Friday, December 21, 2012

2013 and the Fall and Rise of Online Poker in the U.S.

So Hero Poker did indeed step aside yesterday. I played a little more on the site during the late afternoon just for kicks, but signed off before dinner time. Following advice delivered by Hero CEO David Jung in that 2+2 “player relations” thread, I converted my remaining VIP points to cash before I did as it sounded as though that probably wouldn’t be a possibility later on.

It was at some point a little after 6 p.m. Eastern time yesterday that the shutdown of Hero occurred, after which one was greeted with a software update and message when one tried to log in. The message gave a web address to visit for instructions regarding what to do next in order to have one’s balance transferred to one of three other Merge skins.

That page offers little more than a list of the three sites -- Carbon, Sportsbook.com, and Players Only -- and an email address (support@mergegaming.eu) to send a message with one’s choice. It isn’t at all clear what details are needed other than one’s usernames, although I believe one needs to send the message via the email addy associated with one’s account.

I went ahead and sent an email, choosing Carbon simply because I already have an account there. I vaguely recall Sportsbook.com having redirected its U.S. players to a different skin late last year, so that didn’t seem like a good choice. And I’d never even heard of Players Only. I’m guessing it will probably take several days, perhaps even longer, for my funds to surface over on Carbon.

On a day when jokes about the apocalypse and the “end of days” are reaching a crescendo, it is starting to feel a lot like the end has finally arrived as far as the Merge network and these last vestiges of the pre-Black Friday variety of sorta-legal-sorta-not online poker in the U.S. are concerned. Or at least the beginning of the end, anyway, as I suppose these last few Merge skins and other sites will limp along like short stacks for a while until they are finally all blinded out.

Coincidentally, yesterday saw other major developments occur as far as the resurrection of online poker in the U.S. is concerned, one of which was the New Jersey State Senate passing by a wide margin that long-discussed online gambling bill (A2578). Thirty-three NJ senators voted in favor of the bill while only three opposed, and now all that is needed is Governor Chris Christie's signature for the bill to become law.

The state reached a similar point back in the spring of 2011, with Christie actually vetoing the bill rather than sign it. But following that revised opinion from the Department of Justice regarding the Wire Act only applying to sports betting that surfaced almost exactly one year ago, Christie has been suggesting a different attitude toward the possibility of his state following the lead of both Nevada and Delaware and also getting involved with online gambling.

Should Christie sign the NJ bill into law, we’ll no doubt begin hearing more regarding that story from a couple of weeks ago concerning PokerStars’ interest in buying the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel in Atlantic City.

Meanwhile, Nevada continues to approve licenses to online poker businesses, and in fact yesterday saw Caesars Interactive Entertainment to the list of licensees. It sounds like Caesars will be partnering with 888 to launch a WSOP-branded online site early next year (once 888 gets their NV license approval). All of which means as these last “rogue” sites (or whatever you want to call them) fade into oblivion, a new world of online poker in the U.S. will likely be emerging in their wake.

I’m remembering writing a typically cynical post back in February of this year commenting on all of the speculation swirling regarding 2013 as a target date for online poker’s return to America. But as this year comes to a close, it certainly appears next year will be an especially interesting one with regard to online poker in the U.S., even if it doesn’t exactly bring a full-fledged reprise of the game so many of us enjoyed for so many years before.

Speaking of still enjoying online poker, the last two events of Season 2 of the Hard-Boiled Poker Home Games series will happen this Sunday night at 20:00 & 21:00 ET. I’m making Event No. 19 a regular no-limit hold’em event with a little bit deeper starting stack than usual (5,000 instead of 3,000), and Event No. 20 will be a H.O.R.S.E. event.

Through 18 tournaments, our buddy Kevmath leads the Season 2 standings followed by Nasal Drip and Season 1 winner thejim2020. The top three finishers win books, with the first-place winner getting to choose between Roll the Bones by David Schwartz, Reading Poker Tells by Zach Elwood, and Think Like a Pro by Byron Jacobs. (See this post for more about the books.) The second-place finisher will then get to choose from the remaining two titles, with the third-place finisher getting the last book.

For those playing on Sunday, see you there, as I expect that’ll be the only place I’ll be playing any online poker (for play chips) over the next few days at least. Perhaps, though, next year will be offering at least some of us more opportunities.

(And meanwhile, if you’re looking for something else to do while waiting for the apocalypse not to happen, you can go vote in BLUFF Magazine’s 2013 Reader's Choice Awards where Hard-Boiled Poker is among the nominees for “Favorite Poker Blog.”)

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