Midway Poker Tour founder Daniel Bekavac reemerges as 'organizer' of new Louisville poker club

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: September 22, 2023 22:02 PDT

Disgraced Midway Poker Tour founder Daniel Bekavac has reemerged on the business side of the poker scene, playing a management role with a brand new social-poker club in Louisville, Kentucky, Club JAQK.

The new Club JAQK, located on Louisville's southwest side, opened for business last week. The club sells memberships instead of charging rake, in the manner of social-poker clubs operating in other states, and the club offers tourneys and cash games in hold'em and Omaha variants.

Bekavac is listed as the "Organizer" of Club JAQK's parent company, JAQK Social, LLC, in various online business-registration databases. The only other person listed as being connected to JAQK Social, LLC is its registered agent, Kentucky attorney Michael Keeney.

Midway Poker Tour disaster left Bekavac's reputation in tatters

Bekavac's first foray into the operations side of poker ended in a financial disaster, as cashing participants in the tour's debut event in October 2020, held near Chicago's O'Hare International airport, went largely unpaid. Bekavac had concocted a framework which he believed offered his tour legal protection under Illinois's charitable-gaming laws, and Bekavac set up a bullion exchange scheme to avoid the appearance of large sums of money being paid directly to players who cashed in the Illinois tournament.

Several Illinois charity-poker operators had been contacted by Bekavac prior to his launching the tour, and all of them declined to work with him after they learned details of his plans. Undeterred, Bekavac went ahead with the debut event, but he overspent on advertising and promotions, and the event's attendance came nowhere his hopes. With his debut event tens of thousands of dollars in cash and precious-metals bullion short, Bekavac went missing on the event's final day, and his tour's social-media accounts went dark soon after.

Remaining staffers and charity workers on the scene scrambled to salvage something from the situation, and a minority of players who cashed were paid out in a combination of cash and bullion at marked-up rates. Illinois gaming regulators had forbidden Bekavac to employ the original version of the scheme, which involved having a bullion dealer at the tourney site to reconvert the bullion to cash at the marked-up rates, though they allowed the overvalued bullion to be awarded as "prizes". Most cashing players were significantly shorted at the time, especially final-table players who were owed the largest payouts.

MSPT win gave Bekavac cash to pay jilted players

The players who went without being properly paid fumed at the situation, as the legal fees necessary to extract the owed money from Bekavac exceeded the amount they were likely to recover. The fuming intensified when Bekavac reemerged to play in other poker events, including Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) tournaments.

Bekavac had enjoyed success in prior MSPT events, and in March of 2022, he managed to win his third MSPT main-event title. The win provided Bekavac with enough money to pay back the players who had gone unpaid for over a year and a half. The payback process was shepherded by PokerNews' Chad Holloway. PokerNews had accepted advertising from Bekavac for the failed Midway Poker Tour event and also provided live coverage. Later, when Bekavac began to make good on the long-owed payouts, PokerNews published an interview with Bekavac in which he claimed an alternate version of events at the Illinois tournament.

In the end, most of the jilted players received full payouts, if without interest, though some who had accepted the bullion deals as Bekavac's tour debut crashed and burned may not have been fully refunded. Many of the workers at the event went unpaid, and the charity that Bekavac used as the state-required partner for his tour's debut reportedly, by players, received nothing but a pittance in tips from players for its work at the event.

Bekavac later claimed it was the charity that was responsible for the bullion-payout scheme, including a ridiculous 30 percent markup on the metal. 4 K.I.D.S. Sake, the event's registered charity, was required by Illinois law to be the entity charged with making the actual payouts to cashing players, but the conflicting tales of what actually transpired remain part of the sad tale.

However, Bekavac's claims that the charity was anything other than a mandated-by-law partner doing Bekavac's bidding ring hollow; in Bekavac's own words in the PN piece, he stated, "[I]n the end, I los[t] $70,000 for putting up the event." The incongruity went unexplored in the PN piece.

Forced entry into PokerBros 'Midway' club

Another element of the dodgy proceedings was that when players arrived at the Midway Poker Tour event, they discovered that they would only be allowed to participate if they registered for a PokerBROS online-poker club operated by Bekavac and a business partner. Bekavac likely hoped to derive extra revenue should players participate in the agent-based club, one of many agent-based clubs that operate online in a wholly unregulated manner.

The mandatory PokerBROS account creation wasn't disclosed in pre-event advertising for the Midway Poker Tour event, and the demand was especially egregious when it was forced upon several dozen participants who had traveled long distances to play.

PokerBROS was also unaware of the situation, and to its credit, it immediately banned Bekavac's club from the network:

Kentucky a shaky state for social-poker clubs

All that background serves as preface for the recent opening of Club JAQK in Louisville, which represents another questionable situation, if in different ways. The Louisville area has few options for poker. The closest poker room is across the Ohio River at Caesars Southern Indiana, which is a half-hour drive or more away for most Louisville-area players.

As for social-poker clubs, only three others exist at the present time in Kentucky, and none are close to Louisville. There used to be another club of note, however -- the Moneymaker Social Club in Paducah near Kentucky's northwest tip. The club was launched by Chris Moneymaker, but it operated only briefly before the recently-elected local county DA reversed his predecessor's opinion and deemed Moneymaker's room illegal, social-poker club framework in place or not.

Kentucky has traditionally been one of the most hostile US states toward poker and many other forms of gambling. The state infamously sued PokerStars for years of post-UIGEA services offered to Kentucky players, and after roughly a decade-long court battle, it wrested a $300 million settlement from PokerStars' current owner, Flutter Entertainment.

The state's gambling interests remain controlled by its conservative-dominated government and by the horseracing industry, especially Churchill Downs, Inc., the owner and operator of the Kentucky Derby. The state has no true casinos, though some slots-like games are available at a handful of pari-mutuel outlets. These factors add up to large question mark for the future of any poker club in the state, and that future can flip at the whim of officials, as Moneymaker discovered.

This story has been amended from its original version with additional information and links to relevant pieces.