iNinja Responds to Grievances of Formerly Sponsored Players
Issac Tucker, owner and operator of Minnesota-based iNinja Poker Tour, maintains that the tour will go on as planned in the wake of a rift with formerly sponsored players, forcing the tour and its management to restructure.
In a "collaborative report" in the form of a strongly worded and lengthy Google document, former sponsored iNinja Pros Aaron Johnson, Kou Vang and Vlad Revniaga made a number of charges against Tucker. They accused Tucker of failing to pay employees and contractors on time, having difficulty paying out prizes that players participating in iNinja Leagues won, using company funds for other means and failing to make good on a deal with Vang in which Vang was to take partial ownership of the company.
In response to the release from the former iNinja Pros, Tucker released a statement via Twitter.
"I would like to start off by apologizing to the community for the way this situation was handled, but more importantly for my mismanagement in operating iNinja Poker," Tucker wrote. "I simply overextended myself with expenses from the very beginning. I've made good on my loans since I attained them, although a little later than expected which happens in life sometimes.”
Tucker said the company will be moving forward in a restructured manner. Vang, who was serving as the general manager of iNinja, has stepped away from the company in a day-to-day capacity but maintains the partial ownership he was promised in exchange for a $40,000 investment in April 2016. Vang confirmed to PokerNews this is the case.
Business owner and poker player Alan Carty, who was named in the piece as an individual who loaned money to Tucker to help iNinja, will be taking over financial matters of the company on a volunteer basis. In a Twitter release, Carty laid out his plan to help right the iNinja ship.
He noted that Tucker's lack of business experience led to attempts to bring the company along too quickly, and with Carty's helping hand, things could be straightened out in short order.
“My first priority will be to pay all debts as soon as possible,” Carty wrote. “This is a very short list and the amount of money is manageable in the short term.”
The team of sponsored pros, which once numbered at least eight and included World Series of Poker bracelet winners Chris “Fox” Wallace and John Reading, has been cut entirely. Johnson told PokerNews that, to his knowledge, Tucker had squared up with all former team pros aside from Vang.
Johnson said the trio of former iNinja pros felt the situation had reached a tipping point in late August and they needed to publicly air their grievances with Tucker for “the protection of the community.”
“We didn't want anyone else to suffer any kind of financial injustice,” Johnson said. “We also thought it might increase the odds of some debts being paid. We all stand unequivocally with what was said in our statement. We were very generous in the portrayal of Issac and were careful not to embellish or hyperbolize.”
The iNinja Poker Tour has held a number of well-attended events at price points between $250 and $400, including hosting a 1,140-entry iNinja World Championship at Planet Hollywood this June. Most of the events have taken place in the Midwest, not far from the Minnesota base.
Johnson said he enjoyed being part of a tour with “cool branding, an affordable price point and a fun atmosphere.” He added that it was “a shame” things had come to this, but he wouldn't be averse to continuing to attend events if appropriate changes were made.
Tucker and Carty maintain that, despite the issues that have cropped up, the brand will continue providing low-stakes poker events for players in the Midwest.
“Kou, Issac and I agree that with this restructuring of the company, iNinja Poker is fully capable of continuing in business without any further negative impact on anyone in the poker community,” Carty wrote. “Under our guidance, the iNinja Poker brand should be able to continue giving the poker community access to affordable, well-structured poker events for many years to come.”
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