GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 17 - September 2011

By Vin Narayanan T he last four months have not been kind to Full Tilt Poker – or its players. On April 14, 2011, Full Tilt Poker was the world’s second- largest online poker room, trailing only PokerStars. As of press time, Full Tilt was no longer operating anywhere. The online poker roomwent into hiber- nation when the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended the online poker room’s eGambling. Full Tilt’s problems began on April 15, when the Department of Justice indicted Full Tilt founder and CEO Raymond Bitar, along with the found- ers of PokerStars and Absolute Poker, on charges of money laundering, wire fraud and operating an illegal gam- bling business. As part of the legal ac- tion, the DOJ seized 76 bank accounts in 14 countries, seized the domains of,, and and sought $3 billion in civil money-laun- dering penalties. Full Tilt and PokerStars quickly reached agreements with the DOJ in which the poker companies exited the U.S. market and agreed to refund American players in return for the do- mains that had been seized. Absolute Poker reached a similar agreement that did not involve the return of its domain names. But as of press time, only PokerStars had returned money to its American players – and that’s where Full Tilt’s nightmare began. Like the other online poker rooms, Full Tilt remained open to players outside the United States. And those players continued to play at Full Tilt. In the weeks following the April 15 indict- ments, Full Tilt was still the second- largest online poker room, according to But issues re- garding payment to players outside the U.S. started cropping up sporadi- cally. At first, the problems were dis- missed as temporary hiccups caused by the indictments. “Initial investigations indicate no rea- son to believe that player fund transac- tions are fundamentally threatened by any consequence of the U.S. authori- ties’ actions,” wrote the AGCC in mid- May. “Delays caused by these actions are in the process of resolution, with normal service now being restored for non-U.S. players. We understand that progress in respect of U.S. player fund repatriation is anticipated and will be the subject of a separate state- ment from Full Tilt in due course. The Commission will remain engaged in this process.” As May drew to a close, Full Tilt still had not refunded American players their money, while PokerStars had already returned $100 million. And even Full Tilt’s most ardent backers were seeing red. Phil Ivey, one of the best poker players in the world, has been sponsored by Full Tilt since it opened for business. He announced that he was suing the poker room in June. “I am deeply disappointed and em- barrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed,” read a statement on Ivey’s webpage. “I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm. I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible.” Judgment Day delayed for Full Tilt 62 Twitter myth dispelled, and how to energize your tweets for SEO Judgment Day delayed for Full Tilt