The Trouble with SealsWithClubs Ain’t the Seals or Clubs
Then there’s this new poker site I’ve heard about called SealsWithClubs (SealsWithClubs.eu), which we’ll supply the URL for but not hyperlink. SWC is, ummm, interesting.
SWC presently bills itself as the world’s largest Bitcoin poker site, and it’s US-facing, which means it’s at least a point of curiosity for those of us who monitor industry happenings. SWC is also operated and promoted heavily by Bryan “The Icon” Micon, the boss over at donkdown.com (a small, NSFW poker-discussion forum). Donkdown, in turn, is the Micon-only remnant of the site once known as neverwinpoker.com, which was at one time a three-way effort between, Micon, Todd “Dan Druff” Witteles and Dustin “NeverWin” Woolf.
All three of those guys have had their feuds over the years. I ended up getting to know them after NWP was purchased by the ridiculous Tony G in one of his more useless purchases, since NWP had a relevant spot amid G’s poker-empire desires every bit as much as a Ford Mustang fits in with a row of Buicks. It was a lousy marriage.
Now, back to Micon, who I’ve known for several years and get along with, despite the fact that the guy just can’t get his serious on at various times. Bryan’s a bit of a huckster, shill, partier, what have you, who bounces from one weird business concept to the next.
So it was interesting last year when Micon started promoting this SealsWithClubs site, calling it and Bitcoin-based poker transactions the wave of the future. Bitcoins , in case you’re unaware, are a virtual, “decentralized digital currency” that was created in 2009 and is attached to no government as an issuing entity.
Nor are Bitcoins tied to any corporation that also answers to any government, which means that governments are already worried about them. Deep in my files of several thousand documents, I have two of Bitcoin relevance: One is an overview of Bitcoins as viewed by the FBI that was leaked into the wild several months ago, and the other is a view of Bitcoins as a possible operation currency as examined by gaming lawyer Stuart Hoegner, who spoke about them at a symposium about a year ago.
(Hoegner, noted for his behind-the-scenes involvement in the UltimateBet legal-paperwork games that helped hide the company’s ownership from oversight, likes to talk about everything but UltimateBet these days.)
SealsWithClubs — and no, I have no idea why they chose that name — may be the world’s largest Bitcoin poker site, but it’s still darned small. A quick check during prime late-afternoon US hours on this Thanksgiving Eve showed 82 players at nine tables, meaning they’re not about to unseat PokerStars just yet.
Micon has fun with it all. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and neither should anyone else:
But exactly who is behind SealsWithClubs? It was clear that Micon himself had some sort of action connected to the site, and several of his friends from DD are also featured in various forms on the site. There have also been rumors of former “Crew” member Scott Fischman hooking up with the site in some sort of sponsored-pro fashion.
Which brings us to Russell “Dutch” Boyd. Boyd is a friend of Micon’s and I think they’ve been friends for a very long time. Boyd is or was also a friend of Fischman, and the other most prominent member of the “Crew” that featured the two and several others and was highly featured in ESPN’s WSOP telecasts several years back. They had a good schtick, ran well for a couple years, and ESPN bought into it.
The harm of it was ESPN’s largely glossing over Boyd’s own previous history. Boyd, a child genius who entered college at 12 and had a law degree at 18, also took up programming and was the driving force behind PokerSpot, the first significant online poker site to fail — and in doing so, run off with the players’ money. Boyd raised $50,000 to start the site in 2000.
Pokerspot failed in 2001. It was hard not to make money running an online poker site in 2001, and yet PokerSpot and/or its payment processor ran off with about $400,000 in players’ funds, all amid allegations of player deposits being commingled with operating funds and Boyd himself authoring an infamous letter in which he promised that players would be paid. (They weren’t.) Even worse, Boyd and his partners are also alleged to have turned down a buyout deal for PokerSpot that would have gotten the players paid.
If it all sounds like an earlier, smaller version of what happened at Full Tilt, well, yes it does.
But Boyd went on, still a part of the poker scene despite battling personal problems and the PokerSpot fallout. Until last year, it seems, when he sort of disappeared from the major-tournament scene.
It now seems that where Boyd disappeared to was back to the computer room, to help work up the software for an online poker site for the second time. After Boyd reemerged this week on Reddit with commentary about a weird job-applying experience, various discussion group wags traced that back to a Seattle-area resume posting, which appears to be Boyd’s, and which also appears to be genuine. That posting contained this entry for Boyd’s work history:
Lead Developer, SealsWithClubs.com (April 2012 to July 2012)
Programmed the back-end and led development efforts for the largest Bitcoin
poker site online. Used PHP and MySQL in order to build the affiliate program and
player tools that run the current site. Integrated the back-end with the current
WordPress-based front-end design.
So, yeah, it seems Boyd’s been at work with Micon on the SWC stuff all along, along with a few others. But having Boyd involved with the business end of any poker site just has to be regarded as horrible judgment.
Can Boyd do the programming for a poker site? Almost certainly. Will poker players trust SWC once Boyd’s connection becomes common knowledge? Probably not, and the rumbling about Boyd, who is held squarely responsible for the $400,000 never refunded to PokerSpot players, has already begun.
I didn’t play at PokerSpot. I don’t have personal enmity towards Boyd. But by the same notion, I won’t be playing at SealsWithClubs. Maybe Bitcoins are the wave of the future, but I won’t be surfing here this time out.
Click here for part two of this piece.