Should Sponsored Pros from the Big Three play at the WSOP

Posted by James Guill on May 16, 2011 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

The 2011 World Series of Poker is just 2 weeks away.  The number of players at this year’s WSOP is going to be impacted in part by the online poker situation in the United States.  The fallout from poker’s Black Friday is going to force many players to either play fewer events, or possibly even force them to bow out of this year’s event.

There is one group of players that are going to be in a precarious spot come May 31st, and those are the current and recently cut poker pros from the big three sites.  These players are the direct faces of the sites and could very well be the targets of a lot of anger this summer.  A question that warrants consideration is whether or not that these players should play at this year’s World Series of Poker.

I think that many people are going to give PokerStars players a bit of a pass in this regard due to the simple fact that they have stepped up and paid players their money.  It is estimated that PokerStars has returned over $100 Million to players already.  While it is true that PokerStars has a huge role in this debacle, the focus is going to be on those sites that have not paid.

Full Tilt Poker and UB/AP at present, they appear nowhere close to paying players.  It is possible that it will not happen anytime soon.  What type of situation does that leave the current Full Tilt and former UB pros.  For the UB pros, some will get a bit of sympathy because they will be able to play the “hey, we lost our jobs too” card.  Others will be called out for being shills for a company that has had a history of being corrupt.

However, the eternal fall guy for UB is definitely going to be Joe Sebok.  In my opinion, there is no way that he should be playing the WSOP this year.  Many feel that Sebok betrayed them in regards to his time at UB and many want to heap a good deal of the blame on his shoulders.  Whether or not this is true, he put himself out as the “champion of the online poker world.” Now that he is the chump or online poker’s bitch so to speak, he must face the criticism.

The term clusterfuck is the best to describe Full Tilt Poker’s handling of disseminating information to U.S. players regarding payouts.  As the weeks drift on, rumors of bankruptcy are being floated by people that are worried that they will not get paid.  Outside of Mike Matusow, Full Tilt Pro’s have remained remarkably silent.

The number of red pros on the roster at Full Tilt is so enormous, you cannot expect them all to sit out the WSOP.  However, many would agree that Team Full Tilt, also known as the major shareholders, are a different matter.  Howard Lederer, Andy Bloch, Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, John Juanda, Phil Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow, Allen Cunningham, Gus Hansen, and Patrick Antonius have all listed as being shareholders of Full Tilt Poker.

Howard Lederer has not been heard from since April 15th, and many expect he will not show up for the WSOP.  He is widely known in the game as being one of the major owners, so it makes sense for him to lay low.  The other shareholders may want to consider the same.  With the amount of money still held up on Full Tilt and their lackluster at best way of handling payouts, it is going to be hard for many to swallow that “Team Full Tilt” can afford to play at the WSOP when they cannot.  These are the ones I expect to see the most heated confrontations directed towards outside of Joe Sebok.

Let me clarify that I am not saying that anyone should be banned from the WSOP.  I think that everyone mentioned above has the right to play.  However, with the current online poker situation coupled with the fact that they will be the faces that online players can actually have access to confront one on one, these pros may be taking an extraordinary risk.

Unless the online sites start making payouts in the next couple of weeks or within the first week or so of the WSOP, the best thing for some of these players will be to sit out this year.  Let the online sites straighten out the mess they are in, and come back next year ready to battle for bracelets.

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