Thursday, February 19, 2009

American Vendor

Part of that PokerStars 25 Billion Bash promotion this past week included a bonus for depositing. Stars doesn’t offer those that often, and this one was quite generous -- 25% up to $250. In fact, the site was calling it their “Biggest Ever Reload Bonus.”

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.

eChecksI 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.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I too took advantage of the promotion. Have you checked your bank account online to see how it comes through? They code it to "Homeshopping" =)

2/19/2009 9:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Haven't done a bonus deposit since the UIGEA myself, and may dip a toe back into these waters if that eCheck thing works.

2/19/2009 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about this AFTER the promotion is over. I'm glad I read your blog... idiot.

2/19/2009 12:17 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

All apologies, anon.

BTW, weren't you at my LHE table the other day?

2/19/2009 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It really is that easy now with eCheck. I did the previous Stars deposit bonus and deposited/withdrew through eCheck without issue in US. Be aware that payment options seem to change all the time. I got out of online poker when Party stopped supporting US players. Then something like 18 months ago I went to Stars for some reason and saw I could do eCheck deposit. Some months later I wanted to do another deposit bonus and eCheck was gone I think. Then it came back at some point.

2/19/2009 12:54 PM  
Blogger F-Train said...

FYI, eChecks is also available at Full Tilt (and has been for more than a year now). It is pretty quick and easy.

2/19/2009 1:57 PM  
Blogger Greylocks said...

20 vpp/$1 means you have to earn 5000 vpps to clear a $250 bonus. That would take me about three months at my current rate of play. I'm barely able to make Silver Star (1500 vpp) every month and often spend the last two days of the month eight-tabling to get the points.

I'm not saying it's a bad deal, just pointing out that for many players, it's far from an instant return on the money.

2/19/2009 10:18 PM  

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