Full Tilt (FT) players will soon be forced to make the transition to PokerStars after the Rational Group, parent company to the iPoker brands and under the Amaya gaming umbrella, announced this week a consolidation of the two customer pools in order to create one “market-leading poker product.”
All Full Tilt players will move to PokerStars sometime this spring, and those who hold separate FT and PokerStars accounts will see the two fused into one Stars credential. In a press release Rational says the decision “will allow Amaya’s development and technology teams to focus on improving one market-leading platform rather than two.”
Once a market leader in online poker, Full Tilt’s fall from grace came in 2011 when the US Department of Justice charged the site’s former owners with running a Ponzi-like scheme that netted the company hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2012, the US government dismissed charges against the actual FT brand in a settlement deal that included PokerStars purchasing Full Tilt and paying $731 million in civil lawsuits.
While PokerStars’ image was tarnished in the United States for operating illegally, it didn’t suffer nearly as bad as Full Tilt as the latter company’s actions ruined lives.
New Jersey Dual-Threat
The last thing PokerStars needs is additional fanfare, but that is precisely what aligning with FT will provide. After an exhaustive application process, in October the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement finally approved Amaya’s bid to return both PokerStars and Full Tilt to the Garden State for the first time since poker’s Black Friday in April of 2011.
The latest data from PokerScout shows the WSOP/888 and Party Borgata rooms totaling a weekly average of just 370 players. The iGambling market is flourishing in New Jersey, but Internet poker has struggled since its legalization in 2013.
The primary hurdle is of course player liquidity. PokerStars and Full Tilt is expected to bring former players from the early 2000s back online, and ideally entice new land-based players to the digital tables.
With PokerStars and Full Tilt working coherently, revitalizing online poker interest could be an easier task than initially thought.
Still Worth Fighting
Once one of the world’s largest and most active online card rooms, today FT dot-com is the 11th most popular poker destination on the web. PokerStars remains the largest, and is more than six times as active as its nearest rival 888poker.
PokerStars’ player base is 20 times that of FT, and while its players are being moved to the larger of the two, Amaya executives aren’t ready to completely throw in the towel. In its merger statement this week, the company says that while FT has “been in decline since its 2012 re-launch,” it still continues to be a profitable poker room.
Players who have grown accustomed to the FT software will be able to continue playing through the client. Full Tilt’s popular formats including Rush Poker and The Deal will also remain available for the time being.
Amaya moving FT players to PokerStars but not going all-in and shutting down the brand in favor of a dual-brand strategy shows that its corporate leadership isn’t entirely convinced it’s time to fold on the once-great iPoker powerhouse.