Opener A story or one-liner designed to peak interest.

Playing the game

Approach #1 Location: Downtown Safeway Mission: Approach lone girl shopping for cheese.

It’s called approach anxiety. That tingle you feel in your skin when you see someone across the room that you just have to talk to can either propel you forward or turn your feet into lead.

That’s exactly what Durex felt when he saw the cheddar cheese girl in Safeway. Taking every last ounce of strength, Durex made his way down the cool aisle, positioning himself next to the unassuming girl with the short blonde hair, the fur-lined coat and hipster piercings. He went right into the game, asking her the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, because he knew nothing about cooking. Sharp cheese was her answer, and then she volunteered her own unique grilled cheese method.

The cheese conversation continued for a minute and then petered out, sending both parties in opposite directions. Still, it was probably the longest conversation ever about the most boring of sandwiches.

Expert opinion by Joe D.: Durex opened with a demonstration of lower value (DLV) when he admitted he didn’t know anything about cooking. He couldn’t transition because he used a situational opener–a single-point conversation that goes nowhere. Still, he did a good job of hooking her with his opener.

Lesson: No one is unapproachable. Cheddar girl was receptive to the pleasant stranger who started a conversation about one of the most banal of topics, grilled cheese sandwiches. This shows that no potential mate is off limits if you know the best way to approach them.

Approach #2Location: Blitz BarMission: Seek out a target in a large group, befriend them and isolate the target.

If approaching a single person is hard, imagine how hard it is to approach a large group and gain the affection of one of its members. If the group catches wind that you are there to seduce one of their friends, they will protect them. The trick is to befriend the group, demonstrate high self-worth and then seduce the target.

Durex is anything but shy. He was game for trying his hand at a seven set (six girls and one guy), but only after downing a considerable amount of alcohol. His target: a skinny brunette sandwiched between two other girls. His tools? Using a prewritten opener, where he asks the group if they can name the five oceans, and then ignoring the target while slightly negging her (playful insults).

Low and behold, when Durex tried out the “oceans” opener, it worked. Discussing geography with strangers sounds like my own personal hell, but it managed to hook this group. But he got greedy. Instead of going for his original target, Durex switched back and forth between three different girls. After winning over the lone male of the group with sports talk, he shot his pick-up game all over the group, not caring where it lands. Then disaster struck.

With a quick “Is she always like this?”, Durex managed to insult one of the girls who proceeded to jump up, yell and storm off. He went and apologized to her, cooled the situation and after hovering over one girl for what seemed like 10 minutes, got her number. Never underestimate the begging approach.

Expert opinion by Joe D.: Switching targets makes it sound like he will settle for anything. Don’t stick with one line for too long or else you will lose interest. Good work on getting an IOI (indicator of interest) and winning over the male of the group, thus disarming a possible obstacle. As far as the neg that went awry, learn to calibrate the situation better and reserve negs for your target, not her friend.

Lesson: Simple opening lines seem to work the best, as proven by the above “oceans” line. There could be validity to the tactic of befriending a group before you ever try and hit on your target, but throwing out insults without any tact seems reckless.

Approach #3Location: Life of RileyMission: Use a test or a game on a group of two girls.

Durex’s mission was simple: approach a two set of girls and use the “best friends” test on them. The test is about paying attention to your targets and showing that you are perceptive by telling them why you can tell they are best friends, sisters, etc.

It seemed simple, but the sheer amount of alcohol Durex had ingested at this point would make even Wilt Chamberlain turn into Kevin Federline. Instead of sticking to the material Durex prepared ahead of time, he went with his gut instinct. The problem is his gut was full of vodka.

Here is his line:

Durex: “So, what’s with the bartenders here? I asked her to make me a Red Bull and vodka, and she looked at me like I raped her mother and murdered her father.”

Girls: (shocked silence)

He never got a chance to follow up after this atomic bomb of a pick-up line, but he was able to make a fool of himself one more time before leaving.

On the way out the door, Durex ran to the bar, brandished a 25-cent ring he bought from a vending machine in Safeway and handed it to the confused bartender. She was puzzled–but pleasant–and set the ring behind her. Apparently Durex was expecting her to leap over the bar into his arms, so he replied in frustration, “What the fuck!”

Smooth move, Durex.

Expert opinion by Joe D.: Why is he drunk and trying to pick up girls? Would you get drunk to learn how to ride a bike? This is why women at bars are so stand-offish. Drunk guys ruin it for the nice guys. He should have stuck to the tested material instead of using his Red Bull line.

Lesson: It’s hard to critique the pick-up game on this test because Durex’s mind temporarily flew the coop. But here’s a valuable lesson: Rape isn’t funny. Ever.

Approach #4Location: Marathon TavernMission: Use a wingman to help work a four set. Peacock while doing so.

So far in the night, Durex has been alone. Even though it has not worked as smoothly as he had hoped, he should get props for being fearless. It looked like Durex needed help, though, so we sent in a wingman to help. The wingman was Editor-in-Chief David Holley (pick-up name, “Urge”), and he fought his natural instincts to stay away from the train wreck by diving head first into the rubble.

It should be noted that Durex, at this point in the night, was wearing a plastic Mardi Gras mask over his head and a white Hawaiian lei. This was his attempt at “peacocking,” or wearing something that stands out–no matter how ridiculous, as a way of getting attention.

After Durex stumbled over to a group of four girls in his pseudo costume, one of whom he met previously, Urge came over and used a line based on one used in The Pick-Up Artist. In his made-up story, he saw a girl at Powell’s try to steal a stack of magazines only to get tackled by a burly security guard. The fictional girl’s made-up breasts then popped out of her fantasy shirt.

The line may have worked better if the girls had not seen the popular reality show when it aired this summer. Our heroes were discovered. Urge retreated before he could lose any dignity, but the increasingly drunk Durex stuck around. Not knowing when to quit, he then asked the girls to go to a fictional Mardi Gras party with him. They wisely declined.

Expert opinion by Joe D.: Hmm…a trip to a nonexistent Mardi Gras party with a stranger who is totally hammered or a night with friends…I would have declined, too.

Lesson: The peacocking actually didn’t hurt Durex as much as it seemed it would. The girls didn’t mind, and it looked like they found it a little cute. Weird. The wingman tactic makes sense. It’s hard work entertaining a large group, and one more person on your side can really help keep their attention.

In the end…

After testing out facets of the game, there is some validity to it. There is something to be said about learning confidence and taking control of your actions. The tactics of the pick-up world can help many people acquire necessary social skills. There are some real hard-up cases out there, the men (and maybe women) who are petrified by love and sex. These people might just need these rules to get themselves off the ground.

Still, there are elements of the game that are off-putting. Lying to get attention will never work in the long run.

We can learn a few things from Durex. If you don’t change the game to fit your own personality, it will come off as false. And don’t become obsessed. Finding the Holy Grail to seduction can be intriguing, but there is more to love than rigid rules and deceit. If you lose track of this, you could end up like Durex at the end of his pick-up night: alone and sad.

After the final bar, Durex took his glassy stare and sparkly mask off alone in the night to find more women.

At the start of the night, he was a timid bunny looking for a girl to kiss. At the end of the night, he became a charging rhino with a boner. So it goes.

One woman’s perspective

By: Katie Kotsovos

As a method for helping socially awkward guys gain self-confidence, the pick-up game appears to have some merit. However, it’s based on fabrications. The canned material is completely insincere and pick-up artists use it to “build comfort” with their target, which is contradictory.

There is nothing honest about trying to get a woman to trust you under false pretenses–and that’s what they are when you’ve already decided to pursue a woman you don’t know anything about, simply because she has breasts (and maybe a vagina–you don’t know, you just assume).

If the pick-up game works on a woman, we have to assume she wants to get laid just as much as the guy picking her up. So that’s a win-win situation. Women aren’t stupid. If a woman doesn’t want to have sex with a guy, she won’t. And if she does get conned, it’s her own bad decision. So overall, I don’t think the game changes the actions of women. It just changes whether or not a particular guy gets laid.

If it weren’t you, it’d be someone else. Pick-up techniques won’t get you a girlfriend because they’re about perpetuating a false image of yourself. No healthy relationship can be based on that, but that isn’t the goal of a pick-up artist anyway.