When I found out what all the buzz was about I was in shock.
This isn't going to be a very informative post on the subject. I just wanted to air some of my thoughts and make a few other personal statements but here's the lowdown in case you missed it. If you're up to speed with what's going on click here to skip it.
The US States Attorney for the District of New York and the FBI unsealed an indictment that charges 11 individuals including the founders of "the big three" in online poker, PokerStars, FullTiltPoker and AbsolutePoker/UB (Cereus network) with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses. More information can be found in the DoJ press release on the matter.
The United States also filed a civil money laundering and in rem forfeiture complaint (the "Civil Complaint") against the Poker Companies, their assets, and the assets of several payment processors for the Poker Companies. In addition, restraining orders were issued against more than 75 bank accounts utilized by the Poker Companies and their payment processors, and five Internet domain names used by the Poker Companies to host their illegal poker games were seized.As a result PokerStars and FullTiltPoker are prohibiting US players from playing in real money games on their sites. This includes cash games, multi-table tournaments and sit-n-go's. That constitutes the majority of real money online poker for US players.
This is sad because recent news made it seem like online poker in the US was getting close to a point where it would be regulated and any murky areas in the law would be cleared up.
The sizable legal staff that sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker employ have determined that playing online poker in the US is not against the law. I'm not a lawyer but from my understanding I can see the law interpreted that way. The problem is the law makes it illegal to wire money into or out of US based financial institutions. According to the indictment the poker sites and they're payment processors are alleged to have committed fraud in order to get around these restrictions.
It may take a while for you to see the changes reflected when you visit the sites because the DoJ seized the domain registration and not the actual servers hosting the websites. The domain registration is in the US, the servers are not.
I read the 52-page indictment and it doesn't look good. Indictments usually don't. The defense of the poker sites looks like it's going to need to be that poker is not unlawful internet gambling and that they were insulated from the actions of their payment processors.
This might wind up being good for online poker overall but right now it really sucks. It may not be that good for Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars in terms of getting licensed and regulated in the US if that ever happens and that also sucks.
FTP and Stars have been doing this for a long time and have gotten a lot of things right. They've rightfully earned player's trust and loyalty. When (if?) online poker becomes 100% kosher in the US it's going to take a long time for other companies to establish that trust with players.
Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars say our balances are safe. I hope that's true and PokerStars hasn't given me much reason to doubt them in the past. I don't have as much experience with FTP so I won't comment but I don't think they'll screw over their players either. I think they had some sort of disaster plan in the event something like this happened and since they'll want to continue operations in the rest of the world it would be bad to let a large portion of their customers get screwed over.
This Makes Me Sad :(I'm a bit bummed out about all this. I had a lot of goals in regards to poker and it doesn't look like I'm going to reach them the way things stand. This is right after I started getting confidence in my abilities that I could.
Finding poker was very good for me. I had gone through some difficult times that really wore me down. Playing a little bit of online poker at first was a nice distraction. When I realized I could be good at it working on my game really helped get my head out of the muck it was in.
Then I started this blog and had a lot of plans on where to go with this site and that feels like it's up in the air now too.
This blog isn't huge but for a no-name microstakes donk I'm pretty impressed that what I've written is read thousands of times a month. Last month was my biggest month with over 6,000 page views.
I got a nice jumpstart shortly after launching my blog when Daniel Negreanu retweeted one of my tweets. For that I'm really grateful.
That as well as the emails I've received and people that chose to follow me on twitter has meant a lot to me. Thank you to everyone that has been following my micro stakes journey.
One thing I found out is the poker community is just f***ing awesome. They're good people that don't deserve to go through this mess.
There aren't many other activities where you get to participate and interact with the elite in the field. It was a big thrill for me to get a bit of contact with my poker heros like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Galfond, Scotty Nguyen and others. Even if it was limited to a few 140 char tweets.
This is sounding like a goodbye post. I hope it's not but there's a lot of uncertainty now. I'm optimistic that things will work out for all of us in one way or another.
Good luck everyone.