The biggest news story of the decade so far in the online poker industry happened a little over a week ago, in a day that has been called “Black Friday” ever since. On that day, American authorities conducted a nationwide investigation on some of the world’s most respected and most famous online poker sites out there. One of them was, incidentally, the largest online poker room out there, and the pokerstars USA site shut down left tens of thousands of American players without access to their favorite poker venue.
Early on Friday, reports started coming in from disappointed users who claimed they couldn’t access the main page of the Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker or Absolute Poker online poker sites. Instead of the usual webpage, there was a single message from the FBI, claiming that the domain names had been seized, due to illegal activities carried on by the heads of the companies. The news that full tilt closes to usa players, as well as all the other online poker sites involved, came as a complete shock, and people didn’t know what to think initially.
The truth, as it turned out, was that not only were the companies under investigation, but no less than eleven key members of the Absolute Poker network (this includes the UB poker room), Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker were being indicted, and serious charges were brought against them, making each of these people face up to 30 years in the United States federal prisons, as well as a million dollars in fines – these fines were just the tip of the iceberg, with a reported sum of up to 3 billion dollars being seized from the companies in question, too.
It seems that all of Friday’s investigation can be traced back to one man, Daniel Tzvetkoff, an Australian internet “wizard” who was arrested exactly one year before the events of Black Friday unfolded. He was picked up by authorities while on his way to a gambling convention in Las Vegas, and, when faced with a potential jail time of no less than 75 years, Tzvetkoff decided to cooperate with the authorities, and after a year of investigating it all came down to the arrests and indictments of Black Friday.
So what does it all mean to you, as an online poker player? If you’re outside of the United States, it means that you will probably not play with your friends that are in that country, at least not on the four online poker sites in question. If you’re in the States yourself, and especially if you have been making a living out of playing poker, the situation is a bit more delicate, as it means that, until the current legislative environment is to change, you will probably not be able to play on these sites any longer. However, all of the companies involved have assured their players that their funds won’t be lost, and they’ll do their best to give refunds.