Trusting Strangers with Money

Poker is a game of wits where you sell a story with your chips. When you make a bet, you want your opponents to think that you have the best hand… it does not always matter what your hand is if your opponent thinks you have it. As the world evolved and the game of poker rose in popularity, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to play poker online. Now we can play on our computers, our phones, or our video game consoles when we do not have access to a casino. Poker is the largest multiplayer online video game around! Getting started online is extremely easy for anyone that wants to play poker, including those that are learning the game.

Americans are not able to access online poker as easily as other parts of the world. In the United States it is technically illegal to gamble online and there are laws that prevent American banks from processing wire transactions that are intended for gambling. There are legal sites in the U.S., but they are limited in accessibility both financially and physically. If you have ever played online yourself or have watch a poker vlogger that lives in the U.S., then you understand the struggle. Because of this, people will play on questionable sites or platforms.

I have played online poker before but never for real money. I had an interesting experience learning about the caveats of finding real money sites. These days there are sites that you can play via a web browser, a client installed on your computer, or an app installed on a mobile device. Some of these sites use fiat currency and others try to capitalize on the crypto currency mania. What is humorous is the number of sites that pop up and are owned and operated by people who think they can just make a poker site and print money. Typically, these are the sites with incredibly low volume and is almost always empty. It takes more than just throwing up a site and asking players to trust you with their money.

Some sites try to reach out to potential players to join them. Once, there was a recruiter that reached out to me and asked me to come play on their site. I was hesitant to try it out because the deal I was being offered seemed too good to be true. I was being offered multiple tickets into a tournament that had a guaranteed prize pool. The catch was that the payouts were in their own custom crypto token that they had made for the site. I played the tournaments, and did well, but now the question was if I could withdraw the winnings I had made. Luckily, I was able to withdraw but it was a cumbersome process and an experience I really would not recommend to anyone. After all the fees were paid, I ended up losing about 10% of my winnings. In the end I just left what remained on the site and went to play somewhere else. I am glad I did that because I found out later that the crypto token they released crashed and they ended up switching all their gaming to an existing crypto stable coin.

What I have found the most interesting is the rise of “private” poker clubs on mobile apps. I personally have had a surprisingly good experience, but your miles may vary. The catch is that since these apps do not manage money directly… you must trust a stranger with your money. Its one of the most nerve wrecking things about playing on these private clubs. You have no idea if the club you are playing in is honorable and will pay out. So many horror stories out there about people who get ripped off made me think twice before I decided to give a club a try. I have never made a large deposit, just enough to test the waters. Still, it has not been comforting to know that I could just be kissing that money goodbye. The thing that makes these kinds of transactions even worse is not even the fact that my money could be taken without any notice and that I would not have any recourse to recover the lost funds. It was the fact that at the end of it all I would have wasted my time grinding in the “private” club.

The biggest scare I had was with this club owner who seemed to keep changing without much notice. The club would start to die out and then one day there were no games. After some searching, I was able to find a way to contact the club owner and they quickly got me into the new club that they had created. Eventually this club started to die out too and when I messaged them about it, they said that there was a new club coming soon. At that point I decided it would be better to cash out and leave the club. Then the silence started… I waited a couple days and followed up, nothing. I continued to wait and follow up periodically until one day they finally responded. They asked me for my information so they could send me the money I was owed and then silence again. A few days passed again until I received a message. Luckily, this time it was to confirm that I received my money.

Most recently I came across a group on discord that are running “home games” with no rake on a free site that requires no registration. The games are great and there is just a general trust between players. Its amazing to see this kind of comradery develop among strangers. It reminds me of the many groups and sites that I have come across online as I grinded my bankroll. There are people willing to sell their balances on sites that allow player to player transfers. Players who take a leap of faith and trust players to act as a middleman to make sure they get paid out. There are people who trust that their staking deal will be honored. If one of those handshake deals falls through, communities are quick to ostracize individuals that rip other players off. Sometimes you come across individuals that are quick to jump to conclusions but for the most part you see logical conclusions being made. The biggest lesson to learn is to never risk more than you can afford to lose, and this also applies to live games.  Until you can get the cash into your account, do not count it. I have learned a lot of patience dealing with sites and every time you ask me for advice when playing online… I will always just say do not deposit more than you can afford to lose.

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