FTP’s Financial Relationship with Two Pros

July 29, 2011 - 3:36 PM EDT

From June 2009 until April 2011, Phil Ivey borrowed money from Full Tilt Poker at least eighteen times, totalling at least $10,715,000, repaid loaned money to the poker site at least five times, totalling at least $5 million, and was paid at least $1.2 million by the site in various marketing payments and perks. Over a non-contiguous eighteen-month period from 2008, 2010, and 2011, David Benyamine earned at least $800,000 from the poker site in salary, wages, and marketing payments and made at least $750,000 in loan payments to FTP. These numbers only include transactions that were noted on Ivey’s and Benyamine’s Full Tilt Poker account, so they likely do not tell the whole story.

Subject: Poker has obtained access to Ivey’s and Benyamine’s account history on Full Tilt’s internal systems. Because of the way that this data is organized and because of problems that we had accessing additional data as a result of the effective shut down of Full Tilt Poker on June 29th, we do not have as much data as we’d like. For example, we do not have data on most player-to-player transfers or other transactions that are done in the system without notes,1 we do not have much data for Ivey before June of 2009, we have two very small gaps in our coverage for Ivey, and we have a large gap in our coverage for Benyamine.2 Most importantly, we have no information at all about any transactions that may have happened through any medium other than their FTP accounts, so any transactions that occurred by bank wire or cash, for example, are not included.

However, the data that we have obtained provides a rare glimpse into how Full Tilt conducted business.


Ivey’s Loans

Phil Ivey was regularly taking large loans from Full Tilt Poker, typically either for $500,000 or $1 million, for as far back as we have data. (The earliest loan that we know of is a late 2008 loan for $1 million. However, our coverage before June of 2009 is very incomplete.) This may be what Tiltware refered to as “a large sum of money he owes the site” that the company alleged Ivey had declined to repay during their heated public dispute related to Mr. Ivey’s (now withdrawn) June 1st lawsuit against the company. The loans are each marked as an “advance” and many are marked as having been approved by Rich Bitar, Ray Bitar’s brother who handles some of the company’s interactions with its sponsored pros.3

Early in the data, Phil Ivey’s account was frequently debited directly for some, though not all, of the money that he was loaned there. For example, Ivey borrowed $3 million in six $500,000 installments spread throughout July and August 2009. He then repaid $1 million on October 29th, borrowed another $500,000 on November 13th, and then made two separate $1 million repayments on November 20th and 22nd respectively.4 Ivey’s results on the datamining site HighstakesDB suggest that he earned approximately $5 million in cash games on Full Tilt Poker in October and November of 2009, so this success may be the reason that he repaid. (Ivey went on to borrow $1 million on November 29th.)

However, this pattern stops. The last repayment in our data (for $1 million) happened in the spring of 2010, but after this date, Ivey received eight additional loans, ending in January 2011 and totalling $3,215,000, bringing the total difference between loans and repayments in our data to $6,215,000.5 It is of course possible that Ivey repaid some or all of this debt off of the site, but Tiltware’s reference to a “large sum that he owes the site” and Ivey’s historical pattern of repaying through his account suggest that he did indeed owe the site money as recently as June 1st.

Though some of these loans were made after significant losses in Full Tilt’s cash games and some of the repayments after significant wins, there appears to be no obvious connection. However, many of the loans and repayments occurred during periods of increased high stakes activity in general on Full Tilt. For example, the series of loans and repayments in November 2009 appear to correlate well with the high stakes cash games that ran frequently during that time period, mostly involving Isildur1. So, it is possible that these loans were used to finance the high stakes play of other players.6

Benyamine’s Debt in 2008

In 2008, David Benyamine apparently owed Full Tilt Poker money, and at least some of this debt was being repaid directly from his salary, wages, and bonuses. This is quite clear from the notes on his FTP account. He received many payments from Full Tilt during this time period directly into his account, and almost all of them were taken out of the account on the same day with the note “for a loan collection.”7

In 2008, Benyamine received directly to his account a $15,000 per month base salary, roughly $12,000 more per month on average from rakeback and hourly wages, roughly $4,000 per month in logo bonuses and other marketing bonuses, and roughly $10,000 per month in other payments. So, assuming that our sample is typical, his annual earnings sent directly to his FTP account were roughly $500,000 at the time. (It is of course likely that he received money off of the site as well.) However, it appears that almost all of this was going directly back to the site to repay Benyamine’s debt.

In addition to these regular payments, Benyamine repaid $125,000 in June 2008 and another $450,000 in September. HighstakesDB shows that these payments happened immediately after a $1.3 million win and a $1 million win respectively. So, he may have decided to make these payments from his Full Tilt account as a result. (He also was successful in live tournaments in June, so that might have contributed to his decision to repay that month or encouraged him to pay off more of his loan offline.)

In October, an alert (a message that appears in red at the top of the screen when a Pocket Kings employee looks at an account) was added to Benyamine’s account: “Notify Rich Bitar of any outgoing transfers over $300k, otherwise he is allowed to transfer in and out.” This note came after a large loss on Full Tilt; Benyamine lost $1.7 million over a few days according to HighstakesDB.

Benyamine’s Transactions in 2010 and 2011

By 2010, the situation had changed fairly significantly. Benyamine was receiving a $41,667 per month base salary ($500,004 per year), a 178% increase from two years earlier. This number does not include the amount that he made from rakeback, his hourly wage, marketing, and various bonuses. He continued to have this salary paid to his FTP account until Black Friday, but it was no longer being collected to repay his debt.

However, he evidently still owed some money. Until April 15th, his rakeback and hourly payments were still being deducted the day that he received them, but he was playing less so these numbers were smaller, averaging only about $1500 per month. He also borrowed the relatively tiny sum of $5,000 on March 11th and repaid it exactly a month later.

On May 2, 2011, seventeen days after most US players lost the ability to withdraw from their Full Tilt accounts, Benyamine, whose account is clearly registered in the United States, withdrew about $5,500 for travel expenses. This withdrawal was labeled differently than other withdrawals: “Seize: $5500. Other – General. WD: $5500 to cash for travel expenses.”8 This choice of a different label may have to do with the fact that this is a post-Black Friday withdrawal.9

In June, multiple sources told Subject: Poker that they overheard Benyamine on his cell phone at the Rio, asking where he should go to collect money for his tournament buy-ins. So, it appears that he was still receiving money from Full Tilt Poker a month ago, and he apparently conducted some of these transactions offline.

Ivey’s Other Payments

Loans were of course not Full Tilt Poker’s only financial relationship with Phil Ivey. Ivey is an important member of Team Full Tilt, and Subject: Poker has confirmed the widespread belief that he is one of the owners of the poker site. Many of the payments that resulted from these two relationships likely did not go through Ivey’s Full Tilt Poker account. However, many did. These provide a rough picture of how Full Tilt Poker paid its sponsored players, how the owners of the poker site paid themselves, and how the company’s behind the poker site handled money in general.

Ivey was paid well for televised appearances. He received $170,000 for wearing a Full Tilt logo during his appearances on Poker After Dark‘s most recent season, which amounted to about 25 hours of poker at the Aria Resort & Casino this past November.10 He received $25,000 “for London Press” and $5,000 “for press at WSOPE” this past September,11 $50,000 for wearing a logo during his second place finish in the 2010 Aussie Millions 100,000 AUD tournament, and a few more similar payments. Given how often Ivey wore Full Tilt’s logo on television during this time period, it is likely that he received many such payments via other methods.

Ivey also received $450,045 “for Aussi [sic] Millions Buy-ins per Rich” in the winter of 2009-2010. However, the buy-ins for the Aussie Millions that year summed to only 150,500 AUD or about $135,450 at the rates from the time period, not including two 1000+50 AUD rebuys. So, presumably this money was for something else as well, possibly for buy-ins to the televised Aussie Millions Cash Game.12 This is the only payment for buy-ins that Ivey received directly to his Full Tilt account during this period.

There is also a whole category of payments that Subject: Poker is unable to explain. Every month, Ivey received some amount, usually between about $15,000 and $25,000, which was typically labeled either “Player Pool Payment,” “Marketing Pool Payment,” or something similar. The payments average about $17,500 per month (or about $200,000 per year), but they vary quite a bit, from $9300 for March 2009 to $25,690 for October 2010. Here’s a typical example, dated December 22, 2010: “Cash Deposited initiated RE: Marketing or Promotion. Admin Comments: DEP: Nov2010 Marketing Player Pool Payment of $25326.” Note that the payment for November 2010 (and all other months) was made at the end of the following month. This is similar to how rakeback was paid and suggests that the amount depends on the events of the month. (In contrast, Benyamine’s salary was always paid at the beginning of the month mentioned in the note.) Subject: Poker chose to include this information in the hopes that one of our readers might be able to explain it and that this information might be helpful to the readers.


If these transactions were exceptional, then they would not represent a significant cost to Full Tilt Poker. However, Team Full Tilt has fourteen members, including Ivey, and there are 159 Full Tilt Pros, including Benyamine, plus a number of sponsored players with other titles. So, if these relationships are typical or even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros, these loans and payments could have represented a very significant cost to the site. Many of the Team Full Tilt members are widely believed to be owners of the site, and many of Full Tilt’s sponsored players are friends of the owners and/or their gambling partners. So, there was a risk of a conflict of interests when Full Tilt management chose how to compensate sponsored players.

However, it is not clear to us if these types of relationships between Full Tilt Poker and it’s sponsored pros are common. We looked into Ivey’s and Benyamine’s accounts first because Full Tilt accused Ivey of owing the site money and Benyamine was accused by Nick Rainey of the same on the Quad Jacks broadcast. So, there’s at least some reason to think that these relationships are unique. Subject: Poker was unfortunately unable to gather more information to determine definitively how common this was, but we will keep looking.

I, Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, recognize that this article contains personal information about real people who live real lives, and I sincerely regret any harm that my choice to publish this article may do to their personal lives. It was not my intention to hurt Mr. Ivey or Mr. Benyamine.

I chose to publish this article in spite of this negative because I feel that Full Tilt Poker’s financial interactions with its sponsored pros are relevant to those who are currently owed money by the site. I feel that these facts are particularly relevant to those who are owed money by the site because many of Full Tilt’s sponsored pros were owners of the site, friends of owners of the site, and/or gambling partners of owners of the site. Suffice it to say that I did not come to this decision lightly, and it was a topic of much thought and debate–a month’s worth.

My initial intention was to collect a large amount of data and to use this to print general facts, such as how common loans were and for what amounts, how much Full Tilt Pros were typically paid, and how much an episode of Poker After Dark typically cost the site. In this way, I could convey better information to our readers without having to use any names or reveal any personal detatils. However, Full Tilt’s internal servers went down on June 29th along with many of their user-facing servers, and to my knowledge, they are still down to this date. I waited a month for the servers to come back online so that I could gather further information, but I finally decided that waiting any longer would be a disservice to Subject: Poker’s readership.

I chose to name Ivey and Benyamine rather than leave them anonymous because I felt that their stories were sufficiently unique to make their names necessary to tell the story properly. Many of our readers would have guessed who they were from the descriptions, and leaving their names out would not provided our readers with proper context.

It was my decision alone to publish this article, and any criticism for doing so should be directed to me.

Subject: Poker’s readers should continue to expect us to follow the story of Full Tilt’s financial situation, but I hope to be able to tell that story without including more personal information in the future.

Edited on 7/29/2011 3:41 PM EDT: Fixed improper wording in the sentence about total Aussie Millions buy-ins.
Edited on 7/29/2011 5:13 PM EDT: Fixed a typo and clarified that Benyamine’s base salary in 2010-2011 was not his only source of income from Full Tilt.
Edited on 7/29/2011 10:16 PM EDT: Fixed a typo.


  1. Most player-to-player transfers and typical player withdrawals and deposits are done automatically with no notes from personnel and therefore do not show up in our data. Very large deposits and withdrawals are done manually and large withdrawals do show up in our data. Mr. Ivey also made some small withdrawals that were done manually and therefore also appear.
  2. In order to protect our sources, we are being deliberately vague about some details and some facts have been changed slightly. We do not feel that anything we’ve done for this purpose should cause confusion.
  3. A typical loan was labeled “$500,000.00 Cash Deposit initiated RE: Loan Collection. Admin Comments: DEP: 500k advance per Rich Bitar.” The rather confusing label of “Loan Collection” was chosen from a drop-down menu and likely represents the closest-to-correct choice for a loan. (At least one loan was labeled instead as simply “initiated RE: Other,” and Benyamine’s loan collections are confusingly labeled “Requested by Customer.” In general, employees appear to have been quite lax with these records. Labels given to some different transactions include “Requested by Customer,” “Logowear,” and “Marketing or Promotion.”) The system marks almost all transactions as either “DEP” or “W/D”, where “DEP” was simply used to represent anything that increases the account balance and “W/D” the opposite. The part after this, e.g. “500k advance per Rich Bitar,” was written manually and varied in syntax and detail.
  4. The remaining $500,000 balance from this series of transactions is not accounted for elsewhere in our data, so it is possible that the balance still remains, that it was repaid off of FTP’s servers, or that it was taken out of other transactions. It is also possible that Mr. Ivey already owed Full Tilt money before this series of transactions began.
  5. This number includes data that is not mentioned elsewhere in our article.
  6. Subject: Poker was unable to obtain information about player-to-player transfers from this time period.
  7. For example, on June 3rd, 2008, the following notes appear: “$19,412.54 Cash Deposit initiated RE:Rakeback. Admin Comments: DEP: MAY08 Pro Rake/Hourly Payment of $19,412.54″ followed by “$19,412.54 Cash Withdrawal initiated RE: Requested by Customer. Admin Comments: W/D: $19,412.54 to CASH for a loan collection of Rake/Hourly payment.” This is quite typical. The labels “RE:Rakeback” and “Re:Requested by Customer” were chosen from a drop-down menu. The choice of “Requested by Customer” is strange because there is an option for “Loan Collection,” and the fact that these transactions happened quite often and always on the same day as the initial payment suggests that Benyamine was probably not personally requesting all of these transactions. However, the labels from the drop-down menu appear to not have been chosen carefully in general, so this likely just represents carelessness. In the admin comments, the system marked almost all transactions as either “DEP” or “W/D”, where “DEP” was simply used to represent anything that increases the account balance and “W/D” the opposite. The part after this, e.g. “$19,412.54 to CASH for a loan collection of Rake/Hourly payment,” was written manually and varied in syntax and detail.
  8. We changed the amount slightly here to protect our sources.
  9. This is the only time in the documents that the label “Seize” was used. The same employee who processed this transaction processed other similar transactions with a different label. The “Seize” label was usually used when money was taken from a player’s account without his consent. For example, it was used when a player was caught cheating, a deposit failed, or rakeback was overpaid.
  10. Ivey appeared in three different events in the most recent season: a $100,000 freezeout that aired in five hour-long episodes and in which Ivey placed second, a Pot-limit Omaha cash game that aired in ten hour-long episodes, and a No Limit Holdem cash game that also aired in ten hour-long episodes. The payment for his wearing a Full Tilt Poker logo during these appearances came in two parts: a $100,000 payment on November 7th marked “for Poker After Dark Logo Bonus” and a $70,000 payment on November 11th marked “logo bonus for Poker After Dark.”
  11. Subject: Poker was unable to find any particularly unique interviews with Mr. Ivey that match these descriptions from the time period, but we found a few brief interviews, such as this one.
  12. Subject: Poker was unable to find how much Ivey had won or lost in this game. If anyone has this data, please contact us at team@subjectpoker.com or leave a comment.

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89 Responses to FTP’s Financial Relationship with Two Pros

  1. Three
    July 29, 2011 at 4:23 PM EDT

    You’ll never be taken seriously as a news site if you print unsubstantiated gossip like this. Anonymous sources are of little value, especially when violating confidentiality agreements and Irish law like here.

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 29, 2011 at 4:29 PM EDT

      We have the actual raw data.

      • Jan
        July 30, 2011 at 5:58 AM EDT

        I’d love to see this raw data. Any chance it will be published?

    • jimbo
      July 29, 2011 at 5:08 PM EDT

      You think Noah just pulled these numbers out of thin air.

      Nice try Howard.

    • WTFrUtalkingAbout
      July 29, 2011 at 6:26 PM EDT

      You’ll never be taken seriously seeing as you are taking the side of a shady organization screwing over thousands of lives. The fact that you think this is unsubstantiated gossip leads me to believe we should sue you for thinking this is unsubstantiated gossip.

      Thanks for the retarded comment FTP Shill account AKA Bitar. Do you sleep well knowing you are screwing over thousands of lives for your own personal benefit? Get bent you Enron Poker equivalent douche.

    • Two
      July 29, 2011 at 6:29 PM EDT

      Pah! Suck it three

      • One
        July 30, 2011 at 6:20 AM EDT

        Ship it.

    • martin carrico
      July 29, 2011 at 8:51 PM EDT

      I roll people all the time. Ivey should’ve taken more

    • Puggy Neutron
      July 30, 2011 at 5:25 PM EDT

      Very good detective work.

      Hopefully, it can contribute to resolution of this mess.

  2. David Bingham
    July 29, 2011 at 4:39 PM EDT

    Outstanding story here!

  3. Kevin
    July 29, 2011 at 4:40 PM EDT

    “On May 2, 2011, seventeen days after most US players lost the ability to withdraw from their Full Tilt accounts, Benyamine, whose account is clearly registered in the United States, withdrew about $5,500 for travel expenses. This withdrawal was labeled differently than other withdrawals: “Seize: $5500. Other – General. WD: $5500 to cash for travel expenses”

    At face value, to a person like myself who doesn’t have all the details, this action would appear to mirror the other actions that FTP engaged in, with mislabelling banking transactions in order to avoid the UIGEA. The big difference here, is that BF already happened, and FTP had an agreement with the DOJ “not” to allow players in the USA to play. They appear to be skirting the rules here a bit if Benyamine was playing “live”…but seriously…it still smells.

    The whole thing “smells”…it makes the PAD tournaments appear to be one big freeroll that is bankrolled by ordinary players on FTP.

    And FTP itself appears to be an ATM that certain pros were able to access at will.

    Must be nice…

    Keep it coming Noah.

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM EDT

      The DOJ explicitly said that FTP is allowed to let players cashout. So, that wasn’t illegal.

      The reason that Benyamine’s withdrawal is interesting is because it happened when other US players could not withdraw.

      • john
        July 29, 2011 at 5:03 PM EDT

        Benyamine isn’t American. I would think that anyone from outside the USA could cash in at that time!

        • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
          July 29, 2011 at 5:05 PM EDT

          I know he’s not American, but his account is registered in the United States. AFAIK, people with accounts registered in the US are not allowed to withdraw.

          • Robert Dudek
            July 30, 2011 at 5:02 AM EDT

            Is it possible that they allowed him to change the address on the account after BF to one in France?

          • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
            July 30, 2011 at 5:03 AM EDT

            That ain’t the address right now.

          • Robert Dudek
            August 1, 2011 at 6:05 AM EDT

            I wonder if Benyamine is a legal resident of the US. Is there any way to confirm this?

  4. William
    July 29, 2011 at 4:51 PM EDT

    My initial thought about the marketing pool payments was that those are affiliate payments, but Full Tilt always paid near the 5th of the month. I can confirm everything else about that, including the name ‘marketing pool’, seems like it is for referrals/affiliate payments.

    One typo in the notes: “We do not feel that anything that anything we’ve done”

    Well done, as always.

  5. d1PLOd0cus
    July 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM EDT

    Awesome post and obvious that it wasn’t unsubstantiated gossip. I truly appreciate your efforts to shine a light on the unbelievably inept mismanagement of players’ money and scandalous business practices that were taking place. Respect.

  6. peter
    July 29, 2011 at 4:52 PM EDT

    Noah this is very interesting but what people want to really learn about is what is going to happen now at FTP, are the negotiations with the european investors still continuing? and if yes how are they going? it’s been 4 weeks since they agreed to exclusivity, any news about the outcome? Are they negotiating with others as well now that 3 weeks of exclusivity have passed?

    • steppin razor
      July 29, 2011 at 10:34 PM EDT

      As much as I’d like to know that too, the reason I’d want to know is for the hope of seeing my money again. I think the writing is on the wall at this point.

  7. Tom
    July 29, 2011 at 5:19 PM EDT

    What a mess all of this is…nice to see people working hard to bring as much to light as possible though, thanks for the article.

  8. Terrence Chan
    July 29, 2011 at 5:19 PM EDT

    Very impressive work. It’s my first time here; nice to see some actual investigative work done in the poker industry.

  9. Andrew
    July 29, 2011 at 5:22 PM EDT

    Loans were of course not Full Tilt Poker’s only financial relationship with Phil Ivey. Ivey is an important member of Team Full Tilt, and Subject: Poker has confirmed the widespread belief that he is one of the owners of the poker site.

    Source or article please?

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 29, 2011 at 5:57 PM EDT

      We’ve confirmed that from multiple sources. There’s no public source or article, though.

    • William
      July 29, 2011 at 6:20 PM EDT

      This is the source!

  10. ttwoplustwo
    July 29, 2011 at 6:05 PM EDT

    Good job. All looks sound. “Seize” commonly used for any removal of funds that were not a transfer or withdrawal (opposite of “slush”).

  11. Mitch
    July 29, 2011 at 6:49 PM EDT

    Interesting, but not like anyone finds this too surprising.

    So basically Full Tilt is leaking this info to you guys to try to bring Ivey to his knees, and expose his debts? Guessing Degenyamine was the second biggest debtor to the site, so they through him under the bus to make it a little less transparent.

    Keep it coming.

  12. Jamie
    July 29, 2011 at 7:53 PM EDT


  13. Noah sd fanboy
    July 29, 2011 at 8:25 PM EDT

    Poker players will be much better served contributing to Subject Poker rather than that stiff Gary Johnson .

    Great work Noah

  14. Ed Bryant
    July 29, 2011 at 8:43 PM EDT

    Great work Noah.

    Are you expecting a registered letter from the office of David Chesnoff anytime soon?

    If players don’t get paid I hope someone goes after all of these FT Pros monies.

    Keep it up!

  15. martin carrico
    July 29, 2011 at 8:49 PM EDT

    He should’ve taken more. I would’ve

  16. Cory
    July 29, 2011 at 8:50 PM EDT

    I don’t think it can be said too much: great, great work Noah. Wow. I feel like the FTP story is only beginning to unfold. Hope you get a book deal out of this.

  17. Rob C
    July 29, 2011 at 9:07 PM EDT

    Excellent work. I wish the raw data was available to the general public. Collecting and parsing a larger data set, such as former red pro transactions, could help substantiate what you published. Too be honest I feel sorry for the source when FTP finds out who he/she is…

  18. huh
    July 29, 2011 at 9:50 PM EDT

    I know players that lines of credit up to $500000 along with their sponsorship deal.

  19. James Royale
    July 29, 2011 at 10:23 PM EDT

    You are doing a great service. Humanity could use a few more people like you.


  20. bigdeal
    July 29, 2011 at 10:30 PM EDT

    This sort of behavior goes on in some form or another in every corporation, every day. Lot of naivity goin on here.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 4:37 PM EDT

      RE: bigdeal: July 29, 2011 at 10:30 PM EDT
      This sort of behavior goes on in some form or another in every corporation, every day. Lot of naivity goin on here.

      So true. I told the judge the same thing last week in my murder trial. Naive judge thought I was the only one killing fools. I checked him and he obv let me go, you know, since everyone is doing it.

  21. G1lius
    July 30, 2011 at 1:11 AM EDT

    The 9k to 25k thing to Ivey might have something to do with his face on the full tilt banner or other stuff like that. October and November is the time ESPN airs the episodes of the wsop, which might give him more traffic.

  22. t
    July 30, 2011 at 3:09 AM EDT

    I had the pleasure to be dealt by one of iveys fav dealers (late 2009) and I was told that Ivey is def a owner of ftp and so is antonious.

  23. aukse
    July 30, 2011 at 3:13 AM EDT

    The most important thing IMO here is the proof how irresponsibly, disorderly and shady FTP handled money and financial transactions. I am personally now sure that such practice was used in all their financial matters, hence the problems after Black Friday.
    Not a company owner, but the CFO or chief accountant should decide on loans and look after their collection. Now it looks like FTP was handled as a corner shop – you want a loan, so you talk to the owner, he will give you some cash and write that down in his scruffy notebook… Even if FTP relaunches, becomes popular again, etc., but the same people will be left in its money management, I will never see it as a serious business company, worth to be trusted with my money.

  24. lc77
    July 30, 2011 at 5:19 AM EDT

    Just great investigation work, congratulations. However do your inside sources have a single hint of who the mysterious european investors are and if they actually exist or if FT is trying to buy time ? Anyway I still don’t get how a company making 1 billion a year benefit can be in such a mess right now and how it is so difficult for them to conclude a bying agreement

  25. Sentin
    July 30, 2011 at 6:55 AM EDT

    Great read but not sure why you had to grovel in the postscript? You realize that everyone you’re talking about are big parts of the reason none of us have our money, right?
    Be a man and stand by words.

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 30, 2011 at 1:12 PM EDT

      I think I stood by my words when I signed my name to the article and said clearly that it was my decision to publish it.

      • Nacho
        August 1, 2011 at 10:08 PM EDT

        Noah: I don’t understand your comment above – as a journalist, why would you *not* sign your name to the article? I agree with most of the comments here – this article is a solid piece of journalism with intriguing insight, but the sappy disclaimer at the end smacks of amateurism. It would have been intrusive and out of line to publish Ivey’s and Benyamine’s personal financial information had FT not completely squatted & shat on the golden rule of business, but since they did it’s all fair game to expose their misdeeds and shadiness. You did well by gaining access to this information and by exposing it; you don’t have to apologize for it.

        Regardless, I had not heard of your site until this article was sent to me. You now have a new regular reader.

        • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
          August 2, 2011 at 12:06 AM EDT

          Fair enough. FWIW, I didn’t apologize.

        • Calstats
          August 4, 2011 at 4:46 PM EDT

          I didn’t interpret the note as an apology or grovelling; it seemed more like an acknowledgement of the moral ambiguity involved with disclosing confidential information. I felt that the note was an appropriate gesture, and that it helped to solidify the intent of the article.

  26. TBH
    July 30, 2011 at 7:33 AM EDT

    bject: Poker was unable to find how much Ivey had won or lost in this game. If anyone has this data, please contact us at team@subjectpoker.com or leave a comment. ↩

    I have info that this amount was in the region of tree fiddy .!

  27. no
    July 30, 2011 at 10:34 AM EDT

    no………………………. no no no no no no no no no…………..
    ivey is good & enemy is you…….
    fil ivey is a good player & we know……………
    lies can not destroy ivey…………..
    plzzzzzzzzz stop this lie………
    go go go go go ivey humbre goooooooo you are good & we know gooooooooo………..

  28. Todd Witeless (Dan Druff)
    July 30, 2011 at 11:35 AM EDT

    A good informative posts but i would love to see and hear more data about this. Similar to how i uncovered the UB cheating scandal and coined the phrase superuser, i will be posting and 3 page expose detailing these claims with the taglines supercreditors to describe the actions of both Ivey and Benyamine and their actions within full tilt.

  29. declan
    July 30, 2011 at 11:37 AM EDT

    Interesting thatbin July 2009 that ivey started borrowing 6payments of 500k a time as he won 2.5 million and then 1.25 million in bellagio on craps.
    Guess he most have been spending quite a lot in general.

  30. The Truth Obey
    July 30, 2011 at 12:39 PM EDT

    After reading this article I have one question…… SO WHAT? Like honestly, who cares. Yeah FTP was run like crap. I get loans from my company all the time. Bad accounting and money management plus the perfect storm of black Friday made them illiquid. This site publishes more yawn worthy material than MSN news, lol.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:09 PM EDT

      “So, if these relationships are typical or even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros, these loans and payments could have represented a very significant cost to the site.”

      Did you read the entire article sir? This quote is from the conclusions of the article and should answer your ‘question.’ Also, how is your company’s policy on loaning to employees relevant to this investigation? Do you work for PokerStars or something? How your company operates is a red herring:

      A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

      Topic A is under discussion.
      Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
      Topic A is abandoned.
      This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

  31. Horrible Hank
    July 30, 2011 at 4:23 PM EDT

    Most incredible story and turn of events. Bravo! Phil Ivey’s promo stunt just blew up in his face bigtime! I can’t wait for the movie!

  32. SnchenNoah
    July 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM EDT

    really @ this time. I mean what does this prove? PI was a PAID FT Pro. You or NO ONE knows how they were PAID. Yes FT was a GREAT NAME but a VERY BAD RUN COMPANY. Phil Ivey I would BET ANYTHING did not know how FCKED up the Company was Really Being Run, I’m sure he was being led to think EVERYTHING was OKAY. For 2 yrs that’s ALL the MONEY he got borrowed out of a BILLION+ a YR Company and PAID HALF of that back. Phil Ivey Is not the reason NO ONE Is getting PAID, but that’s what you want folks to think for some reason. To think you have ACCESS to Player’s ACCT’S Is 1. WRONG and 2. SCARY and saying It’s just these 2 ACCT’S Is BS. Your words In () (I mean.. I’m not thrilled about printing this. This article’s caused me a ton of stress over the last month. But, I think that people who are owed money by a company that’s refusing to communicate with them deserve to know what that company was doing with its money) that’s FCKN BS and a FCKN LIE. I don’t think your BIG STORY proves what you want people to think. When can we expect part 2, lol.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM EDT

      “So, if these relationships are typical or even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros, these loans and payments could have represented a very significant cost to the site.”

      Who is saying that Ivey is responsible for people not being paid back? This quote is copied straight from this article’s conclusion section. Did you read the article sir?

  33. VFR3000
    July 30, 2011 at 5:07 PM EDT

    Phil Ivey along with fulltilt have more faces then a diamond…None of which reflect the truth much less spread light on the lies told…by them.

    FULLTILT is a scam and always has been …….this well researched article (definitely True in my mind) exposes them for what they are….WE as players are just ‘mugs’ or ‘punters’ to them.

    They will no sue this site for releasing the truth……subject poker would not risk a legal case by using BS , ask yourself that and you have your answer.

  34. JasonBo
    July 30, 2011 at 8:58 PM EDT

    FTP was used as a way to keep money form being taxed. So basically they will be charged just like most mafia. Tax Fraud

  35. All in
    July 31, 2011 at 5:59 AM EDT

    In before Phil Ivey sues this Noah chappy

  36. Steve Ruddock
    July 31, 2011 at 10:18 AM EDT

    I have a theory on the Player Pool and Marketing Player Pool payments: Could you possibly cross reference these figures with Full Tilt Poker’s share of the industry market? This would explain the big discrepencies from month to month –i.e. lower payments might match up with a big promotion or the WCOOP on PokerStars, while higher payments might match the FTOPS and promotions at Tilt.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:11 PM EDT

      Yeah that’s what it sounded like to me too. Some percentage of all new account deposits, or something.

  37. Kevin
    July 31, 2011 at 10:27 AM EDT

    I think JasonBo’s point is interesting.

    With all of these transactions going back and forth, and with it being hard to identify personal from business transactions, it does raise a serious accounting nightmare.

    If the “foreign investor” story is in fact true (and it is hard to identify some facts with all the disinformation or non-information that FTP is providing), then i’m sure their accountants are having some serious problems figuring out the “true state” of Full Tilt’s finances.

    The analogy one other writer here drew between FTP and a corner store is probably not that far off.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the IRS becomes involved in this.

  38. i crunch numbers
    July 31, 2011 at 1:36 PM EDT

    very intriguing article.
    i am not too surprised that things like this could happen since licensing alone won’t prevent poor business practises.

    I would love to see poker sites voluntarily getting audited by people who know how things should be run, in addition to their licences.

  39. LowLimit
    July 31, 2011 at 3:38 PM EDT

    How did you get access to these players account histories? A disgruntled Full Tilt Employee? It seems like that is private information and what you’ve shown of it doesn’t even prove a crime or foul play, so how is this more than a huge breach of privacy? What here is newsworthy? I’ve been a fan of your coverage so far but I do not know what to make of this.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:21 PM EDT

      In response to your questions, “What here is newsworthy?”:

      “So, if these relationships are typical or even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros, these loans and payments could have represented a very significant cost to the site.”

      This from the conclusions of the article.

      What is your argument here sir? Are you saying that the above quote is not interesting or important? That’s fine if so, it’s your opinion. But if this is the case you could really consider making your point clear. Why is this not interesting or important?

      Or, are you saying that the data presented does not substantiate the quote above? If so, please explain why you feel the conclusions are not justified from the arguments presented.

      Or, do you have moral concerns regarding privacy of personal information which you feel are violated? If so, please explain why you feel this is a ‘huge breach of privacy.’ On this point, I may agree with you – but I wouldn’t know based on your comment above.

      In general, please refrain from spilling your thoughts into the public realm if you are not going to invest the mental energy to create a meaningful contribution to the dialogue. This is just my general frustration as I read through these comments. No one has presented an argument, but there are several negative comments. All of them share the trait of bringing nothing new to the table other than some incarnation of “I disagree with Noah”.

      • LowLimit
        August 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM EDT

        From my reading, the huge breach of privacy is unnecessarily airing those two Full Tilt pro’s private financial transactions with FTP without permission publicly. Apparently the only reason Subject:Poker did so (because the transactions themselves do not show a crime or foul play) was to provide some weak evidence for the conclusion that “…if these relationships are typical or even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros [badly written, just say even exist for a relatively small number of sponsored pros], these loans and payments could have represented a very significant cost to the site.” And frankly you don’t need to reveal specifics to support that last statement. “Two FT Pros” would have worked and also an approximation of the numbers they found would have worked and wouldn’t have put specific private information unnecessarily into the public eye.

        Also I say “weak evidence” because what Phil Ivey and David Benyamine do isn’t necessarily indicative of what the other Full Tilt pros do, especially the second-tier “red pros”. Even for these two specific pros they can’t say with certainty that they data they have reflects actual amounts owed because of the very limited range of dates for which the transactions are available.

  40. bigtonyk123
    July 31, 2011 at 4:44 PM EDT

    noah for president !!! nice job kid. FTP=FUCK THE PUBLIC some people will never believe ivy was part of this assassination of full tilt players bank accounts. many people had all of their money in their accounts. they trusted them like they do a bank. and because they were endorsed by these so called “stars” they trusted them even more. the ivy benyamine “loans” are just the tip of the iceberg. since the company is offshore we may never know the full story but im sure all of these pricks we adored are laughing their collective asses off and drinking the finest of wines and eating the finest groceries….

  41. VFR3000
    July 31, 2011 at 5:09 PM EDT

    Dont shoot the messenger.

  42. LarryBK
    July 31, 2011 at 5:29 PM EDT

    Great post Noah. It’s insightful, relevant and sugar-coating-free.

    All indications are that FTP doesn’t have sufficient fund to pay US players. If it can be shown that this is a result of FTP’s irresponsible/fraudulent business practices, US players can potentially go after individuals to recover their balances, be it individuals in management and/or individuals that benefited directly. This article is an important step in proving that FTP’s financial woes are a result of 1) illegal distribution of profit from player funds; and/or 2) improper favorable loans without adequate collateral. In the event that US players do not fully recover their funds, they can seek to recover deficiencies from those in management and those that received profit or took out such loans.

    Noah, are you planning to make more posts?

  43. David Bingham
    July 31, 2011 at 6:31 PM EDT

    To those who say that somehow this is going to hurt FTPs chances with its investor – lets give an investor who is going to put $150M+ into a poker site with all the problems FTP has some credit. Surely they now about this and probably many things we will learn about soon enough (and if they dont, then ‘caveat emptor.’ One should assume that they know that there will be stories about FTP for sometime to come, regardless as to whether they buy the site or not, and this thing is probably just the tip of the iceberg of thing we will learn about FTP in the days, weeks and months to come.

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM EDT

      I think this only hurts the sale if the investor were previously considering keeping a large portion of the staff. The investor might have concerns about the company culture, assuming that this is article is the first time the investor has heard of this data. That said, I doubt this is the first time the investor will have learned of these practices. I doubt a $150M negotiation would occur without thorough investigation of the numbers by the investing group, though I have no experience or knowledge that this is neccessarily the case.

      • Calstats
        August 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM EDT

        ugh, grammar

  44. natron
    July 31, 2011 at 7:45 PM EDT

    Noahs got some huge huevos. Good job man!

  45. i crunch numbers
    August 1, 2011 at 2:11 AM EDT

    I agree with David Bingham that this information is extremely unlikely to have a negative impact on ongoing negotiations.
    At the end of the day this whole disaster might have a very positive impact on the future of online poker and the trust players can put into some sites. Kinda like the ENRON scandal had a positive impact for investors of companies listed in the stock exchange. In addition to the annual audit, processes needed more in-depth testing, fraud prevention and implementation of key controls became a focus.
    New investors don’t just have the challenge to recover FTPs bad reputation, they also have an opportunity to implement new standards and become best in class in terms of security, controls and transparency.
    I believe it is feasible and I would love to help putting a new standard in place. Having a chance at setting this up would make me drool even more than a table full of 80/50s over significant samples tbh.

  46. OMFG
    August 1, 2011 at 3:03 AM EDT

    Funds in full tilt will probably have to be transfered to pokerstars and you’ll have to earn fpps before you can cash it out, so basically pay another rake/fee for money that you have won and already paid a rake/fee for. so thats 3 rakes/fees. only ever 1 winner, eh!!

    • OMFG
      August 1, 2011 at 3:04 AM EDT

      i meant 2

  47. OMFG
    August 1, 2011 at 3:09 AM EDT

    anyone remember Bugsy?? temporary site set up by a ex pokerstars executive, yeah right.
    All money on Bugsy went to PS and had to be played for again!

  48. FT Insider
    August 1, 2011 at 5:29 AM EDT

    It cost about $41m per year to pay all of the pros – based on 2009 data.

    FT is a financial disaster zone – it was ‘assumed’ that about 50% of the revenue was profit, but it was more like 35%.

    They are a joke, and to see the hierarchy continuing to disregard and disrespect their customers makes me sick to my stomach

  49. Martin
    August 1, 2011 at 7:03 AM EDT

    Thank you Noah for this great analysis and article, it is much appreciated!

  50. Pokerprinzessin
    August 1, 2011 at 8:58 AM EDT

    It’s need a long Time to clear everthing

  51. Jan
    August 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM EDT

    “FTP’s” -> “FTPs”

  52. Buttadeo
    August 1, 2011 at 11:11 PM EDT

    Very interesting article, but I must say that we still miss the main part, the documentation, and if you really have the raw as you say, then you should also have much more comming or? I mean if the Team players where able to use FTP s an ATM og privat bank, Ivey and Beneyamine would doubtly have been the only ones to have used this method? Your intention with the article is good, but on this kind of journalism, there is one main term, that you sadly have shown us not yet. DOCUMENTATION!

    • Calstats
      August 4, 2011 at 5:24 PM EDT

      Reasons we need the raw data: 1. We don’t believe the article 2. We are detail oriented people.

      Reasons we don’t need the raw data: 1. If we don’t believe the article, why believe the data? 2. Because we are never satisfied anyways.

      I don’t expect to see the data any time soon, as I don’t see much benefit. Haters gonna hate.

  53. Palikari
    August 3, 2011 at 8:53 AM EDT

    Hi Noah,

    great article! Great site! Thank you for your hard work!

    What is the motivation of your source? Why did he talk to you?


  54. Calstats
    August 4, 2011 at 5:27 PM EDT

    In b4 someone says “Hi Noah” to me.

  55. mat - mama913
    August 4, 2011 at 10:56 PM EDT

    very good job !

  56. aka eatshirt
    August 9, 2011 at 7:07 PM EDT

    Keep it up boys. Good Work

  57. Timmay
    August 12, 2011 at 1:15 AM EDT

    Excellent work Noah!

    Makes me feel even better about having set a match to my FTP hoodie and ballcap.

    BTW, I know you weren’t necessarily apologizing per-se in your note below the article, but it just comes across as an overkill justification which in turn seems timid. My opinion…just stay bold and keep putting it out there…no long explanation necessary.

    October 7, 2011 at 1:01 PM EDT


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