I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I understand and appreciate the sentiment of making them, but I rarely stick to them, so I have just stopped. That doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t look forward to the year to come and that doesn’t mean I don’t have hopes and dreams for the future.
Aside from some of the obvious things, like the health of my family, I have one big wish for 2009: the return of the good, old days of online poker. Is it too much to ask for the United States government to get off our backs? I just want the regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement act blocked, or better yet, the UIGEA erased altogether. Even better still, legalize and regulate online poker in my country. I don’t mind any tax consequences that come from this, considering I always pay my taxes, anyway.
Man, online poker was awesome a few years ago. The days when Party Poker was the king of the hill. The days when it was fascinating that Chris Moneymaker turned a $39 online satellite tournament buy-in into a World Series of Poker Main Event championship. The days when new players were wary of online poker, not because of cheating scandals, but because they were simply afraid of the unknown.
The bonuses back then were amazing. As a casual micro-stakes player, I could build my bankroll in no time just by cycling through reload bonuses at various poker rooms. Party Poker had seven reload bonuses worth $800 in 2004 and ten reload bonuses worth $1,350 in 2005. And they were oh so easy to earn. All you had to do was play seven times the bonus in raked hands and you were done. Sometimes it would be five times. Even at low stakes, it was no problem – Party Poker had so many tables going that it only took a few hours. And then there was the one I did at The Gaming Club, a former Microgaming room. They had something like a no reload required bonus where for every 100 raked hands, you got $20, up to $300 or so. I sat in a hotel room on a business trip one night, and using a dial-up internet connection, opened up five tables of $.50/$1 Limit Hold’em on my laptop and made about $100 in bonuses alone before I went to sleep one night. And let’s not forget the free money that these rooms threw out before you even deposited anything. I got $10 for free from The Gaming Club just for signing up and I haven’t deposited a penny of my own money since.
But more than the bonuses, I just want there to be more competition in the States again. More quality options. No offense to PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, but it was so much more fun when sites and networks like CryptogLogic (Sun Poker), Golden Palace, iPoker (Titan Poker), Ongame (PokerRoom.com) and Party Poker were all players in the market. Each poker room had something about it that I liked, whether it was the software, special promotions, customer service, or even just the massive fish populations. If I was in a rut at one room, I could bounce to another. If I was jonesing for a tournament at a certain time, I could open up all my poker rooms until I found one I liked. I want the Wild West back. And if I can’t have the Wild West, at least let me have an open, regulated, competitive market. Competition breeds innovation, something that is good for consumers.
One might argue that if the U.S. opens up again, the players will get spread thin and the quality of games will suffer across the board. I suppose it’s a possibility, but I don’t remember there being problems a few years ago, and that’s when the overall population of online poker players was smaller. If all of the poker rooms are free to battle for customers, the weak rooms will eventually be weeded out. Rather than having just two major players in the U.S., we could have several. I’m not saying I was in love with Party Poker or anything back in the day (heck, for some reason, I had trouble winning there), but I would love to see the day where it can try to challenge the “Big Two’s” supremacy in America once again. Not because I want them to knock off Stars and Tilt, but because it would be a sign that online poker is back on the right track.

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