Global Poker’s No-Good Real Bad Month
Then there’s the tale of Global Poker, one of the grey-market online poker sites serving most of the US and other jurisditions where the game isn’t formally authorized and regulated. Global Poker has been the newest among a long string of US-facing sites that have spiked upward in traffic as word got around, only to run into troubles that may well impact the site moving forward.
In Global’s case, the site has been hit over the past couple of weeks with a double dose of bad news. First, the site lost access to its corporate PayPal access, which it was using to process nearly immediate withdrawl requests to US-based players. Second, in a gross lapse of technical security, the site has allowed at least some players’ personal bank-account statements to be placed in public view on the Internet.
It’s hard to say which is more important, but the PayPal thing is likely to have the greater negative effect on Global Poker’s traffic. How’s that, you ask, and how was Global Poker able to offer deposits and cashouts via PayPal in the first place? Well, it doesn’t appear that Global was exactly forthright with the real workings of its business model when PayPal first gave it a lookover, if indeed PayPal looked into the site at all before the recent crackdown.
Global, for those of you not familiar with its scheme, sells players a twin-element package of chips to be used on its tables, in play-money and real-money use. To use an example posted recently on an affiliate site, a $10 purchase brings 50,000 “Gold Coins”, which are play-money chips to be used on Global Poker’s play-money tables. They have no real value and can never be cashed out.
However, the same purchase also brings the player 10 $weeps, the site’s other internal currency, which is used on about 80% of Global Poker’s tables. These $weeps coins, always “given” to players in a unit amount matching players’ purchase (except for a nominal play-chip option just there in an attempt to muddy the legal waters), are available to be cashed out, and for a long time that was done via PayPal.
A few weeks back, PayPal caught on to the real nature of Global Poker’s scheme and turned off the spigot. It’s a fairly safe bet that one of Global Poker’s many grey-market competitors dropped a dime on them.
Was Global Poker cheating, violating PayPal’s terms of service? Of course it was, despite assertions that the dual-currency nature of the site’s offerings somehow made it legal. Truth be stated, Global Poker’s approach wasn’t that far afield from the recent happenings in China where free-play Texas Hold’em poker apps were being used as a proxy for real-money underground games, with money held by so called “agent” intermediaries as the real-money players gambled away on the poker apps using the visible play-money chips.
Global Poker was serving the same sort of banker role here, with its Gold Coins and $weeps setup. No doubt there are many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Global Accounts with millions of Gold Coins in them, never to be used.
Then there’s how Global notified its players of how PayPal was no longer a deposit/withdrawal option, except they never have, not in the direct sense. Here’s an example, from an e-mail being sent out in multiple batches to US-based players:
We hope this email finds you well.
You are among the first group of customers selected to trial Worldpay, the world’s leading payment processor whom we are currently trialling a relationship with. In the interest of this trial being successful, from today you will only be able to make purchases and cash outs using Worldpay.
Furthermore, your bank account details are required to process your cash out. Please fill up our bank details form through the following link, and attach the two pieces of identification requested above in order to proceed with your request:
Congratulations on your winnings and thank you for playing at Global Poker!
This is dishonest horseshit, top to bottom, and it goes well beyond trying to put a positive spin on a bad situation. Not tha Global Poker’s players didn’t understand what’s up, or what their role has been in the larger game being played.
So who’s behind Global Poker? That’s one of those questions always worth asking, and it turns out to be none other than long-time, online-poker industry vet Jonas Ödman, who’s been around since Al Gore invented the internet. Ödman, originally from Sweden, was involved in one of the earliest of all online-poker startups, the Ongame Network, which had Pokerroom.com as its most well-known site.
From Ongame, Ödman eventually moved on to Bodog, where he was credited as the developer of that site’s “recreational poker model”. Ödman left Bodog at some point, however, perhaps in early 2014, and he popped up in our industry-watching eyes when he launched a startup called Brown Marlin Gaming Technologies in late 2014.
Ödman’s Brown Marlin business was all set to try to offer an online-poker platform to California casinos and cardrooms that hadn’t joined into deals with other software providers, in the event that California went ahead and legalized online poker. (That was never going to happen due to the tribal-gaming gridlock in place there, but that’s another tale).
Amazingly, however, Ödman thought he’d somehow be able to sign up casino partners in California. It was asserted to me off the record in 2014 that Ödman had obtained a copy of the old Bodog software code, and was putting a new graphical interface on it for the Brown Marlin thing, but I couldn’t verify that — not that I needed to. The odds of a former Bodog exec ( Ödman) getting approval from California gaming executives were precisely zero.
Maybe Ödman figured that out for himself at some point, or maybe he recognized the California situation for what it was. Yet one one considers the Brown Marlin thing and the way Global Poker appears to have falsified the true nature of its business to PayPal, it’s rather hard to have high confidence in Ödman. He may not be the second coming of Lock Poker’s Jen Larson (another former Bodog employee), but it’s still hard to have confidence in him, given the accumulation of sorta-shady stuff.
And we haven’t even talked about the technical blunder yet, which is probably more incompetence or laziness than shadiness, but still. Over at a poker forum we seldom visit and don’t link to, a poster shared an experience involving a customer survey regarding cashout experiences sent to a Global Poker player.
To that player’s dismay, the survey e-mail included a plain-text link to a Zendesk file showing that player’s bank statement. The link and the statement hadn’t been password-protected or encoded, meaning that anyone who had access to the link could view the player’s banking statement. This is just bad, for a whole lot of reasons, and how Global Poker’s tech people thought this could ever be satisfactory remains unknown.
Again, it’s a matter of quality; Global Poker has repeatedly shown itself to be an operation that will skirt the rules and cut corners, and that’s simply not what the online-poker playing public needs or deserves. There are integrity concerns and there are competency concerns. There’s reason for caution.