Poker’s 2011 In and Out List: A Year’s Review of Who to Eschew

Howard Lederer
Here's a hint. Howard Lederer is not on the In List.

2011 is over and we’re making one last set of sweeping judgments about the people and things that made the last 12 months some of the biggest in poker history.

When people look back at this year in poker they’re only going to see one thing, Black Friday. They’ll have vague recollections of other things having happened. Maybe something about a German winning the Main Event, “It seems like a bad dream,” they’ll say.

The most catastrophic and wholly unexpected series of events in poker’s history, Black Friday grounded the second and third biggest online poker rooms in the world and effectively shut down online poker within the US.

But other things did happen, and thanks to accounting like this they won’t be lost to history.

This is the 2011 In and Out List.

Poker’s In List: 2011 in Review

PokerStars: IN

PokerStars was already the biggest but with its two largest competitors sidelined on Black Friday they became the absolute industry standard in online poker.

And while monopoly is always a little scary, PokerStars was able to weather the Department of Justice’s assault, pay back American customers and continue to offer players from the rest of the world the same online poker experience that made them the biggest in the first place.

They’ve set tournament records and become the new home for high-stakes poker on the Internet. And that’s all in addition to the growing number of live poker tours they operate around the world.

And while we love rooms like 888.com and Party Poker, when it comes to $12 million prize pool Sunday majors and the ability to register and play SNGs as fast as you can open the windows and sign up, we have to give the nod to Stars.

The World Series of Poker: IN

Just like online rooms like PokerStars, Party and 888 who kept poker rolling in the rest of the world, the WSOP buckled down and posted the biggest numbers in the event’s history to keep poker alive and well in the US.

The Amazon Room
The WSOP proved that poker is alive and well in the US after Black Friday.

They improved the player experience with more space, better scheduling and more low buy-in events. They improved the audience experience with the best live streaming in poker, and introduced revealed hole cards in the November Nine final table webcast.

In 2011 the WSOP awarded over $127 million in prize money, recorded 68,807 individual tournament entries and hosted players from 98 different countries.

In short, they built it, and people came.

Tom “durrrr” Dwan: IN

When it became clear Full Tilt Poker wasn’t rolled to pay back its former customers no one was quicker to take responsibility than Tom Dwan. And he wasn’t even really responsible.

Dwan vowed to pay back the money he made endorsing the online poker room should they welch on customer repayment. He even went on Fox NEWS to debunk the DOJ’s description of FTP as a Ponzi scheme.

Full Tilt Poker’s acquisition by Groupe Bernard Tapie is based on the condition that US players see their money, it’s likely Dwan won’t be forced to make good on his promise.

What the acquisition deal won’t do, however, is give Dwan immunity from the Department of Justice should they look to recoup the money Full Tilt was pulling out of the company.

Poker’s Out List: 2011 in Review

The US Government: OUT

Nobody came out of Black Friday smelling like roses, especially the US government.

They sent a clear message in 2006 with the introduction of the UIGEA. Some online poker rooms heeded that message, packed up shop and restricted their online customer base to non-US countries. Some rooms did not.

As it turns out the Department of Justice and the FBI took notice of companies like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and AP/UB and began building criminal and civil cases against them. In the course of those investigations they allowed US citizens to continue putting their money at risk and, when it came time to drop the hammer, more or less hung those Americans out to dry.

There was no warning and there was no short-term plan to help US players recoup the money they had online. There was also no provisions made for Americans who relied on Internet poker to make a living.

It’s important to note that at no time did the DOJ attempt to dissuade Americans from playing at the rooms they were busy investigating for fraud.

For using as bait those people they're supposed to be protecting the US Government is Out.

Full Tilt Poker: Out

Perhaps the most captivating facet of the entire Black Friday debacle was the gross mismanagement of Full Tilt Poker by people like Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson.

Chris Ferguson
Asking WWJD will only get you into trouble.

While these are still allegations at this point it’s hard to argue with the figures that the Department of Justice has released.

It all boiled down to the fact that while Full Tilt owed its customers roughly $390 million, they only had about $60 million in assets. And at the same time they had pulled $443 million out of the company in dividends distributed to owners in the four years leading up to Black Friday.

For example, Howard Lederer is alleged to have received $41.8 million between April of 2007 and April of 2011.

For putting online poker’s reputation in jeopardy and failing to make good on their responsibility to look after our money, Full Tilt Poker is now and forever Out.

Jose “Girah” Macedo, Haseeb “DOGISHEAD” Qureshi and to a lesser extent Dan “Jungleman12” Cates: OUT

The entire Girah scandal had us fascinated and we don’t believe for a second that all the facts were even revealed.

On its surface the scandal revolved around Jose Macedo, the so-called Portuguese Poker Prodigy, a young player who misrepresented himself and used gained trust to scam high-stakes players for tens of thousands of dollars.

As the story began unraveling, however, it became clear there were other players involved.

Haseeb “DOGISHEAD” Qureshi was a high-stakes player whose relationship with Macedo was far more involved than he ever let on.

Lance Bradley at Bluff Magazine conducted an amazing interview with Qureshi and managed to get much of the story out. Bradley explicitly states what most suspected, that Qureshi was basically responsible for fabricating Macedo’s image as the next great player, including writing his forum posts and willfully chip-dumping $100,000 to Macedo on Lock Poker to help him win the Bluff Poker Challenge.

Dan Cates later confessed to being involved but everything about the story seems to point to Qureshi and Macedo as the principal players.

Qureshi quit poker, was dropped as an instructor with Cardrunners and is now traveling the world and writing.

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