The Grind

Stephen's Poker Blog

  1. 2009-05-17 01:06:50

    Stealing Is Wrong: Part 2


    Better late than never...even if it's over a year later. :p I'm back. Some things have changed. I'm single. I live in a big house in a good part of town now. I'm currently sharing it with my best friend and fellow poker grinder Weezermoo (Jeff). Though he's gone half the time visiting his fiance in Tucson, AZ. And we are going to actually enter a few WSOP events this year as well as scavenge at the side games (probably deep stacked 5/10 NL for the most part.) Soon my good friend Tyler will be moving in. He has saved some money so he can give this poker pro thing a try with our guidance. It'll be the most responsible, money conscious, non-gambling, ego-less (more or less) poker house on the face of the planet. :) I'm still multi-table grinding medium stakes online with much success...fairly lazy success, but success nonetheless. ;) So there's your brief update. I suggest reading my entry Stealing Is Wrong: Part 1 before reading this one. Even if you've read it already you might as well check it out again. After all, that was a year ago.

    Warning Signs

    It was September of 2006. I was playing on a few small sites offering generous rake back. One of those sites was a skin of the Ongame network. Some of you guys will remember. Poker Room and Hollywood Poker were the biggest skins, but there were several much smaller ones. One of those small rooms was called Pokes Poker, and I was signed up for 50% rake back with no seating rules. With plenty of tables to choose from on a network that size it was a fantastic theory. Some people had reported waiting a long time for cashouts. Jeff withdrew some as a test and it went through fine so we weren't all that worried.

    October 2006... shortly after the passage of the UIGEA, my main site, Bet Hold 'Em Poker, a skin of the Prima network, announced it was going under. All assets were frozen. This had me pretty freaked out considering majority of my bankroll at the time (about 10k) was now tied up. Shorty after the accounts were frozen we were told that Bodog would be buying all the accounts, and that our money would be accessible as soon as the switch was made. This process took about a month. Just as promised, on the day the money was transferred to Bodog I was able to withdraw it all without playing a single hand.

    Mass Thievery

    While my money had been tied up I'd had little choice but to play on Pokes Poker. I played for a couple weeks and profited about 3k, but I decided to put in for a withdrawal since US players were going to soon be banned from the Ongame network due to the UIGEA. It was Ongame's attempt to remain as legitimate as possible in uncertain times. I had just over $4200 on the Pokes skin. I never have and never will see any of that money.

    A couple months later it became clear that something was seriously wrong when all the US players from Pokes were posting on forums saying they hadn't received any of their cashouts. Pokes was claiming it was all due to their payment processor called FutureBet. There had been complaints about FutureBet from players on their other gaming clients posted on Casinomeister. The rumor was that FutureBet had processed about $1 million in US funds for Ongame relating to Pokes Poker. But instead of making it available to Pokes Poker so players could have their funds, they kept most of it to pay off debts. It seemed they had used the timing of cutting ties with the US to their advantage. Eventually Pokes stopped responding to the barrage of emails sent by angry players. Some of them were higher stakes grinders with 50k+ sums.

    Fighting Back

    We got organized and formed a Google Group. We were going to hire a lawyer and try to actually make something happen. The main obstacle was the fact that all these companies were offshore, and that online poker was already not considered a legitimate activity, even if there was no federal law against actually playing. The main target was obviously FutureBet. One of the more resourceful members of our group had discovered an address in Canada that was supposed to be one of FutureBet's main offices. But by the time anyone got around to confirming this, it seemed they had packed up and moved on.

    Giving Up

    Eventually we realized the pursuit of justice in this matter was all but hopeless. The lack of regulation and the obstacle of crossing borders to make anything happen ended our chances. After a while a third party dropped into our group and made a proposal. He wanted us to sign away the money owed us in exchange for some sort of share in the rights to some poker software owned by futurebet. They were supposedly out of liquid assets and were going under... The deal was that this third party was going to start a new site using this new software. But we wouldn't start getting our money back when he started profiting. NO. We had to play as props on his site and the 100% rake back we earned would go toward paying us back. Basically we had to earn money that was already ours. And this assumed his site even got off the ground. Most new sites never do. I think more than half the people signed since they figured it was their only chance to ever see any of their money again. I didn't sign. I figured I'd rather just put in some extra hours on one of the sites I already was propping at and pretend I was getting my money back. :p Seriously.

    UIGEA Aftermath and Final Thoughts

    These days it's pretty easy to keep away from any sketchy sites. Plenty of people will post all of their problems on poker forums and sites like Casinomeister. Mansion Poker stopped servicing US players, but we all got our money no problem. In January 2007 there was a big scare when tens of millions worth of US players' money was frozen on the ewallet Neteller. The biggest and most trusted ewallet in the world used by poker sites was cooperating with the FBI who were investigating Neteller's founder. Several months later everyone had access to their money and were able to withdraw. I had already gotten my 2k or so out via the Neteller debit card before that too was frozen ;). Neteller no longer offers service to US players... man, I miss those days.

    After I withdrew my money from Bodog I put it on a small site called Bugsy's Club and ended up making a ton of money there. They actually went under just recently, but all the accounts were bought up by Poker Stars. Unfortunately, Stars made all of us clear our money $500 at a time by accruing enough VPPs (point system). This added up to me playing A LOT of hands. I'm still working on clearing the rest. But I'm glad they stepped in to protect the players. As you can see, even in extreme situations like when sites go bankrupt or close down people usually get their money back.

    It was hard to see the events surrounding Pokes Poker coming. No one thought the UIGEA would even get passed. It's passage along with some dishonest scam artists posing as a legitimate business cost me $4200 and some people a lot more. It didn't really affect my life, but that's still a lot of money to get stolen from you no matter how you look at it. In a system where online poker was legalized and regulated in the US this would NEVER have happened. It's ironic that this example of fraud might be cited by those opposed to legalizing online poker AND by those of us crying for legalization and regulation. IMO, a logical mind can clearly see that my experiences support the idea of regulation much more than prohibition. DUCY?

    Posted by uzjedi at 2009-05-17 01:06:50

Comments on “Stealing Is Wrong: Part 2”

    • avatar for Pokermom
    • That's in THREE DAYS! wooo hooooo! We expect great things from you boys. No pressure.

    • anonymous
    • Confirmed we have signed up for the 6/5 $2500 NL Holdem Event #13.

    • avatar for Jason M
    • 6/5?! Kick some arse!

    • avatar for uzjedi
    • Thanks for reading, guys. We're playing in an event on June 5th. I think it's a $2500 buy in? I'll have to check with Jeff.

    • avatar for Graham
    • Unfortunately the bogus cries for criminalization are those heard more by our conservative lawmakers. Think about marijuana (and hemp as a textile and food source). The argument for legalization and regulation would save lives and money. Hell it would make money on top. I'm ranting. Great writing as always, Steven.

    • avatar for FREMONTkyle
    • thanx for the update im glad it didnt deter you from continuing on

    • avatar for Pokermom
    • Good grief, Stephen. $4,200 is real money. Sorry to hear about it, but thank you for the very well written update. Let us know which WSOP events you and Jeff decide to play so we can root you on.