A-Rod unlikely to be suspended over alleged poker games

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Alex Rodriguez reportedly played in a couple card games at rich guys' houses in or near Beverly Hills. The stakes were said to be high.

And word out of well-placed Los Angeles poker sources is that Rodriguez is already trying to find poker games for next winter in L.A.

Big deal.

According to the initial reports about the card games that allegedly included A-Rod, a fight broke out over some steep losses. Rodriguez, according to the story, got up and left upon seeing the skirmish. One report suggested that someone -- not Rodriguez -- used cocaine out in the open at one of the games.

As a scandal, this is a pair of deuces.

Unless there is something more to this story -- and MLB will indeed investigate -- Rodriguez will not be suspended, people with knowledge of the situation say. He will only be warned and re-educated about how to stay out of bad situations.

This is a worthwhile chat. Rodriguez is a magnet for bad situations and worse publicity (which may explain why he is the only current major leaguer with a coterie of publicists).

Officially, this will be the third time in three years that he has been called to the principal's office (a.k.a. 245 Park Ave. in New York City, site of the commissioner's office), and this will be his easiest chat to date. The first one was to discuss Rodriguez's public comments regarding his steroid usage following Sports Illustrated's 2009 report that he failed a 2003 drug test. The second MLB interview was over his association with a Canadian doctor being investigated by the federal authorities for dispensing HGH to athletes. (Rodriguez told MLB that he didn't get HGH from the doctor, Anthony Galea.)

Rodriguez certainly has shown a great ability over the years to get himself into sticky situations and draw negative publicity. The commissioner's office wants to make sure that the man who is chasing the all-time home run record stays out of any more bad spots. But they aren't about to suspend him for playing cards, even if someone else got into a fight or used illegal drugs.

The stakes shouldn't matter, but for the record, the reports suggest that Rodriguez lost what for him is a small amount. One said "a few thousand'' dollars, another said $40,000. He makes about $200,000 a game, so relatively speaking, that's pennies.

The bad publicity part came when one report suggested that there was cocaine out in the open at one of the games. If true, that certainly is not a plus, but that can't be pinned on Rodriguez, as seeing someone else do drugs isn't a suspendable offense.

The other negative part was the alleged fight that broke out at one of the games over lost money. It was someone else's lost money, and someone else's fight.

The original report was in Star Magazine, which isn't exactly TheNew York Times. That report was more about poker-playing A-list actors, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, who were said to be at one of the games. Rodriguez was mentioned as an afterthought.

But when his name attracted the attention of sportswriters, Rodriguez publicist Richard Rubenstein told Newsday that A-Rod wasn't at any of the card games. This seemed like a long shot, as Rodriguez loves to play cards (the Yankees warned him to stay away from New York poker clubs after he was seen at one in 2005). Then predictably, more confirmation came that he was indeed playing cards, which is no surprise since Rodriguez does play poker.

The new story by the publicist is that there are "factual inaccuracies'' in the poker story. It appears that one inaccuracy is that Rodriguez didn't participate in a poker game in a Miami hotel in November 2009. The publicist didn't catalog what the "factual inaccuracies'' were. The publicist also didn't address his own factual inaccuracy claiming that A-Rod didn't play in any of the games.

MLB is within its rights to tell one of its biggest stars to stay out of bad spots, but it's doubtful that they can keep Rodriguez away from poker games. Rodriguez already is reportedly trying to line up games for this winter in Los Angeles. He has told people that he wants to play and that he's going to be in L.A. because that's where his girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz, is.

It's hard to imagine that baseball can make a big deal out of private poker games. And it's hard to believe that it could dissuade Rodriguez from playing in these games. But it can try to warn him about the company he keeps.

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