Going through Phil Ivey’s lawsuit against FullTilt Poker. No, not the news tidbits about the lawsuit but full text of his complaint filed by heavyweight lawyers in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Without question Phil is one of the most popular poker players ever. Celebrities often cultivate a friendly public persona (they call an image) toward their fans. Image is important to them because it feeds the flame of their celebrity status and provides them some economic opportunities. I often catch myself thinking what a real human is like behind a shiny facade of carefully managed publicity.
A lawsuit is a rare chance to catch a glimpse of what Phil Ivey wants. A real Phil not a public figure, celebrity, poker icon Phil Ivey. That is because lawsuit involves spending lots of money, personal time commitment, and long wait to play out. After all of the above is done favorable results are not guaranteed. That was a long way of saying lawsuits are not fun. You must have a darn good reason to start one. Additionally, highly paid lawyers carefully put in writing what you really want. So let’s read on.
Ivey’s complaint contains 65 statements of fact. They are roughly split into three categories.
- 5-10 statements are boilerplate legalese and a plea for recovery of attorney costs.
- 2 statements claiming reputation damage, loss of promotional opportunities and lost income worth $150M or more. This one is clever because first claim states $150M is players’ deposits held by FullTiltPoker. Second statement claims loss Phil Ivey suffered in the same amount of $150M. That well placed ambiguity led many media outlets to report that Phil sued on behalf of all FTP players who are stuck for money. - I did not find explicit claims to that effect in the complaint. But I am not a lawyer. What do I know?
- The rest of fact statements, besides a few statements identifying who Phil is, are about non-compete clause in his agreement with FullTilt. The complaint goes on and on about unfair and predatory nature of the non-compete agreement. The bulk of the complaint’s text describes what harm has come to Phil from this onerous non-compete clause and pleads to relieve Phil from that contract.
The non-compete clause does sound pretty harsh. According to Phil’s complaint it prevents Phil from any competitive activity for as long as Company [TiltWare] exists. Wow! Phil should have had a lawyer look it over before signing.
Ok. That was a summary of the complaint itself. What do you make of it? The way the complaint is structured with heavy emphasis on non-complete clause and a passing reference to $150M in damages suggests the following. Phil and his legal team devised $150M damages claim to be a proverbial “stick” to motivate FTP to come to terms. The complaint does not appear as if team Phil is serious about recovering those “reputation” damages. The terms they expect FTP to agree to is to terminate that non-compete clause. That is what Phil truly wants.
All that makes a lot sense - Phil just wants to move on with his poker career and endorse, invest in and promote some other poker ventures. That is what I would want being in his shoes. That is what anyone would want and that is human. The rest is just marketing.
PS: Downfall of FTP is a fascinating story which reads like a good thriller. Stories like that do not appear often in online poker world. I wish to write more about it but I need motivation. Do let me know if that is something you want to read about.
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