Monday, May 02, 2011

We Leave the Sites, the Sites Leave a Legacy

PokerStars balance = $0.00Like many, I cashed out my entire balance from PokerStars last Tuesday, requesting a check rather than do the direct transfer to my bank. I had always just requested checks before when withdrawing, so that seemed the way to go.

I have since heard many report that they received their transfers within two or three days of cashing out, news that bodes well for my check arriving. And clearing, for that matter.

And like many, I still have cabbage sitting over in my account on Full Tilt Poker, though only just a few hundy. I imagine you probably received that email from FTP last Friday, too, in which we were told the return of funds to American players was a “top priority” and that they’ll “have a further update for U.S. players next week.”

PokerStarsYou’ll recall how a few days after seizing the and domains, the Department of Justice entered into “domain-use agreements” with Stars and Tilt “to facilitate the withdrawal of U.S. players’ funds held in account with the companies.” Meanwhile, no such agreement has been reached with either Absolute Poker or UltimateBet regarding the,, and domains.

I had no funds on either Absolute Poker or UltimateBet. I did have accounts on both sites for a short time -- accounts which I opened after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 forced sites like PartyPoker and others on which I played to stop taking U.S. players’ bets.

But I withdrew my money from Absolute in October 2007, shortly after news of an insider cheating scandal broke. It’s been a while, but some remember how in the face of allegations Absolute initially reported there was “no evidence that any of Absolute Poker’s redundant and varying levels of game client security were compromised.” But more evidence soon came to light, and just a week later AP admitted to an “internal security breach.”

Full Tilt PokerWas all I needed. Got my moneys off of AP (ASAP), then a couple of weeks later -- knowing that UltimateBet was run by the same crowd -- I cashed out from UB as well. Did so a few months in advance of the second, more extensive scandal breaking there (in March 2008).

My understanding is that U.S. players currently are unable to withdraw funds from either Absolute Poker or UltimateBet, although they have been able to continue playing on both sites -- despite pop-ups announcing U.S. players are blocked. (At least this was the case just a couple of days ago; I’m not certain what the status is today, but I believe it hasn’t changed.)

Meanwhile, non-Americans apparently are able to withdraw funds but are limited to $250 per week! If it seemed like poor judgment to keep playing at either site before, those willing to continue playing now with little or no prospect of cashing out appear beyond foolhardy. Then again, it probably doesn’t matter one way or another, as everyone with money on either site seems to be drawing mighty thin when it comes to the prospect of cashing out.

Absolute PokerAn article appearing in the St. Petersburg Times yesterday narrates the brief history of Absolute Poker’s rise and seemingly imminent demise, summarizing details of some of the suspect post-scandal machinations with investors that have occurred. It is part of a story Haley Hintze has been covering for some time, spelling out just how dire the situation at Absolute and Cereus (the network that includes AP and UB) is at present.

According to Poker Site Scout, traffic at the Cereus Network has steadily fallen over the last two weeks to about 25% of its pre-Black Friday levels. Meanwhile, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker continue to occupy the top two spots worldwide in terms of traffic, with both sites appearing to be seating around 65-75% the number of players they had prior to April 15.

While many players are understandably upset at how the four largest U.S.-facing sites variously put themselves in positions to be indicted as they were, it is nonetheless interesting to follow both how the sites are handling post-Black Friday fallout as well as players’ responses to the relative speed of communications and cashouts.

UltimateBetAs before, PokerStars is easily winning the PR war at present with its rapid response. Full Tilt Poker had been experiencing significant problems with processors in the months leading up to Black Friday, perhaps one of several factors causing FTP to fall behind Stars here (again). And AP and UB aren’t surprising anyone with their continued failures on all fronts.

All four sites have been such a big part of the online poker playing world for so long, it will take some time before Americans let go of their feelings, opinions, and attitudes about each. PokerStars and UltimateBet have been around for a decade, AP since 2003, and Full Tilt since 2004. For better or worse, the sites have significantly shaped how we think about online poker -- from game play all of the way up to the not insignificant place online poker has in American culture.

And that will continue to be the case long after all Americans’ account balances on the four sites finally read “$0.00.”

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Blogger Barry Carter said...

Great post. You are correct, how the big 4 have handled this is exactly how they handled everything else, ie. Stars = fast, impeccable customer service, Tilt = getting the job done eventually but communication leaves a lot to be desired, UB/AP = probably nicking off with your money the shady %$&*&%$

5/02/2011 11:28 AM  

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