Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (2023)

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (1)
Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (2)
  • Before Black Friday
  • Full Tilt Poker Scandal: What Happened?
  • What is the UIGEA?
  • PokerStars acquires Full Tilt and refunds players
  • Implications for poker and consequences
  • Online poker renaissance in the US
  • The Impact of the Full Tilt Poker Scandal on the WSOP
  • common questions

OfFull Tilt PokerScandal on April 15, 2011 – also known as"Black Friday"– cost thousands of poker players dearly and forever changed the US online poker scene, and not in a good way. With all the scandals that have plagued the poker world this year, this seems like the perfect opportunity to remember one of the biggest of them all.

As you'll soon discover, the Full Tilt scandal involved several high-profile poker players at the time, including future Poker Hall of Famers.Howard LedererEmChris Ferguson, two of the most popular professionals of the 2000s.

Their reputation will likely be forever tarnished and they were forced to almost disappear from the game for good, although Ferguson did return to compete for a few years.World Series of Poker. he really wonWSOP Player of the YearAwarded in 2017, to the dismay of many in the poker community.

Lederer and Ferguson return to WSOP

Lederer and Ferguson, along withRay Bitar, were FTP executives when the site closed to US players on Black Friday. As you will soon find out, they made questionable decisions - decisions that cost American poker players money and that ended up destroying online poker in the United States.

Before Black Friday

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (3)

For those unfamiliar with the game in the 2000s and early 2010s, online poker, and poker in general, was booming in the US (and the world) like never before. At the time, there were two industry leaders:PokerStarsabout Full Tilt Poker.final betand its sister sitedefinitely pokerwere also important players.

Full Tilt era zoGGPokerat the time, with many of the game's biggest stars representing the brand, such asPhil Ivey,Mike Matusow, EmTom Dwan.

Poker was popular back then. You can't go anywhere without seeing a listing on Full Tilt or PokerStars. TV stations across the US looked for ways to bring poker to television with cult shows like:poker in the darkEmhigh stakes poker– Shows sponsored by major poker sites.

If you were in Rio during RioWorld Series of PokerBack then, you could say half the room was filled with poker players playing sports.Full Tilt PokerLounge. But then, on April 15, 2011, the darkest day in poker history, everything changed. At this year's WSOP, Full Tilt hats, shirts and badges disappeared.

(Video) The Rise and Fall of FULL TILT POKER

Full Tilt Poker Scandal: What Happened?

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (4)

On the morning of April 15, 2011, poker players across the US woke up (probably around noon, of course) to discover an unusual message on their favorite poker site.

The domains of the three main online poker sites – PokerStars,Full Tilt Pokerand Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker - were confiscated byUnited States Department of Justice (DOJ)under investigation for "operating, financing, administering, supervising, directing or owning, in whole or in part, an illegal gambling business", which constitutes a federal crime.

Initially, players were confused and, unsurprisingly, worried about what would happen to their money, especially those with six or seven figure balances on their online poker accounts. However, Full Tilt assured its customers that their money was safe and they had nothing to worry about.

That reassurance has turned to skepticism over time, but before we get into that aspect of the Full Tilt Poker scandal, let's take a look at what led to Black Friday on FTP.

“Broadly speaking, it was technically illegal for banks to accept online gambling transactions and even operate gambling websites.”

What is the UIGEA?

OfIllegal Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006 (UIGEA)It prohibited gambling companies from "knowingly accepting payments in connection with another person's participation in a wager or wager involving Internet use that is illegal under federal or state law."

Broadly speaking, it was technically illegal for banks to accept online gambling transactions and operate gambling sites. At the time, there were no regulated poker sites in the US because online poker was not federally legal.

Full Tilt ended US operations after the Justice Department confiscated the domain in connection with illegal gambling. It was also discovered during the investigation that the poker site may be operating aPonzi scheme business model.

Player funds were not separated from ongoing operating expenses and funds were not available to reimburse players, but executives such as Ferguson and Lederer received millions of dollars in bonuses.

A year earlier, the UIGEA came into effect and despite the best efforts of thePoker Players Alliance (PPA)Skill games like poker were not excluded.Johannes Pappas, then chairman of the PPA, made a bleak prediction about the UIGEA's impact on the future of online poker in the United States.

“I've been saying for some time now that we look forward to this date and that enforcement for poker players will only be a minor incident and not a catastrophic event that shuts down Internet poker in the US,” Pappas said in June 2010. “I think that there will always be responsible channels where people can deposit money. This should not affect Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposits or non-credit system deposits. It also shouldn't affect people who receive money through a website."

10 years after Black Friday: where was poker and where is it going

(Video) Tom Dwan On Fox! Interview About Full Tilt Poker Being A Ponzi Scheme

PokerStars acquires Full Tilt and refunds players

Did not take too longBlack Fridaybefore US players get paid by PokerStars, a sigh of relief for thousands of players. However, the same does not apply to UB/AP and FTP clients.

In July 2012, 15 months after the Full Tilt scandal broke, the Justice Department agreed that Full Tilt would forfeit its assets and rival site PokerStars would.take over the company. Under the terms of the deal, PokerStars would withhold $547 million from the US government over the next three years as a result of the Black Friday scandal.

As part of the unusual deal, PokerStars was responsible for restoring FTP players to health.

"The acquisition of certain assets from Full Tilt Poker strengthens PokerStars brings a welcome relief to Full Tilt Poker players who have been waiting for their money back for over 12 months and benefits the poker community at large" said the founders of PokerStars and Online - Poker HeroIsai Scheinbergsaid in July 2012. “Full Tilt Poker customers outside the US will soon be able to access their accounts and play on the newly launched site, safe in the knowledge that they will be backed by PokerStars' longstanding integrity and our track record of delivery... offering high quality.” and secure online poker.”

In the months that followed, most players with outstanding balances on Full Tilt Poker were refunded money they were long owed. Unfortunately, it took years for those owed money from the Cereus Poker Network (UB/AP) to be paid.

PokerStars took over operations from Full Tilt in 2012finally discontinued FTP brandin February 2021, officially marking the end of one of the biggest online poker sites of all time.

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (5)

Implications for poker and consequences

Black Friday was a dark day in poker history as everything changed for the worse. Thousands of American poker players wondered what to do next. Some have been unable to pay their bills because their online poker accounts have been frozen. Many were forced to give up poker altogether and find a 9am to 5pm job.

Some of the top professionals at the time had to abandon online poker and focus on live games, abandon poker altogether and find a new career path, or move to a country where internet gambling was legal. Many opted for the latter; some moved to Canada, others to Malta or various European countries.

"The worst impact the Full Tilt scandal and Black Friday had on poker in general was that it resulted in a decline in the game's popularity."

But the worst impact of the Full Tilt scandal and Black Friday in general on poker was that it resulted in a decline in the game's popularity. Programs like High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark were canceled because they lost their main sponsor – the poker sites. Participation in the WSOP Main Event, poker's most prestigious tournament, saw a steady decline between 2011 and 2013.

Poker was still much more popular than before.Chris Geldmakerwas, but WSOP rankings, WSOP participation, and total attendance at local poker rooms across the country have all dropped significantly compared to the 2000s.

Online poker renaissance in the US

Black Friday's impact on the American poker community will likely last forever, or at least decades. But over the past decade there have been some positive changes that have made it easier for Americans to play poker online.

(Video) BET RAISE FOLD: The Story of Online Poker FULL MOVIE - Online Poker Documentary

In December 2011, the attorneys generals of New York and Illinois posed a question to President Obama's Department of Justice: Is that the case?Federal Yarn Act of 1961Does the ban on using wired communication for gambling also apply to online poker? The answer was that this only applied to sports betting, paving the way for that.individual statesto determine the legality of online poker.

Three states in two years –Delaware,Nevada, EmNew Jersey– passed legislation to make online poker legal within state borders. Michigan and Pennsylvania have since followed suit. It's slow growth and only 10% of the country has legal poker sites, but the internet poker scene in the US is definitely better than it was 10 years ago.

The Impact of the Full Tilt Poker Scandal on the WSOP

The World Series of Poker has never been more popular. At theWSOP 2022that was thatfirst year everThe main event on the Las Vegas Strip surpassed 8,600 spectators.second biggest of all time.

The decline in poker's popularity only lasted a few years before legal poker sites emerged in some states. While some might argue that the game isn't as popular as it was in the 2000s, it certainly hasn't had any issues. The Full Tilt Poker scandal isn't over yet, but it's barely visible in the rearview mirror.

Ferguson's Pseudo Apology

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (6)

common questions

Can you still play poker on Full Tilt?

No, Full Tilt is completely shut down as of 2021.

What does Full Tilt mean in poker?

It means you get frustrated and play with emotions instead of logic.

Why was Full Tilt Poker shut down?

The company was mismanaged and ran out of working capital after the Black Friday scandal.

Are Full Tilt and PokerStars the same thing?

No, they were competing poker sites, although PokerStars eventually bought Full Tilt and took over the site in recent days.

What was the Full Tilt Poker scandal?

When the US Department of Justice shut down the site due to illegal gambling in 2011, players could not get paid because the company did not have sufficient reserve funds.

Did Full Tilt players get their money back?

This was several months after the site was acquired by PokerStars.

Why is Full Tilt closing?

Full Tilt has been terminated due to business misconduct.

(Video) Story of the Richest Heads Up Poker Game feat. Phil Ivey | Poker Documentary

Has Full Tilt Poker been manipulated?

No, online poker is NOT rigged.

Have Full Tilt Poker players recovered their outstanding balances yet?

Yes, but it wasn't until almost two years later that the site was acquired by its former competitor, PokerStars.

Have Full Tilt Poker executives ever been arrested over the Black Friday scandal?

No, they all escaped from prison.

Did Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer ever apologize for the Full Tilt scandal?

One way or another. Lederer apologized to Daniel Negreanu before the start of the 2016 WSOP, while Ferguson made a brief pseudo-apology in a video a few years later. Ferguson has never made a public statement about his role in Full Tilt Poker's demise. However, some are convinced that he had no part in the company's failure.

Does Full Tilt belong to K2?


Can US players play Full Tilt?

When the website was operational, this was possible until April 15, 2011 (Black Friday).

Who bought Full Tilt Poker?

PokerStars, the site that was once a big competitor to FTP.

Who founded Full Tilt Poker?

Ray Bitar and nine others.

When did Full Tilt go bankrupt?

Officially in 2021, but more precisely in 2016.

Full Tilt Poker Scandal 2011: The Darkest Days in Poker History (7)
US Editor-in-Chief



  • key words

    Chris Ferguson frankly Howard Lederer online poker
  • related players

    Chris FergusonHoward Lederer


Why was Full Tilt Poker shut down? ›

What was the Full Tilt Poker scandal? When the US Department of Justice shut the site down in 2011 over illegal gambling, the players weren't able to be paid because the company didn't have enough reserve funds available. Did Full Tilt players get their money back?

Did people get their money back from Full Tilt? ›

Luck is finally changing for former Full Tilt Poker players. A court-appointed administrator announced the distribution Friday of $76 million to roughly 27,500 U.S. customers of the defunct poker site. Their accounts have been frozen since 2011 due to a criminal case.

What happened to Howard Lederer? ›

Following his 2016 appearance at the World Series of Poker, Lederer has dropped out of the poker scene once again. While other former prominent Full Tilt Poker shareholders have gone on and done other things, Lederer is seemingly content to remain off the grid.

When did Full Tilt Poker shut down? ›

In just a few days, the Full Tilt Poker brand will officially become extinct. According to an announcement by PokerStars, the company will officially close both desktop and mobile applications for the poker site on Feb. 25 and all account information and balances will be moved to the corresponding PokerStars account.

Is Full Tilt Poker legal in the US? ›

US players are still unable to play for real money at Full Tilt Poker but it is open to most other territories around the world. Currently, the site boasts more than 7,500 players at the real-money cash games during peak times and over 25,000 players logged into the site at any one time.

Did Daniel Negreanu leave PokerStars? ›

After "Black Friday" (the 2011 US government crackdown on online poker), Negreanu moved back to Canada in order to continue playing online poker on PokerStars. On May 23, 2019, after nearly 12 years as a member of Team PokerStars, Negreanu announced he and PokerStars were parting ways.

Why did PokerStars buy Full Tilt? ›

Full Tilt was acquired by PokerStars in July 2012 as part of a settlement with the US government after authorities had unsealed an indictment against both operators in 2011, causing both to shut US real-money operations.

How much was Full Tilt sold for? ›

PokerStars settled with the federal government to the tune of $731 million and agreed to buy Full Tilt and pay back its customers. The world's largest Internet poker company, PokerStars, is settling with the government to the tune of $731 million more than a year after a crackdown on online gambling.

What was the ultimate bet scandal? ›

In May 2008, Tokwiro Enterprises ENRG, proprietors of Ultimate Bet, announced that an internal investigation found that unfair play did occur on the site from March 2006 to December 2007 with six accounts and 18 screen names being involved, among them "NioNio," "Sleepless," "NoPaddles," and "flatbroke33."

Why did Howard Lederer apologize? ›

Throughout this period, there was little explanation for the delay, and no apology. Players felt lied to. They trusted the site, and they trusted me, and I didn't live up to that trust. I take full responsibility for Full Tilt's failure to protect player deposits leading up to Black Friday.

What is the oldest poker game? ›

Poker has been around since 1829 and started in New Orleans by French settlers. The game involved bluffing your way to a win or bets originally called 'Poques', which was similar to today's draw poker. Joseph Cowell reported the game was played in 1829, with four players betting on the most valuable hand.

What was the longest poker game in the world? ›

Located at 6th and Allen Street, the Bird Cage is best remembered for the longest poker game in history that was played in the basement of the theater. To play, gamblers had to pay $1,000 up front. The poker game was played continuously for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from 1881 to 1889, a total of eight years.

What is the oldest poker room in the world? ›

The California Grand Casino is the oldest continuously operating poker room in the world, with poker games since 1854. It all started when the Woodford Hotel and Saloon opened its doors to offer alcohol and gambling.

What happened to Full Tilt? ›

Both poker sites continued to operate as separate entities until May 17, 2016. On that date, the user base of Full Tilt gained access to the global player pool at PokerStars, and the old Full Tilt platform was retired.

Why was online poker banned in us? ›

A grand jury charged 11 defendants, including the founders of the poker sites, with bank fraud, money laundering, and violating gambling laws. The prosecutors claim the individuals tricked or influenced U.S. banks into receiving profits from online gambling, an act that violated UIGEA.

What was the Black Friday poker scandal? ›

In the poker world, Black Friday refers to April 15th, 2011, when poker players throughout the United States woke up to this image on the front page of their favorite online poker sites. The sites could not process withdrawals because the DOJ had also seized their bank accounts.


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