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Retrospective: A Year Since Poker’s Black Friday

/ Apr 30th, 2012 No Comments

WSOP 2011 Main Event

It’s been over a year since that fateful day now known as Black Friday ruined many lives for people that love the poker industry. It wasn’t just the United States players that felt the hit, it was everyone around the globe. As a few of you know, I used to work full time in the poker industry for a variety of sites, not to mention I pulled a pretty respectable part-time income from my favorite hobby. Now, a year later after voluntarily leaving the industry prior to Black Friday and then being forcibly cut off from the industry, I wanted to look back at the past year, where we’ve been and try to figure out where we go from here.

WSOP 2011 Main Event

WSOP 2011 Main Event

The timing of my leaving the poker industry was probably the best felt lucky one-outer I ever had in poker. While I throughly enjoyed my time in the industry, I wasn’t making the kind of money I should have been – a direct result of taking a job well beneath the skill set I have to offer. This isn’t something I place blame on any former employer, I took the job knowing well that it was a short term ride to have some fun and make a few bucks. About a out a year after taking a job in poker I decided to go back to project management for software development and scored an amazing job, one that I keep to this day. About a month before Black Friday was to hit (which I had no idea was about to hit), I secured a new job outside the poker industry and moved on in life. I really can’t believe how lucky I really was as Black Friday basically ended the employment of many in the industry and had I stayed in would have completely cut off all sources of my income.

I was glad to get out of the poker industry and many who wished me well told me off the record they were going to do the same. Online Poker was the Titanic and not the highest grossing movie of all time type of Titanic … No, no, the ship sinking into the ocean type of Titanic. The games were drying up, funds were hard to get on or off sites and the global economic slide killed the fun money people used to burn playing cards online. The days of sites paying decently to their affiliates was dwindling which meant less opportunities for people to make money in the industry.

What I had hoped just prior to Black Friday was for the industry to wake up, get agreements in place with various governments in the world and become the legal entity it should be. While that dream still exists our needs have become much more primal. For many of us, we’re still owed tons of money by the now defunct Full Tilt Poker. I never met Howard Lederer and given his precarious legal situation it looks like I never will, thankfully. While PokerStars stepped up and proved why they were always the best in class, others like Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet proved to all the naysayers that online poker was like they said all along, full of greedy crooks who really didn’t know how to manage a company nor cared about the people they did business with.

A Retrospective of the Poker Industry

A Retrospective of the Poker Industry

A little over a year has passed when poker effectively died online in the United States. Many of my good friends who played full time here have since relocated to Canada, the United Kingdom, Costs Rica and other foreign locations to continue to grind out a living. Other friends who played for a living decided to go back to college and pick up where they left off and finish their degrees. Me, I still play live and crush the small stakes games in San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. While I consider myself to be a good player and capable of competing in mid-stakes games, my regular career and need for peace of mind have led me to conclude that my life at this point is better off without the game that I really do truly love. I hope others have also been able to take a step back, realize just how crappy things were for the two year period leading up to Black Friday and improve their lives like I have. Poker in the right context is a great thing to have in your (or my) life. Poker in the wrong context … well … it was definitely not worth having.

While there is plenty of momentum for legalizing Online Poker here in the USA and we will mostly likely see it come to fruition in the next three years, I still wonder what the plan will be for me when it does happen. I enjoy my career too much to let it go, the money is good, the company I work for is great and I actually like going into an office and interacting with a great group of guys. But I also think how much money could be made if, say, online poker for real money was legal on Zynga on Facebook for example. It’d be a feeding frenzy! I guess the rounder in me would never let me willingly walk away forever from that kind of opportunity. But when that does happen, I am definitely putting a plan in place to balance my personal life, career and poker so that I have separation and happiness in my life.

Many publications continue to write articles about how close we are to legalization. Many also write about how close deals are for FTP funds to free up. After following this for a year, at this point, I’m just waiting for some good news. It’s all been talk and while the actions of the PPA have been admirable on paper, I guess my cynical side has taken ahold of my poker brain at this point and just wants to know when I’ll get any of my money back (if ever) and when the game will be back. The rest is just wishful thinking and empty rhetoric.

The point to all this is that while poker is basically dead online, it’s alive and well in casinos so I know that eventually, it’ll all come back. I hope other people who were making a living from the industry like me have taken this period as an opportunity. Now is the time to really get yourself situated, grounded and ready for whatever life has in store for rounders in the future. As I always liked to tell pros after an interview, while I don’t have the omnipotence to really grant you good luck, I will remind you to focus your energies on being your best and working towards good mental health.

Sean W. Gibson

Sean W. Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson has been the owner and Executive Editor of Gaming Illustrated for over eleven years. His roles include acting as CEO and President of Gaming Illustrated, LLC and also includes being a reviewer, previewer and interviewer. Sean's opinions on this site do not reflect those of his full-time employer.
Sean W. Gibson
Sean W. Gibson

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