So Full Tilt Poker finally died. In its death throes were some quite spectacular revelations.
- A web of lies? – Check
- Hundreds of millions of dollars owed to the little guy? – Check
- Accusations of criminal behaviour? – Check
- Vilified figureheads running off into the sunset with stolen cash? – Check
Perhaps after the banking crisis we’re a little inured to this, but I must confess to being gobsmacked by just how brazen and stupid the theft of Full Tilt (FTP) players’ money was. Here’s a summary of the situation, including some links to more detailed accounts.
The US Department of Justice his issued a new complaint that FTP basically stole player funds. Apparently, even before Black Friday, FTP owed players approximately $390m but only had $60m in funds. CEO Ray Bitar was aware of the shortfall, and allowed FTP to continue to take depositors’ money.
In the previous four years leading up to Black Friday, FTP had paid its major shareholders amounts totaling $443m. Hence, the DOJs accusation that is was a “global Ponzi scheme”. This accusation is essentially nonsense (the players depositing funds are not investors in the scheme), but it has provided a soundbite for The Guardian, Wired and others to promulgate the news, causing yet more damage to the battered name of poker. The accusation may however prove to be the crystallising point around which a criminal case can be brought to the owners of FTP.
The views of players on forums are what I find most remarkable. It seems that only now, in reaction to this news, do they finally kiss goodbye to the money they had frozen on FTP. It’s almost as if none of them read my article on the subject, written over three months ago
Some of the comments along the side bar of Barry Carter’s “Cliffs notes” on the saga are indicative of what the man on the street is thinking. If paternalists ever require anecdotal evidence of how the innocent need to be protected from themselves, this would be a prime source. A pretty strong case for more regulation, I’m afraid.
And for the view of an insider, check out this summary of Tow Dwan’s six hour stint on the 2+2 Forum, where he answers questions about his involvement in the scandal. Among other fascinating claims, he notes that there were “so many disgusting areas of mismanagement and lack of oversight”.
The saga will run for a while yet, of course. But for the average poker player, now is the time to close the case on this sorry affair.
I hope we’ve learned a lesson from this: with money, adept marketing and the careful creation of heroic characters, it’s not too difficult to defraud millions of people out of hundred of millions of dollars. It’s funny, because if these guys were politicians, we’d have seen through them ages ago.