Top 10 News Stories Of 2007
The poker world witnessed quite a few significant news events this year. Highlights include a few major arrests, a site losing its domain name, and a teenage girl winning a few million in a poker tournament. Here are the top ten news stories of 2007:
10. Jamie Gold Settles Dispute Over WSOP Winnings
Shortly following his $12,000,000 first-place payday in the 2006 WSOP Main Event, Jamie Gold was sued by Crispin Leyser, a man who claimed Gold promised him half of his WSOP winnings in exchange for securing celebrities to play in the tournament while wearing Bodog apparel. Leyser stated Gold reneged on their deal. A court order mandated half of Gold's winnings to remain frozen until a resolution was reached between him and Leyser. The funds remained this way until February of this year when it was reported that the two settled out of court. Part of the settlement involved a non-disclosure agreement, so it is unclear how much Leyser received.
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9. Phil Hellmuth Wins Eleventh WSOP Bracelet
Prior to the 2005 WSOP, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson were in a three-way tie for most career WSOP bracelets with nine apiece. That year, much to Hellmuth's frustration, Chan and Brunson won their tenth bracelets within five days of each other. It wasn't until the following year that Hellmuth joined them by winning his tenth bracelet.
This year, Hellmuth separated himself from Chan and Brunson by winning his eleventh WSOP bracelet. Even more impressive is that Phil's win came in a $1,500 no-limit event with a field of 2,628 players.
8. Massive Online Tournament Payday Confiscated
In October, the $2,500 buy-in championship event of PokerStars' World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP) drew 2,998 players which made it the largest online poker tournament in history. It concluded with "TheV0id" finishing off "ka" to win the hefty first place prize of $1,228,330. Following the tournament, PokerStars launched an investigation into the legitimacy of TheV0id's win, which is their standard practice for large events. Two weeks later, they announced that TheV0id had breached their terms of service and that his entire prize was confiscated. As a result of this, each tournament participant was moved up one spot where they were distributed their rightful share of TheV0id's winnings.
It later became clear that TheV0id was one of multiple accounts used by poker pro Mark Telscher in the tournament. This is not the first instance in which multi-accounting a tournament led to the confiscation of a large sum. Early last year, well-known online pros "JJProdigy" and "ZeeJustin" both had over $100,000 in illicit winnings taken from them by Party Poker.
7. Chip Reese Dies Unexpectedly
Perhaps the saddest news of the year was the untimely death of poker legend Chip Reese. Still in his prime as a poker player, Reese died in his sleep in December from causes that are not entirely clear. As a boy, he missed a year of school while suffering from rheumatic fever. During this time, his mother taught him how to play several card games, including poker. Reese would later credit that time with his mother as what set him on the path to becoming a professional poker player.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Reese spent the summer in Las Vegas before plans to attend Stanford Business School. As legend has it, his summer in Vegas was such a financial success that he literally never left.
Just 56 years old at the time of his death, Reese was remembered by Doyle Brunson who said, "He's certainly the best poker player that ever lived."
6. Bodog Loses Domain Name
Bodog, one of the largest online gambling operators, had its domain name, bodog.com, pulled from them in August. A judge in the state of Washington ordered their registrar to remove the site due to a patent infringement lawsuit. Bodog was sued for broadcasting multimedia information by 1st Technology LLC. Bodog failed to appear in court for fear of being arrested (or perhaps lack of knowledge of the case).
After losing their domain, Bodog moved their operations to newbodog.com. In September, they transferred domains again, to bodoglife.com, which is where they currently operate.
Following the ruling, Bodog founder Calvin Ayre said, "We are fighting this dispute and are confident that we will win." Prediction for 2008: They won't win.
5. WSOP Main Event Sees Fewer Entrants Than Last Year
For the first time since 1992, the WSOP Main Event had fewer participants than the previous year. In 2006, 8,773 players participated in what currently stands as the largest poker tournament in history. This year's tournament had just 6,358 players, down nearly 28% from last year. This decline in entrants can be almost entirely attributed to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was passed at the end of 2006.
As a result of that law, Harrah's did not allow US-facing online poker websites to directly purchase Main Event seats for their qualifiers. In lieu of this, online qualifiers from these sites were instead credited with the cash value of their prize. Understandably, many qualifiers were reluctant to participate in the Main Event when doing so required they fork over $10,000 in cash that could just as easily be used for other purposes.
4. Scandal At Absolute Poker
Online poker received a black eye in September when evidence was brought forth that suggested certain accounts at Absolute Poker could see their opponents' hole cards. These "superaccounts" came under suspicion when multiple players griped of the impossibly good plays being committed by at least five accounts. One of the accounts was proven to have played 190 hands of $200-$400 heads-up limit hold'em without once calling a bet on the river. If they were ahead, they would raise, if they were behind, they would fold. Eventually a mountain of similar evidence, much of which we detailed in this Weekly Shuffle, turned suspicions into an undeniable conclusion that something was amiss. Before this time, however, these accounts won over a million dollars off of unsuspecting opponents.
For weeks, the online poker world sought an explanation to these disturbing discoveries. In mid-October, they received an equally disturbing resolution. As we detailed at great length in this Weekly Shuffle, the villain was none other than an Absolute Poker insider. This rogue employee used his security access to enable accounts on third-party computers to view hole cards of other players.
Although they initially denied the very existence of the superaccounts, Absolute Poker ultimately admitted an internal breach and refunded a total of $1.6 million to affected players.
3. ECJ Placinaca Decision
Online gambling's legal status in European countries is often unclear due to conflicting state and EU laws. Many European countries wish to ban or limit online gambling, most often to protect their own gambling monopolies.
Fortunately, the European Commission seems to be on the side of those who wish to play poker online. The EC frequently challenges European initiatives to ban or limit online gambling, citing them as unfair trade practices.
In a landmark case this year, the European Court of Justice sided with the gambling operators over a case based in Italy. The court found that a country cannot discriminate against foreign gaming companies in order to protect domestic gaming operators. Details of this case were written about in a previous Weekly Shuffle.
2. Inaugural WSOP Europe Main Event Won By 18 Year Old Female
The first annual WSOP Europe Main Event lured 360 of the world's toughest players to London, including Annette Obrestad, a female from Norway who was just 18 at the time. It might have been easy to discount her chances of winning as a result of her age and gender. However, prior to arriving in London, she built an internet cult following through her online screenname "Annette_15", a moniker that has enjoyed as much success in multi-table tournaments as just about anyone in the world over the past year.
In London, Annette improbably turned her first major live tournament appearance into a victory and the feel-good poker story of the year. The win netted Annette nearly £1,000,000. This instantly catapulted her past the likes of Annie Duke and Jennifer Harman to the top of the all-time earnings list for women at the WSOP. She now sits atop that list with more than twice the amount of her nearest competitor's earnings.
Hardly a month removed from her win in London, Annette finished 2nd at the European Poker Tour's stop in Dublin, which added a cool $430,000 to her bankroll.
1. The Neteller Case
The #1 news story of 2007 started with the arrest of Neteller's founders by the United States Department of Justice. In January, these two men were charged with money laundering due to their involvement with the gambling e-wallet. While the founders were no longer active executives of Neteller, the company promptly ceased servicing US customers due to their arrests.
The arrest of Neteller's founders had several significant effects for online poker. First, all Americans that had funds in Neteller found their money in limbo for six months. For those with a lot of money in their Neteller accounts, this was particularly anxiety provoking, since many were afraid they would never see those funds again. Thankfully, all American customers were repaid in full.
Furthermore, the Neteller arrests had a major impact on the payment processing industry. Prior to the Neteller arrests, payment processing for US players had not changed much since the passage of the UIGEA. While a lot of poker rooms exited the US market, the ones that stayed did not have any trouble utilizing Neteller or the other old payment services for US players. After the arrests, Neteller and most other payment processors exited the US market, which made it much harder for Americans to deposit and withdraw at online gambling sites. A few payment processors have since taken Neteller's place, but the arrests had a profound affect on the ability and willingness of Americans to gamble online.