One of the big questions people are asking in the wake of Black Friday concerns the future of popular online poker sites Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Both companies have shut their doors to players from the US, and both are facing very real questions about their respective futures.
This state of affairs has many players from outisde of the US considering whether or not they should continue to play at these rooms. On one hand, they both remain major rooms with lots of games, tons of tournaments and ample promotions; on the other, they both seem far less stable than they did before the events of Black Friday.
We’re certainly not in the position to say one way or the other what the future of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars will be. Both rooms have very strong non-US profiles (in fact, much stronger than many analysts predicted). Both remain quite strong in terms of liquidity, and both are claiming they will be able to handle cashouts (although processing speed seems severely delayed as they no doubt deal with a rush of requests).
That covers the present, more or less, leading to a conclusion that both rooms are going to fight to maintain their position in the industry for the time being, digesting the ultimate impact of the indictments at the same time as running the continuing day-to-day of what is a very complex and competitive business. What it doesn’t answer, however, is questions about the future of the companies. Can they maintain their position while devoting serious resources to the legal battle that lies ahead? Will this legal ensnarement in the US threaten existing deals with regulators in other markets, or cloud the prospects of each company to enter new markets as the emerge?
As both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars are private companies, it’s next to impossible to really estimate their current financial position. One can imagine that they have both been stockpiling a legal fund for some time, but that’s how a company would ideally run and not necessarily how companies actually run. Both do seem quite profitable, but both have also accumulated substantial overhead and neither are likely to have extensive in-house resources for fighting a battle with the DoJ.
It’s a dark day for the online poker industry when a company like FullTilt shuts down and the FBI shuts down PokerStars, as it highlights an uncomfortable set of truths regarding the long-term stability and security of a massive global industry.