When the Department of Justice seized the three major online poker sites last April, poker pro Christina Lindley found herself in familiar territory. Just three years earlier, Lindley was left a displaced actress and model in Hollywood after the writer's strike shut down the film and television industry for a year.
While many of her peers took temp jobs during the strike, Lindley found poker. During a trip to Tunica with her father, Lindley instantly fell in love with the game. Her newfound passion quickly turned into a budding career, one that has seen her earn close to $1 million in tournaments.
With adversity staring her in the face again on Black Friday, Lindley remained devoted to her new career path. She packed her bags and moved to Canada to resume her online poker career, and remains "100 percent" committed to that decision to this day.
PokerNews caught up with Lindley to discuss her reactions to Black Friday and the life choices she's made during the past year.
Take us back to April 15, 2011. Where were you and what were you doing when you found out the DOJ had seized PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker?
I was at home in Vegas, freaking out in my condo. I had just begun a heater two days before, winning the Full Tilt Poker 75k and taking third the next night. I had moved to Las Vegas to play poker full time for a living just six months before Black Friday. I was devastated.
When did you get the sense that Black Friday would change your life?
For the entire weekend I was extremely depressed. I am pretty sure I didn't leave my house until Monday. When I first heard the news, I immediately knew my life would change. On Monday, I began doing research to actively take control of the situation. I knew I was going to be leaving the U.S. to live abroad for months at a time. There were only three questions that mattered at that point: How would I tell my family; where would I be living; and who did I want to move abroad with.
You decided to move to Vancouver and Mexico and travel outside the U.S. to resume your poker career. How difficult was that decision?
The decision to move abroad part time was not difficult at all. As far as I was concerned, there was no other option. I am an online poker player. It's what I do and a big part of who I am. I love playing live, as well, but without online poker I just would not be happy playing for a living.
Besides the size of the fields, how have the mid- and high-stakes online tournaments changed since U.S. players were blocked from accessing the sites?
The game has completely changed because of the way the fields play now. No one folds — ever. People are way more aggressive and stationy. Between grinding cash live quite a bit in Las Vegas, and adjusting to the non-U.S. fields, my post flop play has completely changed. To win pots, especially in high stakes MTTs, it is necessary to be infinitely more creative. Taking strange lines, bluff raising turns and rivers, is not uncommon. I find myself fighting a lot harder to win every pot. A big part of being one of the best poker players you can be is the ability to adjust your game at any moment according to your table and opponents. For the current state of affairs online, that ability is vital now more than ever.
Unlike a lot of poker players, you had a separate career before you got into poker seriously. Did you consider giving up on poker after Black Friday and return to modeling and acting?
I never considered going backwards. When I chose to move to Vegas and play poker full time, professionally, I was 100 percent committed to that. No law that the U.S. government passed was going to derail the hard work and dedication I have put in to poker for the last three years. I am a poker player, period.
Do you have a lot of money stuck online? If so, how has that changed your life?
I was one of the lucky few who had the majority of my online money in the bank, and on a reliable site, PokerStars. I think I had about 15k on Full Tilt. That is really nothing compared to some of my friends. Several professional players I personally know had to stop playing poker for a living and get "real life jobs" as a result. It is really a shame what Full Tilt and the owners who were responsible did to our community. I hope the responsible parties are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Cheating people who trusted you out of their livelihood is completely reprehensible.
You had great success on Full Tilt Poker in the past, including a second-place finish in an FTOPS event for more than $100K. Do you see yourself playing on the site again under new ownership?
I ran really well on Full Tilt. Several of my bigger five- and six-figure scores were on that site. In order to even consider playing on their site ever again, several things would have to happen. Full Tilt would have to be under complete new ownership and management. Every single friend of mine and all of the players worldwide who got ripped off would have to be paid back, with interest or some kind of reparations. If all of those things were done, then I would consider it.
Do you think you'll have problems trusting online poker rooms after the debacle at FTP and UB/AP?
No. I think that the majority of sites in poker are reputable. I think it is a shame to let two bad eggs spoil the whole bunch. I just advise doing your research, and never keeping more money online than you can afford to lose.
What would it take for you to move back to the U.S. full time? Would intrastate online poker in Nevada be enough, or would there need to be a multistate platform to increase player pools?
I have maintained my residence at Panorama in Las Vegas, in addition to living abroad. It makes sense, as I am in Las Vegas for bigger live tournaments literally half of the year.
For me to live in the U.S. full time, there would have to be a multistate platform. I am not going to reduce the amount of money I can win in huge fields just to avoid travel. I have gotten used to it. The excitement of playing in tournaments that pay 200k to first for a $215 buy-in just would not be there for me if the prize pools were dramatically diminished.