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Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Year in Review, Part 1

Written by Tom Somach in Poker News

The year 2007 was a momentous and newsworthy one in the world of poker, and was there every step of the way to cover it.

Here is a recap of the biggest poker stories of the first half of 2007, as covered by

In JANUARY, LOS ANGELES sportscaster and poker expert FRED WALLIN predicted that the upcoming WORLD SERIES OF POKER (WSOP) in LAS VEGAS would suffer a severe decline in the number of participants, due to anti-Internet gambling legislation passed by the U.S. GOVERNMENT that cracked down on ONLINE POKER ROOMS, where many people previously had won WSOP seats. Six months later, his prediction came true.

Internet money-transferring service NETELLER, commonly known as an E-WALLET and used by ONLINE POKER PLAYERS and other ONLINE GAMBLERS around the world to send and collect funds from ONLINE GAMBLING SITES, banned customers in the U.S. after U.S. AUTHORITIES arrested the co-founders of NETELLER, on charges of facilitating gambling in the U.S. NETELLER lost most of its business after the ban, as U.S. ONLINE GAMBLERS accounted for most of NETELLER’S customer base.

NETELLER then announced that it was freezing the accounts of all U.S. customers, in connection with the U.S. GOVERNMENT’S investigation of the company. Millions of dollars were frozen and U.S. customers worried they’d never get their monies back.

Fearing reprisals from the U.S. GOVERNMENT, many ONLINE POKER ROOMS were banning AMERICAN CUSTOMERS from playing for REAL MONEY. MANSION POKER became the latest room to adopt the ban.

THOMAS “AMARILLO SLIM” PRESTON JR., a well-known POKER PRO and former WSOP CHAMP, escaped injury when TWO ARMED THUGS broke into his TEXAS residence, tied him up and robbed the place.

In FEBRUARY, an ONLINE POKER ROOM called AMERICA’S CARDROOM, that in 2006 banned U.S. RESIDENTS from playing for REAL MONEY, reversed the ban and announced AMERICANS could once again do so.

An ANGRY DISPUTE between 2006 WSOP winner JAMIE GOLD and another man over a promise GOLD made to split his $12 MILLION PRIZE with the man was settled after the man sued GOLD.

PLAYBOY, previously best known for publishing PORNO MAGS, announced it was opening an ONLINE POKER ROOM, but U.S. RESIDENTS couldn’t play for REAL DOUGH.

In a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, broke the story that FORMER NEW YORK SENATOR AL D’AMATO would soon be named the NEW FACE OF ONLINE POKER, and would lobby for the legalization of INTERNET POKER on behalf of the lobby group, the POKER PLAYERS ALLIANCE. Media from across the U.S. and around the world picked up the story and overnight became a MAJOR PLAYER in the POKER INDUSTRY.

PARADISE POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, went out of business. TONY G POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, announced it was banning U.S. residents from playing for REAL MONEY.

NETELLER announced it was laying off 250 employees because of a sharp decline in business.

FIREPAY, an E-WALLET and NETELLER COMPETITOR that previously had banned AMERICANS, announced it was banning CANADIANS too.

DOYLE’S ROOM, an ONLINE POKER ROOM fronted by POKER PRO and FORMER WSOP CHAMP DOYLE “TEXAS DOLLY” BRUNSON, announced it was banning U.S. residents from playing for REAL DOUGH.

The WSOP announced a new offshoot of itself, the WORLD SERIES OF POKER EUROPE (WSOPE), a small, multi-tournament event that would take place in London, England, two months after the regular WSOP in LAS VEGAS.

In MARCH, reeling from the U.S. GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN on INTERNET POKER, the parent company of PARTY POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, announced that its annual profits were down 50%.

The PPA officially announced what had reported a month earlier–AL D’AMATO was the new MOUTHPIECE and LEAD FLAK for the ONLINE POKER LOBBY EFFORT.

AMERICAN COMPANIES were starting to perfect loopholes so they could offer ONLINE POKER without breaking U.S. law. They did so by offering poker that was free but where you could still win cash and/or prizes. Two such entities, the NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POKER and BET ZIP, were profiled.

One of ONLINE POKER’s top marketing people, DAN GOLDMAN, who helped make PARTY POKER a household brand name, resigned. He cited the uncertain legal status of the industry as his reason for stepping down.

A group of POKER PROS, including ANNIE DUKE and CHRIS “JESUS” FERGUSON, sued the WORLD POKER TOUR (WPT) over the WPT’s rule that WPT tournament participants must relinquish all rights to their images from WPT events.

NETELLER announced it would return $55 MILLION in funds it had seized from U.S. CUSTOMERS.

Police in INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA, raided an ILLEGAL POKER CLUB and one of the poker players they busted was a trooper with the INDIANA STATE POLICE.

PLANET POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, went out of business. broke another WORLD EXCLUSIVE–that AL D’AMATO would earn $5 MILLION if he succeeded in getting anti-online gambling legislation passed by the U.S. GOVERNMENT reversed.

NETELLER, having previously banned U.S. CUSTOMERS, extended the ban to CANADA and TURKEY.

GARY KAPLAN, aka GREG CHAMPION, a NEW YORKER who started an ONLINE POKER ROOM called BET ON POKER, as well as a SPORTS BETTING WEBSITE called BET ON SPORTS and other ONLINE GAMBLING SITES, was picked up by U.S. AUTHORITIES in the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, after WARRANTS for his ARREST were issued the year before.

In APRIL, a COURT in the UNITED KINGDOM ruled that POKER is a GAME of LUCK, not SKILL, making it GAMBLING and ILLEGAL where not authorized.

THWART POKER and TRIPLE JACK POKER, two more LEGAL ONLINE POKER ROOMS based in the USA, were profiled.

JOE HACHEM of AUSTRALIA, the winner of the 2006 WSOP, revealed that he has received DEATH THREATS since his victory and has had to move his family to a new home.

The WPT announced it was leaving the TRAVEL CHANNEL and would now show its events on the GAME SHOW NETWORK.

Police in JONESBORO, GEORGIA, raided an ILLEGAL POKER CLUB and one of the poker players they busted was an OFF-DUTY JUDGE.

SUN POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, announced it was banning U.S. CUSTOMERS from playing for REAL MONEY.


The owners of the WSOP continued their BLISTERING BATTLE over the rights to the website.



“LUCKY YOU,” a REALLY BAD POKER MOVIE starring DREW BARRYMORE, opened in theaters across AMERICA and BOMBED.

In MAY, U.S. SENATOR JON KYL of ARIZONA blasted CONGRESSMAN BARNEY FRANK of MASSACHUSETTS for introducing legislation that would reverse the anti-online gambling legislation passed by the U.S. GOVERNMENT last year.


The WSOP announced that the CASH PRIZE for winning the 2007 WSOP main event would be less than the $12 million the 2006 WSOP main event winner earned. The reason? The WSOP wants to award PRIZE MONEY to more entrants so it is watering down the payouts.

Police in BINGHAMPTON, NEW YORK, raided an ILLEGAL POKER CLUB and one of the poker players they busted was the son of the LOCAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY.

DUPLICATE POKER, another LEGAL ONLINE POKER ROOM based in the USA, was profiled.

JOHNNY “THE ORIENT EXPRESS” CHAN, a POKER PRO who appeared in the poker movie “ROUNDERS,” held a CANADIAN poker tourney named after himself and the winner was HENRY TRAN.

STATE LEGISLATORS in LOUSIANA rejected a bill that would have legalized POKER TOURNAMENTS in bars and restaurants.

Just days before the start of the WSOP, WSOP Tournament and Events Director ROBERT DAILY abruptly resigned.

ONLINE SPORTS BETTING SITES around the world offered betting on who would win the WSOP.

BILL GUSTAFIK’S WIDOW was charged with his MURDER.

PHIL IVEY, the top BLACK POKER PLAYER in the world, was the CONSENSUS FAVORITE of many to win the 2007 WSOP main event.

In JUNE, the WSOP got underway at the RIO HOTEL AND CASINO in LAS VEGAS, with everyone wondering whether participation would be higher or lower than in 2006. It was lower.

PHIL “POKER BRAT” HELLMUTH JR., a noted POKER PRO, won WSOP Event #11, a Texas hold ‘em tourney. It was the 11th career WSOP GOLD BRACELET that he has won, making him the all-time career leader.

SALLY BOYER won WSOP Event #17, a women-only tourney. Onlookers wondered why there was no men-only tourney.

An ILLEGAL POKER CLUB in MANHATTAN that was once patronized by HELLMUTH and NEW YORK YANKEE ALEX “A-ROD” RODRIGUEZ was robbed by armed gunmen.

FULL CONTACT POKER, an ONLINE POKER ROOM, went out of business. ESPN, which was televising the WSOP, was caught manipulating WSOP rules to make sure HELLMUTH landed at one event’s FINAL TABLE, even though he didn’t actually qualify.

A BLIND MAN playing in the WSOP was profiled.

THOMAS “AMARILLO SLIM” PRESTON JR. finished in 96th place in the WSOP seniors tourney and earned a few thousand bucks. It was the first time the CREEPY TEXAN finished in the money at a WSOP event since PLEADING GUILTY TO A CHILD MOLESTATION CHARGE four years earlier, after he sexually assaulted HIS OWN GRANDDAUGHTER.

(E-mail Tom Somach at [email protected].)

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