It wasn't until her third year of law school that she found the time to dive in. She started with $25 in her account and played the penny tables, slowly learning the game. She was thrilled by the competition and the mental challenge.

"The thing about living in a very, very small town is you get bored pretty quickly," says Peng. "Since I didn't have much of a social life in that little town, I was able to play a lot of poker in that six months. By the time graduation came I was supposed to be studying for the bar and that good stuff, but I was so wrapped up in poker, that was kind of what took over my life. On top of everything else, the legal market had sort of crashed at this point."

She found a job working with a divorce attorney in Chicago but discovered she didn't have much stomach for it. Then she failed the bar. It was something of an omen.

"I was able to take a step back and really reexamine my life. Around that time poker was going really well for me. I had my first five-figure month, and I just really started reevaluating, thinking maybe this is what I was meant to do."

She made $40,000 that first year. By 2010, she was pulling in six figures.

When Black Friday hit, Peng was one of the top money makers on Ultimate Bet, with $30,000 in her account. She'd also just won $12,000 in a Full Tilt tournament. All told, she saw $80,000 frozen in the crackdown.

Peng was better situated than most to weather the storm. She and her boyfriend — who also plays — moved to Windsor, Ontario. The Canadian town sits just across the river from Detroit, allowing her to play online while still traveling to live tournaments here and abroad.

Nearly a year after the feds froze her money, Peng, who planned to use it to start a used jewelry business on eBay, still hasn't seen a penny of it.


Within a month of the federal crackdown, PokerStars returned $100 million to U.S. players and continued to operate abroad.

Full Tilt was cleared to offer returns but never did, since it doesn't have the money. It owes $150 million to American players alone. In September, just as they'd done in the spring, the feds accused owners Howard Lederer and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson of running a "global Ponzi scheme."

"Banks fail for not having sufficient revenue to cover customer deposits all the time," the company's lawyer, Jeff Ifrah, said at the time. "No one refers to such failures as Ponzi schemes. And there was no Ponzi scheme here." The court battle rages on.

This fall, the French company Groupe Bernard Tapie stepped in to buy Full Tilt for $80 million, promising to pay off debts to international players. The feds have assumed responsibility for paying American players. They've announced no timetable for repayment.

Absolute Poker — originally formed by four frat brothers at the University of Montana — wasn't liquid enough to continue either. None of its players has been reimbursed.

In December, Absolute Poker co-owner Brent Beckley pleaded guilty to lying to banks about the nature of his transactions. He's expected to receive twelve to eighteen months in jail.

His accomplice, Ira Rubin, ran a payment processing company in Costa Rica that disguised gambling proceeds through fake merchants and suppliers. He pleaded guilty in January and is expected to receive up to two years.

Rumors have been circulating that Absolute Poker will repay players soon, though payoffs might be as little as 25 cents on the dollar.

"If you had a federally or state-regulated system, that wouldn't happen," says Texas congressman Joe Barton. He's also pushing a law to legalize online poker. "This is one of those rare congressional bills that's not a Republican-Democrat issue. There are people for it and against it on both sides, but there are much more people for it. If it came up on the floor of the Senate on a majority vote wins, it would pass. Whether it has 60 votes, I just can't tell you."

The general sentiment, from players to politicians, is that something will get done... eventually.

In the meantime, poker has gathered some powerful advocates. Casinos that once guarded their turf are hoping to get in on the online action. They're pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get something done, but the prospect of new revenue sources is anathema to many Republicans. They squashed Reid's attempt to pass online poker regulation in 2010.

It may come down to the states legalizing it within their borders (much like medical marijuana) and daring the feds to step in. Nevada has already begun issuing online gambling licenses. Washington, D.C., passed a plan for running its own online poker site. And in December, the Justice Department reversed its long-standing view that the 1961 Wire Act banned online gaming, a move many experts see as opening the door to state-regulated poker.

Yet for the moment, the future remains cloudy. Maybe one day players will again be able to provide for their families. Until then, they're just out of luck.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
Terrycart
Terrycart

This is also a main proof for the fact that more people are becoming bored of the real life. They seek to relax in this way.

Gail S.
Gail S.

Great information. Thank you for shedding light on this story! I'm glad you are providing information on the tragedy that was our Black Friday. It is well past time to license and regulate this industry in the US. Most of the world is able to play this game of skill and strategy online and Americans, of all people, should be free to play as well.

Sheryl J
Sheryl J

- Thanks for this informative article about online poker and what the government did to it. An entire industry was destroyed last year. This is the first article that really illustrates the situation. We need federal legislation that licenses and regulates online poker in the U.S. and brings back an industry. -

anon guest
anon guest

As someone who played on PokerStars, I can tell you I got every dime I was owed when Black Friday happened, PokerStars was very open and up front and my account was paid out in a timely manner, so no complaints about that. It's a total shame that the U.S poker industry has come right out and said "tax us and regulate us", and yet the government can't seem to figure out a way to allow law-abiding U.S citizens a way to enjoy a favorite pasttime. Seems to me that the moral police are behind this.

Slaps
Slaps

I thought I was hearig that they were going to put in new legislation to make it legal.... I think some people use other poker sites in the USA to gamble like BODOG...I personally use betanysports.com for all my sports betting.

KITTY
KITTY

This is another example of the feds having their heads up their asses. Just like prostitution and drugs, gambling has been with us for eons and will never go away. The feds should legalize all these things and tax the revenues of each. Our debt problems would be solved in short order. As a person who is hooked on Texas Hold'Em, I wish I could play for real money instead of chips on AOL. People who watch the World Series of Poker know that some American poker pros maintain other residences in Canada so they can play online legally, raking in lots of big bux. Hmm, more good paying jobs leaving the USA....

 
St. Louis Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...