Oskar Garcia of the Associated Press managed to track down the court filing of Phil Ivey’s civil suit against Full Tilt-related, California-based software company Tiltware LLC. (Read Ivey’s court filing here.) Ivey’s suit was filed in Nevada’s Clark County District Court by attorney David Chesnoff. Chesnoff has previously repped other poker clients, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Mike Matusow, as well as a host of celebrities (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Paris Hilton) and athletes (Mike Tyson, Shaquille O’Neal, Andre Aggasiz). He also represented Terrance Watanabe, the whale who tried to renege on a $112m marker owed to Harrah’s Entertainment.
The gist of Ivey’s beef is that Full Tilt have refused to let him out of his exclusive contract so that he can pursue relationships with other companies for which the US poker community doesn’t have a serious hate-on at the moment. Ivey also alleges that Full Tilt had been repeatedly warned by US attorneys that they were operating illegally in the United States and that Tilt had neglected to pass on these warnings to Ivey. (Insert requisite “I’m shocked – shocked! – to find gambling going on!” joke here.) The suit (purposely?) makes Ivey appear largely ignorant of Tilt’s structure and personnel; beyond Tiltware, he cites only a number of anonymous individuals and companies as defendants.
Ivey also claims that Full Tilt’s much-criticized slow response to refunding US players’ balances has encouraged those players to transfer their rage onto Ivey (the complaint helpfully reprints several vitriolic forum posts to back up this point), causing him to suffer “public ridicule, humiliation and loss of personal and professional reputation.” That last fact was underscored by Tuesday’s heated confrontation between James Bord and Team Full Tilt member John Juanda at the World Series of Poker. (How long before some wit sets up a booth at the Rio to exchange Full Tilt patches for bulls-eyes?)
To make things right, Ivey wants freedom from his Full Tilt contract and up to $150m in damages. This sum is rumored to be the same amount that Tilt collectively owes its US players, but there’s no clear indication that Ivey (assuming he won the suit) intends to then forward this money to said players.
Many are publicly questioning Ivey’s motives, suggesting that he’s simply trying to put some distance between himself and the venom directed Tilt’s way. Bryan Spadaro of the Poker Players Alliance took to the 2+2 Forum to complain that Ivey’s suit was an attempt to make the poker pro “look like a hero to the community” but suggested that it “would only hinder the process” of US players seeing their money. (Spadaro maintained that he was speaking personally, not on behalf of the PPA.)
There’s no doubt that Ivey, who has eight WSOP bracelets, is missing out by ducking this year’s tourney. But clearly, showing up at the Rio was guaranteed to be more trouble than it was worth. As for Ivey’s statement that he intends to “dedicate the entirety of my time and efforts to finding a solution for those who have been wronged by the painfully slow process of repayment,” well, let’s hope it’s more binding than OJ’s pledge to hunt down Nicole’s real killers.
UPDATE: Tiltware has responded to Ivey’s lawsuit with the following statement:
“Contrary to his sanctimonious public statements, Phil Ivey’s meritless lawsuit is about helping just one player – himself. In an effort to further enrich himself at the expense of others, Mr. Ivey appears to have timed his lawsuit to thwart pending deals with several parties that would put money back in players’ pockets. In fact, Mr. Ivey has been invited — and has declined — to take actions that could assist the company in these efforts, including paying back a large sum of money he owes the site. Tiltware doubts Mr. Ivey’s frivolous and self-serving lawsuit will ever get to court. But if it does, the company looks forward to presenting facts demonstrating that Mr. Ivey is putting his own narrow financial interests ahead of the players he professes to help.”