PokerBowl Shuffle
Not Good when Winners’ Checks Bounce

by , Jan 7, 2008 | 4:07 pm

A lot of people have been clamoring about my TV poker hosting debut wondering what has happened with the U.S. PokerBowl. Indeed, this inaugural team poker concept tourney was supposed to be airing this month on FoxSports. But I don’t think it will be — despite the arguable success of the event. Sure enough, everyone there seemed to be having a really good time … the televised images looked different than what has previously been seen on Poker TV … and amid an interesting re-interpretation of important poker rules, there was all sorts of heartwarming emotional drama with potential controversy (would Marc Seif’s Absolute team insist on wearing their be-logo-ed hats so visibly?) to give us announcers — and presumably the blogging television audience — much to talk about.

But perhaps everyone knew something was amiss when the only two people not smiling in the Key West ballroom at the Palms were the guy organizing the whole thing and John-Robert Bellande (who wasn’t even playing).

“Hey, congratulations on pulling off something really cool,” I said to John Nightingale at the start of the final-final table.

“Well, it was until about 30 minutes ago when the shit really started to hit the fan,” he responded before walking away all exasperated. I guess maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when a tournament that relies on too many freerolls and forgets to take any juice runs into a financial clusterflubbing. Bummer if it can’t be resurrected. Just ask anyone who participated … it really was pretty cool.

Click here to see my photos from the PokerBow
l (kicking myself for not taking more of the real behind-the-scenes stuff) … and/or click below to read an email that went out last week updating those with a vested interest in the success (or failure) of the PokerBowl on where things currently stand and what the money situation is:

Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 23:29:35 +0000
From: help[-at-]
To: help[-at-]

Poker Bowl Participants: The nature of this email is to inform you that Poker Business Enterprises ( “PBE” ) has entered into escrow to purchase the assets of USPOKERBOWL (“USPL”). PBE is in the process of evaluating all the assets and liabilities that USPL has incurred under the ownership of John Nightingale and Traci Wolfe. This due diligence period will be for the next 30 days. This includes the prize money which was not paid at the poker event held at the Palms in Las Vegas along with any promises not kept to franchisees. PBE is deeply committed to finding a resolution satisfactory to all parties who are still owed prize money. PBE encourages you to contact us at 702 [xxx][xxxx] immediately or email help[-at-] We will do our best to respond to any inquiry within 24 hours. We look forward to working with everyone regarding this matter. We are confident your cooperation and communication will expedite the financial resolution of all involved individually and collectively. For the next 30 days John Nightingale will not have the resources to deliver accurate information that many of you need. The reasoning is to ensure you can receive dependable, consistent answers to your questions. PBE welcomes your input and communication to make this a successful, stable, and proper transition.

PBE intends to build a permanent and successful organization with strong strategic partners and all those involved from the beginning will have the opportunity to have substantial participation. We anticipate to be on national and international television reaching over 200 million households this spring. Additional massive exposure to come via internet and national media campaigns will produce branding and economic opportunities for all involved.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.



37 Comments to “PokerBowl Shuffle
Not Good when Winners’ Checks Bounce

  1. donkey

    Dan, remember my comment to Karridy about this in his post prior to the event? I don’t see how Nightingale was able to pull it off. He was at $300k just a month before the action, and his total prize pool was at $1mil. Plus he was freerolling any and all pros he could find. I’m not surprised at all.

  2. California Jen

    This was bound to happen with at least one of the new poker shows being taped for television. Too many people want to get in on the action without being sufficiently prepared. Bummer that it happened to you guys, not to mention the players who traveled to Vegas to play in the event.

    I hope PBE can fix it.

  3. Kevin Mathers

    Did the team that won PokerBowl actually get valid checks for $100k/player?

  4. DanM

    KevMath, I don’t know the answer to that question, but will see what I can find out.

    Donk, yes, you were on to something, clearly:

  5. donkey

    “it was until about 30 minutes ago when the shit really started to hit the fan,” he responded”

    I’m not sure who made it to the final table, but I wonder if that has anything to do with the Seattle team not winning it all or making it to the final table. That was John’s team and taking first means that they could have delayed or not pay out that huge first place prize…makes you wonder…

  6. San Fran King

    Well we had a blast playing in it but something wasn’t right from the start it was obvious. Got to hand it to John for trying but a little too ambitious it seems. The whole thing sounds bad but also there is some optimism there so lets hope so for the winners sake.

  7. DanM

    I agree. And from a little research I have done, there are a handful of capable people trying to make things right and save the concept that obviously everyone really enjoyed.

  8. Michele Lewis

    I felt bad telling John I hadn’t asked for the buy-in from my players Steve Wong, Justin Bonomo, Alex Jacob and Nam Lee. I didn’t think it was a wise business decision for them to put up 10k when the PokerBowl hadn’t secured a location or a network. I am aware it was a catch 22 for him to get it rolling. He needed the networks to get big names and needed the big names to get the networks.
    When he negotiated his deal with Fox, he asked if someone else could take my place.

    Nonetheless, it sounded like a lot of fun.

  9. DanM

    Justin Bonomo — whom would make for lots of interesting discussions in this format — ended up on the Cleveland team (with Jared Hamby) … or perhaps we should say “Clevland”?

  10. donkey

    His original concept was team poker with “Pros vs. Joes”. Somehow it evolved to a playoff system of pro players. I think the original concept would have worked better. At least the Joes would have paid their entry fees. Michele, you are not the only person replaced.

  11. Michele Lewis

    Thanks, Donkey. I wasn’t upset as I really didn’t have the time and to be honest (and Dan can verify) I wasn’t willing to leave my kids with so much uncertainty. But John is a nice guy and I hope they get everything worked out.

  12. Clevland

    I find it kinda funny that this company, Poker Business Enterprises, is allegedly going into escrow to buy $1 mil in debt. Is this even a real company? Nice website! Obviously trying to divert the attention away from Nightingale.

  13. royhobbs

    So will the Pokerbowl ever be televised?

  14. Kevin Mathers

    Looks like FSN got some poker backup with their “Best Damn Poker Tournament”, which will cover 7 weeks, maybe in what would’ve been the timeslot slated for the PokerBowl

  15. Anonymous

    Not trying to attack John, but he has done this in other small tournaments here in Seattle. He has a sports gambling problem and last year took the buy in money from a large tourney up here and spent it before the tournament. He then had to borrow the money from someone else to pay the winner of the tourney. I had a feeling this would happen.

  16. clevland

    Yah, except this time it will be hard to borrow a million bucks. Looks like someone’s going to jail on this one.

  17. Anonymous

    One would think…I can’t seem to find anything on this Poker Business Enterprises either. Maybe I will give John a call today and hear from the horse’s mouth. It is true that John is a nice guy and he really does have a passion for poker. He has been running a good size home league here for a few years now. Traci is extremely nice as well. They owned a small business in Federal Way, WA for some time, a payday loan store. All in all, I hope that I am wrong frankly. Hopefully there was no sort of fraud or cheating and perhaps just poor business decisions. I know that for the average Joe people, there were many players that did not pay for their buy in. The entire Seattle team did not buy in. Neither did Ron Myers, Steve McNulty or Robert Seabolt. They all play in our Puget Sound Poker League. We had some tournaments where John would offer a seat…he ended up just filling a bunch of spots for free. Anyway, I hope it all works out soon.

  18. donkey

    Hey Anon, we would be extremely interested in hearing what John had to say. I know he’s trying to get a network to pick this thing up and offer a multi-year deal. This, of course, would solve the cash flow problem and let him pay the million $ prize. Anyone can probably figure out that PBE is a fictitious company, and if they did incorporate, then go Chapter 11, well then…no one can collect. And if more time passes without a network deal, I don’t see how in hell they are going to come up with $1mil bucks…better get a BIG Payday Loan Store loan.

  19. san fran king

    well i for one feel cheated even though our team didn’t win we still had to pay something to get in, granted it was very small compared to the 10k but still, no prize, no tv, no next year – pretty damn lame. sorry John but its looking shady good intentions or not.

  20. Poker Junkie

    The way to look at it is, Poker Players have huge Egos and will get into something that might not be totally on the Up and UP but they are looking for exposure… Sad that this many people got involved with out having any certainity that they would get paid…

    Wonder why the Gaming Commision didnt get involved as it was FRAUD

  21. Vincent "Vinny Nap" Napolitano

    Hi everyone, I want you to hear some of what happened from the horses mouth. I was the winner of the USPokerBowl and after getting the run around for months from Nightengale inregards to pament. My attorney decided to contact the Nevada Gaming Commission, who then forced The Palms to pay me a few weeks ago. As far as the event itself was a huge success. And I believe if televised it would of been a huge success. The “team” concept was so much fun and entertaining!! Whatever Nightengale did with the monies, we may never know (but not the right thing for sure) But what he did do was put a little black eye on the game of poker we all are so passionate about…………. I hope that someone does purchase the league and turns it into a huge success and if their is anything I can do to help the new owners of the league please feel free to contact me anytime. Also, any players having trouble collecting monies from the USPokerBowl, feel free to contact my attorney for help, Richard A. Dubi, Dix Hills, NY. (He has collected for several of the Cincinnati players in a timely fashion)

  22. donkey

    YO Vinny, great job on winning the whole ting, you had the whole ting covered from day one, bada bing, befaur anyone can blink an eye…BAM…fagedabadit. You da man, Vinny, my only advice is to use a spellchecka when you write, udderwise, you were faaantassstic..

    On the serious note, I’m really surprise that the Palms forked over the dough. That’s sick to think that Nightingale got away with hundreds of thousands of $$ and not get charged.

  23. DanM

    ***On the serious note, I’m really surprise that the Palms forked over the dough. ***

    The Palms essentially has no choice but to pay — lest they want to take an even bigger hit in the form of penalties. This is apparently why you have a gaming commission in Nevada. What do you think this is … the Dallas underground?

  24. nader

    i need to call me on 00972599824267
    for aurgent
    for very important please
    thank you

  25. Nightigale CROOK

    Nightingale John, probably recently paid some people. He recently collected over $30K from people for his fantasy football 2008 season and has not paid any winners. He keeps sending emails full of bologna about the money…. AVOID THIS LOSER and don’t let him rip off people again.

  26. Stop John Nightingale

    John Nightingale has ripped off quite a bit of people in online fantasy sports for a large sum of money. He has been shady, if not paid at all, in poker tournaments. How does this guy keep operating. Can someone put a stop this madness? How does he keep operating? Does anyone have any ideas?


  27. DanM

    Honestly, it’s disappointing to here he’s out there and up to his old tricks. I don’t now Nevada law well enough to say for sure, but I gotta think going after him via the Nevada Gaming Commission — who put the Palms’ feet to the fire regarding payment — might be a way to land him in jail.

    What state are the Fantasy Sports shenanigans going down in? If it’s taking place over state lines, there could be some federal crimes in play.

  28. Kevin Mathers

    Speaking of the Pokerbowl, someone’s actually put up highlights: (no audio I’m afraid).

  29. Karridy

    On top of the things we know about, he also owns a Pay-Day Loans company. So, considering what must be a very tangled web of robbing Peter to pay Paul, here’s the real question….

    Will it be Homicide or Suicide?

  30. Stop John Nightingale

    He’s based out of Washington state. The players are from all across the country and even a couple international players…. I don’t know what the next step will be…but I just don’t want it to happen to anyone else in poker or fantasy sports.

  31. Stop John Nightingale

    So what happened to the $300K that Nightingale collected from the honest particpants? That’s a lot of money… Doesn’t the Palms have any thugs on their payroll…seriously…does anyone know?

  32. DanM

    SJN, all this went down in like Nov. 2007, and maybe a few months after, so my recollection isn’t clear and my notes may or may not have been (un)packed over the course of a couple moves.

    But if I recall, Nightingale didn’t make out like a bandit or anything on the Poker Bowl … for sure, he woulda been lynched had that been the case. It was just a matter of using the prize pool money to fund the thing, and not selling enough ads, sponsorships, etc. to make it back. Basically the dude just got in over his head, and the thing took off without him. He also gave away a lot of freerolls to pros to attract other pros. So that was even more theoretical money that never made its way to the prize pool.

    (Did I mention that I was the television co-host? I got the gig, my first ever of the sort, without ever speaking to the dude or anyone on his team. Red flag?)

    Anyhow, as far as I knew, he was headed off to bankruptcy. That was just the word, but it seemed to make sense to me.

    So what’s the story on the Fantasy Sports league problems?

  33. Stop John Nightingale

    John collected several large buyins for a few fantasy football leagues. Promised checks to the winners and when no one got their money we started emailing each other. He sends out individual emails promising to pay “when he gets some money”. He never said what he did with the money but his two major excuses are: Paypal locked his funds for running a gambling book, and his other excuse is the “current economic crisis” has crippled his finances. Either way he appears to not have the money. He must have a real serious gambling problem. It’s a real shame.

    Well I have learned one thing, this whole Poker Bowl idea seems really cool, would be neat if it did get off the ground.

  34. DanM

    ***He must have a real serious gambling problem. It’s a real shame.***

    Damn, sounds like you guys got bona-fide screwed. However, really, I don’t know if he’s got a gambling problem as much as a business-model-that-doesn’t-work problem.

  35. Matt Atkins

    It sounds like my team was one of the only teams that actually paid the entire buy-in, which is kind of confusing to me. I would have to say that my team had the biggest names in the game and none of my players got a freeroll. What happened to their money??

  36. Benjamin Myers

    This sounds like it was a mess…

  37. Adam Turner

    I was the winner of a fantasy football he was a commissioner of. I never received the $6000 payout I was owed if anyone has any information on John please contact me @ I would love to get a hold of this loser.