It’s about time
For the last several years, Full Tilt Poker has been like Dr. Malcolm Crow in The Sixth Sense, an online poker room that didn’t know it was really dead. On Thursday, finally, the once-great poker site will stop wandering aimlessly, a ghost with no home, and accept that it passed away years ago. PokerStars has announced that Full Tilt will be no more.
As Full Tilt has been part of the PokerStars network since 2016, not much will change for the few people who still played on Full Tilt, aside from the cosmetic look of the site. Their accounts will be automatically transferred to PokerStars, including account balances and preferences. In fact, Full Tilt Poker players already had the ability to login to PokerStars using their Full Tilt credentials if they so desired. They will just be forced to do so started February 25 and that Full Tilt login info will officially be PokerStars login info.
Explaining why it is doing this, PokerStars explained in a FAQ on its website:
Our commitment to improving PokerStars software and the PokerStars customer experience in recent years has limited the amount of focus and resources we could apply to the evolution of Full Tilt. We feel it is time to consolidate brands so that everyone has access to the newest features and most innovative games which are available exclusively on PokerStars.
This was a long time coming, but it makes sense. In fact, it is surprising it didn’t happen earlier. The Full Tilt Poker name can’t have much value anymore and not only was it just a skin of PokerStars, it was operated by the company, so it’s not like an affiliate or other operator provided any benefit or marketing dollars.
Full Tilt used to be the belle of the ball
As readers of this site likely very well know, Full Tilt Poker, founded in 2004, was once one of the behemoths of the industry. It was unique when it launched, as it had fast software with bright, cartoony avatars, and was founded by well-known poker pros. It’s slogan, “Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros,” was quite true – the first time I played on the site, I played in a micro-stakes game with Perry Friedman, who was very nice to all of us noobs.
The site developed into the place to watch pros play and became famous for the nose bleed stakes cash games. When multitudes of poker rooms left the US market after the passage of the UIGEA in late 2006, Full Tilt jumped in stature even more, as it stayed in the market, along with PokerStars, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker.
Full Tilt never got as large as its arch rival PokerStars, but it in its heyday, it was a very strong second.
A site that will live in infamy
But then Black Friday came along on April 15, 2011, when indictments were unsealed against principals from the aforementioned poker rooms, charging them with money laundering, fraud, and other violations related to the UIGEA. UltimateBet and Absolute Poker disappeared completely, making off with players’ money.
Full Tilt, though, was weird. When the feds froze the site’s accounts, it was discovered that Full Tilt did not have enough money to give players their deposits. There were two main problems. First, because Full Tilt was skirting the law, it was using a network of payment processors to avoid having its payments to customers detected. Millions upon millions of dollars ended up frozen/seized in between Full Tilt and the payment processors and the payment processors and customers. Second, and this is what really did in Full Tilt Poker and making it a shameful example of what can happen with no regulation, it was found out that executives, including Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, took millions in payments from the company, using player funds. Thus, when the money flow stopped, Full Tilt was underwater and couldn’t pay players back.
Fortunately, PokerStars came to the rescue. In its whopping three-quarters of a billion dollar settlement with the US Department of Justice, PokerStars agreed to acquire Full Tilt’s assets and make its customers whole. The process took years, but most players did get paid back.
PokerStars operated Full Tilt as a separate poker site at first, but players had little desire to return, so it made Full Tilt a PokerStars skin in the spring of 2016. Since then, most poker players didn’t even know Full Tilt still existed.