With Full Tilt Poker just a couple of hours ago finally officially re-opening its doors for business under the new ownership of PokerStars, millions of players from everywhere apart from the USA and Italy will now have complete access to their bankrolls as they were when the site was sensationally taken offline a year and a half ago.
Whilst this is excellent news for all of those players concerned we thought it would be a good idea to have a recap of just how Full Tilt Poker initially came to be, the downfall of the site before and immediately after “Black Friday” and the re-rise of the site under the new and improved ownership of PokerStars.
The Rise Of Full Tilt Poker!
For those of you that have been playing online poker for a good few years, you will know that prior to “Black Friday” there was only two real heavyweights in the industry, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. They were massive rivals; players would either stick with one of the sites, never to play the other or simply have an account on both and swap about from time to time.
Full Tilt Poker was first established in 2004, heavily backed by some of the biggest poker playing names in the market at that time. There was Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar and Rafe Furst as company directors, whilst Ray Bitar was also the CEO.
It didn’t take long for the poker site to boom, with the connections the players had in the industry, with big name players such as Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen becoming ambassadors and share holders in the site it started to draw big numbers of players.
Though it was never “the” biggest poker site, which was PokerStars it was the clear second biggest with all of the other rivals nowhere near as successful as the big two. It was extremely popular amongst the biggest players in the world due to the high stakes cash games that could be played on $1,000/$2,000 tables, this in turn brought a lot of interest in the site as fans loved to watch players exchanging millions on some occasions.
The Fall Of Full Tilt Poker!
“Black Friday” was the beginning of the end for the old regime, and whilst all poker sites were initially hit, it was just the tip of the iceberg for Full Tilt. On April 15th 2011 the US Government deemed that online poker was actually illegal in America and closed down all US facing sites and domains, which meant US players could no longer play at the tables.
This was the case for all sites, but this is where Full Tilt’s real problems began. Six days after “Black Friday” the sites were all given their domains back as long as they did not allow US based players to play. This meant that Americans were able to get back onto the site but to only make withdrawals of their balances and not actually play.
Unfortunately it seemed that Full Tilt did not have enough money to repay each of its US based players, but continued to blame the slow withdrawal process on legal issues and jurisdiction. They were then accused of being a “ponzi” scheme, whereby money that non-US players were depositing was then being used to repay the money of the US based players, whilst the site was reassuring the non-US based players that their money was safe.
The DOJ claimed that all of Full Tilt Poker directors paid around $444 million out amongst themselves and other owners of the site, from players’ money.
Ray Bitar was formally charged and arrested and could actually face 165 years in prison if found guilty of each and every charge made against him. He was accused of defrauding the customers of Full Tilt Poker, whilst Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson only face civil action.
On the 29th June, AGCC (Alderney Gambling Control Commission) formally suspended Full Tilt Poker’s license and completely revoked it three months later.
The Rise (again) Of Full Tilt Poker!
With the company owing more than $350 million to players all over the world, PokerStars struck a deal with the DOJ which meant paying back all of the players that Full Tilt owed in return for acquiring the site for themselves. The deal struck on the 9th August 2012 was worth around $731 million and gave PokerStars ownership of all of Full Tilt Poker’s assets.
They then confirmed that the site will be up and running again within ninety days and that all of the “rest of the world” players will have their money just as they left it. The US based players will have to go through the appropriate channels with the DOJ to obtain their money.
This was fantastic news for the whole poker community and especially the former players that have had their money locked up in cyberspace for so long. PokerStars confirmed that they will be running the site as a separate entity and will not be making too many changes.
After a first look at Full Tilt Poker since they officially opened their doors to real money action once again, that was a true statement. Not much seems to have changed, though there have been a few positive changes.
One such change is that you can now transfer money between both Full Tilt and PokerStars if you link the account, which on its own is an excellent option.
They have also been trying to encourage players to stay put on the site rather than just withdrawing their money. There will be promotions and bonuses galore for the first few weeks with cash bonuses, freeroll tournaments etc.
Anyway, we are off to have a game, see you there!