Legal US Online Poker Stalled Again

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United States Senate Majority Leader and the Democratic Senior Senator from Nevada, Harry Reid, declared on Friday, December 14th that any discussion on a bill to legalize online poker in the U.S. is dead for the current lame duck session of Congress, due to the priority of solving the budget crisis and avoiding the fiscal cliff. In his comments, published in a story by the La Vegas Sun, Reid expressed his personal wishes that the situation could be different and that he is disappointed time won’t allow Congress to address this issue this year.

Reid also mentioned that he, along with fellow Nevada Senator, the Republican Dean Heller, are committed to ironing out this issue in a bipartisan manner and bringing it to the table before Congress.

Until this announcement it still seemed possible that the Internet poker bill that Reid himself drafted along with the Republic Senator from Arizona, Republican Jon Kyl, might still be passed by the Senate at least before Congress adjourned the 2012 session. Opponents of that bill who lauded the announcement that it was, at least for the moment, dead in the water, included Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, the National Association of Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, the National Governors Association, and state lotteries.

If passed, such a bill would weaken a 2006 law that mandates enforcement of illegal online gambling, but in a decision by the Justice Department in late 2011, the definition of illegal online gambling was restricted to sports betting alone. US based players can play on any of these online poker sites.

Three Poker Players Have $26k Confiscated by Customs in Bahamas

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usaIf you are flying from out of country back into the United States after a poker series, you should definitely take this story into account before making any final decisions about what to do with your winnings.

This story relates to three poker players who were playing in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas, and were headed back after the tournament series had ended.  They were going through customs in order to get back to the United States, and had their winnings carried on with them.  Now, between the three of them there was $26k, but the law states that players cannot travel with more than $10k in cash.  The three players thought that they were in the clear, as they split the $26k between the three of them, which meant that all of them were under $10k each.  The only problem with this though, is that the law actually says that the $10k limit is for entire families.

The three players who were involved are all related as well, and it included 18 year old Sean Ruane, 23 year old Michael Ruane (his brother), and their cousin, 18 year old Thomas Freeman Jr.  They headed through customs, and the youngest brother became nervous and started sweating, which led to the officials at customs looking more in-depth at the situation.  When all was said and done, the three were detained for falsely declaring the amount of money that they were carrying with them.

Fortunately for the three of them, the Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell who handled the case, wasn’t incredibly hard on them.  She did make them sweat a bit before laying down their final sentence though.  In the end, while the three players’ defense attorney was asking for the judge to waive the custodial sentence, the players decided to plead guilty to the charged that was given to them.  What this meant was that the players were forced to give up the money that they attempted to bring back to the United States.  The reason for this was because of their clean records, and the fact that they did not “waste the courts time” since they pleaded guilty.

Major Poker Network Finally Covers Loss of Online Poker in the US

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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.

Safe Online Poker Sites for US Players August 2011

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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.

Merge Poker Network to Halt New US Player Signups

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The Merge Poker Network will temporarily stop accepting NEW US players in a day or 2 in order to catch up on a backlog of customer service requests but more importantly on poker transactions. As it stands now customer service has a 2 week backlog and cashouts are much worse. They simply were not prepared for the influx of players they’ve received since Black Friday and are feeling growing pains. If they don’t catch up soon they will end up angering all their players. This is for NEW Players Only, for all existing players it will be business as usual.

The only part of this story that we have not yet been able to confirm is if this is for all Merge Skins or just those that use the Merge cashier and customer support. We’ll update this post as soon as we get confirmation.

We’ve been told that the temporary ban on new US players will last about a month but from past experience in dealing with the Merge Network we’re guessing it will last through the end of the summer. What they will be trying to do is add more processing options as well as hire more customer support personnel to handle the extra traffic.

This move was brought on by internal rumblings among Merge Poker skin operators regarding the current processing problems. With the loss of QuickTender / UseMyWallet the main option became credit cards. the success rate for successful credit card transactions is roughly 20% which is just unacceptable. It is rumored that for Carbon Poker the success rate is closer to 70% which leads us to believe that the Merge Network was putting their site Carbon Poker ahead of all others. This lack of transparency will only lead to more problems and is most likely the main reason this is happening.

UPDATE: This is now in affect. We’ll let you know when they reopen to new US poker players.

Some Full TIlt Poker Accounts Unfrozen

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According to a report on eGaming Review, some Full Tilt Poker bank accounts have been unfrozen by the US Department of Justice to faciliate player paybacks. According to the report most of the funds seized on April 15th belonged to Full Tilt Poker which is something most in the poker community where beginning to figure out when Full Tilt couldn’t pay players. Over the last couple of weeks rumors had been going around that Full Tilt were trying to sell off part of the company in order to raise money to pay players in the US.

Here is part of what was posted by eGaming Review:

The Full Tilt source explained this resulted from players’ poker balances being credited with money held in bank accounts seized by authorities before Full Tilt itself had been made aware of the seizures. “Because of the broad-sweeping nature of the Black Friday seizures, you had a seizure combined with a backlog and this has resulted in millions which all of a sudden became owed,” the FTP source said.

“Normally Full Tilt would cover that and take that loss, but because all their banks got shut down there was no way of doing that until recently when the government agreed to unfreeze the [Bank of Ireland] account,” he said.

We hope that this means that players will soon get paid and be able to make it to Las Vegas for the WSOP which begins next week.

Black Friday Indicted Pleads Guilty

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Bradley Franzen, one of the 11 people charged last month in the case that shut down U.S. operations for Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, pleaded guilty Monday in Manhattan federal court, admitting he illegally helped link gambling companies with banks to process millions of dollars.

The charges that he pleaded guilty to were: conspiracy to commit bank fraud; accepting funds in connection with illegal gambling; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Franzen said he was contacted in 2009 at his Costa Rica home by an Internet poker company owner who wanted to process checks online. He said he agreed to link online poker companies with banks even though he knew it was illegal.

Quicktender – UseMyWallet Accounts Possibly Seized by US

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Quicktender – UseMyWallet issued the following press release today regarding the recent problems with recent transactions. It appears they still do not know the true issue of the problem but do fear that the US bank accounts used to process transactions have been seized by the US Department of Justice.

The management of Quicktender would like to make the following statement
regarding the current situation with UseMyWallet/Quicktender withdrawals:

We have operated a reputable and reliable payment mechanism for US customers
since 2006. Our reputation is important to us, and until recently there has
never been any question that players and merchants would be paid. In order
to achieve this, we have built over many years relationships with payment
intermediaries that share our values of honesty and integrity. In the
jurisdictions from which we offer our services we are proud to be properly
licensed and constituted, and have even worked with US law enforcement on
occasions where criminal activity has been identified.

However, we cannot always predict some of the vagaries of the US
administration. Over the past 2 weeks we have in good faith transmitted
withdrawals initiated by Quicktender account holders to beneficiary bank
accounts in the US. The money left our account in Europe. It was only in
response to increasing complaints from our customers that we recognised
there was a problem, and asked our bank to investigate. It emerges that the
money has been accumulated in our bank’s correspondent banking partners
accounts in the US, and has been frozen. We suspect it is possible that
these funds may be subject to a seizure order by the US authorities. We
would stress that we do not have bank accounts in the US of our own, and
that the funds have left our account Europe.

It is our express intention to ensure that the funds of our account holders
are safe. For this reason we have decided to suspend future withdrawals
until we understand what has happened to the money that has been frozen. If
we continue to transmit bank wires into the US we could find that these
funds also do not reach their ultimate beneficiaries. This would simply make
the problem worse.

We ask our customers to bear with us in these difficult times. Please be
assured that we have always honored our obligations in the past, and that we
will make every effort to overcome these current difficulties. It is not in
the interests of anybody to attempt to financially impact QuickTender
further. These actions may impact the future viability of the company and
the ability of the company to pay its customers. We are assessing our
current exposure, and how best to reintroduce withdrawals safely.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers for their past
loyalty, and to reiterate that we will take all possible steps to ensure
that our customers money is secure.

Some, Not All U.S. Player Funds Returned

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The Poker Players Alliance’s Executive Director John Pappas suggested that the amount of player funds withheld because of the U.S. Department of Justice’s actions against several top poker sites on April 15, 2011 (or what has been dubbed Black Friday) might run an estimated $100,000,000 to $500,000,000. As it turns out, if he’s not right then he’s underestimating, as the lower of those two amounts, $100 million, is the amount of money Poker Stars announced last Friday having already returned to players, and that doesn’t even take care of all  of it.

And that’s just one site. Full Tilt Poker has yet to start returning player funds, as does Absolute Poker, even though both sites have come out saying they will soon, and that they have successfully negotiated a way with the US Justice Department to do so. Players are skeptical about Absolute Poker’s abilities to follow through on this promise, however, as Blanca Gaming still hasn’t convinced its community that it’s not considering filing for bankruptcy.

Full Tilt Poker issued a public explanation of its delay, albeit over one of its player forums via an vaguely identified representative, which sat as no more than an excuse with many players who are watching their PokerStars counterparts starting to get their monies back. So in addition to being a legal nightmare for Full Tilt Poker, this could turn into a PR nightmare for them as well. At least Poker Stars is trying to stay on top of that end of things while other parts of their business fall apart (or at least under scrutiny).

Black Friday Consumes Poker Income

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April 15, 2011 will forever be known in the online poker world as Black Friday. It was on this day that the US Department of Justice seized the American domains of the three largest online poker rooms, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. This put an end to millions of players wagering at these sites. Poker has moved from being a mere source of entertainment to a professional occupation that enables persons to earn a livelihood. In the last few years with the woes of the economic downturn many persons have relied only on playing poker at online sites for the roof above their heads and the bread on the table. In one stroke this was snatched away on Black Friday.

Click Here for Online Poker Sites Accepting US Players

Poker Players Alliance is a body that is lobbying for legalization and regulation of online poker in the United States. After Black Friday, John Pappas its executive director revealed some very pertinent figures. He said 8 million to 10 million Americans play poker online for money. About 50,000 claim to be full-time, professional online poker players, while an inestimable number use online poker to supplement income from day jobs. The three online poker sites that were shut down on Black Friday catered to roughly 70% of the American online poker market.

Hence it is easy to realize that there has been a massive loss of poker income on account of these sites being forced to shut down. There are two types of online poker players that are most affected. One is the player whose substantial savings were lying as deposits at these online poker rooms. PokerStars has initiated the process of refunding the deposits and others will follow, but this will take time. Meanwhile money locked up at the poker sites is money lost. It cannot be mobilized to create other income, not even to play poker at land casinos. One such sad tale is that of Ziethlow. He now sings for donations outside casinos to earn a fraction of what he earlier did.

The other type of online poker player who is badly affected is the one who is physically challenged and hence has little other opportunity for earning a living. ESPN did a story on Brian Ford after Black Friday. Brian is confined to a wheelchair because of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. His work of doing data entry dried up in 2008. Since then he has been surviving on online poker. Online poker has given Ford more than an income. It has given him income with the comfort of anonymity. Now both are lost. It’s estimated that thousands of disabled Americans play online poker daily to supplement their meager disability income.

Loss of income to poker players is the direct fallout of Black Friday. There is considerable collateral damage as well. The closure of these online poker sites will lead to job losses there. Absolute Poker employees in Costa Rica are already beginning to feel the heat. Then there is the poker training industry consisting of poker software, poker books and online classes. There are agents who represent players in getting them the best sponsorship deals. With income to the poker sites drying up, their sponsorship activities will take a hit and affect the representation business as well.