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Poker News | World Poker News

Full Tilt Faces Lawsuits, Latest Involving Bot Accusations

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Very few people know exactly what the Full Tilt Poker legal team faces on a regular basis. As an international online gaming corporation with presumably millions of customers, legal challenges are likely commonplace. But several high-profile suits within the past year have made poker news, the latest one getting the most press because of accusations of bots.

Full Tilt took its first case in stride when it was filed in mid-November 2008. Ex-Full Tilt pro player Clonie Gowen sued the company for $40 million when she was released from duties for the site, claiming compensation that fellow pros collected as well as damages due to breach of contract and good faith, enrichment from the use of her image, and fraud, among many claims. Full Tilt Poker/Tiltware LLC came back in January of 2009 with a formal response about “random claims” and her “thirst for publicity,” but it was in May that the case went before a judge, at which point the U.S. Magistrate dismissed Gowen’s claims against all but three defendants. Her suit remains open against Tiltware LLC, Ray Bitar, and Howard Lederer, and no further developments have come down the wire since that time.

In September of 2009, Full Tilt found itself with another suit on its hands, this time from former employee Jason Newitt. The case was filed against Full Tilt Poker, Tiltware, Pocket Kings Consulting, Howard Lederer, and Ray Bitar in the Nevada courts with the claim that Newitt was unfairly fired and that his contracted distribution payments and share of ownership were taken away. Newitt was fired shortly after he mistakenly sent an internal memo to poker player Jimmy Fricke, who had been seeking sponsorship with Full Tilt. That internal memo included notes from Lederer calling Fricke a “freak” and “weird dude,” and it was posted on public poker forums subsequently by Fricke. The embarrassment and leak of names of people like Lederer who make decisions in the company seemed to prompt Newitt’s dismissal from Full Tilt, and when his payments were then cut off, Newitt filed suit. The case is ongoing.

Meanwhile, another lawsuit was in the works that didn’t directly involve Full Tilt but concerned the show it sponsors called “Face the Ace.”  Brandon McSmith filed a suit against the show’s production company, Poker PROductions, alleging they stole the idea for the show from him. Claiming $85 million in damages, McSmith is only suing Poker PROductions, but considering Full Tilt Poker’s stake in the show, there may be some legal assistance coming from the FTP team on the pending case.

And if that is not enough, October found another suit, this one filed directly against Full Tilt Poker by online poker players Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy. The October 1st filing accused Full Tilt Poker, Tiltware, Howard Lederer, Ray Bitar, Phil Gordon, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Perry Friedman, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, John Juanda, Gus Hansen, Mike Matusow, and Allen Cunningham of fraud, libel, slander, false advertising, and racketeering.

The case began in 2007 when Kennedy and Omotoy collectively lost more than $80,000, money that was taken from their accounts by Full Tilt under the company’s assumption that the two players were bots, or computer programs set up to play on behalf of people. When Kennedy wrote about the incident on a poker forum, she found herself then accused of multi-accounting by Full Tilt as well. Kennedy and Omotoy decided in 2009 to take their case to court, accusing Full Tilt of a number of improprieties, one of which was that Full Tilt itself used bots, created by Ferguson and Bloch, to play in place of Full Tilt team pros. In addition, the petitioners contend that Full Tilt was once two companies - Tiltware and Vert Enterprises - and that Vert operated out of California, which violates state gaming laws.

Updates and developments will likely be made public in the months to come.

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