Revisiting Black Friday with Jon Aguiar and Devin Porter

Aguiar still plays professionally while Porter hasn't played a hand in nine months

When news of Black Friday first broke last year, players were hit with a glut of emotions. The news was shocking, depressing, and, most importantly, life-changing. The morning after Black Friday, BLUFF spoke with several players who were not sure what to do and how to proceed. A year later, their lives look a lot different than they did 365 days ago. For Jon Aguiar, the past year has brought him a new home, less time to relax and visit family and friends, and new citizenship, but poker is still his livelihood. For Devin Porter, Black Friday meant he had to find a new way to support his wife, Haley, and son, Mason, in Utah and it meant he would go nine months without playing a hand of poker after going eight years playing poker every single day.

Porter’s story struck a chord with readers when we presented it last April, because it was the kind of story that so many recreational players with families and jobs could relate to. Porter lived in Utah with his wife, Hayley, and son, Mason, where they were close to family and friends. Moving away was not an option, but Porter’s eight-year gap on his resume had him worried that job prospects were slim.

Porter did find his place in the work force though and it actually bears a strong resemblance to what he was doing beforehand. After a brief stint working for a law firm, Porter’s friend offered him the chance to work from home as Project Manager for a web development company.

“I’ve got a lot of freedom with it,” Porter explains. “As long as I get the work done, I can work whenever. I’m at home with my laptop, so it is very similar to playing poker. It doesn’t pay as well. It’s not like poker, but it’s good. It is a lot less stressful. I know I’m going to get on the phone, talk with some clients, do some work, and get paid by the end of the day.”

It may not pay as well, but the job’s perks might have been just what Porter was looking for. “As much as I’m bitter about Black Friday, it is probably a blessing in disguise because now I’m not going to die of an ulcer or anything. I was going through a pretty bad downswing when it happened, so grateful isn’t the right word, but it’s not as bad of a thing in my particular case.”

While Porter’s situation initially seemed dire, it ended up working out well for him and put him in a lower stress situation. For Aguiar, things are arguably more stressful than they were this time last year. With online poker, he could travel wherever he wanted to, be it to play in events or to visit family.

“I used to spend a lot of time in Boston where I grew up, but there’s no longer an outlet for me to earn in those places like I used to,” says Aguiar. “Going home for a few weeks for the holidays used to be no big deal because I could just fire up my laptop and earn for a few hours whenever my family and friends were at work or sleeping.”

Now Aguiar has trouble justifying extended trips home not only because he can’t play, but because even when he is in his new home in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the games and tournaments are not paying like they used to. Yes, PokerStars has thrived in the year following Black Friday, but with only one major site running huge events, players like Aguiar are finding it more difficult to maximize their hourly rates. The growth of PokerStars post-Black Friday is something that surprised many, including Aguiar, who even jokingly suggested the Sunday Million might be the Sunday $5 Million five or six years down the road.

Both Aguiar and Porter played in the WSOP and waited until the end of the summer to make their major life changes. Porter got a job and Aguiar got out of the country, moving to Mexico with friend and fellow poker pro JC Alvarado. He also decided it was time to expand his options.

“I started spending more time outside the US and realized that maybe I don’t want to identify as an American anymore,” he admits. “I went and got my Portuguese citizenship so I could become a member of the EU and give myself some flexibility down the road. I certainly feel more prepared to be flexible with my life and adjust to whatever the next big even in the poker world is and what direction it sends things in.”

It is still unclear what the next big step may be, but some sort of regulated online poker seems like it will happen eventually. Aguiar is skeptical about the future. “My honest opinion is we are at least a few election cycles from online poker having a shot in the US.” He cites an aging Congress and a lack of term limits as reasons online poker won’t happen on a national level and has an equally skeptical view of the intrastate poker option. “part of the problem with running a poker site is reaching critical mass, a poker site in wyoming or rhode island or what have you isn’t going to get much momentum going, a state like california obviously would be able to sustain itself,” he suggests.

For Porter, neither inter nor intra-state online poker legislation is going to be much use to him. As a resident of Utah, the state that recently passed legislation specifically banning online gambling in the state even if it is regulated on a federal level, Porter would still have to pick up and move his family if he wanted to get back in the online grind.

While Utah’s actions didn’t surprise Porter, it was nonetheless disheartening to see his home state take away his freedom to decide whether to play online poker should it return to the States. Even though he doesn’t think he will return to the game full time again, the inability for him to choose one way or the other is still infuriating.

Going pro again isn’t likely for Porter, whose son is about to turn three. Instead, he envisions his poker future to be a lot like the type of person he and his friends used to think of as the marks in the game—wealthy businessmen who play poker as a hobby. Having not played a hand of poker since the WSOP last year, Porter knows he will be at a disadvantage if and when he plays any events at the Rio this summer, which, while an adjustment, might just work out alright for him.

“I fully anticipate playing this summer and not being nearly as good as I want to be, but when I think back on when I enjoyed poker the most, it was when I was a fish,” he reflects. ”Granted, everyone was too, but I had so much fun because I wasn’t always thinking about the game and thinking about my mistakes and my edges. I like the idea of me being more of a recreational player. I will still study the game and try to be good at it and not be a fish about it, but I don’t know if that’s even possible if you don’t play all the time.”

Aguiar has an even less clear idea of what his poker future holds. For now, the game is still his livelihood, but if Black Friday has taught him anything, it is the importance of being flexible and open to changes and new ventures in his life.

“Like a sailboat, I’m just going where the wind takes me. That’s one of the best things about poker.”

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