Saturday, April 23, 2011

The End, And Everything After That

Pictured: New poker sites rushing to fill the Stars/Tilt void.
There's a sort of horror/action movie trope that has been gaining in popularity over the last decade or so; you've probably seen it once or twice. It's the new signifier of Ultimate Baddassery or of Damn You Just Got Pwned -- sometimes both.

It's known as the Cut/Slide.

It works like this:  The hapless victim finds him/herself in the line of fire of The Thin Sharp Impossibly Fast-Moving Thing, which may be a sword, or a grid, or a laser, or whatever.  It whips past them . . . they stare in frozen shock and fear . . . and, after long seconds pass, the victim slides away in little itty bits, or discrete chunks, or whatever sort of pieces the Thin Sharp Impossibly Fast-Moving Thing cut them into.  The idea is that they died so instantly, so perfectly, that we the audience have to wait to get the news.

(Do a YouTube search on Cut/Slide if you want some examples.  Just realize that it is in no way for the squeamish.)

Why do I bring this up? Because the UIGEA is the Thin Sharp Impossibly Fast-Moving Thing, perfectly honed not to be enforceable in itself, but to create an environment that made serious enforcement possible and necessary. We, the players, are the audience. And late 2006 through mid-2011?  That's the time it took for us to realize the facts.

Online Poker in the USA died about four years ago.  The chunks just hit the floor.

The three US-facing majors just dropped to the floor in discrete little bits. And so what if something else rushes in to fill the void? They'll face the same problems when it comes to the flow of money. Are they going to succeed where Stars and Tilt failed, or are they going to become even shadier shades of shady?

Poker is done.

Game over, man.

"The DOJ's stinking DA froze my assets, and thank you SO
much for bringing up such a painful topic. While you're at
it, why don't you deal me a nice 1-outer and then laugh in my
face? WE'RE CLOSED."
That's one way of looking at it, of course.  For the last week, there have been many bloggers out there bringing us excellent and realistic analysis of what it all means (special hat tip to Bill Rini, Grange, and CK).  They're pretty much spot on, I think.  The issue isn't really the legality of poker, it's the far more serious charges, levied against Stars and Tilt (and Cerus), of money laundering and bank fraud.  It doesn't really matter if poker is a skill game or if playing it isn't technically illegal, or the fact that it is total nonsense for our government to propagate a foolish prohibition on a card game, or any of a dozen other things that I agree with.  It's about meticulously detailed charges of bank fraud and money laundering. That's not good.

(They aren't guilty, by the way.  I say this not because I am a legal expert, or even knowledgeable about the case. I say this because the last time I checked people were guilty until proven innocent innocent until proven guilty (I am obviously stupid until proven smart, and should not write at 1:00 AM any more, TY Cardgrrl), and for all the pause the DOJ's obvious confidence in making a conviction may give us, we'd do well to remember that.  So, for now, let's remember that all parties are innocent until proven so otherwise.)

Poker is Dead®.

Or is it? I find it hard to believe that Cake and Bodog and the other skins aren't going to see enormous growth. Interestingly, this story has seen a lot of traction in the mainstream media, certainly more than I remember from the passage of UIGEA, and most of it is favorable to the poker player side of things. There actually seem to be movements toward regulation.

So, good. Poker is not dead, but only Mostly Dead. Mostly dead, as we know, is still partly alive.  But it's going to take a miracle to bring it back. Or maybe true love. Perhaps both.

In truth, we just have to wait for the third act of the movie.  The hero always comes back to life in the third act.

So we wait. Cool our heels. Months? One year? Two? Three? More?

I can't imagine the stress of my online buds who are working in poker media, or whose income depends in whole or in part on the US online poker market. I made a lot of jokes on Twitter last Friday, because that's what I do in pretty much all circumstances, but my heart bleeds for them.

For them, months or years doesn't matter. For us, it will be a total reset button. Many of us won't return.

Where do we go from here?


I don't know about all of you, but I'm cashing out (when I am able).  I'm using the money to take my lady-wife on a cruise, which is something she's always wanted to do.  I'm deliciously happy that my dumb little hobby and her indulgence of me in it are allowing us a week's enjoyment in the Caribbean (or somewhere thereabouts).

I am going to take all that poker time and I'm going to do something with it that I should have been doing for a while now. Blogging won't tail off entirely, but I suspect it will etiolate significantly, or at least I hope it will, and for the right reasons.

My main concern is that these few, these lucky few, this band of bloggers, already so dispersed by long familiarity with poker, with Twitter and Facebook and with other online distractions, will disperse and fade away like a mist in sunshine.  Five years ago, I signed onto my first tournament on Stars -- the 2nd ever Wheatie. Four years ago, I started this blog and started playing BBT tournies. In that time, I've formed real and valuable relationships online, a fact that isn't less true despite its obvious strangeness. It would be a shame to see that all evaporate without the shared communal experience.  So hey -- and I do mean this -- don't be strangers.  Stay on the RSS feed. Hit me up on the IM, or the comments, or wherever.

PokerStars and Full Tilt are gone, really gone. Whatever may come afterward, we'll probably not see their like again. It's hard to imagine having anything like the level of dedication and attention that we saw from those two. The idea that they suddenly aren't there is occasionally baffling to me. After all this time, they'd become part of the furniture. It's not quite a phantom limb, but it's something of that kind. Maybe its like having your head shaved. Though eventually you have hope it will grow back, you keep forgetting you don't have hair. You keep raising your hand to your scalp to find the stubble.

Someday, something will grow back.  I'll probably be around to check it out.

Be excellent to each other.


NT (aka Cardgrrl) said...

"the last time I checked people were guilty until proven innocent"

The other way 'round, mobbed?

NT again said...

"all parties are innocent until proven so"

Perhaps "until proven otherwise."

Or am I missing sarcasm?

Grange95 said...

If we only had a hand cart, that would be something. And a holocaust cloak.

NT (shut up already!) said...

*mebbe, not "mobbed" :P

BLAARGH! said...

Dude, I REALLY hope you keep up with your blog. The truth is, you became a non-poker blog a long time ago, no reason to stop now. I seriously doubt those of us that are already subscribed will go away.
Anyway - I've personally enjoyed every minute of it, if it does stop, thank you. If you keep going, thank you even more :)
xxxooo - BLAARGH!

Josie said...

"...gossamer teardrops"
Dude, you combine words like Michelangelo combined images.