Saturday, October 07, 2006

Legal Issues

There has been extensive discussion in the last few days about how the possible changes in US laws will effect poker players in the US. I can fully relate to how terribly frustrating it must be to consider the fact that you may not be able to play poker online anymore. The majority of the people I play poker with and lots of the community at ITH are American, which means the game I love to play will probably be a completely different one if/when the sites I play at decide to start banning US players.

This has already happened at one of the sites I play at, but hasn't had any massive effect. I think it's possible there are less bonus chasers at William Hill now, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. However my main poker education is taking place at pokerstars at the moment, and although they haven't come out with a definitive statement either way at the moment, I think it's likely that they will have to go along the same lines as party and restrict US players. This would have a massive effect on the traffic the site experiences. I often play at times when there are upwards of 80,000 players online and if you assume 80% of the players are based in the US, you can expect that number to drop to around 16,000. You would also probably have to expect a further fallout of players due to their normal games not being available due to lack of players, or not being as profitable as games they may be able to find elsewhere. There are of course differences between Party and Stars, Stars is a private firm and has nearly always been a step ahead of the game. I don't expect that they'll give in as easily as Party have, but any company willing to release a statement that knocks a few Billion Dollars of it's share value doesn't do so lightly.

There is talk that they are cooperating for the time being because they may be trying to get on the good side of the law to enable them to take advantage of some long shot loophole at a later stage. I think this is certainly a possibility, I still find it so hard to believe that any company would simply roll over and say 'Well we can't do that anymore, never mind'. There is also speculation that they will be focusing their attentions on the Asian market as a replacement, but why not fight for the US players and double your profits?

Some of my main attractions to online poker will be taken away if all this comes into effect. I won't be able to play in a $3 rebuy tournament with a 30k prizepool. The possibility of them offering a guaranteed WSOP main event seat in a $33 tournament wouldn't exist, and I wouldn't be able to waste a week trying to qualify for the Sunday million, because they simply couldn't offer such a large guaranteed prizepool without loosing a serious amount of money.

But I can't really complain. At least I can play at all. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't play online. I'd probably try to play more live poker, but it's just not the same. Something evil inside me likes the feeling of winning $1000 in a tournie at 3 am while sitting in my living room in my underwear. I would probably only be able to play once a fortnight with less players, no game variety and of course driving 30 minutes to get busted in the first hand is much more frustrating when you can't just open another game.

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