The Weekly Round-up – 17 May 2021:
Former poker pro Anna Khait implicated in Plot to Spy on FBI. Image courtesy of WPT Flickr Account
The Tip Top Fox brings you the top poker and gambling industry stories of the week; Former Poker Pro Linked to Plot to Spy on FBI; UK Casinos Set to Reopen 17 May; WPT Online Series Returns to partypoker
Former Poker Pro Linked to Plot to Spy on FBI
Ian Fleming’s fictitious MI6 agent James Bond was partial to a punt on Punto Banco – a version of Baccarat played in Western casinos. When Daniel Craig took on the mantle of Bond, this was retconned to No-Limit Texas Hold’em for the 2006 film adaption of Fleming’s Casino Royale.
Regardless of the type of game of chance, espionage and gambling seem to go hand in hand. That trend continued in one of the more interesting news stories doing the rounds in the poker industry this week.
A recent New York Times article, published on 13 May, has all the ingredients of a Fleming Bond novel. According to the article, former British spy Richard Seddon, and retired Russian-American poker professional and reality TV contestant Anna Khait are just two of several people implicated in a plot to spy on members of the FBI.
The New York Times claims to have documents and interviews linking former British spy Seddon to conservative group Project Veritas, whom they implicate in running a campaign during the Trump administration. The campaign sought to discredit members of the FBI and others in the US government who opposed former President Donald Trump.
According to the NYT, Project Veritas operations against the FBI were run out of a large home in Georgetown, Washington. Female undercover operatives were tasked with arranging dates with FBI employees. The goal was to secretly record them making disparaging comments about President Trump.
The women were assigned code names such as “Brazil” and “Tiger,” and the NYT alleges that the 2016 Survivor TV show contestant and former poker professional Khait was one of these operatives.
While Khait’s code name is unknown, the NYT claims she was based at the house and took part in several operations against a State Department employee. Khait declined to comment to the NYT but later refuted the allegations to her 276,800 Twitter followers.
While Khait refers to the accusations as “baseless” she also mentions working undercover for Project Veritas. Whether this statement is tongue in cheek remains unclear.
Who is Anna Khait?
Originally born in Russia in September 1988, Khait emigrated to the US at a young age. Selected to take part in the Season 32 Survivor TV show, the then 26-year-old Khait was eliminated in episode 5 after being voted out.
However, before this Khait was already active, although perhaps not that well known in the US poker community. Khait’s Hendon Mob profile shows $12,811 in live cashes. Khait has eight results dating from 2013-16, including a score at the 2016 World Series in a Tag Team tournament.
Her best result from a monetary perspective is 110th place in the 2013 Borgata Poker Open, which was good for $3,035. However, Khait’s first recorded cash and highest career finish was a final table at the 2013 Borgata Spring Poker Open, where she finished 6th for $2,998.
Khait’s last documented result is a 75th place finish in the 2016 Borgata Fall Poker Open, where she cashed for $1,497. She all but disappeared from the live poker scene following this.
Since then, Khait has become more well known for her right-leaning conservative political views and controversial Twitter posts; urging people not to wear masks, and stating on 12 May that “the next 4 weeks will shake this nation.”
On her Twitter bio Khait states she is a follower of Jesus; an animal lover; a conservative ex-pro poker player; and a television show Survivor S32 contestant. Guess she can add alleged spy to that now also.
PokerStars LIVE at the Hippodrome and Other UK Casinos Set to Reopen 17 May
It’s been a tough time for the UK casino industry, with casinos remaining closed throughout the first quarter of 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
However, that is set to change with casinos in England, Scotland, and Wales reopening on Monday, 17 May. Scottish casinos must adhere to a 10:30 pm curfew initially. Punters in Northern Ireland will have to wait a little longer; casinos must wait until 24 May to open their doors.
In addition to being good news for those itching to get their live gambling fix, it’s also welcome news for the 13,000 people employed by the UK casino industry, who have been largely furloughed since the pandemic hit back in March of 2020.
Casinos Prepare to Reopen
As UK government COVID-19 restrictions ease, all the UK’s major casino operators are preparing to open their doors for the first time in 2021, with extensive health and safety procedures in place for staff and customer safety.
The UK’s largest casino operator, Grosvenor Casinos, announced their reopening plan for over 50 of their venues via Twitter:
Restrictions on player numbers will be in place to make sure customers adhere to social distancing rules. Protective screens will also be available on gaming tables and electronic machines. Masks are likely to be mandatory, and while cash will be accepted Grosvenor is encouraging customers to use contactless payment options where possible.
Genting Casinos have announced their intention to reopen 30 of their UK casinos, all with extensive safety procedures in place. Two of their properties, Crockfords in London, and Genting Casino Glasgow remain closed temporarily. However, four venues will not be reopening at all, with Genting Bristol, Margate, Southport, and Torquay all remaining closed permenantly.
For those properties that are reopening “It’s going to be great to be open again.” said Genting Casinos Northern operations director, Peter Chiswell in an article published on the Betting and Gaming Council website.
PokerStars LIVE Set For Grand Reopening
The pandemic has also restricted live poker action, but PokerStars LIVE at the Hippodrome will also be reopening their doors at the stroke of midnight on Monday, 17 May.
Following a £3m overhaul, the new-look PokerStars room will boast a brand-new roof terrace with open-air gaming, and food and beverage service. The new gaming layout will have larger gaps between tables. In addition to this, perspex screens are also in place.
Cash games will be running 24-7 and there’s also some good news for those looking for their tournament fix. Running May 21-23 PokerStars LIVE at the Hippodrome are running a four-day £250+£25 No-Limit Hold’em £40,000 guaranteed tournament.
Pre-registration opens at 12pm on Tuesday, 18 May, and with social distancing requirements, there is a limit on the number of available seats. Full details are available on the PokerStars LIVE at the Hippodrome Facebook page.
WPT Online Series Returns to partypoker
The World Poker Tour opens its 19th season online with partypoker for the WPT Online Series. The latest venture between the global partners takes place from May 14-June 2, 2021, and is highlighted by the WPT Online Series Main Event from May 23-June 2, whose winner will become the next name to go on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
The $3,200 buy-in WPT Main Event features a $3 million guarantee and the winner will also earn a Hublot watch, along with the crowning achievement of winning one of the most prestigious prizes in poker – a WPT title.
The first starting flight for the WPT Online Series Main Event is on May 23, followed by the second Day 1 on May 30. The final table plays on June 2 and will be live streamed.
Players can qualify for the event for as little as one cent. Phase satellites start at $3.30 leading up to a weekly final, with 15 seats guaranteed for the Main Event.
Other marquee events on the schedule include the WPT Pro Hunt on Friday, May 14. Entrants in the event can win satellite tickets to the WPT Main Event by eliminating partypoker pros including Patrick Leonard, Mikita Bodyakovskiy, Kristen Bicknell and Jaime Staples, as well as a number of other high profile names to be confirmed. The winner of the event will also earn a $3,200 WPT Main Event seat and a trophy.
In addition, the $530 buy-in Mini Main Event starts on May 15, with a $500,000 guaranteed prize pool up for grabs. Also, a $55 buy-in, $150,000 GTD Micro Main Event is available to play.
Another WPT-branded event is part of the festival alongside the WPT Main Event. WPT500 Knockout starts on May 17 and includes a sizable $1 million guarantee to go with a $530 buy-in. Day 2 kicks off on May 24 and a winner will be crowned on May 25. There are many chances to get in the action through satellites and the WPT Super50 Knockout and WPT Super5 Knockout.
Finally, WPT500 begins on May 24 and wraps on June 1, sporting yet another $1 million guarantee.
The Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup
The WPT Online Series, once again, brings the feel of a live WPT event to partypoker, with a live-streamed final table, huge prizes, world-class structure, and the chance to earn a spot on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
“Season XIX of the World Poker Tour kicks off by continuing with the impressive WPT Online program, and we thank our partners at partypoker for their support in bringing the prestige of a WPT event to the virtual space,” said Adam Pliska, CEO of the World Poker Tour.
“Players around the globe love playing WPT events on partypoker and we are thrilled to provide another exciting series,” said Hermance Blum, WPT VP Europe. “The first player to get their name on the Sexton Cup in Season XIX will be on partypoker and that is a true testament to our partnership.”
For more information about the World Poker Tour, visit WPT.com.