Wednesday, 2 July 2014

In defence of Football - The scummiest game on earth...Poker!

In defence of Football - The scummiest game on earth...Poker!

All this talk of match-fixing in football and how the game is in disrepute has prompted me to write a defence…or at least point the finger at other sports. There is no question match-fixing exists in football as it exists in many other sports. But is it the sport most corrupted? This blog has detailed match-fixing in other sports such as horse racing but I’ve never covered Poker apart from a small section in Off The Chest (where the hero gets cheated).

Some will argue that Poker is not a sport. Well, it has prize money, it is competitive, there are professionals, it is televised, the playing field is not equal with some possessing skills over another and it has spectators. That sounds like a sport to me.

I could write a book on scams, skulduggery, organised and unorganised crime, drugs and violence in poker but this blog with suffice for now. Also, its main audience don’t want to hear it. But this is a defence of football. I am about to show the level INDIVIDUALS will sink to to profit.

The first ‘cheat’ in the modern day era (old school scams are simply stories of legend with no proof whatsoever) goes by the online name ‘Zee Justin’ aka Justin Bonomo. Essentially what he did went against the rules of the game but was not ‘illegal’ just as match-fixing isn’t in some countries. He worked out a scam that if he registered multiple entries in an online tournament he could ‘dump’ stacks and therefore have the best chance of reaching the top end of the prize ladder. At the time he defended himself with some rather suspect reasoning but I believe has later apologised. Now he is a respectable member of the community and is a large winner on the live scene where you can’t cheat….or so you’d think

Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen’s name is mud in the live poker world. In fact, it’s worse than that. It is believed he is one of the worst scammers in the history of live poker. The most frequent accusation is him using other Vietnamese players (whom he stakes) to dump their stacks to each other or him, to gain an edge. Then there is the story of him starting a fire as a distraction. This then allowed an opportunity to steal stacks of chips to add to other stacks in more high buy in events. There is no hard evidence for this other than extremely well respected people saying they ‘saw it’ or know something about that proves it. Daniel Negreanu for instance.

Erick Lindgren is also known as scum. In fact, people now tell him to his face. His crime? Welching. There is proof of the fact that Erick Lindgren, at one time respected as an excellent professional and Full Tilt Poker representative, scammed many bettors of online high stakes fantasy league competitions, tournament staking deals, loans and more. His excuse? Gambling. Incredibly, he sits at poker tables now with the very money that he owes people and even against those he owes! There are numerous testimonies and even admissions by Lindgren himself of his practices.

One of the classic scams that people do is selling over 100% of themselves in a tournament. A poker player is playing the World Series of Poker for $10,000. He/she sells 200% equity to different colleagues, friends, associates and even to unknowns online. He/she then loses on purpose, pocketing half of the total stake collected. I heard the story of someone doing this, winning the tournament and then running! Amazing if true.

Highstakes poker player Jens Kyllönen had his hotel room broken into and his laptop tampered with for scamming purposes. Only a poker player would know what to do with the information garnered. There are also rumours of cameras being placed in poker players’ hotels/houses so someone can see their cards. This has happened to many, many others. Even if organised criminals use poker players to commit fraud, how is that different from match-fixers using footballers?

Let’s take it to the companies. Many are aware of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker cheating or covering it up (depending on what you like to call it). Then there is the story of Full Tilt Poker essentially engaging in major fraud (illegal payments from restricted countries). Many poker websites have or currently are engaging in intricate Ponzi schemes (some good hearted, i.e. they intend to pay back when liquid, and some not so). A poker website holds a pool of money and, like a bank, upon mass withdrawals, should be able to pay their players. But if the site has been stealing money, they cannot do this. Lock Poker cannot pay their players. They have an excuse of course but it’s been going for far too long for anyone to believe them. Some sites don’t even communicate – they just run away, pockets full of cash.

There is a strong rumour of something quite incredible happening in China. I’m hearing that there are warehouses of poker players (online poker is illegal in China), registering with fake bank accounts from Europe and playing together – colluding. Players think they are playing against a Swede, a Brit or an Aussie but really it’s 5 players sharing cards and crushing you. It’s almost impossible to beat 5 players due to card removal and the ‘sandwich’ effect when you have a semi-weak hand.

Serial scammers have ‘cheated’ more times than games have been fixed in football (though of course there have been more poker 'games'/players). And they will continue to do it. There is no regulatory body in charge and no prison time has been given to those involved in specific poker (player) fraud (someone please correct me).

Heard enough? I’ll reel off a list.

Man in Casino keeps cards up his sleeves to use for later occasions; ‘ghosting’ and invention of new screen names to defraud opponents; sharing of accounts to win rake races; looking at people’s cards (come on it’s against the rules!); money-laundering; cheating with proposition bets; lying about tournament entries and pocketing the cash; robbing players on the way home from poker rooms knowing they’ve won; robbery of cardrooms where there is an inside man and much more.

My point is that people are people. If there’s an edge to be had, people will take it (some legally so). But many go further. Where’s there’s money, there’s crime and the stakes in poker are massive. But the stakes in football are even bigger. I’d say football is doing well not to be wholly corrupt! But to be fair, millions is spent on education, monitoring systems, police and of course the wages are higher. A would-be scammer in poker has no need to scam if he’s winning large amounts. I don’t want to give poker a horrendous reputation. There are many honest players playing the game. But if you think for one second there isn’t major corruption in poker, you’re very naïve. Match-fixers have resorted to bribery, coercion and violence to achieve their goals. It’s what you don’t know that’s happened in the poker world that should scare you. No one’s had any reason to check.

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