It’s now been three weekends since Pokerstars shut it’s doors to players from the US and the question on everyone’s minds is what online poker site will become the new Pokerstars. The answer seems to be poker sites on the Merge Poker Network.
Merge Poker has increased it’s cash game traffic by 70% since Black Friday and ranks #10 for cash game traffic in the world and #1 in the US.
Leading the way for the Merge Network is Lock Poker because of their huge first deposit bonus and their monthly promotions. Lock Poker is also 100% Mac compatible and has a sleek black look.
Lock Poker is not the only Merge Poker skin making a splash. Another skin, Hero Poker, (No longer Accepting US players) has signed former Pokerstars Pro Gavin Griffin as well as a few other poker pros. P5’s and Holdem Poker Chat members received a special invite from them this past weekend to play in an exclusive 15k freeroll. The CEO for Hero Poker explained why he set up the unpromoted freeroll by saying “I set this up for traumatized US players”.
The Merge network is one of the last major poker networks available to US players and there have been hundreds of thousands of new sign-ups on those sites within the past three weeks.
Other skins that we like on the network are Carbon Poker, RPM Poker and Feltstars. There are many poker sites on the Merge Poker Network but we do not recommend most of them.
You may be asking yourself, How do I decide which Merge Poker Site should I play on? Our recommendation is that you try out several of them and see which one you like the best. Download them and sit at a play money game or play in a freeroll while you get accustomed to the software. If you like the overall feel of the site then make a deposit. If you don’t like it, move on to another one and try that one out. According to out sources Merge is working hard on a major software upgrade that we’re told “Will have all the features that Pokerstars has” That upgrade is expected sometime next month.
Update: Lock Poker along with all other Merge skins have halted NEW US player accounts.
With the departure of Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker from the US online poker landscape you may be left wondering where everyone is playing these days. A handful of poker sites have begun to stand out and make a name for themselves. We’ll break down a few today and let you know why they’re on the rise and what the best alternatives are for former Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker players.
The Merge Poker Network is growing the fastest but you may be surprised to know that it is not their flagship site Carbon Poker that is leading the way. The rising star for the Merge network is Lock Poker due to unique promotions, an ultra sleek design and a 200% up to $1200 deposit bonus. Another Merge skin that is growing rapidly is RPM Poker. If we were to list the top Merge skins in order it would be Lock Poker, Carbon Poker and RPM Poker. Keep in mind that while all three share most of their tournaments and all the cash game tables. Each also runs their own unique promotions. These poker sites are all 100% Mac compatible.
Also on the rise is Bodog Poker. This is no surprise as Bodog is an established site with a great reputation for customer service and successful deposit methods. They not only offer a Poker room but also a full casino and sportsbook. The 110% up to $1100 deposit bonus on Bodog is great as well. If you’re primarily a cash game players, there are two things to keep in mind if you decide to play at Bodog Poker. First, their Mac version is not a full version of the software. Second, Bodog limits the amount of tables you can play.
If you’re looking for a no download instant play poker site then there is only one we can recommend and that is Luvin Poker on the Everleaf Network. Everleaf is a small network that is also growing rapidly as of late and may by the end of the year be a real contender. While there are several sites on the network we at Holdem Poker Chat only endorse Luvin Poker because we love their customer support and they offer players a nice 100% up to $1000 deposit bonus.
Last week we came across a real gem of a poker site on the Cake Poker network. Sports Interaction Poker is a cake poker skin that accepts eChecks as a deposit method. As far as we can tell they are the only online poker site serving the US that has this as a deposit option. If you’re a former Pokerstars or Full Tilt Poker players, I’m sure this is great news for you. Our top poker sites on the Cake poker network are Intertops Poker and Cake Poker.
You can find more information on all these poker sites and full reviews by visiting our USA Poker Sites page.
We’ll continue to monitor which online poker sites continue to serve the US and adjust our rankings accordingly. For now we feel that the poker sites listed above are the safest and most promising for all US poker players.
Full Tilt Poker is unable to accept ‘Real Money’ play from customers residing in the United States.
If I move outside the United States, can I play at Full Tilt Poker?
Yes. But your existing account and balance will not yet be available on logging in.
You will be required to provide sufficient proof of relocation, including your photo identification and proof of residency at your new address. You can then use non-US funds to play from outside the US. And, after return of your US funds, you will be able to use those funds as well from outside the US.
I am a US resident but am travelling overseas. Can I play at Full Tilt Poker while outside the US?
No. US residents are not permitted to play for real money at Full Tilt Poker.
Can I play at Full Tilt Poker through a VPN or similar workaround?
No. Players caught doing so are subject to having their account closed and funds forfeited.
Can I still play for play money?
Yes. You can still play at play money tables at Full Tilt Poker.com. However, you cannot enter any Freerolls.
Any new US players who wish to play for play money can open an account at Full Tilt Poker.net.
My Account Balance
When will I be able to withdraw my account balance?
Full Tilt Poker is diligently working on facilitating the withdrawal of funds for US Poker Players. This is our top priority and we’ll have a further update in the week commencing Monday, May 2nd.
Can I transfer my funds to another player outside of the US and have them withdraw it for me?
No, player transfers by US players are no longer permitted.
What will happen to my withdrawals that have already been requested?
We are diligently working to determine the status of any unprocessed withdrawals. Once confirmed we will return the funds to your Full Tilt account balance and contact you.
Tickets, Bonuses and Promotions
What will happen to my Ring Game Tickets, Tournament Tickets and T$?
All Ring Game Ticket balances will be converted to real money before your withdrawal. This includes any Ring Game Tickets that have expired since Friday, April 15th.
Any tickets purchased after Friday, April 15th, will be refunded in the currency they were purchased in.
All remaining unused tournament tickets and T$ will be converted to cash and added to your real-money balance.
What about my unclaimed bonuses?
Any purchased bonuses will have the unclaimed portion of the bonus refunded in the currency in which they were purchased.
How will my Black Card and Iron Man statuses be affected?
Your Black Card status (including your 500-day rolling average) and your Iron Man ‘continuing months’ will be maintained as of Friday, April 15th, should you be able to return to Full Tilt Poker in the future.
No player will be penalised for either of these promotions as a result of recent events.
What will happen to my Full Tilt Points, Iron Man Medals and Academy Points?
These are currently under review and details will be posted here when confirmed.
When will I receive my Take 2 promotion money?
You will be paid out on a pro-rated basis based on the number of days you played for the Take 2 promotion. The bonus money will be credited to your account shortly and will be available by the time you are able to withdraw.
What happens to any items I ordered from your store?
If the item has already shipped, then you should expect it to arrive shortly.
If the item has not shipped, then it has been placed on hold. Should we be unable to fulfil your order the FTPs will be refunded to your account.
Sportsbook.com and Playersonly.com, two large U.S. friendly online poker sites on the Merge Poker Network are leaving the U.S. market. This action is most likely in response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s seizure of three online poker sites; PokerStars.com, FullTiltPoker.com and Absolute Poker, who have stopped accepting players from the United States. Sportsbook is one of the oldest and most trusted gaming companies in the world so it comes as no surprise that they would want to protect their business.
While Sportsbook and Players Only poker sites will be closed to new traffic from US players, they will continue to service players who currently have accounts or who sign up for new accounts before May 1, 2011. So we strongly suggest that all players from the US sign up today even if they don’t plan to use the account any time soon. Both poker sites have excellent processing and both are Mac compatible US poker sites.
This is a a huge blow to the online poker community since April 15, 2011. Some of our sources have suggested that other major online poker sites are planning to exit the U.S. market as well.
It’s been 2 weeks since the online poker world was shocked by the indictments handed down by the US DoJ on four of the largest online poker sites in the world. Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker immediately stopped allowing US players to play for real money on their websites. Absolute Poker and UB seem to have decided to ignore the DoJ and continue on almost as if nothing happened. Players on Absolute Poker and UB cannot, however, deposit or cashout at the moment.
Much has happened in the last two weeks. Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker have regained the use of their .com domains to facilitate cash outs for US based players. Pokerstars surprised many this week as they began cash outs for US players. Some have already received their bank direct transfers. Given the circumstances this is quite fast. Pokerstars still does not know how it will pay out FPP’s. Tournament Dollars and tickets are being converted into cash at 100%.
Full Tilt Poker on the other hand is having major banking issues not only for it’s US based poker players but also for Non US players. Many European Full Tilt Poker players have been waiting well over a week for Moneybookers and Neteller withdrawals and some have even questioned if Full Tilt Poker is now bankrupt. Full Tilt Poker has issued a statement claiming that they are “Not Bankrupt”.
Meanwhile smaller poker sites have seen tremendous growth over the last couple of weeks. The Merge Poker Network with includes such poker sites as Lock Poker and Carbon Poker have led the way and even climbed into a top 10 position overall for global poker traffic. Bodog Poker is not far behind as they too have experienced growth. All in all, any poker site still accepting US players has had a spike in traffic.
When people want something, businesses arise to fill the demand. How much more so when the activity, online poker, is not even clearly illegal?
If the commercial goods or services are not legal, then by definition, the organizations will be criminal. Prohibition created modern organized crime, by outlawing alcoholic beverages.
When Prohibition was repealed, organized crime turned to things people wanted but could not get legally: prostitution, drugs and gambling.
When legal gambling began to spread, with insufficient safeguards to keep out the bad guys, organized crime used its experience to infiltrate.
Over the years and around the world, governments realized they had few options. The only way to completely outlaw gambling would be to crack down on players almost as hard as operators. This is not politically possible in a democracy.
Since prohibition does not work, the next best choice is to legalize gambling and put in strict regulations.
The federal government of the United States has decided to ignore these lessons of history and take the worst aspects of the choices available.
Every action by the federal government makes it more difficult for it to go after the next operator. The UIGEA, rammed through by the failed politician Bill Frist (R.-TN), scared all of the publicly traded gaming companies out of the U.S. market. Then prosecutors went after payment processors, making it more difficult for players to find legitimate ways to send their money to betting sites.
Now the feds have seized .com domain names and charged operators with bank fraud. So, gaming sites are switching to .eu and .uk, and cutting off all physical contact with the U.S. Even the present American operators can’t be extradited, so what hope is there for the DoJ to bring future foreign operators here to stand trial?
The criminal indictment against PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute and their founders, was unsealed by the U.S. Attorney for New York on April 15. Why now?
Maybe this just happened to be when the cases came together, when investigators had verified all the information about bank accounts they got almost exactly a year before. Daniel Tzvetkoff was arrested in April 2010, apparently turned in by these very same websites for embezzling tens of millions of dollars while doing payment processing.
So, maybe it was merely a coincidence that recent developments had given Internet poker an air of respectability, a feeling that legalization was inevitable. Nevada regulators approved Caesars Entertainment’s partnership with 888, a company that used to take bets from the U.S. Steve Wynn upped the stakes by announcing a joint venture with PokerStars, which was still accepting American poker players. The Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill to regulate online poker. And the District of Columbia actually made it legal.
The DoJ has been waging a war of intimidation against Internet gambling for years, successfully scaring players, operators, payment processors and affiliates into abandoning the American market. Lacking the two essentials to any prosecution – a statute that clearly makes the activity illegal and a defendant physically present in the U.S. – the feds have announced showy legal action against easy targets about every other year.
Online poker is not an easy target, since a federal Court of Appeal ruled the Wire Act is limited to bets on sports events. And tricking financial institutions into processing poker payments seems a technicality, especially since the banks made millions without ever facing any criminal charges or even paying a penny in fines. Talk about a victimless crime!
But getting a Utah bank to agree to process gambling transactions in return for a $10 million investment is an easier case, if true. The bank was so small that the officer and part-owner who allegedly arranged the deal, asked for, and received, only $20,000 for his “bonus.”
Even if there was a bribe, the feds are still going to have to prove that the poker was illegal. Since the Wire Act won’t work, prosecutors used 18 U.S.C. 1955, which makes it a federal felony if five or more people do more than $2,000 in business a day in violation of state gambling laws. The indictment relies on “New York Penal Law 225 and 225.05 and the laws of other states.” There is an obvious problem with using a state misdemeanor to charge federal felonies against foreign corporations licensed by foreign countries.
The DoJ also included a “thank you” to the Washington State Gambling Commission, indicating that the DoJ is probably going to piggyback on that state’s 2006 law outlawing all Internet gambling, as well. At least Washington state makes Internet gambling a felony.
Still, there are problems. State laws are presumed not to reach beyond their borders. And even if Internet poker is illegal in that state, it is quite a leap to seize domain names for the entire country and threaten bank accounts in places like Panama.
The only state with a law better than Washington’s is Nevada, because it expressly says it reaches beyond the borders of the state. But basing this attack on Internet poker on Nevada law would look like it was motivated by the landbased casinos. After all, who are the big winners here?
The operators will never stand trial, unless they voluntarily return to the U.S. or make some other mistake. The only U.S. extradition treaty I have found that covers illegal gambling is with Hong Kong. Calling it bank fraud won’t work, since the defendants can show their local courts that it is based on gambling. And the activity must be illegal in both countries. No nation will extradite an individual to be tried for the very activity that that nation licenses.
But what is the federal government accomplishing with going after foreign licensed poker operators?
The DoJ is raking in lots of dough for itself. For example, it received $405 million from PartyGaming and one of its founders, without even filing any criminal charges. And Party Poker had pulled out of the U.S. years earlier.
Certainly the prosecutors are scaring a lot of people and making it difficult for average citizens to even get their money to a foreign site, let alone place and collect a bet. But when the public relations campaign turned against it, the DoJ quickly backed down.
The DoJ’s seizure of .com names around the world, even in countries where online poker is 100% legal, led to international outrage. It also creates a dangerous precedent. Can an Islamic country, which outlaws alcohol, seize the worldwide domain names of every retailer that advertises beer or wine?
And the DoJ made it nearly impossible for players to get their deposits back. Even in the U.S., there is no federal law against merely playing poker on the Internet.
Five days after Black Friday, the DoJ announced that an agreement had been reached with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. The companies will be permitted to operate money games outside of the U.S., which they always had the legal right to do anyway. American players will be able to go to the .com sites and get their deposits back.
The problem for the DoJ is that prohibition is not regulation. Getting rid of publicly traded operators created a vacuum that was quickly filled by companies whose owners were difficult to trace. Scaring away well-known poker names means that newcomers, some of whom will undoubtedly be sleazy, will take their places. If the multi-billion-dollar U.S. online poker market becomes too hot for licensed companies, operators without any licenses, who won’t even reveal what country they are in, will be glad to run the games.
Meanwhile, like a raid by Elliot Ness on bootleggers and speakeasies during Prohibition, there are now wonderful opportunities for individuals you would not want to meet in a dark alley.
Unless, of course, Americans are actually going to stop playing poker on the Internet.
Over the years there have been many technological advances that make it possible for all players, no matter their operating system, to enjoy the action and thrill that only online poker can provide. Many Mac users in the USA may feel like they were left out in the cold after losing four US online poker sites that had exceptional Mac friendly software. There are plenty of more online poker sites that cater to Mac users, which make it easy for them to sit at a table and rake in the cash, with or without a download.
Mac poker sites are available in download or instant play form, and in most cases, players will find the instant play option works best. The graphics are crisp and clear, the table action is smooth and the no download option gives players faster access to the room wherever there is an internet connection available. There are many reputable US accepted Mac compatible poker sites, players just need to find the one that works best for them. Merge is known for having features like the Rabbit Cam, Run it Twice and personal customizable features for players to make the skin their own. Merge Gaming Network poker sites include Carbon Poker, Lock Poker and RPM Poker.
The Everleaf Network which powers such rooms as Luvin Poker is another fantastic way for Mac users to get on the virtual felt action. Their poker room offers awesome promotions, comparable table variety to the poker giants online, and their tournament action runs all day and night. Their traffic numbers are growing daily, and with many players joining their room the games will keep players coming back for more.
Bodog Poker also offers a Mac friendly poker room, and is one of the leading names in online gaming. Mac users can enjoy all the poker action they crave at the tables using their instant play platform. Their game variety keeps Mac users satisfied and the game play and features offered make it easy to play for hours. Bodog offers great VIP rewards, awesome guarantees and large freerolls often.
There aren’t as many choices for Mac users as there are for players using a more standard operating system, but more poker rooms are starting to cater to Mac users more than ever before. It’s only a matter of time and all reputable poker rooms will offer the Mac option for their players, which one can only expect will help their traffic. If you are using a Mac operating system and you are ready to get started today, visit one of the Mac friendly poker room listed here and get what you want out of online poker.