Absolute Poker and UltimateBet Black Friday Payments Continue

Absolute Poker / Ultimate Bet Reimbursement Payments

Ben Mezrich wrote the book “Straight Flush” about Absolute Poker’s part of the scandal in 2013. Pictured: Brent Beckley.

Poker players who once played online at Absolute Poker or UltimateBet should check their bank accounts, because the next round of Black Friday payments began this week. The transactions are paying off 6-year old debts by the online poker sites.

Garden City Group, which is handling the payments, did not make a new announcement. Kevin Mathers of Pocket Fives posted on Twitter that former AP/UB customers should check their email or bank account for such announcements.

The latest round of reimbursements began early in the summer for card players who met the June 9 deadline. Payments should continue through the end of 2017, with a total of $33.5 million being paid to 7,400 players. From 2014 to 2016, Garden City Group paid $114.5 million to another 45,180 players in the ongoing settlement.

Black Friday Reimbursement Process

It might seem bizarre that it would take 6 and 1/2 years for players to see their online poker winnings returned, but such are the rusty wheels of justice. Garden City Group was not involved with the scandal in the first place, but it was a part of the final settlement under the U.S. Justice Department’s auspices. No doubt, the verification process has been long and frustrating.

Black Friday Indictments and Aftermath

Black Friday came on April 15, 2011. That was the day when Preet Bharara, then-U.S. District Attorney for the South District of Manhattan, unsealed indictments against 13 executives for 4 of the top online poker sites in the world. Along with the indictments, the US Justice Department seized the domains for PokerStars, FullTilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet.

The fallout in the U.S. online poker industry was huge. Most American card players stopped gaming online, which has a withering effect on the US poker industry in general. In the years since, Las Vegas poker rooms began to close, American viewership of poker shows declined, and international card players began to dominate the live poker tournament scene. While UIGEA and other factors can be blamed, Black Friday is one of the key factors in those trends.

PokerStars was so rich that it paid a $730 million fine to the US Justice Department and continued with operations elsewhere in the world. Its founding executives still had indictments over their head, so it made business sense to both sides to sell their operation to Amaya Gaming, so executives unencumbered with Black Friday’s legacy could make headway in returning to the US licensed online poker scene.

FullTilt Poker Bailout

FullTilt Poker was a different story. Black Friday exposed the fact that operating funds were not segregated from player funds, so FTP executives of the player-run website faced additional charges and waves of criticism from the global poker community. Eventually, PokerStars bought Full Tilt Poker and reimbursed FTP’s many customers.

To this day, when Howard Lederer or Chris “Jesus” Ferguson appear at live poker tournaments, it is scandalous. When Chris Ferguson won the 2017 WSOP Player of the Year points race, poker writers were not pleased. Still, customers of Full Tilt Poker were paid in a relatively short time, thanks to PokerStars.

How Black Friday Affected Absolute Poker

No tidy bailout happened for Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet. Absolute Poker co-founders Brent Beckley (2012) and Scott Tom (2016) eventually faced charges for their roles in the scandal, because AP/UB also did not segregate player funds. Brent Beckley (pictured) spent time in prison, while Scott Tom fled the country and eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Neither case helped players receive their funds, though. Tens of thousands of loyal customers had their winnings unpaid for years. Those reimbursements finally did happen, beginning in 2014.

Who Is Garden City Group?

That is where Garden City Group comes in. The 700-member staff of GCG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Crawford & Company of Atlanta, Georgia, is used by the US federal court system in bankruptcy cases, tort settlements, and class-action lawsuits.

Garden City Group describes itself in this way: “We are the premier provider for class action settlement administrations, restructuring and bankruptcy matters, mass tort settlement programs, regulatory settlements, and data breach response programs in the United States and internationally.”

Absolute Poker Reimbursement Payments

Thus, random poker players throughout the world are being repaid by a law firm. Some of those being repaid are illustrious, such as Kevin Mathers of Poker Fives and Gus Fritsche, co-founder of SeNet International Gaming Labs. Mr. Fritsche even posted his reimburse notice from Absolute Poker, with a comment.

Yes — better late than never.

Where Does Reimbursement Money Come From?

The money used in 2017 to pay back the players of Absolute Poker and UltimateBet was described as the money left over from the previous settlements. That is why it took 6 and 1/2 years for so many of the players to receive their checks. If you ever were a player at Absolute Poker or UltimateBet, then you could be receiving a reimbursement check. Check your bank account and email account for details.

Those wanting more details about Absolute Poker’s role in the Black Friday scandal should read Ben Mezrich’s 2013 book, named “Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire–and How It All Came Crashing Down.