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114 Reasons

Looking back on the four-month gap from bubble to final table, Richard Marcus examines how all that time off during the WSOP Main Event might have helped a cheating game plan.

Let’s look at the most important element in creating not only a WSOP Final Table cheating scam, but any scam: time. The greater the period of time, the more of it there is not only to plan scams but to practice them, improve them and perfect them. So how does this relate to the final table of the 2008 WSOP that played out last month on ESPN and other cable networks across the world? Well, there were exactly 114 days separating the last day of play that determined the final table and the start of play of the final table itself. That, my poker-reading friends, is lots of time.

Before I get into possible and probable cheating scenarios at the WSOP, let me get one thing straight. All those pre-final table statements made by Harrah’s officials that they would watchdog every integral element of the WSOP to ensure the integrity of the tournament and that no cheating would be tolerated are worth about as much as the CD I wrote this article on—unless, of course, Harrah’s employed the FBI and Scotland Yard to conduct 24-hour surveillance not only on the nine participants at the final table but all their friends and families as well, not to mention anyone else who might be connected to the players or the tournament, and this for a duration of 114 days.

In other words there’s no way Harrah’s or WSOP officials would ever be able to ensure a cheat-free final table, and they really don’t care. Why? Well, if they did, they never would’ve permitted a 114-day break in the first place. It’s clearly obvious that Harrah’s and the WSOP organisers changed the Main Event format to milk out as much publicity and exposure as they could, which results in more money for sponsors, TV and cable networks, and, of course, Harrah’s and the WSOP itself.

The entire scenario is reminiscent of another one that never took place. Back in 2006, the American Cable Network Fox Sports Net attempted to run with the giant ball that was supposed to be a series of six-player winner-take-all freeze-out tournaments for $60 million in 2006, then for $75 million in 2007 and $100 million in 2008. At the time, this was the greatest poker hype ever attempted. But finally Fox Sports Net realised that it couldn’t convince the public that six players were each going to put up $10 million of their own money to play against players of equal calibre to themselves. I even predicted in my book Dirty Poker that the giant freeze-out would never take place because it was basically a fraud, and sure enough it was cancelled.

So, what possibly and probably happened at the 2008 WSOP Main Event Final Table? Well, I’m going to combine the two: what possibly and probably happened was massive collusion and deal-making. There was simply too much money, and more importantly, too much time for it not to happen. What makes this scenario probable is that there was no dominant chip-leader going into the final table the way there was back in 2006 when Jamie Gold had a commanding chip lead that he turned into a championship and $12 million.

With nearly all the nine players very much in the hunt at the start of play, and only one short stack, the collusion cheating opportunities were endless. In fact, if you take all the possibilities and combinations of any or all of the nine players entering into prearranged prize-money-sharing, there are more than a million different ways to cut up the giant cake!

Is there a possibility that nothing of the sort happened and there were no prearranged deals or anything else resembling collusion play? Sure there is, but it’s slim. If anyone could relate to this theory and back it up, it might be ex-WSOP Main Event champ and accused mastermind of the $60 million UltimateBet online poker scam Russ Hamilton. He was the Main Event winner in 1994, and he probably could wipe out that “slim” with testimony to his own experiences at the WSOP final table. In any event, I could hardly imagine that 114 days are going to pass without conspiring, scheming, planning and everything else that leads to cheating. Just think of all that time these nine players, including short-stacked Kelly Kim, had to communicate.

Are you wondering how they might have communicated? Well, it starts with simple e-mails, then steps up to instant messaging, then phone calls and then, well, why not a pre-final-table final table? What I’m talking about is a meeting of all nine players around an oval table in a cozy restaurant or lounge, maybe like the Peppermill on the Las Vegas Strip, the same cozy lounge that I often used with my cheating buddies to map out strategies for hitting the casinos on the Strip. There, the “November Nine” could sip champagne relishing in thoughts of the money they knew they would get. Well, maybe they wouldn’t be brazen enough to meet in a public place like that but they could’ve rented a suite at the Bellagio and snuck up to it unnoticed. However they chose to do so, 114 days is a lot of time to plan and scheme.

And if you think for one minute that this could not happen (next year as well if they decide on the same Main Event format), then you probably watch too much ESPN and other cable network poker broadcasts.
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