Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exclusive: Interview with Howard Lederer

I'm sure you've all heard the news about the U.S. Attorney in New York amending the Black Friday civil complaint to include Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst, alleging that they basically defrauded Full Tilt Poker players out of millions of dollars. (If not, see here for a nice digest of links and opinions.)

By a coincidence almost too freakish to believe, earlier this afternoon I ran into Lederer. I had just parked my car at the bank and was heading inside, when he was coming out. He had a garbage bag stuffed full of something hoisted over his shoulder. I only realized what was inside when a couple of $100 bills fluttered out of the top.

He appeared not to notice. I picked them up before the wind could catch them, and turned to follow him so I could return them. (Returning money to its rightful owner--what a concept!) I caught up to him just as he was opening the tailgate on his Escalade--which allowed me to see that the heavy bag on his shoulder was joining three others just like it. I can't swear that they were all stuffed full of cash, but one of them had tipped over and two wrapped bundles of Benjamins had spilled out.

"Here--you dropped these," I said as I handed him the currency.

He looked around both directions, as if wondering if he were on camera, before accepting them and muttering thanks.

"You're Howard Lederer, aren't you?"

His face clouded with suspicion. "You with the government? You got some papers to serve on me or something?"

"No, no. Just a poker player going into the bank to make a deposit. I've seen you on TV."

"Oh, OK. Sorry. I'm a little jumpy these days."

"Yeah," I replied sympathetically. "I can understand that. I follow the news."

There was an awkward silence. But I realized that I was in a unique position to get a reaction from him, when every news source reporting the story yesterday had said that calls were not returned or he was unavailable for comment. "So is it true what they were saying about you in the press yesterday?"

I assumed he'd just give me a "no comment." But he looked more tired and resigned than defiant. After thinking for a few seconds, he responded, "Mistakes were made."

"I understand that you're probably under advice from your lawyers not to say anything to anyone. But I'm just a guy here. I'm just wondering on a personal level what you're going to do."

He seemed to let down his guard a little. "Well, we had a conference call yesterday. To tell you the truth, we decided that at this point our best bet is hoping that that satellite crashes down on Preet Bharara."

He cracked a smile, but I couldn't tell if it was humorous or hopeful.

I told him, "I just heard on the news a few minutes ago that scientists were pretty sure it wouldn't hit the East Coast."

"Damn," he said, under his breath.

I asked, "Is there a Plan B?"

He straightened up, seeming to revert to his prepared defensive position: "We expect to be able to issue an official statement soon."

I was really tempted to say, "I've heard that before," but decided to pass.

"So I also heard that the Epic Poker League Standards Committee met and has suspended you. That's gotta hurt."

He snorted. "Yeah, like that's what I'm most worried about today."

I asked him, "Have you been following how the poker media has responded to all of this?"

"Of course. I have Twitter and Facebook like everybody else. I haven't said anything, but I see the cruel things people are saying. I mean, did you see all those smartasses trying to be funny with 'What FTP stands for' and 'Rejected FTP slogans'? That was just disgusting."

"Yeah, people can be real dicks sometimes," I answered, hoping that I wasn't blushing. He couldn't have known--and I didn't tell him--that I may have been responsible for more of those than anybody else.

I obviously had had no chance to prepare for such an encounter, and I was running out of things to say. "What's your next move?"

He paused. "Look, I don't know you. I really can't be talking about this stuff. Besides, I've got a plane--I mean, I have places I have to be."

It was only with that slip of the tongue that I noticed sticking out of his shirt pocket a passport and what looked like an airline ticket. He noticed my eyes shifting, and reached to stuff these items further down, but I'm pretty sure I caught a glimpse of the words "de Janeiro" just before the ticket disappeared from view.

"OK, I understand. Have a nice fligh--er, a nice day, if that's possible at this point."

"Thanks," he replied, and turned to go. He still had the two $100s in his hand. He took just one step before apparently having a thought.

"Did you play on Full Tilt?"

"Yeah," I said. "Just small-stakes stuff."

"How much did you have stuck on there when things went, y'know, downhill?"

"Not a lot. Less than you've got in your hand there."

He reached his hand out to me with the bills. "Here. Take this. I'm really sorry about how it all went down."

"Yeah, me too, " I said. "I liked playing there. And thanks."

"No problem. Take it easy. And please--don't tell anyone you saw me."

"No, sir--I promise."

He climbed into the driver's seat and sped off.

Yeah, so I lied and broke my promise to him. It seemed fitting, somehow.


Josie said...

Pulp Fiction!

Big-O said...

Grump.....Your best post ever.

Anonymous said...

Was Ferguson is the passenger seat?

zippyboy said...

You shouldda been insulted he didn't know who you were.

Nice post, but aren't you flirting with libel here?

par88 said...

Wow now that's an interesting post!

vic said...

this had me laughing my @ss off...
"He reached his hand out to me with the bills. "Here. Take this. I'm really sorry about how it all went down."

if only they ACTUALLY did that.

its not libel... wishful thinking, maybe... or pure fiction.

Anonymous said...

i <3 you

Anonymous said...

Best post ever

VegasDWP said...

What a mess...

Marie-Lizette said...

I laughed, I cried, let's do this again soon.

sevencard2003 said...

amnightus, this is one of ur best posts ever.