Recent Poker News Dump: Welcome to 2011 Edition
The first week of the year is generally kind of a slow news week for the poker industry, but this year seems to be an exception. Here's a rundown of just a few news-worthy poker-related items from the first week of 2011:
Prahlad Friedman Signs with UB
Quite a lot of chatter was stirred up this week on the news that Prahlad Friedman became the latest sponsored pro for the online poker room that did nothing to prevent him being cheated out of millions years ago. From 2005-2007, a cheating scandal at Ultimate Bet affected players in the site's high stakes games. Friedman, one of online poker's earliest high stakes superstars, is thought to have been scammed out of over a million dollars on the site during that time. Just a few short years later, he has ended his holdout with regards to accepting a sponsorship deal by backing the very online poker room he surely once despised. We talked about this extensively in the PokerTips Blog, so you can read more about it there.
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Washington State Seizes $8 Million in Online Poker Funds
U.S. poker players took a punch in the gut this week on the news that Federal prosecutors seized $8 million in online gaming funds from financial institutions in Washington State. The news comes as a sharp reality check to an industry that one month ago thought it may be on the verge of nation-wide legalization. Court documents demonstrated that the largest forfeiture, which involved $5.1 million that belonged to a payment processing firm known as Arrow Checks, had all come from online poker winnings at PokerStars.
According to an article in Forbes magazine, Federal prosecutors were able to seize the money under the Federal Wire Act of 1961 because "online gambling is illegal in Washington State." Last September, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld a 2006 law that made it a felony to play online poker.
PCA $100,000 High-Rollers Event Attracts 38 Entrants
One of the largest poker tournaments in history assembled last week in the Bahamas. Thirty-eight of the games most well-bankrolled players came together for the $100,000 buy-in high-roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Many of the game's most recognizable names participated in the tournament, including Viktor Blom, the man thought to be behind the legend of 'Isildur1'. At the time this article was written, seven players remain in the running for the $1.5 million top prize. Nick Schulman leads the way with 3 million chips. On his heels is Daniel Negreanu. With a win, Negreanu would surpass Phil Ivey on the all-time winnings list.
Hellmuth on Dancing with the Stars Rumors Intensify
For weeks now, rumors have been flying around the poker world that Phil Hellmuth may be a contestant on the next season of the popular U.S. television show Dancing with the Stars. Last week, these rumors took on a new life thanks to a Tweets made by Hellmuth and his agent. Hellmuth's agent, Brian Balsbaugh, Tweeted, "If you think @Phil_Hellmuth is great TV, you're gonna love 2011." On Thursday, Hellmuth gave the poker world reason to think he does indeed have some exciting news in the works by Tweeting, "Multiple great things, but cannot Tweet about it yet... 1 cool thing: going to week long VIP parties at Super Bowl."
It was Hellmuth himself who first gave anyone reason to believe he may be a contestant on the show. In December, he Tweeted, "OMG! Phil Hellmuth (me!) on 'Dancing with the Stars!' Outrageous! Might make a fool out of myself on worldwide television one more time." The show features celebrity contestants paired with professional dancers. Each couple performs rehearsed dances in front of judges and a television audience. A couple is eliminated from the show each week until only a champion remains. Past winners of the show include NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, Olympic speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno, and model Brooke Burke, among others.
Viktor Blom is Isildur1
Just before this article went to publication, PokerStars announced that the identity of the mystery high stakes player Isildur1 is indeed Viktor Blom as was widely expected. The young Swede captured the attention of the poker world in 2009 when he came out of nowhere to compete in all 10 of the largest pots in online poker history. He lost the largest online poker hand in history, a $1.3 million pot won by Patrik Antonius. Before he was ever seriously considered to be the identity behind Isildur1, Bloom briefly appeared on ESPN for his involvement in a hand during the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event. In the hand, Blom bluffs away his whole stack with King-high against trip-Aces. Such an erratic play is very characteristic of Isildur1's style.