Hinkle Eyes Return Of $1 Million On Full Tilt Poker
Government Will Release Specific Info On Victim Compensation Soon
Poker pro Blair Hinkle had been suffering through rumor after rumor for more than a year, but on Tuesday morning he woke to the best news of his life — that Full Tilt Poker, a site that holds $1 million of his money, was absorbed by PokerStars and will refund its former customers.
Since he is an American, Hinkle will have to go through the government to reclaim his seven-figure sum from Full Tilt, which has repeatedly been called a Ponzi scheme by federal prosecutors. PokerStars forfeited $547 million to the feds, an amount that will be used to cash out about $150 million Full Tilt owes to U.S. players. As part of the agreement, PokerStars will handle $184 million worth of cash outs for all foreign countries.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that the settlements “allow us to quickly get significant compensation into the victim players’ hands.” According to a press release, a $225 million payment from PokerStars will come “within six days of the entrance of today’s settlement.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York told Card Player that specific information on victim compensation will be posted online in the “upcoming days.”
While Hinkle is still awaiting more details, Tuesday marks the end to a rough year. “I’m really emotional right now,” Hinkle said. “I’m in a complete state of shock. This is such a big relief.”
The thought of his money being returned is nothing like anything he has ever experienced.
“I’d have to say that this feels a lot better than any other tournament I’ve won,” Hinkle said. “In poker tournaments, I feel that I have some control over my own destiny. But for this whole thing, it has been just waiting around to see what happens. It’s finally over. It feels really good.”
Hinkle opened his eyes Tuesday morning to his brother telling him of the news. Hinkle, still half-asleep, responded to his brother by extending his arm for a simple high five. The magnitude of the developments finally dawned on him minutes later.
“It hadn’t really hit me when he woke me up,” Hinkle said. “I was still kind of out of it, but it was definitely a good way to wake up.”
The 26-year-old from Missouri got $1 million on the site in one giant chunk. He finished second in a massive tournament in February 2011, just two months before the site was closed off to U.S. players. According to prosecutors, Full Tilt Poker was falling into insolvency at the time and had no ability to pay players their account balances. Not surprisingly, all of Hinkle’s efforts to withdraw some of his money shortly after his score weren’t honored by the site.
Hinkle is one of the game’s best young players, but had to find investors for his play at this summer’s World Series of Poker. He has had the bankroll before to compete on his own, but with his money being stolen and online poker disappearing in the U.S., Hinkle had to make drastic changes to the way he pursued his career.
In the near future, he should be able to go back to the way things used to be.
Before his money became tied up about 15 months ago, Hinkle was hoping to buy a house. Those plans quickly faded as the online poker scandal worsened, but now he’s looking forward to resurrecting that dream. He currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend.
“Everything is cramped up,” Hinkle said of his current living situation. “It’s not what I’m used to. So, it’s going to be a good change to find something that has a little bit more space.”
Despite the troubles he has endured over the past year, Hinkle has remained upbeat and appreciative of what Black Friday has taught him about himself. When Card Player first interviewed him on Full Tilt in September 2011, Hinkle credited his composure to what made him a successful poker player in the first place.
“My style of play in tournaments has always been to care less about the money and more about winning the event,” Hinkle said last year. “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
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