By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
April 14, 2014

Minutes ago, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported at its website its final order arising from its investigation of the Borgata counterfeit chip debacle in January of this year. Last Friday  PPN provided an overview of the outcome of the order which was in place then and has been disclosed to the public, today. To summarize: counterfeit chips were introduced into the BorgataWinter Open tournament’s first event. The DGE canceled the event upon determining it had been compromised and has scrutinized the entire matter coming up with the terse order that can be seen here:

The Borgata has issued a statement that fleshes out the order, providing details concerning disbursement of monies. It clarifies that players who did not cash, but may have been affected by the introduction of counterfeit chips will be refunded their relevant buy-ins; players who did not cash and were never exposed to the introduction of the counterfeit chips will not receive any refunds, whatsoever. Players who were awarded prize monies but didn’t pick up their pay will also get their monies. The full Borgata statement can be seen here:

Borgata Senior VP, Joe Lupo, is quoted as explaining that the Company is distributing all of the unpaid prize pool money and also voluntarily disbursing to players the revenues earned from buy-in fees. While the DGE order includes the latter, a reading of the order confirms that the revenues earned by Borgata  that were included in the disbursements came about from consultation with Borgata and not from an independent order on the part of the DGE.

Predictions:This means some 2100+ of the 2800+ players (for the 4800+ buy-ins)  in the tournament will probably be pretty happy, presumably as will those who cashed down through 28th place who have been or will be paid per the advertised allocation of prize monies. They all earned their awards prior to a determination of a compromised tournament.   Additionally, those in the second and third tier of the top 27, will probably find the payout livable as the disbursement is equal or greater than  the original allocation for those spots. As to the top nine, sparks are sure to fly, but as to whether it will be sound and fury signifying nothing or a colossal headache for DGE and Borgata remains to be seen.

It should be noted  DGE’s delay in getting out its report after it allowed many people to learn that it had been completed resulted in massive leakage, and significant misinformation that circulated for days. This state of affairs did not help to soothe ruffled feathers of those who are unhappy.

Last Friday all eyes were on the DGE after the regulators sent up white smoke signals that resulted in alerting executives at multiple casinos of an imminent decision. By late afternoon the smoke turned gray—without explanation. No announcement materialized until today. DGE’s further delay was almost inevitable, given its history in this matter; over the past weeks there have been several false alarms of an imminent announcement sounded by DGE to many parties with close ties to the regulators.

No matter how well reasoned by DGE, the last bit of delay left Borgata personnel with their hands full – not only with new procedures but also with an onslaughtof queries by frustrated tournament players – the entire weekend.

Was the DGE miffed by news of their deliberations leaking out to the public (against their preference) slightly before they were to take the stage?

Did the DGE deliberately encourage the leak so as to the take the temperature in the tournament room at the Borgata before coming forward publicly with their pronouncements?

Or did they just bungle their own planned timetable by missing critical details that had to be put in place in their report?

These were the questions buzzing around the Borgata this past weekend as players became increasingly impatient over their inability to get clear cut answers.

To their credit, the DGE’s deliberations have reportedly included painstaking review of Borgata surveillance tapes and administrative documentation as well as broader investigation by crackerjack sleuths. Extensive research of other tournaments including the actual outcomes for players in the top 27 places has also been said to have been part of the process in considering the most appropriate resolution.

“The result of DGE and Borgata’s laborious effort to piece together as many relevant facts as possible has been a carefully considered resolution—regardless of whether or not one agrees with the DGE’s conclusions,” insists one  knowledgeable New Jersey admitted lawyer who has served  as a judge. Another lawyer, an AMLAW 100 litigator who had more than in inkling of the deliberations adds, “The results reflect an amazing amount of research which is why the matter has taken so long to consider.” He believes the decision takes into account relevant law, common sense and real practicalities in a very difficult situation.”

Based on conversations heard at the Borgata, this past weekend, it would seem likely that the decision  will guarantee a very long, loud debate among poker pros and tournament directors across the country.

Come back to PPN for commentary, analysis and plenty on the back story in the coming days.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
April 11, 2014

After nearly 3 months of silence, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is poised to announce its decisions regarding distribution of the remaining prize pool that has been left in limbo following the cancelation of Event #1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open last January.

Shortly before day 3 was to commence, the DGE suspended the event, ultimately canceling it altogether due to the introduction of counterfeit chips into the tournament.

The remaining unpaid prize pool was put into a trust pending the outcome of the DGE investigation of the matter. According to lawyers surrounding the DGE and others familiar with the DGE’s recent deliberations, the investigation has concluded. All that seems left is public disclosure of its report and related rulings.

All eyes are on the DGE as the first weekend of the Borgata Spring Open gets under way. Changes in tournament procedures are obvious, with far more personnel engaged in the coordination and supervision of the proceedings then ever before. And, bagging and tagging of chips at the end of play each day is taking considerably longer. It is apparently Borgata’s obligation to verify each players chip count. Previously, Borgata allowed independent chip counts annotated by players.

The DGE’s findings result in other specific procedural changes, as well, reportedly being implemented as part of a studious effort to enhance the security of poker tournaments in all of the casinos they regulate in New Jersey, according to casino executives in multiple AC poker rooms. The Borgata has also invested in high tech superior quality chips for tournaments; would be cheaters beware!

Meanwhile, poker professionals had best to brace themselves for a stunning decision with respect to allocations of the unpaid prize pool monies payable by the Borgata under the DGE’s orders.And, those champing at the bit for a decision by DGE that calls out Borgata as negligent or liable to return monies to players outside the unpaid prize pool would be well advised to think again before making a bet on it.

The regulators are expected to take into account thoughtful advice from the various lawyers on hand as to how best reduce their risk in the inevitable event of lawsuits that will test their reasoning from available facts.

It is certain that the DGE will favor players who could have been affected by the introduction of counterfeit chips over players who were not ever subjected to the contaminated chips, says one state official on condition of anonymity.

In addition, the top 27 players, many of whom have anticipated a pro rata chip chop of the undistributed prize pool allocated to those spots, will probably engage in much debate about the actual outcome, especially for those well above the middle of the pack, suggests another insider in the halls of government.

One prominent lawyer knowledgeable about the DGE’s “concerns” about fairness, points out that any player who benefited from the counterfeit chips was as much an issue to grapple with as those who played and could have lost their stack because of this.

So, don’t be surprised if the DGE knocks your socks off while striving to make its most cogent legally defensible case for a fair and equitable resolution to the Borgata counterfeit chip caper fiasco.

Look for more information and analysis here at Poker Player Newspaper following public announcements by the DGE and Borgata.

Author’s note: This post has been dictated but not read by WHE.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
March 31, 2014

New York State has come to the party later than most, but this year it has its eye on gambling like never before. The necessary referendum to legalize commercial brick and mortar casino gaming passed more than a year ago; a Commission to oversee the issuance of a limited number of casino licenses is in place. And now we have a “poker only” bill floating through the New York State Senate.

NY Senate Bill S6913— Poker Only!

Last week, S6913a bill to provide for licensed intrastate online poker was introduced by Senator John Bonacic (R) Chairman of the NY Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. The bill has been referred to his committee. New York has toyed with the notion of legalizing traditional commercial casinos for decades.

Cuomo Makes Progress on Gaming Issues

But until Governor Andrew Cuomo came into office, the State’s philosophy on gaming  was more parochial than contemporary. A strict penal code not only makes promotion of gambling illegal; it also makes poker a gambling activity per se — which means that the notion of any distinction as a skill game is all but lost in the state law.

The current administration has been moving toward support of licensed online poker in parallel with support for licensed casinos. Except for the bad actor clause that made its way into the text of the current legislative bill (introduced last week), the proposed legislation has PokerStars written all over it.

Poker Distinguishes Itself as a Skill Game

The online poker bill has taken a page from the PokerStars playbook, casting poker as a game in which the predominance of skill significantly overshadows the element of chance. The bill references a federal decision by Judge Jack Weinstein who comments on erudite poker studies (many of which were commissioned or supported by the Scheinberg entourage that controls the Poker Stars family of companies). And, studies far beyond those associated with Stars’ efforts for its own apparent legal reasons, make the case for poker as a skill game, convincingly.

PokerStars Plots its Course Stateside

“If supporters of PokerStars’ entry into the American market had their way, New York would be a key part of their business plan,” say lawyers familiar with Stars’ commitment to expanding their brand stateside.

Over the past several months, there has been plenty of noise about Stars’ push for New Jersey and its courtship of California, but in the background, Stars has kept its eyes trained on New York State. The Empire State has an enticing population of poker playing enthusiasts, and the Company is said to have the will and the wherewithal to take a long term view toward its online presence in America.

With millions of dollars seemingly available to spend on lawyers and lobbyists who have the ears of legislative powerhouses and governors around the country, Stars is known to be “on the prowl” across America.

Lawyers and lobbyists with strong links to the Cuomo administration have been well aware of Stars’ expansionist state of mind! They could not help but see a potential match between the very experienced and financially successful online poker behemoth, and the Governor’s goals to create jobs and new sources for state tax revenue.

One AmLaw 100 lawyer says, “PokerStars, for its part, could not find a better or more ironic partner than the State of New York.” The growth potential for the Company (on the east coast of America) is a sure-fire winner, says one investment banker. He suggests New York would be the ultimate home run.

And what better poetic justice than to be licensed in New York, the state selected by the United States Department of Justice for its bull horned prosecution of online poker. Isai Scheinberg, the founder of Poker Stars, was among those indicted in the famous Black Friday cases that shut down the biggest online poker sites on this side of the pond.

A successful bid by Stars to set up stakes in the Empire State would not only be a win for PokerStars and American-based poker players. It would also be a spectacular win for Cuomo. The anticipated boost in additional state tax revenue from such a successful company is as compelling as the creation of new jobs.

An Historically Bumpy Road

All of this said, the historical reticence toward gambling in New York State assures a rocky road on the way to bringing online poker forward. For starters, the Senate bill has no companion bill in the Assembly. PokerStars’ efforts to set up shop will by no means be a walk in the park.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration has distinguished itself from others in past decades by moving forward decisively to legalize commercial gaming, but it was no easy task. Neither the Governor’s father, former Governor Mario Cuomo (a traditional Democrat) nor his father’s successor, George Pataki (a seesawing conservative Republican) ever applied any gusto toward the legalization effort. The religious right was opposed and powerful in the State. New York long observed Blue laws, but does no more. Sunday was celebrated as a Sabbath; churches invited attendance with open arms and department stores shuttered doors, respecting the day of rest.

Mario Cuomo allowed recurrent efforts to legalize gambling to wither on the vine. Governor Pataki flirted briefly with support for gambling (as a means to obtain badly needed revenues to balance the budget). But upstate conservatives showed their displeasure. Pataki revised his course, adopting the ostrich pose, thus insuring a respectable distance from the increasingly controversial issue. Years later Pataki circled back to gambling at a cocktail party regaling friends with stories of one of his sons’ online poker exploits.

More recently, however, Pataki has hooked up with billionaire Sheldon Adelson in a clear bid to ban online gambling. Pataki is co-chair of a coalition intent on restoring the Kennedy era federal Wire Act so as to clearly prohibit online gambling – particularly including online poker.

In an MSNBC interview, he created sizzle in the steak, by expressing fears of terrorists finding gambling sites to be an easy place to move money to serve their evil purposes. It is a good bet that Adelson and Pataki will speak out about state legislative bills that are designed to pursue online poker.

Progress is in the Works!

Adelson talks about spending whatever is necessary to banish online gambling on American shores, as if it is a crime for an adult to play poker in pajamas from a computer in one’s home. But at this juncture, New York State appears to have a more open mind.

New York has legalized full casino facilities in the state, allowing for four licenses to be issued for commercial brick and mortar properties. New York City and its suburban regions are excluded as venues for such operations, for the first seven years.

The current internet poker bill allows for 10 licensed online poker companies to offer their gambling fare to adult citizens throughout the entire state. Under this scenario, the access to online poker would be far broader than land-based options in the state – as there is no embargo on the New York metropolitan area.

Thorns in PokerStars’ Side

PokerStars’ prospects for coming into New York State are iffier than those of active licensed gaming companies by its reputation (among many competitors and law enforcement agencies in America) as the black sheep of the casino industry.

Several gaming law experts around the country concur that PokerStars is not yet close to gaining approval to operate here. The first iteration of the current online poker bill thumbs its nose at the online (mostly) poker company. The legislation proposed effectively ostracizes any person or company that accepted wagers after the end of the year 2006, the year the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed. Apparently, this provision was directed squarely at the online behemoth.

Poker Stars Perseveres; the Company Could Win Big in NY

Still, pundits around New York’s Capitol continue to buzz about the colossal benefits that await the state as it considers legalization of online poker. In the world of online gaming, where bizarre twists and turns are routine, PokerStars may have reason to expect to prevail – as a competitor at the top of the Empire State… eventually.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
February 25, 2014

It has been one full month since the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) ordered the Borgata Casino to cancel the opening event of its annual Winter Poker Open, but New Jersey regulators have yet to reach a conclusion to their investigation of bogus chips that were introduced into the competition. The extended delay has led to escalating agitation among players according to Bruce Licausi, attorney for Jeffrey Musterel, plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last Friday against the Borgata.

Musterel is a recreational poker player from Egg Harbor Township, near Atlantic City. He is among the 4000+ players who participated in the tournament, but failed to cash in the tainted competition. The primary thrust of the legal papers is that the Borgata failed in its obligations to adequately protect the playing field.

Who’s on First?

None of the final 27 players (all of whom were “in the money”), have been paid any portion of the allocated prize pool. Borgata officials have met with these players and have assured them of Borgata’s plans that they are treated fairly.

Almost all of the players “in the money” down to 27th place — the point at which the tournament was aborted – received their share of prize monies before the tournament was cancelled. By all accounts from players in this group, they have no gripes. Several lawyers consulted for this article say paid players have no worries as to their rights to keep the monies they have received.

A few players who reached the money did not pick up their winnings in a timely manner — notably including 28th place finisher, Men (“the Master”) Nguyen. They are expected to receive their monies as soon as the frozen monies are released for distribution, according to tournament officials.

The rest of the Winter Open tournament series were permitted to go forward, once all of the chips were examined and found to be bona fide tournament currency. There were record breaking fields for many of the remaining events. The WPT Borgata Open Championship was the 2nd largest field in the Tour’s history.

The big question about the compromised event, these days, focuses on the 4000+ participants who did not cash in the event. Their fate as to possible refunds of buy-ins, buy-in fees, and incidental expenses has thus far been left in limbo by both DGE and the Borgata. The casino says it is precluded from responding to questions regarding money matters during the DGE’s active investigation and deliberations on the casino’s obligations.

From Tournament Cancellation to Player Lawsuit

At the time the tournament was cancelled, an estimated 1.4 million dollars in unpaid prize monies was frozen and placed in a trust on orders of the DGE, pending its further resolution. According to Licausi and several players the DGE’s unexplained and continuing delay, in reaching an ultimate resolution on the Borgata’s obligations, has amplified player outrage.

The complaint alleges that players were entitled to a properly protected tournament environment. Legal pundits raise questions as to whether bettors have the right to remedies as pleaded in Licausi’s papers, indicating such assertions could become hotly contested.

The case, if won (by the plaintiff or as a class action suit), would be unprecedented, say several lawyers who specialize in the gaming industry in different parts of the country. Licausi is not deterred in his pursuit of making things right for his client. He insists, he seeks justice for all players affected by “Chipgate.”

The Lawsuit: Musterel v. Marina District Finance Co. Inc.

The lawsuit notably accuses the Borgata of negligence and fraud, asserting among other forms of relief, that players have rights to full refunds of their buy-ins, fees, and related travel and lodging disbursements.

The suit claims at its core that the “integrity of the event was compromised.” On this point there seems to be no dispute between the parties. A key issue to be resolved, however, is that of liability on the part of the Borgata.

The complaint also alleges a panoply of other legal infractions. Licausi ticks off a list of them: violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, breach of implied good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, and equitable estoppel.

Additionally, as is customary in these types of cases, the suit also seeks compensatory damages, treble damages and attorney fees.

The action was filed in New Jersey State Court (rather than federal court where class actions are generally taken). Licausi believes the case should reside in Atlantic County. He seeks to obtain certification of a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Borgata patrons who bought into the “Big Stack No-Limit Hold’em” two million dollar guaranteed competition. Licausi notes, “My practice is not just about money; I like intellectually challenging cases, and matters with social value.”

Licausi, “Renaissance Lawyer”

Licausi is from Raritan New Jersey. He has more than 30 years of legal practice under his belt. At he is listed as a personal injury lawyer with a practice that promises “no fee unless we settle your case.”

A class action suit (which is his intention in this case), typically operates under this protocol for payment of lawyers’ fees. (Clients are sometimes surprised to learn of substantial expenses for which they have responsibility during or at the end of the case.)

According to, Licausi’s “peer rating” is “BV Distinguished” 4.4/5.0. “(The highest rating is “AV Pre-eminent which reflects a score of 4.5/5.0 Licausi lists himself as experienced in commercial and corporate law matters as well as litigation. He does not provide an individual or professional website to describe his practice.

The Musterel v. Marina District Finance Co. Inc. (Borgata) case would surely put his name on the map in the gaming industry if he scores significant points in his pleadings. A victory could tilt licensed public casinos on their collective head.

Licausi-Peach Team

Licausi is working on this case with Randall J. Peach of Bridgewater, New Jersey. Peach is also a seasoned solo practitioner. He earned his JD degree from Seton Hall University where he was elected to Law Review. After working for others for approximately a decade, he founded the Law Offices of Randall J. Peach in 2005. His practice involves business law and litigation with additional expertise in family law/individual rights.

The two lawyers have paired up previously. In a notable child pornography case last year, New Jersey v. Blaine F. Scoles (which landed up in the New Jersey State Supreme Court), the Licausi/Peach team appealed a trial court decision that had allowed prosecutors to limit their access to certain evidence. The prodigious duo succeeded in convincing the high court to vacate a protective order that hindered the defense. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.


Musterel’s lawsuit has a docket number, but it is quite a trek to retrieve the complaint through the New Jersey Court System’s public access website. Licausi discussed the complaint in an hour long interview. He has provided PPN with a copy for further review. Additional analysis will be provided online later this week.

According to Licausi the casino “knew their security and preventative measures to be inadequate to detect, let alone prevent, even an unsophisticated attempt by a player to compromise the event by introducing substantial numbers of counterfeit chips into play.” This allegation as well as others in the complaint will undoubtedly be refuted vigorously by the Borgata.

One area of dispute that is sure to intrigue all players is the matter of the time line in the events that unfolded. Based on differing news reports and clarifications of others, including this reporter, the renditions of the bizarre caper, even among sources close to the investigation, vary.

Particularly fuzzy are reports as to which player(s) turned over to tournament officials any suspicious chips that were ultimately determined to be counterfeits.

Conundrums Abound!

Synthesizing all of the reports received by this reporter, it would appear that the Borgata’s suspicions of a tainted tournament evolved into a well-informed conclusion the morning of the third scheduled day of play. The DGE suspended the tournament that day and cancelled it a day later.

Last Friday following the filing of the lawsuit by Musterel, the DGE said it expected to complete its investigation, shortly. For now, it is a continued guessing game.

As the litigation moves ahead, casinos and poker players may be given much food for thought about the duties of poker management and the efficacy of a casino taking responsibility for insuring a risk – free tournament environment for their bettors.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
February 13, 2014

The leading suspect in a scheme to rig a poker tournament, at the Borgata last month, has gotten into more hot water with the law, this week. Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville, North Carolina was arrested January 24th in connection with the introduction of counterfeit chips in the opening event at the Borgata Winter Open. Unable to make the $300,000 cash payment for bail, Lusardi has been sitting in a jail cell since.

This week, prosecutors have upped the ante for Lusardi with new charges against him – wholly unrelated to the allegations of meddling with the publicly exhibited Borgata contest. While Lusardi was holed up in Atlantic City, federal agents apparently acted on a search warrant. They’d found  more than 37,500 illegal DVD disks in his home. Lusardi is now charged with a DVD bootlegging operation, as part of his rap sheet.

The picture is still not clear, however, as to whether the current status of the investigation into Lusardi’s activities will soon prompt the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) to come forward with a final resolution concerning the tainted poker tournament.

Investigation of Borgata Chip Caper is Ongoing According to DGE.

On January 18th, before the beginning of the third scheduled day of the competition for 27 in-the-money finalists, the DGE canceled Event 1 of the tournament. The regulator froze the unpaid prize monies pending an investigation. After the new charges against Lusardi, were announced this week, the DGE reiterated that the  investigation of the tainted tournament is ongoing. Borgata management personnel have expressed empathy for the plight of the unpaid finalists, while emphasizing full support for DGE’s commitment to a thorough investigation.

Joe Lupo, senior vice president of Borgata operations has said repeatedly in discussions with the finalists, “Integrity is everything for the Borgata.” He and his poker management team believe the most insightful enhancements to the security of future events will come from as complete an understanding as possible of the many details surrounding the compromised event.

Lusardi: Frantic Clumsy Lone Wolf Gone Mad?

Lusardi made postings about the fake chips caper at a cyberspace poker forum, in advance of his arrest, according to investigators who who did not wish to be named. Some of the statements Lusardi  made, under the screen name “Justbecauseican,” have been called “hogwash” by sources close to the investigation. But, he obviously wasn’t kidding when he claimed that the story was “complicated.” A huge huge haul of illegal DVD’s turned up at Lusardi’s home. And, law enforcement officers also grabbed more chips and additional evidence, suggesting grand plans that may have included targeting additional tournaments in America and Europe. Investigators are said to be checking out the breadth of Lusardi’s activities with a fine tooth comb.

Lusardi has been on the radar screens of various law enforcement authorities for quite some time according to documents made public in connection with the new DVD bootlegging charges. Moreover, sources close to DGE indicate there are other criminal matters that have drawn attention to him.

The DGE and New Jersey state police are holding close to the vest the exact sequence of events that led to Lusardi’s arrest. Sources close to the New Jersey-based investigation say Lusardi may have been more worried that police were about to close in on him on another criminal matter when he flushed down the toilet of his hotel room 2.7 million Borgata-labeled tournament chips.

Meanwhile the clay counterfeit chips (referenced as plastic chips in some reports) used in the ill-fated Borgata tournament and a truckload of other evidence including the illegal DVD’s found in Lusardi’s home are keeping police plenty busy in trying to get to the bottom of this intertwined and far flung story. The chips and the disks, now under the control of authorities, were reportedly imported by Lusardi from China.

Poker Management Comes Out Front

Borgata poker room management led by Vincent Alonge agreed to an interview last week to discuss plans to meet the challenges created by the counterfeit chip caper. He brought Tab Duchateau, the Borgata’s tournament director, and Mabel Louie, poker room executive host to join the conversation. They talked about their reactions upon learning  that the tournament might have been the victim of foul play and their sentiments when suspicions turned into proof. In different words they shared the view that the incident made them feel like the casino and the tournament players had been hit by lightning. They look upon cheaters and angle shooters as the terrorists of the poker industry. They also empathize with the finalists who are waiting for news from DGE on the unpaid prize monies.

As to the rest of the 4000+ pool of players who busted out before reaching the money, complaints were predictable and complainers have been vocal. But, Alonge and Duchateau say most of the players who have spoken with them have not expressed a sense of entitlement to a partial or full refund of their tournament buy-in monies.

Alonge declined to address any questions about possible refunds or any other issues that may be under consideration by the DGE. He says, “I appreciate all of the questions from players and wish as much as anyone for a resolution at the soonest possible time.” He added, “It could be harmful for our personnel to get involved in commenting or discussing their own opinions while the investigation is in progress, so they have been asked to avoid such conversation.” To say it has not been fun for the Borgata poker team to sit on the sidelines, silently, these past three weeks is an understatement. While the incident has resulted in pointed questions and second guessing from some players, the triumvirate of Alonge, Duchateau, and Louie see their responsibilities as staying the course. They say they will continue to mind the business as they always have – with integrity of the games and customer service their highest priorities.

Moving Forward

Alonge is a highly experienced poker room executive with more than 20 years in the business. Duchateau and Louie have been with the Borgata in their respective positions of tournament director and executive host since the beginning. They acknowledge the culprit(s) actions made the poker team mad, sad, and frustrated, but above all, determined to use the “intelligence” gained from the unique incident and investigation of it to impede repetition.

Duchateau, is setting the example for his staff; firm in the resolve to use lessons learned to produce the most secure tournament environment, anywhere. He has turned his attention to the development of constructive changes, and toward this end already has a prioritized list of potential security–minded enhancements for further prompt consideration with his bosses.

Louie is keeping her eye on the ball; doing her job the same way she has for years—very successfully. She is intently focused on customer service. Louie makes it her business to know her regulars. She caters to high-stakes customers, while minding the whole store. She chats with players at lower stakes cash games, makes reservations for players at her corner desk, and listens to tournament customers’ feedback at the podium during major tournaments. Players recognize her as the consummate professional and the undisputed Queen Bee of the Borgata poker room.

The hour long interview with senior poker management closed with two central points made by Alonge. He stated that  the collaborative investigation has has not only included Borgata management and poker room personnel but also help from  Harrahs,  industry colleagues, players, and social media. He thanks all who have contributed to the effort and asserts that the extensive cooperation will will be valuable as new administrative procedures and security initiatives are evaluated. His goal is clear: Discourage thieves and cheaters from looking upon the Borgata card room as a viable target for any future shenanigans.

Alonge also urges players who see something to say something, noting, “Players as well as personnel need to be alert, and outspoken – reporting to poker room management any concrete indications of stealing, cheating, or angle shooting at any poker table.” He says, “Players are a necessary and integral part of a strong line of defense against  misconduct in poker rooms”  He mentioned that two players took notice of suspicious chips in the compromised tournament and thanks all who brought valuable information to the attention of tournament personnel.

It is now clear, that it was a combination of factors that led police to focus on Christian Lusardi, most notably a call from Harrahs. That call was critical to understanding the breadth of the investigation that would be required to establish. In addition casino surveillance tapes have proven immensely in understanding facts and the timeline of various events — all needed to build a case against the perpetrator(s).

Men (“The Master”) Surfaces With a Grin

Until Christian Lusardi was identified as a worthy suspect and nabbed by police, Men Nguyen, a successful but controversial tournament competitor became a convenient target for suspicion around the Borgata poker room and at the cyberspace poker news group of Nguyen’s reputation as an angle shooter at the tables had been firmly established by his detractors. His critics include highly respected poker pros and poker forum pundits who have publicized alleged incidents. The most famous accusations go back to 1996. Foxwoods evicted Nguyen from the property, and issued a lifetime ban. Allegations that he had been caught cheating and rumors of tournament chips found in his hotel suite flew fast. Complaints and rumors have dogged him ever since.

Last week Lusardi, himself, in one of his now infamous Internet postings assured his readers “Men had nothing to do with this,” referring to the counterfeit chip caper at the Borgata. More credibly, Mike Sexton, an internationally popular poker personality and the longtime commentator on the World Poker Tour spoke out about the 1996 Foxwoods incident, calling the rumors of Nguyen as a cheat, there, irresponsible and unfair. Sexton explained to this reporter that he was present in the lobby of the hotel when Foxwoods security handcuffed, questioned, and ultimately released Nguyen, after a fire in his room was discovered.

According to Sexton, security never uttered a word about cheating or tournament chips in his room or any other impropriety in his poker activities. He was “86’d” for endangering guests with his “makeshift faulty stove, according to Foxwoods security.” Nguyen was readmitted to the Foxwoods poker room some four years later.

When news came that Lusardi was picked and there was no mention of Nguyen, The Master grinned from ear to ear and laughed at mouthy critics who suspected him of foul play during his deep run in the event—as they have, endlessly, over the course of his poker career. “I am glad they found the bad guys,” he said, referring to the police report that named Lusardi. Nguyen left the Borgata with his head held high.

“The Show Never Ends”

Meanwhile with its Company slogan in mind, “The Show Never Ends,” the Borgata poker team put Chipgate to the side for investigators to ponder, further, in favor of totally concentrating on the rest of the winter series schedule and upcoming tournaments in the weeks ahead.

The Borgata Winter Open WPT championship event counted 1229 contestants; it was the second largest field in the history of the WPT. And the latest announcement from the Borgata makes clear that its commitment as a premiere poker tournament site is absolute. The WPT World Poker Championship will be hosted by the Borgata for the first time as part of the Borgata Spring Poker Open April 8th-26th.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
January 28, 2014

Since January 18th, the 27 remaining players in the Borgata Winter Open’s first event have been waiting for their money while the authorities investigate the particulars of 160 counterfeit chips (5K tournament chips), introduced into the tournament. While the fake chips amounted to a bit less than 1% of the total chips in play, the intrusion into the integrity of the competition put the Borgata, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, and law enforcement personnel in overdrive – in a determined search for the culprit(s) and a collaborative effort to bring the matter to a full resolution.

Mad Players Make Men (“The Master”) Nguyen Their Target

Whodunit rumors became a story of their own until police announced they had taken Christian Lusardi into custody as a leading and worthy suspect. Among the whodunit scholars, initially, Men (The Master) Nguyen, was a convenient target. Nguyen, is a successful but controversial player who has developed a legion of detractors. Players have complained endlessly, over the years, about Nguyen’s purported angle-shooting tactics at the tables, but allegations of cheating have not been substantiated by any public record made by a casino.

In the wake of the Borgata counterfeit chip caper, poker pundits from the coast of New Jersey to the world of cyberspace pounced on the notion of Nguyen as the mastermind or the responsible party. These suspicions remained center stage until Christian Lusardi, the Day 1B chip leader in the event, had been apprehended. Police made no mention of Nguyen!

The next day, Nguyen flagged me down. He was all smiles. “I am glad they found the bad guys,” he said referring to the police report that named Lusardi of Fayetteville, North Carolina, as the suspect in custody. The Master laughed about the ignorance of players who presumed he had a part in this caper. The case lives up to Mark Twain’s words: “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Christian Lusardi was an Obvious Person of Interest

The complete picture has yet to become fully clear, but based on the police report and more information that has leaked out to the public,  it is fair to say that players, employees, and the entire management of Borgata, wait eagerly on pins and needles for resolution order by the DGE – hoping it will be very shortly.

The optimists anticipate a resolution by the DGE before the end of the WPT Championship event this week. They pin their hopes on the investigators reported success in directly tying Lusardi to the introduction of counterfeit chips at the table. It is generally believed that surveillance tapes were the critical evidence that led police to focus on Lusardi.

Lusardi was the chip leader at the end of day 1B; he won a bonus prize for that feat. He had previously busted out on day 1A; Lusardi has a rap sheet in North Carolina and New Jersey; convictions for illegal gambling and credit card fraud are part of his personal history. The suspect apparently took down his Facebook data shortly after the tournament was suspended. And, according to police, he never returned to his hotel room after the tournament was put on hold.

The cherry on top was a posting on the twoplustwo poker newsgroup, supposedly offered by the alleged perpetrator. A newbie poster with the user name “Justbecauseican” “confessed” to being responsible for the counterfeit chip chaos. He explained that he had flushed a stash of poker chips down the toilet of his Harrah’s hotel room. He lamented the poor plumbing that clogged pipes and resulted in the discovery of Borgata-labeled tournament chips in the hotel’s sewage system. Last Friday morning, Justbecauseican also asserted on the same chat site that he was getting ready to surrender after the weekend.

It was only hours later, however, that police moved in on Lusardi just minutes away from his abandoned Harrahs hotel room. The publicized police report leaves one to wonder if the caper was simply that of an ill-advised and clumsy lone wolf gone frantic — every step of the way. The investigation is ongoing according to authorities, but the prevailing view among knowledgeable observers is that DGE is feeling pressure from all around to reach a timely conclusion concerning the Borgata’s obligations in the matter. As to precisely when the DGE will announce their decisions – for the moment it is a guessing game.

Men’s reputation as an angle shooter; an inevitable lightning rod

Meanwhile, Nguyen’s reputation troubles in the poker world are hardly resolved by a reasonable presumption that he is not linked to the Borgata tournament counterfeit chips fiasco. Complaints of improper table conduct have been leveled at Nguyen dating back more than fifteen years; and they have continued with varying degrees of passion and certitude ever since. Reports from highly regarded pros and popular posters on internet poker forums have caused perceptions to be treated by others as indisputable reality.

The most frequently cited allegation of cheating stems from an incident at Foxwoods in or around 1996, when it became public knowledge that Foxwoods had evicted Nguyen from the property, and had ordered him to stay away from the casino forever.

Rumors of tournament chips found in his hotel suite flew fast after safety and security personnel were called to investigate a fire that had broken out in his room. The cause of the fire was reported by personnel at the scene as “negligence in the use of cooking apparatus that was not permitted and was unsafe.” Nguyen was handcuffed, detained, and released within hours and escorted off the property. When no prosecution developed, skeptical players insisted that the casino threw cold water on a cheating matter for its own convenience.

Nguyen was readmitted to the Foxwoods poker room some four years later. Little attention has been given to the unlikely scenario of a casino reversing a lifetime ban on a “proven cheater”  at its own casino. So, why has Nguyen endured relentless accusations over the years, without fighting more forcefully for his honor, if the never-ending discussion of his scruples among poker colleagues is unwarranted?

The Master marches to the beat of his own drummer

Nguyen deals with his image in his own way. While rumors were at a feverish pitch last week, Men poked his head in and out of the Tournament Event Center, parked at continuing tournaments, and mixed it up in cash games in the Borgata’s high limit poker room. He was also seen in the hallways, chatting up folks, right and left. It seems as if he almost relished the unrelenting attention, knowing, in this case he would prove the  gossipers wrong. With Christian Lusardi pictured as the key suspect and no mention of Nguyen in police press statements, the whodunit experts, who continued to point to Nguyen, began to look lame.

Exit Nguyen; enter Lusardi

While the investigation is ongoing, PPN has been given no reason to believe Men Nguyen is implicated in the counterfeit chips scandal at the Borgata Winter Open, Event 1. To the contrary, a multitude of sources close to the situation say there is no evidence that links Men Nguyen with the fiasco. Even the alleged perpetrator may have helped to take Nguyen off center-stage.

For reasons unknown, a poster using the name of “justbecauseican” at the twoplustwo forum website, began to communicate with the poker world hours before Lusardi was nabbed as a suspect. The poster assured his readers in advance of  Lusardi’s arrest: “Men has nothing to do with this!” In one of the most bizarre twists in this case, it appears that it was, indeed, Lusardi, who posted as justbecauseican, claiming responsibility (indirectly) for the introduction of fake chips into the tournament. A former New Jersey official with ties to investigators in the case says, “Investigators had good reason to believe justbecausueican was the suspect, Christian Lusardi. Twelve hours after his first posting authorities nabbed him at his hideout – a local Atlantic City motel room, undeterred by the ‘hogwash’ that was integrated in the “confession” offered from a cyberspace address.

Nguyen explains his tiff at the Borgata payout station

Yesterday, Men Nguyen followed up on the invitation to respond to a recent PPN article: Borgata Record Keeping Prowess: Keeping Men “The Master” On His Toes. He stepped away from the cash games to talk. The Master approached me smiling from ear to ear. It was easy to appreciate his sense of relief, if not his self-righteousness that made no allowance for others’ doubting him.

Before chatting about persistent claims against him of of angle shooting over the course of his poker career and the particulars of the Foxwood story, I asked Nguyen to respond to a recent incident at the Borgata tournament payout station. Nguyen was the “Bubble Boy” at the end of Day 2, coming into the money in 28th place, but failing to snare a spot among the final 27 players slated to return to the tables the next day. The Master made his way to the cash-out desk. He tried to persuade cashiers that he had six buy-ins for Event 1, rather than just the two they had recorded. It was a gambit to avoid the requirement of signing a W-2G tax form which is waived for tournament winnings of less than $5,000.

Officials did not buy his story, as he did not produce the necessary receipts to support his buy-in count. Nguyen acknowledged to PPN that he had exaggerated the number of buy-ins, but he insisted his exaggeration was justified. He explained that his winnings at the Borgata, on this trip, had resulted in less than $5,000 – and therefore his tournament cash-out should be treated as under the reporting threshold. He shrugged his shoulders and laughed, like a kid who had been caught in an innocuous tall tale.

Nguyen talks about Foxwoods – again

Meanwhile, the Foxwoods incident, as rumored, has remained a never-ending topic of conversation among players that have questioned Nguyen’s scruples at the tables. Nguyen spoke about the Foxwood saga and more. He explained that for his excursion to the 1996 Foxwoods tournament with some of his “students,” he had brought along food and his own “stove,” to make full hot meals. While cooking during this particular stay, a fire broke out in his room. After investigating the fire and putting out the flames, security officers put Nguyen in handcuffs, briefly (this may have been witnessed by players who suspected him of cheating in the tournament). Nguyen says he was released after questioning and told that he was to leave the property at once.

Initially, Nguyen says he faced a lifetime ban, but he he decided to appeal it. He denies, unequivocally, any allegation of cheating and specifically emphasizes that there was never any issue of tournament chips in his room at Foxwoods – ever. Casino security personnel confirmed Nguyen’s version of this story.

Nguyen is reinstated at Foxwoods

Nguyen returned to the Foxwoods poker room some four years later. He wrote a letter to the casino asking to be reinstated, in or around 2000. It was reviewed favorably by the casino. He received a formal letter advising him he could return and did so – with the promise that there would be no reprise of any form of cooking in his room. Foxwoods confirmed that Nguyen was never required to attend a “hearing” to secure his re-entry in the poker room.

The Foxwoods incident is not so mysterious

Nguyen claims that Card Player Magazine did an independent investigation of the Foxwoods matter, years ago, and reported his “innocence” of any charges of cheating in their tournament. Nguyen also said that former Foxwoods Director of Poker Operations, Kathleen Raymond who was in charge of the poker room (today, she is the super successful poker operations director at the Venetian in Las Vegas), knew the facts as he has reported them.

According to Nguyen several pros knew very well there was no real issue of tournament chips in his room. He noted that a popular pro and friend of his visited with him during the fire dust-up at Foxwoods. Nguyen said he hopes during the main event at the Borgata, this person and any others who knew better than to believe rumors of tournament chips in his room will finally come out of the woodwork, to speak up on his behalf. I listened to Nguyen’s story and agreed to print it, as told – except for the name of the player he referenced. The player was not reachable as of press time.

In the interim, players and readers are reminded that Foxwoods has never made any public statements that support rumors that Nguyen cheated there. Moreover, there is no indication that security reports ever intimated that tournament chips were found in his hotel room.

The Master defines himself

Nguyen says that cheating is not part of his personality, antithetical to his religion, and has never been his ticket to success at poker; nevertheless, he says he understands some of the suspiciousness. He discussed, with this reporter, one situation that occurred at the Commerce Club in California. He explains that a tournament official questioned him over the betting between him and one of his “students” who folded a hand to his raise. He conceded that it looked like “chip dumping.” Nguyen says that the complaining parties just “didn’t understand” the dynamics of the hand, assuring this reporter it was played fair and square.

Be that as it may, Matt Savage, a renowned tournament director with a wealth of experience in overseeing the conduct of poker tournaments around the world (and currently resident at the Commerce Casino for the LA Poker Classic) says, “My biggest complaint with Men is his verbal abusiveness to dealers and staff.”

As to persistent integrity complaints by high profile players and pros who have played with Nguyen for years, although allegations of cheating or introduction of chips not fairly in play have never been substantiated by any of the casinos contacted for this article, players’ first hand complaints of “angle shooting,” are hard to dismiss, categorically. And, there is no dispute any longer as to whether or not Men Nguyen attempted to master the right angle at the Borgata tournament cash-out desk.

At this point, there is every reason to believe the investigation and resolution of the Borgata chip caper will exonerate Nguyen from suspicion in that matter. The counterfeit chip caper and the far flung brouhaha surrounding it is instructive to all concerned.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
January 24, 2014

This afternoon official word was out. Christian Lusardi, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was nabbed in an Atlantic City motel room, as a suspect in  a  more bizarre-by-the-minute case of counterfeit 5K chips that compromised Event 1 at the Borgata Winter Open. And, more 5K chips created havoc at nearby Harrahs where the plumbing system was fouled up with a mass of Borgata labeled tournament chips that were thrown down a toilet only to clog the hotel’s sewage system.

The complete picture is yet to unfold, but a few things are clear: Borgata took this matter seriously, it refused to sweep the issue under the rug, and it is living up to its mantra in its intense cooperation with investigators. Last week, Joe Lupo said in an exclusive interview with PPN “For the Borgata, integrity is everything.” Lusardi was reportedly looking for a bail bond of 10% of the $300,000 amount required. But he found out that he would need 300K to avoid continued detention. As of the writing of this bulletin Lusardi is cooling his heels or singing a song inside a jail cell.

More to come in the coming days and the next edition of PPN.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
January 22, 2014

Four thousand plus players journeyed to the Borgata Winter Open, for its first tournament – a $560 buy-in, deep stack confection, with a two million dollar guaranteed prize pool. The numbers proved themselves; it was a “must play” event. But with twenty-seven players remaining in the field, the tournament was suspended before the commencement of day three, last Friday. One day later Event 1 was canceled.

The Big Guns Get Involved

The tournament had been compromised, said Joe Lupo, Senior Vice President of Operations at the Borgata. He explained that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement made the decision to cancel the tournament  and place the remaining unpaid prize monies in a trust pending a further resolution. Lupo has had his hands full since revealing the discovery of “significant counterfeit chips” in play at the tournament. He has been juggling his time among competing priorities. He must cope concurrently with expectations of top management, availability to DGE and other investigative professionals, continued oversight and collaboration with his teams, and extensive attention to the plight of players whose dreams were smashed by a compromised tournament or its cancelation, and maybe both.

Players Put Men “The Master” Nguyen  On Stage

The drama that has kept Lupo and his colleagues up and down the ladder pre-occupied in recent days began to unfold shortly before nightfall on day two of the opening event. A player brought a “weird looking” 5K chip to the attention of the floor. He snapped a a picture of this unique chip alongside others that were not suspect. The image was soon uploaded onto the internet.

It took no time before members of a popular poker forum took particular notice of one player who was still in the hunt – Men (The Master) Nguyen, a very successful but controversial tournament competitor. For years, his scruples in tournament competition have been widely questioned by professional players around the country. Almost instantly, Nguyen became the butt of jokes that tied him to the quaint chip displayed on poker forum sites.

Nguyen Puts on a Less than Masterful Performance

Nguyen ended up busting out in 28th place, with earnings of approximately 10 times the cost of a single buy-in. He took off to collect his winnings, but an argument ensued with tournament personnel over the casino’s insistence that he complete the applicable W-2G tax form.

Within earshot of several players, Nguyen exchanged words with Borgata employees. The cashiers found only two recorded buy-ins for him, a mismatch to his claims of six, which would have put him below the threshold for casino W-2G government reports. He left the payout podium in a huff, vowing to take up his argument with higher ups.

Rewinding the Tape that Made Nguyen the Talk of the Town

The “unique” chip that started the ball rolling was found by a frequent tournament player, identified as Luke Edwards. The strange looking chip must have sent Borgata brass into overdrive. Any hope that the questionable chip would turn out to be nothing special was short-lived—replaced with mounting suspicion that the tournament was compromised. Nguyen was a convenient target for finger pointing. His staunchest detractors include a number of high profile players and popular contributors on poker forums.

Jup Lupo Gets Out Front

At noontime on (scheduled) day three (Friday), more fuel was thrown on the Nguyen flames. The 27 finalists returned to the tournament room to do battle. They were pumping adrenalin — but it was for naught.

Borgata officials, led by Lupo, arrived in the arena with very somber faces. Lupo took the reins, wasting no time before announcing that a substantial number of counterfeit chips had been introduced into the tournament and that an investigation was in progress. He explained that the tournament would be suspended for 24 hours to give the Borgata, law enforcement officials and the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement time to discuss a resolution with respect to continuation of the tournament.

Things deteriorated for the final 27 players who returned to the arena at high noon, last Saturday to learn the fate of their tournament life. Poker operations director, Vincent Alonge was on the scene, explaining there would be a short delay to find a suitably private space to discuss the resolution. It was an ominous message. Alonge countered the growing agitation with one of his trademarked quips intended to break the tension. It seemed to work – at least for a minute.

Men Parks Nearby; His Presence Is Noted

The Master was visible in the nearby hallway, talking animatedly on his mobile phone. I returned his wave but passed on the potential opportunity to chat him up about his imbroglio with the tournament cash-out personnel. This was the best time to pay attention, discretely in the background, to the discussion and the mood of the final 27 waiting for further news.

At 12:30 the meeting of the remaining finalists was convened, away from prying eyes and ears of other players and media. Lupo stepped up to the plate quickly to describe the tournament as canceled — summarily ended. He explained that the unpaid prize money had been frozen and transferred to a trust held by the DGE, pending further decisions to be approved by the regulators.

This unhappy state of affairs exacerbated sneering attention to Nguyen’s deep run. His reputation as an angle shooter became the hot topic of conversation in the tournament arena and around cash games in the poker room.

Muddied Waters

Several players re-visited an alleged incident at Foxwoods years ago. Unidentified Foxwoods personnel had reportedly informed some pro players that tournament chips had been found in Nguyen’s hotel room. It bears noting, however, that neither Foxwoods Casino nor any of its employees has ever confirmed this version of events. A security officer did confirm that he had been evicted from the property, mentioning only his use of  “dangerous cooking apparatus” that caused a fire in his suite. This reporter has never found any evidence of criminal prosecution  against Nguyen in this matter. And, Nguyen has categorically denied any involvement in cheating – ever – to several members of the media, this writer included.

So, in accordance with lessons taught in my 9th grade civics course, players and readers are properly cautioned against the presumptive finger pointing that has reached a fevered  pitch -especially on poker forums. That said, Nguyen’s antics in attempting to cash out his winnings in a specious manner at Borgata, cannot help but enhance his image as an angle shooter. More on that continuing saga in a few moments.

Joe Lupo Talks About the Borgata’s World View

Lupo is a seasoned casino executive, a lifer at the Borgata. He exudes self–confidence without arrogance. Shortly after the Saturday player meeting I requested time to meet with him. I offered up front not to ask any questions about the investigation. He began the conversation saying simply, “For the Borgata, integrity is everything.”

During our conversation Lupo acknowledged, “The meeting with the final 27 players was tough,” There was not a hint of irritation in his voice as he described the collective outrage expressed in the raucous confab. When he spoke about his reaction to the culprits’ attack on his customers, his team and his company, his face reflected alternating emotions of a man plainly mad, sad, and frustrated with the bad guys. But more than one Lupo colleague tells me, that the UNLV graduate with a degree in hotel administration who has been with Boyd since 1986 lives by the adage, “Out of problems come opportunities.”

Lupo’s Messages are Clear

Several of the remaining 27 contestants reported to their friends on their discussion with Lupo who was accompanied at their meeting by his senior poker officials, Alonge and Tab Duchateau, the Borgata’s longtime tournament director. Most of the players expressed a lot of frustration, but not without conceding that Lupo resonated as genuinely empathetic and sincere in his pledge on behalf of the Borgata to doing the “right things.”

Lupo and I agreed to another sit down next weekend; I expect to learn about his assessment of lessons learned and of plans on the drawing board designed to reinforce customer confidence going forward. As we said good bye, Lupo was on his smart phone tracking down Alonge. Lupo makes a point of praising him. Later that evening I caught up with Alonge en route to the Event Center He follows Lupo’s lead. Alonge checked in with Duchateau, just to congratulate him; the tournament in progress (Event 3) was bigger than the same event last year.

Something to Laugh About

Around the tournament podium Men Nguyen’s name surfaced again.  It turns out he has sidled up to different officials two more times, demanding his $5,000+ winnings – initially sans a W-2G form. Later, he reversed course agreeing to take the money and run—with a completed W-2G in hand.

Nguyen’s decision to let his winnings lie around for a couple of days created a new problem for him. The unpaid prize money for his 28th place finish was made part of the monies put in trust with DGE. Men Nguyen failed to master the right angle this time. He put himself in the position to wait, needlessly, for his money.

As for the Borgata’s continuing Winter Poker Open—come rain, come shine, come 12 inches of snow – the show goes on, seamlessly!

Author Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I am personally acquainted with Lupo, Alonge, and  Duchateau. I like them. As a player,  I appreciate Borgata’s commitment treat poker players as valued customers. I am also acquainted with Men Nguyen; from time to time over the years, we have been seated at the same poker table and we have chatted  casually in the halls. I interviewed him shortly after he was evicted from Foxwoods. I have not had any untoward experience with him at the poker table.


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
November 20, 2013

As exclusively reported at, on November 7th, PokerStars will not be part of the iGaming fraternity operating in New Jersey on its historic scheduled launch date of November 26th.

Look for statements from PokerStars and/or DGE pledging that the dance continues — but for more on the back story to this state of affairs, stay tuned


By Wendeen H. Eolis
Poker Player Newspaper
November 19, 2013

The New Jersey gaming license application of Poker Stars has been a bruiser after a series of battles, instigated and propelled by self-righteously indignant opponents united under the umbrella of the American Gaming Association (AGA). But the fallout from the warring parties’ activities is far from over — regardless of the outcome on the PokerStars application this week.

The time worn precept that a zealous foe who seeks to bury his target had best to build two graves may apply here. The AGA has succeeded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in spotlighting PokerStars as a company that poses serious suitability issues in the context of New Jersey’s traditional casino licensing standards.

At the same time, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s disorganized and dragged out proceedings, have provided regulators in other jurisdictions quite the primer on potential pitfalls in licensing deliberations. Perhaps as important, regulators have been motivated to take a harder look at the suitability of potential licensees, even if already licensed elsewhere. This food for thought was not likely anticipated by other gaming companies being held accountable to more stringent standards than ever before.

Meanwhile, gaming lawyers in Europe as well as New Jersey say issues raised during PokerStars’ application in NJ may result in further enquiries and investigations. Similarly, casinos maneuvering to acquire new licenses on the east coast (with and without igaming an poker offerings) are suddenly dropping plans and major shareholders and executives left and right, confronted by regulators pointing accusing fingers in their direction.

Threats of denied licenses may be the tip of the iceberg if Sands Casino owner Sheldon Adelson is effective in drumming up serious support for his ongoing campaign against igaming.

Have regulators lost sight of their mission? Are the egos of these government officials out of control? Will poker players and other gamers benefit with safer and more secure conditions when they risk their money? Are the prospects for commercial casinos suddenly imperiled by conflicts and backstabbing within the industry? These questions loom large, not only in New Jersey, which will serve as the most watched state in its rollout of igaming, but also up and down the east coast, and beyond.

Last week I was working on this story when I received word of an opportunity to assist in developing plans to arrange a pro bono legal services program as part of the disaster recovery operations in the Philippines.

The story for this print edition of Poker Player Newspaper has been delayed during my engagement as the chief operations officer of Hope’s Champion Task Force overseas. It will be seen on following my return to New York, later this week.

Hope’s Champion Task Force is proud to contribute in one small way, to assist in one of the most disastrous events in human recorded history, and they encourage all in our poker world to “get involved” in making a difference with time or money contributions to a charity you trust.