A collective sigh of relief could be heard throughout the poker community last week when the U.S. Department of Justice, PokerStars and Full Tilt released statements that the negotiations had concluded and that PokerStars would be acquiring the assets of Full Tilt Poker.
The long wait by players in which their funds that had been in limbo for well over a year would finally be returned was gratifying news that had long been overdue. Although the April 15, 2011 indictments of PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker shook the entire online poker industry and put an estimated 50,000 U.S. players out of work, it now looks overwhelmingly as though Black Friday was the best thing that could have happened to Full Tilt players.
With everything we now know about Full Tilt Poker--the exorbitant dividends paid out to board members, a marketing budget well beyond the means of sound business sense, the mismanagement of funds that saw the company provide phantom deposits to players with no viable means of collecting, and the lack of keeping players funds separate from those required to operate the site--it is readily apparent that Full Tilt was on a downward spiral that quite probably would have eventually led to bankruptcy and no player funds ever being returned.
So although the ramifications of Black Friday may have looked devastating at the time to a lot of players, perhaps it was the best thing that could have happened in order to keep Ray Bitar and his alleged "global Ponzi scheme" from completely running the company into the ground. Full Tilt players may have never been reunited with their account balances the way things were going.
Full Tilt will be up and running in 90 days or so. U.S players will still not be permitted to play there or at PokerStars. But online poker legalization in the U.S. is on the horizon with Nevada set to offer Internet poker sites on an intrastate basis in a few months. And Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl are apparently working on legislative support for online poker regulations at the federal level. The good news about this is that online poker will be available across the U.S. again someday and it will be properly regulated so that player funds are secure and another Full Tilt debacle can never happen.
Even though hundreds of thousands of U.S. players have been kept from playing online poker for almost 16 months now, it won't be that way forever. The day will come that players throughout America will be able to log on and play poker legally with no fears of not receiving winnings. Some of those players will undoubtedly be using the money reimbursed from the PokerStars bailout of Full Tilt Poker. And they have Black Friday to thank for that.