For the past few weeks, the NFL has found itself in the middle of two national debates regarding very serious subjects. Normally, September is filled with great excitement because the regular season is finally back after months of prognostications from hundreds of analysts, but the games have been overshadowed by the actions of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. The NFL wants no part of issues like domestic violence or child abuse, but alas we use sports as a prism with which to observe the human condition, and both Rice and Peterson have been charged with serious crimes.
Poker is less of a launching point because there aren't tens of millions of viewers each week, and Anheuser-Busch doesn't have a $1.2 billon sponsorship deal with any of the major tours, but there are still instances where we as a community have an opportunity to enter into a discussion about off-the-felt issues. Most recently, the t-shirts that Olivier Busquet and Daniel Colman wore at the European Poker Tour Barcelona Super High Roller final table sparked a conversation about politics in poker. In some circles folks even yelled at each other about the actual conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Although these conversations are often short because we're a society plagued with ADD, and we are quick to forget what we were just talking about once they're over, I hope the next discussion we have is about borrowing money and plummeting into makeup. It's no secret that there are a lot of "professional" poker players that aren't necessarily winning players, and are actually broke and owe their backers or investors large sums of money.
Well, maybe their not "losing players" per se, they're just "down swinging."
At any rate, some of these players continue to receive backing until they climb out of their financial hole. Many of them fail to do so, and are forced to cut a deal with their backer. Sometimes another backer will even purchase the player's makeup and put him on a new stake. All the while this player will still enter dozens of events, risking thousands of dollars.
While it seems like the backed player is getting a great deal in this scenario, they are really being suffocated with unrealistic expectations. Money is a strong motivating factor in poker, but when you're in makeup a large score may only get you back to even. So, when you and I look at the first-place prize and think about all of the cool things we could buy with the money, a player in makeup looks at the first-place prize and sees salvation.
Poker is also a game filled with egos, and professionals who were fortunate enough to receive television time during the boom may have inflated egos. So, when these players are hit with hard financial times, it's difficult for them to act accordingly. Erick Lindgren was a victim of this when Haralabos Voulgaris and others came forward to air his sports betting and fantasy sports debts, but in all of my interactions with him over the last two years he has become much more humble.
A player who rarely comes off as humble, and admits his own ups and downs both financially and emotionally in his book Check-Raising the Devil, is Mike Matusow. Matusow is our launching pad for this week's Five Thoughts, as Ted Forrest claims he owes him over $1.7 million from their famous weight-loss bet in 2010.
1. Matusow vs. Forrest
Forrest, who is fairly new to Twitter, sent the following on Sept. 9 in response to something CardPlayer had either written or tweeted:
.@CardPlayerMedia Correcting the numbers: @themouthmatusow has payed me $70.500 of the 1.8million he owes me for the weight loss bet #4yearsFollow @ForrestTed
I'm not sure what numbers Forrest was "correcting," but nevertheless shots had been fired. Matusow didn't respond directly on Twitter — he hasn't tweeted since busting from the World Series of Poker Main Event 71 days ago — rather his older brother Scott got involved, defending Mike and saying that Forrest cheated him on the bet.
The two have gone back and forth for days, and on Tuesday Forrest started retweeting old pictures and statuses from Mike over the past few years, highlighting his successes:
Private jet about to take off to New York.. playing OFC with Eli + @themouthmatusow...#GoodTimes #ByeVegas http://t.co/XNvvCKJFgiFollow @GregFBT
Forrest also claims to have paid Matusow $100,000 after losing a previous bet, and that he will sue "The Mouth" if necessary.
At the moment, those are all of the facts we know. PokerNews is attempting to speak with both parties, but in the meantime we can have a conversation about financially unstable individuals playing big buy-in poker tournaments. Matusow has played in several $10,000 buy-in events since losing this bet to Forrest, including the $20,000 NBC Heads-Up National Poker Championship which he won for $750,000, but it's evident that he's not rolled for any of these tournaments. Hell, most all of the great poker players that regularly populate five-figure buy-in events are selling shares or being staked because they themselves can't plop down that much money with the amount of variance in play.
As mentioned before, Matusow is still stricken with a big ego though, and believes that he deserves to be playing in these big buy-in events. After winning his fourth bracelet in 2013, he had some choice words for his "haters."
There's also Forrest, who hasn't exactly saved up from his $6.2 million in career live tournament earnings. He is a regular in low-limit cash games in both California and Nevada, and is only looking for some "good faith payments" from Matusow, not the entire lump sum.
Poker players that are financially unstable probably shouldn't be backed into large tournaments, let alone be making seven-figure bets. Likewise, if you know that a player is likely to be broke and will be unable to pay you such a large amount of money, why freeroll yourself? Maybe Forrest believed that the Full Tilt Poker gravy train was just going to keep on chugging, and that Matusow would eventually pay it all, but even with his successes in the past Matusow has found a way to fire off all of his money. Without some kind of escrow, the bet doesn't make very much sense.
We will wait and see if there is an resolution between Forrest and Matusow, or if Ted and Scott will simply keep beaking at one another on social media. My guess is that in the end, this whole tiff will simply turn into much ado about nothing.
2. Polk vs. BOA
Last week, high-stakes poker player Doug "WCGRider" Polk tweeted the following, scary news in regards to accounts he held with Bank of America:
Despite legitimately paying taxes, playing by all the rules, and banking at bank of America for 6 years they hve shut down every account 1/3Follow @DougPolkPoker
I have other then my checking account. Today I received notification that my remaining account has suffered a loss of servicrs, and all 2/3Follow @DougPolkPoker
Money has been frozen. I can't believe how horrible my interactions with have been and this is the icing @BofA_Community on the cake 3/3Follow @DougPolkPoker
In response, Cole South said he and other poker players also had a problem with BOA in 2011. Jason Somerville voiced caution with regards to CHASE Bank, saying they too froze his funds at one time.
After hearing this story, I was talking with a colleague of mine in the poker media that had his account (not BOA, but a different bank) closed. Like Polk, the bank refused to let him know why.
These stories are very frightening. Why are tax-paying citizens that are following the rules being punished? We are powerless against banks. They have our money and they make up the rules. If at any point we are in violation of their rules, even if we don't know it, they have the right to act swiftly. In these cases it doesn't even sound like rules were broken, just that the banks were perhaps uncomfortable or just overly quizzical. However, instead of having a conversation about the money moving in and out of the account, the banks decided to simply freeze the funds without explaining why.
On the most recent episode of the PokerNews Podcast, our legal expert Matthew Kredell explained that payment processing is one of the things that has really limited legalized online poker in New Jersey and Nevada. This is troublesome because all of the sites in those two states are highly regulated, to the point where every little change for each site needs to be approved by the respective gaming commission. If these highly-regulated, slow-moving sites are having trouble processing money from untrustworthy banks that have total autonomy over your money, then the growth of legalized online poker in the U.S. will be stunted for a very long time.
It seems as if every authoritative body is acting as a roadblock against the legitimacy of online poker in this country, which is disheartening. All some of us want to do is follow the rules, pay our taxes, and play the game we love.
Perhaps that's just too much to ask.
3. The Man-davia
The PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) is well underway, and this last weekend was Event #23: $10,300 No-Limit Hold'em 8-Max. The final table featured all notable names, including the aforementioned Polk, and the event was eventually chopped by Ankush Mandavia and Vicente Delgado Zamorano. Mandavia banked $585,313, the biggest score of his career, while Zamorano won the event after cutting the deal and walked away with $637,436.
WCOOP Event #23 Final Table Results
|1||Vicente "vicenfish" Delgado Zamorano||$637,436*|
|2||Ankush "pistons87" Mandavia||$585,313*|
|3||Mustapha "lasagnaaammm" Kanit||$392,375|
|4||Leo "leoc00" Cheng||$282,875|
|5||Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky||$191,625|
|6||Joel "Odonkor1" Nordkvist||$136,875|
|7||Dimitar "KuuL" Danchev||$100,375|
|8||Doug "WCGRider" Polk||$82,125|
NL.PokerNews.com's Frank Op de Woerd had a chance to speak with Mandavia after the win, and the two discusses several topics from deal negotiating to tournament preparation:
Mandavia first caught my eye during Season 9 of the EPT. I was covering EPT Prague, and one of the jobs of live reporters during an EPT event is to update the blog with the winners of side events. Most of this information is passed along by Mad Harper or the folks over on PokerStars Blog — Harper and whomever is dispatched for the Stars blog work so incredibly hard throughout the tournament — and we then just put it into the PokerNews Live Reporting blog. Sometimes we have to do some digging of our own, and I remember having to look for the results of the €1,100 heads-up event in Prague.
The winner was Mandavia, who earned €19,600 for defeating Georgios Zisimopoulos in the final. The name was familiar — "pistons87" was a known crusher online — but I didn't think much of it.
A few months later, at EPT Berlin, I received a Skype message from someone at PokerStars Blog to pop in a post about the side events. There he was again, Ankush Mandavia, winner of the heads-up event for €11,870. The two fields he topped weren't massive, but it's a pretty boss move to win back-to-back EPT heads-up events on European soil.
Since then, Mandavia has come very close to notching huge live scores, finishing sixth in the 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup for $67,359 and sixth in the $10,000 heads-up event (surprise, surprise) at the 2014 WSOP for $54,736.
Congrats to Mandavia for locking up the biggest score of his career, and best of luck going forward.
4. Aviation Club de France Raided
On Tuesday, police raided the famed Aviation Club de France, located in the heart of Paris. "Approximately" 12 people were arrested, and the operation was carried out by the races and games division and the French national judicial police. Among the reported accusations are irregularities in employment to money laundering.
According to Le Point, the police arrested several employees, including ACF Director of the Games Committee Marcel Francisci. Francisci is close to France's former President Nicholas Sarkozy and Vice President of the South Corse General Council.
PokerNews will have more on this story as it develops.
ACF is a fascinating venue. Some players and media members dislike the close quarters and the antiquated process of going through a secure door and providing proper i.d., but I fell in love with the atmosphere and the characters that I encountered at the club. ACF is right on the Champs-Élysées, a Peyton Manning-stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe. Obviously you can't fit a massive, WSOP Main Event-sized field in the tournament room, but it is certainly sizable for an urban poker room and the accessibility is unmatched.
Founded as a members-only gambling room in 1907, the building opened its doors to the public in the 1920's. Poker was added in 1995, and has grown since the Chris Moneymaker-inspired boom in 2003. One of the reasons for the growth of poker in the country, and particularly at ACF, is Poker Hall of Fame nominee Bruno Fitoussi.
Whatever happened that forced French authorities to perform a raid and arrest a dozen people, I hope it doesn't have longterm effects on the entire room. ACF is an important symbol for poker in France and in Europe, and, selfishly, I'd very much like to return to the room one day and perhaps sit down in a game.
5. What's More Difficult?
The November Nine is roughly two months away, and all seems to be very quiet with the WSOP Main Event finalists. World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific kicks off next month in Australia, where we will see Brandon Shack-Harris, George Danzer, or perhaps a dark horse emerge to win the 2014 Player of the Year award, but other than that, all's quiet on the western front.
Dan Fleyshman, who must be a "feel player," drummed up a little N9 talk this week when he tweeted the following question:
Do you think it's harder to win the @wsop Main Event or make the Main Event final table 2 years in a row like @mark_hizzleFollow @DanFleyshman
The correct answer is obviously Mark Newhouse's accomplishment of making back-to-back final tables. In fact, simply reaching the final table is almost as impressive as winning the entire event. Once you've navigated your way through 6,000 players, getting through eight others isn't very significant. Getting through 6,000 players twice despite not being able to finish first — which is something Newhouse could obviously do come November — is nothing short of insanity.