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.

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