It's Official: Full Tilt And PokerStars Will Become One On May 17

Full Tilt Player Pool To Merge With PokerStars On May 17, Platform To Be Retired

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Amaya made the decision to merge the PokerStars and Full Tilt player pools in February this year.

The preparatory work has now been completed and Full Tilt players will join the PokerStars platform on May 17.

The merger was signaled as long ago as Autumn 2015 when Amaya’s Q3 report promised the “stabilization of Full Tilt brand through access to PokerStars’ world leading liquidity and technology.”

The Full Tilt poker platform is being retired, and will not be offered for sale.

The brand will continue, and Full Tilt players will retain access to The Deal game which formed the centerpiece of the VIP scheme revamp implemented in late March.

Otherwise, Full Tilt players will receive VIP benefits equal to those available on PokerStars.

“Full Tilt players will continue to enjoy the brand experience they love, with the continuation of Full Tilt avatars and innovative rewards, such as The Deal,” stated the original announcement.

Players will have one account for both brands, so play on both sites will be aggregated in calculating VIP benefits.

All Full Tilt players will be emailed directly to explain how the changeover will affect them specifically. Despite recent changes, the rake on PokerStars is at many stakes lower than that on Full Tilt, so players should see an immediate benefit.

Full Tilt did not deliver for Amaya

When PokerStars boss Isai Scheinberg struck a deal to buy Full Tilt from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in July 2012, it looked to be a bold corporate move.

Immediately, any prospect of Full Tilt going to a competitor was removed, and the price paid was probably lower than it would have been because it was wrapped up in a deal to repay U.S. online poker players the funds that they were owed.

Full Tilt’s poker software was extremely popular, and PokerStars got access to a vast database of former Full Tilt players. Full Tilt also had patents pending on fast fold Rush Poker, further reducing litigation risk to which PokerStars may have been exposed.

At re-launch, Full Tilt grabbed a large market share, but in the four years that have passed, it has not lived up to expectations.

Cash game traffic fell faster than the market

The speed of change in internet poker meant that the database was not as valuable as had been hoped – email addresses changed rapidly as Google displaced AOL, Yahoo and their ilk – and even though it was only off the market for a relatively short time, Full Tilt’s software had become jaded.

Cash game traffic fell consistently, and the VIP scheme rewrite which formed a major part of a shift towards a recreational player strategy further alienated players. Full Tilt currently sits at 14th position in the global cash game rankings with a seven day moving average of just 575 occupied seats at its cash game tables (data from PokerScout).

Meanwhile PokerStars has moved itself closer to a recreational player model, and launched casino and sports betting in most jurisdictions, bringing the two brands much nearer in terms of product offerings.

Change will have a minor impact on PokerStars

Adding Full Tilt’s customers to the PokerStars’ player pool will make little difference to the liquidity at PokerStars games, but it will give Full Tilt players access to a wider range of poker games and tournament with much larger guaranteed prize pools.

Netting out all the pros and cons, the merger has the potential to help Full Tilt bring back some of the players who have deserted it for other poker rooms.

Dominic Mansour was appointed Full Tilt managing director in April 2014. He came with a clean record – from the point of view of U.S. regulation – and was experienced in casino, bingo, poker, core platforms, sports betting and games after being head of product management for GTECH.

Mansour has been moved upwards to be the SVP Southern Europe for PokerStars.

Amaya revenues should show small positive gain in 2016

The revenue impact for Amaya is likely to be a minor positive. There will be further cost savings over and above one less managing director salary, but they are unlikely to make a material difference to this year’s earnings.

Any resurgence in the popularity of Full Tilt which arises from having access to the state-of-the-art PokerStars platform is likely to have a much larger effect, particularly if the Full Tilt players take advantage of the sports betting products offered by PokerStars.

- A former founder of Poker Industry Pro and Head of Content at PokerNews publisher iBus Media, Joss Wood is a graduate in English from the University of Birmingham. Joss also holds a master’s degree in Organisational Development from the University of Manchester. His career path has taken him from the British Army, through business and finance to seven years as a successful professional poker player.
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