Full Tilt released the schedule for its latest Full Tilt Online Poker Series, or FTOPS XXIX. The series will offer 46 tournaments with buy-ins starting at just $25 and little more than $1 million in total prize pool guarantees.
In and of itself, it sounds like a standard online poker series. But in the context of the history of FTOPS, it is only a fraction of what it once was.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
FTOPS made its debut in the summer of 2006. The inaugural series had a total of eight events and a little more than $1 million in guarantees. Each tournament had a $215 or $216 buy-in, except for the Main Event that required $535.
FTOPS X took place in late 2008 and offered 25 tournaments with buy-ins from $109 to $5,200 with a total of $18 million in guarantees.
The last FTOPS before Black Friday (XIX) offered 45 events and more than $22 million in guarantees. When it was done, nearly 117K players had participated and generated prize pools totaling more than $39.5 million.
At the same time, each FTOPS offered a mini-FTOPS, one that offered buy-ins at one-tenth the size to accommodate lower stakes players. The two series ran separate from one another, but each offered a leaderboard competition and other prizes in addition to the entire series of tournament prize pools.
Post-Black Friday Reboot
When Full Tilt reemerged after Black Friday, under the new umbrella of Rational Group and management of PokerStars executives, the site resumed its FTOPS offerings. However, the number of players in series like FTOPS, not to mention at the cash game tables, has been in near-constant decline ever since.
Online Poker Report recently analyzed the downfall, noting that cash game traffic dropped so low that Full Tilt is no longer in the top 10 list of global online poker sites.
There was an attempt to rebrand the site, in a way, in the summer of 2015. The overhaul to the site brought a new cash game lobby, a revised VIP rewards schedule, and higher rake for micro and high-stakes players. But the number of players plummeted after the implementation of those changes, and despite occasional gains, it never fully recovered.
Despite promotions and other attempts to invite new players and retain them, Full Tilt is only a shadow of its former glory.
The purpose of the renovations of 2015 was to make the site more attractive to recreational players, the new trend in the online poker industry. While most of the efforts failed to incur growth, there was one potentially valuable move.
In November of 2015, Full Tilt parent company Amaya received approval to offer the Full Tilt play-money app on the Steam platform. The gaming community consists of nearly 125 million gamers, and they all had the potential to be exposed to the Full Tilt action. In addition, the company could make money if players sold play-money chips for real money.
The company went even further the following month by announcing a partnership of sorts with Hearthstone, a very popular competitive card game played mostly online. Full Tilt became a sponsor of the G2 eSports Hearthstone team, which was set up to blend the communities and expose the millions of Hearthstone players to Full Tilt.
Despite all of those efforts to rebrand, branch out, and improve traffic, Full Tilt continues to decline. And the recent set-up for FTOPS XXIX is proof of how far it has fallen.
For recreational and low-stakes players, the upcoming FTOPS is a great deal, despite having lost so much of its original prestige. And with no accompanying mini-FTOPS, the singular series does offer a wide range of buy-ins for every player.
The action begins on Sunday, February 21, with two tournaments, a $100 NLHE with a $100K guarantee and a $50 buy-in NLHE 6-Max with a $20K guarantee.
As the series continues, there are buy-ins as low as $10 up to $250, with the final tournament listed as a $500 NLHE Reentry with a $250K guarantee on March 13. There is also a leaderboard competition that will reward the top 10 finishers with combined prizes (in the form of tournament tickets) worth $5K.