Who’s the Imposter Behind the Dewey Tomko Hoax?
Poker legend Dewey Tomko’s alleged involvement in the current online poker debate just got a lot more bizarre.
This is now on the verge of being a scandal.
For those unfamiliar with the longtime poker icon, Dewey Tomko has been playing in poker’s most highly-competitive events since the mid-1970s. He’s won three World Series of Poker gold bracelets during his illustrious career, even though he plays in relatively few events each year. He’s finished as runner-up in the Main Event Championship — twice. In 2008, Tomko was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Tomko now resides in Orlando, Florida. He’s a highly successful businessman who owns and manages multiple restaurants. Tomko also owns a private golf course and country club, a massive development of luxury homes, and other businesses including a casino in Costa Rica.
Several weeks ago, I came across a stunning guest editorial that appeared in The Press of Atlantic City newspaper (and website). The writer(s) of the op-ed printed on March 19, 2014, warned the general public about the supposed dangers of collusion and being cheated when playing online poker. The ridiculously slanted editorial boiled down to a scare tactic.
Read the full text here:
DEWEY TOMKO AND BILL BYERS / POKER PROS: TEST GAMBLING SITES FOR CHEATING
The editorial came as a shock to me for several reasons. First, I know one of the alleged authors, Dewey Tomko, quite well. He doesn’t write editorials to newspapers. Moreover, Tomko has absolutely no first-hand knowledge of online poker. Tomko has never even played online poker before. Not even once. Finally, Tomko didn’t own a personal e-mail account until very recently, which is related to one of his businesses.
This editorial was allegedly written and/or co-authored by Tomko sure didn’t sound like the man I knew. Alerted to these concerns I decided to investigate.
OTHER MEDIA TAKE THE BAIT AND RUN WITH THE STORY
The intent here isn’t to criticize poker media. It’s fair for them to assume what appears in the mainstream press to be true. In fact, every outlet that reported this story accepted Tomko’s authorship of the piece on their faith in the journalistic standards and practices of The Press of Atlantic City, which bears full responsibility.
Here are just a few of the poker news outlets which ran their own reactions to the editorial:
FlushDraw: DEWEY TOMKO AND THE WEIRD ONLINE POKER FLIP-FLOP SELLOUT
F5poker: POKER HALL OF FAMER DEWEY TOMKO: UNTESTED ONLINE POKER MAY DESTROY THE GAME
F5poker: POKER HALL OF FAMER DEWEY TOMKO TAKES A PUBLIC RELATIONS BEATING
PoketFives: DEWEY TOMKO FEARS CHEATING AND COLLUSION AT REGULATED ONLINE POKER SITES
That’s just a few. I counted several other poker news sites which ran the story as legitimate, which are easily accessible by doing a Google search.
Even mainstream press quoted from the original editorial, including the highly-influential The Hill, read by lawmakers in Washington, DC. In a special feature with the byline “Jim Thackston” (a.k.a. James Thackston), The Hill printed the following paragraph:
In March, Byers and another professional poker player and Poker Hall of Fame inductee, Dewey Tomko, co-wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Press of Atlantic City. They specifically addressed the vulnerability of novice players to cheating by teams of colluders as well as the curious lack of interest on the part of New Jersey regulators in the details of how cheaters might exploit system weaknesses.
Read the full story here: NEW JERSEY GAMBLING REGULATOR IGNORES ONLINE POKER PROBLEMS
Meanwhile, several posters at various poker forums, including 2+2, ripped into Tomko for his alleged role in the online poker debate.
Read more here: DEWEY TOMKO NEEDS WORK, WANTS TO PROTECT US FROM THE EVILS OF ONLINE POKER
It’s fair to say, Tomko was being crucified. And perhaps rightly so, if any of it was actually true.
I wondered. Did anyone bother to check this out first and run it by Tomko?
THE TRUTH IS REVEALED
On Sunday afternoon (May 4, 2014) I called up my friend Dewey Tomko who was at his home in Orlando.
I told him about the original article he was alleged to have written. I explained how the fallout from this story within the poker community would be very negative, not just for him, but also for poker.
Tomko’s statements were quite clear and were recorded as follows:
On the editorial which appeared in The Press of Atlantic City newspaper:
I have no idea what you’re talking about. You know me. I don’t write columns to newspapers. I’ve got other things that keep me plenty busy.
On knowing Bill Byers, who allegedly co-authored the editorial with Tomko, which appeared in The Press of Atlantic City newspaper:
Sure, I know Bill Byers. But I haven’t talked to him in ten years.
On being asked permission to have his name attached to the editorial:
No. That didn’t happen. No one ever asked me about it. This is the first I’ve ever heard about it.
On any knowledge or association he has with any person or organization related to online poker — either pro or con:
I have no association whatsoever to anything to do with that. I don’t play online poker. I’ve never played online poker before. Not even once. I don’t know anything about it. Why would I say something on something I know nothing about? I don’t do that. [See Footnote 1]
On his knowledge or association with Hilbert Shirey, who is/was reportedly an executive in a company headed by James Thackson (see The Hill story referenced above):
Sure, we’re friends….but I haven’t talked to Hilbert in at least three or four years.
On his actual position with regards to online poker and safety issues — as well as legalization and regulation.
I’m totally in favor of online poker. I haven’t played it. But I know it’s good for poker. I can’t really comment at all about security because I’m not qualified in that area. How could I be? How can they say that about me? I would never write such a thing about online poker. I would never do anything to hurt the game. You know that.
There’s more. But those were the high points.
In summation: First, Tomko didn’t write the editorial. Second, he knows nothing about it. Third, he hasn’t lent his name to any cause associated with any findings about online poker.
MY CONCLUSIONS: PUTTING ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER
Based on the evidence I have presented above, I’ve come to the following conclusions:
(1) Nothing written by either Bill Byers or Jim Thackson is credible. Everything they have stated with regards to online poker is now suspect. Both either knowingly or recklessly used Dewey Tomko’s name to establish credibility for themselves and their arguments.
(2) The Press of Atlantic City owes Dewey Tomko an immediate apology and a retraction of the original article.
(3) The Hill (newspaper) owes Dewey Tomko an immediate apology, which merits a correction.
(4) All media which reacted to the original editorial believed to have been co-authored by Dewey Tomko should run retractions, and explain how they were fooled into believing the piece was legitimate.
(5) Poker enthusiasts who post at various sites should now be aware that the views previously attributed to Dewey Tomko are false.
(6) Someone is lying. Someone is making things up. Someone needs to be exposed a soon as possible and all those who have used any evidence or testimony from such an individual should be dismissed immediately as sources who are not credible.
So, who is the imposter behind the Dewey Tomko hoax? I hope someone out there will investigate and find out.
[Footnote 1:] Tomko endorsed the online poker site Doyle’s Room for several years. However, he never actually played on the site, nor any site. Tomko says he made the endorsement as a favor to his longtime friend, Doyle Brunson.
I have no idea who “professional poker player” Bill Byers is. However, he does have a profile listed at multiple poker sites. His last recorded tournament cash was seven years ago (2007). This “professional poker player” has earned $12,053 in a grand total of three-lifetime cashes, according to one of the sites. BLUFF LINK HERE: BILL BYERS
For more on this breaking story, I encourage you to check the major sources for poker news. I also wish to acknowledge the original reporting done by Haley Hintze (from FlushDraw) and Rich Muny (Poker Players Alliance) and thank others out there who rightly asked questions that deserve answers.
Here’s an interesting report by Rich Muny, which highlights some of the dubious affairs of James Thackston, Bill Byers, Hilbert Shirey, and (apparently mistakenly) Dewey Tomko. READ HERE: Bill Byers, Hilbert Shirey (Poker Player & Dewey Tomko’s Longtime Golf Partner) & Jim Thackston Are Business Partners…Cheri Jacobus Is Right In The Middle Of It!
READ: UPDATE HERE
Nolab – first off, BOOM! Wonderful report (I always wondered why Tomko came out against online poker – didn’t make sense at all). Now it does – he didn’t!
Second – last link above (to Rich Muny’s READ HERE). Doesn’t work.
DAMN SPELL CHECK. Nolan. Jeebus.
Have you contacted the newspaper to see what they have to say about this?
I was happy to note your intent to look into this, and I thank you.
I wonder how many of those congress persons,Republican strategists, etc. even care to note the shadiness of those they are promoting with this.
Thank you for the work and the clarification; I have but one question:
Does Mr. Tomko know, and/or have any association with, past or present, Russ Hamilton? And if so, what is it?
Thanks for showing how media can verify and fact-check before posting their own or someone else’s material and claim it is accurate.
If something makes you go WTF? don’t just post it on your site, poker media-ites, and walk away. Find out for yourself WHY it made you go WTF? and whether it is true. Do this and you are able to provide your own original reporting rather than HuffPo-aggregating and moving to the next post.
Writers and Editors alike need to take responsibility to make sure original reporting takes place, AND proper attribution to original sources is constantly done.
I have 32 years (damn, I’m old) in as a journalist, so I know from where I rant. I’ve worked as a HuffPoMediaGroup editor, teaching aggregation and attribution to reporters and editors …
Someone NEEDED to call Dewey and ask WTF, Mate? Glad you stepped up and did so. Your talent, excellence and ethics always show through quite clearly …
Nolan, fantastic work, as always! I had heard about the editorial and seen the “Dewey bashing” and had wondered about it, but personal health issues have kept me away from poker and most issues related to it, but it didn’t quite sit right with me. I’m glad you’re still out there fighting the good fight, brother.
You are at the tip top of your game. And I’m not just saying that because you said something nice about one of my books in a prior column. You are picking out some great stuff, doing the follow-through work, and writing excellent, provocative stuff.
I was regularly reading these kinds of articles, Bill Byers is a hack tbh and nothing more. A lot of these so called poker journos are nothing but copywriters employed to write for affiliates most of the time and know nothing of the game itself. It was good for Mr Tomkos reputation that someone has cleared this up. Bravo sir!