Phil Ivey Makes Another Final Table at WSOP
Bracelet Winner Given Benefit of the Doubt by Poker Community
Despite his silence, Phil Ivey has made a loud return to the World Series of Poker. On Wednesday evening, he made another final table, just a few days after finishing second in the $10,000 pot-limit hold’em.
In total, he’s cashed four times this summer, including three final tables.
Ivey has declined Card Player’s request for interview, as well as denied other attempts by the poker media. When there’s a break in the action, the poker pro quickly skirts out of the room to his trailer directly outside the Rio.
The eight-time bracelet winner once worked with Full Tilt Poker, a defunct site that owes about $300 million in beleaguered player funds.
One of the site’s financial practices was loaning millions to its sponsored pros, $10-20 million of which wasn’t repaid, said a French firm that was once looking to buy the company.
Buy-ins given to players became public when Groupe Bernard Tapie said it hit a snag in its talks with the Department of Justice. Behn Dayanim, a lawyer for GBT, claimed, via PokerStrategy.com, that the “debts” of Phil Ivey, Layne Flack, David Benyamine, Erick Lindgren, Barry Greenstein and Mike Matusow could pose “a serious obstacle to completion of the deal.”
The GBT takeover ended up falling through for a myriad of reasons, reportedly giving PokerStars opportunity to explore acquisition of its former rival.
The “debts” represent only a small fraction of the $440 million that the site’s executives — Howard Lederer, Ray Bitar, Rafe Furst and Chris Ferguson — are accused of siphoning from former customers. The civil case is still working its way through the legal system, and the aforementioned four haven’t been around poker since Black Friday in spring 2011.
High-stakes players are not blaming Ivey, at least not yet. Last summer, the 36-year-old announced he was sitting out the WSOP and briefly pursued legal action against Full Tilt Poker.
“I don’t think anyone really has a clue with what is currently going on with Full Tilt, enough to put the blame on Ivey,” said high-stakes cash game pro Ashton Griffin, who has a six-figure sum stuck on the site. “Until then, we can’t really be critical of him. Although, I’m not really sure what his agenda was for saying what he did last summer.”
Tournament pro Jonathan Aguilar shares Grffin’s cautious approach.
“Nobody knows the facts of what Phil did or didn’t do,” Aguilar said while watching one of Ivey’s final tables. “I think we can withhold judgement on Phil. There’s like 100 other people who are playing tournaments this year who are actually legitimately bad people. I’m going to hold back until the Full Tilt thing resolves and we find out what actually happened.”
Ever since being featured on ESPN in 2003, Ivey has been considered one of the game’s best players. Aguilar said Ivey is still the top player in poker, but his “hero status is questionable.” He added that the poker community doesn’t have a lot to say about Ivey these days. However, he’s still one of the game’s biggest draws. Large crowds have turned out to cheer him on.
The nature of Ivey’s $4 million negative balance on Full Tilt Poker’s ledger and its repayment are unknown. If he does actively owe $4 million, “Who would he give it out to?” Ashton Griffin asked. “It’d be hard for there to be a practical solution to divvying out $4 million.”
Griffin added that it’s “pretty much acceptable” to continue playing while owing money. “I think it’s wrong, but the poker community finds it OK. It’s the nature of the business.”
While Ivey hasn’t made a statement about the $4 million, Layne Flack told Card Player that his own $2 million debt is a “misconception,” because it’s a makeup figure from staking that had been repaid over the years.
Daniel Negreanu, one of Ivey’s longtime peers, believes firmly that Ivey isn’t culpable for Full Tilt Poker going insolvent with player balances still owed.
“Ivey isn’t at fault,” said Negreanu, who has been outspoken against other members of the company. “It has nothing to do with him. It wasn’t his fault that those people screwed things up.”
Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus
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