After the FBI indicted the heads of three online poker websites (and seized their domains) on Friday, we speculated about the ability of players to retrieve their money, which is now locked in frozen bank accounts.Players have been frantically trying to get that money, which in the case of those who play professionally, can include accounts in the six figures.
We asked players to send us their stories of success or failure, as they tried to get back the money. Here’s what they told us:
It seems that wire transfers from Full Tilt Poker have down since March, which means anyone trying to get money out had to be sent a physical check. One player told us he received a check from an earlier cash out on Saturday. Will it bounce? Seem likely at this point.
Other experiences vary slightly in the details, but the message is still one of general uncertainty. Most players can simply not access their accounts. Those who can have not seen their withdrawal requests denied outright, but a few people have experienced failures when trying get their money back.
(One person who wrote to us had a previously approved transaction declined on Friday, which would seem to indicate that it was blocked by the FBI’s crackdown. The person didn’t lose the money, but it’s now back in a locked account.)
A few of the people we’ve heard from were able to process a request for withdrawal sometime this weekend and have been told a check is on the way, but are unsure if they will ever see that paper, or be able to cash it once they do.
Some European players have also experienced difficulties, even though online poker is not illegal where they are. The sites insist the money is “safe,” but some players are not able to add or withdraw funds — or gamble it in “real money” games — because that money is probably in one the seized accounts.
The bottom line is that the 75 accounts that were seized by the FBI, processed pretty much all of the transactions involving U.S.-based poker players. Until the FBI agrees to release those funds — which they won’t until they’re satisfied with the case — it will be pretty much impossible for the website to write checks, or for checks that have already been written to be honored.
The money is still there (for now), but to those who need it that’s small consolation. Online poker has become a full-time job for many people in this country and now their income is locked behind some else’s vault. That’s why many players have been going on poker message boards, offering to trade their frozen accounts for cash — right now, often at pennies on the dollar — simply because they need the money.
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Below are few of the emails that we received that we figured were worth re-printing in full.
- I have been an online poker pro for the last three years, and have my US tax returns for each year to prove it. Currently I have $3500 in my bank account, and $7800 in my full tilt poker account which is frozen. I owe 11k in Federal taxes for my income in 2010. This all came as a huge shock, and I’m not sure how to proceed, or how I’m going to make income now to pay my bills. I’m 27 years old and was hoping to get engaged and married in the next year. 2011 was off to a great start poker wise, I feel like I had finally reached a point where I really ‘got it,’ poker was my job and I was great at it. Now I guess I’m unemployed and broke. Got any connections in the Philadelphia area looking for a 27 year old with no relevant job experience? I didn’t think so.
- I just read your article about if online poker players would see their money again and I have a few comments. I have large amounts being held by Poker Stars and Full Tilt at the moment (5 figure accounts), and while I am as frustrated as anyone else about the current climate of online poker, I am still somewhat confident that we will see the money again. That said, all of my withdrawal options are currently closed at the sites. Bank wires haven’t been processed since early March (the failed wires were eventually returned to the poker accounts). I did have a check processed by Full Tilt on Friday but I am sceptical if that will ever arrive. I think that the money will eventually be able to be withdrawn, but that process could take up to 6-8 months or longer. I have no inside information about this, just my own educated guesses and experiences with the Neteller fiasco of a few years ago. Some colleagues of mine have reported Poker Stars representatives calling them by phone and their cooperation is encouraging to say the least. All in all, I hope the money I have on those accounts is returned at some point. If not, it would be an egregious error by the US Gov.
- I am an avid online poker player. I played on all 3 of these sites at one point or another, and have money on two of them. I currently have about $3,500 on Full Tilt Poker. I am a college student who built it from $500.00 2 months ago. I also have a good amount of money on PokerStars. As of right now me and my roommate ( professional online gamer with a 6-digit bankroll tied up in this mess and don’t know what’s going to happen. Yes, 6 digits as in $100k+!!! This morning I had to install an update to the software and now I cannot play because of my US address and IP. I can still sign in and view my account, but when I click Withdraw, a message pops up saying I can’t. So all we can really do is wait. I haven’t gotten an email back yet, but in an initial message that pops up when you open the program it says “all players money is safe and secure”. I don’t know what this means, but it’s at least a little comforting. I really can’t see the FBI and US government asking Full Tilt to completely shut-down because of their location. Us players are just hoping they can settle and don’t need to use our money to pay for it. If we can get past that, everything should be fine. Were keeping our heads up here!
Thanks to all who wrote in and keep sending updates if your situation changes (especially if you actually get your money back!)