Full Tilt Poker players waited over one year for a day like Tuesday. Some began to wonder if the day would ever come at all. Players were out millions of dollars following the Black Friday online poker crackdown on April 15th, 2011. The move may have been spearheaded by the US Department of Justice, but many international players were caught in the crossfire as FTP imploded, later being branded a Ponzi scheme by federal investigators.
PokerStars was similarly caught in the web of the US DOJ. Fortunately for PokerStars users, the company ran an honorable business with plenty of cash on reserve for the unimaginable and unexpected. PokerStars quickly settled their outstanding obligations to all US based members and moved to playing its next hand: a federal criminal indictment that would span 474 days.
The unease and speculation of FTP players began when it was rumored via Twitter that Stars was in talks to acquire the fallen company. Players were unsure if that meant they would finally be reunited with their funds afterall. At the end of the day, nobody except the small circle of executives in double-breasted suits and high-powered lawyers involved knew what was going on.
Poker players across the country who derived an income from their beloved past-time were in shambles, facing major life decisions: Would they leave all they've ever known to relocate to another country? Would they attempt to make the difficult transition to live play? Would they dust off their resume and join the workforce outside of gambling?
In a gripping article by Grantland, a specific example is given of a player who faced such a decision:
"Few people felt the hit of Black Friday more than Daniel "jungleman" Cates. In 2010, Cates, then a 21-year-old college dropout, moved up to the nosebleed stakes of several online poker sites and began winning at an astonishing rate. By the end of the year, he had earned somewhere between $5 and $6 million, mostly in heads-up No Limit hold-'em cash games. Black Friday forced Cates into a real-life decision — he could stop playing poker, he could move to Las Vegas to play in live games, or he could move to a foreign country and continue his online poker career. "
Daniel Cates is one extreme, however there were countless others who were and to some degree still are damaged by the undressing of PokerStars and Full Tilt by US authorities. Thousands of players didn't have the luxury of a seven-figure nest egg to aid their decision making process. Many were on the hot seat and out of life lines.
$547 million was just what the doctor ordered, for that was the amount PokerStars would have to fork over to the US Government over a three-year period to make everything better. As part of the settlement agreement, PokerStars would fully acquire its former competitor in Full Tilt, and assume all payouts to players. $184 million would be paid to non-US customers. The rest is scheduled to be paid under the supervision of the US Gov.
In what could only be described as a rollercoaster, the state of internet poker in the US is actually more promising these days. Nevada has issued the first ever interactive gaming licenses in US
history to IGT and Bally Technologies, and will offer intrastate
internet poker games in the next 60-90 days, according to Nevada Gaming
Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli.
PokerStars meanwhile is free to apply for any gaming license in Nevada or other states looking to roll out their own form of legal interactive poker gaming. It's a pretty safe bet that they will.
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