Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Monday, March 13, 2006

SITE REVIEW - THE GAMING CLUB POKER ROOM (Prima Skin)

Now here's a site that I won't have anything to do with any longer: The Gaming Club Poker Room [often abbreviated TGC]. Customer service is extremely poor here, the promotions poorly explained and containing hidden catches, and in sum, it's just not worth the hassle. TGC is part of the Belle Rock Gaming family, which also includes the River Belle and Lucky Nugget poker houses. The three sites are closely tied together, so accepting a promotional offer or participating in a program on one of the three sites precludes you from a similar other on one of the others. I'd say don't bother: Go ahead and skip all three.

As a mostly unabashed poker whore (though I do play on my preferred sites, regardless of offers), I decided to give TGC a tumble. I signed up through one of their packages, having been promised a cumulative bonus of $300 if I accumulated enough raked-hands action at various levels. Immediately upon making my deposit I had some twinges of concern: The sign-up process did not match the instructions given to put the promised bonus into effect.

That said, my original doubts seemed unwarranted: I was indeed registered into the intended bonus program. However, it stands in retrospect as an early indicator of the later and larger problems I would encounter.

I went ahead and began chopping off sections of the bonus, playing my favorite, the low-risk fixed-limit games at $0.50/1.00, $1.00/2.00, and $2.00/$4.00. On occassion I noted the receipt of an e-mail notifying me that I had earned a $20 chunk of my bonus, and on occasion --- but not always at the same time --- I noticed that my bankroll had indeed been incremented upward.

Now, what happens when a new promotional program is implemented by a site? Traditionally, one of two things happen: either (1) the original promotional terms remain in effect; or (2) the participant is "grandfathered" into the new program. TGC's new program involved --- still involves --- as this is written --- the awarding of a $50 bonus for playing at least 350 raked hands at a high level: $1.00/$2.00 for pot- and no-limit, and $2.00/$4.00 for fixed.

Was I eligible? Well, one would think so; not only was the program presented to me in a customized front-page promotional blurb, but there was also a customized counter for that promotion, counting exactly how many hands I had played. Direct incentive to keep playing those higher-limit hands, right?

As an aside, note the following: this bonus was much more difficult to clear than it seems. The Prima Network has a dearth of action at higher levels of fixed-limit play; perhaps half the time, there wasn't even a full-table 2/4 game to be found. But plug away I did. I cleared my 350 raked hands, and then the front-page screen changed, per TGC's custom-for-user front-page programming: The new front-page replaced the counter with a link to a page that allowed me to submit a form for claim processing through TGC's customer service department.

So I did... and waited... and waited... and waited some more. And after several days, I contacted TGC's customer service in a separate e-mail to find out what was up.

TGC responded thusly --- that I was ineligible for the promotion because I had not made a deposit during their special promotion period. Of course, I had checked the promotional fine print: if a notice of required deposit was there, I couldn't find it. I was then reminded to check their ToC and note the part where it said "only one promotion per customer, original rules apply,..." --- blah-de-blah-blah. Sure enough, that was there, but so was the counterbalancing entry: [TGC] reserves the right to end, begin or replace promotions at any time. That's paraphrased, not quoted.

To make a long story short, TGC denied my bonus but never bothered to notify me of the denial, let alone why, until long after my followup contact --- and their reasons as to "why" continuing evolving to this day. When I learned of the denial, I asked them why their programming would show me customized content showing me my continued eligibilty and progress, if they never had any intention of paying it to begin with. Then the TGC programmers entered the fray.

Lordy, the bullshit started running deeper and deeper, beginning with the standard spew about how they had never, ever received any reports of a programming error of this nature. That's the standard first line of defense for any programming-error issue; it's sort of the modern version of the classic "Bed Bug" letter that marked railroad travel (and complaints) of the 19th century. But back to TGC. The person who contacted me (not the first, at this point!) had also sent instructions on how to do a screen grab, informing me that I needed to send them a screen grab of the original front-page screen showing the promotion and raked-hands information, so they could properly investigate.

I try to maintain professional dignity when conducting e-mails, but I lost it at this. I pointed out to the programmer that his code had changed after I cleared the 350 raked hands, making that code inaccessible and unviewable at this time. I also pointed out the obvious: that if he actually understood how his own code worked and updated itself, he wouldn't have made, as I put it, such "a fucking moronic request".

As long as I was on a roll, I went ahead and blasted away concerning other specifics of some of the earlier e-mails we traded. One point had to do with the administration of the bonus chunks I had previously been paid. This respondent claimed that I had been awarded seven (7) separate $20 bonus payments; I checked the "Poker" folder of my e-mail (I keep all that stuff), and found exactly three (3) corresponding notices.

The response was, essentially, that since some of the $20 bonuses were processed concurrently, separate notices were not sent. Are you kidding me, Gaming Club? The mind reels. I play multiple tables at any hour of the day --- I never know exactly how much is in my bankroll (though I have a darned good approximation in my head) at any given moment. I need those notices to help me keep track of my progress, both toward a given bonus and of my bankroll in general. Or is the admittedly intentional omission of notices a part of this crappy site's business plan, too? Perhaps they'll induce more unnecessary and unwarranted table action by "forgetting" to send out timely notifications on goal-oriented achievements?

Understand this, too: TGC processes no withdrawal requests or bonus payouts with undue haste. The minimum I've seen is slightly under 72 hours, and the maximum is... err... open to interpretation.

Well, anyhow, I told them I was withdrawing my bankroll, and told them I'd be heading off for safer, more truthful pastures. I've received two e-mails since then, each reaffirming that even though their programming may have been in error, I was still ineligible for the $50 bonus as promoted. They also apologized, etcetera, etcetera. Tough boobies.

I accepted the apology from the respondent on a personal basis, but said that as far as TGC, in general, was concerned, they could still go to hell. I don't do business with firms that don't step up and acceptable the responsibility and consequences of their own actions. This despite the fact that even by their own calculations, I'm still due at least one more $20 bonus payment. I'm not holding my damn breath....

Heh. I could tell you about the "Happy Hour" promotion that guarantees that winners will be announced "in the software," but doesn't, yet at some point it becomes a matter of beating a dead horse to death just because you like the sound of flies buzzing. TGC's programming, promotions and customer-service departments appear to operate quite independently of one another. This is part of a general business recipe: just sprinkle with cluelessness and watch the disaster unfold, like too-yeasty bread dough oozing over the sides of the pan.

The Gaming Club Poker Room and (by extension) Belle Rock Gaming should be avoided. You can find similar offers elsewhere, as well as action on the Prima Network, if that's your preference. But use your head: Don't reward a company's inept business practices and bad behavior with your good money.

Or as I said to TGC...

Finis.

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