The Morning After: Players Speak on the Online Poker Shutdown

Aguiar's plan is to spend a lot more time at the live tables
Aguiar's plan is to spend a lot more time at the live tables

It’s only been 24 hours since the news broke that online poker as we know it in the United States is over, but the impact the news has made on the poker community is already far-reaching. Players instantly took to Twitter to joke about being unemployed, numerous poker fans contacted their local Senators urging them to regulate the game, and many full time grinders were left wondering: What does this all mean for my bottom line?

Not all that much has changed for poker pro Jon Aguiar. An online pro since 2004, Aguiar currently divides his time between online poker and the high stakes tournament circuit. Now that online is not an option, he says he is just going to focus on playing live tournaments and cash games.

“I got a few secret places [to play live]. There will be home games popping up everywhere. There will be places to make money playing poker,” Aguiar told BLUFF. “I’m not going to make any drastic moves to other countries.”

WPT title holder McLean Karr is considering such a drastic option. Like most other US players, Karr is waiting to see how things play out before uprooting from his current home in Manhattan, but spending a couple of years elsewhere is an option on the table. Karr told BLUFF Canada, Europe, and Costa Rica are all options, but he doesn’t want to leave the States for more than a year or two. Online poker pro Nick Rainey also expects he will leave the country in order to continue grinding online. He is one of a number of players considering Vancouver as their new home.

High stakes pros and young 21 year-old grinders may have a multitude of options before them, but others don’t really have any options at all. Devin Porter is a 27 year-old poker pro from Utah who actually converted from being a live pro to an online grinder so he could stay home and spend more time with his wife and two-year old son. For six years, he has paid his bills, supported his family, and played full time. Now, he doesn’t see much of a way he can continue living the life he’s made for himself.

“I’m kind of just waiting for things to settle down and for things to come to light since it’s just chaos right now. I texted some real world friends and kind of asked tongue-in-cheek if their jobs were hiring,” Porter explains. “It affects me pretty big. I don’t really have options. I live in Utah and it’s not that far of a drive to Vegas, but I’m not going to drive there every weekend and I am not going to move my family. I’m kind of up in the air. If this is pretty long-term, I’m kind of out of the game for a while. It’s pretty depressing.”

With poker outside of the WSOP ruled out as an option, Porter is already seriously considering getting a “real world” job, but even that might prove difficult. With no college education and no work experience, Porter realizes he is at a big disadvantage in today’s tough job market.

“It’s obviously a good thing that I’ve been able to work for myself for six years, but I can’t really go into an interview and use my ability to four-bet bluff to get a job,” Porter jokes. “I’ve got no choice but to choose between a real job and live poker. I don’t really have any job experience. I did have a job before poker for four or five years, but it’s not something I want to go back to. I’ve got pretty much no college education. I’ve got no degree, no job skills, and a six-year gap on my resume because I’ve been playing professionally since 2005. It’s hard enough to get a job right now when you’ve got experience and a good resume and I’ve got pretty much nothing. I don’t mean to pity party and it is my own fault for not having a back-up plan.”

Porter also has his doubts that any poker sites that emerge in the wake of the seizures will even be worth his time. “The people who are good at poker are going to find a way to play online whether it is masking their IP or moving to another country, but the fish are going to be gone. The only people they are going to find there are the regulars coin-flipping for variance and it is not going to be profitable.”

Rainey disagrees and thinks that many of the grinders, especially those who made their living off of rakeback, will likely just walk away from the game following the shutdown. “The games should get a lot softer because a lot of the guys who are decent won’t make the effort to keep playing,” Rainey suggests.

Aguiar, Porter and others willingly admitted that they probably should have seen this coming and planned accordingly, but Aguiar seems to already be at peace with the fact that, for now at least, there isn’t much he can do.

“We already went through this once in October of 2006. That was more shocking than this for some reason, because this is what we thought was going to happen with that, it’s just been delayed. It’s been a good run,” says Aguiar. When asked if he’ll look back on this day five years from now and see it as the beginning of the end, he was quick to respond.

“No, five years from now I’ll be playing on HarrahsPoker.com. “

No one is sure whether brick and mortar casinos will step in and launch poker rooms in the Big Three’s absence, but that is one of the prevailing rumors keeping players going along with the suggestion that regulated online poker is on the horizon.

Players may already be looking ahead to the days when they can make money playing online again, but the problem of how they are going to get by still remains. One thing that may keep them from paying bills is the inability to cashout. Several players reported via the forums and Twitter that their cashouts were approved and cash was deposited into their bank accounts, but many others report their requests were denied. It is believed that some of the bigger players and backers online have six and seven-figure sums stuck in their poker accounts with no idea of when or if they will ever get that money back.

Aguiar is one of a number of players who isn’t overly concerned about cashouts, believing the current situation will play out much like the seizure of Neteller did back in 2007. If that is the case, money will be inaccessible for a while, but eventually, all of the players with money on Neteller did get their money back.

When Full Tilt Poker released its statement that it was withdrawing from the US market, it did tell players it was still accepting cashout requests, however as of 2PM ET today, the site says it is temporarily restricting US customers from cashing out.

Players stand to lose more than just money thanks to poker’s Black Friday. Players like Rainey and other high volume grinders earn bonuses and cash thanks to the site’s VIP programs, but with US players shut out, it seems like player points might be one of the casualties of the seizure.

“Those points are the same as money,” Rainey explains. “That guy, WizardofAhhs, who recently became a Team Online Pro had 9 million FPPs in his account. [You can buy] three Porsches [from PokerStars’ online store], so they’re worth almost $200,000.”

Rainey was on track to make PokerStars’ highest VIP ranking this year, SuperNova Elite, but now he has cleaned out his account just in case his funds won’t be accessible later. His points remain online though and he genuinely doesn’t know what will come of them. According to Rainey, FPPs have an exchange rate of around .016 cents per point

“It’s one of the questions i have been wondering and no one is discussing yet. I have confidence that Stars will do their best to take care of players.  They don’t always do everything the way I like, but they do a great job overall.”

For now, it seems like most regular players on the sites remain confident that the rooms will do everything in their power to do right by their customers. What they are much less confident about is the future of online poker in the United States and what they are going to do to pass the time come Sunday.

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