A vibrant community of online poker players in the US thrived around online poker rooms such as Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Many of them had made playing poker their occupation as they could win incredibly large pots from the comforts of home. But the events of April 15, 2011 changed online poker in the US forever and hence was termed as Black Friday.
Black Friday was a terrible blow and the US online poker community is yet to recover. The withdrawal of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars from the US market deprived many professional players of their means of livelihood. Besides, many players still haven’t got back their money, which was seized by the feds when they cracked down on major online poker rooms on Black Friday.
US Online Poker Legality
The legality of US online poker, from the federal point of view, is a grey area. At the state level, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada have regulated online poker and a few other US states are considering the same. Online poker experts welcome state-wise legalization, but they also warn that it could lead to a fragmented industry, which is why federal legalization is essential. Black Friday has considerably increased the pressure for federal online poker legalization. As Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) Director John Pappas puts it, “the poker community has been taking back what was snatched away” from it on April 15, 2011.
Presently, it is widely held that US online poker is illegal. A few experts say that online poker can be considered legal since the Department of Justice (DoJ) stated in December 2011 that the Wire Act does not apply to online poker, but this argument has not yet passed legal tests.
US Online Poker Sites
After Black Friday, some US players registered at smaller offshore online poker rooms such as Carbon Poker and Lock Poker, but most of them were just too scared to play online poker anymore. The only licensed US online poker site is Ultimate Poker in Nevada, but Nevada gambling regulations prevent it from accepting non-Nevada players.
Black Friday led to the withdrawal of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, Players Only, and Sportsbook.com from the US market. Carbon Poker, Lock Poker, BetOnline, Bovada, and others continued to accept US players, but many of these sites, especially those on the Revolution Network, have disappointed players with their inability to process US payments quickly.
Impact on Players
Black Friday affected US poker players the most. Poker pro Tony Dunst ruefully stated that Black Friday “ruined the game” in the US. Most recreational players just lost interest in the game, owing to which poker tournaments had to reduce their entry fees.
Some professional poker players decided to migrate to poker friendly countries such as Mexico and Canada. A new service called Poker Refugees appeared on the scene to help US poker pros migrate to Malta, Costa Rica, and other countries. Some players tried playing live poker in the casinos of Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and California; and others began looking for nine-to-five jobs.
The state of US online poker after Black Friday is bleak, but the US online poker community continues to hope that poker will be legalized at the federal level. Speaking at an interview with The Verge, Pappas gave three reasons why US online poker has to be legalized. First, US residents are already playing poker; second, online poker can generate huge revenue; and third, people have the right to play a game they love on their own computers, in the comforts of their own homes.