Author: Anton Johan
Never has an online poker room been so loved and then so hated as Full Tilt
Poker. Once the darling of the online poker world, it eventually became its arch
enemy, and a showcase for greedy and unscrupulous owners who left thousands of
poker players from all over the world out of pocket to the tune of millions of
However, in the less than a month Full Tilt Poker will rise from the ashes,
when it is relaunched by its new owners and once fierce rivals, PokerStars.
The tale of Full Tilt Poker reads like a script from 80s TV show Dallas, with
everything from overwhelming success and growth, to skullduggery and corruption,
and ultimately collapse and shame. But every great story needs a shot of
redemption, and Full Tilt Poker's has that.
Full Tilt Quick to Capitalise on Online Poker Growth
Full Tilt Poker was launched in 2004 by TiltWare, LLC, a company owned by
well-known poker pros Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Howard Lederer, and businessmen
Ray Bitar and Rafe Furst. Full Tilt's owners were very quick to capitalise on
the growing global popularity of online poker, particularly in the United
One of the factors that aided Full Tilt's success was its endorsement by many of
the world's top poker professionals including Phil Ivey, Mike Matusow, Andy
Bloch and Jennifer Harman, as well as Ferguson and Lederer, many of whom played
regularly on the site.
Needless to say everything went smoothly for many years, with thousands of new
players signing up every month, and the site gaining a reputation as one of the
world's best online poker rooms.
But then a Few Cracks Started Showing
In April 2010, it became known that the poker room and its directors were one of
many offshore online gambling firms being investigated by a US federal grand
jury for violating US money-laundering and gambling laws. However, it was still
business as usual at Full Tilt Poker, until just over a year later on Friday,
April 15 2011 (now known as Black Friday), the US Department of Justice showed
The FBI "pounced" on Full Tilt Poker by seizing its domain, instantly shutting
down the popular site. The Bureau said the crackdown was part of slew of
indictments on gaming site personnel. (PokerStars and Absolute Poker were also
targeted.) A few months later Full Tilt's gambling license was suspended and
eventually revoked by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.
But the biggest blow was to the thousands of players whose funds were still tied
up in the now closed poker room. It came to light that the directors of the
poker room pocketed as much as $300 million owed to players, as well as an
additional $144 million in profits. The result is that Bitar and company are
still facing civil and criminal cases in the United States.
PokerStars Agreed to Pay $731m in Restitution
And here's where things really start to get interesting. As part of an agreement
to settle its dispute with the FBI and US Department of Justice, in July this
year PokerStars agreed to pay $731 million in restitution, for which it would be
allowed to operate freely, as well as acquire all the assets of Full Tilt Poker
with a view of relaunching it.
So with Full Tilt under new ownership and a new
licencing jurisdiction (Isle of Man), the site is expected to rise like a
Phoenix from the ashes on Tuesday, November 6 - with a clean slate. Plus,
according to reports, Full Tilt Poker's existing non-American players will
finally be able to access and cash out their accounts.
American players, however, will likely have longer to wait because of the
illegal status of online gambling in the US.
Posted by Anton Johan at 15:23 on 10 October 2012