13
Oct
09

Practising avoidance

It has been a week of big news stories: Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Boyzone singer Stephen Gately has died, and – perhaps most importantly – Prahlad Friedman has released a new hip-hop video.

Los Angeles pro Friedman (a.k.a. ‘Spirit Rock’), one of poker’s more colourful characters, is best known for the Poker is Fun rap which he debuted at the 2006 World Series Main Event.

However, thanks to a rather more unsavoury incident at the same tournament, his name will remain synonymous with poker’s darker side.

With fewer than 40 players remaining from the record starting field of 8,773, Prahlad accused Australian pro Jeff Lisandro of failing to post an ante, equivalent to a tiny fraction of his chip-stack.

Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jeffrey Lisandro

Four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jeffrey Lisandro

What should have been a trivial and easily resolvable matter escalated into a full-blown, childish row with Friedman accusing Lisandro of robbing an opponent and the 2009 player of the year responding by threatening to ‘Take [Friedman’s] head off.’

The accusation, epitomised by the now infamous utterance ‘I don’t trust you, sir’ was proved wrong by CCTV, but that is not really the point.

Poker is fun, for everyone?

In an age where governments, particularly that of the USA, remain sceptical about the virtues of poker, it is crucial that the game is able to carve a new image and separate itself from the stereotype of reckless gambling in darkened rooms involving less-than-reputable personalities.

Online poker has often struggled to keep up this image, with the Ultimate Bet scandal proving that even former world champions are not immune to corruption and dishonesty, so it is left to live poker to keep up appearances.

And just as online poker looked to be dragging itself out of the mire, recent stories involving Pitbull Poker and eurolinx have thrown it right back in.

1994 World Champion Russ Hamilton was deemed primarily responsible for the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal

1994 World Champion Russ Hamilton was deemed 'primarily responsible' for the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal

Future problems?

Thankfully, the live game has not witnessed a repeat of the Friedman-Lisandro incident on the world stage, and fans are free to enjoy the game’s lighter side without worrying about what darker truths exist behind the scenes.

But poker players still have a long way to go to clean up the game’s image, whether rightly or wrongly, and they cannot continue taking two steps back for each step forward.

Timeline of Ultimate Bet Scandal

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Hi I’m Tom. I’m a freelance journalist, and I recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at Cardiff University. In my spare time I like to play, watch and talk about poker. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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