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In a new blog post at Full Contact Poker, Daniel Negreanu gave some insight to his thoughts regarding poker cheats and players who should perhaps be banned from ever participating at World Series of Poker events.

KidPoker set his sights on six players/individuals and then stated reasons both for and against their possible banishment from the WSOP. Those six are: Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Russ Hamilton, Mansour Matloubi, Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack. The latter was or is not a player, but was scrutinized for his role in the Epic Poker League’s demise.

Of those six, the Poker Hall of Fame’s most recent inducted player believes that only two should be barred from future WSOP tournaments. Those two are Mansour Matloubi and Russ Hamilton.

“I’ve always been of the position that unless people have been found to actually cheat at poker, they should be allowed to attend,” Negreanu stated.


UB cheating

Hamilton and Matloubi, of course, were at the center of the UltimateBet cheating scandal in which it was determined that software was created that allowed them “to see their opponents hole cards online.”

Though never proven in a courtroom, KidPoker feels that a WSOP ban for the pair would be justified due to evidence that “is overwhelmingly one-sided that at the very least, these two men were involved in cheating players out of millions.”


Epic failure

Also accused of cheating players were Duke and Pollack, orchestrators of the defunct Epic Poker League. That league “defrauded players out of a ‘guaranteed’ million dollar freeroll,” Negreanu stated.

But the 40-year-old Team PokerStars Pro and the game’s best ambassador goes a bit soft regarding those transgressions. It goes back to Negreanu’s belief that only actual cheating while playing poker is an unpardonable sin.

“So, players are owed money, and these two were responsible to varying degrees for that,” wrote Negreanu in his blog post. “As wrong as I think it is to not even acknowledge this debt or make any strides towards making the players whole, I still don’t think it warrants a WSOP ban.”

The Canadian poker star went on to say that “there are plenty of poker players playing the WSOP that owe people money with no intention of ever paying.” If the WSOP banned all such players and included those who also cheat on their spouses and/or taxes, “man, we might see an 85% drop in attendance at the very least!”


‘Jesus’ out of sight

Negreanu also is in a forgiving mood toward both Lederer and Ferguson, the FTP board members who collectively have seven WSOP gold bracelets and over 100 cashes in WSOP tournaments. Of Ferguson, KidPoker had criticism for the way he handled FTP matters after details became known following Black Friday.

“Based on what I’ve gathered, he (Ferguson) was essentially MIA when FTP was trying to find a buyer so they could pay back the players,” Negreanu stated. “That’s been confirmed to me by several sources. He essentially hid under the covers hoping it would all just go away.”

Added KidPoker, “disappearing just never seems like the most responsible choice,” but banishment from the WSOP is not deserving punishment, Negreanu said.


‘Professor’ pardoned

With regard to Lederer, Negreanu has changed his tune completely from a few years ago. In a Full Contact Poker blog post in February 2012, here is what Negreanu had to say about Lederer, Ferguson and Ray Bitar

“I hope to never see any of your faces at the WSOP anymore, and I hope you live with the shame you deserve for the rest of your lives. You deserve all the wrath you’ve received from the poker world, and much more. You are scum and each of you absolutely deserves a few swift baseball bat swings to the groin area, old school Vegas style.”

Almost all Full Tilt players have been reimbursed since Negreanu wrote those words. The passing of time, new details coming to light about Lederer’s role in the mismanagement, and perhaps greater maturity on the part of Negreanu after reaching his 40th birthday and cementing his well-deserved legacy in the Poker Hall of Fame have led to KidPoker writing this just a couple days ago –

“Howard, for many years was an integral part of operations at FTP before stepping down at some point before Black Friday. Most people assumed he was still running things, and Howard certainly played the part of the ‘guy behind the guy’ if you will. Once the news broke that FTP was insolvent, based on sources I’ve spoken to, Howard spent every day trying to find a way to get the players paid. Many of the owners didn’t agree with the direction Howard wanted to take the company, but it seemed to be a consensus that Howard’s main purpose and motivation was to get the players paid.”

After admittedly being “very critical” of Lederer in the past, it now seems that room for forgiveness has crept into Negreanu’s consciousness. While fault for the the Full Tilt fiasco still lies with the board members, their crimes appear to be more of the negligent and reckless variety, as opposed to intentionally aiming to cheat players.


Bitar out of his realm

And most of the blame, according to Negreanu, falls on the shoulders of Ray Bitar, who is believed to continue to be in dire straits regarding his health, still awaiting a heart transplant.

“A lack of oversight allowed for Ray Bitar to run the company into the ground,” stated Negreanu. “I’ve heard from various sources that not only was Ray in over his head, he was flat out lying to the other owners about the financial status of the company.”

In the eyes of Negreanu, then, only Hamilton and Matloubi deserve lifetime bans from WSOP events. “I would have no problem playing the WSOP in 2015 against any of the other names mentioned,” KidPoker wrote.

Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.