Monday, October 24, 2011

Reports from the Department of Redundancy Department: Full Tilt Poker’s Ex-Employees Speaking Out

RedundancyWas diverted somewhat over weekend by these new threads popping up over on Two Plus Two in which ex-employees of Full Tilt Poker (or, rather, Pocket Kings Ltd.) are answering questions about their experiences working for the company.

Apparently close to 200 employees were finally let go from Full Tilt Poker last week -- their positions having been deemed “redundant” -- after several grim months of what sounds like reporting to work and doing nothing. (For a snapshot of the scene from the Dublin offices circa late summer, check out this melancholic post by another employee from August 25 by “solongdue.”)

All of the layers of secrecy and subterfuge surrounding FTP’s operations make these revelations from ex-employees -- even the minor ones -- a bit more intriguing than they would be otherwise. Of course, there is a lot of, well, redundancy going on here, with much of what is being said merely going over ground that has already been well covered over the last few months.

Still, it’s kind of absorbing. And there are a few tidbits in these threads that are not entirely old news, including at least one item that I think qualifies as altogether new (at least to me).

(I should add as a disclaimer that we’re assuming all of these posters are indeed who they say they are -- i.e., recently let-go employees of FTP. Evidence and in some cases corroboration in the threads seems to confirm one can assume as much.)

The first of these “Q & A” threads that I became aware of was started by a poster named “AnyQuestions” early Saturday. (EDIT [added 10/25/11]: This thread was eventually deleted; see bottom of post.) Within 24 hours he’d posted over 100 times to respond to others’ questions, and the thread continued to have momentum until late Sunday night when the questions finally stopped coming.

A lot of AnyQuestions’ thread involves him confirming things either suspected or known, such as that there are many players with “seven figures” locked up on the site, that employees started to become aware of the company’s massive (and increasing) shortfall late in December 2010 or January 2011, and that morale has been understandably low around the Dublin offices over the last few months.

Oh, and that Ray Bitar and the board members seemed to eat a lot of lobster. But we’d heard about that.

This office will not tolerate redundancy in this officeAt one point AnyQuestions notes that after last week’s layoffs there are now less than 200 people left with the company. He does not sound very confident the Bernard Tapie deal will go through, and believes if it doesn’t the company will be done by January.

He speculates about the possibility of players getting paid (possibly in part) even if the sale doesn’t happen. There are other items in there regarding security, customer service, and various trivia, with AnyQuestions’ earnestly answering all questions as well as he can while not naming names.

Another ex-employee actually started a thread earlier (on Thursday), although he did so over in the Brags, Beats, and Variance forum rather than NVG and so I didn’t notice that one until the weekend. That poster -- “Amphitryon” -- appeared to have worked in security at FTP.

Amphitryon is a little less forthcoming about the behind-the-scenes stuff than AnyQuestions, but is more explicit with his expressions of disappointment with the company, at least early on in the thread. But the level of conversation over there is mostly less serious and more given to joking around about FTP’s many follies, and by Sunday morning it had evolved into another funny photoshop thread before pretty much petering out.

Amphitryon does provide a few minor insights into how security operated, though. He also notes how over in security they had no idea beforehand that anything like what happened on Black Friday was about to occur. Both he and AnyQuestions sound as though they sincerely loved their jobs with FTP, repeatedly expressing variations on the “good while it lasted” theme.

Now hiring nowA third ex-employee, who alluded to the manner in which he lost his job by taking the name “Redundo,” then started yet another thread on Sunday morning, which after several hours was deleted from the site by moderators after the poster expressed regret for starting it. In fact, the same “Redundo” started a similar thread over on HighStakes.db where his post has not been removed.

While Redundo also stated he was ready to answer questions from 2+2ers, he clearly wasn’t as interested in doing so as were the other two thread-starters. He only came back into the thread a couple of times afterwards, and then only to ask that the thread be deleted. Rather, it looks like he just wanted to share a few pieces of information and express some frustration.

In that initial post (which as I say, can still be read over at the HighStakes.db forum), Redundo addresses a number of topics that were being discussed in the other threads. He, too, expressed pessimism about FTP’s future prospects (“it is sad to say but full tilt is gone”). He also suggests he believed players’ chances of getting their money returned was slight (“i don’t think it will happen”).

Then, during the next part of his post, Redundo showed a much greater willingness to name names than is the case with either AnyQuestions or Amphitryon.

He confirms that “FTPDoug” was still part of Pocket Kings (something being discussed in AnyQuestions’ thread). He then mentioned how Gil Coronado, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, has largely managed to avoid censure or legal trouble to this point despite being “probably number 2 guy in whole company” behind Ray Bitar and “largely responsible” for the current situation.

He next speaks of two others among the company’s management team -- Deirdre O’Shaughnessy and Caroline Lynch. O’Shaughnessy’s a co-director with Bitar at Pocket Kings (and at several other of the companies they set up), while Lynch heads Human Resources. Redundo largely absolves O’Shaughnessy (“i dont think [she] knew just how badly coronada and bitar ****ed up”) though is critical of Lynch (whom he called a “snake” and a “not nice person”). (That post by “solongdue” referenced above also includes comments about these two.)

Help stamp out and abolish redundancyRedundo then notes how Phil Gordon and Andy Bloch were more heavily involved in decision making than many realize. (AnyQuestions confirms in his thread that “to the best of [his] knowledge” Gordon’s involvement was substantial, and that Bloch is a major shareholder.)

Additionally -- and perhaps most notably -- Redundo briefly shares details of a “secret project” called “Project Coyote” that Full Tilt Poker had been working on that involved an agreement with the Facebook folks in Dublin to try to get an FTP game up and running on the social networking site.

The game would “connect to the back end of full tilt play money games and make the network really big,” the idea being to have the biggest site in the industry in terms of player base. “Then they woiuld [sic] try to convert to real money players,” Redundo goes on to explain, an idea he says “could have fixed the shortfall of funds if it didn’t get so many bugs and was delayed so much.”

Presumably, such a move represented part of the company’s plan for “global domination in the poker world” (a line from Ray Bitar that AnyQuestions quotes in his thread). Later in his thread, AnyQuestions acknowledges -- without going into specifics -- that the Facebook idea was indeed in the works.

It was the sharing of this news that led to Redundo’s thread being deleted. Two Plus Two moderator NoahSD (of Subject:Poker) had chimed in to point out how the Project Coyote stuff was perhaps better left undiscussed, Redundo agreed, and thereafter he asked that his thread be removed.

Interesting how one of the few non-redundant items to appear in any of the threads would raise ethical concerns about how much ex-employees should be willing to share. I suppose there are still some who think the “FTP on Facebook” idea -- which sounds like it might have been relatively close to happening prior to Black Friday -- still has some significance at this point as a bargaining chip for FTP with the Tapie group. I can’t see it mattering much now, though. After all that has happened this year, how could Facebook possibly be interested in working with the site going forward? (Besides, several others have already started down the Facebook road by this point, yes?)

Warning Road Sign AheadThere’s another ex-employee (or, perhaps, current employee?) of FTP who started doing something similar over in a Swedish poker forum a few days ago, too. A 2+2er has translated a lot of the Swede’s responses and posted his translations here.

The Swede is offering more specifics regarding how the remaining employees are working in preparation for a relaunch, although people are quitting, too, and it appears that given who’s left the company probably would be quite challenged to handle a relaunch should it occur.

Like Amphitryon, the Swede notes how Black Friday and its aftermath took him by surprise. He says Chris “Jesus” Ferguson -- whom he finds most culpable along with Bitar and Howard Lederer -- is still hanging around the offices there in Dublin. He also suggests the alarming possibility that Full Tilt Poker never donated money it collected from charity tournaments set up to deliver aid to Haiti and Japan. (Dealing in speculation here, obviously.)

Like I say, all of this was quite interesting to read through, even if relatively speaking there wasn’t a ton of new information to discover. It’s also interesting to consider the possibility of others speaking out, including those with more extensive knowledge of the site’s management -- in other words, people who might start providing information that isn’t so redundant.

(I believe the great Firesign Theatre were the first to create the Dept. of Redundancy Dept. -- on their 1970 album Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers -- although I know Monty Python slipped it into a “Flying Circus” sketch somewhere in there as well.)

(EDIT [added 10/25/11]: The AnyQuestions thread had continued throughout the day on Monday with many more questions about Full Tilt’s operations being answered. However, as Mr Glich notes in his comment, the thread was deleted from the 2+2 site after AQ was apparently threated with a lawsuit. Here’s the new thread in which the removal of the original thread is discussed.)

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Blogger F-Train said...

I find it ironic that Noah, of all people, thought that "Project Coyote" should be left undiscussed. He has shown few qualms about disclosing confidential, inside information of FTP when it suits his purposes to do so.

10/24/2011 2:58 PM  
Blogger Mr Glich said...

Went looking and anyquestions 2+2 thread is gone... apparently he/she was "threatened with a lawsuit".

10/25/2011 1:26 PM  

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