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Pros Respond To Full Tilt Balances Being Refunded

Pros Respond To Full Tilt Balances Being Refunded

After a little less than three years the wait is finally over for most US based poker players who had money stuck on Full Tilt Poker.

On January 23rd the news broke that players were going to get repaid on TwoPlusTwo, where PPA Executive Director John Pappas said the following: “I spoke with AFMLS/DoJ staff today and they informed me that they have approved approximately 30,000 undisputed player claims totaling approx $82 million dollars in remissions.”

On February 24th the following message was posted on FullTiltPokerClaims.com, the website used by the Garden City Group for communication purposes in regards to repaying player funds, “All other Petitioners who have been approved for payment in the first round of distributions and whose bank account information has passed the preliminary testing process will be sent an email notice on Monday, February 24 or Tuesday, February 25 with the amount of their payment. The first round of payments is scheduled to be issued on Friday, February 28.”

Today, on February 28th, Twitter blew up with the hash tag #GreenFriday and many players posted joyful messages about getting paid what they’d been owed for so many years. We reached out to some players who received funds today and they were happy to answer some question regarding the subject. Kane ‘Nascar_1949’ Kalas, Josh ‘LitleBastrd’ Tieman and Josh Brikis received their funds, but the same cannot be said for former Full Tilt Poker Red Pro Ryan Daut.

Huge Payout For Tieman and Kalas, Brikis Relieved
“I had $440,000 on Full Tilt and when I saw the money actually hit my bank account, a really big smile came over my face,” Tieman said, “I guess I felt relief more than anything. It had been such a long wait with a lot of ups and downs over the last few years. I was definitely optimistic over the last few months, but still always a bit worried about getting my hopes up. I had written off the money as lost after the first year as a way to just try and prepare myself for the worst. It was somewhere around 20-30% of my net worth, so I was still ok financially, but it was definitely a lot of money, and I was no longer earning near what I used to, so this was a big deal for me,” Tieman said.

Kalas was also severely affected and he said the following, “I received an amount of money in the six figures so, as you can imagine, I was very relieved to find it in my account today. After getting the run around from the DOJ regarding the date of payment for the past three years, I must admit I was skeptical that the funds would arrive today as promised.  For me, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  It was similar to the feeling you get when you lose your cell phone and then find it, only, in this case, it would be like if you had lost a cell phone made of gold.”

Ivey Poker Pro Josh Brikis also received his funds today and he said the following, “I have been checking my bank account every day since it was announced a few weeks ago that we would get paid by the end of February. I was pretty anxious and really happy this morning when it finally happened! I don't have near as much as a lot of friends and other pros do but it is 5 figures and much needed!”

Here are some Tweets from other pros that were repaid today as well.

Selling and Buying Full Tilt Poker Funds
During the Black Friday aftermath many players were involved in selling off funds, as some believed the money was never to be seen again while others believed it was still possible.

“I did not, thankfully, and I really wish I bought it all up!” Brikis said, and Kalas confirmed he choose not to as well. “I was actually considering buying Full Tilt funds from others when the price was around 50 cents, as I thought at the time that the price was too low but I was already so highly exposed that I decided against it,” Kalas said.

Tieman explained that buying up Full Tilt Poker funds never crossed his mind as he already had so much on the line, he did not sell of any of the money he had tied up himself.

“No, I didn't sell any,” Tieman said, “During the first few months after Full Tilt closed I always assumed they'd have no problem covering everyone's balances. Full Tilt was seen as such a reputable company that everyone trusted them as much as a bank account myself included. In the beginning the price people were getting for their full tilt money seemed fairly low to me. I think a lot of people sold somewhat cheap, just to fund a poker bankroll on other sites, or just to cover day to day expenses.” Tieman said.

Daut was not able to join his peers in today’s celebration. Daut has not received any money from Full Tilt and it remains unclear for him if and when this is going to happen.

“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster as a red pro. We went from expecting the money to come in soon after receiving our PokerStars balances 2 weeks after Black Friday, to treating the money as gone after the deal with Group Bernard Tapie fell through, to expecting the money to eventually come after PokerStars purchased Full Tilt, to being told six months ago that we were not going to receive any money due to being pros. Now we are being given hope again because the GCG says they are doing a review on the former Pros. I really want the money back because it’s a large amount but I’m tired of being toyed with,” Daut said.

“Getting the Full Tilt money back would be huge. Of my total net worth, it’s probably around 10%, but I don’t use the majority of my net worth for poker. So in terms of liquidity it would more than double what I have right now. I would play more live tournaments, more big online tournaments, be able to buy more action of players and would be able to take shots in bigger cash games that I never feel all that comfortable in,” Daut said as he remains in the dark about what’s going to happen with his case.

“I didn’t sell any FTP money, but I actually bought some more. In 2011 I bought another $10,500 full tilt for $4,500, so I will be receiving that from a player who received an e-mail that he will be in the first batch of payouts. I also luckily bought some action on 2p2 for the 2011 WSOP, which I sent on FTP so the players that get money back can send me what I sent them. So at least I don’t have to watch people getting money while I’m completely left out in the cold,” Daut said.

Changed Views on The Poker Industry
While many players maintained their usual grind it’s not the same for family man Brikis, who told us he ventured into “other avenues of income” because of Black Friday and what happened in the aftermath of that chaos.

Online poker does not enjoy the same status, as before Black Friday and it has definitely changed the way people look at this multi-million dollar industry.

“The problems surrounding Full Tilt have changed how I trust companies. If someone told me what Full Tilt was doing in early 2011 before Black Friday, I wouldn’t have believed it. It just wouldn’t make sense for a company in a position to make so much money to steal from its customers. But I would have been very wrong, so nowadays I try to limit my exposure by never having too much in any one site besides PokerStars,” Daut said.

Tieman expresses similar feelings, as most of the trust seems to be gone forever.

“The post-Black Friday developments have definitely changed my views on online poker. Looking back I trusted poker sites way too much, often leaving way too much money in accounts for the stakes I played. I was blind to how shady some of the sites are and overestimated how much they were making.  After Black Friday, and hearing about several other poker sites withholding payments, I have little trust for any poker site other than PokerStars. I would still play on them, but would cash out religiously and maybe not even bother playing ultra high stakes since I would have to keep so much money on the site. There's just little visibility into how financially sound most sites are, and especially for U.S. facing sites, they can hide behind the excuse of how difficult it is to pay out players.  It seems like an educated guessing game, where you’re hoping not to get burned,” Tieman said.

Tieman continued by saying that Black Friday had a much larger affect on him, not just financially.

“I think all the problems lately in the poker industry have definitely contributed to me growing to dislike the game in general. I used to love playing online poker, now I have to worry how safe my money is and choose between living in the U.S. or playing poker. I was making a lot of money and pushing myself to play higher stakes before Black Friday and I haven't played very much the last couple years. I'm sure the games are harder than they used to be now so I wouldn't be playing as high as I used to and it feels like I would be taking a big step back from where I was on Black Friday as a player if I tried to play seriously again. I've felt a bit burned out on poker for a long time too, it's gotten a bit monotonous and repetitive for me and with all the current problems with poker, it seems like a good time to step away.  I'm pretty uncertain about my future as a full time poker player currently,” Tieman said.

Tieman's PTRJosh Tieman's PTR graph up until Black Friday

Daut’s Doubts About Past Decisions and Future Income
As a former Full Tilt Poker Red Pro Daut still remains in limbo and he expresses the toll it has taken him.

“The whole process has sucked, it’s amazing how many of the stages of grief you go through in a process like this. I relocated to Canada in August 2011 and part of me blames myself for not relocating before June. Had I moved in May before Full Tilt went offline, I would have been considered a ROW player and received my money already. Of course with the WSOP coming up, most people were planning on relocating in August or later. It makes me think of how things would’ve been better if I had made a few different decisions. Should I have sent my bankroll to a European or Canadian friend? If I had, I would have received it all 18 months ago,” Daut said.

“I get angry again, because I realize that one of my horses sent me his entire FTP balance of $23,000 right when the notices went up. Had he kept it in his account he would be receiving that money today, but since he sent it to me its now frozen in my account. Should I have sent it back?” Daut questions his own actions almost three years after it happened.

“Then there’s the part of me thinks I don’t deserve all, or even any of the money. I was a full tilt pro for 2.5 years. I received a little over $100,000 in 100% rakeback plus $35 an hour payments over that time, which is similar to the amount of money I have frozen on the site. But then you start bargaining with yourself and saying ‘It’s okay if they take the $35 an hour, but I at least deserve to keep the rakeback because other players are getting their rakeback!’ but then you bargain further ‘well maybe they can just allow me to keep 35% of the rakeback since that’s what most rakeback players were receiving from affiliates,” Daut continued. 

“I’m tired of feeling like I need to blame myself and or that I don’t deserve money that I was counting on having. I made life decisions based on the expectation that I could withdraw that money at any time and now I’m being told I possibly can’t have that money when the DOJ was given more than enough to pay out all balances. Everything feels unfair, but at the same time this was all mentally written off a long time ago and I’ll have to find a way to accept anything that happens,” Daut said.

The Lost Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Money
While there’s finally good news about Full Tilt Poker many people tend to forget that Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were also indicted on Black Friday. Some players we spoke to were also affected by their mismanagement and they all feel like that money is long gone. 

“I had $4,000 on Absolute on Black Friday, lost a few thousand messing around in the following days when the site was still running, but I have completely written off the remainder,” Daut said.

Kalas, with over six-figures tied up on Full Tilt Poker, had more than Daut on Absolute and his faith in ever getting that money back has also been reduced to zero.

“Unfortunately I have an amount tied up on Absolute Poker similar to what I just received from Full Tilt. While on the subject, if you know anyone interested in buying Absolute Poker funds, send them my way. Tell them I also have some swampland that might interest them in Florida,” Kalas sarcastically said.

Tieman was in the middle of a big downswing when Black Friday happened and he recalls that it might’ve saved him from having a ton of money tied up on the now defunct website.

“I had about $40,000 on there and it could’ve been way more. A couple months before Black Friday I had around $100,000 on UB and was taking shots at the nosebleeds, playing $100-$200 and $150-$300. I ran pretty badly and about busted my account and had to get a few transfers in. It was my biggest downswing ever monetarily, and a lot of it was on UB. If it would've gone the other way I could have had a lot more in there. Looking back it's maybe the one downswing I'm happy about. If it was $200,000-$300,000 on UB instead of $40,000 it would be a much harder loss to take.  So despite the loss of UB money, there's a silver lining there for me, and getting the Full Tilt money back was the big one I was worried about,” Tieman said.

The website FullTiltPokerClaims.com submitted another update Friday afternoon which stated the following:

On February 28, 2014, GCG issued more than 27,500 payments totaling approximately $76 million to Petitioners who timely confirmed their FTP Account Balances online. Please note that while many Petitioners will receive their ACH on the same day that it was issued, depending on the practices of the Petitioner’s bank, the ACH may not be received for several business days.
Reminders for certain Petitioners who are not included in the first round of payments:
The deadline for Affiliates to submit a Petition for Remission is this Sunday, March 2.
If you received a notice because you have a debt qualifying for collection through the Treasury Offset Program, please send your completed Unified Financial Management System Vendor Request Form to GCG as soon as possible.
If you received a notice that your bank account information is incorrect or incomplete, please update your account information online by March 13.
Please continue to check this website for information regarding the next round of payments to approved Petitioners.


Make sure to tune back in with us throughout the week as we bring you continuous coverage of players getting refunded by Full Tilt Poker. Front page photo credit: ClubPoker 

Interview by Remko Rinkema
Remko Rinkema - Igaming.org Interviewer

Remko Rinkema has covered the biggest poker tournaments in the world since 2008, including many WSOP, EPT, Aussie Millions, APPT, MCOP and Unibet Open events. As an in-depth interview and story enthusiast he tries to do things a little differently. Besides the usual writings Rinkema grabs every chance to appear on podcasts, live streams and in the occasional video.

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