After failing to pay the final table for their major tournament last fall – and the resulting lawsuit from several players who made that final table – the founder of the Players Poker Championship (PPC) has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Florida.
Bryan Oulton, one of two men who founded the PPC (along with Thomas “Sandy” Swartzbaugh), filed for bankruptcy protections on April 9 in the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida in Broward County. In the court documents, Oulton stated that he was almost $900,000 in debt to almost 200 creditors (including the players from last fall’s PPC Aruba World Championship) and that he only had assets of around $415,000. Most of his assets were being held in his home, valued at roughly $338,000, and $50,000 in annuities, while Oulton himself said that he had no income at the present time. That is important because, under Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, he could claim those items as exempt from any property sale and would be able to keep the assets.
The problems emerged after the tournament in Aruba last November. The PPC World Championship was a $2400 poker tournament on the island of Aruba that wrapped up a series of events that the PPC had held across the States of America. The tournament itself had a guaranteed prize pool of $500,000, which was barely covered by the 266 entries the tournament received (the eventual prize pool was $534,743). Poker pro Christian Harder made the final table in finishing in ninth place, while Stephen Deutsch defeated James Beadnell and Dorian Alejandro Rios Pavon to win the championship and take the top prize of $133,687.
When it came time for Deutsch to collect, however, he was stonewalled in Aruba and headed home. Negotiations would get to the point that a third party involved – alleged to be investors in the PPC looking to keep the company afloat – would offer to pay Deutsch and other final table players less than what they supposedly earned from their finish in the tournament. Frustrated by not getting what he had earned, Deutsch and other players filed lawsuits against Oulton, Swartzbaugh, the PPC and its partners and two casinos who hosted events (Maryland Live! and Tampa Downs in Florida).
The actions by Deutsch and his fellow players helped to usher the end of the PPC. Plans for a new season to start after the November World Championship tournament quickly fizzled as casinos pulled out from the tour. With no casinos to play events – and, more importantly, the loss of a steady stream of income from those tournaments – the PPC essentially shut down at the beginning of 2017 (“essentially” is used because no official word about its closure has been issued).
Oulton lists the Aruba final table players that have filed suit against him (Deutsch, Joan Sandoval (who finished sixth), Michael Lerner (fourth), John Ott (fifth) and Beadnell (second) as creditors and puts Pavon and seventh-place finisher Steve Karp on that list (both men have not filed a lawsuit against Oulton, the PPC or any other entities associated with the tour). Much of the money owed by Oulton, according to the court papers, is to the Small Business Owners of America. Oulton lists the SBOA as being owed $259,600, most likely from loans procured to start the PPC.
While Oulton is seeking the protection of the court with his bankruptcy filing, it isn’t guaranteed that it will get him out of his responsibilities. If enough creditors protest the decision, the judge can deny the Chapter 7 proceedings. In the state of Florida, the Chapter 7 proceedings require all non-exempt assets to be sold and those profits to be distributed to the creditors, at which time the debtor is given a “fresh start.” Should enough creditors feel that there was unethical or criminal activity that contributed to the situation, however, they can petition the judge and he would decide if the Chapter 7 bankruptcy would be granted.
There are no details at this time of any future actions in the case. Poker News Daily will continue to monitor the situation.