Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Players File Suit Against WPT

WPT logo


Seven Top Poker Players File Antitrust Lawsuit Against The World Poker Tour

Players Sue to Enjoin WPTE’s Illegal Business Practices and Seek Damages for WPTE’s Wrongful Conduct

Las Vegas, July 19, 2006 -- Today, seven of the world’s top poker players filed an antitrust Complaint against WPT Enterprises, Inc. (“WPTE”) in federal district court in Los Angeles. By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs Chris Ferguson, Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, Joseph Hachem, Howard Lederer, and Greg Raymer seek to enjoin – and seek treble and punitive damages for – WPTE’s continuing violations of federal and state antitrust laws.

WPTE operates the World Poker Tour (“WPT”), a series of televised, high stakes poker tournaments that are run by various casinos located throughout the United States and in parts of Canada and Europe.

The Complaint alleges that WPTE and the casinos have unlawfully conspired to eliminate competition for the services and intellectual property rights of top, high stakes professional poker players. In particular, the Complaint alleges that the casinos have agreed with WPTE that they will not host any non-WPT televised poker tournaments. The Complaint also alleges that WPTE and the casinos have conspired to fix the price and other terms and conditions under which Plaintiffs and other professional poker players are forced to give up their valuable services and intellectual property rights in order to participate in WPT tournaments.

Plaintiff Chris Ferguson stated as follows: “WPTE has stacked the deck against all poker players who wish to compete in its tournaments. They are using our names and images to sell their products without our prior consent and without any compensation. We cannot let these wrongful actions stand. We will prosecute this lawsuit for as long as it takes to change WPTE’s unlawful ways.”

Plaintiff Annie Duke stated that: “We are bringing this action to change the way WPTE treats players. Our goal is not just to win for ourselves, but to set a precedent so that all players can be dealt a fair hand.”

Plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP, whose lead counsel, Jeffrey Kessler, has successfully represented NFL, NBA, and other players in similar antitrust suits. Mr. Kessler stated the following: “It is now well established that the antitrust laws protect professional athletes and other players when agreements are entered into that restrain competition for their services. This is as true for the business of professional poker tournaments as it is for professional football, basketball, and other sports. Professional poker players are entitled to a free market for their services, which will also benefit consumers since the result will be more and higher quality poker tournaments.”

Plaintiff Greg Raymer stated that: “Our success in this lawsuit will benefit all current and future poker players. I am proud to be part of it.”

Plaintiffs are seven of the most widely recognized and successful professional poker players in the world. Plaintiffs Howard Lederer and Phil Gordon, for example, are two poker superstars who have won three WPT tournaments between them. Plaintiff Chris Ferguson, perhaps the most widely recognized poker player in the world, and Plaintiffs Joseph Hachem and Greg Raymer, have each won the World Series of Poker (“WSOP”) Main Event. Plaintiff Annie Duke has also won a WSOP event, and is regarded as the best and most accomplished female professional poker player in the history of poker. Plaintiff Andrew Bloch has two WPT “Final Table” appearances.

Jeffrey Kessler (212) 259-8050,
David Feher (212) 259-8070,

About Dewey Ballantine LLP

Dewey Ballantine LLP, founded in 1909, is an international law firm with more than 550 attorneys and locations in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, East Palo Alto, Houston, Austin, London, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Milan, Beijing, and Rome. Through its network of offices, the firm handles some of the largest, most complex corporate transactions, litigation and tax matters.