In a bit of interesting news, one of the largest TV networks out there today has finally covered the loss of online poker in the United States. They did this by talking with an online poker player who doesn’t have the same type of reputation as some of the biggest in the game do, such as Phil Ivey, or Phil Hellmuth; but instead went with a player who is a mid-stakes player, but one that still makes his living off of playing the game of poker online.
Since Black Friday, many TV networks have shied away from covering this topic it seems, but it is one that is huge among not only players, but also fans of poker as well. The idea behind this story is that it takes a look at the issues that were caused at Full Tilt Poker, and gives you the insight of how a player on their site went through the situation. The story is called “Did Poker ‘Ponzi’ steal my rent?”, and featured a player named Shawn “Jordankickz” Busse, who is a young online poker pro who had made over $300k from online poker in the past three years.
The main situation is that not only has Shawn lost his livelihood, but he also has around $60k still stuck on the massive online poker site, Full Tilt Poker. The idea behind the story is to help point out that while many of the larger names in online poker have made moves to other countries, a lot of players who play this game as a full time job are left here without being the play the game that they love. While Busse was making around $100k a year, he chose not to leave his life and family, and was left with around 35,000 other Americas who were surviving by playing online poker.
This loss of income for players, and also the fact that the US Government could also potentially be losing a ton of money in tax revenue are a few things to consider; but we are also left with many people who don’t have jobs at this point, and are now out there looking for work. Realistically, only time will tell what the outcome of Black Friday will be, and if or when online poker will be allowed in the United States again.
One of the more unknown stories in the game of online gambling comes from a guy named Richard Bronson, who used to be an executive at Mirage Resorts. Bronson believed that the casino industry was about to expand, and more than just in terms of across the United States. He was looking at the Internet, and decided to help found U.S. Digital Gaming two years back. This was completely on a limb, and Bronson was assuming that online gambling (mainly online poker), would find its way to being a huge hit in states that were looking to draw in some additional revenue.
This company that he created was made to provide advertising and software, and took a bit of money to get it rolling. There were some big named investors who had quite a bit of money, and decided to put it into this company that Bronson had created. It included names like Herbert Simon, who owns the Indiana Pacers, and Steven Roth who is the chairman of Vornado Realty Trust.
Internet gambling has always been pretty huge in the US market, but it has been mainly from players with offshore companies. The issue is, that the Department of Justice stood in the way of allowing online gambling in the United States, but as of now; it looks like the push for legalizing this in the United States is on.
The thing is, there quite a few billionaires getting involved in the online gambling front. Even well-known names like Steve Wynn and Donald Trump have been linked in ways as well. Wynn had a deal set with PokerStars, but backed out soon after it was reported after they were caught up with the DOJ’s crackdown on online poker. Trump has been paired with Marc Lasry, who controls the Avenue Capital Group.
There have been many other big names involved in the talks of online gambling in one way or the other, and that is the real story here. The interest all around in online poker and online gambling is growing so quickly, that even some of the biggest businessmen in the United States know that they want to be involved. Keep an eye on what happens if online poker gets legalized in the United States, it could make for some interesting pairings among billionaires.
In a new development regarding the sale of Full Tilt Poker to Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT), an email stating that the Department of Justice and GBT have, in principle, reached an agreement that will help facilitate the sale. The email reads:
I am pleased to announce that today the Department of Justice and Groupe Bernard Tapie have reached an agreement in principle regarding the acquisition of the companies comprising FullTiltPoker. My understanding is the deal provides that in exchange for an agreed upon payment by GBT, and a GBT commitment to assume responsibility for payment of ROW players, DoJ will reimburse US players and settle the outstanding civil litigation with the companies comprising FTP. Beyond these conditions, issues like the time frame and process for repayment of players remain unclear at this point and time.
With DoJ’s consent now in hand, GBT may now proceed to finalize an agreement to acquire the companies or assets that comprise FTP. That agreement will very likely address the status of your shares or interests in the successor company. When I receive that agreement, I will coordinate with our attorneys to ensure the terms of that proposed agreement will be shared with the membership and voted on.
To paraphrase, the DOJ will disburse all funds held in relation to US players and GBT is responsible for all non-US players’ funds. This means that the speculated funding necessary for the sale decreases greatly now that the DOJ has agreed to release the bank accounts to be given back to US-based players.
While this is one major step in the reopening of FTP, two more crucial steps remain: a 2/3 majority affirmative vote by FTP shareholders and the issuance of a license from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. Make no mistake, this is great news, and undoubtedly sets the wheels in motion on the deal, but there remain many more steps to be taken on the issue.
Now that progress has started, expect more information coming forthwith. We will be sure to pass it along as we find it.
PokerStars has always been one of the most popular online poker sites out there, and this especially includes among United States players as well. It seems that since Black Friday, many US based players have continued to attempt to find ways to play at the massive site, even though it shut out the United States completely. Some players moved out of country in order to continue their poker careers, but most players who don’t play for a living could not move out of the country to continue playing poker; so they had to turn to other routes. This is where the Virtual Private Networks (VPN) came in.
Unfortunately for US players, the VPN’s may have worked for a while, but PokerStars has began to crack down on this, and have frozen the accounts of many US poker players who have been using the private networks. The players would receive notices stating that their account was suspended “pending further legal review”.
Players can not log in to PokerStars from inside the US borders to play for real money, but with these new connections, their internet connections are then rerouted through different servers that are hosted from outside of the United States. Essentially, it is like tricking the system into saying that the player is actually in a country that allows online poker player, and saying that their IP address is not from the United States.
The main way that these connections have been detected by PokerStars, is that once a player gets disconnected from the VPN, you can see their actual location. And of course PokerStars is one of the most in-depth and largest online poker sites out there, so you can bet that they have tracked this quite a bit.
It will be interesting to see what PokerStars decides to do about the players who have been using these Virtual Private Networks. You can assume that they will almost definitely be taking action against the accounts that have been using them. Part of this reason is due to the fact that PokerStars has been huge in following the Department of Justice’s online poker rules since Black Friday.
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.
Months after Black Friday many poker players in the US are still trying to figure out where and how to play online. While many of the high stakes players have moved outside the US, not everyone can just pick up and leave. Therefore we’ve compiled a list of online poker sites still operating in the US.
At the top of the list is Bodog Poker, which is a well-established name in the US. Bodog recently announced that they will be changing the name of their US facing operations but have no fear the only change will be in the name. They offer players a 110% bonus up to $1100 and run a weekly 100k tournament. Players are stating that they are receiving withdrawal checks in under a week.
Another well-established sports booking site has set its sight’s on the US poker market and that is BetOnline. They’ve been around for over 10 years and have a great reputation. Their poker software is proprietary and they are aggressively marketing to players by offering a 25% up to Unlimited bonus.
Luvin Poker on the Everleaf network is also offering a massive bonus of 200% up to $1000 and the play is super soft. While they don’t boast the number of players that the bigger sites do, they are a great site for the lower stake games. They are also 100% mac compatible.
The Merge Poker network sites are do to reopen to new US players this month. There are two online poker sites on the Merge network that we highly recommend and those are Lock Poker, which has been signing many of today’s top young poker pros, and Carbon Poker, which is the flagship site of the Merge network. Both offer generous bonuses but players claim that cashouts from Lock Poker are slightly quicker then those from Carbon Poker.
Make sure to visit Holdem Poker Chat regularly for updates on the above poker sites as well as all poker news. We’ll continue to update and monitor all US Poker Sites daily so all you have to do is play and win.
It looks like United States based poker players may have a site to play on after all. It has been said that the Merge Gaming Network is going to begin allowing new American players by the end of July. While there is no day that has been locked in for it yet, it’s looking as if it will happen at some point, hopefully soon. The Merge Network was one of the biggest winners in terms of adding traffic after Black Friday. A month after the indictment, Merge’s cash game traffic had gone up an incredible 79%. The Merge Network includes sites like Carbon Poker, and Lock Poker.
Originally, Merge decided to stop accepting new US players in the beginning of June. The reason for this was a bit different than most other sites though; as they were actually so flooded with new US players that they began to have payment processing issues. The Network was looking at a two week backup for cashouts, and decided that it would be smarter to just stop the growth, and get their customers paid out quicker.
When US players are fully allowed back on the site, it will be interesting to see how they do payment options for US players. Currently, a debit card or credit card has been said to work on the site, but the best withdrawal option as of now is by check. While getting paid out by check isn’t always the fastest (it sometimes takes up to two months to get the check processed), it is definitely a much better option than not getting paid at all. Based on Carbon Poker’s payouts though, players who put in for a check withdrawal were receiving payments within 2-5 days a few months back. This was of course, a bit before they had to stop allowing US players due to payout backups.
The last week of June wasn’t just the end of the ’10-’11 Fiscal Year. It was also the official end of Full Tilt Poker. A descent that started on April 15 of this year, thereafter considered by the online poker world to be Black Friday, ended last week when Full Tilt Poker closed its doors, in all probability for good.
To be clear on this FullTiltPoker.com was already closed to US players after Black Friday. But now, as of a week ago, Full Tilt Poker is closed to everyone, no matter where in the world they may live. The action to close Full Tilt Poker’s international operations last Wednesday, June 29, 2011, was taken by British Channel Island regulators.
Full Tilt Poker has yet to pay back some $150 million in American player funds frozen along with the rest of Full Tilt’s American assets. And now, they stand to owe millions more to their players left high and dry in the rest of the world. FTP is attempting to raise the funds needed to issue all these necessary (and overdue) refunds by selling majority ownership stake in the Irish parent company of Full Tilt Poker, Pocket Kings to Europan investors.
The US Attorney’s Office, meanwhile, is still said to be seeking around $3 billion in damages from Full Tilt Poker and the other two poker sites named in Black Friday’s seizure, Poker Stars and Absolute Poker. Poker Stars, incidentally, has paid back all $120 million it owed to its American players ousted in the shutdown of their American operations, while Absolute Poker has yet to pay back a dime of American player funds since that dark day in online poker history.
Since Black Friday, much of the poker world has been closely following the dramatic, divergent stories of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/UB, the three sites targeted by the Department of Justice’s indictment and civil complaint. However, there has been significant drama over recent months involving three other sites, too — DoylesRoom, Victory Poker, and the Cake Poker network. Targeted them selves, by a later Department of Homeland Security action (unsealed on May 23), DoylesRoom has seen its dot-com domain seized. However, prior to that action deals between DoylesRoom and Cake Poker left the latter in severe financial straits, with one consequence being the hastened demise of another, prominent site on the Cake network, Victory Poker.
The DoylesRoom-Cake Partnership — Two Years, Four Million +
Founded in 2004, DoylesRoom originally resided on the Tribeca Network before moving to Microgaming in 2007. Then in late January 2009, DoylesRoom moved once again to the Cake Poker network. At the time of that move, DoylesRoom borrowed $15 million from Cake Poker in order to settle its debts to Microgaming as well as to fund marketing campaigns going forward. (Note: Figures associated with the DoylesRoom-Cake partnership are close estimates of amounts given to us by several associates close to DoylesRoom, Cake, and Victory Poker.)
DoylesRoom remained part of the Cake Poker network for two years before moving once again, this time joining the Yatahay network in late January 2011. At the time of that move, DoylesRoom still owed significant money to Cake Poker.
Incidentally, while the exact nature Doyle Brunson’s previous involvement with the site that bears his name is unknown, a Twitter message from @TexDolly sent on January 10, 2011 noted he was “off to Cosra Rica for three days” (sic), suggesting a trip to DoylesRoom’s headquarters in Costa Rica. On May 13, 2011, a week-and-a-half before the DOJ domain seizure of doylesroom.com, Brunson announced he was terminating his endorsement contract with DoylesRoom.
Of that original loan of $15 million from Cake Poker to DoylesRoom, $2.5 million had been kept on deposit by Cake. Meanwhile, DoylesRoom had paid back approximately $9 million, with about $6.8 million still being owed. Minus the amount kept on deposit, DoylesRoom still owed Cake Poker about $4.3 million at the time of the move to Yatahay. Of that amount, DoylesRoom paid back 10 cents on the dollar to Cake, or about $430,000.
In other words, Cake Poker’s two-year relationship with DoylesRoom cost the network about $4 million plus altogether, a big hit for a relatively modest-sized network. To their credit players were always paid on time and the network continued to function as always. But there have been consequences.
As Cake Crumbles, Victory Suffers
Some of those consequences affected Cake Poker’s internal operations. According to a former Cake Poker employee, almost half of Cake’s staff were laid off. While the network’s operating budget was severely affected, it should be noted that at no point have player funds on deposit been at risk, although that situation remained tenuous for a couple of months.
Another consequence of the DoylesRoom-Cake Poker separation concerned Victory Poker, the site headed by 28-year-old CEO Dan Fleyshman. Launched in February 2010, Victory Poker began as part of the Everleaf Network before moving to the Cake Poker Network (CPN) in August. While never a large site in terms of player traffic, Victory did manage to earn a lot of attention thanks to the availability of CEO Fleyshman and the signing of high-profile pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Andrew Robl, Jonathan Little, and others.
Soon after joining Cake, Fleyshman recognized the network was potentially heading toward some financial difficulty and thus arranged a meeting between individuals who had invested in Victory Poker and Cake Poker brass in an attempt to find backing for the struggling network.
That meeting took place in London on January 5, 2011. Before the meeting Fleyshman posted on his Facebook page that he was “Walking into one of the top 5 biggest meetings of my life with ‘Big Boy’ executives who flew in from 6 countries.” However, despite such excitement, the meeting did not meet with the success Fleyshman or Cake envisioned.
In fact, once the potential backers got a look at the status of Cake Poker’s balance sheet and the unpaid debt from the DoylesRoom loan they not only declined to invest in Cake, they allegedly pulled their backing from Victory Poker as well. Fleyshman returned to his Facebook page to express his frustration: “I rarely curse,,. But today I calmly cursed 3 dozen times… Negativity & rudeness makes me :#€£¥%*•~# Grrrrrrrrr.”
Victory Nearly Turns Cereus, Then Folds
Left in a somewhat desperate situation in their own right Victory Poker made a decision to leave the Cake Poker Network and join the Cereus Network. Reactions in late March of this year to news regarding that impending move were mixed, with many wondering why Victory would choose to join embattled Cereus. At the time, Fleyshman spoke of the opportunity to join to the third-largest network as a primary incentive, although other factors — including the need to separate from Cake — were likely in play as well.
Then came Black Friday, two days after which Victory Poker announced it was no longer accepting U.S. players. In fact, on April 15 representatives of Victory Poker already had plane tickets in hand, ready to fly to Costa Rica to meet with Cereus, sign contracts, and finalize their deal. Given what the Black Friday indictment and civil complaint alleged regarding the Cereus network’s operations, one could say that Victory Poker’s having been prevented from completing its deal to join Cereus is a silver lining of sorts amid an otherwise dark scenario for the site.
While no longer serving U.S. customers, Victory Poker remained open as part of the Cake Poker Network until June 1 when it announced it was ceasing its poker operations altogether and that all of its players would be transferred to the Cake site. Victory Poker now plans to continue as an affiliate site offering news and strategy, but no games.
Cake in the Wake
While Victory Poker’s poker room has gone silent, DoylesRoom has moved its operations over to a new domain, doylesroom.ag, where it continues as part of the Yatahay network. Meanwhile, the Cake Poker network has survived.
A “strategic partnership” between PokerListings and the Cake Poker Network was announced in March of this year, essentially a partial selling of a majority stake in the Cake Poker Network to PokerListings, which has ensured Cake is at present and going forward financially secure. Previously — before Victory Poker’s involvement with CPN and well before Black Friday — attempts were made by Cake to sell the network in whole or in part to both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker according to our sources, though both of those major sites turned down the offer.
Cake now appears to be adopting a strategy whereby it maintains a lower profile in the U.S. than it had previously as far as advertising and promotion is concerned. Such an approach may well be recommended, given the attention being paid other sites that are seeking a more conspicuous U.S. presence.
Several attempts were made to contact representatives of Cake Poker and DoylesRoom for comment on this story. Neither site responded.
Last week we posted a story about the US Department of Justice releasing some Full Tilt Poker funds so that US players could be paid. As it turns out this is not true. Holdem Poker Chat along with most poker news outlets based the story on an article on eGaming Review Magazine which turns out to just be a lie.
The Public Information Office of the US Attorney’s Office has said that no funds have been released and that if any such action should be taken that it would be followed up by a public filing from their office.