Glory Days: 5 Things We Will Miss About Full Tilt Poker5 years ago
Today (May 17th) is the day when Full Tilt finally closes its doors as a poker site in its own right, disappears into the fold of PokerStars, and essentially becomes ‘just another skin’ in a market replete with them.
Though hardly a surprise given the site’s final few troubled years – massive Black Friday problems followed by a less-than-enthusiastic parent company, Amaya – for poker players it signals a sad end to what was once the home of poker’s biggest and brightest stars and games.
Let’s take a look at just what Full Tilt once was and why we will miss it…
The Huge Cash Games
There was a time, not so long ago, when the biggest online pots in the world drew tens of thousands of viewers (yes, viewers, not players) to the site – all desperate to be in on the $half-million+ hands and $multi-million swings which Full Tilt’s tables saw on an almost daily basis.
FullTilt Poker as it was known back in the day still holds the biggest pots of all time by some margin, the top three of which I reminisced about here just recently, with nosebleed limits of $500/1000.
The swings in these games were ridiculous, even by high stakes standards, evidenced by the fact that FTP’s biggest winner from 2007 until present day is Phil Ivey – up almost $20million.
And the very strange thing is, Phil Ivey is also amongst the biggest losers on the site! His ‘polarizing’ nom de plume from 2012 onwards has seen him spew over $6million back into the high stakes community. Here's a clip of Ivey playing against Ziigmund, Antonius, and Dwan with more that $1M around the table.
By way of contrast, the biggest loser by far is Gus Hansen who contributed a similar $20million to finance the lifestyles of his rich and famous friends!
Hansen simply couldn’t translate his unique approach to the game, which has seen him top the $10million mark in tournaments, into cash games online or live. The big boys were simply too well-prepared for him.
Another big contributor to the online nosebleed guys, back in the day, was Guy Laliberte, reputed to have chucked millions, and was known widely as the biggest whale online. Although, compared to his Cirque du Soleil billions, that much is 'just a scratch.'
In fact, when his name was made public, and his shockingly poor results were circulated for all to see, he pretty much gave up online poker out of embarrassment.
Before his TV fame and Triad tales, however, he was a Full Tilt regular – turning his initial $50 deposit into literal millions – with a trademark wild and loose style which proved a nightmare, even amongst the best nosebleed players.
However, he came up against ‘Isildur1’ – who we will see soon enough – in an epic heads up match where the two “battled each other across six tables in marathon sessions lasting all day and night, and by the end of the week, Isildur1 had won more than $5 million from durrrr,” as highstakesdatabase recall.
It might be imagined that the highest stakes would see a very small pool of players indeed, but it wasn’t always so. Full Tilt in its heyday had a seemingly endless supply of young, talented, and extremely wealthy (or well-backed) men desperate to prove their mettle.
Ilari ‘ziigmund’ Sahamies was one of these, an aggressive, eccentric, and successful Finnish player renowned for his “wild tilts and for playing while under the influence”.
His first year at the biggest stakes saw him plunge $3million or so into the red, but his comeback was phenomenal, a year later showing a $7million profit from PLO games, most of which he once again tilted off the following year!
Another player unable to keep his winning graph anywhere close to steady was the anonymously-titled ‘ martonas’, another Swede by all accounts, who dipped in and out of the biggest games but who was wildly unpredictable – eventually finding himself $1.6million up after a rollercoaster ride from 2008 until 2012.
Naturally, high stakes online, massive pots, and the Full Tilt Poker legacy wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a certain Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom – the legendary Swede who, for years, was killing the nosebleeds as an anonymous player.
After being ‘outed’ and signed up by FTP’s biggest rivals PokerStars, Blom proceeded to lose his entire bankroll on FTP to a ‘cheating’ Brian Hastings and crew. After this he became the ‘swingiest’ player in town - $5million up and down sessions, let alone years, becoming standard.
We all still miss those heady days where online poker was booming (or perhaps bubbling) and the best players played the biggest games, the millions passed back and forth countless times, and careers were made or slain in week-long nosebleed sessions - and it was all on Full Tilt Poker.
One of the biggest selling points of Full Tilt Poker in its heyday was its amazing ability to innovate, offering new games and ideas and excellent development of poker software – something very few sites could even dream of competing with.
Of course, not all of these innovations have proven to be good for the game long-term, but the ideas have always been popular – and copied by all and sundry.
Their Rush Poker, introduced in 2010, allowed players to immediately take up a new hand at a new table whenever they folded – the action was high-octane and gave rec players the illusion of multi-tabling without actually having to do so! And as usual, FTP made sure it covered cash games and tournaments, also releasing it on Android and iOS.
Add in the technical side –for example, the software development which was way ahead of the chasing pack – and it was the leader in many ways, forcing others to play catch up on the offerings front.
Multi-entry tournaments also came from the Full Tilt crew, and the overall theme of their innovations was to add fun to the online poker world without damaging the regular pool of pros and semi-pros who wanted to make a living at serious poker.
Of course, as we all know, that’s certainly not the mood of today’s online biggie PokerStars, and the fact that they are subsuming Full Tilt into the Amaya stable leads directly onto our next big sigh.
FTP was the biggest alternative to PokerStars…
In an ideal world, when the biggest player in town starts to play games with you instead of simply allowing you to play games with them (so to speak) having the ability to switch to a different and equally impressive site is the perfect option.
Back in the mid noughties, that was exactly what you could do if PokerStars didn’t appeal for whatever reason. Full Tilt Poker was there, waiting to welcome you with open arms – and vice versa of course. Both sites were hugely impressive and (FTP’s scandalous financial behaviour aside) between them, everything any poker player could ever dream of was offered up.
High stakes, mid stakes, micro stakes, cash, tournament, hyper turbos, deep stack tourneys, satellites, PLO, NLHE, LHE, 2-7 triple draw, stud, HORSE games – in fact a million and one variations of the game, and the ability to play them wherever and whenever you wanted.
And now? You play what you’re told to play basically! Ok, that’s unfair. But the Amaya approach to the game has been to limit offerings to what they think will make them the most profit – and that goes for Full Tilt too. Get rid of the nosebleed stakes? Check. Introduce and promote lottery-style SNG’s? Check. Reduce VIP rewards? Check.
You can fill a massive list with changes which do not reflect the diversity of online poker players’ needs, and now there is no alternative which can match the scale of PS. Full Tilt, though not dead yet, does not exist the way it did in its heyday, and that’s a sad, almost irreplaceable, loss for poker players everywhere. It’s not a ‘new’ loss of course – today’s changes have been long in the making – but it still hurts.
…As were the players!
For those who have only come to the game of poker in the last few years, Team PokersStars Pros must seem like they rule the world! And they do nowadays, although they are kept on a short leash – as, it seems, are many others who might consider trying to upset the monopolized applecart of PokerStars.
Those who were around when Full Tilt hit their monitors and TV screens with a vengeance in the post-Moneymaker years will remember with a mixture of teary-eyes and outright hatred the list of Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Phil Gordon, Jennifer Harman, Erick Lindgren, John Juanda, Eric Seidel, Phil Ivey, and Andy Bloch, all of whom were Full Tilt pros.
Now the years have passed and some of those named are reviled by huge parts of the poker community (Lederer, Ferguson and the ‘10th man’ CEO Ray Bitar), but back before it all went tits-up, these guys, and the pros and sites who would join forces with them, were a revelation for the poker boom generation.
You could chat and play with them online, meet them at FullTilt events, and see them almost all the time on the TV. Of course, the same is true nowadays, but it’s somehow different – the characters have changed and those who learned the game off the back of Learn from the Pros, Late Night Poker, and Poker After Dark are entitled to feel as though the world is not how it used to be.
When Full Tilt were in full swing, the advertisements they put together to promote their site were legendary!
Watching a youthful-looking Phil Ivey walk in on ‘Mrs Ivey’ – otherwise engaged in the throes of passion – and managing to ‘keep his poker face’ on as a third man tells him to get to ‘the back of the line’ reveals the edginess which FTP had while appealing to a new generation of poker players. Ok, so that one never made it to the mainstream on account of being too much, but there were plenty of ads which did, and they were great.
Humour was the by-word in those days – young men wanted funny and sexy, and Full Tilt gave it to them in spades!
Nowadays, poker commercials are well-worn affairs – boring in the extreme and rather few and far-between. Thankfully, all the oldies are preserved for future generations – at least one aspect of Full Tilt which won’t die!
For all the good notes and the bad, we at Pokertube are going to miss Full Tilt. If you have any stories to share, now's the time. Say your piece in the comments below.
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