After facing the slings and arrows of the poker community – especially over the past year as he captured the 2017 World Series of Poker’s Player of the Year award – poker professional Chris Ferguson has issues what he believes was an apology for his actions with Full Tilt Poker and “Black Friday.”
In a brief, 42-second message that appeared to be read from either a prepared statement or a Teleprompter, Ferguson issued his mea culpa to the poker community. “I’d like to take this brief opportunity to address the poker community, which I love and have been a part of for a long time,” he begins. After a lengthy pause, Ferguson continues, “I deeply regret not being able to prevent “Black Friday” from happening. After “Black Friday,” I worked relentlessly to ensure that all players got paid back (pause) and I sincerely apologize that it took as long as it did.”
“I also realize that it has taken me a long time to make any sort of public statement and I appreciate my fans and the poker community as a whole for their patience and support,” Ferguson states. “One day, the Full Tilt Poker story will be told and, like many of you, I look forward to that day. I hope to see you at the World Series of Poker this summer. Thank you and good luck.”
As apologies go, Ferguson said as little as possible to mollify the poker community. His hesitations at several points in the short speech, especially when talking about his “regret” for his part in “Black Friday,” indicate that he wasn’t fully committed to what he was saying. It was as if the statement had been drafted for him by a third party and that it wasn’t in his natural cadence of speech.
The one statement that may come off to many people as being disingenuous is that regarding the telling of the Full Tilt Poker “story.” As one of the people on the inside when it was going down, Ferguson already knows the “story” fully. Those that were outside the company, however – including customers, fellow players and others that were adversely affected by the seizure of the site and its eventual shutdown – aren’t of benefit of this knowledge. Thus, it is up to Ferguson to tell people why his trust and good name should be restored.
The video message is Ferguson’s attempt at what another alleged perpetrator of the Full Tilt fiasco pulled off a couple of years ago. Back in 2016, Howard Lederer reached out to poker pro and friend Daniel Negreanu and released a letter “to the poker community.” In that letter, Lederer “apologized to everyone in the poker community” regarding what happened at Full Tilt Poker. “When Full Tilt Poker closed in 2011, there was a shortfall in funds, a distressed sale to recover those funds, and a long delay in repaying players,” Lederer wrote. “Throughout this period, there was little explanation for the delay, and no apology. Players felt lied to. They trusted the site, and they trusted me, and I didn’t live up to that trust.”
Further into the letter, Lederer stated that “I take full responsibility for Full Tilt’s failure to protect player deposits leading up to “Black Friday,” and Negreanu seemed to forgive him for his transgressions. The poker community, however, wasn’t as forgiving. Throughout the 2016 WSOP (where Lederer made his return to tournament poker), he was faced with an irate poker community who were looking for more from the person they believe caused the problems with Full Tilt Poker.
In 2017, Lederer once again came back but this time was joined by Ferguson. Unlike Lederer, Ferguson issued no statement to the poker community, he simply waltzed back in and thought all was well. In several instances during the run of events in Las Vegas, however, Ferguson was challenged on his actions regarding “Black Friday.” Perhaps pouring salt into the would more, Ferguson would go on to win his sixth bracelet (during the WSOP Europe) and take down the WSOP Player of the Year race, further irritating the poker world.
Overall, it appears that the poker community isn’t exactly embracing Ferguson’s statement (for the record, they didn’t really embrace Lederer’s either). “He did basically just say “f**k you all” for a second time, only a lawyer wrote it,” one player commented on Facebook. Negreanu, who accepted Lederer’s apologies, wrote on Twitter, “It took all this time for Chris Ferguson to come up with THIS apology?” Todd Witteles wrote, “With all the money Chris Ferguson stole, you’d think he could afford to hire a writer and public speaking coach.” On Ferguson’s side, however, is Phil Hellmuth, who stated “It’s a shame that so many of the younger poker players have JUDGED Chris so harshly.” (Would the aliens that possess Hellmuth please let him return home?)
Will Ferguson’s attempt at an apology satisfy the poker world? Or did he just light the torch on more controversy when he shows up next week to play? It will be something to watch at this year’s WSOP.