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Thread: Blair Rodman, Chris Levick, Kathy Liebert and Bruce Buffer apparently involved in scam training site

  1. #1
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Blair Rodman, Chris Levick, Kathy Liebert and Bruce Buffer apparently involved in scam training site

    I received the following private message here:

    Hi Druff,

    I have a scam I would like to bring to your attention that not many people know about. For the past few years a training website had been taking the poker communities money for a website pre launch that never launched. Now the website has closed shop and comes up not found.

    The site was called Poker Players Academy.

    It was not run well and involved Blair Rodman, Chris Levick, Kathy Liebert and Bruce Buffer. I know 3 or 4 people from twitter that say they donated to this website.

    Months back I contacted Chris levick and Blair Rodman about the site never launching and email/dms were never returned. This site was a casualty of black Friday but they kept taking players money even after black friday to recoup loses from the project. A girl that i know on twitter who donated to this site is @candipartypoker and she still shows their logo on her profile.

    If you search Poker Player Academy image a few come up and I believe they were taking $25 from each player to sign up early for training. Thanks. I listen to the show every week and enjoy it.
    Here is a May, 2011 article that is critical of this training site as a pyramid scheme:

    http://pokerati.com/2011/05/new-coac...ponzi-pyramid/

    So it was some Multi Level Marketing bullshit, and the "product" was poker training!

    Poker Player Academy provides the opportunity to earn money via helping people to learn from a pro and by referring people into the business. We provide you with the most advanced viral marketing system ever built that virtually does all the work. ~ Chris Levick


    No one was ever trained by this website.

    Anyone who "invested" (that is, bought into their multi-level marketing bullshit) lost their money.

    Note that, despite the acronym of PPA (intentional?), it had no affiliation with the Poker Players Alliance.

    Not sure what role Liebert, Buffer, Levick, and Rodman had in the company, but they were definitely used to promote it:

    http://www.pokergob.com/tag/poker-player-academy/

    The above is an old link of someone who presumably either "invested" in the site or was involved from the start (I'm guessing the latter).

    Maybe someone can tweet about this to Kathy Liebert? She dislikes me now, so she has me blocked.

    I doubt that Liebert set out to scam anyone, but it wouldn't surprise me if she was either duped into promoting this, and now wants to pretend none of this scamming ever happened.

  2. #2
    Apparently from the video on Pokergobs site Scotty Nguyen and Antonio Esfandiari were also involved in promoting this failed training site. The site continued to take players money after black friday in order to recoup startup money. Players were never repaid or even received any emails about the site closing. This site is no longer online and disappeared into the wind. I have a feeling we will never see Blair Rodman or Chris levick again in the poker world. They have ignored numerous emails from me about this website.

  3. #3
    That pokerati link compares it to PTN which was a pretty obvious pyramid scheme. I never heard of this one but I'm amazed that both fo them could get so many people to pay for a training site that didn't exist.

  4. #4
    Maybe someone can tweet about this to Kathy Liebert? She dislikes me now, so she has me blocked.
    Did she try to smash?

    Either way, scams like these in the poker world really go to show it is so much easier to fool people than to convince they are being fooled.

  5. #5
    Blair Rodman was hanging out with the biggest crook of them all Russ Hamilton last weekend at Lake Elsinore playing 2-3 NL. They were with a group of 20+ playing a golf tournament all weekend.

  6. #6
    Hi and thank you for allowing me to clarify what has been posted on here about Poker Player Academy.

    Poker Player Academy was set up by a Canadian by the name of Mike Helm who was the principal shareholder and Founder. I was approached via a mutual friend to help get the business started and to ensure that the right people were involved so that the training material would be entirely relevant. The business model did involve an affiliate/referral plan however there are a multitude of business that use this type of marketing method. It would be totally unfair to describe the business as a scam based on the method of marketing and I was present when advice was taken from lawyers and other industry experts to ensure that the business operated within the relevant laws.

    As the project started to come together, it became apparent that Helm had underestimated the level of capital required and as a result the business was undercapitalised. Blair Rodman, Kathy Leibert, Bruce Buffer, Antonio Esfandari and Scotty Nguyen were recruited to provide the training content and participated in a promotional video. In the case of the players that had a management agency, the agents were fully briefed on the project. Clearly they would not allow their players to enter into an agreement to promote a business that had less than honourable intentions. All were paid for their services with the exception of Blair and Kathy, Helm had run out of funds by the time they were due to be paid.

    The business conducted a 'pre-launch' which I was assured is a standard practice within the affiliate/referral industry where members could reserve their place in the business by paying $15. A total of 235 people globally paid the $15 fee before the project was abandoned. I returned to Australia when the company could no longer afford to pay me and saw an email set to go out asking anyone who had paid to contact the company regarding a refund. I understand that some people may not have received this email, its even possible that it was not sent but I did view a draft of what Helm was intending to send out. Any email addresses that I was monitoring whilst working for the company had the passwords changed immediately by the company when I left. Had anyone attempted to email me from that time on, I assume someone else at the company would have received the mail.

    Despite the fact that the 235 x $15 did not go to me personally, I am more than willing to refund anyone that had paid from my own pocket. Several weeks ago upon learning that some people may not have received the refund email, I posted this on Facebook and in fact refunded some money to Australians who were effected. Anyone wanting a refund only need send proof of payment to chris@chrislevick.com and give me either banking details or a PayPal account. An alternative is that people can simply go to their bank and do a charge back.

    In regards to the players involved, these people are of the highest integrity. Despite my now dislike for Helm, I can say in no way did he set this business up illegally or with the intention of creating a fraudulent scheme.

    Anyone requiring further information can feel free to contact me via email.

    Chris Levick
    Last edited by LevDogs; 12-13-2012 at 02:42 PM. Reason: Left of my name

  7. #7
    I'm going to call bs on this entire response. Your only coming out now to try an repay players to save your tarnished rep. Players never received any emails about refunds and were never repaid by the site. If you repaid Facebook friends that's irrelevant to the rest of the poker community. All pro players involved have been quite all year. Its cool that your manning up now but without this site we would of never heard from you

  8. #8
    Mike you are entitled to call it whatever you like, it is exactly the situation. I'm certainly not personally obliged to repay the $15 to anyone, the reality is if anyone felt they had been unfairly treated they only had to do a charge back and they had their money back anyway. If the players did not receive an email that is a matter for them and the company, I was not part of the company when that email was supposedly sent.

    The bottom line is that nobody was out to scam anyone, suggesting otherwise is simply not true.

  9. #9
    Chris, I realize that this was not all your fault. The whole idea of the site was ridiculous. But accepting players money after black friday when it was obvious that the site was a total fail is a scam in my book. Most people would not care about the $15 and not even bother to try and recoup their money. But that is besides the point. I'm not sure when you left the company but your name is still tied to it. The players that represented this site are the reason people signed up. And they were let down....

  10. #10
    Mike this is the last post i'll be making on the matter.

    The business had not even commenced on black Friday, it was some months after when the pre launch began. Black Friday played no part whatsoever in the business failing or otherwise. Even the promotional videos were not shot until well and truly after black Friday. The site could not possibly be a fail because it didn't even exist then.

    This is the problem with this type of thing, people invent dates and situations and then attempt to slur the names of people involved without any clue whatsoever what they are talking about. You say the site idea was ridiculous, others said it was one of the best ideas they had seen. Perhaps they had more information than you I don't know but what I do know was this business did not get off the ground because it lacked the capital to provide the core product. The only responsible thing to do was to close it down and that is what I recommended before I left.

    I acknowledge that people were looking forward to this being a success and were let down. None more so than me.

  11. #11
    From the start people thought this was a scam Chris and people were warned about it. I do believe the site was launched in January or February of 2012. Directly being affected by black friday. I know more than you think Levdogs. They were never told what they would get for their money or what kind of training they would receive. So the training aspect of the site was complete bullshit. A Pokerati post called the site a "Multi-level marketing scheme" in May of 2012 . Link to post here: http://pokerati.com/2011/05/new-coac...ponzi-pyramid/

  12. #12
    This was nothing but a big scam. Levick and his wife, a washed up poker dealer(and obviously not the brains behind the operation), are nothing but scam artists. They conned a lot of trusting people. My guess is her "wanna be gangster" ex husband was involved too. Funny how they all disappeared after the site shut down. The poker players involved in promoting this should be embarrassed.

  13. #13
    Gold Bootsy Collins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LevDogs View Post
    Hi and thank you for allowing me to clarify what has been posted on here about Poker Player Academy.

    Poker Player Academy was set up by a Canadian by the name of Mike Helm who was the principal shareholder and Founder. I was approached via a mutual friend to help get the business started and to ensure that the right people were involved so that the training material would be entirely relevant. The business model did involve an affiliate/referral plan however there are a multitude of business that use this type of marketing method. It would be totally unfair to describe the business as a scam based on the method of marketing and I was present when advice was taken from lawyers and other industry experts to ensure that the business operated within the relevant laws.

    As the project started to come together, it became apparent that Helm had underestimated the level of capital required and as a result the business was undercapitalised. Blair Rodman, Kathy Leibert, Bruce Buffer, Antonio Esfandari and Scotty Nguyen were recruited to provide the training content and participated in a promotional video. In the case of the players that had a management agency, the agents were fully briefed on the project. Clearly they would not allow their players to enter into an agreement to promote a business that had less than honourable intentions. All were paid for their services with the exception of Blair and Kathy, Helm had run out of funds by the time they were due to be paid.

    The business conducted a 'pre-launch' which I was assured is a standard practice within the affiliate/referral industry where members could reserve their place in the business by paying $15. A total of 235 people globally paid the $15 fee before the project was abandoned. I returned to Australia when the company could no longer afford to pay me and saw an email set to go out asking anyone who had paid to contact the company regarding a refund. I understand that some people may not have received this email, its even possible that it was not sent but I did view a draft of what Helm was intending to send out. Any email addresses that I was monitoring whilst working for the company had the passwords changed immediately by the company when I left. Had anyone attempted to email me from that time on, I assume someone else at the company would have received the mail.

    Despite the fact that the 235 x $15 did not go to me personally, I am more than willing to refund anyone that had paid from my own pocket. Several weeks ago upon learning that some people may not have received the refund email, I posted this on Facebook and in fact refunded some money to Australians who were effected. Anyone wanting a refund only need send proof of payment to chris@chrislevick.com and give me either banking details or a PayPal account. An alternative is that people can simply go to their bank and do a charge back.

    In regards to the players involved, these people are of the highest integrity. Despite my now dislike for Helm, I can say in no way did he set this business up illegally or with the intention of creating a fraudulent scheme.

    Anyone requiring further information can feel free to contact me via email.

    Chris Levick

    LOL @ anybody giving you their banking information. Yes let me give you my account number and routing number.

  14. #14
    Diamond Hockey Guy's Avatar
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    Can anyone confirm a refund from this guy?

    I agree with Bootsy, you'd be foolish to give any banking info out. Paypal would be the safest way.
    (_) ..
    ∫\ \___( _)
    _∫∫ _∫∫ɯ \ \

    Quote Originally Posted by Hockey Guy
    I'd say good luck in the freeroll but I'm pretty sure you'll go on a bender to self-sabotage yourself & miss it completely or use it as the excuse of why you didn't cash.

  15. #15
    I have to give Chris Levick some credit for coming on here to defend himself. It takes a lot of guts to do that. After hearing his response it sounds like others are more to blame than him. So, cheers to you Chris for manning up and offering repayments. Still I hate that all of them have been quite about the situation. If you make bad business decisions that affect other people the first step is admitting you screwed up. We would probably never see Bruce Buffer, Kathy Leibert or Blair Rodman come on here to explain their side of the story.

  16. #16
    Seriously???
    Levick didn't "man up" to anything.
    He is a crook, and will NEVER give anyone a refund.
    Take a minute to look up his history....he is a scam artist through and through.
    His new "business" is failing, and he couldn't possibly afford to pay back the people involved in the PPA scam.
    His other newest "venture" is also a pyramid operation - so beware!!!
    The "launch" was postponed again and again...sound familiar???
    Let's hope he stays out of the USA!!!

  17. #17
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Interesting thread here.

    First, I do want to give Chris Levick credit for showing up here and answering to the accusations. He could have simply avoided it, as most people accused of scamming do.

    Also, if he is really going to give people refunds, that's a good start. Obviously that doesn't excuse the fact that very few "investors" (if any) were contacted to give them refunds in the first place. Still, it's better than nothing -- provided that he really does refund people.

    Chris, a few questions for you:

    1) You talk about Mike Helm "underestimating the capital required" to run such a training site. How much capital could have possibly been required? Web hosting is cheap. What other expenses were there? Since it was a multi-level marketing format, there wasn't much (or any) advertising required. I assume the people making the training videos were going to get some small up-front fee (if any), and then a piece of whatever is sold. I am not understanding why there was a lot of money required to get this going.

    2) A pyramid scheme is defined as a business model where people are selling others the opportunity to make commission off others, but where no product of real value is involved. Or, if there is a real product, the majority of money is generated by selling the opportunity to sell it, rather than from selling the product itself. I agree with your critics that this Poker Players Academy business looked very pyrmaid-like. If it was really about selling training, why not just use a traditional affiliate model, rather than charging people up front for the opportunity to sell it?

    3) You say that 235 people signed up and paid $15 each. That's a total of $3,525. Are you saying that between you and Mike Helm, you couldn't come up with the paltry sum of $3,525 to refund the affected parties? That's really not a lot of money, and I don't think anyone can legitimately plead poverty and not pay that back, especially over a long period of time. Furthermore, why was there only a Facebook message about the business closing, rather than contacting people directly (via e-mail) and offering a refund? Surely you had everyone's e-mail addresses.

    4) You say that Helm did not intend to rip people off when he set this up. I believe that you and Helm both had big dreams of this thing being a monster business idea, given your rhetoric about a $1,000,000 monthly freeroll, and other outrageous plans. However, many well-intentioned business models turn to scams when the original plan fails, and the owners are left with the choice of either losing money or screwing those whom they owe money. If Helm is not a scammer, why did he not refund $3,525 to investors. Why didn't you?

  18. #18
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Here is the old website on chrislevick.com.

    Scroll past the first page.

     

    View on scribd here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/55681840/  


  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Druff View Post
    Interesting thread here.

    First, I do want to give Chris Levick credit for showing up here and answering to the accusations. He could have simply avoided it, as most people accused of scamming do.

    Also, if he is really going to give people refunds, that's a good start. Obviously that doesn't excuse the fact that very few "investors" (if any) were contacted to give them refunds in the first place. Still, it's better than nothing -- provided that he really does refund people.

    Chris, a few questions for you:

    1) You talk about Mike Helm "underestimating the capital required" to run such a training site. How much capital could have possibly been required? Web hosting is cheap. What other expenses were there? Since it was a multi-level marketing format, there wasn't much (or any) advertising required. I assume the people making the training videos were going to get some small up-front fee (if any), and then a piece of whatever is sold. I am not understanding why there was a lot of money required to get this going.

    To shoot a the required large number of training videos, including compiling the material, editing, talent and other associated costs would have cost $250,000. I can assure you the players doing the videos were not doing it for nothing. There was detailed business modelling done on this.

    2) A pyramid scheme is defined as a business model where people are selling others the opportunity to make commission off others, but where no product of real value is involved. Or, if there is a real product, the majority of money is generated by selling the opportunity to sell it, rather than from selling the product itself. I agree with your critics that this Poker Players Academy business looked very pyrmaid-like. If it was really about selling training, why not just use a traditional affiliate model, rather than charging people up front for the opportunity to sell it?

    What you have said here is 100% correct. The commissions were to have been paid on the sale of each training module. There was never going to be a commission paid on the $15, that would have been illegal and we had specific advice on that. It is common practice within that industry to launch with a 'pre-launch' so that the people that reserve their spots can get their people into the program whilst the business was getting ready. Helm had specific propriety software that he had developed in a previous venture that was to be introduced and was the catalyst for the business becoming a referral style business. It was his business, his concept and his software, he had previous experience in this type of selling and that was always going to be the sales method.

    3) You say that 235 people signed up and paid $15 each. That's a total of $3,525. Are you saying that between you and Mike Helm, you couldn't come up with the paltry sum of $3,525 to refund the affected parties? That's really not a lot of money, and I don't think anyone can legitimately plead poverty and not pay that back, especially over a long period of time. Furthermore, why was there only a Facebook message about the business closing, rather than contacting people directly (via e-mail) and offering a refund? Surely you had everyone's e-mail addresses.

    I'm certainly not pleading poverty - I'm not sure why you said that. I did not receive the funds personally and had left the USA at a time when Helm was attempting to raise more funds. I did not have anyone's email address, they were the property of the company and after I left, I had no access to the data base or even to my company email address. I personally had no access to anyone's credit card details to push money back. As stated before, all anyone had to do was phone their bank and do a charge back for their $15 and it would be put straight back onto their card. When someone leaves the employ of a company, they are not normally given access to such things.

    4) You say that Helm did not intend to rip people off when he set this up. I believe that you and Helm both had big dreams of this thing being a monster business idea, given your rhetoric about a $1,000,000 monthly freeroll, and other outrageous plans. However, many well-intentioned business models turn to scams when the original plan fails, and the owners are left with the choice of either losing money or screwing those whom they owe money. If Helm is not a scammer, why did he not refund $3,525 to investors. Why didn't you?
    Again, as I have communicated privately, that is a question for Helm. As the money did not go to me, I had absolutely no reason to refund anyone. When I left the USA Helm was still attempting to raise additional funds. As I have said on Facebook and subsequently on here, if someone wants to provide me proof of payment I'll happily refund them myself. As a former employee and investor in the business, what more can I do?

    The one comment that I will make is that I totally agree that the closure of the site could have been way better communicated. That couldn't have possibly come from me, the business was still effectively running when I left. Even I have not had any correspondence from Helm himself since I left, I found out the same way everyone else did. To anyone I let down by not properly communicating the situation when I left, I sincerely apologise.

    Helm did not set this business up to be a scam nor did it become a scam. For anyone to suggest otherwise is just defamatory. One of the major causes of businesses failing is undercapitalisation, this is a clear cut example of that. The real losers here are the people that backed him, between them we lost a significant amount of money. He may be guilty of being overly optimistic but he had only the best intentions.

    Businesses fail in this world every day of the week. This happens for many reasons, just because this business was in the poker industry and it didn't get off the ground, does not make it a scam. Just because the business employed a multi level marketing distribution method, it is not illegal 'pyramid selling'. Extensive advice was taken from industry lawyers so that that side of the business complied with the relevant laws. I was present at these meetings.

    You are right, I could have ignored what was written on this site but it was just plain wrong. Some of the comments here are totally inaccurate, some are laced with defamatory garbage and some even suggest the involvement of supposed criminal figures. The entire thread smears the names of some exceptional people in Kathy, Bruce, Antinio, Blair and Scotty. They certainly don't deserve that.

  20. #20
    Owner Dan Druff's Avatar
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    Shooting the videos would cost $250,000? Maybe in 1984. Shooting training videos is incredibly easy, given the cheap software that exists today. How do you think Cardrunners, Deuces Cracked, and many others made such a profit? They put the burden of production on the trainers, who basically used the software they were given (or instructed to obtain) and slapped the videos up on the site. Sure, you can spend unnecessary money on frills such as special-effects and graphics, but why? People watch poker training videos for content, not production value. They want to see how great players think while playing their hands.

    To say "You can just do a chargeback" isn't a fair answer. A chargeback is a last resort for when the merchant turned out to be a crook. It also can reflect badly upon the purchaser if too many chargebacks occur in a short period of time, so it is wise to save them for when really necessary.

    You also said that you don't have access to the database of e-mails. Are you saying that Helm would refuse to give this to you, if you told him that you were going to refund all of the aggrieved parties out of your own pocket? I find that hard to believe. If so, then you should really make a public stink about this and prove that Helm is the actual bad guy here.

    I am afraid that there are still too many unanswered questions here, and there seems to be a lot of double-talk involving something simple -- getting a list of e-mails of affected parties, and refunding them $15 each.

    Again, Helm may not have started off intending to scam people, but running off into the sunset with people's "pre-launch" money after the site fails definitely qualifies as a scam.

    Too often people take the attitude of, "Businesses fail every day" as an excuse as to why they don't pay their creditors. That's garbage. You should only spend the money you have when hiring people for services that your business needs. You should not be spending expected future profits, and screw whoever you hired if your business fails to make what you hoped. Otherwise, you're basically freerolling other people. If your business works out, you pay the help you hired. If not, you screw everyone. Very unethical. Helm (and you, by extension) should have made sure you had the capital to pay for all start-up costs immediately, and if you didn't, the people you hired should have known they were only getting paid if the business succeeded.

    I can tell you that, if I were in your shoes, clearing my name would be well worth the $3500, even if the loss was someone else's fault.

    You have told me both here and in private e-mail that this thread is "defamatory". I disagree. I believe it is a fair discussion of the circumstances of a failed business and the people who were victimized by it.

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