Op-Ed: On-line poker goes on outside the USA as FBI war continues
An update on the FBI's war against on-line poker from a slightly irreverent viewpoint, and a perspective on poker outside the USA.
As if Black Friday
wasn’t bad enough, last Monday, a further indictment was unsealed in the US Government’s continuing war against on-line poker, by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein of Baltimore, and eleven more bank accounts in the US were seized along with ten more gambling domains.
According to Rosenstein
: “We cannot allow foreign website operators to flout the law simply because their headquarters are based outside the country”.
At the same time, a man appeared in the New York District Court, Manhattan, where he pleaded guilty to criminal charges
of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and operating an illegal gambling business. The words fraud and illegal were used in an extremely liberal sense, although the word blackmail might also be added, because Bradley Franzen, a resident of both Illinois and Costa Rica, was railroaded by the authorities under threat of a heavy prison sentence, to testify at any forthcoming trial of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker or Absolute Poker in relation to the Black Friday seizures.
The Washington-based Poker Players Alliance
is continuing to lobby both at the national and local levels, but in spite of some high powered support, the situation for US players does not look like changing any time soon.
Meanwhile, life goes on for on-line poker outside the USA, but with an at times drastically reduced clientele.
RakeTheRake, the world’s largest poker rakeback affiliate, has recently totally revamped its site and is still offering rakeback to non-US players. Arguably the best as well as the largest, this affiliate is offering the best deals; interested (non-US) parties can sign up here
Rivals Rakeback.Com and Rakebacks.Com also appear to be doing well.
Of the largest pokers sites, PokerStars appears to be weathering the storm quite well, and has just hosted its 2011 SCOOP
– Spring Championship Of On-line Poker - which it claims is one of the biggest online poker tournament series anywhere. The 2011 series consisted of a total of 114 events with 403,378 buy-ins from 107,697 players in 156 countries, and total prize money of $43,165,800.00. Players from 126 countries cashed.
Another poker giant, Full Tilt, has just completed not one but two on-line championships. The FTOPS XX
series ran from April 17 to May 1, and the 45 event Mini-Series (with smaller buy-ins) ran from May 8 to May 22.
Having said that, neither cash games nor some tournaments on either site are anywhere near as full as they used to be; this is particularly true of stud hi-lo; the nightly $5 stud hi lo on Full Tilt is now regularly cancelled.
Traffic on ipoker is also down; this network is home to a number of sites including William Hill (which did not accept US players), and Noble Poker. The evening $5 Stud and $5 Limit Omaha Hi Lo tournaments have much reduced fields from pre-Black Friday.
One site that looks as though it could be heading for more trouble is Absolute Poker. This relatively small site (and its sister site UB) has been hit harder than most, though according to a report yesterday, some US players were still managing to bypass the FBI/DOJ domain seizure to play on the site
for real money. It remains to be seen if the government will bring contempt proceedings against the site, or send in Navy SEALs to deal with the players concerned.