Thursday, June 11, 2009
We have been hearing about blackjack card counting made simple by your iPhone. Yes, it is, but I don't think running out to get your iPhone just for this purpose is worth the bother. As fast as iPhone blackjack card counting came, it is going to go. That's because casinos are getting hip to it fast, and it is pretty difficult to use your iPhone without casino personnel picking up on you doing it. Soon iPhone counters are going to find themselves skulking around blackjack tables just to enter the count. And besides, counting cards at blackjack with an iPhone is soon going to be considered felony cheating in most areas of the US because using any gadget to help you beat casinos is a crime! So my advice to you iPhone users is to have fun with them and chat away, but do the card counting in your head.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In the latest skirmish in the battle over Internet gambling, online poker advocates say the government has frozen more than $30 million in payouts affecting thousands of players.
The Poker Players Alliance released a statement Tuesday claiming that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York instructed four banks to freeze accounts belonging to online payment processors. John Pappas, the group's executive director, claims the frozen accounts contain funds owed to 27,000 players who used offshore poker Web sites.
In a letter dated Friday and faxed to Alliance Bank of Arizona, the prosecutor alleged that accounts held by payment processor Allied Systems Inc. were subject to seizure and forfeiture "because they constitute property involved in money laundering transactions and illegal gambling offenses," according to the Associated Press. The letter was reportedly signed by Arlo Devlin-Brown, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Representatives for Citibank and Wells Fargo confirmed to the New York Times that the banks have frozen funds at the request of federal prosecutors. A spokesperson for the Southern District Attorney of New York declined any comment to Post Investigations, citing a policy "never to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation." The Department of Justice also declined to comment.
The alleged seizure is the latest development in the long-running debate over the legal status of online poker in the United States. In April 2009, the same U.S. attorney's office effectively shut downU.S. operations of PartyGaming Plc, which was one of the largest online poker sites in the U.S. before the President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The measure prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets.
Meanwhile, online poker advocates have pushed the federal government to license and regulate online gambling, arguing that U.S. players are being steered to unregulated offshore poker sites.
Two men have been sentenced to a total of 14 months imprisonment in what is believed to be the first convictions for cheating at gambling under the Gambling Act 2005 in London. Mehmet Mersin, 46 and Suleyman Arik, 24, were arrested on 19 May 2009 by Westminster Police after being called to Empire Casino in Leicester Square.
Staff had suspected them of cheating at the venue on two occasions only the week before during which they won a total of £5,115. As a result when the pair returned on 19 May, they were identified and detained by the staff.
Their plan to cheat was underlined by Arik's use of a false name and Mersin's attempt at disguise using a wig. A total of £2,000 was recovered from Mersin and £450from Arik at the scene. Investigating detectives from the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit viewed CCTV footage that showed the two of them swapping cards under the table during a game of three card poker.
During interviews both said they had a gambling addictions, and Mersin admitted giving Arik £500 to gamble with. Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, both pleaded guilty to cheating at gambling.
Arik, a Turkish national, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and a deportation order. Mersin was today sentenced to eight months and issued with an ASBO banning him from visiting any casino across the country for the next 10 years.
Detective Inspector John Anderson from the Clubs and Vice Unit said: "There is no doubt Mersin and Arik planned to continue making money through cheating, and even believed they could get away with using false names and disguises. "This case shows such offenders can and will be prosecuted under the Gambling Act."
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
A very interesting debate is underway revolving around what does and what does not constitute gambling. Facebook and MySpace are the world's two most recognizable social networks, and each of the sites offers applications in which their members can take quizzes, sign up for other sites, or even play poker against other members.
It is the third of these applications that have suddenly thrown themselves into the forefront, with growing speculation that they too will draw the attention of some aspiring lawyers or politicians looking to crack down on Internet Gambling including online poker.
Users of the applications such as Zynga's Texas Hold ‘Em, the poker application of choice and the largest such software on the social network sites, would find this to be quite strange, since after all, they are not playing for real money and have no way of depositing or withdrawing fake funds. However, legal experts that have been reviewing the laws as are currently constituted point to the presence of virtual "gifts", items that members can send to other members for trading in some of their play money to attain. For example, Facebook allows players to send up to 16 "gifts" to other Facebook users per day. The intent of the gifts are to promote the application and to encourage other people to take part in the games. The "gifts" cost $5-$10 virtual dollars and are not actual physical items, more of a status symbol that appears on news feeds or a Facebook person's "wall".
It should be noted however, that there is currently no law expressly making it illegal to play online poker at the Federal level.
The argument that lawmakers could point to is that by promoting and advertising a gaming platform of any kind, the developers would ultimately be profiting from online gambling. Advertising would stream in more customers, and thus more advertisers, and thus more scrutiny.
As followers of these types of stories know, there are items in the works in government which would regulate internet gambling. Should this actually happen, then social networks would be in the clear. However, the specter that prosecution could actually arise from such activity, though frivolous to some, is one that should remain in the public consciousness.
In a series of emails sent out to customers Monday, online poker's biggest room, Poker Stars, admitted that its Instant eCheck processor had funds frozen over the past week. The company would not elaborate any further. The news first broke Friday that the US Attorney out of New York had acted to shut the processor down, though it was not immediately clear at that time if any indictments were handed down or if monies were actually confiscated.
An email like the one appearing below was sent out to a number of customers:
Following our previous communication, we regret to inform you that our check provider's bank account remains frozen, the funds are not accessible, and it's not known when the funds will be released. The provider's legal team and the Poker Players Association (PPA) are working on this matter.
In order to make the funds available to you without further delay, we have credited your PokerStars account with the outstanding check amount (details below) from our own funds. We have also credited your account with an additional 10% bonus as a good will gesture for the disruption this matter has caused.
If you wish to resubmit your cashout request, you can do so from our Cashier by selecting the check option (your new check will be issued on a different account and can be deposited as normal) or wire transfer (only available for amounts greater than [$2,500]).
Once again, please accept our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience.
PokerStars Payments Department
The problem was isolated only to Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker. Absolute Poker and its sister site, UltimateBet.com were still accepting eCheck deposits and paying out via their eCheck platform.
Accused Online Poker Cheat Master and Full Tilt???
I've heard that Full Tilt is considering Russ Hamilton, the alleged brains behind the multimillion-dollar UltimateBet online poker cheating scandal, as a Full Tilt player. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprsed if it's true, given online poker sites' past history of hiring known online poker cheats to represent their supposedly cheat-free online poker games. This is just the latest in a long string of online poker cheating rewarding the cheats rather than condemning them.
Though it's probably safe to assume Full Tilt Poker will think twice about hiring alleged online poker cheat, Russ Hamilton, following a story that appeared on the Pokerati website this week, a spokesperson for Full Tilt refused to deny whether Hamilton was being considered as a Team Full Tilt player.
"Who said Pokerati is a reputable source?" asked spokesperson Michele Clayborne. "There are inaccuracies in that article".
The University of Southern California graduate would not clarify the precise inaccuracies when asked repeatedly to do so. She was repeatedly asked to explain where Pokerati was getting its information, to which Ms. Clayborne reiterated they do not consider Pokerati a reputable source.
"We will not be talking to Gambilng911.com ever again!" she snarled in yet another phone call made by Gambling911.com Senior International Correspondent, Jenny Woo. "Why don't you take that article down off the site?"
Clayborne represents Full Tilt Poker and its team of pros through EMC-PR, where she holds the title of International Public Relations Consultant (IPRC). Apparently one of her job requirements is to piss off the press.
Even Gambling911.com questioned the Pokerati story (a la the question mark in the headline). However, we suspect after speaking with Clayborne, who supposedly was a Creative Writing major, she wouldn't know a question mark from a period (that's not to say this woman doesn't know what a period is since she appeared to be having hers when we spoke to her Thursday). We even started our coverage of the story by asking: "Could this be some type of joke?" Following our brief conversation with the abrupt woman, we were left cringing at the notion that it might not be. Perhaps a "real" Full Tilt spokesperson can clarify for us.?.?.?
Clayborne and Full Tilt Poker's lack of disclosure related to this story has had the entire online poker community riled up in recent days.
Addressing the online poker community concern over news that Hamilton might be hired, Full Tilt Poker issued a statement:
"We are aware of the situation regarding Absolute Poker and UltimateBet as it has impacted the entire poker industry. We certainly understand and share your concerns.
We can confirm that we are regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, however we cannot comment on our hiring policies/practices. Rest assured though that all necessary precautions are taken with every new potential employee. Full Tilt Poker is endorsed and trusted by some of the best poker players in the world, and we work hard around the clock to ensure the highest integrity and security of our games.
We also cannot make any comment regarding the hiring practices of other companies within the industry nor can we comment on what communication we have with one another"
"Needless to say, Full Tilt Poker's response was met by an overwhelming amount of negativity," our friends at AintLuck.com pointed out on Thursday. "In a world in which the online poker world is fighting to be accepted by the United States, one would hypothesize that being more open when dealing with players' concerns would rank high on their list of priorities."
AintLuck.com noted that Full Tilt Poker rival--and twice its sizePokerStars.com--was more clear in assuring they would not hire the likes of Russ Hamilton.
A PokerStars spokesperson stated: "PokerStars has an extensive and stringent employee recruitment process. Relevant staff members face extensive background checks to ensure that they are suitable for the roles which they are hired. If PokerStars is given information about anyone involved in this scam, then we will ban them from playing on Stars."
"In this scenario, it seems that the players responding in the forum are reinforced in their belief that Poker Stars is more inclined to ease the concerns of their customer base," AintLuck.com suggests. "By failing to take the needed time to address the players' query regarding such a serious matter, they are unwittingly creating more doubt in the minds of prospective customers who just want to be confident that they are being treated fairly. It would seem that Full Tilt's relationship with the aforementioned Kahnawake Gaming Commission is the root of the cryptic nature of their response. Until they can provide some solid proof of their hiring practices, in the backs of the minds of many players, there will be some doubt."
Ms. Woo, who had arranged to interview poker pro Jennifer Harman in an effort to promote awareness of Ms. Harman's charitable work with Creating Organ Donation Awareness (CODA), has now been denied access to the Team Full Tilt player by Clayborne. Woo herself is an organ donor. She has also been especially active in promoting the charitable efforts of fellow poker player Annie Duke, most recently Refugees International.
"You will NOT be talking to MY poker players!" Clayborne exclaimed as if she owned the company. Woo, a Mathematics major, was left scratching her head. "Isn't Michele's (Clayborne) job to get these people and Full Tilt Poker positive press?" Woo asked. "I seriously cannot believe how unprofessional and disrespectful this woman was. We made it clear Full Tilt Poker was given every possible opportunity to say three simple words: ‘Russ Is Not Joining Our Team'."
We reiterate, Full Tilt Poker is more than welcome to clarify the Pokerati story and dispel any rumors related to alleged affiliations with Russ Hamilton.
My take: this is all publicity-gouging bullshit!