Customers of online poker rooms on the Winning Poker Network (WPN) were the targets of a phishing scam this week, receiving an e-mail that falsely confirmed a deposit on the network. A link was provided for players to check on the deposit, but that link did not take players to their account, but rather to a file that likely contained malware.
Even though it is the year 2017, there might be people out there who don’t know what a phishing scam is, so we’ll tell you. In a phishing scam, a crook sends an official-seeming e-mail that may, at first glance, look like it came from a business at which the recipient has an account. Frequently, they are disguised as coming from a bank, a popular online store, or a package shipper like FedEx. The e-mail often says there is something amiss with the person’s account or that an order was placed that needed confirmation. A link is then included that looks like it goes to the business’s account login page, but it really goes to a fake site that collects that information for criminal purposes such as identity theft or bank account takeover.
In the case with the fake WPN e-mail, it appears that the link didn’t re-direct to a false site, but rather could potentially download a malicious file on the victim’s computer.
The e-mail was pretty obviously a phishing attempt from the start, but not everybody can recognize these things. There are several tip-offs:
1) The e-mail starts with the greeting “Dear friend.” If this was a real e-mail, the greeting would have the customer’s name in it.
2) Poor spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
3) It claims the player made a deposit that was “successfully completed.” Most people who received the e-mail never made a deposit that would prompt such an e-mail.
4) The e-mail was allegedly from the Winning Poker Network (the sender’s name was spoofed), but it would be the individual poker room that would send any sort of account e-mail, not the network.
5) When hovering the mouse pointer over the link provided in the e-mail, the real URL could be seen at the bottom of the screen. It was for a .rar file, not for any destination on the network.
That last point is key. If you are ever tempted to click on a link in an e-mail that you aren’t sure about, hover the mouse over it without clicking. The URL will be displayed at the bottom of the screen. If the real URL looks fishy, delete the e-mail immediately.
But even before you get to that point, if you are not sure about the validity of an e-mail, either call the business to check if they sent it or type the site’s URL into your browser and go there directly to check on your account. If there really is an issue as the e-mail warned (or a deposit was made or a package was shipped or whatever), you will see it soon enough when you login to your account directly, WITHOUT clicking on the link in the e-mail.
For its part, the Winning Poker Network found out about the phishing attempt quickly and immediately sent real e-mails to players on the network warning them about it.
In the past, there have been thriving live poker scenes that have brought the game to people without having to go to Las Vegas or an Indian reservation casino to take part. The New York underground poker rooms are legendary, in part due to the seminal poker movie Rounders and part due to the legend of such rooms as the Mayfair Club (which spawned such famous professional poker players as Erik Seidel, Dan Harrington, Steve Zolotow, Howard Lederer and the late Stu Ungar, among others) and the Diamond Club. Writer Brad Willis penned an epic four-part piece about the South Carolina poker scene – and its unfortunate ramifications – entitled “Bust: An Insider’s Account of Greenville’s Underground Poker Scene,” for the website Bitter Southerner. For the most part, however, these ties to poker’s legendary past have been eradicated except for the Northwest, where poker rooms thrive but are facing a challenge.
In an outstanding piece for the Willamette Week, journalist Nigel Jaquiss examines the history of Portland’s poker room industry. While “social gaming” was allowed in many areas of Oregon beginning in 1973 that would allow for poker in “businesses and private clubs,” that social gaming wasn’t allowed in Portland until 1984. Even with that law in place, it wouldn’t be until 2007 that licensed poker clubs began to spring up around the City of Roses. Today, 13 poker rooms exist within the city limits.
The problem is the monumental opposition that these rooms are facing. Because of the outdated laws on the books that allow for these poker rooms to exist while there are laws against gambling, Portland’s city commissioners will convene next month to try to shut down these clubs. Two of the most popular rooms in the city, Final Table and Portland Meadows poker clubs, will be on hand to defend the honor of the poker rooms against the opposition.
As is the case in most locales when a disagreement comes up regarding gambling, there is a powerful Indian casino industry that thrives in the state of Oregon. Indian tribes operate eight different casinos, including the Klamath Tribe, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which operates arguably the most notable Indian casino in the Wildhorse Resort & Casino. These casinos are not pleased that they are losing a conservatively estimated $ 10-$ 15 million per year in revenues from Portland because the poker rooms exist.
The state of Washington is also watching the proceedings with interest. Washington’s Indian casino and card room industry encompasses more than 50 businesses, with most of those casinos located within driving distance from Portland. Those businesses, alongside the Oregon Indian casinos, would stand to see a huge increase in players if the Portland card rooms were to be shut down.
Over the past year, Portland law enforcement has also been surveilling the poker clubs, Jaquiss states. As the clubs are not allowed to employ dealers for the games – the deal is supposed to be performed by the players at the tables, not a designated person – the undercover work by Portland police focused on this rule (Jaquiss points out several highlights from the laws that govern Portland’s poker clubs). Four clubs, including Final Table and Portland Meadows, were found to be employing dealers and were penalized with a two-week closure and further examination to ensure they were abiding by the law. Two of those clubs accepted the decision and penalties; Final Table and Portland Meadows didn’t, bringing about the hearing in front of the city commissioners in April.
The eventual outcome of the Portland poker room industry is cloudy at best. Because of the conflict in laws between the licensing of room and the actual activities that violate state laws, the city commissioners would love to be able to force the closure of those operations. The poker rooms, naturally, are fighting the elected officials tooth and nail to be able to stay in operation. One thing that is clear from Jaquiss’ investigation is that there is an appetite for poker in Portland. What those people – the players – will do if the rooms are shut down is unknown.
My fellow online denizens, we are gathered here today for a funeral to celebrate a short but white-hot light that was snuffed out last week. International Online Poker passed away after a long illness otherwise known as “death by 1000 cuts.” While it seems that it was around for much longer than it was, International Online Poker was only 19 years old and had envisioned a much better life for itself.
Coming out of the womb of something called “the internet” and buoyed by the increase of home computers in the late 1990s, International Online Poker came to life in 1998 with its first home, Planet Poker. Soon after that, other homes began to emerge for International Online Poker, with each one improving on the previous domicile. Paradise Poker was next to host International Online Poker, but the true boom wouldn’t come until PartyPoker opened a new palace for International Online Poker to live just before the end of the 20th century.
PartyPoker made it cool to play poker, especially with people from around the world, and it thrived on a solid platform and good customer service. In 2001, however, another new place for International Online Poker to call home was built with even better amenities. Called PokerStars, the new place was unveiled but was quickly overcome by the news of the day, an attack in the United States that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City.
PartyPoker remained the dominant site for the next couple of years as PokerStars fought to get the attention of International Online Poker and draw it over to its new pad, alongside such other upstart homes as Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. In 2003, PokerStars got its edge in sponsoring a young man with the unlikely moniker of Chris Moneymaker after he won a seat to the World Series of Poker’s Championship Event. After Moneymaker won the tournament, more people began to flock to International Online Poker’s new hangout, especially when more World Champions became tied to PokerStars after their victories.
In 2004, another newcomer came along. The people considered “professionals” in the poker playing community decided it was time they got a piece of what International Online Poker was giving and opened their own home. Called Full Tilt Poker, those “professionals” promoted the factor they lived in the home as well, making for a great place for people to come and learn the game while enjoying the new digs. With outstanding properties popping up seemingly every day, International Online Poker was quite happy and celebrating whichever home it went.
The clouds were growing for International Online Poker, however. In 2006, the first chink in the armor emerged when the United States passed laws making it illegal to finance online gaming transactions. PartyPoker, in a highly difficult decision, pulled out of the country to stay in accordance with the new laws, as did 888Poker. PokerStars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker didn’t, however, leading the U. S. contingent – and, thus, International Online Poker – to go to those sites. The actions in the U. S. were limited to begin with but, as the years went on, other countries began to also knock chunks out of International Online Poker.
Germany, Italy, Spain, France…all introduced legislation over the next few years to ban online gaming save for sites that were expressly established and located in the country of the game. These moves also wore on International Online Poker as it pulled those countries’ players out of the overall pool and forced them into playing against their countrymen and didn’t allow anyone else in. It also didn’t help that those countries where “fenced off” play was located were taxed extremely, driving players from the game who could no longer make a living.
Just as International Online Poker was trying to get used to these changes, the U. S. dropped another atomic bomb of sorts. “Black Friday,” where the U. S. Department of Justice indicted the leaders of the three powers of the online poker industry – PokerStars, Full Tilt and CEREUS (the partnership of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker) – effectively knocking the U. S. out of circulation. International Online Poker was dealt a severe blow with “Black Friday” and it only got worse until International’s demise this week.
Alas, my friends, International Online Poker will never come back after the Australian decision. The current trend towards “nationalism” in politics has spread into our taxation and revenues systems. If a nation can tax something from its citizens to death and keep those profits for itself, they are going to do that (we’ve seen this with France, Spain, and Italy). If they can enforce laws that make companies come inside their borders to participate, then they’ll make sure they do that, too. What they won’t do is allow the old status quo to return, when someone in California could be playing the game against someone in Lithuania in a world-uniting endeavor.
Several locales will survive International Online Poker’s demise, each struggling to make it on its own. French Online Poker, Spanish Online Poker, and other nationally-restricted siblings of full-fledged International remain, with “International” now limited to the United Kingdom, Canada, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. That may seem large until it is considered that Asia may be the next to withdraw inside itself rather than see the money go elsewhere.
How strange is it that slightly more than a decade ago we now consider the “Golden Age” of the online game? It was a brief but bright light that burned twice as brilliantly. Now, International Online Poker is dead, never to return as we once knew it. And we can only sit back and wonder what could have been…
Even if you are a neophyte to the game of poker, there are some basic tenets that you have before you even pick up a stack of chips to bet. One, when you get pocket Aces, you pound your opposition with a pre-flop raise otherwise everyone and their brother gets to play the hand and potentially crack your bullets. Two, you don’t need to play “special” hands like a 7-2, universally recognized as the worst hand in poker. Finally, there isn’t a such thing as “funsies,” 99% of the time you’re playing poker for a reason – normally to make some money.
Beyond that, the education of a poker player gets a bit grey. Here’s a basic thought on some hands that new players will play simply because “someone told them it was worthwhile” or “but (insert professional player here) always plays this hand” or even “I had a feeling.” If you can put these into your repertoire of hands you need to fold pre-flop, you’ll potentially find that your sessions are more profitable.
Jack-10 (Suited or unsuited)
At first glance, J-10 is a pretty sweet looking hand. It holds the potential to make four nut straights, the only two card combination to be able to do that, and it can let you float a bet on the flop if they are suited and two of that suit hit the felt. The problem with J-10 is that it doesn’t play well after the flop.
If you get a flop that contains a Jack, then you have issues with the kicker that, in most cases, is going to be dominated by an opponent playing Q-J, K-J, or A-J. If you pair the ten, then the same situation is in play with a similar number of options that beat you – A-10, K-10 and Q-10. If they are suited and the two matching suit cards that come on the flop are under the ten, then there is a chance (a slim one, about 1-in-592) that an A-K, A-Q, or K-Q is out there to clip you. And let’s not even get into the potential for straights (K-Q, Q-9, 9-8) should you flop two pair.
There are two options here: hit perfectly and hope someone ignores the straight potential of the board, calling your bets all the way, or missing and having to let the hand go. If you get a flop like K-Q-x, about the only people who might come with you are pocket pairs (King, Queen or “x”) or those that have you beaten (A-K, A-Q, K-Q, any King or Queen combination and the pairer for the “x”). If the flop comes empty – say A-7-4, for example – then you’re left with air to bluff with; most wouldn’t consider chasing it any further with this dismal holding.
Everyone loves to potentially crack a big pair by playing a small one – between deuces and fives – and set mining their way into the lead. But what happens when you’ve completely missed with your little ones? It gets pretty ugly in this case.
In pre-flop action, the baby pairs don’t hold up well if there is a great deal of action in front of you. Say you’re sitting on deuces on the button when someone fires a bet out of middle position, the hijack calls and the cutoff three-bets the situation. Your pocket deuces don’t look so good now, do they? There’s nothing wrong with sending the hand to the muck here and, in fact, it is the proper play with the flurry of activity ahead of you.
The baby pairs don’t hold up well if the cards on the flop are all higher cards, at best giving you the fourth-best hand after the flop. They also don’t work well as a straight filler. For example, if you have pocket treys and fill out a 2-4-5 flop to make it an open ended straight draw, there are other potential players that crush your baby pair or could best you in a straight situation.
Extremely Gapped Suited Cards
If you were to get dealt two extremely gapped cards – say a K-2 or a Q-3, for example – there would, for most players, be little hesitation in putting those in the muck. Why then, if there is the same symbol in the corner for each card, does it make a difference? While their suited nature does open the potential for a flush, it isn’t going to do much in any other circumstance.
If that flush draw comes, then you’re committing with weak holdings – sneaky for the flush potential, yes, but weak otherwise. If you flop a King, then you have kicker issues that come up and the same works if you hit the kicker – your top card might not be enough to win at showdown unless you make trips with the kicker.
We sometimes have to play hands we’d rather not play on certain occasions. But if you can control when you voluntarily put chips in play to hands, making sure they have strong potential (not always, mind you, but more often than not) instead of weaker holdings, you should find more success on the tables. And isn’t winning hands – and the chips that go along with those hands – why we sit down at the table?
Pennsylvania State Senator Jay Costa, along with co-sponsors Senators Wayne Fontana, Vincent Hughes, and Judith Schwank, introduced Senate Bill 524 on Monday, an overarching gambling bill which includes the legalization and regulation of online poker in the state.
Costa previewed the bill in January when he filed a Senate Co-Sponsorship Memorandum, but this is the first time we have seen the initiatives laid out in full. Much of it we already knew was coming. In addition to legalizing and regulating online gambling (not just poker), it also does the same for daily fantasy sports. It expands land-based gambling, as well, allowing for multi-state progressive slot machine jackpots as well as “skill-based” slot machines.
Airports would also be allowed to have “multi-use computing devices” (read: tablets) in designated areas for online gambling. Legislators were split on this issue last year, as many didn’t like the idea of expanding gambling out of casinos.
The part of SB 524 that will likely be the most controversial is the costs it sets for online operators. Compared to other bills that have already been introduced in Pennsylvania, Costa’s bill just pummeled licensed operators with taxes and fees to the point where it wouldn’t make sense for any but the richest operators to jump into the market.
SB 524 would impose a license fee of $ 10 million, compared to $ 8 million for the other bills. For vendors, those companies that would not operate online gambling sites, but rather provide them with things like software or servers to support their operations, the licensing fees would also be much higher: $ 5 million compared to $ 2 million.
The nuttiest one, though, is that Costa’s bill sets the tax rate for online gambling and daily fantasy sports at a whopping 25 percent, versus 14 percent in the other bills. 14 percent is reasonable; it is in line with the tax rates of other states and still gives the government a chance to pull in solid amount of gambling income. 25 percent, though, is just punishing.
Online gambling operators have to be able to actually make a profit in order to stay in business. They can’t do that if the government goes ballistic with taxes. That’s not to say there should be no taxes – we all know everyone needs to pay their fair share to help our societies function (well, except Donald Trump) – but making the added gaming tax so high is just unnecessarily punitive.
And if it doesn’t hurt the online gambling operators, it will surely hurt the consumers. Does anyone think the online poker sites wouldn’t just pass the tax expenses on to the players in the form of rake. Or do we not think the casino operators would just dial back the payout rates slightly to make up for their added tax burden?