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As the 2016 Global Poker League Draft and American Poker Awards played out in California on February 25th, a more controversial affair was taking place on the Poker Life Podcast hosted by Joey Ingram.

High stakes professional player Jason Mo — no stranger to poker prowess or social media spew — took to the airwaves to vent about a recent op-ed article written by Phil Galfond and published by PokerNews. In the piece, Galfond outs a well known personality for a debt of $250,000. The alleged offender, Samuel Touil, declined to comment when contacted by the poker media website PokerNews, so the article currently stands as a one-sided recount from arguably one of the most respected players in the game.

The way Mo sees it, Galfond’s “outing” of Touil was not something that should have found its way onto one of the leading poker news outlets. Although rather commonplace in social media circles and the poker forum realm, such “full blast” messages have traditionally been passed up by media sites for obvious reasons.

Yet PokerNews Editor-in-Chief and American Poker Awards “Media Person of The Year” Donnie Peters believes that the time has come for such issues in the poker industry to be discussed. The article can serve as a “conversation starter,” Peters told Ingram during the February 22nd, 2016 edition of the Poker Life Podcast.

“Fair enough,” many poker media representatives would say. Galfond put his name behind the article, it is assumed that PokerNews did any necessary due diligence beforehand and the writeup was clearly marked as an op-ed. Touil was given an opportunity to respond and has no shortage of platforms to air his side of the story.

But then Mo brought up a similar beef that another reputable high stakes poker player — Shaun Deeb — wanted to air publicly. Deeb says high profile poker player Eli Elezra owes him around $250,000… and that PokerNews declined to publish his story in a similar format to Galfond’s. Deeb ultimately chose personal friend and Under The Gun Podcast host David Tuchman over Ingram’s Poker Life Podcast to get the word out.

Who Is Jason Mo?

Jason Mo, according to The Hendon Mob database website, is a $1.8 million live poker tournament winner with a number of marquee final tables. From what we’ve learned on the Poker Life Podcast, Mo has enjoyed success in online and live cash games and is a reputable member of the high stakes poker community.

Mo is also an alleged victim of being cheated out of tournament equity at the 2015 EPT Barcelona as well as being owed $5,000 by Aria. Why hasn’t this been sorted out? Well, there was no video evidence to corroborate Mo’s claim last year in Barcelona (meaning none existed because a PokerStars sponsored event wasn’t recording what transpired at the tables during a break). Aria isn’t talking about the infamous laundered 5k chip so we’ve only got Mo’s accusations to work with.

With no resolution of the disputes forthcoming, Mo has repeatedly taken to Twitter to communicate his frustration. Which brings us to Mo’s infamous spewing and personal attacks on Twitter — the latest which came at the expense of PokerStars Director of Poker Communications Lee Jones.

The reaction from poker media reps to Mo’s January 2016 social media barb has been mixed. PartTimePoker contributor Alex Weldon wrote that the post “could reasonably be taken as a joke” while TwoPlusTwo PokerCast host Adam Schwartz openly criticized the high stakes lightning rod for controversy for what could also reasonably piss someone off.

Jones appeared on Schwartz’ show after the 2015 EPT Barcelona chip equity dispute and had some negative insinuations about Mo (not the Poker Communications chief’s finest hour), and that may have prompted Mo to feel justified about aiming a flame-tinged Tweet at one of the most recognizable names in online poker.

Regardless, PokerStars temporarily blocked access to Mo’s online account, which only heightened the animosity between the now public company and one of its most vocal customers. Although the situation was resolved relatively quickly, it seems like only a matter of time before one parties involved decides to permanently call it quits on the relationship.

Mo’s consistent track record of ruthlessly singling out poker sites, venues or people who have some involvement with issues he deems unfair, ridiculous, unethical, or against his interests has resulted in some not-so-balanced coverage of the social media ranter.

When Mo’s Twitter flame of Jones was posted in January 2016, there were some articles that painted the high stakes pro in a negative light without mentioning any of the outlying circumstances that would have relayed Mo’s side of the story.

One Spanish-language article in particular (do a Google search of PokerStars bloquea la cuenta de Jason Mo por troll) provided zero reference to Mo’s solid reputation as a member of the poker community, the Poker Life Podcast hosted by Joey Ingram where many of the pro’s opinions are fleshed out, or the November 2015 VIP Club changes that have resulted in a backlash from high volume players of the world’s largest poker site.

The notion that taking tens of millions in expected (and promised) value away from high volume players and placing some nickels in the hands of online poker recs — and labeling it good for the game — is comparable to Grima’s “Gorilla Math” from the epic poker film Rounders. Then there’s the elimination of cashback incentives in high stakes cash games, the rake increases, vilifying high volume players as a whole, and somehow ignoring that the best argument for poker being a game of long term skill is to have long term winners.

None of that made it into the article. The piece ends with a clear jab at Mo by saying, De momento, el disgusto ya se lo ha llevado Jason Mo. The rough English translation is, “For now, Jason Mo has already won the prize for disgust.” By the way, that article is currently the highest ranking Spanish-language writeup concerning Jason Mo for Google.

Jason Mo vs. Remko Rinkema Poker Life Podcast Showdown

Mo’s open challenge to argue his views publicly on Ingram’s show finally found a taker in late February 2016 when PokerNews contributor Remko Rinkema appeared in an “all male three-way” podcast.

What PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters called a potential “train wreck” turned into a reasonably informative give and take between the two podcast guests, but the program also contained its fair amount of venting from both sides.

Mo’s gripes with PokerNews and the poker media in general are as follows. My personal reaction to the arguments are included. As Mo would be quick to point out, my views are obviously affected by my involvement in the poker media industry.

Phil Galfond’s op-ed shouldn’t have been published. Perhaps. Outing those who owe significant sums of money in the poker industry is indeed a “slippery slope” for any content creator. However, I’m willing to give Peters the benefit of the doubt when he says the article is meant to be a “conversation starter.” You may see other poker news reps experiment with similar pieces in the future. Kudos to PokerNews for taking the plunge into such a controversial issue and paving the way for bringing it to the forefront.

PokerNews’ hand history live reporting is unreliable. Mo said this, not me… but he would have a more informed opinion since he routinely attends live events that the poker media site covers. The solution to this complaint seems simple. If PokerNews’ hand history reporting needs to improve, then I have full confidence in the professional abilities of their team to make that happen. No single website has more experience relaying live tournament hand histories to its audience, so I’m sure they can make adjustments if they need to be made.

Poker media typically shuns controversial issues that paint poker sites in a negative light. As Remko Rinkema mentioned in the podcast, there are clear examples of this not being the case. There is certainly no shortage of opinion-based content related to the 2015 PokerStars VIP Club changes. Does this PokerUpdate article by Bradley Chapulski seem like it pulls any punches because of this site’s affiliate relationship with the biggest mover and shaker in the online poker industry?

The Internet is littered with such pieces from established online poker affiliates-slash-media outlets. If a particular issue isn’t currently being talked about in poker media circles, it has everything to do with insufficient first-hand knowledge related to that topic.

This is the reason why you don’t see much reporting on “alleged” bots in real money online poker games. Poker writers and media websites may suspect such activity because high profile personalities such as Ingram reference them, but I’m not sure if any individual among us could write an informed piece on the topic at this time that adds something new.

But when it comes to hot-button issues that offer more clear cut information, you’ll find that poker media tends to publish stories about them — whether that’s an industry friendly piece on PokerStars promoting legal online poker in California or PokerStars giving its highest volume players the shaft by refusing to honor the payout of promised loyalty benefits.

Galfond wrote the op-ed out of self interest. Citing his experience with the high stakes poker community and large scale money transactions, Mo is adamant that Galfond’s outing of Touil was based on self interest rather than an act of goodwill to the poker community. Unlike most poker welchers, Touil is one of the few individuals who is actually more likely to make good on his alleged debt after being publicly outed in such a manner, says Mo.

My response to that is, “Good for Phil Galfond.” Having spent years of my life as a head moderator of a high traffic poker forum, I can attest that there is a substantial amount of “behind the scenes” collaboration that goes on between moderators, veteran contributors and scam victims.

Although online poker forums make it clear that all financial transactions discussed on the boards are the sole responsibility of the parties involved, many forum moderators often take personal initiative on assisting in disputes where there is a clear-cut offender and victim. In some cases, the threat of having one’s reputation soiled within the poker community is the determining factor in reaching a fair and equitable resolution to a financial arrangement gone wrong.

So if Phil Galfond has a legitimate claim to around $250,000 from Touil, and has concluded that his expected value is greater by publicly outing him, then more power to the Run It Once co-founder. Again, the moment Galfond placed his name on the article, his reputation has been at stake.

However, Mo points out just before the 66-minute mark of the February 26th, 2016 Poker Life Podcast episode that Galfond didn’t provide the particulars of his financial transactions with Touil in the article. This verifies that Galfond’s rep is in fact in play, as those details are undoubtedly relevant and will hopefully be brought to light in the future.

Jason Mo Pulls Rank on Poker Content Producers

The real nuts and bolts of the Mo versus Rinkema showdown came just after the 38-minute mark of the show when Mo asked, “Have you ever given or gotten a $250,000 loan?”

The debate almost went sideways at that point. Ingram interjected and Rinkema got a bit defensive (a completely reasonable reaction considering the PokerNews contributor risked a viral Tweet about his private parts by going head to head with Mo in the first place).

Yet in this writer’s opinion, that question by Mo along with the conversation that ensued was the APPT Teams Championship winner’s finest moment. The fact that Mo is personally involved in an elite poker circle where quarter-million dollar loans happen relatively frequently is relevant.

Pulling rank in that manner drives home a point made earlier in this article… that when it comes to high roller poker loans and how reputations or relationships play a role in such transactions, Jason Mo is an authority on the topic while Remko, PokerNews, and pretty much all of us on the “poker media” side of the fence are not.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is worth noting. Since poker transactions gone awry rarely amount to something as simple as x-person lent some money and y-person refuses to pay it back, justifying the publication of such a first-time article through Galfond’s rep isn’t all that palatable to a community of number crunchers. Mo wants to know what distinguishes Galfond’s rep from any other player and the response he got was pretty much, because it’s Phil em-effing Galfond.

Rinkema believes that the article can play a significant role in advancing the issue of poker scamming in a positive manner. I’m not so sure about that Utopian view (Mo called it a “holy crusade”) but Remko could be right. I’m much more comfortable with Peters labeling the op-ed as a “conversation starter” than elevating its status to a meaningful game changer, but time will tell.

The exchange between Rinkema and Mo also resulted in the latter not having a GTO response to his debate opponent’s query about why Mo doesn’t put his efforts towards actively pursuing a solution rather than ranting on Twitter (and then posting pics of sushi).

Just like Rinkema, Jason Mo should get a pass on becoming defensive. His blunt response about not caring (see the 33:20 mark) was a knee-jerk way to mask the true answer… that he probably feels the high stakes community knowledge gap between him and poker media reps is too great an obstacle to overcome. If that’s indeed true, I’d say that the knowledge gap exists but can be bridged in a very short period of time. The poker media industry is filled with its own clique of End Bosses who are more than capable of assimilating new information and adapting to it.

That part about what Mo may think is me putting words into someone’s mouth, so the Kitty Kuo Twitter account fan is welcome to rebut my line however he sees fit, but I believe he does care. What’s more, I’d say he has contributed heavily to the poker community with more than a half dozen appearances on the Poker Life Podcast over the past two years.

I know I’ve personally learned more about the intricacies of the high stakes poker world through Mo and other esteemed Poker Life Podcast guests than I ever knew before I began binge-watching the show.

In Summary

Both Mo and Remko did an admirable job of communicating their views during their recent appearance on ChicagoJoey‘s program. It takes a unique talent to get your point across while detractors on either side are typing “B00M” in the live chat box every few seconds. After watching the week-long saga play out on Ingram’s YouTube channel, I still think Rinkema, Mo, Peters, PokerNews and the Poker Life Podcast are all great.

We’re all sharing information more freely now it seems, so let me leave you with this final tidbit. If there is a type of story that the poker media industry typically does tend to ignore, it’s one laced with personal attacks. Just like high stakes poker pros, the majority of us have witnessed the full gamut of outright negativity over the years, and have grown weary of it.

So if Mo could do us a solid and stick to the educational chats, the laundered 5k poker chip, the alleged EPT Barcelona chip removal, PokerStars’ sudden removal of benefits high volume players were entitled to, and anything else he feels passionately about, that would be much appreciated.

That’s plenty to cover without bringing the nuts of Mister ToS into the conversation.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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