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The Poker Year In Review - April

Founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB Indicted In April; Chaos Hits Virtual Felt

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Niall Smyth wins Irish Open 2011The anticipated merger of bwin Interactive Holdings and Party Gaming plc was finally official. The new company, bwin.party digital entertainment plc, began trading on the London Stock Exchange as ‘BPTY’. A few days later however, bwin.party’s shares slumped by 16 percent with the news of a proposed regime in Germany, which would see private companies free to bid on seven national betting licenses.

Big news broke when U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB, and seized their websites in an attempt to crack down on online gaming. The U.S. Department of Justice released a press release about the indictment, naming 11 site representatives as defendants for allegedly violating the terms of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. Restraining orders were issued against 76 different bank accounts and payment processors.

Full Tilt Poker issued a statement explaining that while it did not agree with the actions taken by the Department of Justice, it had decided to suspend all U.S. players from real money games. PokerStars followed suit.

Full Tilt Poker officially made the move to www.FullTiltPoker.eu and decided to continue as planned with the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS). PokerStars moved to www.PokerStars.eu and continued plans for its Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP).

Full Tilt and PokerStars players within America were restricted from withdrawing but were told all funds were safe and secure. Both sites then reacquired their respective dot-com sites in an effort to return player funds.

Absolute Poker and UB issued a statement of the indictment emphasizing that player balance refunds were its top priority.

Niall Smyth beat Surinder Sunar heads up to become the hero of the 2011 Irish Open. Smyth collected €550,000 for his victory over the 615-strong field and another €100,000 for being the last PaddyPowerPoker qualifier remaining. Smyth’s fairytale story began with a €20 bet on a horse in the English Grand National. The horse won and Smyth transferred the money, €200, from his PaddyPower.com account to his Paddy Power Poker account where he used it to win a seat into the €3,500 buy-in event.

PokerStars made players aware that cash-outs were available 11 days after the site was shut down in American cyberspace. The site also tweaked its Spring Championship of Online Poker schedule to accommodate European players, and slashed the guarantees, dropping the total from $45 million to $25 million.

Ira Rubin, a man who allegedly acted as a payment processor was accused of illegal gambling, money laundering, and wire fraud and became the fourth arrest made following the indictment of 11 owners and representatives of major online poker sites. Rubin allegedly tricked banks into accepting funds by disguising payments. The three others arrested were Chad Elie, John Campos, and Bradley Franzen. All three were released on bail.