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After months of announcing new pro hires for his poker training website and advising players that a launch date was coming, finally released a play money app on Facebook earlier this month. The website’s goal, according to a statement from Ivey himself late last year, is to “teach the world to play better poker.”

When Ivey first announced these plans last October, it seemed like an admirable endeavor being undertaken by the man who many categorize as the best all-around poker player on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to receive tutelage from the greatest poker player around or one of his hand-picked minions among a stable of pros numbering nearly three dozen?

Critics have their say

But poker players happen to be a skeptical bunch, perhaps more so than the general population. That being said, it was only a matter of time before a thread popped up on 2 + 2 questioning the ulterior motive behind Ivey’s website. Such a thread appeared earlier this month, with the initial poster claiming that players should be wary of the site because it is run by a poker player with a past association to Full Tilt Poker.

The pessimistic opening post by ‘ZNGA ftw’ went on to warn that the play money launch will, in time, be followed by a real-money transition to a regulated U.S. environment. The poster surmises that in light of what happened at sites such as Full Tilt that were run by poker players, those players who choose to deposit at a site run by a player would be extremely foolhardy. ZNGA ftw also believes that “bad things happen” when you “put poker players in charge of a company tasked with being the stewards of your money and the integrity of the games.”

[quote text=”bad things happen (when you) put poker players in charge of a company tasked with being the stewards of your money and the integrity of the games.
” person=”ZNGA ftw” align=”left”]

This led to considerable speculation from other posters about whether Ivey is actually involved in the day-to-day functions of his training site, whether the aim of IveyPoker is to offer real-money online poker in the future, and whether poker players in general can be trusted as operators of businesses in addition to online poker sites. Let’s look at the last issue first before delving into Ivey’s involvement and if IveyPoker’s mission is to operate a real-money Internet poker site.

Poker players as businessmen

To lump all poker players into one category as  poor businessmen is quite preposterous. While its true that Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson turned out to be less than astute with financial dealings involving Full Tilt, there are numerous players with highly successful business endeavors. Look no further than DeucesCracked, Cardrunners or LeggoPoker to see that pros can and do run profitable poker-related businesses.

Phil Gordon of Jawfish Games is also another example of a professional poker player who can add successful entrepreneur to his resume. Winning at poker requires excellent money management skills and there is no reason to believe that players don’t have the required business acumen to make a proper transition to that world.

With regard to Ivey calling all the shots at, many players seem to be of the opinion that Ivey is not really involved in running the site. A certain percentage believe that the nine-time WSOP gold bracelet winner is merely lending his name to the venture and that Ivey didn’t even hand-pick each Team Ivey member, as we were led to believe. There are indications that he is more of a sideline player in the endeavor that bears his name and this was virtually confirmed in a post by ‘aejones,’ who is none other than former LeggoPoker owner Aaron Jones.

Jones got his two cents into the thread by posting, “sooo you guys really think phil can be bothered to run the show? and even if he was you think he’s not trustworthy? yikes.” LeggoPoker was acquired by Ivey in February and is now part of IveyPoker. Jones is a valued member of the team and both his close association with Ivey and his post can certainly lay to rest any illusions players may have had that Ivey is orchestarting all the moves behind the scenes.

[quote text=”sooo you guys really think phil can be bothered to run the show? and even if he was you think he’s not trustworthy? yikes.
” person=”Aaron Jones” align=”left”]

Is IveyPoker aiming for a transition to real-money play in the U.S.? Possibly. Some posters believe that play money tends to lead to real money. However, Ivey’s involvement with Full Tilt, although he did nothing wrong, may be scrutinized a bit more by gaming regulators in the U.S. For this reason, some players feel that the training site in conjunction with the free-play poker site will be the full extent of IveyPoker.

U.S. regulation assures safety of funds

As many 2 + 2 posters pointed out, UB, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt were unregulated sites in the U.S. Any future real-money site that is operating stateside, by Ivey or anybody else, will be regulated and require player funds to be segregated. That makes all the difference in the world. So while a number of 2 + 2 members stated that they would never again deposit money at an online poker site at which Ivey was attached, that is a rather close-minded attitude borne of not wanting to be burned again, as opposed to looking at the facts behind regulation requirements.

It’s apparent that Ivey has but a small role in the goings-on at IveyPoker. Playing online poker for real money at in the future is a possibility. But you can rest assured that your player funds will be safe due to consumer protections that will be included in any U.S. online poker legislation. As far as poker players as businessmen, their successes and failures likely mirror that of the population as a whole. I would trust them in business, yet employ a healthy skepticism as I would any other businessman. It’s seated at the poker table where my trust level in fellow poker players tends to be low.

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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.