It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a time of unregulated online poker in the US. And the FBI looked out on the scene, shook their heads and said “this just won’t do.” So, a massive sting operation was devised that snared four online poker rooms in its net. This is a tale of two of those online poker rooms and where they stand today.
First, let’s take PokerStars. PokerStars was a top site for players in the US and doing well in the EU and UK, though PartyPoker (not available in the US) reigned in the EU markets. When the FBI seized their domain names and bank accounts, PokerStars was quick to enter negotiations to be able to pay out on money owed to US players. By doing so, they kept the trust of their UK and EU markets. The PokerStars news today - well, they’re just a few days from the 2011 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). Now, with US players unable to play (unless they go out of the country for the tournament) PokerStars is offering lower buy-ins for the tournament than they have in the past, but the tournament is a sign that the poker room is still in a healthy state.
No so for Full Tilt Poker. Full Tilt was a force to be reckoned with until the FBI shut down. After that, the sites true problems showed up. Eventually the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended their license because they weren’t paying out money owed to player. Though Full Tilt seems to want to blame these problems on everyone else. So far this week I’ve heard the following: Players actually owe Full Tilt money because they essentially gave loans to players by making deposit money available before checks cleared the banks. But the site neglected to claim the money after the checks cleared. So, players still owe money to Full Tilt. Full Tilt lost money because a payment processor stole $42 million from them. True and unfortunately they can’t report it to the FBI because they’re blaming the FBI for shutting down their worldwide operations. Now that one isn’t quite true. While the FBI did seize the domain Full Tilt used worldwide, we know they were up and operating under another domain name shortly after that, just as PokerStars was.
Here’s what it comes down to for me. The FBI doesn’t seem to have done anything different to Full Tilt Poker than they did to PokerStars. PokerStars survived. Full Tilt is in serious trouble. So it would seem that the problems have to be internal to Full Tilt’s operations. Now the poker room says it’s still committed to paying money it owes to players. Perhaps because the poker world has made one thing clear — pay what you owe or you don’t survive. That’s always been the one main rule of poker.