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Lock Poker Drifts Off into History, Having Stolen Millions

This week’s most intriguing online-poker tale is the apparent demise of Lock Poker, the long-troubled and vulturing site whose primary owner, Jen Larson, has long been accused of embezzlement of millions of dollars of player funds.

lock-poker-logoLock’s online poker client no longer connects to a game server to provide active play, nor are any other support services evident.  The site has been down for more than 72 hours at last check, and online-poker traffic tracking site Poker Scout has removed Lock Poker from its listings, verifying that Lock has flatlined and no actual poker games were being played.  The home page for Lock Poker remains active, and a poker client can still be downloaded, but that client connects to no active service, per a report by John Mehaffey at USPoker, and online-payment options are also (thankfully) no longer working.

The shutdown also includes Lock’s short-lived sister site, SuperWins.eu, which was launched last year in an apparent but fruitless attempt to remake the company and distance itself from Lock Poker’s stigma, which included years of allegations of underhanded industry shenanigans and culminated with what will rank as perhaps the online-poker world’s third-largest defrauding of players.

Lock Poker has not issued a statement acknowledging its evident closure.  None is expected.

Lock Poker’s apparent exit from the scene comes without the repayments of millions of dollars in player balances owed to those players.  Lock has failed to honor cashout requests for two years or longer, and a couple of weeks ago reached the sad milestone of not paying -any- withdrawal requests for its customers in over a year.

A well-known withdrawal tracking thread at the 2+2 discussion forums, authored by forum poster “IHasTehNutz,” verified over a million dollars in non-honored withdrawal requests, just from 2+2 posters.  The true totals of the Lock Poker embezzlement by Larson and her associates was, of course, many times larger than that.  Most estimates place the total of non-honored player balances at $10-15 million, with a high of perhaps $20 million.  All that money was siphoned from the site, according to insider accounts which have drifted out over the past couple of years, to finance the lavish lifestyle of Larson and others associated with the company.

In a followup post, we’ll look into some of the auxiliary matters associated with Lock’s inevitable, Ponzi-style collapse.  That includes the self-indulgent behavior of both poker-world affiliates and sponsored players who continued to enrich themselves by promoting a company that had a proven, horrible track record and cash-flow problems so obvious that no reputable business or self-respecting “pro” should have been associated with them.

For now, however, we’ll note that Lock’s demise came after repeated attempts by Larson to seek new investors led nowhere, as was truly inevitable.  Bernard Tapie and his Tapie Group, which specializes in acquiring distressed properties, was at one point rumored to have interest in acquiring Lock.  Tapie had earlier tried to acquire the former Full Tilt poker, and one can be sure that his offer for Lock, like his offer for Full Tilt, was some sort of lowball offer.  Yet it was rumored that Tapie pulled his offer off the table after either discovering the true nature of Lock’s financial inner workings or failing to receive and real sort of corporate financial report from within Lock.

It’s unsurprising, given that way back in 2013, Lock Poker spokesman Shane Bridges had acknowledged in an informal interview with FlushDraw that there had been a “misuse” of player funds by one or more parties.  Bridges, who has now moved out of the online-gambling world, later confirmed to individual player-investigators looking into Lock’s background that Jen Larson and others were among those doing said “misusing.”

Besides Tapie, though, this writer can confirm that Larson did indeed try to find other investors, though at terms that were highly favorable to Larson herself and that were almost certainly designed to do nothing but perpetuate the Ponzi scheme a while longer.

A year or so ago, this writer received an inquiry from a well-known poker veteran, on behalf of another party who had been approached to invest in Lock Poker.  They’d already largely made their decision (which was “no”) and were just doing due diligence, but they wanted more information, if possible, on Lock’s general non-reputability.

I offered some of that, and pointed them to other authoritative sources.  But the deal that they had been offered was interesting: $5 million for 49% of Lock Poker.  What that means is that Larson wanted a quick cash infusion while retaining control of a company that she herself had already bankrupted once.

Obviously, anyone with half of a grain of business sense wasn’t going to go for that sort of deal.  If one has $5 million to invest in an online poker room, one can start up their own skin and create the sort of marketing and advertising campaign that would garner some legitimate market share.  There’s simply no need to stink $5 million into a diseased, stinky thing like Lock Poker, when from an investor standpoint there are other options available.

That’s unfortunately a tough break for players whose balances were already imperiled.  However, given Larson’s track record, most of the that money would have ended up where the rest of the players’ deposits went — into Larson’s own pockets.  A few more players might have gotten paid, but all of them?  No, never.  A cash infusion would have delayed the inevitable, but it would have created more victims and and made the total theft even larger.

It’s not like I made the decision for this possible (but unlikely) investor anyway.  They already knew about Lock’s sad state of affairs.  I simply provided an added cold splash of reality.

The real truth about Lock ending operations is that it should have happened a lot sooner.  Lock will become one of the prime exhibits for what happens in gray-market gaming industries, a case study in how players can be left unprotected when no legitimate gaming or regulatory authority exists.  That’s sad for Lock’s players, of course.  And given the nature of Lock Poker and Jen Larson, it was also inevitable.

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