Goodbye to Full Tilt – The Finish of a Poker Period


A chapter in poker history comes to an end this week as Full Tilt Poker is officially acquired by PokerStars. From the avatars to the ads, to the tournaments to the tantrums, life without FTP will never be the same again.

If it's been a long time since Full Tilt Poker was the place to play online poker, that's because it was. This year it has been 10 years since the FTP scandal pre-empted Black Friday, an Obama-led US government shutdown of online poker.

Full Tilt was, of course, a huge part of the poker landscape up to this point in poker history, but will players miss it now that it will be gone soon?

"Learn, chat and play with the pros."

FTP players may be on their way to PokerStars all the time, but it's worth paying tribute to a pioneering brand in the poker industry.

Full Tilt Poker has long been the coolest place to play online poker and it has had some of the fastest promotions in the world to help make it happen. They had Phil Ivey when Stars had Negreanu. They had Gus Hansen to star Chris Moneymaker.

They made Tom Dwan look deep in the mirror on this amazing piece of poker marketing.

It brought problems, of course. These didn't all fall on "Jesus" shoulder, but Chris Ferguson was one of three men embroiled in rumors of the Black Friday promotions and the 2011 shutdown of FTP and online poker across America were.

Ray Bitar pleaded for illness, Howard Lederer disappeared, Ferguson made this apology video. Full Tilt's reputation took less time to turn to the trash than a flush draw on a brick river.

Why did people love FTP so much?

Lots of the old cash game stars were the reason gamers and fans got FTP. It was the place for nosebleeds, games that were played for tens of thousands of dollars a hand and resulted in millions switching hands. Stars like Patrik Antonius and Viktor Blom have built a fearsome reputation that continues to this day.

It wasn't just the cash games, however. The software behind FTP made playing poker so much fun that it didn't feel like going anywhere. You can't change the color of the felt or the deck of cards, nor look or feel like FTP anywhere else.

FTOPS events were boastful rights-based events, they had a consistently popular MTT schedule, and fast-fold poker that was re-popularizing in the past two years – was born on FTP.

A scandal to end them all

It could be argued that no one tarred by the FTP Black Friday scandal brush has ever really been able to get rid of the stain. Full Tilt was in over $ 300 million in debt when the carpet was pulled out from under the Ponzi scheme. PokerStars may have by and large saved the players, but the reputation was ruined overnight.

The Bitar angle was huge at the time. Reports of his illness have been dismissed by some and greeted by cruel others. Nobody has to pay $ 40 million and don't know what happened to the former co-owner or where, but he stayed out of jail. Others around him shunned too, and poker players reacted angrily that Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson returned to World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas and often filmed themselves insulting former figureheads of a highly malicious brand.

It's hard to imagine how far Full Tilt has really come, especially if we were to travel 14 years back to its peak. Yesterday's stars survived with players like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen who could invoke ignorance in ways that Lederer, Bitar and Ferguson never could.

There will never be another poker brand like Full Tilt Poker, but maybe that's not a bad thing after all. In just three days, FTP will no longer be available.