Washington Post Story Goes Online

The story is available here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/11/29/ST2008112902159.html

I’m reading it now, I will post some comments about it in a few minutes once I get through it…

EDIT with comments… I’ll do it in list order:

  1. The article says a lot of typical mainstream media (MSM) stuff like: “Dozens of these sites are located in countries with no reporting requirements.”  Okay, sure… but then it fails to mention that there are dozens more who are publicly traded and have very strict reporting requirements.  And also fails to mention the ones who are regulated by the non-KGC licensing bodies, some of whom are very strict from what I’m told.  It’s just typical MSM bias to call online poker “shadowy” when, in fact, only parts of the industry are shadowy (but fail to mention the good side).
  2. Page 1 also says: “AbsolutePoker and UltimateBet operate out of a shopping mall in Costa Rica.”  Could they make it sound more like a two-bit operation?  To the 99% of you who’ve never seen AP/UB’s offices, they’re actually pretty impressive.  Their main office (which is NEAR a mall) is a five or six story large building.  It’s one of the most impressive office buildings I’ve seen in Costa Rica and a realtor told me the building cost in the $10 million range (although it’s possible that the realtor made that figure up).  Hundreds of AP/UB employees work there.  They also have a few smaller offices which don’t resemble a mall at all.  I have no idea why Gil Gaul would say they “operate out of a shopping mall” unless he wanted to make them sound less professional.  Note that I am not saying AP/UB was a professionally run organization (it wasn’t)… but they don’t work out of a shopping mall, I’m sure of that.  He also says it again later on, so it wasn’t like it was a mistake: “Hundreds of customer service employees worked at its office in a mall in San Jose, Costa Rica, and at a smaller office in Panama.
  3. On Page 3, Gaul says the following: “Johnson, who uses the screen name “Crazy Marco,” reached the final against a player called “Potripper.” They played 20 hands and Potripper won them all, collecting $428,520.”  That’s an absurdly bad journalistic error.  POTRIPPER won $10,000 more than Marco.  I would even let “collecting $30,000” slide because it makes sense to most people to say that, even though the economic reality is that they’d both already made $20,000 and the heads up match was only for $10,000.  But to say $428,520 shows a severe misunderstanding and lack of research.  I’m sure that 428k was the amount of tournament chips that POTRIPPER won or something like that.  This stuff tilts me… it makes it sound way worse than it was from a $ perspective.
  4. About myself, he says the following on Page 4: “Arem and Ravitch obtained copies of Marco Johnson’s spreadsheet file and started analyzing the data. Arem wrote a software program to decode the information. Joined by a handful of other poker detectives, they quickly identified improbable betting patterns for Potripper and several other suspect accounts. The patterns suggested that the players with improbable win rates could somehow see their opponents’ face-down, or hole, cards.”  Meh, I guess I can let that slide.  It’s close, but that isn’t what we did.  I never once looked at betting patterns.

Overall, I think he did a pretty good job.  It’s clear that the story was written quite awhile ago due to the lack of focus on UB as opposed to AP.  I’m not sure if 60 minutes will have the same skewed approach.  I know they did a bunch of interviews awhile ago, so it’s unclear to me exactly how updated everything will be.

I will post my thoughts on the 60 Minutes piece as soon as I see it (which should be Sunday night, but it depends on if I’m around a TV when it’s on or if I have to watch it online later).

EDIT #2:

I just found a bunch more stuff about the whole thing, including a part about my Absolute Poker Cheating Scandal blog.

Here’s the link about my blog:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigations/poker/arem-hands.html.

Also, here’s a link to the main landing page for the AP/UB stuff:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/investigations/poker/

I no longer think it’s as skewed or incomplete, although I hope Gil fixes the line about POTRIPPER winning 428k. Also, I wish there was more information about the good sites in online poker to show that it isn’t all bad.

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