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Erick Lindgren, Mike Sowers Making Deep Run In World Series of Poker Tournament

Full Tilt Poker Scandal Gives Back Story To Meeting On Live Felt

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Lindgren, Sowers sitting across from each otherThe two biggest stacks in the room during the dinner break of Thursday’s World Series of Poker Event No. 49 ($1,500 ante-only no-limit hold’em) were Erick Lindgren and Mike Sowers — two men linked by online poker’s past.

On March 29, 2011, about two weeks before Black Friday, Sowers recorded one of the most impressive feats in poker history — he finished first and ninth in an event that had 2,404 entrants. The format of the tournament was multi-entry, and it was on Full Tilt Poker.

The offshore site closed its business to Americans on April 15, as well as access to about $150 million of U.S. player funds existing on the site. All of the $519,144 that Sowers had won never left the site, according to his long-time friend David Sands.

Sands said Thursday’s pairing of the two players was ironic: “Lindgren originally came up with the idea for multi-entry tournaments, and Sowers was the only person to have his stacks merged at the final table of a weekend multi-entry. Obviously he never saw the money, but finishing first and ninth is a staggering accomplishment.”

When asked what a win would mean for Sowers, who has cashed in just one major tournament since Black Friday, Sands said: “Would be huge. Mike is a great guy who got really unlucky to have such a massive portion of his roll stuck on Full Tilt.”

Sowers declined to comment Thursday evening on Lindgren also being deep in the event. Sowers has declined to address Black Friday in the past. When Lindgren was away from the table during level 17, Card Player asked if he feels bad for Sowers having a large amount stuck online. Lindgren acknowledged that he does.

There was no noticeable animosity in their interaction, which included some chatter and laughter. Poker pro Tony Dunst said that it made sense for both to be “gentleman” at the table.

“Sowers has acted with professionalism with all that money locked up,” Dunst added.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina native told the Epic Poker League that Black Friday “helped me learn more about who I am.” He continued: “It took away the focus on poker and gave me time to be by myself and discover who I am.”

Sands addressed the timing of multi-entries, which were launched on the site in January 2011: “Lindgren suggested the idea several years prior, but Full Tilt only implemented them shortly before Black Friday. Since multi-entries are clearly bad for the longevity of the game, as good players win more, it seems clear that Full Tilt had a short-run approach when they ran them.”

Lindgren’s name was also linked to the Full Tilt scandal when a lawyer for Groupe Bernard Tapie — a French firm that once was looking to acquire the company — came out with a statement to PokerStrategy.com that Lindgren was among a handful of former site pros who collectively borrowed millions from the online company, but had never repaid.

In September 2011, the federal government accused Full Tilt’s executives — Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Rafe Furst — of defrauding former customers.

A win in Event No. 49 would give Lindgren his second WSOP bracelet and send his career tournament cashes to more than $8 million. Sowers is looking for his first WSOP title. The event plays to a winner on Friday at the Rio Hotel and Casino.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus