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Copyright © 2019. All Rights Reserved. Poker History. Editor: Erik Smith.


The settlement between the US Department of Justice and two of the biggest companies named in the Black Friday indictments, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, reached a happy ending for players across the globe. For Full Tilt Poker, however, the case meant a tarnished reputation and potentially serious legal consequences for its previous owners.

The announcement of a deal between the US Department of Justice and Full Tilt Poker was met with joy by players across the world. The deal, brokered through in the very last hours and in deep secrecy, meant that PokerStars would take over the company in return for a guarantee of Full Tilt player funds – a guarantee that Full Tilt itself was unable to produce.

While the arrangement cleared PokerStars and allowed the to establish the company as a true giant on the global online poker scene, Full Tilt Poker was left with a sweet-sour taste instead. The company had to surrender its assets to its biggest competitor, and for the individuals named in the Black Friday indictment, there was little consolidation in knowing that PokerStars would take care of the company’s player debts.

In other words, while the criminal cases against both companies were solved as part of the three-part agreement, the civil cases against some of the key figures involved in the scandal remained on the table of the DoJ.

For Full Tilt founders Ray Bitar, Rafe Furst, Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, this was bad news. The four are all named in the original indictment from Black Friday, wanted for their alleged role in running an illegal gambling operation and defrauding thousands of players of their money through an unsustainable money-moving scheme.

Ray Bitar was for long one of the most wanted men in world poker, and kept a low profile throughout the case. So did Rafe Furst, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, all the way until the deal was announced and the quartet made their first sporadic appearances in public. It then emerged that Bitar had spent most of his time in Dublin, where the Full Tilt headquarters are located. He soon after surrendered to US authorities and is now awaiting trial. It has been defiantly denied from all sides of the settlement that his or any other part had agreed to surrender as part of the settlement deal.

While Full Tilt Poker may continue to live on as a sub-brand of the PokerStars empire, the case still reeks of controversy when it comes to the involvement of the former owners and founders of the company. Account seizures, counter claims and affidavits have been exchanged between the indicted individuals and US authorities, and the cases are likely facing a long and complicated legal process before any sort of resolution is reached.

What remains, however, is a story of greatness and fall, featuring some of the most celebrated personalities in the poker world and what was once the most promising and fastest developing asset in the entire industry.