I spent much of the morning and early afternoon writing in my room. Then later in the day came a nice visit with Jen Newell who is in town for a few days and who just so happens to be staying in the same home-away-from-home as I am. The two of us made our way to the Rio, took seats at the so-called “hooker bar,” and were soon joined by Lori a.k.a. PokerVixen, Marie Lizette, and AlCantHang.
Among the topics of conversation was the sudden shutdown of Full Tilt Poker yesterday, an event that unfortunately affects Al in particular given his association with the Full Tilt Poker blog (which may or may not be down). I would say Al arriving to join us on the day FTP went down was another coincidence, but then again, the bar seemed like an appropriate destination for him.
A little over ten weeks have passed since Black Friday, the day the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed that indictment and civil complaint versus the “Big Three” online sites and associated individuals. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the two largest sites in the world, immediately stopped allowing Americans to play. Meanwhile, the Cereus sites (Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker) allowed U.S. players to continue playing for several weeks -- despite there being no prospect for their withdrawing funds -- before finally shutting their doors to American players.
Next came the business of cashing out. PokerStars handled that quickly and efficiently, initiating the process less than two weeks after April 15 and sending wire transfers or checks to all players who’d requested cashouts by early-to-mid May. But UB/AP remained mum on the matter, still offering no means for U.S. players to cash out. Full Tilt Poker didn’t exactly remain mum, but didn’t say much, either, leaving its U.S. customers in the dark regarding the prospect of seeing their money.
While many wrote off UB/AP long ago as a mostly rogue outfit plagued by cheaters, schemers, and aided along the way by a few naïve apologists, Full Tilt Poker has always enjoyed a good reputation in the online poker community. While some (including myself) for various reasons preferred to play on PokerStars -- not the least of which being a difference in support, with Stars always being vastly more responsive -- FTP nonetheless was always one of the two most recommended sites for American players.
In the minds of many, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were basically Pepsi and Coke. For a lot of us, we ordered one or the other first, and that became the one we generally ordered thereafter. But either would do.
That way of thinking about the two sites changed drastically after Black Friday, of course. When that much anticipated May 15 “announcement” provided no further indication of how FTP was going to pay back players, many began to lose hope. The Phil Ivey announcement and lawsuit that came a couple of weeks later further indicated trouble ahead for those of us with funds on the site. About three weeks ago, F-Train provided a catalogue of failures by Full Tilt both before and after April 15.
It was getting more and more obvious. Full Tilt Poker was no PokerStars. Not by a long shot.
And now the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, a group that regulates eGambling from the teeny, tiny island of Alderney (just three miles long and 1.5 miles wide) located amid the Channel Islands between England and France, has told Pocket Kings, Ltd. to stop providing software and other support to Full Tilt Poker. The demand follows an investigation by the AGCC of Full Tilt launched in the wake of Black Friday
In other words, the game is over. When you click on that Full Tilt Poker icon on your desktop today, the client won’t even load. Only if you wrote down somewhere how much you had on FTP do you know what that amount is. And, it seems, what you’ve lost.
From the Wall Street Journal report, it doesn’t necessarily sound like the failure to provide a means for U.S. players to cash out directly prompted the AGCC’s action. Rather it was the allegations in the DOJ’s indictment -- including accusations of bank fraud and money laundering -- that forced the AGCC’s hand. “The nature of the findings [in the indictment] necessitated the taking of immediate action in the public interest,” said the AGCC.
However, the non-payment of U.S. players may have accelerated the process somewhat, as the Alderney folks had already expressed concern to Full Tilt execs over the delay. From the outside, it looks almost analogous to Ivey’s decision to break ties with FTP, although Ivey’s relationship to the site is obviously much different from that of the AGCC.
The failure to allow Americans to cash out caused both Ivey and the AGCC to withdraw their support for the site. In Ivey’s case, his support came from his image and its power to attract players. But the AGCC’s support was such that its removal could shut down Full Tilt Poker completely, and that is precisely what has happened. If this were a poker tournament, Ivey’s move crippled the site, and the AGCC took the remaining chips. But really, Full Tilt played the endgame so badly, it was probably destined to go out sooner or later anyway.
When I return to the Rio today to help cover Event No. 51 ($1,500 PLO/8), I will be curious to see whether those FTP pros who have been wearing their patches thus far will still continue to do so. Also will be interesting just to hear the chatter at the tables and elsewhere regarding the shutdown.
To get back to yesterday, I eventually met up with PokerGrump and the one and only Julius Goat for dinner. As a long time fan of Goat’s often hilarious blog (and tweets), I was pleased when I found out his short trip to the WSOP was coinciding with the time I would be here. Like many, JuliusGoat used some of the funds he’d cashed out from PokerStars to take a shot in a WSOP preliminary event, which he did on Tuesday.
He made it through much of Day 1 before being eliminated, and he shared details of that experience with us over dinner amid talk of each other’s blogs and the uniqueness of “meeting” people after having read thousands of words written by them first. Among the many things we three have in common, we all started our blogs at roughly the same time (five-ish years ago) by creating these “characters” (a grump, a shamus, and a wise-cracking goat) through which we initially spoke. Then, gradually, all three of us opened things up in ways that made those characters more like our true selves.
We also talked some about PokerGrump’s getting the golden ticket in that Dan Cates promotion whereby he is actually going to get to play in the WSOP Main Event! (Read all about that here.) I do hope the Grump was paying attention last night to the wise words of the author of Stupid/System, a book that will surely give him an edge over many in the ME. We were joined as well by cmitch, then still alive in Event No. 48 (he would eventually go out in 125th), and it was nice to meet him as well. The coincidences continued to pile up as somewhere along the way we discovered cmitch and I have the same birthday.
The three of us then went to McFadden’s for the pub trivia (a return to the game about which I wrote last week), and were able to continue our conversations there while being challenged to remember the actor’s names, the decades in which historical events occurred, things Britney Spears said, and other items. After that, Julius Goat and I walked back across the Rio to the poker to check in on the tournament he had played as well as the rest of the scene there late last night, including a couple of final tables playing out for Events No. 46 (the $10,000 NLHE 6-max.) and No. 47 (the $2,500 Omaha/8-Stud/8).
Was great fun meeting the man behind the cigar, glasses, and painted on mustache. Of all the coincidences of yesterday, I was most glad of the one that put us both here in Vegas at the same time so we could meet.