“Welcome back my friends, to the (shit) show that never ends…” — What Emerson, Lake and Palmer would’ve sung if they’d been in the poker business.
It’s been a long two weeks. With apologies for the lengthy hiatus, the last time I posted here, my words turned out to be a bright, crackling log on a poker-industry-and-politics fire that’s still burning brightly below the scenes. This time out, we’re going to semi-sort-of-continue the discussion, but use it as a stepping stone for a deeper look with what’s really wrong with the news and media portion of the poker world, and why casual poker fans often cannot trust what they read.
I’ll be serving up at least three parts in this series, perhaps four, maybe even five, and in the process you’ll find me dumping on a handful of different media outlets and people that, for the most part, are in sorry need of corrective education. That the poker affiliate business is often a cesspool is something that most of who work in poker understand as a given, and it’s not even that exceptional a situation; most single-topic markets devolve over time in a similar manner, becoming beholden to the sites they serve. But the how and the why, the difference between where the lines should be drawn and where they exist in reality, is what’ll make this mini-series tick.
Let’s enter the Internet HaleyBack Machine for a moment and return to the start of this month, when your faithful, intrepid scribe did some research into the ongoing Utah story involving the snuggly relationship between SunFirst Bank payment processor Jeremy Johnson and Utah’s current attorney general, John Swallow, in a tale of shady dealings and attempted bribery with ties to Nevada Senator Harry Reid.
Swallow continues to stagger under the weight of the collected bribery allegations and may soon be forced to resign, with one of the most interesting factoids emerging to date being an hour-long conversation in 2012 between Johnson and Swallow being secretly recorded by Johnson at am Orem, UT Krispy Kreme donut shop.
Johnson was deeply involved in the entirety of the Black Friday online-poker crackdown, and was sliced off from the other defendants in that case only because he was already involved in a hundreds-of-millions-of-$$$ FTC case involving many of the same banking accounts, the funds in which Johnson and his accountants freely intermingled. But Johnson’s deep involvement — he was actually the central “Black Friday” processing figure — makes any news item involving him worth checking out, to see what other information might emerge.
So I listened to the hour-long audio on the Salt Lake Tribune site, and was mildly surprised to hear the mention of PPA lobbying head John Pappas, as reported in the piece above as well as the first piece that started the whole conflagration, over at pokerfuse. The Pappas mention itself wasn’t the main story, but the discussion of online poker in the midst of the this taped conversation was definitely worth reporting in the contest of the ongoing Black Friday revelations.
The whole online-poker segment that we found (we’ve since unearthed a couple of additional mentions), seemed to warrant a “fair use” transcribing in its entirety. There were no accusations made whatsoever regarding Pappas and/or the PPA in connection to the bribery allegations made by Johnson, but what was curious was the mention of Pappas to Swallow (by Johnson) as someone they were both familiar with. Additional information has begun to surface regarding that as well, but that’s another story still in the process of emerging.
The Pappas mention by Johnson was a brow-wrinkler, and as it took up fully half of the brief online-poker segue by Johnson and Swallow, it was very much worth reporting. That said, we took great pains to make sure that no extra allegations were made — the transcription was provided as is, word for word.
I still figured, deep inside, that somebody’s nose would get bent out of shape by it, and that’s where PocketFives entered the mix. P5s co-honcho Adam Small re-Tweeted fuse’s Twitter post of the story’s publication, along with the single word, “Oy.”
Oy? Vey, perhaps? Perhaps indeed, and it was only a couple of hours later that the P5s piece slagging me appeared, along with the infamous paragraph I mentioned in my last post here. That went like so (and no, they’re not getting any link love):
Pappas concluded, “It is disgraceful that the PPA’s name has been inserted in this supposed ‘news story’ by an editorial writer who has a history of being critical of our organization.” The writer in question is Haley Hintze.
I stated in my previous post that Pappas’s statement was utter crap. I didn’t “insert” anything, and given Pappas’s and the PPA’s prominence in the poker world, his very mention on this illicitly recorded tape demanded reporting in a news story.
But what emerged only later was that Pappas never even read the story I wrote; his words appear to be his response to an instigating effort mounted by Small and co-honcho Dan Cypra at PocketFives.
The whole thing led to a highly entertaining 2+2 thread which I monitored for a couple of days, laughing often as I did, knowing for sure that neither the PPA nor PocketFives people were going to apologize for the cheap set-up and the false accusations. Neither of them work that way. What was even funnier — and what didn’t get reported, because I chose not to — was that Small took it upon himself to write a letter of complaint about my post here and its calling out of PocketFives for this and other cheap antics.
Except Small sent it to Michael Gentile, one of the two editors at pokerfuse, not to TJ here at 4flush, or to me, the writer who he presumable has a beef with. It’s great stuff:
I got your email from Dan Cypra, hope you don’t mind me getting in touch. I’m writing in regard to the article that was posted today on PokerFuse by Haley Hintze. In this article, he takes a few shots at PocketFives. This is fine for me as long as the shots are founded – if he wants to say our site is useless, that’s his opinion that he’s entitled to post. Where I’m a bit more upset is when he makes two different claims that are entirely false about our site.
First, he claims that P5s was sold to a company related to AP. This isn’t true – in 2007 P5s was sold to PokerSourceOnline, which was an affiliate of UB/AP. Being an affiliate is a far cry from being related to them. FWIW, P5s is no longer owned by that company and hasn’t been for almost 2 years – it’s been back in the hands of its original owners since Black Friday and has taken a much more ethical approach to US sites than 2+2, CardPlayer and many others. Our approach is that we simply don’t take money from any offshore US rooms, out of concern for our members.
The other allegation made is that P5s was deleting all posts related to the AP scandal. This is just a complete falsehood that was propagated on other forums including 2+2 and NeverWin at the time by people who had a bone to pick with P5s. There were some posts deleted on P5s when people came on simply to bitch about banners that were being run or had been run on P5s, but there was an enormous amount of forum content and article content that covered the scandals in all their horror.
Anyone who read the allegations of suppressing this information could have seen they were false in 5 seconds by clicking over to our forums where there were always 10 threads about the subject on the first page. Bryan Micon even edited his post on NeverWin criticizing us about this after Nat Arem contacted him and pointed out it was completely false. P5s and its owners were actually instrumental in providing key evidence about Scott Tom’s involvement in the AP scandal. On top of that, P5s was one of the very first poker-related sites to take AP ads down when information about that scandal surfaced – well before AP actually admitted wrongdoing. AP ads were removed, and AP stopped counting in the P5s rankings for quite some time because of our concerns about their handling of this situation.
Bottom line was that this was a situation where our reputation got lampooned because some people made baseless accusations, and others either were too lazy or just didn’t care enough about it to defend us even when the defense was obvious. And clearly the effects of those attacks still reverberate in the poker community 5 years later. I’m writing to ask that this information be fact-checked and that our business not be attacked anymore over this issue. Thanks for your time, and I’m sorry to have to send such a rant about this. I hope you can understand why I’m upset.
Michael’s response was both brief and precious, and he forwarded it all on to me:
Haley is a woman and pokerfuse did not publish anything about your site. I really have no clue what you are referencing.
Have a nice day,
It’s such good stuff it warrants a public airing, and we’ll dissect it at length next post. I had no interest in joining the fray in the 2+2 thread. It was mostly silly. The PPA isn’t going to issue me an apology; I’m not expecting one and other folks are being silly in demanding one on my behalf. Lobbying organizations don’t work that way, kids.
As for me, it all happened just before I went on a ten-day jaunt to the western parts of Nevada, both in Reno itself and in points nearby such as Susanville, CA, and Topaz Lake, NV. I enjoyed ten days of miserable internet connectivity, four days of stomach flu (complete with barfing), and for the most part was far more incommunicado in recent days than I’d planned. Maybe it was best to let it simmer down a bit before rejoining the battle, anyway.
Still, one crazy question remains? Why should PocketFives be taking shots at me? They’re the ones that stuck their noses into a mess in which they weren’t even involved, creating false allegations against me in what seems to have been an effort to (a) stir up a fight and (b) put me in my place. Except I’m eminently un-shutup-able, and I’ll write what I wish, wherever and whenever.
The truth is far more complex. See, PocketFives is a corporate lackey site, as affiliate sites go, and that’s why the recent scuffle gets to serve as the introduction for this new miniseries of posts. PocketFives has buddied up close to the PPA in recent months, probably with an eye toward the future US-legal regime. The letter they sent to Michael Gentile, however, is equal parts disingenuous and outright dishonest regarding their previous association with sites such as Absolute Poker. Writers such as me, and sites such as those I write for, they pose the risk of rocking the PocketFives boat.
Hence the pushback.
They might want to rewrite history now, but they’re not going to do at my expense. Next time out, we’ll dig into P5’s claims in the above letter, along with the introduction of a few more points of historical connection to Absolute Poker. They’ve brought it on themselves, if you ask me.
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