May 12, 2016
Full Tilt Software goes offline May 17 - Top Memories
By RTR Dennis
Launched in 2004, Full Tilt rode the Poker Boom to become the world’s second-biggest poker site behind PokerStars. Unfortunately, their software will ceases to exist on May 17, with FTP customers being transferred to PokerStars’ player base.
The brand will remain, but the fact that the software will go offline is quite a fall for a site that, just five years ago, was a massive company. This being said, we thought it’d be appropriate to look back on some of the most-notable memories – good and bad – from Full Tilt’s great run.
1. Rise of Full Tilt’s High Stakes Scene
Up until the mid-2000s, the biggest high stakes poker games were found in Bobby’s Room (Bellagio). However, this began to change around 2007, when players like Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, David Benyamine, Brian Townsend, and Di and Hac Dang began playing for ridiculous sums of money online. These legends and others helped make Full Tilt the premiere destination for online poker games. “Rail Heaven,” a 6-max, $500/$1,000 NLHE table, was particularly notable since it drew many of the game’s biggest names and featured some monster pots.
2. Black Friday Scandal
As great as the memories from Full Tilt’s high stakes scene are, we can’t overlook one of the ugliest moments in online poker history – FTP’s Black Friday debacle. When the US Department of Justice (DoJ) cracked down on FTP, PokerStars, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, only Stars had ring-fenced their player deposits and could pay US customers. This meant Full Tilt was among the sites that got into major legal trouble not only for circumventing US banking laws, but also for spending player deposit money. What ensued was a long legal mess involving Full Tilt’s owners – Howard Lederer, Ray Bitar, Rafe Furst and Chris Ferguson – who surrendered tens of millions of dollars to the US government.
3. Rush Poker
One reason why Full Tilt become such a prominent poker room is because of their innovation. And they’re responsible for Rush Poker, which is quite possibly the biggest innovation in iPoker history. Generically called fast-fold poker, this variant takes players to new tables immediately after their action in a hand is finished. So when Full Tilt launched Rush in 2010, millions of eager players were quick to try it out. Following Black Friday, FTP lost their chance to patent Rush Poker, so now pretty much every major iPoker site has this variant in some form or another.
4. PokerStars buys Full Tilt
Because of Full Tilt’s inability to repay US players following Black Friday, their gaming license was revoked by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. This, along with their owners being in hot water, pretty much doomed Full Tilt from ever being competitive in the iPoker world again. Luckily, through a $731 million deal with the US DoJ, PokerStars bought the once-proud site and fronted the money to repay former US players.
5. Durrrr Challenge
After his rise to prominence in 2009, Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan began offering 3:1 odds to any player who could beat him over the course of 50k online hands. Antonius was the first to take up this challenge, offering $500,000 to Dwan’s $1.5 million at the conclusion of 50k hands. The challenge has still never finished today, although durrrr is up over $1.8 million after 39k hands. Dan ‘Jungleman12’ Cates also accepted the same deal from Dwan, sprinting out to a $1 million lead after 25k hands. The two have been trying to resume the challenge for years, although Dwan seems reluctant to finish it.
6. Isildur1 takes Full Tilt by Storm
Another notable event from 2009 was the rise of ‘Isildur1,’ an anonymous Swedish player who quickly rose up the ranks and took on any famed poker pro in his path. The mystery player beat the likes of Dwan, Antonius and Ivey out of millions of dollars with a hyper-aggressive style that nobody had ever seen. Over a series of sessions, Isildur1, who was later revealed to be Viktor Blom, even beat Dwan out of $5 million. Of course, Blom would take his lumps too, including a record $4.2 million losing session against Brian Hastings, and losing a record $1.35 million pot against Antonius. But the Swede is still playing today and winning most of the time.
7. Ivey sues Full Tilt
Players weren’t the only ones getting stiffed out of money from Full Tilt Poker. In 2011, Ivey sued the site’s parent company, Tiltware, for $150 million while famously sitting out the 2011 WSOP. Ivey’s given reason was the non-payment of American player deposits, but Tiltware alleged that this was a “self-serving lawsuit” designed to cash in on his shares and backlogged sponsorship money. Regardless of the reasoning behind Ivey’s lawsuit, it was just one more problem that Full Tilt went through during the troubling 2011/12 years.
It’s good to see that the brand will at least survive on PokerStars’ player base. But as you can see, the brand and these memories are about all that’s left of what was once a thriving online poker site.