Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alleged Online Master Poker Cheating Living Large while Mocking Online Poker Community!


Does Crime Pay?

With the Absolute Poker and UltimateBet cheating scandals still very much centre stage for the online poker player community, it's perhaps not surprising that characters allegedly involved in the scandal attract media coverage whenever they surface. One such individual is "AJ Green", also known as Allan Grimard, who was the subject of much discussion and conjecture at the height of the "hole card" debacle on which players still seek closure.

This week the online gambling information portal Gambling911 reported that Grimard is apparently living it large in Costa Rica, home to many online gambling companies. The mysterious Grimard is reported to be building a large home in Los Suenos, an upmarket Pacific coast resort in the area, driving a new and expensive SUV and sailing a "huge" yacht.

How a once low level supervisor at an online gambling company who later is alleged to have become involved with the poker company has managed to amass sufficient wealth to indulge in these projects remains a mystery. It has to be noted that Absolute Poker has not publicly identified Grimard as being involved in the scandal despite lengthy investigations by Gaming Associates and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

Canadian born Grimard is alleged to have been a close college friend of the man widely regarded as the Absolute Poker founder, Scott Tom, and this was another familiar name that surfaced in the 911 report. The information portal claims that the AP investor for which a sealed US indictment is being held is Tom's father. It is not clear what charges are involved, and it does not appear that the indictment has achieved wide public coverage despite the multi-million dollar nature of the Absolute Poker hole card cheating scandal (see previous reports).

911 claims that it has been informed by insiders that none of Absolute Poker's management or investors are to travel to the United States for fear of further indictments, although Scott Tom is no longer involved with the company, which is now owned by former Kahnawake chief Joe Norton's Tokwiro Enterprises group.

Absolute Poker and UltimateBet recently announced a planned merger into a new, re-branded super-network titled Cereus. This is perhaps an unfortunate choice of branding, described as it is by Wikipedia as either a cactus or "Bacillus cereus - an endemic, soil-dwelling, Gram-positive, rod-shaped, beta hemolytic bacteria that causes foodborne illness!"

In other related developments, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which licenses both Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, recently hired a former New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement director, and respected online gambling regulatory consultant, Frank Catania, to head a team investigating the cheating scandals at the two sites (see previous report).

Judging by the high posting traffic across leading online poker message boards, the poker playing community does not appear to have achieved satisfactory closure on the controversial issues, probably the worst that have occurred in the relatively short history of online poker.

Although Tokwiro brought in the services of Gaming Associates to assess and recommend remedial measures, paid a $500 000 fine to the KGC in respect of the Absolute Poker debacle and addressed the complaints of prejudiced players, scepticism and doubt remains over the apparent lack of public exposure and pursuit of the perpetrators of the massive frauds. Many others emphasise the initial denialist reaction of the sites when players complained of cheating, something that was conclusively proved by expert player investigations, resulting in Tokwiro finally taking action.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Online Gambling and Poker Cheating Linked To Some Brutal Worldwide Murders!

Whether good or bad, individuals associated with the world of online gambling have met some of the most brutal of deaths. And this is not to say that all such slayings were directly related to the industry. One of the most disturbing murders, that of Adam Anhang, had absolutely nothing to do with Internet gambling, yet his death resonated throughout the community and has remained difficult to talk about even three years later.

The former CFO of Dr. Ho and CEO of CWC Gaming, Adam Anhang, was brutally stabbed to death September 23, 2005 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His calculated slaying was like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. The murder occurred at a street intersection of Calle de la Luna in Historic Old San Juan, which is typically bustling with tourists and locals (even at the time of this murder took place). The frail man was stabbed nearly a dozen time over his entire body while walking alongside his estranged wife.

A Dateline NBC report profiled Jonathan Roman Rivera, 22, the accused murderer who was found guilty in a San Juan courthouse. But in a shocking twist, US law enforcement agents determined that Rivera was not the murderer. He just looked like him...and as it turns out, that may have been the plan all along. Aurea Vazquez, Anhangs's wife, had hired someone to mercilessly "off" her husband.

Anhang was one of the good guys, a pioneering force in the online sector of the gaming industry and he had benefited legitimately from it. Some have not capitalized as legitimately as Adam Anhang however. In recent days, there have been reports on an especially cold blooded murder that has connections to the darker side of online gambling. A billion dollar industry does attract a rather high percentage of scammers and it appears that Yang Zhen Xing fell right into this trap. Investigators are still trying to determine why Yang Zhen Xing and his girlfriend were found brutally murdered in their Newcastle West End flat in what was described as a "frenzied knife attack", quite possibly related to a gambling scam. At least one of the victims had been tortured for more than an hour.

But all implications are that the couple was involved in an online gambling scam with connections to betting syndicates in China. One line of inquiry involves claims Mr Zhen recruited spectators online to send live updates from UK football matches, according to a BBC report. It is claimed syndicates in China, where matches are televised a minute behind, could take advantage of this. Det Supt Wade stated: "Our officers have the support of forces across the country in their efforts to bring the killer or killers of Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang to justice. Detective Wade said that investigators were sifting through phone records to determine a time of the murder and who the couple may have contacted prior to their bloody murder.

It was just last year that an online gambling employee in Costa Rica was murdered for reportedly stealing a customer list and scamming the customers whose contact information was part of the said list. Two Canadians and a Costa Rican were charged in the murder of Luis Muñoz Vargas. Agents allege that two Canadians along with the Costa Rican bodyguard set up a meeting with the victim a year ago on the pretext of purchasing a car. When Vargas arrived for the meeting in Desamparados centro, he was greeted with bullets and died later in hospital.

Like the Zhen Xing Yang slaying, the murders of Ernie Scherer and his wife Charlene Abendroth remain unsolved a number of months after their bodies were found. Both had received numerous stab wounds. Ernie was popular on the poker circuit and his death sent shockwaves throughout the poker playing community.

Whatever the case, my opinion is that, like in any shady business, violence and death will always be one step behind the scams.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Can Casinos and Poker Rooms Make Cheats Out of You?

Sometimes when you're playing in a casino, things happen that force you to decide whether or not you want to become a poker or a casino cheat. By that I mean mistakes are often made by dealers or other casino personnel in your favor, mainly that you are paid more money than you should have been on any given bet or circumstance. If you accept the unintentional "favor" and don't say anything, does this make you a cheat...or a "passive cheat" to say the least? In my opinion it does not, as most ordinary people out having a good time in casinos would probably just keep the extra payout and say nothing. After all, no one is getting hurt, especially the casino. What do you think?

I came across an interesting survey in the Chicago Herald about this question. Here it follows:

Every once in a while at the casino, the dealer, or the cashier, or another player will do you a little "favor." Sometimes another customer will receive one of these favors while you look on. There's only one little hitch with all of these "favors" however. They were mistakes - and weren't supposed to happen!

Back on July 25, I asked you, the reader whether you'd accept any or all of these mistakes/favors if they were to happen to you. This is how you replied.

Favor #1: You got paid on a blackjack loser.

Consensus: Keep the money. Over 80 percent of the readers said they would keep a mistaken payoff on their losing blackjack hand. Their reasons were that since the house has a built-in advantage anyway, it's OK to accept a financial favor that results from the casino not doing its job correctly. Very few felt obliged to return the casino's chips and their own to the dealer.

One contrarian however, stated that there are many legal advantages obtainable at blackjack, so why go outside the rules to accept one? Another said it was his goal to "beat 'em" - not "cheat 'em" and would return the money.

Favor #2: Dealer forgot to pick up your losing craps prop.

Consensus: Let it ride. Here too, most readers said they would happily accept a free second chance at winning their craps proposition bet, such as on the "hard 8." The same general sentiments applied as with the blackjack hand above, but there were a few dissenters.

One reader cited how some craps dealers attentively coach the players on how to bet appropriate amounts so as to receive maximum odds on their wagers. This reader felt allowing a proposition loser to remain in action would constitute "stepping over the line."

Favor #3: You found a $100 chip beneath a high roller's feet.

Consensus: Split decision. This seemed to be the stickiest scenario of all. Some said if it looked as if the chip belonged to that player, they would simply point it out to him. Others felt was a simple "finder's/keepers" situation. Still others said they would get security involved and let them decide.

Favor #4: You saw a player receive more chips than his buy-in.

Consensus: Unanimously, "Not my business." Everyone said it is the casino's responsibility to count up the buy-in accurately and give the correct number of chips to a new player.

Some even emphasized that they would remain silent to avoid the possibility of a confrontation with the customer who was buying in.

Favor #5: The wrong poker hand was awarded the pot at your table.

Consensus: Split decision. I was surprised at how many readers said they would sit by and allow the pot to be pushed to a player holding the losing poker hand. Only about half said they would stop the dealer and point out the correct winning hand.

The official rule by the way, is that once the cards are shown down, any player at the table has the full right to point out the winning hand.

Also, the house bears no financial responsibility in this matter, and once the cards are mucked (tossed into the discards), the transaction is an officially done deal.

Favor #6: Cashier at the cage gave you $100 too much.

Consensus: Split decision. About 60 percent of the readers said they would return the overpayment at the cashier's cage for various reasons. Some felt the till would come up short and that cashier might either be docked or fired.

Others simply felt bound by their honor not to accept an overpayment in cash for their chips.

The other side reasoned that the casinos get way too much of the customers' money anyway, and any "refund" the players can get should happily be kept.