The news has been crazy. Since I first wrote about everything that happened last Friday, which most people in poker are calling Black Friday, more reports just keep coming in. I try to click on all of the links I see on Twitter, and it’s taking up so much time to get through them all! Big thanks to all of the poker media - and other media too - who have stayed on top of the story!
One of the biggest things on the positive side was a story that came out on Wednesday about deals with the Department of Justice. Full Tilt and PokerStars signed agreements to allow them to officially take back their .com domains and to be able to pay U.S. players their money. The DOJ even said it would work with the sites to be sure the players get their money back. Both sites said they would begin doing it as soon as possible, but I’m seeing that there are some problems because of the payments processors and banks that were seized. How are the sites going to wire the money to players? I guess they’re working on it, which is a good sign, but players have no idea when they’ll actually see their bankrolls again. It’s scary! I feel for the players who are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their rent, mortgage payments, and other bills while they wait. I hate to see so many of my fellow players going through this.
My first thought when this all happened was that poker can now be regulated by the government, and the sites can come back soon. But the more I read, the more it seems that it’s quite a ways off in the future. I know that Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. John Campbell (one a Democrat and one a Republican) are working together on a federal bill, but even if it does pass, it will be a long time before the government can get their regulation department set up, issue licenses, figure out which companies can come back to the US, etc. It’s a huge process. But even to pass the law, those who want it will have to get past some pretty strong opponents like Spencer Bachus, who totally supports the UIGEA and is against anything that Frank and Campbell want to do. It’s going to be a big fight in Congress, and I just don’t know if poker has enough support. The PPA is trying to get members to send letters to Congress and President Obama about it, but is that enough? It’s going to be a long battle, I think.
The sites that were in the indictment took a big hit on the first week out of the US market. I saw a few reports that showed PokerStars lost about 25% of their players, Full Tilt lost almost 50%, and Cereus (Absolute and UB) lost about 40%. That’s a lot of players!
The other interesting thing, though, is that there are still some sites open to US players. How can they do that? Bodog and Cake are some of them that still allow US players to play, but I’m not sure if those players aren’t putting themselves at some risk by doing that. They saw what just happened to the bigger sites, so I would think they’d be afraid that their money would get caught up in those other sites too. The government played its hand and won, so I’m not sure what to think of the players who are staying in that game.
European sites are doing pretty well, though. It looks like those sites are seeing more new players because of the great promotions they’re doing. Even Chilipoker tried to turn Black Friday into Purple Day with a massive new bonus of 200% up to $1000. They’ll even honor the VIP of the sites that just lost US players and match that VIP level if players can take a pic of it and prove their status.
I’ve been playing online a lot lately on Chilipoker, even more since they created Chiliconnect. I talked about it before, but it’s new software that allows me to get involved with side bets and last longer bets with other players, and I can swap percentages in tournaments. I’m hooked! I’ve been playing several tournaments almost every day lately, and I’ve been running good too! I don’t remember the last time I ran so hot in online tournaments, but it’s been fun to get to know other players through the Chiliconnect. The extra action makes things fun, too. Anyone wanting to join me and place a few friendly wagers on some tournaments should look me up on Chiliconnect. I’m on there almost every day when I’m not traveling.
Speaking of Europe, I’m heading out on Monday to San Remo, Italy for the EPT stop there. I do wonder if there will be fewer US players than usual. But I read that players - even those from the US - who bought their buy-ins online will still be able to play in San Remo. And any US player can fly over there and buy-in directly. There’s such a big turnout there every year, and I hope it’s the same again this year. And I’m looking forward to talking to other players about everything that’s happened in the last week to get their perspectives.
So, wish me luck at San Remo! I hope I get a room with a great view like last year, but I hope the internet connection is better this year so I can give updates on Twitter and Facebook while I’m there. After that, it’s back home to prep for the WSOP.
All my best to US players who are struggling right now. I’m really hoping you get your money back soon!