There is part of me that wants to applaud Full Tilt Poker. Certainly you could weave in something about a fool and his money, but I guess I can’t come out and be pro-Ponzi Scheme. That’s not a real compassionate position. What’s the bottom line? At the end of March this year Full Tilt Poker owed players 390 million dollars, but had only 59 million on hand. Whoops. Where did the money go? Well, over time the board members of Full Tilt received 440 million in payments. So, there’s a bit of that missing cash. Of course, the case gets more profile, especially in the poker world, when professional players Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer are named as board members and are associated with over 60 million in fraudulent payments. Time to rethink the whole “Jesus” nickname for Ferguson? It always seemed to me that Full Tilt sponsored an inordinate of players and poker events. I guess with paydays like that, it isn’t too hard to lure spokespeople.
I do feel badly for the people who lost money in this, because Full Tilt was just playing to people’s simplest desires. It’s like calling a phone sex line and imagining a supermodel on the other end. You assumed Full Tilt was above-board, because you wanted it to be, and you wanted to gamble online. You wanted in on the poker craze, and felt you were on the doorstep of cashing in on millions. Millions of people from the start ignored the shadowy legality of online poker. From the beginning there was an insistence by many that it wasn’t legal. If you happened to ever take money out of an online account, it wasn’t like money was coming from a reputable bank. You’d get a check from the 3rd National Savings Bank of Bolivia. The point being, there were always red flags, but the promise of huge sums of money makes people ignore the warning signs.
I played cards online a little bit years back. Fifty bucks here, a hundred there. No big thing. I always deposited with the understanding that I’d eventually lose all the money. I guess I harbored some hope to stumble luckily into huge sums of cash, but I knew myself well enough to know that I’d blow it in the end, betting on a game, or on an ill-advised trip to the “blackjack table.” I imagine that must have been part of the fuel for all this. I’m sure there was a statistic about how many depositors actually withdrew money. It must have been a very small number, and if you are looking at those numbers, taking the money before it is actually lost and ignoring the small percentage of winners is a pretty short step. It’s a greedy and criminal step, but it’s not much of a reach.
It’s funny that in my limited experience playing cards online there always seemed to be a running joke that the whole thing was fixed. After an odd hand, or an especially bad beat you’d get comments joking that the whole thing was rigged to increase the volume of betting. People were paranoid about other players seeing their cards, paranoid that the program wasn’t a proper or accurate simulation, but they trusted their money was safe, which is an odd paradox. I’m not sure this very hand of poker I’m playing is legitimate, but the thousands of dollars I have in my account? No worries there.
Obviously online poker took quite a hit this year, and this revelation about Full Tilt is just the latest blow. The bottom line is, you probably don’t want to be playing poker online right now. Or at least, don’t take the nest egg and sit it in an account over at Bodog. Gambling should probably be left to the casinos and to illegal card rooms and bookmakers. At least when you get involved with those elements, you know what you are dealing with.