Now, Why Didn’t Full Tilt Poker Take the PokerStars Deal in Summer 2011?

Ray Bitar might’ve badly misplayed his hand in trying to sell Full Tilt.

With most of the legal jeopardy and fallout from the Department of Justice indictments waning, there has been an uptick of information coming out regarding the goat rodeo that was Full Tilt Poker operations post-Black Friday.

One of the biggest bombshells is regarding an offer that PokerStars attempted to make to Full Tilt back in June 2011.

First, a timeline refresher:

Full Tilt was on a fast-track towards insolvency after Black Friday (and some would argue even before Black Friday). They negotiated with multiple parties from late April through late May 2011 to save the company, via acquisition or a $100M+ loan. These parties included…


…an investment group headed by Jack Binion as well as former Matchbook owner James Bord. Depending on whose story you believe, either Full Tilt ownership walked away from these deals (in part) because neither would pay back U.S. players (at least immediately) or the Binion group and Bord saw the books and ran for the hills.

Then of course there was the Phil Ivey “White Knight” deal that we first reported. Full Tilt management’s bungling of this situation is what sparked Ivey’s a-bomb lawsuit. According to sources, Tilt CEO Ray Bitar and former shadow head Howard Lederer treated “Sam,” the White Knight, “with nothing but arrogance and hubris.”

After the dust settled from the Ivey lawsuit, another potential acquirer–and even bigger White Knight–emerged: PokerStars.

According to multiple sources, PokerStars senior management, and possibly even Isai Scheinberg himself, reached out to Full Tilt management to strike a deal. Numerous direct attempts were made with individual Full Tilt Board of Director members (sources say this included Chris Ferguson and possibly Ray Bitar).

Those direct communications from PokerStars were never returned by Full Tilt.

As word spread of PokerStars’ efforts to other Full Tilt shareholders, shit hit the fan.

An attempt was made by some shareholders to replace the Full Tilt Board of Directors, as well as accept an offer from PokerStars. According to sources, the PokerStars offer would’ve allowed existing Full Tilt shareholders to retain somewhere between 18-30% of the company–or approximately 18-30% more than they eventually got to keep.

The deal never happened. We’ve received conflicting reports as to the specific reasons why–ranging from pure arrogance/ego on Ray Bitar’s part, to issues of executing the deal on PokerStars’ end.

Either way, you know the rest of the story. Full Tilt lost their gaming license. They entered negotiations with Groupe Bernard Tapie–who never once during the nearly 8 month courtship–not even for a single day– actually had the money to pull off the acquisition. Then with no other options in sight, Tilt eventually had to sell the company to their most hated competitor–PokerStars–and accepted a deal which allowed them to retain no ownership–and be out of business for over a year–which all could’ve been avoided.

Well played, Full Tilt management. Well played.


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