Daniel Negreanu

Should Players be Banned from WSOP? Daniel Negreanu Gives His Take

Poker pro Daniel Negreanu has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. Love him, hate him or somewhere in between, if there is a topic he wants to talk about, he will talk about it. On Friday, he penned a post for his blog at FullContactPoker.com addressing the subject of whether or not the World Series of Poker should take it upon itself to ban certain players from the festival. While I never knew this was really an issue, Negreanu wrote “….rumor has it that we may see some faces we haven’t seen there in a while,” likely referring to some of the principals involved with pre-Black Friday Full Tilt Poker who have been largely persona non grata in the poker world for the last several years. Thus, the possibility of banishment may have come to mind.

Negreanu starts by addressing Russ Hamilton and Mansour Matloubi, two men at the center of the UltimateBet superuser cheating scandal.

“I’m grouping these two together since they are guilty of the same crime, using a God mode program allowing them to see their opponents hole cards online,” he writes. “While this isn’t a case that has been ruled on in the court of law, the evidence is overwhelmingly one-sided that at the very least, these two men were involved in cheating players out of millions. There isn’t concrete evidence that these players have cheated at live poker. I have heard rumors, but they aren’t enough to incriminate.”

Russ Hamilton

Russ Hamilton

Negreanu ponders whether or not cheating in online poker should be punished in the live poker world. To him, there are degrees. Hamilton and Matloubi committed arguably the most serious poker crime one could commit besides just straight stealing people’s money, so for Negreanu, the answer is yes in their case. “Players like Dan Coleman and Justin Bonomo are just two examples of players who have admitted to multi-accounting in the past. I think what Russ and Mansour did is obviously a much worse crime and neither should be allowed entry into the WSOP for life. Not that they care.”

He then moves on to Chris Ferguson, a formerly extremely popular player who was one of the heads of Full Tilt Poker. Negreanu writes:

Based on what I’ve gathered, he was essentially MIA when FTP was trying to find a buyer so they could pay back the players. That’s been confirmed to me by several sources. He essentially hid under the covers hoping it would all just go away.

So, does his behavior and lack of willingness to stand responsible for his role in the crash of FTP warrant a WSOP ban? No, I don’t think so. I’m not pleased by how he handled things, disappearing just never seems like the most responsible choice, but to my knowledge Chris has never cheated anyone at the poker table.

He treats Howard Lederer, another Full Tilt board member, similarly. “Do I think it [Full Tilt Poker] was a ponzi scheme? That’s an absurd notion. Do I think it was gross negligence by management? Absolutely. A lack of oversight allowed for Ray Bitar to run the company into the ground. I’ve heard from various sources that not only was Ray in over his head, he was flat out lying to the other owners about the financial status of the company.”

He adds, “Once the news broke that FTP was insolvent, based on sources I’ve spoken to, Howard spent every day trying to find a way to get the players paid. Many of the owners didn’t agree with the direction Howard wanted to take the company, but it seemed to be a consensus that Howard’s main purpose and motivation was to get the players paid.”

Negreanu goes on to essentially say that because PokerStars bailed out Full Tilt and got all its players repaid (he is not completely correct – tough most have, not everyone has been made whole), Lederer should be granted some leniency. The bottom line on both Ferguson and Lederer for Negreanu is that they have never, to his knowledge, cheated at poker, and their Full Tilt failings were because of negligence, not malevolence, and should therefore be free to play at the WSOP.

Then there are Annie Duke, a person for whom Negreanu has never had warm feelings, and Jeffrey Pollack.

I’m grouping these two together because of their association with the Epic Poker League which defrauded players out of a “guaranteed” million dollar freeroll. Players ponied up their own money against other elite pros with the promise of added money being incentive enough to do so. To this date, I don’t believe that any of the players who participated have been reimbursed, and I don’t see that ever happening. Jeffrey was never a poker player anyway, but Annie used to play in WSOP events regularly. Since the fall of the Epic Poker League she hasn’t been seen around poker circles.

Still, though, as much as Negreanu hates that they promised players money and not only never delivered, but have not even taken any responsibility, he still doesn’t think they should be barred from the World Series of Poker. “Not that it’s directly comparable, but there are plenty of poker players playing the WSOP that owe people money with no intention of ever paying,” he notes. “Add these names to that list if they ever decide to play the WSOP again.”


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