Sorel Mizzi Confirms Another PokerStars Ban

Well-known Canadian online-poker player Sorel Mizzi confirmed this week ongoing speculation that he is again banned from playing at the world’s largest online site, PokerStars. Mizzi acknowledged having been caught using a VPN (virtual private network) in an attempt to disguise playing online from the United States, where Mizzi frequently participates in live-poker action.

The latest ban, unfortunately is nothing new for Mizzi, who’s been one of the game’s most controversial players for over a decade.

The latest episode involving Mizzi, who is (or was) a well-known player on Stars under his “Zangbezan24” screen name, first surfaced late last year, became a gossip topic during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at the start of 2016, then resurfaced again with the publishing of expanded allegations in February on the 2+2 forums.

In a recent appearance on the Poker Life podcast, Mizzi acknowledged his most recent ban from Stars, stating, “I decided to take a risk and play online poker from the United States.” Mizzi, though a Canadian citizen, maintains a semi-permanent residence in Las Vegas, and he admitted that it was from there that he used a VPN connection to participate in the main event of last fall’s WCOOP [World Championship of Online Poker] at PokerStars.

Mizzi also admitted to using an account other than his own, which, like the illicit VPN usage, is another violation of Stars’ TOS [Terms of Service]. Mizzi acknowledged his ban, without stating exactly when it began. “I can’t play on [the site] for a couple years,” he said during the podcast.

One of the problems, however, is that Mizzi was already using an account belonging to another registered player, meaning that though the WCOOP-playing account was closed and any funds remaining in it likely forfeited, there’s little disincentive to keep Mizzi or similar-minded players from doing the same thing again and again.

Mizzi, in particular, has a long history of being involved in various poker-world shenanigans. He was linked to the multi-accounting ring centered on multi-banned underage cheat Josh “JJProdigy” Field last decade. Mizzi, well known in those days by his “Imper1um” handle on Full Tilt, was often described as being Field’s online protege.

Mizzi has been banned by several different sites over the course of the last decade, and apparently views the occasional ban as the cost of doing business… his way. “Do I feel terribly guilty about doing this?” Mizzi asked himself on the Poker Life podcast, regarding his actions that led to the latest ban. “To be honest, no, not really.”

That’s approximately the exact same moral stance Mizzi has adhered to since joining the online-poker game. Way back in 2007, Mizzi was found to have purchased the account of a Bluff Magazine employee, Chris Vaughn, late in a weekly $1 million guarantee on Full Tilt, then took Vaughn’s account to the win and a big payday.

Except that someone talked. The buying of accounts was always against the rules but had become a standard practice within a small cheating subset of online players, and the two players were banned. Mizzi and Vaughn subsequently explained their actions in a two-part interview with John Caldwell, then the editor of PokerStars. (Part 1 / Part 2)

Now, here’s a little something about that interview and the whole Mizzi/Vaughn account-buying scandal that virtual no one knows: The PN thing was originally slated as a three-part interview, and there were several more questions and answers that Caldwell, for his own reasons, decided not to run. Truth be told, I didn’t believe half the BS the pair served up in the responses that the pair offered anyway. I can’t speak for whether Caldwell believed them or not, but he got the interview, so there’s that.

I saw all of the questions and responses, not just those that saw print; I was the associate editor at the time, doing all the copy-editing stuff, so I had access to the full interview. And, one of the questions pulled from the final two-parter was something like, “Are you sorry about what occurred?”

And the joint response from Mizzi and Vaughn, which, again, never made it to print, was that they indeed were sorry – sorry that they got caught. So I give the pair credit for honesty, if not exactly integrity. Yet one can look at Mizzi’s response from 2007 and compare it to his latest statements here in 2016, and see that it’s the same guy, same ethos. In Mizzi’s worldview, the sites themselves have no rights; the rules they set in an attempt to create fair play are just an inconvenience. How else to rationalize a Mizzi comment that he and his friends one considered setting up a business to buy accounts from other players during events, despite such things being strictly against most sites’ rules?

“I create my own moral universe,” Mizzi said at one point in the recent Poker Life podcast. Indeed, as do we all. However, paralogical rationalizations of why it’s okay to cheat still only go so far. Following his admission regarding the latest ban, Mizzi embarked on a rambling attack on online poker’s current number-one enemy, Sheldon Adelson, essentially claiming it was all Adelson’s fault that Mizzi couldn’t play from the States and was thus forced to use a VPN.

Beyond the expression of Mizzi’s self-entitlement, the Adelson blame on that point is factually false. Adelson and LVSands were on board with online poker in that 2008-2011 era, pre-Black Friday. There was even a Stars-sponsored event held at the Venetian. But, well after Black Friday occurred, Adelson saw the opportunity to deal a major hurt to a couple of his biggest casino-corporation foes. The garbage about Adelson claiming his live casinos are morally superior to online gambling has always been a sham, and Adelson knows it.

But don’t tell that to Mizzi, who uses such misconstructions to support his own bad-behavior rationalizations. So what should happen? In a just online-poker universe, Sorel Mizzi would be well, truly and permanently banned by all sites, everywhere. However, as one wag on the 2+2 forums correctly noted, Mizzi’s rules-breaking behaviors aren’t likely to change until a major site takes him to court. Could that be PokerStars, or its parent company, Amaya? Perhaps, though there’s no indication of any legal action regarding Mizzi at this time. Also, poker sites tend to be circumspect about legal actions taken against specific players. Such actions are very rare (though they do occur), and they are seldom publicized for various reasons.

The takeaway, however, is that the Sorel Mizzi saga not only continues, but that it never seems to change. That’s a sad thing for all involved.

(Author’s note: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily express the viewpoint of Flushdraw or its owners.)

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