Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Faraway Poker

While in Macau last week, we were all mindful of the reopening of Full Tilt Poker that happened Tuesday, November 6. There was even a minor buzz in the poker room at the moment FTP’s cash tables opened up, with people mentioning it to one another and wondering aloud about transferring money to and from their PokerStars’ accounts.

I called up the newly updated client on my laptop, actually, and a few of us looked in briefly as players began to take seats at the money tables. For us it was the evening, with the final table of the Asia Championship of Poker Warm-Up event going on before us. That was the final table featuring Johnny Chan (who finished seventh) and Joseph Cheong (who took third), with the Australian Jeff Rossiter eventually winning later that night.

I watched the number of players starting to climb a little -- not overly dramatically, but certainly increasing -- then closed the client. And really, I pretty much forgot all about Full Tilt Poker the rest of the week.

Looking at PokerScout today, I see that according to their tabulations Full Tilt has swiftly moved back into second position behind PokerStars as far as cash players are concerned, with about a third the number they are counting at PokerStars’ real money tables.

A couple of “Sunday majors” played out on the site last weekend (tourneys with $50K and $200K guarantees). Viktor “Isildur1” Blom -- now an FTP-sponsored pro -- is back on there vying for six-figure pots again on the $50/$100 PLO tables. And the FTOPS XXI schedule has been announced -- 35 tourneys totaling $7.5 million in guarantees starting in early December.

Meanwhile as far as FTP is concerned, we Americans piddle around on the free money tables, wonder about our balances (which now read “$0.00”), and read less-than-inspiring missives from the Poker Players Alliance regarding the DOJ-managed return of our balances.

According to the PPA, there is no timeline in place at present as far as the U.S. players’ return of funds is concerned. Says PPA Executive Director John Pappas who has been meeting with DOJ officials about it all, the “completion of a refund claims process is a long way away.”

Apparently a “third-party claims administrator” needs to be found -- with possible entities bidding on the right to assume that duty -- before anything else can happen, and even there no date has been set for when such an administrator will be put in place.

Over on PokerFuse, Dave Ferrara wrote a piece about “FTP Hoopla From Afar: A U.S. Player’s Perspective on the Relaunch” in which he wistfully laments being kept on the sideline amid the excited tweets, forum posts, and articles regarding FTP’s return.

Indeed, the “hoopla” tends only to accentuate the already well established feeling of powerlessness felt by the U.S. online poker player -- unable to play, wholly dependent on others for the recovery of lost funds, and with still uncertain future prospects for playing the so-called “American game” of poker online.

It almost seemed weirdly appropriate to have been 8,000-plus miles from home to watch Full Tilt Poker’s relaunch of cash games. As Ferrara’s choice of headline suggests, it does feel as though FTP 2.0 is all happening from “afar.”

Meanwhile, the return of our FTP funds is a “a long way away.” And for Americans, our regular playing of online poker is quickly receding into a distant past, perhaps to return at point -- unknown as yet -- in the future.

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