Saturday, November 21, 2009

A UIGEA-related Death?

I've been tracking a number of story lines with idle curiosity the past few months, including the tragic assassination in Sweden of PokerListings founder Andreas Oscarsson. Oscarsson was assassinated in front of his two-year-old son, after returning to live in Trollhattan, Sweden, nearly two years after relinquishing his stake in PokerListings, according to other reports.

This latest take first appeared in a Swedish newspaper tracking the case, then was translated into English in a 2+2 thread here. I re-translated the original to verify, which produced this:

Testimony probably cause for murder

Next week will start a trial in Stockholm in connection with the murder of the 36-year-old poker millionaire in Trollhättan, Sweden last summer. Police suspect that the man was murdered because he would testify in the trial.

(photo inset) "The police suspect he was murdered because he would testify '

The murdered man, who ran a successful poker site on the net, would have testified in the trial which starts now.

The trial deals with serious blackmail and it is a 44-year-old man who was charged.

A Swedish company that, among other things, is owned by Stefan Bengtsson, a major shareholder in H & M, bought in to the now murdered husband's business for six years ago, reported Aftonbladet.

But when Bengtssons company wanted to sell its stake in the poker market, the company had collapsed because of new laws in the U.S. that made it forbidden to advertise on poker. Thus the depreciation of the company.

In connection with the sale came the now indicted 44-year-old up and tried to recover the 14 million kronor, which he claimed was between portrays primarily. Among other things, he took the help of Thomas Moller, Hells Angels past president of Sweden.

Stefan Bengtsson has himself renounced all claims against the poker company and is not suspected of any crime and it remains to examine at whose mandate 44-year-old engaged in extortion.

The man who was murdered in Trollhättan, Sweden last summer, would thus have testified in the trial. And police suspect it was to prevent this that he was murdered.

The original story on Aftonbladet offers a few additional details. Swedish-to-English online translators tend to be a bit rough, but you can get the gist of it:

He could not testify - was murdered
Police in the U.S. stays out of the case
Billionaire hearing in extortion harness

Next week would Andreas Oscarsson, 36, have testified in a racketeering trial linked to serious organized crime.

But he was shot dead before he could testify.

Aftonbladet can today reveal that H & M billionaire Stefan Bengtsson, 37, had affairs with Andreas Oscarsson and therefore consulted in the investigation.

Andreas Oscarsson was a millionaire. He left Sweden for ten years ago and built in the U.S. a fortune by starting a successful online poker site.

He often came home to Sweden, and met with his siblings and their parents in Trollhättan.

On 3 August he was at home with his dad, along with his two-year son.

Sometime during the night broke the killers into one storey villa.
The son did not wake up

They pushed the sleeping Andreas Oscarsson with several shots as he lay in his bed in his old pojkrum.

Beside him in bed sleeping son. He did not wake up the shots. Nor woke father who slept in a room next door.

Police suspect, according to police sources, the killers sövt father and two with no gas, before being shot Andreas.

No one is arrested for murder.

Next week begins a trial in Stockholm on the attempted aggravated extortion.

Andreas Oscarsson would have testified against the accused, a 44-year-old man.

The background is this:

A Swedish company invested in 2003 nearly two million in Andreas Oscar's poker business. The Swedish company owned by, inter alia, by Stefan Bengtsson, a major shareholder in Hennes & Mauritz, the nephew of H & M's main owner Stefan Persson, and one of Sweden's wealthiest people.
New U.S. Law kind hard

A few years later wanted Stefan Bengtsson and his associates to sell its stake in the poker company - which was now worth 50 million kronor. But before the deal went without a hitch was the law of the United States so that it was forbidden to advertise on poker. The market plummeted.

Therefore, instead paid 36 million for Stefan Bengtson company's share.

Shortly after that the money paid was contacted, according to police sources, Andreas Oscar's financial and legal advisers in Sweden of the now indicted 44-year-old. He demanded to SEK 14 million, the difference in the store.

He argued, according to Aftonbladet experience, many threats, both by SMS and phone call to the adviser.

At one point, 44-year-old turned up unannounced at home in the adviser's house and on another occasion had a 44-year-old with the Hells Angels before presidential Thomas Moller for a meeting with a representative from Andreas Oscar's company.

During the same period as the suspect ran blackmail shot Andreas Oscar's advisors in the leg when he retrieved the newspaper outside his house. Two men were arrested and later sentenced for the shooting.
The money would be divided

If there was any connection with the blackmail was never determined.

The accused man claims, reportedly told Aftonbladet that he was acting on behalf of a Part-owners of Stefan Bengtsson's business and that he drove the money would be divided between him and the shareholders.

But H & M billionaire Stefan Bengtsson and his companions, who were interrogated on the matter, denying reportedly completely that they have nothing to do with blackmail.

- I do not comment on the investigation, but of course we had nothing to do with blackmail, "says Stefan Bengtsson told Aftonbladet.

According to Aftonbladet, Stefan Bengtson company in a letter also renounced all claims against the poker company, in addition to the money already paid.

None of the company is suspected of any crime.

So on whose behalf drove 44-year-old extortion? If he acted on his own volition - how he knew that there was a difference of 14 million in the deal between the company's Oscar Andrew and Stefan Bengtson company?
One possible motive

The trial on extortion will revolve around the issues.

Neither Thomas Moller suspected of having committed any crime. The indictment is only 44-year-old.

Do you think he acted on his own volition, or on behalf of someone else?

- It's just him, I am indicted, "said prosecutor Gunnar Merkel.

Police suspect now that Andreas Oscar[sson]'s testimony may have been a motive for his murder. But no one has yet been arrested.

- We are working on but has nothing new to report at this time, "said Thord Haraldsson, director of the county police in Trollhättan.

Next week begins extortion trial of security courtroom in the Stockholm District Court.

It seems as though the devaluation in PokerListings' net worth, almost a third of its overall value, is being held up as a possible cause for the assassination. Bengsston's share went down from 50 to 36 million kronor, though Bengsston himself, as noted above, publicly renounced any claim to the 14 million difference. 14 million kronor is a bit over USD $2,000,000 at today's exchange rates, in case you were curious.

So, would that make Oscarsson the first UIGEA-related death? Or perhaps the second? After all, another "Andreas Oscarsson" was gunned down in the same Swedish city months earlier, in what police believed was a case of mistaken identity.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Best Ad Inquiry Exchange Yet

On rare occasions I get inquiries about advertising on this here modest blog. I'm reticent about ads in general, because this is my personal space, and I almost never accept contextual ads because I'm a believer in "church and state" regarding editorial content. I detest crap that's poorly camouflaged advertorial. Of course, shady advertisers try to disguise their ads as often as possible.

I got this missive late last night:

From: Mike Murphy
Subject: Advertising Inquiry
To: (me)
Date: Friday, November 20, 2009, 12:02 AM

Hi there! I run a reputable poker portal that reviews online deposit and payment methods - I would be interested in purchasing a contextual link on your
website depending on the rates and terms available. Could you provide me this info?



Contextual link request from someone I don't know and who hasn't identified themselves... no thanks. So I send back the following, which I think was direct and to the point but not overly rude:


I only do contextual links for long-standing clients and friends
that I have personal knowledge of. I'm afraid I wouldn't be interested in this.


A few minutes ago I get this:

From: Mike Murphy
Subject: Re: Advertising Inquiry
To: (me)
Date: Friday, November 20, 2009, 10:19 AM
Oh, well maybe you could save
everyone the time and remove your
advertising page!!

Sent from my iPhone

Really? You dare to tell me the form of stuff I choose to present on my personal page? Fuck you, dude, I don't care if you represent God. Here's what I sent back:

I accept ads from selected clients and run them over on the left at the top of the "links" area. But since you seem to think that my content should be yours to do with as you will, fuck off. You don't dictate your preferences onto my private blog, asswipe.

Clear enough?


I hope I meet this guy in person someday and he has the balls to identify himself to me. I also hope I'm wearing pointed shoes at the time, so I can kick said balls somewhere up to the back of his throat.

UPDATE: He sent me this in reply:

I replied following the exact directions of your ad, and matter of fact - now I'll just turn your first email over that has proof of you selling contextual ads to "friends" to Google on their paid link form. How's that for fuck off? Say goodbye to your traffic and PR cunt.

Silly boy doesn't realize that I already looked up his domains, and if he wants war, I'm happy to bring it. He also thinks I actively do things to promote my page rank, and I specifically don't. Anyhow, I recommend everyone do a search on "", which shows some of the domains this guy is affiliated with. Naturally, I recommend blackballing all of them, and I guess I have a project on my hands. I've already ID'd the guy and in addition to messing around with a handful of crap online sites, he also runs an unrelated business in Madison, WI. Can anyone say "fraudulent interference"?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 5: If a Forrest is Silent, Does That Mean There Aren't Any Trees?

Yeah, it's been a while since I ventured into the land of UltimateBet, as it's not a joyful thing to have to sit down and write. Nonetheless, even as the general cowardice and cravenness of the poker world never ceases to amaze me, I note that someone has to do this stuff. So, before I'm off to wash my hands yet again...

When last I brought up the topic of UltimateBet and its original Excapsa ownership bloc, I referenced the 56% of the original 200-plus million shares whose owners (by formal entity) had been made public. That list read as follows:

Erik E. Pierson -- 10,128
Leonard L. Pierson -- 5,000
Melva S. Pierson – 5,000
Fred (J.) David -- 1,680,000
Daniel P. Cunningham and Melissa M. Cunningham - 2,085,872

RBC Trustees (CI) Ltd. (trustee of The Westwood Trust) -- 3,279,792
Charles Schaupp -- 3,843,504
Omaha Beech Investments LLC -- 4,000,000
The Desert Palm Irrevocable Trust -- 4,304,730
Molly O'Hearn Living Trust -- 4,304,728

The Tip Top Irrevocable Trust -- 9,385,822
The Rising Son Irrevocable Trust -- 13,220,816
Dale Lovett – 10,256
Leonard J. Morgan -- 5,000
Charles F. Fletcher II -- 5,128

Tamara Jean Smith -- 5,128
Tamara J. Smith -- 5,000
Julia Bodine -- 5,128
Richard S. Yugler – 5,128
Stephanie Harlen – 8,000

Rick Vail – 5,128
Joel N. Cunningham -- 12,300
James B. Cunningham – 75,944
Corwin Swick -- 20,000
Whitney Arnold -- 70,000

Scott Kirkowski -- 84,000
Jason Karl -- 255,984
Daniel Friedberg and Raywa Friedberg, (JT TEN) -- 331,069
Gerald Fujii -- 443,997
Melissa L. S. Gaddis -- 737,952

Uri Kozai -- 1,200,000
Daniel Friedberg -- 1,360,000
The Clearwater Irrevocable Trust -- 2,085,872
Chomvilai Hanchena -- 2,935,512
Roger K. Gaumnitz Family Partnership -- 3,074,800

The Jack McClelland and Elizabeth McClelland Trust -- 1,229,920
Manchurian Living Trust -- 1,574,800
Duane J “Dewey” and Judith K. Weum, JT TEN -- 1,974,800
Fluffhead LLC - 2,975,839
Monsour Matloubi -- 3,846,256

Russell W. Hamilton, Jr. -- 4,304,720
Brett David Calapp – 5,128
Carolyn Heick -- 587,952
Derek C. Morgan – 2,500
IGL Group IM – 46,153

Kirstin Thomas – 80,000
Daniel P. Cunningham, Dorothy B. Cunningham (joint tenants) – 130,740
Nicholas M. and Aimee K. Leonard, TEN COMM – 275,000
The Mountain Ridge Irrevocable Trust – 410,792
James P. Hendrie – 537,952

(Ida) Susan Albrecht – 922,480 [widow of James Albrecht]
The KMJ BelleFountain – 2,128,000
John G. Lowe – 2,774,800
The Tranquility Irrevocable Trust (Close Trustees Cayman Limited TR) – 3,279,784
The Rough Diamond Irrevocable Trust (South Dakota Trust Company, LLC) – 3,384,800

MS Irrevocable Trust – 4,804,720
The Vision Irrevocable Trust – 7,489,323
The Grandview Irrevocable Trust (trustee, Meridian Trust Company Ltd.) – 13,220,816

In addition, a number of other entities were mentioned as owners in documentation accompanying an Excapsa legal matter, including one of what is believed to be several entities tied directly to Phil Hellmuth. But what I hadn't gotten around to was a look at some of the names behind the trusts; many of these remain well hidden, while others were outed due to good work at 2+2 and other poker forums. I'll add still more to that.

While Phil Hellmuth, Annie Duke, Russ Hamilton and Mansour Matloubi were already known to be associated with UltimateBet, the big name who was outed as a UB owner was none other than Professor Backwards himself, Ted Forrest. More formally known as William Ted Forrest, the venerable "Big Game" participant was tied either by proxy signature, facsimile cover-sheet phone number (LOL), or physical street address to three major ownership entities from the above list:

Omaha Beech Investments -- 4,000,000 shares
The Desert Palm Irrevocable Trust -- 4,304,730 shares
The Clearwater Irrevocable Trust -- 2,085,872 shares

That's a minimum of 10,390,602 shares of Excapsa stock which belong to Ted Forrest, which makes him among the most significant player/owners involved with the company. Hellmuth's total shares remain unknown, while Duke has a known bloc of 2,975,839 shares under her Fluffhead LLC entity, Russ Hamilton had 4,304,720 shares (since forfeited), and Matloubi's one known bloc -- there may be others, which also holds true for the other pros cited here -- checked in at 3,846,256 shares.

Here's some imagery to firm up Forrest's and Duke's ownership connection to UB. First, the top of a fax sheet sending back the signed proxy for one of Forrest's ownership blocs above:

I've redacted a portion of the phone numbers for Forrest and Oregon-based Iovation, which was running ownership matters for Excapsa (UB) at this time, and cropped out some of the white space so the photo fits better here. While it seems that Iovation principals have always had a major say in UB operations, it's a bit sloppy to leave a paper trail such as the above that connects a US firm to a company directly involved in online blackjack. The poker, no problem, but UB had/has an online blackjack division as well. So we'll just call that one a big LOOOOOOOOOL.

As for Annie, let's compare the signature on the "Fluffhead" proxy to that appearing on a signed Annie Duke corrugated-aluminum poker chip case which appeared on eBay a few weeks back. Most public figures have two forms of their signature, a fancier "presentation" sig for special uses, and an "everyday" sig fo stuff like this. While one can find fancier Annie sigs, these two examples are of the "everyday" variety:

That seems to be a match, and verifies Duke's UB ownership in the absence of any contradicting evidence. (And LOOOL again at being asked to sign a corrugated aluminum poker chip case. That sucks.)

Other poker notables found in the above ownership list are Dewey Weum and two veteran insiders of the poker industry, Jack McClelland and the late Jim Albrecht. It also brings up an idle point of thought for those whose minds, like mine, are apt to wander: Given that both McClelland and Albrecht were closely tied to the Jack Binion poker/casino machine, what are the chances that the great Binion himself has a secret hidden slice of UB? It's not a big chance at all, given the damage that exposure of such a stake could cause to Binion's other casino interests. But still, there's a tiny chance, perhaps one or two percent. Put it this way: It's highly unlikely that Jack Binion owns a piece of any online room, but if he does, it's quite possibly UltimateBet.

I'm still searching into the identities behind some of the more "secret" trusts on the list above, although it's nothing I'm wasting major blocs of time on uncovering. Most of the hidden entities are theorized to tie to Iovation and Excapsa bigwigs Greg Pierson and Jon Karl, and though there's a belief that some of the entities in the above list are Hellmuth's, I'm inclined to disagree. There's another 44% of Excapsa stock whose specific ownership is unknown, and the one small ownership entity that can be tied to Hellmuth, The Michelle Hellmuth Trust, is not on the list of the 56% who voted in favor of the liquidation-related action causing the publication of these shares. It seems unlikely that any of the major players would be splitting up their votes, especially since the issue at hand seemed to be whether to cash out $40 million in liquid assets or reinvest it in the company, in the face of the blossoming UB insider scandal. (Note: If any major UB owner wants to send me a note and clarify whether this was indeed the battling point, I'll be happy to adjust this theory.) Therefore, according to my theory, Hellmuth's shares are among the 44% not specifically voting "yes" on this matter. There are probably two or three other notable "poker" names among that 44%, but those identities may never see the light of day.

However, it's easier to note for fact's sake the true identities of some of the other names on the list. A lot of the tiny 5,000 and 8,000 shares seem to be either low-level Iovation employees or relatives and friends of major owners who received small stakes as gifts. They pretty much don't count in voting matters. Buried in the UB court documents is a reference to one of these minor shareholders, an Art Stoop, who unsuccessfully tried to cash out his tiny holdings around the time the UB scandal broke but was apparently told no. Poor Art probably got himself a $250 dividend a few months back, but the matter of ongoing Excapsa dividends is, again, a topic for a future post.

Some of the ownership stakes here, though, are bigger. The "Roger K. Gaumnitz Family Partnership" traces to Wisconsinite Roger Gaumnitz, who seems to be a wealthy business friend/associate of Milwaukeean Dewey Weum. There is a spurious tie to Hellmuth's dad, Phil Hellmuth Sr., through a U. of Wisconsin donor list, but the Weum tie is solid, since they witnessed each other's proxy signatures.

Another friend/relative relationship explains the 2.935 million shares of Thailand's Chomvilai Hanchena, who is closely connected to Mansour Matloubi. Hancheni's stake isn't that far shy of Matloubi's own 3.8 million share stake.

Then there's folks such as Washington state physician Gerald Fujii, whose 443,997-share stake probably originated with his friendship with one of the big Iovation bosses, perhaps Pierson himself. He even faxed back his proxy from his doctor's office, hard-working dude that he is.

Next time out: a look at the known Russ Hamilton ownership stake, and the amount of shares provably forfeited in the UB scandal. Do they match? Of course not.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive

Warning: Little or no poker content.

As in the classic Bing Crosby hit, which I've heard a whole bunch lately, since it's been in the regular rotation on the "Swing Kings" channel on DishTV that I often turn on as background music, particularly late at night. Big-band music is something that I enjoy now and then, and listening to this channel is part of my neverending quest to expand my personal horizons.

Which reminds me of something only somewhat related: I was channel surfing Wednesday evening and stumbled into the Mark Twain Award show on PBS honoring Bill Cosby. I only hung around for about 15 minutes because Chris Rock was annoying, but in that time an aged-but-still-doing-well Rita Moreno gave an absolute stunning rendition of "Brazil" (the Spanish version) in tribute to Cosby. Very good stuff; I've always loved that song, and this was one of the best takes I've ever heard.

Also good stuff on that "Swing Kings" channel, even if one has to listen to a lot of random samplings from various Greatest Hits CDs of the era. For every "The Peanut Vendor" (an awesome Stan Kenton tune), there's something mediocre, like Benny Goodman's take on "Amapola". As I type this, Buddy Rich's pretty good version of "Dateless Brown" is playing, and the best of the last half dozen or songs have been Bunny Berigan's "Blues" and the classic "Oasis" by the Joe Loss Orchestra. Loss's lively version of "Amapola" is the best one, too.

Unrelated question: Did every band of the era record "Frenesi"?

Right now it's Pearl Bailey's "It Takes Two to Tango", which is on every few hours, and it's a meh song for me. Too bad they don't have more Anna Mae Morse, whose "Cow Cow Boogie" is one of my personal cult faves from that era. The channel plays tons of Cab Calloway and a bit of Louis Jordan, too, but not, it seems, Jordan's classic "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby", which just about anyone recognizes from the old Tom & Jerry cartoon. For that song, they instead play the wretched Bing Crosby version (backed by the Andrews Sisters). While I otherwise enjoy most Andrews Sisters stuff, this song is one that they and Bing should never have touched. This was a terrible match of song and singer; think of something like the Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" done as a serious song, and you've got an idea of how bad and dated Crosby's "Is You Is" plays today.

But everyone had their clunkers among the gold. "The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" and "Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive" are much more listenable Bing classics for me.

Latest three bands: Chet Baker, Woody Herman, Red Nichols and His Five Pennies. Nichols, Fats Waller and others, with heydays in the '20s, seem to represent the oldest end of the music spectrum on this channel. Very old stuff, but very new to me, most of the time. It's interesting, too, as I'm learning a bit about some songs I've heard all my life, even if I never realized I was hearing them. Know what I mean?

"9.20 Special" by Count Basie starts up. That's a good one, one very familiar but one I never had tagged in my head until recently, as is the next one, Louis Armstrong's "The Mooche". And they're great examples of why I'm listening.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


It's bad enough to feel isolated, as I do of late, but when a weird weekend conspires with itself to laminate the word onto one's forehead, it's just time to shake the ol' noggin and pray that the plastic somehow peels free.

I have a high-speed connection in my apartment... normally. Late Friday morning it went out, and none of the usual reboot tricks to modem, router, or computer would restore the connection. This is not unheard of for Comcast residential service, particularly on Friday or the weekends, when it seems as if they're doing a lot of installs and taking the network up and down, perhaps fixing oddball things as well. I usually wait a few hours and then place a service call. Did that this time as well, around 5:00 pm or so.

I hate calling service centers. Comcast, as with most major American corporations, has a service center call-in tree designed to get rid of a given caller without having to actually devote any real customer-service person to the call. So after being forced to listen to three commercials, including pitches by Shaquille O'Neal and Ben Stein, I finally get through to a live operator for repairs... and I can hear her perfectly but she (seemingly) can't hear me at all, and she disconnects me.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. How ya doing, Shaq and Ben?

The second time, I get through to someone who can hear me, and I explain the problem. I go through the monkey dance one more time for him, meaning doing the reboot cycle again so he can decide for himself that I do indeed have a reason to call. And he checks other nearby customers, and says they're not in service either, meaning there's some kind of local-area thing going on. And he duly issues me a ticket number for my complaint and leaves me with the expectation that in a couple of hours a service tech will have found the problem and corrected it.

Except that didn't happen. No service Friday night, and when I woke up Saturday, still nothing. So I called back into Comcast again, and again had to do the whole navigation thing twice after a connection with too much static made the operator unable to hear me. So that made quad Shaqs, with Ben chasers every time.

When I finally get through to an operator, she puts me through the grill, even though I have my ticket number, name, phone number, etc. She demands I give her my account number, so I grumble a bit and grab for the most recent one. I read it to her, and tells me that it's wrong. Whassat? So we end up arguing over my account number for a few moments. My guess is when I relocated to here a few years back they issued me a new one, then tied my original Comcast account to it in some way. This, though, is their business, and they ought to be able to get it right. Finally, though, she accepts that I am indeed me and opens up my ticket from the previous day.

"So," I start, "what happened to the service call that the guy I talked to yesterday told me about? He said there was a small area outage."

She doesn't give me much of an answer, but assures me that my service should be working. And she tries to reboot my modem from her end, and of course, it doesn't work.

Next step, scheduling the service call, and I get the choice visitation range of 4:00-6:00 PM on Sunday. I now see that this gets to fuck up my entire weekend, but wait... it gets better. The service tech arrived and by the time he came to my apartment my service was already restored, as he'd stopped downstairs at the service box first. The outage on Friday? It was caused by that day's visiting service tech, who installed a new customer in my building, and then turned off every other customer in the building. He then seems to have responded to my call-in later that day (and perhaps others) by just claiming that everything was in order, without bothering to go back and check.

Needless to say, I was a bit peeved. The part I learned about on Saturday, added in to the hassles of dealing with Comcast's customer service, made me forget that I had an online tourney waiting, for which I went to a nearby friend's house and arrived 20 minutes late, where less than 100 of us were chasing an APPT seat and a total prize purse of over $15K. (See? Poker content!) But I'm in run-bad mode in all aspects in recent weeks. I'm card-dead here, but stay surprisingly patient given my service-tree tilt, and still have a playable stack an hour and a half later. I have almost 2,700 and blinds are 75/100, and find a pair of red jacks in the big blind, the first big pair I've seen all day. It's folded around to the button, who I've already noted as a donkey, and he makes an inordinately long pause before jamming for almost 30 big blinds, having me just covered.

I snap-call, figuring I'm way ahead, and he's got an even shittier hand than I expected -- the 7-4 of diamonds. Very nice donkpush, sir! And: Flop 4-5-Q. Turn 6. River 7. Bye, me. Heh. That type of day.

Ah, well. On the plus side, the Comcast tech was so embarrassed when he discovered that my and other relays had been manually turned off (despite having tags on them stating not to do so) that not only did I get six months of reduced billing charges (back to the special introductory rate), he also tossed in an extra $20 credit for this month's bill.

It's not an APPT seat, but it's something.

Monday, November 02, 2009

PokerPhars Announces Phar Phlung Pan-Pacific Poker Friends Tour

PokerPhars Announces Phar Phlung Pan-Pacific Poker Friends Tour


In a move to establish market share among a heretofore untapped geographical audience, fledgling site announces its brand new Phar Phlung Pan-Pacific Poker Friends Tour (PPPPPFT). The PPPPPFT promises high-stakes poker action, incredible South Pacific vistas, plenty of Sense-Sarong* waitress service, and of course, special high (stone) rollers events. A special “Sue Sells Sea Shells” tongue-twister charity tourney is also planned for the first stop, at Ta’aoa, Hiva Oa, in early 2010.

While dates and exact venues for the 2010 PPPPPFT have yet to be confirmed, the following stops already have been added to the preliminary schedule:

Ta’aoa, Hiva Oa, Marqeusas Islands

Adamstown, Pitcairn Island

Millersville, Jarvis Island

Vaiaku, Tuvalu

Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Omoka, Penrhyn Atoll, Cook Islands

Since many of these locales are serviced only by a once-yearly mail and medical-care ferry, the PPPPPFT has arranged one-way air transportation (including a PokerPhars/PPPPPFT-branded parachute) to each of these venues for lucky online qualifiers, which are already running. Return transportation is each player’s personal responsibility. Note that some of the aforementioned atolls and volcanic outcroppings have been deforested by Polynesian explorers in earlier millennia, rendering the building of rafts a non-viable transportation option.

PPPPPFT players arriving on Jarvis Island will receive a warm welcome, as memorialized in this guano-stained, WW2-reminiscent greeting!

Of special note, Millersville on Jarvis Island is only sporadically inhabited, guaranteeing tourney participants a minimum of railbird disruptions, not counting the avian variety, as the atoll was once a 19th-century hotspot for the mining of bat guano. Also, the PPPPPFT already has contracted with the government of Tuvalu to include that tourney's final-table participants on a set of postage stamps, complete with fake cancellations and never-licked gum on the back, for worldwide distribution.

Best of luck to all participants in the new PPPPPFT. See you there!

*It's all satire. What sarong with that?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Content Thief

Just wanted you all to know that if you're finding this on a site called PokerBlips, it is unauthorized content theft. Let's see how long before the asshats react, shall we?

UPDATE: Awww, they have seemed to have removed it within fifteen minutes of my complaint, without bothering to acknowledge the theft or apologize for it. Them's classy peeps! Checking out a couple of pages there, I can see they've been swiping from all the usual suspects -- Chops, Pokerati, Shrinky, Shamus, Hoy, Grump, Lou, Snoops, Pauly and many more.

UPDATE 2: Now I'm working against a French site called that's also swiping my feed to boost their own affiliate exposure. It's a zero-sum game, which is why I will not allow it. These sites are increasing their own exposure and Google page rank, but at whose expense? That's right -- it's the sites they steal from.

Took an Hour or so...

...and cleaned out a lot of the crap links. No reason for me to provide free linkage to sites that have been converted to affiliate shell sites, or don't post, or are otherwise dead weight, or for any of several other reasons. Go do your own work, peeps; I've always done mine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WSOPC Chicagoland Event #4, Day 2

Yeah, I was a bit overtired when I wrote that Day 1 synopsis. Lots of typooohs.

Anyhow, I had my A game for Day 1, but not so much for Day 2. I simply did not get a good night's sleep, and it might have come back to bite me.

We resumed at 2pm on Monday, 30 players at four tables, needing to get down to 18 to reach the money, then on from there. I'd had a great table on Sunday, but on Monday there were three large stacks to my immediately left among the seven players. One of them was a tough Russian girl named Nadja who I remembered from last year, and another of the stacks turned out to be tourney veteran Patti Till. The third large stack was to my immediate left.

I had 60,800, but blinds and antes were already 1,200/2,400/300, and folding to the money was no option. Neither was playing a hand, at least at first -- I found 7-2, 7-3, 8-3, 9-2, and all sorts of similar combinations for the first couple of laps. Meanwhile, we were losing a player every three or four hands.

We were down to about 23 players and I was in the big blind when my make-or-break hand arrived. The deep stack to my immediate left opened for 10,000. It folded all the way around to me, and I found aces. I pondered whether to call and take the flop, or just jam for my last 50,000. I picked Door B and got a snap-call from the UTG player, who blessedly had Q-Q. An ace flopped, but so did a ten, and then a jack on the turn brought the Broadway bad beat into play. It was bad for a second when paint flashed, but it was another jack, and all of a sudden I was north of 100,000, and pretty much assured of a cash. That happened just a lap or two later, and the TDs took the final two tables' players up to the performance stage at The Venue, where this was held. I'd been up there last year as well in the H.O.R.S.E. tourney, but it was good to be back with a playable stack.

Of course, the players who were left were tougher, too, and I just couldn't make much headway. I had the tough Nadja at my table, a couple of other good players, and a seemingly timid but very aggressive player to my right who kept stealing blinds and mixing it up. After a while I was just aching to mix it up with her in a big hand, but she got the better of me the whole time we were at two tables. As for me, I was doing my best just to hold steady, oscillating between 75,000 and 125,000 as we lost another six players.

I was back down to about 90,000 and blinds/antes were all the way up to 6,000/12,000/1,000 when I found an unsuited A-K on the button, among the best hands I saw all day. I jammed with it, and the small blind tanked before calling me for her last 65,000. She showed J-J, but this race I won when an ace flopped. I had about 160,000, but then took a small hit and was soon back down and scuffling around the 100,000 mark, after getting check-raised off a weak flush draw by the aforementioned aggromouse on my right.

I think I was under 90,000 and blinds were imminently moving to 8,000/16,000/2,000 when I made a move with A-8 suited, and was called by a good player in the big blind, who had me just covered. Bad news, as I for sure only have three outs there, and she indeed showed A-J. Good news, in that the flop came A-Q-8. Somehow I dodged both the jack and the queen and doubled through, then bounced her the very next hand in 11th. It was the only bad beat I laid on anyone the entire tourney, but it came at a great moment for me.

We combined to a single table and filled out the player info sheets; this was my first Circuit final table, and I was mid-pack at 196,000 when we did the redraw. That was my high-water mark, as I never won a single hand at the final. Every hand was contested and I had to get out of the only pot I entered after being stop-n-go'd while whiffing a flop with A-Q. Meanwhile, Patti Till won a race with a short stack to avoid going out in tenth, and she ended up running all the way to second, behind Nadja, the eventual winner. I was card dead and the blinds and antes were eating us up, and we lost a short stack to set the official final table and then another one to close to eight players.

I had about 135,000 or so when it was folded all the way around to me in the small blind, where I found A-8 of hearts. The shortest remaining stack was in the big blind, the same player I'd doubled through with aces early in the day. I attempted to set her all in for last 50,000 and she snap-called and showed A-K, which held.

So I was the short stack, and found nothing at all during the next lap, dribbling away the 2,000 ante every hand, leaving me perhaps 65,000, about four big blinds. Soon it was my big blind, and it was folded all the way around to the small. She raised from a deep stack, I looked and found A-J and jammed, and she called for just a few more chips with A-K. There's no way not to play the A-J there, of course. I was just a bit coolered at the very end.

It's never easy, though, win or lose. The flop came 8-9-Q, and the turn was the ten, giving me the suckout straight. The river, though, was the re-suck jack, useless to me and giving her Broadway, sending me off in eighth.

So much for that. It was a good long tourney run, but still quite short of where I hoped it would end up. I'd promised Nolan I'd return to play this year's H.O.R.S.E. tourney if I won this won, but in a way it was okay -- I'd have been way too beat to play good poker the next day anyway.

So far, these Circuit events are the only thing I've played where I've had some success: three entered, three cashes. Now, if I could do something about that oh-fer-four in the much more expensive events at the WSOP itself, I'd be happy. It's a shame I'm not slightly better at poker and a whole bunch younger, because then I'd have more hopes for the future.

Today I just feel old.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WSOPC Chicagoland Event #4, Day 1

I had a tough choice entering this past weekend. I could drive up to the old stomping grounds in central Wisconsin and play a weekend-long cribbage tourney, or I could head over to the Horseshoe Chicagoland in Hammond, IN for one of the preliminary events in that venue's second annual WSOP Circuit series.

I opted for the poker, in good part because it's likely the only opportunity I'll have to see my friends among the WSOP tourney staff for the foreseeable future. This poker job market doesn't look good at all, and as I need to pay the bills, I'm beginning to look elsewhere. Still, it was good to see Nolan and Steve and Amy and Charlie and Doug and Troy and Jolyn and Thomas and several others. Even Pokerworks Aaron was there, as a dealer, fresh from a brief training session by Linda G.

It was a 3pm start for Event #4 on Sunday, the $235 ladies tourney. I'd just barely cashed in this last year and was happy enough to give it another go. This year's 183-player turnout was slightly lower than last year's 200-plus runners, though turnouts overall at the Chicagoland stop remain very high by Circuit standards.

My opening table had one decent player I remembered from last year, but overall it was very soft and passive, and since we had a ridiculously flat and generous blinds structure, I decided I needed to try to snag chips. I was fortunate to catch some good hands along the way, but if it happened once, it happened eight times -- I'd sneak into a pot from late position when it was limped five or six ways, then take it down after the flop with a single bet, whether I had anything or not. Usually not. No one at this table wanted to bet unless they made a big hand or had a monster pre-flop, so I helped myself to the leftovers. I went from the starting stack of 10,000 to north of 17,000 without a single big pot, but our table was going nowhere. We were well into the fourth 45-minute level before we lost a single player, meaning that we had to be losing ground to other tables around us. Still, one can only play the hands one is dealt.

I took a big hit doubling up a short stack -- my QQ versus her KK pre-flop -- to drop back down to about 11,000, so I went back to the smallball grind and tried again. By this time my secret was out, as my first two dealers knew me and several of the TDs stopped by for a brief hello, Eric from Image Masters took my photo and so on. So, whoever I was, whether I could play or not, I wasn't going to get much action from this squeaky tight table. I slowly chipped back up to about 23,000, then was plunked back down to about 14,000 just before the dinner break, again doubling up a shorty. This time my JJ went in bad against QQ. No suckout for me!

Post-dinner, we'd finally lost a couple of players, and they were replaced by looser, more aggressive types. Key for me was when the five seat was filled by a younger girl from Milwaukee, and she brought about 45,000 with her when she sat down. It turned out I had her number, and by night's end, her chips.

First, though, she took a tiny pot off me with what might as well have been a bluff, but I didn't have a good read and let my middle pair or something similar go. I wanted to watch her fire at pots and suspect opponents and as we looked to be a pack of middle-aged nits, I wanted to make a good score when I finally mixed it up.

Fortune soon smiled upon me. I'd had lots of pocket pairs on this Day 1, but never flopped a single set. This time I was in the big blind, having just taken down a decent pot the hand before and busting another short stack. She made a standard raise from the hijack, and everyone else folded. I had pocket fives and just called.

The flop: 3-5-5 with two diamonds, giving me quads. Woo-hoo!

I checked, figuring she'd bet. She did, about 4,200. I knew I had the fives but hadn't even secured them yet with my card cap, so I frowned a bit (putting on the hard sell this one hand), grabbed a few more of the 100's I was stacking, then set them back down, looked at her like I thought she might be swiping from me again, and hesitatingly called. I knew she'd either go for it hook, line and sinker, or smell a rat, but I passed the rat detector this time, or so it turned out.

The turn brought a ten. I checked. She checked behind after a moment's thought, but almost too quick. Tthe river was another mid-deck junk card, maybe an eight, one that couldn't have completed any draws, so I figured my best chance for a big pot was to bet out and make it look like a stupidly executed river bluff. I glanced at her with my best fake-defiant look, grabbed at two or three different chip amounts, then set out 7,800.

She snap-called, saying, "Pair of tens!"

I just flipped over my hand and quietly said, "Quad fives." Gasps from the table. The girl had a couple of rail fans who were patrolling the area, and when one stopped by a few minutes later, she remarked that I'd put a "soul beat" on her, though none of were in a bad mood at this table. I never did hear what the soon-to-come second hand was, but it had to hurt just as bad.

In this later hand, our table positions were reversed, and she had recovered in chips after getting down to about 11,000 and managing a longshot triple-up with dominated pocket fours. She was loose-aggressive and her chips went up and down like the proverbial yo-yo. I had pocket deuces from middle position and open-raised with them for three times the big blind. Most of the remaining passive players were to my left and they weren't giving me any action at all, so I wasn't surprised when it folded back to the back blind. She called, then checked the 3-7-7, two-diamond flop. I bet 3,800, about two-thirds the pot. She snap-called again, making me think she had two diamonds or a couple of overs and wanted to take a shot at me. The turn was a black ten, no diamond; she checked and I checked behind. The river brought a third seven, putting trips on the board, but no possible straight or flush, just quads and full houses and nasty things like that. I had the worst possible boat.

She gave me a quick, direct look and bet 7,800. I thought about it. Were my measly deuces good here? I thought so. I didn't think that she could have been helped by any card except that ten, and I think she would have bet it if it had helped on the turn, since she sure didn't think I had the case seven. Plus, I think she wanted some revenge.

I called, and she said, "You got me! King high."

I turned over my pocket deuces, to another round of gasps from the table. Yay me for the correct hero call. I busted her half a lap later when she jammed pre-flop with Q-9 and I found A-Q.

I was at about 70,000 at my highest point, then dropped back down to 50,000 after losing to another shortstack with KK against AA. I made it back up to 60,800 when play was halted for the night, at about 2:30am. Due to the flat structure, we had 30 players left, still well short of the 18-player money bubble. My stack was just about average for those that remained, though it was second at my table. I would have loved to play to the money, because I was playing well and loved my table draw, but that was not to be, so I bagged up and made the drive back across the Chicago area to try to get a few hours sleep.

Lots of New Material (and an Online Plug)

Hi, kids,

I'm all back now from a busy two days at the WSOP Circuit stop over at Horseshoe Chicagoland, which means I'll be cranking out several lengthy posts over the next few days. Among the things on the immediate agenda:

* The next installment in my "Just Conjecturin'" series, which I plan to continue for quite some time;

* A recap of my fun over at the WSOPC;

* A review of James McManus's latest poker book, and perhaps a belated review of Amy and Tim's Mike Matusow bio as well.

And... I'll be playing a bit more online poker the next few months as well, since I do have a lot more free time on my hands. Bodog has its next Bodog Poker Open coming up next month, and I always try to fit a couple of those events into my schedule. So, if you see "ChayseTilton" at your table, that's this fat donkette blundering around on the virtual felt.

See ya there!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 4: Inside the Excapsa Ownership Bloc

When the movers and shakers behind the UltimateBet online poker site needed to dump their original liquidator, Mintz and Partners, Ltd., the resulting call for votes by share exposed a thin majority of Excapsa’s ownership to public scrutiny. All told, votes in the affirmative were obtained on behalf of 113,969,851 of 201,804,155 outstanding shares in the company, or 56.4%. Partial lists of the owners of this 56.4% of Excapsa stock have been published elsewhere, but these lists in general have been incomplete and rife with typos. This post includes a better list, one that I think is the most accurate published to date.

The original Excapsa seems to have been a collection of owners, officials and low-level workers from Greg Pierson’s software firms ieLogic and Iovation, coupled with a healthy mix of well-known, relatively old-time poker personalities who were not committed to other firms. UB was pulled together in the early years of the decade, though the partial-ownership snapshot represents how the company stood in July, 2008.

The complete (if partial) list follows, published here in no particular order. Next post brings some sorting and assignations:

Erik E. Pierson -- 10,128
Leonard L. Pierson -- 5,000
Melva S. Pierson – 5,000
Fred (J.) David -- 1,680,000
Daniel P. Cunningham and Melissa M. Cunningham - 2,085,872

RBC Trustees (CI) Ltd. (trustee of The Westwood Trust) -- 3,279,792
Charles Schaupp -- 3,843,504
Omaha Beech Investments LLC -- 4,000,000
The Desert Palm Irrevocable Trust -- 4,304,730
Molly O'Hearn Living Trust -- 4,304,728

The Tip Top Irrevocable Trust -- 9,385,822
The Rising Son Irrevocable Trust -- 13,220,816
Dale Lovett – 10,256
Leonard J. Morgan -- 5,000
Charles F. Fletcher II -- 5,128

Tamara Jean Smith -- 5,128
Tamara J. Smith -- 5,000
Julia Bodine -- 5,128
Richard S. Yugler – 5,128
Stephanie Harlen – 8,000

Rick Vail – 5,128
Joel N. Cunningham -- 12,300
James B. Cunningham – 75,944
Corwin Swick -- 20,000
Whitney Arnold -- 70,000

Scott Kirkowski -- 84,000
Jason Karl -- 255,984
Daniel Friedberg and Raywa Friedberg, (JT TEN) -- 331,069
Gerald Fujii -- 443,997
Melissa L. S. Gaddis -- 737,952

Uri Kozai -- 1,200,000
Daniel Friedberg -- 1,360,000
The Clearwater Irrevocable Trust -- 2,085,872
Chomvilai Hanchena -- 2,935,512
Roger K. Gaumnitz Family Partnership -- 3,074,800

The Jack McClelland and Elizabeth McClelland Trust -- 1,229,920
Manchurian Living Trust -- 1,574,800
Duane J “Dewey” and Judith K. Weum, JT TEN -- 1,974,800
Fluffhead LLC - 2,975,839
Monsour Matloubi -- 3,846,256

Russell W. Hamilton, Jr. -- 4,304,720
Brett David Calapp – 5,128
Carolyn Heick -- 587,952
Derek C. Morgan – 2,500
IGL Group IM – 46,153

Kirstin Thomas – 80,000
Daniel P. Cunningham, Dorothy B. Cunningham (joint tenants) – 130,740
Nicholas M. and Aimee K. Leonard, TEN COMM – 275,000
The Mountain Ridge Irrevocable Trust – 410,792
James P. Hendrie – 537,952

(Ida) Susan Albrecht – 922,480 [widow of James Albrecht]
The KMJ BelleFountain – 2,128,000
John G. Lowe – 2,774,800
The Tranquility Irrevocable Trust (Close Trustees Cayman Limited TR) – 3,279,784
The Rough Diamond Irrevocable Trust (South Dakota Trust Company, LLC) – 3,384,800

MS Irrevocable Trust – 4,804,720
The Vision Irrevocable Trust – 7,489,323
The Grandview Irrevocable Trust (trustee, Meridian Trust Company Ltd.) – 13,220,816

In addition, several other shareholders and shareholder entities were mentioned in billing correspondence assembled by Mintz and Partners, which as a self-respecting legal firm seems to have never missed an opportunity to bill at $250/hour for answering the phone or opening a letter. Okay, I’m making up the rate, but you get the idea. These additional shareholder entities, noted in correspondence prior to the July, 2008 separation date, include:

Michelle Hellmuth Trust
James Hoffman
M&G Investments
Peter Collery
Chris St. John
______ Sawers (Mr.)
Sanford Millar
Dwayne Walker
Fundamentals (Peter Case)
Martin Crew
Alex Silverman
Nancy Friedman
Ian Jones
Matthew Hicks
Christine Schwamb
Jeff Anderson
Art Stoop

Antonio Esfandiari (?)

The Michelle Hellmuth Trust is the most interesting of the latter names, suggesting that Phil Hellmuth and his presumed shares may not have been on board with the liquidator change, or at the least were not included in the 56.4% bloc. (Phil’s wife is named Katherine, by the way, and his mother is Lynn; this might be a sister, and a minor “gift” share bloc.) Esfandiari gets a question mark because his ownership/involvement with UB changed over time. While he was for sure involved with UB in some form in 2006, he may not have been at the time these documents were created. Esfandiari, Hellmuth and Annie Duke manned an UltimateBet autograph booth at the 2006 WSOP, but in 2007 Esfandiari was widely rumored to have left the company in all aspects. The correspondence from the Mintz case indeed shows that Esfandiari received a disbursement check, amount and reason unknown, issued in January, 2007. Therefore, if he had a UB ownership share, as was rumored, he may have sold it.

All told, it seems as though there were 200 to 400 ownership entities connected with Excapsa and 6356095 Canada. The majority appear to have been very minor employee/relative stakes awarded to or purchased by people connected with Pierson’s software firms, with a handful of larger blocs seemingly controlled by Iovation executives. The poker connections are relatively fewer in number but for the most part, were for larger blocs of stock.

More next time, including more of the names behind and connections between several of the stock blocs above.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 3: The 56% Solution

Author’s note: This piece is a combination of known facts and conjecture based on the best available public information. Anyone with concrete facts related to these matters is welcome to submit those facts to me, with documentation, so any errors contained herein can be corrected.

One thing about legal maneuvers is that they always leave a paper trail… somewhere. Such was the case when the assets of the original Excapsa, the holding company for online site UltimateBet, were scheduled for liquidation as part of the plan for moving forward after the late 2006 passage of the United States’ Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). While the question of whether Internet poker is or is not legal remains legally untested in the US, the people behind Excapsa decided that a restructuring and sale of the firm was in order, to better shield it from the potential threat of US prosecution or seizure. The signing of the UIGEA also meant that Excapsa had to abandon a public stock offering made just months earlier on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Excapsa itself would soon go away, at least in name.

The plan the owners came up with seems to have been two-pronged. Prong one was to sell the various portions of the business – already split into several international firms and holding companies – into a brand new holding company, picking up new investment and a new management structure that would further shield UB from the ominous threat of the US. The second prong involved getting rid of the “Excapsa” name entirely and drawing down some of the excess capital held by the firm, to be returned as a capital gains dividend to shareholders. For this purpose a Canadian legal firm, Mintz and Partners, was subsequently retained.

Moving operational control of UB farther from US reach was, of course, vital to UB’s interests moving forward. What was needed was a “white knight” to create plausible distance. This white knight, the new investment group, was named Blast-Off Limited, and was officially owned and operated by Tokwiro Enterprises, the firm created by Joseph Tokwiro Norton. More on Norton and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in a future post, but for this tale Norton’s interest in Blast-Off is the topic. Norton has been represented in Blast-Off Ltd. press releases as the sole owner of the firm, though numbers associated with the public sale of Excapsa’s “sale” to Blast-Off suggest that the “sole ownership” claim made by Norton is highly debatable. Instead it seems likely that Tokwiro purchased a minority share in the entity responsible for distributing dividends, along with operational control, with the original Excapsa owners set up with some form of irrevocable “consultant” status tied in percentage terms to the previous Excapsa shareholdings. After all, it matters not who owns something on paper; instead, it matters wholly who gets paid what.

The sale, announced on October 14, 2006, stated that the total purchase price was $130 million, with only $10 million of that paid at the time of purchase, and the rest of the purchase price to be made in deferred payment installments. In fact, that press release was partially a lie: court documents later showed that the initial cash payment made by Tokwiro’s Blast-Off firm was for only $5 million, not $10 million, with the figure perhaps doubled to at least make it sound a little bit less than the panic move most onlookers thought it was. The real remainder of the purchase, $125 million, was subject to be paid mostly through monthly installments of $1 million, to be accelerated to $2 million monthly one year later, and to be paid off in its entirety by December 31, 2012. The sale itself was decried by British stock market onlookers as being illegal, in part because of the deferred payments.

Illegal or not, the sale went into effect, and as part of the sale itself, Excapsa “went away”. Even though the folks behind Excapsa were still in line to be paid, Excapsa’s name was changed to the far more anonymous “6356095 Canada, Ltd.” Phone number? Canadian government-assigned, sequential incorporation number? Who knows?

As the dust settled following the passage of the UIGEA, operations continued to move forward at UB and sister firm Absolute Poker. The two firms had grown ever closer through the years, and one of three major merger rumors floating when the UIGEA became law was that UB would be purchased by Absolute. This rumor can now be seen as being partly true. According to letters later made public, the management team from Absolute was brought in to oversee operations at UB following the official sale, and two years later the firms were joined together into the CEREUS Network.

Meanwhile, there was the matter of cashing out that $47 million in liquid assets. Mintz and Partners was brought on in early 2007, and one of the liquidator’s first moves was to shift $40 million of relatively fluid investments from funds in Canadian and US dollars over to British pounds. As this occurred roughly in the timeframe of the massive US seizure of roughly $150 million from online payment processor NETeller, it seems plausible that these transfers were done to move the assets away from any possible US seizure. $27 million was soon distributed to 6356095 Canada (formerly Excapsa) shareholders in the first part of 2007, but trouble was brewing; there would be no dividends in 2008.

The trouble, of course, was the explosion of the online cheating scandals, first at Absolute Poker and then UltimateBet. Absolute Poker’s scandal will be another “future posts” topic, though it’s worth noting that the earlier insider cheating occurred at UltimateBet, even though Absolute’s scandal broke first.

While allegations of insider cheating had dogged both rooms for some time, it was in September of 2007 that the first insurmountable evidence in the Absolute scandal emerged, that being the notorious “Potripper” tournament spreadsheet, plus statistical analyses of high-end cash-game play that showed impossible profits.

Over at UltimateBet, the accusations began to heat up in November, 2007, but it wasn’t until January of 2008 that a similar impossible-results analysis showed that the UB account “NioNio” was almost certainly involved in insider cheating. And after a delay of a couple weeks, UltimateBet finally issued a release in February, 2008, admitting that the site had been affected – perhaps infected – by inside cheaters.

But here’s where it gets snaky: Blast-Off Limited suspended its monthly payments to 6356095 Canada, but not in February 2008, when the UB scandal was officially acknowledged. Instead, Blast-Off stopped its payments in September, 2007, when only the AP scandal was officially on the radar.

The AP scandal rocked the poker world, and blame was eventually assigned to a single anonymous “consultant,” whose identity has long since been widely distributed and who was likely only a “consultant” for legal and tax purposes, much as the consultant example conjectured above. But if the AP management was also responsible for UB day-to-day control during 2007, then why would Blast-Off have stopped making payments in September of 2007? One would think a firm exposed as having at least one rotten egg would be more than eager to keep its proverbial ducks in a row, but instead the opposite seems to have been true… with the likeliest reason being that the cheating at UB had also been uncovered at the same time, though it wasn’t publicly acknowledged until the poker world slapped irrefutable evidence at the company’s virtual feet over the next several months.

This is one of the reasons why it remains difficult to have any confidence in things stated by or on behalf of UltimateBet. The poker world has been told “new owners, new management,” though this and other obfuscations have been done under the aegis of at least some of that new management.

Meanwhile, negotiations were on. Blast-Off, which officially held Joe Norton’s newly acquired interest in UB, was exposed to fraud claims and refunds which might eventually reach tens of millions of dollars, and it had evidence that the fraud was enabled through software code long buried in the software it had purchased. Failing to issue refunds would result in the company going under and leave Blast-Off with nothing to show for its investments. Therefore, along with the original Excapsa ownership bloc, the two sides needed to hammer out a way to keep the company operational and restructure payments due to the “damaged” nature of the company, all while trying to manage the ongoing liquidation of the original Excapsa holding company. Blast-Off filed against Excapsa/6356095 Canada to protect its newly acquired interest, though court documents regarding the later dumping of liquidator Mintz and Partners show that the two sides also tried to work out a loan deal, wherein Excapsa reinvested some of their liquid assets back into Blast-Off to help get the company through the rough patch that 2008 promised to be.

But as far as I can tell from the available documents, while both the Blast-Off and Excapsa sides were fine with the proposed loan deal, it was the liquidation attorneys, Mintz and Partners, who refused to go along with it. Therefore, to reinvest some of the liquid assets back into the firm and prepare for the pending wave of refunds, the UB folks had to dump the liquidator. Mintz and Partners had also been acquired by North American accounting giant Deloitte and Touche by this time, which may have been an additional complication.

Replacing the liquidator required a majority vote of all original Excapsa shareholders, along with Canadian court approval, and it was in the paperwork and appendices for this removal, filed by then-CEO James Ryan (also an inspector in the liquidation process), that the rough details of these other agreements became part of the public record. Ryan himself was soon discharged as an inspector because of his move to PartyGaming, but in July of 2008, a majority bloc of 56.4% of the original Excapsa stock submitted signed forms voting for the removal of Mintz and Partners. That firm was replaced the following month with another, XMT Liquidations, Inc., which oversees the official liquidation of “6356095 Canada” (formerly Excapsa) to this day.

In the process, that 56.4% ownership share in Excapsa became publicly known, even if not all of the people behind the blind trusts and foreign registrations can be confirmed. In addition, other documents from the change in liquidators identified additional shareholders, if not necessarily the amount of shares held by those entities.

Next “Just Conjecturing’”: Inside the Excapsa Ownership Bloc

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 2.5: Oh, Those UB Hand Histories

Not "The 56% Solution" this time out, since the UB situation continues its next stage of development rather independent of onlookers' more general commentary. It's good to see that UB, via new signee Joe Sebok, has finally unveiled a two-stage plan to get hand histories out to affected players. The first part of the plan will be a spreadsheet of hands played against cheating accounts sent to affected players; there's no reason to expect that these spreadsheets will show anything different from the tallies created to generate the $22 million in refunds already distributed.

A couple of weeks after that, the hand histories themselves are supposed to go out, which should be followed by a smattering of comments by players who make note of specific hands in either a pro- or anti- fashion regarding these hands' inclusion among the cheating counts.

All good if it comes to pass, since anything that increases the openness of the facts behind the scandal also increases the chance for its eventual, proper resolution.

There remains no excuse for UB to have sat on these hand histories for roughly two years, though I'll say now that I believe the early part of the delay was due to the lawsuit that went on between Blast-Off and Excapsa. While there are reasons to believe that much of the ownership on both sides is the same, the Blast-Off side includes the new ownership bloc (Joe Tokwiro Norton's interests), and also the new management. Forcing the filing of that lawsuit was the only way that Norton had to protect his new interests, and the lawsuit was very dependent on exactly the hand histories long withheld from the public. It also had to be done via a formal lawsuit, thanks to the planned liquidation of original holding company Excapsa and the unwillingness of the original liquidator to play footsie with the situation. For at least the first part of this past two years, not releasing the hand histories was likely done on the advice of lawyers, pending the resolution of that lawsuit. After that, from November 2008 on, there seems to be less good reason to have withheld the hand histories from players.

But all that is speculation in one direction, when the real reason for this post lies elsewhere. It's hilarious to think that a non-ownership, new endorser such as Joe Sebok could force the hand histories to be released, if such powerful UB player/owners as Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke didn't want it to happen. (Yes, there are public records strongly indicating ownership; it's not idle conjecture.) The question then is not what Seebs gets from the deal, but how does it benefit UB? The site didn't really need the introduction of a "white knight" to go ahead with releasing the hand histories, did it?

Given my inquisitive, Machiavellian nature, I think it's more part of an ongoing divide-and-conquer strategy to sway public sentiment and opinion about UltimateBet itself by compromising possible points of confrontation. PokerRoad was one of the largest "independent" voices out there, and the Sebok deal effectively neutralizes that site. It's not that Joe wouldn't speak his mind -- he will -- but the existence of the deal itself will now cast anything that appears on PokerRoad, pro or con, in a new light. It'll also likely put partial clamps on Barry Greenstein talking on the topic, which might be a political bonus for UB moving forward. Given Barry's outspoken nature, his interaction with these matters over the next few months will be interesting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 2: Sebok Signing (Update)

Saw this morning that Joe Sebok's signing with UB was finally announced. Back in July there were several "rumor" stories on a handful of sites, such as this one. It was one of those open secrets. Now we can ascertain that UB was likely waiting for the official KGC release on the UB insider cheating scandal to drop (and settle down a hair) before going forward with the official Sebok signing.

I also think Pauly was aware of it but was just teasin' his readers a bit over at Casa TaoPauly this morning. Seems as though Pauly is channeling Iggy and has disabled comments, too.

As for Joe, he's a great guy and I wish him the best, even though it looks like he's already been caught a bit by likely having signed off on an official announcement some time ago and then having UB veer off in a different direction. To me the signing reads as though UB has purchased Joe's good name, and we'll have to see how it all plays out. But from the release, quoting Joe:

"The first order of business with my position at UB has been to help aid in the release of not only ALL of the hand histories from the super-user scandal, but also the accounts that were used to perpetuate the scandal itself and the actual physical names of those individuals who we believe to have been directly involved in disparate ways with the actual cheating. As most of you know, two-thirds of this has now been accomplished."

Make that one third, not two. Sometime between Joe signing off on this release and its official distribution, UB seems to have found itself unable to pull the trigger on sending out the hand histories. If they can't send out those histories and allow people to begin to assemble pictures of their own exposure to the scandal, then there's less reason to believe that Joe's announced plan to help make those 31 names public will succeed. Still, I wish him the best. It's possible there will be a very quick move here by UB to begin sending out those histories, too.

Meanwhile, since idle hands are the devil's tools, I've been playing around a bit, assembling my own list of who might be among those 31 people actively connected to Russ Hamilton in the scandal. I've identified seven probables to date, but I've barely started this stuff. Only two of the seven I think the list will contain are recognizable poker names, and neither Annie Duke nor Phil Hellmuth are among them. I think Duke and Hellmuth have acted to preserve their own financial interests in the manner they thought, right or wrong, was best, but it seems clear they were not among the cheaters.

UPDATE: I've been following the 2+2 thread on Joe's signing today, and as expected, the consensus opinion is negative. Perhaps the most interesting thing within the thread is a post from Barry Greenstein (a PokerStars "A"-lister, and also Joe's stepdad) confirming that Barry was against Joe's signing and that it was a highly risky move.

Barry's statement is a typical Barry post, detailing several items and not dodging the hard points. Barry's a pretty straight shooter and generally considered to be one of the game's good guys. That said, there's one eyebrow-raiser in Barry's post today: "3. I'm pretty sure the Ub cheaters who were with the company are gone, and also the company has been sold since the cheating occurred...."

If Barry has one blind spot, it seems to be a willingness to faithfully accept what other people tell him, those people being somewhat less trustworthy than he. He did it once by originally stating that he though Russ H. was innocent -- since retracted in the face of increasing evidence against Hamilton being made public -- and he's done it here by accepting at face value the party line about UB being sold, with the implied continuation that the sale was to new ownership. The company was sold, surely, but [seemingly] mostly to itself, based on Canadian court documents on related matters. There's also no public evidence yet that all those complicit in the scandal have been removed, even though we know that Hamilton's shares in the company were revoked in 2008, though well after the "sale" of the firm in late 2006. The revocation was also based on the KGC investigation, which was concurrent with but not identical to the freezing of payments made in connection with the sale/restructuring to Tokwiro.

Think of it this way: If the company had been sold from one set of owners to an entirely different and new set of owners, and the original owners were therefore no longer involved, then Hamilton's shares would have been worthless and there would have been no need for any revocation. At the time of the settlement between Excapsa and Tokwiro (the ownership bloc added to the overall UB umbrella), the money flowed to Tokwiro from the old Excapsa bloc, not the other way. The Hamilton revocation was a show pony.

It all means that Barry's line above just doesn't hold up under any real scrutiny. But when one accepts and retells what one's friends are saying, these things happen. Barry wants to protect his friends, as any good friend should, and he certainly wants to look out for both his stepson and his business interests.

I'll be looking at that ownership structure in a future post. Fortunately for interested observers, a good portion (but not all) of UB's original ownership structure was laid bare during the dissolution of the original holding company, and it's a learning experience to see how a company such as UB came together. It's a shame that a lot of good and honest UB owners lost quantifiable chunks of money settling up for the messes that the cheaters made, but a couple of old saws apply: Saw #1: Ya dance with who brung ya. Saw #2: You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Next time: The 56% Solution.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back from the Pack

(Warning: No poker content.)

Despite having owned a share of Packers stock for many years, Sunday night was the first game I'd been to in perhaps half a decade. It was also the first chance I'd had to visit the rebuilt, improved Club section, as my sister and I made the trip over for the annual battle against Da Bears. Way too many Bears jerseys in the crowd, by the way; it's obvious the FIB patrols on US 41 and 43 need to pick up the pace.

More seriously, the Packers new 3-4 defense continues to show itself to be a much better choice then the bend-bend-bend-break 4-3 of recent Green Bay seasons. The player of the game was obviously Brandon Chillar (though the idiots voting in for the radio version selected Aaron Rodgers).

Rodgers really sucked last night, but Bears QB Jay Cutler was even worse. Cutler's yardage looked better because he connected on two long passes, but he just heaved the ball wildly into coverage every time he was under pressure and his right arm remained free. Hilarious stuff from the player Chicagoland has anointed the second coming of Jesus. I live there; that's what it sounds like.

But while both quarterbacks stank last night, the two true "F" grades went to Packers OT Allen Barbre and Bears head coach Lovie Smith. Smith's decision to call a fake punt on 4th on 11 deep in his own Bears territory was an unexpected gift, the sort of bizarrely bad decision that can come back and cost a coach a job down the road. And Barbre... he was just awful against an aging Adewale Ogunleye. Barbre was Tony Mandarich bad, that is, the Mandarich-sans-steroids version.

Still, a win's a win.

Friday, September 11, 2009

KGC Releases Final Report on UltimateBet Cheating Scandal

A Kahnawake Gaming Commission representative called me this afternoon to let me know that the KGC report on UltimateBet was forthcoming. If you want to read it yourself, click here. I was aware of the ongoing KGC process in pulling together the report, including complications that delayed it significantly from when it was originally promised. There was the lengthier than expected Kahnawake nation investigation that painstakingly examined the various claims made regarding the scandal, and sifted through recreated records to help assemble the final report. I'd even bet a nickel they don't have it 100% right yet, as it turned out to be a highly complicated matter.

After reading the findings, I don't think there was a ton of new stuff here, except for the further expansion earlier as to when the cheating at UB began (now dated back to 2003), and a further expansion in the total number of screen names involved (now up to 117). The KGC listed both account numbers and screen names within its report, which does serve a purpose in that online players who allege they were cheated and didn't receive refunds can now search through their own hand histories -- if they retained them -- and see if these screen names appear.

One thing I noticed is that while most of the screen names implicated in earlier postings across the web were carried forward here, a couple or three seem to have been omitted from the latest version. Why that is I can't say; it could be simple typos, or it could be that accounts once thought to be involved were cleared after further investigation.

It's also worth noting that 31 other people, besides Russ Hamilton. were noted in the KGC report as being connected in some way to the scandal, though the KGC doesn't name them. There is already a boatload of conjecture as to why, though the KGC claims that it is to protect ongoing investigations and to protect itself from civil liability. The KGC has already forwarded its findings to various and sundry law enforcement entities that may have interest in the matter. Three or four names have already been identified in connection with a few of the screen names in the past, and those folks are almost certainly among the 31 additionally claimed to be involved by the KGC. But as to whether they were active participants remains an open topic for conjecture. I'd guess the 31 are comprised of a mix of online players and one-time workers from the UB offices, the latter centered mainly in Costa Rica.

In light of this, the recent, publicized twitter from Phil Hellmuth agent Brian Balsbaugh about the other names eventually leaking out makes a whole lot more sense. As the bloodhunt begins against those screen names and the real people behind them, a lot of people on the periphery are likely to do some finger-pointing in an effort to remain clear of the carnage. That's where a lot of that "leakage" is likely to come from, the "every man for himself" attitude that we'll be likely to see ahead. There's also the lingering chance that Russ Hamilton himself will spill details about the affair upon continuing pressure from authorities, assuming he is indeed guilty, though I'll save that for another "Just Conjecturin'" post.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Just Conjecturin', Part 1

Did you ever wonder how the UltimateBet and Absolute Poker insider scandals unfolded? Those that know all the answers won't say, so it's left to the rest of us to offer conjecture. Since UB/AP/KGC/Tokwiro/whoever feel little need to publish all the gory details, I figure it falls into the "fair game" category for ongoing comment. Note that I could be full of it on some of the details, but here's the start of my best guess as to how it all unfolded. Guess = opinion. To anyone reading this who might become unhappy, spare me the silly libel threats, a separate topic to which I'll return in the weeks ahead. I countersue, baby.

If the historical accounts are correct, the insider cheating occurred first at UB, then later on over at Absolute. I figure the groundwork was laid for this to occur almost as soon as original owner Greg Pierson was on the scene, looking to become a part of the online poker industry.

Now, I don't think Pierson was in any way a part of the actual cheating itself. Pierson was the presumably well-to-do CEO of ieLogic, and he looked for a way to use his blossoming internet-security software firm's products within the equally blossoming online gaming world. Pierson also had a hankering for poker, and I'd guess that back in 2001-03, he began to make connections within the American poker scene. It was out of those contacts that UltimateBet was formed, with Pierson as one of the company's principals. Published columns from the 2004-05 timeframe cited Pierson as an UltimateBet owner, even if more recent pieces on UB eschew that sort of mention.

Anyhow, I figure Pierson was the big bucks source for UB's launch, partnered up with a handful or recognizable industry names -- Phil Hellmuth, Russ Hamilton, Annie Duke, Ted Forrest, several others. His software; their industry connections. Maybe not all of those notable players at that time, but Russ Hamilton was surely involved early on. Hamilton, of course, would prove to be the key, as he was cited as the primary inside cheater at the time the UB scandal was, at last, officially acknowledged.

The question, of course, is "Do you believe Russ Hamilton did it?" I do, Hamilton's protestations of innocence notwithstanding. But how did it originate?

Well, Hamilton's never had what one would call a squeaky clean reputation. Certainly, when the software platform was designed, there had to be some sort of testing capability to monitor hands in progress as they unfolded, to make sure that hands were played out appropriately, pots awarded to the winners, rake collected in appropriate amounts, and so on. In theory, the pro players should never had had access to such a tool, even if they knew it existed.

If one believes the reports, however, then the cheating occurred after Hamilton gained access to the software tool used for monitoring and testing live game action as it unfolded. This leads to a second question: "How did Russ Hamilton gain access to the software?"

My guess is that Hamilton got himself into some kind of financial jam in the early '00s, and went to Pierson with a cock-and-bull story about needing to check out reports of cheating going on during the games, under the pretense that only a "pro player" would be able to recognize more subtle forms of cheating. Understand that Pierson's firm, ieLogic -- later spun off and reformed to become Iovation -- claimed to be experts in Internet security, but that was a different form of Internet security, more related to credit-card fraud and such things. As to cheating in online poker (or poker in general), one can presume that Pierson would have tended to believe stories that his experienced pro-player partners told him.

Pierson bought the story, according to my interpretation of the events. Pandora's box was unlocked. At some point the cheating spread internally within UltimateBet... and I don't believe for an instant the fairy tale that Russ Hamilton was the only one involved. It's this hilarious fallacy, in fact, that prevents me from offering UB any support or giving them any business moving forward. For Russ Hamilton to have been the -only- cheat makes no sense, so quit trying to peddle that bullshit. Oh, wait, they have quit; now they just pretend it never happened, seemingly.

There are three reasonable scenarios for how the cheating spread, as spread it surely did:

1) One or more software engineers working on the UB code recognized the illicit profit potential for themselves, and also began to slice money from the games;

2) Hamilton himself recruited one or more Costa Rican workers to assist him in the cheating, as a way of expanding the total money being stolen; (Update: the disclosure in the just-published KGC report supports this hypothesis. If the sequence of events as outlined by the KGC is correct, Hamilton also recruited other players.)

3) Someone at UB caught Hamilton -- probably noticing unusual withdrawal amounts relative to the amount of play Hamilton was logging -- and decided to cut himself in for a slice of the action.

From some time in 2006, I believe, it was game on in a big way for the cheats. I'd heard whispers as far back as 2005 that something was wrong with the cash games at UB, but I played there very little, only at small stakes, and couldn't really speak to it. (Update: the start date for the cheating was moved earlier in the recent report, all the way to 2003.)

It wasn't too many months after the UB cheating began, we've learned, that a similar form of insider cheating began at Absolute Poker. Though at that time Absolute and UB had different owners, the two companies grew close in the middle part of the '00s and, according to reports, eventually shared a corporate facility in Costa Rica. It's an odd coincidence that the only two online poker firms proven to have had large-scale insider cheating scandals shared such a good relationship. The cheating at Absolute has also been assigned to a senior, high-ranking individual, that being Allen Grimard (a/k/a "A.J. Green"), even if Grimard has never been named in an official Kahnawake Gaming Commission report, unlike Hamilton.

But that's so much bullshit, too. More next time.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

An Unintended WCOOP Tradition... and a Mea Culpa

A Major Apology Here: The stuff I said about young toolboxes at the tables still stands, but a major apology here by me. It wasn't Elie Doft. It was some imitator using the handle "What is 7+6", whereas Elie uses "What is 7x6". I didn't pick up on the difference. Elie also thought I was attacking Mickey, but I wasn't; Mickey's one of the hardest, best live workers I've seen in the poker world. Meanwhile, Elie apparently has a toolbox using a variation of his screen name, ad homage.)

One of the funniest things about WCOOP time each year is watching the annual parade of one- and two-game ponies showing up in regular HORSE tourneys running on Stars, thinking that they're suddenly going to translate their NHLE or PLO aggro games into a quick win and lots of HORSE glory.

It's a different game, kiddies.

I was playing the late-night $33 HORSE tourney when I was reminded of this funny stuff yet again, with the most recent example of this a player on Stars called 'What is 7+6'. This player didn't do too well in this one, crashing out barely into the second rotation. I knew it would be a quick night for him when I saw him calling along with an up board of 9-8-6-5 in stud hi/lo, with three of the 7's already accounted for elsewhere and two of the other three opponents with solid-looking low boards, including aces. He didn't have the case 7, nor much of anything, it seemed, and mucked in this hand as expected. He might have had a hidden draw or been hoping to hit an 8-low, but it was a hand where an 8-low was unlikely to win.

I do find it entertaining that so many of these kids wait until the last minute to try to learn new games in time for the WCOOP.

In the meantime, it's more EV for the rest of us.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A WCOOP-ing We Will Go

Back in the saddle, more or less, and just in time for the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) at Stars. I'll play between two and five of the events depending on bankroll, which has undergone another dip in the last two weeks. I did pick up one Level 4 ($200+15) steps entry already, and it looks like the razz (!) tourney on Sep. 4 is the likeliest use for that. The early 8-game event looks like another must; one wish I have is that they'd run a stud-8 event at less than $530, but the last time that happened was, to the best of my memory, back in 2007.

See ya there, perhaps.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hangin' Out the Shingle

I have returned... from the first wave of vacation trips I promised myself during August. There was the 12-day trip to northern Wisconsin (which I'll reprise next month), followed by a short four-day jaunt to the camp country north of Muskegon, Michigan.

I won't bore you with too many details, though I did tangle with a deer near the end of my Wisconsin trip. It's the fourth deer I've biffed with my vehicle, though as with two of the the other three instances, it did only minimal damage to deer or car. This time around a big doe tried to jump over the front of my Yaris and didn't quite make it. She shot out from the brush on one side of the road, angled in front of me, and I was dawdling and slowed down just enough to make it perhaps a net 10-mph collision. She flipped on over the front hood and into the ditch on the right, knocking the Toyota emblem off the front of the car as her rear legs kicked over the hood. Other damage to the car included a couple of scratches and one small chip of paint removed.

By the time I went back to pick up the emblem from the road, the deer had already regained her feet and vanished deeper into the woods. I don't think I hit her hard enough to damage anything internally and I don't think any of her legs broke when she flopped over the hood. It's an everyday hazard up there; I believe my brother-in-law has hit 12, most during his years as a third-shift sheriff's deputy. And, it's been quite the wildlife habitat around my sister and brother-in-law's house of late. Among creatures sighted during my stay were whitetailed foxes (numerous), weasels, turkeys, hummingbirds, a timber wolf, and a small black bear. That's in addition to the more run-of-the-mill stuff like deer and rabbits and such that are everyday sights.

Poker? Sure, I've played a bit. Went oh-fer-two in the horrid northwoods Indian-casino tourneys during my stay up there. Played online some, too, with not much good happening there either. I'm sure I'll be around for the WCOOP stuff, and maybe the mini FTOPS, too. Elsewhere, I checked the news headlines every so often and all I can say is, "What a blecch month for poker." Seems I didn't miss much.

So, it's time to start looking for new gigs. I can write, edit, do business analysis, create basic web code, and of course I know the poker business reasonably well. I'm willing to travel, as always. In the meantime I have two or three minor things lined up that'll let me keep my hand in until better times return. I'm experienced enough to know that some things are beyond one's control, and one simply has to move on. In the near future, I'm also going to address a few topics here that I was forced to hold back on in recent months.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Being goal-oriented is something that I never used to be. I suppose that's changed some as I've grown older, merely because there are things that I want to do in my remaining years, and goals are a means of achieving those things. However, I seldom set goals for goals' sake, nor make iron-clad resolutions.

But as my vacation begins, I know it's time again to get my life in better order. I've been too fixated on getting stuff done, and in fact took only one day off in the last 11 months. Short days, sure, I had a handful of those; but only one truly off day, which was Mother's Day in May.

Now it's adjustment time, searching for mind/body balance and a healthier lifestyle. I've been way too run down and sickly for the last year or two, particularly the last four months, so despite the job going away, I'll remain resolute in my belief that things happen for a reason. Right now my reason is because it's time for me to get healthy again.

Goals for the next few weeks: Eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, shoot at least ten rounds of golf, and catch lots of fish.

Of course, there are poker goals, too. Some of my more grandiose goals include playing (and cashing) in the Main Event, and cashing in any regular WSOP event is still something on my list. I'm 0-for-4 on that last one to date. I took care of cashing at a Circuit event last year, which was an intermediate step. I also took care of the goal of winning a live event, even if it was a small one.

I have some online goals, too. I play on four sites at the present time, and my goal is to have a truly playable tourney bankroll on all four. Since I tend to play only $15-50 at a time, this is a much smaller and more achievable goal than one think.

Even more specifically, I plan to finally pay enough to get back my Silver (or maybe even Gold!) status on Stars, something I haven't had the time to pursue since some time around December. Likewise, I'll finally return to taking a shot at Merge Network's monthly tournament leader board, and I'll try to take advantage of some of the other special events and promotions that come up. The Full Tilt promo thing looked sweet enough to accept, and so far I've cleared $30 and given my bankroll a little boost as well. My total combined bankroll went up 15% in the last week, and it's nice to have a solid uptick after months of non-profit play. Short-term, sure, but it beats the alternative.

Come September, it'll be time to find meaningful employment. But I'll worry about that more once September comes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


And enough of that. More things I'll talk about at a later date, but I plan on vacationing for about a month in an attempt to get back my health. It was a rough summer in more ways than one.

Assuming I get over the virus which currently has me on couch duty, I plan to spend a good share of August fishing and golfing and doing all sorts of useless nothing. I have a few little tasks to handle, and I'm sure I'll play some online, but the greater chore is to make myself enjoy an extended stretch of Haley time.

Back soon!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On Professional Standards

Once in a while, something occurs that reminds me just how amateur so much of the "poker media" is. I wrote about it a hair more at my blog over at PokerNews, but either way, I found it disappointing, and it's one of those odd lasting memories that will likely stay with me for a while.

Several times during the conference, other poker writers in attendance broke out into brief rounds of applause, either as speakers were introduced or when important talking points from the conference were delivered. (I won't name names, so don't ask.) Each time it happened, I stared around at those doing so with a look of absolute incredulity. Were they for real?

It's not my job to cheerlead when I'm covering these things. It's my job to get the facts and report them. It doesn't matter what my personal beliefs are; it's my job to check my own opinions at the door.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Phlegm Slugs

Somewhere in the introduction to one of Stephen King's books, King writes about going for certain visceral reactions. I'm paraphrasing him here, because whatever book it's in is about 2,000 miles away, but he wrote that the terror of a true scary moment is best, and then there was always the shock factor to shoot for, and if that didn't work, he wasn't too proud -- he'd try to gross the reader out.

So with that in mind...

Phlegm slugs.

Along with a lot of other folks out here at the WSOP, I've been battling a rough virus for the last few days, one that's putting up a much stronger battle of its own than I'd hoped for when it first announced its arrival. I thought I was over it around Wednesday, coughing and sneezing up a few of the aforementioned creatures, one of which must have been three inches long when it landed and started to harden.


But, when Thursday morning rolled around and I snorted out a neon-green ink blotch, I went hunting for the nearest walk-in clinic or urgent care center or what have you. I finally found a "doc in a box" in a strip mall just off of I-215 West, and left with nothing for the virus itself but some Cipro for the sinus infection and some nasal spray for the allergic rhinitis that might be making things even worse.

"Swine flu!" I joked at Doc Bocks, though I knew it wasn't. I know how flu hits, and this ain't it. He didn't think it was quite as funny as I did, but I was the one paying for the audience. His cooler, if you will.

So far, recovery-wise, it's three steps forward and two steps back, and I suspect it'll be a couple more days before I return to full health. Lots and lots of folks at the WSOP are fighting this bug, and I suspect that Justin Smith was one of them, when I saw him sprawled across his chips at his Stud/8 final table today, looking for all the world like he was trying to save whatever energy he had. One of the WSOP dealers I know told me that it's a nasty bug that's been making the rounds for a few weeks.

I concur.