Negreanu: Singling Ivey Out for Full Tilt Mess "Mind-Boggling"

Daniel Negreanu2
Negreanu doesn't hold Phil Ivey responsible for the actions of Bitar et al.

According to Daniel Negreanu it’s mind-boggling why some in the poker community have pointed the finger at Phil Ivey over frozen FTP funds while largely ignoring other members of Team Full Tilt.

The controversy mainly hinges on the fact that Ivey withdrew from the WSOP in 2011, saying it wasn’t fair for him to play while FTP’s customers hadn’t been paid back.

Now, one year later, Full Tilt money is still frozen and Ivey is cashing for hundreds of thousands of dollars at the World Series.

But according to Negreanu, Ivey’s stand in 2011 was the only thing anyone from Full Tilt has done to address the situation, and it shouldn’t make him a target.

And while Ivey has been making final tables like it’s going out of style, Negreanu has been struggling and says his results are nowhere near where they should be.

In this Q&A interview Negreanu discusses the difficulties with getting unlucky, Phil Ivey’s WSOP heater, Full Tilt Poker plus Phil Hellmuth and his past association with UB. You told us during that level that you were steamed. What’s going on?

Listen, I’ve been playing poker for 20 years and I know the difference between running bad and playing bad, and the last couple of years at the World Series I've been running bad.

Daniel Negreanu3
"I’ve been playing poker for 20 years and I know the difference between running bad and playing bad."

And then hearing people say, “Hey I’m really disappointed in you,” and in my head I just kind of want to say, “Yeah how about you go f*** yourself.”

PL: Who’s saying that to you?

DN: Like Mike Matusow came up to me and was like, “I’m really disappointed in you.” And I said, “Why because I can’t win with sixes when a guy shoves on me with 8-5?”

I know the difference and I understand that. A lot of people say they’re running bad but really they’re playing bad. I know the difference. I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s frustrating because my results are nowhere near where they should be, even though I have a final table already.

PL: When you see a run like what Phil Ivey’s doing how do you explain it? He’s got to be playing well but is it even possible to play well enough to post those results without running really well?

DN: The thing about Phil Ivey, and I’ve talked to him about it, is that he’s running really good but he’s also running really bad. It’s all about timing. He’s running really good to get there but he’s getting screwed at the end.

He’s obviously not won a bracelet and he’s been close so much, and usually when he gets there he closes. So luck has various ways of playing into how you do. A lot of the Limit events are really about timing. You have to win the pots you’re all-in, and my all-in record over the last few years has been atrocious.

PL: Does the way you’re running make you think twice about buying into the Big One for One Drop?

DN: I’m playing it. I’m still playing all of them.

PL: How hard is it to stay motivated and have a positive outlook when you’re running bad?

DN: Running bad doesn’t make it hard to stay motivated but it definitely makes it hard to stay positive. Let’s say you’re playing an event and things are going well and then this crazy weird shit happens again. It’s hard not to just think, “Again? Really?”

Daniel Negreanu 2
Negreanu thinks Ivey is the clear pick in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop.

So it starts to weigh on your brain a bit because we’re all human.

(At this point in the interview Phil Ivey walked past on his way to his trailer. Ivey hammed it up a bit, rolling his eyes and murmuring comically, presumably impersonating Daniel answering questions.)

I was just talking about you Phil. I was just telling them how you run so bad at final tables.

PL: Who do you like in the Big One?

DN: (Daniel points to Ivey who is casually descending the stairs to the trailer area.)

That guy. The black guy.

PL: Speaking of Ivey. People are still divided on whether he’s got any responsibility in this whole Full Tilt funds debacle. He skipped the WSOP last year but nothing’s really changed and he’s back here playing events. What’s your take on it?

DN: You know what I find amazing? I find it amazing that people pin it on the black guy. What about f***ing Erik Seidel and John Juanda and Phil Gordon and Andy Bloch. What’s the difference? Why is everyone so hung up on saying that Phil (Ivey) has done something wrong?

He’s not Howard Lederer or Chris Ferguson or Ray Bitar. Those are the scumbags that did it.

If people are going to pin it on Phil why don’t they talk to Allen Cunningham the same way? I don’t understand it at all.

Ivey’s the only one who even released a statement really. He’s the only one who did anything to take a stand.

PL: Did Ivey somehow bring the attention on himself by being the only one to speak up about it?

DN: Yeah possibly a little bit. But everyone else has just stood back and stayed mum on the whole thing and nobody says a thing to them.

Phil Ivey
With five final tables already Ivey is making up for lost time at the 2012 WSOP.

It’s mind-boggling that Ivey has been singled out in all of this.

PL: Is the same thing true for Phil Hellmuth and his association with UB? People go after Annie Duke a lot but nobody has much to say about Hellmuth having endorsed the site.

DN: I think that’s because people know the truth. Annie was involved in the business side of things and that’s a fact. She knew the inner workings. She knew that god-mode existed.

Phil Hellmuth, much like Ivey, is about himself. I don’t mean that in a bad way but Ivey and Hellmuth are about playing poker and getting it done and getting a paycheck.

Phil Ivey had nothing to do with the setup or the running of Full Tilt and neither did Hellmuth with UB.

PL: But don’t you think there has to be some level of personal responsibility for these guys when they endorse a product? The whole idea of endorsement is based on putting your stamp of approval on something, and Hellmuth continued to endorse UB even after the cheating scandal.

DN: I definitely think there is a personal responsibility to do your background checks and understand who you’re endorsing and who you’re representing. And if you’re leading people down the wrong path then there’s definitely some fault there.

So when Hellmuth continued to wear the UB brand after what happened he was leading people the wrong way. But I think he believed in them and he was wrong.

But in Full Tilt’s case I think a lot of the fault lies with anyone who put their trust in Lederer, Ferguson and Bitar to run that company. I think as a whole the shareholders should have gotten together and said, “Hey, why don’t we hire a real businessperson to be CEO, not some guy who was on his gramma’s couch a few months ago, someone who’s eating lobster on the player’s money.”

So in a way it’s their fault for not banding together and saying, “We need to fix this problem. This is no way to run a company.”

PL: What about the phantom deposit issue? A lot of the players themselves were playing with money they never actually deposited and that’s estimated to account for like $130 million of the shortfall. What kind of responsibility lies with those players?

Daniel Negreanu
Negreanu feels the Full Tilt Poker shareholders should have seen it coming.

DN: Personally I think that’s mostly on Full Tilt. I think it’s absurd that they ever allowed that to happen.

Basically what was going on is that Full Tilt was trying to compete with PokerStars and they were willing to cut every corner and shoot every angle to do it.

So they accepted a lot of deposits and credit cards that PokerStars wouldn’t go near.

They just didn’t care.

PL: Is there any movement on PokerStars potentially acquiring Full Tilt? We spoke to you about it at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo but we haven’t heard a thing since.

DN: You know, you hear things. I have my personal opinion but it’s all speculation. It’s pretty clear that there have been discussions but there’s nothing final. I guess I’ll know when everyone else knows.

But you heard about Rafa Nadal joining PokerStars right? That’s a pretty big sign.

One more thing, that just shows you the kind of company that PokerStars is. They’ve had sports stars in the past but here they’ve gotten a guy who’s 26 years old, in his prime, playing on the biggest stage.

And what that’s doing is associating PokerStars with other very legitimate companies who are endorsed by players at that level. And it does a lot to move the mainstream in the right direction too.

For all the action from the WSOP in Las Vegas click through to our 2012 World Series of Poker Live Coverage section, brought to you by

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