Posts Tagged ‘US Department of Justice’

Will $82m in Full Tilt Repayments give Online Poker a Boost?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

By now, much of the poker community has heard that the US Department of Justice has approved $82 million worth of Full Tilt Poker repayments. Over 30,000 players will be receiving money back that was previously locked up on Full Tilt.

With the US DOJ’s approval now official, the Garden City Group can begin distributing tens of millions of dollars to affected players. And now that people will finally be getting their money back, one huge question is if this is going to have a big impact on the poker community.

Most of those who are owed money didn’t have a significant amount on Full Tilt. It’s being reported that the majority of players are looking at getting back $200 or less. However, there are also a number of grinders who are going to receive a fortune.

Take Blair Hinkle, for instance, who won the FTOPS XIX Main Event along with a $1 million prize. Hinkle took this event down just weeks before Full Tilt stopped servicing American players due to Black Friday. Shortly after Black Firday, he wanted to cash out $48,000 of the winnings, but was given the runaround by Full Tilt’s staff.

This was just a precursor to what many other pros would experience in the aftermath of April 15th, 2011, when $82 million worth of American players’ funds were stranded on Full Tilt. And when the US DOJ took over following the site’s financial meltdown and PokerStars buying Full Tilt, it only delayed the process. But now, many of these pros are getting their money back, which could mean great things for poker.

With so much cash going back into players’ hands, we should definitely expect some more high stakes play. Furthermore, we can expect more players at all cash stakes and tournaments. This is $82 million that was taken out of circulation over two and a half years ago. So it’ll definitely be nice to see at least some of it returning to online poker and making the games more juicy.

Next Stop for PokerStars: The State of New York

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Not long ago, the Rational Group was dealt another crushing defeat in America, when New Jersey decided to suspend review of their online gaming application for two more years. The stated reason why is that they don’t like Isai Scheinberg’s involvement with Rational, or his unresolved case with the US Department of Justice. The real reason why is because Atlantic City casinos don’t want to compete against Rational’s crown jewel, PokerStars, in the online poker market.

So is Rational sitting around crying with their head in their hands? No, they’re already hot on the trail of getting licensed in another American state: New York.

Now, if you know your legal internet gaming in the United States, you realize that only Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada offer regulated online markets. But after a state vote created a seven-casino project, PokerStars feels that Governor Andrew Cuomo and the entire state of New York have gambling fever.

They’ve since sent lobbyists to the Empire State in hopes of working on Cuomo and other New York politicians. According to, these lobbying efforts have already produced results. Here is a look at one key excerpt that wrote about the matter:

It looks like at least Cuomo’s legal team is on Rational’s side; New York law firm Cozen O’Connor‘s rep Stuart Shorenstein had the ear of Bennet Liebman, who is acting as the Governor’s chief advisor on all things gambling these days. According to Shorenstein, it’s now “a good time for an open architecture”; in other words, since you’re opening all these brick-and-mortar casinos, why not add the Internet to the pot? According to a Cuomo spokesman, the governor has taken no official stance on this proposition at this time.

Seeing as how New York’s state government hasn’t even opened serious discussion on the matter of online gaming, there’s no telling when or if it will become a reality. Even still, it’s obvious that PokerStars is on the forefront of the internet gaming movement in New York.

Chris Moneymaker talks Possible Full Tilt Sale, Improving his Game

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Unlike some WSOP Main Event champions, Chris Moneymaker has really withstood the test of time. Once a little-known account from Tennessee, the 2003 Main Event champ has carved out a very nice poker career for himself.

Moneymaker recently sat down with PokerListings to discuss how he’s managed to stay in the game so long, as well as the possibility that Full Tilt Poker could be sold soon.

In regard to the latter, Moneymaker was asked if he thought Full Tilt was struggling. He certainly doesn’t believe this is the case after citing the poker room’s sheer size. But he did say, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Full Tilt is sold off eventually.”

As for the potential buyer, the poker pro believes that a major land-based casino could make the investment. “No, it would rather be a brick-and-mortar casino like Caesars.” He continued by saying, “Any big, affluent casino that can afford to pay $950 million or whatever it’ll cost. Personally, I think that buying Full Tilt was an ingenious move. PokerStars gets lucky in spots, but they also make pretty good decisions.”

Like we mentioned before, Moneymaker has been steadily improving his poker skills over the years. He’s recently received a boost after hiring fellow pro Calvin Anderson to coach him. “Yes, I’m actually speaking to him more than ever. Only the other night we had a five-hour conversation,” he said. “I’m very happy with my game at the moment, all I need is some results coming in. I didn’t get very lucky in coin flip or similar situations lately.”

Moneymaker also offered some advice for aspiring poker players. He said, “If you’re a recreational player, you’re probably better off with a training site that shows video and teaches strategy. But if you want to take it to a professional level, investing money to improve your game is definitely worth it. I know players who haven’t improved in 15 years and the reason is that they’ve never really tried.”

Even 10 years after winning a WSOP Main Event, Chris Moneymaker is still working hard and getting better. This being said, we can expect the famed pro to stick around for many years in the future.

Ray Bitar avoids Jail Time – A Travesty or Humanity?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Disgraced Full Tilt Poker CEO Ray Bitar finally had his day in court, and he got about as light of a punishment as he could’ve hoped for. Bitar was credited with “time served” before sentencing and won’t have to do any more jail time. The reason why is because he needs a heart transplant and would likely die behind bars. The kicker is that he’ll have to forfeit $40 million worth of assets, which isn’t that much of a kicker when you consider what he did.

Not long after Bitar was indicted by the US Department of Justice on various felony charges, Full Tilt eventually lost its license along with $330 million worth of player deposits. It was later revealed that he used funds from Full Tilt player accounts to pay himself and other board members. He also misled new players into thinking that their money was kept separate from FTP’s payroll and expense accounts.

Considering that Ray Bitar earned well over $40 million during his time at FTP, it’s pretty clear that $40 million in asset forfeiture and a little time served in jail is a sweet deal. In fact, most would say that justice wasn’t served at all in this matter.

Millions of professional players who trusted Full Tilt with money had their lives rocked. Some pros were forced out of the game altogether when their bankroll essentially vanished on FTP. All the while, Bitar was lining his pockets with money, even though he knew the risks associated with running a US-friendly online poker site.

Obviously what he did was immoral and affected a lot of people’s lives. So most would rather take the risk of him dying in jail over letting him get away with a less than satisfactory punishment. On the other hand, if Bitar’s heart condition is as bad as he claims, it seems like he’s suffering enough already. Fretting about what would happen to him all these months definitely took a toll on the obese man.

So has justice been served in this matter? The truth is that there’s no clear answer, but just know that Bitar didn’t get out of this matter totally unscathed.

PokerStars, Full Tilt Deal would be Huge

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

These past couple of days have been pretty hectic throughout the poker community with lots of talk surrounding PokerStars bid to buy Full Tilt. Now you may already know that, for the past several months, Groupe Bernard Tapie had been pursuing a deal with the US Department of Justice to buy Full Tilt Poker for $80 million.

However, the big problem with the deal was that GBT wasn’t prepared to spend/didn’t have the money to pay player deposits back. Eventually, this hangup caused any potential deal to fall through because the US Department of Justice wanted player deposits paid back within three months of the purchase. After all, nobody wants to see a Full Tilt Poker scandal part II.

In any case, the absence of Groupe Bernard Tapie now means that PokerStars is stepping in to fill their shoes, and potentially purchase Full Tilt. Much like with GBT, their biggest obstacle will be negotiations with the US DOJ. But it’s also very likely that PokerStars actually has the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay players back worldwide.

If they can complete the deal, Stars stands to add another huge chunk of players to their already massive base. Remember, FTP was the world’s second largest poker site (behind Stars) before the US DOJ’s actions started their downfall. And if PokerStars can acquire this player pool – along with the FTP software – their product will only be that much better.

Of course, one big thing to keep in mind here is that a PokerStars-Full Tilt deal probably won’t be completed any time soon. The US DOJ is dealing with a totally new buyer now, so it’s a good bet that they’ll prolong the process for a few months just like with GBT. Hopefully this time the deal goes through though.

Full Tilt Poker seeking US Online Poker License

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Proving that anything is possible, Full Tilt Poker reportedly has a very good chance to get a US online poker license if the game is ever legalized and regulated in America.

Full Tilt’s lawyer Jeff Ifrah came out with this news after his dealings with Groupe Bernard Tapie and the US Department of Justice. He said that, in addition to the $80 million deal between GBT and the US DOJ, there is also a very good chance for Full Tilt Poker to be accepted for a US online poker license if America does pass favorable legislation within the next year or so.

Right now, Groupe Bernard Tapie and Full Tilt Poker are in the process of finalizing the aforementioned $80 million deal. As part of the deal, GBT will pay back the $300 million-plus that non-US online poker players are owed from Full Tilt, while the US DOJ will pay the estimated $160 million that Americans have wrapped up in the site.

For the time being, there’s no word on what will become of the current Full Tilt board members such as Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar and Howard Lederer. This trio, along with other higher-ups at FTP, are blamed for players not being able to cash out money after the US DOJ came down on Full Tilt; they took too money from the player deposits for themselves, and didn’t leave nearly enough to cover cashouts.

This being said, it’s interesting that Full Tilt Poker would still be considered for licensing within the US. After all, many online poker players were inconvenienced by this dilemma because some of them had thousands or even millions stuck on FTP. Hopefully though, the Groupe Bernard Tapie deal can bring an end to this whole mess.

Full Tilt Poker License Gone: Blame Game Continues

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The suspense over the Full Tilt Poker and Alderney Gaming Control Commission meeting finally ended last night with the AGCC permanently revoking FTP’s license. Their license was suspended on June 26th, and Full Tilt Poker had been eager to see what their fate would be. But as many people on the outside could have guessed, they received the worst possible fate after their license was permanently taken away.

In the end, the AGCC’s choice came down to the fact that Full Tilt Poker had attempted to dupe them with falsified statements of liquid assets. The Alderney Gaming Control Commission released a statement regarding this part of their decision by writing:

At a hearing held in London over six days, it emerged that FTP had fundamentally misled AGCC about their operational integrity by continuously reporting as liquid funds balances had been covertly seized by US authorities, or that were otherwise not actually available to the operator. Serious breaches of AGCC regulations include false reporting, unauthorized provision of credit, and failure to report material events.

So not only had Full Tilt Poker been secretive and misleading to poker players about their funds, but they also tried to pull one over on the AGCC. Of course, Full Tilt has a history of playing the blame game since they claimed it was all the US government’s fault over their inability to pay player cashouts. So it should be no surprise that their rebuttal over the lack of a license directly blamed the AGCC for ruining people’s chances of receiving deposits. Full Tilt Poker wrote:

Today, the Commission announced its decision to revoke three of the four Full Tilt Poker operating licenses, despite the weight of evidence presented at the hearing by Full Tilt Poker of investor interest in acquiring the company. The Commission’s decision to revoke Full Tilt Poker’s operating licenses makes it more difficult to execute the sale of the company and hence repay its players.

Sure there is a team of French investors who are, for some reason, interested in buying Full Tilt Poker. However, FTP said that they were close to selling the site months ago, which ultimately never materialized. In short, it looks like the AGCC was tired of hearing the same old Full Tilt lies.

DOJ really after Merge Network?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

One of the biggest poker stories to surface in the month of September is how the US Department of Justice is supposedly targeting the Merge Gaming Network, which includes Lock Poker, Carbon Poker, RPM Poker and others. The story broke from a website called Subject Poker as the writer, Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, said that a source gave him information on the potential bust.

Before we get into the specifics, it’s worth mentioning that this source was never actually mentioned in the story. In short, the writer put this article into question before it even got started with the anonymous source. Essentially, using anonymous sources like this isn’t far off from what tabloids and Hollywood gossip magazines do before printing an outrageous story like, “Arnold Swarzenegger pregnant with Twins!”

Moving to the actual article, Noah claimed the source told him that the US Attorney’s Office in Maryland was hot on Merge’s trail. He wrote:

According to our sources, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland plans to seize the assets of payment processors who facilitated transactions between the Merge Network and its US customers. It is unclear exactly which payment processors are reportedly being targeted, whether indictments are planned in addition to seizures, or whether the DOJ intends to seize domain names as well.

The sad part about all of this is that people actually took the article and its unnamed source at face value, and rushed to make withdrawals. This is definitely bad news for a host of reasons, including the fact that Merge Gaming has already had a difficult time processing all of the new customers. The influx of withdrawals certainly aren’t going to help matters. Going further, other poker sites have started to question whether or not Subject Poker has a hidden agenda by writing this malicious article.

PokerNewsBoy writer Gerry Poltorak said that the anonymous source also contacted him on Skype after Poltorak bashed Subject Poker. Poltorak wrote the following about what the source said when pressed for information:

Finally, I even offered to retract my article if this guy could provide any proof at all who he is:

4:24:04 PM] Robert: its all sealed
[4:24:08 PM] Robert: i can’t
[4:24:14 PM] Gerry Poltorak: id be happy to look over the proof and retract my post backing noah up
[4:24:54 PM] Robert: i can’t send any docs
[4:24:58 PM] Robert: on merge
[4:24:59 PM] Robert: sorry
[4:25:05 PM] Robert: i gotta run for now

So…he can send this stuff to Noah, but not to me? It’s sealed, but Noah got them.  Right.

Gambling911 was another doubter of this story’s legitimacy as they wrote: posted an article last week that was full of obvious agendas looking to take down either the Merge Poker Network or one of its main skins.

“We suspect the later,” said Costigan.

“It’s not so much the Merge Poker Network per se that is the target of this smear campaign, but one of its larger skins and we will leave it at that,” Costigan said.

PokerStars Software goes Down

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

One of the chief reasons for PokerStars’ perch above the online poker world is that they are such a reliable company. Unfortunately, this reliability was put in some serious jeopardy after the software crashed last night.

The PokerStars software stopped working around 18:30 ET, and the nearly 50,000 players online were puzzled about what to do. At first, people may have thought that it was a mere glitch; but when the PokerStars software was still down a half hour later, people began to grow antsy.

In fact, many players were scrambling on the internet to find out what was going on. Luckily, PokerStars officials released a statement on their site to explain the problem and it read:

Administrator: All tournaments have been paused while we attempt to resolve the issue affecting gameplay. Tournaments will resume as soon as possible. When we are ready to resume, we will post a 5-minute warning before doing so.

Unfortunately, the software crash was not without consequences because many poker tournament players completely lost their position and buy-in. This being said, we’re still awaiting word on when/if those affected by the software problems will get their money back.

As for the cause of PokerStars software problem, it’s been attributed to an overload of players on the site. Currently, the 2011 WCOOP is going on and there are a ton of people in the WCOOP tournaments. So when you combine this with the 20k-30k cash game players who are usually on PokerStars, you can get a picture on why the software had problems.

If there’s any silver lining to all of this, it’s that PokerStars has been able to retain a huge player base despite dealing with the US Department of Justice earlier in the year, and US players no longer being accepted.


Real Reason for PokerStars, Full Tilt Crackdown

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last Friday marked a dark and tragic time for most US poker players because it seems like everybody has/had a PokerStars or Full Tilt account when the US Department of Justice decided to shut the sites down. Immediately, people pointed the blame at the US government and cried that our liberties and freedoms were being taken away. And while there’s nothing democratic about telling limiting the options people have for playing online poker, people can’t blame the entire thing on the American government.

Plenty of this blame can be directed at the actual sites themselves because Stars and Full Tilt were certainly not innocent in the whole matter. Sure there were difficulties in both receiving and getting payments to players; however, bribing banks, working with David Tzetkoff to develop shell companies, and disguising transactions as golf balls, jewelry, etc. was not the way to do it.

Furthermore, those in charge at these companies were irresponsible in taking such measures because they have to worry about their clients’ money as well. Obvious bank fraud and money laundering activities are not the way to keep your players’ money safe by any means. Luckily, the DOJ was not the monsters that people initially portrayed them to be since both FT and Stars were able to re-open their .com names to let players cash out. The whole thing wreaks of an above-the-law attitude by both sites.

Now this isn’t a pro-government rant either because PokerStars and Full Tilt shouldn’t have to go to such measures to take deposits. The UIGEA is a half-assed, idiotic law that was supposed to dissuade online poker sites from offering services to American citizens, when all it really acts as is a nuisance.  The US should have regulated online poker a long time ago to get taxable revenue instead of wasting money to implement measures that reject an extra source of tax revenue. Hopefully that regulation is coming soon.