Alternate Past and Present if Pokerstars left after UIGEA
If Poker Stars had left the
United States market in 2006 along with many of the other major poker sites such as Party Poker and Paradise Poker after the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, online poker would look very different than it does today. Some of the biggest differences that players would notice are Poker Stars significantly smaller size, decreased competition in the United States market and even more problems for United States players after the events on Black Friday.
One of the biggest changes players would notice is lack of competition between the sites. Competition between poker sites is what kept rake low, forced poker sites to invest in having top of the line software and constantly be at the forefront of the industry. While there were many smaller sites still operating in the United States after the passing of UIEGA none were as big and held as large of a market share as Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker. Without Poker Stars in the United States market Full Tilt Poker most likely would have become the sole superpower in the online poker world. The lack of a second major poker site in the United States market would be bad news for players on every front. Customer service would most likely be even slower than before, new and exciting game formats such as rush poker, double or nothing tournaments and hyper turbo sit and goes would never exist and the lack of competition would allow the rake to increase, ultimately decreasing player profits.
Another big difference that poker players across the world would notice is the size and number of players on Poker Stars. One of the main reasons Poker Stars rapidly grew in size after the passing of UIGEA was that many players from the United States could no longer play on Party Poker and needed a new online poker site to call home so they naturally made the jump to Poker Stars. These new players from the United States also attracted other players from all over the world who wanted to with and against American poker players, making Poker Stars the biggest site on the planet. The money that Poker Stars made allowed them to aggressively advertise, sponsor players in live events and have the best support and bonus program in the industry. Without this influx of new players, and their rake, Poker Stars most likely would have become a mid sized poker site similar to 888 Poker or Party Poker.
Black Friday could have been an even bigger disaster if Poker Stars pulled out of the U.S. in 2006. On April 15, 2011, also known in the poker community as “Black Friday”, the Department of Justice froze the bank accounts of Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker as well as seized their .com domain names on allegations of UIGEA violations and bank fraud, forcing the sites to leave the U.S. market. Had Poker Stars left the market in 2006 many more players would have been playing only on Full Tilt Poker since it was the second biggest poker site in the United States after the passing of UIGEA. While Poker Stars quickly made a deal with the Department of Justice to repay its American players their owed balances Full Tilt Poker on the other hand has yet to repay a single player. To make matters worse, audits of the Full Tilt accounts have shown a large amount of money, well into the millions of dollars, is mysteriously missing from their bank accounts and that they would not be able to repay player balances even if they wanted to. While the average player has less than $100 dollars on Full Tilt there are many stories and rumours of top professional online players that play poker for a living have hundreds of thousands of dollars stuck in their Full Tilt accounts that they may never see again. With Poker Stars out of the U.S market even more poker players would have their entire online roll stuck on a defunct poker site that may never be able to repay its customers their money without outside help.
If Poker Stars had left the United States market in 2006 the poker environment would look very different than it does today. The decreased levels of competition, smaller player base on Poker Stars as well as the increase of problems for players after Black Friday would leave online poker in a dark place. Fortunately for poker players around the world Poker Stars elected to keep accepting players from the United States which in turn led to them becoming the biggest online poker site in the world.