FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today’s settlement agreement between PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), which includes an announcement that PokerStars will acquire the entirety of Full Tilt Poker’s global assets, is an encouraging development for all poker players, and particularly positive news for those owed monies via their immobilized account deposits.
In fact, today’s news is the first break in the black cloud that has hung over the poker industry for 15 months. Given PokerStars’ longstanding reputation for integrity and the commendable manner in which they handled their own player-deposit crisis during 2011, all poker players should be grateful to the ownership and management team of this company for assuming a leadership role in what have been troubled times for the poker industry.
However, today’s announcement does nothing, nor should in any way, abdicate any of the principals associated with Full Tilt Poker for their irresponsible actions, criminal or not. Neither does the announcement serve in any way to remedy the gross negligence that led up to the crisis, nor amend the utter indifference of Full Tilt Poker and its principals to the suffering of innumerable poker players who endured severe financial and emotional hardships since the events of April 2011.
Full Tilt Poker’s actions during both the pre- and post-Black Friday period, represented an unprecedented level of irresponsibility and a grotesque violation of trust. The damage these industry outcasts have done to players, public confidence, and the game overall lingers and will not be forgotten nor forgiven until the principals have provided explanation, apology, and restitution.
Conversely, the actions of PokerStars during this crisis have continued to win favor from the poker community at large. I am optimistic that all poker players – residing both inside and outside the United States — who are deemed “victims” in the precise language contained in the official press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York on this date will be reimbursed IN FULL (emphasis mine). Moreover, the USDOJ should do everything in its considerable powers to ensure that all monies are returned as quickly as possible to all victims.
Las Vegas, Nevada
July 31, 2012
Writer’s Note: The opinions expressed here are my own and do not in any way reflect the position of any company, publication, website, or entity with which I have been associated.
Passing through a crowded casino this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of people – primarily men – crowded around several television screens at one of the bars.
So, what were they watching? It’s not football season yet, and no one gives a shit about baseball, at least until the playoffs begin.
Answer — the 2012 Olympic Games.
More specifically, the men were watching women’s beach volleyball.
Right. You’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking. I’m sure most of those guys with their eyeballs glued to the television screens really gave a flying rat’s ass that the United States was playing Australia in a preliminary medal round. Hell, it wasn’t even the finals. But for many of those men, no doubt, the match concluded with one hell of a climax.
Beach volleyball? Don’t call this charade a sport. It’s the world’s largest masturbation festival — plain and simple. It’s a cum-dumpster parade. Women in panties prancing around in the sand. They might as well be having a pillow fight or wrestling in jello.
Confirming my suspicion that most of the viewers had no real rooting interest in the Olympic match other than the tits and ass tally, sometime later when I passed through the same area after dinner and this time men’s volleyball was being shown, virtually no one was watching. MENS VOLLEYBALL. Poof! Everyone was gone! I don’t know — perhaps someone yelled “fire” inside the casino and I missed it.
The bottom line is, most of these gold medal events aren’t really “sports” at all. They are excuses for getting as many athletes from as many nations as possible into a televised viewing frame so that as many products as possible can be plunged down our throats in the form of a non-stop parade of commercials. That’s it basically. The Olympics are nothing more a delivery device for rampant consumerism — be it cell phones, sports cars, or soft drinks. It’s the globe’s biggest assembly line for product placement — on every wall, on every uniform, on every sign, on every conceivable frame of real estate that might possibly be viewed by someone, somewhere.
Which brings me to what should be the Olympic Games’ most expensive product platform — the ASSES of the volleyball girls. Hell, that real estate is more prime than a penthouse on Central Park West.
If you could go back and live your life all over again, would you?
I suppose most of us would answer – it depends.
Let’s say you could turn back the clock and relive your life with the benefit of all the knowledge you now possess. Given the inherent wonders of knowing what the future would bring, most of us would agree to a replay. Let’s say you could go back to 1969 and bet on the New York Jets or take full advantage of MicroSoft’s 1986 IPO, you’d be very wealthy indeed.
Then there is the “Dead Zone” prospect of going back and purposefully changing the future. For instance, who among us would not feel compelled to try and alter the terrible course of events which occurred on September 11, 2001?
But what about going back in time and facing utter uncertainty? Would you choose to live your life over again and then be willing to accept the consequences if things were to turn out very differently?
PREFACE: This is a difficult blog to write.
Each and every week, I receive a text-message inviting me to play in a local poker tournament. The weekly tourney is $120 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. — hosted at the MGM Grand.
My distaste for the MGM Grand and everything associated with the monstrosity is widely-known and well-documented. It’s been the subject of columns in both newspapers — the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal. I won’t reopen those wounds and get into details now (see a future blog for that). I only say that I was fully prepared to move on emotionally and give this giant money-sucking leech another chance when I made my first entrance into the MGM Grand in four years.
And so, last Tuesday night — prompted by an invite from poker pro Karina Jett, the extraordinary hostess at the MGM Grand (probably the only wise executive decision they’ve ever made here was to hire Jett) — I decided to release those bitter bygones and set foot inside a casino that still owes me thousands of dollars.
At 6:30 pm, I pulled into the MGM Grand parking lot. Not much as changed in this regard since my last visit. One still must maneuver a giant maze of lanes and floors and then walk a mile to finally get to the building entrance. Indeed, it takes me perhaps five minutes inside what used to be the world’s largest hotel to instantly realize that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has changed since I wrote the following review (which was posted at a gambling website back in 2002).
It should be noted that everything in the following review is a reflection of my experience there ten years ago. But, it’s just as relevant now based on Tuesday night’s visit. One update: The MGM Grand now has a poker room, which has moved again. For several years, it was located beneath a noisy nightclub. The poker room has since been moved off to the side, which I will add is nothing to brag about.
Moreover, all of the events relating to my fallout at the MGM Grand in 2005 occurred well after this review was written. So anyone who thinks I’m biased should be aware this review was originally written three years prior.
Here it goes.
Writer’s Note: The Flame Steakhouse closed its doors for the final time in 2014. The replacement restaurant at the El Cortez is not recommended.
Finding a delicious “trout almondine” is next to impossible outside of New Orleans.
Or — so I thought.
Then, I dined at The Flame Steakhouse which is the gourmet restaurant inside the time-warped El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas. I ordered and then devoured a Creole delicacy that was every bit as tasty as the world-class fare served at Antione’s, Galatoire’s, or Arnaud’s in the famous French Quarter.
In a city that has become dominated by flash-in-the-pan “celebrity” chefs and ridiculously-overpriced Haute cuisine, it’s refreshing to a experience throwback to a time and place when all that really mattered was great tasting food served at a reasonable cost in a comfortable atmosphere with reliable service. Sadly, those fundamentals are lost in what has become a sea of snooty waiters and obscene South Strip prices, which so often meet their well deserved demise.
Perhaps that’s what makes The Flame Steakhouse so enduring and consistent. Very little changes. It’s good – all the time. And since that first visit many years ago, I’ve dined here perhaps 50 to 60 times – always leaving both satisfied and with the feeling I got a bargain.
This is an all out declaration of war.
If you’re one of the fucking idiots who consistently drives in the RIGHT-HAND LANE….if you are one of the obnoxious jackasses oblivious to those who casually stroll along on sidewalks making our daily walks and runs….if you selfishly barrel through busy intersections like the ass-joker that you are….I’m issuing you a full-fledged warning.
From this moment forward, I will no longer be responsible for my actions or what happens to your vehicle. Prepare to meet my middle finger. Prepare to hear the blasting of my horn. Prepare for my flashing headlights.
I am making it a mission to improve traffic flow. I’m making it a mission to save both time and energy. I’m making it a mission to reduce needless vehicle emissions. I hereby declare that the RIGHT-HAND LANE is only for entering/exiting the roadway and for making right turns. Nothing else.
And now let me explain why this is such an outrage.
I’ve taken up running the last several months. In virtually every city I’ve visited since I began my training program, I observed a consistent pattern of unmistakable rudeness. Often when running along a sidewalk, perhaps no more than a few feet from the right-hand traffic lane, these brain-dead jokers completely oblivious to common courtesy roar past me like out-of-control freight trains. These vehicles race by in a mindless stupor, blinded to any manifestation of humanity.
Just when I was convinced Las Vegas had pretty much become like everywhere else, I was reminded once again that this city is a very unique place.
Yesterday, I renewed my car registration. In Nevada, all vehicles must be smog checked once per year. This means, you drive your car to local station where they run a series of diagnostic tests. Sort of like Medicare, only it’s your car that gets a government-mandated check up, instead of you.
The cars are hooked up to a machine with a bunch of wires and switches and tested for emissions. What this really means is — the state and the auto merchants get to shake you down for $20 a pop, per car, each and every year.
On the west side of Las Vegas, I pulled into what’s called a “smog station.” Inside a small kiosk was a man who looked pretty much like you would imagine when I say the words “auto mechanic.”
“Need a smog check, today?” the man barked out as rolled down my window.
“Absolutely,” I replied.
As I passed my car keys over to the auto technician (that’s what they’re called now – “auto technicians”) I couldn’t help but notice a white sign plastered above the entrance.
It was a Sunday.
Boulevards normally jammed with traffic were less so and moved more freely. It was a day of leisure. People were out and about.
The park was busier than the day before. Children ran in circles. There was laughter. Music played.
And, my eighth run began alongside the concrete aqueduct.
Just as the day before, I ran about a mile, and then veered off the right. I scaled the first wall effortlessly and ran a considerable distance before coming upon the same cinder block barricade I remembered from the previous day.
I had arrived at the blue tent.
But this time, the tent had an occupant. A small-framed man, perhaps 30 or so, sat upright on what appeared to be a sleeping bag. I did not want to startle or disturb the man. So, I quietly made my way over the wall and began to proceed down the path to continue my run.
Suddenly, one of the dogs started barking. And the other dogs too, joined in unison. The canine alarm bells had gone off.
I could not see the man’s face clearly. But, he must have been fearful. After all, few passersby run along the aqueduct and certainly no one scales over two barricades – on a weekend, no less – to invade the solitude this man had etched for himself in what was a gigantic foreign metropolis.
Alerted by the barking mutts, the man quickly rose to his feet when he saw me. He appeared startled, and it was easy to understand why this was so.
Seeing a invader passing along the aqueduct, in a place off-limits to pedestrian traffic, had to be a terrifying prospect for this frightened man resting in solace, who was clearly Hispanic, probably Mexican — and almost certainly an illegal alien.
That’s right — an illegal alien. Chew on those words for a moment.
This is the story of a man you will never know.
This is the story of a man you will never see.
Yet, it’s the story of so many who live amongst us – hidden away within the crevices of all towns and cities, invisible to the contemporary consciousness.
Los Angeles’ arteries are not highways — but rather its aqueducts. They are a meandering maze of concrete vessels bringing life to millions. Mostly unseen and largely ignored, they lie burrowed amid a gigantic quilt of industrial parks and busy freeways choked with traffic and frustration, channeling clear water from the snow-packed High Sierras down to valleys, and ultimately to our sinks, bathtubs, toilets, garden hoses, swimming pools, and restaurants.
There is one man the who calls the aqueduct his “home.”
This is the story of how I came to stumble upon that man and how I became aware of the numerous challenges he faces each day. It is the story of an unintended series of personal events which reminds us that compassion and generosity are not measured by volume of deeds but rather by the simplest acts of human kindness.
We’re not officially into the Oscar movie season, but there’s already chatter in the ether who will win – for Best Animated Film and the brings the odds on who is the favorite but before making a wager make sure to study and read a betonline review.
It makes sense this particular race would take center stage in the summer when a majority of animated films hit the big screen to satisfy kids young and old alike.
Leading the charge is “Toy Story 4,” which has critics and its audience on its side. The fourth and likely last installment in the Pixar franchise opened to a record global weekend with $238 million and great praise from those pesky movie reviewers.
Come on guys, it’s Woody and Buzz. How could they not like it?
If nominated in January, “Toy Story 4” is likely to see tough competition from Dreamworks “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the possibly final look at Hiccup’s coming-of-age. In November, Disney’s “Frozen 2” also will enter the fray.
The outlier in this category is Disney’s “The Lion King,” opening mid-July, which straddles the line of live action and animation using virtual production skills to create a computer-generated movie. It definitely checks all the boxes to make it an animated film but it looks nothing like one.
There’s also the chance it won’t even be submitted as a contender in the category. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie isn’t being touted by the studio as “animation” and a similarly made movie, “The Jungle Book,” wasn’t submitted for consideration in the category in 2016. It did, however, win the Best Visual Effects Oscar, beating “Doctor Strange,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
Other potential nominees: “Klaus” from Netflix, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” from Wallace & Gromit creators, and “The Addams Family.”
The major Oscar categories are expected to be as competitive.
For Best Picture it’s a smorgasbord of drama including such contenders as (in no particular order):
“Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt set in LaLa Land about the time Charles Manson and his family were wreaking havoc
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, everyone’s favorite guy next door.
“The Aeronauts,” from Amazon has Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones reteaming in a survivalist adventure story in a hot air balloon.
“The Laundromat,” a Steven Soderbergh political thriller from Netflix starring Meryl Steep and Gary Oldman about journalists linking political figures to tax-shelter bank accounts.
“The Farewell” has “Crazy Rich Asians” breakout Awkwafina gets attention in this story of a family keeping its matriarch in the dark about her cancer diagnosis.
“The Irishman” gets together director Martin Scorsese and a few of his besties (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci) in a film about a mob hitman who alleges to have killed Jimmy Hoffa.
“Fair and Balanced Roger Ailes gets big screen treatment after Showtime’s take down. This one stars John Lithgow as Ailes feeling the wrath of the women of Fox News (Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron).
“Ad Astra” stars Brad Pitt heading to space in search of his dad who went missing looking for extra-terrestrial life.
“Little Women” brings a strong possibility director/writer Greta Gerwig will receive her second nomination as best director in this classic favorite starring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep and Laura Dern
The acting categories likely will see many nominees from the above-mentioned movies with several having deafening buzz:
Best Actor – Antonio Bandaras, “Pain and Glory”; Robert De Niro, “The Irishman”; Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Brad Pitt, “Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood”; Taron Edgerton, “Rocketman”; Jonathan Pryce, “The Pope”; Pitt (again), “Ad Astra” Eddie Redmayne, “The Aeronauts”
Best Actress: Amy Adams, “The Women in the Window”; Awkwafina, “The Farewell”; Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”; Alfre Woodard, “Clemency”; Saorise Ronan, “Little Women”; Kristen Stewart, “Against All Enemies”; Natalie Portman, “Lucy in the Sky”; Julianne Moore, “Gloria Bell”; Elisabeth Moss, “Her Smell”