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Then They Came for the Poker Players.....



April 28, 2011 – Comments (19)

And I didn't speak up, because I was not a poker player.

Robert Fellner, Internet Poker Professional, explains his game, his way of life, and how government intervention caused the problem.  Their solution?  As usual, it is to turn everyone into a criminal.  This is yet another tyrannical action by the Grunt. Point. Rock. American state.

Please watch this video.

Interview with Robert Fellner, online poker player from Mises Media on Vimeo.

Wicked Cool Tee Shirt, Dude!

Check out this video.

The reason for Fellner's fame among Libertarians (can you guess who is on his t-shirt before it's revealed at the end of the video.)

But make no mistake, we are not upset for Fellner.  I'm happy that there are poker players that understand libertarianism.  But before I knew who Fellner was, I was writing about this insane action.

Who Will They Come For Next?

And will you speak up then? I hope you'll join us. What kind of world do we want?  One where winners and losers are decided by Grunters?  Or one where you and I decide the winners and losers through voluntary negotiation and cooperation?

David in Qatar

19 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 29, 2011 at 1:54 AM, Betapeg (< 20) wrote:

There are those idiots who try to criminalize victimless crimes. But at least there is some hope.

On July 28, 2010, the House Financial Services Committee passed H.R. 2267 by a vote of 41-22-1. The bill would legalize and regulate online poker in the United States. 

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#2) On April 29, 2011 at 6:51 AM, devoish (70.13) wrote:

The Courier-Mail reported today that the deal came after Tzvetkoff  - a Brisbane boy wonder, who started a company with school mates at 13  - became embroiled in a massive, $543 million stew of money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy that could bring down the world of online gambling.

Federal prosecutors in New York yesterday charged the founders of the three largest internet poker companies in the US with bank fraud, money laundering and other gambling offenses and are seeking penalties upward of $3 billion.

Federal authorities also froze approximately 76 bank accounts in 14 countries that contain proceeds from the alleged offenses. They also shut down five internet domain names used by the three companies to host their games.

A total of 11 defendants, including the founders of Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker, were named in the indictment unsealed Friday.

The Courier-Mail reported today that two of those companies Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, had been seeking $100m they believed Tzvetkoff had taken from them.

Tzvetkoff was arrested in April last year  and charged with money laundering, bank fraud and conspiracy for processing $543m in illegal internet gambling earnings through his British Virgin Islands corporation, Intabill, the trading arm of his now liquidated Brisbane company, BT Projects.

He was mysteriously bailed last August, and US authorities are using his inside knowledge of the gambling industry to go after gaming companies.

In yesterday's indictment, federal prosecutors explain that poker companies operating offshore cannot accept most forms of payment "in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful internet gambling." Since most banks in the US would not process their payments, the companies circumvented federal law by making payments appear to be transactions for other types of merchandise.

In the indictment, federal prosecutors say they arranged for payment processors with bank accounts in the US to receive payments from US gamblers and disguise them as payments for products such as jewelry or golf balls.

Of the billions of dollars in payment transactions that the Poker Companies tricked US banks into processing, approximately one-third or more of the funds went directly to the Poker Companies as revenue through a charge players must make on almost every poker hand played online.

That scheme worked for a while until some banks caught on. By 2009, they had shut down many fraudulent bank accounts used by the poker companies. Two of the defendants later came up with a scheme to persuade the principals of a few small, struggling banks to process payments in return for multi-million investments.

In one case, they persuaded the vice chairman of SunFirst Bank in Saint George, Utah, to process gambling transactions in return for a $10 million investment.

"As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some US banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits," said Preet Bharara, US Attorney in Manhattan.

"Moreover, as we allege, in their zeal to circumvent the gambling laws, the defendants also engaged in massive money laundering and bank fraud."

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#3) On April 29, 2011 at 7:31 AM, devoish (70.13) wrote:

For those who cannot find online card games on their own, here is a list of "top ten" sites, including the three that were indicted and another perspective on the story. 

The LaTimes is often accused of having a liberal bias, but I think this story has a more balanced perspective than Davids version, including some discussion of using the law to impose some individuals religious values on others, and the beginnings of this law in 2006. 

Best wishes,


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#4) On April 29, 2011 at 8:24 AM, ETFsRule (< 20) wrote:

I encourage everyone to visit to learn how you can help restore our right to play poker. Be sure to contact your local representatives and tell them to support H.R. 1174, a bill that will license and regulate online poker.

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#5) On April 29, 2011 at 8:57 AM, Jbay76 (< 20) wrote:


I read the LA Times artical and saw nothing about "discussion of using the law to impose some individuals religious values on others, and the beginnings of this law in 2006."

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#6) On April 29, 2011 at 1:37 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


One of the interesting facets of American Progressivism is that it was born from Protestants (and English liberals) during the 19th century.  

So it's not surprising that the Evangelical Right would borrow much of the idealism and rhetoric from last century's Progressives.

Of course, Progressives never completely abandoned their social engineering aims either, and now we have a bizarre Left/Right dichotomy where both call each other names... and both are correct.

David in Qatar

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#7) On April 29, 2011 at 2:22 PM, wolfman225 (45.81) wrote:

I am one of those affected by the recent action by the Feds.  I am getting very tired of politicians' beliefs that they need to "protect us from ourselves" and lead us to right actions "for our own good" because we're ostensibly too ignorant to watch out for ourselves.  PokerStars has reached an aggreement with the FBI and DOJ to allow them to "cash out" US players without penalty.  I only had a couple hundred in my account, so it wasn't a huge deal financially but it shut down my access to a favorite form of recreation for no logical reason.  The "religious right" has been anti-gaming for decades because of so-called moral reasons and the "progressive left" are against it largely because they don't have enough fingers in the pie. 

Also, for reasons I can't understand, the Feds have made it illegal for US players to play free-to-enter tournaments if they offer real prizes, either cash or entry to major tournaments!  WTF?!  If it's free, and there's no risk of losing money, what is the reasoning behind not allowing me to play a free tournament?

Internet gaming is a $9B industry worldwide; $4B in the US.  Every other nation treats it the same as any other international corporation.  It is regulated (to ensure as level a playing field as possible and to prevent fraud) and taxed.  IMO, if it is legal for me to play cards in Vegas, on riverboats up and down the Mississippi, on cruise ships, on indian reservations, etc. there is no logical reason why I should be prevented from playing online.

As for safety, the two major sites I play on, FullTilt and PokerStars already have systems in place to help protect the overly enthusiastic (or blindly optimistic) from over-playing their bankrolls.  Specifically, they have limits on how much players can deposit into their accounts on daily, weekly, and monthly basis (players can also set stricter limits, if they wish, to help them maintain discipline).  If the US adopted the same models for regulation, we could play our game(s) of choice and still be "protected" from our folly.

Also, it seems to me that this kind of blind-side attack would be a violation of these companies' right to due process.  They were shut down with no warning, and no chance to appeal.

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#8) On April 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM, Momentum21 (98.01) wrote:

Fellner is a very good spokesman for the cause...

Perhaps I can identify because this case hits home (I happen to enjoy poker and see nothing wrong with the sites) but I also think there are some very interesting aspects of this case that would appeal to the "slippery slope" argument with a broader audience.

They are only going down this road because they feel they can do so unabated. I presume most Americans still can't wrap their heads around how online gambling is OK for the time being. It is rather criminal how the US is just cleaning the slate to let the casinos back in. 

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#9) On April 29, 2011 at 2:35 PM, wolfman225 (45.81) wrote:

I'm planning a road trip to the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut sometime in June or July (with a possible side trip to Mohegan Sun :D).    I'm going to take a couple grand and make a long weekend. 

Any Fools living in the area interested?

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#10) On April 29, 2011 at 3:46 PM, cecamado1 (99.87) wrote:

Hey Wolfman, I am an hour away from Foxwoods and mohegan (there 10 mins apart from one another)

Foxwoods has the bigger Poker room, but I sort of Like Mohegan better.

I play 2-5 No Limit...and occasionaly 1-2 NL if I am playing bad...

Some stupid pokersite actually named me poker player of the year in north america 5 years ago after i won 4 straight tournaments that I entered.  (WPX)

Too bad I can't play for sh*t now... the game has changed, so much more re-raising, I guess that is my weakness, and 3-betting which is very prevalent in todays game.



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#11) On April 29, 2011 at 4:15 PM, mtf00l (44.69) wrote:

"And will you speak up then?"

Who does this remind me of?....

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#12) On April 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM, smartmuffin (< 20) wrote:

"Legalize and regulate" eh?  Am I the only one a little nervous about that last part?

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#13) On April 29, 2011 at 5:07 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

#12) On April 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM, smartmuffin (< 20) wrote:

"Legalize and regulate" eh?  Am I the only one a little nervous about that last part?


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#14) On April 29, 2011 at 5:08 PM, kdakota630 (29.12) wrote:


Once he started talking about and you calling attention to the t-shirt (and noticing it was black) I figured it out.  I'd have got one for Christmas except that the cost of shipping to Canada was outrageous so my wife cut way back on the order.  (We have a U.S. post office box now, so perhaps a birthday present.)

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#15) On April 29, 2011 at 5:10 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

oops, that didn't work.didn't mean to click "post"


That's another interesting discussion that has been debated in reference to marijuana.

As libertarians, do we actually want the state to have more revenue? Do we want the state to have more control? 

But if not, then have to live branded as criminals and "black marketeers."

The state puts ordinary humans in a no-win situation.

The poker industry decided they would go the tax and regulate route. They begged for it. And still they were abused and humiliated.

Truly a no-win.

David in Qatar


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#16) On April 29, 2011 at 5:12 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:


(We have a U.S. post office box now, so perhaps a birthday present.) 

LOL, was that a hint? If so, I've been eyeing a certain Harry Winston watch all year, wink wink. 

David in Qatar

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#17) On April 29, 2011 at 5:25 PM, wolfman225 (45.81) wrote:


Pretty cool stats!  I'm just an avg recreational player.  What pissed me off the most about what the Feds did was that I had just won a seat in the Sunday Million a couple days before.  AAARRGGHHH!!

My cash out has been processed, but I would have much rather played in the tourny.  I was gonna try to satellite in to the NAPT Mohegan Sun, but my work schedule wouldn't permit.

I'm not usually a cash player, more of a tournament type; I also like SNG's.  I agree with you to some extent.  The game has changed quite a bit.  I wouldn't say your game suks now; I'd say rather that all the young kids have put a lot more variance into the game now.  It's more like bingo (especially in the early stages and lower limits) than a game of skill.  Everybody wants to be the next Durr.  All bluff, push, and pray.

GL at the tables.

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#18) On April 29, 2011 at 5:37 PM, kdakota630 (29.12) wrote:


LOL!  I meant for myself since my b-day is coming up and I have a pretty extensive wish list over there.

I asked a buddy of mine (ranked in the top 50 in Canada with over $4.2 million in winnings) if what's going on in the U.S. has affected him, and his reply was not really, except that the pools were smaller but the tournaments were a lot easier.

As for the Harry Winston watches, I'd never seen any before but wow, they have some wild designs.

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#19) On April 29, 2011 at 7:21 PM, rfaramir (28.70) wrote:

Similar to marijuana, gambling is not something I'm interested in personally. But I definitely AM interested in a government so small and focused that these things are not in their purview at all.

I don't want them legalizing them, I want them decriminalized. The difference is that the state doesn't say "It's okay, go ahead" (legalized) but rather "Not my business, no law against it" (decriminialized).

I don't want them licensing them. That limits potential competition.

I dont' want them regulating them. That just interferes with the free market.

I don't want them taxing them. That puts them in the position of profiting from the activities while disincentivizing them. (Besides, wouldn't all gambling winnings be by definition offset by gambling losses? What would be the point?)

Don't settle for legalized, licensed, regulated, and taxed. Go for complete freedom!

If I can help keep their hands off these unfortunates (gamblers and marijuana smokers), then maybe they won't get their hands on me someday for whatever trumped up reasons they think of next.

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