It was about two months before Black Friday when Blair Hinkle became the 11th player to win seven figures in an online tournament. He finished runner-up in the FTOPS XIX Main Event and with some crafty deal-making, he earned $1,162,949.74. We caught up with Hinkle then and did so again recently in light of the one-year anniversary of Black Friday.
What have you been up to poker wise post Black Friday?
After the WSOP, I wanted to take a break from tournaments. I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so I could start learning and playing live cash games. I spent about six months learning cash, and unfortunately, it wasn't able to make up for not having online poker. The last few months I've traveled and played a few live tournaments, but no big scores so far.
What were you doing when you heard the news regarding the DOJ? What was your initial reaction?
It was a pretty relaxing day of disc golf when I got a call from one of my friends. There had been what I considered panic attacks before, so I didn't think too much until I got home and tried to open PokerStars and Full Tilt. Then I started to worry a little. I didn't have any concerns about not getting paid, though.
Why did you decide to stay in the states rather than move abroad to play online?
I didn't want to give up my life for poker. I have always felt that my success at poker has had a lot to do with keeping a positive mindset and enjoying life. Leaving my family, friends, and my girlfriend of three years didn't seem worth it.
How has your day-by-day life changed without the ability to play online?
It has changed some, but not as much as other online players because I wasn't a high-volume player. I used to play a couple of days a week and maybe grind hard for only a few weeks at a time at most. I did try to substitute it with playing live cash, but cash just doesn't interest me like tournaments do.
How much do you miss online poker?
Not a whole lot. The thing I miss the most is the fact that I don't feel as fresh heading into live tournaments because I haven't been able to practice at home.
Last time we caught up, you were fresh off of a seven-figure score in an FTOPS Main Event. How much of it were you able to get off of Full Tilt?
A big fat $0. I attempted to contact them about how to pull the money off their site, but they gave me the runaround for the most part.
Before Black Friday, were there any issues cashing out? What were they letting you cash out per week?
Yes, I had the ability to cash out $8,000 at a time, three times a week. I did that for a couple weeks but realized that there was a $50 fee by my bank, so I stopped doing those. A few weeks before Black Friday, I got a message saying that none of my $48,000 from those cash-outs would go through.
I had emailed Full Tilt about doing a large cash-out so as to avoid paying the bank fees. They didn't respond for a month, and that was only after I sent an email explaining how frustrated I was. I then requested a large cash-out, but they said I needed to verify my account. By the time I actually got my info to them it was a week from Black Friday.
What toll did having such a large amount on FTP take on you when the drama of "will they or won't they" pay people back was happening last summer?
I tried to keep a positive attitude and not let it get to me. A few times here and there it would get pretty tough to think about, but I've just told myself don't expect any of the money. That way anything I get will be a bonus.
What percentage of what is still there would you be happy to get back?
Well, because it is such a large amount, 10 percent would be a pretty great score. Anything over 50 percent and I will be ecstatic! I'm still holding on to a tiny hope that I could get all of it over time, if they do get bought and back up and running.
When the day comes that you'll be able to play online poker again, will you have a problem trusting it?
I don't think so. If we can play in the United States, I think there will be more regulation of the sites, so as to make sure that player funds are kept separately from the sites' money.
You also mentioned last time we spoke that you hoped to make it over to Europe to travel and play an EPT or two. Were you able to?
I was not able to travel to Europe. I didn't have any close friends that also wanted to play the EPTs, and also I didn't want to rack up big travel expenses while waiting for all of the Black Friday drama to hash out.
On a brighter note, you must be eager for the WSOP grind that isn't too far off.
I can't wait for the WSOP! I will be there for the whole schedule, except for a 4 to 5 day break to go home and be with family and friends. I'll be playing as many no-limit tournaments as I can get my hands on though.
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