Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Advisory Notice from KGC

This was released today on the KGC website.  Note that KGC says that Blanca Games let their license lapse on June 2, 2012.  Maybe I missed it, but that is the first I have heard of this.  This tells me that they are saying that they consider themselves no longer involved in the issues that surround the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet bankruptcy.

There are no news stories about this that I could find and it was not announced on KGC’s website either as far as I can tell. If you know of any articles or press releases about that I ask that you please email me or leave a comment with a link so I can research it.

Normally I would not copy/paste something like this but it is basically a press release.  I also wanted everyone to see it in the KGC’s words.

(MOHAWK TERRITORY OF KAHNAWAKE- August 7, 2012) - The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) recently announced that he has reached a settlement of the civil proceedings that were initiated by the government on April 15, 2011 against Blanca Games, Inc. (“Blanca”) and related companies. He now seeks court approval of the settlement.

The proposed settlement requires all of Blanca’s assets to be forfeited to the United States. The US Marshalls’ office will be mandated to liquidate Blanca’s assets. However, there will be no distribution of the net proceeds from the liquidation pending the resolution of claims filed by other parties who have asserted an ownership interest in Blanca’s assets.

If the court approves the settlement, and if there are Blanca assets remaining after the resolution of the claims by other parties, it is anticipated that the court will provide a process for players to make claims against those assets. At present the Commission has no information as to how players should make such a claim. However, the general victim information number provided by the US Attorney in Manhattan is 1-866-874-8900.

Blanca operated the Absolute Poker and UB.com online gaming sites and was previously licensed by the Commission. Their Client Provider Authorization expired on June 2, 2012 and was not renewed. The Commission no longer regulates Blanca.

About Kahnawake

The Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake is a sovereign jurisdiction located just outside Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was established in 1996 and has been continuously licensing and regulating online gaming since July, 1999.
For more information about the Commission, go to: www.gamingcommission.ca. To contact the Commission, email: info@gamingcommission.ca

Cake Poker Gold Cards Worthless?

The Cake Poker Network has offered a unique promotion since their launch in 2006 called Gold Cards.  For every $20 in rake taken off of the table, a Gold Card is randomly drawn and awarded to the next player at the table that is dealt that card.

These cards were used in several promotions.  The most notable promotion was using these cards to enter exclusive daily satellite freerolls only available to holders of a certain rank and value card.  Other promotions include the Gold Card 500 that awarded points to players based on the rank of the Gold Cards awarded during the week.  The top players in terms of points divided the prize pool.  Players can also exchange cards on the Gold Card Exchange.

No Gold Cards on Lock Poker

Lock Poker took over the Cake Poker Network and moved their players to the network on May 31, 2012.  The network was renamed Revolution Gaming.  I noticed right away that Lock Poker players did not receive Gold Cards and that there were no mentions of Gold Cards in the Lock Poker promotional information.

I noticed that Cake Poker and other older skins still had Gold Cards mentioned on their sites and they were awarded at cash game tables.  I assumed it was just a promotion still offered on the legacy skins.  I did not research it more at the time.

Gold Card Freerolls Stop

It recently came to my attention that while Cake Poker players are still receiving Gold Cards, they are useless.  There have been no Gold Card freerolls since about the time Lock Poker joined the network.

The Gold Card Exchange is still open.  This exchange operates much like a commodity or stock exchange.  Cards are divided up into rank, suit, and year.  The oldest Gold Cards date back to 2006.  Players place a bid order if they wish to buy a Gold Card and place an ask order if they wish to sell one.  Once two people agree on a price, the transaction is made.  The network takes a 10% commission on all trades $.10 or higher.  Players do not receive rakeback on this commission.

The trouble is that while Cake Poker and other skins advertise that Gold Cards can be used to enter daily events, they cannot as there are no tournaments available and have not been for nearly two months.  While Gold Cards appear to be worth $0, the network still allows the Gold Card Exchange to operate where they rake 10% on trades between people that are giving up on the value of their Gold Cards and people willing to speculate that they have some use in the future.

Gold Card prices have crashed on the exchange.  Some of the more recent Gold Cards have only lost a small amount of value.  Older cards have collapsed in value.  Here are some comparisons between prices from 18 months ago and today on several 2006 and 2007 cards.  The first number is the current bid for the card.  The price in parenthesis is the price I sold the same card at the bid price in November 2010.

  • 2006 2 of Spades - $.53 ($2.70)
  • 2006 2 of Hearts - $.45 ($2.39)
  • 2006 2 of Diamonds - $.20 ($2.23)
  • 2006 2 of Clubs - $.36 ($2.22)
  • 2006 3 of Clubs - $2.75 ($6.22)
  • 2006 4 of Diamonds - $3 ($8)
  • 2007 2 of Spades - $.10 ($1.03)
  • 2007 4 of Diamonds - $.06 ($3.20)
  • 2007 8 of Diamonds - $5 ($15.07)
  • 2007 8 of Spades - $5 ($17.06)

As you can see, Gold Cards have collapsed 60-98% for older cards.  Players are reporting most of these high value price collapses have been since the Gold Card freerolls stopped.

While players at Cake Poker and skins like Red Star Poker can at least still trade their Gold Cards, Intertops players have complained that they do not have access to the Gold Card Exchange and have not in about two weeks.

Lock Poker has been asked publicly to discuss this.  Lock Poker has remained silent on the matter.

Sell Gold Cards - Too Much Risk in Losing More Value

I advise selling all Gold Cards.  I do not have faith that these cards will be worth anything if the release of Gold Cards stop.  The longer there are no Gold Card freerolls, the lower the value all cards will have.  Since Lock Poker is not using Gold Cards, I predict that at some point they will cease to exist and lose all value.  In the meantime, they still rake in a commission on Gold Card trading.

 

Lock Poker Affiliate Program Warning

Lock Poker recently left the Merge Gaming Network to create the Revolution Gaming Network, which was previously known as the Cake Poker Network.  There were many issues with this move.  Players complained about a lack of support emails.  Affiliates have complained about issues with stats and support as well.  Most dismissed this as growing pains that would be resolved.  That was until a poster at Poker Affiliate Listings complained about a massive deduction from their commission.

Update 6/27: After this was posted on many news sites and forums, Lock Poker agreed to pay the player 10 of the 11 CPAs.  This puts them in line with the industry standard.

Affiliates get paid to refer players to an online poker room.  There are two payment models for affiliates to choose at most affiliate programs.  One is CPA, the other is revenue share.  The CPA models pays an affiliate a flat amount per referred player once that player reaches a certain amount of rake generated.  The revenue share model pays an affiliate a percentage of all rake generated by a player minus deductions.  There are typically no deductions in the CPA model because the amount paid per player already takes into account the lifetime value of the player.

One deduction that is common with CPA commissions is a chargeback.  A chargeback occurs when a player’s deposit was fraudulent.  This happens when a stolen credit card was used or when a player loses and decides to make up a story to their bank and gets the charge reversed.  Affiliates that get paid CPA typically will not get paid on a player that initiates a chargeback because the player is worth less than $0.  All affiliates would understand not getting paid on a player that basically stole from the poker room.  Poker rooms have to reverse fraud traffic payments to prevent rogue affiliates from abusing the system.

A Lock Poker affiliate that earns CPA had a situation where a referred player made a chargeback that was equal to 11 times their CPA for that player.  The standard practice for an affiliate program in this situation would be to remove the CPA from the affiliate.  Lock Poker decided to deduct the entire chargeback from the affiliate even though their terms and conditions do not appear to give them the right to do that.  This meant that not only did the Lock Poker affiliate lose the original commission, they lost commission on ten other referred players.  The affiliate ate the entire amount of the chargeback.  Even a revenue share affiliate, where chargebacks are standard, would only lose a percentage of the chargeback.

The thread at Poker Affiliate Listings started in a private sub forum.  It was moved after Lock Poker confirmed this was not an error.  Before going public, the affiliate attempted to contact Lock Poker.  The affiliate was unable to get the issue resolved partly due to a lack of response.  I know how hard it is to get issues with Lock Poker resolved.  I am still waiting on a response from June 7th from what was basically a test question for a review I was writing.

Getting stuck with a massive chargeback that is not industry standard is bad enough.  After going public, the affiliate received this email from the owner of Lock Poker:

I am the owner and CEO of Lock and Revolution Gaming. It has been brought to my attention that you have been slamming us on the forums and just being overall disrespectful. We consider all our partners as just that true partners. We would never go out into a public forum and disrespect you but we would work to resolve any issues.

Based on your actions we have decided to no longer work with you. Gerry and Shane have come to me on multiple occasions with the constants issues and just overall stress they feel when it comes to you and its just not the making of a healthy partnership. We invest over 500K into affiliate marketing a month and regardless of any problems that may happen both parties are always looking for resolution. That does not appear to be what you are looking for at all.

Shane will make sure that all CPAs are paid in full on July 1st. Please remove us from your sites as we no longer wish to work with you.

Best,

Jennifer
_
Jennifer Larson
CEO | Founder

Not only is Lock Poker attempting to say that their behavior is correct, they are also saying that they are going to drop him as an affiliate for bringing the issue public.  The email seems to imply that the affiliate will not get paid on any players that make their first deposit after July 1st.  It is common for players to sign up for a poker room and deposit months or even years later.  If that happens, it would appear that the affiliate that referred the players will not get paid.

This made up my mind on whether I will ever play or promote Lock Poker.  I wanted to warn potential players and affiliates that Lock Poker may make up terms as they go along and find a way not to pay you as they did to this affiliate.

Intertops No Longer Accepts New US Players

Players in the U.S. looking for a new poker room  now have one less option for online poker.  Intertops announced that while existing players will be allowed to continue to play, they would no longer accept new U.S. players.  This is a big loss for players looking for a new poker in the U.S.  Intertops is consistently among the leaders in fastest payouts.

No other skins on the Revolution Gaming Network are dropping new U.S. player sign ups.  The network includes U.S. friendly poker rooms such as Cake Poker, Lock Poker, and Broadway Tables.  This only affects Intertops.

BetOnline Poker Cashier Not Working

There is a problem with the poker transfer feature at BetOnline Poker.  This problem has existed for over a week.  Poker players are making deposits at BetOnline, but when they go to make a transfer to the poker room, players receive an error and the transfer does not go through.  When players contact support, they are told that poker room transfers are down for an unknown period of time.

Players that have requested a refund of their deposit are told that they cannot get a refund and must wait until the poker room transfer feature is working again.  Players that have threatened to make a charge back have been told (post #13) that they would end up on a blacklist if they did so.  Players are still able to use the sports book and casino, the issue just involves the poker room.  Sports and casino games appear to be a large part of BetOnline’s business, so the problem with their poker room likely only affects a small portion of their overall player base.

Since the poker transfer feature has stopped working, the Chico Poker Network has lost over half of its traffic according to Poker Scout.  In April, the poker room was removed as an option for BetOnline players.  Players were told that BetOnline was moving to a different poker network, but rejoined Chico a few days later.

One poster at Poker Affiliate Listings seems to think BetOnline Poker is moving to a new network.  A BetOnline representative was asked to comment in that thread.  As of the time of this post, there has been public statement.

I will edit this post or write a new story once BetOnline resolves the issue with their poker room.

Merge Gaming 6.0 Software Launch Failure

Update 6/6/12 1:30am PT: After being down for about 5 hours tonight, Merge Gaming is back up again.  The update seems to have fixed some of the stability related bugs, while other bugs such as the filters, lobby, and options, are still not fixed.

Merge Gaming 6.0 launched with much anticipation today.  The downtime for the overhaul was about twice as long as planned.  With many new features, players were expecting much improved software.  While there were some new features, some of those features were bugged.  Some features that players take for granted stopped working altogether.  After being live for about six hours, Merge Gaming decided that there were so many problems with the new Merge Gaming 6.0 that it would have to be taken offline.  At the time of this post, the entire network is down and has been for close to two hours.

Server Lag

The main complaint by most players was lag.  While I did not experience any lag problems, many of the games that I played had players that would time out on their action.  Some players would time out when it was time to post their blinds.  Lag was by far the biggest complaint, but certainly not the only complaint.

Seated Players Missing From Lobby

Merge Gaming 6.0 altered some features that would normally be considered standard features in poker software.  The improved lobby left off one major feature.  Players could not see the list of players sitting at the table when clicking on a table from the lobby.  To see the player list, a player would have to click a tiny arrow in the left side of the table listing.  This would expand the table line in the lobby and show a list of players.  This list was bugged in itself though, as only six player names could be seen at any given time.  There was also a small image of the table with all players in this drop down area.  The image was too small for most players to see player names.

No Auto Post Blind Check Box

Another major complaint by players was the removal of the Auto Post Blind feature from the tables.  This feature allowed players to decide on a table by table basis if they would auto post.  This feature is still within the software under player options, but many players could not find it as it was not in an obvious place.  This option made a player keep the same choice for all tables.  Many players complained that they wanted to have this option at individual tables, and not be forced to have to choose one option for all players.

Hand History Feature Not Working Properly

The hand history feature was virtually removed from the software.  In the previous version, a player could click the hand history feature in the upper left corner of the table to see an image of the last hand.  Now that feature opens an index.  The player must sort through the index to find the exact game.  Players that are playing on multiple tables would find it nearly impossible to find the hand that they were looking for within a reasonable amount of time.

Tournaments Were Not Balancing

The multi table tournaments had a bug as well.  The table balancing mechanism was not working for some tournaments.  This meant that some tables would be nearly full, while other tables had very short handed action.  It was reported that tables were not closing until a player had won the table, instead of closing when there were enough open seats at other tables.

Filters Need Work

There were complaints about the filters too.  It was impossible for a player to filter just one limit for a cash game.  The minimum setting was two limits.  Tournaments also could not be filtered properly, as the filter stopped at $1 on the low end.  This excluded freerolls and tournaments under $1.  There was also no way in the filter to see all available tournaments.  The tournaments could only be viewed by game.  This meant that a player looking to play more than one game had to look in each lobby.  The filter also could not be saved, meaning a player would have to click through the filter each time to find what they wanted.

Mini View Issues

Player also complained about the lack of Mini View, a feature in the previous software that helped make tables as small as possible to help multi tablers.  A Hero Poker representative, who has been very active helping players, gave instructions on how to get the tables that small.  When players figured this out, they complained that the cards were too small to read.

Player to Player Transfer Issues

Transfers were down for some players, while limited to $100 for other players.  The cashier was not working for me at all, although other players did not report this, unless maybe that is why some players could not make transfers.  The Player Admin area completely disappeared from the software.

Tracking Software Not Working

Tracking software not working is another big complaint.  This is not for Merge Gaming to fix.  The companies that produce tracking software must work with the new version of the software to produce a patch to make their software compatible with Merge Gaming 6.0.

New Stat Feature Displayed Wrong Stats

The software upgrade also came with an improved stat function.  This function did not work though.  It provided false information, and was basically useless.

There is Hope

All is not bad with this update.  Multi tabling appears to be easier.  The note feature was improved.  It also looks like there will be a time bank improvement, although its exact use was unclear at the time that the site went down.  I think that once the bugs are worked out, this software will be much improved over the previous version.  It just did not seem like it was ready to be released yet.

These bugs are not all of the reported bugs.  Some players reported bugs others did not have.  Some of the reported bugs were from players not being able to find the setting in the software to fix it.  Be patient, the software should be live again later tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Possible Rogue Merge Gaming Credit Card Processor

Many players that deposited by debit card or credit card onto Merge Gaming have been reporting suspicious charges on their bank statements.  These players deposited onto Lock Poker, Carbon Poker, and other Merge Gaming skins.  While Lock Poker has their own cashier, players could also use the Merge Gaming cashier shared by other skins.  Lock Poker has since left Merge Gaming to form the Revolution Gaming Network, which includes former Cake Network skins Cake Poker and Intertops.

Players first discovered this fraud by finding a small amount charged to their bank card, presumably to make sure the account was open.  These charges would typically be for $1 or less.  Once the fraudster confirmed the account was valid, they would then make bigger purchases.  Some players reported large gift card purchases, while others reported online cell phone purchases.  Reported fraud charges have been as high as $1500.

If you have ever used your credit or debit card on Merge Gaming, you should check your bank account to make sure that you are not a victim of fraud.  If you are a fraud victim, you need to contact your bank immediately.  In most cases, the fraud victim will not be liable for any of the charges.

It is best to have a separate bank account just for online poker.  Either buy a prepaid credit card, or set up a bank account just for online poker deposits.  Only keep the required minimum in any bank account associated with online poker to prevent this fraud from happening to you.

Many players reporting this fraud did keep a separate bank account just for Merge Gaming deposits.  This made it easy to identify the source of the fraud.  It seems very likely some player banking information was compromised by Merge Gaming, one of their processors, or employees.

You can find the latest forum discussions on this topic here and here.

My Year Since Black Friday

Black Friday was a shocking day.  Before the press release about the seizures hit the wire, someone tried to break into my house and got into several others around me.  Once I came inside after talking to the police, I picked up the laptop and there it was, news that most people did not believe at first.  PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and Ultimate Bet were indicted by the feds, with tens of millions of dollars seized.  In the end, only PokerStars would recover.

I am still pretty angry about the government and how corrupt this situation was on both the government’s side, as well as Full Tilt Poker’s side.  I always knew Cereus was corrupt so that came as no surprise.  Beyond saying that the U.S. Government needs to know that they do not own the internet, I will not go beat that dead horse.  Hopefully somewhere down the road people that actually understand technology can be in charge of this country.

Before Black Friday, I played online poker full time.  I left Poker Affiliate Solutions full time a few months before and decided to go back to playing the game that I love.  I was crushing Carbon Poker when it was just a few hundred players.  It was an unknown gold mine before Black Friday.  Since so many U.S. grinders have moved there, the game quality has suffered badly.  I also played Seven Card Stud High/Low sit and gos and multi table tournaments, with an occasional Omaha High/Low game on PokerStars and was doing great.  That all came crashing down.

Shortly after Black Friday, Poker Affiliate Solutions brought me back on as a writer, consultant, and to help with player support.  It was a good way to get back into the swing of working again.  I had been writing on this blog, but had done little else.  The exposure I got from PAS, and my coverage of Black Friday news on this blog, helped me land some good writing jobs.

I have written about many different gambling topics in the past year.  In addition to online poker, I have also written about Las Vegas table games, sports betting, video poker, restaurants, hotels, and written dozens of legal articles covering the gaming industry.  My business takes me to the Las Vegas Strip often.  I have been in each Las Vegas Strip and Downtown Las Vegas casino a dozen times for my business.

I have cut a lot of my poker playing out, mostly because of work.  I still get to play some.  I tend to play Omaha High/Low at Venetian, and Seven Card Stud High/Low at Suncoast.  I do not play any No Limit Hold’em.

Black Friday Made Me an Entrepreneur Again

Beyond what Black Friday taught me about politics and government, it taught me a lot about myself.  I always knew that I was an entrepreneur.  Black Friday forced me to become one again without any planning.  I had not owned an active business since I sold Rake Rebate Review in 2006.  In one year, I have built a large customer base, as well as some websites such as this blog.

One month after Black Friday, I decided to get an office.  I found one within five minutes of the house.  It is 250 square feet.  It is far from a professional environment.  It has a recliner, a mini fridge that is usually well stocked, pictures of dogs playing poker on the wall, and a sound system hooked up the desktop.  The office has one wall that is all windows facing outside.  If I have the blinds open, people walking by sometimes give me odd looks as I am stretched out in the recliner watching TV.  I also have a desk and office chair, but most of my creative writing is done in the office recliner.  It is a great place to go and be creative, even if only for a few hours.

The office is cheap, and was perfect for giving me a place to write during my creative spurts.  I am not a natural born writer.  Sometimes I need some extra help and the change of scenery at the office is perfect.  Sometimes I am there for 16 hours, other times I go days without going to the office at all.

Instead of letting my anger at the online poker industry and the politicians involved get in the way of my life, I made the most of a truly awful situation.  I am lucky that I only have a few hundred dollars lost at Full Tilt Poker.  I know that players have a total of about $400 million lost between Cereus and Full Tilt Poker, with many single players owed well into six figures, and hundreds or thousands with $10,000 or more lost.

Although several states have had serious discussions about legalizing online poker, Nevada is the only state that has actually done it.  Online poker is yet to be live in Nevada though, but should be during 2012.  That will be another opportunity that hopefully opens some doors.  Not only will there be endless work writing about online poker in Nevada, my ultimate goal is to either contract with the online poker rooms, or become employed by one to help build it from the ground up.

A year is a long time in the online poker industry.  By April 15, 2013, there will be more states with online poker.  Nevada should also have several months of experience by then.  There is no telling what will happen on the legal front.  Considering the light sentences those who have come forward in the Black Friday cases have received, the only enforcement I predict down the road will be cash seizures.  I am already looking forward to my Black Friday second anniversary post.

Bovada Bans Washington State Players

Bovada, the U.S. facing Bodog Network site, has closed all player accounts in the State of Washington. Bovada has not accepted new players from Washington State for about a month.  Existing players could no longer deposit. Now all players in the state are banned and must cash out.  When Bovada stopped accepting new registrations from Washington last month, they also restricted new accounts in Utah and New York, but allowed existing players to continue playing, but not deposit.  On that same day, all Maryland players had their accounts closed.

There are no major online poker rooms that accept new players from Washington State, although some poker rooms continue to allow existing players to continue playing.  Below is the email sent to Washington State Bovada players.

Due to continuing difficulties finding and maintaining acceptable payment options, we have been forced to make the difficult decision to stop offering our services to residents of your state.

As a resident of Washington, your account has been closed to further activity. Your balance remains safe and in place – simply contact us prior to April 30th to arrange for a payout via the most suitable method. Past this date we cannot guarantee an immediate availability of options for payments to your state.

Please note that due to this decision we expect an increase in payout requests and this may delay receipt beyond our standard 15 days. We always honor our payouts so rest assured you will receive your funds.

We recommend you contact us by phone at 1-888-263-0000 at your earliest convenience and assure you we will do everything we can to service your state in the future.