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Alligator Blood author James Leighton on who was to blame for Black Friday, living it up in Las Vegas and selling the film rights to a major Hollywood director
PokerPlayer: Where did the concept for this book come from?
James Leighton: After I finished my last book I was looking for a new project with an international flavour. I picked up a newspaper and there was a story about Daniel Tzvetkoff being blamed for Black Friday. I started looking at the story and it had all the ingredients for a really fascinating book.
How much does Alligator Blood differ from the original newspaper story?
It’s completely different. Daniel was being solely blamed for bringing about Black Friday – no other names were involved and he was accused of stealing money and so on. I thought I was going off to research a story on this thief, and also I thought Full Tilt Poker would have a huge part to play in the story. But I was surprised that Full Tilt, for all their faults, actually didn’t have a whole lot to do with this. Instead of stealing the money, Daniel had perhaps got in over his head with business partners and made a few bad decisions. There had also been a few people who were FBI informants [on online poker] before him so he was wrongly maligned.
Did you manage to get much access with Daniel Tzvetkoff himself?
I can’t go into details because I have agreed to keep them confidential for obvious reasons, but I did speak to a lot of people close to Daniel and I got a lot of information that hadn’t been known before.
This wasn’t a guy that meant to cause Black Friday, it was all just a horrendous sequence, a perfect storm of events, and this young guy was caught in the middle of it. The book shows that he was certainly reckless at times and got carried away with spending money and the lifestyle out there, but he didn’t mean to cause this and there are other people who are equally as culpable and have escaped the media spotlight.
What did you think to all the excessive spending that went on during this period?
On the surface a lot of this display of wealth, while it may seem exciting, is actually quite repulsive. It’s not their money, it’s poker players’ money. But then at the same time you try to imagine being young in Las Vegas and all of a sudden you’re earning $3m a week! It’s very, very difficult to keep your head. People complain about footballers keeping their head on £100k a week so goodness knows how you do it in Vegas on $3m a week!
What can you tell us about a potential Hollywood film version of the book?
We had a number of offers for the movie rights straight away. One of those was from Robert Luketic, the director of 21. Rob made an offer for the movie rights that was accepted and currently the script is being written, the contract is with the lawyers and we are hoping to sign it soon.
You can buy Alligator Blood from Amazon for just £8.09 – click here to get your copy.
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