Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From Yahoo News

Experts: Ban won't stop Web gambling
By ADAM GOLDMAN, AP Business Writer 1 hour, 21 minutes ago
NEW YORK - Gamblers may look over their shoulder now, but experts say a new Internet gambling ban won't keep bettors from ponying up, just turn them on to overseas payment services out of the law's reach.

"It has put a terrible scare into people," said I. Nelson Rose, who teaches gambling law at Whittier Law School. "But it won't by any means wipe out Internet gambling."
The fright swept through the $12 billion industry on the heels of the recent arrests of two gambling company executives and a new law President George W. Bush signed Oct. 13 that seeks to ban most online gambling and criminalizes funds transfers.

The law has wiped out billions of dollars in shareholder value of British companies, leaving the industry's future in doubt as U.S. lawmakers initially trumpeted they had found a way to halt bets coming from the America.

But serious questions remain about whether the legislation can be effective in stopping U.S. residents from playing poker or betting on sports.

The "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act" goes after the money, not the millions of players, which would be nearly impossible to enforce.

It will essentially try to choke off the way Americans fund their gambling habits, hoping to prevent the transfer of dollars to the popular Internet sites.

It's also widely understood that the law has online poker in its gun sights, identifying it as a game of chance — something the poker companies dispute. They believe poker is a game of skill and therefore not subject to the new rules.

But they're fearful nonetheless.

"Their mission is to kill the funding of online poker, and that's what this law does," said Mike Sexton, who hosts the popular World Poker Tour and has won millions as a professional player.

The new law comes amid an explosion in online gambling, fueled by the Texas Hold 'em craze and widespread access to the Internet. In addition, dozens of Web sites have sprouted up that allow any gambler with a credit card to bet on any sport they choose, for any amount of money they want.

Industry experts say there are an estimated 2,000 Internet sites that take bets for sports and poker. American players have fueled Internet gambling, supplying $6 billion of the $12 billion in revenues generated annually.

"The time has been one of rapid growth," said Sebastian Sinclair, president of Christiansen Capital Advisors, a gambling consultant. "This industry was well on its way to becoming mainstream in a great part of the world. Capital was tripping over itself to fund these companies."

The new law gives the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve, along with the Attorney General, 270 days to establish policies and procedures.

"The regulations are clearly going to prevent banks from doing electronic fund transfers to gambling sites, but that is no big deal," Rose said.

Clamping down on the banks won't serve as a panacea, Rose said. In some cases, banks simply move the money to payment processors, known as e-wallets. Non-U.S. payment processors such as the widely used Neteller then transfer the money to the Internet gambling sites.

The U.S. government has no authority over processors like Neteller that are operating legally.
Anthony Cabot, a well-known gambling lawyer in Las Vegas, thinks language used in the bill provides a loophole for the payment processors and the U.S. banks that want to be free to do business with them.

"Unless you have some fairly Draconian measures ... the likelihood of stopping payment to them is small," Cabot said.

Much damage has already been done to the offshore sports betting industry without the looming regulations.

British BetOnSports PLC folded after its chief executive was arrested in July by U.S. authorities. David Carruthers faces 22 counts of fraud and racketeering charges and remains under house arrest in the St. Louis area.

London-based Sportingbet's chairman was detained last month in New York on a state fugitive warrant charging him with illegal online gambling. He was eventually freed.

Both arrests sounded serious alarm bells for those running sports wagering sites that take American bets.

The new legislation has already had a dramatic effect. It supposedly clarifies the 1961 Wire Act, explicitly outlawing Internet gambling, including online poker.

It creates new criminal penalties, which have rattled investors and executives — although Rose said it doesn't expand the act, and there's no indication the Justice Department is about to a huge campaign to enforce the law.

Still, the biggest publicly traded names in Internet gambling on the London Stock Exchange and AIM, the exchange's global market for growing companies, could not afford to flout American law. When news broke earlier this month that Congress has passed the bill, Internet gambling companies traded on those exchanges lost a combined $7 billion in market capitalization.
PartyGaming PLC, once the envy of online gambling with its more than $8 billion IPO in 2005, is now trying to figure out how to save its business model. It runs what was once the world's biggest poker site, PartyPoker, and has said it will no longer take payments from the U.S., eliminating nearly 80 percent of its revenue and sending its stock plunging.

Another poker company, 888 Holdings PLC, also said it would stop taking U.S. bets, ensuring its profits will fall dramatically.

Sportingbet and Leisure & Gaming both sold their U.S. operations for a dollar. Sportingbet said its exit from the U.S. market cost it nearly $400 million.

The bleeding didn't stop there. Neteller and FireOne, which owns e-wallet FirePay, also saw their stock price plummet. On Oct. 2, FirePay announced it had stopped doing business with sites that might take U.S. bets, including PokerStars. The decision forced PokerStars, now the biggest poker site in the world and a registered business in Costa Rica, to rely on Neteller to take money for bets headed to its site.

"There are privately owned operators that will continue to take play as long as they have payment processors that will work with them," said Sue Schneider, publisher of the online gaming magazine Interactive Gaming News. "I think the big question is whether the volume remains the same. But I don't think any of this means there will be less people playing on the Internet."

Neteller has said it is evaluating the law. If Neteller abandons PokerStars and other sites, their bottom lines, no doubt, will be hit hard.

But so far, Neteller's decision to work with PokerStars has amounted to good news for sites not afraid of scorning U.S. law.

Experts say while the new law has forced the public companies out of U.S. market, it has left poker players and bettors gravitating toward private companies.

Both PokerStars and FullTilt have already seen traffic on their Web sites surge, taking advantage of any short-term gain now that some of the competition has been sidelined. On its Web site recently, FullTilt boasted: "We're Here to Stay!" and offered bonuses to sign up.

This isn't the first time the industry has faced a serious setback. In 2001, Visa and MasterCard and other merchant banks stopped allowing money to be sent to Internet gambling sites.
Like then, Sinclair thinks Internet gambling will recover again. It's simply too lucrative.

"There will be a big hit to the industry," Sinclair said. "A big hit. But it's not going to be long term, it's transitory until somebody finds a solution to whatever roadblocks are put in their way. There's too much money for it to go away."
Associated Press Writer Jane Wardell in London contributed to this report.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Here’s a first for me. I’m playing a $30+3 HORSE SnG last night at FTP. I’m not paying attention to the chat box much as I putter along with an average stack. I win a small pot and I notice that one of the other players had commented on my play, “That guy always catches cards”. I responded “Who, me?” The guy to my left, Blujahz (I think) said “You’re in my notes. You always seem to get cards when you need them.”

Oh really!

Now, I took this as an open invitation to steal pots. Obviously, this guy thought I was a luckbox and took the time to advertise it to the others. So, I started betting every scare card like it filled my hand. Y’know what? It worked. I ended up 2nd because I double-bricked a killer draw in Stud-eight, but doubling my buy-in is OK with me.

For example, during one of the later LHE sections, I had 33 in SB. Cutoff raised after one player limped. I called, hoping to hit my set on the flop. Else, I could bail cheaply. Well, BB (blujahz) and the limper both called. Flop was J65, missing me completely. It got checked to the raiser who bet. I was getting 10-1 minimum with great implied odds, especially given that I was pretty sure the BB and limper would passively call or fold. So I called. Naturally, the turn was a three. I bet, knowing that he was more likely to raise me than call a check-raise. Sure enough, he raised and I three-bet. He called and the river Ace spiked. He was all-in after we capped it and I took down his AJ rivered two-pair with my set. Blujahz immediately started on the “See? I told you! He always gets what he needs!” Uh, yeah, whatever. I played the pot odds and they finally paid off for me.

Gee, do you think I’ll be exploiting this table image with these guys again?

Another time, I had J9/3 rainbow in Stud-eight. Two others called the bring-in with low door cards, so I figured I’d splash around and try to pair one of my hole cards. Next card was a suited 2 to match my door 3. It got checked around. 5th street was the ace of suit, giving me 32A suited on top and total garbage underneath. Blujahz bet with… I dunno, I didn’t even look at his cards. One guy called with a baby pair, and I fast-raised them. They both folded faster than the Raiders. I said “Good folds guys” just to let them know I had a monster.

I’ve never had a table image before. It might be fun…

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wow, it’s been almost two weeks since my last post. I coulda sworn I posted something last week, but whatever.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Happy Birthday to me. 43, if anyone is counting. Feel free to transfer some poker funds to FTP to ToddCommish as a show of generosity.

Anyway, a lot has happened in the poker world since my last post. Party has pulled up stakes and completely bailed on the US market. Coincidentally, my Party/Empire stakes were zeroed out around the same time. Hmmmm…

FullTilt and PokerStars have been picking up the pieces from the Party blowup, offering some tasty reload and first deposit boni. I haven’t noticed a huge dropoff in the quality of play, but I’m in the shallow end anyway. Last night, I managed to get rivered on the bubble of a $20+2 SnG with JJ against some assclown with 33 who rivered his two-outer. Sigh.

Neteller is still operating and has been nice and fast about the bank transfers. No doubt, they see their long term future tied to cooperating with customers and not pissing anyone off. Mrs. Commish is now pissed at the anti-poker police cutting off this particular income stream. “Why are they trying to protect stupid people? If they want to lose money, we should let them.” Ahh, that’s my girl.

Special Halloween alert! The Jr. Commish wants to go out for Halloween as FLAVA FLAV! We’re gonna look into getting him a Viking hat complete with horns, a grill, and a giant clock to wear around his neck. We’re still waffling on the blackface, but if he goes through with it, I’ll post some pics. Significantly, Mrs. Commish has indicated her displeasure with the idea.

Some football thoughts:

The Oakland Raiders are on the clock….

The parallels between the 1980 49ers and the 2006 49ers are getting stronger. Good offense, 2nd year QB, shitty defense with a horrible secondary, lousy tackling. If the 49ers can make it to 6-10 and draft Ronnie Lott in the first round, I’ll be ready to pronounce them playoff contenders.

Troy Palomoluoluouo, get a haircut or tuck your hair in. Either way, quit your whining. You’re lucky LJ didn’t try to helicopter you. Freakin’ hippie.

Would there have been a full day of Sportscenter devoted to Cory Lidle if he was still on the Devil Rays? I say no.

Spice Girl update: If I could pick which one I want to be, I would pick the ugly one. Think about it, that way you could sit around and see the four good-looking ones (Posh, Sporty, Ginger, and my favorite, Baby) change in the dressing room, you get 20% of the money, and you wouldn’t have to sleep with guys. Win-win-win. You might even convince one of them to “experiment”…

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

DP Birthing alert!

Impending Baby DP alert... Contractions for Mrs. DP are six minutes apart as of 11:15pm CST

Place your bets. By this time tomorrow, there will likely been one more Donkeypuncher in the world.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

OK, the run on the banks has begun. Most online poker players have begun pulling their cash out of the online sites, regardless of the Kevin Bacon “Animal House” exhortations to “Remain calm… All is well!”

I’m cashing out to the tune of about $1300, leaving pocket change (less than $50 each) at three sites; FullTilt, Empire, and Party. Oh, and I’m literally leaving pocket change (less than $.50 each) at PokerStars, Pacific, and UB. It’s ironic that all of this happens right when I get Mrs. Commish on board with the gambling aspects. I can see the correlation between the new law and my success though. If these fish are losing money to a hack like me, they must be losing TONS of money to better players. That can’t be good for their families and/or creditors.

Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with the new law. After all, these people should have a right to their addictions, just like alcoholics and Brett Favre. Lousy gamblers should have a right to gamble away their welfare checks and mortgage funds…just like I should have the right to take their money in a fair test of skill. I don’t think this law will pass scrutiny should it get to the Supreme Court, but that doesn’t mean I won’t cover my ass by pulling my money back.

Think about it, are they going to prohibit online paying for insurance policies too? After all, isn’t life insurance just betting on your death?

Anyway, IMed with the DonkeyPuncher last night. He’s cashing out about a grand as well, no doubt to prepare for the imminent DonkeyFoal that’s due to arrive this week. I threw up in my mouth as I bought a Chicago Bears infant outfit online and sent it for the little tyke. At least the boy is arriving in an up year for da Bearss… I’m not sure if I’ll be in the immediate loop once the DP becomes a daddy, but I’ll post it here as soon as I find out. Odds are that Jeff will be on the hospital’s wireless network anyway, blogging between huff-and-puff and $3/6 Hold’Em.

Monday, October 02, 2006

This hullabaloo over the Internet “Online Gambling is bad” Law seems to have struck the online poker community hard. Party has already waved the white flag, Pacific waved it as well (but nobody noticed). Other sites have taken to issuing press releases and panicked letters to their depositors saying, in essence, “Please don’t ask for your money back”.

Now my opinion isn’t as useful or influential as Bill’s or Iggy’s or Pauly’s, but I try to view these situations as “opportunities”, so bear with me while I talk out loud about the potential benefits.

1) Sites need to promote “Deposit into our site NOW so you can avoid the lockdown!” All news stories seem to focus on the “you can still withdraw money, you just can’t deposit for the purposes of betting”. If I were FTP or PokerStars, I would pound this home offering HUGE bonus opportunities with severe raking requirements.

2) There are also big opportunities for money laundering schemes as well. For example, a Canadian-based bank can deal freely with the online gambling sites. Look for a rush on Canadian (and Mexican) post office boxes. I would suspect some foreign entrepreneur is probably already selling access (via bogus overseas addresses) to degenerate US gamblers.

3) Here’s a scenario. Let’s say toddpoker.net (based in, say, Aruba or even Canada) is offering freeroll tournaments if you have a minimum of a $50 credit balance at, say, toddbuystuff.net (a site where you can buy teddy bears). You get that by paying $55 for a $5 bear, and you have a credit in your account of $50. Now you’re qualified for a freeroll poker tournament where the prize is a funded account at toddpoker.net for $50. We pay all ten seats the same. Remember, you spent the money on a teddy bear, so you’re not depositing money in a gambling account… Anyway, after a certain time frame, you can withdraw money from toddpoker.net equal to your credit amount at toddbuystuff.net while we send two larger teddy bears from toddbuystuff.net to relieve the credit balance.

Since toddpoker.net is an overseas operation, you can withdraw money from it freely (or so they tell us). Since you received three cuddly teddy bears for your $75, your money didn’t “technically” go to the gambling site. If anyone implements such a view, I get a cut. If it’s illegal in any way, shape, or form, I don’t know anything about it.