Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments U.S. Poker Markets Sports Betting Poker Strategy

The Victims Of The DOJ's Online Poker Raid

Poker Pros Hinkle, Shorr, Wheeler and Potter Talked to Card Player


Black Friday left a number of victims in its wake, most notably, the millions of U.S. players who could no longer play online poker from the convenience of their homes.

The three online poker sites named in the indictment represented more than 70 percent of the U.S.-facing online poker market, and collectively averaged more than 55,000 real-money players at any given hour of the day.

Pros and amateurs alike were immediately cut off from their accounts, leaving millions in limbo while stripping away many players’ livelihoods. One year later, those with PokerStars accounts have been reimbursed, but those who had funds on Full Tilt Poker or Absolute Poker/UB have been left drawing slim to ever see their money again.

Full Tilt Poker owes its ex-players about $300 million and Absolute Poker/UB owes their former customers about $60 million.

Blair HinkleSnapshot of the Pro Players

Perhaps the most glaring example of a player affected by Black Friday was Blair “blur5f6” Hinkle, a one-time WSOP bracelet winner who was fortunate, or unfortunate depending on how you look at it, to win $1,162,949 in a Full Tilt Poker tournament shortly before the indictment.

Though he tried to withdraw the majority of his funds, the site gave the young Missouri pro the run around for nearly two months and refused to honor his cash out requests. At the time, Hinkle was frustrated, but wasn’t exactly worried about getting his money eventually. After all, who would have guessed what was coming down the pipeline.

Hinkle hoped to use his winnings to buy himself a house, but the freezing of his online assets postponed those plans. In September, he told Card Player that he might be lucky enough to get back 20 percent of his money after the Department of Justice liquidates Full Tilt’s assets, but explained that he was done getting his hopes up.

“I’m going day by day,” Hinkle said. “It’s been such a roller coaster for the last couple months. Every other day there has been good news or bad news. I’m taking it with a grain of salt until something definitive happens with the company.” Hinkle was unable to be reached for any updated comments.

Another pro who was affected by Black Friday was Shannon “BLUFFforRENT” Shorr, who says he has about $90,000 stuck online between Full Tilt and UB. Although he has always been more of a live player, Shorr did a good job of supplementing his income with online play, a necessity for the Alabama resident.

Shorr was forced to make a significant career decision after the indictment. He could move out of the U.S. to continue playing online or hit the tournament trail even harder to play the big live events.

Shannon Shorr“I chose to continue traveling as I didn’t feel like uprooting from the U.S.,” Shorr said. “In the small sample of live tournaments I’ve played since Black Friday, things haven’t worked out. Playing just live events obviously will lend itself to huge variance, so by no means is what I’m doing now a long-term option.”

Jason “jdpc27” Wheeler opted to make the move. The online grinder has more than $2.1 million in winnings and although he has increased his live tournament play, the vast majority of his success has come online. In order to salvage his career, Wheeler moved from his home in San Diego, California to Rosarito, Mexico in order to continue playing online.

Though he was up and running in a short amount of time, Wheeler was still left gutted by Black Friday. The former financial consultant had $200,000 stuck online between the two sites and had lost out on an additional $200,000 because of backing and staking issues. The experience left him cash poor and forced him to sell pieces to stay afloat.

“It was really negative and hard to deal with at first,” Wheeler said. “I almost went broke and had to sell action in a lot of tournaments to rebuild my bankroll.”

Incredibly, Wheeler managed the near-impossible by winning Card Player’s Online Player of the Year award, a feat made all the more impressive considering his financial situation and nationality.

Jason “JP OSU” Potter, a former WPT final tablist with $1.8 million in earnings, was considering leaving the poker community before Black Friday, but the indictment was the catalyst he needed to finally make the move. With $20,000 still online, Potter gave up playing full-time and went back to school at Oklahoma State University. Now that he’s poised to graduate and move onto law school, Potter says he could really use that money.

Jason Potter“I’ve been fine up until now, [but] I’m getting to the point where this will start affecting my life,” Potter admitted. “I’ve been paying for school and living for the past year with no income, so my savings are quickly becoming depleted and I might have to get one of those dreaded real jobs for a bit before I start law school next fall.”

Potter says that $20,000 would pay for roughly three semesters of his undergraduate program, but he’s not exactly confident that he’ll ever see that money again. “I have kind of given up trying to ascertain if I’m ever getting that money back,” he said. “I’m living my life at this point as if I will never see it again, so if I do ever get it, it’ll just be an awesome surprise. I’ve gone through so many emotional swings based on whatever the most recent Full Tilt news was that I’ve decided to stop reading and thinking about it until something definitive happens.”

Focusing On The Positive

Though none of the players we talked to believed that Black Friday was a positive experience, many of them were happy to report that there were some ancillary benefits that emerged after the indictment.

Potter, Wheeler and Shorr all dedicated themselves to improving their health, but most importantly, they all realized that there was more to life than 24-hour sessions in front of a computer monitor.

“My life actually has improved for the better since Black Friday,” said Shorr. “In the year since it happened, I decided to take the extra time I was afforded to really work on myself as a person.”

For Wheeler, Black Friday was a bit of a wake-up call. Though he still grinds online, he has made sure to take the time out for travel and that new-found balance has actually helped him to improve his game.

“Now that I have gone through it, I’m much better for it,” said Wheeler. “I love traveling and my life has been enriched because of it. Losing a large sum of money [even though] I did nothing wrong was very hard to handle, but it made me hungry for the game again. It brought back a hunger for the game that I haven’t had for a while. I wake up excited every day to play, and just leave it all out there on the felt when I do.”



almost 9 years ago

im not a pro by any means and i did pay onine on pokerstars just for fun,like playing small tourneys and sit and gos mainly to keep my game tight just to hit the weekly live tourneys here in vegas.Even when things were good i felt uncomfortable about taking a shot at sum meium or larger tourneys onine cuz if i happend to ever get lucky and win some real money i want to be paid upfront,holding my winnings live in person.I dont think US resients were even suppose to be playing online because of the law,so if the site wanted to screw you over,even before BF,they couldve.The only thing they had to lose was their image and integrity.And when youre dealing with this kind of money i beleive most peope give a rats ass about both of those.


almost 9 years ago

This is really funny headline. A better headline would be the foolish people who gambled and lost. You were playing in an environment that allowed you to play but you could not legally fund your play with real money deposits. So you went against the law and the law won. And howard , jesus and a few others took you to the cleaners. Some of these tales of woe would be funny if the people weren't so sad. Won 1.2 mil and FT had no money to pay Won 1.8 million but is now hurting for 20k. "Losing a large sum of money[even though]I did nothing wrong was very hard to handle." You broke the law by playing for real money don't you get it.


almost 9 years ago

@CLUNKER, Playing poker online wasn't/isn't illegal, it was the banking/money transactions that were illegal. Know what you're talking about if you're gonna try and make smart ass comments. It's really quite sad that you're on here ripping on people about money they've lost because of this whole ordeal. I am pretty sure the real reason you're here is because you've donated thousands of dollars playing online poker, and now you feel good trying to harass those players that took your money. I've got a good sum of money on FTP, and I'm reasonably confident that we'll get something back. Maybe not all, but hopefully at least 50%. Fingers crossed!!


almost 9 years ago

@ linkocracy you obviously have reading comprehension problems. Since no where did I say it was illegal to play online poker just that it was illegal to fund that play. Maybe you should understand what your reading before you go off the deep end. And for your information since it was illegal to deposit money to online poker sites I never did but I did take a couple thousand $'s out by building my bankroll through free rolls.


almost 9 years ago

Also this was more or less a tongue in cheek sarcastic post because of the blatant foolishness of the headline. "The victims of the DOJ online poker raid" If these people are victims it's not the DOJ who victimized them,if that was true some folks from Pokerstars would be here.All these people were shafted by FTP not the DOJ. As far as getting 1% of what your owed you better hope the DOJ comes through for you, because for damn sure FTP isn't going to.