Poker Stars was indicted by the US DOJ on April 15th, 2011 in what is now known as Black Friday. At the time US poker players were a huge part of the Poker Stars business and had over $150 million dollars on the site. After the indictment Poker Stars managed to handle the situation extremely well, refunding all US players faster than any other site indicted AND continue to be the largest poker site worldwide. However since April 15th Poker Stars continues to no longer accept US players.
Poker Stars Timeline
Poker Stars continues to be “the class of indicted poker rooms” as they have paid all outstanding balances and have retained the trust of non-US poker players. Currently they are the largest room with over 5 times the amount of players as the second largest poker room, Party Poker.
May 24th, 2011: Bradley Franzen is first of 11 indicted individuals to plea guilty to charges. Franzen, 41 of Chicago, was involved in the processing of payments to Poker Stars.
May 16th, 2011: Poker Stars issues statement that they have returned $100 million to US poker players.
April 27th, 2011: US poker players reportedly start receiving withdrawals.
April 20th, 2011: Pokerstars.com back online: Non-US players can play while US poker players wait until they can withdraw funds.
April 15th, 2011: Poker Stars indicted by US DOJ, pokerstars.com website shutdown.
Top US Poker Rooms
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How are US Poker Players Impacted
Unlike the situation with Full Tilt poker or in some cases that of the Cereus Network, US poker players that had funds on Poker Stars at the time of the indictment aren’t out any money. In fact, Poker Stars was impressive in the way in which they handled the poker indictment as they showed came across as a serious and well run organization. They quickly arranged a deal with the US DOJ to have access to their domain, they blocked all US players from continuing to play poker and then they facilitated transferring the US poker player funds. Over the course of a couple months they were able to refund $150 million to USA poker players. This clearly showed that unlike Full Tilt, Poker Stars actually did hold players funds in a segregated account, which one would expect from such an organization.
The true impact on US poker players is that they no longer have access to the largest poker room in the world. For the professional poker player this is definitely a blow as Poker Stars provided the best access to high stake games and the ability to multi table and quickly find new games and loads of fish. The advertising done by Poker Stars attracted millions of newbie poker players who were ripe for the picking. With Poker Stars such down it can be expected that many of these fish poker players have given up online poker as they no longer want to jump through hoops in making deposits and withdrawals.
Why Indict Poker Stars
This is an interesting question and one that many in the online poker community have asked. With Poker Stars being the largest online poker room not only in the US, but worldwide it definitely made a statement. There have been many smaller stories over the years of the DOJ seizing bank accounts and funds from poker rooms, but they weren’t headline grabbing news. These indictments were different as they not only shook the online poker community, but also caught the attention of mainstream media. It showed the world that the US DOJ was serious about trying to enforce their laws with respect to online poker. One could write a novel on the hypocrisy of the poker indictment, but we’ll save that for another day (hint: think of all the ‘legal’ gambling establishments: Vegas, government lotteries, horse tracks etc and then ask why online poker is so naughty). Some have suggested that the day that online poker becomes regulated in the United States isn’t too far off and as such indicting such large companies and preventing Poker Stars from accepting US players was a necessary step. Whatever the reason, it definitely shook the online poker world; but definitely has not shut it down.
What Now for US Poker Players
Great question and for starters its something that each US poker player must ask ones self: “Am I comfortable playing online poker considering the current environment?”. We are not lawyers, nor do we pretend to be. It is obvious that the US DOJ has certain concerns about large online poker companies – how they feel about individual poker players is not entirely clear. We definitely suggest that you do not open your own poker company. As for US players choosing to play online poker, if you are comfortable playing there are still some good online poker rooms. However, keep in mind that moving money from an online poker room can be challenging for US players and as such, you may experience delays so be patient.
Good luck at the tables!