Full Tilt Poker

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Full Tilt Poker
Type Private company
Industry Online poker
Founded June 2004 (2004-06)
Founder(s) Raymond Bitar and 9 original "Team Full Tilt" members[1][2]
Headquarters Ireland
Area served Worldwide
Parent The Rational Group www.rationalgroup.com
Website fulltiltpoker.com

Full Tilt Poker is an online poker card room that opened in June 2004 with the involvement of poker professionals Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Mike Matusow, Jennifer Harman and Chris Ferguson.[3]

Full Tilt Poker was launched by parent company TiltWare, LLC in June 2004 and began full operation on July 10, 2004.[4] On April 15, 2011, Full Tilt Poker was one of several online poker operators to have its .com domain seized by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as part of a series of indictments of the sites' owners and employees.[5] The license of Full Tilt Poker was suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission on June 29, 2011 and revoked on September 29, 2011.[6]

On July 31, 2012, the US government dismissed with prejudice all civil complaints against all PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker companies after coming to a settlement with PokerStars which included PokerStars purchasing Full Tilt.[7] PokerStars and Full Tilt admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which ended all litigation between the government and the companies. The criminal indictments remain in place for the named individuals.[8]

On October 31, 2012 Full Tilt re-opened its client software to allow users access to their play money accounts for Beta testing.[9] Full Tilt reopened for real money on November 6, 2012.

On June 12, 2014 Full Tilt Poker's parent company Rational Group Ltd was acquired by Amaya Gaming Group, in a deal that also involved PokerStars. A statement by Amaya said the takeover would not affect the activities of Full Tilt Poker.[10]


Full Tilt Poker was registered in Alderney in the Channel Islands.[11] The company was regulated by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission under the name Filco Limited,[12] and regulated by ARJEL under the name Rekop Limited in France.[13] On June 29, 2011, the Alderney commission suspended the license of Full Tilt Poker following a special investigation prompted by indictments by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York on April 15, 2011. In the investigation, it was determined that Full Tilt Poker and its associates were operating contrary to Alderney legislation.[14] Subsequently, all game play was suspended on the site.[15] On July 4, 2011, ARJEL suspended Full Tilt's .fr license in France.[16] On September 29, 2011, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission revoked the license of Full Tilt Poker. In a statement on its website, the commission indicated that the company reported balances that had been frozen by U.S. authorities as liquid, gave unauthorized loans, and failed to report material events.[6]

PokerStars will acquire new gaming licenses for Full Tilt in Malta and the Isle of Man, where PokerStars international sites are licensed.

Games offered[edit]

Full Tilt offered both play and real money cash games and tournaments. Freeroll, satellite, sit-n-go, and multi-table tournaments took place throughout the day and often included participation from Full Tilt’s sponsored professionals. The site offered the following poker variations in limit, pot-limit, and no-limit: Texas Holdem, Omaha, and Omaha 8 or Better (a.k.a. Omaha hi/lo). The site also offers limit Razz, Stud, Stud 8 or better, Draw poker variants and mixed games such as H.O.R.S.E. Stakes offered ranged from $0.01/$0.02 blinds to $3,000/$6,000 blinds.[17]

In early 2010, Full Tilt introduced a new poker variation called "Rush Poker" designed to increase the number of hands a player can play per hour. In "Rush Poker" players do not remain at a specific table. Instead, they join a pool with hundreds of other players. Whenever they fold their hand, they are instantly transferred to a new table and dealt a new hand.[18] Full Tilt Poker also launched Rush Poker Mobile for iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone and Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

The Professionals[edit]

The Professionals are a group of professional poker players that have been signed as Full Tilt Poker ambassadors.

On October 2, 2012 Full Tilt announced that international poker star Gus Hansen would return as the newly launched site's first brand ambassador for the site.[19] On October 15, 2012 Full Tilt announced that two of the biggest names in poker – Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom - would join Hansen as inaugural members of the team.[20]

As of December 2013, Tom Dwan is no longer a member of the professionals. It is not clear if this is a mutual decision or a decision of the company.[21]

Ex-members of Team Full Tilt[edit]

Full Tilt's team of professionals was an integral part of the company's marketing strategy, its slogan being "Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros."[22]

"Team Full Tilt" was composed of fourteen noted professionals who played regularly on the site and were considered full-fledged members.[23]

In addition to Team Full Tilt, several other pros were "Full Tilt Pros," who were sponsored by the site but were not full-fledged members made up of two teams, CardRunners and The Hendon Mob, there were also an additional 164 "Full Tilt Pros" and 41 non-members made up of authors, celebrities, announcers, commentators and 2007 Main Event champion Jerry Yang, they were known as "Friends of Full Tilt" whose names were also highlighted in red text on the site.[23]

Full Tilt on television[edit]

Full Tilt Poker is or has been the principal sponsor of a number of poker television programs, including:

Legal matters[edit]

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act[edit]

On September 29, 2006, the U.S. Congress passed a harbor security measure, the SAFE Port Act, which included a last-minute amendment known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). While the law does not outlaw online gambling, it does make it illegal for financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, to transfer funds to online gambling sites.[24]

In response to passage of the UIGEA, PartyGaming Plc, owner of Party Poker, left the US market, creating a vacuum largely filled by PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.[25]

Clonie Gowen[edit]

In late 2008, Full Tilt was sued in Nevada by Clonie Gowen, prominent poker professional and former Full Tilt endorser. She claimed that during Full Tilt's formative year of 2004, she was offered a 1% ownership in the company in exchange for her promotional efforts. The suit was dismissed by a trial court, but later partly reinstated on appeal.[26]

James Hicks[edit]

On April 29, 2009, James B. Hicks filed a civil complaint against Tiltware, LLC (d/b/a FullTiltPoker.com), TiltProof, Inc., and Chris Ferguson generally alleging unfair and unlawful business practices including illegal Internet gaming and violations of the UIGEA.[27] Hicks is seeking injunctive relief to prevent Full Tilt from operating its website, soliciting players, or funding or accepting payments for illegal gambling in California.[27] No monetary damages are being sought save reasonable costs and attorneys' fees.[27]

Hicks is a Los Angeles lawyer and a partner in the law firm representing him in his case against Full Tilt.

Jason Newitt[edit]

On September 11, 2009, Full Tilt was sued civilly in Nevada by Jason Newitt in the case of Jason Newitt v. Tiltware; Full Tilt Poker; Pocket Kings Ltd.; Pocket Kings Consulting Ltd.; Raymond Bitar; Howard Lederer. Mr. Newitt alleges that he was unfairly fired and that his distribution payments were unfairly ceased.[28]

Lary Kennedy[edit]

On October 1, 2009, Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy filed suit against Full Tilt Poker, Tiltware and several individual members of Team Full Tilt alleging fraud, libel, slander, false advertising, and racketeering.[29] Kennedy and Omotoy filed suit following unsuccessful attempts to have Full Tilt refund $80,000 which it had seized from Kennedy’s and Omotoy’s accounts asserting a violation of Full Tilt’s Terms of Service for using "bots". On October 17, 2009, Full Tilt responded to Kennedy’s lawsuit by claiming the suit was baseless and frivolous and stating that it “has never knowingly allowed ‘bots’ to play on its site.”[30]

After the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, on April 26, 2010, Judge Margaret Morrow dismissed the case with leave stating that Kennedy had failed to "detail many portions of her case regarding state violations and, in particular, there could be no claim under the RICO Act. However, as the case was dismissed with leave, Kennedy may re-file the complaint in federal court if she is able to correct the deficiencies in her original complaint.[31]

Grand jury investigation, indictment, and website seizure[edit]

On April 5, 2010, the Financial Times reported that a federal grand jury in Manhattan was investigating Full Tilt Poker and individuals associated with the company, including Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, for violations of gambling and money-laundering laws.[32] Although neither the Manhattan United States Attorney nor officials with the United States Department of Justice would comment on the matter, it was reported that such an investigation “would fit the federal law enforcement strategy by trying to make an example out of prominent targets”.[32] The Department of Justice maintained that online poker violates the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 (Federal Wire Act),[32] but later changed their opinion on that matter.

On April 15, 2011, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment, dated March 10, 2011, against two of the owners / employees (Raymond Bitar and Nelson Burtnick) of Full Tilt Poker, along with some of the owners / employees of PokerStars and Absolute Poker.[33] The defendants were charged with fraud, money laundering, and violation of United States federal gambling laws, and certain domain names for the sites were seized by the FBI.[34][35] The Full Tilt Poker homepage was reinstated six days later on April 20, 2011.

A companion civil case, U.S. v. PokerStars, et al. (11 Civ. 2564)[36] was filed on April 14, 2011, and includes Full Tilt and its related entities as defendants.[33] This civil suit was dismissed with prejudice on July 31, 2012, ending all litigation between the government and the PokerStars/Full Tilt companies.[37][38]

Phil Ivey[edit]

On May 31, 2011, Phil Ivey announced that he had filed suit against Tiltware, the software and marketing provider for Full Tilt Poker, as a result of Full Tilt's failure to reimburse online account holders following the Department of Justice indictment unsealed on April 15, 2011.[39] Ivey further noted that he would not compete in the 2011 World Series of Poker since it would not be fair for him to compete when others could not as a result of Full Tilt's failure to reimburse account holders.[39] Ivey voluntarily withdrew the suit on June 30.[40]

Justice Department accusation[edit]

On September 20, 2011, the U.S. Justice Department accused certain Full Tilt principals of defrauding poker players out of more than $300 million. The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York filed a motion to amend an earlier civil complaint to allege that company directors Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst, and Ray Bitar operated what the Justice Department claims was a Ponzi scheme that allowed the company to pay out $444 million to themselves and other owners, which included other famous poker players.[41][42] A lawyer for Ferguson has denied the allegations, suggesting that the issues may have been the result of mismanagement rather than malice.[43][44] Bitar surrendered to authorities on July 2, 2012, to deal with the civil and criminal case that is pending against him in New York .[45] On April 15, 2013, Bitar reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilt to criminal charges, and was sentenced to time served and ordered to surrender his assets, rumored to include various homes and $40 Million in cash.[46]

Repayment to USA Poker Players[edit]

Announcing that players can expect payments to start soon, the Department revealed that it has selected the Garden City Group as Claims Administrator and that company has already launched a website for FTP players who wish to lodge claims.[47] [48]

Full Tilt Online Poker Series[edit]

The Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) was Full Tilt's premier tournament series.[49] It was established in August 2006 [50] and was held approximately every three months.[51] The FTOPS consisted of multiple tournaments in a variety of different poker games and formats, each of which was hosted by a different Full Tilt professional.[52] Throughout the series, Full Tilt offered a number of challenges and prizes that rewarded players for accomplishing certain feats.[53]

Full Tilt also sponsored a Mini FTOPS, which took place one month later and featured the same events at 1/10 the buy-in.[54]

Sports sponsorships[edit]

Full Tilt was a major sponsor of the Formula One racing team, Virgin Racing.[55][56] It also sponsored a Driver in Formula D Joon Maeng along with the Bergenholtz Racing crew, as well as Taylor Barton Racing[57] and the Sydney Roosters of the National Rugby League.[58]


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