learn to play poker

Remove NoteCaddy Scatter Graph For Hero

If you're like me and you like to use the NoteCaddy Scatter graph in the NoteCaddy popup, you've probably run into the same problems me and many others have. If you try to open your own NoteCaddy popup, even sometimes if you accidentally hover over it, your computer will lag. If you've played a lot of hands this delay can be quite long and sometimes cause your computer to freeze in a middle of a hand until NoteCaddy draws the scatter.

There's no option to turn of the Hero Scatter graph in NoteCaddy and the developers haven't made it a priority to add that option even though a few people have asked. There are however a few options to alleviate the issue so you don't run into problems with your computer freezing after you've just 4 bet AA.

First, you can turn off the Hero HUD in the General Settings for the HUD you're using. This is an easy fix but I like to keep my HUD open when I'm playing.

Another quick fix is to go into the Settings for NoteCaddy and turn off note taking for Hero. This works and you can still use the HUD but you don't get to see notes that are taken for yourself. Personally I like to see the notes taken for me to see where I can make changes.

Lastly, you can just clear all the scatter data for yourself and leave everyone else's in tact. This way note taking is still enabled for Hero and you can use the Hero HUD.

To do this, open up pgAdmin III, the admin interface for PostgeSQL, the database Hold'em Manager and NoteCaddy uses. Connect to the database you're using with Hold'em Manager and then click on the SQL button. It will bring up a new window that allows you to enter  SQL queries to run against the database.

Copy and paste the following SQL statement into the SQL Editor, replacing YOURSCREENNAMEHERE with your poker site screenname and hit CTRL-E to run the query.

delete from notecaddy_scatter where player_id in (select player_id from players where playername ilike 'YOURSCREENNAMEHERE');

It will clear all the scatter data for whichever username you use in YOURSCREENNAMEHERE so if you want to delete the scatter data for other players you can do that as well.

As NoteCaddy continues to take notes it will add more scatter data so every 10k hands, or however many you feel necessary to reduce lag, run that same query again.

Secure and Reliable Computing For Poker Players

If you play online poker it is very important to make sure your computers are secure and reliable. Here are a few computer tips to help you protect you from things like viruses, trojans as well as disconnections and hardware failures.

The advice below is based on my experience in enterprise class computing. When you make your living playing poker, or even if you do it just for fun but have a lot of money on your online accounts, it's important to have the most reliable computing platform available.

Passwords

First some basics. If the sites you use have some method of two-step verification options, such as a password plus a SecurID token, use it.

You should also get in the habit of changing your password on a regular basis. Once a month is good, once a week is better. You can keep your password written down and stored securely in a safe.

It should go without saying but I'm going to say it anyway. Never use the remember my password feature. 

Networking

You check a monster on the river with thousands of dollars already in the pot, expecting your opponent to bet the river. He bets and you're about to hit raise when all of a sudden your connection drops out. Or maybe you're short stacked in an MTT and just got dealt aces when you're about to cold 4 bet and ... connecting...

When you finally do connect you're on massive monkey tilt and shoving any two cards. It's fairly simple to make your internet connection more reliable.

Redundant Broadband

If you depend on the internet to make money you should have at least two broadband internet connections. Preferably from two different carriers. This is easy to do in most markets as you can get a combination of cable and FiOS or DSL. 

Using a special router like this TP-LINK TL-R470T+ allows you to have two broadband connections attached to your home/office network. If one of them goes down hopefully the other is still alive.


In addition you'll want to keep all your networking hardware attached to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to keep them running for at least a little while if you experience a power failure. One of the APC Back-UPS is a good choice for networking hardware. It's like a surge protector with a built in battery that helps protect the equipment from power issues and provides back up battery power in the event of a power outage. These are great for little hiccups in power or short outages but are best used as a temporary step before your backup generator kicks in for extended power loss.

Virtual Networks

You're going to be using your internet connection for a host of other things besides poker. Almost everything is connected these days from your phones to TVs to your garage door opener. It's possible to create separate private networks within your home network to help keep your poker computers secure. That way if your buddy comes over and wants to check his email with his laptop or phone he can do it but not have access to the computers you use to play poker. You'll need a smart switch that is VLAN capable. Something like the Cisco SG200-08 8-port Gigabit Smart Switch.  


Create one VLAN for your regular internet usage and have a WiFi access point attached to that it. Another VLAN will be for your pokering and you'll set it up so that they can both access the internet but they can't talk to each other.

Redundant Hard Drives

I think you're better off having a desktop as your main poker computer. More reliable, more powerful. Hard drives and hard drive controllers can and do fail. You can set up two drives in a mirror (RAID 0) where all data is written to both at the same time. That way if one fails the other keeps going until you replace the failed drive. It also increases read performance.

An ideal setup would be to install an additional PCI SATA controller in your computer so you have two. One from the motherboard, one from the card. Use 2 SSD drives for the best performance and set them up as mirrored drives through software. I've been using the OCZ Vertex SSDs on different systems and very happy with them.

Install the drives in a mobile rack. The ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB994SP-4S Mobile Rack is a good choice and very durable. It makes it easy to swap out drives if they fail but more importantly allows you to easily remove the drives for storage.

When you're done playing poker, pull the drives out and put them in your safe until the next time you are playing poker. If you want to use the same desktop for other computing you can have a different set of drives for that. Keep your poker rig for poker only. Don't install IM, Skype, or other software that's not related to poker. Don't even browse the web or check email. Keep a laptop nearby that's on your "public" VLAN for that.

You'll also want a separate UPS for your desktop and monitors. Get the biggest one you can afford for the most run time.

Back Up

On a regular basis, like maybe at the end of each session or at least each week, back up your computer data to an external drive and keep it in a safe place. Even though the RAID setup provides you with some security it's not a substitute for backups.

I have a Rosewill RX-DU300 Black Hard Drive Dock which I use for backups. I like it because I can buy regular desktop hard drives that pop right into it instead of more expensive external drives.

Remember to keep your backup drives secure too.

Securing Your Laptop

It's important to have a laptop in addition to your desktop. In case everything fails on your desktop you can always resume play on your laptop. If you're a high stakes player you can afford to get a laptop that's just for playing poker. No email, no Skype, no web browsing. Just something you keep at the ready in case you need it. You should have a safe that's big enough to fit your laptop in addition to your SSDs.

Sometimes you'll want to be able to play while traveling. My best advice, every time your computer leaves your safe little poker network treat it as if it needs to be quarantined.

Before you head out for a trip backup your laptop's hard drive. When you return don't boot it up normally. Instead insert a CD that contains your backup software that boots up into it's own environment or use a Linux distribution like SystemRescueCD. Use that to restore the drive data you backed up before you left. That way your laptop is exactly the same as it was before your trip and any nasty software it might have picked up along the way is erased. 

Once the drive is restored, run a full virus scan before booting it up just to be safe. You can use the AVG Rescue CD for that.

The on drawback is that you'll lose any data you might have added to your computer while you were away but these day's that isn't a big deal. Use cloud services like Google Drive to take notes and store files or use your phone. It's much better than finding out your hotel room was broken into and your laptop hacked.

Don't Be Lazy

Sometimes people's systems get compromised because they don't know what to do but a lot of the times even when people know what to do they get lax and don't do it. If the money you have in your poker accounts is important to you then take a few simple steps to minimize the risks.

Is Howard Lederer A Master Manipulator?

Over the past few days PokerNews has been releasing a series of videos of their interview with Howard Lederer, an important figure in Full Tilt Poker who was a large stakeholder in the company, a member of the Board of Directors and up to around 2008 the president.

After over a year of silence Lederer agreed to an interview to discuss the fall of FTP, the loss of player funds, his role in the organization, the effect of Black Friday, what was going on in the company post BF and so on.

While watching the videos one thing seemed very clear to me, Lederer's influence extended past the voting power of his share of the company. When the other stake holders attempted to vote the existing board members out of power Lederer was able to talk enough of them out of it to stop the effort. In the interview he stated he could have "killed it in 5 minutes". At times even the interviewer, Matthew Parvis, was asking questions in a way that already excused Lederer within the context of the question itself.

It appears that Lederer might be a master manipulator. He came off as having a covert-aggressive personality to me. Let's examine some of the traits and methods of person with a covert-aggressive personality and see how many Lederer used in his interview.

Phil Galfond New Face of New FTP?

Phil Galfond Lead Pro of New Full Tilt Poker
I have a feeling that if/when the New FTP is launched by PokerStars (if the rumors are true) Phil Galfond will be one of their sponsored pros. And not just any old sponsored pro. I think Phil Galfond will be one of, if not the lead sponsored pro. The new face of the New Full Tilt Poker.

This is all just my speculation but over the past few months I've noticed trends that lead me to believe this is a likely scenario.

Many of the prominent Team Full Tilt members are not just sponsored pros. They're also owners of the site. Considering how terrible Full Tilt Poker has been to it's players, it might not be a good idea to have people who profited from the theft of player funds be a part of the new lineup.

Sorry guys, even though some of you weren't at the reigns it doesn't sit well with some of us knowing you owned as much as 10% of the company and let these things happen.

The New FTP will have substantial hurdles to overcome even if players are made whole. If the intention is to have FTP continue to run as a profitable online poker room, they will need to restore the reputation of FTP.

Phil is one of the most respected members of the poker community. Not just for his ability at the table but also for his contributions. Very few, if any would impeach his integrity. It just makes sense as it would be the quickest way to patch the tattered FTP brand.

There was a lot of speculation that a big sponsorship may be in the works for Phil when he announced his departure from BlueFirePoker but there have been other little things going on that reinforce my belief that Phil will be a big part of the new FTP.

Daniel Negreanu and Phil have been getting very chummy on twitter lately.


And it didn't escape the attention of 2p2. Other PokerStars pros also seem to be mentioning Phil Galfond more in their tweets.

Phil's also been working on his online presence through his blog,his youtube channel and his twitter feed. His tweets especially have been getting more consistent and more frequent. He's even been getting in better physical shape. While he could be doing all this for other reasons, it has had the effect of polishing the Phil Galfond brand.

PokerStars really figured out how to utilize social media effectively to promote themselves and I wonder if Galfond has been getting some coaching.

on the shoulders of giants
More precisely, it feels like Negreanu has sort of taken Galfond under his wing. I'm not quite sure how to explain it but there seems to be some sort of subtext in their online interactions. I can't point to any specific example but my gut feelings have had a pretty good track record.

Many similarities exist between them.
  • Both recognized for their poker skills (Negreanu for tournaments, Galfond for cash games)
  • Both have been very active early on in poker communities (Negreanu usenet, Galfond 2p2)
  • Both have taken the time to write articles about poker 
  • Both are great ambassadors for the game
  • Both are very well respected
  • Both are very likable and great communicators
If you were going to make a Daniel Negreanu v2.0 (not that there's anything wrong with the current version) you would start with Phil Galfond.

I really hope I'm right. I can't think of any other player that has given as much to poker as Phil has, yet have received so little in return. Well... other than the millions he's won playing poker :)

PokerStars Saves The Day


PokerStars' Head of Corporate Communications just published a post on pokerstarsblog.com that says they can't say anything but rumors are running wild that PokerStars will be purchasing FTP and settle their outstanding legal issues with the DOJ as a result of Black Friday.

Sometime soon we can expect to hear good news. So far the rumors are:
  • GBT deal with FTP/DOJ is off the table.
  • PokerStars will pay $750 million to acquire FTP. This includes covering the $330 million owed to FTP players as well as fines to settle charges with the DOJ.
  • FTP will continue to run as a separate poker room.
  • FTP will re-enter the US market.
  • Isai Scheinberg will be stepping down from his position at PokerStars.
If these rumors are true PokerStars is bailing out everyone in this mess including, US and ROW (rest of world) players, GBT, themselves and even the DOJ

GBT Out Of FTP Deal

This part seems to be confirmed based on this Washington Post article. The biggest issue that killed the deal appears to be a last minute requirement from the DOJ that GBT has a plan to repay ROW players within 90 days.

A second issue is that laws in other countries may allow FTP's creditors to go after FTP assets to recover liabilities owed to them as the DOJ agreement would not be binding in their country.

I've never been too confident in the GBT deal. There were rumors that GBT was having a hard time coming up with the money on their own that it would take to complete the purchase. Benham Dayanim statements regarding collections of loans from FTP pros prior to the deal seemed to lend credence to this in my mind.

The rumored GBT/FTP/DOJ agreement was that FTP would forfeit their assets to the DOJ and GBT would purchase those assets for $80 million which would include a $25 million dollar bank account as well as agreeing to handle repayment of roughly $150 million in ROW payer accounts.

PokerStars coming in to take over the deal helps GBT save face as it seems they didn't have the ability to finalize the deal and now they get to blame it on PokerStars sabotaging it.

FTP Players To Be Paid Within 90 Days

Making players whole within 90 days was a sticking point in the GBT deal and one can assume that the DOJ/PokerStars deal will include such a provision.

PokerStars has a lot on the line. They are currently the biggest online poker room. They're ability to pay out US players post Black Friday enhanced their already strong reputation. Doing anything to diminish their reputation would be a bad decision.

PokerStars has purchased other failed poker rooms in the past. The way it was handled was that their old account balances were treated sort of like bonuses and they needed to play enough to clear the balance before they could withdraw. It wouldn't surprise me if there were similar provisions in this case though no information has been released.

There were a lot of things concerning the GBT deal that didn't make sense.

In my opinion players would be more willing to play to clear their accounts having PokerStars behind FTP rather than GBT which doesn't have as great a reputation in the online gaming industry as PokerStars.

PokerStars Bails Out The DOJ

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has the reputation of going after deep pockets and getting big settlements. Although they are enforcing the laws they do seem to grab a good chunk of change when they do.

After it was discovered that FTP and AP/UB were insolvent their hope of recovering $3 billion in fines as a result of Black Friday had to have been diminished.

That might not seem so bad. Just take what you can from FTP and AP/UB and be done with it. But settling with FTP and AP/UB for the small amount they could would leave the DOJ in a poor position in their ongoing settlement negotiations with PokerStars. The only player with deep pockets.

Some have even questioned the strength of the DOJ's case considering they came out to say that the Wire Act doesn't apply to online poker and they allowed Chad Ellie and John Campos to plea to misdemeanors. The Forbes article suspects that had the case gone to trial it had the possibility of compromising the case against the poker sites.

PokerStars gives the DOJ some of the money they were after and the DOJ avoids going to trial risking losing the case and creating dangerous precedents.

Why would PokerStars Want To Own FTP

At first glance this doesn't make sense. With Full Tilt Poker offline any players outside the US that want to continue to play online poker would have already started playing on another poker site, primarily PokerStars.

PokerStars does not need to buy the player base of FTP as they already had them. Some may argue that the FTP software is better but that's mostly a subjective issue. I've always preferred the PokerStars software over FTP.

They're obviously not buying the brain trust that ran FTP into the ground so why would they be interested in buying FTP?

While PokerStars has FTP's players there is the risk that they could lose some of those players if another entity buys FTP. 

Considering the mess FTP has become the value of FTP seems less than the $750 million that PokerStars is shelling out. Especially since GBT was going to spend $80 mil, -$25 mil, +$180 mil in ROW deposits. So why would PokerStars be willing to pay so much?

PokerStars Settles With The DOJ

That $750 million figure isn't just for FTP. The rumored breakdown is $380 million to cover player accounts and $370 million as fines to the DOJ.

PokerStars has been in constant negotiations with the DOJ after Black Friday to settle their outstanding criminal and civil charges. The DOJ was seeking $3 billion in fines. Given the financial position of FTP and AP/UB, that figure was out of reach. There seems to be enough evidence that laws were broken and someone has to pay.

PokerStars still has the threat of criminal and civil charges against their companies and some individuals. They were going to have to settle with the DOJ one way or another. Allowing PokerStars to buy FTP gives PokerStars something back for their fines in addition to having the charges settled.

Even if PokerStars felt they could win at trial it is easier and cheaper to settle. If poker sites are allowed to come back to the US then PokerStars will need a clean record to re-enter the market. That can be accomplished via the settlement.

FTP Returning To The US

Two of the rumors posted by Shawn Deeb was that FTP would be returning to the US market and that Isai Scheinberg would be stepping down.

I would assume if FTP is allowed to return, so would PokerStars. This is the best rumor to come out today. I can see this being true but won't hold my breath.

Scheinberg stepping down reinforces the rumor (though that's a rumor in itself.) Scheinberg is facing criminal charges as a result of the Black Friday indictments. If he is being asked to step down the settlement likely includes resolving his criminal charges. It seems as if he will plead guilty to some charges and have the matter settled with the above mentioned fines and maybe no or limited jail time.

The most telling thing about these rumors is that the DOJ has no jurisdiction to tell a foreign company who can be in charge and who can't. If this is being included in the deal then one can assume that it is in preparation for PokerStars to re-enter the US market.

PokerStars and Scheinberg are taking a big hit here. They've been a great part of the online poker community and did a lot to promote and enhance the game. It makes sense that they would come in and save the day which is why so much weight is being given to these rumors.

Let's hope they're true.

Let's Not Turn Our Backs on PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker

UPDATE: Obviously a lot more has come out since I first wrote this and my opinion of Full Tilt Poker has changed drastically.

I really hate this phrase but some people have been throwing PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker under the bus since the indictments came out.

The crimes they are alleged to have committed are quite disturbing but they have not been convicted of anything.

Some people who were comfortable playing on those sites (probably mostly people that don't regularly play poker) in the past few years are now slamming them and trying to distance themselves from those sites.

When other sites pulled out of the market FTP and Stars remained after consulting with their legal staff. Without them in the market there would be very little in the way of online poker for us Americans.

Here's a summary of what happened and why I'm not ready to slam these guys.

Most Online Poker Players Will Not Switch to Live Poker

There has been a lot of talk about online poker players transitioning to live poker play. I just don't see it happening, at least not in large numbers.

A lot of online poker players are essentially shut out of making money from poker.

There are a small number of poker players making millions of dollars a year online. There are some that can make a good living playing online poker at mid stakes full time with no other source of income.

The majority of poker players, that do have some sort of steady income from poker, are part-time poker players.

Playing live poker is going to be much harder to do than playing online poker. A typical part-time online poker player can come home after his day job, sign on to his favorite poker site, play a few hours and that's it. It's something that they can easily squeeze in between their job, their family and other commitments.

Now if s/he has to drive to a cardroom, wait for a table, tip dealers, pay for food, etc., they're just not going to be playing as much as they used to. It is going to be harder to fit into their schedule.

Live poker is much slower as well. When you're sitting at a poker table you can expect to be dealt around 30 hands per hour. That's not even factoring in commute and wait times. If you're mulitabling even just 4 tables online, you're being dealt over 300 hands per hour.

Winning poker players biggest competitor is variance. The way to conquer variance is to put in a lot of volume. Someone who only plays poker a couple of hours a night may only be able to drive once a week to a casino and play for 8 hours.

Now they're playing 240 hands a week compared to the thousands of hands they would normally play a week online. The long term in live poker is a lot longer than online poker.

People were able to have a good part-time job multi-tabling something as small as 25NL online and be their own boss. Now the minimum most people have access to live will be around 1/2.  

Even if live poker is easier it will get harder once the full-time pros transition to live. The loss of online poker is going to be hardest on these players, who make up the majority of online winners.



Received Email From PokerStars Regarding US Withdrawals


I finally received a reply to my support email from PokerStars. It seems that they are replying to each email individually so they can address any specific concerns that their players might have.

This personal attention is what we have come to expect from PokerStars. Understandably, we can't expect the same speedy responses we've become accustomed too given the circumstances.

In case anyone is still waiting for an email here is the generic parts.
We were very pleased to receive the news that allows US players to cash out their real money balances.

In response to this update, the Cash Out option in the PokerStars Cashier will temporarily be unavailable, to allow us to prepare the technical solutions and formulate the plan and processes required to allow you to cash out your balance.

Please be assured, US player balances are safe. We will notify all US players as soon as the cashier is available to allow you to proceed to cashing out. In the interim, any pending cashouts will be returned to your account in order to ensure players have the opportunity to cash out orderly.

Providing you with the facility to cash out is our top priority right now, and hopefully all US players will be able to cash out via the PokerStars Cashier in the near future.

In the event that you are no longer living in the United States, and can prove it, you are free to play on our site from your new residence. However, to do so, you will be required to submit proof that you are actually resident in another location to have your privileges reinstated. You will be able to keep your VIP Status, as well as your yearly VPP total (as of April 15, 2011).

Acceptable proof consists of copies of photo identification as well as a recent utility bill showing your new physical address. Just an address, without actual proof of residency, will not be sufficient.

Once you have moved, and have the necessary documents to prove your new residency, please email the documents to verification@pokerstars.com and we will assist you further.

We apologize for the temporary delay, and sincerely appreciate your patience and cooperation, as we continue working towards providing you with a solution to cash out.
You can also find information at the PokerStars FAQ for USA Players. Note because the domain was recently released it might take a couple of days for the DNS changes to propagate to your local DNS and you might get a 404 Not Found Error page. Be patient.

Another email I received is that USA players cannot purchase anything from the VIP store. If you have any pending purchases they will probably be canceled. This does not seem to apply to cash bonuses that you can purchase from the VIP store.

I don't think PokerStars will screw us over. Things are just going to take time to work themselves out. I'm sure the same is true for Full Tilt Poker. I'm willing to be patient but I hope they continue to keep information coming out while they work on resolving these issues.

Update: Received the following email from PokerStars Security:
We were very pleased to receive the news that allows US players to cash out their real money balances.

In response to this update, the Cashout Option in the PokerStars Cashier will be temporarily unavailable to allow us to prepare the technical solutions and formulate the plan and processes required to allow you to cash out your balance.

In the interim, any pending cashouts have been returned to your account in order to ensure players have the opportunity to cash out orderly.

Please be assured, player balances are safe. We will notify all US and US territories players as soon as the Cashier is available again.

Providing you with the facility to cash out is our top priority right now, and hopefully all US and US territories players will be able
to cash out via the PokerStars Cashier in the near future.

If your account balance is over 4000 USD you will be required to send documentation at cashout stage. In order to avoid delays at that time
we kindly ask you that you scan and email in advance the following two documents to security@pokerstars.eu:

a) A clear photocopy of your government issued photo ID (front and back).

b) A copy of a recent utility bill or bank statement clearly showing your full name, current address and statement date (no older than 3 months).

Please ensure that you clearly state your UserID. If you have already provided the above documents in the past, you are NOT required to send these again.

We apologize for the temporary delay, and sincerely appreciate your patience and cooperation as we continue working towards providing
you with a solution to cash out.

Regards,

PokerStars Security

Domain Names Shouldn't Hang Up Poker Withdrawals

Today the United States Attorney for the Southern District of NY put out a press release that they have come to an agreement that allows the domain names for FullTiltPoker.com and PokerStars.com to be returned to the respective sites.
Under the terms of the agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the companies agreed that they would not allow for, facilitate, or provide the ability for players located in the United States to engage in playing online poker for "real money" or any other thing of value. The agreements allow for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to use the pokerstars.com and fulltiltpoker.com domain names to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. players’ funds held in account with the companies. The deposit of funds by U.S. players is expressly prohibited. In addition, the agreements do not prohibit, and, in fact, expressly allow for, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker to provide for, and facilitate, players outside of the United States to engage in playing online poker for real money. The agreements also require
the appointment of an independent Monitor to verify PokerStars’ and Full Tilt Poker’s compliance with the agreements. The Government stands to enter the same agreement with Absolute Poker if it so chooses.
I recently posted some information about the domain name seizures. They're not really that important and shouldn't have been something that hung up player withdrawals. The poker sites should have been able to process withdrawals without getting their domain names back.

Full Tilt Poker also put out a statement which states "in addition, the agreement represents an important first step towards returning funds to U.S. players because it allows Full Tilt Poker to utilize its domain to facilitate the withdrawal of player funds."

The agreement will help players get their money back but they didn't need the agreement to do so. This whole mess makes things difficult because they have to process a large number of withdrawals simultaneously while some accounts may be frozen  but it's good news that the sites have begun to comment on us getting our money.

The DoJ also stated that the seizures of the accounts where not intended to seize player funds and will help the poker sites get the money back to US players.
In fact, this Office expects the companies to return the money that U.S. players entrusted to them, and we will work with the poker companies to facilitate the return of funds to players, as today’s agreements with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker demonstrate.
Today's news is good news as far as getting our money back but I found FTP's statement troubling. Implying that the domain name seizures held up withdrawals is just not true. I'm not going to be celebrating until more information comes out with how and when funds will start coming to us.

Update: The full text of the executed domain name agreements have been released online for both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. The only text in the agreement relating to withdrawals is:
This Agreement does not prohibig, and, in fact, expressly allows for, PokerStars to utilize the Domain (and any other forms of communication) to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. players' funds held in account with PokerStars. While withdrawal of funds is expressly permitted, the deposit of funds by U.S. Players is expressly prohibited. Pokerstars agrees that any financial transactions with players located in the United States shall be strictly limited to the return of those players' funds held in account with PokerStars.
The agreement doesn't seem to change the state of player withdrawals but it's nice that player withdrawals are becoming part of the conversation.

Will US Poker Players Get Their Money?

Photo by Jam Adams
Short answer. I don't know if we will but we definitely should!

Some quick facts. The UIGEA doesn't make payments from poker sites to players illegal. Only deposits.

Playing online poker is also not illegal in most states and whether or not online poker constitutes "illegal internet gambling" also hasn't been tested in a court of law.

Keep in mind I'm not an attorney, I'm not an industry insider and the following is going to just be my opinion based on what I've been able to determine from my own research.

Should US Poker Players Receive Their Funds?

I don't see why we shouldn't. As I mentioned. There isn't anything illegal regarding withdrawals as far as the UIGEA is concerned.

Even though the money was (or is in the process of being) seized for criminal activity, that criminal activity was not perpetrated by the poker players.

The counts in the indictment involve bank fraud and UIGEA violations.

Players who made deposits were not willing participants in any of the claimed bank fraud incidents. Even though the bank codes made it look like charges came from various web merchants, it's not like PokerStars told us to go to some website and buy 5,000 golf balls when we wanted to make a deposit.

We went to the poker client and clicked the deposit button and followed the instructions. Whatever happened behind the scenes happened without our control or knowledge.

Even though withdrawals are exempt from the UIGEA, I just wanted to make it clear that the money isn't being confiscated for anything the players did.

Why Aren't US Players Getting Our Money?

Recently, some banks have been giving poker players a hard time when they do make withdrawals. Some players have reported having their bank accounts closed. I'm not sure why this is happening but banks are either unwilling or being instructed to not handle withdrawals in some cases.

The big reason though is that the DoJ/FBI has seized a lot of accounts owned by the payment processors and the poker sites.

The way I understand how things work, payment processors open bank accounts for handling the transactions of the poker sites. They process both deposits and withdrawals on behalf of the poker sites. The payment processor earns a fee for processing these requests.

Since the payment processor handles money coming in and out they hold funds in their bank accounts to handle these transactions without constantly needing to transfer funds back and forth between them and the poker sites.

So you make a $100 deposit, it's going to stay with the processor. The processor isn't immediately going to send the money to the poker site. Where the money actually belongs is basically tracked in a spreadsheet. (Hopefully more sophisticated but you get the point.)

The gaming commissions that regulate these sites also have provisions that require player funds to be segregated from operational funds. Meaning that player bankrolls aren't supposed to be in the same bank accounts that the poker sites use to pay their bills, payroll, etc.

Our money is out there somewhere. The DoJ/FBI has put a freeze on it and it seems someone in government has incorrectly instructed banks to not allow players to receive withdrawals in some cases.

Who Owes The US Poker Players Their Money

The poker sites are responsible to return the money to their players when they request a withdrawal. I think it's pretty clear.

What's holding it up is that the bank accounts may have been frozen and the poker sites, even though it seems not all the accounts have been frozen, are a little less liquid right now.

Even with the loss of the US Market, they're still raking in millions of dollars a day so even if the accounts aren't released we should expect them to start saving up to pay us back. If not there will likely be legal action against them by the players.

In the case of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars I don't think that will be necessary. They intend to remain in business outside the US and have invested a lot in their brands. Stiffing their players would tarnish their reputations too much.

It would make things easier if the DoJ/FBI would unfreeze the accounts in excess of the amounts their seeking in fines so that PokerStars can pay their players. It would be helpful if financial institutions were instructed to not give players a hard time if the receive checks or wires from these processors.

Like I said previously. That's our money and we didn't commit the crimes for which that money is being held. Think of it as if you parked your car with a valet and the valet decided to get drunk and drive your car through a store window. The car may be held as evidence by the authorities but you didn't participate or authorize the crime. You should get your car back as far as I understand or at the very least are entitled to seek compensation from the valet or his employer for the loss of your car. Forfeiting assets like this is meant to punish criminals. In the case of the car, you're not a criminal and shouldn't be punished.

How FTP/PokerStars Can Come Back to the US


A lot of different conspiracy theories have been discussed regarding online poker's Black Friday. I love conspiracy theories so here's mine. :)

I think there's a chance that sites like Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker/UB can return to the US market once online poker legislation is passed.

The way I think things might play out is going to be similar to the recent banking crises we had in the US.

Info Relating to Domain Name Seizures of Poker Sites

There's been some confusion about the seizure of the domain names and what it means. There's also been a rumor going around that the sites (PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, AbsolutePoker and UB) will be getting their domain names back this week.

I'm not sure about the rumor but here's some info that might clear up what it means for the FBI/DoJ to seize the domains. It actually doesn't mean all that much. At least in terms of putting them out of business.

First of all. The poker sites have what I would assume is a large infrastructure that runs their games as well as their various websites. They have all their servers (computers) in a secure data center outside of the jurisdiction of the US authorities.

Computers on the internet are identified via an IP address. This is a number that looks something like 192.168.123.123. These numbers are inconvenient so there is a naming system, the Domain Name System (DNS) that allows the association of names to IP addresses. So if you type in an address such as www.pokerstars.com your computer will do a DNS lookup through a series of DNS servers to resolve the name into an numerical IP address. Just like calling 411 and getting a phone number based on someone's name.

There are top level domains (TLDs), (.com, .net, .org) etc that are controlled by Domain Registrars. You can register a domain name (such as pokerstars.com) and have the right to exclusively use that domain name for your servers.

When you type www.pokerstars.com into your web browser on your computer, your computer makes a request to the DNS server of your local ISP (comcast, Verizon, etc). Your ISP's DNS server then sees a request for a .com address and sends a request to the ROOT DNS servers which contain pointers to Domain DNS Servers, in this case a DNS server that is controlled by PokerStars, where an IP Address is returned for PokerStars' web server.

That information then gets sent back in reverse order until it winds up at your computer, then your web browser makes whatever request necessary using that IP address.

The ROOT DNS servers for all .com, .net, .gov (as well as .name, .cc and .tv) are controlled by a US based company called VeriSign. VeriSign is subject to the laws of the US and has to comply with any judicial orders that are issued to it.

When the US Gov't seizes a domain all they are really getting control of is essentially a couple of lines of text (or rows in a database) in the ROOT DNS servers. Those lines that used to instruct the ROOT DNS servers to contact PokerStars' DNS Servers to resolve names into IP address now contacts US Gov't DNS servers which ultimately results in requests being sent to US Gov't servers.

The poker site server infrastructure, which is safely housed in a data center outside of the US' reach remains untouched. If you knew the IP address you could theoretically still reach PokerStars website in this example.

DNS Servers cache requests. So if you make a request for www.pokerstars.com on your computer, it will go to your ISP's DNS, then ROOT DNS and then PokerStars' DNS server. But if another customer with the same ISP makes the same request, your ISP's DNS server will just use it's locally cached data instead. For this reason domain name changes can take hours or sometimes a couple of days to propagate through the DNS system.

Different federal agencies have been seizing domain names for various reasons in the past few months. This has caused concern because the .com, .net and .org domain names are important top level domains (TLDs) in the Internet, which is considered global and shouldn't be owned/controlled by the US.

After a site like PokerStars loses their pokerstars.com domain you can no longer access their website by going to www.pokerstars.com. Since the PokerStars client also needs to connect to PokerStars' server infrastructure and uses names (such as update.pokerstars.com) to find those servers, you can't play poker using their software.

Basically all PokerStars needs to do to get everything working again is to get a new domain name registration. In this case they chose pokerstars.eu. The .eu TLD is administered by EURid which is a consortium of different European national domain registrars which the US can't easily touch.

They didn't have to pick pokerstars.eu. They could have chosen pokerstars.im (Isle of Man TLD) or even bobssuperpokerwharehouse.it for that matter. The only thing that matters is that they have a domain name registration that points to their DNS servers and that their poker client is updated to point to the new update.pokerstars.eu server.

These are relatively simple changes to make and it's easy for a site like PokerStars to let their customers know that they need to go to a new url to download the new software. PokerStars was back up and running the same day. Then the software on your computer can be able to communicate with PokerStars' servers and function as normal.

The seizure of the domain names does very little to disrupt the business of these poker sites. It would be like the local police trying to shut down a crack house by changing the house numbers on the front door.

To me, it just looks like a lame show of force. If they continue to do these types of domain seizures it's going to make the rest of the world try and get these important TLDs out of the control of the US.

It looks impressive, but it's ultimately meaningless. I'm not familiar with how the forfeiture of bank accounts works but what Carol (forgot last name her blog is bwop.blogspot.com) said on the massive QuadJacks Black Friday webcast, the funds weren't actually seized. Only a restraining order was placed on those accounts. I'm not sure how that will work for banks outside of the US. If someone can clarify how easy it would be for these sites to get access back to these accounts in different jurisdictions I would appreciate it if you left a comment.

*EDIT: Further research indicates the US has a lot of leverage over the forfeiture of foreign money. They usually get the foreign bank to cooperate. If they don't, they just seize the same amount from a local branch of the the foreign bank. The type of forfeiture (in rem) also doesn't require a conviction. This could be ugly.

Carbon Poker for US Players?

After being shut out of PokerStars and FullTilt Poker following Poker Black Friday I've been looking at options for US Poker Players that want to continue playing.

Carbon Poker is on the Merge Gaming Network and is still accepting US Players. They are licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

From what I've seen, the Merge network has good feedback from players. Some of the videos on BlueFirePoker (member reviews I've seen) were played on sites on the Merge network.

There seemed to be a good bit of traffic from 4NL to 50NL when I checked. There were also a few 100NL tables running.

There were a lot of US poker players at the tables.

There didn't seem to be much SnG traffic. There are a few MTTs running throughout the day though. There's a $33 $7k Guaranteed running right now that had 275 players registered.

The software looks pretty good. I played some play money games on it and it didn't take long to adjust. I really like the pot size betting buttons that are available. This is good because TableNinja won't work on that site. Fortunately the next release of Holdem Manager will work with Carbon Poker but I'm not sure if HUDs will be supported. Reading their TOS makes me think they're not allowed.

They have a bunch of freerolls and cool promotions including a bad beat jackpot. Use the following link and you can get 35% Carbon Poker Rakeback as well as a 100% deposit bonus up to $600.

The future of online poker in the US isn't clear but for now there are still some options for real money poker. I can't predict what might happen but I created an account with Carbon Poker after looking at different sites. Not sure if I will be depositing yet.

Update: Contacted Carbon Poker and they replied saying they are still accepting US Players and have not been affected by what happened on Friday. Still have some trepidation.

MicroRollers Home Game

Update: I haven't been able to log in at all to update the home game. My apologies to those recently trying to join.

I created this Poker Club on PokerStars.net a while ago and it looks like it might be a good time to get it out.

Online poker will likely come back in the US at some point and it's important to not let our skills get rusty.

The general play money games are a joke and won't keep you on your game. So I thought maybe we could keep our chops by playing against other decent players for play money in my Home Game on PokerStars.net.