Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Full Tilt Poker Relaunch Soon (No Shinola)

Full Tilt Poker 2.0 is happening. In less than a month, the site will be relaunched under the auspices of PokerStars. Soon players around the world will be back at the FTP tables, reanimating their geckos and pandas and gnomes and other avatars (I assume) in real money games.

It wasn’t that long ago that the prospect of Full Tilt Poker actually reopening seemed as far-fetched as oh, I don’t know, a team winning a football game by throwing a game-ending interception.

Then again, following his recent media-blitz-cum-absurdist-theater performance of a couple of weeks ago, Howard Lederer is now back at the tables in Vegas playing $400/$800 mixed games.

How did we get here? Well, to borrow a line delivered by the “Professor” character in “The Lederer Files” (Act I, Scene 1), “something weird happened.”

When the Department of Justice first amended the civil complaint in September 2011 and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara described the site as “not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” it was hard to imagine any sequence of events that could result in an FTP comeback.

That sense remained evident pretty much all through that whole uncertain pas de deux between the site and Groupe Bernard Tapie that followed the DOJ’s amendment, when the idea of the site actually being purchased, relicensed, and revived somehow continued to appear a distant prospect at best.

And even after rumors regarding PokerStars entering the picture began swirling in April of this year, for most it wasn’t until the official confirmation of such and estimates regarding the date of an FTP relaunch were starting to be made at the end of July that FTP’s return seemed a real possibility.

And it’s happening, all right. Last month some players in non-U.S. countries began receiving emails from FTP regarding their accounts. PokerStars then began rolling out procedures for those non-U.S. folks to follow in order to access their funds.

Last week came news that Team Full Tilt member Gus Hansen was being tapped as the “first brand ambassador” for the relaunched site. A couple of days ago we learned that after having its licenses suspended and then revoked by the Alderney Gaming Control Commission last year, FTP has been granted a new online gaming license by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission (the same group that has licensed PokerStars since 2005). Heck, they’ve even announced dates for FTOPS XXI -- picking back up Full Tilt’s popular online tourney series -- scheduled for the first half of December.

All systems are go, then, regarding the targeted relaunch date of Tuesday, November 6. Alas, along with players in a few other countries (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Italy, and Spain), Americans won’t be able to reopen their accounts and play real money games on Full Tilt Poker that day.

We will, however, be able to vote for candidates running for president, House and Senate seats, and local offices as it just so happens November 6 is also Election Day here in the U.S. A few will grimly note some vague irony tucked away inside that juxtaposition.

Even though Full Tilt will operate as a distinct site and not as a “skin” of PokerStars or part of the same network, its position in the online poker market will nonetheless be as a kind of Stars subsidiary, a highly visible and important complement to the primary site which according to PokerScout currently enjoys “around 50% market share.” In other words, as far as the business side of things is concerned, the online poker “game” should be affected considerably by FTP’s return.

Should prove an interesting game tto watch. Which is what we mostly do here in the U.S. at present when it comes to online poker. Watch.

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