Posts Tagged ‘Bluff


Poker in the Park

Last week, the biggest names in the poker world descended on central London from all directions.

But while Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel and others headed to the Mayfair Hotel as the WPT visited Britain for the first time, the real excitement was taking place in Leicester Square.

Poker in the Park came to the capital for the third consecutive year, with some of the leading lights of British poker in attendance. EPT San Remo winner Liv Boeree opened the free poker festival, which got fans in the mood for the upcoming WSOPE Main Event and introduced countless locals and tourists to the game just in time for the showpiece event at the nearby Casino at the Empire.

Other players to get involved were Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott, Paul Zimbler and Neil Channing, while Mel Judah and Andrew Robl made the journey over from Australia and America respectivly to offer free advice and anecdotes to wide-eyed fans in the Unibet tent.

But even among all the stars of the game, the biggest attraction was former World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield. The boxer came along to promote Real Deal Poker, and fans could play for the chance to knock him out…of a single table tournament.

Holyfield played two tournaments in a purpose-built poker ‘ring’, and players could qualify by winning one of several half-hourly freerolls. While crowds gathered to watch the champ limp-raise with king-three offsuit, I got a chance to speak to Real Deal Poker CEO Gene Gioia, who explained the unique new online poker room.

Real Deal Poker uses a real deck of cards, including a cut card, in order to guarantee fairness for online players, something which Gene sees as very important.

“Players should demand that everything is transparent and fair, given the amount of money that’s at stake,” he said.

“I have been playing poker online for 10 years, and I didn’t realise how much enjoyment I lost from not entirely trusting the games. We want to make sure every game is a fair game, the way it should be.”

With companies like Real Deal Poker unable to complete on a level footing with established poker rooms who have bigger budgets, Poker in the Park provides a great opportunity for people like Gene to get their product known.

Another poker stalwart in town to promote a new venture was former WSOPE runner-up and CEO of Bidibot John Tabatabai.

He was a busy man throughout Friday, playing heads-up poker against a shark in the G Casino tent and taking on other poker pros in Red Hot Poker’s Ferrari simulator, while still finding time to share his expertise with fans in the Unibet lecture tent.

“I gave a talk last year as well, but I think it could have gone better so this year I changed it to a Q&A,” said the Welsh pro.

“I let people ask their own questions rather than coming armed with a script, although I did do a bit of a Channing and rambled on for a while,” he joked.

And John spent most of Friday drumming up enthusiasm for Bidibot, his penny-auction site which allows players to bid for credit in a whole host of poker rooms.

“Me and a couple of friends have been working on this for a year or two,” he said of the site, which launched only last week.

“We looked at other auction sites and thought: why can’t we do this for poker and other stuff that people want to get involved in but until now haven’t had the opportunity to bid on.

“Part of it is about trying to make poker more accessible to people who might not be able to afford to play in satellites – you can treat the bids as a cheaper way to satellite into a big event.”

And there was plenty of opportunity for newcomers to poker to get a taste for the game, with free tournaments whetting people’s appetite.

Bluff Europe ran a series of best-of-three heads-up battles on state-of-the-art poker machines, with winners getting the chance to compete for a trophy on a dealer-dealt final table.

Elsewhere Red Hot Poker and Unibet ran hourly freerolls, while Neil Channing and others offered free tuition in the Black Belt Poker tent.

But the real crowds were drawn to the Bodog poker dome, which offered hourly freerolls hosted by various poker rooms, with players treated to free massages from the Ibiza Angels during play. As well as receiving a trophy, winners of the shootout tournaments could get their photo taken with the beautiful Bodog girls.

Steve Bellis, of the Nuts Poker League, was the driving force behind one of these freerolls, and was impressed by how Poker in the Park has grown in his three years at the event.

“I really like how events like this make poker more accessible,” said Steve.

“The location is excellent, and it really does have something for everyone. Maybe in a few years time it could take over the whole park.”

And there were no shortage of suggestions for how the event might be improved next year.

Steve suggested adding a second event further north, to open up Poker in the Park to a whole new audience, while John Tabatabai devised a plan to bring fans from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England down to London at no extra cost.

“It would be good to get buses down from poker clubs all around the UK,” he said.

“Maybe if you charged £1 to people who turn up on the day, you could use that money to fund these buses. That way we could get more of the sort of people we want coming down, as well as getting new people into poker.”

But perhaps the best suggestion came from Garth Borain, a poker fan who was at his first Poker in the Park after moving to London from Durban, South Africa.

“It’s nice that it’s free to the public, and I enjoyed playing in the freerolls, but it would be even better if they brought in a beer tent,” he said.


Where do we go from here? – Cake Poker’s vulnerabilities

Online poker has been no stranger to controversy in recent years. Many believe the scandals at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet set the game back a few years, with some casual recreational players – perhaps the most common “donators” in the game – reluctant to trust a system under which seemingly blatant cheating went undetected for such a long period of time. Rather than placing trust in the fact that such cheating was eventually detectable, many may have been more eager to cry foul and explain away their losses – although of course the poker economy will have suffered as much through a failure to attract new players as through existing players dropping off the spectrum.

Perhaps equally significant is the realisation that the support or endorsement of a recognised pro can no longer be taken as a guarantee of safety. You need look no further than former World Series of Poker Main Event champion Russ Hamilton’s involvement with Ultimate Bet to understand that. In an age where television producers are peppering our screens with poker show after poker show, creating celebrities out of the likes of Negreanu, Hellmuth and Matusow (not to mention the appearances of Annie Duke and Jean-Robert Bellande on more mainstream shows The Apprentice and Survivor respectively), one might expect the idea of a name pro drawing punters to a poker site to be little more than a formality. However when some prospective players look, for example, at Antonio Esfandiari endorsing Victory Poker, they may be liable to think “what does he have to gain from this venture?”

It seems as though every time online poker looks to be playing itself back into the public’s good books, it takes another step back towards disrepute. The latest site to fall foul of a scandal is Cake Poker, whose security setup has been “exposed” by (PTR). The suggestion that “superusers” may be able to profit from seeing opponents’ hole-cards hearkens back to the Absolute Poker scenario, and Cake’s cardroom manager Lee Jones has seemingly been burdened with the task of placating critics.

Jones was – at least until recently – viewed by many as one of online poker’s “good guys.” Formerly occupying senior positions at Pokerstars and Cardrunners, few questioned Jones’ motives for joining Cake. And his supporters have by and large been vindicated in their trust up to this point, with the Bluff columnist taking an active role in answering queries and criticism on the Two Plus Two forums. But suspicions were raised when he was seen to be dodging some of the more difficult questions thrown his way.

Cake Poker cardroom manager Lee Jones

Before any more is uncovered about the situation at Cake Poker, it is only fair to look at Jones’ actions at face value. He certainly appeared to be trying his best to defuse the situation, using all the information at his disposal to respond to the queries of concerned players worried their money might be at risk. His failure to keep up the efficiency of his responses – while not in itself suggesting deceit or anything of the sort – certainly raises alarm bells. In an ideal world, all poker sites should be run with a degree of efficiency which ensures there are no “difficult” questions to answer. At the very least it should be easy for sites to deal with those questions which seem difficult at face value, and provide an explanation whenever pressed to do so. Given what has come before in the world of online poker, one man’s silence can often speak louder than even the most dubious excuse, particularly when preceded by such vocal attempts to provide a rational and thought-out explanation.

It could be the case that Lee Jones is a victim of his own efficiency and cooperation, suffering merely as a consequence of being so helpful and trustworthy in the past. We need to understand that this situation is different from minor faults and quibbles uncovered up to this point, and it is not unreasonable to expect those at Cake to take longer to provide answers in the light of their greatest challenge to date. The issue which perhaps should be at the forefront of our inquiring minds is the question of why Cake refused to cease operating once the flaws had been uncovered by PTR. In the long run, such an admission of concern would exonerate Cake’s management of any suggestions of negligence in allowing potential superusers to continue profiting from flaws which are now in the public domain. The longer behaviour like this continues, the more sceptics will look to put two and two together and make five. It is surely only a matter of time before unfounded cries of “inside job” begin to surface and Cake begins to be discussed in the same light as Absolute Poker or UltimateBet.


Cake have taken steps to protect their reputation in the last few days, with a comprehensive statement issued by Lee Jones going some way to clarifying the situation and revealing the reasons for some of the decisions taken. It remains to be seen whether this course of action proves to be well-received by those who initally questioned Jones’ prolonged silence. It is not unreasonable to think the level to which such a response is appreciated will correlate to the future security of Cake. That is to say, if no further problems surface, this explanation may be accepted, but Cake run the risk of further criticism if future problems lead critics to view such an explanation as merely compounding existing issues and sweeping concerns under the carpet.

Sites in Cake’s position should always be prepared to let their reputation take a hit from which they are able to recover, rather than sullying their good name to the point that their errors or misdemeanours spread through the rest of the game. Sometimes you must take a step back to continue moving forward.

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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