Selecting an online poker room

 

Selecting an online poker room?

August 17, 2009 Warning Update

FBI 33-page affidavit stamped June 24/09 names Rennick and now Poker Stars and FullTilt Poker

More points to consider when picking an online room.

Is it legal for you to play poker online?

You need to determine if it is legal for you to play poker online. Some countries and states within countries have laws prohibiting online play for money (e.g. Washington State in the USA explicitly bans online poker play for money). You need to understand your local laws before you proceed.

Picking an online poker room?

There are 100s of online poker rooms sites that want your business. Online rooms can be standalone operations (e.g. PokerStars) or can be part of a large network of rooms (e.g. Sun Poker and other rooms are part of the Cryptologic network and share access to a common set of online poker tables; Pacific Poker and LuckyAcePoker are both part of the 888.com network). Online rooms can be privately owned (e.g. PokerStars) or may be owned by a publicly traded company (e.g. PartyPoker is owned by PartyGaming a publicly traded company on the LSE).

Consider the following strategy and its supporting rational to make your poker room selection:

  1. Limit your search to a poker room owned and/or operated by a publicly traded company. Poker rooms owned and/or operated by publicly traded companies tend to be very safe in following country specific laws. Some publicly traded companies such as Ladbrokes never entered the US market because of legal uncertainties. Other operators such as Cryptologic ( Sun Poker™ is operated by Cryptologic controlled companies), PartyGaming (PartyPoker), and Playtech (iPoker) exited the US market after the US passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). Although there is much discussion in the U.S.A. to repeal UIGEA (summary here), and although as of late 2007 nobody has been charged under the UIGEA, Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone after online gambling operators in the past and may still do so in the future. Consider the implications of a DOJ action from a US and non US player perspective:

    Gamblers in the U.S. need to worry about this because remote sites that are still accepting bets from U.S. residents are at risk of prosecution, which means frozen accounts and late or no payout. See the BetonSports and Neteller prosecutions as well as news on PartyGaming in talks with DoJ to discuss PAST U.S. bets DoJ claims were illegal, and the Discovery/Paradise Poker settlement agreement to name just a few.

    Gamblers OUTSIDE the U.S. need to worry about this because, again, if remote sites are still accepting bets from U.S. residents, there is the same risk of prosecution. If so, ALL accounts will likely be frozen - not just those of U.S. bettors.

    More discussion...

    The recent Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services Decision by the WTO Arbitrator report notes "As far as the risk of criminal proceedings is concerned, all remote gambling operators a priori seem to be an equally likely target, even though a number of Antiguan operations may have been subject to prosecution in the past." [section 3.135 on page 42]

  2. The poker room/network listed at our home page have been ranked as follows with respect to poker room owned and/or operated by a publicly traded company:

    PP -- owned and operated by a publicly traded company. For example, PartyGaming is publicly traded on the LSE and is the owner and operator of PartyPoker.com.

    Pp -- the operator is a publicly traded company with a poker network and some of the rooms on network are owned by publicly traded companies. For example, PlayTech is publicly traded and operates the iPoker Network. Some of the rooms on the iPoker Network are owned by publicly traded companies.

    P -- the operator is a publicly traded company while the site owner is privately owned.

    X -- neither the operator or site owner is a publicly traded company. AVOID!!

    _ -- ranking status is to be determined.

    The banners ads running at pokerpulse.com are also restricted to sites that are owned or operated by public ally traded companies and are in our opinion safe and reliable sites. PokerPulse does not link to sites that accept U.S. resident players because no publicly traded company today has anything to do with online gamblers resident in the U.S. (no doubt because or risk of future DOJ attacks).

  3. Register with your correct information at several sites and try the play for fun tables. By creating a real account at a candidate site you have the option to upgrade to a real money account in future and trying the play for fun tables lets you learn the user interface to the games. By registering you will be noticed by the marketing team at the site and you can expect to receive e-mails with reminders on the first deposit bonuses and other special promotions for new player at the site.

  4. Understand the bonus offers and take your pick(s). Do read the conditions on all bonus offers you receive once you have signed-up for play for fun account. There may be non trivial conditions to be met to earn your bonus (e.g. having to play a minimum number of raked hands). If in doubt about any bonus offer do reply to the offer e-mails and ask questions. You can expect all of the sites linked by PokerPulse to offer excellent marketing support and ongoing customer care.


F.A.Q.s

I clicked on a poker banner offering "Get 30% up to $150" but I don't see this offer at the poker site. What gives?

Good question. If the offer was 30% up to $150 then you should expect that offer when you are setting up your account and/or making your 1st deposit. If you don't see the offer when you creating your account (or making your first deposit) then please do write to the site's customer care and ask for the banner offer you saw (and be sure to include the name of the site, e.g. www.pokerpulse.com, where you clicked on the banner). BTW, for PartyPoker, the download page with the 30% FREE up to $150 is here.

Some web sites may be running out-of-date banners so you might be told that the offer is no longer valid. That is fair enough since the poker operator doesn't necessarily have control of out-of-date banners are running at affiliate sites.

At www.pokerpulse.com, we are always careful to only run banners for current offers. Any offer you see at PokerPulse is virtual certain to be a current offer. If you saw the banner on a specific www.pokerpulse.com page, then go to the page, clicking refresh a few times, you will see all of the banner running. Please note that banners do change on roughly a weekly/monthly basis so offers may not be available indefinitely.

Remember also that you do have to meet the bonus offer conditions from the poker site making the bonus offer. Offer conditions can include: the offer may be limited to your first deposit, you may need to play a certain number of raked hands before the offer clears, your deposit has to clear before the bonus is released, etc. If the bonus offer sounds really good (e.g. $500 extra), then you can expect conditions for the bonus to clear to be more stringent (e.g. playing 100s of raked hands). Alternatively, if the bonus offer is a simple $25 extra on your first deposit (of say $50) then the conditions to clear the bonus will be easier to meet.

If you have any trouble with bonus links you found at www.pokerpulse.com (or our related sites), and if you've tried to resolve your issue with the site's customer care without satisfaction, then please do report the remaining issues to me (email: db@pokerpulse.com). I do want to know about any problems with sites with ads at PokerPulse. Given that PokerPulse only runs ads for sites owned and/or operated by quality publicly traded companies, I don't expect to receive many complaints -- I do receive a few questions but I to date I have not seen any unresolved bonus problems.


Why would online sites offer me a sign-up bonus? Is this a scam?

Online sites will typically write-off your sign-up bonus as a customer acquisition cost.

To get the bonus, you do need to register your personal information with the site. And you can expect to receive marketing e-mails from sites where you have registered. Think of the sign-up bonus as just that -- your reward for taking the time to register and learn more about the site's poker product. Once you playing you will likely get a referral bonus if you get your friends to sign-up. Again, this is a very common practice for sites to do customer acquisition.

And if you have any questions about the bonus, do write to the site's customer care. Ask and learn.


But PokerPlayer claims U.S. Internet gamblers are NOT at risk ...

Yes, here's an excerpt from the offending column by I. Nelson Rose, which appeared Jan. 7/08:

Although Prohibition 2.0 scared the bejesus out of publicly-traded poker companies, it actually does only two things: It creates one new crime, being a gambling business that accepts money for unlawful Internet gambling transactions, and requires new regulations for payment processors.

What it doesn't do is make it a crime to play poker on the Internet. It doesn't directly restrict players from sending or receiving money. It doesn't spell out what forms of gambling are "unlawful." Specifically, it does not do what the federal Department of Justice ("DOJ") wanted, which was to "clarify" that the Wire Act covers Internet casinos, lotteries and poker.

The new felony it creates is greatly limited. Only gambling businesses can be convicted, not players.

The folly of this analysis is two-fold:

1. It fails to take account of the risk U.S. prosecution of an Internet gambling site poses to winners hoping to collect their winnings. Quite simply, you probably won't or you won't for a very long time if DoJ freezes/seizes company assets it considers to be the proceeds of crime.

2. Can you trust recent assurances the U.S. will prosecute ONLY site operators - NOT American gamblers? As noted in America's OUCH! case again in the arbitration report released pre-Christmas/07, DoJ as recently as 1998 indeed encouraged Antigua to establish its Internet gambling business. As Ilsa told the Nazi general offering her conditional immunity in Casablanca, "We know what your promises are worth."

Consider, too, your exposure to U.S. tax law if you fail even by accident or mistake to declare winnings consistent with the value of the winning sessions your site might release to DOJ as part of a plea bargain.


Is it safe to play online?

PokerPulse would argue that playing online is much safer than playing in a B&M poker room. For online play, each bet of each hand can be tracked and made available for review later by the operator. Although B&M poker rooms may have video surveillance they are unlikely to have access to the same level of detail (e.g. hole cards may not be visible to the video surveillance but will also be available in the online record). Because online room operators have full access to all play history in a machine readable format it is very reasonable for them to implement advance cheating detection algorithms that would not be feasible for a B&M poker room operator to implement.


Doesn't the U.S. just prosecute sport betting operators?

The U.S. DOJ has, since at least 2002, taken the position in public interviews that all online gaming is illegal (see our U.S. law blog here). In the December 2007 DECISION BY THE ARBITRATOR on the Antigua WTO claim you can see the conclusions reached by the WTO panel:

In order to not to falsely attribute such declines in revenue to the US measures, we are mindful of the fact that the US measures, in particular the enforcement actions involving the prohibition for credit card companies and systems such as PayPal to make payments to overseas gambling operators, are capable of affecting all providers, and not only those from a particular country of origin. As far as the risk of criminal proceedings is concerned, all remote gambling operators a priori seem to be an equally likely target, even though a number of Antiguan operations may have been subject to prosecution in the past. [section 3.135 on page 42]

The fact that the U.S. DOJ hasn't prosecuted a remote operator that delivers just online poker is not any protection against future prosecutions. The same WTO Arbitrator report quote above also contains "Antigua suggests that prior to 1998, the United States Government even supported Antigua in its efforts to develop and supervise the remote gaming industry."


CBC Early Edition source claims internet gambling is an industry operated by organized criminals? Is this true?

Read the PokerPulse letter sent the CBC (with copies to many of the large players in the industry) -- CBC Early Edition online gaming story risks possible defamation claims (note that an ex-MPP is already suing CBC over gambling claims)... more here.


Is it fun to play online?

If you like poker then you'll probably prefer the online version. Play is faster, much faster actually, since you don't have to wait on a human dealer. Also, if you can play multiple tables at one time to see more action per hour. You can even play a table at PartyPoker a table at a Cryptologic room and a table at a iPoker site all at the same time on one computer (1600*1200 or larger monitor makes multi-table play very easy). PokerPulse routinely monitors the action at many poker rooms using a single computer system.


So what do you recommend for U.S. players?

I don't know what to suggest.

I guess you could try poker at your local B&M but such establishments do come with a bit of history. Consider the following from a recent biography on Kootenai Brown, Canada's Unknown Frontiersman and his time at Fort Benton (Montana):

Quote:

Fort Benton wasn't the West's healthiest town as the sign below on today's main street indicates. During the frontier era the local paper carried a news item that a horse thief had been caught and promptly hanged from a telegraph pole. The headline said simply, TELEGRAPHED HIM HOME.

THE BLOODIEST BLOCK IN THE WEST

"IT'S A TOUGH TOWN, WAL IN THE CENTER OF THE STREET AND KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT." GUNSLINGERS WALKED THIS STREET; FEW MADE A REPUTATION, MORE EARNED ETERNITY HERE THAN IN OTHER FABLED WESTERN TOWNS.

INDIANS WERE FAIR GAME. THEIR CORPSES DUMPED IN THE RIVER STARTED WAR AND MASSACRE. MOSE SOLOMON SALOON OWNER ELIMINATED 2 CUSTOMERS ON THE CORNER. LOU MARSHALL ADDED HINCHLEY AND SEVERAL OTHERS GUNNED DOWN ON THIS STREET "WON'T BE MISSED."

POKER WAS PLAYED WITH 6-GUNS ATOP THE TABLES AND FEMALES FROM THE BROTHELS WERE AS TOUGH AS THE MEN. MADAME MUSTACHE BRANDISHED COLTS TO HALT THE LANDING OF A STEAMBOAT CARRYING SMALLPOX. "HOUSES" STAYED OPEN ALL NIGHT. THIS BLOCK WAS LINED WITH SALOONS, CATHOUSES AND GAMBLING DENS - SO LAWLESS IT HAD TO BE CIRCLED BY A CAVALRY TROOP SO A U.S. MARSHAL COULD SERVE WARRANTS ON FIVE OF ITS RESIDENTS. (Cut line and photo of authentic sign at p. 121)

More on Kootenai Brown here.

 

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