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Preet loads the pistol, early troubles for Leo Fernandez and PokerStars pulls out of their IPO. Those events and more in our tour through This Week in Online Poker History for September 30th – October 6th.
For everyone who has ever claimed that Black Friday “came out of nowhere,” and that there was nothing we could have done since “nobody saw it coming,” I present you with the following story from 2009 that most certainly demonstrated what the DOJ and the poker world’s favorite US Attorney, Preet Bharara, were capable of, and was a harbinger for that fateful day of April 15, 2011.
As reported in the Washington Post, in 2009 US Attorney Preet Bharara seized some $30 million in online poker funds from US poker players. The funds in question were not in the accounts of these players but rather on their way from the sites to the players via online payment processors.
In the end players impacted by the seized funds were compensated by the poker sites, and new checks were sent to these players. But more importantly in the grand scheme of things, US players got their first taste of what was in store for them just a year and a half later.
On October 1, 2007 a player using the screen-name “TheV0id” won the biggest online poker tournament of the year, capturing the WCOOP Main Event title. “TheV0id” won over $1.2 million after making a heads-up deal with a player using the screen-name of “ka$ino” after the elimination of Vanessa Rousso in 3rd place. But those results would not hold as you will soon see below.
The WCOOP win was just the beginning of the saga, as questions were immediately raised about “TheV0id” and PokerStars’ internal investigation found some “irregularities” with her account. The $1.2 million in winnings was first withheld, and PokerStars eventually disqualified her, bumping every other finisher up one spot on the prize-ladder.
So what happened? The account supposedly belonged to a Natalie Teltscher, but in court Teltscher admitted she didn’t play on the “TheV0id” account during the WCOOP. After the admission she dropped the lawsuit, but never revealed who had in fact played on her account. It should be noted at this point that Natalie’s brother is poker pro Mark Teltscher, which is a really odd coincidence don’t you think?
After dropping the lawsuit PokerStars released the following statement on the matter:
“PokerStars are pleased to announce that Natalie Teltscher has recently withdrawn her claim in the Isle of Man Courts against PokerStars.
Furthermore, in discontinuing her claim, she has agreed to contribute a sum towards the legal costs incurred by PokerStars in this matter.
Ms Teltscher brought her claim against PokerStars because she was disqualified from first place of the 2007 WCOOP Main Event after PokerStars internal investigations demonstrated beyond doubt that she had not played on the account. On her disqualification all other players were moved one place higher in the prize table and the money confiscated from her account, TheV0id, was redistributed in full, according to the amended tournament placings.
Ms Teltscher initially claimed that she had played the account. However, when faced with the results from PokerStars’ investigation she eventually admitted she hadn’t played.
The decision of Ms Teltscher to withdraw her claim fully vindicates PokerStars’ decision to disqualify her from the tournament and subsequently defend the claim, actions which were taken in order to protect the integrity of the games on offer at PokerStars.”
Many in the poker community believe Natalie’s brother Mark was the perpetrator, but to this day nobody really knows for sure.
After the passage of UIGEA legislation by the United States Congress in 2006 the online poker world went through a period of upheaval, as poker sites needed to determine how they would proceed in the industry.
For PokerStars it meant the cancellation/delaying of their tentatively planned IPO in early 2007. In the end the IPO was shelved as PokerStars made the decision to continue to operate in the US market –which in hindsight seems to have worked out pretty well for them.
For other companies the passage of UIGEA was devastating, wiping roughly $6.5 billion off the books for these companies, as a FoxNews.com article at the time stated. In the same article Party Gaming CEO Mitch Garber stated: “This development is a significant setback for our company, our shareholders, our players and our industry,”