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Sunday, August 28, 2011



                            By K. Preston Oade, J.D.

It is clear that vast numbers of U.S. online players have abandoned online play. The question is why?  Are U.S. players so in love with Poker Stars, Full Tilt and UB that they are simply unwilling to play on the other online poker sites that were not shut down on Black Friday?  I doubt it.   

Do most U.S. players misunderstand the law?  Although the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) would like us to believe otherwise, it is not illegal to play poker online or to deposit money on poker websites.  See “Black Friday; The DOJ’s Campaign of Fear,” by Oade & Reber, Poker Player Newspaper (July 18, 2011); and “Lies the FBI Tells” by law professor Nelson Rose, Poker Player Newspaper (August 24, 2011).  

Many U.S. players may be confused about the law and are waiting for federal legislation, which they expect will make online poker both widely available and “legitimate.” This is a mistake for two reasons: 1) federal poker legislation is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future; and 2) given the federal poker legislation that has been proposed to date, if it does happen it probably will be not be good for U.S. online poker. See “Barton Bill has Serious Drawbacks for U.S. Players,” www.toptoadwisdom.blogspot.com.     

It is my view that most U.S. online players are sitting on the sidelines because of the Full Tilt deposit fiasco. They seem unwilling to put any more money into online play after losing their deposits on Full Tilt. Even those players who didn’t have money on Full Tilt have probably heard about those who did. Full Tilt has apparently poisoned the waters of online poker for U.S. players and damaged the online poker industry.   

The demise of Full Tilt is both deserved and unfortunate. It is deserved because, in a free market where people have choices, any company that treats its customers badly will eventually go out of business. It is unfortunate for obvious reasons, but also because Full Tilt was an online innovator, with Rush Poker and multi-entry tournaments.

Currently, there are enough poker websites currently accepting U.S. players, but I wish there were more of them. The main problem is the relatively small number of players. This limits tournament prize pools, and the numbers and variety of available games. Things should change over time, however, as more U.S. players become aware of the continued availability of online play. 

Black Friday changed, not just the numbers of U.S. players willing to play online, but also the overall quality of play. One would think that only the most serious U.S. players are still playing online and that these players are generally better than average players. My experience, however, is to the contrary.

Most sites currently accepting U.S. players are populated by weaker players. Before Black Friday, the second tier poker websites were populated mainly by weaker, low stakes players. Since these poker sites were not shut down on Black Friday, their players apparently just continued playing. It seems they are still there, playing everyday.   

While most tournaments on the websites that accept U.S. players have very small  buy-ins, some  like Intertops have tournaments every day with buy-ins of $162, $109 and $55. While the number of entrants is usually under a hundred, there are significantly more players and larger prize pools in these tournaments on Sundays.

Intertops, which seems to have come online after Black Friday, has lots of deposit options. Credit cards deposits work on an intermittent basis. Just try another card if your first credit card deposit attempt is unsuccessful.  If that doesn’t work, send a check, use Western Union, or set up electronic fund transfers from a bank account.

Most cash games on sites accepting U.S. players are typically populated by lots of weak players. If you have the bankroll to survive the bad beats, current online cash games can be cash cows that are easy to beat for the better players.

Except for low stakes games, the main problems with current online cash games are fewer games and less variety of games. While it is easy to find $1/2 NLH cash games, higher stakes are hard to find except on some weekends. There are not enough limit games at or above $5/10 or $10/20. Pot limit games like Omaha are available, but it is difficult to find pot limit games with blinds of more than $.50/1 or $1/2.     

The good news is that we are still only a few months away from Black Friday and there are reasons to expect that, over time, U.S. players will return to online play in large numbers. This should happen for several reasons. 

First, the cash games on sites still accepting U.S. players are simply too lucrative for good players to ignore. It should not take too long before larger numbers of good players become aware of it and resume playing online.

Second, the urge to play online will gradually increase in more and more players. It should eventually overtake the fear of losing online deposits in all but the most risk-adverse players. 

Third, as U.S. players gradually return to online poker at sites that will accept our play, this will lead to the creation of new and better poker sites. This feeds on itself and eventually the situation will be much improved. It has to happen under a free enterprise system, where the profit motive always fills customer demand. 

Finally, online poker players will eventually get tired of waiting for federal legislation. Such legislation won’t happen in the next few years, and it may not happen at all. Eventually, it will become evident that the solution to this problem does not reside in Washington, D.C. 

The solution to more and better online play resides with the poker players who want to continue playing online. All we have to do is return to and keep playing poker online and the rest will care of itself. 

Copyright 2011 by K. Preston Oade, all rights reserved. Send questions and comments to preston.oade@comcast.net. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Barton Bill has Serious Drawbacks for U.S. Online Players

Barton Bill Has Serious Drawbacks for U.S. Online Players

                             By  K. Preston Oade, J.D.   

The purpose of the Barton Bill is to “strengthen” the UIGEA and make internet poker illegal under U.S. law except for U.S. licensed websites. This is clear from the title, the ‘‘Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011.”  (Emphasis added). 

The Bill would give the government the law it needs to completely shut down all offshore internet poker sites still accepting U.S. players, a legal power it currently lacks under the UIGEA. See “Black Friday; the DOJ’s Campaign of Fear,” by Oade & Reber, Poker Player Newspaper, (front page, July 18, 2011).     

The Barton Bill defines “internet poker” as a form of “internet gambling” and would make internet poker illegal without a license. It also creates an ongoing list of offshore gambling websites – including poker sites –  targeted for shut down. The intent is to limit U.S. online players to only U.S. licensed websites.  

The Barton Bill would authorize any state or Indian tribe to issue online gambling licenses. The licensed operators, however, may accept bets only from players in the licensing state or “located” in other states that have not given notice of “opting-out” of the Barton Bill. 

If your state opts-out of the Barton Bill, you cannot play on licensed websites, which are required by law to block all bets from opt-out states. All it takes for a state to opt-out is a letter from the governor saying that state residents are not allowed to place bets on U.S. licensed gambling websites. Nobody knows how many states will opt-out. 

Significantly, international players would not be allowed to play on U.S. licensed poker sites. The Barton Bill only authorizes licensed operators to accept bets from players “located in the United States.”  Section 104(a)(1). This is consistent with the provision limiting players on U.S. licensed sites to the licensing state and non-opt-out states. The combination of these two related provisions would have significant consequences for U.S. online players.  

By limiting U.S. licensed sites to only U.S. players in non-opt-out states, the Barton Bill seriously fragments the online market and would isolate U.S. players from international play. We will be playing online with only other U.S. players located in the limited number of states that have not opted-out. This is a relatively small market. 

The market would be further limited by the exclusion of players under age 21, whose bets will be blocked.  Eighteen year olds are old enough to fight and die for their country, but apparently not old enough to play online poker. 

While offshore sites like PokerStars would be eligible for a U.S. license, the Barton Bill does not allow them to accept bets from any non-U.S. players. Thus each offshore site would presumably have to establish entirely separate games just for the U.S. market. This separation of U.S. players from the players of other nations amounts to an Iron Curtain of online poker.   

PokerStars only lost 28% of its total worldwide market as a result of Black Friday. Thus the entire U.S. online poker market is much smaller than the rest of the World. This means fewer games, fewer players, less diversity and less variety of games. And the U.S. online market will be even smaller under the Barton Bill, since many states are likely to opt-out. 

Unfortunately, if you live in an opt-out state, you may have to move to another state that has not opted out if you want to play poker online. You would no longer have the option of playing on offshore sites, which will be shut down completely if the new law works as intended. 

We can do better than the Barton Bill. Even the current situation might be better; and can only improve as online sites still accepting U.S. players expand and others enter the U.S. market to fill the void left by Black Friday. It will happen if we all continue playing online. 

  Preston Oade plays online poker and is a partner in the Denver law firm of Holme Roberts and Owen, www.hro.com.
Comments and questions  to preston.oade@comcast.net

2011 Copyright by K. Preston Oade.  All rights reserved. 

The Role of Skill and Chance in Poker

Skill Or Chance In Poker: Legal Perspectives

By Ingo Fielder Phd. and K. Preston Oade J.D. 

Most gambling opportunities are driven by chance. Poker is not. Skill affects results, but how large are these effects? And does this make any difference for the legislator or the juror?

One way to identify games to be regulated is the so-called “predominance test”: If a game’s skill elements predominate over the chance elements, it is considered a “game of skill” and – in many jurisdictions - usually not subject to any restrictions.

Many jurisdictions outside the U.S. use some form of the “predominance test” with various results. In the U.S., however, the legal issue of whether poker is “gambling” depends on state law, and many states do not use the predominance test, making the skill/chance debate legally irrelevant[1]. Most of those approaches are neither coherent nor sophisticated but instead lump too many things together. The result are laws which are constantly under debate.

Criteria are needed to distinguish between different games. Arthur Reber, a psychology professor, made a good step in the right direction by pointing out that every game has two dimensions: expectation and flexibility. Expectation is a game’s expected value; flexibility is the possibility to modify the payoffs. While most gambling has negative expectation and no flexibility, poker can either be played with positive or negative expectation and flexibility exists. But is the flexibility in poker sufficient to make it a game of skill?

Until now nearly all efforts to answer this question were qualitative. Courts and legal scholars listed various reasons for poker being a game of chance or skill, but did not quantify the relative amounts of skill and chance. However, Ingo Fiedler and Jan-Philipp Rock of the University of Hamburg, recently published the first quantitative analysis in Gaming Law Review and Economics.

They compared the relative skill, represented by players’ net expected value with the chance elements, represented by the standard deviation of the outcomes. Their approach makes clear that there is a third dimension involved in games: repetitions. While the expected value increases in proportion to the repetitions (n), the standard error of the mean increases only in the square root of n: skill adds up, chance cancels out.

If only one hand of poker is played, chance dominates skill; if poker is repeated infinitively, skill dominates chance. In between, there is a threshold where the outcomes (gains or losses) of a poker player are 50% due to skill and 50% due to chance. It’s called Critical Repetition Frequency (CRF) and is different for every player. The higher his expected value (positive or negative), the faster he reaches CRF.

The answer to the question of predominance therefore depends on 1) the relative skill of the players, 2) the chance elements of the game, and 3) repetitions. Legislators should consider all three dimensions. The best way is to target the average player and determine if he reaches his CRF or not.

Based on a 51,761 player sample Fiedler and Rock showed that the CRF for the median no limit midstakes online cash game player is about 1,000 hands. When he plays more than one thousand hands, the outcome is dominated by skill and not by chance.

This number is surprisingly low because the median player is a big loser. In 100 hands he loses 32 big blinds! This lack of skill quickly dominates chance.  For a player winning 10BB/100h it takes much longer, about 30,000 hands. But legally,the average player should matter. The crucial question is whether the average poker player plays 1,000 hands. If yes, that limit holdem cash game is a game of skill under the predominance test.  

In tournament poker the CRF is not as easy to calculate. The effect of skill varies depending on the amount of starting chips, blind structure and length of the rounds. The skill component rises monotonically in the proportion of stack sizes to the blinds. A tournament with 5-10 big blinds is basically push or fold and therefore involves only one betting decision, which leaves little room for skill.  A tournament with an effective stack of 250 big blinds requires much more skill.

The degree of skill relative to chance also varies between cash games and tournaments. In every tournament, the proportion of stack sizes to blinds decreases constantly and eventually reaches a very low level.  In this final stage of the tournament – which is most important for the overall result – the outcome of the game often depends mostly on chance. 

The impact of skill therefore varies highly according to the tournament structure and there is no general answer for tournaments. But as a guideline, most online tournaments are played with small stakes and therefore involve less skill than cash games. But tournaments with very large stacks relative to the blinds usually involve considerable skill.     

Poker’s situational nature therefore seems to preclude any sweeping generalizations about whether it is primarily a game of skill or chance. It depends on the nature of the particular game, the players’ skill, and the number of hands actually played. 

This seems to be confirmed by jury verdicts which have applied the predominance test.  These verdicts – which set no legal precedent precisely because each case is based on its own unique facts – vary from case to case.  In a 2006 U.K case, London’s Gutshot Club was  found quilty by a jury of violating a law against operating a poker club taking a rake without a license. The law contained an exception, however, for any games that are “predominately based on skill.  The jury, however, was not persuaded.[2]

The predominance test does not legalize poker. It just provides a defense to a charge of gambling if you can prove that the particular game favored skill over chance. This fact must be proved like any other disputed fact. The answer depends on the factors discussed here and how particular judges and juries interpret them.. 

Defining and prohibiting “gambling” by reference to the role played by chance is largely a moral and social judgment made by each state legislator. Juries often make the same judgment when presented with the issue of whether the outcome of a particular game is determined mainly by chance or skill. When deciding this issue, the moral and social values of each jury member can easily prevail over math or statistical models presented by expert witnesses. 

Whether poker is defined as “gambling” under the various laws of the 50 U.S. States has historically depended on religion, morals or politics – not math or logic. And it remains to be seen if it ever will. It is a mathematical fact, however, that skill will eventually dominate the chance elements in poker. The only question is how many repetitions are required. The answer depends on the different players and the structure of each individual game.

Copyright by Ingo Fielder and Preston Oade, 2010.  All rights reserved.  

[1] See Recreational Gambling Laws State by State; Pennsylvania to Wyoming, Hartley Henderson, http://majorwager.com/index.cfm?page=27&show_column=578
[2] See Hartley Henderson, Major Wager.com, 02-17-2008. Recent verdicts in some U.S. states have gone the other way. 

Overcoming Bad Beats with Positive Thoughts

Good and bad feelings come from within you, not from external events. Your feelings are created by your thoughts about events, not by the events themselves.

An example in Zen and the Art of Happiness (Chris Prentiss, Power Press 2006),  illustrates the power of  thoughts to change negative emotions to positive ones.  Suppose there is a very large new house being built right next to your existing smaller home.  It blocks your view and the construction noise, dust and debris is an ongoing irritation. You become more and unhappy as the days go by and the new house rises to overshadow your house. 

As your patience wears thin, however, the contractor in charge of building the house tells you that a rich relative ordered the house built as a gift to you. 

The same house, the same dust and debris, and the same everyday noise, now evokes a much different emotional response after you receive this new information. What before seemed oppressive, is only a temporary inconvenience now that you know the new house is yours. Nothing has changed, however, but your state of mind. It the same house and the same construction noise, dust and debris. But your feelings towards it have changed simply because your thoughts about it have changed. 

In poker, the same bad beat has can have negative and positive consequences depending on how it is perceived.  If you suck out on a bad beat to win a huge pot, you probably feel relief and happiness. The loser of the pot, however, might feel really bad about it.   He might feel so bad it affects his judgment and decisions on future hands. The loser of the pot, however, has a choice on how to react to a bad beat.  He can change his feelings just by changing his thoughts.

Let us take two different bad beat reactions. In the first, the loser reacts emotionally, curses his bad luck, blames the dealer or the poker gods, and goes into an emotional  funk. These negative emotions perpetuate themselves by effecting the loser’s body chemistry in very specific and very negative ways.  See Candice B. Pert, The Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (New York: Touchstone, 1997).  

According to Dr Pert, a type of  “information molecule” called a peptide is produced in the hypothalamus in the brain. The type of peptide produced is determined by what you are thinking or feeling at any given moment and duplicates every emotion you experience, from fear, anger, and frustration, to joy and happiness.  Some peptides make you feel good, and others make you feel bad.  

In our first bad beat victim, the peptides produced by his negative emotions cascade throughout the player's loodstream, entering the cells of the body through receptor sites on each cell.  They are produced in the millions and make the player feel bad by blocking cell receptor sites which could otherwise  accommodate positive feeling peptides. This chemistry often has disastrous consequences at the poker table.     

Our second bad beat victim, however, has a totally different experience. He maintains a healthy internal body chemistry because he doesn’t respond to it with negative thoughts.      
He avoids becoming a victim of  negative body chemistry by looking at it as just a part of the game. If not for bad beats, all the unskilled players would go broke and go home.  Since he is a skilled player, he knows that most significant loses should come from bad beats simply because he is usually getting his chips into the pot with the best hand.  He knows that’s  exactly how he should lose, not by my making mistakes or losing control of his emotions.

So when you take a bad beat, don’t let it bother you. If you perceive the bad beat in positive or netural ways, you will stay calm, cool and collected, and won’t create and perpetuate negative feelings from millions of peptides spreading negative emotions throughout your body.

When you take a bad beat, know and feel that you have the skills to recover from it.  Know and feel that bad beats are part of the game. Remember that all good players experience and overcome bad beats all the time. Think positive thoughts, which create emotionally healthy body chemistry and allow you to maintain concentration and focus.   

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts
we make the world.”  Buddha.  

Copyright 2010 by Preston Oade,  All rights reserved.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Short Stack Tournament Play - A Critical Skill

Playing a short stack is a critical tournament skill. To win tournaments, you must be able to overcome adversity and a short stack is a very common form of adversity.   

Here are the key strategic principles: 

1. Never give up. You can win virtually any tournament with a short stack.
2. Be patient and wait for the right situation. Not just the right hand, but the right situation. If, for example, everyone folds to you in the small blind preflop, the blinds and antes are significant, you have a short stack but still have fold equity, you should consider pushing all in with any two cards. More important than your cards is the fact that only one potential opponent remains and that opponent needs a good hand to call. This is therefore a high-percentage move against all but the weakest opponents, who don't know any better than to call.    

3. "Be the hammer, not the anvil." (Eric Lynch). This means being the first one into the pot with a raise and not calling without a huge hand. Callers are anvils and often get hammered because callers have only one way to win the pot. So use your chips as a hammer and don't be a caller.   

4. Play your position more than your cards. The best positions to move all in preflop are the hijack seat, the cut-off seat, the button and the blinds. But be the first raiser into the pot.     

5. In early position with 9 or more players at the table, any raise is likely to get a least one caller. Thus do not play for all your chips in early position without a premium hand like AK or a painted pair. Pushing with AK is a good risk as you will often get called by weaker aces like AQ.  But if you push preflop with pocket tens and get called, one or more overcards will flop more than fifty percent of the time. If you push with pocket jacks, however, you have a fifty percent chance that no overcards will flop. You are therefore just gambling by pushing all in preflop in early postition at a full table with anything less than AK or a pocket pair of jacks or better.       

6. Realize when you only have one move left. This one move is usually  pushing preflop with all your chips when you get down to about 12-15 big blinds, while you still have decent fold equity. Your fold equity is not as good if you reraise all in as the second raiser in the pot. So be the first one into the pot and use all your chips to maximize their power.            

7. Depending on position, good hands to push with preflop are pairs, suited connectors, AK and AQ.  If you push with AJ and AT, you will usually be behind if called and are likely to be dominated by a bigger ace.  

8.  Avoid playing weak aces, including suited aces. Big aces are the most common calling hand of short stack all-ins and you are dominated as a 3-1 underdog if your opponent's ace has a bigger companion card. Having a suited ace makes very little difference and is basically insignificant.  

9.  Avoid pushing all in preflop with K10, Q10, J10, K9 or KJ unless you have no choice.  Like weak aces, these hands are often dominated if  you are called.  

10.  Any pocket pair is a slight favorite against two overcards and the odds are 16 to 1 in your favor that any one opponent does not have a pocket pair. Thus even small pocket pairs may be a good situation for an all-in push preflop in late position against the blinds. If called by a bigger pair you are a 4 to 1 underdog and just got unluckly, but you still probably made the right move. Most of the time you won't get called. And if called by any two overcards you are a slight favorite to double-up.  

11. Play as tight as the blinds and antes allow. If the right situation is not there, don't push but play another round if you can. 

12.  Five times the big blind is generally the decision point for pushing preflop with any two cards. Waiting any longer is usually a mistake as your fold equity disappears.  

13. The most critical point is to rely on "the math of isolation" (Sklansky) and play heads-up. Avoid multiway pots unless you have a BIG hand. Pocket tens, for example, loses 60% of the time against two opponents holding KJ suited and AQ. When faced with a multiway pot, you are better off folding a big ace or medium pair and pushing on the next hand with any two cards if first into the pot.  

Here are some sample odds heads-up: 

a). AK is nearly a 3 to 1 favorite against weaker aces like AQ and AJ, but is only a 7 to 5 favorite against suited connectors like 65s and 54s. 

b). 98s and 87s is only a 7 to 5 underdog against AK, AQ and AJ. 

c). 98s and 87s is only a 11 to 10 underdog against A6, A5, A4, A3 and A2.   

d). J10 suited is an even matchup against 88 and lower pairs.  

e). Pocket twos wins 53% of the time against AK and is basically an even matchup against KQ suited.  

14. Focus on the most common calling hands in deciding which hands to play for all your chips. Most players will call short stack all-ins with AK, AQ and big and medium pairs. Loose players with lots of chips will often call with any two broadway cards. You want both your cards to be live against these common calling hands. Suited connectors are often live, are unlikely to be dominated, and often give you a fair chance if you are called.   
  Finally, the key strategic point is to play to win the tournament, not just to accumulate chips. Having lots of chips is not the ultimate goal, but just a stepping stone to winning it all. To win any tournament you first need to make the final table, where there are lots of chips to be won on every hand. So play to make the final table, not just to accumulate chips. 

Jerry Yang entered the 2007 WSOP Final Table as the second-shortest stack, but soon won enough chips to dominant the table and win it all.  Joe Hachem won the 2005 WSOP as one of the shortest starting stacks at the final table. He was patient, picked his spots and gradually moved up as others got knocked out. Then he got heads up and won it all. 

Copyright 2011 by K. Preston Oade. All rights reserved.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Black Friday: The DOJ's Campaign Of Fear

K. Preston Oade, J.D. & Arthur S. Reber, Ph.D.

Much of what has been written about Black Friday is not correct. Here, a lawyer and a psychologist outline the law, discuss the psychology of the situation, and urge players to keep playing online.  

1. It is not illegal to play poker online. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) did not change existing federal gambling law.  It just prohibits the transmission of wagers that are “unlawful under any applicable Federal or State law…” The “applicable federal” law is the Wire Act of 1961. Thus if it is not illegal under the Wire Act, it is not illegal under the UIGEA. Federal Courts have ruled that the Wire Act does not apply to poker, but only covers sports betting

While the UIGEA references state laws, only a very few states such as Washington and Nevada, specifically prohibit playing poker online. 

2. It is not illegal for a bank to transfer money to an online poker site. This is true by virtue of the above.  Banks, however, are risk averse, which has led to the problems identified below.

3. Banks stopped deposits for the wrong reasons. Some mistakenly believed that the UIGEA might apply to poker or were concerned that a poker site might also offer wagers on sports betting.  Others concluded it was too difficult to determine which payments were legal and simply blocked all deposits to offshore sites.

4. The sites set up “front” companies. To circumvent blocked deposits, online sites set up shell companies. A player’s deposit to Poker Stars was not recorded as a transaction with Stars, but with say, Henry’s Plant Store. Federal banking laws, however, make it illegal to hide the true nature of a transaction or transacting parties’ identities. This is the real basis for the indictments.

5. Don’t be deceived by the indictments.  The DOJ is using misdirection to further its campaign of fear  and to convince others  that the UIGEA has real legal teeth. In fact, the defendants are charged with  money laundering and bank fraud. The DOJ threw the UIGEA into the pot to confuse and intimidate everyone, especially the poker community. 

6. Expect guilty pleas. We anticipate guilty pleas because the bank fraud changes appear to be on sound legal footing.  But don’t confuse these pleas with poker or the UIGEA. They do not change the fact that without the bank fraud changes the government does not have a case.

7. The government’s poker game. The DOJ “plays poker” at a very high level, but uses the law instead of a deck of cards and is careful to make sure it will never have to turn over its real hand. In effect, the DOJ is bluffing poker players.  The DOJ is assuming that poker players and the general public will confuse traditional bank fraud charges with the UIGEA. Thus the DOJ’s Black Friday press release emphasized the UIGEA, not the traditional bank fraud charges.

8.  Stop the fear.  The DOJ wants to scare poker players to stop us from continuing to play online. It is a war of wills, and  the DOJ is winning. But it cannot win in the long term unless we abandon online play. The  outcome of this fight is in our hands as poker players. Collectively, we control the outcome. If we want it enough, we cannot lose. And if we don’t want it enough, we deserve to lose.  

9. Keep playing at websites that accept US players. They offer a variety of deposit methods including direct deposits, third-party payment processors like Pay Pal, and paper checks. As long as the identities of all participants are open and knowable the deposits are legal. 

10. Be careful, however, about using a poker website that also offers sports betting, which falls under the Wire Act and makes it a “gambling” website under federal law—in which case the UIGEA applies. Stick to poker websites only.  Also be careful to manage your money. Deposit only what you can afford to lose and keep your account at an acceptable level of risk by making regular withdrawals. This avoids having too much money on deposit with the next DOJ target.  Most of the easy targets, however, are already gone.   

Law Professor Nelson Rose on his blog, GamblingAndTheLaw.com, observes that the DOJ has announced “showy legal action against easy targets about every other year,” but lacks “a statute that clearly makes the activity illegal.”  He points out that although these scare tactics have driven some from the U.S. market, “there are now wonderful opportunities for new operators to fill the vacuum. Unless of course Americans are actually going to stop playing poker on the Internet.”