Tim Vance is living the dream. The 53-year-old contractor and recreational poker player from the St. Louis, Missouri, area won a seat to the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event through a $550 mega satellite on site at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino last week, making it through the first day of the tournament and bagging a stack of 54,725 in chips.
Of course, Vance has lived this dream before. He won a seat to the 2006 WSOP Main Event through a Frequent Players Points satellite on PokerStars. In fact, Vance was somewhat of a serial qualifier on PokerStars before the events of April 15, 2011, forced the world's largest poker site out of the United States. Prior to Black Friday, Vance qualified for events all over the world, including the PokerStars European Poker Tour in London, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas, PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour stops in Argentina and Chile, and even a Russian Poker Tour event in Latvia.
In 2008, Vance even turned the dream into reality, qualifying for the EPT Copenhagen Main Event in Denmark for next to nothing and winding up winning the whole thing for $1,224,988. He made quite a splash over in Scandinavia as well, putting on a show for the EPT cameras by pacing constantly, talking to a picture of his now 11-year-old daughter tucked into his hat, and humming Beatles tunes the whole way through.
It's the kind of dream Vance would love to live again.
"I miss PokerStars," he said. "I loved playing for those trips. It's all I did. I had been telling my daughter since she was old enough to understand me that I was going to go on TV one day and win a major poker tournament. Thanks to PokerStars, I was able to do it. It's a shame that in the land of the free we're no longer free to play on PokerStars and do that."
When they took away PokerStars, they took away that dream.
In between his first and second day in the WSOP Main Event on Wednesday, Vance headed over to the PokerStars Playhouse suite at the Palms Casino Resort to renew old acquaintances and reminisce about the glory days of online poker in the United States.
Lee Jones, Head of Poker Communications for PokerStars, says those glory days are still going on in other parts of the world, with players on the other side of Atlantic winning trips to EPT stops all over Europe, and others from across the globe able to qualify daily for events on the LAPT and Asia-Pacific Poker Tour, among others.
Rebecca McAdam, Senior Manager of Public Relations at PokerStars and Full Tilt, says it has been a few years since the company has had a presence at the WSOP. And even though it's just a small hospitality suite across the street these days, it's more about the message it comes with.
"We want people to know we're back and we're doing everything we can to bring online poker back to the United States," she said. "A lot of people have come into the suite and told us how much they miss PokerStars. All we can say is we're trying."
Once the WSOP wraps up, that effort will head West to California for the Let California Play! tour, where a number brand ambassadors like Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, and other Team PokerStars Pros will head to card rooms across the state in an attempt to create iPoker awareness and support for new legislation regulating it.
Vanessa Selbst, Jason Somerville, and Liv Boeree will also be joining different stops on the tour that kicks off at the Palomar Card Club in San Diego Friday, July 17.
"It's really important for poker players to make their voices heard among the decision makers in California and tell them 'Let California Play,'" Negreanu said.
PokerStars will also take that message to card rooms in Lake Elsinore, Chula Vista, American Canyon, Citrus Heights, Delano, Rosamond, and Turlock with plans to announce even more stops down the road.
In addition to letting players like Vance chase their poker dreams, estimates are that taxed and regulated online poker could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the state and PokerStars is urging players and other members of the general public to get behind the lobby and join the Californians for Responsible iPoker grassroots coalition through the organization's website.
Even though he lives half way across the country and the dream of regulated online poker in his own state seems even further away than it is in California these days, it's something Vance would ask everybody who loves the game of poker to get behind.
"When they took away PokerStars, they took away that dream," he said. "There has to be something we can do to get it back."