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Archive for May, 2011
Ever since Black Friday on the 15th of April 2011, when the US DoJ shut down PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, US poker players have been waiting for another such fatal turn of events for other US poker sites. And, this is exactly what happened on the 24th of May 2011.
This time the FBI got 10 sites closed, including Doyles Room and True Poker. The list including eight other poker sites has been released by the DoJ stating which sites were indicted. The list includes Doylesroom.com, Truepoker.com, Bookmaker.com, Funtimebingo.com, 2Betsdi.com, Goldenarchcasino.com, Beted.com, Betmaker.com, Betehorse.com, Betgrandesports.com.
This time Doyles Room and True Poker are in focus, since they are the two largest US poker houses from the ones mentioned above. Most of them were indicted along the same lines and for the same crimes as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Doyles Room was already facing trouble due to its best and loyal, Doyle Brunson, leaving the site, while True Poker is headed towards doom.
However, these indictments were made based on the Maryland law and they did not deal with bank fraud. A special agent from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, defended the shut down of the 10 sites and stated that as most of these illegal transactions increased crime efforts has to be taken to stop such a network of illegal poker transactions and associations.
Once again, there is no information available on the repayment of funds of players who were playing on these sites. From the previous seizures, Full Tilt is still paying out its players and having a hard time. PokerStars was able to return a total of $100,000,000 USD since the shutdown. Their latest online poker championship has just ended and it was a great success for 2011, but no one knows what lies ahead.
These charges are bound to make players nervous about their accounts and their funds even if they are playing on the safest and strongest network of poker sites.
As of now, in regards to the US online poker industry, there are only a few US online poker sites left standing to cater to ordinary US poker players who just want to play their favourite game. Indeed, it would seem that the only ones who have emerged as winners are the US DoJ, since they ended up indicting 10 more internet gambling websites this Monday.
After the FBI shutdown another 10 poker sites in addition to PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker, US online poker players and poker group alliances further have become infuriated with authorities and have increased their protests.
Many US online poker players have taken this issue personally and they are calling it a breach on their civil rights to choose and living the way they want.
A former Senator from New York has also agreed with this belief and stated concerns on regards to US players losing their rights. As a part of the effort to protest against this, the PPA held a rally outside Capitol Hill. Alfonse D’Amato, who is the Poker Player’s Alliance Chairman, has helped organize this rally.
US online poker players see the US authorities seeking out poker sites and shutting them down as a violation of their right to play poker in their own homes, while federal officials are concerned that this shutdown is an act against the 2006 bill to regulate internet gambling. Whatever the case maybe, the shutdown has affected thousands of lives.
Poker group alliances state that the US government must work towards protecting the rights of their US online poker players and not violating them; hence poker should be regulated and not stopped.
Alfonse D’Amato said that this gathering would show the strength of the poker players in numbers and hence the US government should consider making online poker legal or at the least regulating it. Thousands of people have lost a major source of income and entertainment in their lives.
The events of April 15 this year, commonly referred to as Black Friday, appears to have completely wrecked the reputation of Absolute Poker, which was once considered to be the one of the best online poker sites in the industry. Absolute Poker is now trying to get into an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to regain control of its online poker business.
Ever since its launch in 2002, Absolute Poker has been successful, with players worldwide registering accounts and wagering millions of dollars on cash games. The first blow was dealt in 2007 when Russ Hamilton, Absolute Poker’s software developer and one its key investors, created a super user account, which could be used to view the cards of all players in a bid to nab cheats. Although the facility was initially used to identify cheats, it was later used to cheat players of more than $22 million.
Absolute Poker had hardly recovered from bad publicity generated by this incident when another blow in the form of Black Friday struck it. The DOJ seized Absolute Poker’s domain name and accused its CEOs of money laundering, unlawful online gaming, and bank fraud. The DOJ froze Absolute Poker’s funds, as a result of which its customers were unable to withdraw their funds.
Absolute Poker, therefore, signed a deal with the DOJ promising not to provide real money poker services to US players and to return US players’ deposits if the federal government returned its domain name and unfreeze its funds. Meanwhile, Absolute Poker is absolutely free to offer real money online poker services to the rest of the world.
The US online poker gaming community is dismayed and furious. The top regulatory bodies do not approve of this bullying attitude either. Antigua plans to sue the US government for violating international trade laws.
Rich Muny announced at the two plus two online poker forums this Monday that the Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) has changed its board of directors after the explosive incidents of April 15, Black Friday.
Muny’s post was quite short and to the point, and he did not explain much. He also posted a link to the PPA’s official website, and anybody who visits the site will immediately notice that Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer, who had been on the PPA’s board of directors till recently, have vacated the scene.
Apparently, the incidents of Black Friday, when four major online poker sites were cracked down upon the US federal government, have made the two poker pros step down from their posts. The air is now thick with rumors; in fact, the air has always been thick with rumors about these two members of Team Full Tilt Poker. A number of online poker players feel that they have certain vested interests in Full Tilt Poker, which go far beyond them being just members of its pro team.
Although the two were associated with Full Tilt Poker, they became directors in the PPA board back in 2006. Lederer was also the consultant at PocketKings Ltd., the company that owns Full Tilt Poker. According to popular stories, Ferguson had a huge role to play in the development of the Full Tilt Poker gaming software platform. The two are also believed to have shares in Full Tilt Poker since the Bluff Magazine recently named Howard Lederer as the most powerful poker individual.
Right now, the board of directors at PPA comprises Alphonse D’Amato as the chairman, John Pappas as the executive director, and Rich Muny, Greg Raymer, Linda Johnson, and Patrick Fleming. The PPA had been well into the limelight recently for its vociferous protests against the Black Friday events.
Professors Steven Levitt and Thomas Miles, have brought out a report stating that the game of poker involves skill more than luck. Thomas Miles and Levitt who is a bestselling author have compared the extent of skill involved in poker to that involved in baseball and stated that players of both these games only win based on their skills and not based on luck.
The report is titled “ The Role Of Skill Versus Luck In Poker: Evidence From The World Series Of Poker” and it has been released a month later following the incident when the FBI were successful in indicting and shutting down three of the top US poker sites in the US for bank fraud and money laundering. But, this kind of an argument is just what these three companies need to recover from these indictments. If poker can be classed as a game involving skill, then it does not fall under the federal gambling rules.
Miles and Levitt are from the University of Chicago, and they argue that the courts have ruled against internet poker based on lack of any statistical evidence. Their report is based on the statistics from the 2010 World Series of Poker that is an annual event held in Las Vegas. In 2010 it involved 57 tournaments, 32,000 players and $185 million (£113 million) and the findings suggest that “high skilled” players accumulated 30% more than the money they invested while other players usually lost 15%, meaning that skilled players won an average of $350 per tournament while other players lost $400 per tournament. These economics professors also claimed that it would be wise and beneficial for the skilled poker player to invest into poker than into financial markets.
Although the indictments against the top three US poker sites include money laundering and bank fraud, proving that the game of poker involves skill might have a huge impact on the court’s ruling sentence on them. The economics professors also compared poker and baseball and claimed that they are equally both games based on skills and not based on luck.
The defendants are guilty as of now and they have been charged with serious accusations by the US government. But, if strong proof along the lines of poker being a game involving skill keeps persisting then who knows what the outcome might be. FBI assistant director stated that the defendants lied about the true nature of their business and bet that they could continue doing so, but they lost.
US poker players, the Poker Players Alliance and several other US poker groups are lobbying for the legalization of US internet poker, and hence the government cannot ignore the issue US online poker for long. Recently, top gaming industry executives also launched a push to persuade the government to regularize and legalize US internet poker.
Frank Fahrenkopf, who is the chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association said that although Black Friday indictments caused a drop in the volume of US poker players, it is only temporary, since a similar pattern was seen in 2006 when internet gambling was tagged with strict restrictions. Fahrenkopf also said that based on the statistics, the volume of betting will only be increasing. And when that is the case, the US government should allow for regulations that would let domestic gambling companies run internet poker games for US customers and legalize it.
Top brands and VIPs of the Gaming Industry claim that a regulation at the federal level would provide direction and certainty to the US internet poker industry and strong protection for US poker players. The executives produced a preview of meetings scheduled with top political leaders to discuss internet poker, health care, patent law, off-reservation Indian gaming, travel and tourism as well as tax credits research, and hence board members of the American Gaming Association have been coming to attend meetings with the House and its Senate leaders and William Daley.
Since 85 nations including Italy, Canada, France and UK have structures in place to deal with internet poker, the US government’s view on the same is going to be called ‘schizophrenic’ since they are also fully capable of dealing with the issue in a similar manner.
Several senate members are going to be presenting their US internet poker bills in these meetings, while the gaming industry is working on its own online poker bill. It was confirmed that this bill would be a hybrid of elements with federal oversight and state-level regulation. It envisions the federal Department of Commerce or any other agency in delegating licenses to states that can manage internet poker responsibly.