Why The Wait: On the PokerStars/Full Tilt Deal

It's been two weeks since the news that an agreement had been reached between PokerStars and the DOJ. We review what we know--and what we don't--about the deal, and what we're waiting for.
Editorial/Opinion
May 10, 2012
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Two weeks ago today, we published an article confirming earlier rumors—which had come simultaneously from multiple public sources—that PokerStars had entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to purchase the assets of the failed poker room Full Tilt Poker and settle outstanding legal issues.

After the publication of our article, there was a flurry of independent confirmations that an agreement had been reached, including Wicked Chops Poker (writing that “the deal is in fact done”) and a report on Diamond Flush Poker stating “a new suitor is now in the stages of completing a new agreement” and the identity of the suitor was known to the author (but oddly choosing not to actually name it publicly).

Later in the day, there was the official press release from Groupe Bernard Tapie, confirming the existence of a third-party involved in talks and another from Full Tilt’s lawyers indicating they are “more optimistic than ever” that there will be a positive conclusion to the saga. PokerStars issued a press release the next day stating only that talks with the DOJ were ongoing.

The $750m figure—supposedly the amount PokerStars will pay in total to purchase the assets, repay players and settle up with the DOJ—originally came from one source: a tweet from ChiliPoker CEO Alexandre Dreyfus. It remains unverified.

Also still unconfirmed is the rumor from the original anonymous source on the 2+2 forums that PokerStars plans to resurrect the FTP poker room and maintain separate sites. And, the rumor that Isai Scheinberg will be required to step down as the head of PokerStars is still uncorroborated.

But that was all two weeks ago. Since then, there has been scant news and no further concrete information. Questions remain over the specifics of the deal, the steps until the deal is finalized and what pitfalls remain.

Today, Wicked Chops: Insider, the paywalled subscription site of Wicked Chops, published an article that provided a few more morsels of information: Reportedly, talks were still ongoing, the $750m settlement figure had risen to more like $900m, and we should not hold our breath for a conclusion of the deal this week.

(If you don’t yet have a WC:Insider subscription or question the quality of their sources, you should read the article In Other’s Words: The Rise and Fall of Ray Bitar, certainly the best piece of poker journalism published in 2011 and worth the cost of a year’s subscription alone.)

Although various reports suggested a likely completion of the deal within days, a two-week silence is not surprising and tells us little.

Speculatively, it is unlikely PokerStars would enter in to any deal that did not involve the satisfactory repayment of all players. We can also safely assume that a deal involves at least some legal settlement, but whether it involves a complete or partial settlement with the company or the two individuals indicted is an open question.

And other questions—like if FT points can be redeemed, whether outstanding affiliate payments will be settled, how long it will be until a deal is made, how US and ROW players can process withdrawals, and what a relaunched Full Tilt poker will look like—are unanswered, and will likely remain that way until we hear official word from the press offices of the three parties involved.

The wait will continue, as will the speculation; and with the planned return of 2+2 this weekend, the discussion will reignite whether there is new information or not.

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