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Poker has grown steadily in popularity ever since its origin in the 1800s. With the explosive growth of online gaming and specialty TV shows, public interest in poker has accelerated faster than ever before. Many people are first introduced to poker by TV shows such as Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown" or the Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour," and many will play their first hands online. Despite online poker's rise, nothing will replace the feeling of shuffling heavy clay poker chips in your hand, throwing chips into the center of the casino table as you ante up, or stacking tall piles of chips after showing a victorious full house.
November 19th, 2008
Clonie Gowen, one of the original endorsers of Full Tilt Poker when the popular online card room opened in June 2004, has filed a lawsuit seeking damages after being released from Team Full Tilt.
The lawsuit, filed in Nevada District Court last Friday, Nov. 14, names Tiltware LLC and Full Tilt Poker as defendants and seeks $40 million in damages over Breach of Contract, Unjust Enrichment, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, and Fraud.
The filing came just three days after Gowen received notification that she was being dropped from the roster of Team Full Tilt.
Included as defendants in the 20-page lawsuit were some of Full Tilt’s highest-profile endorsers, including Howard Lederer, Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, John Juanda, Phil Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Jennifer Harman-Traniello, Mike Matusow, Allen Cunningham, Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius.
Other companies involved in Full Tilt Poker’s operations, including Pocket Kings Ltd., Kolyma Corporation and A.V.V., were also named as defendants in the complaint. Judge Robert C. Jones will preside over the case.
In her complaint, Gowen alleges that in 2004 she was offered, and accepted, a 1% stake in Tiltware and Full Tilt Poker in exchange for her services as a celebrity endorser. She further alleges that she received no compensation other than that ownership stake for wearing Full Tilt merchandise and promoting the online cardroom.
According to the court documents, when other Team Full Tilt members were given distribution checks for their ownership interests in May 2007, Gowen did not receive one; in November of the same year she declined a $250,000 payment offered to her by Howard Lederer, as it was only a fraction of what 1% of the company was worth.
On the advice of her attorneys, Gowen declined to comment for this article. Tiltware LLC, meanwhile, issued this statement regarding the lawsuit:
“Tiltware, LLC, has been made aware of the recent filing of a meritless lawsuit by a former Full Tilt Poker endorser — Ms. Cycalona Gowen. All claims have no merit and there are many inaccuracies improperly and unlawfully asserted by Ms. Gowen within her frivolous complaint. Tiltware LLC expects that this lawsuit will be dealt with accordingly by a competent court in due course.”
A former teen beauty queen in her home state of Oklahoma, Gowen originally came to poker fame thanks to a final-table appearance during the first season of the World Poker Tour. She followed up that Costa Rica Classic performance with a win in the first-ever WPT Ladies Night, which would remain the single highest-rated episode of the landmark poker series for several years.
Before her confrontation with her former sponsor, Gowen had spent 2008 building upon her early success with a string of notable wins. In July she won the $5,000 event at the Bellagio Cup IV for over $437,000 in prize money.
In September she followed that up with $120,000 from her third Poker After Dark win, putting her atop the list of that show’s winners along with Johnny Chan. Then in October she claimed the crown at the 2008 World Poker Open in Tunica for another $193,000. In all, those three wins netted her as much money as she had won in her entire career up to that point.
- Posted in News
November 16th, 2008
A Kentucky appeals court Friday granted a stay of the forfeiture order that would have affected 141 Internet domain names belonging to various gambling sites. The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) had requested the stay.
The move curtails a forfeiture hearing scheduled for Dec. 3, giving the appeals court time to consider the issues raised in iMEGA’s petition seeking the overturn of the original order.
“We’re glad that the Appeals Court recognized the need to prevent the immediate forfeiture of those domain names,” said Joe Brennan, Jr., chairman of iMEGA.
“The Commonwealth’s attorneys have tried from the very beginning to push this seizure action through at a breakneck pace, so that by the time any of the domain owners realized what was happening, they would have lost their rights to their domains,” added Brennan, referring to the fact the original complaint was filed under seal and the affected domain names were unaware that there had even been a seizure motion and hearing.
Panel of judges to assess petitions
The hearing on iMEGA’s petition is scheduled for Dec. 12 in front of the same three-judge appellate panel that granted the stay. At that hearing, the panel will first consider whether the lower court lacked jurisdiction to order the domain seizures and whether Secretary Brown lacked the authority to initiate the seizure action in the first place.
If jurisdiction was lacking, then the other issues become moot. However, if the lower court’s exercise of jurisdiction is found to be proper, then the appellate court will consider whether the lower court misapplied Kentucky’s specific “gambling devices” law in ordering the seizures and whether Kentucky’s actions violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
In a separate procedural ruling, the appellate panel agreed to combine iMEGA’s petition with a separate one filed against the forfeiture order by the IGC, an international online gambling trade group. Their petition echoes some of the arguments in the iMEGA petition, attacking the lower court’s jurisdiction over the domain names on the grounds that they are not located in Kentucky and are not “gambling devices.”
Two amicus briefs have been filed in support of the petitions to overturn the seizure order. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a one-million-plus-member poker advocacy group, filed a brief, focused primarily on the issue of the lower court’s failure to address, analyze and rule on the issue of poker being a game of skill that should be exempt from Kentucky’s antigambling legislation.
The PPA argued that the trial court judge had the responsibility to engage in fact finding on the issue of whether it was skill or chance that predominates in poker. Had he done so, they claim, the judge would have properly ruled that poker is not a game of chance and therefore should not be banned under Kentucky’s antigambling statute.
Free speech, civil liberties advocates chime in
The Commonwealth’s attempt to seize Internet domain names also drew the attention, and support, of various free speech organizations. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU) have joined in filing an amicus brief in support of IGC’s petition for an order vacating the seizure order.
In their amicus brief EFF, CDT and the ACLU argue that the lower court’s actions ordering seizure of the domain names violated the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.
The brief also argues that the lower court exceeded its jurisdiction in ordering seizure of domain names for registrars located outside of the state.
While the brief does not address the substantive issue of whether online gambling is legal in Kentucky, it focuses on the broader question of whether a state court judge can order Web site operators around the world to block access to their sites based on local law and then reach beyond the state’s borders to seize noncomplying Web sites.
“The court’s theory – that a state court can order the seizure of Internet domain names regardless of where the site was registered – is not only wrong but dangerous,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.
“If the mere ability to access a website gives every court on the planet the authority to seize a domain name if a site’s content is in some way inconsistent with local law, the laws of the most world’s most repressive regimes will effectively control cyberspace.”
Attorney General distancing himself?
In another development, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has asked to have his name removed from the domain name case. This confirms earlier speculation that the attorney Ggeneral, who had failed to comment on the domain name case, was distancing himself from the case.
The original seizure action was brought not by the attorney general, but by Secretary of Justice and Public Safety J. Michael Brown.
The issue of whether Secretary Brown, as opposed to the Attorney General, had standing to bring the original action was argued at the lower court, but Judge Wingate allowed the case to go forward as presented.
The case, while brought on behalf of Secretary Brown, is actually being handled by outside counsel working on a contingency fee basis.
In its writ petition to the Court of Appeals, iMEGA had added Attorney General Conway as a real party in interest as, according to Kentucky law, the attorney general must appear on behalf of Kentucky in all cases in the Court of Appeals in which the Commonwealth is involved.
There is cautious optimism following the issuance of the stay as the petitioners now look forward to having their day in court.
“Now, we hope to have a fair hearing regarding our petition, because we’re confident that Kentucky law is on our side, and that the lower court erred in ordering these seizures,” said iMEGA’s Brennan.
“The bottom line is that this move by Kentucky cannot be allowed to stand, because if it did, it would hand an ‘ultimate weapon’ to governments here and abroad to stifle Internet content that does not meet their approval.”
- Posted in News
November 14th, 2008
After a layoff of more than three weeks since Jason Mercier and Michael Martin claimed wins in London, the fifth season of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour resumes this weekend with the EPT Warsaw.
Casinos Poland in Warsaw is the venue for the EPT’s third visit to the historic Polish capital, a PLN 21,000 buy-in tournament scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. local time on Saturday afternoon.
The field is capped at 400 players this year, a number that’s likely to be reached given the growing popularity of the EPT in general and tournaments in Eastern Europe in particular. The field will be divided into two starting days.
The only Team PokerStars Pro to play on Day 1a will be Season 4 EPT Grand Final champion Gavin Griffin, who still ranks second all-time on the EPT leaderboard for cash winnings.
He will be joined by a number of PokerStars sponsored players, including Season 5 EPT Barcelona champ Sebastian Rutherberg and EPT hostess (and 2008 WSOP Main Event casher) Kara Scott.
The rest of the Team PokerStars Pros in attendance will be playing on Sunday during Day 1b. Their ranks include Poland’s native son Marcin Horecki and EPT superstar Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, as well as German pro Katja Thater. The first major final table on Thater’s poker resume came in Warsaw in 2007, a performance that saw her fall in fifth place.
The remaining players from each Day 1 will combine to play Day 2 on Monday, with the final table being set at the end of Day 3 on Tuesday. The final table will begin at 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday and continue play until a champion is crowned.
This weekend’s tournament marks the third time that Warsaw will play host to Europe’s poker masses. For a relatively new stop on the tour, EPT Warsaw has already seen its share of captivating poker.
It was Denmark’s Peter Jepsen who won the first ever EPT stop in Eastern Europe as Season 3 wrapped up in the Polish capital back in March 2007. The tournament that year was a last-minute replacement for a tournament in Deauville, France, that was canceled.
Jepsen made the trip to Warsaw and took home the equivalent of $415,679 for his win over a field of 284, capped by a heads-up win over Frenchman Farid Meraghni.
In March of this year, German stock trader Michael Schulze conquered a field of 384 players and took the equivalent of $926,220 for taking home Season 4′s EPT Warsaw title. Schulze went wire-to-wire despite some tough competition from Portugal’s Ricardo Sousa and Norway’s Trond Eidsvig, who made his third final table of the season.
- Posted in News
November 12th, 2008
The Heartland Poker Tour made a stop at the Meskwaki Casino in Tama, Iowa last weekend to lay down some poker action.
More than 750 poker players came out to participate in the qualifiers for the HPT stop, and 171 players ponied up the buy-in for the main event. The result was a $274,089 prize pool for the event.
It doesn’t take an economics student to realize that’s a pretty good deal for a player who makes the money, but it did take an economics student to win the main event this time around.
Jason Joerling, a student from Drake University, drove an hour north of campus to play in his first-ever No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker tournaments. What he lost in study time he made up for with an $82,227 win.
Joerling turned 21 just a few days before the HPT Meskwaki main event started. He’d gained some tournament experience playing online, but this tournament was his first foray into the live tournament realm.
“I started the final table as the slight chip leader, and I was thinking of nothing less than first place,” Joerling said after his win. “This is a really great way to start my live tournament career.”
The Iowa event was also filled with a few veteran players from the HPT circuit. Sitting at the final table with Joerling was Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman, who is a recent HPT champion.
Blake Bohn and Quan Le, two poker-playing buddies, also made the four-hour drive from Minneapolis together and found themselves at the final table.
In the end, the experienced players at the table fell victim to Joerling’s mission to win. It came down to Bohn versus Joerling, and Joerling’s A-2 defeated Bohn’s K-J for the win.
“I’m still planning on getting to my economy class tomorrow morning,” Joerling said. “As for the money, I’m going to be able to pay off my school and invest the rest.”
Joerling may have pocketed the biggest part of the prize for the day, but Belcore-Zogman’s sixth-place finish has moved her into the lead on the HPT Player of the Year leaderboard. There are only two events left in the 2008 season, which means Belcore-Zogman could become the first female Player of the Year for the HPT.
The HPT will make its next stop at the Running Aces Card Club near St. Paul, Minn. This is the HPT’s first stop at the Running Aces, and players will get their shot at the main event there this weekend. Then the HPT will move on to the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind., for the Championship Open.
- Posted in News