While the game of poker is normally considered to be played across the green felt with chips in hand, the game encompasses a whole world of deals, situations, complexities, and extremes that are never placed in view on the felt. I am deeply distressed over a situation that I feel did not need to happen and it goes against the integrity and trust that I placed in someone that I considered to be a friend and an employee at PokerNews.com and I need to air the events to help myself deal with what has just happened.
Just before the $1K re-buy event at the WSOP, I held a celebration at the Naked Fish and invited many of my friends, including Tiffany Michelle.
Tiffany brought Maria Ho and we had a lot of fun talking and relaxing away from the stress of the WSOP and the Rio. I told Tiffany that I really like what she had done at PokerNews over the last two years and I knew she could be a huge star. We talked about PokerNews putting her into the Ladies Event (that deal was already set) and I wanted to give her a one bullet shot at the $1K re-buy event. She was very happy. I didn’t mention anything about her having to sign any paper work and we just agreed on the money terms.
We later had a PokerNews party at Bellagio. I took Tiffany to the VIP box and introduced her to Jeff Lisandro, Billy The Croc, and Jason Grey. Tiffany sat down next to Jeff and they really hit it off. About an hour later Jeff told me he wanted me to put Tiff in the main event. The main event had already started day 1A and Tiff could not get in and she desperately wanted to play. I spent some time talking to Jeff and told him I really couldn’t afford to do that, we left it there. We kept talking and Jason got involved in the conversation. A little later, Jeff again said I should put Tiff in the main event and Jason backed him up. I told Jeff he should put some money up because even though Tiff is a good player, she is not someone I would normally stake in this event. I stake many players; Kirill Gerasimov because he is a great player and has made 8 WSOP final tables, Marcel Luske for the first time this WSOP since he is a great player and a great personality and ambassador for the game, those are a few but I know they are qualified to play in this tournament.
As I thought about the whole idea, I thought also about the value PokerNews would receive if Tiff were to make the final table. I really love the girl and she is a star to me, and a great entertainer but not qualified enough as a skilled poker player that I would stake in the main event and if I were to do that, her value would be 80/20 and I know that if she places, she is going to get a huge deal but before she’s proven herself, no one would want to touch her with that big of an investment on unproven ground.
As I thought about it all, I said to Jeff that if he put up $4K, I would put up $6K but I would have all the rights to Tiff in terms of endorsement. I know Jason and Tiff both heard me say this. Jeff immediately said yes, that he would do it. I was under a lot of pressure right then because I had run out of cash and even had to borrow money to stake her. I told Tiff that she would have to sign a contract and I wanted it understood that I wanted the rights from anything that might come of her playing and placing in this event; at the time, it was kind of like buying a lottery ticket. I was pretty excited and pumped because I had 35 players in the main event and very high hopes that some of them would do very well and win, of course I was interested in what it would all mean to PokerNews in terms of traffic and new exposure. PokerNews is my dream and a very big part of my life. If I succeed, so does PokerNews, and if PokerNews succeeds, so do I.
The final result was that PokerNews paved the way for Tiffany Michelle’s entrance into the main event. The deal was one third for me, one third for Jeff and one third for Tiff and she represents PokerNews.
The first part of the written contract starts like this:
“I, Tiffany Graham, agree that I am an official PokerNews sponsored player.”
Unfortunately, my people did not get a water tight contract but that is a matter of deliberation. She is considered to be an official representative of PokerNews, and in all matters of honor and integrity, how can she discard her responsibility to PokerNews and step into a contract with someone else as their official representative? It’s noted by others that Tiffany began by wearing PokerNews affiliated clothing and then stepped into Ultimate Bet attire, pretty much concealing her connection with PokerNews as the main event progressed.
When Tiff turned up with UB gear on day 5, it was a total shock to me and all of PokerNews management. You can compare all sides of this and decide for yourself but when I saw her, I was left speechless. I asked my people if she had signed the contract. For me contracts are 20/80 with 80% up to the person that signs up. Unfortunately we cannot enforce things easily via courts, especially with online poker since none of the online poker is based in the US nor does it appear to be a situation that will soon be remedied because the United States appears not to care about integrity and truth or protection for people that play online poker. Every player that has signed with any site could just say, “Go and jump, now I play for UB or Card Player or whoever I want so sue me!” It just isn’t going to happen whether it’s in the Bahamas or Costa Rica.
People, in principal, especially the people I’ve had dealings with in poker are honest and Tiff is the first one to break the online poker code – the poker code period, for that matter and drop the ball with me. Even if she did not sign anything, and we had just verbally agreed at the initial talk at the PokerNews party, where are her ethics in business deals?
I tried to call her and eventually got her on the phone. She told me that she couldn’t talk to me, that I would have to talk to her agent Katie. I am really pissed. I can’t sleep because I don’t understand why she would do this to me. Where was Katie when Tiff need $10K to play the main event? Where was anyone at all, including UB, when Tiff needed to find a way into the Ladies’ Event or the 1K re-buy event.
Before play on her last day, Tiff called me and I was so happy for her to have made it as far as she did. But I told her that no matter what, she couldn’t wear the UB clothing. I asked her to please think about what she was doing to us, meaning her relationship with me and PokerNews, and she said she would think about it.
I keep wondering how Katie, Tiff’s agent, would even consider doing this deal with Tiff and how Tiff would not think that her first responsibility for advice and planning should come from PokerNews. I had been working on putting a deal together for Tiff with PokerStars and they had just emailed me. I knew Tiff could become a huge star and I was going to allow her to do a deal that would protect PokerNews also for the main event. We had it all set with PokerStars and she was going to get millions out of it with at least $1M in buy-ins no matter where she finished in the main event. I know that with UB she did not even get a signed contract and I believe Tiff’s agent does not have any direct contacts with big sites and UB was her agent’s only choice. We asked Annie Duke to get Tiff to pull the gear and Annie agreed. And then Tiff came out with the UB logos all over her for the final devastating day of her main event. UB said that Tiff chose to wear it.
I am not a money hungry person and I don’t think about how much I can make but I can truthfully say that on the last few hands I wanted Tiff to bust. I wanted this to end. I felt sick. When she busted It was a huge relief and closure of the situation.
I have never sued anyone and I don’t like using my energy on negative things. The court would be the one that decided if she broke a contract with me but I don’t like using my energy on negative things. I believe that the time it would take for me to go after her and the hard feelings that would build because of it, that I would lose so much of my good energy that I am not going to prosecute her.
I have a message for Tiff: you are 24 and you have made a horrid mistake. You let me down. You can’t live your life like this. I am very hurt that you came out with UB and you could not call me to say, “Hey, here is a deal and this is what I want to do, what do you think?”
Tiff you’re off the hook with this, it’s over. I have said all I want to say about this.
PokerNews has released an official statement.
PocketFives.com discussion thread.
Two+Two forum thread.