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Game On

The Denver pick-up artists come out from their lair. Look out, ladies!

You have to approach women. This is the very first step. They aren’t likely to approach you. You have to do something. When you look at a woman in the eyes, and she smiles, she thinks her job is done. If you don’t approach her, she thinks you are rejecting her. You need to approach her. You have 0% chance of dating the girl you like if you don’t approach and infinitely times better if you do.
— Date the Women of Your Dreams, Chapter 19: The Approach.

It’s Saturday night, the best night for picking up women. Matt Buschbacher has invited his protegés to meet him at the Front Porch near Larimer Square, an area he frequents when on the prowl. Matt’s dressed comfortably in a fitted T-shirt, slacks and his conversation-starter necklace. When a woman asks about the silver loop on the necklace — part of a parachute rig — it creates an opening so Matt can not only mention that he jumps out of airplanes, but also teasingly ask his questioner if she’s never heard of a “close” pin. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it works. And a pick-up artist will use anything that does.

Now Matt darts around the small bar, warming up. When he sees a girl he wants to talk to, he doesn’t stare or hesitate. He approaches her directly with an opening question, one that often leads into a story he’s memorized. If he can engage her friends while ignoring his target, the girl will start to fight for his attention.

Sam Melville shows up wearing a slick black jacket and a confident smile. After he moved here from Alaska, Sam read The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, last year’s best-selling book by Neil Strauss. Actually, he read it twice. And it led him right to Matt and his Denver Pick Up Artists Lair. Groups of men trading seduction secrets existed long before The Game, of course, but Strauss’s provocative stories about pick-up “lairs” inspired a boom in these underground clubs across the country. And in the four months since he joined Denver’s lair, Sam swears his life has changed.

After quickly saying hi to Matt, he starts working the room. At 21, Sam looks young — younger even than Matt, his 24-year-old mentor. He has bleached-blond hair, fair skin and full, pink lips. Sometimes his low voice sounds forced, like that of a bad radio personality. He introduces Heather, a girl he’s been talking to at the bar. “She’s nice, even though she doesn’t come off that way at first,” Sam says.

Heather’s face shows mock outrage and she shoves Sam lightly. “That was rude,” she says dramatically. “You just said I was a bitch.”

“I never used the word ‘bitch,’” Sam corrects. Heather’s smiling as the banter continues, but then a friend calls her away before Sam gets the chance to walk off. Disinterest can be a pick-up artist’s greatest weapon.

Across the room, Matt approaches two pretty women at a long table. “My friend and I have been debating something,” he says. “Do you think Bill Gates could get any woman he wanted?”

Back in high school in Cincinnati, Matt was the computer geek who had two friends and showed up for school every day in hand-me-down jeans, a white T-shirt and a big black jacket. He had no social life and spent most of his time on computer graphics and programming.

At seventeen he got his first girlfriend, but soon discovered she was cheating on him with his friends. At eighteen he decided that instead of pursuing a career in computer science, he’d join the Navy — and was accepted as a SEAL. “It was horrendous,” he says of the rigorous training. “I was the worst runner in my class. They have this thing called the “goon squad,” where they pick all the slowest runners and make them do extra running. I was always in the goon squad. In fact, when there was only one person in the goon squad, it was me.” He was in the Navy for five years, based first in San Diego, then Virginia Beach, and sent around the world — to Germany, Guam, Colombia and Iraq. It was a life of constant travel and testosterone, and Matt decided it was high time he learn how to talk to girls. So he and Greg Mular, his best friend and a fellow SEAL, turned their evenings out into social experiments.

At first Matt would sit at the bar for hours, afraid to talk to anyone, and just watch other people interact. Then one night Greg — always more of a natural with women — walked up to a girl and said, “Be bop boo, my name is Greg, how do you do?” She smiled and introduced herself, and they started talking.

Matt realized that saying anything to a girl, no matter how stupid, was better than gawking in the corner. And three years ago, at a cheesy Arkansas bar called the Electric Cowboy, the then-21-year-old put this theory to the ultimate test. In the middle of the floor, he started dancing like the goofy white boy he is in a style that spectators described as “barnyard.” Before he knew it, there was a circle of girls grinding on him.

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