If you follow poker gossip at all, then by now you’ve probably heard something about accusations directed at high roller Bryn Kenney by one Martin Zamani.
On April 21, Zamani appeared on the Doug Polk Podcast to explain his allegations further. Zamani is a tournament poker player, and brother of Ben Zamani, another professional player. Martin’s accusations about Kenney are as serious as they are exceptional.
On Sunday, after three days of silence, Kenney took to Twitter to deny all accusations made by Zamani:
Dear all of my friends and fans, there have been accusations made about me, the most important to me is me being involved in any type of cheating. There is zero evidence of this and everyone who knows me knows it is not true. I will be addressing this in more details shortly.
If you’d prefer to read about Zamani’s allegations, rather than watch the podcast, we’ve got the summary for you below. Note that we cannot confirm or refute any of the allegations. One way or another though, it’s a wild ride.
The Zamani Twitter thread and other tweets
The allegations started on Zamani’s Twitter account, @martin_zamani. Straight off the bat, Zamani claims in his tweets that Kenney is a cheater.
He alleges Kenney forced his horses – that is, players he was backing – to collude on GGPoker, especially in tournament satellites. Satellites are particularly susceptible to collusion because of the flat payout structure, and a frequent source of such scandals.
He says Kenney also placed odd restrictions on which other events his horses could play. Some of Zamani’s allegations involve Sergi Reixach, another player who played with Bryn’s backing. Zamani says that Reixach was his coach during the time Kenney had him living in Mexico.
Reixach is banned on GGpoker, which Zamani claims is due to past cheating using real-time assistance (RTA) during play. RTA means using computer software tools which provide theoretically optimal lines of play for a given hand.
Reixach does acknowledge his 2020 GGPoker ban, but says it was not due to RTA. Reixach tweeted his own denial of Zamani’s claims on Saturday, which includes an admission that he did use charts for preflop strategy:
It is true that I’m banned from [GGPoker] since 2020. According to [GGPoker] that was due to use of illegal preflop charts. I’m not going to say that I never used preflop charts, or that the charts I used were or should be legal. I just want to remark something we all know: Almost 100% of all professional poker players at some point used some kind of preflop charts, and the line where those charts become illegal/unethical is not that clear and also moves from one year to another or from one site to another.
Girafganger7 weighs in
Zamani also mentions other coaches in Kenney’s circle, Bert “Girafganger7” Stevens and Mark Herm. Amidst his allegations on Twitter, Zamani wrote:
Mark Herm was to ghost everyone of any Fts (Final Table Series) of anyone he coached. If you’ve been playing on GG you’ve been getting cheated in more ways then you can imagine.” This, of course, is another serious cheating allegation that is not confirmed and based on one persons perspective.
‘Ghosting’ refers to the practice of watching another user play and helping them make decisions, another violation of most sites’ terms and conditions.
Stevens tweeted two separate responses to Zamani’s story.
In the first of these he claims to believe Zamani, but says he never saw any such behavior himself. The following day, he reiterated and clarified that his own interactions with Bryn and his horses were minor and that everything seemed above board.
Zamani has stuck to his story that Kenney was abusive towards his players and stole money. However, his story also takes an unexpected turn, including some interesting allegations that go far beyond the poker table.
Enter the shaman
The twist in the story starts in a tweet which starts off in line with Zamani’s other accusations, until the end:
There was a specific time me and his horse were on a same table in a 10K plo 6 max on party and he played both accounts. Any type of arguing with Bryn would be faced with gaslighting that I’m not open minded and he’s trying to help us. That’s why he sent me to a shaman.
Naturally, this raised some questions. The discussion of the shaman continues in another tweet as Zamani claims he was almost injected with venom by a self-proclaimed “murderer, warlord and liar” of a shaman.
A shaman he had never met before trying to get her to inject frog poison in me known as Kombo. She also told me she was a murder,a warlord, and a liar. Demands I do this drug. Couldn’t tell if it was bit or not. Apparently BK had never met her. Tried to use me as test pig
Other tweets go on to describe an allegedly forced regimen of psychics, yoga, and diet.
Emergency podcast time
Doug Polk held an emergency live podcast with Zamani to speak about his story. Zamani initially comes off as a bit uncomfortable, yet perhaps not fully aware of the gravity of what he’s about to say. He opens with introducing himself and explains he ended up in Kenney’s circle after his other backer, Dennis Blieden, was arrested. Blieden ended up receiving a sentence of 6 years in federal prison for embezzling over $20 million from his employer.
Bliden allegedly owed money to to Kenney. Zamani claims Kenney asked him to play on his tab and settle it later, which Zamani says he agreed to.
Kenney was a GGPoker ambassador at that time. Zamani claims that Kenney was using him and other backed players to make sure the site’s tournaments avoided overlays. That is, if a tournament looked like it would come up short of its guarantee, Zamani says Kenney would assign his horses to play in it.
Zamani claims Kenney was getting a share of the rake from GGPoker for doing this, so he had a personal interest in ensuring the tournaments met their guarantees. Zamani says that Kenney would receive up to $2 million in a week for this.
[Editor’s note: This sum seems unrealistically high, similar to what top-tier ambassadors for other sites are generally believed to make annually. Polk also seemed skeptical.]
Accusations of spying
Polk pressed Zamani on why GGPoker didn’t catch on to it if Kenney was manipulating the games this way. Zamani said he believes Kenney had pull with the company, but isn’t clear on the actual relationship between the two.
Zamani went on to claim that he believes Kenney could somehow see his screen while he was playing. He says he tested out his theory by messaging his friends on Skype while playing. According to Zamani, Kenney later made comments about details of the conversation that he could not have known without accessing his screen.
At this point, Zamani says he started to become suspicious of his relationship with Kenney and began to keep logs of his chats with him.
Ghosting, RTA’s, Roberts, and Reixach
On Polk’s podcast, Zamani claimed he was living in Mexico under Kenney’s supervision with David Miscikowski. He said that both were playing, and also ghosting other players’ accounts. According to Zamani, Reixach was living in the basement of the same home. He went on to claim that if he was losing, Reixach would arrive with an RTA program, though it wasn’t always successful. Reixach, as mentioned, has denied this.
Zamani named Lauren Roberts as another horse Kenney allegedly manipulated. He claims that some of her wins came when Kenney was playing on her account.
This portion of Zamani’s accusations was corroborated by Roberts on her own Twitter account. She added additional allegations of her own:
I’ve been in finance/poker a long time, I’m not stupid. That’s how I knew he [Kenney] played my account (besides “coaching” me while i played) bc one day he told me I “won” a tournament and magically our number went down. But I also witnessed ghosting, collusion with other accounts too.
Zamani went on to identify screen names that would sign on when Roberts was playing. The podcast gets spotty at this point, however. Zamani said he didn’t want to name other names, and resisted getting into too much detail on Herm’s involvement.
Shamanism, psychics and alternative lifestyles
Zamani says he was down in his games and ended up owing $40,000 to Kenney. At that point, he claims, Kenney said his ‘energy needed to be corrected.’
He said he went to a woman’s house in Las Vegas. This was the same woman he discussed on Twitter. On the podcast, he quoted her as saying, “I was the warlords wife, I’m a killer, I’m a thief, I’m a liar.”
Zamani said he wasn’t sure if this was a test of his loyalty, or if Kenney truly believed in her mysticism. However, he said Kenney had not ever visited the shaman himself.
The woman allegedly confirmed to Zamani that he needed to be cleansed. Zamani claims the woman suggested kambo. This is where the ‘frog poison’ references now circulating Twitter come from.
On the podcast, Zamani guided Polk through Googling kambo himself, then described the process in graphic detail.
It’s a ritual involving the poison of the giant monkey frog. The patient first drinks a large quantity of fluids. The shaman or naturopath then burns the patient’s skin, scrapes the blisters off, and applies the poison. There are many unpleasant side effects from this, but practitioners claim it can also correct any number of physical and mental problems. The scientific community has not found any evidence to support those claims.
Zamani said he backed out, but claimed Reixach and Miscikowski did go through with the ritual under Kenney’s recommendation.
Zamani said that Kenney then told him to take psychedelic mushrooms with the shaman. Polk asked him why he would go through with that and he said he was out of money and his life was in the pits.
“It was clear we had hired the wrong shaman,” said Zamani.
A questionable psychic
Zamani also said he went to see a psychic at Kenney’s insistence. He claims the psychic made multiple incorrect guesses about his life, then talked about places he’d been recently, and an arrest which Zamani says he could have found out about with a Google search.
Zamani’s allegations also include the claim that Kenney had control over aspects of certain players’ lifestyles. He says that they were told to eat vegan. Kenney would allegedly become unhappy if someone were to eat fast food, and demand that they undergo acupuncture and practice yoga. Not adhering to the lifestyle would, according to Zamani, lead to people being allowed to only play smaller stakes.
Cheating at PLO
Zamani’s complaints include the claim that Kenney would not allow him to play $5000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments on PartyPoker. He says Kenney would, however, get him to play similar tournaments for twice the stakes on GGPoker. During these, he says, there would be a ghost playing two accounts simultaneously and Zamani admits himself to cheating in that capacity. Zamani claims Kenney knew about this multi-accounting.
It’s hard to know what to make of all this. Zamani’s allegations are broad and scandalous. Naturally, most of those implicated have denied the most serious claims, or simply remained silent. The only other person to have provided any supporting claims is Lauren Roberts. Nonetheless, the surrounding conversation on Twitter suggests that much of the poker community is inclined to believe him, despite or perhaps because of the fact that he’s implicated himself in the process.
What’s crucial is that Zamani claims to have kept chat logs from his private conversations with Kenney. So far, those haven’t materialized, but Zamani’s ability – or inability – to produce them will shed a lot more light on this story in the coming weeks.