Interview with Tom “durrrr” Dwan about FTP

September 22, 2011 - 6:22 PM EDT
By

Tom “durrrr” Dwan is one of the best-known players of nosesbleed-stakes poker and the newest member of Team Full Tilt. On April 16th, his friend Phil Galfond decided to guarantee $1 million of Stars and Full Tilt payouts to players, and Dwan decided to match it. Dwan has since raised this to the amount that he earned in sponsorship money from Full Tilt Poker, an amount that he says is higher than $1 million.

He had otherwise been relatively quiet about Full Tilt until the DOJ amended their civil complaint on Tuesday to include requests for damages from Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst and provide much more information about why Full Tilt has so far failed to repay players. Now, he says that he is freed from an NDA and able to talk freely.

Before starting this interview, Dwan asked me to ask him probing questions. He explained that, though he would not answer every question, he wanted to be as candid as possible and was comfortable refusing to answer when he felt it was necessary.

The Interview

Three questions came up that, for reasons explained in the interview, Dwan was not comfortable answering extemporaneously at the time:

  1. What factors does he think led to Full Tilt being insolvent? Specifically, are the player deposit shortfall and the Black Friday seizures the only causes of insolvency?
  2. What plausible reasons has he heard that explain why Ray Bitar is still CEO of the company in spite of the problems that the company has experienced during his tenure?
  3. What reasons does he believe that Phil Ivey had for filing his lawsuit?

Dwan has agreed to answer all three of these questions in writing, and we are waiting for his reply.

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46 Responses to Interview with Tom “durrrr” Dwan about FTP

  1. Drewlius
    September 22, 2011 at 7:01 PM EDT

    +1 ty for this.

  2. DJRiccoLaw
    September 22, 2011 at 7:44 PM EDT

    Nice work on the interview!!!

  3. ucanttouchme
    September 22, 2011 at 10:33 PM EDT

    Noah, you have such and annoying and smart-ass voice

    • Kat Martin
      September 22, 2011 at 11:16 PM EDT

      people asking the right questions usually sound smart

    • WTFrUtalkingAbout
      September 23, 2011 at 5:17 AM EDT

      ucanttouchme, you have such and annoying and dumbass comment

      • chris johnson
        September 23, 2011 at 9:35 PM EDT

        everything he says has an upward inflection at the end as though everthings a question. it is kind of annoying.

    • nham
      September 23, 2011 at 11:01 PM EDT

      you have such an annoying and smart-ass personality

  4. Andrew
    September 22, 2011 at 11:08 PM EDT

    NoahSD is THE NUTS

  5. Kat Martin
    September 22, 2011 at 11:23 PM EDT

    To condense this a bit, isn’t the critical issue here the answer to Question 1? Specifically if player deposit shortfall/black friday seizures are NOT the only causes of insolvency, then Full Tilt owners are going to end up in jail?

  6. Percival
    September 22, 2011 at 11:50 PM EDT

    Thanks for this post guys, and kudos to Durr, he’s a class act.

  7. dee
    September 22, 2011 at 11:53 PM EDT

    Is it not obvious that that the problems with payout processors under the the BS that is UIGEA is the core issue, and that FT made key errors by crediting players when “deposits” had not been received, but had been either stolen by third party processors or by clampdowns by the DOJ on third party processor. The contracted payouts to board members, red pros, and shareholders was icing on the cake. And had they stopped those payouts would have signaled a deep problem in the company and led to a run on the bank – so to speak. The fundamental error, and THE HUGE, HUMONGOUS, GARGANTUAN, TEXAS SIZE, EVEN ALASKA SIZED LESSON for US legislation is to SEGREGATE PLAYER DEPOSITS. It should be a nobrainer. But when you expect business to continue as usual, you think you will be able to pay it back before the **it hits the fan. Unfortunately Black Friday happene. Well that’s as as good a definitition of *hit hitting the fan as I’ve seen recently. Although there’s been a lot of s*it hitting the fan recently, expecially for full tilt.

  8. ken
    September 23, 2011 at 12:19 AM EDT

    They gotta at least sell the software to repay the players, for two reasons: 1 – to repay the players; and 2 it’s the best poker software out there. It would be criminal to lose that software due to management mistakes.

  9. slycebu
    September 23, 2011 at 12:24 AM EDT

    Nice work on the interview. Towards the end of the interview, you and Tom start discussing the shortfall and touch on who within the corporation is responsible for allowing the shortfall to occur (i.e., CEO, Chair of BOD, etc.), and Tom (understandably) refrains from immediately addressing the issue too directly.

    I’ve wondered since I first heard about it why there wasn’t a statement from the board or some other entity representing FT that so-and-so was the corporate/company officer responsible for oversight of payment processors/cash management/etc., that the hole created was the result of such and such management mistakes, that so-and-so has been disciplined/fired/sued/whatever, that such-and-such actions have been taken to ensure that this can’t happen again in the future, etc. Not having heard such a statement leaves me the impression that the corporate function didn’t exist, that it was fulfilled by someone completely unqualified for the responsibility (which would reflect back on the board/corporate officers etc. as a severe corporate oversight failure potentially on a criminal scale), or that the board and corporate officers were aware all along of the failure and condoned it. This is obviously also tied to the authorization provided by management (Lederer has been cited frequently) to notify all customers that their account funds were being held/managed independently of operating funds.

    It sounds like Tom believes that management was not necessarily aware of the situation as it was developing, or were aware of it as a very minor issue that could be managed somehow – i.e., he doesn’t believe that management was ok with the hole existing/understood its possible consequences. Not to say Tom knows enough to be able to say definitively one way or the other, but it’s really bothered me that a corporate function/officer/person hasn’t been identified that should’ve been responsible for this – again, makes it seem like it was ok with management to operate in this fashion given the silence (I obviously understand there may be legal/liability issues preventing anyone with FT from talking about this).

    Would love to see/hear more information (not nec. from Tom) related to this. Rather than addressing Lederer, Ferguson, etc. as individuals, it would be beneficial imo to have this detailed for future online poker regulation discussions (much like understanding Enron had implications for regulation/banking/investment discussions related to corporate entities in the US post-Enron).

    Props to Tom for his transparency and obvious interest in doing the right thing ldo.

    • i crunch numbers
      September 24, 2011 at 8:56 AM EDT

      +1. this is a very good comment

      personally I think there won’t be too much information gained from Tom anymore. There are things he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about (which is understandable) and I am sure he won’t even know the answers to most of the really interesting questions.

      after having read the Q&A Durrr thread on 2+2 this interview didn’t really add much value. I highly appreciate Tom and Noah taking the time and doing that but I feel that it was rather unstructured and we didn’t learn anything interesting or new.

  10. amy
    September 23, 2011 at 12:49 AM EDT

    Great interview Tom, Thanks. You’ve been a standup guy in a pretty lousy situation. Much respect to you. Cheers.

  11. Buzz
    September 23, 2011 at 1:10 AM EDT

    Is there a dl link so I can listen to it at my leisure (e.g. in my car on the way to work)? Thanks for doing this.

    • Buzz
      September 23, 2011 at 1:11 AM EDT

      Oh just found it–click the DOWN arrow. Thanks again!

  12. t_roy
    September 23, 2011 at 1:18 AM EDT

    Pretty surprising that dwan didn’t even now the numbers. He acted like he hadn’t even read the SDNY memo about the ammendment.

  13. Ledason
    September 23, 2011 at 1:53 AM EDT

    Don’t ask me why, maybe it was TDs (and others) distorted estimates of FTP profitability, but while listening to TD it occurred to me that from an investors perspective, how do you trust any of FTPs financials? It’s clear that FTPs management has proven it’s not trustworthy. In addition, the crediting of player funds or ‘virtual money’ creates uncertainty about the actual profit or loss (you cannot just say, well, if it was virtual, then if the US law allowed banking transaction it would have been real). In addition, given the allegations, an investors ability to trust the numbers without an independent audit occuring outside FTP control is very difficult; there isn’t time for that, this would take weeks or months of forensic reconstructive accounting. Finally, TD’a comment that there was ‘suspect’ transparency from management towards investors casts further issues on an investors ability to trust any numbers from FTP, which further complicates an investors ability to determine how much it is worth or if they can make the leap to invest.

    • ProcessMan
      September 23, 2011 at 4:34 AM EDT

      Its called Due Diligence and financial discovery. They don’t just trust the numbers that FTP gives them, there need to be checks, cross checks, references, access to bank account history and so forth…

    • huntse
      September 23, 2011 at 8:52 AM EDT

      I’ve been involved in the senior management of a gambling firm buying out a couple of companies (long time ago now), so I know exactly how you would come to trust the financials of a possibly fraudulent or otherwise mismanaged gambling firm. The answer is you have a detailed audit and you do a scrupulous due diligence piece. This is 100% standard whenever you’re spending millions to buy a business – you want to be sure you’re not being sold a lemon. You go to the Channel Islands or Macau or Costa Rica or whereever they have their operations and you talk to the staff. You talk to their suppliers. You get yourself a secret shopper account on their website and make sure you get paid out when you win etc. You do need to do a bunch of stuff, but it’s possible. If you look carefully red flags will show up if they need to.

      Certainly one of the first things I would do is get an audit of cash and make sure player funds are covered and segregated. If they aren’t, in normal circumstances one of the first things I would do is ask for bonds to be posted in a custody account to cover the player funds while you look at the company. If they can’t do this then you know that player funds are being used as working capital, which is clearly a massive red flag, and you know you’re looking at a hole in the books that you’ll need to shovel money into if you still want to buy.

      Investors always have to do this work whenever they buy a company, but clearly in this case they need to be even more dilligent than usual. The short answer is if I had half a yard or whatever of private equity I would personally still buy FT right now if I was sure that I could settle with the DoJ, refund the players, withdraw from the US and keep the Alderney license. They have a seriously profitable business based only on European + emerging markets + Canada, and even though you’d have to take a 130mm haircut (or whatever that is) on the players funds that they didn’t process you would make that back pretty quickly.

  14. LifeFist
    September 23, 2011 at 9:49 AM EDT

    Noah, you’re the man, but your voice is super tilting. Good work, nonetheless.

  15. omg
    September 23, 2011 at 11:46 AM EDT

    pretty surprised also durrrr didn’t know the numbers at all. Does anyone know how much FTP raked / months. For sure it was never enough to make profit after all costs > 10m / months.
    And that was news for durrrr up to today!

  16. mudbone
    September 23, 2011 at 3:35 PM EDT

    tom dwan is such a striking exception in this often shady, self-serving world. as he says it IS ridiculous he is the one doing this i’view, so all the more kudos for doing it, not to mention all the other stuff this past week.

    dwan’s the real poker deal, wish there was more like him. thanks again, and also snaps to S:P, another welcome exception.

  17. Fulzgold
    September 23, 2011 at 3:47 PM EDT

    Noah your voice works fine. Please keep doing crucial interviews for the community. Thanks to SP and TD for all this communication. We’d be pretty fkd without good people who give a sht.

  18. OMGPeeWeeHerman
    September 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM EDT

    OMG, Noah sounds like a whiny nerd. Total change of perception of him. He should stick to posting and stay off the radio/tv.

    • nham
      September 23, 2011 at 11:02 PM EDT

      and you should stick to shutting your face

  19. Matt
    September 23, 2011 at 6:33 PM EDT

    Great job with the interview Noah.

    One line of questions I would have love to have heard would have been around Tom’s opinions / knowledge whether Full Tilt could actually be successful under new ownership. Sure it would have been speculation and at best you’d get a ‘it depends’ type answer, but does Tom (or anyone) truly believe that a new FTP, with all players repaid and DOJ at bay, that it would be anywhere close to where it was 12 months ago?
    In other words, if Tom has a spare $300 million, or whatever the number is that he feels is a reasonable valuation, would he buy it?

    • mudbone
      September 24, 2011 at 11:37 AM EDT

      i think he very clearly intimates that he would.

  20. SGTRJ
    September 23, 2011 at 6:37 PM EDT

    LOL at everyone who has been ragging on Noah for his voice. Like he has any control over it. How about thanking him for working so hard, and for free, to get information out to the community instead of being such whiny little bitches, mkay?

  21. panwhale
    September 23, 2011 at 6:44 PM EDT

    Dude this isn’t about how Full Tilt markets. Did they steal the funds or what? Christ. No wonder Duan stayed with you for so long – he is masterful – letting you act like you’re getting deep all the while not answering a thing! Brilliant Duan.

  22. unreal
    September 23, 2011 at 9:15 PM EDT

    Pretending to be broke and not sending players any money at all is unreal. Send what you have. The fact that there was a 130 million shortfall in processing shows how much money ftp made. My deposits cleared during that period. There were 60,000 average players still on after black Friday! All pro-owners need to ante up and send players (who made real deposits that cleared) something, anything! Stop trying to play dumb and pass the buck. Think about your reputations and potential lifetime earnings. Do you honestly think that the average player believes all these different scenarios trying to explain away millions when you have made Billions.

  23. tangram
    September 23, 2011 at 9:34 PM EDT

    Basically, if I were representing FT as a criminal defense attorney, I would be telling them to say nothing ever; I assume all of the named defendants have retained counsel in the even of an (eventual IMHO) criminal indictment.

    I’m not quite sure what the US Attorney for SDNY is thinking, but if there were a criminal RICO indictment happening, they might not have filed the amended civil complaint. They only thing I can think of was the amendment was purposely timed to coincide with the AGCC hearings-as if the AGCC really cared. A couple of people I’ve spoken to seem to feel differently.

    I think durrr is doing the best he can with what he knows, but what he knows is limited compared to any of the principals.

    As for playing on credit in big games, it was very widespread. If you think it was limited to say, Ivey, Benyamine and Matusow, you need to rethink that. As you pointed out, the company consisted primarily of people who liked to gamble for high stakes, and their friends who also liked to gamble for high stakes. My personal understanding of it was that it was widespread. Remember, at 2000-4000, $1M=250BB. Just sayin’.

  24. david
    September 24, 2011 at 2:18 PM EDT

    Noah, you have the most geekiest anoyying voice ever – i want to kick your head in you ugly geek

  25. ktx49
    September 24, 2011 at 6:50 PM EDT

    I’ve been around long enough to know when someone has a GUILTY conscious and is flubber mouthed with anxiety….DWAN is hiding SOMETHING. he is TOO interested in “helping” people and cannot provide a single explanation for his new found philanthropy….

    something STINKS here. STINKS. dwan is hiding something or guilty of something and is trying to over compensate for it by doing all these interviews, being the hero, the facilitator, etc…..

    come on guys we are all poker players and i’m the ONLY one to say something like this???

    • katpoker
      September 25, 2011 at 1:10 AM EDT

      Interesting that he only offers to give back a million when that is the amount he owes to FTP in loans that he took from them,

      • Alan
        September 27, 2011 at 8:15 AM EDT

        My understanding from the interview is that Dwan has now upped his repayment offer to include both the initial $1M he pledged plus the amount he owes FTP from loans, which he indicates is close to $1M as well. So that makes a total of close to $2M that he’s vowed to repay to the players.

  26. ktx49
    September 24, 2011 at 6:55 PM EDT

    this is like the husband who murders his own wife, panics and then proceeds to call her voicemail and leave an overly concerned message asking where she is….

    …..GET YOUR HEADS OUTTA THE SAND, DWAN IS HIDING SOMETHING this stinks all the way over here!

  27. richard d
    September 25, 2011 at 3:41 AM EDT

    Sorry Tom, but it sounds like this whole interview is about positioning yourself. Whereas Chris and Howard may be lounging on an island somewhere, you apparently hope to stay where you are. If they(DOJ) are not asking you any questions, then it is definitely because they already know the answers, at least concerning you. As your attorney, which I am not, I would advise you to be quiet. I’ll look for the follow up to your intverview, but I would expect that you should seek refuge, and just be quiet. There is no upside for you here, and if you are trying to protect yourself, then you are wrong in doing so. I have enjoyed watching you play, and poker is a great game – but you are not likely to be considered to be an attribute to the game by discussing these issues unless you have something to really contribute. Other than that, just staying out of this fight – because you might become at least collateral damage. Good luck though to you in any case.

    Dr.

  28. oli
    September 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM EDT

    Great interview, amazing scandal, i played on Full tilt for 3 years, i trusted them so much :( it s really bad for poker economy , really sad. Great site and great interview thx a lot

  29. ktx49
    September 26, 2011 at 6:32 PM EDT

    im amazing that only myself and two other people see Dwan’s recent interviews for what they really are….

  30. Jack
    September 27, 2011 at 5:47 AM EDT

    That was a fantastic interview. Felt like there were no softball questions and Dwan not answering every question is understandable.

  31. MARTY THE CRUSHER FROM NJ
    September 28, 2011 at 5:45 PM EDT

    THE FILING OF THE AMENDED CIVIL COMPLAINT BY THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK IS A BRILLIANT MOVE AT THIS TIME. IN THIS CIVIL ACTION THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS (AND YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE) ARE SUBJECT TO ORAL DEPOSITIONS UNDER OATH AND OTEHR DISCOVERY METHODS WITH WHICH THEY MUST COMPLY AS MANDATED BY COURT RULES OR ELSE THEY WILL DEFAULT AND A JUDGMENT WILL BE ENTERED AGAINST THEM. OF COURSE THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS WILL NOT ANSWER THE QUESTIONS AND WILL ASSERT THE 5TH AMENDMENT AGAINST SELF INCRIMINATION. BUT THAT IS NOT A DEFENSE TO THE CONTINUATION OF THE CIVIL ACTION WHICH WILL PROCEED FORWARD AGAINST THEM. ALSO ONCE THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS ARE LEGALLY SERVED WITH THE SUMMONS AND THE AMENDED COMPLAINT THEY CAN DISAPPER FROM THE SCENE BUT THE CIVIL ACTION WILL PROCEED FORWARD IN THEIR ABSENCE. IN OTHER WORDS IT MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA FOR THE US ATTORNEY TO FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST THESE INDIVIDUALS AT THIS TIME UNTIL THE CIVIL ACTION IS COMPLETED (OF COURSE SUBJECT TO THE CRIMINAL STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS)

  32. Dontrustdurrrr
    September 30, 2011 at 12:58 AM EDT

    Dwan gave this interview for purely selfish reasons. He’s been caught in a jackpot and is trying to figure a way to get out with his reputation and future endorsement money intact. That ship sailed when he put his rep on the line, and borrowed my money, from FT. I’m not buying what Durrr is selling.

  33. YourEVIsFalling
    October 30, 2011 at 6:26 PM EDT

    WOW! Durrr totally sidestepped the question “What caused this shortfall?” He says crediting player accounts???? WTF, did they credit 330 million dollars? There is one pile of money thats a playes pool and one that is a royalties pool, they crossed the line and began taking money from the players pool as royalties. This is like a lawyer getting paid by a client for their services (i.e. players paying the $5 on the $110 hu sngs) and then taking money out of their clients trust accounts (i.e. the full tilt members taking money out of players accounts). Guess what happens to lawyers that do this… THEY ARE DISBARRED AND SENT TO PRISON FOR YEARS. Thats exactly where everyone on the ftp board should go. If they didnt know about the whole, who would? Come on Tom stop defending these criminals.

  34. fletch
    December 21, 2011 at 8:45 PM EDT

    Everyone hates a cheater. Durr has been duped. He’s like a little kid in shock because his parents forced him to quit little league because he was bad. He’ll give the million+ back, just to have it like it was before. Poor guy. He has to learn the hard way that money is not everything. His reputation is on the line and everyone knows him and what his monstrous corporation Full Tilt has done. Time to severe ties Dwan. They sold you out already. If you stay with them, so goes your rep.

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