Top-10 moments in Full Tilt Poker history

3 October 2011
It’s been a pretty tumultuous year for Full Tilt Poker. Once the second-largest online poker site in the world, Full Tilt has suffered a historic fall from grace. It lost its U.S. customer base, saw its license first suspended and later revoked, and now it has been sold to French investors.
It’s hard to believe all this has happened in a period of less than six months. In fact, so much has happened to the company since it was founded that it’s hard to believe that the company opened for business just over seven years ago.
For this week’s top-10 list, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and revisit the top-10 moments in Full Tilt Poker’s history, listed chronologically.
10. Full Tilt Poker opens for business
The Internet poker landscape was wide open in the summer of 2004 when Full Tilt Poker opened for business. Party Poker dominated the industry, with PokerStars being an up-and-coming player. Several poker rooms were very successful at the time, but have since gone out of business (remember Plenty of professional players were starting online card rooms on their own, but Full Tilt’s strategy of gathering a group of well-known poker pros together to sponsor/own a site was a new strategy altogether.
9. UIGEA passes
While the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act had a huge negative impact on the online poker industry as a whole, it was actually a godsend for Full Tilt. Party Poker and a host of other publicly traded online poker rooms withdrew from the U.S. market, leaving a void for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to fill. Full Tilt, which had been gaining momentum, became the second-largest online poker room almost overnight.
8. Jerry Yang wins WSOP Main Event
After years of watching PokerStars ink sponsorship deals with the eventual winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event, and after seeing Jamie Gold win in 2006 wearing a Bodog hat, Full Tilt Poker finally got their first (and only) WSOP Main Event winner in 2007. Jerry Yang was an unknown amateur, and the win didn’t end up doing much for Full Tilt, as Yang doesn’t play much outside of the Main Event. Last year, Full Tilt signed all but two of the November Nine, but was unable to get the win, as Jonathan Duhamel gave PokerStars another Main Event title.
7. Dwan Challenges
With so many famous high-stakes players in their stable of pros, it’s not surprising that the games on Full Tilt were the biggest games on the Internet. Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and Gus Hansen were regulars at the upper limits. And some new names, particularly Tom “durrrr” Dwan, started to gain a great deal of attention for their success against the big-name pros. Dwan upped the ante by offering players 3-1 odds on a heads-up challenge, risking $1.5 million of his own money against his opponents’ $500,000. Dwan asserted that he could finish with a profit over the course of 50,000 hands. Antonius and Dan “jungleman” Cates took the challenge, and while neither was ever completed, the challenge attracted thousands of railbirds and got Full Tilt Poker lots of attention.
6. Rush Poker
In early 2010, Full Tilt announced a product that revolutionized ring games. Rush Poker was like Internet poker on steroids. The high-paced game gave players the opportunity to sit down at a new table with new opponents every time they were out of a hand, so there was no wait time between hands. Players averaged roughly 300 hands an hour, about five or six times as many as they would at a typical single table online. Rush Poker was a huge hit, and ring game players flocked to it.
5. Fertitta brothers agreement
In early April of this year, it looked like Full Tilt Poker (and PokerStars as well) were about to go mainstream in the U.S. Just days after Steve Wynn announced an agreement to partner with PokerStars should the U.S. regulate the online poker industry, Fertitta Interactive announced a similar partnership with Full Tilt Poker. The relationship, however, was short lived, as new developments were on the horizon.
4. Black Friday
Online poker players in the U.S. will likely always remember where they were on April 15, 2011, when they heard the news that the Department of Justice had unsealed indictments charging the owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker of bank fraud and money laundering. Full Tilt was forced to shut down its U.S. operations almost immediately, and while the future of the company seemed to be bright outside the U.S., the impact of the seizure of funds and the shutdown of U.S. operations made serious flaws in the business apparent in the following months.
3. Ivey sues Tiltware
Six weeks later, after PokerStars had successfully paid back almost all of its American players, Full Tilt’s most famous poker pro sued his former employer, saying the reason for the suit was the non-payment of Americans’ account balances. Phil Ivey’s suit, announced a day before the start of the 2011 World Series of Poker, sent shockwaves through the industry, and forever changed how players viewed Full Tilt Poker. While Ivey later dropped his suit, it made public the unhappiness and discord within the company.
2. License suspended
In late June of this year, after Full Tilt started to have difficulties honoring cashouts to players outside of the U.S., the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended their license, causing an immediate shutdown of the site for all customers worldwide. Three months later, the AGCC decided to revoke the license entirely.
1. Bought by Groupe Bernard Tapie
And that brings us to today. Full Tilt has apparently come to terms with Groupe Bernard Tapie, which says it will pay back the balances owed to all players, pending a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The change in ownership will almost certainly result in massive turnover in management, and it’s hard to say who will survive the purge. If Full Tilt Poker ever operates as an online poker room again, the software may look the same, but the team will look very different.

Aaron Todd

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Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.