When I heard about the offer, I reacted pretty much as I have to all bonus offers since Neteller shut its virtual doors to us Americans.
That is to say, I didn’t react at all.
I’ve told the story a few times here how I started playing online poker back in late 2004. Like just about everybody who played then, I moved my initial roll to a poker site (Stars, actually) using Neteller. I started with the minimum deposit of fifty bucks, broke even for three months or so on the penny tables, then began winning some and pretty soon had built up to a couple of hundy.
Looking back at my log book, I see that I had $232.33 in my Stars account when I made my first withdrawal -- a hundred bucks’ worth. Basically followed that pattern for a while there early on, taking out a hundred every time I got back up to $200-250 or so. As those who remember Neteller know, you first had to move your money from the poker site to Neteller, then another step was required to move it from Neteller to your bank account.
Stars was my only site until 2006 when I finally opened an account over on PartyPoker. That was about the time I became familiar with deposit bonuses and how lucrative they could be. Unlike Stars, Party offered such bonuses constantly -- it seemed like every other month. I started keeping a few hundred over on Neteller to have ready whenever one of those came up.
And they were so easy to clear, too. I can’t recall exact details, but it seemed like it only would take an afternoon to claim the $20 or $40 or whatever Party was giving me for depositing. Once I cleared a deposit bonus, I instantly would withdraw the money I had deposited back out of the site.
I eventually got a Full Tilt Poker account, too, and took advantage of their deposit bonuses when they came around as well. Then came the UIGEA and the exit of Neteller, and I basically stopped doing the deposit thing altogether because of all the added hassles.
That’s why I didn’t react to the recent Stars offer, instead shrugging my shoulders and thinking, well, this was yet another way Americans are playing at a disadvantage thanks to our bass ackwards legislators.
It was after a short spell of reading some folks on forums chirping about the promotion -- expressing unfettered glee at all the free moneys they were enjoying -- that I decided to look again at deposit options available to me over on Stars. There aren’t many, but this eChecks thing looked fairly simple to use.
The way the 25 Billion Bash deposit bonus went, one stands to earn 25% of whatever one deposits up to $1,000, meaning the maximum one could get would be $250. One has to earn a certain number of VPPs to clear the bonus -- I believe it is 20 VPPs for every dollar. Not too hard to do.
I ended up exchanging several emails with PokerStars support in an effort to figure out how I could best take advantage of the offer. (As is always the case with Stars support, they were very helpful and accommodating.) There are limits on how much one can deposit via eChecks if one has never used it before. Long story short, I was only able to deposit $200 before the promo period ended yesterday, meaning I will be earning a $50 bonus once I accumulated the needed VPPs. Having now made my first eChecks deposit, I’ll be able to take better advantage of such offers with Stars whenever they come up again.
As far as I can tell, the process of using eChecks to deposit was super smooth. And a bit of an eye-opener. Things may well change between now and December 2009 when banks will be required to follow the UIGEA regulations that were published in November 2008 and went into effect on 1/19/09. But for now, depositing online doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue for Americans. Not to Stars, anyhow.
Hell, now that I think about it, depositing is even easier than before (no Neteller = no middle man). And in my experience, withdrawing has always been a breeze, too.
Gonna have to stop thinking myself as an American to whom all the online poker options are not available. At least until December, anyway.