Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Online Poker Cheat Sorel Mizzi Joins Betfair Team!

Evidently Betfair Poker doesn´t seem to care that its latest pickup to join its poker team is an infamous online poker cheat. Sorel Mizzi is the newest member of the Betfair team. More power to em! Let´s just hope that Mizzi is through cheating!

If the name Sorel Mizzi rings a bell, it could be due to his online poker successes over the last several years as "Imper1um." Or the name might sound familiar because of a cheating scandal that overshadowed his career in the late months of 2007.

Mizzi and former managing editor of Bluff Magazine Chris Vaughn were accused of seat selling, which involved Vaughn going deep in a Full Tilt tournament, then selling his seat to Mizzi who went on to win it for nearly $200,000. After the players' initial denials of any wrongdoing, Full Tilt investigated, disqualified the winner, and banned both players from the site. Subsequently, Mizzi and Vaughn admitted to the cheating and apologized. On February 20, 2008, Betfair Poker, part of a betting exchange network located in the United Kingdom, announced that 21-year old Mizzi was the newest member of Team Betfair, a sponsored team of players that includes 2008 World Series of Poker Europe champion Annette Obrestad. Betfair does not accept U.S. players on its site and pegged the signing of Mizzi, not even six months after he admitted to cheating in an online tournament, as a proud accomplishment.

Betfair's Head of Poker, Bruce Stubbs, said in a press release, "I am proud to add a player like Sorel Mizzi to our team. He is regarded as one of the best online tournament players in the world by many and has the results to prove it... I honestly believe we have the two best tournament players in the world right now. There is a new world order; look out!"

At a press conference in Copenhagen, Mizzi said that he was joining a team with a great reputation after himself having a "great year" in 2007.

A few weeks later, Mizzi decided to write a post on his new Betfair blog to set the record straight on the Full Tilt cheating issue, "share the evolution" of his thought process, and "finally have some closure."

He began by admitting to the wrongdoing, and saying that he had not purchased another player's account before that incident and will not do it again. But again with the half-assed apologies, he wrote, "I accept that people are really angry with me, and I can understand that, but from my point of view I am in the political nightmare of being a high-profile figure who the online poker gods have decided to make an example of."

Mizzi then proceeded to acknowledge that many of the posts on online forums regarding ghosting (playing someone else's account) and seat selling made him reconsider his position and see the validity of those arguments. He admitted to his own stupidity and naiveté's, then summarizing the three reasons that he would not do it again.

First, he cited "reverse ownage," which he described as playing one person throughout a tournament, then another person takes over, unbeknownst to the opponent, and plays entirely differently and puts the other person at a severe disadvantage. Second, he mentioned stamina, comparing it to competing in a marathon until the final two miles, at which point a fresh new person steps in to finish the race. Third, he noted the experience factor, in that he had more final table play experience than Vaughn, which gave him an advantage to finish out the tournament. Mizzi closed his blog post with one sentence. "I am truly sorry."

Evidently, such apologizes were good enough for some in the poker community, including Betfair Poker. Out of all of the tremendous talents in online poker, Betfair picked a controversial one who admitted to cheating and was banned from ever playing on another site. Good public relations move? Possibly. Risking reputation on the late-coming apology of a 21-year old, immature young player? Definitely.