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    Some Facts and Thoughts in the Case of Howard’s U.S. Return

    Posted by Quad Jacks May 30, 2011

    Howard Lederer Returns to Las Vegas

    Ever since Saturday night, I’ve been receiving a barrage of tweets and messages of this kind: “MARCO! Howard Lederer was just spotted in Las Vegas!” “Hey Marco, did you hear that Howard is in Vegas?”

    Bless you all for caring enough to inform me as soon as you found out. In fact, I was one of the very first to learn of the sighting before it even hit the Twittersphere and forums. I have done little other than think about the matter since.

    On Saturday evening, after a delicious barbecue at the house of dear pal veeRob, some of us, including special attendants WhoJedi and KevMath, were engaged in a light-hearted turbo sit’n’go. At one point, both Jedi and Kev (independently) received news of the “confirmed” sighting of Howard Lederer from either Marie Lizette or Jon Friedberg (or both). The three of us went outside and they relayed the information to me.

    You can imagine how stunned I was to hear this. I will not deny some initial skepticism. Some of you listeners might remember the brief “scare” we had weeks ago when the Reno Peppermill tweeted about a “confirmed” sighting which quickly turned out to be bullshit. But with no disrespect to the Reno Peppermill, this time it was WhoJedi and KevMath, two sticklers for veracity who should be taken much more seriously.

    The two individuals who reported this sighting were Marie Lizette and Jon Friedberg. Lizette is, among other things, a social media consultant in the poker world, who (from what I understand) works or has worked closely with Annie Duke and her events. Friedberg is a bracelet winner and poker media host/writer. The two were at dinner together at a restaurant called Sen of Japan at the Palms casino on Saturday night. Lizette recounts the incident on her blog:

    “Jon and I were still deciding what to order when we saw a pony tail of bouncy curls walk in the door accompanied by two other people.

    Jon immediately froze in his seat and his jaw all but hit the table. It was none other that Howard Lederer, Annie Duke and the mop haired Joe Reitman. We were stunned. Joe, the sweetheart that he is came over and to say. “Hi.” Annie was close on his heels and gave me a hug and shook Jon’s hand. Mr. Lederer took his seat.

    Annie said that Sen was one of her favorite restaurants in Las Vegas and Joe concurred. We chatted for about a minute then the couple returned to their table to have dinner.

    Jon and I shared a few rolls, and talked about this and that, but really, it was extremely difficult to not discuss the 500lb gorilla in the room. We elected to allow the family to enjoy their meal and not tweet about the sighting.

    After leaving the restaurant, Jon and I contacted our peoples and blurted out our secret. I can honestly tell you that I fear the backlash of the poker community for not “cornering” Lederer on the spot. But, Jon and I were at dinner and Lederer, Annie and Joe were at dinner and sometimes it’s just best to live a normal life away from the industry.”

    At the time I first heard this, I was under the impression that it was Howard and the gang who had left first. It wasn’t until considerably later that I learned it had been our friends Lizette and Friedberg who had left while Howard & Co. were still there.

    At hearing the news, Jedi, Kev and I quickly made our way to another casino where Lizette and Friedberg were staying and had agreed to meet us. By this time, I was convinced that this was no hoax. I tormented the two of them for details. What did Howard look like? “A tad bit thinner,” said Jon, and Lizette agreed. Did you speak to him? “Yes, we walked to their table at one point,” continued Jon, “and shook Howard’s hand.” He did not appear to be in a chatty mood at all, definitely more aloof than usual, they said. Jon asked him only one question, and it was about the upcoming World Series in general. Howard, they said, did not even respond, instead looking over to his sister like she was expected to do the answering for him. She said something about being too busy with the Federated League this year to be able to play too many events. And that was pretty much that. The two walked back to their table, and the evening proceeded without notable incident.

    I thanked them both, bade everyone goodnight, and left. I would be lying if I said I lost sleep over it that night. It’s not as if I hadn’t had a drink or two earlier that day at the barbecue, and it was pretty late, so I crashed pretty quickly.

    When I woke up the next morning, or maybe it was the afternoon, the matter repossessed my mind. Howard in Vegas? For weeks I had been of the conviction he would not be back in the country for who knows how long… Why come back now? And why choose to make such a nonchalant appearance at a restaurant noted for its popularity among pokerfolk? It did not make any sense.

    In reviewing the day’s tweets, the mystery took a major turn for the clearer. Annie Duke had just tweeted this at Marie Lizette:

    @MarieLizette we were discussing my mother’s memorial. We appreciate the respect at the restaurant.

    Those of you who have followed me lately are aware that I have almost obsessively tried to track all of Howard’s possible movements. The moment I read this, I cursed myself. How in the world did I ever miss this?

    The mother of the Lederer triumvirate (Howard, Annie and Katy), a woman I have actually spoken about on occasion (by way of having read the memoirs of the younger sister Katy), passed away on March 4 of this year at the age of 71. Her obituary can be found here.

    The funny thing is that I actually read this obituary at the time it was published, a full month before Black Friday (somebody must have tweeted it, I suppose). The last sentence of it reads thus:

    “There will be a private memorial service Monday, May 30.”

    So even back then, the date had been made public. Having only read it that one time, and given the pre-Black Friday circumstances, I had not given that date any meaning, leading me to forget all about it. It was not until I revisited the obituary yesterday that I realized what a huge oversight this had been.

    Without getting too much into the ongoing debate over how much Howard has to fear lately and why he has been out of public view for as long as he has (and for how long he’ll continue), I can give my opinion that, while certainly surprised at this recent return to the States (he was said by everyone to be in Dublin), I do not believe it means much, if anything, in the way of a Full Tilt recovery or progress of cashouts. There has been some talk over whether his presence here in Vegas might mean an imminent announcement by Full Tilt Poker, perhaps, some have suggested, even voiced by himself. I do not believe this will be the case. I think Howard has merely returned to Las Vegas to honor his deceased mother on the appointed memorial date, and that’s that. I could be wrong, but I would not be surprised to learn that, shortly after the end of the memorial today, he gets right back on a plane and returns to Ireland.

    I never suggested that Howard might be in some kind of Polanski or Calvin Ayre state whereby, upon setting foot in the United States, he will be apprehended. Any warrant of the kind for his detainment would have certainly been made public by now. At the same time, this does necessarily mean that Howard hasn’t got a whole lot of shit to be worried about. He gains nothing by staying in America, except perhaps a small bump in reputation by his critics (which have sometimes included me), but he has so far proven he isn’t really concerned with that. Perhaps he feels inadequate to publicly endure the kind of shitstorm of questions/doubts/attacks Full Tilt has been the target of lately. Perhaps he is trying his hardest to oversee/expedite the repair of Full Tilt Poker/Pocket Kings directly on the field in Dublin. Maybe he isn’t a person of interest in the investigations right now, but could this change as more information about the case(s) is uncovered? And to satisfy the more conspiratorial among us, what if he has struck some kind of co-operational agreement like his old buddies Daniel Tzvetkoff and Bradley Franzen did? Who would feel proud (or secure) enough to show his face in this country if that were the case?

    I do not think it’s unlikely that Howard’s reasons for getting – and staying – the fuck out of Dodge are some sort of blend of the above, with perhaps a few more unaddressed motives thrown in the mix. At any rate, mourning and honoring the very recent passing of one’s mother is no bullshit. Howard must have felt that, risking no immediate and direct threat for a brief sojourn in America, and given the importance of the memorial, he could take his chances in booking the flight. (He might have also wanted to come back home for a bit to sort some other shit out.) There is also the matter of the rest of his living family – wife and son – who remained here in the States, and not in Ireland with him. A life in constant hiding, away from your own family, is certainly no way to live. He’ll be damned if he allows the ghost of the DOJ to prohibit him from being with his family on the day of his mother’s memorial.

    It would have certainly been a lot more noteworthy if Howard weren’t here for the memorial of the late Mrs. Lederer. Then you could have really deduced so much from it. But the fact that he is here, and walking about freely (?), suggests that he is relatively safe for now. I guess we’ll have to see what develops in the coming days before we are able to figure out much more. I would bet on a one-way ticket right back to Dublin, but I could be wrong, of course.

    I will continue to speak/write more on this issue, but for now I expect this is enough. On a final note, however, I would like to report on something else Lizette said she saw during that dinner. While Howard seemed mostly quiet and aloof, Annie Duke, she said, was very animated – perhaps even angry – during what appeared to be her interrogation of Howard. Maybe this is the way Ms. Duke normally expresses herself. Maybe she really was upset with her brother. At any rate, it might not mean a great deal, if anything, but for enthusiasts of this case and reenactment buffs like myself, I thought you might find this additional tidbit a little interesting.

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