Matt Savage, the acclaimed poker tournament director who has played an important role in most major poker tours and festivals at one time or another, announced on Twitter last week that he had received a settlement check from the now defunct Epic Poker League. According to Savage, the money was unexpected, but certainly welcome.
“Not what I was owed but it really was like finding money in the street,” Savage tweeted, using the hashtag “#Happy.”
Savage served as the Tournament Director for the Epic Poker League (EPL), a tournament series that was designed to act in a similar manner to the PGA Tour in golf. Entry into EPL tournaments was only open to players who met qualifications based on their results in other high-level tournaments or who earned seats in special qualifying events.
But the tournament series quickly ran into problems. The plan for the first season was to run four tournaments, each with a $400,000 overlay for players, followed by a year ending League Championship: a freeroll for the top 27 players in the league, who would compete for a $1 million prize pool.
But only three tournaments were ever held. Even while the EPL was still active, it had to take some awkward steps, due to the league’s code of conduct. David “Chino” Rheem won the first tournament, but was put on probation a week later, based on the debts he owed to many other members of the poker community. And after Full Tilt Poker was accused of fraud, the EPL voted to suspend the memberships of Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson.
Ultimately, the EPL would declare bankruptcy in February 2012, just over six months after running their first tournament. Commissioners Jeffrey Pollack and Annie Duke hoped to reorganize and save the organization, but this effort failed, and the league’s assets were sold to Pinnacle Entertainment.
In an interview with CalvinAyre’s Lee Davy, Savage talked about the good and the bad he saw while working with the EPL.
“In my opinion, the events themselves were great,” Savage said. “The fields were small but the players that attended were well taken care of.”
That said, he pointed out that even many of the people working for the league knew that it was going to be difficult to keep the organization financially viable.
“It made promises it couldn’t keep,” Savage said. “The goals were too lofty, and if it had come to fruition then people would have been happy, but many of us knew there was going to be investors looking for returns that weren’t there.”
According to bankruptcy filings, Savage was owed $33,333 from the EPL. Savage says that while he didn’t get the full amount back, he imagines that he received the same percentage of what he was owed as any other creditor.
From the beginnings of the league, there were many commentators who believed the league didn’t stand a chance. But while they may have been proven right, Savage says that the blame shouldn’t be laid at the feet of Duke, Pollack, or anyone else.
“I don’t think (like others do) that there is blame to be placed,” Savage said. “I don’t think anyone could have made it work.”