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“THE CREW” based off the book “Poker Tilt”

THE CREW

IMG_0179Poker-Tilt-1-sheet

“THE CREW” is based off the book “Poker Tilt” and tells the story of poker’s boom on the internet, at the tables, and on TV; how the game established a marquee event in the World Series of Poker and finally, how it faded along with the economy … when boom turned to bust.  Set amongst the bright lights of Las Vegas, the story will be told by Dutch Boyd, a crazy visionary ahead of the poker pack, the first miner at the gold rush who found early nuggets,  only to lose his fortune in the end.

Back when the game was still a sleepy late-night pastime for old curmudgeons and Vegas hustlers, no one thought young, smarmy college preps would ever care about decks of cards outside of their frat houses. Dutch Boyd was different. A child prodigy, a troubled but brilliant youth who started college at 12 and law school at 15, Dutch soon realized that reading depositions was a mask for his propensity towards playing with numbers. After picking up Doyle Brunson’s “Super System,” he was sold on poker, and figuring out a way to change how people played it.

In 2000, through the birth of the internet, Dutch and his brother Bobby created PokerSpot.com, offering an instant trip to Sin City, without leaving your couch — real poker anytime and anywhere you wanted.  Dutch was only 21 when he won this pot, then lost it almost as quickly when the rubes refused to pay their credit card debts. Once the banks shut down his site, Dutch went crazy. His bi-polar condition kicked in and the result was a 6 week stint in a third world country’s mental institution.  Although Dutch was ahead of his time, he was also over his head, and out of it.

Coinciding with Dutch’s internet debacle, a TV producer had a simple yet revolutionary idea for televising tournament poker – use a tiny camera to reveal each player’s hole cards. Instantly, dramatic irony was introduced to the game.  Viewers were suddenly ahead of the action, in an active, not a passive role.  They could judge their heroes’ decisions, with their opponents’ secrets revealed.  Poker was suddenly cool to watch … and not long after, Moneymaker came along.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker was an unknown accountant with an improbable name, a rags-to-riches hero who proved that anyone could win the World Series of Poker.  Overnight, ESPN’s coverage moved from fringe programming into a prime-time event.  And Dutch was in the middle of the action.  He had the edge in both chips and experience in the showdown to the Final Table. Dutch announced “All-In” and Moneymaker said “I call.”

“Something in Moneymaker just kind of clicked for him where he didn’t care about getting knocked out. He wasn’t going for the money jumps. He wanted to win it. He believed he had the best hand, he thought I had over cards, and he made the call. I think about that all the time, how much difference a single call can make there. Life changing.”

When Moneymaker’s set of threes held up, Dutch was busted again … a footnote in the poker saga.

“The cameras were all around, the lights were bright, the boom mics were in our faces. It was the first time this had ever happened in the world series. And I kept thinking, a million people just saw me get knocked out in the biggest poker tournament in the world. The week before, my net worth was two grand. Now it was eighty.”

Just days after this defeat, Dutch saw the future and created the next chapter. Amarillo Slim and Johnny Chan were history.  The future laid with the smart, young “kids” who had been seduced by the game, the action, a chance of striking it rich without landing a “real job.”  They’d played thousands of hands everyday on the internet, giving them the experience of veterans while still blessed with the bravado of youth.  So, Dutch created “The Crew,” bringing together six of the best young minds to conquer the poker world, a Dream Team of phenoms.

“Early on, we made a decision between maximizing our cash, or maximizing our fame. We chose fame.”

Like a real life season of Entourage, Dutch and the boys shared their house and their winnings and life was a non-stop party.

“We had a lot of optimism. We had a lot of confidence. Now we were flush with my eighty grand. By combining forces, learning together, sharing bankrolls, we were going to make our millions and go down as legends.”

More than Chris Moneymaker or even the World Series of Poker itself, it was The Crew who inspired thousands of college kids to drop out of school and play online poker … some becoming millionaires along the way. The high point was the 2005 Rolling Stone magazine article that chronicled The Crew’s journey. They were hip, they were young and they were ready to take over the poker world.

“Whenever one of us reached tournament success, the others would get publicity by association. Poker was becoming a spectator sport. Soon, you’ll see Nike putting swooshes on poker player’s shirts.”

This is just part of the story. Dutch’s personal battles with mental illness have led to homelessness, continuous stints in mental institutions, and countless re-inventions. While the game he loves has flourished into a billion dollar industry, Dutch has somehow managed to come up dry.  Now, an old man at 33, he plays on, waiting for his luck to change … hoping for that final entrance to Poker’s Promised Land.

Here’s a little sample of who Dutch Boyd is as we watch him in the World Series of Poker 2006 $2500 Short-Handed NLHE vs. 2005 Main event champion Joe Hachem.

The Crew

 

MORE SUB-STORY

The focus of this documentary is “The Crew,” “Dutch” Boyd’s young bankroll-sharing dramatis personae who were marshaled together by their ringleader following the 2003 World Series of Poker. Dutch staked all 25K of his winnings from WSOP to establish a communal bankroll in order to cover the rent on their Culver City, California headquarters. This loosely knit crew of savants, playing online poker by day, Vegas tournaments by weekend, became the most feared, hated and respected strategists of their era. Dutch’s own rags to riches to rags Shakespearian tragedy is the story within the story. The members of his crew consist of central casting for the next frat-like Hollywood comedy: Boyd, his brother Bobby, Scott Fischman, David Smyth, Tony Lazar, Joe Bartholdi, and Brett Jungblut.

The 2003 WSOP.

23 year old Dutch Boyd is the chip leader as we near the final table. Enter Chris Moneymaker, a hillbilly accountant with a short stack and no business still being in the competition. Dutch, holding King-Queen same goes all in to cripple the amateur. Moneymaker, holding a lowly pair of threes has a hunch. Although most might feel a low level pair ain’t going to cut it, Moneymaker can’t be bullied any more. It’s either step up and risk it all or go home. He calls Dutch’s power move and when Moneymaker’s threes hold up, the rest is history. A heads up final showdown against the old guard Sammy Farha results in the novice taking the title, ballooning the hopes of all amateur players around the world they too can beat the professionals. The floodgates open and the influx of new internet players will tighten the skill gap for years to come.

The first act paints a somewhat glamorized portrait of these young men’s lifestyles. There’s Robert Boyd cleaning up at the Borgata. Smyth and Lazar tearing up games online while Bartholdi swindles retired, old rich men in a high stakes Palm Springs poker game. Fischman, the most talented of six is at the tail end of a two-day binge beating everyone from frat boys to Fortune 500s. It’s netted him a good week’s pay — for a mid-cap CEO. At the center of it all is Dutch Boyd back at the “unofficial HQ,” doing the bookkeeping at a frat house-like condo on Rancho Drive about ten miles from the Strip.

Before we read more about”The Crew” check out this YouTube video of Dutch’s WSOP 2004 $1500 Seven Card Razz World Championship Event showdown with TJ Cloutier. At about 18:00 minutes you will get a preview of “The Crew.”

Dutch's WSOP 2004

WE MEET THE USUAL SUSPECTS – “THE CREW”

Bobby Boyd – Brother to Dutch. He conceptualized Pokerspot.com with Dutch while sitting in a whirlpool at their condo in 1998. He was obviously involved in the Pokerspot scandal that arisen in 2002. Bobby was the first member of The Crew and obviously the closest one to Dutch. He’s the one who admitted him into a mental institution in Antigua then bailed him out a week later.

David “Dorf” Smyth – Dorf was a poker machine and a heavy boozer. The odds of playing every possible hand came second nature to him. The most frat-like of the six, he could down three pints of beer in less than three seconds.

Brett Jungblut – The Hollywood hot shot. As Dutch describes him, “the most beautiful man he’s ever seen and I’m not gay.” Jungblut had the charm and the weed connections to sustain his bohemian lifestyle yet the savvy needed to succeed at the game. The resident “pothead,” his character is not unlike James Franco in “Pineapple Express.”

Joe Bartholdi – Bartholdi was the hustler…from an early age. Known as “Gambles”, he used to sell cigarettes to his classmates at school and was eventually expelled for fighting. When the next nearest school involved much travel, he opted to obtain a GED instead.Bartholdi moved to Las Vegas at the age of 18 alongside his father, who worked as a poker dealer. He began playing despite being underage, first concentrating on stud poker and later on Texas hold ’em. He turned professional at the age of 21 but lost much of his profits due to poor bankroll management and playing blackjack. He ended up taking a job as a poker dealer to supplement his income.

Scott Fischman – Current superstar playing as a LLC, backed by Hedge-fund managers. Fishman has had the most success of the 6. Garbed in the “got the nuts” t-shirt guy with the wraparound shades Fischman can play multiple games of online poker and be riveted in all of them. Legend has it, he’s played online poker “with 149,344 others” in a night.

Tony Lazar – Laptop hold ‘em player. Minor player in “The Crew.”

 

THE BEGINNINGS 2001-2003

We get a brief background on the founding fathers of the World Poker Tour.  Mention is made of some of the more famous poker celebs that would fear this recent uprising. Most of all, the original young punk himself, 1989 WSOP winner Phil Hellmuth, recounts what it was like being the new kid on the old block.

INTERVIEWS: Daniel Negreanu, Phil Lederer, Annie Duke, Gus Hansen, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, and of course Chris Moneymaker.

They all chime in to say of the burgeoning poker boom, “This story’s just beginning. We fear the worst.”

POKERSPOT DEBACLE

The focus turns back to Dutch Boyd. We get a detailed recounting of the PokerSpot debacle. The Boyd Brothers started the online poker site in May 2000. By early 2001, the site was earning $160,000 a month, and in the online poker forums, Boyd was predicting “$50 million yearly profits for the top Internet card rooms.” Then comes the fall, tenuously tied to the dot-com crash. PokerSpot had its assets frozen by its credit card processor (Barclay Banks of London), and Boyd continued to solicit new accounts, a move that could be interpreted as him having turned pokerspot.com into a Ponzi scheme.

PokerSpot finally ceased operations in late 2001, leaving the PokerSpot story in the ambiguous state in which it remains today. (Cashouts for many PokerSpot players remain “pending.”)

Boyd’s bipolar disorder kicks in. His unrealized vision to create a rake-free online poker site leads to his stay at a mental hospital in Antigua. Once his brother Bobby bails him out, Boyd returns to the states and his 12th place finish in the 2003 WSOP Main Event enables him to start “The Crew,” so labeled by ESPN announcers. His vision was to “take over the poker world,” not unlike gangster Tony Montana’s vision in “Scarface.”

2003-2007

The Crew forms.  Conflict starts early on with Bartholdi dusting off a bankroll and heading back to Vegas (see his “Card Player” cover story). Fischman feels like he isn’t really getting the individual attention his game merits (see his “Card Player” cover story). Jungblut gets high all the time and is not really living up to the self-reputation he built up, and Dutch going completely bat-shit crazy multiple times in very public fashion.  Rollercoaster bankroll rides didn’t help either with the personal conflicts you would expect to occur in poker’s version of a boy band.

2005 – THE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ARTICLE

Although everyone reads Rolling Stone, the magazine — like the popular music industry it primarily covers – it does mostly target a younger demographic, and I think that, more than anything, it explains why one never found a lot of references to poker in its first forty years of publication. That was until NOW. The article, written by Ivan Solotaroff, chronicles the life of these 6 young men and will be beneficial in telling their story and increasing their fame and Q rating. Indeed, this more detailed look at poker would have particular appeal to younger readers (i.e., late teens, twenties). Given that poker became a game dominated by that very same demographic, perhaps Rolling Stone was a contributing catalyst. In any event, I do think this little article that appeared that year does tell us something about how poker was rated in the popular culture over these last ten years.

POST ARTICLE

Dutch found a girlfriend in LA and moved to Fresno to try and start a web development company with Bobby and David Smythe.  His mental illness would contribute to the relationship ending, which snuffed out the company.  Dutch and Bobby moved back to Vegas to try and grind for a living.  After a year in Vegas and a lackluster WSOP, they moved back to Missouri for a short time.  Bartholdi had moved back and was dealing cards and playing.  Jungblut was back and forth between San Diego, New Jersey and Vegas broke most of the time. Fischman was living high on deals with Activision, Full Tilt, a book deal, and regular appearances at the WSOP boot camp.

Late 2005 – The dissolution of The Crew is then chronicled, with Bartholdi and Jungblut leaving first, and the others kind of drifting away by 2006. We’re left with an impression of Fischman as the true star of the group — he was certainly the most successful member at the time, having won two WSOP bracelets and the WPT Young Guns title in ’04 — and Boyd as the crazy schemer. Indeed, mention is made along the way of the over 1,000 domain names Boyd had registered. (NOTE: Over the last couple of weeks Boyd has begun trying to sell some of those domains on eBay and via his blog.)

2006 – Bartholdi and Dutch decide to try the trail again and start out in Tunica, Mississippi.  They have some adventures there together. Dutch then goes back to Missouri for a bit while Bartholdi wins the WPT $25k Championship Event for $3.9m.  He has to split the money with another poker player, Joe Cassidey, for putting up half of the entry fee.  He blows the rest within a year.  Dutch wins a bracelet a few weeks after Bartholdi’s WPT Championship… the first place prize was $425k and it was a televised event ending with a heads-up battle between then-reigning World Champion Joe Hachem (see ESPN 6-max event coverage. should be on YouTube).  Dutch had to give half to his own backers, Eric “sheets” Haber and Cliff “bax” Josephy.  He’d blow the rest within a year.

2007 – More struggles… Dutch began the year in another mental institution after bi-polar condition surfaced again.  He packed on a ton of weight.  Fischman is never leaving his huge three-story house, putting in tons of hours at the rake-free tables that he gets paid to play on Full Tilt.  Bartholdi is grinding low-limits with occasional big scores, which allow him to blow his wad in big games.  Jungblut is roaming around like a hippie.

2008 – Dutch gets a little more dedicated to playing tournaments after making some prop bets for player of the year rankings with Jeff Madsen, Brandon Cantu, Justin Bonomo’s agent, and Roy “The Welch” Winston (all potential interviews.)  He also loses 55 pounds in three months after a $10k weight loss prop bet with Cantu.  This leads to him getting some confidence back and landing another girlfriend. Missed the WSOP Main event mainly due to mental illness returning following a drug binge. It really sets him back.  Don’t really know what happened with the others during that year.

2009 – See 2007.

2010 – Dutch finally wins a bracelet.

2011 – Black Friday hits and everyone’s life goes into turmoil.  Dutch’s reputation is a little better, but financially, poker is in the worst state it’s been in since any of the crewmembers can remember.  Their logo deals are gone.  Their affiliate deals are gone.  Their domain parking revenue is gone.  All the eggs were in the poker basket, and the basket was dropped from the top of the Stratosphere.

2012 – Their current state of affairs.