Welcome back, Full Tilt Poker. After nearly a year and a half, FTP, now owned by PokerStars, reopened its doors to customers. Yes, Rush Poker is back, as are the avatars, red "professionals" and big, multitable tournaments with guarantees that made FTP among the leaders in the online poker space before the Black Friday indictments. Many, including myself, believed that FTP would never open again. I had a hard time believing that the brand was fixable after the "Ponzi scheme" message sent by the Department of Justice and repeated to millions around the world through the media. I felt that the best thing FTP could do would be to vanish but sell the software to another company so that it could be used. The software, not the brand, was the valuable asset and no matter what brand was on the felt, I believed it would've been better than FTP. Well, I was wrong. FTP is back, and the excitement surrounding its relaunch really is clear when you look at poker forums across the world.
Gus Hansen, Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom are the three lone ambassadors for the site at the moment, but we can probably expect that to increase in the future. Those three make sense in my eyes. FTP was the home of the nosebleed cash games. As much as PokerStars tried to fill the void with its high-stakes challenges over the past year, I think it realized that the brand space FTP occupied was one of the biggest cash games in the world. Putting "Isildur" (Blom) back up against his two most fierce competitors sets the stage for railbirds around the world to spend hours in front of their software. Most of the old red pros were familiar faces from the 2003-04 era of poker superstars. We won't see many of them returning anytime soon.
As for Americans, we're still on the outside looking in. There will be no real-money play on PokerStars or FTP inside the U.S. until legislation changes. Perhaps rubbing the salt in the wound, while the rest of the world has its funds restored, customers from the U.S. are still waiting for their frozen FTP funds from April 15, 2011. The Department of Justice offered that an announcement would be coming in a previous news release, but for now, the waiting game continues.
The Big One and Little One for One Drop
During the broadcast of the WSOP main event final table last week, Lon McEachern and reporter Kara Scott continued to tease a big announcement that would surprise the poker world. After some hype, it was released that the Big One for One Drop would return in 2014 and another $1 million buy-in tournament would take place at the WSOP. The only real thing that surprised me was that it's happening so soon. I had no doubt that after its initial success it would be back, but for poker players to find the scratch for another $1 million tournament, I thought that at least a two-year gap would've been ideal. The Big One was a special event and it should be preserved as such. That said, you can't argue with the difference that event made around the world with $10 million going to charity.
"It's amazing what you can achieve when you dream," said One Drop chairman Guy Laliberte. "We took the concept of a $1 million poker tournament and turned it into the most successful poker initiative ever held. As a result, over 100,000 people will be positively impacted. Projects in Honduras, El Salvador and West Africa have already put to use the money we raised in the initial event."
As ironic as it may seem in a game where players aim to take one another's money, the poker community has always been a charitable one. The $1 million event will steal headlines and truly move the needle, but the WSOP realized that with limited participation, not everyone could contribute in the same way. To help alleviate that concern, the WSOP will hold the "Little One for One Drop" in 2013, an $1,111 unlimited re-entry bracelet event where a percentage of every entry will go to One Drop. The WSOP removed rebuy events from its schedule a few years ago but has made an exception with this event. Expect the Little One to offer one of the largest fields during the 2013 WSOP.
"By working with the showman, Guy Laliberte, we have learned there was only one choice. An encore," said Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber. "We look forward to collaborating with Guy and One Drop to continue to find fun and exciting ways to make a positive and lasting contribution through the vehicle that is the great game of poker."
WSOP Circuit on ESPN3
The WSOP Circuit has gained a lot of ground on the tournament scene by making significant changes to its structures and schedules over the past year. Prize pools and field sizes have swelled, and its exposure is poised to increase even further with the announcement of its 2012-13 final tables being streamed on ESPN3. ESPN.com columnist Bernard Lee will handle commentary with a rotating cast of professional poker players, including Matt Affleck, who will join Lee during the broadcast of the River Rock final table on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. The River Rock final table will feature hole cards and be presented on a 30-minute delay.
River Rock was the first WSOP Circuit stop held in Canada, and the $1,675 re-entry main event attracted a massive field of 1,032 entries. Only 32 players remain after Day 2, and Sonny Sekhon leads the remaining competitors looking to take home the $286,382 top prize. The complete WSOP Circuit schedule can be found here.
Small blinds: Michael Mizrachi found the winner's circle yet again. Grinder won the $2,200 buy-in main event at the 2012 Isle Open for $128,800 outlasting a field of 230 entries. He now has $2.2 million in earnings on the tournament felt in 2012. ... Daniel Cates won the PokerStars "All-Star Showdown" for $550,000. ... Due to Sandy, the Borgata Fall Poker Open will now begin on Thursday. ... Toronto is becoming an online poker haven, says the National Post. ... Ariel Albilia won the Foxwoods World Poker Finals main event for $184,058. PCA champion John DiBella finished fourth.