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Howard Lederer

by Matt Glantz |  Published: Nov 26, '11


This is how I would describe Howard Lederer as I knew him before Black Friday: an honest man, someone to whom the young kids in poker could safely look up to, a gambler who honored his obligations, an analytical thinker who liked to figure out puzzles, and most importantly someone I could trust. I knew Howard as one of the truly good guys in poker.

In the aftermath of Black Friday, I have heard Howard being referred to as a thief, a liar, and a schemer on countless occasions. Is this the same guy who many considered one of the most respected men in poker less than a year ago? Is the Full Tilt situation a result of him designing to run a Ponzi scheme to rip us off? Is it the result of him stealing our money to line his own pockets? I can tell you without hesitation that there is just no way any of this could be the case. He is not that guy.

I have never been affiliated with Full Tilt Poker or any other online poker site, and while I never considered Howard a very close friend, we have always been friendly. We have played poker together on numerous occasions and have made other non-poker wagers in the past. He was always one of the guys who honored his debts and obligations with me in a timely manner. There were never any issues when dealing with Howard.

I have no specific allegiance to Howard and I certainly don’t owe him or anyone at Full Tilt anything. However, if I was in his situation, I would certainly appreciate my fellow poker players to keep an open mind about everything that has transpired and not just jump to the conclusions that make me out to be the villain.

I certainly have more accurate information about what actually happened at Full Tilt than the average person in the poker community. But I could not possibly know everything that went down and could never be sure what I have been told by friends involved is the complete truth. Thus, I am not presenting facts, but only things to consider before condemning Howard Lederer. Even though I am writing this about Howard, you can easily substitute certain other figureheads at Full Tilt and it would read the same. This can be said for all but a few of the inner circle.

I believe that Howard and a few other principals at Full Tilt are 100% at fault for not properly and diligently overseeing the way player money was handled. How could anyone leave this whole business in the hands of just one or two people? This was an operation of hundreds of millions of dollars of deposits and withdrawals – essentially an international banking operation. It must be obvious now to even Howard, that there were not adequate safeguards in place. Players put their trust in Full Tilt – and implicitly if not explicitly, in its principals – to keep player deposits safe. And in this, they failed us miserably.

But I know the person that Howard is, and I am comfortable in questioning this public vilification. In my view, it is unfair. Without facts, the poker community has filled in a group of circumstances – including some one-sided and gratuitous references by the U.S. government, which is, after all, the opposing party in litigation, but one that can hold press conferences and make declarations without the burdens of private citizens – that paint Howard and the others in the most unflattering way possible.

There is no way anyone outside of the inner circle of Full Tilt can clearly know all of the facts involved in the demise of the operation, but we can use our skills at making assumptions on the bits of information we do have. These are some of the reasons I don’t want you to just assume Howard Lederer is a crook and a bad guy:

(1) What if Howard stepped down from day-to-day decision-making and operations for Full Tilt years before Black Friday? What if, back in 2008, Howard retired from Full Tilt management to take a bigger role in his family life and a smaller role at Full Tilt?

(2) What if Howard left the operations in the hands of a friend and partner who he wholeheartedly trusted to always do the right thing? What if this friend was lying to and deceiving Howard and other Full Tilt members?

(3) What if Howard and the others assumed that the Alderney Gambling Control Commission was doing regular quarterly audits within the firm and that all funds were secure?

(4) What if the person in charge was telling the shareholders that the cash position of the company was enough to cover player deposits? What if he was concealing the downward spiral of payment processing issues and not reasonably bringing them to the attention of the investors?

(5) What if certain principals of Full Tilt wanted to put money back into Full Tilt after Black Friday to pay back the players but other members refused or were unable, thus making it impossible?

This entire episode of Full Tilt Poker was a monumental screw up and people who had a stake in the company should have been more diligent, for their own sake and for the sake of players. There is no excuse for that. I just want you to consider the fact that their major failures are not necessarily a question of their integrity. Realize there is a huge difference between someone who is making bad business decisions and someone else who is actually stealing or scheming to take our money.

There is a big difference between one trusting the CEO and the actual CEO who knowingly deceives his shareholders and runs the company into the ground. Howard is certainly guilty of trusting the financial reports he received without insisting on independent audits. But can we be so sure that we ourselves would have been more vigilant? Everything appeared to be going smoothly. The company was constantly growing and money was pouring in. Full Tilt gave every indication of being an honestly run, extremely profitable business. I believe it is extremely rare for any shareholders of any company to question their CEO when things appear to be progressing so well.

Because the matter is in litigation, neither Howard nor anyone else at Full Tilt can step forward to defend themselves publicly, or present their version of the facts without adversely affecting their legal rights. The things I’ve learned, I recognize, are incomplete and second-hand. Everybody has to draw their own conclusions. I simply recommend that you make sure they are your own conclusions. I hope for everyone’s sake the matter gets resolved, players receive their funds, the U.S. returns online poker to the players, and we all learn some valuable lessons from this experience.

Poker pro Matt Glantz has demonstrated high-stakes versatility by becoming the World Series’ most consistent performer in big money mixed-game tournaments. Since 2008, he has made four WSOP final tables in mixed-game events with buy-ins of $10,000 to $50,000. He has also earned a reputation as one of the top mixed-game cash game players.

Glantz is answering Card Player reader questions about mixed-game poker strategy. Readers can email Matt questions direct to and also should check out his website for more strategy and updates from the tournament trail.

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
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