The Unabridged M. Valerio

SAPKDEC15

Amount raised: $3,258.69
(As of 12/19/2014)

Average micro donation ($0 < x < $5) = $2
Average modest donation ($5 ≤ x < $100) = $25
Average large donation ($100 ≤ x) = $300

PAYPAL INFO: Make out donations to pokerkindness@gmail.com and select “send to family and friends.” Try to avoid paying any fees, especially if your donation is very small.

UPDATE [12/15/2014]: Still searching for a Nevada-based cause or charity to donate to. A decision will be made by the end of the week.
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Ever since we kicked off #SAPK in earnest last month, its evolution has taken me completely by surprise. What was supposed to be a mild-mannered gesture expected to net “only about a hundred bucks” quickly ballooned into a collection that today totals almost $3,000 – and counting.

That’s almost $3,000 the poker community elected to donate to charity, without any particular cause in mind.

It was not originally my intention to launch and sustain a full-fledged fundraiser – I was practically convinced it would remain small – but by the time it started snowballing, I could not in good faith turn away the responsibility to manage it (this is about as self-important a comment as you’re going to get from me – save your loudest applause for the donors). Since taking on this effort, I’ve been humbled by all the work and attention to detail that went into making sure the collection of funds can be done efficiently, transparently and ethically.

Selecting a charitable cause, or causes, was another critical point. Early on, I had made a faint allusion to a toy drive, but it quickly picked up broad support. It was around this time that I found out a poker player named Billy Vogel (who took down the inaugural DeepStacks Poker Tour Western New York Poker Championship in 2012) has been collecting donations from his friends in the online poker community and giving them to charity for years, splitting the total between a local toy drive and a lump donation to the Global Medical Relief Fund. (More information and material about Vogel’s efforts can be found here, here, here and here.) He’s been doing this for five years! And here I thought I was the Bono of poker.

I’ve since gotten to know Vogel and spent some time learning more about his efforts. What I like about them is that they have two things in common with #SAPK:

  1. Both are powered by the goodness of the poker community, and
  2. Both originate in key U.S. iGaming states – Billy lives in Brigantine near Atlantic City, New Jersey and I live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Those who are familiar with my work know that I have covered the U.S.-regulated iGaming industry quite a bit. I’ve listened to countless testimonials about why online poker should (or shouldn’t) be legalized and regulated in the United States. Now listen: LOTS of good people in the iGaming space – regulators, legislators, assorted advocates and professionals – do an exceptional job taking the online gaming community’s interests into account. But that’s not always the case across the board. Many times, the U.S. online gambling public in general is effectively reduced to a faceless horde of unsophisticated automatons whose gambling proclivities would be entirely repulsive if not for the convenient fact that we can tax them. And these are the proponents – we won’t even get into what the Sheldonesque opposition thinks.

This antecedent makes up much of the reason why I’ve enjoyed seeing homegrown charitable initatives by the online poker community gain so much traction and support, like we’re seeing with Vogel and like we are now seeing with #SAPK. To me, this shows that the poker community is, for the most part, a good one, made up by a considerable number of decent, altruistic citizens who can take matters into their own hands and perform good deeds for the communities around them, without requiring the tax man to step in.

What this means for #SAPK is that I would very much like to put the money raised so far, plus any future donation, to supporting local causes – including Billy Vogel’s. Part of the money will go to what he’s doing in Atlantic City, and the remainder will go to a Nevada-based cause that I am presently in the process of selecting based on suggestions by #SAPK’s Nevada-based donors.

The symbolism of this bicoastal philanthropy is not lost on a U.S. iGaming junkie like me. Nevada and New Jersey are both states where state-regulated iGaming came with the promise of supplementing the state’s tax income (ideally for the purpose of public service). But the early days have been very competitive, and Ultimate Poker has had to pull out from both states. Others are shutting down too. This is probably good news for the market leaders’ bottom lines, but it’s also the eradication of multiple fonts of tax revenue for the state. Through charity, the poker players themselves can pick up where the shuttered sites left off.

#SAPK will tentatively accept donations until the holidays. In terms of transferring the money, the most practical solution so far has been the “friends and family” option through PayPal because, when configured properly, it entails no fees for either the sender or the recipient. This is important for #SAPK because many of the donations are so small – pennies on the dollar from incoming Ultimate Poker checks – and practically every other transfer method, including crowdfunding (which I initially considered), can entail up to a 30 cent flat fee.

I am accepting donations to a personal PayPal account created exclusively for #SAPK. If you are interested in donating any amount to #SAPK, please PayPal it to this address: pokerkindness@gmail.com. Please make sure to avoid paying fees by selecting the option “send to family and friends.” If it says you gotta pay some anyway, or you’d rather donate another way, email me at agentmarco87@gmail.com and we can try to work it out.

All the money collected will tentatively be donated by the end of this year. As noted, part of the money will go to Billy Vogel’s initiative. The remainder of the #SAPK fund will go to a Nevada-based cause. I don’t know yet what percentage will go to either recipient, but donors will be heard from and kept updated. I will not keep any of the money for myself, nor will I use it to cover any sort of expense.

I will do the best I can to keep the public periodically informed about the total balance and all pertinent donation-related info. In case you have doubts about the legitimacy of this endeavor, or simply wish to communicate with me, you are encouraged to contact me at agentmarco87@gmail.com.

In closing, I invite anyone who has a small balance or inconsequential amount of money on an online poker site, be it Ultimate Poker or other, to consider cashing out and donating that money to the #SAPK fund, so that the sum of donations can make a difference, unlike the individual amounts. I certainly don’t wish to take money away from the online poker economy, but I’m also pretty sure that a lot of really tiny amounts are just sitting there in inactive balances, untouched for months if not years (I know I have a few like this). Chances are that by the time you feel like playing again, if ever, you will want to redeposit anyway. May I suggest that you make that one of your 2015 resolutions, and cash out the piddling amount you have now to support a good cause?

(For more information about the nature and origin of #SAPK, see this post. I should be doing a better job presenting all relevant information in a more compact manner, but to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “I did not have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”)

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sapk0

Pledge your Ultimate Poker account balance so that we may donate the lump sum to charity.

UPDATE (11/25, 1pm PT): Melissa Burr (@@burrrrrberry) has pledged $1 for every retweet this receives:

 

Scroll down for instructions, but first a little background…

Earlier today (11/24/2014), I received an email from the now defunct Ultimate Poker letting me know they had received my withdrawal request for the last $0.18 I had in my account (yes, eighteen cents, I run like God), and informing me the money would arrive by check. I was surprised by this because I submitted no such request, but I was also amused because the amount is obviously inconsequential.

In jest, I screen-grabbed the email and posted it on my Twitter:

It did not take long for me to learn that pretty much everyone who had an outstanding balance at Ultimate Poker was receiving the same email – and most of the balances in question were just as puny as mine. A couple of us joked about it at first – until the reality of the situation hit me in full. Numerous Ultimate Poker (ex)customers were about to receive individual checks for amounts that were individually worthless, but pooled together could add up to an amount high enough to be worth keeping – or donating.

 

I put out a feeler to see who was interested in taking part in charitable pooling. It seemed like the proper thing to at least try to do, although my expectations were not very high that we’d get a lot of money together. Still, I figured that even if a bunch of us could muck up a hundred bucks or so, that could still mean something, somewhere, to a person less privileged than us.

I did not foresee the snowballing effect that quickly ensued. After half a dozen or so people pledged balances worth not just pennies but a couple of bucks, we had (theoretically) raised about $40 – in just under an hour. Then, professional poker player and world class sweetheart Danielle Andersen put out this tweet:

This got the ball rolling quite a good deal. More and more people began pledging their Ultimate Poker “mini-money” (as @scsuhockey10 put it), and not only were many of these checks not so mini at all, but now, thanks to Andersen’s multiplier, every donation was effectively doubled. Within hours of my original joke-tweet, we had raised (once again, in theory) over $500.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plus many other donors who contacted me publicly and privately.

DO WE ACTUALLY GO THROUGH WITH THIS?

Yes!

First of all, I’m extremely thankful to everyone who chose to donate and will continue to do so. It’s so invigorating to see this happen so spontaneously. Obviously, we were all capable of making small donations before, but sometimes our giving spirit just needs a little catalyst, and I think this is it – a catalyst that started out almost accidentally but went on to pick up considerable social steam. As for my role in this, I have every intention of shepherding this effort until someone, somewhere, is making better use of our online poker mini-moneys than we separately would.

As for who or what will eventually receive the money, that is still undecided, and I am happy to base a decision on popular feedback. I like the idea of something local, and something having to do with children. A kind-hearted fellow named Billy Vogel has collected and delivered donations from the online poker community to children’s causes for years, and I encourage everyone to catch up on the outstanding work he’s been doing. Maybe we will pursue something like that as well. For the time being, whoever wishes to nominate a particular charity or category is welcome to submit suggestions publicly or privately: @Agentmarco on Twitter or agentmarco87@gmail.com.

I wish to be entirely transparent throughout this activity, so I must make two points very clear: first, I have absolutely no experience in the coordination of collective charitable giving, and I would very much appreciate any submissions of wisdom. I am prepared to learn what I must in order to help pull this off. Like noted above, contact me with any suggestions for how to expedite or otherwise optimize this endeavor.

The second very important point I wish to stress is one many of you probably saw coming… After working in poker media for so long, I’ve certainly heard of all the supposedly charitable endeavors that ended up being scams. None of that is going to happen here, but I understand my word alone can’t be good enough. Thus, I will take every reasonable measure to keep the process transparent. I certainly invite every single donor to hold me accountable. In fact, this does not have to center only around me. Whoever wishes to share responsibility and oversight of this effort is more than welcome to apply – I encourage you to. Furthermore, should an amount of money ever be successfully raised and donated, I will apply my multimedia skills to document the act and demonstrate how the poker community’s generous contributions are being put to good use. Count on it.

I’ve spent the entire afternoon researching the best possible method to enable the transfer of funds from so many parties. I wish there were a way to do something meaningful or symbolic with the actual checks, but so far, I think a web-based crowdfunder would be the most practical course of action. One company has already come forward to explore the opportunity to get involved, and I strongly hope something mutually beneficial can come of it, but I will continue to keep my eyes open just in case. Priorities here include low processing fees (certainly none on the part of the donor) and a user-friendly interface. Once again, whoever has information or advice regarding an eligible platform or alternative payment processing option (PAGING NEW JERSEY!) is encouraged to contact me.

For the time being, if you’ve already pledged or are about to pledge, my advice is this: wait for your check to arrive in the mail, which it should do in a couple of days (I will try to check with whatever staff Ultimate Poker has left). By the time it does, this page should be updated with more sophisticated information on where and how to donate. I’m keeping a list of who has pledged, and you can expect me to remain in contact with you if you have. (If you don’t hear from me, please follow up.)

If you would like to donate your Ultimate Poker balance, or any other amount you please, thank you, and please contact me in one of two ways: tweet me @Agentmarco or email me at agentmarco87@gmail.com. Not every pledge will be immediately considered honest because how easy would it be to troll me haha, but if you look generally trustworthy, or better yet, I know who you are, then we are probably good. But the potential for some deception is the reason why I’m splitting this tally into MONEY PLEDGED vs MONEY COLLECTED (which is obviously zero for the time being).

AMOUNT PLEDGED FROM BALANCES: +$370.79
AMOUNT PLEDGED AFTER MULTIPLIERS: +$741.58.58
AMOUNT COLLECTED: $0.00

This page will be periodically updated as more information about the effort becomes available.

Thanks so much to everyone who chooses to be a part of this. I’m so eager to see what we can achieve together.

Marco Valerio
@Agentmarco
agentmarco87@gmail.com

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Ultimate Gaming has decided to pull out of the New Jersey market, discontinuing both its Ultimate Poker and Ultimate Casino activity there.

Play is expected to stop in the coming days.

Players who have money on Ultimate Poker or Ultimate Casino in New Jersey should not be preoccupied about the security of their funds. As with any NJ-facing online gaming site, player accounts are segregated and protected by order of the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Sources familiar with the situation have told me that, after Ultimate Gaming play in New Jersey stops, players will likely remain able to log in and cash out their balances in the method they prefer for a designated period of time. Any balance that remains unwithdrawn by the expiration of the designated period will probably be mailed to the proprietor’s last physical address on record.

[UPDATE: New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement has this to say on the matter as of Friday afternoon: "The Division was pleased to have worked with Ultimate Gaming during their participation in the New Jersey Internet gaming market. We wish them the ultimate success in their future endeavors. DGE will carefully monitor all aspects of the transition process as they cease operations in New Jersey."]

The problem with Ultimate Gaming in New Jersey isn’t with its players’ accounts, but with its revenue accounts, which are owned and managed by Ultimate’s casino partner Trump Taj Mahal. Due to the Taj’s troubled financial situation, Ultimate Gaming has not seen a dime of its New Jersey revenue in months, and this situation is not likely to change. Since the company is thus throwing away expenses in New Jersey without collecting any revenue, the wisest option was deemed to discontinue service to NJ altogether.

Although Ultimate Gaming could technically partner with another casino, this will be extremely difficult to accomplish in practice. Atlantic City casinos are going out of business at a dreadful pace lately, and the remaining survivors are already hitched to other online gaming suppliers. New Jersey gaming regulations do permit casinos to partner with additional suppliers, but most of the agreements are exclusive, thinning Ultimate Gaming’s chances.

There is not yet any reason to believe Ultimate Poker services will be significantly affected in Nevada, other than the site may never benefit from a possible interstate liquidity agreement with New Jersey in the future.

The details of the New Jersey pull-out are still being finalized inside the company. A formal press announcement was issued today.

ADDITIONAL READING:

AgentMarco.com – September 19, 2014

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PRIVATE TABLE

(Click image to enlarge and read.)

Can a California tribe launch real-money intrastate online poker on its own, without waiting for statewide legislation to pass? That possibility has been discussed, and anticipated, inside the gaming industry for months, but it looks like we’re on the verge of seeing somebody finally trying it.

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New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement has released the online gaming revenue report for the month of January 2014.

SOURCE 1: DGE revenue report press release including information on number of accounts created.
SOURCE 2: Further breakdown of online poker vs online casino revenue.

BREAKDOWN OF JANUARY 2014 NEW JERSEY ONLINE GAMING REVENUE REPORT

  • Total online gaming revenue in New Jersey for the month of January 2014 was $9,461,057.
  • Of this, online poker revenue makes up 36% ($3,442,271) with online casino taking up the remaining 64% ($6,018,786).

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colorful_teddy(Decision to use cute teddy bear pic explained at the bottom of the post.)

The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has released Internet gaming revenue figures for the months of December and later part of November, 2013. (Internet gaming in New Jersey went live under restricted “soft play” on November 21st 2013, followed by a full scale launch on November 26th.)

The DGE’s documents pertaining to the revenue figures are linked underneath. A simple breakdown of the most important takeaways then follows.

BOTTOM LINE

Since launching toward the end of November 2013 (and discounting the month of January 2014), online gaming in New Jersey has generated $8,368,837 in revenue. This refers to year-to-date (YTD) figures, which include December and the ater part of November. December-only Internet gaming revenue in New Jersey was $7,388,672.

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New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, through a statement by spokeswoman Lisa Spengler, has made its decision known regarding PokerStars’ application for an Internet gaming license in that state. The DGE has basically laid out which issues it has with PokerStars’ suitability and it has given the company a two-year period to figure out what it wants to do about them (comply with the DGE’s conditions? Withdraw the application altogether?). Until PokerStars makes a move here one way or the other, its New Jersey license application is going nowhere.

Much of the gaming community has taken this to mean that PokerStars is now officially “blocked” in New Jersey for the next two years. This is simply an inaccurate and misleading read on the situation.

I made the same mistake of assuming that this was a flat-out “block” until I read Spengler’s full statement. It opens with:

“The Division of Gaming Enforcement has determined that the application of Rational Services Limited (PokerStars) casino service industry licensure (CSIE) will be held in a suspended status for a period of two years.” (All emphasis mine.)

This sentence is miles away from what a lot of people believe just happened. PokerStars’ application for a license is what’s getting suspended, not the company’s operations (which obviously never began in New Jersey).

The problem with assuming that PokerStars got “blocked” in New Jersey for two years is that it’s already making people erroneously believe that this is some kind of “bad actor’s” punishment. It’s not.

The DGE’s statement (more of which will follow) does not say that PokerStars cannot operate in New Jersey for the next two years, or in its first two years of operation. It says the company’s licensing process will remain where it’s at for the next two years until Stars makes a move. Keep in mind that at this point, PokerStars is considerably deep into the licensing application process, and it would be a pain in the ass to have to start anew, which is what it would supposedly have to do if nothing progressive happens by the time the two-year window expires.

The statement goes on to say:

“The Division, within that period, may consider a request for relief to reactivate the application if significantly changed circumstances are demonstrated at which time the Division’s investigation of Pokerstars and its affiliated entities and associated individuals will be resumed to assess suitability.”

So basically, the DGE is saying, we don’t have to wait two entire years before we reconsider PokerStars’ suitability. We’re just giving them that much time to get their act together before we can move ahead.

It’s not as if, after the two years are up, PokerStars will have somehow “done its time” and will be able to reapply for a license without the same issues from before getting in the way. The two-year application suspension is not an attempt to keep PokerStars out of New Jersey. It’s a way to give PokerStars a certain amount of time to make a decision about how it wants to proceed with its license application, now that it has been informed what the DGE’s objections are. At no point in the Spengler statement is it claimed that the DGE has issues with how the company continued to serve U.S. players after UIGEA, and that it was unfair, illegal, uncompetitive, etc. All issues addressed in the Spengler statement have to do with people:

“The Division’s determination is based primarily on the unresolved federal indictment against Isai Scheinberg for the alleged violation of federal gambling statutes, namely, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with Internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of UIGEA.” (All emphasis mine.)

Hope that helps.

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PokerStars Boardwalk Empire

UPDATE: (7:00am PT) A spokesperson for the DGE claims that “Pokerstars’ application remains under review.”

UPDATE 2: (8:00am PT) Eolis has put out another article reinforcing her original claims.

Wendeen Eolis of Poker Player Newspaper is reporting that online poker giant PokerStars will not be granted a license in New Jersey in time for the “opening date” of real money online gaming in that state, which is set for November 26th, 2013.

According to Poker Player Newspaper, this decision is due to the Division of Gaming Enforcement’s (DGE) lingering concerns about the DOJ’s criminal case against PokerStars founder and former CEO Isai Scheinberg.

KEEP CALM AND READ THESE CLIFFS:

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PokerStars Boardwalk EmpirePokerStars is, by far, the largest real-money online poker company in the world, exercising control of roughly 50% of market share internationally.
Boardwalk Empire is a popular HBO television series about Prohibition Era Atlantic City, based on a book by the same name by Nelson Johnson, an Atlantic County Superior Court Judge.

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