Exactly ten years ago, the poker world went into shock. On this day, the top three US poker sites were shut down by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for illegal gambling, money laundering and bank fraud. The day that will forever be known as “Black Friday” was arguably the most devastating and costly day in poker history.
In 2011, online poker was booming. There were two extremely popular sites around the world: Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars. And then another big network of sites, the Cereus Poker Network, which owns Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Then there were some popular smaller sites like Doyle's Room, founded by poker legend Doyle Brunson.
Ten years later, PokerStars is the only poker site from this group still in existence. It remains the most popular place in the world to play poker. But PokerStars also has a troubled history and can count itself lucky that the events of April 15, 2011 did not put an end to the business.
What happened on that infamous day? Opoker gameforever changed, but not for the better. Worse still, thousands of US online poker players faced serious financial problems due to the Department of Justice shutdown.
Questionable Laws of American Poker
In 2011 there were no licensed and regulated poker sites in the United States. The reason for this is the Federal Wire Act of 1961. This law made it illegal to accept gambling payments over wired communications. This meant that poker sites could not legally accept payments, nor could banks accept gambling-related transactions. Internet poker sites that were active in the US at the time were acting illegally. Coincidentally though, the Wire Act would later pave the way for legal online poker (more on that later).
But that hasn't stopped the sites from accepting millions of US customers and promoting their poker sites across the country. Back then, few poker players were very concerned about the safety of their money. Online poker was booming, the games were easy and many made good money playing online card games. For some, it was the life of dreams. They didn't have to look for a job and could stay at home all day playing on the internet. Much more money than her friends, who had to work from 9 am to 5 pm.
All good things must come to an end
On April 15, 2011, the party was broken up by the police. Online poker players in the US received a rude message that day when they tried to log into their favorite poker site. The message stated that the DOJ had confiscated the site and that they could no longer access their accounts.
Key executives from the three main locations –PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet - were charged with bank fraud, illegal gambling and money laundering. Full Tilt is accused of operating under a Ponzi scheme. FTP pro Tom "durrrr" Dwan, arguably the best online poker player in the world at the time, appeared on Fox Business in 2011 and denied these claims.
To be clear, Dwan had nothing to do with the scandal. He had a financial interest in the poker site but was never charged or charged with a crime. However, two other popular poker professionals, Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, served as executives at Full Tilt. Even if they were never charged, their reputation will be damaged forever.
Where is our money?
When American gamers discovered the rude message on April 15, 2011, they had no idea what to expect. Most thought it would be short lived and soon they would be back online and releasing the games. But that was not the case.
Full Tilt has grown from the second most popular poker site in the world, after PokerStars, to public enemy number one of the poker community. When Black Friday came around, the site didn't have the cash to refund US players who were no longer eligible to play. But they had enough cash to send nearly $100 million in bonuses to Ferguson, Lederer and other executives. This made Ferguson and Lederer hate members of the poker community. Some, including Daniel Negreanu, have called for a permanent ban from all poker rooms.
PokerStars was the first major site to merge accounts for US players. This happened a few months after Black Friday. But Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker players had to wait for what seemed like forever. For some, this was a serious financial burden as they depended on this money to pay their bills.
forced to pay
Those who played on the Cereus Poker Network sites had to wait many years before they saw a penny. But Full Tilt players would finally get some positive news 16 months after Black Friday.
In the summer of 2012, PokerStars acquired the rights to the Full Tilt Poker website. As part of PokerStars' contract with the US Department of Justice, the company was required to refund all US FTP players by the end of the year.
But Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker players were still left in the dust. And they would continue to forego their money until 2017The US government has finally received a fund that can be made available to playersfrom the Cereus Poker Network. This chain was a poorly run internet gambling company that never bothered to refund players.
There are better days ahead
While Black Friday wreaked havoc on the poker community and changed the game forever, it sparked positive action from US lawmakers. In September 2011, the DOJ revised the Federal Wire Act and issued a new opinion on the law. They explained that the law should only apply to sports betting and not to other forms of internet gambling.
This paved the way for each state to determine the legality of online poker. But it's been a decade since Black Friday and only five states currently have legal, licensed poker sites in operation. Michigan was the last state to join that club earlier this year. On the positive side, that's five steps up from 2011. Small steps.
Frequently Asked Questions about Black Friday in Poker
What is Black Friday in poker?
Black Friday refers to April 15, 2011. When poker players in the United States signed up to play on their favorite sites (eg Full Tilt and PokerStars), they received a message from the Department of Justice on their screen . request notification to players that the domain has been seized. As a result, poker players were unable to play and, more importantly, affected sites were unable to process withdrawals.
What was the Full Tilt Poker scandal?
The Full Tilt poker scandal also refers to Black Friday or April 15, 2011. The reason it became a scandal after the Justice Department was shut down was that Full Tilt did not have sufficient reserve funds to pay players the money deposited and your bills back to pay. . PokerStars didn't have these problems.
Did Full Tilt Poker pay US players?
After the Black Friday scandal, Full Tilt entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice, allowing them to access their frozen bank accounts specifically to pay their players. However, most players soon reported that they had not been paid. As a result, the site was bought by PokerStars and in 2014 players started receiving compensation. Reportedly, approximately $114 million of the $160 million owed by Full Tilt was eventually paid.
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In the poker world, Black Friday refers to April 15th, 2011, when poker players throughout the United States woke up to this image on the front page of their favorite online poker sites. The sites could not process withdrawals because the DOJ had also seized their bank accounts.What day was Black Friday in poker? ›
After the indictment was unsealed on April 15, 2011, a date quickly dubbed Black Friday by the online poker community, PokerStars and Full Tilt stopped offering real money play to their United States customers.Is poker getting harder? ›
Looking at the evolution of poker through the lens of skill inflation, we can all agree that the games have gotten harder. Skill inflation, like economic inflation, keeps you poor if you don't upgrade your situation.How hard is online poker? ›
Online poker is harder compared to live poker. The natural setting of live poker allows you to feel the game more physically with the rules set in your mind differently compared to looking at a screen. Online players are more rapid due to the sheer number of hands they can play per hour compared to live.Did full tilt pay their players? ›
The real Full Tilt Poker died on Black Friday 2011 when it was shut down by US authorities. They failed to pay back US players for several years and were eventually bailed out when former competitor PokerStars acquired their assets.What is the biggest poker event in the world? ›
The 2023 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em main event is officially the largest ever held. With 10,043 total players, this year's world championship drew 1,270 more entries than the previous record turnout of 8,773 made in 2006, a 14.5-percent increase.What is the best day of the week to play poker? ›
it is advisable to play poker on saturday and sunday morning. because regular players play less often at this time of the week. they take the opportunity to rest after having had a party the day before. on the other hand we have more luck playing against fish who work all week and play at weekends.What is the dark term in poker? ›
What is Dark in Poker? An action taken before a player has looked at his/her cards or before the dealer has dealt the next street. Example: “John checked dark and Andy, who was next to act, went all-in in the dark, before the flop even came out.”What is a dark bet in poker? ›
To announce a bet on the next betting round before the card(s) for that round get dealt. The player announcing such a bet "in the dark" must be first to act on the coming round, and the announced bet is binding regardless of the card(s) dealt.Is poker really skill or luck? ›
Like all gambling games, luck does play a major role in poker, especially in the short term. Poker is different than any other form of gambling, however. Unlike the other games on a casino floor, poker is a game of skill, and the world's top pros make money because they're the best players in the game.
"If the question is, 'What percentage of people who play poker in casinos and/or online are winners?' , then the answer is probably somewhere around 5 percent, or even lower," he says. "A lot of people will try poker once in a casino without knowing how to play, and the vast majority will go home broke.Is poker mainly skill or luck? ›
Conclusion: Is Poker Based on Luck or Skill? The answer to whether poker is gambling or based on skill is that it's a little of both. In order to win a hand, a player will need some element of luck, but they'll also need to know exactly what to do with the cards and the situation in front of them.Can I make a living playing online poker? ›
If you've been winning lots of games and plan to make online poker more than just a hobby, you can absolutely do it! The potential for earning income from poker as a digital nomad is huge. One good run of form, and you can end up with enough money to sponsor your trips and cost of living for months.What is the average age of online poker players? ›
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You Can Have A Bigger Win Rate In Live Games But Make More Money Per Hour Online. Although live games are much softer, it doesn't mean that you will win more money by playing live instead of online. While your win-rate in terms of BB/100 will likely go up quite significantly, you'll play much fewer hands as well.What was the full tilt poker scandal? ›
Full Tilt Poker relied on new deposits from players to ensure its ability to fund withdrawals to players' accounts. Rather than protect player funds as promised, Full Tilt Poker distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to its owners.Why did PokerStars get shut down? ›
On April 15, 2011, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York seized and shut down Pokerstars.com and several of its competitors' sites, alleging that the sites were violating federal bank fraud and money laundering laws.What caused the poker boom? ›
However, the two biggest triggers came in 2003. World Poker Tour's first season was shown on the Travel Channel of American cable television and gave people a closer look at poker than they'd ever had before. This caused a massive increase in the number of people looking to learn how to play poker.Why did the big game poker end? ›
The program had a tie-in to the Pokerstars North American Poker Tour (NAPT), which was shut down by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York after the second season had been filmed in 2011. The PokerStars.net Big Game did not return after the second season.