Today some crazy precedents were set in the world of online poker. The founders of the top three sites that operate in the U.S. (PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker) are being charged by the U.S. government not just for violating acts under the UIGEA, but more seriously, for crimes involving bank fraud and money laundering. Arrests have been made and American players have been blocked from playing real money games on these sites. Their account balances have been frozen, and there is a general panic amongst the community, of which I am no exception. I am a firm believer in an eventual diplomatic settlement between these companies and the government, and am hoping this is just the government making a power play to demonstrate their authority to regulate rather than their desire to end online gaming as a whole.
Although I am Canadian and our accounts have not been frozen, I have spent some time recently discussing potential opportunities with some of these sites and now have no idea where anything stands. I will continue to be optimistic that after this blackout period the poker industry will come back stronger and more organized. A very idealistic portrait of this can be found in this blog.
You can read the actual government press release and summary of charges here.
For some background info, or, if you are a screenwriter looking for your next idea, you can check out the story of Daniel Tzvetkoff.
Today I played a half-ass session trying to take advantage of the overlay. Of course my attention was frantically divided as I waited for any news to appear in my feeds. I also finally got a chance to watch Jeopardy’s IBM Watson episodes. I was cheering for Ken and Brad despite knowing the outcome, and snickered at the machine every time it got a question wrong in a silly way, or when it faked personality.
I am currently watching Party Poker’s Big Game live stream. I was kindly invited to be on this show but after a lot of deliberation decided not to attend mainly for bankroll reasons. I probably could have sold the action for it, but I told myself I didn’t have to jump on the first opportunity to be on TV. I like to be properly rolled when I play cash games because worrying about real dollars leads to sub-optimal plays. I used to do a lot of that and always regret it afterwards for various reasons, even when I win. There was also a pretty long line-up to fit into 48 hours and I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth it to go so out of my way for minimal exposure. I may also be slightly anxious about looking silly on TV. I hear it’s really easy to do that and didn’t want to launch my public “career” before I was ready. Having said this, I think the interactive features of the Big Game are pretty innovative. As I watch some hands play out, I really wish I had gone despite the logic against it because the game appears to be drawing some great action. The audience gets to decide who is to be replaced next, so it keeps the players active. The comments on the side panel has me convinced that we’ll be seeing more interactive poker programming in the near future.