Reel Lives: Advantage Media’s John Mehaffey On The Absolute Poker Scandal, Comedy Clubs, And Setting A Casino Record

Eric Raskin

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Every gambler has a story to tell. And so does every person who chooses to make a living in this unique industry.

In our “Reel Lives” series, Casino Reports shines a spotlight on people working in the gaming business, from executives, to analysts, to media members, and all points in between.

The subject in this interview: John Mehaffey, the digital content manager and co-founder of Advantage Media, LLC.

Casino Reports: What was your first job in the gambling industry, and how did it come about?

John Mehaffey: My first industry job started in 2001. I was a poker prop at America’s Cardroom (ACR). I propped at many other Dobrosoft sites after that, as well as Absolute Poker. I was offered the ACR job from the site manager after playing there for a few months.

CR: What do you view as your signature accomplishment/achievement in this industry?

JM: My biggest personal accomplishment is building Vegas Advantage from just a domain. It started as a blog and expanded into a Las Vegas authority site.

My biggest industry accomplishment was helping to expose the Absolute Poker cheating scandal with data I accumulated working there as a prop. 

I was a prop at Absolute Poker for a few years around 2004. We only got paid for non-hold’em games and fixed-limit hold’em from $1/$2 up to $10/$20. Occasionally, lower-limit NLHE games were permitted for pay. While props did not get paid for other games, we could play them for 30% rakeback. I played a little $15/$30 fixed-limit during hot streaks. “Steamroller” was a regular in that game. I got crushed in the $15/$30 games, largely by Steamroller. That account always won. Its win rate seemed impossible, but I dismissed it as luck and aggression.

When the cheating suspicions surfaced at 2+2, I still had my Absolute Poker PokerTracker data. I submitted it to the 2+2 accounts compiling evidence. My data added Steamroller to the list of cheating accounts and presented more evidence about other suspicious accounts. I also knew how to contact other former props with PokerTracker data. 

In 2007 and part of 2008, I was in an online poker non-compete agreement after selling Rake Rebate Review. This allowed me to report the cheating scandal freely on my blog. I was a 2+2 moderator, which helped earn the trust of those who wanted to report their own experiences.  

In hindsight, I suspect we were not permitted to play the higher-limit games because the superuser accounts were in them. Absolute Poker said the reason was they did not want props to bust in high-limit games.

CR: What’s your biggest remaining career goal, either inside or outside the gaming space?

JM: I was part of the group that got legal online poker to the starting line. It flopped out of the gate. My goal is to get it back on track. It is closer to a sports or racing pool than online casino games. Helping lawmakers understand that is one way to expand its legal markets.

CR: What’s the number-one challenge, in your view, for the industry going forward? 

JM: Balancing the desire to profit with long-term health. Sports bets and casino games with massive variance and house edges jeopardize long-term viability.

The public’s perception of the level of advertising is another issue that requires compromise. 

Photo by Circa Resort & Casino

CR: How do you like to spend free time away from work? Any interesting hobbies or secret talents?

JM: My wife Kristina and I started going to comedy shows around 2014. The Riviera Comedy Club became one of our favorites around the time the closure was announced. We were in the front row during its last weekend. Andrew Dice Clay showed up as a surprise guest and roasted Kristina. 

We bought the Riviera Comedy Club box office sign at the liquidation sale. Not long after Riviera closed, LA Comedy Club opened at Stratosphere. It looked familiar. One day we told the club manager that it reminded us of the Riviera Comedy Club. He replied that many of the fixtures and furniture came from there and most of the LA Comedy Club employees worked there at one point. They booked many of the same acts. We told him about our sign. He could not believe we ended up with it. We loaned it to them for several years before the club moved downstairs and there was nowhere to display it in the new venue.

Over the years, we became friends with several local comedians. Skillz Hudson has a show at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club every Friday night. Butch Bradley is the 10 p.m. headliner at LA Comedy Club. Steven Roberts and Kristeen Von Hagen are regularly featured comedians around Las Vegas.

George Carlin is my all-time favorite comedian. I never saw him live. There are many great comedians we have seen live. Adam Hunter wins my award for the funniest. He tours the country and performs at LA Comedy Club several times a year. 

CR: You and your wife visited a record 93 casinos in 24 hours last October. What were the biggest highlight and the biggest lowlight of this experience?

The highlight was walking into Circa knowing we were finished and it was time to celebrate.

The lowlight was the rideshare driver who picked us up at Mandalay Bay around 4 a.m. He was too tired to be on the road and made several dangerous driving maneuvers.

Photo by Circa Resort & Casino

Lightning round!

One person in gaming who has my utmost admiration is … 

David Rebuck.

My all-time favorite TV sitcom is … 

The Simpsons.

If I close my eyes and picture a casino, the first one that comes to mind is … 

Tie, because both are lost forever and I have great memories there: Las Vegas Club and Riviera.

You have a 12 and the dealer is showing a 2. Stand or hit?

Hit.

My first car was a …

1980 Volvo 240 DL.

My favorite non-gambling thing to do in Vegas is …

Anything at the top of Strat, especially the SkyJump.

You can find John on ‘X’ and on LinkedIn — and if you want to find him in person, just check all the Vegas comedy clubs and he’s bound to turn up.