Over the last five plus years that I've been involved in the poker world, I can't easily recall many weeks where I didn't play some poker. Those weeks that I didn't play were likely due to being too busy, rather than being prevented from playing. Thus, I wanted to share what I learned from not playing poker this past week in light of the tumultuous news from last Friday.
1) I miss poker. I've never played for a living so I've never been required to play. I played simply because I enjoyed the game and the challenge. My work and life responsibilities came first. But after a few days of being engulfed in the news and reaction to Black Friday, I noticed that I missed not being able to take a 20 minute Rush PLO work break. I missed those occasional evenings or weekend hours when I would try to grind out a win, some bonus, or accumulate some rakeback. I miss not being able to rail and support my higher profile friends and high stakes American poker players. I missed the opportunity to play some low limits to distract myself from the stresses of my daily life and blowing off steam.
2) There are a lot of smart and talented people in the poker world (i.e. lawyers, accountants, processors, poker room owners, pros etc.). I read more articles and blogs than I have ever in a single week. I listened to more podcasts and poker radio than I ever have before. I discovered a cadre of talented and passionate poker players who shared their perspectives on the issues surrounding Black Friday and its aftermath.
3) There is a massive ripple effect that touched every part of the poker industry as a result of the Black Friday indictments. Players couldn't play, transfer or withdraw money. Live events were canceled (e.g. Onyx Cup and NAPT). Poker TV shows were canceled. Many sponsored pros will be let go. Many backing arrangements will collapse. Live tournaments, including the WSOP will have a very different dynamic. Most of the online poker affiliate dependent sites will be severely affected, with many in media and elsewhere eventually losing jobs. Prizepools, guarantees and overall numbers were down at the big three sites in the wake of losing all American business.
4) PokerStars and Full Tilt were not the ideal poker companies that they self-portrayed. They are alleged to have defrauded banks, laundered money, deceived customers and willfully manipulated everyone to continue their profitable business in the U.S. Ironically, they seem to have contributed to their own present trouble by ratting out a credit card processor who had stiffed them, Daniel Tzvetkoff, who once in custody then turned around and revealed enough to finally expose PokerStars and Full Tilt's processing and bank impropriety.
5) Daniel Tzvetkoff, an Australian citizen who seemingly cut a lenient deal in return for crucial information leading to the present indictments, is now apparently in a US. witness protection safe house (rumored to be in N.Y.) with his fiance and two young children. If he were ever to return to Australia, he would face even more severe charges and face a stint in the federal penitentiary.
6) Absolute Poker (and UB) were further exposed for the corrupt company that they seemingly always have been. Claims of new ownership and a clean new business approach after having dealt fairly with their dark history were called into question once again.
7) Speculation runs rampant. Everyone in the poker world seemed to produce opinions about almost every facet of the poker world this week with little consensus. From poker insiders to average joes, people funneled their anxiety into an opportunity to critique or make wild often baseless predictions.
8) Something positive can come from something negative. As I mentioned in my previous blog, many media, insiders, players and pros came together to contribute a week long continuous 24 hour a day podcast over at QuadJacks to educate, vent, joke, share and deliberate their thoughts in the wake of Black Friday.
9) The priorities of players became evident. They want their money back from PS, FTP and UB. They want to know where they can find a new trusted poker room with volume to play next. And they want an accurate picture of the future of poker in the United States.
10) Lastly, I learned that poker hasn't stopped. For almost every other country in the world, poker is thriving and the players are wondering what is wrong with the U.S. American poker players are adapting; finding ways to play live and online. As I indicated in a previous blog, passionate players will find a way (e.g. Be water, my friend).
Eventually I'll deposit a little money on one of the smaller peripheral U.S.-facing sites so I can play again while I wait out the legal and regulatory process to poker's comeback in the U.S. It will happen eventually, but it's a shame that the powers that be are so thoughtless and short-sighted to not ensure a better transition and environment for Americans to pursue online poker.