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  1. It’s mid-December 2020 and a tennis court just north of San Jose, Costa Rica is home to one of the most hotly-contested tennis matches of the year. This isn’t a battle between a couple of former top-ranked tennis pros and the stakes aren’t all that high, but the combatants are going all out for a win. On one side of the court is a 17-year-old spending her Christmas break from school hanging out in the Central American vacation hot spot. Her opponent on this day is her 74-year-old grandfather, a man fortunate enough to be able to spend a few months in Costa Rica hiding from the harsh Canadian winters. He’s not anywhere near the height of his athletic prowess, but that’s not an excuse he’d use to take it easy. Each time he returns the fuzzy yellow ball across the net he does so with a hint of a life lesson in it. Work hard. Treat people with respect. Fight for what you believe in. Anybody who knows this man understands that there is no way he will simply let his granddaughter win a match, a set, or even a single point without earning it. Isai Scheinberg just isn’t built that way. A Private Man Steps Into the Spotlight Spending an afternoon in the Costa Rican sun is the closest that Scheinberg has ever come to thrusting himself into the spotlight. Ten years after poker’s most infamous day, Black Friday, threatened to destroy the company he and his son Mark built, Scheinberg is ready to let the poker world hear from him for the first time. “I valued privacy, but I was not secretive. That’s not the same thing,” Scheinberg says. “I was working hard. I was very busy and I’m not the type of guy to go out and do PR.” Scheinberg launched PYR Software in 2000 to build online poker tournament software in hopes of licensing it to online casinos and sportsbooks that were at the genesis of what would soon become the online gaming industry. Every company he and Mark pitched the product to either didn’t understand or wanted to pay far less than what they thought it was worth. “None of them understood software much, so they couldn’t appreciate we had a terrific game. But then, we had absolutely no experience in online gaming,” Scheinberg admits. Scheinberg was 54 years old at the time and had left a job at IBM to venture out on his own. There wasn’t a chance he was going to let somebody tell him he couldn’t do something. Rather than settling for a partner they didn’t want to work with, the Scheinbergs decided to take the product to market on their own. In 2001, PokerStars.com was born with Isai heading up the software company in Toronto and Mark moving to Costa Rica to run the gaming side of the business. From Day 1, the market responded to PokerStars’ software being so far ahead of any of its competitors. Scheinberg, who loved poker long before the idea of PokerStars ever struck him, had focused a lot of the development on multi-table tournaments. The marketing and tournament schedule followed that lead. The first PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker in 2002 was a nine-tournament series anchored by a $1,050 buy-in event. That might seem small compared to today’s standards, but back then nobody else was even thinking about online poker tournaments the way Scheinberg was. Most poker enthusiasts have a pretty good understanding of what happened over the next few years; the accountant from Tennessee, the 2003 World Series of Poker, and ESPN broadcasts helped launch the company into an entirely different stratosphere that would eventually make PokerStars the world’s largest online poker site. October 2006 shifted the online poker landscape, first in the United States, and then around the world. The U.S. government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. PartyPoker and 888 abandoned the American market-leading some mainstream media outlets to claim that the law represented a complete prohibition of online gaming, including poker, in the United States. Scheinberg wasn’t convinced and PokerStars sought counsel from prominent U.S. lawyers and were told unequivocally that UIGEA did not prohibit games of skill such as poker. PokerStars, which only offered poker and not casino games like PartyPoker and 888 did, took these legal opinions and decided to continue to offer their product to American players. Other poker-only companies followed their lead. The company also initiated lobbying efforts for federal online poker legislation in the United States that would have provided clarity to players, companies, and investors. PokerStars worked with regulators around the world and earned licenses in multiple European jurisdictions and reaped the rewards as poker’s popularity soared around the world. First Trauma, Then Calm An early morning email on April 15, 2011, changed everything yet again. Scheinberg was being told by company lawyers that he was being indicted by the United States Department of Justice and that the company was named as a defendant in a civil suit. A non-native English speaker born in Lithuania, he had to ask what the word “indictment” meant. He quickly learned that the company he spent nearly 10 years building into a monster was in serious jeopardy. “That was very traumatic,” Scheinberg says. Sitting in the Toronto office of PYR Software, Scheinberg took a deep breath, and rather than panic about what his own future might hold, he told his lawyers that his immediate concern wasn’t the indictment. “I said, ‘Look, our priority number one is to pay the players’. We had the money and we wanted to pay. The lawyers told me, ‘You’re crazy. It will take a year or more. That doesn’t happen that way’. But it happened in less than a week,” Scheinberg says. Understanding that the players – his players – would be in a panic, the Scheinbergs wanted to make sure that they understood he was going to take care of them. “One of the first things we did was issue a press release reassuring players that their money is actually safe”, Scheinberg explains. In the ensuing conversations with the DOJ, PokerStars made it clear they wanted to get players paid as soon as possible. Recognizing that this served their interests as well, the DOJ agreed to allow PokerStars to process payments to American players and allowed the company to continue serving players outside of the country. Players weren’t the only ones who had reason to be scared about what Black Friday meant for them. Approximately 1,000 PokerStars employees were working in offices around the world and each had reasons to wonder if they may soon be out of a job. Just as they had reassured players, Isai and Mark did their best to put employees’ minds at ease. “The message to employees was that they are not losing their jobs,” Isai says. In the days and weeks that followed, PokerStars offered any employee whose job was focused on the United States an opportunity to re-train in another area or skill so that they could continue to work for the company if they chose. The trauma of seeing his name in the indictment wasn’t something Scheinberg was willing to let his employees see or feel. Black Friday exposed Full Tilt Poker’s financial malpractice and shined a searing light on the charlatans behind AbsolutePoker/UB. As mainstream media around the world covered the story, they spoke about all three companies as if they were the same. PokerStars soldiered on and Scheinberg is proud to point out that not a single regulator anywhere in the world pulled PokerStars’ license due to the U.S. charges. It soon became quite clear that Full Tilt wasn’t going to be able to pay its U.S. players the way PokerStars had. When Full Tilt’s European license was revoked, the company shut down completely. The millions of players who had money in their Full Tilt accounts were faced with a previously unimaginable scenario; their money was gone forever. That’s when Scheinberg lofted the idea of stepping in to bail out Full Tilt players. He was immediately met with resistance from his advisors who had been in settlement negotiations with the DOJ. “Why don’t you suggest that we buy Full Tilt from the government and pay the players?” Scheinberg asked. The response from the company lawyer: “That’s totally crazy…it’s never happened before.” Scheinberg was aware that the US government was in talks with third parties to sell Full Tilt’s assets. “These buyers didn’t want to fully cover the money to pay the players,” Scheinberg recalls. ”The government was under a lot of pressure from U.S. players and also international players because again, there were hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.” The government eventually accepted Scheinberg’s “crazy” proposal and PokerStars purchased the Full Tilt Poker assets from the U.S. government and made sure that American players with a balance on Full Tilt Poker on Black Friday were paid in full. PokerStars also reinstated Full Tilt’s international operations and paid those players who had lost nearly $200 million when the site closed. Meanwhile, Scheinberg continued to negotiate with U.S. prosecutors for the charges he was facing and was told he could continue to work for PokerStars while those negotiations were ongoing. “I was very upset when people called me a fugitive,” Scheinberg says. “I’ve never been an American citizen or resident and I wasn’t in the U.S. since 1999. I didn’t flee the jurisdiction and I was not hiding.” In 2015, he even held face-to-face meetings over two days in London with the U.S. prosecutors. The meeting resulted in an agreement to drop bank fraud charges from any future plea agreement, but not the gambling charge. [caption id="attachment_634521" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Isai Scheinberg has found a new game to devote this energy to. Chess. (Andrew Barton photo)[/caption] All of this is why what happened in June 2019 came as such a surprise. After traveling around the world, including multiple trips to Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, and the Isle of Man – all countries with extradition agreements with the United States – Scheinberg, who says he always informed local authorities that he was coming, had never worried about running into an issue when abroad. While vacationing in Switzerland with his wife, Scheinberg was detained by Swiss authorities at the request of the DOJ. While he initially planned to oppose extradition, Scheinberg eventually decided to waive the proceedings and travel to the U.S. to resolve the case once and for all. On January 17, 2020, Scheinberg landed at Kennedy airport in New York City where authorities were waiting for him. He was processed at the airport and immediately brought to the court. Scheinberg pled not guilty to all charges and was released on a $1 million bond on the same day and promised not to leave New York City. More than two months later, Scheinberg arrived at a NY courthouse to plead guilty to a single count of operating an illegal gambling business. That plea, which made him the final of the 11 Black Friday defendants to plead guilty, came with a maximum five-year sentence. However, Scheinberg’s lawyers successfully argued that he should not be further punished since the company was operating in the United States on legal advice that said offering poker was not illegal, he had been in contact with the DOJ since 2011, was active with numerous charities around the world, and that the company had paid more $300 million of Full Tilt’s debts. In his ruling, the judge called Scheinberg’s conduct “a mistake” and sentenced him to time served and was immediately released. For more than nine years, Scheinberg felt the weight of the Black Friday charges hanging over his head. He knew they would be resolved one day – one way or the other. Now, he can’t help but see some practicality in the outcome. “For example, when the indictment was pending some banks were reluctant to open an account for me. Because in their mind when it’s not settled, who knows? But when it’s settled, it’s settled,” Scheinberg says. The Gamesman As his granddaughter will undoubtedly attest, Scheinberg has a competitive side that hasn’t slowed down at all. The one-time poker nerd who dreamed of winning a WSOP bracelet long before Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, has turned his attention to a game that has recently captured the imagination of an entirely new generation of players the way poker did back in 2003. “Today, I play a lot of chess,” Scheinberg says. “That makes me happy.” While Scheinberg has put in time and energy to become a better player, he also comes by it naturally. His father, Matafia, represented his native Lithuania in the Chess Olympiad in the early 1930s. Scheinberg owns a copy of a book that details the games his father played in those events, including analysis from top grandmasters, and proudly shares it with anybody who shows an interest in the game. Just like poker, Scheinberg isn’t interested just in playing. Scheinberg, along with his son Mark, is one of the key investors in Chess.com and his years of experience running PokerStars makes him an invaluable asset as that company grows. When it came to deciding to put money there, Scheinberg didn’t necessarily look just at the technology or the software, he looked at who was running the company and if they shared his values and ideals for running a business. “The reason we invested and we joined them is because they are very good guys, and they bring the business principles of being transparent, and honest, and they treat customers well,” Scheinberg says. Crediting the much-heralded Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit for sparking an interest in chess in the general public, Scheinberg can’t help but draw parallels between that and what Moneymaker did when his WSOP Main Event win aired on ESPN. Much like he did in the early years of PokerStars, Scheinberg relies on his experiences as a player to influence his ideas for ways to help the company grow. Scheinberg chuckles at the idea of getting back into the world of poker but doesn’t shut down the possibility altogether. The family sold the company to Amaya in June 2014 for $4.9 billion in a transaction that was largely driven by the inability of the company, under their ownership, to gain a gaming license in New Jersey. The company originally had plans to purchase The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel and offer PokerStars to New Jersey residents through that gaming license. Scheinberg says Black Friday was not what created the greatest challenge to PokerStars gaining a license in America. In early conversations with New Jersey regulators, company lawyers asked whether there would be a legal objection to giving PokerStars a license. “The regulators went to the DOJ and they asked, ‘Are you going to have a problem with PokerStars getting the license in New Jersey?’ And the DOJ said no, they would not have a problem. So the regulators came back and told our lawyers, ‘Fine. Of course, we cannot guarantee it, because we will check the company as we did all the other companies,’” Scheinberg says. “That was not a problem as we knew the company had no issues with its operations. However, our competitors raised hell and complained in every direction and they delayed the process. People from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement already had plane tickets to come to the Isle of Man to interview (PokerStars management). And they canceled at the last moment.” Scheinberg says that pressure from those competitors, directed towards both the DGE and Atlantic Club Casino ownership, led to that deal falling apart. Despite having private assurances that there would be no licensing issues for PokerStars, the company found itself facing the same hurdles after striking a deal with a second property, Resorts Casino. “So, this time we didn’t buy (the casino), but we made a deal to offer our poker product with them,” Scheinberg says. “The DGE came at the last moment and they said no. It was unexpected and the announcement from the (DGE) was very unclear. They said they had some conditions.” Scheinberg was told he either had to settle his case or there needed to be “major changes in the company”. It was then that the company’s fortunes shifted again. “And that was the moment when we said, ‘what the hell. we’ll get out of that.’ For the sake of the company, for U.S. players to be able to play on PokerStars, we need to change the ownership. So, it was a combination of feelings, but that was the trigger, that they didn’t let us get a license there,” Scheinberg says. The Scheinbergs had already shooed away Amaya and their ambitious CEO David Baazov once, telling them PokerStars had every intention of launching in New Jersey. With that no longer an option, the two companies entered into negotiations that ultimately led to the family selling the company. The $4.9 billion proceeds didn’t all go to the family, and neither did their share. Long-time PokerStars employees who didn’t have equity in the company say Isai and Mark were both quite generous with them after the sale. For them, it was about taking care of the people who had helped them build PokerStars. “We ran the company all the time that way. Of course, class and grace were the most important thing. We didn’t fire anyone after Black Friday and employees were a big part of the success,” Scheinberg says. “Employees were part of the business. A big part obviously in every company, but in our company, we felt that the employees were an extremely important part.” [caption id="attachment_634527" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Ten years after Black Friday, Isai Scheinberg still carries with him a twinge of regret when it comes to the events of that day. (Andrew Barton photo)[/caption] Seven years after the company was sold, Scheinberg looks back on his time in the poker industry and believes his legacy will be defined by the principles with which he ran the company through good times and bad. “We created a lot of things that helped poker grow and be more respected and more enjoyable and I’m pleased that is the legacy,” Scheinberg says. “And the fact that we paid players and players did not lose their money (on Black Friday) was also very important. I think that commitment to players and doing the right thing by them is the legacy.” Being the owner of another one of poker’s most enduring and endearing brands almost became another pillar in Scheinberg’s story. “Actually, at one time we were offered to buy the Rio Casino, but there was a reaction of ‘We don’t need this. Why would we buy?’ In hindsight, I think it was a mistake. I thought that if we bought Rio, we would own the World Series and make it better,” Scheinberg says. “We probably would do a lot of things to make it very friendly to players. We planned to increase the prize pool. We would make a guaranteed prize pool of $100 million in the Main Event and a lot of things around that. When I was talking to Steve Wynn, and we had a deal with him (in March 2011), we were discussing that and he was very excited and we probably would move WSOP to a better facility.” The relationship between PokerStars and the World Series of Poker since Harrah’s acquired it in 2004, could best be described as a competitive rivalry. Last November, Scheinberg was named one of ten finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame. It was the first time that the WSOP, who control the PHOF, listed Scheinberg as a finalist despite years of lobbying from poker heavyweights, including former Team PokerStars Pro and current Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu. “There were a number of people who were trying to put me (into the Hall of Fame). I never tried to lobby or anything. Harrah’s or Caesar’s were not big friends of ours. We were their competitors, so they were blocking that, but yes, (the nomination) was surprising, but look, the case has settled (and) that’s one thing that probably helped that,” Scheinberg says. He hasn’t been to the WSOP since 1997 and still has a love for poker that he believes could see him sitting at a table inside the Amazon Room at the Rio very soon. Now, with PokerStars and Black Friday clearly in his rear-view mirror, Scheinberg looks back at what he created, his impact on both the game and the industry, and says he has no regrets, with one important exception – the months leading up to Black Friday. “I do wonder if we should have been proactive with discussions with the DOJ, especially in early 2011 after the federal online poker bill didn’t materialize,” Scheinberg says “We could have entered into a direct dialogue with them. That might have prevented Black Friday.” That one lingering thought about what might have been doesn’t consume his thoughts though. Almost seven years after Scheinberg sold the company, PokerStars continues to be the world’s largest online poker operator and that, he says, will also be part of how his time in poker is remembered. Today, Scheinberg is happy to be able to spend time with all three generations of his family, even as one of the youngest is staring him down while serving for match point. “The best part of my life, I have a happy family life. I am happily married for 53 years, I am proud of my sons’ achievements, I have three grandkids, and I love what I do.”   Photos via Andrew Barton
  2. For every fantastic poker movie of the past 25 years (Rounders, Mississippi Grind), there’s been another which missed the mark. But the poker world (for better and for worse) isn’t lacking in incredible storylines, interesting characters, and dramatic tension. From epic biopics and romantic melodramas to buddy comedies and political thrillers, the poker world should be a screenwriter’s goldmine. Imagine cast sheets packed with poker’s biggest names (Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Stu Ungar) and the A-list Hollywood stars who would portray them. Here are five of the best real-life poker plot lines that could be - and should be - made into movies. Lights, camera, ACTION! TEXAS DOLLY Director: Martin Scorcese Starring: Russell Crowe (Doyle Brunson) Christopher Plummer (older Doyle) Armie Hammer (younger Doyle) Tom Hanks (Johnny Moss) Owen Wilson (Amarillo Slim) David Koechner (Puggy Pearson) Timothee Chalamet (Stu Ungar) Matt Damon (Chip Reese) Danny McBride (Todd Brunson) Synopsis: In the early 1950s, a devastating leg injury crushes the NBA dreams of prodigious college athlete Doyle Brunson. He turns to illegal poker games to fuel his competitiveness and soon finds himself on the road with a motley crew of Texan card sharks. Over the next 60 years, Brunson writes the book on poker, wins 10 World Series bracelets, and navigates the online poker boom while becoming the greatest player of all time. At 87, Brunson decides to step away from the tables, but one final high stakes game brings the Godfather of poker out of retirement. This is a no brainer. A three-hour biopic of the legendary Doyle Brunson directed by the equally legendary Martin Scorcese? Yes, please. In fact, why hasn’t this film been made already? Texas Dolly would make such an awesome movie. Brunson has sixty-plus years worth of stories to cherry-pick from a lifetime of playing the highest stakes poker games in the world. Imagine the backroom poker scenes, gunpoint robberies, tender family moments, and busto-to-robusto drama that Scorcese could reimagine on the big screen. He’s made plenty of big, bold biopics before (Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street, to name just a few) so Brunson’s story will be in the safest of hands. Instead of going down the digital de-aging route like Scorcese did in 2019’s The Irishman, cast different actors to play Brunson at the different stages of his life. Have Armie Hammer as the young NBA-ready Doyle for the first 45 minutes of the film, followed by Oscar winner Russell Crowe as Brunson for the next 90 minutes. Finally, Oscar winner Christopher Plummer bringing things home as Brunson today. Then just look at that merry band of Texan road gamblers in the supporting cast. A bald Tom Hanks with thick-rimmed glasses and a cardigan would make for an amazing Johnny Moss (Brunson’s mentor) and seeing the late Amarillo Slim reimagined by his fellow-Texan Owen Wilson would be superb. Anchorman’s David Koechner taking on Puggy Pearson, young superstar Timothee Chalamet bringing Stu 'the Kid' Ungar to life, and poker-movie royalty Matt Damon becoming one of the game’s all-time greats in Chip Reese (Brunson's best friend before Reese’s death at the young age of 56). Oh, and let’s not forget Danny McBride bringing some light comedy to proceedings as Brunson’s son Todd, also a successful high-stakes poker player in his own right. It’s actually ludicrous that the Godfather of Poker’s story hasn’t already been told on the silver screen, because the rounder lifestyle of poker’s pioneers is just so damn romantic. It feels like this film would resonate with a large audience, whether the majority are poker players or not. But then maybe the lack of biopic is Brunson’s doing. Perhaps he wants to keep his life story close to his chest, just as he has with cards throughout most of it. But with his blessing, then please, someone please write the script (*cough* Brian Koppelman and David Levien *cough*) and make this movie happen. BLACK FRIDAY Director: Adam McKay Starring: Jeff Daniels (Howard Lederer) David Krumholtz (Ray Bitar) Billy Bob Thornton (Chris Ferguson) Mandy Patinkin (Isai Scheinberg) Michael B. Jordan (Phil Ivey) Michael Fassbender (Gus Hansen) Sam Rockwell (George W. Bush) Synopsis: It’s 2011 and the poker boom comes to a crashing end when the United States Department of Justice issues an indictment against the three largest online poker websites in the country: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Popular PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg is among those indicted, but things are about to get even worse for the poker community when it’s revealed that Full Tilt Poker--run by Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and shady businessman Ray Bitar--has been defrauding poker players out of more than $300 million and doesn’t have the funds to reimburse them. A brutally honest telling of online poker’s darkest day could make for the most important poker movie ever made. The pros of a Black Friday film? It’s a story that has everything. Rags-to-riches tales from online poker greats; government dealings and courtroom drama; the shock of the day itself; and both likable and downright unsavory characters for us to root for and against. The cons? It wouldn’t exactly paint online poker in the finest light. If there’s one filmmaker who could get across the importance of Black Friday and explain the difficult concepts involved in an entertaining, educational way, it’s Adam McKay. While he cut his teeth making some of the best comedies of the past two decades alongside Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys) it’s McKay’s 2015 film The Big Short--about the investors who made a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America in 2008--where he knocked it out of the park and booked the Black Friday writer/director gig. As for the cast, Jeff Daniels would make an excellent Howard Lederer. Daniels has carved a niche for himself lately playing powerful, unlikeable characters, and when it comes to Lederer...well, you can make of that what you will. Joining him at Full Tilt Poker would be the great Billy Bob Thornton as Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson--an ambiguous character whose involvement in the disgracefulness remains unclear--and David Krumholtz as Ray Bitar. The film would also feature top actors portraying some of poker’s biggest names for the first time on screen. Michael B. Jordan would provide the coolness Phil Ivey deserves, while Michael Fassbender as Gus Hansen would just be a joy to see. As for PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, give Mandy Patinkin from Homeland the role, while Sam Rockwell who played President George W. Bush in McKay’s 2018 film Vice, could revive the role here for a few government scenes. SUITED CONNECTORS Director: Greta Gerwig Starring: Anna Kendrick (Kristen Bicknell) Channing Tatum (Alex Foxen) Cameron Diaz (Jennifer Harman) Will Poulter (Kahle Burns) Synopsis: Inspired by her poker-playing hero Jennifer Harman, Kristen Bicknell works her way to the top of a male-dominated game and becomes one of the best poker players around. When she falls in love with another top player, Alex Foxen, it feels like a match made in heaven. But complications arise when the two fierce competitors both wind up at the same final table of a major poker tournament and then get three-handed with Kahle Burns. In just about every poker movie, female characters are simply used as props to either annoy or inspire the leading man. Screw that. It’s about time there was a poker film with a woman crushing the game instead of just organizing it (Molly’s Game), and while there still aren’t enough women playing poker, there are plenty of world-class players who are as feared at the tables as any dude. As the No.1 ranked GPI female player in the world for the past three years running, Kristen Bicknell is undisputedly one of them. Like many other poker couples, Bicknell and Alex Foxen’s relationship was once just a lovely inconsequence to the poker community. But in 2018 it was suggested that they had gone easy on each other during the final table of the $5,000 MSPT Venetian, particularly when they got three-handed against Kahle Burns. The question is: can two competitive players really put their loving feelings aside and play coldblooded versus one another when deep down they both want to see each other succeed? It’s just a tricky situation and one ripe for some melodrama. Unlike other “road to the final table” poker films (looking at you, Lucky You), the conflict in this romantic dramedy doesn’t come from characters hating each other but rather characters loving each other, to the point where their game integrity is called into question. It’s also about what happens after the game is over. Greta Gerwig would be an incredible choice to direct Suited Connectors, a story largely based on a successful woman striving for greatness, who falls in love with someone completely different and yet perfectly similar to her. Gerwig’s two films so far (2017’s Ladybird and 2019’s Little Women) are both female-led stories, and she writes and directs with honesty and style. Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick has been brilliant in films like Up in the Air and The Voices and could pull off Bicknell’s dauntless determination, while Channing Tatum (aside from the fact he’s big and athletic like Foxen) has proven himself a fine (and funny) actor in films like Magic Mike, 21 Jump Street, and The Hateful Eight. As for Jennifer Harman--the player who inspired the real-life Bicknell--coaxingh the great Cameron Diaz out of retirement for the role seems like a win. THE WEIGHTING GAME Director: Paul Feig Kevin Hart (Bill Perkins) Jaime Staples (himself) Matt Staples (himself) Mike Vacanti (Zac Efron) Synopsis: Two professional poker playing brothers find themselves in a high stakes game on the yacht of an eccentric billionaire, with who they make a large bet: Brothers Jaime (304lbs) and Matt (134lbs) have to weigh within 1lb of each other in exactly a year’s time. If they can do it, they’ll win big. With the help of a strict personal trainer, they’re going all in. But life on the road makes losing and gaining both weight and money harder than they thought. Let’s lighten the mood a little with a road-trip buddy movie. The Staples brothers (Jaime and Matt) had the entire poker community rooting for them in 2017/2018 when they bet Bill Perkins that they couldn’t weigh within one pound of each other in 12 months’ time, all the while streaming poker online and traveling to live events. They did it, of course, in a great story of perseverance and hard work paying off. For the sake of the film, however, instead of the brothers streaming online poker, have them playing poker on the road. And make the Perkins character wilder and more erratic than Perkins is in real life, just to spice things up. There's no better pick to play the brothers themselves, so they'll both have to get some acting lessons prior to filming. But for Perkins, let’s throw his real-life friend and poker enthusiast Kevin Hart in the mix. Hart is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and anyone who has observed his spontaneous antics at the poker tables knows he would make this thing hilarious, as would Zac Efron as a fictional draconian version of the Staples’ personal trainer Mike Vacanti. In the director’s chair would be Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat), one of the reigning kings of comedy movies. The whole thing could be like the section of Rounders where Mike and Worm go on the road to run up a stake, only instead of trying not to get caught base dealing, the brothers are trying not to eat the wrong things. THE BLIND STEAL Director: Aaron Sorkin Starring: Emma Stone (Veronica Brill) Ben Foster (Mike Postle) Jonah Hill (Justin Kuraitis) Pete Davidson (Joe Ingram) Synopsis: Poker player and commentator Veronica Brill grows suspicious that a successful player in her game, Mike Postle, has been cheating for months on a live-streamed Sacramento cash game with the help of cardroom manager Justin Kuraitis. They deny the allegations and will do anything to discredit Brill, so she turns to someone she hopes can help expose the suspected charlatans: popular YouTuber Joe Ingram. There have been some incredible films with ambiguous endings over the years. You don’t get to know whether the robbers’ gold-laden bus teeters over the cliff edge in The Italian Job; you don’t get to know who the Zodiac killer is in Zodiac; and by the end of The Blind Steal--this telling of the Mike Postle cheating scandal which took place at Stones Casino, Sacramento from July 2018 through September 2019--you won’t know with absolute certainty whether Mike Postle was cheating or not. The viewers will have enough information to make an informed decision though, and that’s all thanks to writer and director Aaron Sorkin. In his screenplays for The Social Network, Moneyball, and his 2017 directorial debut Molly’s Game, Sorkin has been able to enlighten audiences on some dense subject matter (from computer algorithms and data analysis to how a game poker works) in just a few pages of the script. And thanks to Molly’s Game, it's clear he understands poker and the severity of the Postle allegations against many players, not just Veronica Brill (who brought the allegations to light). So, with Sorkin at the helm, who would he cast? For Brill, possibly Emma Stone. In films such as Zombieland, The Favourite, and Battle of the Sexes, she’s shown herself to be tough and determined with no sign of intimidation. As for Joey Ingram, Pete Davidson could sling on a tank top and blazer and showcase Ingram’s dogged resolve. Ben Foster would be perfect for Postle. Anyone who saw Foster as Lance Armstrong knows he’s a master of playing manipulative, conniving schemers looking to get ahead at any means necessary, even at the expense of others. He could handle Postle too. Justin Kuraitis is harder to cast as, frankly, there isn't all that much to go on aside from some post-settlement tweets. But based on those tweets, the character in the film is going to be stubborn, goofy, and a bit corrupt. Jonah Hill is a great actor who has been nominated for an Oscar twice (The Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball). He’s got that down. The ambiguous ending of The Blind Steal mentioned earlier? It will be a bit like the ending of The Social Network, Sorkin’s Facebook origin story. Just like Facebook is an ongoing thing, so too is the Postle lawsuits and investigation. But maybe a film like this will inspire more people to seek the truth of what went on during those live streams.
  3. According to a Reuters article, Australia's Daniel Tzvetkoff (pictured), who "cooperated with a broader investigation into online poker sites that led to criminal charges against the owners of Full Tilt, Absolute Poker, and PokerStars," received no additional jail time in a sentence handed down on Wednesday. He was hit with a $13 million forfeiture for his role with his payment processing company, Intabill. Apparently, Tzvetkoff, who was picked up by the US Government in 2010 in Nevada, is now working for a "respectable organization," according to his attorney, whom Reuters spoke to. Additionally, his legal counsel said, "Daniel is a capable, highly skilled, and intelligent young man and he looks forward to a productive, happy, and quiet life with his family." The 31-year-old was facing a 75-year stint in jail, but, according to the Courier Mail, gave almost 100,000 documents to the US Government to bolster its case against the three largest US-facing online poker rooms at the time. All three jettisoned the US market on Black Friday when 11 of their founders and associated payment processors were indicted on charges that included money laundering, bank fraud, and violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Tzvetkoff had already served more than four months in prison in New York and originally "pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count and one count of operating an illegal gambling business," according to Reuters. Additional jail time was not expected. His attorney argued ahead of sentencing, "For a first-time offender who has never before experienced prison, four-plus months inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn constitutes a harsh and significant punishment. The reality is that even one day in those type of conditions can be exceedingly harsh punishment for a first-time offender like Mr Tzvetkoff." According to SBS, "A probation report recommended Tzvetkoff serve between six and 12 months jail." A book about his life, "Alligator Blood," will reportedly be turned into a movie from Robert Luketic, director of the blackjack film "21." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. This week, the cash game traffic monitoring site PokerScoutreported mostly negative news about the state of the online poker industry in its latest Scouting Report. Cash game traffic fell 1% from the week before and, compared to the same time last year, traffic is down 8%. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- 888 Holdings and bwin.party reported that their profits were down and Playtech, the owner of the iPoker Network, said poker revenue had sunk over 7% from last year. Combine all that with the annual summer lull and, while there is nothing worth panicking over, the state of the online poker industry could be better. "To lighten the mood," as PokerScout said, the site reflected back to where things stood five years ago. It was period in between industry-altering legal events. In late 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed, and it would still be a couple years before we were blindsided by Black Friday. It was a good time for poker, even if there was a little uneasiness. By 2009, the reshuffling of the industry caused by the UIGEA had already happened. Many online poker rooms and networks withdrew from the US market. Some of them continued on, refocusing their efforts on Europe (primarily), seemingly content to stare up at a lower ceiling in exchange for remaining alive. Others could not survive without US players and either closed up shop or were absorbed into other networks. PokerStars, more than happy to fill the gigantic void that was left when PartyPoker, the iPoker Network, and others left the US, surged to the top of the cash game traffic rankings. According to PokerScout, PokerStars was growing by more than 50% every year, while the entire industry was up over 35% from the year before. By 2009, PartyPoker, once the king of the online poker world, was down to fourth in the rankings and PokerStars was in the early stages of dominance that has yet to let up. Full Tilt Poker had doubled its traffic in the past year and was now in second place; a heated rivalry was afoot with PokerStars as the two tried to outdo and out-market each other at every turn. TheiPoker Network was perhaps the most interesting of the online poker entities. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker took advantage of their competitors fleeing the US market; they stayed and grabbed many American customers. But iPoker didn't. It retreated, but rather than slumping back on the couch and bemoaning its luck, Playtech started scooping up the woebegone poker rooms that were about to go under, growing by acquisition. In 2009, the iPoker Network was in third place in PokerScout's rankings and has remained near the top of heap ever since. The now infamous Cereus Network, consisting of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, also stayed in the US and took up the fifth spot in the rankings. But while US players were happy for the most part, having seemingly survived the rather large speed bump that was the UIGEA, storm clouds were starting to form. In what would become an increasingly common sight, PokerScout reminded us that the US Department of Justice began seizing funds en route from poker sites to customers. PokerStars tried to keep those with financial interests in the company calm by letting everyone know that US players comprised less than half of its customer base, but the dominoes were starting to fall. The rest, as they say, is history. PokerScout's Scouting Report is a daily newsletter for the online poker industry, with in-depth data and analysis of the market. More information can be found by clicking here or contacting support@pokerscout.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  5. Former Utah Attorney Generals Mark Shurtleff and John Swallow (pictured) were arrested this week and charged with an array of corruption offenses, some of which are linked to online poker payment processor Jeremy Johnson. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsson Poker, a leading global online gaming provider. Betsson Poker is available on Mobile and offers regular promotions to live events around the world along with great bonuses and competitions. Play nowfor a chance to win the a Dream Holiday with the Grand Poker Adventures throughout 2014! --- Shurtleff served as the state's Attorney General for 12 years before stepping down due to health reasons. Swallow was Shurtleff's hand-picked successor and Assistant AG, but was forced to resign after less than a year as corruption allegations mounted. Both were both charged with multiple felonies including receiving or soliciting bribes, accepting gifts, tampering with witnesses and evidence, and participating in a pattern of unlawful conduct. Authorities allege that Swallow and Shurtleff received lavish, illegal gifts from businessman like Johnson, the Utah man who became embroiled in Black Friday due to his connections with SunFirst Bank and online poker processing. Swallow reportedly spent two nights on Johnson's luxury houseboat in 2010 and Shurtleff and Swallow regularly took the businessman's private jet on trips from California to St. George, Utah. This VIP treatment was purportedly meant to coax the former top officials into stalling an investigation into IWorks, Johnson's telemarketing company that employed fraudulent billing practices. According to investigators, Swallow reportedly offered access to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV, pictured) and Johnson hoped to garner a favorable legal opinion on online poker in Utah and squash a Federal Trade Commission probe into IWorks. Swallow allegedly told Johnson that the connection to Reid "wouldn't be cheap." After that discussion, Johnson promptly wired $250,000 to Richard Rawle, a business associate of Swallow. Rawle then allegedly paid Swallow an $8,500 kickback. Reid's office has responded to those allegationsby saying that the Senator "has never been contacted in regards to this investigation." The DOJ refused to investigate. As Swallow and Johnson started to feel vulnerable, they met in a Krispy Kreme to discuss strategy in an hour-long conversation that Johnson secretly recorded. During the meeting, Johnson purportedly suggested that the $250,000 meant for Reid be paid back and that Swallow erase all emails that could incriminate the pair. Swallow then allegedly told his campaign staff that he needed to completely wipe his hard drive and that he had all of his data backed up on an external drive. He later told staffers that he had lost the laptop during a flight to Salt Lake City. "This has been a complex, nuanced, multiple investigation," said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. "Multiple leads continue to be investigated and the investigation remains active." Shurtleff (pictured), a Republican, responded to allegations by claiming that Gill, a Democrat, brought the charges only to boost his prospects for reelection. "I, as all of us, made mistakes in my time as Attorney General, probably, clearly errors in judgment, but I have never intentionally committed any violation of the ethics, codes of ethics," he said. "I have never misused or abused the public trust and I have certainly not violated any of the criminal laws of the state." Swallow denied all charges and spoke out to a crowd of reporters as he walked out of jail. "This finally gives us the opportunity to start to respond back. With multiple investigations, we were hesitant to say anything. Now, we have our constitutional right to make our case in court," he said. "I look forward to that." Both former Attorney Generals were given bail set at $250,000. But, due to their former position in the state government, they were allowed a supervised released without needing to post bond. "They are first-time offenders," said Gill. "But, they're first-time offenders unlike any in the history of the state." Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  6. According to an article that appeared in the Courier Mailout of Australia, Black Friday informant Daniel Tzvetkoff (pictured) is likely to avoid any more jail time than the four months he originally served. According to the news site, "Tzvetkoff faced a 75-year sentence in a Federal jail when he was arrested in Las Vegas in 2010 for illegally processing more than $1 billion, but the 31-year-old, along with his parents and mother-in-law, have made a passionate plea to a New York judge ahead of his sentencing." The same article revealed that Tzvetkoff, an Aussie, gave nearly 100,000 documents to the US Government "that helped them go after the heads of three of the world's biggest gambling companies: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker." On Black Friday, the US Government indicted 11 individuals, including the founders of the three aforementioned sites, on charges that included bank fraud, wire fraud, and violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. All three companies vacated the US market nearly immediately. The Courier Mail noted that Tzvetkoff can now be found in Australia. In previous articles here on PocketFives and elsewhere about Tzvetkoff, his current whereabouts were questioned. Now, it appears he has fled back to his homeland. His lawyer was quoted in the New York sentencing submission as saying, "For a first-time offender who has never before experienced prison, four-plus months inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn constitutes a harsh and significant punishment. The reality is that even one day in those type of conditions can be exceedingly harsh punishment for a first-time offender like Mr Tzvetkoff." If you're a regular reader of PocketFives, then you might recall that a book about the life of Tzvetkoff, "Alligator Blood," will reportedly be turned into a movie from Robert Luketic, the director of the popular blackjack film "21." Tzvetkoff's company, Intabill, was one of the largest payment processors in the world and, according to the Australian site, he once had a net worth of $82 million and crashed in a $27 million home. We'll have more for you on the Tzvetkoff front right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  7. Black Friday and the ramifications from that time still have repercussions today. Several major players in the online poker industry have served jail time and/or paid massive fines for their involvement and the industry in the United States has never recovered. But what happened to the man who "blew the whistle" and essentially brought down online poker as we knew it in the United States? According to the Queensland Courier Mail in an article entitled "Whiz Kid Proves That Crime Can Pay," Daniel Tzvetkoff (pictured), the internet entrepreneur who was responsible for processing many of the payments made by PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UB prior to the Black Friday shutdown, is now back in Australia and living "the high life" in a $2.5 million mansion on the Gold Coast. In addition to living the good life "Down Under," Tzvetkoff doesn't appear to have any travel restrictions, having trekked to Barcelona, Bali, and the Barossa Valley over the past year on pleasure trips. From all appearances, he has been able to reconnect to those in the business community he's worked with before and has dived back into internet technologies. Not only has Tzvetkoff been able to purchase an extravagant mansion, but his entire family has apparently joined him. Along with that property, his parents "bought" four other properties surrounding Tzvetkoff over the past 18 months, with their total value being $1.75 million. These properties are highly fortified, according to the Courier Mail, and surrounded by security cameras. It is a surprising turnaround for the man who was responsible for taking down the US online poker industry. As the founder and owner of the payment processing company Intabill, Tzvetkoff was responsible for online transactions for hundreds of companies around the world. The most profitable enterprise, however, was Intabill's processing of online gambling transactions for several of the largest online poker companies. Things began to go south in 2009, though, when Intabill started having difficulties and reneged on millions of dollars in transactions to and from those gaming companies. Allegedly, the online poker companies – in particular Full Tilt Poker – caught wind that Tzvetkoff was coming to the United States and tipped off authorities. In 2010, federal agents arrested Tzvetkoff in Las Vegas on charges of bank fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. The story doesn't end there, however. Facing the threat of massive fines and, perhaps more importantly, up to 75 years in prison, Tzvetkoff instead began to sing to federal investigators. Much of the information that made up the 2011 Black Friday indictments against the major players in the online gaming and poker industry came from Tzvetkoff personally, where he explained how the rooms circumvented the banking laws in the United States and, in particular, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Based on Tzvetkoff's extensive information and evidence, more than a billion dollars in fines were collected by the US Government and several people went to prison for their actions or paid hefty fines and sacrificed personal property in settling their cases. As for Tzvetkoff, he was released after being the whistleblowing informant that the government needed, but he didn't get away scot-free. Tzvetkoff was fined $13 million and, after he paid it, he returned to Australia. After his return to Oz, Tzvetkoff filed for bankruptcy in 2013, but that hasn't prevented him from living lavishly, traveling extensively, and getting back in the business game. The Courier Mail reports that Tzvetkoff had a 40% stake in an advertising company in Brisbane that reportedly changed its name following Tzvetkoff's divestiture of his ownership stake. He allegedly registered a business name under the flag of Singapore and has gotten back into business with several prominent Australians he previously worked with. He has also maintained his relationship with the public relations company that supported him during his days at Intabill. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  8. [caption width="552"] 1,180 U.S. players and Professionals of the old Full Tilt Poker will be getting refunded soon[/caption] More money from the old Full Tilt Poker, the one that fled the United States on Black Friday and was subsequently found to be insolvent, is headed to former United States-based players and pros. According to FullTiltPokerClaims.com, the website run by Full Tilt claims administrator Garden City Group, 1,180 petitions will be filled as part of a new wave of payments. This group of petitions totals $2.6 million, an average of $2,200 per claim. At least three groups of players will receive their money: payments to petitioners who have confirmed their Full Tilt account balances, petitioners who have disputed their Full Tilt account balances, and petitioners designated by Full Tilt as "Professionals." The last group represents any player who was designated as a "pro" by Full Tilt including Red Pros, Friends of Full Tilt, and other players. The first round of refunds that included Full Tilt Professionals came in the middle of 2015. Initially, sponsored pros of Full Tilt were not scheduled to receive refunds from the U.S. Department of Justice via Garden City Group at all. However, the DOJ changed its tune and allowed Professionals to receive payments related to their online play at Full Tilt only. The same held true for Full Tilt affiliates. "GCG has completed its initial review of all filed petitions and, with this round of payments, we will have paid approximately 94% of those filed," Garden City Group said about the latest round of payments. A date for money to be sent to bank accounts was not given. The first round of payments to former U.S. customers of Full Tilt came in February 2014, over two years ago and almost three years after Black Friday. The last wave of petitions was filled in October and consisted of 1,900 petitions totaling approximately $5.5 million. With that set of payments, 92% of petitions had been filled. Those scheduled to receive funds may notice a $0 transaction on their bank account statement. "[This] relates to the Full Tilt Poker Claims Administration," a statement on Garden City Group's website read. "Please be aware that this is a normal part of the bank testing process in preparation for payment of ACHs. However, not all banks post these notices during the testing process, so do not be concerned if you do not receive such a notice and believe you are eligible to receive payment in the upcoming distribution." Additionally, Garden City Group posted that it is continually contacting players whose petitions are incomplete. Any recipient must respond within 20 days of the date of the email in order for the petition process to move forward. Players who believe they should have been contacted are encouraged to check their spam folders or call Garden City Group at 866-250-2640 or email them at Info@FullTiltPokerClaims.com. U.S. players were separated from their Full Tilt funds on Black Friday in April 2011. The U.S. DOJ indicted the founders of, and payment personnel associated with, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, UB, and Full Tilt. All four sites left the American market almost immediately. Full Tilt closed down later that year after its gaming license was suspended and the U.S. Government subsequently labeled it a "global Ponzi scheme." The parent company of PokerStars at the time, the Rational Group, acquired Full Tilt in 2012. At the same time, PokerStars transferred money to the DOJ to repay former Full Tilt customers. PokerStars admitted no wrongdoing in a deal with the DOJ and forfeited $547 million to authorities over a period of three years. Non-U.S. players were able to receive their funds immediately, while U.S. players have patiently waited multiple years. PokerStars and a re-launched Full Tilt are both now owned and operated by Amaya Gaming.
  9. [CAPTION=100%]Jordan 'Jymaster0011' Young, with Todd Brunson, was the #1 ranked online player on Black Friday. (PokerListings photo)[/CAPTION] Ask any member of the poker community and they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing on April 15, 2011, a day that will forever live in poker lore as Black Friday. For the top 10 players on the the PocketFives Rankings that day, their world was forever flipped upside down. The number one ranked player at the time was Jordan 'Jymaster0011' Young, who had ascended to the top spot in the rankings for the third time just two days earlier. "When Black Friday happened, I was pretty much doing exactly what I had always done on a daily basis for the past few years," Young said. "I was playing poker, of course." A message popped up on Young's tables saying that real money games were no longer available in his area. "My life took a turn for the worse when Black Friday hit because I was forced to move out of the country," Young said. "I had never been away from my family for an extended period of time. When things aren't going well in poker, it's really easy to get down on yourself, which made being around my friends and family to pick me back up an underappreciated blessing that I no longer had." Nowadays, Young plays much less poker and makes his living in part from poker coaching. "I never wanted to spend my time coaching, but looking back on it, I wish I had done more of it," he said. Right behind Young on the worldwide leaderboard when Black Friday hit was Paul 'paulgees81' Volpe, who is now a staple of the live casino scene. Volpe was ranked #1 for three weeks ending on April 11. "My best friend and backer at the time, Mark 'dipthrong' Herm, told me the FBI closed the sites down," Volpe said. "I remember waking up and thinking, 'This won't last long.' For whatever reason, I thought it was something that would be taken care of quickly and I'd soon be playing again." [caption width="640"] Paul 'paulgees81' Volpe was ranked #2 on Black Friday. (Photo courtesy Borgata)[/caption] Boy, was Volpe wrong. Five years later, only three US states have regulated online gambling. PokerStars, the market leader on Black Friday, has been back in the US for less than a month. "My life has changed a lot since that day, but luckily I was able to continue to play poker for a living and continue to be successful," Volpe continued. "However, I think if Black Friday didn't happen, I'd probably have ten times the money I have made from poker now. It hurt the game a lot." Volpe has been a beast on the live felts. He had over $1 million in live winnings in both 2013 and 2015, according to the Hendon Mob, and hasn't fallen below $380,000 in a year since 2011. Another American camped out in the top ten that fateful day was Bryan 'bparis' Paris, who was 25 years old at the time and had just entered the top ten for the first time. "When the news hit, I was in shock at first," Paris said, "but blithely assumed with the innocence of youth that I’d promptly get paid my full balance." Paris stuck around through the World Series of Poker that summer and then relocated abroad, this time sans his funds from Full Tilt, which had its gaming license revoked. "The rest of that year was very hard for me, but I eventually wound up relocating first to Canada and then to the Netherlands and gradually rebuilt my online bankroll from essentially nothing," said Paris, who spent three years living in Europe post-Black Friday. Bryan 'theczar19' Piccioli was ranked #3 on Black Friday, which happened two months after a $282,000 FTOPS score he had in February 2011. He finished third at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star event last month. Fourth in the world on Black Friday was Mark 'RenRad 01' Darner, who is still pouring on online results and final tabled a Six Max event at the WSOP in 2014. Just behind him was Keven 'Stamdogg' Stammen, who won last year's Hollywood Poker Open Main Event and has almost $11 million in combined live and online winnings. Shaun 'shaundeeb' Deeb, who was #6 on Black Friday, has remained a staple of the poker world and, according to many, was at one point one of the finest Open Face Chinese Poker players around. Taylor 'taypaur' Paur, ranked #7 on Black Friday, won a WCOOP Second Chance event last year and took down $25,000 Aria High Rollers in back-to-back-months shortly thereafter. Bjorn 'kleath' Kleathersson, originally from Virginia, continues to play online in Malta and was ranked #8 on Black Friday. And two spots behind him in the world was Chris 'moorman1' Moorman, the most successful online poker player in history. Five years after Black Friday, Moorman sports $13.1 million in online winnings, $4.1 million in live winnings, and 25 Triple Crowns. He has shown no signs of slowing down. The top ten on Black Friday: Jymaster0011 paulgees81 theczar19 RenRad 01 Stamdogg shaundeeb taypaur kleath bparis moorman1
  10. Five years ago the online poker world changed forever. In the early afternoon of April 15, 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed indictments against executives from the three largest online poker operators in the world, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker/UB, and some of the payment processors that served them. Within minutes of the indictments being unsealed the poker world learned the news as DOJ seizure notices appeared on all three websites. Word spread quickly throughout the poker community on Twitter. Today, on the fifth anniversary of Black Friday, PocketFives looks back at some of the tweets from that day. Just one week before April 15, Howard Lederer, one of the top Full Tilt Poker executives, was getting ready to head overseas to spend time with U.S. troops. He was on that trip when news broke about the indictments. Sebok was ultimately proven to be wrong about UB - on many fronts - and quietly left the poker world later in 2011 and now works in Silicon Valley. Black Friday changed online poker in the United States forever. The optimism that once ruled the day for federal regulation of the game in the United States is all but gone and players are left hoping that their state regulates the game. So far, only three states have done so; Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. While other states appear to be considering the idea, many hurdles remain. After leaving the U.S. market on April 15, 2011, PokerStars returned to the U.S. - in just New Jersey - on March 21, 2016.
  11. [caption width="640"] Approximately 1,500 Full Tilt Poker claims were denied because players did not meet the remission requirements[/caption] The Garden City Group, the company responsible for administering all Full Tilt Poker fund dispersals, recently announced that approximately 1,500 claims had been denied by the U.S. Department of Justice after not meeting remission requirements. Affected players were notified via email. "Certain individuals' petitions were denied was because they did not meet the remission requirements," a DOJ spokesperson said. "This is for specific reasons, all different for each petitioner." Players have until May 16, 2016 to file an appeal. "Every case is fact-specific. There were requirements on the form you needed to fill out in order to petition for the claim," the spokesperson said. "Depending on each claim, whether they fit the requirements for the petition, they were accepted or denied." According to FullTiltPokerClaims.com, the website GCG setup to handle this process, players who were eligible to receive a refund needed to meet the following requirements: You must be a United States citizen or you must have resided in the United States at the time of playing on the FTP gaming site. You did not receive compensation as a foreign FTP player in connection with the PokerStars Settlement. You must have deposited funds into an account with FTP. Your account with FTP must reflect a balance owed by FTP to you as of April 15, 2011. Players were excluded from participation in the remission process if they were: A past or present employee of FTP or any of its past or present affiliates; A past or present Team Full Tilt player; A past or present shareholder of FTP, Tiltware LLC, Kolyma Corporation A.V.V., Pocket Kings Ltd., Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd., Filco Ltd., Vantage Ltd., Ranston Ltd., Mail Media Ltd., or Full Tilt Poker Ltd.; A past or present officer or director of FTP, Tiltware LLC, Kolyma Corporation A.V.V., Pocket Kings Ltd., Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd., Filco Ltd., Vantage Ltd., Ranston Ltd., Mail Media Ltd., or Full Tilt Poker Ltd., or any of their past or present affiliates; A defendant in any civil action or a claimant in any forfeiture action brought by the Department of Justice related to the violations alleged in this action, or any related action (or any of his or her affiliates, assigns, heirs, distributees, spouses, parents, children, or controlled entities); or A person who, as of the Bar Date, has been the subject of criminal charges related to the violations alleged in this action, or any related action (or any of his or her affiliates, assigns, heirs, distributees, spouses, parents, children, or controlled entities). Any players appealing the denials will need to prove they meet the remission requirements as outlined above. Any clerical errors that were made would also need to be corrected. As of March 11, the DOJ had paid back 94% of petitions filed.
  12. [caption width="640"] Players with balances on AbsolutePoker and UB can now apply for a refund through the US Department of Justice.[/caption] Just five days before what will be the sixth anniversary of Black Friday, online poker players affected by the shutdown of AbsolutePoker.com and UB.com have gotten good news from the United States Attorney's Office or the Southern District of New York. Beginning immediately, players who had funds on AbsolutePoker.com and UB.com on April 15, 2011, can apply to have their balances refunded to them via AbsolutePokerClaims.com. The US Department of Justice has again contracted Garden City Group to handle all applications and payments. In a press release from the DOJ issued Monday afternoon, Joon H. Kim, who is the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York following the resignation of Preet Bharara, announced the compensation program. "Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has retained the Garden City Group (“GCG”) to oversee a process for compensating eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker against United States players who were unable to withdraw funds from Absolute Poker following the Office’s filing in 2011 of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action against Absolute Poker and others in United States v. PokerStars, et al. GCG is already overseeing the claims process for eligible victims of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker against United States players, as described in both United States v. PokerStars, et al., and the indictment in the parallel criminal case, United States v. Bitar, et. al. To date, approximately $118 million has been paid to Full Tilt Poker fraud victims through that process. The process is nearly identical to the one used by the GCG to refund players with Full Tilt Poker balances. That process, which is "winding down" according to the DOJ, paid out $118,116,918.04 to 44,320 American players. The deadline to apply is June 9, 2017. Past or present employees, company shareholders, company officers or directors or "Professional Poker Players" and affiliates are ineligible. During the Full Tilt remissions process, many FTP pros were denied their initial claim only to have their balances refunded during subsequent rounds of refunds. Players with account balances were contacted via the email on file in their account and can use that information to begin the application process. Players who did not receive the email can begin the process by using their Player ID, last name and the email address on file. Players who agree with the account balance that GCG has on file are not required to submit any further documentation to receive payment. Players who wish to dispute the amount will need to provide supporting documentation such as financial statements for review. Players will not receive any compensation for tournament dollars, step tickets, loyalty points or event dollars on their account. The DOJ went on to compare the business practices of Absolute Poker to those of Full Tilt Poker. "Additionally, the Department of Justice has concluded that players of Absolute Poker who were unable to recover their funds from Absolute Poker are similarly situated to the eligible victims of Full Tilt Poker, in that Absolute Poker, like Full Tilt Poker, did not maintain funds sufficient to repay all of its players," the release stated. The news comes six weeks after AbsolutePoker founder Scott Tom returned to the United States to face Black Friday charges. PocketFives will continue to provide updates on the claims process as more information becomes available.
  13. [caption width="640"] Scott Tom plead not guilty to the Black Friday charges in a Manhattan court room on Friday.[/caption] Almost six years after Black Friday, Absolute Poker founder Scott Tom has returned to the United States to face charges that he violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and was engaged in bank fraud and money laundering. Tom, now 37, voluntary arrived back in the United States on Thursday and after a brief hearing where he plead not guilty to the charges, was released on a $500,000 bond. Tom, along with 11 others, was indicted on April 15, 2011 as part of what became known as ‘Black Friday’ in the online poker industry. Tom’s lawyer, James Henderson, told Reuters that the case will ultimately be concluded via plea deal. "There's going to be a resolution in this case quickly," Henderson said. Another Absolute Poker employee and Tom’s step brother, Brent Beckley, served 14 months after pleading guilty to the bank and wire fraud charges. Rumors indicate Beckley may again be working in the offshore gaming world after joining BetOnline.com in a management capacity. Should Tom, who had been rumored to be living in Antigua since just after Black Friday, come to an agreement with prosecutors, he will be the 10th person charged on April 15, 2011 to resolve the charges. The only person named in the indictments that day that has yet to actually face the charges in some way is PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. Absolute Poker, which was the parent company of scandal-ridden UltimateBet, was the third largest online poker room in the world at the time of the shutdown. While PokerStars made U.S. customers whole almost immediately and then purchased Full Tilt Poker and supplied those customers with their funds, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet have never returned any funds to players who had a balance on Black Friday. In November, Paul Tate, the Director of Payments for PokerStars, also returned to the U.S. and plead guilty. After paying a small six-figure fine, he was released without having to serve jail time.
  14. [caption width="640"] Ian O'Hara is just 23 years old, but already has the respect of some of the game's best (Seminole photo)[/caption] It all started with a tweet from PocketFives Community Manager Kevin Mathers in early May asking who the best American player under the age of 25 was. Of those that responded, the overwhelming opinion was one player: Ian O’Hara. And Mercier would know. Two summers ago, Mercier and O’Hara battled heads-up in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open High Roller before chopping up over $1,000,000. Mercier won the tournament, but O’Hara, who wasn’t even 21 at the time, walked away with a slightly bigger score. “He’s one of the only Americans that are really young but plays at the highest stakes. He plays all of the high roller events,” said Jason Mercier. “I think he’s very good. He has a very sound game and the few times that I’ve been at his table I’ve been impressed with how he’s played.” O’Hara represents a paradigm shift in American poker. From 2003 until April 15, 2011, Americans were playing online poker and the number of world class players under the age of 25 would have made Mathers’ original question a lot harder to answer. O’Hara could almost be a throwback to the generation of players who came up before button mashing became a thing. “I don’t really play online, ever. Just mostly play live tournaments and cash games,” said O’Hara, on Day 1 of the $10,000 Six Max event at the 2017 World Series of Poker. Mercier looks at the pace at which O’Hara has risen in the world of tournament poker without being able to put in the volume and learn the lessons he did online, and isn’t sure he could have done the same. “I think it’s possible, but unlikely. I started playing live with my friends and stuff before ever discovering online poker but I think that playing online as much as I did helped me develop not only my game but also learning how to not tilt and understanding the swings of the game and that’s stuff that’s just takes so long when you’re playing live,” said Mercier. Still only 23 years old, O’Hara also first started playing the game in middle school with friends and neighbors and while they were playing mostly for fun, O’Hara took a keen interest in getting better right away. “Pretty much just watched a lot of poker, watched what people did over time, trends and stuff, just played and picked it up a little easier than other people,” said O’Hara. His results speak for themselves. He’s cashed for $1,712,709 in the first years of his career. The Florida native had the benefit of being able to legally play in casinos since he was 18 years old. When he was 18 he was playing smaller buy-in tournaments in Florida, winning his first tournament at the Isle Casino in Pompano Beach, Florida for $29,530. “Well, four years ago I was only 19, so I could only play in Florida pretty much. I ran hot to start, won some lower buy-in tournaments, played more cash and built up that way,” said O’Hara. Having the respect of Mercier, another born-and-raised Floridian, is something O’Hara doesn’t take lightly. “I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a huge (sign of) respect from people like Jason Mercier who have $20-25 million in earnings and have been playing for ten years and have won a bunch of stuff,” said O’Hara, who plans on playing as many of the No Limit Hold’em events as possible during the WSOP.
  15. [caption width="640"] Ferguson elicits a polarizing range of emotions as he steps back into the spotlight[/caption] Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson won his sixth World Series of Poker bracelet on Wednesday when he took down WSOPE Event #7 (€1,650 Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better) for €39,289. With the victory, Ferguson, the current WSOP Player of Year points leader, extended his first place margin over both Ryan Hughes and John Racener, the players nearest to him in the race. Shedding his traditional urban cowboy garb, Ferguson took to the table with a navy T-shirt with a single word silkscreened in the center chest reading “love.” While Ferguson clearly loved the result, not everyone who received word of his victory was feeling what his shirt was preaching. Ferguson, a central figure in the Full Tilt Poker financial collapse, has yet to publicly comment on the fiscal disaster that left thousands of poker players funds trapped in limbo for years. His silence has led to resentment by some members of the poker community, while others have opted not to hold a grudge against Ferguson since he’s returned from his self-imposed exile. Both sides took to social media to comment on the bracelet win for the controversial champion. Comments directed at Ferguson himself were at a minimum early on. It was actually 14-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth’s congratulatory tweet that seemed to generate the most buzz. Ferguson continues to march to the 2017 World Series of Poker Player of the Year as the final points will be tallied at the conclusion of the WSOPE Main Event which begins on November 4.
  16. [caption width="298" align="alignleft"] Robert Hwang doesn't meet the criteria of most NJ Online players but his playing days dating back to the 1990's serve him well.[/caption] The general assessment of most New Jersey online poker players is they are of a younger age and started playing a few years on either side of Black Friday. Robert ‘ActionBob’ Hwang first started playing online before most of his NJ opponents ever clicked a mouse. As it goes in poker, Hwang’s nickname is of the ironic variety. Over 20 years ago at Foxwoods, Hwang says he had folded for two hours straight then picked up seven callers the next time he opened, leading a player to sarcastically refer to as him “Action Bob” and the nickname has remained since. In 1998, Hwang was competing in Limit Hold’em on PlanetPoker, Delta Poker, and a few other websites during the infancy of the online game. Even before Black Friday took place in 2011, Hwang was one step ahead of the game in deciding what his next move would be as a professional player. Prior to Black Friday, Hwang moved from Northern New Jersey to his current home of Barnegat in order to play in the live limit games available in Atlantic City and has a unique perspective on the downfall of online poker, based on his early start in the game. “‘Black Friday’ in my book was the UIGEA back in 2006. This was a big turning point where the games when from being very soft with everybody having easy access to depositing and withdrawing funds, to gradually getting much tougher,” said Hwang. “I was never the big online tournament grinder back then. I played some tournaments online but my focus was more on limit games online and live as well as live tournaments. I had always enjoyed playing live tournaments and still do.” The 46-year-old Hwang occasionally pops his head up in the New Jersey online streets and tends to find success when he does. Last week, Hwang finished second in the NJ Summer Series 4-Max event and earned over $5,000 for the result. The peak of Hwang’s live tournament volume was toward 2010 and he has cut that time out in recent years to spend more times with his twin children, Laura and Matthew. This has led Hwang to increase his online volume when he has the available time. “Over the last few years, I've had to really scale back my live tournaments as I am very involved with my twins Matthew and Laura especially with my son's baseball where I do a lot of coaching and volunteering. This rarely leaves me two days in a row free. This along with the slowdown of limit games during the week is what got me playing more online tournaments. But even with the easy access of online poker I still struggle to find the hours during baseball season.” The growth of online poker in New Jersey and available resources for players to develop their game in less time than if they were playing live. The results are showing up for the state with Thomas Pomponioand Scott Blumsteinwinning the Colossusand Main Event, respectively, at the World Series of Poker this summer. Hwang recognizes the talent that surrounds him when he sits down to play in NJ and has an appreciation for how hard they are working to stay ahead of players like him. “I'm not sure if the NJ players winning these big events at the WSOP was a result of the level of play they see here, but I do know there are a lot of great young players like Scott here in New Jersey. It’s hard for an old man like me to keep up with them. They seem to keep getting better as many of them are a tight knit group (and are all great players in their own right) and they just get to talk strategy with so many great poker minds.” Players with Hwang’s experience who have stayed in the game for numerous decades are a dying breed and he is utilizing the availability of online to sharpen his game whenever possible. Hwang’s game remains in good form as he continues to live life as a New Jersey dad while representing the old guard every time he logs on.
  17. [caption width="640"] Danielle Andersen first ran into Howard Lederer during the 2016 WSOP Main Event. A chance encounter this summer at Bellagio gave her a chance to get answers to questions she had of the former Full Tilt Poker executive.[/caption] Day 1 of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event was sailing along for Danielle Andersen when she went from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other in a moment that had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of fluctuation of her own chip stack. A recreational "fun" player, who had spent the fourth level of the day actually trying to bust and go home, brought some levity to table. That player eventually did bust, but the open seat was filled quickly by former Full Tilt kingpin Howard Lederer. “There was laughter, there was joking, there were drinks, there was camaraderie and when Howard sat down, it was like the storyboard nobody could ever have dreamed of. You went from one extreme to the other,” Andersen said at the time. READ: WSOP: Danielle Andersen Confronts Howard Lederer Over WSOP Return Having to sit at the same table with one of the more infamous names from Black Friday, the day which effectively wiped out online poker in the United States and eventually lead to the exposure of Full Tilt’s dire financial situation, was an emotional experience for Andersen. She’s not alone. His presence at the WSOP in 2016, when he first re-emerged from his self-imposed hiatus, and then in 2017, has been a source of anger for many players who feel he shouldn’t be showing his face at any poker event, let alone the WSOP, after the events of Black Friday. That experience lasted just two hours. During that time, Andersen said a few things that night to Lederer and let it be known he wasn’t welcome. Still, she spent a good amount of time over the last year reflecting on the things she wished she’d said, questions she wished she’d asked Lederer when he was sitting just a few feet from her. And then this past summer, while waiting to get into a cash game at the Bellagio, Andersen saw Lederer for the first time since the 2016 WSOP. Rather than stare daggers into him from across the room, she made her way over to Lederer. “He was just standing in the high stakes area and I went to him and said, ‘Hi Howard, my name is Danielle Andersen. I don’t know if you remember me, but we played together at a Main Event table last year’.” To Andersen’s surprise, Lederer answered in the affirmative. “'Yes, I absolutely remember you',” Andersen said Lederer told her. He said he'd meditated about the interaction and thought about it for "hours and hours" since it happened. That was exactly the opening that Andersen needed to get her questions answered and say the things she needed to say. The ensuing conversation left her with a different perspective than the one she had that night Lederer sat down at her table. It also might have helped provide her with a little bit of closure. During their initial interaction Andersen asked Lederer if it bothered him that his presence was making her and some of her fellow poker pros sick. He had nodded and said it did. Now standing face-to-face with him in the Bellagio poker room, Andersen had some follow up questions. “I wanted to know how he reconciled the pain and the issues it’s caused for people to see him around,” said Andersen. “Why does he have to come back in the poker community? Why is it so important to him? Why can’t he just leave us alone?” Over the course of the next few minutes, Andersen listened intently as Lederer explained that he certainly understood why people felt the way they did, but that the narrative that was out there about the end of Full Tilt was missing some key facts. Yet he also willingly took some personal responsibility for everything that went down in the days, weeks and months after April 15, 2011. “He told me, 'Do I have some role in what happened? Absolutely. Had I done a better job when I was there and when I was actively involved in Full Tilt Poker, had I done a better job of overseeing things and making sure everything was in line, it wouldn’t have happened',” said Andersen. Andersen couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between that statement and the video interview Lederer gave PokerNews in 2012 where he repeatedly absolved himself of any responsibility in the way the Full Tilt house of cards came crumbling down in 2011. “In the video - I didn’t even watch all of it because I was just disgusted by it - I felt that he came across as a disingenuous asshole, who wasn’t really taking any responsibility for anything. It felt very inauthentic and it was insulting,” said Andersen. “In the conversation I had with him, I got a completely different vibe. I felt like he was more regretful of decisions he had made and that he was accepting more of the responsibility.” While she was surprised to see Lederer tell a different story than the one he gave in his only public statement about his role in Black Friday, Andersen found some small comfort in knowing that he was uncomfortable and feeling a little bit of what the rest of the poker community has felt since April 15, 2011. “I guess I was surprised that, if he was being authentic, that it was as seemingly as emotional for him as it was for me,” said Andersen. “I think that made me feel good, because that was what I wanted, to make him understand the pain that I and others felt after Black Friday.” While the presence of Lederer and Chris Ferguson at WSOP tables has often been met with some angry confrontations or an awkward silence, Andersen made it a point to ask Lederer why he hasn’t spoken publicly since that PokerNews interview. She says Lederer claims to be open talking about it and expects him to do so soon. “That was an aspect that I hadn’t really considered, because I looked at as him being at the tables as a giant ‘fuck you’ to everybody, which maybe it partially is,” said Andersen. “On the other hand, I think there’s a chance that there is also some good motivations for it, because I will say that it’s absolutely been very therapeutic for me to be able to have those two separate interactions.” While Andersen has found some closure after speaking with Lederer, she recognizes that she’s but one person in a community full of people who have similar questions they need answered before they’re able to let go of any residual anger. “It’s hard for the community as a whole to forgive him until he’s given more answers. He sat and had a conversation with me, but he hasn’t had that with the whole community and I don’t blame people for not wanting to forgive him at this point. I can only speak for myself.”
  18. Seven years after Black Friday shut down Full Tilt Poker, Chris Ferguson wants you to now he's sorry. In a 42-second video posted by Ferguson to Vimeo on late Wednesday night, the reigning World Series of Poker Player of the Year and former Full Tilt Poker executive thanked his fans and the poker community for their "patience and support". The 55-year-old claims that he "worked relentlessly to ensure that all players got paid back" and apologizes that it took as long as it did." Most players with a balance on Full Tilt Poker on April 15, 2011 were made whole by the U.S. Government with funds from their settlement with PokerStars starting in 2014. Many "red pros" were unable to collect their full balance. As has been the case with a number of high-ranking Full Tilt Poker executives, Ferguson claims there is more to the story than they are able to tell and one day players and fans will get the truth. "One day the Full Tilt Poker story will be told, and like many of you, I look forward to that day," Ferguson said. The video comes just seven days before the 2018 WSOP begins. While this may have been an attempt to turn the tide of public opinion that currently casts Ferguson as a villain, the poker community's response to the video was far from sympathetic. Not surprisingly, Daniel Negreanu was one of the first to comment. After Black Friday, Ferguson stayed out of the poker spotlight, completely avoiding the WSOP from 2011 until deciding to return in 2016. When Ferguson returned to the WSOP in 2016, he refused to comment on or apologize for his role in Black Friday despite requests from many players. At the 2017 WSOP in Las Vegas, Ferguson cashed 17 times and was in contention for WSOP POY. He then cashed another seven times, including his sixth career bracelet win, at WSOP Europe to take home WSOP POY. As part of his win, a banner with his picture will be raised at the 2018 WSOP next week.  
  19. Nearly nine years after the United States federal government charged him with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling, PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg has surrendered to U.S. authorities. According to a Forbes.com article, Scheinberg travelled from Switzerland to New York City on Friday, January 17 and was met by federal agents who took him into custody. According to the article, this was the culmination of negotiations between Scheinberg, 73, and the U.S. government which began when an extradition order was sought after Scheinberg travelled to Switzerland months earlier. Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001. Following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, PokerStars continued to accept American customers and soared to become the largest online poker site in the world. On April 15, 2011 the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York seized the PokerStars.com domain name and charged Scheinberg and other executives from Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. PokerStars eventually re-acquired the domain name and continued to operate outside of the United States. In 2012, the company paid the U.S. government $731 million to settle a civil lawsuit the government had brought against the company. As part of that settlement, PokerStars acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker and provided the government with $184 million to go towards making American Full Tilt players whole following the company's collapse in the wake of Black Friday. Scheinberg sold the company to a group lead by David Baazov in 2014 for $4.9 billion. According to Forbes, federal prosecutor Olga Zverovich told a hearing on Wednesday that Scheinberg had been negotiating with the government for some time. “We have an agreement in principle on the basic terms,” Zverovich said. Scheinberg is the last of those charged on Black Friday to face a judge in the United States. Scheinberg plead not guilty and was released on a $1 million bail. He also surrendered his passports.
  20. Updated March 26, 10:30 AM ET Nearly nine years after the United States Government Department of Justice charged the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker with operating illegal gambling businesses, in what became known in the poker world as Black Friday, the final defendant has pleaded guilty. Isai Scheinberg, the 73-year-old founder of PokerStars, plead guilty on Wednesday to one count of operating an illegal gambling business. He now faces a maximum of five years in prison. [ptable zone="888poker"][ptable zone="Party Poker NJ"][ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"] “Ten years ago, this Office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes. As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. Scheinberg will be sentenced at a later date. "Mr. Scheinberg is pleased to put this matter behind him and that all charges other than violating the 1971 Gambling Act have been dropped. Notably, all PokerStars players were paid back immediately and Mr. Scheinberg played an important role in ensuring that all of the players from other sites were repaid as well," read a statement released by a representative of Scheinberg. In January, Scheinberg flew from Switzerland to New York City after negotiating with the U.S. government over the previous three months. During his first court appearance, federal prosecutor Olga Zverovich told a hearing that Scheinberg had been negotiating with the government and had an "agreement in principle" at the time. Scheinberg founded PokerStars in 2001 and grew the company into the largest online poker operator in the world. In the aftermath of Black Friday, the company continued to operate outside of the United States and eventually settled a civil lawsuit with the U.S. government by paying a $731 million fine. Scheinberg sold the company to a group lead by David Baazov in 2014 for $4.9 billion. The other 10 charged on Black Friday, Ray Bitar, Scott Tom, Brent Beckley, Nelson Burtnick, Paul Tate, Ryan Lang, Bradley Franzen, Ira Rubin, Chad Elie, and John Campos had all previously dealt with their charges.

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