Black Friday – 28 Days Later [Friday Editorial]

Black Friday – 28 Days Later [Friday Editorial]

Friday, 13 May 2011

If Danny Boyle was directing the legal status of poker in the US, this would be the point where Cillian Murphy wakes up in hospital and walks through the abandoned streets of London.

It has been 28 days since April 15, the day that is now known in the poker world as Black Friday. On that day the US Department of Justice indicted eleven founders and bankers of the three major US-facing online poker sites; Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

At the time, the main reaction was mass panic. US players feared for their bankrolls and livelihoods while the rest of the poker community feared for the future of Full Tilt and PokerStars, the two most well-respected and popular poker sites in the world. Rumours were flying – that the players’ money was nothing but numbers on a screen and that within 48 hours of Black Friday all three sites would be down worldwide.

Well, it’s been around 670 hours since Black Friday (give or take, depending on when you’re reading this) and so far, while we can’t say that everything is hunky-dory, it’s looking all right. PokerStars was the first site to take action and strike a deal with the Department of Justice – within a fortnight US players were able to cash out their bankrolls. In fact, they were forced to. In the past few days, the PokerStars VIP Club rewards (FPPs) have been converted to cash and released to US players also. I’ve said before, it’s not surprising at all that PokerStars were the first site to provide funds to US players, having kept them in a segregated account and acting quickly to strike a deal with the US government to return funds rightfully belonging to US citizens.

So it’s business as usual, it seems. PokerStars my regular site and the games there seem not too different, though, at the monkey stakes I play, I hardly expected Black Friday to take a lot of hardcore grinders out of the equation. At high stakes across the board it seems the games have gotten a little easier and more European and non-US American names are coming out of the woodwork. PokerStars have for sure taken a hit with 28% of their traffic gone but all post-Black Friday Sunday Millions have busted the reduced $1m guarantee and they are still by far the biggest site online.

Non-US facing sites such as OnGame and iPoker have actually lost players while has enjoyed a 20% traffic boost. So what does this mean for the future of online poker in Europe and the rest of the world? It means one of two things – either other sites step up their game to compete with PokerStars and Full Tilt or they get crushed. If we effectively see PokerStars monopolise online poker (hell, they had over half the market pre-Black Friday anyway) then I’m not going to complain too much.

That means more UKIPTs, more EPTs, more live events across the board. It means everyone playing together under one roof and the rivers will run rich with fish once more. Pipe dreams? Perhaps. At this point no one can be certain what will happen but we can say without a doubt that the future is infinitely brighter than it was 28 days ago.

Tags: Editorial, Matt Perry, Black Friday