I, like many Americans, jumped off the online poker horse 18 months ago as a result of the Black Friday shut down and indictments of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Ultimate Bet. In the previous five or six years, I had played almost every single day for at least a few minutes. I felt very connected to the game and I enjoyed railing the high stakes games or supporting friends nearly as much as playing my low stakes PLO games. With the largest and most reputable sites shut down to U.S. access on April 15th, 2011, I chose not to venture into the even shadier smaller poker sites that continued to offer real money playing. My time and efforts shifted elsewhere and my desire to play waned as the months passed.
Last week, I saw a Tweet about Winamax that caught my attention. The popular French poker room was now offering freeplay online poker to the U.S. market with the intention of transitioning to real money offerings once they became licensed in regulated areas of the U.S. Although numerous sites have offered freeplay, Winamax intrigued me more due to some positive reviews and my never previously having contact with them. On their website, they feature an amusing promo video (linked example isn't in English) that emphasized that it's not the cards you're dealt, but how you play them that matter. I downloaded their software and was immediately impressed by the design, organization, lobby and interface. Their quick seat option headed me swiftly to playing with my 50.00 default play chips.
All the memories came flooding back of playing with loose passives, maniacs and nits. Okay, who am I kidding, I didn't really find any nits at PLO. Still a prisoner to my sense of proper bankroll management, I worked my way up quickly through 2, 5, 10 to 20 buy-in levels before I saw play improve markedly. Then a funny thing happened. I played someone heads-up that was every bit as good as any player I had played on Full Tilt Poker in the $50 or $100 games. They too were playing play chip poker, but with an aggression, range awareness, and unpredictability that I had rarely seen amongst freeplay circles. Credit to Winamax for their software, design and interface. This felt every bit the same as playing for real money.
Without the payoff of making real money, I doubt I will continue to invest a ton of time playing. But I will say I quickly fell back into similar patterns of play of years gone by. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to outwit players and watching my stack grow. With the launch of Nevada regulated online poker only months away, the dream of playing legal real money online poker again in the U.S. is no longer an endless pipe dream. Time is coming for me to get my game in gear.