Showing posts with label Black Friday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Friday. Show all posts

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flashback: Black Friday Anniversary - 4/15/11

Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker on 4/27/11. I hate repeating myself, so it's just easier (and better) to re-post this original piece.

* * *

Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington

By Pauly
Lima, Peru

"Is it true? No Gringos can play online poker?"

Roberto Brenes, also known as Robertito among his fellow Costa Ricans, is the youngest son of Humberto Brenes, a.k.a. the Godfather of Poker in Latin America. The shark shtick might have worn out its welcome north of the border, but in Central and South America, Humberto commands the respect and reverence of Doyle Brunson with the added cult-like following of Johnny Cash. Robertito is regular on the LAPT and unfortunately, he was the bubble boy at the LAPT Lima. He was still shaking off a bit of tilt from a the hand that busted him, but was morbidly curious about the validity of Viernes Negro and the news that rocked the entire poker industry on April 15th -- "a day that will live in infamy" for many Americans associated with the online poker industry.

Citizens of Latin America have an extremely polarizing view of Anglo-American hegemony, so many of them weren't surprised with the DOJ indictments, which essentially decimated the postmodern online poker landscape. Latin Americans have been getting screwed over by American politicians, Wall Street bankers, and corporate interests for the better part of a century, so they chalked up the DOJ indictments of Absolute, Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars as another bad beat -- but just one of thousands they've witnessed.

"Los gringos estan con el dedo metido en el culo!" said one my Costa Rican colleagues.

"Si. We the Gringos are properly fucked," I responded. "Online poker is not rigged... America is rigged."

* * *

I sat in press row at the LAPT Lima, covering the tournament for PokerStars Blog with Short-Stacked Shamus, one of my personal heroes. These days, I'm semi-retired from covering tournaments, instead focusing on fear mongering, trading silver futures, and writing fiction. I reduced my 2011 workload to exclusively covering the World Series of Poker for Tao of Poker, but accepted assignments in exotic locations on the international circuit for the opportunity to visit a new country. I was excited to shake off a little rust and treated the LAPT Lima as Spring Training for the upcoming WSOP. Visiting Peru for the first time was an exhilarating experience, especially a side trip to Machu Picchu, one of the Top 5 locations on my bucket list.

Shamus noted we should have known that the Lima trip was doomed when we spotted a dead body along Circuito de Playas on our way from the airport to Miraflores. The ocean and beach is separated by a highway with 300-foot cliffs looming overhead. I saw a bunch of military guys in berets and combat boots from a distance who stood on the cliff side of the road, where a huge crowd had gathered. My immediate reaction -- workers were on a strike and the military police were there to keep things in order -- but as we got closer and the cab slowed down, a film crew and thirty or so pedestrian rubberneckers gathered around a limp body curled up on the ground.

"Two bodies," said the driver in English.


"They jumped."

I was dubious. Smelled like a hit to me -- maybe they got involved with the wrong guys and were tossed off the side of the cliff? Failure to pay back a loan shark? Drug deal gone bad? Although I only saw one body, I was slightly surprised that the cops did not cover up the carcass. Instead, a news camera guy straddled the body and filmed what appeared to be a close up.

Ten minutes later, the cab made its way up a winding path of cobblestones to reach the top of the cliffs and the affluent Marifores section of Lima, but the image of a desensitized cameraman hovering over a bloodied body still prevailed.

* * *

In January 2007, I was in Melbourne, Australia when the Neteller fiasco went down. It took me two days to sort stuff out with Neteller's customer service in order for them to allow me to access my account (to cash out) while I was in a foreign country, but that crucial lost time screwed me and I got five figures stuck in Neteller. I eventually got my money back ten months later, but I was flagged for an audit the next year. To this day, I don't see that as a coincidence.

I was in London and Amsterdam in September 2008 at the peak of the subprime mortgage fiasco and financial meltdown of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers. So, to keep up with my string of being abroad when the shit hits the fan, I was out of the country once again -- this time in Lima, Peru for Black Friday. It was truly a surreal experience being out of America when Shamus, F-Train and I got the news that American online poker was nevermore. Vanished. Nada.

The only comparison I can come up with was how my friend Senor explained to me what it was like to watch the 9/11 attacks in a bar in Vietnam while he was on vacation. You get a hopeless and helpless feeling on the inside, meanwhile everyone around you is sort of thinking, "You had it coming."

Fortunately, my CrackBerry service failed for an unknown reason in Lima. As a result, my phone was not blowing up with calls and text messages from my friends, many of whom were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The bad beat from my international phone provider was a blessing in disguise because it enabled me to ignore the crisis and focus on the task at hand -- covering a poker tournament -- which very well could have been the last tournament I covered for PokerStars or anyone else for that matter. I wasn't naive about the source of the money that funded the majority of poker media. I worked directly with Full Tilt and PokerStars in different capacities as a freelancer, but the rest of my clients (various magazines and websites) derived a significant amount of their operating revenue from Full Tilt, PokerStars, and UB. Unless they could adapt quickly, this was definitely "last call."

I finally understood what it felt like to be in the band on the Titanic, as they bravely playing on as the ship sunk into the frigid North Atlantic.

* * *

The LAPT is four seasons old, but like most international tours, the LAPT had its growing pains and rough patches. I was in the room when the LAPT Mexico was shut down by the federales, who impounded the tables, chips, and millions of dollars worth of film gear belonging to 441 Productions.

I hope that you never have to hear... "Pack up your computer, grab all your things, and get the fuck out of the room ASAP!"... but that's what I heard the last time I was in Mexico. I vaguely recall that moment, trying to be super slick and removing my press badge as I rushed out of the tournament room right behind Otis and my girlfriend, thinking that not having a press badge around my neck would save me from incarceration, or worse, ending up in a mass grave with all of the other troublemakers in the media that happen to cross Los Zetas.

But that was in December of 2008 when El Presidente Bush Dos was a lame duck. This was 2011 -- in a new era, basking in the warm glow of El Presidente Obama's hope and change. Life, liberty and the pursuit of online poker was supposed to be different, right? Little did we know, it was Obama's cronies on Wall Street that would ambush us -- in more ways than one.

In the race for supreme domination of the poker world, Full Tilt and PokerStars were ensconced in a cold war with an ongoing arms race to determine which one would bow down to the other. I always saw Full Tilt as post-World War II America -- a bunch of G.I. Joes, real American heroes -- an emerging super power, fresh off a tremendous victory crushing fascism, while spreading freedom and commerce across the globe. PokerStars always reminded me of the United Kingdom of the 19th Century -- driven by imperial colonialism, where the sun never set on the Empire -- especially after Stars rapidly expanded into markets propelled by their international tours (EPT, APPT, LAPT, NAPT) and regionally-branded circuits (ANZPT, UKIPT, etc). At times it seemed the Stars empire was stretched too thin, hence why I got the call as a hired gun to cover the LAPT Lima, mainly because their blogging A-team of Otis, Change100, and Howard were covering the NAPT Mohegan Sun.

Even with the news of Black Friday and the subsequent disintegration of the NAPT, I knew that outposts like the Latin America were going to get a marketing boost. Job security never seemed more prevalent for my friends on the LAPT. Looking around the tournament room at the Atlantic City casino in Lima, Peru, the poker world continued on with the all the ordinary sights and sounds of poker in Latin America... one guy in shorts, flip flops, tank top, and a brimmed Panama hat was all-in and slammed his open hand on the table three times as his opponent in an Argentinean soccer jersey cruelly slow-rolled him, and while the dealer dealt out the flop, the guy in the hat continuously banged his hand on the table and begged for a low card by screaming "Chiquitita! Chiquitita! Chiquitita!" at the top of his lungs.

Business as usual.

* * *

When Spanish conquistadores led by Pizzaro first arrived in South America, the Incas did not fight them and instead welcomed them. The Incans viewed the Spanish visitors as gods from their lore because of their unusual white skin and bushy beards. That critical error became costly for the Incans.

In the 1530s, the Inca Empire was torn apart by its own civil war, which gave Pizzaro an edge in conquering the region, thereby pilfering Peru of its natural resources including gold and silver. Some Incan leaders were dubious from the moment the Spanish arrived and wanted to kill them by setting fire to their barracks when they slept, but those opinions were opposed by their king, Atahualpa, who walked blindly right into a trap.

In this analogy, I can't decide if the politicians or the PPA are the sleeping Spanish conquistadores. We all know the elected jackals in DC are used-car salesmen by day and pimps by night, willing to whore out your grandmother for $14 if they could get away with it.

And don't get me started with the PPA. They lost me at hello, when they couldn't even figure out a simple mission statement. I've never seen an opening strategy so poorly executed since Greedo shot first in the Cantina Bar on Tatooine.

What was the point of even sending the PPA to Washington? Instead, we should have sent a hundred masturbating chimpanzees to lobby for online poker -- they would have accomplished the same fucking thing as the PPA, but at least we'd have some cool YouTube videos of monkeys jerking off on the steps of the Capitol.

* * *

"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes;
you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi

Something was rotten in Denmark and it wasn't the batch of used condoms rotting underneath Gus Hansen's bed. It was the foul stench of the UIGEA as it got queefed out of the collective arses on Capitol Hill. Sure, we all knew that Arizona Senator Jon L. Kyl was a genuine teetoller and well-known opponent to all forms of gambling, but Jim Leach (R-Iowa) was a virtual unknown at the time. In 2007, I didn't do my due diligence, otherwise I would have discovered that Leach served for six years as the head of the powerful House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. It was during that reign when Leach drafted an act that eventually led to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

In 1999, Jim Leach sponsored the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (a.k.a. the Financial Modernization Act), which repealed provisions of the the Glass-Steagall Act (a piece of legislation put forth in 1932 the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 which created the FDIC in addition to other safeguards to prevent future Ponzi schemes). Leach's bill essentially eliminated a provision from Glass-Steagall that made it illegal for a bank to also own financial firm.

At the time, everyone on the street knew that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was created to allow Travelers (insurance company that owned investment house Salomon Smith Barney) to merge with Citigroup to create Citicorp -- the largest financial services company in the history of banking. When President Bill Clinton signed the Act in 1999, no one anticipated that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allowed banks to own financial firms, would eventually lead to the creation of complex derivatives, which nearly imploded the entire financial system. Warren Buffet called those derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

In the parlance of our times, those degen donks on Wall Street took advantage of their bitch Jim Leach, and orchestrated the largest smash-and-grab job since Danny Ocean and his misfits knocked over the Bellagio.

I overlooked Leach's connection to Wall Street banks when he introduced the UIGEA. At the time, most of the ire was directed at Senator Jon Kyl and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. If there was ever a man that was more hated in poker than Russ Hamilton, it was Bill Frist. To this day, one of the funniest pieces of vernacular to come out of the UIGEA was the term "Frist Fucked," because after he attached the UIGEA to the Safe Port Security Bill, he gave online poker players deep, penetrating, fist fucking... wrist watch and all.

With spotty internet in Peru, I asked my girlfriend to assist me with a little research about campaign contributions. All of the information she gathered is public knowledge available on She posted some of her findings over at Pot Committed in Follow the Money: Online Poker and Political Contributions.

Check out Bill Frist for yourself and take special note to the #1 contributor to his combined Campaign Committee and Leadership PAC in 2004 and 2006...
Bill Frist (R-TN) - Top Campaign CMT & PAC Contributors:
2004 - Goldman Sachs ($109,999)
2006 - Goldman Sachs ($142,249)
From the years 2004-06, Goldman Sachs dumped a quarter of a million dollars into Senator Frist's PAC. No need to hide those marionette strings... they lead right to CEO Henry Paulson and his den of thieves at Goldman Sachs.

What's so bad about Goldman Sachs? Matt Taibbi explains in The Great American Bubble Machine...
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
I'm sure the tin foil hat-wearing, silver hoarding, Max Keiser disciples are going to love this, but I'm sharing this thought that has been bugging me ever since I dropped acid at the top of Machu Picchu....

A cabal of Wall Street bankers including the Federal Reserve colluded behind our backs to sink the online poker industry by paying off politicians to push forth the UIGEA.

It's pretty fucking obvious. The Big Banks control everything, which is why I don't understand why the majority of the poker community is misdirecting their anger at politicians. It's like a flashback to my Catholic school days when Sister Mary Margaret got pissed off at one of the special ed kids because he took a shit in the urinal. All the Hail Marys and Our Fathers in the world weren't going to change his mental capacity.

Yes, Virginia, I just said politicians are retards who can't figure out where to shit. They've always been corporate shills, so transforming into self-righteous twits (a la Michael Moore) and hounding politicians is futile because their power is limited to what their corporate overlords will allow them. In essence, the more powerful the politician, the shorter the leash.

You really should be pissed off at the Big Banks. They pwn Obama, and in essence, they also pwn your ass.

Before the FBI hauls me off to a FEMA camp the moment I set foot back on American Soil, please watch this short documentary film titled The American Dream...

And if you're not a documentary film type of person, don't worry because The American Dream is actually a 30-minute quick tutorial (in a snazzy, snarky cartoon format) on the shadow banking industry and the long, powerful reach of the Federal Reserve.

* * *

Why are the Fed and the Big Banks on Wall Street the bad guys?

Well, have you looked into Ben Bernanke's eyes? He's evil personified and makes Alan Greenspan look like St. Francis of Assisi. Bernanke has been printing so much money with his magical printing press that a $100 bill is really worth less than a sheet of toilet paper. Single ply.

The philosophical main directive of Big Banks has always been to control the flow of money. That's the key to understanding Black Friday -- it's not a political issue -- it's a money issue disguised as a political issue. Those suits are clever motherfuckers and implemented a classic divide and conquer strategy. While we were too busy arguing about politics and personal freedoms, they were pushing the DOJ to snoop around. But then they got lucky -- they might have been snooping around for another four or five years if a tip about Daniel Tzvetkoff's whereabouts didn't fall into their laps, and then the scared rat quickly rolled on the online sites.

By the way, anyone want to set over/unders as to when Tzvetkoff dies in a mysterious car crash? Or perhaps he has an unexpected heart attack? As Fat Tony would say... "Accidents happen."

Besides controlling the flow of money, think about all those potential transactions (and more importantly transaction fees) that the Big Banks are missing out on. Remember that parody commercial from Saturday Night Live about the bank that gives change? At the end of the clip, the banker says, "How do we make money? Volume."

Thanks to Chris Moneymaker, hole card lipstick cameras, and a disenfranchised computer-savvy populous, the online poker industry in America practically blew up overnight and to its own detriment, the industry grew too big, too fast. Millions, no wait, billions of dollars were being passed around, back and forth, between players in countries all over the world.

But when it comes to controlling the flow of U.S. dollars, well, that's the Big Banks' racket, and just like in mafia movies, the online poker industry never payed homage to the Godfather and his crew. They should have cut them in, because if and when the heat closed in, the online poker industry would have had the protection of the Godfather.

Sure the DOJ might be sniffing around Wall Street about some of the fraud and shennigans perpetrated during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, but have they indicted any of the major players? Will they? Doubt it.

The problem I have with the indictments was not that the DOJ went after the online poker sites for committing fraud, but rather that nearly every company operating in the financial services industry has committed fraud and gotten away with it. It's impossible to police the entire financial sector, but selective enforcement of the financial fraud is absurd.

I'm reminded of an NFL Films clip from the 1980s of former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Sam Wyche. He pulled a young offensive lineman aside and chewed him out for getting a couple of holding penalties during their last possession. The player pleaded, "But Coach, I'm holding on EVERY play." Wyche deadpanned, "Then keep doing what you're doing, son!"

That sums up Wall Street, or rather the rampant financial fraud that occurs every single day without being policed.

If the DOJ and the feds are going to turn off online poker because of fraud committed by the parties involved, then shouldn't they shut down the entire derivatives market until it can be regulated and monitored? Shouldn't the top cops investigate the biggest incident of fraud in history and the subsequent fleecing of American people?

* * *

In the poker world, when Bobby Bellande, David Benyamine, or Eskimo Clark goes busto, the entire community doesn't bail them out. But in the modern financial world, if one of the big boys runs up gambling debts they can't pay, well, they get billions of dollars in bailouts from the Federal government, which in theory comes out of your pocket.

I refuse to pay for TJ Cloutier's losses at the craps table, but to put things in perspective, what if Phil Ivey, Durrrr, and Phil Galfond lost all of their bankrolls betting on Jai Alai? And Howard Lederer decided to take out 50% of everyone's Full Tilt bankroll, without your consent, to get Ivey and Durrr back in the game against crazy Scandis? You'd be pretty pissed, right?

Luckily, those sorts of practices don't happen in poker. Capitalism is applicable every day in poker because we allow those undesirables to fail. Those with money continue to play another day, but those without funds get stuck on the rail until someone is stupid enough to give them a stake. Alas, the end of the day, the money should get distributed to the better players. Although the player with the most short-term luck might get the money that day, over the long haul the money should flow upward to the best of the best. Should flow -- and that's the beauty of poker because at any given time the wealth can be redistributed from the haves to the have nots. It frequently happens in tournaments when the donk du jour comes out of nowhere to win. You would like to think that that money will flow back into the poker community and return to the coffers of the poker haves, but it's going to take them a little time and effort to regain those initial losses. That's what is supposed to happen on a level playing field.

We've seen different aspects of the financial markets manipulated or rigged in favor of the plutocrats, so the money flows out of the hands of the have nots and right back into the grubby hands of America's oligarchs. In some instances, like with ARM mortgage loans, the have nots never had a chance against the modern day robber barons.

Proponents of the Nanny State claim its up to the government to save our souls from the evil clutches of poker, because if you didn't know... online poker is rigged. For fuck's sake, are we that stupid? Lotteries are the biggest sham since taking insurance in blackjack, yet brokedick dreamers line up around the corner to blow a day's wages on a "dollar and a dream."

Then again, these are the same sheeple who bought Snooki's book. Try explaining to the orange spray-tanned Jerseylicious crowd exactly how Moodys and other ratings agencies rated bundles of CDOs as AAA (the highest rating indicating the lowest risk), and then the Wall Street brokerage houses sold those toxic derivatives to clients (from Arkansas to Dusseldorf) and at the same time, the suits turned around and bet against the same investments they were selling in the form of credit default swaps.

The more I think about it, the redistribution of wealth is something that the richest families in the world have been fighting against since the dawn of calculated wealth. Hence, why it's always been a primary motive for the banking elite to control the flow of money, but more importantly, to control the flow of money away from the have nots.

Poker, especially online poker, posed a threat to the banking elite and kleptoocrats in charge because the community itself would determine (through cash games and tournaments) how the wealth would be distributed. At the same time, online poker created an alternative currency. How many times have you swapped T$ or traded money on one site for another? For my March Madness pool, friends paid for their sheets with online poker transfers. I've paid prop bets with Full Tilt transfers and a high percentage of my freelance clients often paid me with online poker transfers.

Ever since the Bretton Woods gathering during WWII, when the U.S. dollar became the world's reserve currency (abandoning gold), it's always been crucial for the Big Banks to control the flow of money. Nixon took the U.S. dollar off the gold standard and since then our currency has been backed by the U.S. military. To further keep tabs on the oil-rich nations, any crude oil purchases had to be made into U.S dollars. As a result, Petrodollars flowed out of the Middle East and flooded Wall Street banks. These days, Narcobucks (laundered money acquired from the sale of illegal drugs) and Petrodollars are the only real deposits keeping the banking industry humming (don't get me started about Ben Bernanke's printing press and his quantitative easing policies that have juiced up the stock market like Barry Bonds on the Clear). A few years ago, two of the biggest banks in the U.S. (Wachovia and Bank of America) and HSBC in London were laundering billions of Narcobucks for the Mexican drug cartels. Did any of those suits go to jail? Nope, they got a few slaps on the wrist and paid paltry fines that paled in comparison to the billions of Narcobucks that flowed through the banks.

You've all seen The Wire, so you know how the hustle works.

But what about PokerStars dollars or Full Tilt dollars? What about the alternative online poker currency that the industry created out of thin air? That's a no-no. Only Ben Bernanke and the Fed have the power to create and distribute wealth. The Big Banks want to wrap their slimy tentacles around your T$ and online bankrolls. Narcobucks and Petrodollars aren't enough. Their hubris is our downfall. Unfortunately, Stars and Tilt failed to cut the Big Banks in for whatever reason, and that didn't make the Godfather and the rest of the shylocks very happy.

So who is the Godfather? In 2006 it certainly wasn't the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, because he was a Randian, name-dropping, social-climbing muppet for the banking elite. He's no better than the current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. The head of the Five Families was Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs before El Presidente Bush Dos nominated him as the Treasury Secretary in 2006. Since then, the big cheese has been Lloyd Blankfein, the current Goldman Sachs CEO.

Yes, Blankfein has the juice and the online rooms never paid the Godfather his cut, so he mercilessly castrated the entire industry.

To sum up... Jim Leach had been a trustworthy puppet after he allowed Big Banks to degen it up once he helped repeal provisions of the Glass-Stegall Act, which eventually nearly crippled the entire financial system with the catastrophic fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. And with another more innocuous bill, Leach stemmed the money flow in and out of online poker sites. Instead of putting a severed horse's head in his bed, the boys at Goldman paid off Senator Frist to guarantee that the passage of the UIGEA. At that point, it was a matter of time before the vampires at the Fed and the Sack sucked the blood out of the poker economy.

* * *

So what's next?

If the current principals (Stars and Tilt) and former (Party Poker) want a shot at obtaining the smallest percentage of action in the market when the federal government (or individual states) eventually legalizes online poker, then they need to partner up with the banking elite like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. That's where PokerStars and Tilt screwed up by dumping money into the pockets of lobbyists and politicians, and then teaming up with land-based casinos. The online rooms should have wired their bribe money directly to Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs. Those two are the Phil Iveys of financial deception and fraud.

JP Morgan is the OG aka the original gansta. My favorite JP Morgan story? During the Civil War, he bought defective surplus rifles for $3.50 from the government and then turned around and sold the same defective rifles back to the Union Army for $22 a pop. That's huge fucking balls and an indication of the type of highly-trained professional criminals we're dealing with here. The bloodsuckers on Wall Street are the type of criminals that the online rooms should've allied themselves with the entire time or at the very least, hired as consultants to pick their brains about how to commit fraud and never get caught.

The online rooms grossly miscalculated and jumped into bed with the snake oil salesmen in Washington, who crudely took turns cornholing them until they all bled out.

It could have been a beautiful union -- online poker rooms and Wall Street, where Goldman Sachs joined forces with PokerStars and continued their imperialist quest for global dominance. It could have been very simple if online poker was legitimized and PokerStars got taken public by Goldman in one of the biggest IPOs since the dotcom bubble. Instead of a laughable union with Station Casinos, Full Tilt could have teamed up with JP Morgan to create, meanwhile the shylocks at Goldman would have partnered with PokerStars to create where if you win the Sunday Million, then Goldman opens up an IRA for you at no charge.

That's where Stars fucked up. Steve Wynn was never going to be their savior, but Lloyd Blankfein could've been their sugar daddy.

* * *

Black Friday was a sobering reminder that the poker industry fell for the ruse that politicians were the linchpins who controlled the future of online poker, but in the end, the banking elite continues to tug at the strings of the muppets in DC. Writing your local politician does nothing except stroke their ego because they know with every email and letter, they are treacherous criminals who found another sucker who thinks they wield any power.

Unfortunately, it's rather difficult to get an audience with the Jamie Dimons and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world. Alas, your only way at inciting a revolution is to bring down the banks from the inside. I know a fringe group of financial anarchists who want to crash JP Morgan by gobbling up physical silver. I can't say for sure if that tactic will work, but silver (and precious metals) is a wise investment as a hedge against inflation and a devalued dollar. In the end, if hoarding silver helps bring down a major Wall Street bank, especially the ones responsible for tweaking the livelihood of my friends -- then so be it -- off with their heads.

Believe me when I tell you that you're not the first group of people to get fucked by the banking junta. Look around on forums for Anonymous operations, read, follow @TaoFear on Twitter, watch videos created by Truth Never Told (especially Your Indoctrination and The Rigged Game [see video below]) , and talk to friends outside of poker -- because you'll discover that there's thousands if not millions of people with similar bad beat stories.

If somehow, someday, we can all figure out how to come together and incite true revolutionary change, then we can overthrow the La República del Plátano that Wall Street installed in Washington. Our first order of business would be the dismantling of the Fed and wrestle free of the suffocating death grip of the banking elite. Maybe then, and only then, can we finally begin to live in truly free society.

Online poker isn't rigged. America is rigged. What are you going to do to fix it?

* * *

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Puppeteers of America

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

One of my favorite political writers is Matt Taibbi, columnist at Rolling Stone magazine, who also penned a few books such as The Great Derangement, which included an astute observation about politics and Big Business...
"You don't elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal." - Matt Taibbi
Black Friday more than put a wrinkle into the lives of American poker players, it decimated the entire online poker landscape. On April 15th, we all discovered that we could no longer play on our favorite online poker sites. Just the day before on April 14th, Americans went about their lives with the ease and comfort knowing their bankrolls were safe in a virtual bank somewhere overseas. We were under the impression that we could exercise our right to gamble... or choose not to gamble... because after all, we're adults protected under the Constitution of the United States. We have the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Online poker could be one of those, or it could be all three. I know I spent too many hours logged onto a different online poker site bogged down in the pursuit of happiness, only to get sucked out by a one-outer, which sent me on mega-LAGtard-Scandi-tilt.

Online poker was a short-term escape from the harsh reality that we live in corporatocracy. Our nefarious politicians are pwned by oligarchs and plutocrats, all of whom don't give a rat's ass about your personal liberty to engage in any sort of activity (gambling or otherwise) on the internet. If you haven't been paying attention to SOPA or the NDAA, then you should get off your ass and do some research. Uncle Sam and Big Brother are now one in the same while a shadowy cabal of international banksters are pulling the strings.

Remember that scene from The Godfather, after the ailing Don handed over the reigns of the Family to his son, Michael Corleone?

"You are like me," mumbled Don Corleone. "We refuse to be fools, to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by other men."

I'm still trying to figure out why some activities in America are considered a crime and why other things are permitted, but then again most laws these days defy all logic. We're living in a rigged political system that is rotten to the core. Corruption is the grease that keeps the wheels of Big Business churning. Corruption is what re-balances the manipulated scales of justice.

Who were the real culprits behind online poker prohibition in America? After doing some research and "following the money" trail, I pointed fingers in a post titled Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 1,000 Masturbating Monkeys. Almost eight months later, I continue to search for more concise answers. Sure, we have the names of the unscrupulous politicians leading the witch hunt, but like Don Corleone explained, someone else is tugging at those puppet strings.

Who are the puppeteers?

Why did they cock block us?

What is so terrifying about online poker?

What kind of crimes against humanity did we commit by sitting around in our underwear and playing cards?

How did the simple act of playing online poker become threatening to the Establishment?

I guess the answer to my last question is this: poker players are rebellious in nature and free thinkers. Many of us would not have taken the courageous leap into the virtual waters at online poker sites unless we were strong-willed, determined, and seeking an alternative way to live our lives. Online poker provided income, happiness, purpose and validation instead of following the herd and the Master Plan (college > job > marriage > mortgage > kids > college fund > retirement) that had been beaten into our heads since birth. We were conditioned to conform from the moment we popped out of our mother's womb. We've been corralled into institutions like cattle, stripped of any semblance of individuality, brainwashed into living a life that we think is what we're supposed to do -- obey, consume, reproduce -- all of this without questioning authority and expressing an independent thought. The moment any of us stray from the path, we're ostracized and marginalized, and if that doesn't deter us, then agents of the state (paid by our tax dollars) will beat the shit out of us until we get back in line. And those whom stay on the path and do not upset the herd are thrust into a fabricated world in which the entire point of existence is to...
1. Become obedient cubicle slaves exploited by corporate overlords.

2. Generate tax income for the bloated state.

3. Create profits for the banking cartel in form of debt creation -- credit cards, car loans, school loans, small business loans, mortgages and second mortgages.

4. Buy cheap stuff (Made in China) that we don't need, which proliferates ginormous profits for Big Business.

5. Breed children so a new generation of consumers and debt slaves will continue this maddening cycle.
I was drawn to poker because of its anarchist nature, but since then it's been bastardized both economically and politically. Do you want me to scare the shit out of you? Many pundits vehemently against online poker are convinced online poker sites (and other online gambling sites) launder money for terrorist networks. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed the other day, which gives the military the green light to scoop up American citizens and detain us indefinitely as an enemy of the state if we're suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist groups and anti-American organizations. Say goodbye to "innocent until proven guilty."

"Theory of Poker" translated into Farsi

Under the NDAA, our totalitarian government can demonize anyone, including online poker players, by simply labeling them enemy combatants. Many of you thought not being able to play in the Sunday Million sucked, just wait until the military shows up at your front door, bags a black hood over your head, then whisks you away to Gitmo or some other secret prison, where you're forced to do the naked pyramid with other freshly-detained Jihadists.

What the hell has this country come to? It's poker, for fuck's sake! It's just a card game. A game. An all-American game. Texas Hold'em. The Cadillac of Poker. "It takes seconds to learn and a lifetime to master," according to Mike Sexton, the ubiquitous ambassador to poker, whose name will now pop up on the FBI's Watch List in between Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah and Husayn Muhammad al-Umari.

Any way you look at it, unsuspecting Americans were squeezed by the government and we all got caught up in this shakedown when the UIGEA passed in 2006. Our last hope is to sway politicians to alter the laws, just like Matt Taibbi said in his famous quote... "You don't elect politicians to commit crimes; you elect politicians to make your crimes legal."

The sobering reality is that all the letters and emails in the world won't change the mind of our licentious elected officials. The poker industry dusted off hundreds of millions in a concentrated effort to lobby Congress, yet those we trusted to get the job done dropped the ball time and time again. We must think outside the box to solve the problem, and resort to drastic measures in order to re-install the freedom to fire up online poker sites once again. It will take a shitload of cash and gold to persuade the immoral muppets in DC to end online poker prohibition. If bribes don't work, then we'll have to call in a favor with the wiseguys. Because all it takes is just one severed, bloody horse's head in the right politician's bed to shape policy in our favor. Then, and only then, will we be able to play online poker again.

While we wait for the proverbial horse's head, the time has come to say farewell to a couple of dear friends. RIP online poker. RIP America.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No Mas Turkey Cup

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Circa 1979

Turkey Cup is nevermore. The annual online tournament that I hosted every Thanksgiving will not happen this year as a result of Black Friday. If you were looking to get you're online poker fix, it's not going to happen. Blame the DOJ and the corrupt puppets in DC, who thrust this confusing situation upon poker-loving Americans.

It really pains me that we're not going to have Turkey Cup this year. The mighty contest spawned out of a tradition that I created with my brother. I taught him how to play hold'em one snowy Thanksgiving shortly after 9/11. We played heads-up in his apartment and he quickly picked up the nuances of the game.

When I joined the traveling circus and hit the road with the tournament circuit, I found myself spending less and less time in NYC and away from my brother and family. After I re-located to the West Coast, I wanted to keep the tradition of post-turkey poker. Luckily, PokerStars helped fill the void with a private tournament. Hence, Turkey Cup was born. The tournament grew in popularity, not just among Canadian and British friends, but among friends and readers whom were stuck/trapped in family situations and snuck away for an hour or so to donk it up with the rest of us.

Yeah, it saddens me that I won't be firing up PokerStars tonight to play poker with my brother and friends. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to play again next year on a new site -- pending legislation. Until that day comes when Big Brother allows us to play online poker... the Turkey Cup is on perpetual hiatus.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tales of Online Poker Exiles

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

In May of this year, less than a month after the events of Black Friday, I considered moving to Vancouver with my girlfriend. She wanted to play online poker to pay the bills and I desperately wanted an account at Pinnacle sports book. We never pulled the trigger and after the WSOP, we ended up in San Francisco instead. Alas, every few weeks, we entertain the thought of moving abroad especially as our country plunges deeper and deeper into insanity.

Shaniac took the necessary steps to become an online poker exile and he left the comfort of sun-drenched Southern California and begrudgingly relocated in Vancouver, Canada. After a stint north of the border, he shipped a WCOOP event, then he headed south, waaaaaay south, and eventually settled into a routine in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

Read about Shaniac's experiences in a three-parter...
Eastbound and Down Part 1: Hello/Goodbye, Canada
Eastbound and Down Part 2: No Place Like Home
Eastbound and Down Part 3: The Second Coming
Also read this post from Marty, a 20-something online grinder currently in exile in Mexico offering his perspective on things... Self-Assessment.

And lastly, check out what Matt Stout had to say about his sojourn to Costa Rica... Was Costa Rica the Right Move?

The trio of Shaniac, Stout, and Marty independently took matters into their own hands to pursue their passion and careers. It's obvious that each incurred a hidden cost, and I'm not talking about a "gringo tax" either, but rather an emotional/psychological hurdle that each were faced with. I encourage you to read their stories, especially if you're considering leaving the good ole US of A to join a community of online poker playing ex-pats.

* * *

In early 2010, after I completed Lost Vegas, a friend asked me what subject I was going to write about next. The War on Drugs was a topic that rattled around my brain since I was a little kid and watched then First Lady Nancy Reagan appear on Diff'rent Strokes to spread her anti-drug propaganda campaign -- "Just say No."

My creative mind always wandered south and I became fascinated with the effects of the drug war on the other side of the border. I wrote a thin outline of a book about the Mexican Drug War, but knew I had to re-locate to Mexico to write about it. I'm an all or nothing kind of person, which spills over into my writing. If I was going to write about the drug war, I wanted to see the horrors with my own eyes. Friends from El Paso warned me that I was muy loco.

"They kill journalists in Juarez," warned one friend, "And you don't want to know what they do to gringos."

I never followed through on my book proposal because I'm too much of a pussy and didn't want to get my head cut off by Los Zetas. Besides, I can't set foot for one minute in Central or South America without being accused of working with the CIA, so it's better off that I focus northward -- Canada and massive marijuana farms -- for material on the War on Drugs instead of the atrocities of the cocaine wars in chaotic/lawless towns all along the US/Mexican border.

Anyway, sorry for the tangent. There's certainly a great book out there that should be written about American online poker exiles. I hope Shaniac is the guy who writes it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Full Tilt Poker's License Revoked

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Here's some recent developments in the recent Full Tilt Poker scandal (via the gang at Subject Poker)... Alderney Gambling Control Commission revoked Full Tilt's gaming license. Also, the DOJ released a statement about FTP, specifically regarding a possibility of the DOJ paying back players.

And this just in... Full Tilt released a new statement. More hot air.

And here's one of my favorite scenes from Syriana...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Absolute Morality and Full Tilt Ponzi Links

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

It's been a wild 48 hours ever since the DOJ attached the pariah-like words "Ponzi Scheme" to their investigation into Full Tilt Poker. Whenever I have my mom waking me up with a frantic call, grilling me about if I was swindling money from people in that "Tilty Ponzi Poker"... then you know it's a big fucking story.

Anyway, here's a few items of note that you should check out...
Terrible Tuesday Podcast: F Train and Chops chat about Terrible Tuesday. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Full Tilt's New Brand Identity: More proof than my girlfriend is a better writer than I am with this gem Full Tilt's New Brand Identity: Ponzi Scheme. (Pot Committed)

A Poker Ponzi Scheme?: Writer Alec Wilkinson spent some time with Jesus and he shared some of his thoughts including one line that stood out..."The Justice Department people I spoke to were clearly burned at not being able to shut sites such as Full Tilt down." (The New Yorker)

Durrrr In the Well: Tom Dwan answers questions about Full Tilt Poker on the most famous poker forum in existence. (2+2)

What Does It Mean? Shamus had an excellent post about What Does Poker Mean Today? (Hard-Boiled Poker)

DOJ's Civil Complaint v. Full Tilt: Barry Carter and Matt Kaufman posted a thorough index of the complaint, which also includes a video of Tom "durrrr" Dwan on Fox Business News. (Poker Strategy)

Talk About Red Pros: More thought-provoking fodder from Shamus about Full Tilt and the DOJ. (Hard-Boiled Poker)

Where to Next? Bill Rini has some thoughts on the next step for Full Tilt Poker. (Bill's Poker Blog)

* * *

One day, you're the toast of the town, and the next day, you're kicked to the curb with yesterday's garbage.

Al Pacino pontificated about morality during an exquisite scene from David Mamet's masterpiece about shady real estate swindlers in Glengarry Glen Ross...
All train compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don't mind it. That's the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die you're gonna regret the things you don't do. You think you're queer? I'm gonna tell you something. We're all queer. You think you're a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Get shut of it. Shut it out. You cheat on your wife, you did it. Live with it. You fuck little girls, so be it. There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. You think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me.
You can video that clip here...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Full Tilt Ponzi Poker

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

PokerStars is looking a helluva lot like Wall Street giant JP Morgan, compared to Full Tilt Poker mirroring JT Marlin, the chop house investment firm in the film Boiler Room.

Unless you've been in a coma or trapped in a mine the last few weeks, the big news of the day -- the DOJ called out Full Tilt Poker as a global Ponzi Scheme. Man, I know something really bad happened in the poker realm when non-poker friends are emailing me Wall Street Journal articles, such as.... U.S. Alleges Full Tilt Poker Was Ponzi Scheme.

Ponzi scheme? Full Tilt Poker? Full Tilt Ponzi Poker.

Shouldn't the DOJ be knocking down doors of 200 West Street or 23 Wall Street and locking up the real career criminals responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 and bilking taxpayers for billions in bailouts?

While thousands of disgruntled Americans are protesting in the streets of the financial district in a movement called Occupy Wall Street, the DOJ is focusing their attention on Howard Lederer and Jesus Ferguson. It's not JP Morgan head vampire, Jamie Dimon, that the federales are after, but rather, public enemy number one, two, and three were a former computer geek and bookie who teamed up with a semi-successful day trader, Ray Bitar, to pull off the greatest incident of fraud in the poker realm with the inception of Full Tilt Ponzi Poker.

I knew Rush Poker was too good to be true.

Yeah, by now we know that some of the guys running Full Tilt Ponzi Poker were crooked greedheads from the get go, but then again many of us in the insulated online poker world thought we were untouchable and assumed manna was going to rain out of the heavens for the next decade. Maybe some of the management at Full Tilt wanted to clean shit up once regulation occurred, or maybe they never intended on cleaning things up and instead were hoping to dump the company for a sack of cash and gold bullion, then let the new owners worry about cleaning up the books?

Then again maybe, just maybe, the shysters at Full Tilt Ponzi Poker were over their heads and the Full Tilt Ponzi Scheme got too big, too fast, and they couldn't keep up with what was going on. The poker boom was a swift beast that swept through Las Vegas and sent shockwaves reverberating throughout the world. Even to this days, some places on the planet are experience aftershocks from the Moneymaker Effect -- over eight years later.

I've seen what excessive sums of money generated overnight does to people -- in Vegas, in Hollywood, on Wall Street -- it drives some people crazy, and makes others do horrible things. What exactly happened at Full Tilt Ponzi Poker? We'll never know. Maybe someday we'll find out, like the other mysteries of the world like who shot Kennedy and did aliens really build the Pyramids?

If you haven't read my initial thoughts on Black Friday, don't forget to take a peek at Black Friday, Vampire Squids, and 100 Masturbating Monkeys in Washington .

* * *

* * *

By the way, I'm starting a hedge fund in San Francisco. Who wants in?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

WTF? Phil Ivey Suing Full Tilt and Skipping the 2011 WSOP

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

"Check Ivey's Facebook page," said KevMath.

I headed to and scrolled down to the bottom of his page. He released a rather bizarre statement, so bizarre that most of the folks in the press box were dubious.

Among the most shocking sentences were...
"I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible."

"I refuse to remain silent any longer. I have electronically filed a lawsuit against Tiltware related to the unsettled player accounts."
Hoax? Hack? Legit? WTF?

Within an hour, the FB statement was confirmed by Phil Ivey's manager according to a post on Wicked Chops Poker.

By the way, whoever his manager is -- he has impeccable timing (waiting until the 2md half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals to release the statement). However, why the hell would his manager post a statement on Facebook (and in 6 wall posts)? Sure 70% of Americans have Facebook pages and most of them "LIKE" Phil Ivey, but that "press release" via Facebook was weak sauce, at best.

To add a little plutonium to the inferno, 2+2 is blowing up right now.

Ivey suing Full Tilt? How much money does he have tied up? I mean, is he really crying himself to sleep at night ("on a big pile of money with lots of beautiful women") thinking how his reputation was "dragged trough the mud"?

Ivey was one of the original investors in Full Tilt and is considered an owner. Did Ivey just set a precedent? And will more player-owners decide to sue Full Tilt as well?

Ivey will not be at the WSOP this year, squashing speculation about... 1) whether he'd want to put himself in the line of fire from angry players with funds stuck in FT, and 2) whether his bracelet prop bets in excess of millions were going to draw him to the Rio.

I mean... wow. The only comparison is that the situation reminds of when Michael Jordan retured from the NBA at the top of his game -- and then played minor league baseball. Makes me wonder if Phil Ivey is going to go slumming with us at the Gold Coast every night at 3am to compete in the World Series of Pai Gow.

Someone wondered if Phil Ivey was going to retire... I dunno if he'll do that. I mean, this is fucking Phil Ivey. As Change100 noted, "He's one of the few Full Tilt pros who can actually make money playing poker."

And this news might have killed any chance of Full Tilt repaying player funds. Without Ivey as the #1 show pony in the FT stable, the online poker room is substantially less attractive to potential investors. Over the last few weeks, FT honchos were desperately seeking potential buyers in order to improve their cash flow (and thereby be able to pay out players).

"See you in court, biatch!"

Stay tuned for more developments.

* * *


10:01pm PT.... @BarryGreenstein tweet'd that Ivey called up him and wasn't happy....
"Phil called me and screamed into the phone for 5 minutes, so I can't really say I talked to him."
10:10pm PT....According to Phil Ivey's website (, his complete statement is now on the front page. IMHO, the statement should have appeared on his website first with a follow up post with links to the original statement. Well, at least, that's what I would have done if I was part of Ivey's PR team.

10:57pm PT... Check out Change100's post Phil Ivey Suing Full Tilt, Won't Play WSOP .

11:24pm PT... Looks like some tool at the PPA is against Ivey's actions, according to this 2+2 thread. That's reason #1,420 why the PPA is a bunch of ignorant twats.

11:45pm PT... We recorded a podcast. Listen to Ivey Drops Drama Bomb by Suing Full Tilt and Boycotting the WSOP .

Monday, May 23, 2011

Black Monday: Another Round of DOJ Indictments; Shutdowns Include Doyle's Room, TruePoker,, BetEd, and FunTimeBingo

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Hat tip to Kevin Mathers for the info on the latest round of indictments from the DOJ which targeted sportsbook, and in the process a few online poker rooms like Doyle's Roomwere nabbed as collateral damage. Here's the official press release.

The covert investigation is something out of The Wire or out of a Hollywood pitch meeting. The Feds (a joint task force with Homeland Security, IRS, and Customs Agents) created a fake payment processor, Linwood, and the online casinos, online poker rooms, and sportsbooks approached them to do business. The Feds acquired a plethora of inside info during their two-year sting, which they used to build a case and bring down a new batch of online gaming sites.

Domain shutdowns on Monday included,,,,,,,,, and

BookMaker is one of the larger online sportsbooks in the sportsbetting industry. I don't have an account there, but I had one at BetEd. Just last week I had the VIP manager offering me an unbelievable bonus to fund my account.

The even nabbed a Keno and bingo site. Professional Keno Player Neil Fontent just lost his sponsorship and I know he's pissed. And how about all those grandmas sitting at home and hopped up on pharmies? What are they gonna do now without

By the way, Doyle Brunson left Doyle's Room recently. The Godfather bailed before the shitstorm. Good timing for Dolly, eh? Or did he get tipped off ahead of time?

Will there be more indictments to come? Is this the end of everyone who ran over and migrated their online rolls to the Merge network? Is this the Black Friday for the sportsbetting world, or is this just one of many more shakeups in the online gaming world?

* * *

I'm starting a running link dump as info comes forth, feel free to drop links into the comments....
First of all, CrazyMarco and gang at QuadJacks Radio are broadcasting live about the breaking news of the second wave of indictments. Listen here.

Gambling web sites, international bank accounts seized in federal sting. (The Republic)

Online poker "payment processor" admits U.S. charges. (Portfolio)

Baltimore feds target online gambling. (Baltimore Sun)

More Domains Seized. (Subject Poker)

Inside the Indictments and Inside the Press Release (Subject Poker)

Black Friday continues-True Poker and Bookmaker indictments 5/23/11. (2+2)

Feds Seize More Online Gambling Websites (G911)

The Ghost Hand: Maryland law enforcers aim to take the pot by secretly sitting at the online gambling table (Baltimore City Paper)

Black Monday? has a list of the laws violated by the sites in question and links to the indictments. (Pokerati)

Linwood Affidavit. (Scribd)

Ten More Sites Seized in New Poker-Related Indictments (Bluff)
Thanks again to KevMath for his research assistance.

Stay tuned for more info...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Quoth the Dolly, Nevermore: Doyle Brunson Leaving Doyle's Room

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The story broke on Friday. The head line on the PoRo Report read:

The move made sense considering Black Friday decimated American sponsorship deals.

Even though the article originated from Gambling911 (the accuracy of their intel is anywhere from 0 to 100% which makes any story from them a coinflip), the information was easy to verify with a Skype call to Costa Rica and a text message to the right person in Las Vegas. And yes, it was true. Doyle Brunson was leaving Doyle's Room as official pitchman.

Although Brunson was not an old school hooligan like Benny Binion, Brunson flourished early in his career as an outlaw gambler playing the Texas circuit over 50 years ago. We got a taste of his renegade nature when he decided to continue to endorse Doyle's Room even though the feds launched their crusade against funding online poker accounts.

Doyle's Room was one of the sites which had revolving doors for American online poker players. Doyle intended on thumbing his nose at the goons in Washington and initially desire to stayed online post-UIGEA. However, the Tribeca Network (where Doyle's Room ran its games) announced late in 2006 that it was leaving. Less than one year later, Doyle's Room returned to the market.

In 2009, Doyle's Room moved to the same network as Cake Poker. That relationship lasted to years because in early 2011, Doyle's Room moved to the Yatahay Network (which operates BetCris sportsbook and True Poker -- a site where I played blogger tournaments briefly in 2004).

The most interesting thing Doyle's official statement was the line: "Although they believe they have the right to market the name Doylesroom and to use my name and likeness for a period of time, I have asked them not to."

Doyle's patented Stetson and shit-eating grin became synonymous with Doyle's Room branding. Although old Texas Dolly wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations (like say Howard Lederer's extent at Full Tilt), his business partners were banking on his image and stature in the community to create a successful online gaming operation. Without the likeness -- there's no viable link to the legend.

So what's next for Doyle Brunson? He should become the pitchman for scooters after that epic Scooter Race against Amarillo Slim at the 2009 WSOP.

Unless the gringos in Costa Rica can hire Ashton Kutcher to step in and replace Texas Dolly, you can expect Doyle's Room to cease operations in the near future.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday Night Rager in Vegas: Huge Fire, Transformer Explosion, and Aria Blackout

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Photo courtesy of @SteveODwyer

Just another Saturday night in Vegas, eh?

While the online poker world is still picking up the pieces of the tragic events of April 15th, Las Vegas suffered a scary explosion that sent fireballs shooting three stories into the sky and plumes of black smoke billowing into the night. The fires caused blackouts in parts of City Center.

The explosion occurred early on Sunday morning shortly after Midnight. I got tipped off by Mr. Funk aka @LVCabChronicles. He was leaving Monte Carlo when one of the transformers by the power station blew up.

The New Yorker in me wondered if that was a terrorist attack. One early report said that a car drove into the power plant, which sounded like a drunk driver to me.

The Peak Oil theorist and Lost Vegas jaded vet in me chalked it up the explosion to overwhelming demand of power, especially for the shoddy constructed City Center.

Who knows what really happened because there's been very little information about the fire and explosion in the MSM. I flipped on the TV at 1am PT and not a single "breaking news" blurb on CNN or Fox.

Vegas Tripping has a decent recap of the events. Even though I was in Los Angeles at the time, I obtained plenty of intel from my buddy Mr. Funk. Cabbies know and see all in Vegas. I also vetted info from different tweets from poker players (BTW, great reporting from Jon Aguiar and Steve O'Dwyer). Behold the power of Twitter! Within a few hours, videos eventually appeared on You Tube. Twitter and YouTube are amazing tools in the hands of citizen journalists. This is one of the main reasons why I'm for net neutrality and against censorship of the web.

Whenever weird shit happens involving the Strip or casinos, the power brokers do a bang-up job of suppressing anything horrible (like suicides and dead hookers) and negative which might deter tourism. I get it. Vegas is a huge racket and the city, state, and entire gaming industry needs tourists and dreamers flying in day after day to keep the money coming in, especially in a shitty economy and intense currency debasement. Without the flow of cash slowing down, people lose jobs and casinos shut down. If that happens, then the terrorists win.

Las Vegas can't afford any bad press like half-baked poker reporters stirring up rumors of a Al Qadea attack on the Vegas power grid to retaliate for OBL's dismissal. Or more so, a deranged Peak Oil monger trying to scare the sheeple by telling stories about more incidents like this will happen more frequently as the demand (and prices) for power increases substantially over the next six months.

Anyway, back to my theory about Las Vegas's insatiable demand for power (and to more serious extent -- drinking water). Casinos rely on their own power substations mostly for security reasons in case of a major blackout. We've all seen Ocean's Eleven and if people are dumb enough to Google "how to rob someone" before they knock off the Bellagio, well then you gotta assume that some dipshit copycat criminals will eventually try to blow the power grid to City Center. In this case, no one is that sophisticated enough to orchestrate a high-level robbery of that nature. Those million and billion dollar heists are pulled off by Wall Street suits. The folks who rob Vegas casinos are "lone gunmen" -- despondent, angry, confused, desperate souls hampered by a degenerate gambling bug.

I doubt Las Vegas will ever come under a Jihadist terrorist attack. I'm more concerned with an apocalyptic scenario caused by a city wide blackout during the summer when the entire power grid goes down. How will everyone react to such an unexpected crisis? Most of the locals working at the casinos are going to get the hell away from the Strip and find their families, which will leave the majority of the Strip's occupants on their own and a small police force.

Great... so the lights are out and the few cops are around are busy chasing down looters, so you're stuck with hundreds of thousands of angle-shooting degens, LA douchebags, and scores of drunken tourists on vacation in a completely unprepared environment.

If the shit hits the fan during the WSOP, I'm heading to Poker Prof's undisclosed underground bunker to ride out the widespread panic and looting of the entire Strip. The again, there's no way the police can handle the flash mob of rioters, so either Marines from Yermo or grunts from Nellis will quell the riots, whereby the entire city of Las Vegas falls under martial law. Sounds like a horrendous worst case scenario if you ask me.

And it only starts with one transformer fire...

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Micros: Episode 5 - Countdown to Busto

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Micros are finally back with a new episode titled Countdown to Busto...

Great work, gang.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Black Friday Fallout: Offshore Sportsbooks Fleeing U.S. Soil

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I turn off my phone whenever I write to limit distractions. I had two phone calls this morning and both got sent to voicemail. One was from a broker, the other was from a bookie. One of my friends opined, "Is there a difference?"

"One is located in Costa Rica," I answered. "The other is on 60 Wall Street. Both operating in a gray area. How gray? Charcoal."

Funny how the U.S. government determined that one is illegal and the other is perfectly okay. Last time I checked, bookies never imploded the financial system or asked for bailouts when a huge underdog (e.g. NY Giants upsetting a 16-0 New England Patriots team) almost bankrupted them.

I essentially liquidated both "trading" accounts. The stock market is a Ponzi Scheme and I decided to trade commodity futures instead after getting out of equities last year. My broker was trying to churn what little I had left in my account. He wanted to tell me about their latest hot pick du jour. My bookie (actually a VIP manager) from Costa Rica has been calling me daily to inquire about re-funding my account after I pulled 90% of my bankroll offline in the wake of Black Friday.

It's been almost a month since 4/15. I was in Lima, Peru at the time when Black Friday decimated the American online poker landscape. I made only one call that day -- to Costa Rica. I initiated a withdraw. The VIP manager offered me assurances that my money was safe.

"Safe? Ha!" I told them. "That's what Neteller told me back in 2007, what my stock broker said during the sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2007-08, and what the online poker rooms told me."

"You're money is safe here," said a Costa Rican woman with a near perfect Southern California accent.

"Well, you can see the cyclical activity in my account. My high volume months are November thru January with a bump in March for March Madness. NBA playoffs are almost over and I'm moving to Vegas soon. If everything what you say is true about my money being safe, then I'll be back in the fall for football season. You're not going to lose any business if I withdraw. I never bet on baseball. Only degens bet on baseball."

"But, you're money is safe here."

"Isn't that what Bernie Madoff told his investors?"

"Which (book) does he own?" asked the VIP manager.

"He's a Wall Street guy and stole billions from his clients."

"Oh, one of those crooked gringos?"

I had Ben Affleck's monologue from Boiler Room swirling in my head... "A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock, or he sells you on a reason he can't. Either way... a sale is made. The only question is: Who is going to close? You or him?"

No offense to the tica on the phone servicing my account, but I wasn't about to let her persuade me to keep all of my money in Costa Rica (in theory it was in Costa Rica, because I actually assumed it was sitting in an unspecified bank account somewhere in the Caribbean). After a few minutes of negotiating (I left 10% to dabble in the NBA playoffs), she agreed to let me withdraw 90%.

As one of my good friends from Costa Rica once said, "Getting money into a Costa Rican sportsbook is easy. Getting your money out is the tough part."

He was talking about the variance of betting on sports and the degenerate nature of sports betting -- and how it's hard to walk away with a profit. At the same time, he worked for a few sportbooks and knows the transfer of money from offshore to onshore is a complex process. Sure, the bookies will do everything possible to keep your money in their account, but the logistics behind getting money to their clients was difficult before Black Friday. You can imagine how much harder it will be now.

Hence, why I wanted to be one of the first players to withdraw funds before a mass exodus of frightened gamblers, or before the books fled the market.

I won't go into details about how I got my money, but if I was writing the screenplay, I'd say that a guy in a jumpsuit (who could have been an extra from The Sopranos) met me at an undisclosed diner far away from The Strip in Las Vegas.

"Yous the doctah?" he said in a recognizable South Jersey accent.

"The doctor?" I said before a long pause, "Oh, yeah, I'm the doctor you're looking for."

That's when he dropped an envelope on the table and flagged down the waitress for a cup of coffee. And yes, in case you were wondering, he made me buy lunch and told me to bet the Mavericks to sweep the Lakers.

* * *

I was listening to Betting Dork's podcast on His guest was Vegas Runner, one of my favorite wiseguys from Philly, who said that Black Friday was a wake up call for offshore sportbooks. He also mentioned that the sportsbetting community got lucky because no one in either industry, poker or sportsbetting, saw Black Friday coming. Vegas Runner's theory on why the DOJ went after online poker was because the government is broke and "they're looking for the easiest way to get (money)." He also suggested if the feds wanted to, they could have ambushed BOTH industries and crippled the flow of gambling funds. As is, the sports betting community, all of the wiseguys and sharps got a huge warning that the federales might be gunning for them next.

You can listen to the podcast here. The segment I'm talking about appears at the 28 minute mark and lasts a few minutes.

I have a few theories on why the sportsbetting companies were not touched during Black Friday:
1) The sportsbooks have some sort of protection from authorities which allows them to operate (and thereby accept American players). Some land-based casinos might have greased the feds because their legal sportsbooks might need the assistance of offshore books to occasionally offset one-sided action. As a result, some of the land-based casinos made a wink-wink deal with the feds to stay away from their money movers.

2) The feds are using the intel that industry rat Daniel Tzvetkoff (former owner of a third party processing company) provided them to bring down online poker, which will help them build a case against sportsbooks. So, it's a matter of time before they strike and the sportsbetting world will have to deal with their version of Black Friday.

3) Some sportbetting operations have had links to organized crime and a different federal investigation unit (e.g. the FBI) might have an ongoing investigation that they don't want the DOJ to interfere with.
All of these are half-baked theories I came up with on the fly,however, since Black Friday, a couple of sportsbooks announced that they will no longer be accepting new players from America. The list includes and BetUS, which made their announcement last week. As of last night, you can add Sports Interaction to the list. In case you're wondering, if you already have an account with those sites, consider yourself lucky to have gotten grandfathered in, because you can continue to bet, along with making withdrawals and deposits.

It seem as though many of the sportsbooks are spooked out and they're taking a proactive approach to prevent the DOJ (through their proxy the OIJ) from indicting them and eventually raiding their Costa Rican offices.

I'm assuming that the future of sportsbooks in America will follow a similar path to what happened with the online poker market in 2006 after the UIGEA was introduced. A few operators will bail while a couple of others will remain and attempt to gobble up the American market share. Yes, Americans are not the only ones who bet on sports and like poker, there's a thriving international player base, but American players were gravy. They generated such a massive amount of volume due to the popularity of NFL wagering (and to an extent, March Madness), that it'll be impossible for a second-tiered or fledgling sportsbook to ignore the amount of "free money" available if they step in and accept sports bets from Americans.

If you're a whale on American soil, then you're action will be taken care of. Even though Pinnacle doesn't accept Americans, every huge bettor I know has an account with Pinnacle, or at the least, an agent booking their wagers at Pinnacle for them.

At this point, the federales and corporate gaming entities win because they'll get my action (and thereby have access to my money). As a result of Black Friday, I'm going to do all my gambling in land-based casinos. I have an account on Cake Poker but doubt I'll play anytime soon. Live poker is in my future along with spending time at the sportsbook's window on The Strip.

In the meantime, the next time the VIP manager from Costa Rica calls, I'll be sure to send them to voice mail, along with my former stockbroker and any other cold caller from a boiler room on Wall Street, who is trying to get me to "Buy the Fucking Dip!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Got My Mind On My Money and My Money On My Mind

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

PokerStars paid their players.

Full Tilt is supposedly going to let players know shortly about getting paid.

And now UB/AP cut a deal with the DOJ. You can read the details in this wretched PR piece, but players are still clueless about cashouts.

Even after the UB/AP junta cut a deal and issued a fluffy promise to repay its customers, many players are skeptical that they are not going to get paid... or at least... paid anytime soon. Over the last few weeks, players have been dumping their UB bucks for pennies on the dollar, just to get something...anything...out of their virtual rolls.

Just yesterday, UB dumped their stable of sponsored pros. Los Hombres pondered which pros are next tolose sponsorships?

In semi-related gaming news... know many American sports bettors who got spooked out over April 15th. A popular offshore book, BetUS, announced last week that they will no longer be accepting new players from the U.S. Market. If you have an existing account, you will be grandfathered in.

Many players successfully cashed out of online sports books with no major issues except it's taking a little longer to get money out of Costa Rica -- which everyone knows can be a tiresome and arduous task depending on which company you're dealing with.

Perhaps BetUS is just the first of many sportsbooks to shut their doors to new players from U.S. soil. That hurts the weekend warriors. The whales will be able to make bets no matter what... but it's the casual bettors that might find fewer places to bet when the football season kicks off... or I should say... if the football season kicks off.

If you have money stuck somewhere, well... fire up a fatty, and get down with the wisdom of my favorite West Coast poet (not named Bukowski)... Calvin Broadus, Jr.

Friday, May 06, 2011

PokerStars' Office Raided in Costa Rica by Federales... By Accident??

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

This just in... but according to a friend of mine in San Jose, Costa Rica... the OIJ, aka the Costa Rican version of the FBI, raided the offices of PokerStars this morning. They sent all of the workers home.

I've seen enough episodes of Law and Order to assume that the Costa Rican FBI are combing through files to eventually hand over to the DOJ.

There's also a report (thanks to @KevMath for the assist) from @Ckrafcik that the offices of UB/Absolute were also raided... that is, what is left of the company after it got gutted the other day when 95% of their staff were given the proverbial boot out the front door earlier in the week amidst rumors of bankruptcy, before they re-hired 20% of their employees to maintain a skeleton staff and save face after a huge PR shitstorm that fell their way when word got out that almost everyone was axed.

Stay tuned for more info as my sources in Costa Rica report back to me.

I talked to another friend in Costa Rica who works for a major online sportsbook, and he said, "No raids in the sportsbooks. We're bulletproof. Business as usual here. Who do you want to bet in the NBA tonight?"

* * *


Mucho gracias to my network of sources in Costa Rica. Next time I'm in San Jose, I'm buying everyone dinner. Please keep the intel coming. And special thanks to Kevin Mathers who has been assisting me with 2+2 links, etc...

11:25pm PT... Thanks to KevMath for pointing out this post from PokerStars VIP manager. It appeared in this thread titled Costa Rica OIJ Raids Pokerstars/AP/UB Offices in Costa Rica.

11:35pm... According to my source in San Jose, "Stars got raided because UB and AP fucked it up and are not paying their employees. So (federales) are afraid Stars will do the same thing."

11:42pm... Another trusted source with a decade of online gaming experience reminded me that Stars has all of their main offices on the Isle of Man and Costa Rica only houses their support team. The story on the street is that the OIJ was concerned that Stars was going to terminate (without pay) the support staff. According to local news reports, they are reporting a raid on UB offices, but haven't mentioned PokerStars.

11:49pm... From my man on the street in San Jose: "UB is driving all the attention (in local press) because the legal representative here was the mayoral candidate for Escazu."

11:52pm... From another source in Costa Rica: "The OIJ is looking for UB owners Scott and Brent and this guy Olman Rimola. They raided Rimola's house with no luck. They went to Scott's house, but he wasn't there. Reporters suggested he left the country a while ago."

11:57pm... From my original source: "They (OIJ) don't want anyone from Poker Stars. This is actually good for PokerStars because they are not in trouble here, like with you gringos in America. This is like damage control for them."

12:05pm... From my man on the street in San Jose: "The police raided Rimola's mother's house too, without any luck."

12:09pm... From @KevMath on twitter... here's video of the raid. FYI...that news report is the source of the photo in this post.

12:14pm... From an industry insider in Costa Rica: "I know Paul Leggett... he is a douche. Rimola is fighting for the UB employees so he doesn't get any bad press and don't want any trouble with the (Costa Rican) government."

12:17pm... A quote from a different source at a sportsbook in Costa Rica: "The UB employees went to the "Ministry of Work" because they were afraid of not getting paid by (Paul Leggett)." So, I'm assuming that the OIJ raid is a result of that complaint."

1:11pm... From a source in San Jose: "The police left PokerStars offices. They were there for no more than an hour or two."

1:25pm... You have to wonder if the raids were made for TV? From a source: "This might have been started because of an investigative reporter Greivin Moya, who makes these kind of sensationalist reports on TV. This has been going on for a week now. Moya's reports always ends with raids or video of the OIJ raiding something. He thinks he is the judge too."

1:35pm... From my sportsbook guy: "Every fucking year there are new stories about sportsbooks in Costa Rica and about the (online gaming) industry, and they cant take us down because (they) give a lot of jobs to the Costa Rican economy."

1:40pm... Here's a thread from @KevMath in which he discusses a potential sale of AP/UB's non-US market share. As KevMath explained the "apparent deal was terminated, alleges US balances paying off non-US withdrawals." More here: Can we discuss Cereus specifically?

1:45pm... Phone is ringing, it's Marco. Going live on Quad Jacks Radio now...

2:15pm... Thanks to Marco and Wombat Nation for having me on.

2:22pm... My sportsbook source said: "Just heard you on Quad Jacks. Good job. I'll let you have the Lakers +2.5 but nothing larger than 2 dimes."

2:30pm... Listen to this podcast with former OIJ member who said the raids were spearheaded by the FBI and Interpol. The OIJ went into the raids under some sort of "fraud" or procedures on credit card transactions, which is why they seized servers and computers.

* * *

Breaking News.... Raid on PokerStars Offices an Accident??

7:30pm... According to trusted Tao of Poker sources in Costa Rica, today's raid executed by the OIJ on PokerStars' offices in San Jose was a mistake. The OIJ had arrest warrants for three individuals, none of which were PokerStars employees.

I speculated earlier that the raid was a result of government officials from one of the many labor/employment ministries worried that PokerStars would stiff their employees in a similar manner to the UB/AP fiasco. None of that is true. The raid was the result of showing up at the wrong office.

The raid was described as "just like in the movies with the cops running inside screaming and yelling and telling everyone to get away from their computers. They kept asking 'Where are the servers!'"

When it became apparent that the OIJ showed up at the wrong company, they drank coffee in the PokerStars employees' cafeteria before exiting the premises. The OIJ left without "taking a single paper or server."

My source from a major sportsbook noted, "The fucking Keystone Cops showed up at the wrong fucking address."

Our man on the street in San Jose remarked, "I think Greivin Moya led them to the wrong address. The media is sensational (sic) in Costa Rica about stories like this."

As my source explained, poker is more legitimate than the shady origins of sportsbooks -- which had ties to the East Coast mafia. But media hounds like Moya try to demonize poker because it's related to gambling.

Our man on the street continued, "The Gringos own the (Costa Rican) government. The FBI has offices in the embassy. If they wanted to pick up someone, they tell the OIJ, who does their work for them. But they didn't want anyone at PokerStars. They only wanted Olman Rimola, Scott Tom, and Brent Beckley."

That's all my sources have for now.

To recap... as weird as it sounds, one of my primary sources suggested the raid on PokerStars' offices were a mistake because the OIJ showed up at the wrong company.

* * *

5/7/11 Saturday Update:

Thanks to Gaming Counsel for pointing out this PR release...Blanca Games Issues Statement on Costa Rican Authority Actions. They claim that the raids had nothing to do with Black Friday or the DOJ, rather a separate criminal investigation trying to locate Olman Rimola.

I've been around the block enough times to know that PR releases are watered-down spin pieces, yet I read it anyway. This particular one already turned me off with the title. I'm skeptical of spin doctors altering perception from reality by avoiding using negative terms like "OIJ raid" and instead referring to the federales busting down doors as "authority actions."