The Merge Poker Network had quite an increase in terms of their poker traffic in the month after Black Friday hit the United States poker population. To put this statement into numbers, you can look at the 79 percent increase in their cash game poker traffic in just that month after April 15th. While the three biggest online poker sites out there found themselves in quite a bit of trouble, Full Tilt Poker is no longer running, Absolute Poker shut down, and PokerStars is the only one of the big three to be able to make it past the fall out. When online poker players in the United States were searching for places to go, the Merge Network offered them a few great options.
The Merge Network has a few well-known poker rooms under it, including Lock Poker and RPM Poker. The only issue with the fact that these sites allowed US sign-ups after Black Friday, is that they were overwhelmed with new sign-ups, and couldn’t keep up with processing the incredibly high number of payments that were coming on the site. Merge was on a two week back log of cash out requests, and found themselves having to make a decision. They decided to stop allowing new US sign-ups at this point, in order to catch up on payouts, and hopefully be able to re-open in the near future.
It seems that the Merge Network has finally caught up on their payouts, and is now accepting new US players onto most their skins. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this will have on the poker rankings for the Merge Network, as they are currently sitting at 12th in the overall cash game traffic rankings. Their current ranking though, actually puts them at the top of all online poker sites who accept US players currently, with Bodog sitting in 13th, and the Cake Poker Network in 20th. Bodog is actually heading OUT of the US market at the end of this year, which could potentially send even more traffic to the Merge Network.
Two weeks ago we wrote about a story, that appeared on Subject: Poker (S:P), regarding a possible seizure by the US Department of Justice, Maryland Office on a merge network online poker processor. Since the story came out the Merge network has been hit with withdrawal requests and a 25% drop in online poker traffic. Holdem Poker Chat has been following this story along with the online poker community and we cannot confirm or deny the S:P story.
We’ve contacted all of our industry sources about this and keep getting different answers including: “It’s just fear mongering”, “NoahSD of S:P is just a shill for Full Tilt Poker lawyer A. Jeff Ifrah” and “NoahSD is just an attention whore”. Note: We have nothing against NoahSD or S:P, they’ve written some great news stories in the past.
Poker News Boy has also come out and questioned the motivation behind the S:P story and also posted a story about being contacted via Skype by the so-called S:P source (Robert) that said he had recorded phone conversations to prove everything. When asked by Poker News Boy editor Gerry Poltorak for copies of the said recordings or any documents, the so-called source said he couldn’t because the documents are “Sealed”. He also went on to say that by the information being leaked that the Merge Poker Network had the processor move 95% of the funds in question but that one international account was seized . He also says that for now the Merge network is save as far as the Maryland office is concerned but that he didn’t know what other DoJ offices are working on.
The simple fact is that any online poker site that operates in the US can eventually expect the US DoJ to possibly seize the funds of payment processors. The US DoJ is not in the habit of leaking any information or issuing warnings. We contacted some sources at Merge and all they would say is that they know about the story and are not worried.
We officially have no position on this but felt you should know what we’ve learned.
In a huge story that was recently released by subjectpoker.com, the US Department of Justice seems to have decided to take action against the Merge Gaming Network. The US Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland has been said to be planning to seize assets of the payment processors who had played a role in the transactions that occurred between the Merge Network and their US based online poker players. There have been no specific processors to this point who have pointed out as the ones who will be under fire, and there have also been no statements as to whether indictments will come along with these seizures. We’ve contacted all of our sources and none can corroborate this story.
While the Merge Network is currently one of the best online poker options for US based poker players, they have attempted to avoid issues with the US Department of Justice in the past. Back on May 24th they decided to stop accepting US players, which seemed to be a step in that direction; but it was unknown as whether they did this to follow the anti-gambling laws in the United States, or whether it was due to an incredible amount of new sign-ups and the fact that Merge needed to catch up on payouts to current players.
In the end though, Merge is still allowing US based poker players, and allowing them to play for real money; which means that they have not followed the DOJ’s interpretation of the UIGEA. It is unknown currently when these seizures will actually happen, if at all now. They were originally planned for mid to late September, but it could really be any time before or after that time frame. The idea has also been thrown out by subjectpoker.com that the DOJ may actually not even follow through with this plan since it has been released to the public.
As of now, there is really nothing that US players can do. Even if you play on the Merge Network and are looking to withdraw your money off of the site, it could take over a month to get your payment sent to you. So this essentially means that you would not have your withdrawal processed before the seizures actually occur, which would leave you in a tough spot. In reality, a withdrawal could actually move the money of an online poker player into the reach of the DOJ since they are targeting the payment processors themselves. So in the end, it’s very unlikely that withdrawing money off of a Merge Network site will avoid issues of your money being locked up in the end, and instead it could leave you with multiple delays.
It is currently unknown if the Merge Gaming Network will keep funds in segregated accounts, and if this is the case then the segregated accounts may not be in jeopardy of being seized. While places like the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have stated that they are not seizing segregated accounts and that they are still encouraging sites to repay their players; the Maryland USAO has been much less sympathetic to players, and has not made any statements similar to the ones above. This leaves quite a bit of doubt as to what would happen to players’ funds if the Maryland USAO did move forward with this.
If you visit a Merge Network online poker site, you’ll find that most of their sites have moved to country code top-level domains, which are based out of either the European Union, or Antigua. The regular .com domain names are redirected now to websites that are not affiliated with the United States. There have also been thoughts thrown around that a site could avoid DOJ actions by restricting the United States based players to specific states, and it is unclear if this is possible.
The Merge Network is licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission which requires no fund segregation. But, this network received a letter of intent to be able to secure a license from Malta’s Lotteries and Gaming Authority. The Merge Network has recently been added to the LGA’s list of class four licensees, and some of their main merge skins (such as Lock, Carbon, and Hero Poker) have all added the LGA logo. The reason why this is important, is because the LGA has very strict policies when it comes to the segregation of funds. Neither Merge nor LGA has confirmed the new license, and LGA even stated that Lock Poker was not licensed by them.
This story has drawn quite a bit of attention as of late, and we were glad that Subject: Poker was able to cover this story very early on. All poker players throughout the United States will have their eyes locked on this situation with the Merge Gaming Network, but only time will tell what will happen with one of the few poker networks that allows US players still.
Merge Gaming issued a statement today which affects players in France and the United States, in short:
1. Players from France will no longer be able to play on any Merge Poker Network site for real money. Their only access will be to the Cashier so they can withdraw their bankroll. This applies to new and existing players.
2. Players from the following US states are now restricted from creating new real money accounts on any Merge Poker Site:
– New York
NOTE: This only applies to new players from these states – existing players are unaffected.
Also, as I am sure you’re aware rakeback will no longer be offered to new players after June 1st, 2011. They will be offering new promotions to replace rakeback, they’re currently in the final stages of planning and we will release information about the new program in the next few days.
In the matter of just three weeks Lock Poker has become a giant in the online poker arena. It’s estimated that they have already signed roughly 20% of US online poker players that were affected by Black Friday. They have gone from an irrelevant online poker site to the biggest thanks to the US Government and an aggressive marketing plan.
As Lock Poker spokesperson recently said in an interview, “Someone around the office commented today that it was like Lock Poker executives hitting the lottery, but it’s more along the lines of them winning every lottery drawing held in the United States so far this year.”
“Overnight this company has gone from an unknown to a household name like Sony or Coca Cola, and they haven’t spent a single penny in advertising dollars to do it. It may be the greatest business success story ever…and there’s been some big ones in our time.”
The main reasons for their rapid growth can be attributed to a massive 200% up to $1200 first deposit bonus as well as unique promotions like the Battle of the Ronin and the Bluff Pro Challenge.
Lock Poker has also been busy signing up the world’s best young poker pros like Jose”Girah” Macedo, Eric Lynch, Brett Jungblut, Wesley “Aumnicient” Clark and John “Reraz0r” Law.
Lock Poker is on the Merge Poker Network and is 100% Mac Compatible. For more information read our Lock Poker Review.
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.
As you know on April 15, 2011 “Black Friday” Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice and therefore left the U.S. market. The traffic stats below show the affect this has had on online poker sites throughout the world.
The big winners so far seem to be the sites that operate on the Merge Poker Network and Bodog Poker which are up 36% in online traffic and Party Poker whose seeing it’s European traffic up 10%. European sites seeing increased traffic is no shocker. Would you feel safe having your money on a poker site that has been accused of bank fraud, money laundering and tax evasion?