UPDATE, April 20, 2015 – Lock Poker appears to to have finally closed.
For most in the poker community Lock Poker’s time is officially up.
Lock Poker has always had its naysayers, but in the past year the site has devolved from just another occasionally maligned online poker room to being nearly unanimously condemned by the entire poker community.
With withdrawal times that stretch back over a year in some cases, and with a list of players owed in the neighborhood of $1 million, the once-prominent and always controversial US-facing online poker room has officially gone off the rails.
Now the poker world is looking for answers. I recently had the chance to speak with someone who has some of these answers, a former Lock Poker Pro who wished to remain nameless.
“Lock wasn’t always a nightmare,” said the anonymous pro.
I was told the company wasn’t always bad, or at least didn’t appear to be from the point of view of someone on the inside.
“Even when Lock was having speedy cashouts and was a growing site they had a ton of negative PR on 2+2 and via word of mouth, which was ridiculous,” my source explained.
This heavy criticism, which the company and its pros viewed as unwarranted, had an unintended consequence as it “caused a lot of the staff and the pros to not give a shit what people were saying on 2+2,” the former Lock Pro told me.
This outspokenness and speculation allowed Lock Poker to dispel any worries about cashouts as some of the other rumors were simply not true and the staff and pros knew it.
“Lock was always communicating to start with. They were always telling the pros that player funds were segregated and that they were processing many cashouts,” the source said.
And on the occasions Lock was asked for more details – and I was told some of the pros were pressing Lock Poker about this issue – Lock Poker explained that it would use the mistrust of the forums to their advantage, telling their more skeptical pros, “The forums were the minority and they were constantly processing cashouts.”
“A few months into 2013 I starting really suspecting something was up,” said the former Lock Pro.
The forums may have gotten some of the small things wrong, but Lock’s critics also had a lot of the big things right, especially the biggest issue – cashouts and the safety of player funds at Lock Poker.
At various points in 2013 even the pros that were the most mistrustful of the forums began to worry that all was not as they had been told.
According to my source:
“I think New Years of 2013 is when I heard that cashouts were slowing down, and then about a few months into 2013 I started really suspecting something was up.
Some of the pros were skeptical to begin with. Almost everyone was skeptical towards the middle of the year.
I thought that Lock was going to pay out all their players but it would just take a long time. I always believed that Lock funds were safe. Lock Pros were always told that the funds were segregated and that the company only had problems cashing out players.
Inevitably it just ended up being a PR scheme to the pros as well.”
“If a pro got a check or Skrill withdrawal every two months, how would they really know it was being expedited?” the onetime Lock Pro asked.
One of the hot topics on 2+2 concerning Lock Poker after it became apparent the site was unable to pay its players was whether sponsored pros and other high priority individuals were receiving expedited cashouts, something some of the pros who were willing to post on 2+2 scoffed at.
But it turns out this was likely a service many of them were either knowingly or unknowingly receiving.
“Pros were expedited cashouts. Even if they didn’t realize it, they were. A lot of them didn’t know they were being expedited because they didn’t follow 2+2,” the Lock Pro stated, further explaining, “If a pro got a check or Skrill withdrawal every two months – which seems very slow – how would they really know it was being expedited?”
“The only reason the price was dropping so fast was because Lock was taking forever to pay out,” my source told me.
Another kerfuffle that arose during this time, and one of Lock’s go-to excuses for closing several high-profile accounts and changing their cashout policy, was whether people were taking advantage of their expedited cashout status and buying up Lock funds on the cheap, in the process further driving down the price.
“By this time (early to mid 2013) 2+2 knew for certain the site was broke…with no real proof of course, and Lock was still selling at about 80 cents on the dollar which means that some people were getting hefty cashouts, otherwise it would have been much lower,” the former Lock Pro explained.
The Pro went on to say, “I heard of one non-pro getting biweekly Skrill withdrawals for $10k. He would purposely drive the price down on 2+2 and buy as much as he could on the site, then he would rake $20k or more per month to keep getting the expedited cashouts. He was making $20k a month just by working the system.”
So how does one drive down the price of Lock funds?
“Someone who wants to drive the price down just has to be very active on 2+2. There are many ways to do it.
They can fake long withdrawal times. They can start rumors that Lock had all of its funds seized from foreign banks or frozen from processors being shut down. They can also just keep posting that they are buying funds at .05 lower than market rate, that almost always will drive the funds down.
Ultimately though the only reason the price was dropping so fast was because Lock was taking forever to pay out.
Many poker players don’t have money and they relied on getting funds off just to live. If someone has bills to pay and has 50k on Lock they will sell at .05 lower just to get their money off.”
So while certain people may have been artificially driving the price down by $.05 here and there, the real reason the value of Lock Poker funds plummeted was Lock’s inability to pay.
“Girah was a real piece of shit. He was one of two pros that were openly released,” my unnamed source commented.
If there was one event that put Lock Poker on the poker radar it was the short-lived tenure of Jose “Girah” Macedo as a sponsored pro.
Girah would become one of the most infamous poker players in recent memory, and in his short time as a “poker phenom” he managed to get caught chip-dumping to win the Bluff Pro Challenge at Lock Poker. He was later stripped of the title and it was awarded to the rightful winner of the contest, Michael Drummond.
So who was Girah, and how did he become such a prominent figure on Lock Poker?
Girah joined an already robust roster of players, a lineup that allowed Lock to dominate virtually every network it joined, as the former Lock Pro explained:
“The way the Lock Pros were constructed was really smart. They had some of the best tournament players in the world, some of the best cash game grinders, and some of the best rakeback grinders.
For this reason Lock had the most influence over every network it was in. Convincing pros to stay with the site was key to switching between networks, it was leverage.”
But Girah was something else altogether, or at least he was expected to be. This was Lock’s first really big signing, and Girah was supposed to be the “next big thing” in poker – the next durrrr or Isildur1.
“Nobody really knew much about Girah other than he was some young gun from Portugal who played at the nosebleed stakes and won. He was introduced when Lock ran the challenge to become a Lock Pro Elite [the Bluff Pro Challenge].
Lock wanted him to win so they designed the competition to favor someone like him. What I mean by that is they just did a contest to see who could make the most amount of money in one month.
Even though Lock wanted him to win they did not in any way know he was going to cheat. They wanted him to just show that he was a legend and win the competition in a legitimate way.
I don’t know if Lock tried to cover it up or not, I don’t really think they did. I know that when Girah was caught Lock ended communication with him because he sent out emails begging all the pros to get in touch with Jennifer the CEO. At that point the pros wanted to separate themselves as far from Girah as possible, and for good reason.”