What Ever Happened To Full Tilt Poker

What Ever Happened To Full Tilt Poker?

Full Tilt Poker used to be one of the biggest and most popular destinations during the early days of online poker, and while it had to compete with the likes of PokerStars and Party Poker, Full Tilt managed to hold its own over the years for many reasons.

The first and the most obvious one was their roster of high-profile players.

With the likes of Phil Ivey, Chris Jesus Ferguson, Howard The Professor Lederer, and Tom durrrr Dwan wearing their colors, Full Tilt quickly became the number one destination for poker fans.

Secondly, their software was unique and quite modern for the early to mid-2000s. Featuring a cartoonish design and funny avatars but still offering a very player-friendly and easy-to-use interface, it was well ahead of its time.

So, what happened to Full Tilt Poker?

If you try to look up the room today, you might get excited initially as the website still exists.

However, that excitement will be short-lived as youll quickly realize its just a skin of PokerStars that kept some of the original design, but not much else.

If you ve been wondering what happened to FTP, this is the full story, from the glorious beginning to the bitter end.

Full Tilt Poker Takes The Poker World By Storm

The poker boom started during the early 2000s, before things really took off in 2003 after the legendary WSOP Main Event win by Chris Moneymaker.

The writing was on the wall, and those in the know saw a huge business potential in the game.

Chris Ferguson, already an established and accomplished player at the time, was among those who saw the opening and decided to take his chances. He paired up with Ray Bitar, and together they launched Full Tilt Poker in July of 2004.

They wasted no time bringing big names onboard.

The likes of Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Erick Lindgren, and Jennifer Harman joined Full Tilt Poker, and the room devised a very clever strategy to attract new players.

Under the slogan play with the pros FTP appealed to the masses of poker fans who rushed to the site for their chance to sit across from one of their favorite players.

The room received plenty of additional marketing thanks to High Stakes Pokers sponsorship, easily the most popular poker show ever filmed.

On top of all this, many fans of the game would log in to Full Tilt just to observe some high stakes cash game action.

The site became the go-to place for everyone seeking to play online nosebleeds, with $300/$600+ games running regularly.

By the end of 2005, Full Tilt Poker had taken over the online poker scene, leaving Party Poker and PokerStars, their two biggest competitors at the time, far behind.

Full Tilt was the synonym for online poker during those early years.

FTP Rolls The Dice As The UIGEA Is Passed

By this point in time, there is hardly anyone in the poker world, especially if they happen to be from the U.S., who doesn t know about the infamous Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

The Act was targeted at financial institutions in the States, expressly forbidding them to process any transactions directed towards online gambling sites.

This was a big hit for online poker.

Prior to 2006, players from the U.S. made up a large percentage of the overall player pool.

However, the UIGEA was directed at financial institutions and not gambling and poker operators themselves, so there was some grey area.

Party Poker decided that it was too much of a risk to continue operating in the States, but PokerStars and Full Tilt saw another opportunity here.

The people behind Full Tilt Poker decided to roll the dice and continue business as usual. Some years later, this would prove to be a big mistake.

Once the initial dust had settled, it seemed things were back to normal.

With one competitor less to worry about, Full Tilt made the brand even stronger and it seemed like their decision to ignore the UIGEA was spot on.

This was just an illusion, though.

Things were happening behind the scenes that the general public and even some of those inside the company werent aware of.

The pin was about the drop, and when it finally did, FTP received a huge blow that it would never recover from.

The U.S. Department Of Justice Takes On Online Poker

April 15, 2011, is a date that almost every poker player who s been around for a while is well familiar with.

It became known as Black Friday as it was easily the hardest and ugliest day in the relatively short history of online poker.

Players who logged on that day were faced with this shocking message:

On that day, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) made it very clear that pretending the UIGEA didn t exist wasn t the best move.

They spent several years building the case and collecting the evidence, but they went hard when they were ready to go.

In a single day, they took down websites of three major poker operators in the U.S. Apart from FTP, PokerStars and Absolute Poker s domains were also seized.

The shock that players experienced on that day when they tried to log in to their Full Tilt accounts can hardly be put into words.

Many people had substantial amounts of cash stuck on the site, and no one saw the DoJ coming.

False Promises And The Fall Of Full Tilt Poker

Initially, Full Tilt Poker issued several reassuring statements that players had nothing to worry about as their money was safe.

With the promise of paying U.S. players in full, the room was allowed to continue operating in the rest of the world for a short while.

However, after a few weeks, it became clear that something wasn t right. The DoJ shut down FTP once again, and underlying problems started to surface.

It would turn out that the promises about funds being safe were completely false.

The room didnt have all the players money readily available, and the DoJ launched a full-scale investigation into the matter.

Soon after, the claims of the Ponzi scheme operation came about.

Full Tilt Poker has been experiencing problems processing payments for years.

Some payment processors that dealt with U.S. deposits werent sending them money, but the room continued to add it to the players balances just the same, while actual transactions were stuck in limbo.

While the room was operational, they could handle the backlog, although players were complaining about delayed withdrawals long before Black Friday.

But, once they were forced to shut down the operation and money from new players stopped coming in, it was the end.

There simply wasn t enough money in FTP s accounts to cover everyone s balances.

Players were furious and felt betrayed, but there wasn t much anyone could do at that point. It was hopeless situation.

Who Was To Blame For Full Tilt Poker s Fall?

Once the FTP scandal came to light, both the authorities and players started to ask questions.

Whose fault was it? How did such a big room with such a great market position end up where it was?

All eyes were directed at the main honchos: Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson.

At the very least, they had to know about these issues, and they had the responsibility to act before it was too late.

But, the poker community was hit with deafening silence for the most part they never got the answers they were hoping for.

By that time, Ferguson (below) was no longer as involved with the company management.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Lederer did a few interviews, but his response to most questions was, I dont know. Bitar stayed away from the public eye.

During the investigation, it was revealed that the management of FTP further deepened the crisis by issuing big loans to some of their big-name players.

In the end, the blame for the FTP fiasco falls to those in charge at the time.

For that reason, they were ostracized by the poker community and had to pay hefty fines.

But, the whole story of what was actually happening behind the closed doors in those last years and months of Full Tilt Poker was never told in full.

One must wonder what would have happened if Black Friday had never occurred.

Perhaps the story of Full Tilt Poker would be much different. Maybe theyd have found a way to get the funds, and we d have been none would be the wiser.

PokerStars Buys Full Tilt And Restores Player Funds

The uncertainty surrounding FTP was concerning.

It soon became clear that the company couldn t pay players back, so they had to find someone willing to take over and rectify the situation.

With the brand tarnished and the player trust severely shaken, this was not an easy feat.

In July 2012, former FTP players could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel after long and painful months of waiting.

PokerStars agreed to purchase the fallen star and reimburse all players balances: those from the U.S. and the rest of the world alike.

Shortly after, the ROW players could log back in to their old FTP accounts and access their funds.

Money was available for withdrawal, and players could also opt to transfer it to their PokerStars account through a rather simple process.

However, U.S. players weren t so lucky.

Although the repayment money was secured, there was a long process ahead. It wasn t before 2014 that first installments started to come in for those who went through necessary steps to claim what was owed to them.

It took several years for this process to complete.

With financial issues out of the way, the question became: what would happen with Full Tilt Poker?

For a little while, the room was up and running again, and with PokerStars now backing the brand, some players believed the room would bounce back and reclaim its position.

FTP Discontinued: The End Of An Era

It seems that PokerStars entertained the idea of keeping Full Tilt Poker alive but eventually decided not to go through with it.

While the brand certainly had some value, everything that happened over the years made it very difficult to rebuild the trust.

Plus, with PokerStars being the biggest brand worldwide now that FTP was out the picture, there wasn t much incentive to spend resources on what used to be its competing brand.

PokerStars created a huge amount of goodwill with the player base by purchasing FTP and reimbursing players in full.

They came through like a knight in shining armor, making sure everyone got every single cent of their money back.

From a marketing perspective it was a great move, even if a costly one.

PokerStars demonstrated their care for the community, regardless of what their business motivation might have been. They came through on their promise with no excuses.

But Full Tilt Poker had to go.

Once repayments were done, PokerStars decided it was time to send the legendary room to the sidelines.

They kept the domain and the software, as this was a part of the purchase, but FTP stopped existing as a standalone entity.

Instead, it is now just a skin of PokerStars with a slightly different design.

If you download Full Tilt Poker today, you ll find that it features exactly the same games and players as the original PokerStars client.

The Final Goodbye To Full Tilt Poker

Those involved with online poker during the early 2000s will always remember Full Tilt Poker with a bit of nostalgia.

It was the place where some of the most epic high stakes battles took place and where many up-and-coming players made a name for themselves.

On the other hand, heaps of freerolls and small-stakes games and tournaments made it possible for everyone to experience the game and build their bankrolls from scratch.

Had chips fallen differently, there is no telling what would ve become of Full Tilt Poker.

Perhaps it would be the strongest brand today. Perhaps it would run its course and shut down, like so many other rooms over the years.

In the end, the story of Full Tilt Poker wasn t a glorious one, but the room certainly had its moments.

It s a shame that PokerStars decided to put it away for good, but maybe it was for the best.

Nearly Three Years Later, US Players Finally Getting Full Tilt Payment

Remember that account you had at Full Tilt Poker? After April 15, 2011 the day forever known in the online poker community as Black Friday you may have forgotten all about it, or assumed that you d never be getting your money back (at least if you live in the United States). But while the process took years to complete, it appears as though American poker players with balances in their Full Tilt accounts will start to get their money back by the end of this week.

Payments Start This Week

According to the Garden City Group, the first round of remission payments to U.S. players on Full Tilt Poker will start distribution on Friday, February 28, signaling the end of a nearly three-year wait for players who have been hoping to get back funds that were frozen in their online poker accounts back in 2011. This follows test transactions that were sent out to players to ensure that their banking information was correct prior to sending the actual funds. Some players may have even seen a transaction for a few cents in their bank accounts, though the absence of such a transaction doesn t mean that the test failed some banks purposely do not show such deposits if they have been flagged as tests.

If the Garden City Group (GCG) was able to confirm the banking details of a petitioner, then that individual should have received a confirmation email on Monday or Tuesday of this week. That email also contains the amount that the player will be receiving, which should be equal to their account balance on April 15, 2011.

However, not everyone will be getting their money immediately. Predictably, some test transactions failed, and in these cases, the GCG was unable to confirm that they had the right information for the remissions process.

If that occurred, individuals should have already received an email with instructions on how to update their banking information. Those players have until March 13 to update their banking information if they want to receive their funds by direct deposit; otherwise, the GCG will send a check to the address on file for each player at that point.

As reported earlier, this round of payments will only cover those players who have agreed with the GCG on the amount that they should receive in the remissions process. Those who are disputing their account balances will not receive their funds until the second round of payments, for which a date has yet to be announced. In addition, many players who are eligible to receive funds have not yet filed a petition, but can still do so on the GCG website.

Full Tilt Saga Finally Wrapping Up

The remissions process has been a long and complicated one that has kept players with significant amounts of money tied up in their old Full Tilt Poker accounts on the edge of their seats. Soon after Black Friday, PokerStars reached a deal to repay American players; however, it became apparent that Full Tilt Poker did not have the necessary funds to do so, leaving its players in limbo.

Full Tilt Poker to be Sold, Player Funds to be Returned

L.A. Times Reports European Investors Will Obtain Stake in the Company

by Card Player News Team | Published: Jun 30, 2011

On Thursday evening, the L.A. Times reported that attorneys close with Full Tilt Poker said that the company has signed an agreement with a group of European investors who will put up enough money to cash out players. Full Tilt has, up until this point, failed to pay back an estimated $150 million in outstanding player funds since April s Black Friday.

As part of the deal, the investors would obtain a majority stake in Pocket Kings, Full Tilts parent company. The money would also help Full Tilt settle its civil case with the United States Department of Justice. The agreement comes just one day after the company had its entire online operation suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

Phil Ivey, who sued Full Tilt and has been absent so far at the 2011 World Series of Poker, will withdraw his lawsuit in Nevada, according to his attorney David Chesnoff. Mr. Ivey intends to dismiss his lawsuit as he believes Full Tilt is taking steps to see that the players are paid, Chesnoff told the L.A. Times.


over 10 years ago

If it happens and I get my money, great.

PocketKings is a marketing and consulting firm based in Ireland, whose only real client was FullTilt. I seriously doubt they have the wherewithal to come up with the funds to purchase FTP, let alone then hand out the $150M owed players.

Howard Letterer and the rest of the scam artists should be in prison.

Phew. I was one of very few who supported FTP all the way. I am glad they found the way to pay back US players. I always knew they tried to do that. And now as soon as online poker is legalized rather sooner than later FTP will be back. And if they need to establish a partnership with US based casino with proper US gambling license (Wynn? Caesars? Any other Las Vegas monster?), I will feel even better. I will be sure my $$ is safe and game will be fair.

FTP can NEVER operate in the US again. Gaming license regulations specify no entity can be involved in a criminal enterprise and still be eligible for a gaming license issued by any convening authority. How any investor can purchase a company and make good on $150M bad debt is beyond me. It looks like a corporate shell game to me and I seriously doubt anyone will be seeing a refund anytime soon, or at all.

over 10 years ago

Where did the money go, that other investors need to be brought in to make the players whole?
Arturo, you are either a shill for FTP or delusional. Millions of dollars have disappeared.

I am nit working for FTP. I am one of those whose money is still not paid back. I honestly believe that online monsters like FTP and Stars do not need to defraud their clients and it is more profitable for them to have crystal clear reputation. FTP wants to pay back what they owe to US clients. Why? Because they want to be back on US market. If they are back "UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT" I will give them a chance. Their "wrong doings" are not related to fair game, but to money processing. And as an answer to notCIA - millions did not disappear but seized by US Government since it wants approx. 1 Billion (with the "B") dollars from FTP as fines/penalties/restitution.

over 10 years ago

Arturo, I will give them a chance too. GIVE US BACK THAT SMOOTH PLAYABLE FTP SOFTWARE. That's all. Somehow.. If I've lost my $400 in cash, points,tickets etc then so be it. BUT THE SOFTWARE, THE RUSH, STEPS, WHAT A WASTE IF NOT TO RETURN.

the real problem is that they have to have sumone buy the company in order to raise the cash needed to pay players. where is the money then.

over 10 years ago

Anyone who actually believes that somebody or even a group of people are going to buy this company and assume 150mm dollars worht of debt with no guarantee the site will ever be able to conduct business again is dilusional. Oh yeah there is also that little civil law suit from the US attorny to contend with. Anyone who is savy enough to be able to raise that kind of money certainly isn't investing in a loser like FTP.

Time to write that money off, if you see one penny consider yourself very lucky

over 10 years ago

Anyone who actually believes that somebody or even a group of people are going to buy this company and assume 150mm dollars worht of debt with no guarantee the site will ever be able to conduct business again is dilusional. Oh yeah there is also that little civil law suit from the US attorny to contend with. Anyone who is savy enough to be able to raise that kind of money certainly isn't investing in a loser like FTP.

Time to write that money off, if you see one penny consider yourself very lucky

over 10 years ago

@ Arturo:
You honestly don't wonder where your money went? FTP was collecting rake on every hand in ring games and an entry fee on every tournament 24/7 but they needed your $50 too?
The money was not seized, accounts were initially frozen. Then, the Dept of Justice told FTP, as they did PokerStars, they expected them to return our money. FTP was still operating and making money everywhere but the US, and they couldn't do it. For 2 months they would not tell you why.
What was absolutely amazing was that their non-US business did not totally collapse. I guess the world is full of guys like you.
FTP will never operate in the US again as they will never get a license.

Raise a candle to the memory of what was once Full Tit Poker. They fought hard for the common player such as me but now they are not to be. They were the soldiers on the poker field but it is up to us to continue the battle.

Yeah. They fought for 2 months to keep my money while they were scraping it in off of morons too stupid to see what was really happening. Soldiers like that usually end up getting shot in the back by their own men.

over 10 years ago

Anyone hear anything about UB lately? Are they still governed by the Kannawaki (please excuse spelling) gaming commission?

Anyway, it's almost election time and our President,(also a poker player),needs to show his hand and let us know who's side he's on. The petition I have on signon.org is designed to do just that.
The link is below.

over 10 years ago

You are really into wasting your time and energy with this foolishness. Find a cause worth all this effort. If whether you can play poker online is anywhere on the President's radar at this moment in history his priorities are more screwed up then yours and he is not fit to be President.

over 10 years ago

I can respect your opinion but would you mind telling me who you think would be fit to be President?

over 10 years ago

If you read my post I did not say he was unfit to be President. I said that at this time of all the problems in America if he is paying attention to online poker and not the more urge problems facing us he should considered be unfit.

over 10 years ago

Good point. So my question to him would be: With all the terrorest in the middle east and here for that matter and the real theives on Wall St, why is he allowing his DOJ to go after poker players?

over 10 years ago

Well the going is good for some and not so good for the others. There are gains in the WSOP for the expected and the un-expected, while all at Fulltilt poker have been made losers who were good at their bets on the table but not so on choosing the best sites. Well now most have realized, where to bet their money on? While it is said that Fulltilt would repay playera s dues and will come alive again with new licensing, there is not much chance of most of the loyals returning to Fulltilt. European online poker sites like 888poker and party have been witnessing mass migration from American sites with the big three names caught in disrepute. 888poker seems to be the clear winner turning in exiled poker players from FTP and other illegal and untrustworthy US online poker sites in large numbers.

over 10 years ago

Do you think the President tells the DOJ what cases to prosecute. And the sites were shut down for money laundering and bribery. These are not trival matters.

over 10 years ago

FTP has no money to pay it's players. UB has no money to pay it's players. Most of these sites were just scams and it was time to shut them down. Maybe at some future point we will get a fair shake and honest sites instead of sites that just fleece their patrons.

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Goodbye to Full Tilt The end of a poker era

This week sees a chapter of poker history come to a close as Full Tilt Poker is officially absorbed by PokerStars. From the avatars to the adverts, the tournaments to the tantrums, life without FTP will never be the same again.

If it seems a long time ago that Full Tilt Poker was the place to play online poker, then that s because it was. This year marks 10 years since the FTP scandal pre-empted Black Friday, an Obama-led U.S. government closure of online poker en masse in the United States.

Full Tilt had, of course, been a huge part of the poker landscape up until that point in poker history, but will players miss it now that it s soon to be gone?

Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros.

FTP players may be heading to PokerStars permanently, but it s well worth some appreciation of a game-changing brand in the poker industry.

Full Tilt Poker was the coolest place to play online poker for a very long time and featured some of the snappiest advertising in the world to make it that way. They had Phil Ivey when Stars had Negreanu. They had Gus Hansen to Stars Chris Moneymaker.

They had Tom Dwan looking deep into the mirror in this astonishing piece of poker marketing.

It did, of course, bring problems. These didn t all fall on the shoulder of Jesus , but Chris Ferguson was one of three men implicated by rumours about the actions that led to Black Friday and the closure of FTP and online poker across America in 2011.

Ray Bitar pleaded sickness, Howard Lederer disappeared, Ferguson made that apology video. Full Tilt s reputation took less time to turn to trash that a flush draw on a bricked river.

Why did People Love FTP So Much?

Many of the old Cash Game stars were the reason players and fans graduated to FTP. It was the site for nosebleeds, games that were played for tens of thousands of dollars every hand and led to millions changing hands. Stars like Patrik Antonius and Viktor Blom carved out fearsome reputations that have lasted to this day.

It wasn t just the cash games, though. The software behind FTP made it so much fun to play poker that to go anywhere else didn t feel the same. You couldn t change the colour of the felt or the deck of cards and make anywhere else look or feel like FTP.

FTOPS events were bragging rights events, they had a consistently popular MTT schedule and fast-fold poker, newly popular in the past two years was born on FTP.

A Scandal to End Them All

It could be argued that no-one tarred by the FTP Black Friday scandal brush has ever really been able to cleanse themselves of the stain. Full Tilt were over $300 million in debt when the rug was pulled from underneath the Ponzi scheme. PokerStars may have bailed out the players by and large, but reputations were ruined overnight.

The Bitar angle was huge at the time. Reports of his ill health were rubbished by some and welcomed by cruel others. Forced to pay $40 million, no-one knows what the former co-owner was left with or where, but he stayed out of prison. Others around him avoided it too, and poker players reacted angrily to Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson returning to the felt in Las Vegas at World Series of Poker events, often filming themselves insulting the former poster boys of a much-maligned brand.

It s hard to imagine how far Full Tilt really fell, especially if we were to travel back in time around 14 years to their peak. The stars of yesterday survived with players like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen able to plead ignorance in a way that Lederer, Bitar and Ferguson never could.

There will never be another poker brand like Full Tilt Poker, but then, perhaps that isn t a bad thing after all. In just three days time, FTP will be no more.

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