Biggest Live Poker Scandals
Nothing excites like a scandal. A Scandal in Bohemia for Mr Sherlock Holmes. A scandal in the tabloids, ever a favourite of gossiping masses. Scandal is a primordial element, like fear and creation itself; we can trace scandal’s history to antiquity with shamed Roman aristocrats and before them, disgraced Etruscans, embarrassed Greeks, scarlet Assyrians and mortified Arcadians. We fear and love scandal in equal measure, happy to revel in another’s misfortune while silently praying no disgrace mars our reputation.
We love drama. When a wrist flicks and a upsleeve card accidentally shoots onto the felt, we feel delight and excitement before fury and suspicion. Our ears prick at the sheer brazen drama of it all. Scandal will exist past the tabloid age, when we’re all plugged into the matrix with wires springing like iron dreadlocks connecting brain to PC and transistors bulging on our foreheads like Seven of Nine, we’ll still lust for sordid secrets.
1. The Thousand Eyes of Ali Tekintamgac
Before the 2019 Partouche Poker Tour debacle, which we’ll refer to ominously as ‘the incident’ or more airily ‘the sploosh at Partouche’, it seemed the sky was not enough to stop Ali Tekintamgac, WPT winner and respected poker veteran, from accomplishing his ambitions. How quickly tides turn and fortunes fade, that in the space of a single event Ali went from favoured pro to reviled cheater, spurned by industry professionals, colleagues in career and the online community as a whole.
I’m legally bound to state anything outlined below is considered alleged in an official capacity. Ali has subsequently fought tooth and nail to clear his name, but the (alleged) facts remain the (alleged) facts. Ali stands accused of hiring false bloggers to give prearranged signals corresponding to various hands, essentially giving Ali a god’s eye view of the action, and the whole thing was (allegedly) caught on camera.
I can’t be the only one who thinks this saga has a whiff of Varys the Spider and his little birds, a master of whisperers with a thousand ears straining for every word uttered inside the walls of the Red Keep. Ali’s spotters, under the guise of filming for a feature documentary, were able to get up-close and personal. Ali was disqualified after reaching the main event. Many known pros, DNegz included, spoke out against his behaviour.
Crazy stuff, you don’t imagine cheating so blatant in this day and age, but it’s only a stone’s throw from planting your coughing friends in the Millionaire audience and hoping Chris Tarrant left his hearing aids by the sink. As I’ve said previously, the above events must be considered alleged until the whole truth comes to light, but rumour persists that 2+2 forums were aware and actively investigating the cheating as it unfolded, before the wider poker world, including event organisers, became aware.
2. The Curious Case of Christian’s Counterfeit Chips
Unlike thousand-eyed Ali, Christian served time for his crimes, Dostoevsky style. Two years fresh from the pen, serving only six months for his involvement in a scandal which shook the poker world to its degenerate core back in 2014, Christian Lusardi ensured the black strike through his name was permanent when he endeavoured to bluff through the Borgata’s Winter Open by introducing 2.7 million bucks worth of fake chips into the tournament, causing a halt to the action when event organisers discovered the fraudulent stacks with 27 players remaining.
After the initial investigation, more fake chips were discovered stuffed down the toilet bowl and cistern of Lusardi’s hotel bathroom, like those scenes from Cops where drug dealers messily attempt to dispose of incriminating evidence using any available exit, up to and including back passages, sinks and garbage disposal chutes. The Eagles said it best; you can check out any time you like, but those chips can never leave. Many posit Lusardi would have walked free with only a slap on the wrist were it not for a prior conviction for selling bootlegged movies, which resulted in an extended but ultimately unsatisfactory sentence, giving rise to the ire of seasoned players who begrudged Lusardi’s lenient sentence.
As to the 27 players left playing in the tournament at the time of its premature conclusion, many were left embittered without a second chance to compete for the life-changing sums offered, settling instead for a meagre allotment of $19K each and a $50 ‘this sucks’ fee back with their $500 buy-in, compared to the generous $2 milly prizepool originally offered. To this day the ramifications of Lusardi’s actions echo down through poker history, with many fearing a similar situation could again result in innocent players being punished for the actions of, pardon my French, rapscallions. Check your chips, folks!
3. Jamie ‘Withholds’ Gold
Veterans will recall when Jamie Gold confirmed GRRM’s pronouncement that ‘hands of gold are always cold’. The year is 2006. Our world seems gentler without warring tribes on social media and daily fake news epidemics. Pros Jamie Gold and Crispin Leyser made an agreement; if Leyser could coerce celebrities attending the World Series into wearing Bodog sponsored merch, Jamie Gold would split his winning prize like a divided doll between bold children, with $6 million being the eventually disputed figure.
Crispin convinced Matthew Lilliard of SLC Punk and Scooby Doo fame to wear hats and shirts throughout proceedings. Jamie also played his role finely, at least in part; he won the money but when Crispin came collecting, Gold disputed a formal agreement was ever reached. When you consider that some people lose their minds over a quid, $6 million dollars is quite the cork in the whale’s blowhole of their hitherto close acquaintenace.
After a lengthy legal battle, during which Gold claimed the deal was merely a favour between friends, with the promise less a rigid arrangement and more an informal agreement, evidence came to light in the form of a voicemail which indicated Gold and Crispin made a tacit agreement, with Gold promising no less than ‘half’ his funds to Crispin. This evidence eventually allowed Crispin to secure a court injunction to freeze his portion of the funds.
In the end, Gold and Crispin reached an out of court settlement, with an unknown sum paid to end this brief yet intense melee, ultimately resulting in Bodog ceasing all affiliation and partnership with Gold going forward. Lannisters don’t always pay their debts.
4. Jonathan Epstein’s 2011 Gender Madness
Surely this article will detract attention from the more unsavoury Epstein case currently sweeping the media with it’s dark implications of forbidden practices in the private islands of the world elite, but Epstein’s final table run in the 2011 Ladies World Series event was cause enough for controversy. Loathe upon he who scorns the all-knowing will of the White Goddess, so says Robert Graves, and Epstein did exactly that by stepping into the forbidden grove of the female events, where no man before dared stalk. Epstein incurred his share of ire from the poker community at large, with enraged posters taking to social sites in droves to voice their discontent; even Epstein’s own sister claimed she didn’t know whether to be proud or disgusted – we think disgusted.
In 2011, no Vegas law yet existed to prevent men from playing in the women’s event, only a shared moral law by which people of good standing and sportsmanship knew better than to try, except Epstein. Although, in attempting to appear virtuous, many pundits referred to Epstein’s faux-pas in sexist terms, declaiming his win and announcing other male poker players would not consider his win in a ladies-only event legitimate. The enormous controversy implored the World Series organisers, in tandem with casino owners, to ratify legislation which prevented men from registering in ladies-only events in future. When you consider the current climate of gender politics and the war for equality, it’s fortunate for Epstein that his foray into the female happened before the world’s sensibilities became more attuned to the plight of those downtrodden or struggling for independence.
Throughout the tournament, which Epstein finished in ninth place for $13K, the crowd did their best impression of a riled goose, hissing and booing every hand he played. Even the commentators joined in the ribbing, mocking him for being ‘single and unemployed’ with ‘no surprise on either count’. What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold.
Eventually Epstein lost, prompting the commentators to announce ‘Finally, welcome to THE Ladies Event!’ While less severe than other scandals included in our sordid countdown, Epstein earned himself a less-than-stellar reputation, which he has yet to distance himself from.
That’s all for now. Join us again next week when we’ll be counting down more milestones from the great game.
Mike at GGPoker