he agreement, announced last Friday, meant that the WPT Championship in Las Vegas was able to begin on Saturday with the usual complement of pro's. The lawsuit was filed in July 2006 by Chris Ferguson, Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon and Howard Lederer, and challenged the WPT's standard player release and contract for all WPT events.
The plaintiffs claimed that the contracts violated federal and state antitrust laws by giving the company control of the players' names and image rights without compensating them.
The WPT denied that its contracts violated antitrust laws, however it agreed to a settlement with the players by implementing a new standard release form to be made available to all players at future WPT events.
The WPT has continued to deny any liability or wrongdoing, and said that it wanted to settle its differences with the players so that the tour can 'focus on continued growth rather than litigation'.
Chris Ferguson, one of the five poker players involved in the lawsuit said: “We are happy to have come to an agreement that is fair to all players, and to have put in place a new release that clears up ambiguities in how players' images may be used. We are especially happy that this new release will apply to all poker players who wish to participate in WPT tournaments and events. WPT has created some of the best poker events in the world, and we are excited to participate in them once again.”
Steve Lipscomb, founder and CEO of WPT Enterprises said: "We are glad to put this dispute behind us, and we look forward to working with all players to grow the sport of poker.”
Two additional poker professionals, Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer, were also initially involved in the lawsuit, but withdraw as the case wore on. Joe Hachem went on to win the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December 2006 for a $2.18 million payday.
The latest WPT Championship began on Saturday at The Bellagio Las Vegas, with an expected first prize of over us$ 3 million. At least two of the poker professionals involved in the lawsuit, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, are now taking part in the event.