History of Full Tilt Poker
How Full Tilt Poker Began
When poker greats such as Chris Ferguson, Phil Ivey and Howard Lederer put their minds together to create on online poker room, the results were naturally explosive. By June 2004, the dreams of these poker players had been turned into a reality, thanks to Tiltware, LLC, a software development and licensing company that is based in Los Angeles, California. The site was started with a $5 million dollar initial budget.
The original nine pros behind Full Tilt poker were Chris Ferguson, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel, John Juanda, Andy Bloch, Erick Lindgren, Phil Gordon, and Clonie Gowen. Another person there from the beginning is Ray Bitar one of the owners of Full Tilt Poker, Tiltware LLC. Each are said to have a share of the company, with Phil Ivey holding the most at 5%. As stated in our conclusion, we valued Full Tilt poker at just shy of $6.43 billion USD in September 2009.
The software first tested in Beta format using what was then considered superior graphics and sophisticated technology. The aim of the new site was to provide players of all skill levels the opportunity to play against some of the biggest names in the industry for fun or for real money.
The official launch of Full Tilt Poker was announced at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, where Team Full Tilt ie. Ferguson, Ivey, Lederer, Andy Bloch, Phil Gordon, Clonie Gowen, John Juana, Erick Lindgren and Eric Seidel, joined executives from Tiltware at a press conference.
At the time of the launch, the Chief Marketing Officer of Tiltware, Bob Wolf said: “Our entire team is passionate about poker and is intrigued by this cultural phenomenon that is sweeping the country. We ultimately formed TiltWare to develop better, more effective online poker software, but could never have been successful without the expertise and talent of some of the world’s leading poker players that comprise Team Full Tilt. Together, we are making online poker a fun, seamless and secure experience.”
Getting Started with Marketing Campaigns
Full Tilt Poker immediately embarked on an aggressive marketing campaign to attract new players to its site, which contributed greatly to the good player levels right from the start. There were generally enough players to fill the tables throughout the day, giving the site a busy and professional image from day one. However, Full Tilt Poker had a long way to go to catch up with other poker sites that had launched earlier in the 1990’s and enjoyed loyal customers and a good part of the market. You can see the large Google search growth via a traffic image from Google trends at the bottom of this page.
Full Tilt Changes Image
In 2005, Full Tilt Poker went through its first of what would become numerous revamps to keep pace with what poker players were demanding for their online poker entertainment. As a result of its new look and emphasis on listening to what players were saying, a steady growth rate was sustained throughout the year, and slowly but surely Full Tilt Poker attained industry recognition and respect.
The Effect of the UIGEA
One of the major changes in Full Tilt Poker’s history came in 2006 when the Bush administration introduced the controversial Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This law essentially banned financial institutions in the United States from processing payments to and from online casino and poker rooms. Those poker rooms that had assets in the United States decided to pick up and leave for other shores in fear of reprisal from the American government. However, sites such as Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars took the decision to stick it out in the US poker market – a decision that would prove monumental in terms of profitability and growth in customer base.
US players who were suddenly left without their favorite poker rooms migrated to Full Tilt Poker which had kept its doors open, and the site picked up a significant part of the loose traffic that appeared in the US market after the UIGEA came into effect. The fact that Full Tilt Poker still accepts players from the United States is still a major part of its success today.
2007 and Beyond
With such a massive expansion of its customer base, there was no doubt that Full Tilt Poker would grow from strength to strength and this could be felt from 2007 already. With so many new players, the site needed to think of improving its structure and did so in 2007, allowing its software to load much faster than previously. With improved software, player traffic increased and more profits were channeled into further advertising campaigns.
By 2008, Full Tilt Poker was sponsoring major poker tournaments, which helped spread exposure to this site, attracting new players each and every month. By the end of 2007, Full Tilt Poker had taken the number two position on the list of the world’s most popular online poker rooms.
As noted, one of the ways that Full Tilt Poker expands its customer base is by becoming the official sponsor of poker tournaments both online and off. The site has sponsored several top television shows such as Learn from the Pros, Poker Championship at Red Rock, Poker Equalizer and the very popular Poker After Dark. Poker pros linked with Full Tilt Poker were involved in most aspects of these shows.
In addition, Full Tilt Poker sponsors the Full Tilt Online Poker Series that has literally millions of dollars up for grabs in prize money each time it happens – on average every three months. This tournament was first established in 2006, where a prize pool of just over $2 million was offered.
Other popular tournaments introduced by Full Tilt Poker include mini FTOPS, similar to the major tournament, except the buy ins are considerably cheaper – around 10% of the original competition.
As industry competition intensified, Full Tilt Poker needed to think of ways to attract even more players and keep them there. One of the ideas was to attempt to break the world record for the most number of players in an online poker tournament at one single time. As part of the site’s fifth anniversary in 2009, the previous record of 35,000 players in one event was broken, with Full Tilt Poker announcing that a staggering 50,000 players had attended the online tournament at its site.
As industry competition goes, the same world record was broken by arch rival, Poker Stars on the very same day!
Although Full Tilt Poker is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and in the United Kingdom by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, there have been times when this site has been challenged by the law.
In 2008, former Full Tilt Poker professional, Clonie Gowen sued the site for money that she said was due to her. According to Gowen, she helped promote the fledgling site in 2004 and was promised 1% in ownership in return. In 2007, Howard Lederer offered Gowen $250K for her past contributions to the site, which was turned down. While Gowen is seeking over $40 million in damages, her chances of success are slim as there was no written contract over her claims.
In October 2009, Full Tilt Poker was again taken to court, this time by a pair of former players who alleged that their accounts were unfairly closed. Full Tilt has claimed that the two – Lary Kennedy and Greg Omotoy – were caught using multi accounts at the site, as well as using bot software. While the players admitted to using multiple accounts, they denied the use of bots and countered that Full Tilt’s Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch created bots to fill tables online and generate revenue for the site. In a statement, Full Tilt emphatically denied these claims and said: “Full Tilt Poker has never knowingly allowed ‘bots’ to play on its site… When fraud, collusion, and cheating of any kind is uncovered, Full Tilt Poker investigates extensively and then acts accordingly and appropriately, as was the case involving these claimants.”
In the middle of 2009, Full Tilt Poker went through its biggest facelift to date, overhauling its entire website and introducing a cutting edge lobby design to bring about a contemporary look. Other additions to the site included the introduction of podcasts for poker information, as well as more global-facing strategy with the inclusion of foreign languages. In August 2009, Full Tilt Poker added Seven Game Poker.
In October 2009, the online poker room again released a new software update that included two new features – Cashout Tournaments and Run it Twice.
The site continues to run some of the biggest bonuses available in the poker industry, and regularly offers promotions and feeder satellites into live poker tournaments all over the world.
The estimated worth of Full Tilt Poker is $6.43 billion dollars. They average a peak of 25,000 real money player as of September 2009. Full Tilt Poker has come a long way in a relatively short space of time, beginning as an idea by poker professionals and turning into a poker site that rivals for top place in the industry among sites such as Poker Stars. While the site faces several challenges on the legal and competition fronts, there is no doubt that its solid reputation and excellent brand name will stand the test of time.