PokerStrategy.com Column - Should the Red Pros Give Their Earnings Back?

Tom Dwan
Tom Dwan has pledged
$1 million to the players
Originally featured on PokerStrategy.com

Right now, Tom 'durrrrr' Dwan is winning over lots of frustrated Full Tilt Poker customers with how actively and openly he is handling the latest revelations.

In particular, sticking to his pledge to pay back the $1 million that he was paid by the site, direct to the players. Not only has he set a great example most of us can admire, he has also urged his fellow Full Tilt Pros to do the same, and pledge back some of the money they made from the site.

Elsewhere, the first European pros sponsored by Full Tilt and also one of their biggest affiliates, The Hendon Mob, made a statement on their site saying that while they admire Dwan for this, they wont be doing the same, and that most of the revenue they got from the site went to pay the staff of their own site.

Pretty much all the other Red Pros have been noticeably silent over the last week. It is understandable, right now large sections of the poker community want to direct their anger at anyone who had anything to do with Full Tilt, and there are few people more symbolic of the site more than the Red Pros. Not only that, now many people are echoing Tom Dwans suggestion that the Red Pros should take some brunt of the responsibility for what happened, and pay back some of their endorsement money.

So should they?

Red Pro or Team Full Tilt?

Before I go on, let me quickly distinguish between Red Pros and Team Full Tilt, because it is important. Team Full Tilt is made up by the 15 players who are said to have the biggest deals, in some cases equity shares, and in some cases helped found the site.

A Red Pro is one of the 250+ players who were sponsored by the site and contracted to play a certain amount of time at their online tables. In return some got sponsored into live events, some were given bonuses, and others were on $30 p/hr + 100% rakeback deals. In many cases the deals were hybrids of all three.

I must admit, I had always been very jealous of anyone with the Red Pro deal. I have no aspirations of being a professional or a sponsored player, but $30 an hour + 100% rakeback? Those of us who have come to rely on rakeback for a percentage of their winnings can only view a Red Pro deal as a holy grail. I, like I am sure many people, have wasted a significant amount of time working out how much money I would pull in as a Red Pro, by 16-tabling low-mid stakes games, while enjoying the feeling of being a sponsored pro, and giving out 'I Bust a Pro' t-shirts to anyone who managed to felt me.

We already revealed in our interview with poker agent Nick Ferro that most of the Red Pros didn't sign any contracts. This of course highlights just how unregulated the handshake business of poker is, and no doubt is one of many clues as to the downfall of the site.

It also reveals how low down in the food chain they were, and just how little influence they had. Do you think that 99% of them had the first clue as to how Full Tilt operated? Other than those with actual shares in the company, I doubt most of the pros knew any more than the guys in customer support, the marketing department, or the staff canteen.

But they were ambassadors of the site I hear you say. Surely the fact that these well known pros gave their seal of approval to the site influenced customers to sign up, assuming their money must be safe? I have no doubt that will have happened in some instances, but how many of us can honestly say they signed up to a site because professional poker player X said we should? Most of us sign up to a site because of bonuses, rakeback, traffic, soft games, big tournament guarantees, good software, rush poker, or a funny little dog avatar.

The players that likely have influenced some of us to sign up are those players at the top end, the guys in Team Full Tilt, who do have a say in the way the company did business - the Iveys, Dwans, Fergusons, Hansens, and Matusows. No offense to them, but nobody signed up to Full Tilt because of Perry Friedman, Berry Johnson, Jeff Madsen, or David Pham (Four names I have picked at random from the huge list of Red Pros).

What Value Did Red Pros Bring?

Team Full Tilt
There were over 250
Red Pros before Black Friday
Which makes you question, if they had such little influence, both in the back room and from a marketing point of view, what was the point of all these Red Pros? I completely agree. The money a Red Pro could stand to get was ridiculously high compared to what they actually brought to the company.

I would say that the only marketing benefit most of the red pros provided was to completely saturate the televised tournament fields with Full Tilt badges, other than that they were really just a luxury of a site that wanted to claim to have the most sponsored players.

So, in the aftermath of the events of the last week, should they feel guilty about all the money they were able to make, in return for relatively easy work? Of course not, they were just the lucky b*****ds we all wanted to  be.

When presented with such a generous deal like this, few of us would want to jeopardize it by investigating the inner workings of a business 99% of us believed was making money. When presented with lucrative bonuses, most of us don't set the money aside, just on the off chance our new employer gets accused of being a ponzi scheme, we spend it.

And lets not forget that a great deal of these players have seen a complete reversal of fortune. Instead of laughing all the way to the bank, many of them currently have their own bankrolls currently in limbo on the site, amounts they may not have deposited had they not been hired as Red Pros in the first place.

I think this debate comes down to one of whether you consider a Red Pro an employee or an ambassador. For me, the Red Pros were just employees of Full Tilt Poker, nothing more. They treated it in the same way most people treat a 9-5 job by doing what they were told, trying to make as much as possible, and not wanting to rock the boat when they had a great deal. No doubt this is one of the reasons most of them haven't said a word on what has happened in the last week.

They had no more influence or insight into how the business ran than anyone else at the Full Tilt other than the share holders and upper management. For most part they were greatly overpaid, but being lucky enough to be gifted such a dream job does not vindicate them in this scandal.

by Barry Carter


Anonymous said...

Might want to proof read your last sentence :)

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