Table Talk: ‘Tis the Season of Condemnation

condemnation

The holiday season is in full swing, and everyone is throwing something into their eggnog for extra cheer. I’ll try some cognac with mine, but I have a variety of options at my little apartment-sized mini bar. Help yourself.

It’s been a rather uneventful week in poker as the holidays kick in and players begin to sit out. There are family gatherings, vacations, shopping, and a week or so of relaxing and reflecting on the year that was. There were a few bits of news, though.

One of the big announcements was another move in the works for World Series of Poker Europe. After starting in 2007 in London and moving to Cannes in 2011, another change is planned for 2013. The Casino Barriere Enghien-les-Bains in Paris will be the home of the WSOPE next year with tournaments scheduled from October 11 to 24. Though no schedule is confirmed, the press release noted there will be seven gold bracelet events in addition to a high roller tournament, and the Main Event will be a €10k buy-in affair. The casino is located about 10 miles out from Paris.

PokerStars had some announcements to make recently, including the expansion of Zoom Poker to multi-table tournaments. PokerStars also partnered with Casino Gran Madrid for a branded poker room at that location and coordinated live events with the online sector. And the site’s Team Online signed a new pro. Russian Tatiana “Mysters_Y” Barausova is a Supernova Elite player who plays large online tournaments and another addition to the growing number of PokerStars-sponsored female players.

Over in the United States, the poker community is saying “bah humbug” to Howard Lederer after a settlement was announced regarding his civil case. The civil complaint against Lederer, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, asked for a judgment of $42.5 million, but the settlement had a much lesser figure attached.

First, Lederer was able to admit to no wrongdoing in the case, stating that he was unaware of any wrongdoing before Black Friday and that Full Tilt Poker was a legitimate business. He then agreed to forfeit the funds in several bank accounts, some property in Las Vegas, a car, and several liquidated assets. From what my non-lawyering eyes can decipher, he will be paying more than $1.25 million to the U.S. government

Yes, Lederer is able to keep his current house and some vehicles. He will not be broke. He will not be wandering up to your car on the Las Vegas Strip to ask for a dollar and a cigarette. He is more than comfortable with the assets he is able to retain.

The reaction of the poker community, overall, was full of outrage. Whether they think he should be begging on the streets or personally writing checks to every U.S. poker player who is owed money by Full Tilt Poker, the majority of people wanted a different outcome. Some wanted to see him behind bars, which serves no purpose if the government doesn’t have enough evidence upon which to convict. Clearly, the Department of Justice does not feel the man deserves jail time nor to be rendered homeless, but disillusioned poker players and fans do.

Meanwhile, there are no audible cries for Chris Ferguson to step forward and speak to the poker public, or for “Jesus” to be sent to jail. Was he just as much a part of the Full Tilt fabric as Lederer? Why is no one demanding that Jennifer Harman speak out? Is no one ambushing Andy Bloch at his Las Vegas home? Is Phil Ivey blameless in all of it?

Howard Lederer has become the fall guy for the entire Full Tilt Poker debacle. He agreed to a long – very long – interview with PokerNews to tell as much of the story as he could, but that wasn’t enough. And some in the media and the poker audience broke that interview down word by word until they felt that the lies were obvious. They focused on the questions not asked and the answers not provided. When Lederer then stepped away from the spotlight because of the harsh reaction and nearly-literal threats to burn him at the stake, he was condemned for refusing to talk further.

He was damned if he did, didn’t, or wasn’t sure.

I’m not defending Lederer. We’re not friends. I’ve never interviewed him. In fact, I believe he and his wife had a beef with me over something I wrote several years ago. However, I’m not ready to condemn him for a series of wrongdoings and crimes committed by an entire company full of people. Call me crazy (but don’t call me maybe), but it seems a tad unfair to make Lederer the target of everyone’s frustration and vitriol.

Maybe Santa will put some coal in Lederer’s stocking. But if the poker community could look at their own actions and reactions to him, they might see that they deserve coal as well.

Bah humbug!

On that note, I’m going to get back to my cognac. I’m going to just leave the eggnog in the refrigerator because I don’t see the point of screwing up a good glass of liquor. Enjoy your drinks, lighten up for the holidays, and spread some cheer. Happy Holidays!

4 comments
maggie lee
maggie lee

The reason no one is outraged at Andy Bloch or Jennifer Harman is: THEY WEREN'T IN CHARGE. Howard was. He played BMOC to the hilt, he was THE MAN, he made the decisions, and had the authority and besides, we don't believe him. No one as much a control-freak as Howard was in the dark until Black Friday. The chance he didn't know what was happening is about the same as my chance of winning the WSOPME. The chance he didn't know the player funds weren't segregated is less than that. My impression from what you have written is that you are not well-acquainted with the facts. People screaming "off with his head" are wasting their time. But essentially correct, IMO.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini

The crimes and wrongdoings were not committed by an entire company. A very, very small number of people were responsible for making those types of decisions and Howard, even according to his own words, exerted a great deal of control over those decisions. In fact, he fought very hard to stay in control. When the investors tried to unseat the board, contrary to Howard's recollection of events, the board insisted on complete absolution of their crimes before Black Friday. Why do you think Howard kept defending his decision not to find out who was at fault? Why did he dismiss years worth of complaints and questions from investors about Ray's ability to lead the company (even when by his own admission, he didn't think Ray was qualified)? I think the anger stems from the fact that if you really want to break down what happened, this is it: Ignored years of complaints, questions about disappearing funds (many investors are still convinced Ray stole millions from the company and had been raising the issue for years before Black Friday), etc from investors. Thwarted one or more attempts to oust Ray. Went out of his way to make sure that Ray stayed in power with no real oversight. Ignored financial statements that should have set off red flags (i.e. funds confiscated but still being reported on the books). Ignored calls from investors to audit the books. Ray drives the company into the ground and Howard claims he played no part in the demise of the company.

Sean
Sean

The man made his fortune by money from online poker players (many who had the majority of their net worth on FTP)...What would be the reaction of the people that Bernie Madeoff scammed if he was allowed to keep their $?? Everyone involved in running this company at the executive level should have seen some form of jail time and had their funds seized. Our Dept of Justice has screwed the online poker player yet again.

Kyle
Kyle

After listening to Chad Elie speak Howard well knew about the back log before black friday and deserves much more then what the DOJ gave him jail time included