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Five Thoughts: Full Tilt Money, Savage's Spine, Another Tournament Overlay, and More

Five Thoughts: Full Tilt Money, Savage's Spine, Another Tournament Overlay, and More 0001

Back in January, when I submitted my 10 poker predictions for 2013, I almost omitted No. 5: “No American players will receive Full Tilt Poker funds in 2013.” I didn’t hesitate because I didn’t think it would come true — the United States government had shown very little effort at that point in time — I hesitated because I didn’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer.

There are countless people, good friends included, who have a lot of money frozen on the site. Who am I to basically thumb my nose at them by cushioning my poker predictions?

Ultimately, I decided to keep it as a reminder that the Department of Justice is slacking. Big time. I also want to deflect the hate away from the “New Full Tilt,” because they still receive angry tweets from people who think that they are to blame for this whose disaster. They aren't.

For the 2,476th time, people, the Rational Group is now running Full Tilt. As Steve Brennan, the CEO of the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission told me last October, “The GSC were keen to make sure we had a clean break between the past, and we think we’ve ensured that that clean break is there, given we’ve put some specific conditions against the license holder.”

For the 2,477th time, Ray Bitar doesn’t run Full Tilt anymore! Stop with the insanely inaccurate tweets!

If you are going to find the nearest window, open it, and yell that you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, then aim your vitriol at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. Those people have your money, and those people are lollygagging.

Luckily, the lollygagging may be coming to an end soon, as we’ve finally received two updates regarding the distribution of player funds. They both have their pros and cons, but for once, it seems as if the news is positive.

1. Garden City Group Speaks

On Aug. 1, the Garden City Group (GCG), the claims administrator hired to oversee the repayment of Full Tilt players, issued an update regarding the calculation formula to be used in the claims process on their website The most notable part of the update read: “It has been determined that the calculation formula to be used for the Petition for Remission process will be based on players' final balances with FTP as of April 15, 2011.”

This is great news for those who had money in their account on Black Friday, and a non-story for those who were waiting for checks or bank transfers. Their money will still remain in limbo until the GCG decides whether or not to address those problems.

On Aug. 16, the GCG released another statement, announcing that they will email a notice with instructions on how to submit a petition on Sept. 16.

Starting on September 16, 2013, GCG will email a Notice with instructions on how to submit a Petition for Remission online to all potentially eligible claimants identified by GCG utilizing data supplied by Full Tilt Poker ("FTP"). The deadline to submit a Petition for Remission is November 15, 2013. Instructions concerning the filing of Petitions will be included in the Notice and will be posted on this website. Please continue to check this website for updates. Please note that the registration process for email notification is no longer available.

Everything about that statement sounds nice, except for the last sentence. I am certain that there are people who haven’t done their due diligence and have no clue that this website even exists. It’s wrong to blame them — all they wanted to do was deposit money and have fun, they have no clue what’s going on with the DOJ — but it’s equally unfair to blame the GCG. They have a large task ahead of them, and the last thing we want to do is slow them down because they have to hunt down “BoomerSoonerAA” somewhere in Nowhereville, Oklahoma.

There is still plenty of speculation regarding a potential timetable of events after the submission process, and while I think it would be a minor miracle if players received checks prior to the 2014 World Series of Poker, a poster named “KingKongGrinder” on TwoPlusTwo gave some an excuse to be optimistic:

”I just got off the phone with Jamie at GCG. She said if we don’t dispute our balance then it’s likely we will get funds within a few months after the deadline. She seemed very positive they wanted to rap this up quickly and it won’t take another year to get our funds. She said ‘a few months, if that.’”

“KingKongGrinder” went on to say that “Sarah’s” alleged title at the GCG is Project Manager.

Of course, the glaring caveat to all this is “if we don’t dispute our balance.” We now know that points and medals carried over into the new Full Tilt, and can be accessed abroad or (possibly) when Full Tilt re-launches in the U.S., but there are still frozen transfers to be dealt with. There are some players who claim they withdrew up to two-thirds of their Full Tilt bankroll prior to Black Friday, and never received a check or a wire transfer.

There’s also the “a few months, if that” statement, which seems impossible. Each claim will have an extensive review period with several stages, and each stage will have a distinct window. If we’ve learned anything about the Federal Government and their friends, things aren’t completed until the very end of a window. Remember that Fiscal Cliff we were all going to plummet off of in January?

If you’re waiting for your funds, I suggest that you remain patient. Being cautiously optimistic is OK, but don’t book a vacation to the 2014 World Cup thinking that a check will be in your mailbox in “a few months.” It may not be, and I am willing to wager that it won’t be.

More importantly, spread the word. If you played in a home game with people you think have money stuck online, and you don’t think they know about this claims process, show them. We as a community are quick to spread drama and other quips on Twitter, so let’s take care of the important things, too. It could be the first step towards rehabilitating the sect of the poker community that is still blaming the old Full Tilt for the delayed redistribution process.

2. Savage's Spine

Early on Tuesday morning, tournament director Matt Savage tweeted the following:

Matt SavageIn hospital in San Jose and will have cervical stenosis surgery at 7am in the morning and will miss my flight to @SHRHollywood.

For those of you who are like me, and have no clue what cervical stenosis is, let’s turn to our friends at

“Cervical stenosis is a slowly progressive condition that pinches the spinal cord in the neck.”

Evidently, if someone with cervical stenosis suffers from whiplash, they can be paralyzed from the neck down.

Savage took to Facebook to expand upon the story, explaining that he hit his head on a waterslide and for the past few weeks he started to feel pain in his back and chest along with numbness in his arm. He went to the hospital where they took an EKG, which came out fine, and an x-ray on his neck, which showed perfect vertebrae. They gave Savage a prescription for an MRI, but rather than leave the hospital and hop on a plane from Vegas to Florida the next morning, Savage wanted to have the MRI immediately.

The doctor obliged, and after finding “something wrong,” the doctor then consulted with a neurologist. Evidently, three of Savage’s nerves were severely pinched, and he needed to have surgery.

“I had a flight scheduled for 7 a.m. (direct) to Florida,” Savage writes “For what could be my biggest tournament ever. The Seminole Hard Rock $10,000,000 Guarantee (22-28) and I will for sure miss the 1st day and have to convince Maryann and William Mason that I can still go.”

Not only was Savage concerned about the $10 million guarantee while sitting in the hospital bed, he continued to resolve poker disputes on Twitter.

Matt SavageRT @Tamaico: 2/2nl "B" says "raiseto14" outofturn!before him (A) raise12. Must player B raise<~No, he has all of his options at that point

That’s correct, in the wake of learning about potential paralysis Savage was issuing rulings for a $2/$2 no-limit hold’em game.

Loving your job is one thing, but being absolutely crazy is another. Savage is one of — if not thee — most respected tournament directors in the world. His obvious work ethic, overall friendliness, and quick wit make him very likable and widely respected. When the Seminole Hard Rock announced this massive, $10 million guarantee tournament, some players were skeptical.

We all remember what happened during the final Partouche Poker Tour Main Event, and poker players have learned to be weary when epic tournaments such as this are advertised.

When Savage’s name was attached to the tournament, the speculation disappeared entirely. After Partouche, which he was the tournament director for, there was no way he would attach his name to something that would not honor the guarantee.

If Savage misses this huge tournament in Florida, it will certainly be a loss for the poker community as a whole. However, if Savage rushes his recovery and does permanent damage to himself, it would be a tragedy for not only us, but more importantly for his wonderful wife and kids.

We all want you to make it to the Sunshine State, Matt, but more importantly; we want you to make a full recovery. For myself and the rest of the team here at PokerNews, get well soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

3. Another Overlay in Europe

The World Poker Tour kicked off Season XII with the Merit Cyprus Classic on Friday. The $4,000+400 buy-in event attracted a total of 262 players, falling just short of Michael Peltekci’s projected number of 300 and the $1,000,000 guarantee. After 3% was taken out for staff and another 5% for tax purposes, an additional $35,000 was added to the prize pool to make the guarantee, and the top 27 players were slated to earn a minimum of $8,060. The added cash ensured the event organizers lived up to the events guarantee, and also created a great value for the players.

Each member of the final table is guaranteed $46,000, and the winner will take home $258,000.

This is only the second time in five years that the event was unable to generate a million-dollar prize pool, and it is the second consecutive major European tournament (UKIPT Galway Main Event) that added money to the prize pool to ensure a met guarantee, and provide extra value for the players. Including the Monaco Cup (April), and the International Stadiums Poker Tour (June), four major European tournaments have had to add money to the prize pool in the last five months.

Likewise, last fall, the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event dropped from 593 entries to 420.

Perhaps the smaller field sizes have some link to the current “economic crisis” in the Euro Zone. Some believe that the crisis is ending, though, so it would be strange if we are just now feeling the effects. The crowded tournament schedule is most likely the biggest reason why these events saw a drop in entrants — ISPT was during the WSOP, and both UKIPT Galway and WPT Cyprus took place right before the $10 million guarantee in Florida.

From a purely economic standpoint, maybe tournaments with a single reentry should consider changing their tournaments to multiple reentries. This is a great way to increase the prize pool because the big sponsored players will have no issues with firing multiple bullets, and their buy-ins will make up for the few amateur players who are turned away by unlimited reentries.

Creating unlimited-reentry events is a shortsighted solution for a possible long-term problem, though, so there are other options we can consider. Unlike the EPT, a tour that reduced their number of stops and then introduced the UKIPT and the Estrellas Poker Tour to cater to mid-stakes players, the WPT did the same with their WPT National events, which expanded the lower buy-ins for player. This helps spread the brand name globally, but it causes players who travel the circuit to make tough decisions of where their next stop will be.

Maybe this is just a random trend that will readjust as we inch closer to 2014, but right now big guarantees in Europe are failing too frequently, and change appears to be necessary.

4. Ari Engel Wins Sixth Ring

This weekend, Ari Engel took down Event #9: $580 No-Limit Hold’em at the 2013-14 World Series of Poker Circuit Foxwoods Casino stop, earning his sixth-career WSOP-C ring. He is now tied for second all time with Alex Masek, and is looking to catch seven-time ring winner Chris Reslock. Reslock won two rings at the penultimate stop of the 2012-13 WSOP-C.

1stAri Engel$29,634
2ndAaron Massey$18,313
3rdBedda Nakhoul$13,336
4thVictor Usatii$9,850
5thChris Rizzo$7,408
6thDeon Nossel$5,654
7thSteven Brackesy$4,374
8thFred Alesi$3,438
9thSpyro Mitrokostas$2,743

According to the WSOP blog, the heads-up match lasted nearly an hour between Engel and Aaron Massey, but Engel was the eventual winner. He now has over $1.1 million in career tournament earnings to go along with his six gold rings, and only two of those cashes are for over six figures.

“Aaron is an incredible player and I have an incredible amount of respect for his game,” said Engel after the win. “Also, I want to thank my parents for their continued support.”

In the latest episode of the PokerNews Podcast, which will be published on Wednesday morning, Engel talks about his overly supportive parents. Particularly his father, who used to scour PocketFives and other online databases before Black Friday to see how his son was performing.

When asked about Reslock, Engel was unafraid to show his confidence.

“I won two events last year and this is a great start,” he said. “I definitely think I have a shot.”

Not only did Engel win two events last year, he finished atop the National Championship leader board, earning him a seat in the $10,000 free roll.

When asked about traveling the WSOP-C and playing in small to medium buy-in events on the podcast, Engel was blunt.

“I might not give the answer you want,” he said. “It’s really, really tough to be profitable... When you take into account the travel expenses and all that, it’s close to impossible to make a living play low-stakes live tournaments.”

We appreciate the honesty, Ari, and good luck grabbing number seven.

5. Seat Open Jeff Gross Part Deux

In another installment of Seat Open featuring Jeff Gross, he explains his transition to poker and his friendship with big hitters Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Phelps, and Bill Perkins.

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