The era of licensed online poker is now upon us, but this doesn’t mean that we are now in the clear and can look forward to nothing but smooth sailing from here on out.
These licensed online poker markets have certainly ushered in a new era of accountability and oversight, but the current industry bears a striking resemblance to the unlicensed industry of the mid-2000’s, with many of the same problems still left unresolved.
Here are three such problems (along with some possible solutions) that have plagued online poker throughout its existence, and despite the onset of licensed, regulated online poker they have not gone away.
Initially viewed as a novelty or little more than a money-making scheme by developers, poker bots have been proliferating in number and sophistication in recent years and are now seen as a major nuisance and moving towards being a serious threat to online poker.
Poker bots pose a dual issue for the online poker industry.
The first difficulty they create is one of perception, an issue that has been around for many years. Players not only worry they are facing poker bots employed by other players – there is also the urban legend that the poker sites are employing bots.
The second problem is more recent, as poker bots have become more sophisticated in recent years and are no longer just a warm body (or a cold robot) filling a seat.
Modern poker bots are capable of beating stakes as high as $100 No Limit Holdem, and perhaps higher, although the average poker bot is still exploitable by good players.
Because they were originally viewed with contempt from winning poker players, the online poker sites were never pressed into taking much action against poker bots.
But now players want them eradicated, and while countermeasures do exist, anyone who wants to intelligently use a poker bot (or poker bot like software such as the controversial PokerSnowie that tells a human player what to do) will likely get away with it.
It will likely take a concerted, industry-wide effort to stamp out poker bots, and that is going to take the poker community’s continued calls for the sites to take poker bots more seriously.
This will also require poker players to continue to report suspicious behavior to the sites.
One poker provider, the iPoker Network, has drastically improved its bot detection capabilities and its intention to notify the community of its efforts via PokerStrategy.com.
Players are also being encouraged to notify the site of any suspicious activity.
Until depositing and withdrawing at an online poker site is as simple as using eBay or Amazon.com, payment processing will be the bane of the online poker industry.
Every rejected credit card and every policy enacted by banks and PayPal refusing to process online gambling transactions doesn’t just equate to lost online poker customers, it’s once again a serious problem of perception (a trend in this column).
“If this is legal why is Bank of America refusing to process my transaction?”
“What do they [the banks] know that I don’t?”
Unfortunately, most people aren’t going to head over to Google and do the research to find out why certain banks and payment processors won’t process online gambling transactions, and how the invisible hand of UIGEA legislation and the previous DOJ opinions of the 1961 Wire Act are causing some banks to be overly conservative and operating behind the times.
Instead, they’ll just draw their own conclusions, which will probably be along the lines of, “Yeah, I know they passed some law, but my bank won’t process the transaction, so I’m not really ready to hand over my money to an online poker site just yet.”
This is going to take time, but it’s also going to take lobbying efforts, both from groups like the Poker Players Alliance, and from players who can contact their banks and potentially create enough noise that they reverse their policies.
I believe the saying has something to do with squeaky wheels and grease, but right now poker players aren’t quite squeaky enough.
The confusion surrounding the legality of online poker has been a serious problem for a very long time.
It’s legal here, but not there. It’s legal to play online poker, but illegal to operate an online poker site.
Is it any wonder why so many people just assume online poker is against the law? If understanding the law requires you to be a certified paralegal most people are just not going to be bothered.
The baffling array of vague laws and convoluted understanding of what precisely constitutes illegal gambling only adds to the unwarranted worries that many potential players have, and like the first two items on this list, it’s yet another problem of perception for the poker industry.
One area where I’d love to see a group like the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) step up its game is in education.
Even if it meant less lobbying efforts [read as: money] on Capitol Hill, I’d like to see some PSA’s regarding online poker, and the current legal landscape surrounding the game.