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Online Nosebleed Cash-Game Scene Struggling

Few Pots Have Exceeded Six Figures Over the Past Couple Months

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The high-stakes community is also still waiting on funds from beleaguered site Full Tilt PokerIt was less than two years ago when the poker community was captivated by $1 million hands on Full Tilt Poker. These days, in the post-Black Friday era, rail birds have to settle for comparatively lackluster action and drab high-stakes challenges on PokerStars and various other sites, with few pots exceeding $100,000.

After the April 15 shutdown of the major online poker sites in the United States, and after Full Tilt closed its doors in June to its high-stakes European players (the games were actually going strong on Full Tilt in the weeks after Black Friday), the nosebleed scene has largely vanished. The past couple months have seen the majority of the high-stakes online action come at $25-$50 to $100-$200 pot-limit Omaha on PokerStars. Some high-stakes action is also running on the OnGame Network, but with few pots there exceeding six figures.

The smaller action hasn’t stopped some of the best American online pros from leaving the country in order to resume crushing the virtual game on PokerStars.

At the end of July, Phil “MrSweets28” Galfond returned to online poker after a long hiatus resulting from April’s events. The high-stakes pro, who is one of the top earners in online card-playing history, relocated to Canada and resumed play on PokerStars. He Tweeted shortly after sitting down again: After 3 months off of online poker, I’d forgotten about downswings. Oh well. Still happy to be playing. I love the game.

Another cash game pro who has made the move up north is Andrew “Foucault” Brokos, who is a member of Team PokerStars Online. “I’d actually been living nomadically in the U.S. for the 18 months prior to Black Friday, just traveling around the country playing online poker, so packing up and leaving the country was less disruptive for me than it would be for a lot of people,” Brokos said. “PokerStars invited me to remain on Team Online if I relocated, so that was a factor. And I’m trying to have fun with it. Right now my girlfriend and I are living in the Canadian Rockies, where there is great hiking and beautiful scenery everywhere. I really am not feeling too sorry for myself.”

Dan CatesOne high-stakes regular who hasn’t been so lucky with a move to Canada is Dan “jungleman12” Cates, who was on one of the best runs in the history of online poker prior to April 15, winning $7.5 million between 2010 and 2011. Leaving from Seattle in an attempt to reach Vancouver, Cates eventually got to the border and wasn’t allowed in. He Tweeted in late July: Apparently I need a visa to play poker for a living in Canada? Wtf? Cates is now residing in Portugal.

Galfond, better known by his Full Tilt name “OMGClayAiken,” currently has more than $1 million stuck on the beleaguered site, while rumors have been circulating that Cates has much more tied up in virtual funds. It is unclear what kind of bankroll Galfond and Cates, along with many others, have liquid for resuming play in a foreign country.

Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, the man responsible for 2009’s unrivaled high-stakes action, has been wallowing in roller-coaster mediocrity throughout 2011. Through 2,500 sessions this year on PokerStars, Blom has endured massive swings, just recently pulling himself out of the red yet again. He is currently up $140,000 despite beating his opponents in the SuperStar Showdown for nearly $700,000 this year.

While Blom was just able to get out of the red, Gus Hansen has been in the black all year and is still the biggest overall winner with about $4 million in profits, thanks to prolific sessions of pot-limit Omaha in the early months of 2011. Cates is up about $2 million in 2011 and was on pace for another historic year when online poker went down.

Gus HansenOther players who have made a lot of money online this year include Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky ($1 million), who still plays from Canada, Scott “URnotINdanger2” Palmer ($760,000), Phil Ivey ($1.3 million), Patrik Antonius ($1.1 million), and Isaac “luvtheWNBA” Haxton ($210,000).

Despite Ivey winning nearly $20 million at the virtual felt on Full Tilt –- tops all-time in the digital game — the company alleged in a June statement that he owed the site “a large sum of money.” Ivey had previously filed a lawsuit against Tiltware, a company that provided software to Full Tilt, at the start of the World Series of Poker.

While some players are looking to get back in the action to continue their winning ways this year, others are stuck in the red and will have a much more difficult time climbing out of the hole than in years past. Tom “durrrr” Dwan (-$2.5 million), Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies (-$1.25 million), Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu (-$470,000), and Richard “nutsinho” Lyndaker (-$490,000) are just a handful the biggest losers in 2011.

Ilari SahamiesOnline poker wasn’t going well for Sahamies even before Black Friday. The cash game catalyst was stuck more than $600,000 on Full Tilt when the site went down and about $850,000 on PokerStars up until this week. Fortunately for Sahamies, he put a serious dent into his losses on PokerStars by winning nearly $200,000 on the felt over the past seven days.

Despite bankroll-aggressive players like Sahamies and Blom still in action, and with many of the top American players moving their chips to return to their computers, it remains to be seen what the high-stakes online landscape will look like on PokerStars for the remainder of 2011 — and whether or not the historically nosebleed-rich scene at Full Tilt returns for the Europeans. The company is currently in disputes with the Alderney Gambling Control Commission over its suspended license and still owes allegedly more than $150 million to its players.