Dewey Tomko and the Weird Online Poker Flip-Flopping Sellout
The fringe efforts of anti-online-poker crusader James Thackston received a boost this week in the form of an unexpected joining into his cause by Poker Hall of Famer Dewey Tomko. Thackston, whose bizarre claims that online poker is a wide-open channel for money laundering, presumably by drug cartels, formerly operated a strange site called “Politics of Poker,” and, with a small handful of like-minded, anti-gambling conspiracy theorists, has renewed the same claims on a newer site, UndetectableLaundering.com.
While Thackston’s money-laundering examples — as well as his understanding of no-limit hold’em poker — were thoroughly debunked here a few weeks ago at FlushDraw (“Sheldon Adelson’s Minions: The Bad Poker of James Thackston”), he’s like most conspiracy theorists in that he seems unable to comprehend the meaning of evidence that runs counter to his beliefs. And that’s what’s bizarre about this latest development, the joining in to Thackston’s cause of Tomko, a skilled poker player.
On Wednesday, Tomko and Bill Byers, the other “pro” who had previously joined forces with Thackston, appeared as co-authors of an editorial published by the Press of Atlantic City, “Dewey Tomko and Bill Byers / Poker pros: Test gambling sites for cheating“. The call to test the new New Jersey sites’ anti-collusion and anti-money-laundering systems is a fine idea, taken in a vacuum, but it’s the premises claimed by Thackston in his collusion scenarios that become fantasy.
Tomko and Byers claim to support the legalization of Internet poker, which is odd, considering that Byers’ affirmation appears as part of Thackston’s previous collusion scenarios, and Thackston is stridently against online poker. As we’ve previously shown in that earlier debunking, Byers probably shouldn’t be let anywhere near a high-stakes no-limit hold’em table; his poker resume was built entirely on old fixed-limit games and strategies and if he’s behind the poker strategies employed in the scenarios on Thackston’s site, he’s an embarrassment to himself and to poker.
It’s Tomko’s addition to the team that’s a more puzzling development. This is the same Dewey Tomko, after all, who’s a poker Hall of Famer, with three WSOP bracelets and $4.9 million in tournament winnings alone, plus countless more winnings in cash games.
This new editorial touches on those credits, but skips over the other side of Dewey Tomko. That’s the Dewey Tomko who for years served as paid spokesman for Doyle’s Room, which was one of those very same “unregulated offshore poker sites” that Tomko now seeks to pillory by way of enhancing his own reputation, and maybe try to get the inside line on a new paid gig, perhaps as a games-integrity consultant.
The thing is, if the powers that be understood how much of an inveterate hustler Dewey Tomko was, they’d look six or seven times at his possible motivations for getting involved in this debate… in this way. Tomko is one of the two or three most legendary hustlers the combined poker-and-golf worlds have ever known; Tomko quit his one-time teaching career and took to hustling the games full time, way back in the ’70s, because it was such an immensely profitable opportunity.
One of Tomko’s long-time friends in the industry, and in that world of poker- and sports-hustling? That would be Russ Hamilton, the man who ripped off players of the site he partly owned, UltimateBet, for tens of millions of dollars.
It’s probably not fair to call Tomko guilty by association, even if those associations ran deep behind the corrupt UB facade. But what is fair is to show that those ties ran deep. In my own years of research into the UB and Absolute Poker scandals, I’ve received hundreds of documents and files. Among those is the tale of a special little group of UB players called the FOUBs, or the “Friends Of UB”.
The FOUBs were a special little group of players, set up with extra accounts, each with the same special affiliate code. The players themselves were personal friends of Hamilton and Hamilton’s one-time sportsbetting runner, another guy the poker world might’ve heard of, named Mansour Matloubi. And these players’s accounts? They were all rakeback-free, a friendship gift from Hamilton, often for various business favors.
I’ve never released the complete contents of the FOUBs list, other than to note that there are plenty of casino-owning folks on the list. Several of the names on the list are also prominent members of the Costa Rican gambling scene .
Costa Rica, you ask? Where does that come in? Well, Dewey Tomko owns a casino in Costa Rica, the Horseshoe. Now, the loop is almost complete — but Dewey Tomko was not on the FOUBs list. But his son Derek was.
Such are the nature of poker’s internal, often sordid relationships.
It’s highly unlikely that the Press of Atlantic City realized that the editorial they published was co-authored by someone who was quite a bit more than just a poker champion. Tomko’s also a casino owner, has historic connections to perhaps the game’s biggest all-time cheater, and he was a paid spokesman himself for a prominent unregulated, US-facing site.
An editorial by Steve Ruddock at 4Flush published earlier today flatly calls Dewey Tomko a sell-out. I think that’s accurate. What’s probably understated and less understood is how deep that sellout really is.