April 16, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm
Friday 15th April, 2011 was not a good day for poker. Online grinders across the US rolled out of their pits to fire up the tables only to see that the virtual felt had been pulled from underneath them. The Department of Justice issued indictments to eleven of America’s biggest poker moguls, slapping down warrants for their arrest and $3bn worth of fines. The message was clear - online poker in the US had ceased to exist, for now at least.
Boom to bust
This was the worst bad beat of them all. Online Poker was America’s pastime, not to mention an income and way of life for tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of Americans ever since Chris Moneymaker sparked the boom, winning that famous World Series in 2003. To say it was a total shock to the poker community would be a slight exaggeration, considering the UIGEA was enforced back in 2006; however the fact that nearly 5 years has passed since the bill meant that poker was ticking along nicely, optimistic that steps were being taken to regulate poker in the US someday soon. PokerStars had cut a deal with Wynn Resorts, Full Tilt with Fertitta Interactive, and the likes of PartyPoker and Bwin were primed to re-enter the incredibly lucrative US market, or so it seemed…
What does this mean for the rest of us?
Well, any mass exodus of players from anywhere is never a good thing. Especially when it’s the largest poker playing nation on the planet. The games haven’t completely dried up, but tournament guarantees have been halved on Stars and Tilt, and the spread of cash games has suffered badly. All this said, the rest of the world is a pretty big place, and pots are still being raked. Today’s peak number of cash players on PokerStars managed to hit 40,000 which is pretty impressive. What it has done is made the European market even more competitive – I’ve received several emails from European sites since Friday, advising me that their site was the safest place to play and that my money would never be compromised. Quite a kick in the nuts to the ‘big three’, and a great reason for skeptical non-US players to move their funds over to sites which haven’t been caught up in the crossfire. The extent of this paranoia will only be apparent once the dust has settled, be that in a week, month or possibly even a year.
If you live outside ‘the land of the free’
From a purely selfish view, the US clampdown has its perks for us Euros – There’s now plenty of fresh competition for our money and sites are likely to bend over backwards to incentivize decent rakers to move their business over. Make sure you check out your options if you’re moving your money – A little extra rakeback or a VIP bump can make a big difference to your bottom line.
Let’s hope that regulation in the US will happen soon, and that poker will return online to the States in the not too distant future. Money talks, and from a purely financial perspective the US government surely can’t afford to not legalise online poker – Fox News yesterday speculated that the online poker market is worth $42bn over the next ten years to the United States government. Whatever archaic views the senate has about poker, surely this is too good an opportunity to eat into the already massive deficit inflicted by the recession. For now, we can expect slower traffic, but online poker isn’t going to vanish overnight. In the meantime we’ll keep you updated with the latest news regarding the clampdown as soon as it comes in.