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Full Tilt Poker: Commenters, put on your poker faces

September 21, 2011 |  7:47 am

Christopher Ferguson

What is it about Ponzi schemes these days?

First, and most famously, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called out Social Security.

Now, the empire has struck back:

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday said the Full Tilt Poker website "was not a legitimate poker company but a global Ponzi scheme."

Yes, hard as it to believe, the folks behind Full Tilt Poker apparently stacked the deck.

Amending a forfeiture and civil money laundering complaint unsealed in April, prosecutors said Full Tilt "cheated and abused its own players to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars."

The company's owners, including poker stars Howard Lederer and Christopher Ferguson, paid out nearly $444 million to themselves and board members, according to the U.S. attorney's office of the Southern District of New York.

OK, so they dealt themselves a pretty good hand. So what?  You ever been to Vegas?  It wasn't built on the house losing bets.

Read on:

Meanwhile, Full Tilt didn’t have enough money to pay back players, according to the accusation. This spring, when the company had just $60 million in its coffers, it owed $390 million to players worldwide, including $150 million to U.S. players, the complaint  said.

Instead, company executives dipped into accounts that they had assured players were segregated and safe in order to transfer money to board members’ overseas accounts, prosecutors allege.

Players were left gambling with "phantom funds," according to the complaint.

 Among gamblers, I think there is a word for this: cheating.

The funny thing is, when the government filed its original complaint in April, hundreds of folks torched the feds on The Times' comment board:

Poker sites shut down...This is another sad day for Americans, more freedoms put farther out of reach by our Federal plutocracy. -- Richard Ray Garnett

This should not stand. Shame on the government. If they just legalized and taxed they would make so much more money than just seizing accounts and collecting fines. Richard is right, another freedom down the drain. When will it end? -- Neal Martin, customer service rep at HSA Bank

This is an incredibly corrupt, overbearing, and overreaching government that has just alienated millions of people of their trust. -- Jim Duggan, Glens Falls Senior High School

But when this new story broke Tuesday -– well, let's just say that the freedom-loving Americans above  and their allies apparently were off somewhere working on their poker faces.

Instead, a few folks had their fun, while the losers cried "deal":

I'm shocked, shocked to find out that an internet gambling site is just a front for a criminal enterprise. -- Dan Bayer, Greensboro, North Carolina

Great. I guess I'm never getting my money back. -- Chris Martin

Don't feel too bad, Chris. It's only money.

It could have been worse. You could have gone on a newspaper's website and made dumb comments about the government taking away your "freedom" -- you know, like your freedom to be cheated.


PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker reopen -- but not for play

Full Tilt Poker defends itself and its CEO amid FBI crackdown

Three largest online poker sites indicted and shut down by FBI

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Poker superstar Chris Ferguson. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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