Poker and B of A Don’t Mix ; Tennis Match Fixing Probed
Who’s the Greater Financial Risk — Daniel Negreanu or Bank of America?
by Nolan Dalla
Bank of America, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, has terminated all of Daniel Negreanu’s personal accounts.
What would cause a gigantic bank to refuse the business of someone who’s proven to be immensely successful in his chosen profession and poses virtually no financial risk?
Because — Negreanu plays too much poker.
As reported last week by PocketFives.com (“Bank of America Closes All of Daniel Negreanu’s Bank Accounts“), Negreanu is one of a significantly larger number of full-time poker players and industry professionals who have experienced similar snubs from banks. Because Negreanu just so happens to be one of the wealthiest, and most publicly visible media personalities, his indignity is the most baffling.
Other poker pros too, including Doug Polk, not only had their bank accounts frozen recently. Their funds were inexplicably tied up for extended periods of time while their financial institutions (in Polk’s case — Chase Bank) piddled around and played the poker is “too risky” card as an excuse to cut off established ties.
Banks — what a bunch of hypocrites.
Mind you, Bank of America and other huge financial cabals within “Too Big to Fail” monopoly are the same shylocks squeezing college students and graduates by the millions, leveraging hundreds of billions in crushing student debt. They’re the street corner loansharks who rip-off consumers with whopping 29 percent interest rates on credit cards and impose hidden banking fees that no one can keep straight. They’re the racketeers who have essentially bribed members of Congress and de-fanged federal regulatory agencies. Yet, these are the same banks that once cupped their hands together and begged for tens of billions in bailouts from American taxpayers between 2008-2011, due purely to their own greed and mismanagement, which nearly triggered a worldwide depression. Now, with bloodstains on its balance sheets, BofA has cut off one of the most successful (not to mention famous) poker players in the history of the game.
Oh, the irony.
Just when I didn’t think it was possible to have more disgust towards the American banking industry, they’ve sunk to even lower lows. Indeed, for poker players this has now become personal. Here’s why Negreanu’s situation matters and why you should care. It’s time to fight back.
If you’ve been involved in poker for any length of time, you’ve probably been screwed over by a bank, perhaps numerous times (like I have). Perhaps the teller or the banking official looked at you like you’re a drug dealer when you’ve tried to conduct your normal business. Maybe the bank flagged your accounts and placed extended holds on checks deposited from casinos. Or, your bank delayed critical financial transactions inhibiting your ability to wire money somewhere or enter a tournament. Then, maybe its the subtlety of being treated like a second-class citizen based on what you do for a living. Fact is — these are the all too-common hazards of the poker trade almost every player faces. It’s a level of scrutiny which most certainly never gets applied to other occupations. Even here in Las Vegas, which should be well accustomed to the unique culture of gambling (there are most certainly hundreds if not a few thousand professional gamblers living in this city), I’ve encountered numerous awkward situations which caused me considerable hardship, entirely because the transactions were poker (or gambling) related. I could tell you stories that you wouldn’t believe.
When big banks start screwing over the Daniel Negreanu’s of the world, what does that mean for the rest of us — including the many hundreds, or perhaps thousands of other poker players out there who don’t get publicity? We never hear those stories. Like Negreanu, many among us have had our credit and debit cards canceled. We’ve been turned down for mortgages and car loans, despite demonstrating consistent earning power for years and paying taxes. We’ve had sizable check deposits put on hold unnecessarily for ridiculously long periods of time. However, since they’re not famous like Negreanu, no one pays much attention.
We all like to think poker’s come such a long way since the bad old days of smoky backrooms and disreputable characters. But let’s wake up to stark reality, perhaps most glaring in the way we’re often treated by financial service companies. Have we really escaped our undeserved reputation? Not really. BofA’s decision to openly insult one of the game’s verifiable superstars speaks volumes about how much further we all have to go until we’re afforded the same rights and courtesy as professionals which frankly, do not merit an equal level of reverence. Let’s look at some other professions, for comparison sake.
Here and now, I could give you a lengthy list of professional athletes who have declared bankruptcy — leaving banks holding the bag (passed on to consumers, no doubt). These are clear cases where banks, among other financial institutions failed miserably. And so, I will:
Kenny Anderson, Wally Backman, Charlie Batch, Bruse Berenyi, Riddick Bowe, Randy Brown, Mark Brunell, Bill Bucker, Jason Caffey, Dale Carter, Jack Clark, Raymond Clayborn, Derrick Coleman, Dermontti Dawson, Jim Dooley, Lenny Dykstra, Luther Elliss, Eddie Edwards, Chris Eubank, Rollie Fingers, Archie Griffin, Ray Guy, Tony Gwynn, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Harrison, Steve Howe, Harmon Killebrew, Bernie Kosar, Terry Long, Rick Mahorn, Harvey Martin, Deuce McAllister, Darren McCarthy, Denny McLain, Craig Morton, Greg Nettles, Jonny Neumann, Gaylord Perry, John Arne Riise, Andre Rison, Rumeal Robinson, Manny Sanguillen, Warren Sapp, Billy Sims, Leon Spinks, Sheryl Swoopes, Roscoe Tanner, Lawrence Taylor, Duane Thomas, Bryan Trottier, Mike Tyson, Johnny Unitas, Michael Vick, Antoine Walker, Danny White, Ray Williams, and Rick Wise. [Note: This list is incomplete — there are many more]
I could also give you a list of well-known celebrities who have declared personal bankruptcy — leaving banks holding much of the debt (losses also passed on to consumers).
There’s even at least one major presidential candidate running who has defaulted on his his loans and screwed his creditors, including banks, not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR TIMES, not counting his other foolish investments that all went bust. His name is Donald Trump, and he’s leading the Republican field of candidates in the polls right now. Something tells me the brain trust at BofA won’t be pulling the plug on Trump’s bank accounts anytime soon. They won’t be closing down the accounts of star athletes or celebrities, either. Nope — it’s gamblers they’re worried about.
What a crock of shit.
Come to think of it, relatively few poker players I know have declared bankruptcy (and I know a great many). Oh, I’m sure there are some who have taken that route. But unlike the pro athletes and famous celebrities, no significant poker pro has been scrutinized widely for his or her financial failings. Deadbeats are one thing. Defaulting on mortgages and declaring bankruptcy is quite another. In fact, I’m even willing to bet the level of bankruptcies (defaults, foreclosures, etc.) for professional poker players is lower than the national average. It’s certainly lower than other high-profile professions (with guaranteed contracts), including athletes and celebrities. The reason for this is simple. Poker players have to manage their money and expenses responsibly. Otherwise, they’re out of business. Sure, some poker players struggle financially, and quite a few even end up broke. But they pose considerably less risk than most other professions to financial institutions, maybe even less risk than the banks themselves.
Hmm, I wonder if the CEO of BofA made “$6,426.74 an hour” over the past three years, as Negreanu has managed to achieve? Perhaps he has, with Wall Street’s shameless bonuses and scandalous compensation packages. That said, the figures quoted by Negreanu above apply only to his tournament earnings. We can presume he enjoys a significantly higher income with his lucrative sponsorship and endorsement deals. Put another way, I’d rather have Negreanu’s income over the next decade than many overpaid CEO’s who are one stock plunge and board vote away from being kicked in the ass right out the door.
Speaking of risks, BofA may be the riskiest investment of all given how poorly they’ve managed their affairs during the last decade. Here, check out just a few of the misdeeds:
“Bank of America: Too Big to Follow the Law”
“NY AG Cuomo Hits Ken Lewis, Bank of America with Fraud Charges”
“BofA Bonuses: Bank Pays Millions, Despite Bailout”
“Bank of America to Get Millions More in Bailout Funds from Treasury”
“Bank of America Needs More Money: Analyst”
“The Greatest Swindle Ever Sold”
At least Bank of America managed to win one prize that’s noteworthy. They were ranked DEAD LAST in customer service in a recent study. The scored near the bottom of the “worst customer service” rankings for the seventh consecutive year. See: “Customer Service Hall of Shame.” At least they’re consistently awful.
I could go on and on about this blatant hypocrisy by the banks. Fact is, Bank of America has demonstrated a long pattern of disgraceful deeds. Financial institutions have exhibited a lengthy habit of unfair treatment towards poker players and other forms of gambling. They’ve also insulted not just Daniel Negreanu, but all poker players by cutting off one of gambling’s biggest successes. Bank of America doesn’t merit our business. They deserve our disdain.
Bank of America — 1
Daniel Negreanu — 0
If and when, the time eventually comes when Bank of America asks for another big bailout (and it will probably happen), I have a few choice words not only for them, but for all the banks.
Fuck off. Given your past dirty deeds, you’re not worth the credit risk.
Note: Photo of Daniel Negreanu courtesy of NorwayGamingHill.com
Postscript: My position is that the big banks should be broken up as trusts and should not permitted to engage in riskier forms of financial speculation. At the very least, previous Glass-Steagall regulations should be reinstated which would return banks to the constructive role they once played in the economy.
Tennis authorities ignore evidence of top-ranked players fixing matches, report says play
ESPN.com news services
For years, tennis authorities have had evidence of widespread match fixing at major tournaments but have done little about the allegations and have allowed top-ranked players believed to be involved to continue playing without any sanctions. Those are the findings of an investigation by BuzzFeed News and the BBC that was released Sunday as play began at the Australian Open, the season’s first major.
Tennis authorities were first warned after a 2008 investigation into the sport found evidence of suspected match fixing at major tournaments including Wimbledon. The match fixing was allegedly orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy and involved prominent players. Since then, according to the report, authorities have been repeatedly warned about a core group of 16 players, all of whom have been ranked in the top 50. None of the players has faced sanctions, and more than half of those named will play in this year’s Australian Open.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” Chris Kermode, the executive chairman and president of the ATP said Sunday night.
“And while the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information, and we always do,” Kermode said. “In its investigations, the Tennis Integrity Unit has to find evidence, as opposed to information, suspicion or hearsay. This is the key here — that it requires evidence.”
A report that has revisited allegations of match fixing has cast a shadow on the tennis world. AP Photo/David Vincent
The report does not name the players whose matches have been tagged for attracting suspicious betting because a direct link between the players and gamblers isn’t proven. But according to the report, the players suspected include a US Open champion and doubles winners at Wimbledon, who have repeatedly been reported for losing matches when highly suspicious bets were placed against them. Also on the list is a top-50 player competing in the Australian Open who has been suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set.
Kermode said Sunday during ESPN’s first-round coverage of the Australian Open that he did not expect the report to name names “unless they’ve got really hard-core evidence. If they have, that would be shocking. I don’t believe that will be the case.
“There might be lots more information, but information is not evidence,” he said. “It helps to build a case, but it doesn’t determine that someone could be prosecuted.”
The players were targeted in hotel rooms at major tournaments and offered $50,000 or more per fix, according to the report. Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy, meanwhile, made thousands of dollars placing what the report characterizes as “highly suspicious bets” on scores of matches, including some at Wimbledon and the French Open.
When asked about the report, Serena Williams said she had never seen any indications of match fixing.
“When I’m playing, I can only answer for me. I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard. I think that … as an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great but, you know, historic,” Williams said after winning her opening match at the Australian Open. “You know, if that’s going on, I don’t know about it. … I’m kind of, sometimes, in a little bit of a bubble.”
The investigation was based on a cache of leaked documents from the 2008 probe — the so-called Fixing Files — and current analysis of betting activity on 26,000 matches, plus interviews with gambling and match-fixing experts, tennis officials and players.
“They could have got rid of a network of players that would have almost completely cleared the sport up,” Mark Philips, one of the investigators, told Buzzfeed and the BBC. “We gave them everything tied up with a nice, pink bow on top, and they took no action at all.”
In addition to the leaked files from the 2008 probe, BuzzFeed used an algorithm to analyze gambling on tennis matches over the past seven years. That analysis identified 15 players who regularly attracted lopsided betting that shifted the odds, which is considered a warning of possible match fixing. Four of those players lost almost all of the matches that were flagged. Given the original odds on those matches, the chance the players would play so poorly was less than one in 1,000.
“We have heard this quite a bit, that there are certain allegations and information about various players, and they can be sometimes seen to be a consistent, a consistent group,” Kermode said when asked about there being a core group of players involved in the alleged match fixing. “But … it’s about obtaining evidence. You can have … lots of information, lots of anecdotal reports, but it’s about getting evidence that we can use. So anything that is reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit is acted upon and is investigated, and that’s, again, a very important sort of message to get across. This doesn’t just sort of filter out somewhere. It is acted upon.”
Over the past decade, more than 70 players, whose names have shown up on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers, have been flagged by tennis authorities but never sanctioned. Since its inception, the Tennis Integrity United, set up to monitor fair play after the 2008 investigation, has disciplined 13 low-ranking male players and banned five players for fixing.
Nigel Willerton, who leads the unit, told Buzzfeed and the BBC that tennis takes “a zero-tolerance approach to all aspects of betting-related corruption” and said all information received by the group is “analyzed, assessed and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators.” However, Willerton also said prosecuting corruption cases is “notoriously difficult.”
The leaked files from the 2008 probe revealed that investigators implicated 28 players in suspected fixing and urged authorities to look into some kind of disciplinary measures. Willerton said authorities took no action, and the evidence was shelved because lawyers said an integrity code introduced after the investigation could not be enforced retroactively. “As a result, no new investigations into any of the players who were mentioned in the 2008 report were opened,” Willerton said.
“In 2008, all the tennis governing bodies got together to form a Tennis Integrity Unit that’s sole job is to monitor and prosecute people who enter into this type of business,” Kermode told ESPN.
Match fixing was outlawed in versions of the rules before the 2008 probe, and even after the new code took effect, authorities were warned that at least nine players who escaped earlier probes continued to play in suspicious matches, the report said.
The investigation in 2008 was triggered by a match between Nikolay Davydenko, a No. 4-ranked Russian player, and Argentinian player Martin Vassallo Arguello, which ESPN’s Outside The Lines detailed. The match attracted millions in bets from an account in Moscow. At the end of the probe, investigators said they found no evidence of any rule-breaking by either player, but files did show that Vassallo Arguello exchanged 82 text messages with the suspected head of an Italian gambling syndicate.
The Italian and Russian gambling syndicates and a third in Sicily were found to have placed bets on 72 matches involving 28 players, which were flagged to authorities.
Just weeks after the evidence was turned over to tennis’ governing bodies, Bill Babcock, then head of the International Tennis Federation’s Grand Slam committee, said tennis was “healthy” and there was no corruption inside the sport. But the investigation shows that allegations of widespread corruption continue to flood into tennis authorities.
Ben Gunn, the former police chief who led the review that recommended the establishment of the integrity unit, said tennis authorities missed a “perfect opportunity” to clean up the sport. “What they did is a plastic solution, which was not effective then, and it’s not effective now,” he said.
Richard Ings, former executive vice president for rules and competition at the Association of Tennis Professionals, the sport’s governing body, said match fixing is “a regular thing” in the sport. He called the integrity unit’s response to the problem “very disappointing.”
Kermode defended the TIU and told ESPN, “We’ve invested over $14 million into this program, and they’ve had 18 convictions with six life bans, so when we do hit them, we hit them hard.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.