The Alex Rodriguez Poker Scandal: What to Know & What to Look For


Let's just start off with this meaty morsel of knowledge: Which bastion of sports information broke the emerging ARod poker story? Was it the "worldwide leader of sports" ESPN? No. Was it that hard hitting journalistic house of integrity Sports Illustrated? No. Was it Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports, the Sporting News, Deadspin, or any of the other sports media outlets trusted by fans all across the globe? Nope.

It was Star Magazine.

Now take that into consideration not because of Star Magazine's reputation as a mere "grocery store scandal rag," but because in reports published by both ESPN and Sports Illustrated, Alex Rodriguez was warned by Major League Baseball and its commissioner Bud Selig to avoid in playing in illegal underground high stakes poker games back in 2005 (that's six years ago for those of you keeping score at home).

In other words, this is not a new revelation. Baseball knew about it. The major sports media knew about it. But no one said or wrote anything to that effect until Star Magazine "broke" the story. As if it needs to be proven again, both the sports leagues and its media affiliates can keep such a story under wraps and hidden from sports fans rather easily.

But, like most fans, you're saying to yourself: this is a non-story. Who cares if ARod is losing money in poker games? To a great extent, that is true.

The NBA doesn't seem to mind if its players gamble on cards. Just look at recent stories that have come out regarding NBA players who have gotten into trouble over playing poker on team flights. Heck, Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards nearly wrecked his career by bringing guns into the Wizards locker room as a "joke" in order to get a teammate to pay up on losses incurred in such a poker game.

Plus, spend enough time in either Las Vegas or Atlantic City and you'll witness a cavalcade of professional athletes (former and current) throwing thousands of dollars away on table games. This is legal and within every leagues' rules.

Athletes gamble. Always have, always will. In fact, if one checks into Gamblers Anonymous, you'll see that the symptoms of what can make an addicted gambler are eerily similar to what constitutes a professional athlete.

With ARod's alleged presence at these poker games, ignore the violence over unpaid debts that led to this story getting out into the public. And never mind the alleged cocaine use - right at the poker table - during these games as well. Also, forget the fact that organized crime - the very sort of people that fix sporting events - make a vast majority of their money via illegal gambling and drugs both of which emcompass this story.

Where ARod's tale really goes awry is in this: associated with these illegal poker games were true poker professionals. In my research for my next book, I've learned that several well-known poker "stars" - faces you've seen at the World Series of Poker and elsewhere - often act as beards for high stakes sports gamblers.

Because the professional sports gamblers bet big and often win more than lose, sports books will limit the amount they can bet. The poker pros who are known to the casinos and sports books are given much more leeway limit-wise as they aren't seen as "sharp" bettors. Therefore, the sports bettors bet through the poker stars to get more money down on key games.

While I doubt ARod was involved in any game fixing activity (it'd be really hard to rig a baseball game with only the third basemen in your pocket), he could have very easily provided inside information to one or more of these poker players. Information that could've gone back to the sports gamblers and used to make stronger plays in baseball.

That may not seem like much, but in gambling, such an edge is everything. Having ARod divuldging information, even just casually in table chat, would be a boon to a sports gambler. This would be gold....and it would be enough to ban Alex Rodriguez from baseball.

ARod has already received a free pass on his steroid usage (which he admitted) by Major League Baseball, so why would the league drop the hammer on him for his gambling associations?

Don't worry. They won't.

It has been reported (in August 2011) that two MLB investigators have been assigned to work the ARod case. Yet despite this story being out for weeks (or years if you want to go back to the first allegations from 2005), these MLB investigators haven't spoken to ARod because, well, they just can't find a time that works for both sides....even though ARod is on the disabled list and rehabbing his knee in Florida.

Once again fans are told an investigation is being conducted by a league and once again they shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's a sham.

The only way ARod will face any sort of punishment from the MLB is IF the FBI - which is truly investigating this matter - finds anything that ties him directly to a crime. If the FBI comes up empty, the MLB will do ARod no harm...yet again.