Table Talk: The Full Tilt Poker Pro Saga

Let’s have a cocktail in Morocco this week. The World Poker Tour is at the Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in Morocco, and I’d like to live vicariously through those enjoying the scenery there. Join me at the resort bar for a cocktail with a little umbrella in it, won’t you?

As players gather in Northern Africa for the WPT tournament, let’s recap some of the other winners of the past week. In the good ol’ United States, Brock Parker won the Borgata Fall Poker Open Main Event for $372,568 from a field of 644 players. Across the border into Canada, the WPT Montreal Main Event set records for Canadian and World Poker Tour participation with 1,173 players, and that final table played out on November 27 with Jonathan Roy winning nearly $800k. Other big names there, were Gavin Smith, who finished fourth, and Jeff Gross, who exited in third but had Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps in his cheering section. In New Zealand, the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour hit Auckland for its most recent event, and Geoff Smith emerged victorious for more than $80k to go with the ANZPT title.

In other news, Full Tilt Poker and more Full Tilt Poker.

Last week, I mentioned that Howard Lederer filed a motion to dismiss charges, while the US Department of Justice set a deadline for choosing a claims administrator to finally push the process of figuring out how to pay US players the monies from their Full Tilt accounts. And as the generic infomercial would say, “But wait, there’s more!”

“The Professionals” are the new Full Tilt pros, a team that began with FTP ambassador Gus Hansen and then added Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom. Two of the three have been on a downswing (cough, understatement, cough) since returning to the tables. In just one of Hansen’s recent sessions, he lost $1.5 million in just 27 hours. Dwan had his share of bad run, as he lost more than $200k at some 2-7 Triple Draw tables, which sounds minor compared to his fellow team member, but it’s not minor. This is all hard for most of us to comprehend, but suffice it to say that the pros are not exactly playing the best games of their lives.

Over the past week, all former members of Team Full Tilt and the Red Pro players received an email from the site’s new management, specifically newly-dubbed Full Tilt Poker Team Pro manager Dustin Iannotti. Bad news delivered first, the players were notified that they will not be receiving any money from their sponsorship deals, which are now null and void. Those were not part of the Rational Limited deal when purchasing FTP assets, and those pros’ contracts will not be honored. If they had monies in their FTP accounts, those balances will be refunded as the company is doing for every player. The US pros, though, are obviously at the mercy of their own government.

The good news? Their information will be kept on file if FTP chooses to hire more pros for their current team. “We’ll keep your résumé on file” is never something a person looking for work wants to hear, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.

And more good news! They are allowed to keep their screen names and avatars if they choose!

I joke about this, but it’s not funny for those who lost their jobs when Full Tilt fell. They are casualties that most have trouble feeling sorry for, but they counted on that monthly income and the tournament buy-ins for their careers. While they likely have more money to recoup from their FTP accounts than others, it is unfortunate that they suffered at the hands of the former FTP executives and their decisions as well.

And then there was Rafe Furst, former member of the FTP Board of Directors. Not many people in the poker community held his feet to the fire, at least not to the intensity that they did Lederer and, to some extent,Ferguson. Maybe it was because of his low profile before and throughout the Black Friday fiasco, or possibly because he didn’t rake in the tens of millions of dollars that the others did. For whatever reason, Furst got off easy in the public eye.

It was announced this week that Furst and the US Attorney’s Office reached a settlement agreement. While Furst admitted to no wrongdoing and maintained that he was unaware of any of the alleged criminal activities, he agreed to forfeit funds in the Trust account and $150,000 in additional funds, which will be remitted per a payment plan to be established. He also agreed to refrain from working for any Internet gambling business in the US or any company that may offer poker to US customers without permission from the government, nor is he allowed to make any claims for monies from FTP or Rational Limited.

Civil case dismissed. No jail time, payment plan, and some job limitations going forward. Could the US government be saving its harsher punishments for Lederer and Ferguson? Obviously, that is only speculation, but it doesn’t bode well for the two who have been petitioning the court for a dismissal of charges to no avail.

What is clear from past actions is that the US Department of Justice has a debt to collect. Without getting much from Furst and after settling with PokerStars, US attorneys aren’t going to bow out quietly for a few million dollars more. Whether the hammer comes down on Ray Bitar or Lederer and Ferguson will be seen in court, there is likely to be more drama for former Full Tilt board members before the larger case is closed.

On that serious note, let’s finish our cocktails and explore Morocco. Or just read players tweets about the experience. Personally, I’d rather pretend I’m there. I’ll try to catch an imaginary flight back toAmericaby next week. See you then!