You know what they say: Into every poker year a little grand jury indictment, prop-bet stiffing and gross media exaggeration must fall.
OK; no one really says that.
In a lot of respects, 2014 was another banner year for poker. Attendance was up at major events around the globe. Dan Colman won $22 (!) million in poker tournaments. The Battle of Malta went off like a rocket.
We're not trying to bum you out or anything but we'll save talk of that stuff for our "20 Best Moments in Poker in 2014" series (starting tomorrow). This is where we delve into the darker side of poker in 2014.
20. Adelstein Crashes On Survivor: Cagayan
What's the deal with poker players doing so poorly on Survivor? Actually, amend that. What's the deal with American poker players doing so poorly on Survivor?
In Europe they've dominated and revolutionized the strategy of the game itself.
Between Jean-Robert Bellande, Jim Rice and this year’s second person to be eliminated, Garrett Adelstein, poker’s track record on one of the most watched television shows of the last 10 years is starting to get embarrassing.
Despite our claims of advanced strategic minds and the innate ability to read people, poker players have shown the exact opposite when trying to do it in the jungle for the cameras.
Bright, fit, physically imposing ... Adelstein had all the reqs to go deep in the game but somehow melted down so early he never got to show much of what an elite poker brain can do for you in the world.
Granted, a lot of unpredictable things didn't go his way (eg. his tribe assignment; Kass' existence) but he didn’t do himself any favors either.
Jason Somerville for Survivor 31, anyone?
19. Yong/Phua Arrested; Trincher and Crew Sentenced
Speaking of public perception of poker and poker players …
There were a couple of very notable indictments over the last year that brought another level of tarnish to poker’s reputation - one still trying to recover from the Black Friday/Full Tilt Poker debacle.
Macau high rollers Paul Phua, Richard Yong and sons were pinched this summer in Las Vegas for running an alleged illegal World Cup sportsbetting ring.
Molly Bloom, Vadim Trincher and an assorted cabal of poker pros including Abe Mosseri and Justin Smith took things to another level by being indicted by the FBI as part a Russian Mob/Hollywood Home Game sportsbetting/poker ring.
Phua's still contesting his arrest, Yong got a (relative) slap on the wrist and we may still find a silver lining in the Hollywood Home Game thing when screenwriter Aaron Sorkin bring's Molly's Game to the big screen.
As far as 2014 goes, though, it’s another bit of stink we really probably didn't need lingering around.
18. Ivey Loses Crockfords Lawsuit, Ivey Poker App Yanked
Good year or bad year for Phil Ivey? It’s actually kind of hard to pick a side, really.
On the downside he’s been embroiled in two lawsuits over "cheating" at Casinos, lost out on $12.3m in one of them, dropped $2.5m or so playing online poker and took his Facebook app offline at the end of the year because, well, it wasn't very good.
The once untouchable legend that is “Phil f’ing Ivey” has been touched a bit over the last couple of years. He found some intriguing ways to do it in 2014 by being connected to the Phua/Yong sting in Vegas and peripherally to the Trincher bust in NY too.
Still, magically, Ivey retains a lot of the mystique that's made him the most revered poker pro in the world. His social media accounts are also strangely endearing.
How many more bullets can Ivey’s reputation take before his poker celebrity house of cards comes crashing down around him? Something tells us we’ll find out in 2015.
17. EPT Bans Political T-Shirts
Save Gaza. Free Palestine.
Just four words on two t-shirts, but apparently enough to change PokerStars’ official policy on what poker players can wear when participating in its tournaments.
The incident that spurred the decisions came at the EPT100 Barcelona SHR final table where friends Olivier Busquet and Dan Colman made their general feelings known about the situation in the Middle East via t-shirt.
Some people reacted negatively, to which PokerStars Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser promptly responded via a statement to the CardPlayerLifestyle blog:
"Our tournaments are designed to promote poker and poker competition and not as a platform for political statements.
"Players have many channels to express their views on world politics, but our tournaments are not an appropriate place. We will refuse entry to any player displaying political statements of any kind.”
At first we were somewhat indifferent to the decision. But after seeing Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Andrew Crawford use their platforms as professional athletes to support important causes similarly, this now feels like an antiquated move on PokerStars’ part.
16. Matusow Stiffs Forrest On $1.8m Weight-Loss Bet
First: best wishes go out to Matusow on his recovery from spinal surgery. By last account he’s slowly getting back on his feet, literally, and learning to walk again.
The World Series of Poker without Matusow just wouldn’t quite feel like the World Series of Poker.
That being said, Hall of Fame nominees Matusow and Ted Forrest got into a very public Twitter spat this summer over a reported $1.8m weight-loss bet that Matusow has, it seems, failed to meet his obligations on.
From the explanations on both sides Matusow should be on the hook for the bet, but after some minimal re-payment attempts early on just hasn’t paid up.
For an old school guy who has trafficked pretty heavily in things like "the gambler's word" or "never slow-rolling" it's a pretty big about-face.
The story itself might have been contained to the bubble of the poker world but it certainly supports the growing idea the "old school" era of poker is decidely coming to a close.
We're also pretty sure it wasn't as romantically "honorable" as it's been made out to be.