You can say you hate poker’s petty drama all you want, but numbers don’t lie. When something in the poker community sparks a heated debate, the clicks go up as people are eager to read all about the latest scandal and have their say.
Even here in 2020, a year fraught with incredibly real drama that affected millions of people around the world, the game of poker managed to have a few stories of its own which scratched that drama itch for the poker community. From temper tantrums to TOC’s, here are some of the stories that kept the conversation going in 2020.
Daniel Does Drama
When you are the biggest name in the game, you don’t need to court drama – drama comes to you. Then again, perhaps you do bring it on yourself when you threaten to knock out someone’s teeth and feed it back to them somewhere other than their mouth.
This is the defining moment of Daniel Negreanu‘s year. Negreanu, like all of the poker community, was looking to make the best of a bad situation by streaming some online poker for the fans from his Las Vegas home during the 2020 WSOP Online series. When someone in the chat said something regrettable to the six-time bracelet winner, ‘DNegs’ went supernova on them.
“Come f***ing step to me and say that and I will knock you the f**k out. How about that? I’m not f**king around. I will break your f**king teeth if you step to me and I will feed them to you anally. How about that?” Negreanu said (off the top of his head.)
Perhaps for any other regular streamer or player, this would blow over pretty quickly. But as one of the most recognizable faces in the game of poker, members of the poker community were quick to take sides. As the clip made the rounds on social media, those who hold a grudge against the GGPoker ambassador were quick to attack, while his defenders were in support of him being himself and defending his family.
In the end, Twitch banned Negreanu from the platform stating, “Acts of threats of violence will be taken seriously and are considered zero-tolerance violations.”
The Twitch ban turned out to be temporary, but the ripple effects from Negreanu’s rant will have a longer-lasting effect on poker. In the aftermath of this particular rant (Negreanu’s had a few this year, like this one, or this), Negreanu’s biggest rival of the past 10 years, Doug Polk, peaked his head back into poker.
Polk, who had recently entered poker retirement reemerged and used the rant to take a couple of shots at his old foe. It was just days later that Polk issued the high-stakes, heads-up challenge that, to the surprise of nearly everyone, Negreanu accepted.
Still very much underway, the challenge has turned into one of the most entertaining and engaging grudge matches in recent poker history. Fans are getting nearly everything that could have hoped for including massive six-figure swings, a regular playing schedule, and candid conversations after the sessions with both Negreanu and Polk.
Love him or hate him, Negreanu knows how to keep people talking about him. And when it comes to dealing and creating poker drama, perhaps no one in the game does it better.
Postle Seeks A Payday
The biggest story of 2019 continued to play out in the courts as the Mike Postle cheating scandal had its day in court. The lawsuit, which alleged that Postle cheated during the live-streamed cash games at Stones Gambling Hall was, essentially, dismissed by Judge William B. Shubb shuddering the prospects of the plaintiffs to find any real relief in the scandal that rocked 2019.
Rather than proceed with an appeal, based on the initial judgment, plaintiffs’ lawyer Mac VerStandig negotiated a settlement with Stones Gambling Hall and tournament director Justin Kuraitis. Sixty-two of the plaintiffs allegedly received a one-time joint payment of $40,000, which, if true, broke down to roughly $645 per player. In addition, those who accepted the deal were also restricted from talking about the settlement.
Read: Behind the Scenes of WIRED Magazine’s Mike Postle Scandal Deep Dive
Soon after, an emboldened Kuraitis took an ugly victory lap on Twitter, calling out nearly everyone who had believed him to be a potential conspirator with Postle.
I want to be clear that my statements towards poker twitter ARE NOT intended as an apology.
I don’t care what you think of me.
Your comments amuse me.
You guys inflated stats by six figures, cherry pick a few 100 hands out of 8,000 & cast conviction based on commentary 🤦♂️
— Justin Kuraitis (@JFKPokerTD) September 18, 2020
While Postle himself was excluded from anything having to do with the settlement, he tried to turn the tables. In the wake of the case being dismissed, Postle filed a $330 million defamation lawsuit against nearly a dozen defendants including Veronica Brill, Daniel Negreanu, and Joey Ingram.
As the year draws to a close, it looks like Postle’s lawsuit also nearing an end as it has been reported that his lawyers are seeking to be taken off the from the case after nearly all communication between their firm and Postle have ceased.
Matusow Opens His Mouth Again
When four-time gold bracelet winner Mike “The Mouth” Matusow entered Event #5 of the 2020 WSOP on WSOP.com he likely thought he was in for a long day of grinding. However, when he busted just two hands into the freezeout event, Matusow, who was streaming live on YouTube at the time, had a full-on on-air meltdown.
“This motherf**ker, ‘wolverine17’…I’m going to f**k him right in his f**king ass man, right in his f**king ass. Mark that name down, ‘wolverine17’,” Matusow said.
”I’ve got this guy’s name written down. I’m going to find out who he is. I’ll see him in person, I’ll f**king knock him the f**k out. Think I won’t? Watch,” he continued.”I am going to find out who this motherf**ker is and I swear to you I’m going to throw him up against the f**king wall and tell him, ‘you f**king ever slow roll me again, I’m going to beat your f**king ass.’”
Matusow then offered his fans in his chat some extra money if they could supply him the identity of ’wolverine17’. Someone in the chat supplied Matusow the player’s real name, Megan Milburn, who he promptly tweeted at and stating “do you enjoy acting like a fucking c*** by slowrolling people online where nobody can see you?”
Milburn took it all in stride, and even though there was some pressure put on the World Series of Poker to issue some kind of penalty, they opted not to as they determined a YouTube live stream was not under their purview.
Respect The TOCs
After a lengthy investigation from PokerStars, the 2018 World Championship of Online Poker Main Event champion ‘wann2play’ was removed as the winner, and the $1.35 million first-place prize he won was redistributed to the rest of the player pool.
Shortly after ‘wann2play’s victory suspicions arose about their play. PokerStars quickly froze the account to take a closer look and after a year and a half long investigation, it was announced in March that ‘wann2play’ violated their terms of service and was disqualified.
“Our players deserve a safe place to play online poker, said Rebecca McAdam, Associate Director, Group Public Relations for PokerStars. “That’s why we invest millions of dollars every year and have a large Game Integrity team working round the clock.”
Argentina’s ‘Eze88888’ was officially installed in the history books as the winner and had their earnings credited with the original first-place prize of $1.529 million.
GGPoker also clawed back some money that was earned by breaking the rules this year when German cash game pro Fedor Kruse was outed by his roommates as using Real-Time Assistance software in some of the online operator’s high-stakes cash games.
This led to GGPoker banning 40 different accounts and confiscating more than $1.175 million in funds that were reimbursed to the affected players.
“While there will always be deceitful individuals trying to cheat the game and steal from their fellow players, our Security Team continues to be on the cutting edge with regards to detection and protection and maintains a zero-tolerance policy to Real-Time Assistance.”
He Took It Like A Champ
When the World Series of Poker announced that the successor to Hossein Ensan as the WSOP World Champion would be crowned this December, many in the poker community were left asking – Um, but what about Stoyan Madanzhiev?
Just three months earlier, the 29-year old Madanzhiev battled through a field of 5,802 entrants to capture the $3.9 million first-place prize of the 2020 WSOP Online Main Event. An event that turned into a Guinness World Record-setting tournament.
— WSOP (@WSOP) September 6, 2020
Madanzhiev received a certificate and a special WSOP bracelet and, at least for a little bit, the perceived title of WSOP Main Event winner. And he was…kind of. He was the ONLINE Main Event winner and in the eyes of the WSOP itself, not the same banner-worthy achievement as the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, or Jerry Yang.
— Stoyan Madanzhiev (@Stoyan_Mad) November 14, 2020
While many advocated for Madanzhiev to be recognized as the 2020 Main Event champion, the plan to crown a more official Main Event champion moved forward and Madanzhiev was left to be called A Main Event champion rather than THE Main Event Champion.