A List of Players Who Should be Barred From WSOP?
by Daniel Negreanu | Published: Feb 20, '15
WSOP 2015 is around the corner and rumor has it that we may see some faces we haven't seen there in a while. I've always been of the position that unless people have been found to actually cheat at poker, they should be allowed to attend. Cheating on your wife, your taxes, or borrowing money with no intention to pay, aren't examples of actions that the WSOP should persecute. If they did, man, we might see an 85% drop in attendance at the very least!
Russ Hamilton and Mansour Matloubi: I'm grouping these two together since they are guilty of the same crime, using a God mode program allowing them to see their opponents hole cards online. While this isn't a case that has been ruled on in the court of law, the evidence is overwhelmingly one-sided that at the very least, these two men were involved in cheating players out of millions. There isn't concrete evidence that these players have cheated at live poker. I have heard rumors, but they aren't enough to incriminate.
The question is: should cheating at online poker cross over to the WSOP deciding if it will allow these players entry into their tournaments? This year, the WSOP is offering a online poker bracelet, and while the cheating didn't happen on their site, should that matter? Also, what level of cheating is worthy of a ban? There are plenty of online players who have admitted to cheating/multi-accounting, but I don't think that warrants a ban from WSOP live events. Players like Dan Coleman and Justin Bonomo are just two examples of players who have admitted to multi-accounting in the past.
I think what Russ and Mansour did is obviously a much worse crime and neither should be allowed entry into the WSOP for life. Not that they care.
Chris Ferguson: At this point, it appears that Chris Ferguson's role in the demise of FTP was that of a board member. Once Black Friday hit, he has completely disappeared. No statement, no sight of the man in almost four years since that dreaded day. Based on what I've gathered, he was essentially MIA when FTP was trying to find a buyer so they could pay back the players. That's been confirmed to me by several sources. He essentially hid under the covers hoping it would all just go away.
So, does his behavior and lack of willingness to stand responsible for his role in the crash of FTP warrant a WSOP ban? No, I don't think so. I'm not pleased by how he handled things, disappearing just never seems like the most responsible choice, but to my knowledge Chris has never cheated anyone at the poker table.
Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack: I'm grouping these two together because of their association with the Epic Poker League which defrauded players out of a "guaranteed" million dollar freeroll. Players ponied up their own money against other elite pros with the promise of added money being incentive enough to do so. To this date, I don't believe that any of the players who participated have been reimbursed, and I don't see that ever happening. Jeffrey was never a poker player anyway, but Annie used to play in WSOP events regularly. Since the fall of the Epic Poker League she hasn't been seen around poker circles.
So, players are owed money, and these two were responsible to varying degrees for that. Should that warrant a WSOP ban? As wrong as I think it is to not even acknowledge this debt or make any strides towards making the players whole, I still don't think it warrants a WSOP ban. Not that it's directly comparable, but there are plenty of poker players playing the WSOP that owe people money with no intention of ever paying. Add these names to that list if they ever decide to play the WSOP again.
Howard Lederer: As many of you likely know I've been very critical of Howard and his handling of the FTP mess that occurred a few years ago. There is no question, that he, the other board members, as well as the owners were all at fault for FTP not being able to pay back it's players after Black Friday.
Do I think it was a ponzi scheme? That's an absurd notion. Do I think it was gross negligence by management? Absolutely. A lack of oversight allowed for Ray Bitar to run the company into the ground. I've heard from various sources that not only was Ray in over his head, he was flat out lying to the other owners about the financial status of the company.
Howard, for many years was an integral part of operations at FTP before stepping down at some point before Black Friday. Most people assumed he was still running things, and Howard certainly played the part of the "guy behind the guy" if you will.
Once the news broke that FTP was insolvent, based on sources I've spoken to, Howard spent every day trying to find a way to get the players paid. Many of the owners didn't agree with the direction Howard wanted to take the company, but it seemed to be a consensus that Howard's main purpose and motivation was to get the players paid.
In come PokerStars to save the day, and players have been made whole as far as I'm aware. PokerStars bought FTP and paid back all the outstanding debts. So at this point, while you can like or dislike Howard Lederer as a person- that is your choice, of course, I think it's clear that he should have every right to play in WSOP events. Aside from players having been paid now, to my knowledge he has never cheated at poker, nor have there ever been rumors about him doing so.
I've had strong opinions on all of these people mentioned over the last 10-20 years, but if I'm being fair, outside of Russ Hamilton and Mansour Matloubi, I would have no problem playing the WSOP in 2015 against any of the other names mentioned.
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