Share this on

Black Friday was a lesson in online poker regulation. No matter one’s feelings on the gray areas of the law in countries like the United States, the government carried out its crackdown and left the poker community reeling. In its wake, poker players on Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet, and Absolute Poker were left without their money.

Of course, PokerStars eventually crafted a deal with the US government to take over Full Tilt and pay back most players over the course of the next several years, but few players received everything they had invested. And Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker players were left in the dust entirely.

Despite the feelings that everyone remembers from Black Friday and the problems that it caused for so many in the community, some players continued to play online poker on unregulated sites based offshore that still catered to US players. Lock Poker was one of them and went under several years ago, leaving numerous players without their rightful funds. Still, players found other offshore sites on which to play.

Unfortunately, some of them just got burned.

Full Flush Poker

The Equity Poker Network was once a semi-thriving poker site that catered to US customers. With few options left after Black Friday, players patronized sites like Bovada, Americas Cardroom, and Full Flush Poker. The latter was part of EPN, which grew to become the fifth largest US-friendly online poker network as of early 2016. Several other sites belonged to EPN, including Poker Host and 5Dimes, though they departed throughout 2016 to join other networks.

EPN was then left with Full Flush Poker as its flagship site, but players had already been reporting troubles with withdrawals and payouts. Many players had been waiting since the summer and fall months of 2015 for requested withdrawals with little communication from EPN.

On September 30, Full Flush Poker went offline. The network told Professional Rakeback that EPN was updating its platform and would provide constant updates. And the network’s gaming license that was formerly held through Curacao was gone, which the network said was due to having to obtain a new gaming license with the new software provider.

For several days, representatives at EPN were responsive to inquiries but somewhat evasive. However, all communication stopped by the third week of October, as reported by Safest Poker Sites. Emails were no longer returned, the live support button at Full Flush Poker’s site location was gone, and social media became unresponsive. The domain is also gone from the server.

All of the players who had funds on Full Flush are likely now out of luck. There is no way to contact the company, which seems to have completely disappeared from the online gaming landscape.

Fool Me Four or Five Times…

The same situation continues to play out. While Black Friday was a complete surprise to most, Lock Poker and Full Flush Poker were not. Players were warned for years to avoid unregulated online poker sites due to the lack of accountability. But the unavailability of other options for players in the US drove many to deposit money on those offshore sites and hope for the best.

The Poker Players Alliance has been using these situations as examples when speaking to legislators in various states about the need for regulated and legal online poker. While Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have jumped into the industry, the vast majority of other states have refused to do what is necessary to regulate the business, which would not only protect consumers but create jobs and a new revenue stream.

Players are rightfully frustrated at the lack of movement by the states. Live poker is not always available, convenient, or nearly as lucrative as the online games. And states like California, which has been considering online poker bills annually since before Black Friday, still cannot reach agreement among the special interests and various parties involved.

Meanwhile, those who take the risks of playing on unregulated sites do so with a full understanding of those risks. While this does not give license to any online poker company owner to fold without warning and abscond with player funds, it is usually a predictable outcome. Without regulation, no government or justice system can hold them to account.

This is the state of online poker today. And it must be the impetus for change.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.