LAS VEGAS — Poker’s biggest superstar, Phil Ivey, says he’s skipping the World Series of Poker because he’s disappointed and embarrassed that his sponsor, Full Tilt Poker, hasn’t paid back player deposits after pulling out of the U.S. market.
“I wholeheartedly refuse to accept non-action as to repayment of players’ funds and I am angered that people who have supported me throughout my career have been treated so poorly,” Ivey said on his Facebook page Tuesday.
Ivey also filed suit Wednesday in Las Vegas against Tiltware LLC, a company tied to online poker operator Full Tilt Poker, saying it didn’t tell him Full Tilt executives had been repeatedly warned that they were operating illegally in the United States, as federal prosecutors claim.
The suit filed in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas said Tiltware, a company that provided software to Full Tilt Poker, has denied Ivey’s request to pursue other professional relationships in poker. The suit claims more than $150 million in damages to Ivey’s personal and professional reputation.
Ivey’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, said Ivey is in the prime of his poker career and wants to have options to pursue other opportunities if they come up. He said not playing in the World Series of Poker is a principled stand with players who have been prevented from playing poker because their funds are tied up in online accounts.
“He doesn’t think it’s right that he plays and they can’t,” Chesnoff said.
“He’s won eight bracelets — it would be like Michael Jordan saying he didn’t want to play in the NBA Finals,” Chesnoff said. “It’s a matter of conscience for Phil.”
Attempts to reach Full Tilt, Tiltware and company lawyers were not successful.