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Blair Hinkle Optimistic Despite $1 Million in His Defunct Full Tilt Poker Account

Poker Pro Holding Out Hope for Recovering Some of His Money

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Blair HinkleDespite allegations of paying out $440 million to its board members and other owners since 2007, beleaguered online site Full Tilt Poker, operating as a “global Ponzi Scheme,” owes $150 million to U.S. players. One million of that figure rightfully belongs to poker pro Blair Hinkle.

This past February Hinkle won $1.2 million in a Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) main event. His prize was one of the largest the site had ever awarded, and it coincided with the company’s alleged insolvency. Hinkle had no way of knowing that his money was in serious danger, or that his winnings existed partly as what authorities have called “phantom funds” within the site.

According to Hinkle, the company took about a month to respond to his emails asking to raise his $8,000 per-day limit on cashing out. The site then asked him to re-verify his account. By the time the process was over, it was April and Black Friday had hit the poker community. Furthermore, none of his requests to withdraw just $48,000 of his winnings had been successful.

Looking back, Hinkle said that maybe there was something he could have done immediately after the score to retrieve some of his winnings, but that he had no way of knowing what was going to happen in the upcoming months. The Department of Justice claims that around this time period Full Tilt had only $60 million in its bank accounts while owing about $390 million globally.

Hinkle, a winner of a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2008, is one of poker’s best young players and was looking to use some of his poker profits to buy a house in Kansas City. However with such a huge sum frozen online, Hinkle has had to postpone his plans of being a homeowner.

“Things would be way different if I had my Full Tilt money, but at the same time I’m pretty happy with where I’m right now — just trying to stay positive,” Hinkle said.

“I think if Full Tilt goes under, there is a chance, at least I am hoping, that I will get at least 20 percent of money back because they’ll have to liquidate [Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst’s] assets in order to pay back some of the money. Depending on what the Department of Justice confiscated and whatever else could happen, I am obviously going to try and get as much back as possible. Let’s hope they get this investor and can take care of it quick, because it doesn’t look like they have a big window anymore.”

According to eGaming Review Magazine, two days after the DoJ’s amendment to the civil complaint “an unnamed party from within the gambling industry” signed a non-binding letter of intent for potential investment in Full Tilt. The Alderney Gambling Control Commission has yet to issue any word publicly on the alleged ongoing negotiations.

“I’m going day-by-day,” Hinkle said. “It’s been such a roller coaster for the last couple months. Every other day there has been good news or bad news. I’m taking it with a grain of salt until something definitive happens with the company.”

Many of the players with substantial money on Full Tilt are caught between a rock and hard place, deciding what action to take against the company they are hoping could recover to the point of paying what is owed. In this light, Hinkle isn’t sure what suing could do. “I have looked at my options and haven’t decided to do anything at this point. I think it’s better to wait it out. Another lawsuit on top of another lawsuit isn’t going to make it any easier for the company to make a deal.”

Hinkle said he isn’t sure that the people running Full Tilt had malicious intent, or whether it was gross incompetence. Either way, he isn’t angry, but he said they deserve to face criminal charges. (Only a civil complaint has been levied against Lederer, Ferguson, and Furst at the present time.)

Despite the nature of the allegations against Full Tilt, Hinkle said he is also disappointed in the DoJ, specifically in their timing. “I feel like they are trying to make a show of Full Tilt, or of poker in general.” Hinkle questions whether its primary concern is to get players cashed out.

The horrendous headlines for poker in the spring and summer months, to go along with Hinkle’s personal dilemma of having more than $1 million stuck on the defunct gambling site, have not damaged his enjoyment of the game. He has been spending some time lately in live cash games.

Hinkle credits his composure to what had made him a successful poker player in the first place. He has always been tilt-averse. “My style of play in tournaments has always been to care less about the money and more about winning the event. For that reason I don’t view money as something you should get upset about. Most good poker players have a good way to get over a losing session or a downswing. I think this mindset has helped me with the Full Tilt situation and allowed me to concentrate on other things in life. I know that I’m going to be successful with poker in the future. If I don’t get the $1 million, I’ll just have to grind away again.”

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus

 
 
 
 

Comments

notCIA
almost 6 years ago

I cannot believe that FTP has a legitimate potential investor and why would anyone believe anything they represent, when clearly they have lied all along.

 
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R_Flavin
almost 6 years ago

While I feel sorry for the young man that lost his account, a 20% return from Full Tilt would be some sort of miracle. Once a business like this goes South, players will be behind employees, creditors, and the lawyers. That will mean 3% would be a miracle. When assets are liquidated they are usually liquidated below 20 cents on a dollar, and then the groups in front of the player get paid. The odds of any player getting $1 back is many times worse than a one outer.

 
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Poker007
almost 6 years ago

Mr. Hinkle is right to be optimistic. I'm thinking we get back at least 90%. And I agree that there was "no malicious intent" on anyone's part. How could there be? I trust Mr. Lederer and Mr. Ferguson without reservation. I can't imagine they would do anything wrong. Ok, maybe they mismanaged the money. A little incompetence maybe. I mean they're poker players not accountants for heaven's sake. Look, this stuff happens all the time. Why just last week I was holding $390 million of my customers' money in my bank account and the next day it was gone. I have no idea where the heck it went. Does that make me a crook? And didn't you read Full Tilt's denial letter? They promised as soon as someone invests $390 million dollars in Full Tilt, they will pay back the $390 million they owe to the players and Mr. Hinkle will get most if not all of his million back. So why worry? Although, I'm not sure what's taking so long to find an investor. I can assure everyone that if my $390 million didn't suddenly disappear last week, I would invest it in Full Tilt no problem. Mainly because it would be an honor to do business with Mr. Lederer and Mr. Ferguson. But also because Full Tilt has the most LOYAL customers known to man. Look at Mr. Hinkle. By all appearances he has been bamboozled to the tune of ONE MILLION BUCKS, totally and completely hosed, but he's not at all mad and says: "I don’t view money as something you should get upset about." Sure some of you will call him a deluded fool, or the easiest MARK in the 2000 year history of con jobs, but I call him a loyal customer, ready to reload no matter what happens and "grind away" as soon as Full Tilt comes back which is any day now you'll see!

 
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vafrancis
almost 6 years ago

hahahahahaha. OMG. I READ THIS OVER AND OVER. AND THEN HAD TO READ THIS COMMENT TO MY WIFE OVER AND OVER. I AM IN TEARS FROM JUST HOW FUNNY AND WITTY THIS RESPONSE WAS. OH MAN!!!!!!!

 
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texasroadgambler
almost 6 years ago

Is this response written by a PR firm for FTP, Lederer, Ferguson, et al.?

 
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Arturo_Fuente
almost 6 years ago

O course Poker007 is sarcastis as hell. Bravo, my friend. I was one of very few former FTP players who kept supporting them afer Black Friday. But by now I can honestly say to myself and all others: money is GONE, forget it an move on

No one in a right mind accept for a former cheat/criminal would invest anything into an entity that is for sure is and will be banned from US market FOREVER.

I hope online poker is legalized in US under strict laws and will be operated by reputable Las Vegas casinos. Licensed by Gaming Commission and regulated by US Government. By ones who would NOT "missmanage" players funds by giving unsecured loans to ppl like P. Ivey and paying millions of $$ to poker pros/self proclaimed PROFESSORS.

By the way, can anybody explain to me why online poker sites such as Cake and Carbon, who still accept US players are NOT booming. Where are all of you - online players. Did FTP hurt you so much financially the you don't have $300-400 to deposit and still play and grind back? Looking for an answer and can't get one.

The only thing I do miss about FTP is their software. I hope new sites will buy one from them. I don't think it's gonna be expensive.

Good luck my fellow players. See you at the tables.

 
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mrrjy
almost 6 years ago

lets hope hinkle gets his money which is owed to him from full tilt, this might be a blessing for the future of online poker! whats happening now with america takeing this stance concerning online poker. the players money has to be safe! and this means it has to be regulated and controlled! lets hope it wont be long before everyone has the right to play the much loved game and have confidence in knowing that they cannot get scammed from greedy riched people who seems like to put there pockets before there morals!

 
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mrrjy
almost 6 years ago

p.s what do you think is going to happen to pokerstars?and ultimate bet. are they safe from prosecution from the u.s. what could be the outcome?

 
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RuptureAchilies
almost 6 years ago

UB and PS safe from prosecution in the US? They were already indicted on Black Friday, that's why the DOJ had the ability to freeze their assets in the US. I would estimate there is a 99.9% chance that PS and UB will never be allowed to operate again in the US even if online poker is legalized and regulated.

 
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bparmalee
almost 6 years ago

One day I will learn to proof read....fail.

 
 

bparmalee
almost 6 years ago

@Poker007 I really hope that your post was completely sarcastic because I'm not sure where you faith in FTP or its operators could possibly come from. If they owed 400 million and had 60 Million in the bank they were ripping people. Its just that simple. Theres no special place where money goes and they magically comes back later. All of the FTP funds should have easily accounted for and they just dont exist... at least the 340 million dollars of it doesnt. I think Pokerstars and UB have paid out their players... so players dont really need to worry about any litigation that may or may happen. Pokerstars, UB and FTP will never, in any form, be allowed to operate online poker in the US...ever. If it becomes legal only companies that did not operate illegally will be given a chance to be licensed. So Harrahs, MGM and Party Poker will dominate that market...assuming it ever comes to pass.

I really do feel for players like Blair Hinkle. He earned his money and I would like to see him get it. If he is lucky he may get 10-30% of it but even that seems optimistic to me. Its hard to feel bad for people that lost money online because every idiot you talk to seems to claim they had 20k-450k trapped on FTP. You can only hear so many people say "I was running so hot and playing so well. I ran my 500 dollars up to 127k (They always pick some weird number) and then right as I was cashing out the FEDs shut them down". I wish Blair Hinkle well in his fight.

 
 

keeentd
almost 6 years ago

The most interesting thing about the FTP drama is when you look at the "management" team (Bitar, Ferguson, Lederer, Furst), none of these guys have the proper educational or experience background to be running this company. Typically, a company doing $350M+ in revenue and holding onto more than $450M in deposits would have a CPA, attorney, MBA, or someone coming out of the finance organization of a large company or casino, who would handle the company's finances so this $350M shortage does not happen.

Maybe there was fraud, maybe not. Simply too early to tell. However, there clearly was massive negligence.

 
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