A New Jerseyan Black Friday: A Journey Back to Milk and Honey Part 2
It’s the summer of 2011, and Juan opens up his ailing laptop and signs in to a VPN to allow him to play poker by avoiding the anti US player rules on the European Poker sites. Doing this was against the site terms and conditions, and is seriously frowned upon by the US Authorities. However, this is the only way Juan can feed his family, and is just another step on his journey following a New Jerseyan Black Friday.
This is the second in a three part series following Juan and Regina and their lives through the mess caused by the actions of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) following Black Friday in April 2011. In part 1, Juan and Regina told me about their lives before the 11th of April 2011, and how they found out about how their lives had been turned upside down on Black Friday itself.
FlushDraw (FD): So, Black Friday has just happened, you’ve lost all your income and you only have a few months worth of rent and bills left. What happened in those first few months?
Juan: “Oh! First couple of months? Well, I listened to Quadjacks a lot, just like everybody else. I don’t know when I actually found it, but it was in the first few days. I found it from a post on one of the forums I spent hours on. What I do know is I’m never getting those brain cells back! Thank you very much 2+2, you cesspool of idiocy!”
FD: What do you mean by that?
Juan: “I wasted all those months reading those silly, poorly thought out, idiotic posts in NVG, and I honestly felt dumber after reading them! It was mainly people with less of a clue than me, posting like they were actually in the meeting rooms with the DoJ and Full Tilt! No wonder I was taking Xanex! We were trying to make sense of something that didn’t make sense at all, it was all anarchy! none of these people were taking any notices of the laws, so no wonder none of us could work out what was going on! That was what I did for I don’t know how long. There are months that are just mushed together. I know that during this time I had made some friends, and some contacts.
I tried Lock Poker when it first came out, I had a backer on one of skins on the network, and that didn’t go so well either. I’m obviously too trusting, and can’t see when people want to scam me. I was taking a lot of risks that I would never usually take, with my money, my time, everything. I was taking shady backing deals that didn’t work out, I was playing through a VPN. One guy, who I’m not going to drop in it here, was a saviour to us though. The guy was in Europe, and he offered one of the accounts he didn’t use anymore for me to play using a VPN. I’d have to say he probably saved us from going hungry. I was down to virtually nothing in the bank. I wasn’t left with any other options, so I played and made enough to cover the rent. He didn’t even take that much as a backer, it really was a case of a poker player helping another. He only took some when I forced him, and I’d have given him more if I could but I needed to make rent, and pay the bills.
“If I’m honest, playing on this account and starting with less than $100, saved our bacon. It helped I ran well, but it was a lifeline.”
FD: Didn’t you have concerns about playing on a Euro site?
Juan: “It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, but I was left with no other way to cover the rent. I’d picked up a few days as a day labourer, but that wasn’t enough to cover the bills. I knew that the site security was almost non-existent, so I wasn’t too worried about being caught. I was put in a situation where either I, my wife and daughter starved, or I played poker on a European poker site. It was that simple.”
FD: So, what was next for you guys?
Juan: “Ok, so I had maxed out my credit cards, and we still had to leave the nice apartment in the suburbs. I just couldn’t afford it anymore, so we moved to the other side of the tracks, just on the outskirts of the hood. Two blocks over, and you’re in the hood. It’s ok, not the best place to live, but we’re still here, and we’re alright. It’s affordable, we know the landlord, so we’re making lemonade out of our lemons.”
FD: How were you making money at this stage?
Juan: “I’d tried a little scrapping…”
Juan: “Yeah, we went to junk heaps and salvaged anything that we could sell for a few dollars. It was hard, dirty and we didn’t make that much, but every little helped at this point. I was still playing poker over a VPN. I had a horrible internet connection, so I remember only being able to play from 1 seat in the house, and then only if I held my laptop just so.
“I remember sitting there playing a $5.50 MTT where if I finished in the top three my rent would be paid on time, and if I didn’t I was going to have to have another talk with the landlord. I was one tabling on my laptop at the micro of micros. You see why it felt so humbling to me, just a few months ago I was playing $1,000 buy in MTTs, and now I was putting all my hopes on going really deep in a $5 event. $400 was the difference between making my bills for the month, and being in real financial trouble. It’s insane to look back on that now.
“So going into the fall of 2011, I was given a stake to play live in AC (Atlantic City) and that was something I had never done before. I didn’t consider myself a very good live player, but I was given the $2,000 stake for, and I quote “anything you want to play.” It seemed like a lot to me, but I hadn’t realised how expensive it was to live in AC for weeks, and how hard it was to actually be away from my family.
“It was weird, I can’t say I loved it, and if I’m honest I didn’t even like it. I was away from home a lot, talking to Regina through Skype more than I was in the same room as here, I had to keep really weird hours. It was just strange. And expensive! I tried to keep the costs down, but even so, eating was expensive. Comps were great, but I wasn’t playing enough to get those every day. I also blaze, so I’m out there blazing away, which isn’t exactly cheap either. It all added up, and I wasn’t even partying! I was sitting in my boxers on the hotel bed, smoking, and watching “The First 48” episodes back to back. Not exactly the lifestyle most people associate with a poker player!
“It’s cool to do every now and then, but I was doing this two weeks out of every month. The sessions were slow, and everything takes so long. Most dealers are terrible, some a great, but most of them… I’m a decent tipper, I tip the good ones well, and I even tip the bad ones ok. The dealers were so bad, they can’t do math, they take forver counting chips, so you only see 25 hands an hour. I just don’t see how you can make a long term profit like that. I have no idea, it’s beyond my comprehension.
“So I tried that, and miserably failed.”
FD: “So, what was next for the Juan family?”
Juan: “From 2011 to the end of 2012 was the first time I was a losing “professional poker player.” I was playing on some other Euro sites with a new backer. After I’d busted the live stake, I got an offer to play a full schedule through a VPN on the Euro sites. those sites were the worst. My backer said “Play whatever the hell you want, you have good results, get on with it.” So I did, I was playing the high stakes games I was used to. I was breaking even for a while, and then I started running so bad. I’m not one of those guys, you know, I don’t sport the tin foil hat. I don’t say “this site is rigged” or anything, but I don;t know man. it might be the RNG, it might be the way it all programmed, but you can’t tell me that some of these site are real. I was down so much on some of these sites, and the players were so bad! You can’t tell me that shit was legit!
“When you see something like that, you see thousands of hands, and it’s not like I’m new to this. It just didn’t seem legit to me. It wasn’t pretty. I was breakeven at best on the Euro sites.
At the same time, I’d made an account on Carbon, and I won $140 in a freeroll on July 4th 2012. I just kinda farted around on there a little bit throughout the summer. I did ok, pretty decent.”
FD: “Didn’t I hear rumours that you were closing in on Chris “Jesus” Ferguson’s record to win $10,000 from nothing?”
Juan: “I gave it a good run, but I didn’t really take it seriously until towards the end of 2012. I binked a couple of little things here and there. I slowly started to transition away from playing the euro sites to playing more on Carbon. I’d made a few dollars on Lock as well, and I got everything out I could when it started looking sketchy. I got a few cheques in a “timely” fashion, and I was telling everybody I knew to get their money off as quickly as possible. We all know how that turned out.”
FD: “So we head into 2013, how did the change of year treat you?”
Juan: “2013 was better for us. It wasn’t great, but I fell like I was beginning to not have to swear all the bullsh*t that was happening to me. I was playing mainly on the US facing sites, and it was going well. I was back playing a lot online, and I was winning enough to make it worth it. I was playing with my own money, and it felt so good. I’d been playing backed for so long and it felt good. The prospect of having my own money was awesome. I was putting together some really good scores, nothing massive, but $2000 here, $1,500 there. It all added up. It was nice, I was making decent money, and it all come from that freeroll!”
Juan had gone through some pretty bad times during 2011 and 2012. He had run horribly over a long period of time, and only started to win again on the smaller US facing grey market sites, with all of his results spawning from a $140 freeroll win. During 2013, New Jersey brought in regulated poker, and Juan’s life was due another change, this time for the good. The final article in this series will cover the launch of the New Jersey Regulated market, and how that worked in reality for Juan, and how he’s doing now he’s grinding on 100% legal poker in the US.