There was a point about two weeks after Black Friday when I considered changing that tag line up there at the top of the blog where I identify myself as “an online poker player.” I mean, I wasn’t playing online poker. And in truth I wasn’t sure when I would again.
The two sites on which I had previously played -- PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker -- no longer served U.S. customers. I had an empty account on Bodog, a site I abandoned long ago when its traffic had died down to a point that I could rarely find games/limits I wanted to play. As I mentioned in that “Five Years” post (from 4/28/11), I still wanted to keep my poker blog. But I wasn’t really playing at all, and it was looking as though I may not for a good while.
A week after Black Friday I had spent a small amount of time and energy looking into depositing options at a couple of the sites that still served U.S. customers. But meeting with some initial resistance I quickly gave up. I could have made it happen, I am fairly certain, but I lacked the resolve to see it through. (Probably says something about the nature of my commitment to the game, actually.)
Then, a few days after that fifth-anniversary post I won a whole dollar via a freeroll (and then a sit-n-go) on Carbon Poker. And two weeks later I managed to score another, larger success by earning $100 in a freeroll on Hero Poker. Since then I’ve split time between the two sites, occasionally playing those 11-cent SNGs on Carbon and some six-handed PLO10 on Hero.
Since April 15, more sites have left the U.S. market. For a variety of reasons, Victory Poker pulled out just a few days after Black Friday, initially moving its U.S. players over to Cake Poker, then more recently sending all the rest over to Cake and shutting down altogether. Then “Blue Monday” (5/23/11) saw the domains for both TruePoker.com and DoylesRoom.com seized by the DOJ, apparently due to their being part of the Yatahay network on which also resided the popular sportsbook Bookmaker.com.
Last week came news that the Merge network -- on which we find both Carbon Poker and Hero Poker -- was temporarily going to stop taking new U.S. players, although Americans who already had accounts would still be able to play, deposit, and withdraw as usual. Apparently that decision was primarily due to Merge needing time to handle the additional traffic the network has seen since April 15. No word on when Merge will again allow new U.S. players to sign up, although it sounds like it could be anywhere from 1-3 months. (A couple of Merge skins -- Sportsbook and Hero Poker -- had already made the decision to stop taking new U.S. players prior to last week.)
All of which is to say, options are dwindling. Bodog is still around, although it appears U.S. poker players aren’t terribly excited about jumping into the games over there as the site has seen only a small uptick in traffic on its poker tables since Black Friday. Cake Poker is also today sitting at about the same level, traffic-wise, as on April 15 (according to PokerScout). There’s the Everleaf network where a site named LuvinPoker is starting to be promoted a bit, but I don’t know much about what’s happening there.
Another option for U.S. players, Rise Poker, popped up last week. Rise Poker offers freerolls with real money prizes -- i.e., you can play there without depositing. There is also a “VIP Membership” for $19.99 a month which gets you into lots of other tourneys and opens up further game play options. They’ve launched a blog and forum, too, over there, where some of my buds (including F-Train, Dr. Pauly, Change100, and Benjo) can be found writing.
Rise Poker is part of the ZEN Gaming Network. I’d actually heard of ZEN previously because I know someone who played on another site on the network, NLOP.com (National League of Poker). She enjoyed playing the games there, having gone deep in a tourney once and winning a small amount. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the player pools for both Rise and NLOP are now combined.
Thanks to winning that little bit of cabbage via those freerolls, I’m still calling myself “an online poker player,” although am not pursuing my hobby as often or at the same level of seriousness as I did before. I’m curious to know what other U.S. online poker players are doing at this point. My sense is most are still sitting on the rail, discouraged from trying to fuss with depositing on other sites (as I was back in April). Lost, so to speak.
So let me ask my American readers who also call themselves online poker players... what have you been up to since April 15?