The next few months will be very interesting.
It’s barely been a day since the announcement of PokerStars.com’s acquisition of Full Tilt Poker and although things are beginning to take shape, a number of important questions remain unanswered.
In this running Q&A compendium we’ll keep track of the situation as it develops to keep you on the cutting edge.
Over the next three months hundreds of millions of dollars will be returned to players, and Full Tilt Poker will be up and running for the first time in more than a year.
Keep reading to stay up to date on this breaking story and post your own questions in the comments section below.
Will players get 100 percent of their Full Tilt Poker money and when will it be available?
Everything being said now indicates that players will get 100 per cent of their Full Tilt player balances back but things are more clear for non-US players than Americans.
PokerStars has made it clear that they will have Full Tilt Poker up and running within 90 days of their formal acquisition of FTP (which will happen by August 8, 2012), at which point all non-US players will have access to their accounts to play poker and withdraw their money.
As a US player Tom Dwan will get his money back, but he won't be able to play on FTP until online poker is regulated in the US.
US players will have to file a remission form with the Department of Justice to recover their money. We expect more information about this process to become available soon.
What criteria are used to make the distinction between “US players” and “Non-US players”?
PokerStars is categorizing players as either “US players” or “Non-US" players based on the approved location of their Full Tilt Poker account on June 29, 2011.
Non-US players will have access to their accounts as soon as Full Tilt Poker is up and running.
US players will not have access to their accounts until PokerStars/FTP has successfully integrated itself into future regulation in the US.
PokerStars has also said they are working on a mechanism whereby US players can check their account balances, since they won't be able to log into their accounts.
US players who have moved out of the US since Black Friday will be able to play on Full Tilt but PokerStars has said they are still working out a mechanism to make this possible.
Will PokerStars go after the phantom deposits?
It’s come to light that in the months leading up to Black Friday that Full Tilt Poker was crediting player accounts with funds but not actually withdrawing the money from players' bank accounts.
The phantom deposits are estimated to account for $130 million of the roughly $334 million owed to players.
Records of the deposits that were never withdrawn from player bank accounts almost certainly exist, and in the agreement between PokerStars and the DOJ it expressly states that PokerStars will gain the rights to:
- Accounts receivable or monies owed on date of forfeiture or later
- All gaming data and history relating to the business, computer records, database, operating reports, and any reconciliation files
- All present and potential claims against any third party
While PokerStars may have the ability to go after those funds, the logistics of actually recovering the money could prove too complicated.
What will happen with other outstanding debts to Full Tilt Poker, such as the money owed by Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey and a number of other former FTP pros?
Barry Greenstein is setting an example by paying his FTP debt directly to PokerStars.
In the aftermath of Black Friday it became known that a number of pro poker players owed Full Tilt Poker money for previous loans from the site.
That list includes Barry Greenstein, Erick Lindgren and Phil Ivey, among others.
In the settlement order between PokerStars and the DOJ we found the following line:
Pokerstars company gains the following asset:
Debt of professional poker players for repayment of loans previously granted to them as listed in the Excel Workbook entitled "Pro Loans revised - 19th Jul with Ray comments" provided by the Full tilt Group or their representatives to the PokerStars Group's representatives.
Barry Greenstein has already announced via Two Plus Two that he will be settling his debt directly with PokerStars. It is likely PokerStars will go after other debts as well.
What will happen to the remaining indictments against the group of individuals including Isai Scheinberg?
Although PokerStars has settled with the Department of Justice, there are still a number of outstanding indictments against individuals involved in running PokerStars, FTP and UB/AP.
Eleven individuals were originally charged, three of whom remain at large. Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate of PokerStars and Scott Tom of Absolute Poker have yet to turn themselves over to US authorities.
These indictments remain unresolved but Isai Scheinberg has been barred from managing PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker until his dispute with the DOJ is concluded.
A number of those charged have already pled guilty and been sentenced.
Payment processor Ira Rubin received three years in jail and paid $5 million while Absolute Poker’s Brent Beckley received 14 months.
Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar surrendered to US authorities at the beginning of July and Nelson Burtnick, former head of payment processing for Full TIlt, surrendered at the Newark airport July 31 after flying in from Ireland.
Both are still to be sentenced.
Will the DOJ go after the money paid out to FTP owners while the company was insolvent?
In the months leading up to Black Friday shareholders of Full Tilt Poker were still receiving full distributions totaling in the tens of millions of dollars while the company was, for all intents and purposes, insolvent.
If the Department of Justice decides that those funds were generated by illegal activities, they would have ample grounds to go after it.
Last year hedge fund manager Dan Shak told us that in these cases, it’s usually best for owners to come forward and work with the DOJ, as opposed to trying to take an adversarial approach.
Will we see Phil Ivey repping Full Tilt once more?
However, out of the entire group of FTP shareholders the DOJ has only named Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson in the official charges.
How will PokerStars brand the new Full Tilt Poker? Will they re-hire any players who previously endorsed FTP?
Judging from the 90-fay timeline and everything PokerStars has said about re-launching Full Tilt Poker it sounds like the site will be back online exactly how it was when it went off-line last summer.
PokerStars has said nothing so far about re-branding the site or re-hiring previously sponsored players.
What will the rakeback/rewards system be for new site and will previous Full Tilt Poker rewards points be honored?
Lee Jones has announced that PokerStars is still deciding what to do about previous FTP rewards points but that they are determined to arrive at a fair and equitable solution.
Nothing has been said about what rewards program the new Full Tilt Poker will adopt but many in the poker world are hoping it’s similar to the 27 percent rakeback the site has traditionally used.
Will Stars/FTP be successful in getting back into the US market after regulation
This is certainly one of the most important questions, and one of the most uncertain.
Americans can’t play online poker anywhere and regulation is still having a hard time gaining momentum. And even when online poker becomes regulated, there’s no guarantee that PokerStars or Full Tilt will successfully gain inclusion.
The settlement with the DOJ only says they may apply for a license once a regulatory framework is in place. It doesn’t guarantee that a license will be granted.
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