It was quite a big year for online poker, and not in a good way. I wanted to share my biggest losers of 2011. I do not follow how much money people win or lose, this is not about that. This is about online poker rooms and their associates that squandered player’s money, failed to listen to their players, or were just outright rogue.
#1 Full Tilt Poker
A year ago it would have been hard to imagine that the second biggest online poker room would have been the biggest loser of 2011. Full Tilt Poker squandered hundreds of millions in player’s funds. Instead of getting creative, like creating a superuser account that could see hole cards, they just took it right out of the company’s bank accounts. The shareholders were paid dividends from deposits that were never collected from players. Full Tilt Poker showed the world that without tight regulations, player’s funds are never safe. If the Department of Justice gets their way, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar could all go down as the big losers of 2012. Full Tilt Poker owes players an estimated $300 million and has a sale pending that may help it reopen in 2012. This sale could help players recover much if not all of the money owed to them.
#2 Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet
In most other years, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet would have been the biggest loser. Both sites had a history of insider cheating, changing terms on poker players, going after online poker players that they did not like, and being complete scumbags. Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, also known as Cereus, showed everyone how not to run a respectable business. Cereus was famous for their lying, cheating, stealing, and coverups. If Black Friday brought the industry one thing, it at least brought down the biggest thieving site in the history of online poker. Not including the money that they stole from players in their insider cheating scandals that never got reimbursed, Cereus owes its players as much as $50 million. Good riddance Cereus, you will not be missed.
UseMyWallet/Quicktender got caught in the Blue Monday sting involving the bogus payment system Linwood Payment Solutions. UseMyWallet used this processor that was managed by the feds to process payments. In May, It was discovered that payments being made to players in the U.S. were not making it to player’s banks. The money was getting intercepted by the feds. At that point, UseMyWallet/Quicktender basically closed their doors. Players who had their funds intercepted were out of luck. Players that had funds in their account were given a short window to apply for a refund. The instructions were so unclear, and responses from support so useless, most players could not get their money out. It seemed to many that it was intentionally done that way so that UseMyWallet/Quicktender would not have to pay up. Sister site Ecocard continues to operate outside of the U.S.
Bodog was poised to become the #1 U.S. online poker room. All they had to do was imitate PokerStars. Bodog did about the exact opposite. Bodog will forever be known as the online poker room that brought “New Coke” to online poker. Instead of listening to what their players wanted, Bodog decided that they knew what their players wanted, even though their player base screamed that they were wrong. .
First, waiting lists and full tables were removed from the lobby. This gave players the impression that the poker room had completely dried up overnight. This was done after a ridiculous accusation was made towards PokerScout that they wanted Bodog to pay them $1,000,000 for removal from Pokerscout.com, an accusation that Bodog has refused to prove, they have only said that we should take their word on this very serious accusation is true. This does not even begin to address the debate as to whether online poker traffic, something that is so widely available and easy to count, can even be considered protected.
Bodog gave us even more of a reason not to trust them on November 30th. Bodog removed usernames from their poker tables. Players are just a number related to the seat that they are sitting in. Now players cannot police the games at Bodog. Players will have no idea if certain players are colluding, soft playing, or any other suspicious play is happening because they will have no idea who they are playing against. It also took away from the social element of the game. Bodog’s excuse was that they could be trusted as their security was now the best in the industry.
Ironically, within a few days, HH Smithy proved that Bodog could not be trusted. They cracked the anonymous tables. Bodog’s promotional website Calvinayre.com tried to spin it a different way, but their incompetence was widely exposed for all to see. There were also countless other bugs in the software including the inability to see mucked cards at showdown as well as constant crashing and freezing. Many players found the software unplayable and left. About a month after the radical software change, Bodog is down about 9% according to PokerScout. Bodog disputes this traffic count although they refuse to prove it wrong. It will be interesting to see what that number is after football season ends.
Bodog does do a few things right. I almost feel bad including them on a list like this. Bodog has always shown that their payment processing is top notch. The changes that were made have changed Bodog into a poker room that does not offer poker but some variant of it. Maybe this really is like New Coke and Bodog will bring back the old software that players want.
#5 U.S. Poker Players
A year ago, much of the industry figured that U.S. facing online poker rooms would be able to continue to operate in the U.S. just as they had for years after the UIGEA. U.S. players had figured the world was just fine as long as they got to play at PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. As we found out, we should have been doing more. We were lucky that PokerStars is such a high class organization and paid us. Full Tilt Poker and Cereus owe U.S. players between $150-$200 million dollars. Much of that money is likely lost forever, either stolen by the officers of the companies or by the U.S. government.
While we could have been pressing our representatives in Congress and state legislatures, we were too busy 24 tabling at PokerStars trying to get Supernova Elite. At least it appears that Black Friday set off the shot that got the online poker ball rolling. Nevada players could be playing online poker in just a few months. Other states are almost certainly going to follow. In a few years, some might even look back and see the positive in Black Friday, with the exception of all of the money that was stolen. Here is to a better 2012 for U.S. players, it is already looking up.
My next post will be the Biggest Online Poker Winners of 2012.