Remember These Non-Poker Gambling Scandals?

Organizations Rebound While Individuals Pay the Price

by , Aug 4, 2008 | 9:55 pm

With all the attention on the UB/Absolute scandal today, I thought I’d offer some perspective on non-poker scandals. And since poker is a “sport”

Sports Illustrated/CNN have compiled a photo gallery representing the 13 biggest “Gambling Scandals in Sports.” (No, UB and Absolute didn’t make the list.)

The scandals date from the Black Sox of 1919 (when the Chicago White Sox famously threw the World Series) to the NBA referee (Tim Donaghy) who pleaded guilty to accepting money from a gambler. Basketball was the most offending sport, with six of the 13 spots on the list (46%). Boston College has the dubious honor of being listed twice (for basketball in the late ’70s and football in the mid ’90s).

The last item on the list (which appears to be in no particular order) is about former NHL player Rick Tocchet, who has played in a major poker tournament or two.

Check out the full list here. (Keep in mind that this list only includes gambling scandals, and not cheating scandals in general.)

I find it interesting that while individual players must live with the consequences for decades (Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, etc.), the organizations that allowed such cheating to take place usually pay only a short-term penalty before returning to full respectability.

It’s not a perfect parallel to the UB/Absolute scandal, but I think it’s relevant. It’s possible that after a few years, this scandal may be nothing more than a footnote to those two companies. What do you think?

If you find sports scandals boring, you can always check out SI’s second-most popular gallery (at the moment): “The Best 1980s Swimsuits,” with a vintage Christie Brinkley SI cover in the leadoff spot. In middle school, I claimed that my initials stood for “Billy Joel,” and he was my uncle. He married Christie later that year, and my popularity soared. Wait … swimsuit photos? Am I blogging for Pokerati or Wicked Chops?


24 Comments to “Remember These Non-Poker Gambling Scandals?”


  1. Poker Shrink
    says:

    A few years? BJ what evidence is there that Absolute has suffered any ill effects? And with the rebranding to Cereus, UB may miss the penalty box altogether. These are nearly unregulated companies that have no jurisdictional issues in any country, territory or reservation. And online players just keep giving them their money.


  2. DanM
    says:

    Good observation, BJ, about how the individuals tend to suffer the long-term consequences, not the organizations.

    Was also happy to see my Northwestern Wildcats made the list — We’re #6! — but was surprised they didn’t add that the basketball point-shaving investigation also led to discovery of point-shaving in football. Interestingly enough, two of my freshman-year poker-playing buddies went to jail for perjury related to this case (Mike Senters and Chris Gamble) … and I remembered the time that I caught one of the players in our game (Greg Gil) cheating in a monster pot ($20) of 7-27. I knew from that instance of trying to get his fellow football players to take my side that he hid an ace that indeed, there was no way they were going to rat out their point-shaving buddies to the Grand Jury.

    “I know, I know, it’s a black thing,” I said when asking Gamble why he didn’t support me when I was in the uncomfortable position of publicly accusing Gil (250+ pounds of muscle, btw) of cheating.

    “No, it’s not a black thing,” Gamble said (I was one of only two white guys and the only non-football player in the game). “It’s a football thing.”

    Ahh. Go team!


  3. Uncle Ray
    says:

    “Keep in mind that this list only includes gambling scandals, and not cheating scandals in general.”

    There are BIG differences. The “gambling scandals” are scandals BECA– USE of the gambling. There was gambling going on in events that were not gambling events to begin with. Any gambling, legal or otherwise, was outside the realm of the event itself (and the organization running the event).

    “while individual players must live with the consequences for decades…the organizations that allowed such cheating to take place usually pay only a short-term penalty before returning to full respectability”

    The organizations noted in the gambling scandals were proactive in either helping prosecute or at least punishing the individuals who were involved. And for the most part, the original harm that was done was to the integrity of the games that were “fixed” or illegally gambled on. There is no relation to “who’s hurt longer” because the orgs were not intentionally enablers.

    Actually, the cheating scandals are just the opposite of the gambling scandals. The gambling scandals involved losing (or at least losing against the point spread). Cheating is unfairly winning (or getting an unfair edge) at someone else’s expense (maybe like ALLEGEDLY, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Gaylord Perry, most Tour de France bikers, the New England Patriots film crew, and a multitude of others.


  4. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    *** A few years? BJ what evidence is there that Absolute has suffered any ill effects? ***

    Good point. I guess in the sense of the larger public, they haven’t suffered at all. But within the industry, they’ve lost all respect. They can’t even sign someone to wear their logo without it devolving into a huge controversy. And PokerNews and some smaller sites won’t accept their ads and continue to give them negative coverage.

    *** Any gambling, legal or otherwise, was outside the realm of the event itself (and the organization running the event). ***

    Not true. The most common offense on that list was point-shaving, which definitely takes place in the realm of the event itself. Regardless of whether someone is intentionally trying to win or to lose, they have destroyed the integrity of the competition.

    *** There is no relation to “who’s hurt longer” because the orgs were not intentionally enablers. ***

    You have a solid point there, because the organizations generally benefit by winning, not by losing or shaving points.

    I still think the comparison to sports individuals/organizations works, but I’ll have to write up another post focused on actual *cheating* scandals in sports (like those you mentioned). For example, with all the allegations of steroid use in baseball, the individuals are being tarnished forever, even though it’s clear that several organizations turned a blind eye to what was very obviously going on in their own clubhouse.


  5. Uncle Ray
    says:

    My intent with the inside/outside the realm of the game was to point out that in Poker scandals the people affected financially are the players, whereas the gambling scandals mostly afect those outside the game that are gambling, not the players (except the perpetrators by getting paid off).

    I was also going to point out that with the exception of my 1919 White Sox, everybody still played to win, just not by as much as they were expected to.

    I look forward to a discussion of the cheaters, because their actions are more closely like those who cheat in poker games, at the expense of other players, and as you point out, with the complicity of their organizations, teams and fellow players.


  6. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    *** My intent with the inside/outside the realm of the game was to point out that in Poker scandals the people affected financially are the players, whereas the gambling scandals mostly afect those outside the game that are gambling, not the players (except the perpetrators by getting paid off). ***

    Now I get it — in most of these cases, the “beneficiaries” are outside the gameplay. Fair point. You’ve definitely encouraged me to rework it using actual cheating-to-win scandals. (But that might have to wait until next Monday.)


  7. DanM
    says:

    ***The organizations noted in the gambling scandals were proactive in either helping prosecute or at least punishing the individuals who were involved.***

    This is a great point, too. How different would people feel about UB/AP if their representatives were aggressively seeking to prosecute the offenders, instead of protect them? What if Annie Duke were out there not just saying Russ Hamilton is no longer part of the company (is she even saying that?) but was riding his ass hard about criminal activities, even though current law may or may not cover that?

    ***my 1919 White Sox***
    your 1919 White Sox, Uncle Ray? Can you really say that when your parents weren’t even born yet in 1919? It also makes me kinda wonder … had it been a 1919 Cubs scandal, would you be more likely to be a Wrigley Field kinda guy?


  8. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    *** How different would people feel about UB/AP if their representatives were aggressively seeking to prosecute the offenders, instead of protect them? ***

    To me, how they handled the cheating scandal is the *primary* issue.

    I don’t demand perfection from companies, but I do demand a certain level of trust. If UB/Absolute had discovered these problems on their own, and made immediate efforts to investigate and set things right, that would definitely have changed my perception of the situation. Instead, they denied everything as long as they could, and none of their efforts since have given the informed poker public much confidence.

    Mistakes happen. Scandals happen. Assholes happen. It’s how a company handles those things that sets them apart (either for better or for worse).


  9. DanM
    says:

    True enough … but does that mean you should always expose yourself? Let’s say, theoretically, a new Pokerati poster from Atlanta was found to be hacking into our site and embezzling T-shirts …

    While it would only be a matter of time before Ed and Kevin Mathers found the criminal behavior and reported it to yours truly, do I need to put up a post informing the public of the shenanigans, or would it be fine and dandy if we just took care of any executions on our own, with the public being none the wiser that we had some internal problems, which now have most likely been fixed?


  10. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    Well, if the problem only affected internal things (like stolen t-shirts), then there’s no need to go public. Fire the guy, prosecute for damages, or whatever, but it doesn’t really affect your readers.

    If a problem existed that *did* affect the readers, then you should publicly tell them what the problem was, and how you handled it. Fro example, if someone from Atlanta (cough, cough) was editing readers’ comments to make them look like offensive idiots, then you should warn them of the problem, solve the problem, and then tell them how you solved the problem.

    Now, what’s this about t-shirts? I asked for a Pokerati jersey, but have heard nothing but silence.


  11. DanM
    says:

    BJ, Jerseys were so 2007! This year it’s all about our new super-high-tech invisible jerseys … I sent you two of those already … but you just can’t see them. (Har har.)

    For real though, I think our jersey makers are closing up shop, so not many new ones to be made — http://sadlerandcarterpoker.com — and for whatever reason, there aren’t any more BJ Nemeth Pokerati jerseys left on their clearance racks.

    We do have t-shirts, however, and patches … and even a couple Wicked Chops Poker shirts to send.


  12. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    For the record, 2007 is about 12 years ahead of my fashion sense.

    I’ve got far too many t-shirts as it is, and I’m about to take another load of old clothes to Goodwill. I’ll just wait 12 years for the BJ Nemeth/Pokerati jersey.


  13. DanM
    says:

    You drive a hard bargain, BJ … so for now we’ll leave this post and series of comments up in hopes that a jersey maker will find it, step up, and get to work on your uniform.


  14. DanM
    says:

    btw, I think I actually kinda like these t-shirts that our friends at S&C are hawking:


  15. Ed
    says:

    “…do I need to put up a post informing the public of the shenanigans…”

    Dan, this is a new era…we would find em…and video tape the beating so we could put it on youtube.

    Oh and glad I got “in” when the jerseys (jersies?) were still available. This baby will be worth some money one day when you are in prison really rich and have a site as cool as Poker News.


  16. Uncle Ray
    says:

    Well, YOUR Chicago Cubs won the main event in 1908, before MY WS learned how to lose on purpose. Just like it’s YOUR Alamo, even though they fought a couple of years before you moved to Texas. I just figured I would stay with my team even when they did wrong, whether or not I had anything to do with it. Oh, what a novel concept!!


  17. Ed
    says:

    Uncle Ray, are they your Cubs still? If so…can I still cuss them out after last night? Them and the Yankees cost me sum munnies.


  18. BJ Nemeth
    says:

    There was controversy around the 1908 Cubs too. Anyone remember the Merkle Boner? The New York Giants were ROBBED that year!


  19. DanM
    says:

    Fair enough Uncle Ray … you can have the WWI-era Sox. I like both the Sox and Cubs — whichever one has a better record tends to be “my” team.


  20. Uncle Ray
    says:

    Just to let everyone know. I’m a White Sox fan in a Cub family. My dad, Dan’s dad, all MY uncles, and just about everyone else that grew up on the north side.

    But unlike some of my fellow Sox fans, I also like the Cubs. I dislike them 6 times a year, when they play the Sox. (no matter which one has a better record).

    Ed, sorry about the financial loss. I don’t take the blame for that. Blame the Houston pitching staff. (or maybe someone was cheating, like using one of Sammy Sosa’s old corked bats)


  21. godonkgo
    says:

    whats disappointing is how the players involved have went unpunished they are all still sponsored somewhere and have not been banned from sanctioned evfents the grinder for example accused and (said to have payed back millions> at absolute poker we’ll never know still looked at in the poker world as a champion hes a cheater yet u google him u cant find a single word about him being involved these people r not heros they should be banned not sponsored booo the grinder next time u see him not applaud


  22. DanM
    says:

    i have never heard anything about the Grinder being a cheater. (nor anything about him paying back millions to anyone.)

    please educate us with some factual, checkable details. how do we know you’re not just some scorned gay lover throwing out potentially libelous accusations?


  23. Kevin Mathers
    says:

    Donk seems to be confused as to what the subject of this blog entry.

    I assume that the point being made is that the Grinder at one point was sponsored by Absolute Poker, meaning he has some sort of inside knowledge about the superuser scandal.


  24. DanM
    says:

    Ah, well we know that’s silly. Though guilt by association is one thing, clearly not everyone who wore/wears a patch for a site is involved with crimes on the level Russ Hamilton has been unofficially indicted for.