Showing posts with label cates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cates. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2011

More on Cates and the scandal

Mere minutes after I did my post about Daniel Cates yesterday, an acquaintance of mine with excellent connections in the industry contacted me privately to say that I was likely to have to revise my opinion very soon. A few minutes ago, I learned the basis for this advance warning. Cates did an interview with NoahSD of He then contacted Noah again and admitted that he had lied in the just-completed interview, and confessed that it was he who had played on Girah's account, not Qureshi. They did a second interview to explain this. Audio of both interviews has been posted here. It's about two hours of audio, so I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I wanted to get this note up as quickly as possible, since I expect to be asked whether this revelation changes my opinion of Cates. The answer is yes, it does, and I'm very sad to learn that my belief in his integrity was mistaken. I hope that this is all the bad news that is to come, that he learns from his mistake, and that, over time, he can rebuild his reputation in a manner similar to what Justin Bonomo has accomplished in recovering from his early missteps. I remain deeply grateful to Daniel for the opportunity he gave me at the World Series of Poker.


There is an excellent "Cliff's Notes" summary of the whole mess here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jungleman's scandal

If you have any interest in online poker, you've surely already read something, somewhere about the "Girah" scandal that seems to be unfolding more every day. If not, you could start with posts by F-Train and Shamus today for links and thoughts about the whole mess.

Dan "Jungleman" Cates is caught up in the scandal. He clearly backed, tutored, and trusted Jose Macedo, and was apparently planning to move to Portugal to live with him. That degree of closeness to what now turns out to be such flagrant cheating naturally causes suspicion that Cates himself was more involved than has so far been admitted or proven.

You will understand that I'm naturally inclined to view Cates in a good light. After all, the list of people in my life who have handed me $10,000, with no expectation of getting anything back from me in return, is pretty short. So I'm definitely biased, and you would be right to keep that in mind when evaluating my opinion.

It is also true that I'm not exactly on Cates's list of close friends. We've met a few times because of his WSOP seat giveaway, and I spent a pleasant, almost surreal hour over brunch with him discussing strategic approaches to my Main Event play. But that level of contact hardly makes me an expert on his character, his thoughts, or his actions. I have his cell phone number and he mine, but there's little reason to think that either of us will have occasion to use them, now that the WSOP thing is over and done with.

With those caveats firmly in place, I want to express my opinion that Cates is genuinely a good guy at heart, and is constitutionally incapable of the degree of scumminess that would be required for him to be complicit in the scandal. The facts that have been revealed so far basically require one to choose between believing that he was a co-conspirator (or, at least, in the know but not taking action on the shadiness he knew was afoot) or that he was incredibly naive. Given those alternatives, I have no hesitation in casting my vote for the latter.

My overwhelming impression of Cates when meeting him in person was that he ranked high on the nerd scale. I don't say that in derision; I wear the label proudly myself. He spent years perfecting video game play before discovering that many of the same skills could translate to poker and reap huge profits. I think Terrence Chan's sympathetic post about the roles of trust and loneliness and desire for social contact and peer acceptance within the online high-stakes-poker world are perceptive and likely to be an apt description of Cates's frame of reference in this thing.

Remember that just about two weeks ago Cates made a little splash in poker news because he decided to move to Canada in order to resume playing online poker. He flew to Vancouver, only to be sent back to the states by immigration officials because, apparently, he told them the truth--that he was moving there permanently to make his living. He seems to have had no clue that this would require first obtaining a work visa. It would not surprise me if he didn't understand what a U.S. "green card" was, or that other countries had equivalent things. My guess is that it never even occurred to him that there were strict laws and rules about taking up permanent residence to generate an income in another western democracy. While I found the episode amusing, I think it sheds some light on the degree of naivete that Cates brings to many real-world situations. His youth and relatively cloistered years of online play (video games and poker both) have left him ill-informed of and ill-prepared for many of life's challenges outside his ken.

Don't get me wrong--he's not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I judge him to be exceptionally bright. His aptitude for poker in particular is off the charts. I don't mind admitting that he thinks through poker situations ten times faster than I do, and I sometimes had a hard time keeping up with what he was trying to explain to me. But a narrow field of even the most phenomenal talent does not necessarily equip one to deal with, say, people whose values are so perverse that they're willing to feign a long friendship in order to run a big-money scam.

Some observers feel that Cates's interview with Bluff magazine yesterday further raises the level of suspicion about him being dirty. Take this exchange, for example:
Many have speculated that Jose is just a face/name attached to the account and maybe Haseeb or others were playing on the account. We know of at least one instance where this Haseeb played on Jose’s account. How can you be 100% certain that Jose is the one playing all of the hands on that account?

I am very certain that all hands played on Jose’s account are from him (unless Jose has allowed others to play on his account) except for the one instance in where Haseeb admitted to playing on his account. Almost certainly, over 95% of the hands are Jose’s.

When Jose was disqualified from the BLUFF Poker Challenge on Lock Poker, did you know it was Haseeb who had played on the account?

Yes, but I did not want to get involved. I know it was not a habit.

Surely nearly everybody reading this wants to ask the obvious follow-up question: How can you be so sure of those things? After all, I think the natural reaction to being shocked to learn that your friend has been cheating you and a bunch of your buddies out of a lot of money would be to say, "I don't know. I didn't think there was anything shady going on, but now that I see how badly I misjudged what he was capable of doing, I have to start doubting everything I thought I knew about him." Cates doesn't do that. He still retains faith, somehow, that the account-sharing was an isolated incident--in fact, says he is "very certain" of this, and that he "know[s]" it was "not a habit."

Some people apparently read this as evidence of his complicity--he's aiding in the cover-up, trying to minimize the problem. My reaction is to want to dope-slap him and make him reevaluate more critically what he actually does and does not know about his friend, carefully segregating what he knows from what he believes, and both of those from what he just wants to be true. To me this passage reeks of naivete further blinded by optimism and a friend's loyalty, not of a clumsy attempt at whitewashing.

Of course, I could be dead wrong. He might be guilty as sin, and when it all comes out I'll be the one with egg on my face for speaking up on his behalf. I don't think so, but I have no way of knowing for sure, no special insight. However, my experience with him, brief and shallow though it was, makes me highly inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. If expressing my opinion in this regard makes others temper their judgment in the same way, then I'll feel I've done what I set out to do here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 8

I now know my tablemates for the start of Day 2 (Monday at noon), as posted in full here. I'll be at Amazon Orange 335-5. As expected, I'll have the shortest stack at the table. This is a badly skewed chip distribution on the deep side, with a table average of 67,000 (not counting the woman who didn't report her chips), while the day's average will be 45,000. Not good for me. But I will do my best to find good spots to double up. Two successful doubles and I'll be out of danger.

Any brand names in the list? The only one I thought I recognized from reading about tournament results was Huynh, and he appears to have the most cumulative winnings, due primarily to a $685K third-place finish in a World Poker Tour event last year (Hendon Mob Database entry here). I find a Phillip Reed with a decent list of cashes (see here), but based on the listed home towns and the commonness of that name, it's probably not the same person. Zarbo appears to be fairly active in the preliminary events of various poker tours, but no big scores (here). A couple of the others have a few small cashes publicly reported, but nothing of note.

I'm also happy to note that my benefactor, Daniel Cates, survived his Day 1 yesterday with a stack of 30,175.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PeeGee's Big Adventure, Part 2

That's the title I've decided to assign to the series of blog posts reporting on my ticket to the Main Event. It just occurred to me a few minutes ago, though it was probably subconsciously influenced by having read this morning a blog post from Wil Wheaton about his love of the movie from which I'm so shamelessly stealing.

PeeGee. I.e., P.G. I.e., Poker Grump. That's me! Get it?

Today I met up with Daniel Cates and his publicist for two reasons. First, we had interviews to do with the local NBC affiliate station, KSNV "News 3." It was just the basic questions that you'd expect. I stumbled through it. Officially the footage is for their Sunday night sports show, "Sports Night in Las Vegas" (11:30 pm), but I was told they might also run it on the nightly news tonight if there's time. If it ever shows up online and I notice it, I'll post a link. But don't hold your breath; they seem to be slow and inconsistent about making those shows available via the web.

I learned one little factoid from the interactions with the reporter: They had about 300 tickets in all, which means that my guesstimate about how much "drawing equity" my four entries would have was just about right.

Next we went to the registration room to do the buy-in officially. I wasn't quite sure how it would be handled. But Daniel just casually handed me two $5000 Rio chips--not tournament lammers, but the ones that you can actually cash for $5000 each. I've never even handled chips of that denomination before. I had an impulse to stuff them in my pocket and run away. But that wouldn't be very cool. I tried to be just as nonchalant as Daniel when handing them over to the nice lady behind the counter. This is the attitude I tried to convey: "What--these things? Pffft! I lose these in the laundry all the time. They fall out of my pocket when I answer a cell phone call, and, really, they're not worth bending over to pick up, so I leave them for the poor people to fight over. It's not like they're real money or anything!"

In exchange, she handed me this:

I'll be playing on Day 1A. I figured I would get it done and out of the way early, then, assuming I survive, I'll have three days off before my Day 2 to relax. Or to stress. One or the other. (You can see the whole event's day-by-day schedule in the footnotes here.)

As I previously mentioned, an hour of one-on-one poker training is included in the package, and I expect we'll be making arrangements for that in the next day or two.

After Daniel told me he'd text me when he knew his schedule better and we had parted, I realized that I had walked away with the winning ticket stub still in my pocket. Oh well. I guess they don't really need it to prove that I was the winner. I'll add it to my souvenir collection.

In other related news, Jesse May earlier today did an excellent blog post about Daniel, which you can read here. There is an accompanying video interview, posted here. My favorite paragraph, which concludes in an opinion with which I will concur, based on my brief encounters with him so far:
There was a recent New York Times piece written about Jungleman, before Black Friday, where the interviewer went to great pains to infer that Cates was completely out of touch with real people and the real world. While it’s true that Daniel does have that weird genius way of answering questions much like Isaac Haxton, where they are liable to take as long a pause as they deem necessary and then answer in a way where they are actually interviewing you and if you haven’t thought your question through in the first place you just end up mumbling around and staring at a place three feet to the left of their head. Because Daniel Cates is piercing you with unblinking eyes from behind his thick unrimmed spectacles and raising the bet. And if that makes you uncomfortable so that you want to claim he’s out of touch with real people and the real world, then fine. But what the New York Times journalist surely left out is the thing that should immediately strike anyone most about Daniel Cates, especially in an arena where huge egos are part and parcel for the course and arrogance is assumed like eyes and ears. The plain fact about Daniel Cates is that he’s unfailingly polite. He’s earnestly polite. He’s polite in a way so that he must actually believe that the world doesn’t revolve around him, and if I say that makes him the only one in Las Vegas right now then it’s not nearly as much of an exaggeration as the other way around. That, right there, is more than something.
Maybe I'm reading him wrong, but my impression is that he's kind of embarrassed that his gesture is being considered a big deal, and his publicist has to collar him to get him to extract some PR value out of it.

Speaking of PR, a couple more items of some relevance have hit the intertubes. First, my friend Ian, a.k.a. NumbBono of the "Donkeys Always Draw" blog, wrote a nice news piece about this for, here. Second, "Listening," she of the razz blog and book, sweetly posted her advice just for me, though I'm sure she wouldn't mind if others read it. Brief mention (with name misspelled) by PokerNews here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why I almost but didn't quite make it to the casino chip collectors' convention

I mentioned the other day that the year's biggest casino chips collectors' convention was in town this week, and that I would be scrupulously staying away so as to avoid any temptation to buy some collectible goodies that I can't really afford.

Well, apparently I have a lot of chip collectors among my readership, because I received a surprising number of messages through the blog comments, by email, by text, and even in person at the tables over the last few days, all passing on this thought: You really should go, because it's cool and amazing.

Today is the show's last day. When I woke up late this morning and checked the overnight Twitter feed, I learned a couple of useful things: (1) The Rio's daily deepstack event, which I've been wanting to try, had been pushed back to 4:00 pm instead of its usual 2:00 pm. (2) Daniel "Jungleman" Cates was having the last of his series of ticket giveaways for a seat in the WSOP Main Event at McFadden's at the Rio from 12:30 to 1:30. (You can read much more about Dan in the New York Times Magazine here, and in the cover story of Bluff Magazine Europe here.)

I formulated a plan. I would head to the Rio, pick up my Jungleman drawing ticket, register for the deepstacks tournament while the lines were still short, then drive to South Point, spend a couple of hours looking at poker chips--without buying any--then be back at the Rio by 4:00 to play. As my day-planning goes, this one was positively brilliant: Geographically efficient, productive, and fun.

Let me pause for a minute and tell you about the drawing, because you might not have heard of it. As reported on Cates' blog and a YouTube video, and as I first learned from the Twitter feed of my friend Jason Simon (Thanks, Jason! I owe you one bowl of soup next visit!), Daniel decided to hold a free raffle to give away a seat to the World Series of Poker main event, as his way of giving something back to the poker community from which he feels he has benefited so richly. It's a lovely, generous offer.

The only eligibility criterion was that the recipient had not previously played in a Main Event. However, in order to pick up tickets, you had to go to where Daniel was holding court, in a one-hour window of time, with just a couple of hours of advance notice on Twitter. As a practical matter, that severely limited the field of contenders to those living in Vegas, with a car, with no day job, and who checked Twitter frequently. Hey--that's me!

I don't usually enter drawings and other such things, but I did some mental math on this one. I made a guesstimate that they probably wouldn't have more than about a hundred people able to make it to the locations specified under those conditions. If I did it every time, I might therefore have 1% or maybe even as much as 2% of all the tickets in the bowl. With the prize worth $10,000, my equity in it would be something like $100-$200. If there were four ticket days, my total time expenditure would be less than four hours. That seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. So I did it. I picked up a ticket at each of the four events, scattered between May 24 and today:

Back to my day. I didn't stick around McFadden's, even though I knew they would be holding the drawing at 1:30. I thought my chances of winning weren't high enough to make it worth cutting into my chip-ogling time. Besides, they had been clear that one didn't need to be present to win, and they had promised to telephone the winner.

When I got to South Point, I found the convention center rooms where the casino chips vendors had their displays. As a bonus, though I had read online that it was $10 to enter, a sign announced that entry would be free Saturday, as the show was closing. But I decided to check my messages before strolling around inside the rooms.

You have to understand that virtually nobody calls me on my cell. I give the number to very few people, and, well, even they don't like me very much, so they leave me alone. OK, that's not quite true, but my friends know that I dislike talking on the phone except for short exchanges of information as necessary. I'm not a chatter. I literally get less than one phone call a week.

So when I saw missed-call and voice-mail alerts from an out-of-state, unknown number, with a time stamp of 1:33 pm, you can bet it caught my attention. Could that really be what I thought it might be? I sat down in an easy chair just outside the convention hall to listen to the message:

I bet every one of you would have pressed "4" to listen again. I sure did.

(If I just violated a wiretapping law or something like that with the above recording, well, I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court and hope the judge is a poker player.)

The next thing I did might surprise you. I didn't call him back instantly. Instead, I called Cardgrrl. She means the world to me, and I had to share with her my excitement even before calling to confirm that this wasn't some terrible prank or misunderstanding. She figured out where the story was going even before I got to the punchline, and was interrupting me with "No way!" and Elaine-esque "Get out!" even before I could announce, "I won!"

But I kept it short, and contacted my benefactor immediately thereafter. By the time I was done with a quick call to him, the news was already on Twitter from both @JunglemanDan and @MicheleLewis (who had been recruited to pull the name out of the ice bucket), and friends who knew my real name were translating that that was none other than @PokerGrump. In fact, I was already getting buzzed by text messages from friends urging me to check Twitter, if I hadn't already heard.

I was way too excited to care about poker chips by then, so I left South Point--having made it to within 30 feet of the show's entrance--returned home, picked up all of my drawing ticket stubs, and went back to the Rio, not yet sure when I might need to meet up with Daniel. I'm sure the chip vendors will be back next year, and who knows--by then I might have a little more money I can spend with them!

For the record, the winning ticket was the second one shown above, picked up at PT's Pub on Rainbow the afternoon of June 6.

There are still some details to be worked out, such as Daniel's publicist, Lara, getting verification from WSOP officials that I have never registered for a Main Event before (I promise I haven't), logistics of doing the buy-in, and getting together for some training from Daniel, which is thrown in as part of the offer. (Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, eh?) But that's all just details.

There's one other thing that I have to arrange. I had already purchased airline tickets to fly out to D.C. for a visit to Cardgrrl the week that the Main Event starts. Before I had a chance to point out to her that I'd have to change travel plans, she said, "You'll have to change your plane ticket." Some girlfriends would get in a huff about a visit being postponed in order to play a game. Not her. She is the most supportive person ever, and nearly as excited for me as I am.

A couple of people have already asked me about this, so let me address it up front: I will not be selling pieces of my action. Had I won a satellite for $10,000 in lammers, I would certainly be mulling over how to reduce my variance with various kinds of deals. But this is a gift, and an almost unbelievably generous one at that. After only a minute or two of thought, I knew that selling pieces of a gift seemed, well, kind of tacky. I would frankly feel embarrassed to tell Daniel that I had commodified his kindness in that way.

When I was a little boy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl was my favorite book. I'm sure I read it more than a dozen times. The desk in our family room always had some notepaper in a little wooden holder that my brother had made, and one time, when I was in about sixth grade, it was stocked with yellow-orange paper. To my small eyes, it looked like gold. I took one of those 3" x 5" slips and copied onto it the entire text of the Willy Wonka golden ticket from the book. I had to write really small, because there were so many words to fit onto it. But when it was done, it allowed me to feel the way I imagined that Charlie himself must have felt when holding that precious piece of gold leaf. I held on to that imaginary ticket until I moved out of my parents' house when I got married at age 23.

Today is the closest I've come to that feeling since I made my own Willy Wonka ticket. Thank you, Daniel, for giving me a rebirth of that sensation of hope and anticipation of great things about to happen. I will try not to let you down.

(Image from here.)


I see that a couple of other sites have already beaten me to posting about the drawing results. See Wasted Aces here (though with my name misspelled), Michele Lewis here.

I understand that there will be other PR moments associated with this. Obviously I'll keep you up to date as I learn about any such things.