The Year in Poker: May, 2006
May's poker news brought increased action on the legislative front, as both U.S. state and federal bodies acted on measures designed to impact online poker. Most of the news was poor, a sobering counterbalance to the April doings that had stock prices surging and the poker world brimming with confidence. Elsewhere, a "Beauty and the Beast" poker sideshow grabbed our attention, and a huge online site cleared a landmark achievement. Here's just a part of what May brought our way:
Washington State Passes Online Poker and Gaming Legislation --- This news was wretched. The state of Washington enacted a measure proposed by Democratic state senator Margarita Prentice, which not only clarified the illegality of online gambling in that jurisdiction, but boosted the penalty from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony, a category commonly equated to various sex offenses. Subsequent investigations showed that Prentice had received substantial contributions from Indian casinos, implying that this Draconian law was pure protectionism. Online poker sites operated by Washington residents began to disappear, and newspapers and magazines reconsider publishing poker content. The law remains on the books, awaiting its first legal challenge.
Poker Cage Match: Cash-Game Queen vs. Internet King --- Here's the tale of how an ill-timed insult at an online poker table turned into a real-life, best-of-three duel billed as poker's version of "Beauty and the Beast." Swedish online star Erik Sagstrom (a.k.a 'Erik123') was only the beast in comparison to poker diva Liz Lieu, who called Lieu a 'fish,' (in Swedish, likely 'fisk') at a table at an online poker website. Lieu challenged Sagstrom to a heads-up duel, held concurrent to the WPT World Championship in Las Vegas. The two waged a lengthy see-saw battle, with Lieu coming from far behind to win Match #3 for a $200,000 victory.
PokerStars Reaches Five Billion Hands --- Five billion is a big, round number, and Poker Stars celebrated the reaching of this hands-played milestone in style, with a huge cash giveaway to players participating in and winning significant hands associated with the five-billion-hand mark. The biggest winner was a German woman playing under the handle 'marajade,' who won $57,500 just by winning hand #5,000,000,000, and every player at the lucky table was awarded a free $10,000 seat into the 2006 World Series of Poker.
Poker Players Alliance Leads Poker's Cause in Washington --- A new lobbying group designed to promote the rights and interests of American poker players began drawing interest to its efforts in the nation's capital. The Poker Players Alliance, headed by president Michael Bolcerek, soon boasted tens of thousands of members and actively lobbied against the anti-gambling legislation even then working its way through Congressional committees. Bolcerek enlisted WSOP champions Greg Raymer and Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson to the cause, with those players also venturing to Congress to promote poker's concerns. Unfortunately, HR 4777, the House version of the anti-gambling act, soon passed from committee and onto the main House agenda.
Poker Bug: Online Poker Site has Tool Infected with Trojan --- Alarm bells went off when a small poker site, checkraised.com, was notified that a poker-calculator software application it gave away on its site had been infected with a Trojan 'rootkit' virus, reported to have been surreptitiously installed by a contract programmer checkraised.com had hired to work on the application. The rootkit virus included a keylogger setup geared to capture passwords for Party Poker and other sites, though the Trojan was discovered before significant damage occurred. checkraised.com issued an immediate apology, yanked the software and assisted with virus-removal procedures, though the episode highlighted an inherent risk associated with smaller sites, that of a possible inadequacy in dealing with the myriad threats of the Internet age. Connected to this, other sources noted that checkraised.com's internal procedures for verifying a virus-free product appeared inadequate to catch a new computer virus, such as the one the programmer inserted into the product.
World Poker Tour Names New Hostess --- Shana Hiatt was the very identifiable hostess of the World Poker Tour for its first three seasons, and Courtney Friel took over those duties for Season Four. May brought the WPT announcement that a new hostess would be in place for Season Five broadcasts, a relatively unknown Polish native named Sabina Gadecki. Gadecki, a one-time beauty queen who had emigrated to the lights and promise of fame of the New York theater world, previously worked as a magazine model in addition to her early theater efforts.