This past week witnessed several online retrospectives of the day known as Black Friday, which was one that drastically changed the landscape for internet poker players. For those who might not know, it occurred 10 years ago this week on April 15th, 2011.
That was the day that the United States Justice Department decided to finally put some teeth into a then-five-year-old law known as the UIGEA. Up to that point, it had been little more than an existential threat to the online poker industry.
The lawspeak in the UIGEA didn’t make it obvious whether online poker fell into the no-no category. But on that fateful day 10 years ago, it became all-too clear that the Justice Department felt it did.
They essentially shut down several major sites that operated in the United States, leaving players with little opportunity to get to their accounts in time.
Remembering Black Friday
As an authoritative piece in Deadspin this past week noted, this was not just a minor hassle for a few hobbyists. Black Friday was a day when many people essentially had their livelihoods snatched away without notice.
Arguments about the justice of it all aside, you can’t deny that this was a serious situation that indelibly affected a lot of lives.
The piece also goes on to talk about how many people had to wait years to get their recompense for the money that they lost during the sudden shutdown. There were also people who started new careers out of the wreckage, including lawyers who concentrated on wronged players.
It was certainly a tumultuous time that rocked the industry for several years.
But while that article and others of its kind that popped up this week certainly detailed the fallout of that fay, few of them concentrated on the recovery that the industry has enjoyed recently.
Anyone who has been paying attention to this little column over the past several months knows how much of the professional poker world had to shift to the online sphere in that span. And while that shift hasn’t always been smooth, it has been successful for the most part.
That success also translates to the amateur players out there who have found the ability to gamble at top sites located overseas that aren’t bound by United States laws. And speaking of those US laws, they are slowly but surely letting up in terms of how they treat online gambling.
But even until that gets up to full speed, there is more than enough action going on to occupy both pros and amateurs alike. It’s a scene that many didn’t think possible 10 years ago when Black Friday hit the poker world like a ton of bricks a decade ago.
While it’s instructive to look back at the rough past, time should also be spent looking ahead at what seems like an extremely promising future for online poker.
WSOP Sets Summer Online Bracelet Schedule
As if to prove our point from the last section about the current strength of the online poker realm, the World Series of Poker came out this week with an announcement about the bracelets that will be up for grabs in their summer online series.
Last year, this summer series was sort of pumped up because it had to make up for the lack of live action. Yet even with the live Main Event once again taking place this year, the WSOP is bringing the online bracelet series back in full effect.
While there aren’t very specific details yet about exactly which tournaments which will be held on which days, we can say that there will be 33 bracelets on the line over 32 days of action.
At least one tournament will be held each day from July 1 to August 1. And while real money Texas holdem action predictably is the dominant mode of play, there are a few Omaha events that will be in the mix as well.
Last summer’s event will serve as the model for those wishing to play, in that they must be located in either the states of Nevada or New Jersey when the log on to play. That doesn’t mean you have to be a resident of one of those states. It just means that you have to be on that soil to register and participate.
That is assuming that some states teetering on the edge of shared pools legal status don’t widen the boundaries (Michigan being the most likely of those).
In any case, it’s looking like a very busy summer indeed for poker enthusiasts excited for WSOP action. And it could be a very lucrative one for some of the world’s best players planning on buying into the action.
Poker as a Social Substitute
One other article that appeared this past week took an interesting look at an aspect of online poker that might be overlooked. It appeared in the New York Times and its author, Sopan Deb, talked about how he spent a lot of time over the past year playing in online Zoom poker games.
His games eventually branched out to an even wider group. He got into other games with people from the original games, and so on and so forth, until it became a major way for him to spend his free time while stuck at home like most of the world.
The point of his article was how poker formed a crucial social component for him at a time where most other outlets for that kind of thing were shut down due to the world health crisis. He found a kind of camaraderie in the games that surprised him, one that he found that he craved after a while.
Even though he didn’t claim to be much of a poker player in the grand scheme of things, he found through gambling with friends, the relationships he was cultivating were ones that were going to stick.
In fact, he concluded the article by bemoaning somewhat the fact that the weather was getting warmer, people were starting to cut loose of their social constraints, and the games were getting somewhat spotty and sparsely populated.
It was an interesting take on a game that we often tend to analyze in terms of the cards being played and the strategies of the men and women who play the game.
That was lost in some respects with the social distancing measures that took place throughout much of the world over this past year. But playing games on Zoom, if you can play them with friends of your own, are a way around that.
They serve as a way to connect back to the social roots of gameplay once again. It’s a good reminder that sometimes, it’s not about the pots or the bets or the cards, but rather about the human connection gained from people playing together.