Online Poker: Chris Vaughn and Sorel 'Imper1um' Mizzi Speak, Part 1

Online Poker: Chris Vaughn and Sorel 'Imper1um' Mizzi Speak, Part 1 0001

Before Oct. 21st, Chris Vaughn was generally known in the poker world because of his work as Managing Editor for Bluff Magazine. On that night, Vaughn won the $1 Million Guaranteed on Full Tilt under his 'BluffMagCV' screen name. Not only had lightning struck, but it would soon seem to have struck twice, for a week later Vaughn virtually repeated the feat, capturing (as 'SlippyJacks') the Sunday Million on PokerStars. Other players dreamed about a similar breakthrough performance.

Except… rumors were quickly afoot that the first of the victories officially posted by Vaughn wasn't quite what it seemed, that in fact this might have been a case of 'account selling' --- the practice of turning over an account late in a major online tournament to a potent, star online player. The practice has come to light only in recent months, after several account-selling incidents were discussed on major poker forums. It was quickly recognized that a star player taking over one of these accounts was gaining a significant edge over his remaining players, who would have no idea that a new tough player, perhaps with a radically different style, had suddenly assumed a seat at the table.

Had that happened here? No one knew for sure, though speculation quickly focused on young online star Sorel 'Imper1um' Mizzi, a friend of Vaughn's. An investigation into the Oct. 21st Full Tilt tournament soon began, and unofficial word of Mizzi's role in the tourney began to spread.

However, it wasn't until the runner-up in the Oct. 21st event, Soren Kongsgaard, recently posted an e-mail he had received from Full Tilt that the rumored disqualification of Vaughn's account was confirmed. Kongsgaard had suffered a tough loss at that, being blinded out during heads-up play after a lengthy loss of his Internet connection. The letter, though, confirmed that Kongsgaard would be moved up to the winner's spot, with all other money finishers in the event bumped up one spot as well.

Faced with the evidence and growing outcry on poker forums, Vaughn and Mizzi contacted PokerNews about going public with the events of that night and related matters. Vaughn and Mizzi agreed to a lengthy interview which will be presented here in two parts, detailing the purchase of Vaughn's account and the practice of account selling in general.

John Caldwell: Chris, tell me a little bit about where you were during your Full Tilt win. At what stage you started receiving communications and how you reacted to them and basically what happened after that?

Chris Vaughn: Oh, I think there was something around... I think we were at three tables left. I want to say maybe there were 24 people. I was below average stack – I wasn't one of the shortest stacks – but definitely below average. I don't remember time, details like that. I just remember that I had definitely had - had just gotten to the point where I was starting to really look at first, second, third, like those big numbers, you know? Realistically, in a poker tournament, you have to get really deep to really start looking at those numbers and I guess I - I had gotten that deep, for sure. So, I was playing it... obviously the situation I was in financially as a 24-year-old journalist – the numbers got pretty big, you know? They were pretty effective, so this really led to – I guess me talking to Sorel about this.

JC: So Sorel called you at some stage ?

CV: No, no – no, what initially happened was – I guess everyone in the – half the field in the tournament had gotten disconnected at some point. I had started to lag, I guess is what they call it, a little bit. Which means, I wasn't timing out, but I was freezing a little bit, and I work like five minutes, literally from where I live. And so I was considering driving down to work. I'm more comfortable playing there, I play at work a lot – most of the time, on Sundays, and I was considering playing there and , he [Sorel] was one of the people that I would trust to play while I did it. And, you know we were on instant messenger and I sent him a message and, it pretty quickly led to a discussion about selling the account rather than just letting him play for a few minutes. The reason I sold the account had nothing to do with my connection. The reason I initially contacted him probably more so had to do with connection, but selling the account was completely a financial decision and was in no way anything else.

JC: And so it was a financial thing, so you guys came to a deal on the spot for Sorel to buy the account.

CV: Correct.

JC: There were about 24 people left in the tournament, and at that point you, I assume, logged off.

CV: I gave him my password and he logged in.

PN: Right, so you logged off the account, and Sorel logged in. Sorel, is this something you do a lot and is it part of the gameplan? Is this the first time you've done this?

Sorel Mizzi: No, I'm not a – I'm not a cheater; I'm not a multi-accounter. I acted fast without malice and didn't intend to hurt Chris and myself, opponents, or the entire poker community. This is something that was a one-time – it was a one-time thing and I clearly didn't give it much thought, which is exactly why I got caught, because... of actually logging into his account which would be traced. But, I want to make it clear that this is something that was an isolated incident and it's not something that I've done in the past.

JC: So this is the first time you've ever done this – you've never bought an account before online, late in a tournament?

SM: Never.

JC: ... and then taken it over?

SM: Right.

JC: So, are you aware though, the message boards and such would lead you to believe that there's sort of these 'associations,' for lack of a better word, of online players who do seek out players who are still in late in big Sunday tournaments and do buy the accounts or maybe ghost for a piece or something like that. And is that a common practice – have you ever participated in that sort of thing?

SM: Well, there's a lot of speculation happening on the forums – people want to believe what – want to believe the worst. The fact of the matter is that – yes, there's a lot of things going on where players are being ghosted in the middle or late – in the late stages of the tournament by a better player and this is – this is something that can never be regulated. And the fact that there is no one player per hand rule online really gives those people justification for doing this kind of thing. But, I know that it goes on in the high limits and in the low limits and there's absolutely nothing that can be done.

JC: So given that fact, which is something we hear a lot, that "there is no 'one player per hand' rule online and it's simply unenforceable," is this the kind of thing where you've done that type of stuff before, where you may have a guy who's down to eight players in a big tournament, and you'll sit behind him on Messenger and something and do that, or is that not your style?

SM: No, this isn't something – like I said – I mean, this isn't something I regularly do. You know, sometimes people ask me after the hand what they should've done in a situation and I gladly respond to that, but this isn't something I regularly do. You know, a lot of the reason I did what I did is because, not just because of the obvious monetary reward, but also because of the thrill of being deep in a tournament and I still get that – that... {pauses}. I don't get deep in Sunday majors often and, when I have the opportunity to actually play deep in a tournament - it's a very... exciting thing for me, because and it's not just because of the money, it's because I love playing deep in a tournament. It's just a passion for - for playing poker, basically. But, to get back to your question, I haven't done this before in the past and I know that there are people who do this regularly and you know, like that's – I mean I know it's not against the rules – whether or not it's ethical or unethical is another question and that's for each individual person to decide for themselves, but, I mean....

JC: But let's specify that you're talking about ghosting here, as opposed to buying accounts.

SM: Right.

JC: It is against the rules if you buy an account.

SM: It is against the rules if you log into the computer, but as far as I know, I mean out of the five or six years that online poker has been – has been going, no one's been penalized for this kind of activity. So, with that in mind, I never – I didn't give it much thought and I didn't think what I was doing would cause this kind of – the kind of uproar and the kind of....

JC: Drama?

SM: Yeah, that - that exact, that happened and it – it was just all a shock to me, but, with that being said I still think what I did was wrong and I – I feel disgusted at myself and I really… I don't like the fact that it's been really hard for me to cope with it.

JC: When the scuttlebutt started coming out, obviously you spend a lot of time on message boards as well, so you're very familiar with that culture. But when the scuttlebutt on the message boards came out, hey "I hear this," "I hear that," whatever, were you concerned at that point that this would become an issue and if so, why didn't you take action then?

SM: So you're saying, when the first forum thread came out?

JC: Right, when the first forum thread came out, "We hear that CVBluffMag {Vaughn's Full Tilt account} was taken over by Sorel," or someone - anyone for that matter, and you knew it was yourself obviously, how did that make you feel and what did you do at that time and how do you feel about what you did?

SM: Well, I didn't really do anything. I kind of, I actually remember the night that I saw the post and the point that I was actually leaving to go on a flight the next morning to Vegas and I think I left looking at the post with like 70 or 80 responses and I kind of just let it evolve – I kind of just let people speak about the issue rather than me talk about what I did or what happened. And I think it's not a very good environment, you know, the public forums – to basically talk about this kind of issue because there's just way too much, {pauses} – I mean, you've seen it – there's just way too much hatred and it's just not pretty, so this is why I wanted to do this with PokerNews to basically address everyone's concerns in a professional manner in a professional atmosphere and I... I think that my initial reaction was just not to make a comment. I had planned on making a comment the very night after, but, I actually was scheduled to come to Vegas at twelve o'clock and my flight got overbooked, so I ended up coming late at night because I had to go to Phoenix first, so I actually saw the thread progress a day after – a day after all the – all the posts were made, so I didn't actually see what was going on until after. So I had decided initially not to make a response and then once I saw all the threads being made about it, I basically… I didn't really know what to say – I wanted to come out with an apology and basically tell the truth, but I was advised that I should do it in a more professional manner and not – not resort to the forums, so….

JC: Chris, you did respond, online. The perception I got from reading the threads was that you had responded at some point.

CV: Yeah, I think the one response I remember making was – I responded once on TwoPlusTwo saying that someone else had no involvement in this and my other post was to say that the interview would not be done with Bluff Magazine – I think those are the only two times I ever posted on it.

JC: And you went on the 'BigPokerSundays' internet radio show on, and responded. I re-listened to that interview again last night.


PN: Do you regret what you said on there – do you think Haralabos and Huff's assessment of what you said on there is fair?

CV: The question – for one – the question threw me off guard. I absolutely knew what they were talking about - I mean, obviously, I'm not stupid. It caught me off guard – I didn't think they would ask it. I probably wouldn't have done the show, you know. It was… I wasn't ready to be asked a question about this. You have to understand anytime either of us got asked anything about this. We're not talking about other people that have been in solo incidents. We're both involved in this and it's really difficult to answer questions like this when someone else is directly affected by what you say. But that being said, it threw me off guard and I just lied.

PN: And do you now regret that?

CV: Oh yeah, of course I do. I mean, it's – I regretted it the second I got off the air, I was like – oh, that's bad, that was – that was bad what I just did – I knew it was bad when I was saying it, I knew it was – I mean it was just, it was my instinct to lie, I got caught off guard. It's just like when you, when this happened with the account, it was like – is what I'm doing wrong? I know it's wrong, I absolutely know it's wrong. Even if I don't think I can get in trouble for it. Even if I'm not sure if it's against the rules. I know what I'm doing is wrong. I know it's unfair. It's just like when they asked me the question on the show, I panicked and I lied. You know, I – I had the chance to apologize to Scott Huff – one of the hosts of the show who's, who's really nice about all this. I just, I'd love to go back on the show and apologize. I hate that I lied about it. I wish that I could take it back and I wish I could go back right now and at least say no comment and wait for a better spot, you know, but – yeah, I mean, absolutely I lied. I think everyone knows that now.

Join us tomorrow for Part II of the interview with Sorel and Chris as they discuss the ramifications of their decisions, Vaughn's PokerStars win the next week, and where they hope to go from here.

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