The story of Full Tilt Poker is one that many poker players know all too well. It was a scandal that rocked the gaming world about five years ago and left one of the main players of the poker scene – and one of the men behind Full Tilt Poker – in the shadows. However, Howard Lederer has stepped back into the limelight as he made his return to the world of poker over the weekend.
Lederer has won a pair of titles on the World Poker Tour and he has earned two World Series of Poker bracelets. He was called “The Professor” on the poker circuit and then helped write a few books on poker strategy. He had a lot of sway within the poker world, so much so that he went into the business of it and founded Full Tilt Poker in 2004. Full Tilt Poker was created along with Rafe Furst, Chris Ferguson and Ry Bitar, and it was wildly popular right off the bat as they sponsored poker games on ESPN as well as Poker After Dark on NBC.
Everything was going well for Full Tilt Poker until 2011, when an investigation led by the United States Department of Justice revealed that the company was being accused of money laundering, among other gambling violations. Their website was shut down on April 15, 2011 and the license suspended 15 days later. In September of 2011, Lederer and others on the board of directors were named in a civil complaint where it was said that they took in $443 million of player funds between 2007 and 2001. Essentially, it was deemed a Ponzi scheme as Full Tilt Poker paid out to owners despite not having the money to pay their players. The case was settled in 2012 as Lederer basically gave up $2.5 million of forfeited assets and $150 million went to paying off players in the United States.
Obviously, Lederer laid low for a while, but on Saturday he registered to play in the World Series of Poker’s $10,000 buy-in 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship at the Rio Convention Center in Las Vegas. Lederer admitted no wrongdoing in the case and hasn’t said much about it, but he did release a statement in May with an apology to the poker community for what happened. He took responsibility for what transpired, which is supposed to allow him to make his way back into tournament poker. However, he was asked to make another statement and he declined. There are a lot of questions surrounding what went down and whether he knew what was happening and complicity in it, or if he – like many other poker players – was simply taken for a ride.
At any rate, Lederer’s return comes on the heels of Ferguson returning to tournament poker as well, which he did two weeks ago at the 2016 World Series of Poker $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Championship. It remains to be seen how the poker community accepts these two but it seems to be fine for now. However, there are bound to be some hard feelings as Lederer and Ferguson wronged a lot of people and they have a lot to make up for before they’re totally forgiven – if that even happens.