Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

CENSORED!... by the Bodog Money Machine

So there I was, struggling to mock up a goofy logo for my pieces over at the other site I do news-bloggy stuff for, when I received an IM advising me that one of my pieces had to be pulled. "Really?" I wondered. "Whatever for?"

Okay, I'm not quite that much of an idiot. My pieces at the site in question are supposed to be edgy, entertaining, with no sacred poker-world cows. If I step on a toe or two in that role, so be it. I'm not quite an attack journalist, a la Bill O'Reilly, noting here that O'Reilly is still a damn sight better than some of the other pieces-o'-shit Fox News serves up to us as news commentators, like Nermal-for-the-Ages Sean Hannity. (I admit that O'Reilly is somewhere to the right of Rev. Attila the Wildmon on social issues --- but whaddya expect from a good Catholic, anyway?) I have no pretenses about making the world of poker better, but maybe I can make it just the teensiest bit brighter by entertaining that handful of people who read my posts. I often do it by listening as my "shit filter" detects something amiss, then following up on whatever it is that set the thing off. Nor do I have any pretenses about my importance in the world of poker news. I have no importance.

Well, maybe just a speck, it seems, enough to be noticed on the periphery of other matters.

The piece in question was in essence a re-reporting of the continuing legal battles between Babette Pepaj (d/b/a BlueMoon Entertainment), and Bodog, concerning the concept creation and royalties due for that wretched FSN TV-poker venture, "Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker." I watched the first episode and found it hilariously entertaining, in the way the siren song of crap keeps midnight viewings of Rocky Horror Picture Show a cult phenomenon 30 years after the sight of Meat Loaf crashing a motorcycle through a wall should have become a footnote in pop-film history. So it was with CAWCP, an acronym I just now realized is rather too close to that other word mentioned above. That review is still available in the archives over at the other site, as is a major piece where I broke the story on FSN [Fox Sports Network] being added to the action on the grounds of "tortious interference" --- in this case for airing the program back in April while the first lawsuit was pending.

Funny thing about that post, if you'll pardon the digression. I received the legal documentation for the piece from one of those "anonymous sources" who seemingly had his/her own source inside the L.A. County Courthouse where the action was filed and amended. I checked the document for veracity, and it looked legit, so I used it. I think that source is the same person who sent similar items to the guys over at Wicked Chops, who have also done some pieces on the matter, though not recently. Fact is, I was reasonably sure I'd beat them to the punch in publicizing the amended complaint, so I sent along a friendly heads-up so they wouldn't include some "World Premiere Wicked Chops Exclusive" bombast if they ran with it, as they're fond of doing. I didn't know whether they had the item, but I had a hunch they did.

So much for kind intentions --- a day or two later they ran a piece saying that such-and-such "planned" piece was pulled (which was then replaced by one of their bimbo specials), along with a backhanded reference to people who, and I'm paraphrasing this, "like to e-mail legal documents."

Whatever. The Chops folks --- at least one of them --- sometimes act as though they think they have world-exclusive rights to underground poker news and snarky writing... as if. I like the site a lot --- I think it's funny, edgy, and they don't duck the issues that pop to the fore. That said, they can get over themselves any time now.

Digression over; back to the BlueMoon/Bodog thing. At a later date, and on a very connected note to my own previous pieces, I ran across a story at another independent-voice poker outlet, Poker Biz 411, that itself picked up on a story that ran in Interactive Gaming News. I would have quoted the IGN piece directly but I don't have the paid subscription to the site, so instead I settled for the excerpts that Poker Biz 411 reported about brief and acrimonius negotiations between the legal reps for Pepaj and Bodog. Again, referring to the quotes from the Poker Biz 411 piece:

"According to a recent story in Interactive Gaming News, Bodog’s lawyers (led by James Nguyen of Foley & Lardner) told Bluemoon reps (led by David Beitchman of Beitchman & Zekian) that if Bluemoon wins a judgement, they will “appeal, appeal, and keep appealing,” and in the end, make sure Bodog has no assets in the U.S. to collect. In addition, it was reported that Bluemoon Principal Babette Pepaj was told directly during an April 27 meeting that if she did not withdraw all claims within 24 hours, Bodog would file a countersuit. As of May 15, PokerBiz411 has been unable to confirm if a countersuit was filed. These threats were made during a “settlement” meeting that reportedly lasted just eight minutes.

"Pepaj told IGN it was clear that the purpose of the meeting was to intimidate and threaten Bluemoon. She also said that Bluemoon is prepared to vigorously pursue the case against Bodog and Fox Sports Net."

--- source: PokerBiz411.com, Interactive Gaming News

It was news related to a story that I had covered, and it was, as you can see, not the best publicity Bodog's people have ever incurred. However, Bluemoon's people are entitled to their own opinions as much as Bodog is, and still other people are entitled to report both sides of the coin. If what was said was Pepaj's opinion of the meeting, then so be it. It was a direct quote, and attributed as such.

According to the messages I received, phrases such as "inaccurate information" and "slanderous comments" (in reference to my work) were deposited through three separate channels: e-mail, IM messages, and a phone call, all demanding the removal of my post that linked to the PokerBiz411/IGN update, or at least this is how it was told to me. There was also a mention of affiliate monies being withheld. (Heh.)

Well, what I can say --- the post was gone before I even knew of the situation. My post was anything but slanderous, though I did point that Ayre is increasingly being seen as a self-endulgent megalomaniac whose words and actions may be playing right into the hands of all those political donkeys trying to ban the online game.

Were I to write something inflammatory, it'd be along the lines that Ayre should spend a few of those millions greasing the pockets of the likes of Margarita Prentice --- in true Indian-casino fashion --- rather than spending those millions greasing his own penis and giving small truth to the fallacy that the sole intent of off-shore sites' existence is to dodge U.S. regulation. But far be it from me to stoop to that level.

Sadly, though, my piece was toast, as it seems the folks over there had pushed the panic button and deleted it based on the implied threats. In poker terms, they got bluffed. Becuase when they followed up with a Bodog rep the next day, Bodog's line had changed. Again I'm paraphrasing, here, not quoting, but the new spew from the Bodog rep went something like this: "No, no, no, it wasn't [my] story that was the problem, it was the PokerBiz411 piece. But we didn't want you linking to it anyway. That site's owner has a personal history with Calvin [Ayre] and a vendetta against him from something that happened long ago."

Really? Frankly, I was stunned. While the pieces there were hardly pro-Bodog, they didn't seem to me like any sort of personal vengeance. Rather, they looked like well-researched columns that pointed out the consistent problem with CalvinWorld: Boil down the all the weird Bodog publicity and you find little more than a massive stroking of Ayre's own ego. The PokerBiz411 colums were tart, pointed, but still newsy... not the usual press-release pollution that otherwise gets fed to us unfiltered.

In fact, I was sort of fond of the site, since I'd discovered it on my own while cross-checking links and found on that first visit that they'd linked to us in a prominent spot, just below The Drudge Report and just above Pauly. (The links are actively maintained, though, so you won't see it like that now.) Nonetheless, I took pride in the fact that someone enjoyed my work enough to link to it in such well-regarded company.

But being stunned was one thing; believing the Bodog spew was another. I thought the new line I heard was as much b.s. as the old one, designed to soothe feelings after the Bodog bully got his way and effectively censored my post from the Web. I believe it to be the tiniest part of an attempt to discredit the larger story where the quote first appeared, which also contained the implied message that Bodog has no intent of complying with the U.S. legal system in any meaningful way. I've had my own experiences in how some companies treat third-party "idea" guys after the fact, and it's often exactly as Pepaj and Bluemoon claim it to be, not that it means that I believe one side or the other in this matter. It also doesn't mean that the concept or the show was any good --- and let's face it, the show sucked --- but the suit itself was the story, not the crappy show. I don't know what's true and what's not on the legal issues, nor do I claim any special knowledge, but I do know that the Bluemoon spin on it was as much a legitimate "news" story as the Bodog one.

But Bodog didn't like that.

And here's what's worse: I've corresponded directly with Bodog's PR boss, Susan Mainzer, on previous occasions, and she knows I'm both very open and very direct. Mainzer's quite high on the Bodog totem pole, being one of the listed defendants in the Bluemoon suit. Let me make this crystal clear: If she or any Bodog rep had had the guts to contact me directly, I'd have been happy to air their side of the story. Working around me in the manner that the Bodog rep did is simply unacceptable, and in my mind these actions give credence to the other side of the story. It's also entirely possible that Mainzer is oblivious to this little situation, since my piece was admittedly somewhere south of Smallpotatoland --- some corporate-legal type could have issued a blanket order to quash as much "anti-Bodog" press as possible, and my little backwater post just got caught up in the push. Problem is, I not only stand behind my work, I fight for it, however unimportant it might be. That's why it's a blog, and independent at that.

I sent off an e-mail to PokerBiz411, and they deny having a vendetta. What the response says instead are the same things I've noted --- Ayre and Bodog exhibit a hilarious amount of self-promotional pomposity and blithely ignore the marketing standards and practices that would better suit them and the entire online gaming industry in the long run. As mavericks with a growing profile, they [Bodog] deserve greater scrutiny... but they only want it on their terms. Rots o' ruck, kiddies. Guess who's talking now.

So Bodog had one of my pieces excised, but to no avail --- it's reprised in a different form right here. As other Bodog news will be. Bet on it.

I close with this image I screen-grabbed from the comments area of the PokerBiz411 site:

I don't claim to write the TRUTH, but it's a nice comment, nonetheless. I simply write the stories to entertain and to make us think. Dangerous stuff... daring to think always brings consequences.

And I find all this as bizarre as everything else Bodog-gy in nature. There's no plus side here for them --- whatever atomic mote of publicity occurs, it just isn't worth their bother, and it can't be positive. It just doesn't add up.


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