Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Exit FTPDoug, Enter FTPMarkus

Exit FTPDoug, Enter FTPMarkusYou’ve probably been following some of those post-settlement developments with regard to PokerStars’ agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, an agreement which includes Stars’ acquisition of Full Tilt Poker. After first hearing the news on July 31, we learned late last week that the deal was officially finalized on August 9, meaning that the relaunch of Full Tilt Poker by Stars will be happening no later than November 6 (i.e., 90 days from the deal being completed).

It was late last week that we also learned a person named Shyam Markus was both the one responsible for most of the old “FTPDoug” missives that proved so misleading during the months leading up to and weeks following Black Friday and that Markus was returning to serve as FTP’s Poker Room Manager going forward. Markus introduced himself in a thread on Two Plus Two last Thursday, noting his intention to resume the role of spokesperson and primary communicator with forum users.

Markus’s initial post on Two Plus Two noted his former identity as FTPDoug, explaining in part the circumstance by which he came to take over the role after another FTP employee had created it way back in 2006, posted a few times under the name on 2+2, then handed the duty over to Markus.

Markus’s stepping forward to reveal himself as FTPDoug prompted another announcement over the weekend from Michele Clayborne, a person who for several years handled public relations for FTP. Her statement was released to PokerNews, prompted largely by previous speculation by some -- occasionally in the form of outright declarations -- that she had in fact been FTPDoug.

In the statement, Clayborne alludes to Markus’s announcement, noting how “the revelation of the true identity of FTPDoug was long over due [sic].”

“Until this announcement,” she continues, “I too was not aware of this person’s identity, although I asked for clarification on numerous occasions due to the fact that some unreliable and misleading poker press deemed FTPDoug to be me with 100 percent certainty.” Clayborne alludes at the end to that Quadjacks piece from June 2011 in which an unnamed source is quoted identifying her as FTPDoug “with ‘100% certainty.’”

What is PR?The statement sounds more than a little strange, given the fact that Clayborne was the Consulting Head of Public Relations at FTP when FTPDoug was doing his thing as a more or less primary “spokespersona” for the site. Not sure how someone managing PR could be left out of that loop, but that’s what she’s saying.

Clayborne then concludes her note taking a final parting shot at “unreliable news sites and bloggers that disseminate self-serving, inaccurate, misleading information to poker playing public [again, sic].”

I don’t know Michele Clayborne. A search of my blog tells me I haven’t written her name a single time here before. I have, of course, read articles and blog posts about her over the years, and have heard various things through the grapevine regarding the nature of her work with FTP.

Even so, it’s difficult not to notice to the irony of a PR person blaming others for passing around “inaccurate, misleading information” regarding the company she was representing. Especially on the heels of a claim of ignorance regarding the identity of FTPDoug, which if somehow not inaccurate seems at least a little misleading.

Then again, perhaps all can be explained. In his announcement Markus goes over how it happened that he came to deliver all of those “Your Funds Are Safe and Secure” statements, both before and after Black Friday. You know, the ones that got brought up and quoted extensively in that amended civil complaint last September. And were referred to again in that superseding indictment against Ray Bitar and Nelson Burtnick from last month which refers to similar assurances being made by “a representative of Full Tilt Poker assigned to monitor and respond to forum messages” (i.e., FTPDoug) as early as July 2008.

In his announcement last Thursday, Markus explains that while he indeed was the one who sent out those highly misleading messages, he didn’t write “most of what was posted in those statements.” He also says he “never posted anything [he] believed at the time to be untrue.”

Not gonna offer any judgments at present about the decision to bring back Markus in this fashion to serve as the Poker Room Manager of the new FTP. There are reasons for doing so, I’m sure, although those reasons don’t seem readily apparent at first blush.

FTPDoug is now FTPMarkusAs “FTPMarkus,” his posts thus far on Two Plus Two and responses to players’ questions all seem sincere and to follow his own stated intention “to being as open and transparent as possible.” He does address various concerns about his former FTPDougieness, including Clayborne and the earlier rumor that she was FTPDoug and why he never stepped forward before to quash it.

To be honest, I’m not following every little detail of the exchanges about how the new FTP is going to run, given how as an American I obviously won’t be playing on the site and thus most of the back-and-forthing is not of concern to me. Am hopeful, however, all goes well for everyone when it comes to PokerStars and FTP 2.0.

That said, it seems like it would be hard for Markus to shake the baggage he carries as someone who -- to reapply Clayborne’s words -- however unwittingly played a role in FTP’s own lengthy, comprehensive campaign to “disseminate self-serving, inaccurate, misleading information.”

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