Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Going Through Withdrawal

Going Through WithdrawalI suppose I’ll go along with the crowd and start referring to Friday, April 15, 2011 -- the day the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed its indictments of 11 individuals, including some of the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet -- as “Black Friday.” My sense is most of those reading this blog, the great majority of whom probably have played a little online poker now and again, are going to know what I mean by the phrase whenever I use it going forward.

On Black Friday, I had funds in only two online poker accounts: PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

PokerStars was the first site on which I opened an account (in 2004). About a year later I opened one on PartyPoker, then soon after that I had a third account on Full Tilt Poker. Some might recall how back then one could use Neteller (where I also had an account) to transfer funds back and forth between online sites. Easy breezy.

While I’ve always been a recreational player and never rose to a level stakes-wise to earn (or lose) a lot of money, I did well enough on Stars to start withdrawing from that account, and then eventually -- using Neteller -- I was able to use money I’d earned on Stars to open those other accounts.

As I recall, I split time fairly evenly between the three sites before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was signed into law on October 13, 2006 -- that other “Black Friday” for online poker, as some of us remember it.

I remember talking to a support person at PartyPoker by phone a few days after the UIGEA was signed, like the following Wednesday or thereabouts, to confirm that yes, as a U.S. player, I really was no longer allowed to play real money games on the site. I assumed all other U.S.-facing sites would soon be following suit. I recall a conversation with Vera at the time in which I told her how unfortunate it was that this hobby of mine was suddenly no longer going to be available to me.

But as we all know, it didn’t quite happen that way. Stars and Full Tilt stuck around. And so the games continued, both at the table and beyond.

When I started to play online poker -- first (for a good while) for play chips, then for real money -- I’ll confess I had little thought about its ever becoming a target of legislators. Sure, I was naive. I knew poker and/or gambling were pursuits to which some objected. But really, the game itself was much more interesting to me than was the larger significance of poker in other cultural contexts (moral, social, political, legal, etc.).

In other words, I didn’t really care about the (seemingly inconsequential) legislative debates or following all of the related ins and outs. I was more interested in outs and odds.

So I withdrew my funds from PartyPoker back into Neteller (which didn’t leave us for a few months), shipped that money back over to PokerStars and FTP, and played on. It was not longer after that I opened accounts on Bodog, Absolute Poker, and then (some time later) UltimateBet.

When the AP cheating scandal first hit in the fall of 2007, I withdrew from both AP and UB. (Thus, I got out at UB before its scandal broke in the spring of 2008.) At Bodog I played fairly frequently, but over the last couple of years the games had dried up to the point I took my money off of there, too.

Thus, like a great lot of us, I have funds on Stars and FTP only. We’re not talkin’ a ton of cabbage, but enough for me to want to get it out eventually.

As far as getting onto another, still operating and available U.S.-facing site, I can’t say I’m all that anxious to do so. I wasn’t playing that often even before Black Friday. In fact, thanks to the Lima trip and other deadlines I was trying to meet, I had gone over a week without playing a single hand before I left the country last Tuesday. Would have to check my records, but that might be one of the longest stretches I’d ever gone without playing since first getting those accounts so many years ago.

Thus, I am not really feeling any strong “withdrawal symptoms” or pains at present as far as not being able to play is concerned. I may eventually, but if poker-related writing opportunities dwindle (as they likely will), I’m going to feel that a lot more strongly than any unpleasantness caused by not playing.

So I have gone through withdrawal before, i.e., withdrawing from sites and leaving them. It sounds as though at the moment there is some uncertainty regarding how the withdrawal process ultimately will go with Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. We’ll see how all that goes. And like many others, I’ve experienced other sites withdrawing from the U.S., too.

But as far as not being able to play is presently concerned, I’m not “going through withdrawal” in terms of feeling any particular symptoms or pains or what have you. Perhaps I will eventually, though I know already that if (or rather, when) my poker-related writing opportunities dwindle, I’ll be feeling that a lot more acutely than any unpleasantness caused by not playing.

Still, there was a little melancholy associated with that last session I played. I sat down for a few hands of the 10-game mix on Full Tilt over the weekend while still in Peru, mainly just to see if I could. After an hour or so, the game dwindled down to just two of us, and when my opponent sat out I decided I would be signing off, too.

“wait until more players,” typed my opponent just a moment before I clicked the button to “sit out next hand.” I sat a little longer, then thought I’d say something back before closing up.

“have to go, time for bed,” I typed. Then, after a moment, I added “gg.”

“ok gg,” came the reply. And the game was over.

And I was asked if I was sure I wanted to leave my seat. And I clicked yes.

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Blogger Sean G said...

According to P5s, we should be able to facilitate our withdrawals very soon. Much better than the year I'd been planning to wait.

I imagine there will be some clause in the agreement where the government will monitor withdrawals, so most of us will have to learn how the whole gambling income tax thing works next spring. Still, at least we'll have the money, and there's plenty of live poker here in Portland.

4/20/2011 5:36 PM  

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