A Herculean task makes progress
Unless you've been living under the poker community version of a rock for the last couple of months, you're aware that, in early August, PokerStars signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that settled their suit against us. That agreement also included PokerStars acquiring many of the assets of Full Tilt Poker and committing to pay back their non-U.S. players within 90 days.
It is safe to say that we've been hustling to meet the 90-day stipulation (which falls on November 6th, coincidentally the day of the U.S. presidential election). Most of the poker community has been incredibly gracious and patient about waiting for the big day, but there are a few people who have wondered out loud, "Seriously - how hard can this be? Push the big green button on the servers, wait 30 seconds, and the famous Full Tilt deck-fanning animation appears on computer screens the world over."
If only it were that easy.
For Exhibit A, I offer this video (along with some great commentary by PokerStars Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser) of the Full Tilt Poker servers and associated bits being airlifted into the Isle of Man from Guernsey on Friday, September 21st. And yes, that's a Lockheed C-130 Hercules bringing the CPUs in. I mean, we love the Manx 2 planes over here in the Isle of Man, but they're not equipped to carry 15 tons of computer hardware. In fact, that Hercules payload represents about half the total weight of computer server equipment that's coming over; the rest came by more traditional methods.
To nobody's surprise, our IT people have abandoned their weekends to start the process of plugging cable A into socket B (I was just at corporate headquarters and saw some of the five kilometers of cables there). They have to go through the process of reassembling this 30 tons of silicon and metal and then ensuring that when they do, in fact, push the big green button, they are serving Full Tilt Poker to the Internet. Having spent 25 years in the IT business before joining PokerStars, I can tell you this is a daunting task; I'm supremely happy that our IT folk are as competent and dedicated as they are.
Of course, we didn't move all the hardware to the Isle of Man just because we discovered there was a Hercules available to do it. PokerStars chose the Isle of Man for its headquarters (and license) for many reasons back in 2005. It has a steady government and world-class civic and IT infrastructures. But one of the most compelling reasons for choosing the Isle of Man was its strong gaming regulations. They take very seriously their obligation to monitor their gaming licensees and provide oversight that further protects players.
Furthermore, this discussion doesn't touch on myriad other aspects of restarting Full Tilt: staffing, organizational dynamics, account security, policy and procedure (I could go on).
But the bottom line is that non-US Full Tilt players will have access to their money by November 6th and Full Tilt Poker will be dealing cards that day, too.
Lee Jones is the head of Home Games at PokerStars and has been involved in the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.