Full Tilt Poker Questions and Answers
This week, we have proposed some potentially interesting questions regarding the Full Tilt situation with our take on what the answers might be. Things took yet another turn for the worse last week when the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) announced the revocation of Full Tilt's gaming licenses, but it appears the beleaguered site may find a life raft after all. A group of French investors have allegedly reached a deal to buy the site and repay all players. In light of Full Tilt's monumental collapse and potential sale, many players have unanswered questions regarding the future of Full Tilt, its owners, and their money. We will join the speculation circus by throwing in our two cents on the situation. Any opinions expressed in this article are only opinions, and should not be taken to be as any sort of inside information or as facts.
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Question: Will players ever see the money they have trapped on Full Tilt?
Up until a week ago, it seemed close to impossible that all players will receive all of their money. However, much to the delight of the poker world, the potential sale of the site to French investors has placed this possibility back on the table.
The deal Full Tilt reached with French investors would allegedly repay all players all of the money they are owed. However, there is still a long way to go before such a deal is complete.
Before players can be repaid, the site needs to settle with the DOJ. The French investors are not going to close on the site until all legal burdens have been resolved. This process may not be easy. Settling with the DOJ is not like paying a parking ticket. The site is facing tens of millions in fines. DOJ prosecutors may simply be unwilling to negotiate a settlement with Full Tilt or not be in any particular hurry to do so.
Any delay or disruption in the process of settling with the DOJ could kill Full Tilt's deal with the French investment group. From their standpoint, the faster the site settles with the DOJ, the better. Players should hope the DOJ cooperates with Full Tilt and offers them a reasonable settlement opportunity, similar to what they did with Anurag Dikshit's involvement with Party Poker in 2008.
If the DOJ chooses to play hardball with Full Tilt, it's bad news for the chances of this deal closing. The next few months will be crucial for the value of player funds on Full Tilt. Players should be rooting for some type of immediate settlement with the DOJ.
Question: Will Full Tilt operators face criminal indictments?
In short, yes, we think some of them will. We expect to see some type of criminal indictments unsealed against at least one Full Tilt benefactor sometime in the next 12 months. It's hard to say how far down the totem pole the U.S. government will seek to impose criminal indictments upon. The oweners/operators that were the most involved with the money laundering aspects and ponzi scheme aspects of Full Tilt will be the main targets.
Question: Will any Full Tilt operators actually spend time behind bars?
This question is trickier. There are two main reasons why criminal charges against Full Tilt operators will not necessarily lead to jail-time.
First, they might simply spend the rest of their lives hiding abroad. These guys have enough cash on hand to hide in some corner of the world where there is no extradition treaty with the U.S. People have done it before, and the Full Tilt operators seem like perfect candidates for this lifestyle. Interestingly, we have maintained that this is what these guys should have been doing since the passage of the UIGEA in 2006. If you are going to be a criminal, act like a criminal, not some idiot that is violating all sorts of laws but is prancing around Vegas like he operates an ice cream truck.
Another perhaps more likely way they will never see jail-time is in the event of some type of plea-bargain, settlement, or possibly that they are found not guilty altogether. A not guilty verdict seems like an unlikely outcome though; if the DOJ presses criminal charges against them, there is a very slim chance they will get off completely clean. The crimes these guys stand to be charged with committing are no joke. A plea-bargain or settlement that results in no jail time would be a tremendous result for any of them who eventually face criminal charges.
If we were to take one side of the "will any Full Tilt operator see the inside of a prison cell?" debate, in short, we would say yes.
Question: Does the Full Tilt downfall make pro-poker legislation in the U.S. more likely to pass?
In short, yes. As we maintained here for years, there was basically no chance of legal online poker during the previous status quo. The DOJ take down of the U.S.-facing sites was probably a necessary step to one day see legal online poker in the U.S.
However, the Full Tilt collapse is also a big, nastly black-eye on the face of online poker. So not all effects of its downfall are positive for the chances of seeing legal online poker. Many U.S. citizens and legislators know almost nothing about online poker, just what they heard on the news which is that one of the sites was apparently a "Ponzi scheme". In this regard, Full Tilt has further contributed to negative connotations surrounding online poker.
The work is far from over when it comes to seeing online poker enjoy legal status in the U.S., but the Full Tilt collapse is overall probably a net positive for the chances of legislation.
How long will it take for the dust to completely settle Full Tilt-related lawsuits?
It could take many years depending on if criminal indictments are made and if a settlement is reached between Full Tilt and the DOJ. It took seven years for Enron-related lawsuits to play out in the U.S. courts. Full Tilt-related lawsuits could take nearly as long. A lot of it depends on the willingness of each side to settle. Thus far, Full Tilt has made virtually no indication that they plan to go down quietly. However, a potential sale of the site to French investors creates a new impetus for them to tuck their tail between their legs and settle as quickly as possible.
Question: Will Lederer or Ferguson ever show their faces in the poker world again? What about lesser Team Full Tilt Pros like Erick Lindgren or John Juanda? What about Phil Ivey?
This will be one of the more interesting aspects to monitor from the Full Tilt fallout. We'd put the over/under for total number of lifetime WSOP events played in the future for Lederer and Ferguson at 0.5 each. And you'd probably be asked to lay considerable money if you wanted to bet the under.
Other players, like Phil Ivey, are harder to handicap. I suspect players like Ivey and Phil Gordon will figure out a way to wiggle out of this mess. They will be hazed and verbally abused by tablemates who do not welcome them back with open arms, but never doubt the ability of a good PR/marketing campaign.
Some of these guys will figure out ways to distance themselves from Full Tilt by appearing to be just as upset and affected by the situation as everyone else. I expect you'll hear a lot of stuff like, "I had a lot of money trapped on there too," and other attempts to divert attention away from the fabulous distributions of player funds they received.
I played with Erick Lindgren in the 2011 WSOP who made a comment along the lines of, "they should just pay players back and be done with it." Expect to hear a lot of this "us vs. them" rhetoric from players previously associated with "Team" Full Tilt. These players would be wise to follow the lead of Tom Dwan by offering some significant chunk of their Full Tilt earnings to affected players if they wish to be welcomed back into the poker world with open arms. But I suspect a majority of them will take the route of former UB shill Joe Sebok by rationalizing ways to keep their unjustly-earned allowances while continuing their involvement in the poker world as if they are blameless.
All former Full Tilt sponsored players should be rooting hard for a quick settlement with the DOJ and a sale of the site to French investors. That would allow everyone to save face and resume life as normal with the train-wreck that is Full Tilt's collapse safely in the past.