Daniel Tzvetkoff: The Man Who Busted US-Friendly Online Poker?

Poker Legislation | estimated reading time
2011. April 19. |
Although no one has proved it yet, many believe that there is a single man behind the Black Friday of online poker: Australian businessman Daniel Tzvetkoff, who is now buried in the Nevada Desert in the minds of most of the community. Business Insider and Courier Mail report.
Daniel Tzvetkoff (28) could be a great example of the man for whom nothing is enough. Despite amassing an enormous wealth, he still wanted more.

Daniel Tzvetkoff
Daniel Tzvetkoff

Tzvetkoff, who has Bulgarian origins, was born in Ipswich, Australia but moved later to Queensland, where he became to be known as ‘Web King.’ As a boy with a considerable initiative, he started his first enterprise at the age of 13 with his classmates. Eventually, his financial transactions company named Intabill got him to the top around 2008. And what does “top” mean in this case? Well, in 2008 this young man appeared on the Australian The Sunday Mail rich list with a personal wealth of $82 million.

Tzvetkoff registered his online payments processing company in February, 2007 and specialized in conducting financial transactions for online gambling firms. More precisely, he was charged later with transactions that, conducted with the help of his companies and 96 to 120 of his employees, deceived banks that banned transactions connected to online gambling and made them believe they were doing “ordinary” operations. Basically, he managed to get amounts worth hundreds of millions of dollars that were from gambling illegal in the US through the clearing process and to British Virgin Islands-based companies, as if they had been “normal” transactions.

Maximus
The Maximus, Tzvetkoff's former super yacht

The Australian tried to create a perfect system, so he established a number of pseudo companies that helped conducting the illegal transactions; moreover, he hired employees who were tasked to make sure the system is secure and no one gets to know that these companies are involved in illegal business. One of his problems was that some e-mails that contained compromising instructions were later published.

Reaching the top by early 2008 with his firm founded in 2007, Tzvetkoff bought real estate worth $28 million and had an additional wealth of around $21 million. He even started a motorsports team named Inta Racing in March, 2009. He owned a Lamborghini with a licence plate reading “baller,” not to mention his Ferrari 599, his Audi S6, his Range Rover and his Ford GT40.

Trouble came in July, 2009, when his business partner Sam Sciacca sued him for $80 million, followed by accusations from poker company Kolyma that stated he cheated a daily amount of $150,000 out of them. Tzvetkoff had to sell his yacht Maximus for $30 million in August, then his house for $17 million, finally going bankrupt in January, 2010.

Ferrari 599
Ferrari 599 GTB

He was eventually arrested in Las Vegas exactly a year before Black Friday, in mid-April, 2010 and was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Rumour has it PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were the companies to let the FBI know of his presence there. The charges were $543 million worth of money laundering, assisting online gambling companies in conducting illegal financial transactions and bank fraud.

According to assumptions that have recently (or, in some cases, not so recently, causing fear of a day like April 15 as early as Fall, 2010) surfaced on the web, the story goes pretty straightforward from this point on. Considering he had transferred gargantuan amounts of money with the help of companies of the three biggest US-friendly online poker rooms, there remained only one card in Tzvetkoff’s pocket with which he could escape: the Joker. Having getaway as a single purpose, the busted businessman did everything he could to save himself; he had been held in custody until late August in New York, from where he was suddenly released on bail under suspicious circumstances.

Already back then many believed he agreed to cooperate with the authorities and provide all the necessary information about the activity of the online poker companies. Interestingly enough, the FBI had refused earlier to let him go on bail, saying he had enough money with which to organise his escape from the US.

What followed is known to you all: to save his own skin, he sold PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and UB out to the federals, resulting in the indictments of last Friday. As a follow-up, most rooms shut down real money play for US players; what comes next remains to be seen. It is more than likely the Black Friday did not come out of thin air for the three rooms, as it may have been foreseen since Autumn, 2010 that Tzvetkoff would eventually sing. The companies had time to prepare and we shall now see just what this time was enough for.

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