Online Poker Sites Work Around Misguided U.S. Laws

Despite the near death of online poker in the United States after “Black Friday” in 2011, the game is seeing a resurgence. In addition to the handful of states — Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — that have legalized various forms of online game that include poker, some companies have found workarounds to restrictive American laws.

Those workarounds are allowing Americans in just about every state to play online poker for money, a freedom that was taken away by Congress in 2006 through its Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and a subsequent 2011 federal raid of the offshore websites that continued to do business in the U.S.

While UIGEA did not make it illegal for you or me to sit on your computers at home and click fold, call or raise, it made it illegal for banks to process certain transactions related to online gaming. But new websites are creating models in which players don’t actually play for cash, but can convert their winnings into money off the tables.

I recently played a freeroll tournament on upstart Place Your Chips Caribbean, a subscription-based website, after learning about it on the Poker Action Line podcast. Players there can join poker games and earn tickets for a weekly lottery drawing on Sunday. In addition to the chance to win cash prizes, players can designate one of 10 Caribbean nations to which some of their subscription money will be sent for information technology scholarships for students.

The website is now in beta testing, but hopefully will be fully operational soon.

Another website with a somewhat similar model is Global Poker, which launched in the U.S. and Canada in December 2016. That New Hampshire-based site uses what it calls its “$weeps Cash” model, a virtual currency business model for gaming that is has patented.

As with Place Your Chips Caribbean, players on Global Poker don’t technically play for real money. Instead they can play for either Gold Coins (which is the equivalent of “play money” on other online poker sites) or $weeps Cash, which can be cashed out for real money.

Players can’t actually buy $weeps Cash on the site with real money. Instead, they are officially buying Gold Coins and get a certain amount of $weeps Cash for free with the purchase. Having played on that site too, I can verify that all it takes is a click of a button to convert your Gold Coins into $weeps Cash or vice versa. Whether this technicality would hold up in a court of law I have no idea, but Global Poker continues to operate without issue nearly two years after it launched.

In fact, Global Poker offers regular tournament series in the tradition of Poker Stars’ World Championship of Online Poker or Full Tilt’s Online Poker Series. The latest started this week. The Eagle Cup is running Oct. 1-21 with 135 events in No-Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha and Crazy Pineapple — those four games are, as of now, the only poker disciplines offered on Global Poker.

If you haven’t tried the site yet, it might be worth your while opening an account just to play a freeroll that will be held on Sunday to kick-off the Eagle Cup. Global Poker will put $5,000 in free $weeps Cash up for grabs.

Whether sites like Place Your Chips Caribbean and Global Poker have legs is still to be determined, but I’m just glad to have such options after our elected leaders on Capitol Hill took that away from us.

Johnny Kampis is author of  Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros.

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Author: Johnny Kampis