Monday, September 19, 2005

I Don't Envy Pokerstars One Little Bit...

The World Championship of Online Poker on Pokerstars was a stunning success. The huge fields and massive prize money left everyone staggered.

Then we came to the final event. A $2,500 buyin No Limit Championship event. First prize was the little matter of $859,000. Pokerstars could justifiably hope the champion could be plastered all over the internet and the media as an example of how to win nearly a million bucks in the comfort of your front room while just wearing your boxer shorts and scratching your balls.

But, for 'Stars disaster struck. The winner was a player called Panella86. His name is Jordan Berkowitz. And as this article proves Mr Berkowitz is only 18 or 19, ie according to American law, an underage gambler.

Now, whether or not he should be allowed to gamble is not the point. (The fact he is old enough to father a child, drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and die "for his country" in Iraq but not play $1-$2 limit hold in his local casino is pretty bloody ridiculous). The simple fact is that he not old enough to play poker.

I wouldn't like to be in the Pokerstars office today faced with the thorny issue of what to do about this case. Should they pay out Mr B and be accused of supporting under aged gambling? Or should they withhold the loot and be accused of cheating a player of nearly a million dollars?

Ladbrokes had a similar case about 15 years ago. A kid went into a betting shop and had a £5 tricast on the Derby. Nashwan to beat to 150-1 shots. It copped. Now, bookies don't accept tricasts on non handicaps and they tried to pay him out with the forecast. (About £5000 if I remember correctly instead of £250k if they had taken tricasts). They was a huge outcry and after a week or so, Laddies agreed to pay out a special dividend for their trifecta of about £100,000. The kid still wasn't happy and refused to accept it. Then Ladbrokes found out the punter was only 16 years old. They then just returned his stake money and threatened to take his parents to the police! Of course a million punters then worked out if they sent their 17 year old niece into the betting shop to put their bets on they couldn't lose! But that's another story....

But the principle is the same for Pokerstars. I guess they will pay out the money and quietly close the account of Mr Berkowitz. Still, I wouldn't like to be the member of staff who has to make the decision of what to do...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, which I may be, but isn't it illegal to gamble full stop (or should that be period) in 48 states in the U.S. So in fact Berkowitz is no more illegal than any other US player. When you try and create an account with PokerStars it asks you if you are over 18 which is presumably the law in Costa Rica (or wherever it is PokerStars is based), so to not pay him doesn't seem an option particularly as the account is in his mother's name apparently. However I do agree with you that PokerStars may not wish to be quite so proactive in getting his name into the public domain as they were with say Moneymaker for the reasons you say. In truth its has always been a bit of a mystery to me why the online sites are allowed to sponsor US TV shows, is the govt finally going soft on offshore gambling after all these years?

10:45 PM  
Blogger danmonkey said...

Pokerstars etc get around the prohibition on advertising gambling by using '.net' sites which are 'purely' educational (try or You can learn to play for free there... now where should I go to play for some real cash?

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a muppet he wrote his name in the chatbox, this is obviously some player as he finaled in the same event last year,
I don't see how they can't pay him, he could claim his mother was playing.

2:42 AM  
Blogger ukpoker said...

Rumour is that he asked for his share of the money to be transferred into another account.

As for him being underage I think the minimum age for play on Pokerstars is 18 not 21 as Pokerstars is based OUTSIDE the USA and therefore not subject to the USA age law!

4:24 AM  
Blogger Milkybarkid said...

I think he got the money last year when he was just 17 so he will get it again.

Agreed though, he's not the exact player they would have been hoping to win their flagship tournament.

4:34 AM  
Blogger The Camel said...

I seem to remember when I signed up for Pokerstars they asked something like "Are you 18 or old enough to gamble legally in the jurisdiction where you reside? Whichever is older."

I just looked on the site and can't find anything like that now.

Perhaps it was another online poker site.

4:59 AM  
Blogger SimonG. said...

..and to split hairs he isn't old enough to drink that bottle of jack daniels...

9:04 AM  
Blogger Nemesis said...

What was his alias in last year's main event?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous To ukpoker said...

Are you being paid to start threads on THM forum?

5:35 AM  
Anonymous henrik777 said...

Also there is a check box to confirm 18+ when you create a new account. Instead of logging in click create new account and you'll see it.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that a guy (ZappAA aka Brian Carney) had just been kicked out of the Paradise Million for being underage. Can't find any other info (how old he is, whether he'd made it all the way to the Caribbean before being disqualified, etc.)

There's nothing about it on Paradise's own site, they seem to have just expunged him from existence Soviet-style, in fact it was quite funny to read 'Here are the bios of our 10 finalists' followed by nine bios.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Welshman said...

Actually it's not illegal to gamble in the USA unless you are 21, it's only in a casino which sells booze. 18 years old is fine if the casino only sells soft drinks which in california applies to a few indian casinos.

9:29 AM  
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