Aria rebuffs DiVella effort to circulate petition in poker room
Howard Lederer might be re-emerging in the nosebleed cash games of Las Vegas, but some players are so upset about the former Full Tilt leader’s return to the felt that they began circulating a petition to get him banned from live poker.
“We believe the casino has a moral and ethical obligation to bar Howard Lederer from playing in the poker room and should Aria casino fail to take immediate action we, the poker playing community, will be forced to boycott the poker room,” the petition reads.
Local pro Nick Divella, 24, crafted this plea to fellow players at Aria, asking them to boycott the room if Lederer was allowed to play there again.
Aria management, however, had “a long talk” with him explaining why they had to remain neutral and couldn’t allow him, or anyone for that matter, to solicit signatures on their property.
DiVella, a regular in the 5/10NL and 10/20NL games, said he had talked to upwards of 50 players who already had agreed to sign it, and has since taken his cause online.
Read the petition here.
“It tilts me to no end,” explained DiVella, who says he loves playing at Aria but but doesn’t want to see the disgraced Full Tilt empresario sitting behind big stacks in his favorite poker room, as it would almost certainly have a negative impact on his own non-Ivey Room play.
DiVella won’t say how much of his bankroll is stuck on Full Tilt, nor what effect on his live-play game selection, but many Vegas regs know he earned heaps by multi-tabling Rush Poker on Full Tilt prior to his top-100 finish in the most recent WSOP main event.
Leon Wheeler, Aria poker room swing shift manager, said he was aware that some players had concerns about Lederer playing. DiVella said he would not ask employees to sign the petition.
Lederer, who made a public return to poker last month, playing in the biggest cash games in Las Vegas, was at Aria as recently as Sunday. Online poker forum posters criticized the former Full Tilt Poker owner for re-appearing on the poker landscape, but even longtime foe Daniel Negreanu has said casinos needn’t ban Lederer, nor his sister Annie Duke.
Wheeler acknowledged Lederer’s presence could be a “safety issue,” perhaps for Lederer himself. When Lederer first returned to the tables, there were reports that Bellagio and Aria received death-threat phone calls, but that could not be confirmed by poker room supervisors or police.
Both casinos did, however, station security guards in front of their respective glass-encased high-stakes tables when Lederer showed up to play.
While Wheeler has the authority to ban individual players from the poker room in cases of improper conduct on the property, he said the decision on Lederer would ultimately up to senior-level management.
DiVella insists his petition efforts are about principle, saying he believes Lederer’s presence tarnishes the integrity of the game, and that poker needs a governing body to handle these matters.
“He doesn’t deserve to play,” DiVella said of Lederer. “Maybe this will be the start of a poker blacklist.”
DiVella said he wouldn’t mind seeing Russ Hamilton, the reputed Ultimate Bet cheating kingpin alleged to have scammed online players out of more than $60 million, on that poker blacklist, too.
The US Department of Justice has a civil suit against Lederer for more than $40 million, and he has said Black Friday seizures left him cash poor.
But that hasn’t prevented him from buying into the biggest mix games at Aria and Bellagio, usually upwards of $400/$800.
No word on Lederer’s bankroll, but he has had plenty of black chips to play with in games that featured the likes of Doyle Brunson, Eli Elezra, Chau Giang, and Nick Schulman.
Even if the ban isn’t implemented by the casino, DiVella wants poker players to refuse to sit with Lederer until Full Tilt funds are returned to US players.
That’s up to the government now, as the DoJ has taken responsibility for refunding the money. But the Poker Players Alliance said this week that authorities have made little progress in those efforts. So it will likely be a long while before one player’s mere presence no longer puts several cash game regulars on unavoidable Tilt.