We have a robust poker community here on WSO, and I know at least some of you got jammed up on Black Friday - April 15, 2011 - when the Department of Justice seized Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet. I personally know a guy who has a 6-figure Full Tilt account which is still in limbo, despite the fact that Full Tilt was sold to PokerStars in January. So what's the hold-up when it comes to getting your money out?
It turns out the DOJ is really big on seizures, but not so much on restitution. Even though the DOJ made over $500 million in profit on the sale of Full Tilt, it has yet to return a cent to players despite promising to do just that after the sale.
According to Steven L. Kessler, an based in New York City who specializes in forfeiture law and is representing high-stakes pro Adam Webb's attempt to recover nearly $59,000 in this case, it's business as usual to make seized funds difficult to recover. “Any forfeiture case is about fund-raising,” he says. “In one of its publications [the 'National Asset Forfeiture Strategic Plan 2008–2012'], the government talks about bringing in $2 billion in forfeitures and returning only $700 million.” Recouping Full Tilt funds will be “a long, drawn-out process to the point that you will need to be out five or six or seven figures for it to be worth pursuing. The system is set up so that you are discouraged from going after your money.
The free market being what it is (and poker players being market makers by nature), a secondary market in these cash balances sprung up almost immediately after the seizures. Initially you could sell your frozen cash balance for as much as 85 cents on the dollar, but as the case dragged on balances sold for as little as one penny on the dollar. Now that the government has sold Full Tilt and at least made the promise to pay at some point, players can now find buyers for their cash balances around 70 cents on the dollar.
I find this absolutely ridiculous. Not only is online poker a victimless crime (unless you count Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Indian tribes who lost revenue), it's not even gambling. It's a game of math and probabilities. That's why there's a rake; there's no advantage to being the house.
Anyway, if you have money tied up with the former Full Tilt at least there's a little light at the end of the tunnel. I played at Pacific Poker for a number of years but eventually closed my account. I guess it was lucky timing.
Is anyone playing online anymore? How do you fund your account? Is there any way around the government leviathan in the online poker rooms anymore?