A reader writes:
As a professional poker player whose livelihood may or not be hurt, enhanced, or eliminated by Senator Reid's proposed bill, I have much interest in what is going on and would like to correct a few points from Christopher Beam's article.
First, it is true that players are not protected from fraud or cheating, but whether or not this issue will be sufficiently dealt with through US legislation is yet to be seen and, to be honest, somewhat unlikely.
Secondly, Pokerstars and Full Tilt are not exactly self-policing. It is true that the governing bodies regulating online poker are largely jokes (the main one is a totally fraudulent group run on a Canadian Indian reservation), but Pokerstars is licensed in the Isle of Man, operates a chunk of their business out of London, and there are ways to file complaints with the gaming commission of the Isle of Man. These organizations may not do much in the way of policing, but there is certainly no guarantee that the United States will be interested in anything other than the moneygrab.
Third, what happened at Absolute Poker and has also happened at Ultimate Bet was outright cheating done by the top members of the company. It was not an "employee" at Absolute Poker who stole the money but a cabal of Americans who started the site in Costa Rica. A vocal contingent of poker players has routinely requested that the FBI look into the matter-- what they did should be considered along the same lines as securities fraud-- but nothing has happened.
And finally, one thing Beam leaves out is that the very best police for online poker is the players themselves. Both the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet scandal were detected by players using sophisticated statistical methods-- in short, there are certain things that happen so many standard deviations from what is normal that it almost has to be cheating, and these things get investigated. There is ZERO chance a government entity would employ people capable of catching and policing this stuff because only poker players with a lot of knowledge about how the game works can catch it. It is unlikely that the government would realize this or pay the amount necessary to get some of these experts on their side.