Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gone Fishing 

Alrighty, I am off for my yearly trek to the cabin in the Great North Woods in search of lunker fish.

Here's a nice Northern Pike, one of my favorite toothy critters to hunt.

I am bringing my young nephew for his birthday this time. He's a fishing nut but has never experienced fishing like this. Oughta be a treat.

So please come on back in a week and a half. I'm looking at getting back on the horse here at Guinness & Poker but I need these breaks to recharge my batteries. Hell, I'll have a few more random WSOP Main Event anecdotes for you, I promise.

Especially the hands I played with that gregarious lesbian cop from Sacramento that Pauly hilariously said I was bullying. The damn ESPN cameras were following her around something fierce.

Tis time for no TV, no phone, no interwebs. Gotta love it.

The big news here in Cincinnati is the Griffey trade. I thought I'd pass along our local columnists perspective on this sad day.


It just didn't work out

Ken Griffey Jr. was the big box under the Christmas tree, unopened for nine years.

His career as a Cincinnati Red was more melodrama than drama, more oh-no than oh-my. His last hit as a Red was a three-run homer; his lasting image as a Red was making a throat-slashing gesture toward Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley. Each symbolizes Griffey’s time here. You decide which is the sharper picture.

In hindsight, he never fit. Griffey never embraced Cincinnati. Cincinnati didn’t give him much of a chance. This isn’t a great town for superstars. We don’t cater well. In that respect, Griffey was always too big a presence. He wanted room service. We pointed to the drive-thru.

For better or worse, we prefer jocks who keep their shirts dirty and their opinions to themselves. This isn’t necessarily a working-class town, but it owns a workingman’s sensibility. The Kid of Seattle, who wore his hat backward and his joy on his sleeve, was a 30-year-old married father of two by the time he got here. The joy part of his game was rarely apparent.

The plan in 2000 was for a still-in-his-prime Junior to be in a Reds uniform when he hit home run No. 756. Instead, Junior hit No. 600 in Florida seven weeks ago, witnessed by a Marlins crowd you could fit into the stateroom of Griffey’s yacht. If you’re looking for a metaphor for Griffey’s nine years in Cincinnati, that’ll do.

Carl Lindner brought him back with promises to build a winner around him. That wasn’t the case. The manager at the time, Jack McKeon, grumbled that the Reds needed pitching, not Griffey. The general manager at the time, Jim Bowden, called Griffey the Michael Jordan of baseball.

The Reds built a ballpark around his longball prowess. The combination of distance and fence height down the rightfield line at Great American Ball Park was the coziest allowable by Baseball. I suggested when the place opened in 2003 they should call the sun/moon deck seats in right Griffeyville. Griffey responded that he wasn’t a pull hitter. And so it went.

Griffey was the most overtly sensitive star I’ve covered in 20 years here. His skin couldn’t cover a decent-sized onion. “They want to see me fail’’ Griffey once said to me, referring to Cincinnati fans. No, they wanted to see you hit 40 home runs and embrace your hometown. The former occurred once, his first season; the latter never did.

Leg injuries robbed him of his speed and some of his power. Between 2002 and 2004, Griffey played in just 206 games. Frustration was the biggest part of his game.

To his credit, Griffey rehabbed hard and diligently, hurt after hurt. Last year at age 37, he hit 30 homers.

Watching Griffey was like looking at both sides of a coin at the same time. His steroid-free career ennobled the sport and served as a great example. His gestures to kids could be graceful and touching. After homer No. 606, Griffey presented a 7-year-old in the seats with a signed batting helmet.

His missteps were equally notable, starting with his request to wear Tony Perez’s uniform number 24 and ending with the Brantley incident. Griffey’s sense of entitlement was shared by younger, impressionable Reds, who hadn’t earned what Griffey owned. There was (and is) no player leadership to counteract it. That’s a big reason Griffey isn’t a Red today. Too many young players, too easily led.

It was a measure of how far Griffey’s popularity had tumbled that very few fans sided with him after the Brantley incident. To most, the Griffey Era will be recalled with disappointment and regret, a match made in heaven that ended in divorce court.

He’s Chicago’s issue now. The White Sox aren’t paying much of Griffey’s money this year. When he retires, the Reds owe him all the deferred money. It was a weird exchange, given that the Sox don’t need any outfielders, or a designated hitter.

Maybe Griffey, stoked by a pennant race, will find some miles in his legs he hasn’t discovered here. He will be playing some centerfield. Good luck to him.

The fairy tale never had a chance. More’s the pity.

A follow up - an email from the fine folks at Bodog.

Players are getting paid.

And yes, I do have a nice chunk of change on there and will not be rushing to cash out.


Good afternoon,

An article was recently released on Forbes.com that creates several misimpression's that the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group feels compelled to clarify for our customers.

As most of our customers already know, all operators outsource payment processing functions to third parties and these payment processors are subject to regulatory constraints wherever they operate, and, occasionally in the US, are subject to legal action because of the uncertain legal environment there.

However, the seizure of funds from these US payment processors was mischaracterized in this article, which refers to two specific legal cases against US processors. Rightly or wrongly, the article does not make a clear distinction between these cases, which, as a result, paints a misleading picture.

The facts are these: the first of these cases – relating to a seizure of funds from a processor known as JBL Services – happened some time ago and has absolutely nothing to do with the current payment processing challenges being experienced in the US. The constraints being experienced by payment processors in the US are universal in that region and not specific to any particular processor or site. Also, note that not one single player failed to get paid when this processor was disrupted.

The second case refers to a payment processor known as Zippayments.com and seizure of funds from this processor’s bank accounts in Nevada. The article falsely implies – but notably does not go so far as to state - that $9.9M seized from Zippayment’s Nevada bank accounts were funds on account for “Bodog”. This is simply false.

Processing partners with whom the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group does business are sophisticated organizations that are perfectly clear as to the actual facts of these cases and their contexts. They are unfazed by such media hype and Morris Mohawk wishes to ensure that its customers are similarly informed. Customer deposits are safe and every player has and will always be paid.

Alwyn Morris
Morris Mohawk Gaming Group

Bodog in Trouble? 

Feds Hound Bodog

The U.S. government recently seized $24 million from bank accounts linked to Bodog, the giant, illegal-under-U.S.-law Internet gaming operation founded by Canadian tycoon Calvin Ayre.

Federal filings make very clear that a serious criminal investigation of the Bodog enterprise is ongoing. At a minimum, word of the seizures is likely to rattle the confidence of U.S.-based online gamblers that they will receive their winnings, not only from Bodog but from the industry's other remaining participants.

Detailed in court filings in a Baltimore federal court, the Bodog-related seizures from such well-known institutions as Wachovia, Bank of America, SunTrust Banks and Regions Bank, a unit of Regions Financial, increase the possibility of criminal action against Ayre himself. There already has been published speculation in his native Canada that he is under secret indictment somewhere in the U.S.

The U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore, which launched the two lawsuits to take the $24 million, did not respond to a request for comment.

The flamboyant Ayre--media reports often call him a "playboy"--is now believed to be in Antigua and Barbuda, a country in the eastern Caribbean. He has denied being on the lam. A request on Wednesday for comment from Ayre, sent through the Web site of his Antigua-based Calvin Ayre Foundation, was not immediately returned. Nor were call and e-mail messages sent to public relations contacts listed on Bodog's Web site.

In early 2006 Ayre rocketed to international prominence--and the cover of Forbes magazine' annual issue on the world's billionaires--for his stewardship from Costa Rica of Bodog Entertainment Group and his open flouting of authorities in the U.S., his major market. The story headline: "Catch Me If You Can." The operation was said at the time to be handling $7.3 billion yearly in poker, casino and sports event wagers.

But since then, Ayre has been the subject of law-enforcement raids abroad and growing regulatory scrutiny, especially in the U.S. In late 2006 President Bush signed a law strengthening the prohibition on online gambling. Ayre fell off the Forbes worldwide billionaires list after just one year, amid a decline in his industry's fortunes.

In overall actions against the industry, federal prosecutors in New York have charged executives of Neteller with illegally processing online gaming transactions. This summer, Canada's ESI Entertainment Systems, an Internet payment business, entered into a "deferred prosecution agreement" with the same prosecutors. The company admitted to criminal wrongdoing and agreed to disgorge $9.1 million in criminal proceeds for its role in processing $2 billion in Internet gambling payments for hundreds of thousands of U.S. customers. Criminal cases have been started against various online gambling shops.

Ayre has been trying to put legal distance between himself and the operation he founded in the 1990s. For years its business was run through Internet servers belonging to Mohawk Internet Technologies, located on the Kahnawake Reserve Indian reservation in Quebec, Canada. In September 2007 Bodog said its North American operations would be licensed to Morris Mohawk Group, also located on the reservation and run by tribal chief Alwyn Morris.

Three months ago, Ayre, now 47, said he had transferred ownership of Bodog itself to Morris Mohawk Group. "It's true; I'm packing it in," Ayre wrote on a Web site.

Court filings in Maryland say that in January and February a total of $14.2 million was seized from accounts in the name of JBL Services and Transaction Solutions at Wachovia, Regions Bank, Bank of America and Sun Trust Bank. In July, filings say, another $9.9 million was found in eight accounts at Nevada State Bank, a unit of Zion Bancorporation, in the name of Zaftig Instantly Processed Payments, doing business as ZipPayments.com. The companies are described as helping to facilitate parts of the Bodog operation.

The court papers detail an elaborate international structure put together to allow Bodog to collect money and write checks to winning gamblers in the U.S. One affidavit by Randall S. Carrow, a special agent with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, said that $248 million involving entities linked to Bodog was processed through Wachovia Bank, from which $11 million of the $24 million was seized.

In a statement to Forbes, Wachovia said the bank cooperated with law enforcement, doesn't knowingly allow Internet gaming operations to open accounts, and the funds ending up at the bank were in accounts of a third-party credit card servicer. The statement also hinted that various accounts might have been kept open at the request of investigators to aid their efforts.

According to Carrow's detailed sworn statements, the IRS's Criminal Investigation Division started looking at Bodog in 2003 and opened a formal probe in 2006. The extensive sleuthing has involved close examination of public and bank records, the enlisting of unnamed cooperating witnesses and informants, and undercover efforts to make bets on football and collect winnings.

Ayre, says Carrow's statement, is president of Middleton Financial, a Nevada corporation described as a key cog in the U.S. Bodog machinery, as well as Stratham Finance, said to be based in Malta. Other entities linked to Ayre in the court filings are Gateway Financial Services, EBanx Ltd., Gregor Financial Ltd. and Calvtek Industries. The filings list dozens of businesses involved in processing Bodog transactions.

The ongoing federal pressure to disrupt Bodog's financial transactions may be bearing fruit. Carrow's affidavits say several checks issued from Bodog to its undercover gambler bounced.

A break in the inquiry came in May, one of Carrow's affidavits says, when an undercover operative for "another state's gambling commission" received a check that didn't bounce from an account at Nevada State Bank, which is headquartered in Las Vegas. That led to the $9.9 million seizure this month. The bank had no immediate comment.

Carrow's affidavits were filed in connection with the U.S.'s successful efforts to get a federal judge to authorize the seizures. But to keep the money permanently, federal prosecutors must file a civil lawsuit and allow a challenge by anyone with a claimed interest. No one fought the $14.2 million seizure, and it was ordered forfeited to the feds. The lawsuit over the $9.9 million--its official name is United States of America v. $9,869,283.05--was just filed.

Even before the advent of Bodog, Ayre carried considerable baggage. Close family members were convicted of drug trafficking. (Ayer himself was never charged.) In 1996 Ayre was banned for 20 years from the British Columbia securities industry for stock market offenses. By that time, he was already moving into online gaming.

"One of the things that drives me is the excitement that I could fail," he told Forbes in 2006. "What better buzz can you get?"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker 

"The thing is, you only got to fuck up once. Be a little slow, be a little late, just once. And how you ain't never gonna be slow, never be late? You can't plan for no shit like this, man. It's life."
Avon Barksdale

It's such a unique proposition, this Big One. An unbelievable structure with deep, deep stacks. But one mistake, one hand, one lapse in judgment can take you out in a blink of an eye.

Random, scattered Guinness-fueled thoughts here on a Wednesday night, 14+ days post-WSOP ME.

I know it's way past being relevant or timely per the WSOP, but I don't care. I am overwhelmed with Real Life and I'm just trying to do what I can here.

First things first:

David Sklansky has a clammy limp weak tight handshake. For whatever that's worth.

I still thanked the man, "Thanks for making me so much money."

And yes, I checked, and there was no blood on his hands.

It's interesting that the Great Dane kid, Peter Eastgate, that I played with ran over my fucking table for 10 hours on Day One made it to the final table.

Just non-stop aggression. Zero talk. Excellent gear shifting abilities. Sick folds.

That's all I saw on Day One. I'm guessing we'll see lots of footage of him post Day One and we'll see what story ESPN crafts about him.

I played with some serious fearless fucks over those four days, especially those Scandi's. Hell, my entire Day Three was spent with online high limit cash game legend, Hollingol. And he had a monster stack.

Thankfully, he was two to my right, but still. Nothing like walking a tightrope for 14 hours straight.

But back to Day One.

Here's a random moment:

At some point, someone started getting VERY gassy at the table. Now, my home poker boat is in southern Indiana so I'm used to this and worse. But someone got a little perturbed and made a nasty remark, calling out the alleged offender in the one seat, an older gentleman, who just laughed it off.

Ten seconds later, our pretty petite Asian dealer was calling loudly for the floor. Wow, I thought. Is someone really going to get a penalty for foul farting at the table? The floor comes over, our dealer gets up and whispers in his ear, and takes off. Floorman plops down in the dealer seat and starts washing the cards.

"When you gotta go, you gotta go," he says.

I wish I could recount all of the trouble hands I was saddled with but there's just too damn many. And mostly, my opponent or I folded so there's not much of a hand history there.

But those are the crucial hands. The nondescript hands someone ends up folding and you scoop up a middling pot.

And even though I doubled my stack each of the first three days, I never had a double up hand. Not once. It was all grinding and chipping up. Resorting to stealing my ass off and folding. One feeds off the other.

Here's my rough daily chip counts:

20k to 38k.
38k to 88k.
88k to 180k.

Shucking and jiving, my friends, shucking and jiving.

Damnit, I was going to do a full Day One writeup but this will have to suffice.

Day One was the most difficult for me by far. I was on very little sleep, was cold and hungry, and deeply irritated by my lack of feel in the game over the first few hours.

Just like every day in the tourney, it was a roller coaster. I got up to 24k, down to 16k, back up to even and then got mixed up with The Dane, Peter Eastgate, in a big pot. He knocked me down to 12k after pushing on the river and I couldn't call. Was I tilty after that?

Maybe a little.

But I hang tough and chip back up to 16k and a much needed dinner break.

At the Chinese place that I ate at ritually, Otis is there to give me the wisdom and perspective that I sorely needed.

"Right now, in a tournament like this, this moment in time is the equivalent of the first 30 minutes of a large online MTT. That's it. It's not even begun yet -- take your time and play your game. There is zero rush."

At the time when I needed it most, Otis was there with what I needed to hear.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't thank FTrain, the 33rd best Razz player in the world, for his help and calming perspective. And Dr. Pauly, for not only encouraging me and keeping my attitude positive, but for updating friends and family on his superb site.

So back to Day One. Armed with sage advice and solid food, I marched back and started playing better poker. My table in Brasilia (a side room) finally broke and I got seated right on the damn rail in the main room.

Lots and lots of railbirds, including Norm Chad for about 10 minutes. I can't say as I'm used to dozens of people watching me play poker, but honestly, it didn't bother me one bit. In fact, as a people watcher, it made the time pass by much quicker. We did have one guy, however, who would head to the rail to whine to his wife every time he was moved off or lost a pot. Very amusing.

Why does everyone start off their poker tales of woe with this donkey, this knucklehead, this assclown, or whatever? We've all played hands poorly. We do it in every session. So why assume the worst of a player because of one or two hands? It's all about the failure to ignore immediacy.

As luck would have it, the monster stack at this table was another blond Dane with perfectly messy hair. He didn't play nearly as many pots as my original table mate, but when he played them, he played em hard.

Tiffany Michelle was a table over and had an enviable stack.

I made two big post-flop moves in the four hours after the dinner break, getting two folds and building my stack up to around 45k before going cold and blinded down yet again.

I gave a thumbs up to my friends railing me and buddies in Media Row who would intermittently stop by to check in on me. I was shocked that I was going to survive to Day Two with an average stack.

The clock was ticking down and players were starting to stall. Everyone wanted to make Day Two.

And here's one anecdote from the very last hand of Day One.

A guy my age, a lawyer from Atlanta, had an uber short stack and either wanted to double up or head back home to his family. We weren't slated to play again until next Wednesday, on Day Two B, and he didn't want to be stuck in Vegas all that time with only a tiny stack to play.

And so he moved in, begging for a call, which he got.

He had a3 to another guys a6.

An ace flopped.

I was silently rooting for a 3 to hit, but alas, the board paired on the river.

Chopped pot for the poor bastard.

Oh the humanity.

Monday, July 28, 2008


This is fucked up.

Boing Boing linked up the Pig Monkey Beast that I blogged last week. Scroll down a few inches for photos.

This is worse than I thought. It's real.


Pig Mating with a Monkey

Pig Monkey Face Mutant

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