Archive for April, 2011
Warning: Nerd alert. If you don’t play/like starcraft, skip this post.
I play alot of Star Craft 2, a RTS game on the computer. I wrote two strategy posts, both on 2v2 play-
In addition to those posts, my partner and I were featured on day, an sc2 caster who puts up daily videos for thousands worldwide.
The link can be seen HERE
(Our gamer tags = LANDLORD (me) and MunguSia)
Anyways, just thought I should share.
I can’t figure out how to convert UBB to HTML so I’ll just have to give you the link to it
Was a fun time.
One more good summary found in the New York Times by a former 2p2 member:
Also, the Department of Justice has allowed Full Tilt and PokerStars to release U.S. money. The report is here
So we’ll all be getting our money. The time table is up in the air and we aren’t sure when we’re going to get our money.
Will be interesting to see the poker landscape a year from now.
Alright, now that my nerves have calmed a bit…
To those who do not know (I’ll assume most do, given this is primarily a poker blog), the three largest poker sites in the U.S. have been locked (FTP/UB + AP/Pokerstars) to U.S. players. On Friday, the FBI showed up on the home pages of those three sites. It looked like this:
Since this time, Stars has blocked all U.S. players and FTP has it so you need to reinstall/redl on a a new euro server. Both sites have moved to .eu and have pulled out of the U.S. market. They assure us that our money is safe and secure, but only time will tell when we can actually withdraw our funds.
Here is a court document:
And here is another short blog post on the subject:
So, yeah. This day obviously sucked alot. There have been multiple ‘black fridays’ for the poker industry the past few years. Only time will tell what happens this time. The main thread for the news happened on twoplustwo-
(ultra ultra long thread, probably not worth it…but here is the inception of the news)-
Yet another summarization of the events: (original source here)
✖ In the day’s least surprising news, those US land-based casino giants are all disavowing the online poker deals they struck just weeks ago. Wynn Resorts says it has “terminated” its deal with PokerStars, while Fertitta Interactive says its deal with Full Tilt was always contingent on the poker company getting a US gaming license, and so the deal has thus “expired.” We take that definition as having nothing to do with anything time-related, but more to do with the ‘breathing its last’ connotation.
✖ Full Tilt’s CEO Raymond Bitar has released a statement saying he is “surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to bring these charges,” although he is looking forward “to my exoneration.” In the meantime, Full Tilt recognizes that it “must suspend ‘real money’ play in the US until this case is resolved.”
✖ PokerStars has also suspended US real money play and changed the default URL on its associated sites to PokerStars.eu. Money transfers have also been disabled. ESPN’s Andrew Feldman is speculating that the affected poker sites will shut down across the globe within 48 hours.
✖ Chad Elie, the payment processing figure (and former Intabill staffer) arrested in Nevada, appeared in US Magistrate Court in Las Vegas on Friday, and was subsequently released on his own recognizance (and, presumably, that of his FBI shadow) with a hearing scheduled in a New York court for this Tuesday (19th).
✖ Richard Perkins, the former Nevada politician and current PokerStars lobbyist, claims the push to pass the PokerStars-sponsored intrastate poker legislation AB 258 will soldier on despite the day’s events, as the bill “is not just about this company, it is about the policy of this state.”
✖ The Poker Players Alliance released a statement saying, in part, they were “shocked” by the DoJ’s actions. The PPA was good enough to note that “online poker is not a crime” but that’s not exactly what the DoJ is alleging here.
✖ Former Intabill head Daniel Tzvetkoff – who handled hundreds of millions for PokerStars, Full Tilt and others, plus allegedly funneling millions more into his own pockets — is being fingered as the canary singing loudest into DoJ ears. (Australia’s Courier Mail has a feature detailing the payment processing boy-wonder/Icarus and his subsequent fall from grace.)
✖ The scope of the internal company emails the DoJ has in its possession appears formidable. Our current personal favorite is the Sept. 29, 2009 message in which John Campos, the SunFirst Bank vice-chairman arrested in Utah on Friday, refers to a lawyer warning Campos of the risks involved in processing online gambling payments as a “wet blanket.”
✖ Among the details revealed in the emails is the wide variety of e-commerce websites used by the poker sites to handle transactions, including sites purporting to sell flowers, pet supplies, golf clubs, bicycles, clothing and/or jewelry. There was also a Green2YourGreen site that claimed to be a “direct sales” business in which consumers purchased enviro-friendly household products for resale to other customers in return for commissions. The site allegedly went as far as to include bogus ‘testimonials’ from satisfied customers re the green products. A DoJ sting apparently had two gamblers send queries to these phony co’s customer service re the charges that appeared on their bank statements, only to receive replies sent from PokerStars’ customer service.
✖ Worse, these emails directly indicate the poker companies’ complicity in these schemes, with PokerStars documents admitting that they were employing company names that “strongly imply the transaction has nothing to do with PokerStars” and that they used whatever names “the processor can get approved by the bank.”
✖ Is anyone buying the DoJ claim that these poker companies took in “one-third or more of the funds deposited by gamblers” via the rake? Makes the French regulated market look positively generous.
✖ It remains to be seen how foreign governments will react to the DoJ’s call for arrests of the indicted figures living outside the US, and for assets abroad to be seized.
✖ Finally, a big thumbs-down to FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk, who decided to pepper her statement to the press with poker-related terminology. To wit: “These defendants … tried to stack the deck. They … bet the house that they could continue their scheme, and they lost.” Epic humor fail, Jan
And yet more content on the same site:
Something that got lost in Friday’s media storm — New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak announced that his state’s online poker referendum bill is to be introduced on Friday, April 29. As if on cue, legal analyst Dan Abrams appeared on ABC News to voice the opinion that, while he believes that a regulated US online poker market is “inevitable,’ Friday’s indictments mean that in the short term, “it’s going to be very tough to legalize it.”
✖ The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that Nevada State Sen. Greg Brower is calling for federal and state investigations into PokerStars’ lobbying efforts. Brower was incensed to learn that PokerStars had launched a political action committee that doled out $272k in campaign contributions to 68 candidates in last year’s mid-term elections. Brower said he found it “troubling” that “a foreign company which has been charged with operating a criminal enterprise could play such a large role in Nevada campaigns.” Brower intends to discuss the matter with both Nevada authorities and the Department of Justice “to determine whether federal and state investigations into PokerStars’ activities in Nevada are warranted.”
✖ The Cereus Network sites mentioned in Friday’s indictment have followed PokerStars’ lead by switching to .eu domains, while Full Tilt is now operating from FullTiltPoker.co.uk. All of which begs the question why, in this day and age, would an online poker company still have its domain name registered with a US registrar? Clearly, when the DoJ comes knocking on GoDaddy’s door, their CEO is simply going to hand over UB’s domain so he can more quickly get back to shooting elephants for sport.
Barcelona resident Bryce Vincent Geoffrey is a Canadian-licensed lawyer believed to own one of the few remaining US-facing poker companies.
✖ Cereus may be taking a more confrontational stance than Stars or Tilt, i.e. not committing to unconditionally walking away from the US market. Registered US players are reportedly still being welcomed onto real money tables at AP and UB, but all deposits, withdrawals and transfers have been ‘temporarily’ suspended while the sites “work on a resolution.” Are they emboldened by the fact that, of all the site’s indicted principals, AP founder Scott Tom faces only the less serious UIGEA violation charges? Indeed, a UB player received an email from the site’s support staff stating that there is “nothing to worry about.” Balls of steel, or fools rushing in where angels fear to tread? Watch and learn…
✖ John Campos, the indicted vice-chairman of Utah’s SunFirst Bank, is scheduled to appear in a St. George court Monday at 1:30pm. Meanwhile, SunFirst’s lawyer Loren Weiss says Campos had no authority to make deals on behalf of the bank. Weiss told local media outlet The Spectrum that the indictment “doesn’t affect the bank at all.” In fact, Weiss’ perspective is that the indictment portrays SunFirst as a victim. As for the $3.4m that was allegedly invested in SunFirst by defendant Chad Elie and “Elie’s Partner” that gave them a 30% stake in the bank, Weiss claims SunFirst “didn’t enter into any agreement like that. The sale of stock is something that requires board action. Nothing like that happened.” Weiss also maintains that SunFirst never had a direct relationship with any of the accused poker companies. “The only contact they had was with third-party payment processors. The third-party payment processors have many customers, none of whom the bank has any relationship with.”
✖ Full Tilt’s mega-high roller Onyx Cup poker series, which was scheduled to start May 11 in Las Vegas, has been cancelled. The fate of PokerStars’ North American Poker Tour appears dubious. Meanwhile, ESPN.com has stripped all PokerStars advertising from its poker page.
✖ Now that Fertitta Interactive has announced that its deal with Full Tilt has ‘expired,’ the likelihood of Full Tilt being allowed back into the fold of approved Ultimate Fighting Championship sponsors has effectively been choked out. FullTiltPoker.net had remained an active sponsor of individual UFC fighters, as well as a main sponsor of MMA outfit Strikeforce (which was purchased by the UFC on March 12). Ken Pavia of MMA Agents believes the indictment could “severely impact fighters’ sponsor revenue, which traditionally matched their show pay for our televised clients. I would venture to say the poker industry is equal to apparel industry as the No. 1 sponsor of fighters outside the UFC.” The only comment a Strikeforce rep was willing to give MMAJunkie was that they are “looking into the situation specifically how it relates to our deal.”
✖ Forum posters have been lamenting the lack of indictment commentary from many of PokerStars’ sponsored pros. Indeed, a quick read of a lot of PokerStars pro players’ Twitter feeds would have led one to believe that it was business as usual. Finally, on Saturday, Daniel Negreanu explained the radio silence: “Not ignoring #BlackFriday and as much as I’d love to discuss it, I’ve been advised not to for now. As soon as I can, I’ll add my two cents.” Two cents? Wow, Danny’s been reduced to playing for microstakes… This really is a big deal.
✖ Speaking of, many observers have questioned why some poker pros who reportedly hold ownership stakes in the indicted companies, such as Full Tilt’s Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson, were not included in Black Friday’s rogues’ gallery. For the record, we don’t think even the DoJ would go that far — it’s one thing to pick on faceless execs, quite another to go after quasi-celebrity figures. After all, most prosecutors (especially the ones that pursue cases guaranteed to generate media headlines) view their current position purely as a stepping stone to elected office. This may explain why DoJ figures at the heart of this case have been so keen to stress that Black Friday’s charges relate to fraud and money laundering, i.e. it’s not a direct assault on the game of poker itself, which most sane observers agree is an utterly benign form of entertainment. These attorneys have already pissed off one voting bloc (the nation’s poker players). No sense pissing off all libertarians, too.
Finally, one last link on ESPN that postulates the aftereffects of the poker lock for U.S. players-