Forum Files: Scandals, Present and Future

Alex Weldon : March 2nd, 2016

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They say that only two things are certain, death and taxes, but if you’re involved in poker in any capacity, you could probably add scandals to the list. It’s simply a world that attracts so many shady characters and provides so many opportunities for ethically dubious and occasionally outright illegal behavior that even the most careful and ethically-minded individuals seem to get victimized by or at least caught on the periphery of some kind of messy business if they stick around long enough.

The professional poker community is also simultaneously very secretive, yet very gossipy. Whereas in other walks of life, when scandals happen, it’s often very sudden: Perhaps a whistleblower goes to the media, the police decide to crack down on someone’s operations, or a compromising email gets leaked. In poker, it’s often a slower build, preceded by rumblings for those who are paying attention, like a gathering storm or an imminent volcanic eruption.

A number of scandals have been discussed on the poker forums this past week, some breaking at the current moment, but others still a ways off.

Deeb follows Galfond’s lead
Thread: Article on Eli Elezra’s mansion & apparently, he owes Shaun Deeb and a ton of other people.

This thread originates last year and, as the title suggests, was initially on the subject of Eli Elezra’s home: specifically, the fact that he was attempting to sell it. However, as is often the case in News, Views and Gossip, a thread originally started to discuss one aspect of a pro’s life has become the de facto “containment” thread for all news relating to that person.

In this case, only the first couple of pages have to do with the Elezra mansion, after which the thread went dormant for some months, before being revived as of post #31 by the news that Shaun Deeb has accused Elezra of non-payment of debts to himself and many others. This is far bigger news than the house sale, and the thread has since exploded to over 500 posts and expanded to include broader speculation about which high stakes pros can and can’t be trusted with one another’s money.

Deeb’s decision to out Elezra came on the heels of Phil Galfond’s “op-ed” for PokerNews, in which the latter accused Samuel Touil of being a scammer and called on others to likewise out those who owe money which they show no intention of repaying. Galfond’s piece was very controversial in the poker community, and indeed, he’s since tweeted that Touil has clarified to him that the whole thing was a misunderstanding (although, based on past observation, I get the sense that such public excusing of the debtor is often a condition stipulated in repayment negotiations). If you’re looking for more such dirt, there’s plenty of it in the thread, though much of it comes from an anonymous poster going by “Privateworld,” whose own credibility has been called into question by well-respected player Matt Glantz.

What could possibly go wrong?
Thread: Iovation back in Nevada

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has granted conditional approval for gaming services provider iovation to operate in the state. Why is this a scandal? Well, iovation was the company responsible for handling security for the now-infamous poker site Ultimate Bet. Specifically, its programmers were the ones who agree to implement so-called “superuser” (aka “god mode”) functionality for the site, allowing site administrators to spy on players’ hole cards in real time. The excuse given by those giving the order was that such capabilities were needed in order to detect collusion and cheating, but unsurprisingly, the feature was exploited by Russ Hamilton and others to cheat players themselves.

Fortunately, iovation’s role in Nevada will be limited to providing geo-location services to gambling sites operating there, but it’s nonetheless quite shocking that they should be given any sort of second chance whatsoever after displaying such poor judgment in the past. The forums are not amused, though perhaps the biggest objector of all is PokerStars’s Michael Josem, who has been giving iovation quite the keyboard-lashing on Twitter ever since the news first broke.

A bad one, even for poker
Thread: George Derugin aka gder01/waterboat arrested for sex assault and child pornography

George Derugin was an online poker player from the pre-Black Friday days who went by “water boat” on Full Tilt and “gder01″ on YouTube, where he was best known for a series of satirical poker coaching videos. Narrated in a sleepy, slightly stoned or perhaps depressed monotone, his videos featured him playing hands in a deliberately terrible manner, while offering nonsensical advice and droning on about how great a player he is, presumably as a pisstake of all the mediocre players attempting to sell themselves as video coaches at the time.

His last videos were posted four years ago, and he’d more or less disappeared from the poker scene, but he was arrested last fall for having sexual chat and exchanging pornography with a ten year-old. This is of course a far, far greater level of awfulness than even the poker community is accustomed to. He hasn’t yet been convicted, of course, but cyber-sleuthing is a favorite pastime of the forums, and posters have found multiple occasions when, on his Twitter account or in his videos, he’s made creepy-at-the-time and way-more-creepy-in-retrospect jokes about being a pedophile.

Jaclynn Moskow teases upcoming Poker Night in America gossip?
Thread: What happened to Jaclynn Moskow on Poker NightIn [sic] America

“Limon” is a TwoPlusTwo user and poker player who runs LiveAtTheBike.com and the PokerSesh podcast. His latest guest on the latter was Dr. Jaclynn Moskow, who recently made an appearance on Poker Night in America. During the broadcast, she claimed in passing that she’d been offered $15,000 not to talk about her experience on the show and that she had documentation to this effect, though she did not elaborate on what happened or why, though the money was apparently offered by representatives for WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla, who has been involved with the show since last year.

This of course got the gossip machine going, and led to speculation on TwoPlusTwo that she had allegations that someone had cheated. Limon was quick to assure everyone that this was not the case, but that it had instead to do with something that had happened off-camera. There’s very little to go on for the time being, but tantalizingly, another poster named “IIInfinity” claims he has spoken to Dr. Moskow in person and that she plans on making a blog post in a month’s time to spill the beans. Rumble, rumble.

No real scandal yet, but…
Thread: NVG’s one and only US Presidential Election Thread, Featuring Jamie Gold Betting Strategy

Yesterday was Super Tuesday. No, not the $1,050 weekly tournament on PokerStars (although that also ran), but the single most important day in the US presidential primaries. The states which voted largely decided to back Donald Trump for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, to the dismay of some, the delight of others, but to the surprise of almost no one who’s been paying attention. Politics is usually off limits in the News, Views and Gossip subforum, but apparently an exception has been made this time.

Why is this in keeping with this week’s theme? Well, Clinton is no stranger to scandals, some of which date back to her husband’s terms in office, and some of which have come up more recently and are more specific to her personally. Trump, on the other hand… well, my personal assumption is that if he is ultimately elected, the next four years will prove to be one enormous, continuous, global scandal.

If, like me, you’re depressed by news of pedophilia and American politics, you might be in the mood for a laugh. In that case, do check out the Jamie Gold video at the beginning of this thread. He appeared on Fox News to offer some “expert” gambling advice. That advice? Well, that if you assume that only Hillary and the Donald have a chance, then by making one bet on each of them you can guarantee yourself a profit. Although this is technically true, there wouldn’t be odds laid on any other candidate if it were really such a sure thing at this point; a lot can happen between now and November, and as was pointed out in the thread, this “Dutching” strategy effectively amounts to “picking up nickels in front of a steamroller.”

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