In news broken by Pokerfuse.com Tuesday, the man most people consider the greatest living poker player, Phil Ivey, will be the face of a new online gaming company in California. The company, Pala Interactive, is a joint venture between the Pala Band of Mission Indians and former online gaming executive Jim Ryan.
PokerFuse reports that Pala Interactive has contracted Canadian gaming company Realtime Edge Software (RTE) to provide its poker and casino platforms. On its website, RTE counts bwin.party, ClubWPT, GTECH, and the California Lottery as clients.
Phil Ivey is the name in this deal that draws the headlines, but Jim Ryan may be the more interesting man in this venture, especially if he is going to be heading it up, as it sounds he may. Ryan is best known as the former CEO of PartyGaming who led the company through its merger with bwin. He then became co-CEO of the new bwin.party with Norbert Teufelberger, where he stayed until he abruptly resigned in January (he announced the move in December).
Before that, though, Ryan was CEO of Excapsa, parent company of the now-defunct UltimateBet. Though he was at the top of the company, the true depths of his involvement are shrouded in some mystery. It has been said that a major obstacle to his migration from UB to PartyGaming was a non-compete clause in his contract. After the superuser cheating scandal at UB, Ryan reportedly used his clout to get a list of ownership proxies released. He allegedly had even more interesting documentation he could have shared with the world and used this ace up his sleeve to get out of his non-compete. What that additional information was is not known, but it is thought that it may have had to do with the cheating scandal. Ryan himself was never directly implicated in the cheating.
Ivey, of course, was part owner of Full Tilt Poker, another online poker site that ran afoul of the U.S. Department of Justice and its customers. Ivey, though, has never been pointed to as someone who had knowledge of any of the financial misdeeds at the company.
Though not one to publicize himself too much when it comes to things away from the poker table, Phil Ivey has been building his poker business portfolio over the past year. He launched IveyPoker.com in October, a site which is billed as one that “…offers a suite of innovative poker products and services designed to both entertain and educate poker players of all levels worldwide.” In February, IveyPoker bought the popular poker training site LeggoPoker.com, building its brand. And just this week, the IveyPoker free-to-play Facebook app was launched.
IveyPoker has also recruited a stable of top pros, including 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Greg Merson, Patrik Antonius, Jennifer Harman, Christian Harder, Cole South, Andrew Lichtenberger, and Dan Smith.
Online poker is not currently regulated and legal in California, but options have been put before the state legislature and it is widely viewed as one of the states that is most likely to get something going. Should online poker get the green light, it will be restricted to players within state borders first, but depending on how the law reads, could expand outward later.