Ben Mezrich and the Absolute Poker Book Connection, Part 1
With next Tuesday’s release of Ben Mezrich’s book on the frat-boy founders of Absolute Poker, Straight Flush, it’s time to tell one of those little side stories about how Mezrich’s connection to the U. of Montana frat boys goes back several years.
I haven’t read the book yet, though I’m probably going to be obligated to in the near future. I’ll reserve any and all comments about the book’s contents until after I’ve read it, as I figure that’s the best for all involved. I do note that I’ve seen two reviews to date: a scathing blast by New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, and a couple of indifferent reviews at smaller outlets that talk more about Mezrich’s literary style than the pros or cons of the book itself, though even one of those rips Mezrich for his soft touch, saying, “…it feels like he’s kind of buddies with the people he’s writing about and wants us to like them as much as he obviously does.”
Let’s wait on that. All of it. Until I’ve had a chance to read it.
What I have noticed, in reading news reports today, are frequent references to a piece on pokerfuse (another site that I write for), that was written by fuse co-editor Michael Gentile late last year. Gentile noted how friendly the book’s advance materials were toward the AP founders, including Scott Tom, who was directly implicated in the Absolute Poker cheating by none other than yours truly on my personal poker blog back in 2010.
I’ve since accumulated significantly more evidence that the primary cheater was indeed Tom, who, I should also publicly note, made legal threats against me in late 2007 and the summer of 2009 in separate attempts to shut me up before I obtained and published the hardest evidence of his cheating.
Still, the thefts from AP players paled when compared with what Russ Hamilton & Friends did over at UltimateBet. The larger Absolute Poker theft, orchestrated by Tom and his buddies, was the stealing of the company’s paper owenership and the extraction of assets that left other shareholders high and dry — a massive scheme that was closer to a quarter billion dollars in scope, and is the primary reason why AP and UB players remained unrefunded after Black Friday crackdown against the two Cereus Network sites. This is the real AP legacy, and is why poker players should despise Scott Tom and his SAE cohorts.
But back to this book thing. In that piece over at the fuse last year, Michael wrote this:
I immediately turned to Haley Hintze, the expert on all things Absolute Poker, and asked her for her assistance. Was it possible that Mezrich was just some outsider looking for a story to tell? Or, was it something else and if so, what?
After some digging, it was discovered that Mezrich could have ties to the AP frat boys that go as far back as 2004. An old thread on 2+2 revealed this possible connection. A poster that goes by the moniker “styleXX” indicated that he had been saying for three years that Mezrich would write a book about the “Boys from Montana.”
But this is only meaningful if styleXX is credible, after all this could be any crackpot posting anonymously. But once we discovered the likely identity of styleXX it was clear that this person is indeed credible. An alumnus of the SAE fraternity at the University of Montana, the very same fraternity where Absolute Poker was born, and Facebook friends with Brent Beckley, the former Absolute Poker Vice President, and Layne Flack a professional poker player who grew up in Montana, the man we believe to be styleXX is no random.
Dave Ferrara referred to that piece in a followup story to the Mezrich book about six weeks ago, and oddly enough, that one drew a couple of responses from Mezrich, who had not responded to earlier inquiries from pokerfuse.
Here’s an excerpt from Mezrich’s comments:
You guys crack me up. Read the book when it comes out and then let me know what you think. Of course the 2+2 involvement and cheating scandal are in there. It takes place over 10 years so that is just one part of the story. And your bizarre theory of my connections to the ap guys reaching back to 2007 is truly tinfoil hat territory. Anyway. Best wishes, look forward to hearing what you think when you read it.
Tinfoil hat, or a legitimate link? Michael chose not to publish all the information I provided, but it was clear to both of us that the 2+2 poster was no random at all. Still, readers should draw their own opinions. And that’s where Part 2 of this post takes us.
(continued, Part 2)