Montel Williams Sued over Team Poker Venture

by , Dec 14, 2009 | 7:45 am

Man, 2009 sure has been a year full of lawsuits, no? People seem to need money these, and I suppose they gotta find it somewhere … and that may or may not alter their perception of who really owes what to whom. Beyond the frivolous, sometimes the big guy screwed the little guy, other times the little-guy with big-money poker dreams (but little experience in poker) defrauded backers and/or customers, and other times plans just didn’t work, and the parties can’t seem to agree on what they agreed on.

In this situation, Guardian Gaming is suing Montel Williams and the International Team Poker League in federal court over a $300k apparently investment gone awry.

The plan called for a team tournament concept attached to live casino events and a (new) online poker site. I dunno … sounds to me a little like the Poker Bowl meets, maybe with a dash of Sports Legends Challenge?

Without looking too deeply into the Montel case, we can tell you:

* Supposedly live action for the ITPL gets underway in a month in a half — Jan. 29th at the Hard Rock.

* The ITPL’s headquarters are supposedly in Mansfield, TX (a suburb in southern Tarrant County).

* Montel Williams is the Commissioner of ITPL.

* Montel supposedly brought in a PartyPoker expat (scroll down) to help with the operation, and in January of this year all were apparently pretty excited about it.

* This paragraf from the ITPL’s About Us page sounds like so many failed, hype-driven poker ventures before it:

With plans to turn the International Team Poker League in the greatest televised reality poker show in 2010, the ITP League is kicking off the year with an event in Vegas which promises not only to have a great poker tournament line up with fantastic prizes but also an experience of a lifetime.

* According to Montel’s website, qualifying was supposed to get underway in August of 2009, with the televised “ITPL Super Table” going down in May 2010.

* All this poker is supposed to take place in close-togetherness with the Hard Rock.

* Though the rules page is inactive on the ITPL website — and they haven’t listed any press updates since April — Montel’s version of team poker allowed for collusion and because it had a Reality TV component, there was opportunity for teammates to betray each other and switch teams.

* OK, I’m curious …

* On the plaintiff’s side, Guardian Gaming’s website is simply a white page with the phrase, “Site under construction, sorry for the inconvenience!” In bold.

* Guardian Gaming is supposedly based out of Malta.

* They at one point ran (or intended to run) an online site called ShuffleMasterLive. (Note, you may have to change your residence to Antarctica to be allowed to view this page.)

* ShuffleMaster is one of the biggest companies in live casino gambling — makers of automatic shufflers and electronic-felt hybrid table games.

* They do not seem to be affiliated with, a website that no longer exists.

* I have some biases:

a) Though I’m sure he hardly remembers my name and I don’t really know what he’s like, I like Montel Williams and have found him to be nothing but an upstanding participant in the various poker events where I’ve encountered him.

b) I like the Hard Rock Poker Lounge. They’ve let me host a 1/2 NLH/PLO that runs just the way I like it. And their new management seems pretty intent on hosting solid events (like this weekend’s Ante Up for CP) while scrapping plans for overblown ideas that can’t deliver what they promise.

c) With the possible exception of the WSOP and trips to the International Space Station on a Soyuz rocket, I’m prejudiced against anything that promises to be the friggin’ greatest of anything while offering a “once in a lifetime!” experience. I also tend to assume anyone launching a website intent on pilfering traffic from someone else’s name is sketchy until proven otherwise.**

* According to this online casino shill site that I’ve never heard of, stumbled upon, or read before, there could theoretically be a connection with the real ShuffleMaster:

One of the world’s most renowned gaming operators, Guardian Gaming, gained a games content license from industry leader Shuffle Master Inc. to bring online some of the latter’s better known gaming titles. Thus Shuffle Master Live Casino was born and this site continues to attract players in droves, who recognize the brand name behind it.

* Usually the world’s most renowned gaming operators have websites that work.

* A lot of times, when people have grandiose online/televised/live-action poker dreams, they discover along the way that web technology and online poker legal restrictions can create insurmountable obstacles.

* According to the original press release (in January 2009) on Montel Media’s website, the action now starting in January 2010 was supposed to be underway in March 2009.

** The only exception close to this I have found is … and that’s really just a word, not necessarily a magazine.

2 Comments to “Montel Williams Sued over Team Poker Venture”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    Looking at Montel’s site, apparently there’s been qualifiers running for some time on the iPoker network (non-US facing) for the January 2010 event.

  2. DanM

    Yeah, online qualifiers in and of itself is a red flag to me. But I did check with the hard rock, and they say this event is indeed on for the end of January.

    That makes me think it’s not a Sports Legends Challenge sorta thing … just a brouhaha with an initial backer that at some point they decided to cut ties with, probably for good reason.