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Doyleism of the Day: "When You Are Up Your Friends Know Who You Are, When You Are Down You Know Who Your Friends Are."

by Doyle Brunson |  Published: Feb 20, '12

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There is really no reason to completely rehash all of the stuff about the Full Tilt debacle. Everyone knows MOST of the facts and are familiar with the proceedings. I feel I was privy to things lots of people weren't because my best friend Jack Binion, was interested in buying FT and did a lot of Due diligence. I want to stress that anything I say isn't written in stone and is just my opinion. This is America and everyone can believe what they want.

Was FT guilty of gross negligence and terrible mismanagement? Yes of course but what happened and why? It's my understanding that an unknown person to the poker world Ray Bitar, was a very good friend to FT's largest stock holder Chris Ferguson. Upon Fergusons recommendation Bitar was named CEO and put his name on all the documents, BANK accounts, different corporations, etc.

FT did an amazing job of advertising and marketing under the supervision of Bitar and Howard Lederer, Lederer held the position of President of FT and was very instrumental in helping FT's remarkable growth. But remember, this was 2008 and Lederer retired from management after a year. Bitar remained in power and knew all of the inner workings of FT.

There was a board of directors, I'm not sure exactly who was on it but it was FT stockholders. The bottom line was they were poker players, not corporate executives. I can tell you for sure that poker players including myself are terrible business men. Why didn't they step in and hire a top professional person to supervise and direct business? No one has ever answered that to my knowledge.

The site under Bitars directions started paying the stockholders huge dividends as the business grew. So the answer to the last question is that if you were a stockholder, would you question the management of a company that was sending you hundreds of thousands of dollars each month? I doubt you would, I know I wouldn't, I'd think life is good!

Exactly how FT lost their cash is not clear to me. Something about processors, electronic checks they couldn't cash, etc. They lost the WAY to get the money to the site. Bitar was in power and obviously made some bad decisions. He got into financial trouble and instead of telling his stockholders, thought that he could work his way out of the trouble. So, he continued sending out the large dividends to the people giving the illusion everything was alright. Bitar who is obviously a very smart guy might have worked things out but Black Friday happened and everything came to the surface.

Now the government froze all the bank accounts and took all available cash from the company. All of the stockholders said they knew nothing of the financial problems. I think most of them told the DOJ they had no knowledge of the condition of FT and the risk of perjury to a government agency would strongly suggest they ARE telling the truth.

Im not defending anyone nor am I wanting to persecute anyone. The question of how and why may never be explained to everyone's satisfaction. It seems inconceivable that the board of directors or some of the major stockholders didn't investigate the affairs of a billion dollar company. It looks like Bitar, Ferguson and Lederer are taking all the heat. Ferguson had a lot of faith in his friend Bitar. It is widely perceived that Howard Lederer was still heavily involved in running the company even though he retired two or three years earlier. I've been in contact with Lederer the last few months. When someone I've known for years, trusted and respected looks me dead in the eye and says he didn't know about the financial problems, call me a big old Texas sucker because I will believe them. I have not talked to Ferguson but I understand he says what Lederer told me, that they didn't know. There are at least 4 stockholders that own more of FT than Lederer. Where were they? The guilt should be shared IF its true Lederer and Ferguson didn't know of the financial mess.

The main question I've had through all of this is where was the Chief Financial Officer? Even though I had nothing to do with the management when I was the spokesperson for the internet poker site Doylesroom, I know there was a strict CFO in place who made sure there was 110% of the players money in a separate account from the operating account. So when Doylesroom closed there was immediate cash available to pay the players. Why didn't FT board of directors and stockholders realize THERE wasn't any financial responsibility in the company?

Another unanswered question is where was the Aldernay Gaming Commission? They issued FT a license and for sure they had the responsibility to see that the players finds were secure. Before Doylesroom closed they were trying to get a license from Malta and in order to get approved by them, funds had to be in place to cover the players accounts.

I remember FT put out a statement to the effect that they are working on a deal to sell the company and pay the players their balances. That deal is still being pursued so what else is there to say? If you have never been involved with a FEDERAL investigation, you probably don't understand. If you were looking at going to jail and your lawyers keep telling you to remain silent, would you say anything? When the government says "anything you say can and will be used against you", it means exactly that. All of the Federal Agencies have proved it over and over. Regardless of what you say or don't say. They are going to do a thorough and complete investigation. I believe the truth will finally come out when the DOJ signs off on the case.

I'm no lawyer but I remember from my college years the word intent was a very important word. If anyone thinks that FT was a "Global Ponzi Scheme", they might want to buy some Oceanside property in KANSAS. FT was a huge success and paying the stockholders millions of dollars each month. Can any rational person think they destroyed all this by using unauthorized moneys? Of course not, so there was no intent of wrong doing for years. Then when all the money problems came about, the CEO of the company tried to salvage his mistake by continuing to pay the huge dividends. Ray Bitar for sure knew about the cover up and has to answer for his actions. You can believe or disbelieve the fact that Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer knew about the problems. I know the majority of the poker world wants blood and believe they did know. I believe time will tell us the answer to that.

As far as I know, every member and stockholder of FT was my friend before Black Friday. Despite all the terrible mistakes and mismanagement I know the intent to defraud wasn't part of their plan. Despite a LAW suit against FT by a major stockholder that killed potential sales, despite the fact they tried to salvage their company by continuing to operate outside the US, they are the same faces as before.

I don't want to take a baseball bat and crush their grapes and I don't want to keep them from rejoining the poker world. Where do you stop the level of responsibility? I don't know, I only know all of the FT people were my friends and they still are.

I also recall I read in the most widely read book in the world where it says something like this, "Let someone with no guilt cast the first stone,"

May the flop be with you!

Doyle "Tex Dolly" Brunson is a 10-time WSOP bracelet winner, best-selling author, and is known worldwide as the father of modern poker. His list of poker accomplishments and awards are endless.

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 

Comments

THEJOEF
over 8 years ago

I'm sorry but I don't believe Howard or Chris are dumb enough to have let an outsider run their company. I think they were just moving money around and got caught holding the bag. It would have all worked out if not for black friday.

 
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Herrodotus
over 8 years ago

Doyle is an idiot! and its obvious he's no lawyer and a texas size sucker. This PR stunt by doyle for those "soon to bashed in the nuts" scums is pathetic.

 
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lookatme23
over 8 years ago

How much of our FT funds were you paid to write this bog?

 
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texasroadgambler
over 8 years ago

Regardless of which side of this issue that you find yourself on, FTP had salvation at hand if Jack Binion was willing to make an offer to buy it.

In my opinion, he is the only individual with the bankroll, background, and long-time credibility that could have rescued all of you. Too bad that circumstances prevented that.

Only time will tell as to who all the villains are in the scam.

The introduction of Ray Bitar into the equation does seem to me very inconsistent with good business practices. Ferguson and Lederer are both very intelligent and street smart. That does raise an issue with me as to why they had Bitar out in front.

Doyle is certainly not one of the villains in this tragedy, even if you disagree with him.

Someone needs to publish the names of the Board of Directors of FTP. That would be a good beginning as to who to look to for responsibility for management of FTP.

 
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WPS22
over 8 years ago

Tex- Names of the board members were made public some time ago. It's Howard, Chris, Ray Bitar, and a guy named Rafe Furst. I think anyone could have guessed the first 3 but the last one was a big surprise to most people. People thought he was just some dude who hung out with Phil Gordon.

 
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t9120
over 8 years ago

Someone with a PHD claims ignorance. Doubtful at best. BS more accurate.

 
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Cutbank
over 8 years ago

It's refreshing to see a well thought out informative take on the whole Fulltilt mess. No less by someone who garners the utmost respect in the poker community and has some measure of insight as to what really happened. Doyle's blog was far more useful and informative than a lot of the other pros blogs on the subject. Guys like DN just used the FT mess to continue his childish feud with Howard Lederer. How did that help inform the FT players that lost money? I have never met Howard but he comes off as a total douche bag. Does that make him guilty? Maybe but when it comes to business I doubt he is as smart as he thinks and Doyle is probably right. He didn't know shit. Everyone is pissed because we lost money so they want to blame someone, its only natural. When the investigation is done we will find out what really happened. Then the real finger pointing can start.

 
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Ronin555
over 8 years ago

Great article Mr. Doyle. It takes some guts to defend Lederer and Ferguson, considering the amount of hatred players are directing at them. Some idiot here has even accused you of a PR stunt.

I don't know that we will ever know the entire truth, given the volume of documents likely associated with the investigation, the likely inconsistent memories, etc.

 
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bparmalee
over 8 years ago

I would like to know what exactly these HUGE dividends were in relation to the stockholders investment. If you can find out the percentage of dividends then we would have a better idea of if this was indeed a scheme or just bad management. The numbers being thrown around differ but lets use the Wall Street Journals numbers since they seem to be about in the middle.. Ferguson 38 million, Lederer 24 million and the CEO 40 million... only 2 million more than Ferguson if the WSJ's numbers are accurate. Doyal says "There are at least 4 stockholders that own more of FT than Lederer. Where were they? The guilt should be shared IF its true Lederer and Ferguson didn't know of the financial mess." So then are we to believe that there are 2 or 3 more people that cashed out at least 25 million dollars without the company ever going public? That does not seem possible at all. The fact that the company was short 300 million and there were distributions of $444 million scream fraud/ponzi scheme. When people ask "Why would they kill such a lucrative industry?" It wasn't legal and ponzi scheme or not Black Friday was ALWAYS going to happen. This was a business model that had a limited life span and they knew it. Plus just how profitable was it? If they took out 444 million and were short 300 million.. we would have to find just how many payments werent processed but this was not a "billion dollar company" by any stretch. In my opinion..looking at the reported facts... these players got involved to make money and went to any lengths they could to grab as much cash as they could. Lederer and Ferguson have already filed to try and recoup some of the money that was seized. Not to pay players back but because they want their ill gotten gains. This can not simply be incompetence on some grand scale... it's fraud. I do not understand how people can look at this situation and think that 444 million taken out of a private company could some how be a legitimate return on their investment.

 
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WPS22
over 8 years ago

Exactly, Im so sick of this "billion dollar company" BS. People keep saying, "why would they ruin a billion dollar company?" Maybe because IT NEVER WAS ONE. After all thats come out people still believe that line from 2008.

Between the DOJ reports and the investigating Subject Poker has done, it appears FTP probably was never even solvent. BEFORE BLACK FRIDAY they had less than 10% of player funds in their accounts. After, they had less than 1%. Its hard for me to believe it was ever 100%.

If a poker site isn't solvent its nothing. If the money in players account doesn't represent real dollars in the bank then the money you are raking isn't worth anywhere near what it seems. So all those big rake figures they were pulling in were garbage. They were raking money that wasn't even there.

 
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brum747
over 8 years ago

wps22 you are 100% correct.the money was ghost money.they just typed in #mil or 5mil in iveys account {example only}and if you beat him for 2.5mil your gonna think youre a millionaire right?ut if that cash isnt in your hand its just typed on a computer screen it doesnt mean sqwatt.i can grab my checkbook and pen out a check for 10mil but it aint crap until your counting c-notes on the table for a few days.the only revenue they had was whatever money was being physically deposited on a daily basis from the customers own pocket.

 
 

tdda32
over 8 years ago

Its ridiculous

Im sure you would sing a different tune if you had a mil or two stolen from you.

 
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dare2
over 8 years ago

Sorry but you're a big old Texas sucker. Let's see, a PHD doesn't know when the math is all wrong? Then he continues skimming the money even though he knows for a fact it's ongoing fraud? Then he turns to you to bail him out publicly because he's not allowed to talk on his attorneys advice? Then he says three or four people had more stock in the company than he did. Isn't that the old, "Hey he's an even bigger crook than I am," defense? Whew. You're either the greatest friend ever or the most naive. Greed begot greed and now the rats are running for the exits.

 
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wipplezone
over 8 years ago

So much scandal.I hope you all get your money back someday.I wonder if ft games were even legit.They could of easily been robbing players rigging the software.Poker is gaming and needs control or else thieves will just have a feeding frenzy.

 
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THEJOEF
over 8 years ago

Poker is not a respectable industry.

It has been shoved down the throats of the public for the past 9 1/2 years that poker is clean and honest etc.... Poker has always always been full of cheaters and scum . People like to feel good about themselves,so its natural to create the illusion that playing poker for a living is like being a dentist. It was a nice trick. Its not a sport ,its not even close to a "real" job , it is a game that you can make money from in a variety of ways. I have no problem with any of it because I have never thought of it as anything other then a big hustle. People seem upset and defensive when they see or hear words against poker because it breaks down the illusion.

Doyle Brunson has made millions in poker but most likely is a loser on the felt. He has ran this hustle for 55 years. He is the only person on earth that saw the possibilities of NL HOLDEM. I say he is the only one because it is written in his first book (SUPER SYSTEMS 1976) that once people play this game they will play no other form of poker.
The hustle never ends for him and the game is always on. I'm sure that once online poker resurfaces some casino will have the TEXAS Dolly's name out in front of its online site. He has one more out and he has never been afraid to put it all in the middle. This is his last chance to help his family before he leaves this earth and he will play this hand perfectly.

 
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36off
over 8 years ago

I have lost all respect for Doyle after this blog. He wants the FT people back in the poker world I think they should be banned if possible. The facts don't lie and anyone who tries to twist them into something else is. Thank goodness for someone like Daniel Negreanu who speaks up for the players who aren't friends of Doyle's. Daniel want's what's best for poker. Everyone in poker from the high stakes players to people who just play for fun. Daniel is the only one making statements not worried about if it's in HIS own best interest but in the best interest of the game.

 
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texasroadgambler
over 8 years ago

WPS22:

Thanks for the information about the Board of Directors. Now on to the issue of the annual election by the shareholders of the Board of Directors.

The following is "Business 101", so don't anyone reading this take it as a lecture from me:

1. Corps have by-laws governed by their place of incorporations and its general corporate laws. These by-laws will provide for the manner by which Directors are elected by the shareholders. Those Directors are directly responsible to the shareholders. The Directors appoint the Officers, who may or may not also be Directors.

2. Those by-laws will provide for notice to all shareholdes of the time date and place of the annual meeting.

3. At that meeting, reports are given by the Directors to the shareholders of actions taken by the Officers and Directors during their internal meetings since the last annual shareholder meeting. Shareholders vote on a slate of Directors for the next fiscal year. They need not be the same ones from the previous year.

4. Minutes are kept by the corporation of that meeting.

This provides the best opportunity for transparency that the shareholders have.

Now the issue turns to who knew what and when:

1. Would a group of very street smart guys, many of them from a background that requires them to be ever alert, elect Officers and Board members who from what I have seen had no bona fides or background to manage a "billion dollar company" in which they were substantially invested?

Then since these shareholders had enough money to participate in the formation of FTP, would they then not have consulted a attorney about their role in the coporate formation and any duties and liabilities that might create for them?

Then can you believe that they were oblivious to the rules of "Business 101" that I pointed out above?

It has been suggested by my good friend Doyle that now some say they had no idea what was goind on.

In my opinion "the dog ate my homework" defense is unavailing.

 
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clunker
over 8 years ago

FTP was established by a group of hustlers. And they did what hustlers and con men do. They found a group of greedy people looking to make easy money and taught them a lesson, there are no free lunches. As far as the 450 million in player deposits is concerned this is not money that can be used to pay dividends to stockholders. The only money that can be distributed to stockholders are the profits the company earns. Being ignorant of what was going on[which in the case of this group of highly educated men I do not believe for one moment] is no excuse for the thievery that took place at FTP. Also this was by no stretch of the imagination a billion $ company. Sorry Doyle but I think you are letting your close relationship and friendship with these lowlifes blind you to the reality of what happened. They are crooks and should be so treated.

 
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mikeyb111
over 8 years ago

Didn't Jesus preach forgiveness? In case anyone has forgotten it's Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.

 
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BigPapaNuts
over 8 years ago

You didn't need to write all that you could of just said that the people you didn't know or care about (Ray Bitar) are completly responsible for what happened to Full Tilt and your close friends (Chris Ferguson/Howard Lederer) have never even heard of Full Tilt Poker. Just trying to save you some time on posting your obvious lies.

 
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Ronin555
over 8 years ago

I believe that Bitar, Lederer and Ferguson were being advised by their lawyers, years prior to Black Friday, that the U.S. Attorney's Office would eventually move against FT and attempt to not only shut them down in the U.S., but seize their operating funds. I suspect, in an effort to prevent the U.S. Attorney's Office from seizing all the funds, Bitar paid Lederer and Ferguson huge "dividends." While attempting to shield the funds from the U.S. Attorney's Office may not have been wise -- for I don't see how Bitar, Lederer and Ferguson saw this working out in the end -- it's about the only theory that makes sense; though given the limited amount of information available and the spin from everyone involved following any resolution, we may never know exactly what motivated Bitar, Lederer and Ferguson.

As far as Negreanu's criticisms of Lederer and Ferguson, they may be deserved, but they add little to the discussion.

 
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texasroadgambler
over 8 years ago

Well, the counterfeit lawyer resurfaces.

There is an active federal civil suit in Ca and three in NY.

Any of you interested in the details can find them on PACER.

 
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Ronin555
over 8 years ago

"Texasroadgambler" -- sounds like a loser trying to make a lost life sound like it had some merit. If you're on the road gambling for a living, how do you find so much time to spend on the internet.

 
 

Lancy
over 8 years ago

Sad that Lederer and Ferguson "didn't know" that the payments they recieved came from players accounts. However, with their outstanding character, I'm sure now that they know that, they will just give the players their money back.

 
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THEJOEF
over 8 years ago

If you play poker and don't realize that its all about the hustle then you are not too sharp. Im not mad at the Texas Dolly because I understand the game . If you are not working the crowd at all times then get the fuck out of the game . Brunson is a champion of this industry for 55 years. He has worked his way through life based on his intellect. I don't understand your hate TEBOWisdead? This is gambling and before you enter the arena you should understand the score. The goal is to get the money that's how you keep score.
I agree with everything you wrote but how can you be pissed at Brunson ? he is just playing the game the way it should be played.
Athletes,actors,bankers etc... Are all playing the game . SELL THE ILLUSION and GET THE MONEY.

 
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texasroadgambler
over 8 years ago

THEJOEF:

An excellent analysis, with analogies. "Show me the money." That is the mantra of all those you mentioned, as well as others.

Other "entertainers" such as the late Reverend Ike followed that creed also. His famous comment was, "If you mad at you money, send it to me."

To have had a successful career as a poker player such as Doyle, it demonstrates his exercise of not only poker skills, but the art of manipulating people in certain circumstances.

The art is equally as important as the skill set.

 
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Grunch
over 8 years ago

Doyle said: " Where do you stop the level of responsibility?"

The answer is, the buck stops at the Board of Directors. In any company with a Board, the members of the Board have a fiduciary responsibility to the company. It doesn't matter a whit if Howard, Chris or Rafe are "just poker players." It doesn't matter at all that they didn't know what was going on. They are still ultimately responsible.

Howard Lederer, Christ Furgeson, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar are all responsible for what happened at FTP. *That* is the real bottom line.

Doyle, continue to be Howard's friend. I'm sure he needs it now more then ever. But you need to understand the basic facts of the case, and how a business works before you indemnify Howard from all responsibility. He *is* responsible.

 
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texasroadgambler
over 8 years ago

Grunch:

An irrefutable assessment of civil law in the United States.

The lawyers who pursue the Directors will have the benefit of decades of black letter law to rely upon.

An easy case for the Plaintiff's lawyers.

 
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Ronnie2
over 7 years ago

In his next blog, Doyle will tell us after staring at him in the eyes, how good of a guy Dutch Boyd was, even though he similarly stole player's funds with no remorse or intention of ever paying the players back.

 
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