Posts Tagged ‘Russ Hamilton

10
Aug
10

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 PokerTableRatings.com (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.

Advertisements
21
Dec
09

The Lost Boyd

Let me take you back to 2004. Poker was in the midst of the ‘Moneymaker Effect’, the world was captivated and confused in equal measure by Greg ‘Fossilman’ Raymer, and The Crew were set to take over the world.

Led by Russ ‘Dutch’ Boyd, and featuring an assortment of exciting young players including bracelet winners Brett Jungblut and Scott Fischman, The Crew were seen by some to be emblematic of the first wave of young internet pros.

But the game has passed them by somewhat, with Fischman the only member of the group close to keeping pace with the even younger and even more aggressive twentysomethings coming through towards the end of the decade.

Even Fischman’s final table at 2008s WSOPE Main Event pales in comparison to the expectations surrounding The Crew when they burst on to the scene in the first half of the decade.

Now Boyd is back in the news, but it’s not for his poker play.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=scott+fischman&iid=1861118″ src=”0/1/d/3/NBCs_4th_National_b189.jpg?adImageId=9578592&imageId=1861118″ width=”428″ height=”594″ /]

Crew member Scott Fischman

……….

2+2=5

It emerged recently that the 29-year-old is being sued by popular poker forum Two Plus Two for trademark infringement, with regards to the domain name ‘twoplustwopoker.com’ which he registered in 2004.

Despite the name having expired, Two Plus Two owner Mason Malmuth continues to seek damages from Boyd for what he has described as a “blatantly infringing, bad-faith registration.”

As Boyd’s site – when it existed – offered links to other poker-themed websites, so it is easy to see why Malmuth would take issue with what he might see as an exploitation of the respected ‘Two Plus Two’ banner for Boyd’s personal gain.

So, what has caused someone like Boyd, who once had the potential to let his poker do the talking, to find himself back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons?

Spot of bother

This is not the first time controversy has courted the University of Missouri graduate. Back in 2001, before his WSOP breakthrough, his ‘PokerSpot’ online cardroom landed him in all sorts of difficulties.

When PokerSpot closed down, it was alleged that the company failed to return players’ funds to the tune of around $400,000.

After months of silence, during which a number of players were unable to withdraw funds from the site for a variety of reasons, Boyd provided this open letter.

And the main issue to this day is arguably not the failure to recompense people who deposited money on PokerSpot per se, but rather the alleged reneging on promises – that’s right, promises – that the money would be returned.

Of course I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but if this money is still yet to find its way back to its rightful owners, then might Boyd be able to pay back any existing debts with the money earned through his more recent venture twoplustwopoker.com?

Dutch courage

It is certainly true that the online game is not what it once was. The top players are increasingly aggressive, the pots are getting bigger, and the variance is growing to unprecedented levels.

And while many pros have no trouble making money from the online game, several of them have begun looking elsewhere to generate a more steady income to augment the money they make playing poker.

Howard Lederer, once one of the best players in the world, has arguably found it hard to compete with the best of the best as the structure and makeup of the game has changed.

But he is now seemingly set for life due to his involvement with Full Tilt Poker, a company which brings in many millions a year for the 14 pros who make up ‘Team Full Tilt.’

With this in mind, Boyd’s early venture with PokerSpot showed him to be ahead of his time. But the bottom line is it didn’t work out for him, in terms of income and reputation.

And surely the best option for Boyd is to stay away from controversy, stay out of the headlines, and go back to doing what he does best so he remains well-known as a poker player.

At this stage I do not want to say too much, as as far as I can tell the talks between Boyd and Malmuth are still ongoing and the argument – if not necessarily ‘raging’ – is still very much alive.

All I feel justified to comment on so far is the fall from grace of a player who had the potential to become one of the game’s greatest.

Now, unless a resolution can be found, it looks as though Boyd may be travelling down the same road once trodden by his namesake Russ Hamilton – a road which may end in him being remembered for something other than his poker ability.

And I think we can all agree that this would be a huge shame, as – regardless of the dated and sometime-ridiculous marketing of the crew – there is no doubting the talent and intellect of Dutch Boyd.

Scott Fischman’s website: http://www.scottfischman.com/

Howard Lederer profile: http://www.fulltiltpoker.com/howard-lederer

Team Full Tilt: http://www.fulltiltpoker.com/our-team

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




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.

RSS pokernews.com latest stories

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Phil Hellmuth’s tweets

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Daniel Negreanu’s tweets

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.