There are an estimated 100 million poker players worldwide, 60% of which are in the United States, where poker isn’t even legal on the whole. It has been estimated further that of these 100 million players there are 5.5 million players online playing real money games. This is a billion dollar market, and one with an international reach, so it is no surprise that the online poker industry is one that many companies are trying to muscle in on.
That are many legitimate websites out there, but as straight-talking sports manager Bobby Heenan once said, “the money’s the same, whether you earn it or scam it,” and unfortunately it seems that many companies live by that rule.
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After Black Friday US poker players sought pastures new, and for most the choice was between Carbon Poker and Lock Poker. These were fairly insignificant for a time, but that changed in the aftermath of Black Friday when US players were banned form the three major poker websites. Party Poker, who were the fourth biggest poker website at the time, had not allowed players from the US to play on their site for several years, and away from them, and the three sites indicted on Black Friday, there was a little choice.
Carbon Poker was the first choice for many. This was a website that already had a decent following, with poker players from all over the world taking advantage of fast and efficient banking options, generous promotions and access to the Merge poker network. Canadian-based Carbon Poker came to be in 2005 and grew steadily from that point on. Merge had always been a strong poker network, but with Carbon Poker behind it the two grew together. Carbon Poker quickly became the flagship site for the Merge network, nudging ahead of Lock Poker which, at the time, was also with the Merge network.
In fact, even before Black Friday, Carbon Poker found a gap in the market that it exploited to full effect. In 2010 it purchased several other poker rooms, and also picked up sportsbook.com, which was once owned by Sporting Bet and has passed through several hands over the years. Also in 2010, a year before the Black Friday incident, the owner of Carbon Poker was quoted as saying that he expected a 20% rise in activity on the site on a year-by-year basis, but in truth they ended up with a growth that no one could have predicted as millions of Americans, disgruntled by their suspension from the big three, turned their credit cards and their hopes towards anyone who would take them. Tom Dwan, a young American player that was named as one of the most influential people in poker by Pokerjunkie.com, is one of the many pros rumored to play at Carbon Poker.
Carbon Poker have some unique tournaments, promotions and jackpots that appeal to poker amateurs and professionals alike. These include a record breaking Bad Beat Jackpot, which was handed out in 2009. No Limit Texas Hold’em has always been king at Carbon, as it has elsewhere, but there are also Pot-Limit Omaha, Mixed, Seven Card Stud and Fixed Limit games available. Carbon Poker also has sports betting, race betting and an online casino, all of which were launched on the back of the poker room’s success.
Lock Poker was also part of the Merge network, and as these two websites were on the same network at the same time it meant that for a significant period they shared the same players. The two branched off though and whilst Carbon Poker went on to become the best poker room for US-based players, Lock Poker went on to become one of the worst. In recent months the most popular Google searches for Lock Poker include the word “scam”, whilst Pokerupdate.com reported that Lock Poker’s traffic was down 15% for the final quarter of 2014, as previously loyal players headed for the exit.
It didn’t start out that way and Lock Poker was very good in the beginning. It was on a great network, it had good banking options and it even attracted some big players to act as Lock Poker pros, including the Norwegian Anette Obrestad, who once famously won a sit and go without looking at her cards. But by the time Anette showed up, Lock Poker was already on a downward spiral.
The Lock Poker of old is a site worth recommending. It was fun, it had a lot of players, a lot of promotions and a lot of variety. It joined the Merge network in 2011, but the people behind Lock Poker and the people behind Merge had many disagreements that caused Lock Poker to part ways with the gaming network. In 2012 they allegedly purchased the Cake Poker Network and renamed it Revolution Gaming Network, but recent reports have suggested that this sale never happened and that the original owners of the Cake Network still hold the rights. Whatever actually happened, Lock Poker later became a standalone site with their own network, and although the problems had surfaced prior to that, it wasn’t until they became their own brand that the issues really began.
The new Lock Poker is in a different league to the old one. It is a poker site that is constantly berated on review sites, a poker site that is universally despised by the poker community and a poker site that consistently fails to get the basics right. The issues are not just present for US customers either, nor are they only present for certain payment methods, they occur across the board and around the world. Their track record for cash-outs is so poor that there are many reports of players selling their Lock Poker balances for next to nothing, with suggestions that the going-rate is as little as $0.05 on the dollar, which means that a $1000 balance would sell for $50.
The rise and fall of Lock Poker serves as a warning to everyone. This was a website that used to feature on the “most recommended” sections on poker review sites, but is currently listed under “avoid” or “blacklisted” sections, and not without reason. It seems that whatever issues Lock Poker are having, their end is nigh; players are no longer getting answers, and even excuses are hard to come by.
Things got ugly fast for Lock Poker, but considering what happened to some other poker sites, they got off easy. At least Lock Poker was popular and reputable once upon a time, at least it has a good network of players and some good tournaments; at least it was officially licensed and not created with a view to ripping people off, but the same can’t be said for others.
The World Sports Exchange was one of the websites that turned ugly, fast. Also known by the abbreviation WSEX, this was popular when it was active, and it worked across the board, with sports betting, casino play and more, but its popularity was short lived. The World Poker Exchange was an equally popular part of the WSEX network, and the place where many US and International poker players plied their trade.
Exactly what happened is for the owners and those on the inside, but in the spring of 2013 the World Sports Exchange was dealt a deadly blow. They had been having money issues for a long time and when they closed their site they acknowledged these issues to be their main reason. At the same time they also lost their gaming license, and although the two are certainly connected, the whys and hows are not entirely clear. What is clear, however, is that on the same day they announced the closure of their website and their business on the whole, the co-founder of the World Sports Exchange killed himself.
Although they came to a less dramatic end, Top Speed Poker also had their fair share of issues. For years players had problems getting payments and they also couldn’t get a response out of the customer support staff, which by all accounts didn’t even exist. It seems that anyone who voiced a complaint was told that their message had been forwarded to a technical department and that a ticket had been opened. Unfortunately, that technical department didn’t seem to exist and that ticket was closed without a reply around a week later. When the player then sent another email to complain about the first email, the whole process simply repeated itself. As you can imagine, the only thing worse than a site that doesn’t pay you, is one that doesn’t even respond, with support staff that don’t seem to exist.
Lock Poker is in a similar situation, although it has yet to get that bad. There have also been many more that delay or refuse withdrawals and don’t answer queries, including Naked Poker and Million Minds Casino and Poker. Luckily, these sites are not that common, certainly not as much as the genuine sites are, but all players are advised to watch out for them.
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