When Government Gets Into Our Online Lives

As many of you know, I love playing poker. I love going to the casino when I can and I love playing online as well at Pokerstars. One of the best things about playing online was that I didn’t have to have any money to play, and if I played well I could actually earn real money, which I did if you remember the post where I compared blogging to poker.

Recently I won my way into what’s called a satellite tournament which gave me another nice opportunity to win money, and relatively big money. It wasn’t scheduled to start until May, which shows you how big a deal it is because smaller tournaments start pretty much days after you win your way into one. However, I’m not going to get a chance to play now.

That’s because the U.S. government, via the FBI, did a major raid last week and basically froze the accounts of 3 major online poker sites, as well as confiscated their domain names. Immediately afterwards the site I play at banned all U.S. players from participating in anything that could earn them real money. In essence, even if they were free games that gave you a shot at earning money but you weren’t going to earn any money at that time, they banned you from those games as well, which kind of makes sense since we’re not allowed to earn money from them, but it’s irksome.

Frankly, I’m not saying the government was wrong in this big bust they did because these companies found a way around U.S. laws in tricking credit card companies to process payments geared towards getting around the law. What I’m mad at is that the law was passed in the first place.

In essence, the law was attached as a rider to a bigger law in 2006 that was to help protect our borders at waterways. Since we’re still conscious of terrorism at all ports (except at Mexican borders, but I digress) there wasn’t a politician that wanted to be seen as not voting for this bill. This is how government works in this country unfortunately; things get added to good bills all the time that make no sense and aren’t fair, and then it’s left up to someone to make a major decision as to what’s more important at the time.

I think this all stinks, yet it shows that the U.S. government isn’t all that far removed from other governments we heard about over the past few months that have tried to stifle the internet so that “rebels” could tell the world what was going on in countries such as Egypt, Yemen, China and Iran. Many people said at the time that the U.S. could never do such a thing and wouldn’t even try doing something like that; it hadn’t occurred to me at the time that they already had, just in a small dose.

So, until this law is changed, it looks like I won’t be playing poker online anymore. I never paid for any of it, but that’s not the point. With the government confiscating their domain name it pretty much emasculates much of the online game in all ways. And it’s not that I didn’t play some games that were totally free for “play money”; one would think I’d still enjoy that.

But not having the option to take a chance, to see what I’m made of in competing for actual money… something about that has sapped the steam out of my wanting to play online right now. There’s an action committee that’s being spearheaded by a former senator, oddly enough someone who probably would have voted for the bill when he was a senator because it would have made his particular constituency happy. It’s so funny that Republicans say they want to leave people alone and get government out of our hair, and in this case they decided to make the government the ultimate police in protecting those poor souls that had no control over themselves and spent themselves bankrupt.

Yeah, I’m irked; it stinks. And this type of thing should have us all looking over our shoulders; what will the government take away from us next?

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PokerStars

They say one should attempt to market only things they’re really familiar with. Well, I don’t quite fall into that belief, but I can honestly say that this is one site that I actually do participate with.

PokerStars

I think I’ve been on PokerStars at least 4 years now, possibly five. I believe I signed on in 2004, as it was one of the first poker websites out there that I’d ever heard of. Two of their celebrity representatives at time had won the World Series of Poker championships in consecutive years, Chris Moneymaker and then Greg Raymer, and in 2005, another one of their representatives, Joe Hachem, won it all. These guys won entry into the tournament by winning one of PokerStars online tournaments; imagine, winning an entry into a $10,000 poker tournament by playing the game online.

I love this site, although I’ll admit I’m not always happy with how the game goes when I’m playing it. Let’s take these in order.

The site is easy to sign up for. You go in and start with the demographic stuff. Then you come up with the name you want to be displayed every time you play. You can also select an image, but think carefully about this one because you might never be able to change it again. It’s probably best not to select in image immediately; you can always go back later to do it.

Once you’ve created your account, you get a window that looks something like this:

As you can see, there are multiple choices of games, including types of games, dollar amount of games, free games, number of players you want to go against, etc. Some are mini-tournaments, both free and some you’d have to pay for. There’s literally hundreds of different types of games you can play. There are also some free tournaments you can get into where, if you can place high enough, you have a shot at winning real money. And, if you choose, you can alter the look of the game board you’re playing on, so instead of seeing this:

You can see something like this:

The main thing I want to convey here is that you don’t have to pay to play if you don’t want to. However, if you do, there’s a minimum deposit of $10, but the site often has bonus money they’ll pony up if you decide to buy into the site whenever they’re running a promotion. These are the ways you can pay:

• Moneybookers
• NETeller
• VISA / VISA Delta / VISA Electron / Gift and Prepaid VISA†
• MasterCard / Gift and Prepaid†
• Diners Club International
• Solo / Maestro
• Cashier’s Check / Money Order / Bank Draft – minimum deposit $100
• Local Bank Transfer
• ELV
• Online Bank (selected countries)
• paysafecard
• eChecks

Truthfully, I have never paid for it. Actually, we’re not supposed to be able to play online poker, the paid version, from the United States, but obviously some of these ways are used anyhow. And there’s a group calling itself the Poker Players Alliance, who have helping to lead the charge former NY senator Alfonse D’Amato and a host of other celebrities and former politicians, and there’s a very strong possibility that ordinance will be overturned. It needs to be, since it was sneaked into an act that was passed to protect the waterfront borders of the United States; that’s just sneaky politics, as those trying to regulate online poker beforehand kept getting rejected.

And, depending on the level your stomach can handle there are games that start at a penny, all the way up to buy-in games around $8,000; ouch! But in games where you pay some money, every once in awhile you encounter a professional player; there are even special events where that player is announced to be a part of it. So, if you like poker and know some of the names, you can take your shot against a pro.

As I said, I love this site and this game. So, what’s the problem? Understanding that, with an online site there are lots and lots of games going on, way more than at a casino, you sometimes see some things going on that your mind says “that’s not supposed to happen this often.” There’s a ton of what’s known as “bad beats,” which are hands that lose when they were way ahead because some final cards hit that just seemed to come out of nowhere. I’ve experienced quite a few of those over the years, and sometimes it’s frustrating. The balance, though, is that it also happens in your favor, and it doesn’t seem as prevalent once you change games.

And there are a bunch of different games: Texas Holdem, Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Hi- Lo, Five Card Draw, 2-7 Triple Draw, Razz, HORSE, HOSE. Those last two are kind of tournament styles where different types of games are alternated while playing, which really tests your overall poker acumen.

And PokerStars has an affiliate program, and I’m now a new affiliate. If you don’t belong and love to play poker, check it out, whether you want to play the free game or get your money into the mix. You won’t even have to tell them that Mitch sent you; they’ll already know. 🙂

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010-2012 Mitch Mitchell