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In a day that has been referred to as Black Friday, the FBI seized the domains of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, blocking US poker players from playing at these hugely popular online poker sites. It now means that US online poker players who formerly enjoyed the hospitality of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars real money games must look elsewhere. Essentially, if you're looking to play for actual cash, green dollars, at Full Tilt or PokerStars and you live in the US, then you'll need to look elsewhere.
Although the Department of Justice (DOJ) blocked PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker from operating in the US, it doesn't mean that all the money you had locked up on those US online poker sites is lost. Indeed, the Rational Group (the owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt) made a promise to reimburse all US player balances.
The legal injunction by the US government may have shut these two online poker sites out of the market, but it doesn't mean they will never re-enter the USA’s borders. Despite Full Tilt and PokerStars being unavailable to US poker players in 2015, the Rational Group is now lobbying politicians and gaming officials in order to join the recently legalized states in the US.
With the two largest USA online poker sites shut down and access closed to US players, does it mean you're out of options? No. While PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker US players are only allowed to play for play money, a number of other poker sites are now legally licensed in certain states. Indeed, despite online poker not being legal on a federal level, the US is currently adopting legislation on a state-by-state basis and so far New Jersey and Nevada have legalized the game. Thus, even if real money poker games aren't legal at Full Tilt or PokerStars in the USA, there are many other options if you're an online poker player.
We know that you USA players who played at Full Tilt and PokerStars players are looking for new sites to play at, so we have compiled a list to help you find a new, safe poker site. These online poker sites are the best options for US players - all offer big welcome bonuses (to help you recover some of your bankrolls), plenty of deposit options (to get you to the tables fast) and great customer support (to answer your questions quickly). Every poker player knows the importance of building of bankroll – so start re-building yours today at one of the top-rated USA poker sites.
Have more questions relating to legislation and US poker? We have the answers; check out the FAQ below for some of the top questions.
We are aware that US poker players have many questions regarding the current situation in 2015. Therefore, we have done our best to provide you with the answers to the most common questions US online poker players might have regarding playing at Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars (and other sites which have also blocked US players).
Why did the FBI seize PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker?
Allegedly, the sites were using some rather underhand tactics to process payments and to hide the fact that US players were playing for real money. This has still yet to be proven, but if it is it could constitute money laundering. The US Department of Justice then agreed to a deal with PokerStars and Full Tilt to shut down poker to US players. As part of this deal the DOJ agreed to help US players recover their bankrolls which were frozen after Black Friday.
Why can't I play with real money on Full Tilt or PokerStars in the USA?
At present the US has made online poker illegal on a federal level through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) because of this PokerStars and Full Tilt are now no longer accessible to American grinders. However, the US is now starting to legalize real money online poker on a state-by-state basis and this has opened up New Jersey and Nevada. Unfortunately, PokerStars and Full Tilt are both subject to "bad actor" clauses which have been imposed on certain online poker sites which continued to operate in the US post-UIGEA. Written into the laws, which have ultimately made real money online poker legal again in the US (or parts of it), the "bad actor" clause has been applied to Full Tilt and PokerStars for at least the coming year. However, this legislation doesn't mean both sites won't be able to enter these markets in the near future. Indeed, lobbyists on behalf of the Rational Group are currently working hard to get PokerStars and Full Tilt removed from the "bad actor" category.
Can US players play on PokerStars or Full Tilt at all?
You can still enjoy poker for play money on Full Tilt and PokerStars. It is only PokerStars and Full Tilt real money USA players that are blocked. Thus, you won't be able to deposit any money onto either of these sites.
What about player balances on Full Tilt and PokerStars?
Following the Black Friday shutdowns the US government made it clear that it was not after US player's bankrolls. In fact, the government was adamant that, although US players should be blocked from playing at Full Tilt and PokerStars, their real money balances should be returned. In order to help restore their reputation with the DOJ, PokerStars moved to repay all affected USA poker players within a matter of months. In contrast, things at Full Tilt have been somewhat more complicated on account of the site's recent transition. After months of silence the former owners of Full Tilt eventually admitted they had financial troubles and this resulted in them selling the site to the Rational Group (the parent company of PokerStars). Since purchasing Full Tilt, the Rational Group has worked with the Garden City Group (a financial firm) and the DOJ to help refund US players. Although the process is still ongoing, there's now some light at the end of the tunnel for players with locked bankrolls.
I am a US player. Can I withdraw my real money balance from Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars?
Yes you can. While the websites and the government have both stated that they don’t want to block withdrawals, US banks have stopped processing transactions by the poker sites. However, US players are able to recover their balances by applying directly through the DOJ who is processing US player withdrawals from these sites.
Can US players make deposits at Full Tilt and PokerStars?
No. US players can't add money into their account. You won’t be allowed to play for real money and you will also be blocked from withdrawing it. So it makes no sense for US online poker players to make any deposits at these poker sites. Indeed, both Full Tilt and PokerStars have implemented software gateways which can detect and block anyone from the US downloading their software and depositing money.
Can USA players still play other online poker for real money in 2015?
Yes, there are still numerous legal online poker sites that accept US players and allow them to play for real money. Thanks to recent regulation in Nevada and New Jersey a selection of legal real money online poker sites are now licensed in the US. Check out the US poker sites page or the poker rooms listed in our top list above for some of the best.
Doesn't UIGEA make it illegal for USA players to play online poker?
No. The short answer is that playing US online poker is legal. All UIGEA does is stop banks and financial institutions in the USA from processing payments for online gambling activities. There are still other payment methods you can use to go around this and the USA poker sites listed above offer these deposit options. Moreover, the law is now being superseded in certain states such as Nevada and New Jersey thanks to new online gaming laws. The allegations against Full Tilt and PokerStars are that they forced or tricked banks into processing these payments in defiance of the UIGEA.
What kind of deposit methods can I use to play at other online poker sites that accept US players?
A number of eWallets are available and good options when making deposits in 2015 and Bitcoins can also be used. However, if you're able to join one of the US poker sites operating in Nevada or New Jersey (i.e. you are a resident in one of those states) the deposit methods currently on offer range from Visa, MasterCard, bank transfer and direct deposits via an associated live casino.
Does this mean the death of online poker in the US?
Online poker in the USA has suffered a lot over the last few years and major sites such as Full Tilt and PokerStars have found themselves sidelined in this important market. However, a lot of people have been fighting for a long time to restore the status of online poker in the USA and since the end of 2013 things have been looking up. Indeed, with more states now passing laws that legalise online poker, it seems as though the coming months will see more sites open up. Moreover, this expansion on a state-by-state basis could eventually lead to full federal regulation of legal US online poker sites and thus bring the country back in line with the rest of the global poker economy.