Professional poker phenom Chris Moneymaker, who I’ve never met, is only a few days older than me.
He hails from Atlanta, Ga., where I attended college and after graduation spent the next five years pretending I was still in college.
But that’s where the similarities end.
Moneymaker has a Master’s in accounting; I’m a words guy. And unlike my card-playing contemporary, I’ve never served as the celebrity spokesperson for an online poker concern that’s now under federal indictment for bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Score one for Schechner!
To be fair, Moneymaker had nothing to do with the current legal quagmire that has enveloped the three largest online gaming sites — PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. That’s been placed at the feet of their respective heads and founders.
Besides, it was all the way back in 2003 that Moneymaker rose from the ranks of the online unknowns to claim the World Series of Poker title and its $2.5 million grand prize. He proceeded to cash in on the experience (why not?) and his Cinderella story (if Cinderella sported a baseball cap, a goatee and several extra pounds) is credited with revolutionizing poker.
These days it’s a cultural juggernaut, for reasons that remain largely a mystery to me. But then, I don’t get the allure of American Idol, Shrek or Kim Kardashian, so I’m probably a bad barometer.
Still, my favorite tidbit of coverage thus far has to come from the feds (naturally), who never miss an opportunity to come off as pinheads. I give you FBI assistant director-in-charge Janice Fedarcyk: “These defendants, knowing full well that their business with U.S. customers and U.S. banks was illegal, tried to stack the deck … [They] bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.”
Who’s running this investigation, Captain Kangaroo?
Not to distract the government from its fun with wordplay, but prosecutors may want to stay focused on this one. Here’s why: In sports, gambling and scandal have become almost synonymous: If you don’t remember, just Google “NBA” and “Tim Donaghy” and see what pops up.
But what to do when the sport is gambling? And isn’t one of the prized attributes of a poker player the ability to lie effectively? With all due respect Ms. Fedarcyk, you’re dealing with people who wrote — and successfully marketed — the book on Texas Hold ‘em.
We’ll see who blinks first.