This Week in Poker: Jonathan Duhamel’s Bracelet and Daniel Negreanu’s Tongue

By Michael Craig

Last Friday, a Montreal street sweeper found the mutilated center portion of Jonathan Duhamel’s World Series of Poker bracelet in a dumpster. Someone or something obliterated part of Jonathan’s name on the back. Duhamel’s manager, Philippe Jette, told me one of the few uplifting elements of this of this peculiar story: from day 1, Caesars has offered to replace the treasure, at its expense.

Unless the streets of Montreal are littered with actual gold, the thief disposed of the unique, famous prize. As for its degraded condition, we can blame (a) the duress of being discarded on a street in a tunnel, run through street-sweeping machinery, and ending up in a dumpster, or (b) a stupid, clumsy attempt to make a one-of-a-kind bracelet saleable by gouging out an engraving. It’s humorous to think this Gang That Couldn’t Steal Straight tried the latter – especially because one of the accused thieves was apprehended wearing Duhamel’s personalized Rolex – but only if you don’t think about it very long.

Suffering in Silence

Who won the Palazzo Deep Stack Extravaganza last night? Seriously, this tournament draws a world-class field and half its winners have qualified for Epic Season 1, but you need a short-wave radio to find out results. This, from an operation whose owner has no problem publicizing that he may give Newt Gingrich’s doomed presidential campaign $100 million?

With one exception, poker’s top players celebrated (or suffered) in silence this week. At the first event on the DeepStacks Poker Tour, the Western New York Poker Championship, William Fogel won; the best the DeepStacks pros could manage was Michael Mizrachi in 14th. At the Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final in Sao Paulo, Daniel Negreanu made the final table looking poised to win, but finished a disappointing 6th. Negreanu has demonstrated in more than a decade as a public figure in poker a practice of ill-considered remarks in inverse proportion to his results. If he had won, perhaps he would resume the practice of his glory days of (mostly) shutting up. (I haven’t crunched the numbers on this, so I can’t tell you which is the cause and which is the effect, but the relationship seems strong.)

Surreal Talk

Negreanu has recently been unloading on some of Full Tilt’s former owners and spokesmen, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson. I know on February 12 he tweeted that “Lederer KNEW what was up. Impossible not to. Arrogant condescending scumbags deserve punishment” and “deserving baseball bats to the groin.” He has apparently blogged at length on the same subjects but his views are sufficiently explicit that I didn’t feel I needed to read them. (I wouldn’t have to read issues of Der Sturmer to characterize its content, either.)

It would be simple to laugh off Daniel’s extremist outbursts but other extremists aren’t laughing. Someone on Two Plus Two, a moderated forum, announced he and three others were going to Las Vegas on February 20 to hunt down Howard Lederer. “We wont stop at anything. We will find the guy. We have around 40k in cash just for finding him … First we will go bat**** on him, he’s gonna get a taste of the old vegas style, just like DN mentioned in his blog.”

The post, too, could be dismissed. It’s almost laughably phony, but a lot of Two Plus Two members expressed support: “Good luck in your goal, regardless.” “Good luck.” “Don’t forget to take pics.” “I hope you find him.” “gl in your challenge.” “this would be very cool if true.” “hope someone gets stabbed. either u in jail or howard.”

At what point should intelligent people stop marginalizing kinds opinions on the grounds they are fabricated or crazy or humorously inept? At one time, Jonathan Duhamel would have joined everyone else in laughing about the possibility someone would be stupid enough to steal his only-one-in-existence 2010 Main Event bracelet. The inept thieves, however, still managed to beat him badly enough to send him to the hospital. When I saw the remains of the bracelet, I thought of the kidnappers of J. Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973. Initially dismissed as a scheme of Getty III to get money from his billionaire grandfather, the kidnappers cut off the 16-year-old’s ear and mailed it to a newspaper. Jonathan was lucky it was just his bracelet that ended up in the dumpster.

Negreanu’s position, if not his intent, is likely to inflame a lunatic fringe. Full Tilt’s principals are in no position to respond, subject to civil and potential criminal liability in a still unfolding series of events. Notwithstanding the position of my otherwise intelligent friend Matt Glantz, nobody in this situation makes public statements when facing the prosecutorial power of the United States government. The U.S. government plays for keeps, with unlimited resources and unprecedented power. Without a judicial finding, it seized domain names, shut down businesses in the U.S. and abroad, and confiscated bank accounts (including account money that could be used for paying depositors).

Negreanu’s making accusations (“Lederer KNEW what was up. Impossible not to.”) about the key issues in potential litigation, and he knows his targets can’t respond. By making them repeatedly and backing them up with ever-bolder language, it’s a classic bully move. He’s gone past any semblance of “exchange of ideas” into inciting his rooting section. Numerous of Daniel’s friends were also principal owners of Full Tilt. They are included neither specifically nor generally. Only his long-time enemies, who he knows can’t respond.

Doyle Brunson wrote about this subject in his blog on Monday. I have always believed that Brunson’s intuitive wisdom in judging people – including not judging people – has been one of the qualities that have made him one of the world’s most successful gamblers for half a century. Doyle’s still got it, and Negreanu should, after knowing him fifteen years, take a lesson on speaking out. Cooler heads will prevail, but the newspaper headlines – even the poker headlines – show the dangers of underestimating extremists and people of limited reasoning.

Ongoing and Upcoming

Thank goodness some great poker events are about to take over the news. The Los Angeles Poker Classic at the Commerce is marching toward its conclusion with the $10,000 WPT Main Event starting February 24, and some other big-money events coming. The WSOP Circuit is in Palm Beach (Main Event February 25-27). Heartland Poker Tour’s 99th event takes place in Quapaw, Oklahoma February 25-26. EPT Copenhagen is underway. The Wynn Classic is about to start (Main Event March 12-15). Bay 101′s WPT Shooting Stars is just around the corner (March 5-9).

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