Friday, April 15, 2016

Five Years Later, Just Another Friday

Five years ago today I was in Lima, Peru helping cover the Latin American Poker Tour event there for the PokerStars blog. There we are to the left behind our laptops (the day before, I believe). It was my second trip to Lima, and the first and only time I’d partner up with my friend Dr. Pauly for such an adventure.

That fact alone might have helped make the trip stand out from the many others tourney journeys I’ve taken over the years. But something else happened that caused me to remember those days many times over the years since.

Was just another Friday. We all rolled into the Atlantic City casino late that morning, and had set up shop and were already reporting on Day 2 when the news reached us around 1 p.m. Lima time (if I remember correctly).

I don’t quite remember, actually, when the phrase “Black Friday” began to be used, although looking back through my travel reports here on the blog I can see the phrase already starting to appear in posts by Sunday. That means by the time Pauly, F-Train, Reinaldo, Carlos, and the rest of us left Peru it had already become the shorthand signifier for the end of online poker in U.S. as we knew it. And (so we thought then) the probable end of a lot of other things, too, including such trips to South America.

It turned out not to be quite as catastrophic as it seemed then, thankfully. Those reports from Lima share a kind of rapidly-told story arc reflecting the before, during, and after of the news hitting us and our efforts to absorb and understand it:

  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Arrival
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Pregame
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Day 1
  • Thunderstruck: The Day It All Changed for Online Poker
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Day 2
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Day 3
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Day 4
  • Travel Report: 2011 LAPT Lima, Departure
  • Another one written about three weeks after getting home is actually my favorite “Black Friday” post, the one describing the game of Big Deuce our group played our final night in Lima, a.k.a. the Last Game:
  • 2011 LAPT Lima Postscript: Plotting in Peru
  • And for more looking back, earlier this week I wrote up a more clinical, less personal rundown of what poker life was like before April 15, 2011, the events of that day, and the long, frustrating aftermath in an article for PokerNews. If you haven’t seen it you might take a look as it likely will trigger some “oh-yeah-I-forgot-about-that”-type memories:
  • Black Friday: Reliving Poker’s Darkest Day Five Years Later
  • Now it all seems oddly unremarkable, as though (in hindsight) there was something inevitable or even predictable about what happened on April 15, 2011 and everything that followed. Of course the DOJ was going to unseal the indictments and civil complaint that day -- it was just a matter of time before they did. And certainly the targeted sites would then depart the U.S. in short order. And surely we could’ve (should’ve?) seen the funds-related troubles following, too. Right?

    Even the long, dreary, battle-with-inertia marking individal states’ efforts to reintroduce online poker -- successful so far in only three, and with desperately modest results -- seems from today’s perspective to have been an inexorable consequence of it all. As do the still dim prospects for online poker in this country going forward (if we’re going to be realistic).

    You’d think all of that might make it less easy to remember the shock of the day itself, with the dot-coms going offline, Twitter exploding and “#pokerpanic” becoming a favorite hashtag, Two Plus Two crippling and flatlining under the weight of traffic, and so on. But the surprise was so pure and fresh -- even if it shouldn’t have been -- the impression remains lasting, even today.

    Five years plus a couple of leap days makes April 15th a Friday once again. The symmetry has an effect, and the time removed now enough to suggest some kind of finality. It’s a period of time once considered adequate to accommodate Soviet planning, or to help illustrate a David Bowie-imagined apocalypse. Like we’re now even more fully sealed off from what it was all like before.

    As though finally, we’re all of the way back, and it’s just another Friday.

    Photo: courtesy Carlos MontiPokerStars blog.

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