Have you ever wondered where online poker players in the U.S. have been spending their time ever since Black Friday knocked the big boys of Internet poker like PokerStars out of the market five years ago?
Some players, of course, continue to take their chances at unregulated sites that service the U.S. but that also carry the stigma of affording no consumer protections should the DoJ decide to step in again. Other players packed up and left the country, heading for the likes of Costa Rica, Mexico and Canada in order to play at the world’s most popular site.
There are tons of players who chose neither of those options, preferring to remain stateside and electing not to risk playing poker for real money in an unregulated environment. But if those players love online poker, where will they go to satisfy their need and desire to play?
Apparently, a good many of them have taken their action to the play money tables at PokerStars.
PokerStars is in the midst of hosting its biggest play money online poker festival to date known as The Elite Series. Forty-six events over nine days from April 9-17 with prizes for the top finishers of leaderboard races has jolted excitement into the play money online poker scene.
A quick scan of the Overall Leaderboard finds 20 of the top 30 players logging on from the U.S. The top two point earners, as of this writing, are Americans who are ruling the action and have distanced themselves from the rest of the field. ‘MezzoDana’ (290 pts.) leads the pack, with ‘Lady Loyalty’ (215 pts.) not too far behind.
The biggest day of the Elite Series will be this Saturday, April 16, with 15 events on the schedule. A new tournament, known as the Hourly Hypers, will begin every hour.
The popularity of play money poker among U.S. players at PokerStars is also evidenced by the site’s Billionaire Club, an exclusive group that requires members to have accumulated (either purchased or won) over one billion play money chips. The majority of Billionaire Club members are U.S. residents, with an untold number likely transplanted from the real money tables after PokerStars was forced out of the U.S. in 2011.
Billionaire Club members are entitled to enjoy several perks that include free entry to the weekly Sunday Billion, access to the Play Money Poker Room Management team, notification of new products and promos, various additional giveaways, and optional listings on both the Billionaire Club membership page and the Billionaire Club World Rankings. The latter listing does require some skill on the play money tables.
To date, more than 1,000 Billionaire Club members have opted to be listed as such. How many of those from the U.S. but not located in New Jersey would rather be playing for real money at PokerStars if only they could? My hunch is quite a few, but I suppose we would have to ask them to know for sure.