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Bringing Back the Frat House…Really?

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While browsing through poker media sites as I am prone to doing, I came across a video clip that was making its way through some of the media outlets. It was an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” with popular author Ben Mezrich, famous for such books as Bringing Down the House which popularized the MIT Blackjack card counting syndicate and The Accidental Billionaires which depicted the rise of Facebook.

In the interview, Mezrich talked about his new book that would be released next summer. He claims it’s about “a bunch of college kids that launched the online poker world” from a dorm room at the University of Montana. He claimed these unfortunate kids were “being persecuted” for doing what Mezrich believes to be something that was after all, “very American.” The online poker site he is referring to is Absolute Poker.

Yes, the same Absolute Poker that stole millions of dollars from its players. Yes, the same Absolute Poker where it was discovered that the founders were cheating the players on its site. Yes, the Absolute Poker that racked up tens of millions of dollars in tax liabilities trying to swindle its investors out of hundreds of millions in profits.

My first reaction was to dismiss this as just another example of an uninformed mainstream media type treading in a place he knows little about. But then I started to wonder. Would he really be so negligent as to portray these criminals as martyrs that have sacrificed their freedom for the American way of life?

I immediately turned to Haley Hintze, the expert on all things Absolute Poker, and asked her for her assistance. Was it possible that Mezrich was just some outsider looking for a story to tell? Or, was it something else and if so, what?

After some digging, it was discovered that Mezrich could have ties to the AP frat boys that go as far back as 2004. An old thread on 2+2 revealed this possible connection. A poster that goes by the moniker “styleXX” indicated that he had been saying for three years that Mezrich would write a book about the “Boys from Montana.”

But this is only meaningful if styleXX is credible, after all this could be any crackpot posting anonymously. But once we discovered the likely identity of styleXX it was clear that this person is indeed credible. An alumnus of the SAE fraternity at the University of Montana, the very same fraternity where Absolute Poker was born, and Facebook friends with Brent Beckley, the former Absolute Poker Vice President, and Layne Flack a professional poker player who grew up in Montana, the man we believe to be styleXX is no random.

And if that weren’t enough to link Mezrich to the Absolute Poker founders, an anonymous source independent of the styleXX posts also confirmed the connection between Mezrich and the AP founders as far back as 2007.

There is now no reason to believe that Mezrich is an uninformed mainstream media type. Rather, it seems likely that he has had connections to this story and its main characters for years. So why try to portray them as victims? Is this some deliberate attempt to obfuscate the facts? Is the truth not enough to tug on the emotional strings that sell millions of books?

Whatever the motivation, it seems clear that a book that paints the Absolute Poker founders as scapegoats is an attempt to exploit not only the true victims of the Absolute Poker crimes, but the entire poker community. At its best it would be incomplete and biased in its ignorance of the facts. At its worst it would be like Absolute Poker itself, dishonest.

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