Players Make Another Attempt to Sue Full Tilt
Black Friday took nearly every poker player by surprise. The actions by the US Department of Justice on April 15, 2011, to shut down several of the world’s largest online poker sites and indict their most upper level executives was a dark day in the history of the game.
It is no surprise that some players are still angry with Full Tilt Poker, one of the sites targeted by the US government. The snowballing of events that happened after Black Friday led to the downfall of the company, which took all of its players with it. The mismanagement of funds by the owners and top management of the company resulted in players unable to access their funds, though eventually, PokerStars bought Full Tilt as part of its settlement with the US government. The deal included PokerStars reimbursing all Full Tilt players, which happened through a third-party service over the course of the next several years.
With those payments to players just having finished in December of 2016, the anger is still fresh for some of the victims. It is understandable.
If the lawsuits from Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy were a result of Black Friday and the subsequent fallout, they would likely have a great deal of support from the poker community. But their beef with Full Tilt began back in 2009 and continues today, in a case that has found no support or success thus far.
Original Kennedy-Omotoy Lawsuit
The two Full Tilt Poker players first filed suit in October 2009 in a California court. Kennedy and Omotoy sued Full Tilt, Tiltware, Ray Bitar, and most of the members of Team Full Tilt — Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Perry Friedman, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, John Juanda, Gus Hansen, Mike “The Mouth” Matusow, and Allen Cunningham. The charges included fraud, libel, slander, false advertising, and racketeering under the RICO statute.
What happened started in 2007 when Kennedy was accused of using bots. Someone complained to Full Tilt, resulting in Kennedy being banned from the site and forced to forfeit more than $80,000 in her and reported cohort Omotoy’s accounts. They sued the online poker site for said funds and restitution, and they made accusations about the ownership and registration of Full Tilt, about Ferguson and Bloch creating bots to influence play on the site, about illegal rake, and about sponsored pro players using “house money” instead of their own funds.
The money taken from the players by Full Tilt amounted to $120K for Kennedy and $10 for Omotoy, according to the complainants. The lawsuit sought $900 million, however. Full Tilt’s attorneys denied the charges.
The case was eventually moved to the US District Court for the Central District of California in April 2010. Judge Margaret Morrow eventually dismissed the case because Kennedy failed to “detail many portions of her case regarding state violations and, in particular, there could be no claim under the RICO Act.”
Kennedy was given permission to refile her complaint in a federal court if she amended her complaint. She did so later in 2010, with Cyrus Sanai as her attorney. According to Flushdraw, there were more than 220 filings in the case between then and February 2017, at which point the case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court’s ruling to dismiss the case. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Virginia Keeny held that fellow Superior Court Judge Elizabeth White did not abuse her discretion with the dismissal.
Actions continued until the last dismissal came in July 2017 by Judge George Wu.
Never Say Die
The duo recently decided to file yet again. They, with Sanai leading the way, filed in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles in August 2017. The same defendants were named, with a few new ones like Full Tilt-associated attorney Ian Imrich and French investor Bernard Tapie, since the original filing.
Many things have changed since the 2009 lawsuit and most of its subsequent allegations were made, including the sale of Full Tilt to PokerStars parent company Rational Group, which was later bought by Amaya Inc. The US government facilitated the repayment of Full Tilt victims from Black Friday, and most lawsuits involving the companies and its many associated top brass have been dismissed or settled. Everyone has moved on with their lives, even the victims of the Full Tilt fiasco.
Kennedy and Omotoy, however, continue to push the case. It should be noted, however, that investigative reporting by Haley Hintz at Flushdraw shows that their attorney, Sanai, not only represented other clients who sued Full Tilt in the past, he has also been accused of and cited for legal misconduct.
The entire case would be comical at this point if it didn’t continue to drudge up memories of Full Tilt Poker and beat a dead company as if there is anything left to salvage.