Five years ago, the online poker world was flipped upside down following the DOJ crackdown in America known as Black Friday. While many didn’t believe such an event could happen, there were signs that most of us ignored.
Today I want to take a look back to the events leading up to Black Friday and what led me to pull my funds mere months before the crackdown. What was left was hardly worth worrying over but ultimately it has taken over five years to fully recoup my bankroll from Full Tilt.
The Signs Were There – We Chose to Ignore Them
Back in 2010, I had several thousand online between Full Tilt and PokerStars. My online funds were a combination of money won playing online poker and money paid to my account either for work or as a result of backing certain players.
Prior to late 2010, I can’t remember the last time I “withdrew funds” from my poker account in the standard fashion. Typically, there was always someone that needed to fund their account and I’d sell it to them through some third party means.
If not for an unexpected expense, I may not have needed to go through the typical withdrawal procedures. However, I needed about $1,200 and I pulled funds from both accounts to keep from having to shift money around to play.
It took about two to three weeks to get my checks but I remember the first of two check very vividly. When I opened my mailbox, I saw what looked like a check and opened it right there. I didn’t recognize where it was from but I recognized that the amount was what I had requested from PokerStars.
Sweet! I got some of my money. I then glanced down at the payment line and noticed that it was “For Investment Dividends.” Too bad someone didn’t have a camera on me, because I am sure that my face would have been priceless. I remember looking around to make sure nobody was around because the first thing that came into my head was “money laundering. I better cash this thing quick and hope it clears.”
I waited for my Full Tilt check to come and that one also had a bogus payment. I think that one said “Stock proceeds” or something like that. After the first check, I was concerned but after the second, I remember telling my father that PokerStars and Full Tilt were “playing with fire.”
I cashed both checks and they cleared without any problem. But the whole “stock proceeds / investment dividends” thing stuck in my craw and for the first time I was beginning to pay attention to reports on payment processor having problem, people having trouble funding their accounts, etc.
In February 2011, I made a decision that I initially thought was being overly cautious. I drained both of my online poker accounts and left only $50 in each one. My reasoning was that if I “needed” an influx of cash, I could get one of my clients to pay me some money on Full Tilt etc.
Then on April 15, 2011, the shoe dropped. I would like to say that I was shocked, but to me the signs were there in black an white months earlier. At that point, I had run up my Full Tilt account to about $115 and I had about $65 in my PokerStars account. (There was more in the PokerStars account but I offloaded to someone that needed some funds.)
I was like many players who tried to put in a cashout request on Full Tilt and PokerStars. PokerStars rejected the request while Full Tilt “processed” it but I never received a check for obvious reasons.
Six Months Became Two Weeks – For PokerStars That Is
I remember being interviewed on QuadJacks Radio (remember them?) following Black Friday and telling them that I felt it would take us six months to get reimbursed from PokerStars and Full Tilt. I felt that we would never receive a dime from UB and AP.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about PokerStars. Within two weeks, we were receiving payouts and my funds were sent to my bank account. Easy-peasy river squeezy. We know what happened, or rather didn’t happen with Full Tilt.
The insolvency of Full Tilt did surprise me. I assumed that those in charge would have done a better job of managing the company, but like I always say, assumption is the mother of all f*** ups.
PokerStars to the Rescue – Someone Forgot My Life Jacket
Fast forward to the end of July 2012 and we learn that PokerStars has settled with the DOJ and is going to repay Full Tilt Poker players worldwide. ROW players got their money back quickly while U.S. players had to go through a claims process to recoup their bankrolls.
The process to make a claim went through some changes but Garden City Group was going to contact us with instructions on how to make a claim and a claim number. Many of us began the “hurry up and wait process.”
Players were being paid left and right and I never received an email about my balance. With such a small balance, I didn’t feel it was worth fighting over. Then last August I saw the deadlines for remissions and decided to reach out and see if there was anything I could do to make a claim.
A couple of days later, someone emailed me with a claim number and I was finally able to log in. Once I did, I found I could make a claim for about $51, or about half of my balance on Black Friday. Since about half of the funds in my account on Black Friday were the result of playing Stud 8 or Better SNG’s, I decided to take the $51 and run.
I submitted my request and began to wait again to see when I would get paid. It wasn’t until last month that a new message was posted announcing a new set of payments to Full Tilt Poker players, including former Full Tilt red pros.
Five Years to Recoup 50%
Within the last couple of weeks, I receive the “test post” to my bank account for my settlement claim. That means that I am among those that will receive the next round of approved payments mentioned in March.
So, six months as I originally predicted turned out to be 60 months and counting. After all this waiting, I will receive about 50% of my Full Tilt balance. Now, while that may sound like complaining, I really have no reason to fuss considering that I didn’t have much to begin with.
However, I do feel for those players that had significant sums that had to wait for years and in some cases are still waiting to get paid.
Black Friday remains the cautionary tale as to why we need online poker regulation in the United States. This wasn’t a cheating scandal that impacted a targeted sector of the poker populace.
The fallout from Black Friday impacted the entire poker world at that time and there’s still fallout that players are recovering from. Some will never recover.
For those that want to complain about the pace of iPoker regulation in the United States, just review the facts surrounding Black Friday. Then look at the facts surrounding Lock Poker. Ask yourself if you want to go through that again. If not, use some of the patience you learned in poker and wait for lawmakers to create a safe environment for players to compete.