Computer friendly (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 24, 2005 3:46PM; Updated: Wednesday September 19, 2007 3:09PM
People shop for cars, homes, even spouses online. Why is it so outrageous to think that they'd play poker online, too? "The last five days I've been playing online all day long," Keith, a junior at the University of Central Florida, told me in January. "Seriously, I haven't left my apartment."
Online poker is addictive. And while the financial losses are rarely extreme -- unlike betting on sports with a bookie, you cannot wager money you do not have -- the investment of time is astounding. If you know a college student who plays poker, chances are that student plays 10 to 15 hours weekly online.
"I'll play 12 hours at one sitting," Scott (not his real name), an Indiana junior, admits.
All online poker sites are based overseas, in remote spots such as Costa Rica, Gibraltar and South Africa. That is due to federal legislation passed 44 years ago, the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, which states:
(a) Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
The Interstate Wire Act puts the federal government in a quandary, as nobody -- not even Al Gore -- could have realized in 1961 that the Internet would obviate the need for placing bets via a phone call. Currently, the U.S. government (that is, you and I) is missing out on the opportunity to tax a $2 billion per year business.
The potential windfall makes the pot in the final hand of the WSOP seem a mere ante. Consider that last October sportingbet.com, a publicly traded British sports betting and casino-gaming site, spent $300 million to purchase paradisepoker.com, which has about a 10 percent share of the online-poker market. Since the acquisition, sportingbet.com's share price has more than doubled, from $2.18 to $5.25.
Then there's NETeller, which is the industry analogue to PayPal (i.e. it is an online money-transfer service between the client -- you -- and the operator -- the online-poker site). Its share price has more than tripled since the company went public ($2.96 per share) in April of 2004.
Clearly, online poker is the latest dotcom craze. Five years ago there were perhaps a few dozen online sites. Now that figure is racing toward 300. pokerroom.com, for example, boasts that it is "one of the biggest and oldest online poker rooms" in existence. That history dates all the way back to 1999.
As with any burgeoning market, the online poker industry is flush with speculators. And the boom -- for those willing to invest in the software and hire a few employees off the coast of Tunisia -- is about to go bust.
"Offshore poker sites are not the license to print money that you may think they are," cautions Lou Krieger, author of Poker for Dummies. "It's like fast food. Unless you're already an established name, like partypoker.com, you won't get the volume of players. And you won't make money."
None of this matters, of course, to the tens of thousands of students playing online at any hour of the day. Any hour. "Play in the wee hours of the morning," advises Grayson, the UF student. "That's when the losers and the drunks are online. The amateurs."
Grayson, in fact, professes to earn $2,500 monthly playing online. But less than half of his income is due to poker winnings. Grayson is an "affiliate" for partypoker.com. For every new player that he brings to the site, he not only receives a kickback, but he also receives a cut from every bet they place on the site. Can you say pyramid scheme?
"I get $65 just for signing someone up," says Grayson. "I make anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 a month just from recruiting."
Of course, you can also earn money from online poker sites the old-fashioned way: You can win it. Last year collegepokerchampionship.com inaugurated an online college tourney that was free to enter. Some 10,000 students entered. The champion, Grant Coombs of Washington and Lee University, earned $15,000 toward his tuition expenses.
This year? Collegepokerchampionship.com has already signed up more than 25,000 players. Weekly satellite tourneys are held late Sunday afternoon, because the folks at the site astutely figured that, for the college male, this is the biggest down time of the week.
Down time that, in the past, they may have passed in the company of Danni Ashe or Cindy Margolis.
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