How will people remember Full Tilt Poker?

Geoff Fisk
Published by:
Posted on 02/23/2021

Iconic online poker brand to be retired Thursday

Despite its downfall and the perception that came with it, Full Tilt Poker stands as an icon in the history of poker. The online poker brand that once dominated the world’s poker economy officially hits the end of its run this week.

PokerStars announced that the Full Tilt Poker skin will be retired Thursday, marking the end of a 17-year run for the brand. The current edition of Full Tilt Poker functions as an online skin for the PokerStars international client.

The retirement of the Full Tilt brand simply means that players currently using the Full Tilt site will now be redirected to the PokerStars main site. Symbolically, however, the end of the road for Full Tilt Poker marks the end of an era in the poker world.

The good and the bad of Full Tilt Poker

The Full Tilt Poker name and logo bring back memories of poker’s golden era. The “poker boom” of the 2000s brought online poker into people’s lives around the world.

ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event made poker an instant mainstream sensation. The subsequent marking push of poker produced an era in which the game struck a ubiquitous presence on television around the world.

With the rise in poker’s popularity came a new opportunity for new players – the ability to play online against pools of millions of players from all reaches of the globe. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker emerged at the forefront of the online poker surge.

Full Tilt Poker’s 17-year run ends Thursday, as PokerStars will merge the online skin into its main client.

Full Tilt advertised itself as an online poker site owned and operated by some of the game’s biggest stars. Commercials for Full Tilt Poker included Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Howard Lederer walking through downtown Las Vegas flanked by Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Erick Lindgren, Gus Hansen, and Erik Seidel, among other superstar poker pros.

These players not only owned Full Tilt Poker but played on the site. Registering for a multi-table tournament gave players the chance to sit next to and compete against one of the Full Tilt pros.

Perhaps the best memory of Full Tilt Poker revolved around “Railbird Heaven.” The site offered the highest-stakes cash games of any online platform, and you could log into Full Tilt Poker and watch players like Patrik Antonius, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Ivey, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, Hansen, and others compete at the nosebleed limits.

Some of the hands that emerged from the “Railbird Heaven” stand among the largest pots in online poker history to this day. We’ll likely never see anything quite like Full Tilt Poker again.

Dramatic downfall of Full Tilt Poker

“Raildbird Heaven” and memories of poker’s best days, unfortunately, don’t define the lasting legacy of Full Tilt Poker.

PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet stood as the three biggest online poker operators in the U.S. until the day known as “Black Friday” in the poker community. Federal authorities seized all three sites on April 15, 2011.

That day marked not only the end of Full Tilt Poker in the U.S. but began the company’s ugly downfall. U.S. players tried to get their funds returned from the frozen site, only to find out that the funds weren’t actually there.

The funds-retrieval effort from the players revealed Full Tilt as essentially a Ponzi scheme, with site owners dipping into player funds. Of the visible Full Tilt Poker owners, Ferguson and Lederer became the two faces most significantly linked to the biggest incidence of fraud against players in the history of online poker.

The 2021 version of Full Tilt was far removed from the platform that players from the poker boom era remember from the 2000s. PokerStars acquired its one-time biggest rival in 2012, and as part of the agreement, reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that resulted in many U.S. players finally getting paid back.

At one time the most recognizable online poker brand in the world, Full Tilt Poker ended up as an online skin of its biggest competitor. The retirement of the Full Tilt brand yields little impact on the poker economy and officially ends a run that was essentially ended a decade ago.

Featured image source: Flickr