Full Tilt Poker was launched during the height of the online poker boom in 2004. There were a number of professional poker players behind the launch, including Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson, and a software development and licensing company called Tiltware. The site is still online today, although it’s now under different ownership.
The history of Full Tilt Poker is an interesting one, with some ups and downs along the way. They were one of the biggest sites in the world for a period and, along with PokerStars, one of the best options for American players. They have also had some major problems. You can read more about their history below.
There were nine professional players involved with the launch of Full Tilt Poker. These were Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel, John Juanda, Andy Bloch, Erick Lindgren, Phil Gordon, and Clonie Gowen. Collectively these pros were known as Team Full Tilt. Tiltware, the software company from California, was also involved and there was an initial budget of $5 million.
Read more about the Founders of Full Tilt Poker.
The software was first tested in Beta format and used what was then considered to be superior graphics and sophisticated technology. The site was targeting players of all standards and hoped that providing the opportunity to play against some of the biggest names in poker would help to attract players. The site’s slogan was “Learn, Chat, and Play with the Pros”.
The official launch of Full Tilt was announced at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where Team Full Tilt and executives from Tiltware held a press conference. Chief Marketing Officer of Tiltware said at the time, “Our entire team is passionate about poker and is intrigued by this cultural phenomenon that’s 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.”
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, they had a long way to go to catch up with the other poker sites that had launched earlier in the 1990′s.
In 2005, they went through the 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.
There was another major facelift in 2009. The entire website was overhauled and a cutting edge lobby design was introduced to bring about a contemporary look. Other additions to the site included podcasts for poker information and the inclusion of foreign languages. Later that year, Seven Game Poker was added to the suite of games.
One of the major changes in Full Tilt’s history came in 2006 when the Bush administration introduced the controversial Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law essentially banned financial institutions in the United States from processing payments to and from online gambling sites. Many operators decided that it was no longer in their best interests to offer their gambling services to residents of the US.
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 the sites which had kept its doors open, and Full Tilt picked up a significant number of players, due to this.
On April 15th, 2011 Full Tilt had their domain seized by the US government. PokerStars and Absolute Poker suffered the same fate on a day that became known as Black Friday in poker circles. Full Tilt announced that US players would no longer be able to play at its site. Five days later Full Tilt reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that they could regain use of their domain to help facilitate paying out funds to US players.
However, by June they had still not returned funds and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended their license. All play at Full Tilt Poker ceased. There were accusations that Full Tilt was essentially a giant Ponzi scheme and had been using funds deposited by players to meet operating costs. Months of speculation and rumors followed about what had happened to the money, and whether players would ever get their money back.
In July 2012 an agreement was made for PokerStars to purchase Full Tilt Poker and assume responsibility for paying back outstanding player balances. A few months later, Full Tilt re-opened its software for beta testing using play money. In November, it reopened for real money play, although not to US players.