|Ivey last week at the LA Poker Classic|
Last week, Phil Ivey ended his self-imposed exile of the US tournament circuit by playing (and bubbling) the LA Poker Classic. We all wondered what sort of reception he would get in the US after his eight month hiatus, given that his name has been dragged through the mud during that time.
Although the tournament itself went without much fuss for Ivey, there was something of a backlash against him on the poker forums. This is largely due to rumours that he owes Full Tilt Poker $4 million, which he has not confirmed or denied, but it is said to be one of the factors holding up a takeover by Groupe Bernard Tapie.
It is remarkable how Ivey was once the universally most admired player in the game, but is now being demonised by some sections of his former fan base. He appears to have lost his enigma status much in the same way that the man he is most often compared to, Tiger Woods, has in golf (for completely different reasons, of course).
So is this backlash warranted, or should we still let Ivey do what he does best, play poker, and stand back and admire him like we did before?
Just an employee?
|The poster boy for FTP|
One of the biggest arguments made by people who are still his fans is that ultimately he was just an employee of the site, and should not be held responsible for its downfall.
I, for one, happen to agree with that stance. Just because someone has been considerably well paid, does not mean they should feel guilty about it. If Ivey knew nothing of what was going on in the back office at FTP, and carried out his duties in good faith, then he was just unlucky it was for a company like FTP. This is why it was particularly admirable for someone like durrrr to pledge to give the money he made at FTP back to the players.
He has probably been advised to keep quiet by his lawyers for his own good, and for the proposed takeover by GBT. Nobody wants this deal to fall through, and we certainly don't want any former pro with a profile as big as Iveys to start disrupting the takeover. Indeed, Matt Glantz and Doyle Brunson both blogged last week saying that former FTP shareholders are afraid to make public statements and then be perceived as negatively influencing the outcome of the takeover.
$4 million influence
|Winning $2m last month at the Aussie Millions|
This is made much worse by the fact that we know he has money to burn. He started the year with a $2 million win, in a $250,000 buy-in event, at the Aussie Millions. He has also been seen playing in Macau, this week in LA, and is heavily rumoured to be RaiseOnce on PokerStars, who is involved in all the biggest cash games on the site.
The $4m he is rumoured to owe may be a drop in the ocean compared to his personal bankroll, and he may indeed have good reason not to have paid that money back yet (Like Barry Greenstein, who has said he is holding out to make sure the money goes back to the players) - but when millions of dollars of player's money is stuck on FTP and the takeover with the DOJ is in limbo; it is very difficult for any of us to be able to separate this from the fact Ivey appears to be living the high life at our expense.
Let us also not forget that it was Ivey who supposedly had the player's interests at heart when, back in June 2011, he boycotted the WSOP and filed a lawsuit against Tiltware. The reasons he claimed he did this was because he was embarrassed that FTP had not paid back the players the money they owed and wanted to force them into action. He stated:
"I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible."
That statement does seem laughable right now. Ivey is now competing in the biggest games around, winning seven-figure sums and pictured wearing a $90k watch, while FTP players have made no progress since. Not only has he not found a solution; he is potentially holding one up by not paying back money he is said to owe.
There are of course other FTP shareholders who are remaining quiet, as well as players who are said to owe money to FTP who have not confirmed or denied their debt, but continue to play. Ivey has the focus on him because he is the highest profile, is rumoured to owe one of the largest amounts, has publicly won the most money since rumours of his debt, and most importantly has previously claimed to be acting in the best interest of FTP players.
Hero or villain?
|Hero or villain?|
Although he currently has no legal obligation to address the speculation surrounding him, he really should. The poker players he claimed to be defending when he filed the Tiltware lawsuit are not only still wondering if they will ever see their money again, they are also wondering if Phil is part of the reason why the GBT deal still has not happened. And all this while Phil is making headlines for living it up with money which appears to have been made at our expense.
No, he has no obligations at all, but if he ever wants to return to being the hero of poker we all once knew and loved, the hero he purported to be when he boycotted the WSOP for our benefit, he needs to address some of the speculation and uncertainty around him, instead of pretending that Full Tilt never happened.
Tell us your opinion. Is Phil Ivey still a poker hero? Do you think he owes the poker community some of the money he made at FTP? Tell us your thoughts in the comments box.
by Barry Carter