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PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker Closed to USA Players

As of April 15, 2011, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are no longer servicing American players. A Federal Bureau of Investigation indictment launched against the sites' owners has led both companies to suspend American activity indefinitely.  If you live in the US and played at Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker, you would have been faced with a message on any of their sites saying that the sites were in violation of certain laws and the FBI had seized the domains. A clear message from Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker followed stating they would no longer accept US players.

Does this mean the end for online poker in the US? Of course not. Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars weren't the only online poker sites accepting US players. There are other options available to you. If your looking for a poker room to replace one of the four poker sites shut down by the FBI, check out or list below. The US poker sites featured on this page were not effected by the recent closure of FullTiltPoker.com, AbsolutePoker.com, UltimateBet.com and Pokerstars.com.

Rank help Poker Room help USA help Bonus help Code help Review help
1 Carbon Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players $750 CPBONUS Review
2 Juicy Stakes Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players $1000 N/A Review

After the Indictments: Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars Update

It’s been almost three months since the US Department of Justice indicted Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars of money laundering, fraud, and gambling infractions. While both sites face the same set of problems, they’ve handled these problems in very different ways.

PokerStars: Response Since Black Friday

Immediately following its April 15th DOJ indictment, PokerStars ceased all poker operations within the USA. American players were banned from depositing and playing at the site, and for a short while players were unable to access funds held in player accounts online.

Less than a week after the indictment, the DOJ made public an agreement aimed at facilitating cashouts for American players.

The DOJ agreement states: “this Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players, as today’s agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker demonstrate”.

While Full Tilt Poker was busy deflecting queries from players and media, PokerStars was busy returning funds to US players. By May 13th, PokerStars had already paid out $100 million in player funds.

PokerStars has thus far complied with all aspects of the DOJ agreement, and has paid American players their due in a timely manner. No American player balances remain outstanding at this time.

Online poker players have been impressed with PokerStars’ post-Black Friday response. So impressed, in fact, that27% of ex-Full Tilt players have made the switch to PokerStars as of June 30th.

While Full Tilt Poker is content stripping working players of their livelihoods, PokerStars is helping to build players’ careers. Many American professionals have moved abroad in order to continue working at PokerStars, among them high-profile grinder Phil Galfond.

PokerStars’ daily traffic numbers are up approximately 30% since June 1st. While Full Tilt remains stagnant with a player base of 0, PokerStars hosted 40,000 customers on July 28th.

Despite inconveniences caused by the recent DOJ indictments, PokerStars is still operating at full capacity for non-US players.

Full Tilt’s Response Post-Black Friday

Full Tilt Poker has remained quiet since the April 15th DOJ shutdown. Few official statements have been released except for some generic form letters, which are devoid of any substantial information.

Scores of ex-Full Tilt players have contacted support with queries, mostly to no avail. Support cannot – or will not – release any information regarding payouts, service status, or legal challenges.

Although nearly three months have passed since the original DOJ indictment, player balances remain in limbo at Full Tilt Poker. It’s bad enough that recreational players still cannot access their own money, but worse that professional players have essentially been laid off from their jobs.

In response to Full Tilt’s deafening silence thus far, its governing licensor – the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) – revoked its gaming license on June 29th.

The AGCC cited multiple infractions on Full Tilt’s part as justification for the suspension. Named among the infractions is Full Tilt’s refusal to allow existing customers to cash out.

Full Tilt’s suspension has forced the site offline. Players can no longer access the Full Tilt Poker client, their player accounts, or the game tables. A statement from Full Tilt reads: “We apologise [sic] but the system is currently down. Please check back later. Please direct all enquiries to support@fulltiltpoker.com”.

The AGCC scheduled a suspension hearing for July 27th, which many players hoped would end in a resolution of payment issues. The only resolution, however, was a renewal of suspense.

Full Tilt’s lawyers requested that the AGCC delay the hearing, and the AGCC complied. The AGCC claims that the delay was granted in order “to allow FTP licensees to further pursue advanced commercial negotiations which could lead to a more beneficial outcome for player interests”.

A new hearing is scheduled for mid-September. While Full Tilt requested that future hearings be held in private, this request was not granted.

Since it doesn’t look like Full Tilt will be paying players voluntarily, a group of activists has filed a lawsuit against the company in an attempt to force the recovery of funds. The June 30th suit names Ray Bitar – a founding owner of Full Tilt Poker who is personally named in the DOJ indictment – as a defendant.

The defendants claim that Full Tilt has wrongfully denied players access to over $150 million in funds.

According to an online petition, over 1,253 players have funds frozen in Full Tilt Poker accounts. Due to selection bias and the nature of online petitions, the total number of players with balances outstanding is probably much higher.

It’s hoped that Full Tilt will find a way to return funds to the players who rightfully own them. However at this point, Full Tilt has given no indication that it can or will pay out player balances.

 

Have All US Poker Sites Shut Down? Can US Players Still Play Poker Online?

This begs the question: what's next for American players? Are there still poker rooms accepting U.S. players?

The answer is yes, there are still many poker rooms open to U.S. players, including these poker sites that accept players from the USA. Many of the small-but-growing rooms have already seen a boom in traffic since news of the indictment hit. What this shutdown will likely accomplish is simply a traffic shift -- excommunicated players must simply pick up their money and move elsewhere.

Lock Poker, an up-and-coming skin on the Merge poker network, is set to become a solid landing pad for Stars and Tilt expats. The room's player base has been growing steadily over the past few months, due largely to marketing and a good customer service reputation. Lock Poker spreads most of the games that the majors did, although traffic is mainly centred around No-Limit Holdem cash games. It's certainly a good U.S. poker room for those who now have to switch.

Other good alternatives include Sportsbook Poker and Players Only Poker, which are both welcoming American players with open arms. Both sites have the usual incentives you'd find at the Big 2: sign-up bonuses, reload bonuses, and VIP programs. Sportsbook Poker is known to have pretty soft cash games, which could be a welcome change to an American used to the grinders at Stars or Tilt.

While the online poker landscape is certainly changing, that's all it is -- a change. There are still many U.S. poker sites that would make a good home for a former Stars or Tilt player.

Why Did Full Tilt Poker and Pokerstars Close to US Players?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges that 11 men connected to PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker have committed massive instances of wire fraud and money laundering. A press release out of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office explains that "because U.S. banks and credit card issuers were largely unwilling to process [the poker sites'] payments, the Poker Companies allegedly used fraudulent methods to circumvent federal law and trick these institutions into processing payments on their behalf."

As a result of these allegations, PokerStars and Full Tilt have decided to disallow American players on their sites, at least for the time being. This means that new players looking to play online poker from the U.S. can no longer sign up at PokerStars or Full Tilt under a U.S. address. Existing players with PokerStars or Full Tilt accounts linked to American addresses can no longer sit in at real money games.

What About Cashouts? What Will Happen with the Money At Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars?

Existing players with bankrolls stuck online are stuck in an uncertain situation. On one hand, the sites seem to be approving cashouts via wire transfer and eCheck. On the other hand, some players claim that cashouts -- while being approved by the poker sites -- are being bounced at the bank-level. Whatever the case, it is clear that U.S. poker players should not hope to play on either Stars or Tilt any time soon.