Apocalypse Now

by , Apr 15, 2011 | 2:20 pm

April 15th. Its already a day that most Americans dread because their taxes are due, but now there is a whole new reason for US poker players to not like the date. The US Department of Justice unsealed an indictment charging eleven executives, including prominent Pokerstars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker employees, of various illegal gambling and money laundering violations. While people like Ray Bitar and Isai Scheinberg have not been arrested as of right now, the DoJ has stated it is going to work with Interpol and foreign law enforcement to arrest those they have not been able to catch at the moment. In addition to the charges, they have seized the domains of UB, Absolute Poker, Full Tilt, and Pokerstars, approximately 75 bank accounts connected to the sites and their payment processors, and have made a couple of arrests so far against those defendants currently in the US.

As always, the defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the Southern District of New York division of the Department of Justice is known for building rock-solid cases, so if there is an indictment from them its reasonable to assume they have done their homework. There is some speculation that this indictment stems from a similar case involving Daniel Tzvetkoff which broke through last year.  None of this can currently be confirmed, but the odd nature regarding his sudden granting of bail and meetings with prosecutors does suggest he may have had something to do with the final pieces of the puzzle to get the big fish.

The media, both within the poker realm and outside of it, have ran stories on the subject. While they are currently all operating on the same information, more details are slowly emerging as some analysis of the indictment is done. The endgame if the feds get everything they want? A $3 billion forfeiture of funds from the three sites, and while a specific breakdown of who pays what is not given, it sends a pretty clear signal, the DoJ views these businesses as illegal operations and they want to make the sites pay for what they’ve done.

At the moment, none of the sites have released any statements, but some have taken action. Pokerstars has restricted both deposits and cash game play for US-based players, currently without any explanation. Meanwhile, cash on Full Tilt and UB is still available. The PPA has, however released a statement, which we have in an accompanying article here on this site.

The situation is very fluid, given the reactions and the DoJ notices take time to propagate on the internet, but its safe to say this is the biggest thing to happen to online poker in a very long time, and at least in the short term it looks like one of the worst.

30 Comments to “Apocalypse Now”

  1. Willie

    They seized the IPs for the download websites, but the client servers are just fine. Tested in a Starbucks just to see.

  2. Dan Michalski

    Donkeybomber was playing on PokerStars when I called about Mark’s post. I am hearing things are being shut down state by state. but no confirmation on that.

  3. adam

    Hey should I cash out my bankroll on stars right away, since all this is happening.. will I get a check that wont bounce..

  4. Beck

    California is definitely blocked, FWIW.

  5. Dan Michalski

    >> News orgs both in and out of poker are starting to come together with their releases. Pokernews is the first (and so far only) poker news site to release something on the subject, whereas the WSJ, Fox Business, and Forbes all have releases as well. << the fact that you call stories "releases" reveals all that is wrong with poker media, lol. i'd cut you some slack on pokernews, because there is a fine line between PN and press releases ... but i'm sure the WSJ, Fox, and Forbes would all take offense at your referring to their reporting as a "release". lol.

  6. Gregory

    This is just another way that the US government avoids the real issues facing us…. massive debt, fucked up banking regulation that allow bankers to steal millions, Health care costs for the poor, etc etc.

  7. Mark Gahagan

    My use of the word “release” was probably because I was writing for time and not diction. “ran stories” might be a better way to convey what they have done.

  8. Dan Michalski

    just giving you shit. not usually one to edit in public, but figured exactly the sitch you describe, so fair enough to disclose probable instincts.

  9. Willie

    Just checked again in Texas. Still up and running.

  10. dennis

    ps is running im in so cal

  11. The Bad Chuck

    Now you regret the Obama vote 😉

  12. Vince

    Checked sites from Texas —

    pokerstars.com, fulltiltpoker.com, cakepoker.com

    Seized by DoJ:


    “This domain name has been seized by the FBI pursuant to an Arrest Warrant in Rem obtained by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

    Conducting, financing, managing, supervising, directing, or owning all or part of an illegal gambling business is a federal crime.”

    And it goes on….

    Yikes! This is not good if it goes beyond UB/AP.

  13. chuckisanidiot

    Law was passed under bush idiot and buried under a bill not even about gambling. Another republican blaming the economy on obama when bush screwed it. True its hard to blame bush he could barely read.

  14. poker

    what else cant we do in our homes. why dont we put a television in every room in our house so that the man can see everything we do. WV is sucking the man right now. no poker star access here

  15. Honestyisbest


  16. dennis

    it shut me out

  17. Sky James

    Last month I was blocked from making a deposit to cover a deposit I had made that had been approved and credited to my account ($20). It kept getting bounced by the servers for the poker site, not my bank. They would tell me to make a deposit to cover the ‘bounced’ but credited deposit, I would, and that deposit would bounce. Then they suggested I send a WU deposit to an odd entity in a far off land to clear up the deposit SNAFU. Never did send it, glad I listened to my gut feeling. I enjoyed online poker playing, gonna miss it. I wonder how much $$ players have stranded in accounts they can’t touch.

    Florida is shut out.


  18. Danny

    Bill Frist, former Republican Senate majority leader, was responsible for making poker illegal.

    Don’t blame someone for enforcing a law they had nothing to do with passing. Republicans had the House AND Senate in 2006 when Frist offered the bill outlawing poker as his last “FUCK YOU” to a country the Republicans left heavily in debt, doubled budget, and in a smoking heap.


    This sucks I’m a.UB ICON !!

  20. Sean

    Sounds like a good old fashioned shakedown to me. There are components of our government are made up of dishonest thugs. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. These guys can hide behind the American flag and justice all day but at the root it’s all about money. It’s so funny that they don’t want me to play penny poker online but I can go to a brick and mortar poker room pretty much anywhere in the United States and have to risk my paycheck to play.

  21. rob

    online poker if for people with no real friends anyways right

  22. Michael

    I have to agree with Sean I play micro stakes online and can’t afford the variance and/or the rake on any casino’s stakes in my area. Where I could put ten dollars online and play for a month or more the least expensive tournament in my area is $40 and and $15 of that goes to rake and dealer fees. What do I do when I was playing 5,000 hands a month in the micros and now have nothing to fill my time I would have to get another job to play live and then have no time to do it. Time to find a new hobby I guess.

  23. jim

    I love how conservatives try to blame liberals here. The biggest supporters of legalized online poker are liberals. It is the conservatives who passed this and have blocked every attempt at legalization. On this issue, Harry Reid and Barney Frank are your biggest supporters. The conservatives would rather cut Medicare than tax poker….

  24. Chris


  25. burgermafia65

    full tilt shut down in uk at lunch time by the fucking FBI suppose our gov ermant that bailed out the banks (that still pay themselves huge bonuses) complied …………who evers in power i,ll be the opposition

  26. Ardeet

    Try not to get sucked into the Red vs Blue debate if possible. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have your interests at heart. However it is in your interest that both sides waste time and energy slinging mud at each other.
    Let’s look at the ban on online gambling for what it is: Government is using it’s powers to tell you, a responsible adult, what you can and can’t spend your money on. You work for/create your resources and some bureaucrat in a distant city thinks that they know better than you how you should live your life?

  27. Dan Michalski

    i normally can’t resist not trying to chime in and either take a side or keep the peace. but anyone who wants to blame one side in a Red v Blue debate clearly doesn’t understand the complexities of our issue. ardeet, you are basically right, but it goes beyond that … to a willingness to take those lives on behalf of heavily vested interests.

    PokerStars and Tilt were such potentially corrupting corporate special interests … they just happened to lose this round.

  28. Fart

    Shut down in Australia too, Now explain this to me how can a foreign government seize my money when im not even in the bloody U.S. What they needed to do 1st was to release all funds owing in players accounts and seize the profits of the organizations in question. Sounds like the U.S government is going really broke if they have to steal money from wealthy people trying to run a legit business. Also Sounds like the owners of these companies were playing on the stupidity of the U.S governments loopholes by buying out a U.S bank to make it easier too move money around the U.S HHHMMMM something looks Suss here.

  29. Chuck Williams

    I was being tongue-in-cheek, gimme a break guys


    You can order your “FULL GUILT POKER” t-shirt today on ebay!!