The public accusations against Bryn Kenney started in April 2022.

The Zamani Stories

While the poker community was talking more openly than ever about Ali Imsirovic and Jake Schindler cheating and/or playing unethically, Martin Zamani (brother of poker pro Ben Zamani) decided to take another one to the public. He took to Twitter to accuse Bryn Kenney of unethical behavior via various forms of cheating in online poker.

The tweet thread was sloppy and sometimes difficult to follow.

Doug Polk jumped in with a podcast episode to interview Zamani. It consisted of more than an hour of accusations against Kenney, sometimes rambling but firmly focused on Kenney. There were a few key takeaway notes.

First, it’s important to note that Zamani’s original poker backer was Dennis Blieden. That name may sound familiar because he was sentenced to years in prison in 2021 for embezzling $22M from a company for which he worked and tried to use it to be a big-time poker player and staker. Blieden had a tab running with Kenney that he obviously couldn’t pay, so Kenney offered Zamani the opportunity to play on that open tab.

From there, the accusations flew. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

  • Kenney put Zamani into tournaments on GGPoker that Kenney organized and for which he guaranteed prize pools and collected rake on the events. When events were set to overlay, Kenney sent Zamani money to enter those events to prevent overlays. Kenney earned rake from many $5K and $10K buy-in tournaments on GGPoker.
  • Kenney “harassed” many poker pros to play said events to prevent overlays. If he put them in those tournaments, he simply put the debts on their tabs. Zamani said many players had “like $300K credit” with Kenney.
  • Kenney transported high-profile poker pros on his private jet around the world to play on GGPoker, as the rake was worth it. Zamani said he heard Kenney earned up to $2M per week on rakeback.
  • Some Spanish poker players were colluding with each other in said GGPoker tournaments.
  • Zamani played in said tournaments for about three months.
  • Kenney promoted satellites to high rollers and told players to “always do what’s best for the team.” David Miscikowski threw satellites per Kenney’s requests to secure outcomes that made the most money for Kenney. (Miscikowski and Zamani shared a house in Mexico to play on GGPoker.) Miscikowski urged playing events and satellites to boost Kenney’s bottom line. Others did the same.
  • Kenney could see Zamani’s computer screen. Zamani and Jason Gooch tested it by messaging each other on Skype, and Kenney later confronted Zamani on said secret conversation. When Zamani confronted Kenney about seeing his screen, Kenney responded by saying, “You’re too toxic for me to deal with.”
  • A player Zamani refused to name played on Zamani’s partypoker account, ghosting for half of the profits (with the other half for Zamani) – both backed by Kenney.
  • Kenney gave Zamani permission to stake other players on his (Zamani’s) stake if they committed to playing in certain games. All, including Miscikowski, played from the same location and colluded.
  • GGPoker banned Sergi Reixach for cheating using RTA (real-time assistance). Zamani claimed Kenney knew Reixach cheated and shared RTA with Kenney’s horses, but Kenney dropped Reixach after GGPoker caught and banned him. (Since then, Reixach’s account was reevaluated by the GGPoker integrity team and reopened.)
  • Kenney urged his horses to play against a particular account that Zamani later found out was Lauren Roberts. Kenney also played on her account, according to Roberts to Zamani. A Twitch streamer confirmed this with Polk.
  • Kenney was aggressive and harassing to players he backed, via nonstop messaging.
  • Cary Katz “funded” Kenney’s luxurious lifestyle. Multiple Kenney horses received money for live high-stakes tournaments from Katz.
  • After a bad final table performance from Zamani, Kenney told him to call Reixach to play for him the next time such a spot arose. They did that, and Reixach did try to play for Zamani using RTA (while ghosting). Reixach ran real-time sims, input stacks for ICM models, etc.
  • Mark Herm wanted to ghost any of his horses who made final tables. Herm won a bracelet that way…using another person’s account.
  • Zamani tried to inform Herm that there was cheating in Herm’s private mixed games with Paul Volpe. High-stakes regs (some of whom were Kenney’s horses) shared cards in said game. Herm ignored Zamani’s message about it.
  • Kenney opened multiple accounts on partypoker without any “know your customer” verifications.
  • Kenney, as an agent, regularly withdrew money from his horses’ accounts, and he took away agency from people if they didn’t bring in enough high-stakes players.
  • Zamani and others used VPN to play on GGPoker from Las Vegas, and Kenney knew it.

Believe it or not, those were just the major points.

And there was more, with the second half of the Polk interview dedicated to lifestyle “suggestions” by Kenney for the players he staked.

  • Kenney offered to stake Zamani in more events if Zamani cleaned up his life through seeing a shaman in Las Vegas. He declined the frog poison ritual she suggested. He did do mushrooms with her on Kenney’s strong suggestion.
  • Horses who didn’t take Kenney’s lifestyle suggestions often found their online poker accounts missing money or orders to drop in stakes.
  • Kenney demanded Zamani and others see a psychic and acupuncturist.
  • If Zamani refused to go to yoga, Kenney dropped him in stakes.
  • Miscikowski reported Zamani’s food and lifestyle choices to Kenney, who reprimanded him for him unhealthy lifestyles.

Kenney Responds, Take One

PokerNews’ Sarah Herring interviews Bryn Kenney about the aforementioned allegations. She admitted that she was friends with Kenney for the past decade.

Kenney claimed that he had staked more than a thousand players in his career. He said he chose a lot of his players based on their desires for personal growth.

Regarding Zamani, Kenney said Zamani was down on his luck and asked for a stake, so Kenney backed him live and online. Kenney offered help like yoga and other services that could improve Zamani’s life.

  • People told Kenney to stay away from Zamani, but he wanted to help improve Zamani’s life so he gave him multiple chances to do better and be better.
  • Zamani was down $350K in makeup and owed Kenney $100K or $150K for other things. Since Zamani was still losing and not willing to make life improvements, as well as unwilling to repay any of his debts, Kenney wanted to end their relationship.
  • Kenney heard from a friend that Zamani said he was going to blackmail Kenney.
  • The allegations from Zamani “have no proof, I mean not proof, they have no truth to them at all.”
  • Kenney denied using any RTA or other prohibited computer programs or even looked at them.
  • All of the names Zamani used in ghosting and colluding allegations were “huge losers” and “clear big losers” in poker.
  • Kenney did help GGPoker to grow and build a high-stakes community for big buy-in events.
  • Kenney holds himself to high moral standards, so allegations from Zamani are completely false. He actually instructs horses to play cleanly and honestly, not breaking any rules.
  • Cheating allegations are not possible due to Kenney’s high moral character.

In response to specific allegations, Herring listed them for dedicated responses.

Was he able to see other people’s computer screens?

Kenney said it was absolutely crazy and there was “zero truth” to it.

Why, then, would he have Team Viewer and VPN on his computer screen, per a photo? He said that Team Viewer simply pops up every time he uses his computer but is a useful tool for communications. He said he doesn’t have the time to spy on people. If he backs someone, he gives them tools for success but also trusts them.

What was the deal with Reixach?

Kenney called him one of the hardest-working people in poker, always studying the game. Kenney asked Reixach to coach some of his horses.

Did Reixach ghost for Zamani?

Kenney began to explain that when you back a lot of players, it’s hard to track everyone at all times. Per the one allegation of cheating, Reixach was out to dinner with his wife when Zamani called to ask for help in a tournament. Kenney said he didn’t instruct either of them to do that. And Kenney then gave an example of Zamani tanking a tournament with 7-2 offsuit when he was three-handed with even stacks at a big final table.

Was Reixach using RTA?

Kenney said he had never heard of Reixach using that and knows Kenney is against using tools like that. He never even knew that Reixach used pre-flop charts.

What about Reixach being banned from GGPoker?

Kenney said he didn’t believe any of it but couldn’t obtain any more information about it. Reixach asked GGPoker for a detailed hand history of those in question, but GGPoker never provided it so Reixach could clear his name.

Did he ghost for Roberts, specifically winning a tournament for her that she didn’t know she played?

Kenney said there is a screen shot of Roberts losing $2.2M on a steep decline, and that her ghosting charges make no sense, nor the allegations that he pushed other players to play against her as a fish. Besides, Roberts was Kenney’s best friend for a while and offered a room for him in her house. He said he coached her, offered coaching from his horses, suggested doctors, and encouraged positive lifestyle enhancements for her. He said it didn’t make sense that he would put that much time into her game and then send horses after her. Kenney said he had never had a piece of Roberts’ action and could not gain financially from anything she did. He said she still owes him a lot of money. (He did things, like gave her pieces of his own play, to lessen her debt by $1.5M.) Also, he said that Roberts always asked for money on partypoker and GGPoker, which he accommodated. He also paid for much of their jet-setting trips. Roberts sees herself as a victim, but Kenney tried to save her from losing so much money and was not a predator.

What happened if he and Lauren were such good friends?

Kenney started to say that he prefers not to talk about other people, but their relationship changed when he met a girlfriend. Roberts got jealous of Kenney’s girlfriend, the time and travel that Kenney lavished on her instead of Roberts. He also discovered that Roberts was not the successful, rich trader she painted herself to be. “She would fabricate truths of her own success and her own ability to gamble and to play.” In reality, she lost a lot of other people’s money playing poker, and another person who gave her money to play gave up on her because she lost so much money. He consistently asked her to pay some kind of money on her debt but she didn’t. At the same time, he said he offered Roberts the chance to back Reixach with him to recoup some of her losses.

Was there a romantic relationship with Roberts?

No, but her actions became so that he became increasingly uncomfortable, as she may have had feelings for him.

Did he ask players to collude for the team?

He never said that. No one was expected to do anything but play their own best game. He sometimes put players in tournaments above their skill level to run tournaments and satellites for GGPoker.

What was Kenney’s relationship with GG?

He started as an ambassador but transformed the deal into an affiliate deal. He eventually advised the company regarding tournaments and satellites, helping GG scale its business. Kenney left GGPoker to pursue other opportunities, but there was no bad blood and it was Kenney’s choice.

Had he ever ghosted on anyone’s account?

Kenney said that he had a 17-year poker career. He was probably coaching a player in a hand at one time during that period, may have helped someone when they were playing. But he never had a ghosting operation and never gained financially from it.

Was he getting rakeback from GG or otherwise incentivized to bring business to GG?

“I don’t really see that has merit to answer; that’s like personal business that I have with someone.”

Why did he leave GG?

He felt that it was time to move on to other things.

Did he suggest frog poison?

Kenney recommended someone for Zamani who had been recommended to him. He didn’t force anything.

Notably, Kenney told a story to demonstrate why the charges against him are so wrong, considering how much he values his reputation. He said that he had his first-ever losing year in 2018 and was in makeup for about $3.5M and owed another $1M “on the side.” (He later said he needed $5.5M to get even.) He claimed to have had a backer since the end of 2017, after Kenney himself had a really big year, but the debts began to accumulate during 2018. The backer approached Kenney at the start of 2019 and offered to wipe the $3.5M completely from the books and start the stake back at zero. Kenney claimed that he had no assets, no property with which to settle the debt, but he declined the deal. He said it was too important to keep his word and repay his debts.

It should be noted that Kenney talked a lot about his successes in poker, his positivity and desire for growth, and qualities like his sensitivity, caring, desire to help others, he’s fortunate and blessed, happy and wanting to bring happiness to others who are less fortunate, he gives people many chances, tries to see the best in everyone and bring out the best in others, and loves poker “more than anyone in the world.” Also, he said, “If not the most, I’m one of the most respected people in the industry for my word.” “It’s so against my character to take advantage of anyone. I’m always so generous and giving and caring.”

At the same time, he personally disparaged Zamani throughout the interview. He claimed that Zamani told him he had never been happy in his entire life. According to Kenney, Zamani was uncredible and untrusted in poker.

Also, Kenney said that Roberts was so unsuccessful and was not the wealthy businesswoman she claimed to be. Kenney said she had a “poor understanding” of her own poker skills. He called her a predator, someone who was freerolling for millions and took advantage of Kenney.

Kenney Responds, Take Two

Many people in the poker community felt that Kenney danced around some of Herring’s questions. And throughout the summer’s 2022 WSOP and beyond, Kenney appeared to float through the poker tournament scene as if nothing happened and no questions remained.

Thus, quite a lot of people asked Joey Ingram to try to clear the air, to ask some hard-hitting questions and get to the bottom of the cheating allegations and resulting scandal. So, he did. That interview aired live on YouTube on September 6.

When Ingram suggested that the lifestyle “recommendations” for his horses might have felt like pressured situations because Kenney controlled their bankrolls, Kenney admitted that it could be seen that way. However, he insisted he never demanded any type of lifestyle change for the players he staked. In the same answer, though, Kenney said that he doesn’t see why he should invest in someone if they are not willing to invest in making themselves better people.

In response to Ingram’s topics of discussion, Kenney responded as follows:

How did Kenney get to be in such a prominent position with GGPoker?

Kenney said that GG ownership and management met with him, via mutual connection Kitty Kuo, originally to discuss Kenney opening a skin on their new network. After nights of discussions, he dropped that idea as GG executives decided they wanted Kenney to represent their main site. Kenney convinced them to add a desktop client to their mobile offering and to add high-stakes tournaments and series. He grew into a role of creating tournaments, hosting high-stakes games, recruiting players in an agency/affiliate-type of deal, and staking players and issuing credit to start games.

How did Kenney not know about cheating like ghosting, multi-accounting, and RTA usage?

Kenney insisted that he did not see the backend system or participate in any security or integrity work for GG. He was the poker room manager and had no time to police the games. He relayed suspicions from players to management for them to handle.

Justin Bonomo alleged that Kenney guaranteed that high-stakes players would make money and the games were on the up-and-up. Did he?

Kenney said that he vouched for the money the players deposited but never promised to reimburse players if cheating happened.

Did he have multiple accounts?

According to Kenney, GG started with multiple skins and players could “use more than one platform for more than one name.” He said that the skins crossed over and accounts got mixed, while at the same time asserting that initial GG players had created multiple accounts before he got there. Rules against multi-accounting weren’t strictly enforced, but what the players did was not multi-accounting. (Yes, the answer was just that confusing.)

Did Kenney set up ghosting accounts or instruct players to ghost or be ghosted?

“Never is a strong word.” He said that he told Herring there had been some ghosting in the past and players regularly asked him to help them at their final tables, he would not do it. Coaching on the side did not equate to multi-accounting. “I took a super hard stance against that.” Ingram pushed back on the convoluted answer but got no clarity.

Did he tell George Wolff to play multiple accounts per chat logs?

He said that ghosting had happened in the past and he had helped people. He knew that some of his horses helped others, but he said that through staking hundreds of players, he never had an instance of one better player taking over for another player.

How did he come to live with Roberts?

He intended to stay a few days, but Roberts and her husband enjoyed his company so much that they insisted Kenney stay. He paid for all private jets, vacations, and meals. And despite her continually losing and going deeper into debt with him, Kenney continued giving her credit. But said he never had any percentage of her action. He pointed out that some people say that he sent his horses to beat her in games, while others say that he played on her account to win, and both can’t be true.

What does he think about ghosting?

Kenney’s not sure how many people do it because he doesn’t know anything about that, but he believes that it is horrible for the game. When Ingram said most people don’t even frown on ghosting anymore, Kenney said, “If that’s what was happening, I wouldn’t have any problem to say it, if that’s how people look at it.”

How did he not know there was collusion happening if he signed everyone up to play?

He claimed that he signed up “the whole high-stakes community.” If he wanted to take money from amateurs, he said he wouldn’t have signed up the best players in poker. He only did it to grow the game of poker.

Did he collect rakeback and affiliate money from others bring players to GG?

Kenney said he had no relationship to players that his agents bring in, so when people like Zamani lose their agency – as he did – Kenney loses money. GG makes decisions to close sub-agencies. His deal with Zamani was set up to deduct Zamani’s rakeback from agency from the money Zamani owed to Kenney.

There were some distinct contradictions from the Herring to the Ingram interview. The most notable ones were:

  • Kenney told Herring that he only had one losing year when he was millions in debt, and that backer wiped the debt from the books. He told Ingram that he had gone broke and into the negative many times over, but it was his good word and reputation that saved him each time. Later, he told Ingram that he went broke five or seven times in his career but only due to staking. “Personally, I never lost in poker games that I was playing.”
  • He repeatedly stated that he was an honest player with a stellar reputation but admitted to knowing about multi-accounting in the early days of GGPoker and about ghosting between players. He claimed that he never facilitated such actions but wouldn’t say “never.”
  • Kenney said that Zamani’s claims prompted an internal investigation at GG to look back through Kenney’s history on the site, but they found no wrongdoing and did not freeze or ban Kenney. However, in the same segment, he said that he didn’t know if there had been an investigation behind the scenes, but he knew that he was never barred from playing on GG.

Throughout the two-hour podcast, Kenney disparaged Zamani in no uncertain terms. When asked why Zamani made the allegations, Kenney insisted that Zamani was a “troubled person.” Ingram pressed him on that comment, and Kenney said that Zamani had been boisterous at a live poker tournament, rude to staff at various poker rooms, and that he told Kenney he had never been happy in his life. “That’s one of the most troubled people that I’ve ever heard of. That’s a really sad thing to hear…” He said that he felt sorry for him and wanted to help Zamani shift into being a happier person.

When Ingram asked if Kenney would participate in a forum with Zamani to confront each other about the issues, Kenney said, “I don’t see any point.” He said he doesn’t see value in a conversation with someone who lies and lacks integrity.

You Want to Run a Poker Site?

Recently, several former PokerStars executives revealed that they are co-founders of a new online poker site called 4Poker…with Bryn Kenney as one of the primary founders.

Ingram noted that the allegations against Kenney, which had yet to be proven true or false, didn’t bode well for trust in a new poker site that puts Kenney at the top of the executive chain. Kenney insisted that he only put forth his intentions for the site, and PokerStars executives are pulling it together and to fruition. He claimed – as with GG – that he plays no role in the integrity or even management part of the company.

Kenney said that he hopes he has learned from mistakes to be a better person. He wants to build the site in the right way, using GG as his experience. He said the site will value security, loyalty, support, the game, and the community, and Kenney will be open to feedback as the site grows. And he wants to create a safe place for players to say.

Ingram confronted Kenney about Roberts’ claim that he had tried to garner investments in 4Poker by promising a 100x return. Kenney claimed the 100x was just an opinion and not a promise. He thought that an investment from Roberts could benefit her by allowing her to pay her debt to him.

So Many Secrets

Ingram made several references in his podcast to GGPoker and the company’s ability to prove Kenney’s claims of innocence.

However, Ingram and most everyone else in poker knows that GGPoker will never take a stand on this issue one way or another. In addition, much of that type of information is private, and they will not release someone’s full accounting.

There are some in poker who know the truth. Insiders at GGPoker, at least those from the 2017-2018 era, know the truth. Many players in high-stakes circles know more about Kenney than they are willing to say, including more alleged incidences of unethical behavior.

Some of Kenney’s horses likely know much more than they have said or will say publicly. Zamani chose not to name quite a few people and wouldn’t even state what event(s) occurred to prompt him to go public with his allegations.

Notably, there is a distinct lack of poker players willing to stand with Zamani or Kenney.

The poker culture has long been one of handling issues privately. Until just a few years ago, no one outed players who scammed others or didn’t pay debts. While that culture is slowly changing, there are secrets that some players will hold indefinitely. Whether this is out of habit, self-preservation, personal safety, or some warped sense of respect for the game, players will keep those secrets.

Yet some of them are the same players most vocal about cheaters being banned and some being blacklisted from the poker industry. What they don’t understand is that “we just know he’s a cheater” and “trust us, we know things” aren’t the bases for any type of blacklist. The proof is in the private messages, witness accounts, screen shots, and the attestations of reputable members of the poker community.

Until more players are willing to stand up and speak out, the culture will not change.

 

 

 

Jennifer Newell

jen newell profile

Jennifer Newell

Author
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years.
Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs.