Thursday, June 02, 2011

Following the Action (Ivey, Full Tilt Poker, and the 2011 WSOP)

Follow it!I’ve mentioned here a couple of times how I’ll be going to Las Vegas to join in the coverage of the World Series of Poker a little later than usual this summer. After being there start-to-finish the last three years, I’m spending these first couple of weeks of June enjoying some family time before I head out on the 21st. When I get there I’ll once again be live blogging with PokerNews, sticking around through July 19th when the 2011 version of the “November Nine” has been determined.

I’m also using this time to work on a few other things, including devoting a few days to a summer workshop that’ll help me further develop my “Poker in American Film and Culture” class, which I’ll be teaching again in the fall. Am also working each day on another novel, for which it is nice to have a routine of sorts in place to continue.

Feels a little weird not to be there in the Amazon Room as things kick off, never mind submitting daily reports here on HBP. (Those will start once I’m out there.) But as anyone stopping by this blog well knows, there are a lot of other good places to go to follow the action at the WSOP.

Besides the usual detailed reporting from all of the events over at PokerNews, the site is offering some added goodies this year, too, including plans to live stream all of the final tables from the preliminary events, aside from the $25,000 Heads-Up NLHE Championship (Event No. 2) and the $50,000 Players Championship (Event No. 55) which will be shown on over on the available-to-some-but-not-all-namely-me-ding-dang-it ESPN3.

I did not look at any of streaming from the final table of the $500 Casino Employees NLHE event (Event No. 1) yesterday, which apparently played down to four players. Play was awkwardly halted at that point because of that new rule preventing the playing of more than 10 levels in a single day. That restarts at 3 p.m. Vegas time, although most of the attention today will probably be on those WSOP Main Event rematches (also to be shown on ESPN3).

Live stream from 2011 WSOP, via WSOP.comI did, however, take a peek at the live streaming on Tuesday when they set up a camera during the first round of the $25K Heads-Up. That’s a screen shot of the scene, with two matches happening -- John Duthie vs. Sorel Mizzi on the left, and Phil Laak vs. Jonathan Duhamel on the right. There was no commentary, and not a lot to see or hear from such a distance. However, the picture was crystal clear, the sound good, and I imagine at final tables the set up will be more conducive to following what is happening, especially with an announcer nearby calling out the action. Will have to check in later today to see how it all looks.

Of course, there are also a number of other sites I’ll be checking on regularly during these couple of weeks before I get out to Vegas, including Tao of Poker, Pokerati, Wicked Chops, BLUFF Magazine, CardPlayer, Poker Listings, ESPN’s Poker Club, the Two Plus Two forums, and a few other places. QuadJacks also continues to capture my attention from time to time with their ongoing live radio show. And after two years on Twitter I now seem to be following a large number of folks who are sending out WSOP-related stuff on a regular basis. All of which is to say I feel pretty well connected with what’s happening inside the Rio here at the start.

Of course, the primary drama this week isn’t happening inside the Rio at all, but rather out here on the intertubes where Phil Ivey and Full Tilt Poker have openly declared war on one another.

After Ivey’s Facebook posting and press release Tuesday night, his electronically-filed lawsuit against Tiltware LLC was made public yesterday afternoon. There we learn that Ivey is seeking $150 million in damages as well as the ability to sever his relationship with FTP to pursue opportunities elsewhere -- i.e., freedom from the “Non-Competition Covenant” in his contract with Full Tilt.

Looks like Ivey is saying Full Tilt Poker failed to uphold its end of their agreement when it conducted its operations illegally (as suggested by the DOJ’s indictment and civil complaint unsealed on April 15) and when it failed to segregate players’ funds and thus allow for Americans to cash out in a timely fashion.

Regarding the first point, when Ivey joined up with Full Tilt in early 2004, he did so under the impression that Tiltware “would provide software and related support for the conduct of legal online poker.” Being charged with bank fraud, money laundering, and violating the UIGEA is here presented as reason to say Full Tilt wasn’t conducting itself legally.

Ivey v. TiltwareMeanwhile, the lawsuit also references the agreement between the DOJ and Full Tilt to allow for the return of funds to American players, then explains how the company “failed to maintain a reserve account sufficient to satisfy the return of funds to U.S. players.” This failure is connected to Ivey’s “professional reputation” being “severely damaged” (as was mentioned in Tuesday’s press release), partly because of players’ “mistaken belief that Phil Ivey has the ability to cause Full Tilt Poker to return the player’s [sic] funds.”

There’s an interesting section in the lawsuit listing a number of quotes (“public comments”) by people angrily asserting how unfair or -- to use my word from a couple of posts ago, “unseemly” -- it would be for Full Tilt Pros to play at this year’s WSOP. In any event, Ivey is here maintaining that Full Tilt’s actions add up to a “breach of covenant” and thus entitle Ivey to get out of his agreement with FTP and get that $150 million in damages, too.

The lawsuit additionally happens to mention that the amount owed to U.S. players is also “approximately $150,000,000.” Put together with Ivey’s press release -- where Ivey asserted he was acting “on behalf of all poker players” and that he planned to “dedicate the entirety of my time and efforts to finding a solution for those who have been wronged by the painfully slow process of repayment” -- this might suggest that Ivey is somehow by this lawsuit attempting to recover the funds in order to deliver them to the players himself. Is Ivey here challenging to take over the role once played by his friend Barry Greenstein as the “Robin Hood of Poker”?

Many have understandably expressed cynicism about that possibility, though, noting additionally how the lawsuit seems more likely to have the effect of lengthening the amount of time that will pass before U.S. players will get paid -- or even make it less likely for that to happen at all. Would work well in a comic book or fairy tale -- heroic Ivey conquering villainous FTP for the greater good -- but that ain’t how it works here in the real world.

Thus it is hard to say for certain what are the precise factors motivating Ivey here. However, Full Tilt Poker thinks they know. Last night Full Tilt Poker (or Tiltware) fired back -- initially via PokerNews’ Twitter account, no less (!) -- a terse, petulant response to Ivey’s press release and lawsuit.

“Contrary to his sanctimonious public statements,” the statement begins, “Phil Ivey’s meritless lawsuit is about helping just one player -- himself.” It goes on to say directly that in order “to further enrich himself at the expense of others,” Ivey’s lawsuit has been timed so as to “thwart pending deals” to facilitate the return of U.S. players’ funds. The statement then alleges Ivey owes the site considerable funds himself.

Had to love Benjo’s response to Full Tilt’s response, shared by Dr. Pauly yesterday: “That's the fastest Full Tilt has responded to anything since Black Friday.”

Hard to compare the legalese of the lawsuit with the “oh-yeah-well-you-suck-even-worse” reply delivered by Full Tilt’s consistently-self-sabotaging PR department. And indeed, it is also difficult to know precisely how all of this will play out, although I tend to agree with the Poker Lawyer’s smart, birds-eye-view-like assessment that whatever happens with the dispute, all of this airing of dirty laundry “will further blacken the shiner the industry’s been sporting since Black Friday.”

So much action to follow. In a way, not being on the floor reporting on events has probably made it a little easier to keep up with it all. I’ll be glad finally to get there, but it appears there will be plenty to occupy me in the meantime.

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Blogger PokerLawyer said...

Thanks much for the shout out - I appreciate it and am a big fan of your work.

6/02/2011 3:26 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Glad to... thanks for writing it. I really liked the way you described the long-term there & how all of this further affects poker's place in the culture, generally speaking. Just sorry to have buried the reference way down at the end of this long post.

Check it out, y'all ~~> "The Ivey Impact."

6/02/2011 4:10 PM  

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