What Full Tilt Should Have Said

The last couple of weeks have brought us a very angry Daniel Negraneau blasting FTP owners and execs as well as an almost apologetic point of view from the Godfather of Poker himself, Doyle Brunson, saying he’s looked Howard Lederer in the eyes and has been assured Howard knew nothing about how criminally poorly Full Tilt was being managed.

That’s all fine and good but it brings up the point of what Full Tilt should have said. The company and management have been accused of hiding behind their lawyers, afraid to say anything to the public. Others, like Doyle, plea with us to sympathize, and see that their hands are tied and that they’re best off listening to the advice of their legal advisors.

I think I can appreciate both points of view. There is, without a doubt, a case to be made that Full Tilt, the corporation, as well as various people associated with Full Tilt are keeping quiet simply because it’s more convenient than answering prickly questions. On the other hand, the best piece of legal advice your attorney can ever give you is to STFU and say nothing.

Saying nothing is a classic legal-tactic. It sounds sleazy because most of us believe what we were taught as children. We believe that the truth will prevail. We believe that only the guilty have something to hide. If you are innocent you should be shouting it from the rooftops.

But anybody who has had any dealings with the law knows that the law doesn’t work quite like that. Your words can be twisted around. Your alibi may implicate you in other crimes. Off the cuff remarks can come back to haunt you.

Just do a search on YouTube for “don’t talk to cops” for various videos by cops, law professors, and even former district attorneys, advising regular citizens to only speak through their legal representative. And if you need to point driven home, really pay attention to the current and former police officers who discuss the various ways information a suspect has volunteered has ended up putting that person behind bars.

However, in the case of Full Tilt Poker, despite their declarations of being kept from talking by their lawyers, the company and indicted individuals felt no legal restraints when Phil Ivey sued Full Tilt. They issued a scathing rebuttal. They even alluded to potential buy-out deals that Ivey’s lawsuit put in jeopardy. Nor did they feel constrained by their lawyers when the DOJ characterized Full Tilt’s business as a Ponzi scheme. They immediately fired off a statement expressing their disappointment with the comparison.

When Full Tilt, Bitar, Lederer, or Ferguson wanted to speak out, they did. So, one can only draw the conclusion that the reason that they aren’t speaking right now is by choice.

So what else could Full Tilt, as a corporate entity, Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, or Chris Ferguson say? Well, since even Full Tilt sympathizers are willing to throw Bitar under the bus for this entire ordeal, how about announcing his termination?

That’s one of the big things missing in this whole tragedy. Technically, Ray Bitar, a man who Lederer has supposedly confided to his bestest buddies, totally scammed Howard and the rest of the board of directors, is still running the company!?!?!

How can this possibly be?

There is no sound explanation for it. If Bitar directed this whole deposit Ponzi scheme, why wasn’t he fired the day it became apparent what was going on? If you f’d up this bad, would you still be allowed to keep your job?

Here’s the Catch-22 for the board members, either Bitar told them what he was doing and they’re all responsible or Bitar acted alone and committed fraud against the company, shareholders, and players. By not publicly distancing the company from Bitar, by not firing Bitar, the Full Tilt board of directors is sending the message that they knew what Bitar was doing.

So saying nothing is already saying a mouthful.

Similarly, I don’t buy into the fact that they couldn’t have been more forthcoming while the details were unfolding. As we all know now, most of what was posted under FTPDoug’s name on sites like Two Plus Two was complete fantasy. When you owe hundreds of millions of dollars to players and you have six million in the bank account, you’re completely screwed.

What Full Tilt Poker did in the first few months after Black Friday was lie. Big, fat, bald-faced lies. For the first few months they attempted to play with words to make it sound as if they had the money but were unable to pay it back due to the DOJ. Then when Stars promptly paid everyone FTP begin to shape the story to other external factors. All the while assuring people that their money was safe.

Or what about the deceptive information that was given to the AGCC for months after Black Friday attempting to cover up the extent of their cash flow problems?

It just seems oddly convenient that the reason everyone at FTP is using for not saying anything is because they have been advised not to say anything. Were they legally advised to lie to customers as well? Were they legally advised to lie to the AGCC?

I mean, at the end of the day, that is the part that really bothers me. It’s the fact that even if we believe all of the behind the scenes denials from Howard, it still doesn’t explain all of the lying the company has done up to this point. Nor does it explain why the current management team still has jobs.

If Lederer, Ferguson, or anybody else wants to clear their names with the poker playing public they’re going to have to do something more than go out and look Doyle Brunson in the eye and tell a story. I respect Doyle as a poker player and he seems like a guy with integrity but there are simply too many holes in the story that just don’t make any sense. Too many holes and too much money involved to accept, “Oh, my attorney said I can’t talk about it,” as a response.

They need to explain why Bitar still has a job. They need to explain why they spent the first several months after Black Friday flat-out lying to both players and the AGCC. They need to explain why their high-priced lawyers can’t construct a few paragraphs that expresses their sympathy with the players without implicating them in any criminal activity.

The problem is that if transparency and willingness to communicate with customers were a scale running from 1 through 10, with 10 being communicating too much, and 1 being no communication at all, Full Tilt has been riding the lower end of that scale very hard. Obviously, for legal reasons, they can’t go all the way to 10 but they could at least humor us and try for a 2 or 3. I mean, it’s the least they can do after losing several hundred million dollars of other people’s money.



  1. Bill, many thanks for bringing this out front. Too bad Daniel didn’t speak his mind ;O That took courage and some reckless abandon. I’ve watched as poker players have gone thru the 5 stages of grief, and I want to see anger funneled into action. Please go to http://thePPA.org and use their platform to contact legislatures. We’re having an impact, but we have to keep pressure on.u

  2. A few comments and then three questions.

    If large amounts of player money were parceled out in monthly “dividends” to Full Tilt pros, it’s not difficult imagining where some of that money wound up. For instance, one Full Tilt pro is well known for throwing away boatloads of money at the craps table. Another FT “pro” is reputed to have spent lavishly on hookers and blow. His “problems” are well known …

    Money that was spent gambling or going up somebody’s nose is money that will never be returned. (I doubt if any of the hookers will return any money – after all, they “earned” it.) So, player money that was spent in certain ways will likely never come back. Other Full Tilt pros are believed to have squirreled away considerable sums in secret Swiss bank accounts. Getting that money back will be difficult – if not impossible.

    Question 1: How does one estimate or determine how much player money disappeared in ways such that the money will likely never be returned? Was it half of the money, a third, one-fifth … ten percent?

    Question 2: How many years will the civil suit Todd Terry filed likely drag on?

    Question 3: What are the odds that certain Full Tilt pros will wind up declaring personal bankruptcy?

  3. I believe it was in a DOJ filed document and references a letter Lederer sent out to other executives appraising them of FTP’s financial condition post-Black Friday.

  4. Good article. I’m curious about this part:

    “”When you owe hundreds of millions of dollars to players and you have six million in the bank account, you’re completely screwed. “”

    I haven’t heard that 6 million figure before. What is the source for that number?

  5. Great articles couldn’t agree more. We (the people) have lost lots of money to this BS! We are not HAPYY CAMPERS at all. They should of said something! Anything! But keep mum just makes it WORSE! Especially on us…. the actual losers in this game they were playing.

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