Hope the new President will open up the US market
It’s been a tough decade for online poker in the United States but there is a glimmer of light on the horizon for Americans looking to join the rest of the world playing online. With a tumultuous Trump presidency that hardened restrictions on online gambling (and poker) coming to an end, many are optimistic that Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday will herald a new boom in American poker.
The game of poker was developed in the 19th century in the United States and while the casual home game became of a staple of any bachelor party or guy’s night, tournaments and the bigger cash games were always considered the domain of the pros – or super-wealthy. All that changed when Chris Moneymaker took down the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003. Qualifying online through a $86 satellite tournament online at PokerStars, it showed that on any given day, even a regular player has a chance to beat the pros. The online poker boom in American had begun.
During the early 2000s, US players dominated the online world taking full advantage of the Moneymaker effect in bringing new players to poker. Bryn Kenney and Justin Bonomo – first and second place in all-time tournament winnings at $55 million and $49 million – got their start during this era. New poker sites were opening up each month and one of the biggest was Full Tilt Poker – their roster of pros was a who’s who of the poker world including Chris Ferguson, Phil Ivey, and Jennifer Harman. There didn’t seem to be an end to the constant flow of money around the tables and college students were becoming millionaires overnight from the comfort of their dorm rooms.
From boom to bust – Black Friday hits the US
With all that money flowing around the online poker sites, the US government started to take notice and passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. Snuck in as part of a Safe Ports act to protect American shipping, its purpose was to prohibit gambling business from accepting payments on a bet or wager “unlawful under federal law”. Since it had an exception for skill games, the common belief was that poker was exempt from the new law and there was little impact to the poker community until April 15, 2011.
In a day that would be dubbed, “Black Friday”, the United States filed suit against PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Ultimate Bet seeking nearly $3 billion in damages. Instantly, the three largest sites shuttered their doors to US players and online poker entered the dark ages in America. Many poker professionals moved to Canada or other poker friendly countries but for the recreational player, the options were limited. Europe, Canada and other places around the globe had access to a round the clock schedule of tournaments and cash games but for Americans – finding a game was half the issue.
Winning Poker Network deals up online action
One poker network has managed to survive tougher regulation and continued to serve the American market since Black Friday. The Winning Poker Network (WPN) celebrates 20 years in online poker this year and throughout that time has become a go-to destination for American poker players as many others shuttered their doors.
As the flagship site of WPN, America’s Cardroom grew significantly after Black Friday acquiring the customer base of Doyle’s Room – the poker site of long-time poker legend Doyle Brunson. Since then, they’ve built up a tournament schedule ideal for those playing on weeknights or weekends in the American time zones with their regular Venom Series offering multi-million-dollar guarantee tournaments.
Not looking to spend hours grinding through a field of poker players? Jackpot poker allows players to win up to $10,000 by beating a three-person hyper Sit & Go. With cash games at multiple levels, smaller tournaments launching every 15 minutes, and other poker skins to choose from such as Black Chip Poker and PokerKing, online poker is alive and thriving in the United States.
Another unique benefit of playing on WPN is their industry leading payout speeds and cash out options. Since many American players are worried about holding large sums of money in online wallets after Black Friday, WPN offers players the option to withdraw funds in Bitcoin – allowing poker players to securely handle their funds online and possibly take advantage of a soaring cryptocurrency to magnify those winnings.
The future of online poker in America
Gradually as poker continues to grow around the world – and European Union governments in particular look at ways to tax the profits – American states are taking notice. Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already legalized poker at a state level. Many more are on the path to follow with just last week the state of Indiana putting forward a bill to legalize online poker in the Hoosier State. In the supporting documents to the bill, it’s predicted that opening up online gambling would generate $65 to $80 million in new revenues for the state.
With all the potential money on the table, and other markets and governments tapping into those funds, it’s a wonder the United States hasn’t softened their regulations earlier. One reason for that though was the influence of powerful casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. The owner of Las Vegas Sands, one of the world’s largest brick and mortar casino companies, was one of the largest donors to Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign and the Republican party. As the owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal as well, he used his money and media power to ensure the lockdown on online gambling continued.
Adelson though passed away on January 11, 2021 and with Biden taking over the Oval Office, there’s a growing sense of optimism that the country that brought Texas Hold’em Poker to the world, could finally rejoin the global playing pool. Until then, players from the land of the Stars and Stripes will have to content themselves with the action available on America’s Cardroom – a great opportunity though to hone their skills for when the rest of the world becomes available to them.