From Massage Parlors to Michael Jackson & A. Dikshit


In today’s Sunday Business section of The Old Grey Lady, journalist Kurt Eichenwald writes about the sensational porn-to-poker tale behind PartyGaming PLC, the Gibraltar-based company that operates online poker behemoth This week PartyGaming will go public on the London Stock Exchange in what analysts anticipate to be the largest offering in years and, as Eichenwald explains, Americans can’t get in on the action . . . well, at least not legally. While 90% of PartyGaming’s profits in 2004 came from stateside gamblers, no shares will be offered in the U.S., and the company’s officers and directors, including the female founder who’s originally from San Francisco, could risk being served with an arrest warrant if they ever set foot on U.S. soil.

The article gives great background on the legal clash of words between PartyGaming and the justice department as well as an overview of political plays being made both in the U.S. and abroad, but the fascinating read here is how PartyGaming came to be. While I won‚Äôt attempt to retell the story, as Eichenwald does an excellent job in doing so, basically it begins with a massage parlor owner in San Francisco who‚Äôs daughter grows up to be a lawyer-turned-phone-sex princess (on the business side with her dad not the “breathing heavy into the phone while doing the laundry” side).

Printing their own money thanks to an endless stream of hard-up pervs, the father-daughter duo–Richard and Ruth Parasol–eventually got in on the online porn action and invested in Seth Warshavsky‚Äôs Internet Entertainment Group (didn‚Äôt they own the Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson video?). When Warshavsky fled the U.S. leaving behind a huge debt in his wake and on Ms. Parasol‚Äôs lap, she decided to get out of the seedy porn business and do something respectable: start an online gambling site called Starluck Casino.

26pokerstackA year or so later, Lady Luck Parasol met a 25-year-old computer engineer from New Delhi with the unfortunate name of Anurag Dikshit (pictured, top). Dikshit would end up writing her proprietary programs necessary for online poker, making it possible to have up to 70,000 players online at one time, just as the poker craze began its meteoric rise here in the U.S. With PartyGaming at the center of it all, they hired Mike Sexton to help out with marketing and to lend credibility to its poker site,, and they brought in some suits to manage the biz, including Richard Segal (former head of Odeon movie theatres) to serve as CEO and Michael Jackson (the chairman of software co. the Sage Group – pictured here at bottom) as chairman.

And as they say, the rest is history.

Well actually, the rest is the future, as analysts predict the online poker market will grow to $6 billion in 2009, from last year’s measly $1 billion, and no one seems to be seriously rivaling PartyGaming’s current stronghold on the market (thanks to U.S. laws that make it impossible for American-based casinos and companies to join the online game).

Indeed, what the New York Times article makes painfully clear (besides of course that there’s a lot of money in porn and poker) is that the justice department’s flawed application of U.S. law to online poker is absurd considering the realities of the industry both here and internationally (more on this in another post).

Kudos to the New York Times for giving some serious ink to this story (about a full page and a half), and on the same day, printing an excellent piece on Stuey Ungar that coincides with the release of the biography, ‚ÄúOne of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‚ÄòThe Kid‚Äô Ungar, the World‚Äôs Greatest Poker Player,‚Äù by Nolan Dalla and Peter Alson. The book comes out this week, and it’s sure to be one of the best bio works we’ve seen considering Nolan Dalla’s firsthand accounts with Ungar and he’s a first-rate storyteller. You can get it online at for only $16.50.


6 Responses

  1. snake

    June 27, 2005 11:36 am, Reply addendum to this post:
    Dikshit, who is now 33-years-old, is expected to make $865 million from his portion of shares he’s selling in the offering. His remaining 31.6% stake could be worth up to $2.9 billion.
    That’s quite a nice cash out there, Dikshit.

  2. Kajagugu

    April 26, 2006 10:09 am, Reply

    No matter how much money he makes, A. Dikshit, will always have to live with the name his parents gave him…

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