The US online poker industry witnessed a poker boom in 2003, following ESPN’s extensive coverage of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), in which Chris Moneymaker, a 27-year-old accountant based in Nashville who qualified through PokerStars, turned out to be the champion. His spectacular poker success inspired a large number of US players to take poker seriously and pursue their dreams of acquiring poker wealth and fame.
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However, following the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recent indictment of 11 people associated with Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker, and the subsequent withdrawal of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars from the US online poker market, ESPN has removed PokerStars content and will no longer air any television advertisements from these 3 online poker sites. The three online US poker websites had invested a total of $27 million into TV advertisements during the previous year alone.
ESPN has cancelled temporarily the Onyx Cup, a high stakes and high buy-in live poker tournament series, sponsored by Full Tilt Poker. ESPN sources say that the first of the series was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas on May 11 – 12 and now stands cancelled because Full Tilt Poker has withdrawn its services from the US. However, Full Tilt Poker has made no official statements about the Onyx Cup and hasn’t even responded to queries regarding the same.
ESPN was also scheduled to broadcast episodes of the North American Poker Tour, sponsored by PokerStars, on Monday, but those episodes will most likely not be broadcast. ESPN’s official website no longer has the Inside Deal, also sponsored by PokerStars. Although ESPN has not uttered a word about it, the PokerStars-powered ESPN Poker Club is not available for download anymore. Simultaneously, an ESPN tweet on Twitter has made it quite clear that it will still cover the WSOP.
The ESPN – PokerStars break off is not surprising, and experts predict that TV poker shows will see a sharp decline with the withdrawal of Full Tilt and PokerStars from the US market because TV channels rely heavily on advertisements from these online poker providers.
Although the US law does not permit the prosecution of USA poker players associated with the seized sites, US poker players are worried especially because many of them had large sums of cash in their online poker accounts and intended to use them for the upcoming WSOP in Las Vegas. This year, the WSOP attendance is expected to drop precisely for this reason.

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