Former Full Tilt Poker sponsored player Erick Lindgren learned a painful lesson this week: Owe too much money to too many people for too long a time, and sooner or later someone’s going to call you out. Lindgren’s bad-gambling debts came into public view in a big way this weekend. Simply because he’d become unable to pay a relatively small fantasy-sports bet.
So went a thread over on 2+2, where the organizer of a high-stakes fantasy league in which Lindgren participated — but failed to pay for — finally made good on his promises to out Lindgren’s reprehensible behavior, in which he seems to have racked up millions in debt while squandering the reputed $250,000/month he received from the Full Tilt coffers.
It’s quite a gig, if you can get it, and Lindgren’s now paying the price for his years of careless excess. His name has to be added to the list of former FTP’ers you’re unlikely to see much of in the future.
It started innocuously enough, with the fantasy league organizer publishing a lengthy chain of “the check is in the mail” communications from Lindgren. And of course it wasn’t, the $2,800 asked for being just the very tip of a Lindgren debt iceberg probably several million dollars large.
It didn’t take long for the public distancing from Lindgren to begin, but the killer to Lindgren’s already sinking rep was a confirmation and continuation from Haralabos “Bob” Voulgaris, a poker veteran who’d managed to end up being owed perhaps $3 million by Lindgren, and recounted his years of work in getting paid most of it back. Haralabob’s efforts included following Lindgren from tourney to tourney around the world in hopes of clawing back some of the debt from Lindgren’s winnings.
Others chimed in as well, painting a mosaic of Lindgren as an addicted gambler who racked up millions in debt to many others, while seldom showing the inclination to rein himself in and take care of his debts. As Volgaris noted, Lindgren could’ve just hibernated for a year and let the monthly Full Tilt stipend pay off much of his gambling-world debts, but Lindgren clearly never had that capability.
And then there’s the kicker: A reported IRS tax lien in excess of another $3 million against Lindgren, purportedly for failing to properly report other winnings.
Given what’s come out in the past few days, it’s probable that Lindgren was barely able to use that $250,000 to keep his creditors at bay, while never giving up his action-at-all-costs lifestyle. He’s not the first poker pro to crash in such a spectacular manner, and he sure won’t be the last, which doesn’t make the cratering any less fascinating to watch. Lindgren’s gone from respected, major-sponsored pro to career toast in less than a few months, and given the IRS lien and his foreseeable lack of future income, it’s unlikely he’ll ever dig his way out of his current debt hole.
This one drags a few entertaining side stories as well. There’s always the tale of Lindgren’s wife, the former Erica Schoenberg, who can now be viewed as having swapped out one crooked action junkie (David Benyamine) for another (Lindgren). The snarky comments about a gap in guy taste have already started to flow.
Then there’s a handful of public comments already made by Lindgren’s good friend, Daniel Negreanu, who has promised that his next two video blogs — tomorrow and next Wednesday — will address the topics of Lindgren, honoring and paying one’s debts, and new-school-v.-old-school attitudes about debt among poker’s old guard. That’ll be an interesting read, not in part because Negreanu has been known to wear blinders regarding his friends while easily blasting those he disdains, such as an Annie Duke or Howard Lederer.
I’d really like to see Negreanu, some day, address the matter of the 2008 WSOP POY fiasco, and that’s not as off-topic as you might think. (Hint: It also involves Lindgren.) I think, though that that specific story will be well down Daniel’s list. But such things will be a measure of Negreanu’s character in the days ahead, even though he seems a superior character to Lindgren, whose days of being idolized are pretty much up.
It’s been a shooting gallery of sorts, for most of the former Full Tilt players many everyday poker wannabes once looked up and admired. It’s clear that for many of these players, the playboy life was a sham, and behind the cameras and microphones there wasn’t much besides giant games being played upon the larger poker audience. Once again, perception differs wildly from reality. It’s sad to see, but one should always remember that some of these pros succeeded early on precisely because of their devil-may-care attitude, a sword which cuts both ways. Variance, though, strikes just as hard in real life as it does in a card game, as last year’s Black Friday taught many.
Poker’s in the process right now of shedding itself of some of its less reputable characters, and some of them are going to be surprises. Look for a few more of these revelations in the months ahead, as major old revenue streams collapse amid a lot of hard feelings and bruised egos. Think of it this way: An industry in which a Russ Hamilton or a Howard Lederer can be a major industry player simply must change itself before it can be accepted into corporate America. And today, that’s where poker is.