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Farewell Full Tilt – Memories of a Fantastic Poker Site

Let’s get beyond the ‘merging player pools’ corporate speak shall we? Full Tilt is closing down, players have accounts at PokerStars anyway, and another interesting chapter in the evolution of online poker comes to an end. Of course, someone could buy the software… who knows!

I’m a little saddened, having played a lot of games there at one point. This is something of a tribute post – though as you will see not all of the memories were good.

In no particular order, here is what I’ll remember about Full Tilt.

#1 – The Amazing Software

Other poker sites did catch up eventually, though back in 2007, the Full Tilt client blew everything else clean out of the water in terms of graphics and design. Those cartoon avatars which could change from happy to confused or angry were amazing. I was a plant most of the time, and a turtle before that. I’m sure many people tried to mislead with their avatar choice, though generally speaking these became their own ‘tell’ as to the style and thought process of the player.

#2 – Rakeback

Farewell Full Tilt 2016

Full Tilt were the biggest site offering rakeback and really led the charge with this (27% unless you were a pro). The amount of players who made 2 nd accounts to get this must have been stupid… though that is all by-the-by now.

Of course, rakeback eventually suffocated online poker… as I have mentioned here many times over. At the time it was a ‘land grab’, and the mix of high volume and decent rewards helped propel FTP to the 2nd largest site for a long time.

#3 - Nosebleeds / Durrrr Challange

The real elite of the game used to play in games where a year’s income of us mere mortals were being shipped in a single pot. Gus Hanse, Phil Ivey and Patrick Antonius were some of the big names regularly online. The Durrrr Challenge came from this, a head to head between Tom Dwan and Patrick Antonius – this did drift on a bit and was eventually cut by Black Friday. At the time the excitement in the poker community was huge, with reports on the challenge and other nosebleed games a daily staple on the (then popular) forums.

#4 – The Rail Beggars

I’d forgotten about these until mentioning the nosebleeds… there used to be kids on the rail in every nosebleed games begging for $5. Eventually they came out of the nosebleeds and started begging in regular games too, until Full Tilt put a stop to this. I always had a plan to say ‘oops, I accidentally sent you $500 instead of $5’ to one of them, and ask them to send me the balance back… just for a wind up… could never really be bothered in-game though.

#5 – Rush Poker

These days all the sites have a ‘fast fold variation’, and Zoom is the best of them for me. Back when Rush Poker came out, it was brand new and the buzz was unlike anything in recent times! I vivdly remember my first few times in this game. There were plenty more innovations from Full Tilt too, Matrix SNGs (meh!), Multi-entry tournaments and mixed games like HO, HA and 10 game all started there.

Full Tilt Poker’s Rush Poker Tournaments

#6 – Black Friday

As a full time gambling webmaster and (at the time) regular player this was a horrible, horrible day. I was making a lot of money sending players to Full Tilt, and had worked really hard to be on the first page of google for some valuable terms in several different languages.

I know, no sympathy for affiliates (haha, would never expect this). I will say that the crushing blow of Black Friday is still a very vivid memory even 5 years on.

I eventually got my bankroll back, though many US players chose not to go through the Feds to retrieve their money. Of course, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet fared even worse (this also cost money, though I was already in the process of reducing exposure after scandals involving those sites).

The media speculation surrounding Full Tilt, would it come back? When? Would the owners be indicted in the US? And so on was amazing at the time.

Some ‘journalists’ at reasonably big poker sites who thought they knew the industry got egg on their faces many times over. Of course nobody expected the buyout by PokerStars, or that the site would shut down just a couple of years later!

#7 – Red Pros

These were not the top level pros like Ivey and Hansen, but the online types – 2nd tier if you like. They used to get 100% rakeback deals (rumors were rife that these were for sale under the table) and would host some of the promotional tournaments like FTOPS.

Funny thing is, there were 100’s of them, and I can’t recall a single name. Of course Black Friday killed off this idea.

#8 – FTOPS

The Full Tilt Online Poker Series became a standard for the industry, big tournaments, one long event and a lot of buzz and publicity. At the time this was unique, the biggest thing before that was the Sunday Million at Stars. When the FTOPS started it was amazing! Eventually the WCOOP and SCOOP and tournament events all over the other sites made the announcement of the next FTOPS just another day at the office… I’ll have happy memories of those early series, even though I never managed to reach a final table!

Alright, that’s enough of a trip down memory lane for one blog post… I could have added the excitement about the comeback, though this is more than dampened by the imminent shut-down.

I’m not going to be like the many (egg-faced) US journalists and pretend I have some inside information on the future… who really knows whether on March 21 st, Full Tilt will be closed for good – or whether a new chapter in its rollercoaster history will just be beginning.

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