LAS VEGAS (CN) - Phil Ivey, regarded as the "best poker player in the world" and one of the celebrity faces of the online poker website Full Tilt Poker, seeks at least $150 million for "loss of reputation" after Full Tilt execs were indicted on charges of sidestepping banking restrictions.
Ivey, who has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets but never the Main Event, claims in Clark County Court that Manhattan federal prosecutors have jeopardized his livelihood as a professional poker player.
The federal indictment unsealed in April charged 11 people, including the founders of the three largest Internet poker companies in the United States - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker - with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses.
An accompanying news release said the government expected Full Tilt Poker to return money that "U.S. players entrusted to them."
The indictment accused the companies of deceiving U.S. banks into processing "billions of dollars in payments" by "arranging for the money received from United States gamblers to be disguised as payments to hundreds of non-existent online merchants and other non-gambling businesses," according to the complaint.
Through "illegal gambling activities," the poker companies netted about $3 billion, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The U.S. government ultimately barred Full Tilt Poker from allowing anyone in the United States from playing online poker for "real money."
Despite prosecutors' claims that players would recoup the money, Ivey says $150 million is still unaccounted for.
In a statement on his website, Ivey announced that he would not compete in the upcoming World Series of Poker and that he was "deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed."
Full Tilt Poker, meanwhile, defends its innocence.
"Full Tilt Poker has always maintained the highest levels of integrity and compliance with the law," according to a statement on Full Tilt Poker's webpage. "Due to recent events Full Tilt Poker is unable to accept 'Real Money' play from customers located in the United States. However, please know that your funds are safe and secure [and] we are working to resolve the distribution of these funds."
Ivey says in his lawsuit that Full Tilt's lack of a reserve account to satisfy its alleged debts is a breach of their endorsement contract, making the contract is null and void, including any noncompetition covenants.
"As a result of plaintiff being recognized as one of the faces of Full Tilt Poker ... [his] reputation and professional reputation have been irreparably damaged," the lawsuit states.
Ivey says players have made "public statements against Phil Ivey, under the mistaken believe that [he] has the ability to cause Full Tilt Poker to return the players' funds."
He also says people are demanding that he pay the funds personally, and that he or anyone endorsed by Full Tilt Poker be banned from future World Series of Poker events.
As a result, Ivey says he has suffered "public ridicule, humiliation and loss of personal and professional reputation."
Ivey said on his website that he was "angered that people who have supported me throughout my career have been treated so poorly."
Ivey seeks at least $150 million in damages from Full Tilt Poker's owner, Tiltware, alleging breach of contract, and tortious and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage.
He is represented by David Chesnoff with Chesnoff & Schonfeld.
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