Needless to say, the story definitely got the attention of those of us who have been involved with reporting on live tournaments. Any form of cheating in professional tournament poker cannot be tolerated, obviously. But here we have an incident which apparently involved a player being aided by faux “reporters” (i.e., accomplices) in order to gain an unfair edge on his opponents. In other words, what happened at PPT not only should affect how poker tourneys are managed going forward, but has the potential to affect the reporting on those tourneys, too.
And -- for those among us who also enjoy a good detective story -- well, this here is the cat’s pajamas.
I wanted to say something about what happened -- in particular to comment on how it has drawn attention to poker reporters’ methods and standards -- though I realized some may not know all of the particulars of the story. Today’s post, then, will provide a summary of that, and tomorrow I’ll come back with a few observations about poker tourney reporting.
To be more specific, what I’d primarily like to do today is share with you what my colleague Benjo wrote last weekend about the cheating that occurred at Partouche. Benjo frequently reports on the European circuit and was there covering the PPT final table last weekend. Thus he has a lot of first-hand knowledge of the details surrounding the disqualification of Ali Tekintamgac, a German player whom I believe has been on the European scene for about a year.
Benjo wrote a long account of the “Affaire Tekintamgac” for Winamax last Saturday in which he reviewed all of the “facts, rumors, and opinions” with which he was familiar. It’s the most comprehensive overview of the incident I’ve seen, made all the more valuable because of Benjo’s own high journalistic standards.
French is actually the one foreign language I have some hope in following. I studied it in the same, non-intensive way most Americans study foreign languages (a few years in high school and college). I also once got to live in France for a year, by the end of which I finally was able to communicate my desires at the Tabac, the pâtisserie, and the TGV station. All of which is to say I can muddle my way through Benjo’s report, the highlights of which I’m sharing here. (Goes without saying, any mistakes in the relating of what Benjo has written are mine.)
The PPT Grand Final was a €8,500 buy-in event that began in September and -- very much like the WSOP Main Event -- played down to a final nine before pausing until November to finish. A total of 764 entered, and Vanessa Selbst continued her fantastic 2010 by winning the event when it was finally concluded last weekend.
On the eve of the final table getting started, it was announced on Friday that Ali Tekintamgac, one of the final nine, had been disqualified for having made it that far through “fraudulent actions.” Eventually it was disclosed that tourney officials had reviewed video recordings of the earlier action and determined that a couple of reporters could be seen viewing Tekintamgac’s opponents’ hole cards, then signaling to Tekintamgac. On his disqualification, ninth-place prize money was then distributed proportionately and added to the top eight spots. Also, I believe that fraud charges are now being pursued against the German player.
Benjo begins his article by referring to an incident at the EPT Talinn event in Estonia in which two German reporters were ejected for apparently having been caught peeking at players’ cards, then aiding one or two other players in some fashion by relaying what they’d seen. That was what folks were saying, anyway, although there wasn’t any official announced reason for the reporters’ ejection.
Benjo actually played at EPT Talinn, which took place back in August. He says he’d noticed the two bloggers before they had been ejected. Neither of them were known by other media, and to Benjo they did seem a bit conspicuous, often standing together at a single table. Benjo also says that among the many rumors that were swirling with regard to these two reporters, the name of Tekintamgac kept popping up. Tekintamagac finished 36th in that event.
A couple of weeks later, Tekintamgac was playing in the Partouche Poker Tournament. The two bloggers who had been ejected from Talinn were not present at the Partouche event. (EDIT [added 12:15 p.m.]: Actually, one was present; see Benjo’s comment below.) Tourney officials at the PPT were made aware of what happened at EPT Talinn, however, and so were perhaps therefore more alert to the possibility of an attempt to cheat. As we know, Tekintamgac survived to make the delayed final table at PPT.
A few weeks after that, in October, Benjo read reports of a tournament in Belgium where three more reporters were ejected, and Tekintamgac’s name was mentioned in that article, too. Thus ends what Benjo knew or had heard about prior to the disqualification of Tekintamagac from the PPT last Friday.
In his conversations with other reporters, Benjo learns that allegations of Tekintamgac’s cheating date as far back as EPT San Remo (April), where apparently it was the player himself who was said to have taken the role of reporter, helping out another player. There were also suspicions of his cheating at the Cyprus Poker Classic (August), and reports that he’d been banned from a couple of German casinos for suspected cheating as well.
In other words, there was a lot of suspicion surrounding Tekintamgac for several months prior to his DQ at the PPT, although reporters weren’t wanting to make those suspicions public just yet. In some cases, there wasn’t enough concrete evidence to do so, thus making it imprudent to report anything. Benjo also mentions how some German reporters might’ve been worried about some sort of retaliation from Tekintamagac should they publicize his being a cheater. (Benjo is careful not to insinuate anything here, but rather is just sharing what others had told him.)
Benjo makes reference to Shaun Deeb’s carefully worded post on Two Plus Two from late August in which Deeb noted an incident had occurred at a European event -- he didn’t say which -- and that the media who were involved were ejected for having helped a particular player. Deeb didn’t name names in his post because his primary purpose was to be constructive -- i.e., rather than sensationalize what had happened and get everyone up in arms about the people involved, he just wanted to make sure those who ran tourneys going forward would be more careful about giving out media credentials and watch for this sort of cheating.
Deeb also was warning players to be more aware of their surroundings and to be more careful about protecting their hole cards. One the PPT story broke, Deeb came back into the thread and confirmed that yes, indeed, it was the Talinn incident in which the two reporters were ejected that he was referring to in his original post and that Tekintamgac was the player being helped.
Benjo then refers us to a couple of highly curious items, one of which is a video showing the final hand of the €3,200 WPT Spanish Championship won by Tekintamgac. Benjo directs us to watch the behavior of the media member with the camera standing behind the eventual runner-up, Robert Garcia Santiago, who does appear to be looking at Santiago’s cards, then perhaps even signaling to Tekintamgac.
Benjo is careful to point out that the video doesn’t necessarily constitute evidence of anything untoward. Even so, it is quite eyebrow-raising, given the surrounding context.
The rest of Benjo’s article concerns the possible repercussions of Tekintamgac’s disqualification and the revelation that he used fake “reporters” to cheat, particularly with regard to the functioning of the poker media.
As I said, that’s what I plan to take up tomorrow.