Everyone who cares about poker even the slightest should be well aware of what is called the “Black Friday” for poker.  This is when the US Department of Justice decided to shut down all 3 of the major poker sites (PokerStars, FullTilt, and the Cereus Network) for all US players.  Funds were seized and only players who played on PokerStars were paid out their remaining balances.

So, to anyone who played poker recreationally you probably didn’t lose much, and probably don’t really care about the matter much,  because you just lost a hobby… BUT what about all the professional players who played to put food on the table?  They (We) lost a lot and had to find a job elsewhere.  By find a job, I of course mean find another website to grind, or a live venue to play at.  Some players were able to transition to live poker, some moved out of the country, and some stumbled upon the smaller poker networks… Mainly the Merge Network.

Now, I personally quit my “real” job in 2010 and started to pay bills by playing MTTs on the Merge Network.  When I started playing on here the fields were always 100-200 runners during the week, and on the weekends it would sometimes get 300 in the $10k guaranteed on Saturday, and of course the Sunday $50k guaranteed attracted the largest crowd that never exceeded 500.   Then Black Friday happened and Merge started to bulk up their MTT schedule for the expected traffic increase… and increase it did!

Before I knew it the fields were 300-400 runners, and eventually breaking 1,000 runners easily in Big Sunday tourneys.  Poker was booming again, but for regular players on the merge network a lot had changed.  Along with the obvious fact that the fields were larger, thus variance would be greater, I started to notice a lot of changes in the game.  Such changes included, min-raising preflop, 4-betting, 5-betting, and every table had an aggressive player that stuck out like a sore thumb.  Before I knew it there was a bunch of new regulars (regs) who were running the show with their constant aggression and making a ton of money doing it.  Anyone who didn’t play the larger networks either had to adjust and get better, or they probably got eaten alive and are still missing…

Take a look at the last year MTT total profit before Black Friday on Merge (2010), then look at the following 2 years (2011-2012).  The leaderboard is all new names and obviously the profit is much larger due to bigger fields.



2012 – As of July 13th.



Some Old Merge regs were able to adjust and are still floating around (hello :)), but now that it’s been 2 years and the game has leveled out a bit I ponder a few questions…

When will the game evolve again?  This change I’m discussing above (when small network met big network) really had forced players to adopt some new concepts, just like when Doyle Brunson back in the day wrote his Super Systems books.  That changed how people thought about the game and if you weren’t in the know, you were probably owned frequently by the ones who were.

Will the small network players seek out Pokerstars now if it opens up to the US again?  I personally will, and in an odd way I’m kind of thankful for what happened.  It forced me to get better and that’s great.  I will keep studying the game to stay on top of the curve and I won’t let anything/anyone stop me.

Are some of the small network players now considered capable of performing on ANY network, big or small?  I think that any surviving regulars were forced to get better, while sitting among some of the best.  Thus, when Poker Stars re-opens to the US, I expect that it will be even harder than it was before.



I honestly can’t say what sparked this write up but this is all I got for now.  I must have been reflecting back at poker or something, since I busted all my tourneys early tonight (after making 6 FTs yesterday, ha).

Please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you all may think.

*Also, if you are interested in playing some online poker, below is a banner that will direct you to a safe and secure site for all US and International players.  Feel free to skype me if you need help with this, “Neopolitan8”.