The recent sightings of Howard Lederer back in action at the high-stakes cash poker tables at Aria and the Bellagio in Las Vegas have many players upset that "The Professor" would be allowed to once again play poker.
Following a year and a half of silence since Black Friday, The Lederer Files and TwoPlusTwo interviews saw the Full Tilt board member attempt to tell his side of the story in an effort to put the Full Tilt debacle behind him and hit the tables. Despite huge dividend payments to board members, Lederer has mentioned suffering from a cash flow problem and needs to get back to work. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is attempting to seize over $42 million in assets from the two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner.
Online poker forums and Twitter are loaded with posts and comments calling for Lederer's head and wondering why players would allow him to join their table. Daniel Negreanu sparked a bit of controversy by tweeting, "The more research you do, the more obvious it becomes that justice will only be served if Howard Lederer goes to prison." While many players feel the same way and are still smarting from having their money tied up on Full Tilt for a lengthy period, it's important to note that Lederer has not been criminally indicted and is facing only civil allegations at present.
Ray Bitar, currently out on bail with his movements carefully watched by electronic home-monitoring, is the only Full tilt board member facing criminal charges and a possible prison sentence. So, unless the DoJ finds cause to bring criminal allegations against Lederer, he is only facing a loss of his sizable assets. Those assets are said to include numerous homes in the Las Vegas area—one of which tallied over $10 million in construction costs—and a handful of automobiles, such as a 2008 Maserati Gran Turismo and a 2010 re-creation of a 1965 Shelby classic.
Whether or not you feel that Lederer should be forever banished from the poker community, the fact of the matter is he is a free man and has not yet been convicted of any wrongdoing. The civil charges he faces along with cohorts Rafe Furst, Chris Ferguson and Bitar will meander through the legal process and undoubtedly take years to resolve. In the meantime, Lederer has seemingly made up his mind to carry on in his chosen profession despite facing a tremendous amount of hatred from other players. There were even reports of death threats received via phone calls made to the casinos in which he played.
Which brings us to the question, should Lederer be allowed to play poker despite so infuriating the poker-playing public over his transgressions in the Full Tilt fiasco? Of course he should, as nobody has any right to deny him otherwise. His day in court will eventually come, along with a resolution of the allegations.
Lederer may have chosen an inopportune time to get back in the action. The information he provided in the recent interviews is still being widely scrutinized and debated. And with the relaunch of Full Tilt only about three weeks away, it might have made more sense to wait a little longer as the anger that other players feel will undoubtedly dissipate when they are reunited with their money. But despite the obvious fact that Lederer will most certainly receive a good deal of flak from other players while making the rounds of various poker rooms, it's his right to play poker when and wherever he chooses to do so.