Since it is your own money at stake, it is your duty to make sure the poker site that you play at is trustworthy. You want to be able to expect to get your withdrawal check when you ask for it. With the huge increase in the popularity of poker in the last few years, and especially the huge increase in the popularity of online poker, many entrepreneurs have and will try to capitalize on this relatively new market. It is possible some of these new sites may actually go under, in which case it would be almost impossible for players to get their money out. How would you go about trying to get a few thousand dollars from an entity in one of the Carribean Islands whom you don't even know the actual owners? That is one of the dangers of online poker, and it can be scary and very frustrating when the unthinkable happen.
Poker players should take a lesson from their sports bettor brethern. The offshore sports betting industry has been around a bit longer than the online poker industry. The sports bettors have seen several very big sports books go under due to mismanagement, insufficient capital and outright fraud. All sportsbooks need clients in order to make money, in the effort to find and retain players, new sportsbooks need to give players an incentive to give them a try. They establish themselves and entice players to join by offering deposit bonuses. This can often lead to a business that seems to be built like a ponzi scheme. An example would be an offer of a 25% cash bonus on a deposit, but with some restrictions such as a five times rollover and a one month minimum period before making a withdrawal. A five times rollover in sports means that the player must bet their balance five times over before they are eligible to take a withdrawal. On the surface, this makes sense from the sportsbook point of view, because it is guaranteeing that they get some minimum action from the player. On the player's side, he is thrilled to get 25% of his deposit as a bonus for just signing up and depositing. Their rationale is that since they are going to play anyway, why not get a bonus as an extra kick.
As the sportsbook signs up more players, they start to get a reputation through the sports gambling forums and word of mouth. With deposits from new players, the sportsbooks have a steady stream of incoming cash flow, which means they will have plenty of funds to pay anyone that requests a withdrawal. This leads to even more confidence by players, especially those that take a withdrawal, because they will now feel more confident about leaving the rest of their money in that book since they already got paid once. It is logical to think if someone paid you once that they are likely to pay you again in the future. However, if the book does not do a good job managing the lines, they may start to lose to the sharp bettors. If the new deposits start to dry up concurrently, then it could lead to the collapse of the ponzi scheme. Now the book no longer has funds to pay everybody and sooner or later the customers will suffer. Yet players still think it is ok to give new sportsbooks a shot, because they believe in the "greater fool" theory. They believe they will be deft enough to get in and get out before the impending doom happens. This is a dangerous game which requires a lot of attention and calculation which most people cannot afford to take the time to do. Of course, poker rooms operate differently than sportsbooks, in that sportsbooks are playing against the customers directly whereas poker rooms are not. But these issues are still useful to keep in mind.
Other than the vague legality issues, this is the biggest danger in the offshore sports betting industry, and all the experienced sports bettors have an understanding of these issues by now since most of them were affected by past collapses. The greed of the bonus hunting leads to the players losing their own deposits. This is a lesson to be learned for the upcoming years as more and more outfits try to take advantage of the online poker boom.
Of course, there are still many reputable offshore sportsbooks, and many of the new poker sites may also be financially fit and well managed. However, from a player's point of view, it is often difficult to identify which site one can trust with one's funds, and which sites one cannot trust. Researching as much as possible is always recommended, but research alone may not always help. Often the sports sites will be backed with confidence from other people that you may think you trust. However it may be that those people are in on the scheme along with the book, or are paid by the book to promote them without doing the due diligence themselves. Planet Poker is a positive example of an online poker room that has the faces of two prominent and trustworthy people in the poker industry, Mike Caro and Roy Cooke. Similarly, Ultimate Bet with Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke gives the players a sense of financial comfort. However, there has been at least one online poker room that went bust, even though it was promoted by one of the most famous names in poker.
Be more weary of new startups unless you have a good reason to be comfortable. For example, several high quality sportsbooks that have been in business for many years and have impeccable reputations have recently created their own online poker rooms. These poker rooms will be safer than other brand new startups who are not attached to any other known entity. If you are comfortable with the financial status of the online sportsbook, and they are providing online poker as part of their business, then that is may be a safer place for your money than a startup online poker site with no link to an entity you trust.
In order to reduce the hurt if one of these poker sites collapses financially, you need to be preparing ahead of time. You should constantly withdraw funds as your funds increase. Keep in mind a maximum dollar amount that you would be comfortable keeping at the site, and if your balance ever goes past that number, consider making a withdrawal request.
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