I get a lot of poker players asking me what’s up with online poker. Since Black Friday in the internet poker world, April 15th, 2011. There has been mass confusion as to what is going on and how it affects US players. There has been a lot going on, from the shut down of various sites to the bankruptcy of Full Tilt Poker and their subsequent acquisition by PokerStars. Over the next week or so, I am going to address all these issues in multiple posts and hopefully these articles will help clear things up as far as questions you may have about online poker.
First, as most poker players already know, the US DOJ shut down online poker in April 2011. They actually took the unprecedented stop of seizing domain names and shutting sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet, and others down. The fall out of this was that US players could no longer play real money games online. As you probably also know, the poker bankroll’s of US online players was thrown into flux because of this and the DOJ basically froze bank accounts (that they could get their hands on) levied fines, and in the case of PokerStars, allowed the site to pay back it’s US players. Unfortunately, things did not go this way for Full Tilt.
As it turned out after the DOJ’s intervention, Full Tilt Poker was running basically like an enormous Ponzi scheme. In other words, there was not enough money in the Full Tilt coffers to cover the players deposits. Full Tilt was simply taking on new deposits and using that money to pay of any withdrawals made by players. Of course, this would have been illegal (if online poker had had any regulations at all!) but since it was basically Thunderdome, anything goes at that point for online poker, guys like Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Ray Bitar drained literally hundreds of millions of dollars from Full Tilt Poker player’s deposits to spend on their own lavish lifestyles. They bought cars, property, houses, and God only knows what else with the money that should have been being held to pay off poker players should they want to withdraw from their accounts.
Consequently, when the DOJ shut everything down, Full Tilt had no money to pay off it’s players. They were literally bankrupt and thousands of US players lost their entire poker bankrolls, in some cases, 10’s and 100’s of thousands of dollars. This is what happens when you have a $6 Billion/year industry that basically has no regulation at all. If this didn’t prove to the poker world that we need a governing body to ensure online poker sites run on the up and up, then I don’t know what would.
To answer another question that many players have asked me; No, I did NOT lose a ton of money with Full Tilt Poker. While I did play on the site for years and made quite a little bit of money playing tournaments on FTP, I saw the end coming several months prior to Black Friday when I made several cash outs with FTP and the checks bounced when I deposited them in my bank account. They had been written on a closed account! Full Tilt later reimbursed me for those particular checks, but at that point I got my money out of there (paying huge bank transfer fees to do so!) and only had a paltry couple hundred bucks in Full Tilt when they shut down.
As of right now, March 18th, 2013, Full Tilt’s US players have NOT been paid back. However, several months ago, PokerStars purchased Full Tilt Poker with the stipulation that they would pay back reportedly around $547 million to US and foreign players. This has not happened yet, probably due the US DOJ being involved and as you know, nothing runs smoothly when the government is involved (think US Post Office) however, from everything I have heard, this money will be handed out soon and as soon as the provisions are announced for getting your money back, I will post the instructions in full, here. It’s only been 2 years, so what’s a few more weeks/months of waiting now? LOL
So to recap, US players are not allowed to play for real money as of March 2013. You can play for play money at sites like PokerStars and even Full Tilt Poker is back up and running. There are many things in the works to legalize and regulate online poker that I will relate in my next few posts. I will also address some of the online sites that are accepting deposits from US players right now in my next article. Stay tuned…..