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2011 Collective Player Investigation Leads Up to Fraud Trial Against Darren Woods

There has been a recent addition to our #PokerCrimeFiles  with news about the ongoing trial  in the UK against @Darren Woods on fraud charges for offences committed  between January 2007 and January 2012.  The case goes back  to 2011, when a group of high-stakes players on 888poker became aware of a likely cheating scheme involving collusion at the push-or-fold tables. The problem was, their suspicions were directed at a well-known and respected player,  a WSOP bracelet holder, no less!

At the time, Darren Woods was an 888poker sponsored player and pokerstrategy.com coach, and had just won his bracelet in WSOP 2011, Event 19 - Six-Handed Limit Texas Holdem. No wonder their initial complaint met with the following response from VIP support: "maybe you should move down in stakes where the games are softer". What they did instead was to organize their own investigation!

The players set up a skype channel, started collecting screenshots, chat and hand histories and prepared a report that was brought to the attention of 888poker management with the help of the PokerStrategy CEO.


A detailed account can be found on 2+2 and here is an excerpt from the official statement the group sent to 888poker management:

The collective statement

Purpose and Introduction

This is a collective statement from the high stakes players of 888.com. What brought us together is a very strong suspicion that some other players at the highest stakes of the 888.com PushorFold (PoF) tables are colluding (they are sharing hole cards with each other).

The push or fold tables are perfect for this as the play is very easy and straight and the advantage provided by collusion maximized as all decisions take place early.

We all agree that something suspicious is happening and we ask you to immediately freeze the involved accounts and their assets until a thorough investigation is done. They keep playing every day and many innocent players are getting hurt.

Its very important to stop what we suspect as cheating as soon as possible.

The players suspected of colluding is dooshcom (Darren Woods) working togheter with benkaremail, liverfc123 and benhamandcheese.

Why do we think they are cheating?
They always sit down at the same table, leaving an empty seat for a victim between them. During 07/24/2011 to 9/6/2011 dooshcom basically never missed a single session with benkaremail or liverfc123 or benhamcheese. Out of 50 their sessions we know about, he was always there except for a few very short ones.
Whereas dooshcom considered benkaremail a weak player, he would be taking a seat right next to him. This is what all good players (dooshcom included) are doing in normal circumstances.
Dooshcom didn't play PushorFold tables on a regular basis before. Moreover, during August and July of 2011 he missed a lot of good action benkaremail, liverfc123 and benhamcheese was not involved in. But he is always there when they are.
They are all from the same country, UK.
All of them play very good and understand the game as deeply as we do. Although they deviate from the good play in some spots. These situations only make sense in case of the collusion. More detailed explaination of how and why they deviate from the optimal play is rather complicated and can be found below.
They start 6-max tables by playing heads up. Their heads up play is absurdly bad. This is obviously performed to lure viewers to join and maybe to chipdump.
We are experts in the game. Our observations and discusions led to a mutual agreement on the collusion taking place. Whether any one of us was in doubt, you would never receive this email.

BLUFF Live! @ The 2011 WSOP - Episode 15 - June 14, 2011

The players' efforts proved well worthwhile. The prosecution at Sheffield Crown Court now claims Woods and his 56-year-old father, Morteza Gharoon, used different computers and real persons' identities to open accounts on various poker sites. "He cheated from the outset and he knew what he was doing was wrong from the outset," claimed Prosecutor Alasdair Campbell. According to the Grimsby Telegraph, "Woods admitted playing online poker games using other people's names but denied acting dishonestly or that he had any intention of making a gain."

Darren Woods and his father deny all charges. The trial continues and online poker players all over the world are sure to follow developments closely. 

Grimsby Telegraph: 

Gambling star 'knew what he was doing was wrong'

Champion poker player from Healing 'used other people's identities', fraud trial told

Fraud trial: Vegas poker star & dad from Healing deny 'fooling the system' of thousands

888 Poker Player Darren Woods @ Aussie Millions 2010:

F5Poker: Man Stabs Friend in Home Game Feud





Borgata Counters Phil Ivey Motion to Dismiss Edge Sorting Lawsuit


@Phil Ivey #PokerCrimeFiles 

oups !



Police say an invitation-only poker game among friends had two uninvited intruders. In the end, a Ft. Bend businessman was killed and another player injured

"Police don't know what made the robbery escalate into murder..." This is so sad

Weekly RankingHero Highlights

This week RankingHero brought you several exclusive interviews: @Nicolas Levi spoke to @Sean Yu, who took our patch to the final table and all the way to 1st place in the inaugural #WPT500 $1 Million GTD; @Pedro Canali interviewed the amazing @Jon Finkel - recognized as one of the greatest players of Magic:The Gathering, but also a successful poker player, sports bettor, finance genius, and - we are so proud to say! - RankingHero member. Make sure you follow the #MTGpoker hashtag and MTG Poker page on RKH for future interviews and posts! In addition, @Bruno Fitoussi - one of the 'founding fathers' of poker in France is Dans le carré and talks about the past, present, and future of poker. Last but not least, you will find a link to an interesting 2013 interview with Mark Newhouse - the back-to-back November Niner.

Meanwhile, the Main Event played down to the #NovemberNine and #WSOP2014 players were leaving Las Vegas - find out how some of them said goodbye in the social media.

@Daniel Colman has been the talk of the poker community ever since he won $15 million in the Big One for One Drop and - after declining to talk to the media - shared his ambivalent feelings about the game in a forum post. However, this hasn't stopped him from scoring another 6-figure cash in a 100K #SuperHighRoller at the @ARIA Resort & Casino, which took him one place up - to fourth position - in the all-time US ranking.

Check out the #PokerCrimeFiles hashtag on RKH for news about Macau Millionaire Paul Phua's arrest in Vegas on illegal sports betting charges and about his famous lawyer - 'the Phil Ivey of attorneys', David Chesnoff.

We are very happy that @Flaminio Malaguti (find out more about his extraordinary live tournament record here) has officially joined RankingHero! Please also welcome and give distinctions to @Nancy Birnbaum @Marius Pospiech @James Akenhead @Jeffrey Ray @Christophe Thirion and all of the new members of our community.

Thanks to the  #M1debut participants who shared stories about their poker beginnings and to our own @Elena RKH for organizing and moderating this fun contest! We hope the winners will take the RankingHero patch to the felt and help us expand the photo gallery RankingHeroes in Action.

Wishing you another good week of poker playing & winning & learning & sharing. We'll be looking foward to your updates here on RankingHero and on our Facebook page!

Yours truly,

@Annie RKH 



'The Phil Ivey of Attorneys' and Vegas Legend David Chesnoff Represents Millionaire Paul Phua

'Who you gonna call' is not really a question for gamblers and jet-set thrill-seekers who get into trouble in Sin City, nor for the casinos where the trouble may have started. The obvious choice is David Chesnoff,  who has been practicing as a criminal defense attorney in Vegas for nearly 35 years.

Chesnoff is now in the news again with a high-profile case after the arrest of millionaire @Paul Phua. Well-known to poker fans from super high-roller events and the Macau Big Game, Phua is allegedly connected to a Chinese crime syndicate - the Hong Kong-based 14K Triad - and is accused of running an illegal sports betting ring from Ceasar's Palace. His lawyer denied these charges. “This is a very sophisticated, intelligent individual who wants to defend himself,” Chesnoff was reported saying by the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Bruno Mars, Myke Tyson, Paris Hilton - just a few of his famous Vegas clients.

In view of the dazzling string of celebrities whom Chesnoff has represented successfully since 1980 (when he first arrived in Vegas), we have no doubt Phua will get the best possible defense. A great article about David Chesnoff by Michael Kaplan - Busted in Vegas? Gotta Call David Chesnoff - cites some of the stars of poker that have profted from his advice over the years:

"He also represented poker pro Mike “The Mouth” Matusow on a drug charge. “Mike was in deep trouble,” Chesnoff says. “He wound up going from facing state prison time to a very short sentence in the jail downtown”—where @Mike Matusow still managed to lose a six-figure sum by placing sports bets with bookies on the outside. “His whole life would have been unfairly different if I hadn’t been able to convince the court that this was really aberrant behavior on his part and that he really wasn’t a drug dealer.”

Chesnoff established himself as a favorite of poker stars, advising @Phil Hellmuth, @Johnny Chan, and the late @David 'Chip' Rees, among others. When @Jamie Gold won the World Series of Poker in 2006, there was a dispute with a card-playing TV producer who claimed to have been promised half of Gold’s winnings; Chesnoff went to bat for the producer and the suit was eventually settled. After poker great @Phil Ivey Phil Ivey enlisted Chesnoff to represent him in his 2009 divorce, the line at the hold’em tables was that Ivey had hired the Phil Ivey of attorneys. These days, every casino boss in town has Chesnoff flagged on his iPhone. “I get calls from casino executives to help big customers of theirs, and it isn’t to help because they want to see the guys go away,” he says. “Casino management understands that people are in Vegas and things will happen."

Read more at http://vegasmagazine.com/personalities/articles/busted-in-vegas-gotta-call-david-chesnoff#D9HT4GymyTGVGoqB.99

Macau Big Game Millionaire Paul Phua Arrested in Vegas

For many years @Paul Phua has been a familiar name to poker fans as one of the few non-anonymous businessmen among the regulars in the mythical Macau Big Game. In fact, he is often referred to as the key figure behind those mind-boggling cash games where a few, select pros are invited to play with a group of Asian millionaires and poker aficionados.

As for live tournaments, Paul Phua entered the first edition of the biggest buy-in tournament in history - the 2012 Big One for One Drop and has played (and occasionally cashed) in other super high-roller poker events in the past years. Most recently he managed a deep run in the widely publicized, star-studded Eur 100,000 buy-in EPT Super High Roller where he and fellow Asian millionaire @Richard Yong made the final table and finished 4th and 6th, respectively.

Paul Phua's name surprisingly never appeared on the registration list for the 2014 Big One for One Drop or any other WSOP event and now we all know why - he was busy in a different high-stakes game :) Phua (and his 22-year-old son) were among eight people taken into custody in connection with a multimillion-dollar illegal World Cup betting operation. Both the father and the son were released from custody on condition of putting up $2 million and $500,000 bail, respectively, as well as their private jet as collateral.

As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Phua and more than 20 other people were arrested June 18 in Macau for running a large gambling operation that took in hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal bets on the World Cup tournament, the Las Vegas FBI complaint alleged.

Last month, the South China Post in Hong Kong reported that police broke up an illegal betting ring at a Macau hotel involving roughly $645 million in wagers on the World Cup, including a single wager of $51.5 million. The hotel was not named in news reports.

Following his arrest in Macau, Phua was released on bail and flew to Las Vegas on his private jet, where he and his associates are alleged to have resumed their illegal gambling at Caesars Palace, the complaint alleged.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday, Las Vegas FBI Agent Minh Pham said the elder Phua, who was charged under the name Wei Seng Phua, was “known by law enforcement to be a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad,” one of the largest criminal syndicates in the world. Hong Kong-based 14K Triad specializes in drug trafficking and traditional forms of criminal activity, including illegal gambling, prostitution and loan sharking.

Curiously enough, Paul Phua's lawyer is the famous Vegas criminal defense attorney David Chesnoff, who notably represented @Phil Ivey in his protracted divorce case and has been called 'the Phil Ivey of attorneys'. Chesnoff has told the media that @Andrew Robl was prepared to advance $1.5 million towards the bail and that other members of the poker community have offered to help. One wonders if Ivey (himself a Macau regular) is one of those who will chip in or if he will avoid any involvement due to his own legal problems of late (see Did Phil Ivey Cheat or Outsmart the Casinos?).


More on RankingHero:

The Monte-Carlo EPT Super High Roller - a Clash of Cultures, Generations, and Poker Styles

The Macau Big Game

5 Comments Display all

The sportsbook that was allegedly involved in illegal wagering have released a statement a few days ago:

An update from SBOBET themselves:

Global online sportsbook SBOBET wishes to make it clear that recent press reports linking its name to a Wei Seng Phua (or Phua Wei Seng) who was arrested in the US for illegal online sports betting on the 2014 FIFA World Cup conducted out of a Las Vegas casino base are entirely without foundation.

Neither the accused nor those arrested with him have any involvement or association with the ownership or management of SBOBET, or with its operators, Celton Manx Limited and Richwell Ventures Limited.

Additionally SBOBET wishes to clarify that the US is one of more than 30 jurisdictions worldwide from which it does not accept bets from and that any alledged wagers placed via SBOBET.com by the accused could only have been made illegally, as press reports confirm.

Got it from the source below:
Las Vegas Illegal Wagering: A Statement From SBOBET

Remote Gambling Operation Behind Paul Phua Caesars Palace Arrest

"This Malaysian report states that he was deported from Macau, which makes his participation in the future nose-bleed poker games there (including at Wynn Macau) in which he was a primary participant an unlikely future occurrence."

Did Phil Ivey Cheat or Outsmart the Casinos?

With the latest announcement of a Borgata lawsuit against @Phil Ivey, it looks like poker media might well have to start regular court watch columns about one of poker's greatest stars of all-time. RankingHero reviews Ivey’s court history:

What started out as an ordinary divorce settlement in 2009, developed into a lengthy legal battle and ended up In Nevada Supreme Court, which in April 2013 ruled in Phil Ivey’s favor (dismissing objections related to alleged connections between Ivey and the judge who heard his divorce case).

Ivey married his high-school sweetheart, Luciaetta, in 2002.


Full Tilt
In May 2011 Phil Ivey publicly shared his outrage and openly sided with the wronged players whose Full Tilt funds were frozen:
I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm.
I wholeheartedly refuse to accept non-action as to repayment of players’ funds and I am angered that people who have supported me throughout my career have been treated so poorly.

Ivey filed a lawsuit against Tiltware LLC, seeking more than $150 million in damages. Tiltware immediately responded calling the lawsuit ‘frivolous and self-serving’ and accused Ivey of "putting his own narrow financial interests ahead of the players he professes to help". The exchange speeded up negotiations between the parties and the lawsuit was “voluntarily dismissed without prejudice by the plaintiff” on June 30, 2011.

Crockfords (August 2012):

In August 2012 Ivey played a lucrative three-day Baccarat session at one of London’s oldest casinos - Crockfords - accompanied by an unidentified Asian woman. He ended up winning about $12 million and while the casino immediately transferred his £1 million deposit to his bank account, they withheld payment of his winnings.

A year later, in May 2013, Ivey filed a claim against the Genting Group (a Malaysian gaming corporation and owner of Crockfords) in London's High Court. The casino promptly responded by accusing Ivey in court of cheating and claimed that his winnings were invalid since they were ‘based on illegal acts’.

"The fact that I have issued a lawsuit in the face of what they are alleging says everything about how comfortable I am with my conduct and the validity of my win. Any allegations of wrongdoing by Crockfords are denied by me in the very strongest of terms."

This is an Associated Press report on the case of May 15, 2013: 

"The court papers say that Ivey and his accomplice, after some trial and error, found a "shoe" that contained decks of cards with an asymmetrical design. They were then able to convince the dealer, after cards were revealed, to turn the card either sideways or end over end. The staff was not suspicious because the accomplice, who spoke Cantonese with the dealers, acted like she was superstitious and just changing the way the cards lay for good luck, court papers say.

The effect was that the dealer inadvertently sorted the cards so that 7, 8 and 9 cards were distinguishable from others. Ivey sustained his success, the court papers claimed, by asking that the cards be shuffled automatically by a machine, which meant the way the cards were arranged was not altered as the game progressed. The court papers also claim that Ivey specifically asked for an Asian dealer so his accomplice could communicate with that dealer in a language not known by the rest of the casino staff."


Full bleed Gemaco plastic cards: "Gemaco has produced a classic full bleed design with a traditional look and feel. The Weave design is intended to deliver the quality which serious card players expect at an affordable price. Gemaco Weave plastic playing cards are nicely packaged in a clear acrylic storage case. Give them a try!"


Borgata (April-October 2012)

According to the federal suit filed by Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa last week, Ivey contacted the Borgata requesting special arrangements for a baccarat game in 2012 and eventually won $9.6 million in four sessions. He asked for a private pit, dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese, and an automatic card shuffler. And he was accompanied by a woman, Cheng Yin Sun, who spoke to the dealer and asked for specific flipping of cards. The Borgata claims that "Ivey and an associate exploited a defect in cards that enabled them to sort and arrange good cards and gave him an unfair advantage in baccarat on four occasions between April and October 2012":

Ivey reportedly won:
$2.4 million on April 11, 2012
$1.6 million on May 3, 2012
$4.8 million on July 26, 2012
$824,000 on Oct. 7, 2012

The fourth and last session coincided with reports about the withheld payment of his winnings in Crockfords.

While it is as yet unclear whether the accomplice is the same ‘superstitious’ lady who was with Ivey in London, there are striking similarities between the allegations. Ivey has already admitted to reading the cards but claims the casino should have been  aware of flawed cards and the risk of edge sorting and taken measures to prevent it. “I read the cards but I’m no cheat", Phil Ivey has been reported as saying by the Daily Mail.

So far the poker community seems inclined to side with its own star but we will have to wait for the court rulings on whether or not he actually operated an 'illegal scam'.


Glossary of terms

Punto Banco:

Punto Banco Baccarat is played with six or eight decks of cards placed in what is called a dealing "shoe." The goal in each hand, which consists of two or three cards, is to get closest to nine — the best first cards are a 7, 8 or 9 since a 10 or a picture card counts as zero. Players can bet that they will win, that the bank will win, or that the hand will be a tie.


Essentially, taking advantage of flawed full bleed markings to distinguish specific cards. Read on: http://apheat.net/2012/06/28/what-is-edge-sorting/


Full bleed is printing from one edge of the paper to the other without the standard borders by which most personal printers are limited. See photo above.

Bleed is a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet before trimming. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off. The bleed is the part on the side of a document that gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies. Artwork and background colors can extend into the bleed area. After trimming, the bleed ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document. (Wikipedia)


The manufacturer of the flawed cards named in the Borgata lawsuit against Phil Ivey.


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#philivey rulzzz

New hashtag on RankingHero with all the crime&court stories in poker :) #PokerCrimeFiles 

like it ! :)