PlayerVsPlayer Poker Graph Software

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.

Sad Day For US Poker Players

I spent most of yesterday offline, you know, in the real world where people laugh instead of type LOL so when I finally logged into twitter and saw my stream going crazy I was a bit surprised.

When I found out what all the buzz was about I was in shock.

This isn't going to be a very informative post on the subject. I just wanted to air some of my thoughts and make a few other personal statements but here's the lowdown in case you missed it. If you're up to speed with what's going on click here to skip it.

The US States Attorney for the District of New York and the FBI unsealed an indictment that charges 11 individuals including the founders of "the big three" in online poker, PokerStars, FullTiltPoker and AbsolutePoker/UB (Cereus network) with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling offenses. More information can be found in the DoJ press release on the matter.
The United States also filed a civil money laundering and in rem forfeiture complaint (the "Civil Complaint") against the Poker Companies, their assets, and the assets of several payment processors for the Poker Companies. In addition, restraining orders were issued against more than 75 bank accounts utilized by the Poker Companies and their payment processors, and five Internet domain names used by the Poker Companies to host their illegal poker games were seized.
As a result PokerStars and FullTiltPoker are prohibiting US players from playing in real money games on their sites. This includes cash games, multi-table tournaments and sit-n-go's. That constitutes the majority of real money online poker for US players.

This is sad because recent news made it seem like online poker in the US was getting close to a point where it would be regulated and any murky areas in the law would be cleared up.

The sizable legal staff that sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker employ have determined that playing online poker in the US is not against the law. I'm not a lawyer but from my understanding I can see the law interpreted that way. The problem is the law makes it illegal to wire money into or out of US based financial institutions. According to the indictment the poker sites and they're payment processors are alleged to have committed fraud in order to get around these restrictions.

When you visit the effected domains you're likely to see a message that the domain was seized instead of the actual homepage of the site you're visiting.

It may take a while for you to see the changes reflected when you visit the sites because the DoJ seized the domain registration and not the actual servers hosting the websites. The domain registration is in the US, the servers are not.

I read the 52-page indictment and it doesn't look good. Indictments usually don't. The defense of the poker sites looks like it's going to need to be that poker is not unlawful internet gambling and that they were insulated from the actions of their payment processors.

Last Night I Played My A-Game

Photo Copyright Andy Beecroft courtesy of geograph.org.uk
Last night I played some full ring NLHE for my cash game challenge.

I had the best feeling ever playing that session and for the first time I recognized I was playing well. I knew I was playing my A-Game. There was no doubt about it.

There isn't a time that I can remember feeling as comfortable playing poker as I did last night.

I've been putting in a lot of time trying to work on my cash game by analyzing my Holdem Manager database and watching a lot of videos on BlueFirePoker.

Up until this point I've been pretty happy with my play and my results but I've always had some doubts. Last night was comforting to realize that I do have an A-Game and it's pretty good!

So how much did I win? I'll get to that but some more details about the session first.

$50 Cash Game Challenge Update 3

It's been way too long, over a year, since I've updated my Cash Game Bankroll Challenge which I started with $50.

There were a number of reasons for this. One is that I was focusing so much time on my Double or Nothing SnG Bankroll Challenge. Another is that I was working on a similar cash game challenge that I wasn't publishing but I'll discuss later in this post.

In my last update, my bankroll was at $100. Current challenge bankroll is around $330. I've put in a lot of hands since then. almost 10x the number of hands in the first two updates combined.

My winrate for this update is just over 3 BB/100 which I'm not too thrilled about at these stakes. I think I can do a bit better.

Once my bankroll crossed the $200 mark I started adding more tables to my sessions and now play anywhere from 2-6 tables depending on my frame of mind.

Six tables is a little too much for my bankroll so I probably won't be doing that often. I'm also trying to really think about each hand more and pay attention to players even when I'm not in a hand.

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