Absolute Poker fallout far from over

Mark Seif
Mark Seif, who is sponsored by Absolute Poker, spoke about the site's controversy last week.

In the wake of the super-user account scandal, concerns about Absolute Poker continue to arise. Recently one of the site's sponsored pros addressed them, and in other news, a PR company hired by Absolute has come forward with allegations of nonpayment against the site.

Absolute's sponsored pros have for the most part remained mum about the super-user brouhaha. Neither 1989 World Champion Phil Hellmuth nor Annie Duke (both affiliated with sister site Ultimate Bet) has made any statements.

Fellow professional Mark Seif, however, has been quite open about the issue, blogging extensively about it and videotaping an interview on it for RawVegas.tv last Friday.

The 7½-minute interview in which Seif frankly aired his thoughts and concerns has caused a bit of controversy as well.

Seif (who has been sponsored by Absolute Poker since 2004) spoke about the situation at Absolute and gave his opinions on the damage-control tactics the site used. Seif stated that Absolute is "erring on the side of overcompensating" players who may have been victims of the scandal.

He also addressed accusations that he benefited from the anomalies that have been revealed, claiming he showed others his own hand histories and their analysis found nothing amiss.

In Seif's blog posted last Sunday (Oct. 28), the pro expressed dissatisfaction with the interview as it aired. He felt that RawVegas presented him as a spokesman for Absolute, while he had clearly stated that he was only representing his own opinion. He also cleared up comments about other online poker sites which he feared may have been misinterpreted due to editing by RawVegas.tv or to a poor choice of words on his part.

Meanwhile, on Monday, an article in the business pages of the New York Times revealed that Publicity Guaranteed, a marketing company based in Fairfax, Va., alleges that it is owed $43,000 by Absolute Poker. To exert pressure on Absolute, Publicity Guaranteed issued a press release regarding the debt, which was picked up by many other segments of the mainstream media.

The senior vice president of Publicity Guaranteed, Nat Kurok, stated that he took on Absolute as a client over his initial reservations because he believed in the value of the particular promotion PG was hired to hype.

Absolute Poker's "Win Your Tuition" program, which began in 2005, was a series of freeroll tournaments that gave college students the chance to win a semester of their studies on Absolute's dime. The promotion was a huge success.

For players who didn't quite make it far enough to win a free semester of school, Absolute offered other prizes that were useful for academic pursuits, including laptop computers and iPods.

Publicity Guaranteed agreed to generate attention in mainstream print media for the "Win Your Tuition" tournaments. It charged Absolute according to how many outlets picked up its releases, which turned out to be approximately 40 in the course of its campaign.

In 2006 Publicity Guaranteed took Absolute Poker to civil court over a failure to pay for services. Court documents filed in Arlington County Circuit Court in Virginia indicate that Publicity Guaranteed won the case. To date, the company has received $37,000 from Absolute, covering part of the services rendered, but is still short $43,000.

The author of the New York Times story claimed to have contacted Absolute Poker company executive Paul Leggett for comment on the Publicity Guaranteed lawsuit. Leggett promised a call back but it did not come in time to make deadline.

"We're just saying we're someone else that got shortchanged by Absolute Poker, and this should be public knowledge," the Times quoted Kurok as stating.

The fact that Publicity Guaranteed is conducting a media blitz over Absolute Poker's debt underscores its disgruntlement with Absolute as a client, inasmuch as the story quotes Kurok saying, "There are some clients that have trouble with cash flow and we're flexible."

While online players, media commentators and others have been quick to voice an opinion over the Absolute boondoggle, perhaps it is time to put the situation into perspective and reserve judgment. The ramifications have yet to play out fully, and it seems that Absolute is attempting to ensure improprieties like the super-user account don't occur again.

When all is said and done, it is quite possible that the online poker world will emerge the better for it. Furthermore, Seif should be commended for stepping up with his comments; he is as concerned as many players are about the integrity of the game and, as such, shouldn't be held accountable for what has gone on with Absolute.

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