PokerStrategy.com Column - Which FTP Repayment Option Would You Pick?

full tilt poker
What will the new
FTP look like?
Originally published by PokerStrategy.com

I certainly don't want to get overly optimistic about the Full Tilt saga, because we have had our hopes crushed several times already, but at the moment there looks like there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

It took a while, but recent news from the Groupe Bernard Tapie camp is suggesting a deal to rescue the site, and reimburse the players, is back on the table.

This week the best news to date was that GBT and the US Justice Department had struck a deal, allowing GBT to approach the FTP shareholders with an offer to take over the site, reimburse non-US players, and arrange a repayment fund for US players with the DOJ.

Incredibly positive news I think we all agree, but although it is looking more likely now that the players will get their money back, it still looks to be a bumpy ride.

That is because last week it was revealed that a French Magazine linked to the GBT has been canvassing players across Europe, asking what their preferred option for repayment would be from the following list:

  • Cashing Out Immediately with an Unspecified Penalty
  • Cash Out the Full Amount, released over a year.
  • Buying Shares of FTP with their funds, which they can sell back at a later date.

This would be to help get the rescue plan off the ground, as clearly GBT do not have the funds to (or just do not want to) takeover the site and pay the players back in full right away.

Poker is never easy, and if these are the options presented to FTP Players (It would be interesting to see if these options were for everyone, or just the high rollers) it would be a sense of two steps forward, one step back.

But it's a fascinating dilemma, what is the best repayment option, if those are the ones in front of us?

Immediate With Penalty

Like most great questions in the poker, the answer as to whether this is a good option is 'it depends'.

The penalty is likely to be substantial, otherwise it probably wouldn't be on the table as an option. I'd guess at somewhere between 30-40% penalty for taking your money back right away.

Any penalty bigger than that would be a definite no I feel, 50% is just ridiculous a settlement figure. A penalty less than 20% should be a fist-pump call, after all with everything that has happened, most of us will be pretty happy anything, so a penalty less than 20% we can just treat like tax or hefty rake.

So in my opinion we are likely looking at getting back 60-70% of our original funds. If that is the case, I think this is the option for anyone who has a significant portion of their life rolls stuck on the site, those players who really have been left in limbo since the site went down.

Full Amount Over A Year

In my opinion, this is the best option for most players, in particular if the money did not mean the world to them. If they had funds elsewhere, only played for fun, or otherwise did not rely on their FTP rolls.

After all, they will have been waiting for a long time anyway, by this point no doubt another year won't seem too bad.

However, before picking this out as the best possible option, there is one major consideration. If this scandal has taught us anything, it should be to be much more careful with whom we are prepared to entrust our money.

Before choosing this option, I would want to know who is policing the new look FTP and Groupe Bernard Tapie. I want to know who is policing these repayments, and who the new regulator is.

Obviously (or at least hopefully) the former shareholders of FTP will no longer be there, so I am not for one second implying that GBT are going to be as crooked as their predecessors.

But what they are doing is very ambitious and could well prove a big financial risk (Especially when you consider they are also currently proposing an equally lofty $30 million guaranteed live tournament next year at Wembley Stadium) - so I would want to know in what way my investment is being protected over this 12 month period.

Equity Share of FTP

Team Full Tilt
No more Red Pros?
It is amazing how things can change in an instant. 7 months ago if someone offered you a stake in Full Tilt Poker in exchange for your bankroll, you most likely would have gone for it without hesitation. Today, I think I would sooner invest in magic beans.

Once again, GBT are not the original shareholders and should not be treated in the same vein. The problem is that Full Tilt Poker will never be the same company again.

There are some positives. The software is still one of the best in poker and enough to entice a lot of people back. With GBT's French routes, there is potentially a lot of liquidity from that market too, which is massive right now.

But the damage has already been done to a great extent, some people will never forgive FTP even with new owners, and other new players will forever associate it with the word 'Ponzi'.

So rather unsurprisingly, one of the first things that is likely to happen is a mass withdraw from the site by players desperate to get their money back. GBT will not be taking over a new business with millions of dollars of player funds ready to start generating rake, much rather they will be almost starting afresh with massive losses for repaying the players.

The biggest impact will most likely be the absence of the American players. Pre-Black Friday they made up about 60% of the total traffic on the site, but they no longer will be able to play. Unlike our friends across the pond, players in Europe have a massive range of choice of what poker room to choose, and will not be desperate to play on FTP like a US player may have been.

Likewise the biggest marketing element of the site, the massive stable of 'Red Pros', surely cannot be sustainable any more? Most of them were American anyway, and I cannot see the players looking positively on the new FTP for sponsoring players when there is so much money still owed.

GBT obviously saw something investable in FTP so don't take my word for it, but if you are going to be considering this option, I think you have to consider it an incredibly long term investment at the very least.

I'd love to get your opinions in the comments boxes, if presented with these options for repayment, which one would you go for?

by Barry Carter


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