Editorial: Just How Badly Do You Need to Play Online Poker?



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What was the greatest loss from 2011’s “Black Friday?” There were millions of dollars tied up, which for some players was returned after nearly three years and others who never saw a nickel, and several top online poker rooms were either shuttered towards U. S. players (PokerStars) or dried up and shut down under nefarious circumstances (Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB). For many, however, it was the overall loss of online poker, just the ability to step to the internet and play the game, that was the biggest thing. So just how badly do people need to play online poker? Two poker rooms that are looking for an audience either demonstrate that poker players don’t give a damn whether the online game is reputable or that they are so bereft of the enjoyment of poker they don’t give a damn if they, in a worst-case scenario, get ripped off.

First is a room that has been up and running for a few months and has been able to get some people to sign on to it despite some questionable procedures and a rudimentary website. JaoPoker is a new site that was first pointed out by Todd Witteles’ Poker Fraud Alert, with Witteles alleging that JaoPoker and its “possible” owner/operator Tam Nguyen were operating under questionable circumstances. Witteles noted that JaoPoker was run like a multi-level marketing (MLM) program, with players having to first have a “sign up” code from another player already on the site to even be able to join.

It gets a little trickier from there. Once signed up, you have your own code to get people to sign up under your auspices. “JaoPoker requires an affiliate code to sign up,” Witteles writes on his PFA forum. “This guarantees that everyone playing is under some affiliate, and thus the pyramid begins.” You don’t have to play under this format, Witteles observes, but there are some other issues, most notably in its “rake back” program.

A visit to the actual JaoPoker website reveals that there are several problems with the operation. Witteles cited that JaoPoker’s “rake back” program (here called an “Independent Business Owner”) requires someone to pay into the program to get a special referral code that would provide cash back for the players under your code and your play. It claims that an IBO can “earn $25 on all personal “recruits” to the Jao Network business program” and 10% rake back on your recruits’ rake volume. What it doesn’t designate is a rake back schedule (you must sign up to see the structure).

Other aspects of the JaoPoker platform are problematic. In no area of the site – not in its own special section nor in the “FAQ” area – is there any discussion of what random number generator (RNG) is used to determine the randomness of the deal nor is there any discussion of that RNG being certified to be fair by a credible organization (PokerStars, for example, has a segment of their support page dedicated to information regarding the RNG). This is critical because the randomness of the deal (or, for online casino gaming, table games and slots action) is the most critical part of an online gaming site; if questions abound as to its authenticity, then there are problems as to the credibility of the operator.

The first question on the “FAQ” is ridiculous in its own means. The first question for the FAQ is “What does ‘Jao’ mean?” which has the lengthiest answer of anything on the FAQ page. There is no mention of how players would conduct financial transactions (through some investigation, Bitcoin has been mentioned as a method of deposit), but there is a claim that transactions process within two days. Finally, there are things such as being licensed in Cambodia and accepting PayPal (long an anti-online gaming company) as a transaction source that perk his antennae.

If this isn’t enough to make you a bit leery, then there’s another site that claims to be in “beta” testing that also demonstrates problems in many of these same areas. Right now called “VdogPoker,” the website isn’t much to crow about. You could probably mass a team of fifth graders to build a better website and online poker room from the appearance of the graphics (if JaoPoker is rudimentary, VdogPoker is almost Pong-like). Where the real problems come in are many of the same areas that JaoPoker fails.

There is no description of the RNG for the site nor whether it has been verified by a reputable company and there is no way to contact the ownership of VdogPoker. Other than a download area offering the “beta” of the site and a two-post forum, pretty much any other tab on the site isn’t active (save for a “radio” tab). There isn’t any spot which tells what the online poker site will do or how they will play – Monthly subscription for free play? Normal deposit and play? Free only? – for their customers. They have already fired up the social media machine (with Twitter, Facebook, and Google outlets), but there has been little to no activity on these feeds. There also isn’t a location of licensing cited, for the record.

It appears online poker players are so bereft of playing poker online that they are willing to risk anything, do anything and play on any site just to get that buzz of playing poker. Yes, it is very tough on U. S. online poker aficionados that they cannot play on their beloved PokerStars or even partypoker or 888Poker. As we’ve seen with the closure of Lock Poker in 2015 (owing players a conservatively estimated $15 million), players can play on the international sites but they take their risks in doing so.

When you look at sites like those mentioned here – and, to be fair, VdogPoker is still in “beta,” so they may have a chance of changing a few things (JaoPoker doesn’t appear to have any interest in making changes) – are players really that desperate for online poker that they’re willing to go down a rather shady road? Are players willing to take the risk that they’ll end up potentially like those with Lock Poker did, with a crew taking the money and running? Do we not care that the next scandal may be the last one, especially in the States where constant efforts to criminalize the game are ongoing?

I’ve been told by some that “they just want to play poker, that (the things I’ve mentioned) aren’t a big deal.” But they are a big deal. If we’re going to cry about the legitimacy of online poker, then we shouldn’t be flocking to every website that offers online poker. We should be taking the time to look them over, to review them against the standard practices and get answers when we have questions about the site’s operations. If we don’t ask these questions, then we’re no better off than we have been in the past and we allow those “questionable” operations to tarnish the online game even more.

Yes, I’d like to see PokerStars (or another of those that are reputable companies) make a triumphant return to the States. That isn’t going to happen, however, if there are questionable sites that will circumvent the rules and cut into regulated action (why New Jersey and Nevada have laws against playing on unregulated sites), especially if it drives some legislators to look at banning rather than regulating. How badly do you want online poker? Can you wait for it to be regulated? For some, that answer appears to be no.

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One Comment

Poker Ninja

Quite an insightful read on the why & what of online poker…


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