17 Feb

The Online Poker Merge of the Century: PokerStars and Full Tilt Unite

For the last decade, PokerStars has ruled the roost in the online poker realm, attracting the most players, delivering the biggest prize pools and hosting the largest live tournaments of any online card room around the globe. Throughout that time, sharing liquidity with any other brand was beyond objectionable. Not anymore.

Amaya Gaming confirmed in a press release on Tuesday that it will unite the player bases of its online poker operations, PokerStars and Full Tilt, both under the wing of Amaya’s subsidiary, Rational Group. The move will allow Amaya to focus its entire poker team on the development and evolution of a single network, rather than splitting their efforts between the two.

When the news was first leaked by a ‘source close to Full Tilt’, it was speculated that Amaya would either enter share liquidity between the two sites, or perhaps even scrap the Full Tilt brand altogether. It’s no secret that Full Tilt – once the home of the highest stakes online poker pros in the industry – has been on a steady decline since Black Friday, falling to 11th place among the world’s most trafficked poker sites.

PokerStars and Full Tilt to Share Online Poker Player Bases

But it was mere hours later that Amaya Gaming made it official, announcing their intent to merge the two player bases into one. According to Amaya’s official press release:

This platform migration will allow Amaya’s development and technology teams to focus on improving one market-leading platform rather than two, leading to a better gaming experience for all; improvements and features will be delivered faster and more efficiently rather than doubling development requirements. For instance, rather than splitting resources developing Full Tilt Jackpot Sit & Go and PokerStars Spin & Go features independently, teams will be able to work together on delivering the best possible product on one platform.

Rational Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi explained the move as an advantage to (almost) everyone. “Players will benefit from a larger pool of players offering greater game choice, bigger prize pools,” he said. “It will also make us more nimble as we can focus our technological innovation on one platform, rather than two, so we will be able to innovate more quickly and enter newly-regulating and existing markets swiftly.”

I say almost everyone, because the announcement also alluded to an untold number of layoffs expected in Full Tilt’s Dublin office. The impact of the merge is still under evaluation, but Amaya projected the “elimination of a number of roles” in that region.

Full Tilt will not be phased out of the equation, though, as some media sources originally conjectured. Amaya is still committed to its “dual-poker brand strategy”. However, it was also confirmed that the PokerStars VIP system will supersede that of Full Tilt.

All players who have accounts on both sites will be required to choose between them, with assets and login/passwords being converted to “one universal account per person”. From there, they will be able to access both poker sites with the same account.

The PokerStars and Full Tilt casino platforms will also be merged into one.

Having paid $4.9 billion to acquire the Rational Group and its valuable online poker sites back in 2014, this latest move to share liquidity is obviously a strategic way for Amaya to cut costs and pay down existing debt. The company expects to complete the merger of player bases sometime in the Spring of 2016.