Saturday, June 29, 2013

Just Conjecturin', Volume 51: The Fraudulent Mezrich Book, Straight Flush

People who haven't checked out yet Ben Mezrich's laughably fraudulent "true story" of Absolute Poker, Straight Flush, have probably missed the thorough bashing its getting within the poker world, along with a few other select outlets, such as the review page for the farce over at Amazon.  I'm among the many who've reviewed it to to date, and I'll reprint my review here -- and fix a couple of typos along the way.  I wrote the initial review in a bit of a rush while traveling, and it shows.

I'd probably have dismissed the whole Mezrich book as a silly farce a month ago, if it wasn't so fraudulent, so false.  Had the story been even close to being true, I'd have congratulated Mezrich on a decent effort and moved on.  Instead, Mezrich has foisted upon the world what appears to be an image-remaking advertorial, possibly even subsidized by the AP frat boys themselves, complete with an extensive litany of literary sins I've since explored in a ten-part series at

From falsifying timelines to denying post-UIGEA ownership to omitting key evidence, Straight Flush is a horror and a sham.  If ever a "true story" book was deserving of a class-action lawsuit for consumer fraud, this is it.  I expected a bad book; what shocked me was how terrible, how false, how lying it really was.  It's a situation that needs correcting, and that's why I continue to pursue the story, in the faint hope that a mainstream outlet might yet be willing to shine a cold spotlight onto Mezrich's fraud.  It's not a matter of being petty or vengeful; it's instead a heartfelt effort to set the record straight.

Anyhow, here's a slightly updated version of that Amazon review:

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Ben Mezrich's new book, Straight Flush, is a gigantic literary fraud foisted upon the reading public by an author with a decade-long history of fudging the details. This represents his most extreme effort in that regard, a bald and phony retelling of the Absolute Poker story from, as Mezrich himself disclaims, the "point of view" of the U. of Montana fratboys who founded the company. With a single deft phrase, Mezrich thus shields himself from the 300 pages of garbage he then proceeds to spew.

The problem is, the actions of those same fratboys were criminal, even if only one of them (Brent Beckley) currently sits in prison, while the primary founder, Beckley's stepbrother Scott Tom, remains on the Caribbean island of Antigua rather than face the charges still pending against him. In Straight Flush, Mezrich willingly recounts the fratboys' paper-thin lies while glorifying a decade or more of juvenile, sexist debauchery, punctuated by "amazonian" fantasies and re-imagined dialogue so horrific it could've come from an R-rated version of "The Secret Lives of Dobie Gillis" where all the women don't actually have names.

Mezrich's rapid discarding of any facts that don't fit his whitewashing of the AP tale represent the most horrid example of literary amorality to be published in recent years. Among the blatant omissions: detailed and irrefutable evidence regarding the cheating activities of Scott Tom,  utter disregard of Absolute Poker's other law-bending activities including the offering of online blackjack and the manipulation of the US banking system, and the publication by major Norwegian financial-news outlet Dagens Naeringsliv of a 2011 expose connected to Absolute Poker's ownership-hiding escapades, which included the revelation that Innovative Data Solutions (the AP customer-service business raided in 2011 by Costa Rican authorities) was -owned- by Scott Tom.

The Dagens Naeringsliv piece, based on months of investigative work by a DN business team that even traveled to Toronto to secretly tape an Absolute Poker board meeting, first published the stunning revelation that Scott Tom never left the company after all (contrary to the lies willingly spread by Mezrich in Straight Flush). Norwegian authorities subsequently launched the largest ever tax-fraud case in the country's history against an Absolute Poker ownership group through which paper profits were funneled, but you won't read about that here.

If you want to read juvenile fiction, Straight Flush is acceptable, but the book has no right to wear any sort of non-fiction label. For a high-quality examination, no better nor more accurate review of Straight Flush exists than that penned by James McManus for the Wall Street Journal after the book's release; McManus, who wrote Positively Fifth Street, is an exceptional writer with knowledge of the poker world).

Straight Flush is gaudy in its fraud.  Among the largest sins served up by Mezrich is his willingness to slap the readers directly in the face with his lies, confident that his audience won't care as he laughs his way to the bank.

In his story of how AP's founders disregarded a Caribbean back upon seeing the word "Loyal" in its name, believing that any bank that had to proclaim itself as "loyal" probably wasn't, Mezrich forgets the title of his own book: Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire -- and How It All Came Crashing Down.

A "loyal" bank might not be loyal, and this supposed "true story" isn't even close to being true.

Just Conjecturin', Volume 50: Updated Index of Entries

At long last, time for some housekeeping.  Things are gearing up again, and it's a good time to get the old stuff in order.  Therefore, for easy access, here's a list of all 49-plus "Just Conjecturin'" posts, dealing with the UltimateBet and Absolute Poker insider cheating scandals, that have been published here to date.

Just Conjecturin', Volume 1

Just Conjecturin', Volume 2: Sebok Signing (w/ Update)

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

Just Conjecturin', Volume 3: The 56% Solution

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

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

Just Conjecturin', Volume 6: More on Excapsa: The Missing 2.6 Million Forfeited Shares

Three supplemental entries connected to Barry Greenstein's early UB hand histories from the UB cheating days; Barry was among those who played against the cheating accounts.  These aren't great, and it turned out the HH's were doctored beforehand, so it was a wild goosechase before the good stuff rolled in in later posts.

Barry's HH's Part 1
Barry's HH's Part 2
Barry's HH's Part 3

Just Conjecturin', Volume 7: (Help Me, KevMath, Help Me... with this Numbering Mess)

Just Conjecturin', Volume 8: Make That the 83% Solution

Just Conjecturin', Volume 9: The 'Shut Up and Settle, Dammit' Scene

Just Conjecturin', Volume 10: Defaults and Dividends, Chorus #2

Just Conjecturin', Volume 11: Meanwhile, Over at Absolute Poker, It Seems Scott Tom Really Did It

Just Conjecturin', Volume 12: The Absolute Scandal and the Day Occam Rolled Over in His Grave

Just Conjecturin', Volume 13: Absolute and the Snared Screen Names

Just Conjecturin', Volume 14: More Snared Images from Absolute

Just Conjecturin', Volume 15: The Graycat File

Just Conjecturin', Volume 16: The Curious Case of 'brainwashdodo'

Just Conjecturin', Volume 17: The Real Story of the UltimateBet Refunds

Just Conjecturin', Volume 18: Fakes a-Plenty Among the KGC 31

Just Conjecturin', Volume 19: The Real Problem with the UB Hand Histories

Just Conjecturin', Volume 20: The Carpenter Connection

Just Conjecturin', Volume 21: Graycat the Traveler

Just Conjecturin', Volume 22: It's the Plane, Boss, the Plane!

Just Conjecturin', Volume 23: So What Happened to the Plane?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 24: Tying Together Some Leads

Just Conjecturin', Volume 25: Flotsam, Jetsam and Other Errata

Just Conjecturin', Volume 26: Who or What is Riviera, Ltd.?

Just Conjecturin', Volume 27: Uncovering Brainwashdodo

Just Conjecturin', Volume 28: The Brainwashdodo Correspondence

Just Conjecturin', Volume 29: Inside the Makar Email

Just Conjecturin', Volume 30: Naming Names -- Greg Pierson

Just Conjecturin', Volume 31: Intermezzo

Just Conjecturin', Volume 32: Cereusly Funny Missing Videos

Just Conjecturin', Volume 33: Down Goes Frazier... err, Cereus

Just Conjecturin', Volume 34: Behind the IDS Closing -- Olman Rimola vs. Paul Leggett

Just Conjecturin', Volume 35: Norwegian Exposure

Just Conjecturin', Volume 36: More Norwegian Exposure

Just Conjecturin', Volume 37: The Clown Prince, err, Chairman of the Board

Just Conjecturin', Voulme 38: The Sad Case of the UB Data Leaks

Just Conjecturin', Volume 39: The Leaked 'Russ Hamilton' Records

Just Conjecturin', Volume 40: Three Records

Just Conjecturin', Volume 41: The Episode in which I Discover I'd Moved to Afghanistan

Just Conjecturin', Volume 42: The Troublesome, Off-Topic Record

Just Conjecturin', Volume 43: AP's Chairman Janusz Targeted by Norwegian Bankruptcy Attorneys; $250 Million Corporate Theft Alleged

Just Conjecturin', Volume 44: The Dirty Birds

Just Conjecturin', Volume 45: The Mezrich Book

Just Conjecturin', Volume 46: Ultimate Burger

Just Conjecturin', Volume 47: New Russ Hamilton Cheating Accounts Revealed

Just Conjecturin', Volume 48: Real Names Behind the New Hamilton / Makar UB Cheating Accounts

Just Conjecturin', Volume 49: The Names Behind Seven More Russ Hamilton UltimateBet Cheating Accounts