Friday, February 13, 2009

The (Unexpected) Return of the Prodigal Son

'The Return of the Prodigal Son' (1668) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van RijnSo I’m listening to yesterday’s episode of The Poker Beat (2/12/09), that new podcast over on PokerRoad hosted by Scott Huff in which he has on various poker media types to discuss news of the day. After a discussion of that Russ Hamilton video and its possible significance, Bluff Magazine Editor-in-Chief Matthew Parvis came on to talk about this new “Bluff Magazine Online Poker Challenge” announced earlier this month.

The Challenge sounds interesting enough. It looks like a great chance for the sponsoring site, Lock Poker, to get some publicity, although in the interview Parvis says it was his “brainchild.” As one can read about over on Bluff, the “competition will bring together some of the best online poker players and each will be given an opportunity to build a bankroll playing multi-table tournaments and sit-n-gos exclusively on Lock Poker.”

As Parvis explained on the show, “we are basically depositing $200 into a Lock Poker account” for each player invited to play in the Challenge. The accounts are apparently “locked” (pun intended?) so no other deposits or transfers can be made with them, and as the Challenge proceeds they will be audited each night “because we don’t want any scandal to be associated with the Challenge itself” (explained Parvis). The players will have 30 days to try to build their rolls, and the one who manages to earn the most will make the cover of an upcoming issue of Bluff. I believe all of this will happen in March.

“We were lucky enough to get some really quality guys,” noted Parvis on the show. He mentioned several, including the magazine’s 2008 online poker player of the year David “The Maven” Chicotsky, Adam Junglen, Matt Vingren, Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Søren Kongsgaard, “Bodog” Ari Engel, and Jeff “Yellowsub” Williams. “A really, really good line-up of quality guys,” said Parvis, adding that he was only listing some of the 20 players who had been invited.

The article over on Bluff mentions some of the others who have been invited, including Garrett “GBecks” Beckman, Phil “USCphildo” Collins, Brett “Bhanks11” Hanks, and Maria Ho. Sorel Mizzi is also listed, he of the “account selling” incident from December 2007 that caused him to be banned from Full Tilt Poker.

Parvis talked a bit about Mizzi on the show. He also talked more than a bit about one other controversial name appearing over there on the list of invitees: Josh “JJprodigy” Field. No shinola.

You remember Field, don’t you? First banned from PartyPoker back in February 2006 (when he was just 16) after he won their $500,000 Sunday Tournament in which he was playing under two screen names (JJProdigy and Ablackcar). He was then caught cheating at other sites, as well, from which he was also banned. PokerStars even banned him from playing in their PokerStars Caribbean Adventure once he turned 18.

It was right around the time he turned 18 that Field issued some “apologies” (of a sort) on forums and in interviews. I transcribed a bit of the PokerRoad interview (the 1/14/08 episode) in a post titled “Uncorrected Personality Traits That Seem Whimsical in a Child May Prove to Be Ugly in a Fully Grown Adult.”* Among other questions, Field was asked in the PokerRoad interview whether or not he was then “playing on the sites you’re banned from and you have no plans to play on [those] sites.”

“At this moment in time, yeah,” answered Field. “I can’t tell you in a month I’ll be thinking the same, because it’ll be really hard not playing all those sites. But right now, yeah.”

On The Poker Beat, Parvis said he’d spoken with Field at the recent Aussie Millions and afterwards felt he was worth inviting to participate in the Challenge, even though Parvis admitted Field had made some “serious, serious mistakes in his life in terms of the poker world and cheating, and multi-accounting, and ghosting, and selling accounts... whatever the scandals may be.” “That’s a hell of a laundry list,” joked Huff in response.

Well, now it appears Field will not be able to play in the Challenge after all. Parvis told Huff he received an email on Wednesday which reported “there was some situation” over on Cake Poker (for which Lock Poker is a skin, I believe) with an “account hand-off” involving Field. “Whatever the case is, it appears that JJ has been involved in another sticky situation here,” said Parvis, and so will not be allowed to play in the Challenge.

To Parvis’ credit, he expressed humility to Huff about having been fooled into thinking Field had indeed changed his cheating ways. Still, one has to wonder about the initial decision to invite the notorious JJProdigy to participate in such a Challenge. They don’t want “any scandal to be associated with the Challenge itself,” but then Bluff invites the most notorious, scandal-ridden player in online poker to participate?

As I was listening, I was amazed Field could even resurface in this way as part of any story -- much less one involving selecting top online pros to participate in a freeroll like this. As Seth Meyers would say over on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, “Really?!?”

Yet another head-scratching moment from the ethically-ambiguous world of online poker.

'I Often Dream of Trains' by Robyn Hitchcock*By the way, that earlier post title came from Robyn Hitchcock’s twisted a cappella number “Uncorrected Personality Traits” that appears on one of my all-time favorite discs, Hitchcock’s 1984 masterpiece I Often Dream of Trains. And speaking of masterpieces, that’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by the Dutch master, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, pictured above.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Mizzi's not in the Bluff Poker Challenge either. Parvis mentioned that Sorel's deal with Betfair doesn't allow him to play.

2/13/2009 12:50 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Yes, that's right. Thanks, Kevmath.

Kind of makes it interesting to consider who was chosen -- the (presumably) best of the unsigned, I guess.

2/13/2009 1:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Considering who's currently on the list and the discussion on 2+2 (, there were plenty of people who chose to pass on the challenge.

2/13/2009 6:01 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

For those interested, Parvis also appeared on Gary Wise's podcast this week (Wise Hand Poker, the 2/11/09 episode), where he also discussed the decision to invite Field to participate in the Challenge. That discussion apparently took place before it was determined Field wouldn't be allowed to play.

2/14/2009 7:02 PM  
Blogger Mike G said...

A well written post. Still, I can't believe people still play online poker.

2/23/2009 12:56 AM  

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