What I Learned From the Pick-Up Artists Who Wrote “The Game”

Brene Brown (and Evan Marc Katz) on Having a Midlife Crisis

I finally read Neil Strauss’ The Game this past weekend on the plane ride home from New York.

Amazing book. Nearly 400 pages that went down as if they were 100.

If you’re not familiar with this New York Times Bestseller, it’s a non-fiction tale of a bright but nerdy writer who, in investigating the world of underground “pick-up” artists, becomes the Master of all of them. Taught by another self-invented guru named “Mystery,” Strauss renames himself “Style” and seduces hundreds of women around the world.

In a bit of random happenstance, I was out with a friend at a bar a few weeks ago. He was telling me about the show “The Pick-Up Artist” on VH1, starring the aforementioned “Mystery.” My friend said it was thoroughly entertaining television and that it was amazing seeing this formerly awkward guys develop the confidence and social skills to be able to approach women. As we were leaving the bar, we looked over and saw “Mystery,” all 6’5″ of him, adorned in an ostentatious hat and a big gold heart shaped locket, waiting at the valet. Next to him was Neil Strauss, who had to be about 5’5″ and 130 pounds soaking wet. Although I hadn’t yet read The Game I had to introduce myself. Neil was extremely gracious and soft-spoken and he gave me his assistant’s email address. A week later, I was at a party at his house for the finale of “The Pick-Up Artist.”

I asked if I could bring my best guy friend, but was told to either come alone or with a woman. Fair enough. So at the last minute, I invited my friend, Lauren Frances, who is more than enough woman to bring to any party.

The scene was surreal. The first three guys I saw were slightly pasty, average looking guys wearing pirate hats and turbans. These were the apprentice pick-up artists and they were, to use the language of the community, peacocking – wearing outlandish outfits to attract attention and arouse interest. These guys comprised the majority of the party’s population when we arrived. Slowly the room started filling up with young Hollywood types. Everyone was well-put-together and put a lot more thought into their wardrobe than I probably did. After all, it’s all about making a good first impression.

I fell into some lovely conversations. One, with a smart single woman who worked at Vivid Video who was dating one of the apprentice PUA’s (pick-up artists) who got his education on the TV show. Another, with a young Jewish actress from Texas who was dating the guy who won “The Pick-Up Artist.” It seemed that apart from Neil, Mystery, Lauren and myself, everyone at the party was 25 years old, or at least acting that way.

And so I vowed to read the book that spawned this entire community. I wanted to be able to accurately parse whether this is useful information or misogynist trash. I’m somewhat dismayed to report that it’s useful information….

Women will find it distasteful but fascinating. Men will find it fascinating but distasteful. Strauss ultimately arrived at the same conclusion in the book. Eventually, he sees how inhuman being a pick-up artist is, and removes himself from the community that he has helped to create. Sort of. I have no doubt that Strauss has seen the downside of treating women like objects. By the same token, he’s continuing to make a mint off it. I don’t blame him in the least.

Truth is, anything taken to the extreme can be dangerous. Going to Vegas once a year to blow off steam is fun. Blowing your 401-K at the poker tables and strip clubs is quite another story. So while being a PUA as a lifestyle is shallow, hollow, and soulless, the transformation of these nerds is nothing short of remarkable. Pick-up artists have turned this into a science, a science that is based in some very real psychology. And while one can certainly quibble with some of the methods and motivations, I was quite surprised that they were teaching some of the same things that I, as a dating coach, teach to both men AND women.

Then again, if something works, it should be no shock if multiple people arrive at the same conclusion independent of each other. In this case, Strauss and company have merely given things rules and names to make it into a profitable system.

I’m not going to give away any of the points of the book, but I would encourage you to pick it up and judge for yourself.

Join our conversation (19 Comments).
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  1. 1
    Dating Trooper

    I have a guy friend who has become obsessed with becoming a PUA.To the point where he has nothing of interest left to talk about except his latest conquests or his next “targets” (how these guys describe women). He used to be nice, insightful and relatively ambitious. He makes a good living, is the perfect cross between good looking on the outside and a little nerdy on the inside- so I have no idea why feels the need to seek out this kind of help. Now he spends all of his time and mental energy chasing p*ssy – a term I would never use except it fits him and his attitude so perfectly. To be honest, I’m relatively disgusted by him these days, and not because I’m against guys gaining confidence to approach women. I have always sympathized with men having to “make the moves” and face so much rejection. I know it’s hard and I support them getting better at it and maybe even enjoying it a little. But the idea of making it purely a “Game” can be dangerous and take many men down the wrong path. My friend is a perfect example. Be careful out there!

  2. 2

    I watched the pickup artist and found it intriguing enough to get past the idea that some guys use it in a low-brow way. Honestly, there are some tips in there that as a woman, I wish all guys would learn!

    For instance, how to be more flirtatious and keep women guessing. There was a whole bit on the show about the perils of falling into the “friend zone,” by not flirting or holding back too much as a way of being polite (and avoid rejection.) I watched that episode while dating a guy who was attracted to initially, but was losing interest in. He just didn’t know how to be romantic and playful with me. I got bored and moved on.

    I remember a conversation I had with a group of women many years ago, and we were discussing what was it that made some guys so hot and attractive to us. We ruled out looks and money. We voted humor at the top of the list, yet that wasn’t it either. We all knew silly guys that could make us laugh, but that weren’t hot. The someone said the word “cocky,” and we all said YES! That’s the magic mojo–a combination of cocky + funny is the #1 thing that attracted us. ALL the women in our group agreed.

    I almost fell out of my chair when I watched the PUA and how one of their core techniques is to get really good and cocky+funny. So I knew there was something to it!

  3. 3
    Lisa Steadman

    I’m so glad to hear your take on The Game, Evan. It’s a strange, fascinating experiment that obviously works even if it seems a bit seedy. As always, I love reading your work!

  4. 4
    Jen from NYC

    My sister’s single friend sent me this blog. It is a blog right? Anyway, first the obvious, Evan is totally cute. Second, hello? Where was this blog when I was single? I am enjoying reading all of these posts and I just read Evan’s bio. I am 31 and I was living in NYC for the past 7 years and dating. Yeah, torture, I know. (Wait, even more tortorous was that I was a Jewish girl dating. The Jewish men in NYC are in a category of their own. My favorties were the bald schlubbs who were Jappier than me and expected a supermodel to walk through the door and were disappointed because I was five two with chemically straightened hair and my parents helped pay my rent. Like I said, I am a Jewish girl.) Anyway, I just moved to Jeresy to live with my wonderful boyfriend, and I wanted to say that if you believe internet dating sucks, or does not work, please talk to me because I am the girl who went on JDate 5 years ago before all of her girlfriends who met and married men from the site, as I was on for years, and years, and years. Major run-on sentence, sorry. But seriously, I went to all of my friends weddings single, laughing and of course a bit envious because I had recommended that my girlfriend’s try out JDate and they were successful. Quickly successful I may add. I was tempted so many times to just get the f off of it but I told myself daily that why the hell not just stay active and keep some faith alive that if my b’shert (that is my soul mate) is on there, we will find each other. And we did. Granted, I spent like 3,000 dollars (I am being dramatic) but it was worth it. Now I will get off my soap box about internet dating. But for you single girls and guys, just remember you have nothing to lose by keeping up some fabulous (yes pick your best )pictures and some witty and genuine information on those profiles.

    I want to comment on this post as well. (Sorry, am I boring you all already? ) I actually think it is funny that guys make a game out of picking up women and who can blame them? The sad thing is that there will always be women to pick up and I guess men just instinctually need to hunt. The fact that someone can profit off of it is great. What is sad is that so many men do not realize just how simple it is to find a great woman. Just be yourself and the right woman will love you for that. Sure, some men have the “It” factor and can pick up all the hot ass when they go out, but in the end, it is who you chose to spend the rest of your life with (if that is what you want) that will be the biggest test ever!

  5. 5

    I haven’t read the book but I did catch the PUA on tv and I agree with what the posters above said. It’s really about confidence. I live in NY and so many of the nice guys, especially older ones (late 30+) feel they have to try too hard to impress women with their careers, $$, etc because of how they perceive women’s expectations instead of just being themselves. This nervousness or superficiality is a total turn-off.

    Though there are a lot of women in NY who do judge a man by his wallet, many women don’t. These guys have to realize that the right woman will like you for who you are. The biggest turn-on to me is a guy who is comfortable in his own skin. That’s not necc cocky (unless that’s the kind of guy you already are), that’s demonstrating that you have your act together enough to be comfortable with where you are at your stage in life.

  6. 6
    Ramon Thomas

    There are so many women responding to this. Does that mean Evan has more female readers than male? I have studied the venusian arts as Mystery calls it and met many pick-up artists in South Africa. In fact we’ve had some high profile visits to Cape Town from the likes of Zan and Badboy.

    Anyway these days I do not hide the fact that I’ve studied pick-up nor do I use a pseudonym. And I’m working hard to teach guys to stop hiding behind forums and blogs and just go out and meet women in the real world. Enough already with reading all the ebooks, downloading all the podcasts and other seduction advice. Just keep expanding you social circle, increasing your social connection and influence and using social proof and you will meet women.

  7. 7

    Women will find it distasteful but fascinating. Men will find it fascinating but distasteful.

    Excellent line Evan! I wonder if the perceived effectiveness of the PUA techniques will become weakened with popularity as people learn to recognize what is going on.

    I your observation that there is an intersection between what you teach and what the PUAs teach. Maybe it is one of those things where it matters how it is wrapped. Though as a single guy who has some work to do to feel comfortable dating again I have been staying away from the PUA thing as I do find cold.

    It all sounds similar to the three points in the move the Tao Of Steve, but without the charm and some misogyny thrown in.

    400 pages? LOL! Women are complicated, but not that complicated :).


  8. 8

    Women don’t want me because
    I am short(5’5″). 170 lbs
    I am a country man not a city person.
    I am more interested in stock cows than horses or motorcycles.
    I am more of a homebody than a traveler.
    I am conservitive.
    I live too far away.
    I have never been married.
    I am not a millionare

    1. 8.1

      “I live too far away” suggests that you are one of those men who goes on Match and seeks out the PERFECT woman for them, one that meets each of their very specific criteria, regardless of where she is located.      I thought this because I have been the target of such men.   If you’re contacting women this way, well, distance will defeat you ever time.   The chance of those long distance contacts working out is way too difficult.

      Plus, it’s a very entitled way to search for a woman to date unless you go into it desiring to relocate to her area if it works out.   You’re basically asking her to drop her own life and location, and relocate before a full courtship and marriage can take place.   Again, I have been on the receiving end of this and it’s just strange.

      What about meeting women through church, the grange, farm related clubs?

  9. 9

    Well, Joel, if women don’t want you for the reasons you state above, it’s their loss. There are 2 billion adult females on this earth, & all you need is one. If that one who can accept all of the above does come along, great; but if not, so be it. Part of growing up is learning to be happy ALONE.

  10. 11

    To Joel:
    You sound like a lovely person who perhaps isn’t willing to compromise.   Would you mind if I address your issues?
    So women don’t want you because
    #1.   You’re 5’5.   I understand your feelings about this, and there’re other fantastic posts on this website about that.   Basically though, this means you’re going to have a smaller pool of women, so you don’t want to limit yourself in other areas.
    #2.   You’re a country, not city person.   Nothing wrong with that!   There are plenty of women very interested in “a quiet life on rural pastures,” so to speak.   If it weren’t so idyllic, why would so many people write songs about it?   Maybe these women just don’t live in your hometown.
    #3.   You’re interested in stock cows.   See #2, cowboy 🙂
    #4.   You’re more of a homebody than a traveler.   It’s going to be harder for you to meet women if you stay at home, so if you’re finding women online and you’re not willing to meet them halfway in real life, you may as well just get a mail-order bride!   Actually, this doesn’t sound like a terrible option if nothing else works out.   Kidding!   Still, how would you feel about a woman who you have a lot in common with, but lives a state away and refuses to meet you in between?   It goes both ways, and if there are no single ladies in your immediate area, it sounds like you’re running out of options.   I think if you’re open to traveling, you could date many more women.
    #5.   You’re conservative.   Generally, the kind of women who are interested in guys who run their own farms in rural areas are conservative too.   There are exceptions to this, but no reason you need to change this, as far as I can tell.   Unless by conservative, you mean really strict, as in curfews and restrictions?   Most women these days don’t really tolerate that kind of thing, so being a little more open-minded may help you here.   I know it’s easier said than done, but perhaps try it out for a bit, if this is the case.
    #6.   You live too far away.   Are you willing to relocate?   This seems to be the most important issue.   I understand owning cattle would making it difficult to move (unless you have a Conestoga wagon haha, sorry bad joke) but most women don’t want to move either, unless it’s for a sure thing–ie, long term commitment.   This goes back to traveling: if there’s no one else around, you’re going to have to travel to date someone who will eventually want to move to be with you.
    #7.   You’ve never been married.   Since when is this a bad thing?!!   You don’t mention how old you are, so there’s a chance that a 60-year-old man who’s never been married could raise a few eyebrows.   But this is definitely not an issue for most people.
    #8.   You’re not a millionaire.   In this economy, nobody is.   Anyway, why worry about attracting a gold-digger?   No woman expects a farmer to have bags of money, and for a woman who’ll truly love you, your income is unimportant.
    Good luck on your search, I hope you find somebody with whom who you have mutual respect and love!

  11. 12

    I don’t like the whole PUA stuff at all before, because I was raised in a way to respect women, sometimes too much respect that I don’t make the first move. I don’t want sex just for sex, I want to find someone I love to have sex, I was told the right one will come, but it never, I went to church, ask god when the right one will come, never!!, never!!! being single for 26 year (not mention, still virgin) I’m so tired and pissed off at myself. It’s not I’m ugly or something, there were 2 girls told me they want to be in relationship with me but I don’t really have feeling and don’t want to waste their time. Couple of times sex could happen but I just missed it. I still ask god and tell myself god made it this way because the best comes last. Last wk, i went out with a girl who talked to me on dating site, I imagined a lot about being with her before we met, I was a little bit nervous and shy, didn’t do anything I planned, afterwards she told me I’m not her type. I was really really pissed off at myself, pissed off at what I use to believe, hate the fact that i respects women so much. I started reading PUA stuff last wk, tried it out last Friday, almost scored a girl, but still, i have the fear to initiate body contact and missed it. I used the altitude learnt from PUA talking to girls on dating site, man, I got much higher reply rate that I got before!
    I’m actually very disappointed about how shallow most women are, when I’m being respectful, I’m just plain boring, when I don’t respect them in my heart, they like me more…
    I hope this is only for women in America. Since I’m from another country, my thought about marrying an american woman is almost broken..

    1. 12.1
      Hidden Agenda

      “I went to church, ask god when the right one will come, never!!, never!!! being single for 26 year (not mention, still virgin) I’m so tired and pissed off at myself”


      1. 12.1.1
        Hidden Agenda

        “I went to church, ask god when the right one will come, never!!, never!!! being single for 26 year (not mention, still virgin) I’m so tired and pissed off at myself”

        First of all, you should not be going to church to score girls. It might be a by-product of church, but that should not be the reason you go….

        Second, you said that you’re “still (a) virgin”

        Christians should have sex…. If they are married. It’s a gift, but if you aren’t married and you’re asking for a girlfriend so that you can just do physical things with, I would not be surprised if God did not send a girl to you because frankly, you’re not ready.

        My advice for you would be to become the person that you want to date.

        If you want to date a girl who is good-looking, work on your grooming and fashion sense.

        If you want to meet an outdoorsy girl, go learn how to fish or rock climb or ski

        My point here is that too often, we ask for too much when we do not fulfill that need for others.

  12. 13

    Just read The Game for the second time last week. The first time I read it was in 2007 or 2008. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t understand how these men could treat women like objects. But, I was 20/21 years old, and incredibly naive regarding men. I finished reading it for the second time in one sitting. I was fascinated. I was floored. Although the peacocking idea was, in my opinion, taken to the extreme, I realized that the art of picking up women is based on neuro-linguistic programming, which is a fascinating concept.  

    And, Neil Strauss is an incredible writer.   

  13. 14

    I think I had a guy do this to me.   He didn’t even try to kiss me when we met up.   Paid for a cab and rode home with me but didn’t try to make a move.   Then texted a bit, then dropped me for two days.   Then I texted him (will never text the guy first again) because it was the day of our date and I hadn’t heard from him.   Then he said, yes, we’re still on, but I lost my phone.   Then he never contacted me to make plans.   Then at 5pm I wrote to ask Are we still on?   At 5:45 he wrote back, then tried to blow me off and then another text later that night that I answered that he never wrote back to .   The next day he texted me and I texted him back and said, “Your communication style feels hurtful.   I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not on purpose.   Let’s never talk or text again.”

    What is that about?   He liked me enough to talk all night and buy me dinner and send me home in a cab and bragged like crazy about his fancy job and Eton and Cambridge.   But I’m pretty and a kind person and I get asked out all the time and I have a lot of   friends.   I’m not going to waste a moment of my life on that.

    Now I tell all men “No texting before the 3rd date.”   It’s too easy to miscommunicate.    And it’s too easy for guys to play games.   Women, too, I suppose.   But does texting play a part in the game?   Because I have no idea what was happening but it felt realllllyyyy bad.


    1. 14.1

      I love this “no texting before the third date” rule. Great proposal-! I have seen such a extreme amount confusion result from early texting. It’s a lot to ask us all to operate without the opportunity to read  body language or verbal cues like tone and timing. I am convinced a lot of early texting is the enemy of a new relationship’s long term potential.

  14. 15

    I don’t see how this translates to 2017 when everyone dates on sites and apps. Now it’s like 99% about what pictures you use  to get women or men to go out with you. I tried photofeeler.com and liked it a lot as it got me much higher quality matches on tinder.

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