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The Shameful New Lock Poker Skin, SuperWins Poker

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(Author’s note: The opinions expressed herein are entirely hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of management.)

What’s the proper course of action when an online poker site lies to its customers for more than two years, offering increasingly slow cashouts while building up a catalog of “no pay” complaints that in some instances are nearly a year and a half old?

Since the problem at the site in question, Lock Poker, seems to be not enough operating capital to handle consumer demand, the logical answer would be to find new corporate investors, looking for a cash influx to right the ship, or to close the operation with style.

The wrong way, the Lock Poker way, has been to shift the operation into what on its surface appears to be a Ponzi scheme — the apparent taking of all new-player deposits for use on operational expense, not to mention the lavish vacations of site CEO Jennifer Larson — while ignoring that immense backlog of withdrawal requests.  It’s been last than a year, well into the extended no-withdrawals malaise, that Larson took the entire Lock family (including about two dozen sponsored pros), on a nearly-week-long, all-expenses-paid retreat at a Portuguese castle.

Meanwhile, players’ requests for their own money went unfulfilled.

superwins-logoAnd now, with that withdrawal backlog unaddressed, comes the news that Lock Poker is launching its own white-label skin, SuperWins Poker (superwinspoker.eu, which we will not hyperlink).  Early examinations of the new site’s online home show it to be a simple paste-over of Lock’s promotional and sales material, all in a blatantly transparent effort to draw in a whole new stream of player deposits now that the “Lock Poker” brand is likely damaged beyond repair.

Information about this new offering and the people behind it is quickly emerging on several fronts, and it doesn’t look good.  That’s why we’re issuing a stern “stay away” notice for the time being, until such time as Lock makes good on its current financial commitments, a situation that shows no indication of a favorable resolution.

The problem is, this just looks like willful fraud.  A check into relevant Whois information for superwinspoker.eu shows that the domain was quietly registered late last December, just after Christmas, while additional domains, such as superwinsrakeback.com, were created within the following week.  

This means that Lock has been shoveling a steady diet of shit to its withdrawal-seeking players for nearly three months, while quietly building the structure for this new site.  One can check the status of one subset of pending non-paid withdrawals in a well-known 2+2 forum thread maintained by user “IHasTehNuts”, which is tracking a subset of players who are (a) Lock customers, (b) have pending withdrawals, (c) have the ability to send DMs on that forum (it’s not a feature available to new posters), and (d) have requested their balances be added to the running total.

Exactly how large or small this subset is in relation to all pending Lock balances is itself subject to debate, but it’s big trouble, regardless: IHasTheNutz currently tracks 357 players, with a combined, unpaid withdrawal request total of almost $922,000.  Some of the withdrawal requests date back to November of 2012.

Lock claims to be processing these requests, but even with these players’ heightened visibility, payments are being sent out at a rate slower than new names are being added.  In all of January, eight payments were made to players on the list; in February, with numbers not quite complete, that seems to have been down to two.

For all of Lock’s willful shenanigans, however, it couldn’t have survived as long as it has without the complicit support of a handful of major affiliates.  Therein lies the larger, more controversial rub.  Online poker sites and their affiliates have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship ever since online poker itself came to be, about 15 years ago, but the affiliate business itself is often a dirty place.

Even with Lock’s struggles in recent years, there have been no shortage of affiliates willing to keep on advertising the site, leading the lambs to an online slaughter, knowing that there’s been no realistic chance that those deposits have been anything other than a one-way street.  While many affiliate sites yanked their Lock links long ago, others have just looked at the players they purportedly serve as an exploitable resource.  The worst of them call themselves news sites, though they’re a sham against the concept of real news.

Poker has always had this problem, even before the online version of the game originated.  It’s something that is common to many forms of what is called “single sponsor” or “single subject” media, in that the outlet becomes beholden to the interests of the primary business, and in the process becomes a dishonest, false voice.

Back when the internal cheating was exposed at Absolute Poker and UltimateBet in 2007 and 2008, the decision on whether or not to continue advertising for these sites was a hot topic among affiliates.  I’d estimate that about half of all affiliates did their damnedest to deny the story or the cheating, putting financial self-interest above integrity.  There was one well-regarded affiliate-forum manager who wrote a rather infamous blog post about the purported insider cheating at AP being about as likely as the moon being made out of green cheese.  We’re still waiting on that nutrition report for those edible moon slices, by the way.

That affiliates can be just as culpable as the poker sites themselves comes to us in the latest Lock / SuperWins episode in the antics of UK affiliate-eer Gerry Poltorok.  By all accounts Poltorak is well regarded by his friends, but he’s also been one of Lock’s two affiliate managers for the past several years.  Since Poltorak also owns several affiliate sites himself, including Poker News Boy, the potential for abuse is obvious.

With Lock’s new SuperWins, that’s exactly what’s occurring.  As soon as the site itself was rolled out, a new review and affiliate sign-up link appeared on Poltorak’s Poker News Boy site, given the new SuperWins an amazing 9 stars (out of 10 possible), and including such unfettered praise as this:

“SuperWins is a very new Poker and Casino site with big ambitions. They have joined one of the newest platforms, with very solid software. With excellent software, industry beating bonuses, large rakeback percentage and a player base softer than any other poker site I have ever seen. It won’t be long till the have a player base large enough to run a large MTT and Sit ‘n’ Go schedule.”

If I were to make up random bullshit out of thin air, designed to con customers into depositing, I’d be hard-pressed to conjure up something better.  That said, I might opt for complete, grammatically correct sentences.  And by the way, nowhere on the site, to the best of my knowledge, does Poltorak acknowledge that he’s the affiliate manager for Lock, which owns SuperWins.  That’s a wee bit of an omission.

The business side of online poker ought to be more bothered by this type of thing than they let on, and the players themselves should be indignant.   I expect a bit of blowback from this op-ed as well, because Poltorok is far from being the only affiliate who’s resorted to various forms of chicanery in the pursuit of signups.  Like payment processing (and, as the saying goes, Chinese food!), you don’t want to look too closely.

Online poker has gone through a bumpy ride in the last few years, and in the process it’s slowly been weeding itself of many of the crooks and bad actors.  Just not all of them.  Stuff like this makes online poker look bad.  It really needs to stop.

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