When the Black Friday indictments hit, the online poker world went into an utter frenzy. Play funds were frozen on Full Tilt, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, and Ultimatebet. Some players have their entire bankroll locked up online and others are unable to pay their bills due to their accounts being frozen. For the most part, sites covering this issue have focused on pros and online grinders that make a living playing the game online. But what about the little guy? What about the recreational players who now cannot play at these sites?
Regardless of what many sites will have you believe, it is the little guys that fuel these online poker sites and give the pros and grinders an income stream. The players that deposit $50 to $100 at a time and regularly donate to the games are the ones that feed our poker economy. These are really the guys that we should be focusing our attention to. What happens with these guys now?
Some of these players will try and find a way to play on sites such as Lock Poker or Bodog. Unfortunately, the events of recent days are going to drive many of these same players away from the game. They are going to be fearful that the DOJ is going to come down on the sites that currently service US players. These players will say to themselves “Why risk having more money frozen on another site?”
At the same time, for many of these players, that $50, $100, or $200 locked up online represents their entire poker bankroll. These players are truly playing for fun and cannot afford to reload, or at least not for a while. For all intents and purposes, their online poker players days are done until their get their money back. Good luck in getting many of them to join with another site.
While it is true that sites still servicing the United States have seen dramatic growth in recent weeks, the numbers are still nowhere near the number of players currently locked out of Full Tilt, etc. Live casinos are assuming that these players will start to filter over to their tables. In areas that players can reasonably drive to a casino, this may happen. The problem is that for many players, $50 or $100 is all that they can afford to play with. Unless you play low stakes limit Hold’em, that equates to about one reasonable buy-in for NL Hold’em. If they blow through that, they are done. As such, casual player traffic may pick up, but how much money it will bring to the table will be minimal in many cases.
I realize the outlook I paint here is somewhat grim regarding casual players. You need to realize that many casual players are going to react based on fear of losing their money or even getting in trouble with the DOJ. It does not matter how much we sit here and debate politics, the fact remains that online poker is being prosecuted by the US government. When it comes down to fight or flight for many people, they will choose flight. That keeps them out of trouble, and unfortunately for poker, out of the game.