Phil Ivey in happier times at the National Heads-Up Championship. (NBC photo)
BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: JUNE 14, 2011
Should We Praise or Condemn Phil Ivey’s WSOP Boycott?
Today’s question is for poker lovers only: Does Phil Ivey deserve your respect or your wrath for boycotting the 2011 World Series of Poker?
Before you answer, pretend you’re the intensely competitive Ivey and consider how mad you’d have to be to exclude yourself from performing on the game’s most prestigious stage at the height of your spectacular career.
That’s correct: Pretty danged mad.
Given his determination to be the all-time leader in World Series gold bracelets — he has eight, Phil Hellmuth leads with 11 — Ivey’s bombshell statement two weeks ago at the start of the 42nd annual WSOP surprised almost everybody.
Ivey, a huge fan favorite, was Full Tilt Poker’s top representative until the online site and two others shut down in the U.S. because of federal indictments. His words against Full Tilt resonated strongly through the poker world.
“I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm. I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot,” Ivey said on Facebook.
Indeed, players who used Full Tilt, the world’s second-largest online poker site, still await their refunds after the U.S. Department of Justice’s indictment spree on April 15. Also waiting were customers of the Internet’s third largest poker entity, sister sites Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.
By contrast, the cash-out process at industry giant PokerStars began on April 27 with DOJ approval.
Ivey upped the pressure on Full Tilt by saying he hoped his statement “will ignite those capable of resolving problems into immediate action” toward repayment to players.
Instead, he got a curt response from Tiltware LLC, the software and marketing firm for Full Tilt, which Ivey sued for more than $150 million in damages on the same day as his WSOP announcement.
“Contrary to his sanctimonious public statements, Phil Ivey’s meritless lawsuit is about helping just one player — himself,” Tiltware said. The company claimed Ivey was trying to “enrich himself at the expense of others” and that the lawsuit’s timing could slow the payback process for players.
So, what are we to believe?
Is Ivey’s boycott the bold act of a poker icon who genuinely feels it’s his duty to speak up for poker players’ rights? Or are Ivey’s actions an attempt to separate himself from a sinking ship while making a big score?
To be real, the truth may encompass parts of both scenarios. Historically, poker players haven’t always taken the high road when faced with ethical dilemmas.
Yet, what we’ve witnessed about Phil Ivey as a player — his pursuit of perfection, unmatched intensity, the respect of his peers, his serious but good-natured competitiveness, and his professional approach in both victory and defeat — tells us he is sincere about trying to help affected players.
If his actions help players get their estimated $150 million back, do the rest of the melodramatics matter very much? Nope, not really. As things stand, I think Ivey deserves players’ respect and their thanks for trying to do the right thing.
Meanwhile, the 2011 World Series of Poker is moving along just fine without Ivey. Records still are being broken and great champions crowned. But it’s just a bit strange with him missing.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 RUSS SCOTT
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