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Black Friday Anniversary: A Tale of Two Worlds

The Dawn of an Era

The world of online poker has been a constantly evolving and developing entity since its emergence at the turn of the century. During this decade long period, the beloved game and the surrounding industry have undergone several changes and some significant milestones.

The early part of the new millennium saw a rise in the popularity of poker after former amateur Chris Moneymaker’s Main Event victory ushered the “Poker Boom” era. The game’s popularity soared with this momentous victory and players flocked to popular sites such as Paradise Poker and the former Party Poker.

The online poker game suffered its first major obstacle with the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. The legislation forced popular companies such as Party Poker and Netteller to withdraw from the United States market.

However, the legislation couldn’t stop the juggernaut that was online poker. Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars quickly filled the void left by Party Poker and fueled the post-UIGEA growth of online poker.

The game would continue to grow on a global level and players continued to flock to the beloved game despite the seemingly tenuous legislative landscape.

Traffic at the Big 2 sites, Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars, numbered in the mid six figures daily. Poker professionals like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey became legitimate celebrities with the rise in television marketing and the growth of the nosebleed games. Poker became a global phenomenon with the growth of global tournament series and the rise of an international group of poker celebrities. For a moment, it seemed like nothing could stop the growth of this game and a level of comfort was felt by players and industry giants alike.

Black Friday

“Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.” – Jack King, Confessions of a Winning Poker Player

Few poker players can tell you the exact date of the Moneymaker victory or the exact date of the UIGEA legislation. Even fewer players can tell you the exact date of their first deposit on an online site. However, nearly every poker player can state with amazing accuracy the exact date and moment of the game changing Black Friday.

April 15, 2011. The date brings forth some painful memories of bankrolls lost, livelihoods ruined, and the ultimate change in a once growing industry.

The Department of Justice indictments brought forth some frightening revelations and a sense of urgency for regulation. Millions of players lost money on sites like Full Tilt Poker and Absolute/UB. Former beloved stars such as Chris “Jesus” Moneymaker were demoted to villain status. Most importantly, the largest poker market in the world was shut down in a move that had a deafening effect on the global poker market.

Poker Players immediately panicked over money in limbo, wages in peril, and a game lost in the hands of the tyrannical United States government. It seemed like the rapidly growing and beloved game had hit an insurmountable obstacle.

Black Friday had officially altered the landscape of the Poker World.

Two Worlds and a New Era

Despite the despair, confusion, and panic over the events of Black Friday, the poker world has recovered to a certain extent and the excitement over the game has been replaced by the dawn of the regulated era.

At the time of Black Friday, European Union members Italy, France, and Spain introduced a new wave of legislation for the regulation of online poker. The rise of regulation combated the vast poker black market and provided a safe haven for online poker players. Other European Union countries have followed suit with legislation introduced in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

The online poker game made a quick recovery in the European countries. Poker Stars recovered from its downfall in the United States to maintain its dominance in the global market. The company even bailed out and relaunched its former disgraced rival, Full Tilt Poker.

In addition to the recovery of the two disgraced companies, poker operators such as Playtech (iPoker) and Bwin.party (Party Poker Network) saw a rise in traffic and took advantage of the new landscape. Since Black Friday, these European based companies have been busy with developments to increase global market reach and prepare for newly regulated markets.

Despite the major hit of Black Friday, the global online poker market has made a remarkable recovery and industry analysts see a rise in the new era of online poker. The game continues to grow in markets such as Asia and South America. The game and the industry are continuing to evolve and develop in similar ways to the pre-Black Friday era.

In spite of its recovery around the world, the poker scene has been marked by darkness and slow development in the former global leader in poker. The United States online poker scene is nearly obsolete with increasingly unreliable and shady sites scraping profits from the few players that are willing to risk money to play the beloved game.

Networks such as the Merge Network and Revolution Network (Lock) have been the dominant leaders in the United States market. The two networks have provided an extremely unreliable and fickle product for the remaining United States players. Forums such as TwoPlusTwo are filled with complaints about the two networks. Although popular immediately following Black Friday, the two networks have lost a solid base of players and have degenerated into a rogue, unreliable entity.

In addition to the lack of a reliable poker site, the United States poker scene has been hit with some setbacks in regulation. Federal legislation has failed to materialize into anything but a deceptive form of hope. States such as Kansas have brought about legislation that actually bans the online form of the game. More importantly, legislation has failed to materialize in several states, leading to despair and disappointment for the future of United States poker.

At the two year anniversary of Black Friday, the United States poker market has become a shell of its former self with players longing for the game that their peers enjoy across the borders and the sea.

Future

Despite the current low of the United States poker market, three states, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, have provided hope for a new online poker market. In 2013, these three states passed legislation to provide online poker to citizens of each jurisdiction. Furthermore, each state has included provisions to enter into compacts with other jurisdictions, which would allow for the expansion of player liquidity.

The new states have already licensed operators to develop products that are expected to debut in the coming year. Furthermore, other states like Texas and California are attempting to follow suit in the regulation trend.

In spite of this hope, the poker market in the United States has been filled with speculation and uncertainty. Will the market ever recover from Black Friday? Can legislation provide a viable form of online poker? When will players recover lost money on Full Tilt Poker?

The questions and speculations are seemingly endless.

Nevertheless, the second anniversary of the Black Friday events has been marked by some hope and a new era in the poker world. The poker industry and landscape entered a new era after Black Friday and the beginnings have provided a lot of hope for a strong recovery. Although there is much speculation about this new era, it is certain that the landscape of poker will never be the same.

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