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.