Sunday August 19,2012 : IS THE AUTHOR OF NEW ONLINE POKER BOOK IMPARTIAL?
Questions are being asked about author Ben Mezrich's connections to Absolute poker founders
The news earlier this week that acclaimed author Ben Mezrich is to write a book about the Absolute Poker scandal has created ripples of interest across internet poker message board and information sites, questioning Mezrich's apparently benevolent view of the frat boys from Montana who founded, and were allegedly deeply involved in, the cheating scandal that left thousands of players out millions of dollars.
Doubts about Mezrich's impartiality arise mainly from his televised interview on CNBC's Squawk Box, in which his comments suggested that his upcoming book would put a positive spin on the activities of the Montana University students who started the now notorious online poker site and its sister, UltimateBet.
Mezrich noted that the founders were "brilliant", had launched the online poker industry and were "being persecuted". He failed to mention the hole card cheating debacle that disadvantaged thousands of online poker players and generated reams of negative media coverage.
The omission led to an immediate upsurge of the indignation that many still feel over this unsavoury episode in the industry's history, triggering comment and speculation on Mezrich's intentions in both social and online media.
On Twitter, interested parties quizzed Mezrich, with poster Jon Eaton asking: "@BenMezrich do you even understand what UB/AP did to the poker community? do you realize how many millions they stole? are you clueless?
Mezrich responded rather cautiously: "There are many layers to a story like this, that's for sure!"
That triggered the retort: "Really, there aren't "layers." They facilitated cheating, got caught, and fled the country."
View the exchanges at http://twitter.com/benmezrich
The online poker information site Pokerfuse was so intrigued by the Mezrich approach that it collaborated with blogger Haley Hintze – an acknowledged expert on the Absolute Poker affair – in investigating the author's possible prior connections with the Absolute Poker founders.
The enquiry turned up limited hearsay evidence of tenuous possible connections that cannot at this stage be regarded as conclusive.
This is an author who wrote best sellers on subjects like the MIT card counting coup on blackjack at Vegas casinos and the founding of Facebook – "Bringing Down the House" and "The Accidental Billionaires" respectively.
Pokerfuse tried for an interview, tweeting Mezrich: "We would love to hear more about the direction of this project. Would you be interested in granting us an interview?"
To which Mezrich replied: "Eventually! enjoying reading all the different thoughts. I can say conspiracy theories are right out of left field, tho :)"
Regardless of how Mezrich's work pans out, he can certainly not claim to be ignorant of the dishonest conduct of the Absolute Poker management in online poker's biggest scandal.
Even the most cursory research flags this major cheating disaster, and the reaction of players and industry insiders even now underlines how shocked and disgusted the story left so many.
One of the chief causes of frustration to observers and players alike is the perception that the leading actors in the Absolute and UltimateBet debacles have largely escaped unscathed in terms of punishment for their activities. Although identified by enquiries into the affair, it is widely felt unlikely that Russ Hamilton was solely responsible.
Independently of the Mezrich project, a documentary film on the scandal is currently in production, and blogger and investigative journalist Haley Hintze is working on a much-anticipated book on the subject; the Absolute Poker story has a way to run yet.