Sports Legends Challenge Canceled?

by , Sep 1, 2009 | 4:29 pm

Officially it’s just been postponed … but I might be willing to make a wager.

The red flags flying around this thing made it seem, well … at best, like the second coming of the Poker Bowl. Not implying that the guys behind the Sports Legends Challenge are in any way shady, but the numbers just didn’t add up. They promised so much — so much poker, and black jack, and party-party-party with not just poker pros but real celebrity athletes, and $10 million worth of prizes, all on a beach! — and yet it was based on 2,100 people ponying up $10k (in 2009?) for Poker-Sports fantasy camp and that didn’t even include travel. No way its presenting sponsor, Absolute, could send as many people as PokerStars sends to the main event. Even with PokerNews pumping it up, mix in tons of freerolls and a disclaimer that any million-dollar jackpots would be paid in 40-year annuities … and yeah, all those who thought they might be headed to the Bahamas in a couple weeks got an email today like this one:

From: []
Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2009 1:17 PM
Subject: On behalf of the Sports Legends Challenge


On behalf of the Sports Legends Challenge, this letter is to inform you that due to circumstances beyond our control, we have decided to reschedule the inaugural Sports Legends Challenge event.

From the outset, our unvarying commitment has been to produce a world class event for participants, sponsors and spectators. It is our conviction, that this goal can best be achieved by rescheduling the event for a domestic location that will not only make the event more accessible to major population centers, but also make travel much easier for the participants. We are also modifying the time of year for the event so that weather issues are much less of a concern (a major issue for a September event in the Bahamas).

We are pleased to note that not only are the investors involved in the program fully supportive of this change, but it is also supported by our key sponsors, partners and affiliates. The essence of the program will be unchanged – creating unique opportunities for sports and gaming fans to interact with some of the greatest Sports Legends of our time along with some of the world’s top poker pros while competing for major cash prizes. However, we plan to use the time leading up to the rescheduled event to add elements and make adjustments that will make it even more exciting.

Over the next few days we will provide you with additional information about the rescheduled event, including the new location and dates. We appreciate your patience in working with us to accommodate this change and will do all in our power to help ensure that the Sports Legends Challenge is a highly successful event.

Thank you,

Bruce Bibbero, CEO and Larry Lubin, President

Interestingly enough, no word on any money or refunds for those who might like to back out now that the dates and details have changed. (Though their website did claim all would get refunds should it be canceled, which is why the claim will be that it isn’t canceled … just postponed, lest they started having to give money back, I speculate.)

UPDATE: Click here to learn about the lawsuit resulted the last time Bibbero and Lubin tried to put on a similar tourney with PokerPlayerNewspaper.

UPDATE 2: Allegations of bad internet etiquette, too …

Click below for a list of sports legends you will not be playing golf, poker, blackjack, and slot machines with on Sep 14-17 in the Bahamas this year, despite strong means weak! super-heavy promotion and mass emailings offering buy-ins at a 40 percent discount:

• Bobby Hull • Brooks Robinson
• Reggie Jackson • Gale Sayers
• Richard Petty • Jerry West
• Herschel Walker • Michael Strahan
• Mike Ditka • Jim Brown
• Sugar Ray Leonard • Fuzzy Zoeller
• Kyle Petty • Troy Aikman
• Emmitt Smith • Joe Namath
• Kareem Abdul-Jabbar • Dr. J
• Laffit Pincay • Rocco Mediate
• Ozzie Smith

Recently added to the roster of folks who said, “Sure, I’ll show up if it actually happens”:

Randy Couture
Mark Messier
Tony Hawk
Chuck Lidell

As of yesterday, the pros whose names were used on a semi-bluff who had agreed to take part included:

Johnny Chan
TJ Cloutier
Annie Duke
Kenna James
Chip Jett
Karina Jett
Robert Williamson
Jamie Gold
Layne Flack
Marsha Waggoner
Barbara Enright
Kathy Liebert
Amir Vahedi
David Singer
Marco Traniello
Gavin Smith
Cyndy Violette
Antoni Esfandiari
Mike Sexton
Men “the Master” Nguyen

46 Comments to “Sports Legends Challenge Canceled?”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    Something that UB and Absolute were involved in may have problems? I’m shocked, SHOCKED by the news.

  2. DanM

    Techncally just Absolute. Though they did attach a UB face to it without a UB logo. From SLC’s Facebook fan page:

  3. Kevin Mathers

    Hellmuth was another UB pro who was originally part of this:

  4. anonymous

    Boy did I dodge a bullet. Was going to go but didn’t due to time constraints. BTW, Bibbero is currently being sued.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    I don’t think the Iceman would take kindly on you calling him “Chick” Dan.

  6. DanM

    I went ahead and updated the post with the names of the pros involved … but KevMath, not sure I’m getting your Iceman Chick reference. Oh, wait, I see … you meant Lidell not Teddy Munroe, lol … will correct.

    @anon … thanks for the link. wow, you would think some folks (PokerNews, Absolute, et al) might have done a little google research.

    Yeah, man, not to be a Bahamas hater, but I have a feeling we’re gonna hear about some people getting screwed over, or at least starting to freak out.

    Have already heard about one player who won a seat in a charity event, but the prize didn’t cover travel, and her airfare is non-refundable, stuff like that.

  7. DanM

    Of course … shoulda known better from any site that puts their videos on autoplay:

  8. Kevin Mathers

    Someone should send Mr. O’Keefe a link to the 60 Minutes story.

    Also, I think this can be put in the “bad for poker” column.

  9. DanM

    totally agree on “bad for poker” … but i don’t think it’s an absolute thing (at least not yet). it seems to me all they did is the same thing pokernews did, in an effort to support what sounded like it could be a really cool event.

    in the end, Absolute may turn out to be more victim than offender.

  10. Patrick

    Thank you for mentioning the article, Dan.

    Thanks for the tip, as well, Mr. Mathers. As Dan mentioned, my feeling having looked into it deeply is that the marketing of the event that I cited is in house. The people that I mentioned were employed or working with Sports Legends Challenge specifically, not Absolute Poker. I am vaguely familiar with the 60 Minutes story and their past as a poker playing friend filled me in a bit on that.


  11. anonymous

    Sad thing is that the only reason I even considered attending this event was due to Robert Daily’s association with it. I spoke to him personally and he assured me that the event was a go even though they needed somewhere in the 1400 person range to break even against the guaranteed portion of the prize pool. He stated about 2 months ago that they were at around 750 people and they were expecting about 1200. I wasn’t concerned with the overlay because as someone who has previously planned conventions, I know that you do get a lot of stuff for free based upon the aggregate room nights of the attendees and with an online gaming site and subsequently pokernews’ participation, i figured that they can break even when you factor in sponsorship money, discounts, etc.

    At worst, they put on a good event, everyone has a lot of fun, and it builds momentum for the next event.

    Now I really do have to question Robert Daily’s judgment and character if he’s associating himself with these kind of people.

  12. DanM

    hey anonymous … good points, and because you’re generally offering up sober and sane analysis (or calling me out, for not updating the Adam Richardson vs. AUFA sitch, for example), you’re one of the few anon’s who’s welcome to comment here. but you gotta be careful if you’re gonna start naming names and questioning characters. can’t let every anonymous fool do that sorta thing, ya know? gotta at least have a recurring pseudonym for that!

  13. DanM

    btw, do you have confidence that they can save the event?

  14. anonymous

    Dan, If I can’t post anonymously then I would not be able to post at all in most situations. I think we’ve met previously. But I do thank you for the privelege.

    What they’ve put out is obviously spin. Again, as someone who has planned big meetings/conventions, you can’t just decide to cancel your promised room block and F&B committments at the last minute without significant financial repercussions.

    If I were a betting person (and I am), I would say that the odds of this event actually occuring in the next 6 months is at least 4-1 against (<20% probability).

    PS – still haven’t gotten that update on the AUFA 2nd play guy…

  15. concerned

    i won an entry to this thru UB

    now they sent me 2000 for flight and that and now ive booked and my family has also ??? wife took time off work now this is a MESS .

    I contacted UB today and they seem to be giving me the run around when the tourney i won clearly said 12,000 prize pool

    i took pics as well but i am concerned ?

    will i get my money? HELP !

  16. Johnny Hughes

    I’m having a ball researching and writing about con artists. My five generations of fictional O’Malleys sell O’Malley Family Medicine: Secret Herbs from Ireland. I have a short story about them in Dr. Pauly’s September Truckin’

    If someone sent these folks money, they are probably not smart enough to survive around gambling. Cons. Marks. Scams. Ropers. Shills. Their real life exploits sound impossible. When I played poker for my living, you could buy hot cars, jewelry, gold mine maps, oil leases from those folks pictured in Doyle’s Super System at the first two World Series. World class con men attended.

    Some young lawyer came around selling the ocean floor. Lots of acres. For farming. He bought full page ads in the newspaper. Several of the big gamblers bought some. He was a terrible poker player, and a lot of laughs. All the con men I have known, I met at poker.

  17. BJ Nemeth

    This is one of those events where the end result could be seen by reading their own press releases. Like KevMath, I’m shocked, *SHOCKED* to find that gambling isn’t going on here.

    On another topic, if “Anonymous” is commenting regularly, I think it would be nice if he or she had a non-anonymous pseudonym so the rest of us will know it’s the same person with useful and interesting things to say. Nothing that would hint at his or her actual identity, of course.

    How about, “Anonymous Regular”?

  18. Kevin Mathers

    How about “Blue Horseshoe”?

  19. UB Player

    I won a prize through UB too. I’ve already booked everything in the bahamas too. Yesterday, they told me they would refund any cancellation fees(air, hotel) if I sent them proof of cancellation. If that happens, I’ll be pretty happy with them. They aren’t giving the $10,000 buy in because the event supposedly is just postponed. The person I talked to from UB yesterday says he’s heard it will be April in Atlantic City.

  20. DanM

    That’s good to hear. Let us know if and when your money actually arrives. Is it UB that is refunding your money, or SLC? Smart of UB (and AP, assuming they do the same) to guarantee at least that none of their winners stay home losers.

  21. Kevin Mathers

    Now it’s postponed with 2010, when they try again with thoughts of a guaranteed prize pool:

  22. anonymous

    So they get to float on everyone’s money for 6 months?

  23. DanM

    huh, wow, and these guys got sued before? they must be really unlucky.

    even if they do come up with a new event, it’s a bait-and-switch if every person doesn’t get the option of a full refund (in my non-lawyer opinion).

  24. concerned

    okay well i have also spoken to ub and they have done the following

    gave me the option to go to aruba for their tourney with a small refund in the difference

    or wait and attend the event in atlantic city in april

    or FULL REFUND ! (which was my choice) This tourneys already no good in my books !

    they promised my refund in full within a couple days and i will keep you posted !

  25. DanM

    LOL, and while I think it’s great that they’ve figured out that guaranteed prize pools go a long way toward making a tourney a success … maybe they’re just trying a little too big too early.

    Maybe I’m just a little cynical today, but this overpromise-underdeliver tourney is really just starting to look sad more than anything else.

  26. DanM

    thanks concerned. and ups to UB … they seem to be handling it right. i like that they are giving you the aruba or full-refund option. seriously, who’s gonna take the Atlantic City option?

  27. Kevin Mathers

    Well it looks like there’s no need for that big announcement, if they’re going to AC in April 2010.

  28. still going

    Ok, I have a realative that won her seat and she got totally screwed, air and room nonrefundable.. So needless to say She and I are still going but no poker for her.. Is anyone else still going to the Bahamas? If so would you like to meet up and see what we can do about this MESS?



  30. still going

    Oh nonrefundable from Airlines and hotel. So needless to say she has to go.. SLC are only willing to give 150.00 for her cancellation of the air… Which cost way more than that and the room is nonrefundable since its so short notice. She didn’t pay for her seat she won it.. I think its crap that they gave the players on 13 days notice of there cancellation of the tournament..


    That it is…. I am in the same shape. Won my seat but paid my own air and passport. I even bought special clothes just for the Bahamas. I’m out about $1100.00 bucks. SLC should be responsible for all expenses incurred for planning the trip that they chose to cancel on such short notice. Where did she win her seat and what are they willing to do to assist her with.


    Also What was the total value of her package? She should also receive the value of the package from someone.

  33. still going

    She won her seat from a reputable company. She paid $1,400 for air for her and her family, plus she had to expedite her passports which cost extra, room $1,200.00 non refundable, plus clothes, shoes and bathing suites for the trip, and time off of work. Her cost to go to the Bahamas was way over $3,000.00 to go. As of right now SCL is only willing to give her 150.00 for the trip to cancel her air!
    Not Going, who did you win your seat from? What has SCL told you?


    I won from a online poker site. It was supposed to be a $10,000 prize package for entry into Texas holdum tourney. Haven’t talked with SLC yet but I’m calling them tomorrow. The siste wants to buy out my package for pennies on the dollar. Not happy about that at all

  35. still going

    Yeah that’s what her prize package was too. Keep me up to date on what happens. I hope you get all your money back…

  36. UB Player

    Concerned, have you received your refund? I’m waiting to hear back about mine. I may end up just taking a vacation to the bahamas and seeing if they ever refund the buy in. The person I’m talking to at UB is very nice. We’ll see if he comes through.

  37. anonymous

    SLC CEO being sued by Venetian for stiffing them on a cancelled tournament. Pattern anyone????

  38. Anonymous Former Employee at SLC

    I feel your pain…all you. I worked for SLC for two months and I could tell you HORROR stories about the way they operated their business. The outside sponsors like Absolute and PokerNews are clean as a whistle on this one… SLC sold them a bill of goods from the beginning.

    The management of this event (Bruce, Lubin and a few others) were easily the most inept people I’ve ever worked for in my life. They had no clue how to run a proper sales office, set up their website properly, follow up with customers, plan or run an event. The motto that they happily threw around at the office was “were goin’ not knowin’.

    They hired / fired / had quit over 80 people in the time that they were around. Most of the people they fired were the best talent that they had and the ones that could have made a difference. These people were also the ones that were “challenging how they were doing things” and thats the underlying reason why they were fired.

    So many people that went to work there left after just a couple days because they could not believe how f’d up the place was.

    As someone who has been involved with events for a long time, it was clear from the minute I got there that this thing was headed for disaster. These people would have difficulty planning a home game for 8 people, much less put on an event for 2100.

    They chose the wrong dates (hurricane season in the bahamas right after everyone wraps up their summer vacationing), the wrong place (generally speaking, people west of the mississippi have no interest in the bahamas) the wrong price point ($10k today, really?) and then they set up the wrong infrastructure to sell the event (no proper phone system, CRM, lead gen system, marketing plan, and poor management that was all “out of place” (think second baseman playing quarterback)

    There is no April, 2010 event. The office was closed today (10/5 at noon.)

    I feel terrible for everyone out there who won a seat, spent $ on non refundable items and got screwed. Bibero should personally have to pay each of you back in full. (I have his cell number if anyone wants it)

    With regard to 2100 seats at $10,000 each. Last I heard they had sold less than 100 seats…none of them for anywhere close to $10k. Most for around 4-6k.

    They were told a million times to stop promoting “up to a 10 million dollar prize pool” and to offer a minimum guaranteed prize instead but they had no interest in listening.

    The person I truly feel the worst for (although he can afford it) is the investor that backed this event. All SLC did was pay out HUGE salaries to the people at the top of the food chain and waste the investor’s money.

    For obvious reasons, I’m also posting under anonymous. I’ll put my hand on a stack of bibles right now though that everything I’ve written here is true. Post back if you want that phone number. I also have the cell and home number of the # 2 person in charge, Bibero’s cheerleader, Gale Parker.

  39. Former Employee

    I would like to second the former employee above. SLC was run poorly at best. These guys make criminals look good. I don’t want to sound bitter, but I will admit that I am.

    Bruce Bibbero and Larry Lubin have closed the doors. The investor has pulled support out from the event. The whole event has carried a smell of rancid meat from the start. Other events promoted by Bruce have been followed by suits and people refusing to touch anything he is involved with ever again.

    While I was there for a relatively short time, I documented over 20 people hired and fired for various reasons. Those who “succeeded” within the company did so at the loss of pride, self worth and sleep. Those who got out usually did so by getting fired for doing the right thing or trying to do what Bruce demanded. Low pay and empty promises were the stick. The big pay off at the end was the carrot which has ended in failure. The event was a great idea and could have been successful in better hands.

    We were told to promote the event using incomplete information, legends that did not have a signed contract, and dates that changed often. Potential clients became skeptical. Some marketers used false information and presented false claims to potential clients. When this was presented to Bruce as an issue, little was done, the results were often rewarded (one of the reasons I was given for my being fired). Results were the focus, truth was often the victim. Success at any cost was company policy as promoted by Bruce.

    I do not have confirmation of what has happened to the monies that people have already paid into event fees. However, it would seem that only a handful of the 2100 tickets were ever sold. Maybe less than 100. While I was there, we were never able to see the contracts or related documents. We were told that they were available, being worked on, not something we should worry about, the lawyer was handling it. We were told to go forward on faith and a promise. I would be surprised if there is anything available to get paid back.

    At best the SLC was run poorly by people who did not know what they were doing and will likely get a visit in the night by some “friend” from Vegas. A more accurate view makes the event look like a Ponzi scheme that was ripe with fraud and hidden intent whether a poker tournament ever occurred or not. There is documented tax fraud. There is high pay for the principles. There is a long list of people and companies who have put something into this event, and none of them is likely to get anything back. I suspect that Bruce and Larry will be looking over their shoulders for a long time to come. The suits alone should keep them busy for awhile.

    As they say what happens in Vegas (the original event location) stays in Vegas.


  40. Anonymous Wife of an SLC Employee

    I can also confirm everything that these anonmymous former employees have said about SLC. My husband had the unfortunate experience of working for SLC for a short time, and was ultimately fired by Bruce Bibbero for criticizing the way he was running things. During that time, I became increasingly suspicious of the motives of the people running the company.

    The way my husband described it, the marketers were under constant pressure to just sell tickets, sell tickets, sell tickets, even though the most basic details of the event had never been confirmed. There was always talk of contracts that were “in the mail,” or “on the way,” but they never seemed to arrive. Nonetheless, the marketers were told to promote the event as if these details were already confirmed.

    Every aspect of the marketing was tightly controlled by Bruce Bibbero, and he held regular meetings to coach the marketers on exactly what they were supposed to say and how to say it. Aside from what they were told in these meetings, the marketers were actually not allowed to have ANY other information about the company or the event. They were also not allowed to see any of the contracts, or corroborate the information they were given.

    Despite this high level of control by Bruce, the marketers were made to sign contracts saying that they were being hired as independent contractors, and disclaimers saying that they assumed full liability for any information that they gave to potential customers. So, if SLC tries a “blame the marketers” approach with anyone, don’t fall for it.

    I guess it’s possible that SLC will actually refund people’s money, but I have to say I have my doubts. Contrary to what that September 1 email says, my husband and I heard at the end of August that SLC’s financial backer had pulled out. So if that’s true, it looks like the company was operating and paying salaries for another month with revenue that they got from some other source. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’m guessing that the company is out of money.

    However, even if the company is out of money, Bruce Bibbero is most certainly not. I’m guessing that, by the time any lawsuits are filed, there won’t be any documentation left showing the high level of control that Bruce Bibbero exercised over SLC’s operations. But the reason I’m posting this is because I have some.

    My husband fortunately left SLC before any tickets were ever sold, but while he was still there, I was actually saving documents in anticipation of a possible lawsuit. I was afraid that Bruce was going to take the money for the tickets, “cancel” the tournament, run with the money, and then shift the liability for the losses onto my husband and the other marketers. So I kept an archive of every company document I could get my hands on, including internal emails and notes from the meetings between Bruce and the marketers, etc.

    I’m not going to reveal my identity here or make any of this information generally available because SLC made my husband sign a pretty broad nondisclosure agreement, and I don’t want to expose him to legal liability. But I did want to let people know that the information is out there, in case it is needed for any legal action against SLC or Bruce Bibbero personally. I will continue to check this blog and the comments on a regular basis to see if any such need arises. I don’t have much about the tournament itself because the marketers were not allowed to have that information, but anything that relates to deceptive marketing, I might be able to help with.

  41. Jim Paddock

    I’d like Bruce’s cell number, please.



    Wow! I was one of the few who left after only a short stent because of how bad it was there. When you stand at the Pearly Gates, God will not ask how much your salary was, but he will ask if you had to compromise your character to get it! I just could not continue to associate myself with the likes of SLC’s Management. Packed my bags and walked away within just a few days.

  43. Low level SLC Employee

    The only fault I found in Bibbero was poor judgement used in hiring his senior staff. Those who commented above make it sound as if Bibbero and Lubin wanted to fail. I can assure you that is not the truth. They would have liked nothing more than to have had the event succeed, allowing for their fortunes to be made on future events. However, you are only as good as those you surround yourself with, and judging from the comments above, neither Bibbero nor Lubin had much of a chance. Yes, the job was demanding. At the senior management level, shouldn’t it be? Even though I worked in a low level position, I never found Bibbero or Lubin to be unreasonable, or unwilling to listen to any ideas on how to improve the company. In fact, I recall meetings encouraging all employees to go to Bruce or Larry individually if they had any suggestions. I don’t recall anyone getting fired for anything other than job incompetence. I’m sorry for those who have lost money because the event was canceled, I hope you do receive reimbursement. But for those above, you seem overly-anxious to point the finger at who (you think) is to blame, which makes me believe you had a lot more to do with the companies failure than you are willing to admit. As for salaries being inflated, I received only $1,600 a month….I don’t consider that exorbitant for about 200-250 hours of work.

  44. was there too

    the last post reads like it was “placed” by their in-house spinmeister and webspammer by the name of sean, whose mission is to inflate the standing of all things bibbero and lubin.
    fact is, these two guys have a long and documented trail of unethical practises and very dubious business ventures. just spend some time on a google search and you will be enlightened as to these two and their circle of incompetence.

  45. "Long Lived" Employee of the SLC

    Wow – it’s great to hear all of the above responses, knowing I wasn’t alone. A couple of said replies hit home so accurately, I’d have thought I’d written them myself.

    As someone who was there longer than almost anyone (5+ months), the perpetual displays of hubris, incompetence and flagrant misappropriation, were enough to make even the savviest employees question this “company’s” foundation and purpose.

    In fact, malcontents (one employee, with barely more than a high school education, issued sexist, racist and homophobic threats on several occasions) were allowed to remain, simply because Bruce Bibbero felt a kindred spirit in him. More than one employee threatened lawsuits over this one sociopath (who indeed had to take “leave” in order to accommodate jail time for the Cobb County judicial system), who anywhere else, would have been fired on the spot…several times over.

    I don’t feel sorry, though, for the head investor. At all. Any person relinquishing that level of monetary backing, should have been paying much finer attention to said investment…and asking many more questions along the way. I actually have to inquire as to how one could possibly achieve that level of monetary success, and yet fall into this kind of trap.

    FWIW, I’ve created a Linkedin group for “SLC Alumni,” so feel free to look us up, join and share your stories there.

  46. "Long Lived" Employee of the SLC

    Oh – and as for “Low level SLC Employee,” you couldn’t be less accurate with your representation – and the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.

    Not only was I ADMONISHED for approaching Bruce with an idea (in the “hallway”, no less – there really was no hallway, just a small, open, public area), Larry Lubin had the temerity to actually compare Bibbero to Bill Gates and the company to Microsoft, when explaining why I should NOT be approaching him. I only lasted as long as I did, because I was able to present them with many different talents of mine along the way.

    I’ve worked in a few industries and have owned my own company for several years now. I recognize intelligent, capable, dedicated, hard-working people when I encounter them. And there were MANY who went through the SLC’s revolving door, simply at the whim of the ever-fickle duo at the helm there. The combined resumes of these folks would be sufficient to start a successful Fortune 500 company. Their vacillating was nothing short of despicable and shameful.