Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And Now, We Wait

One of the differences between a real crisis and a fake one is that during the real crisis, everything stops. There is a famous quote to that effect, based on the unfolding of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but alas, I cannot find that quote. In essense, the world held its collective breath, waiting for that bluff-fest to run its course, for what was at the that moment the highest stakes of all.

However, it's this pause, this cessation of activity as a crisis unfolds, that's important. The world of online poker is going through a very real crisis at the moment, reducing most of us to waiting... waiting for whatever will happen next.

We wait, because it's out of our control. Events will play out according to machinations that are already set in place, by forces rather shielded from our view. It's anathema for the poker player to realize that he or she is still a puppet in a larger game, but then again, in order to have the game at all, one must have other participants.

More's the worry.

We've all seen yon vast umbrella of theory and speculation, prediction and fact. Not much of that last; at the least, not enough. I find that unsettling as well. That so many important players are sitting on the sidelines, not announcing their intentions while Bush prepares to sign the UIGEA into law some forty-eight hours hence, gives credence to the rumor that many of these players are planning to cut and run as soon as things become official. The wires and e-mail boxes between Friday and Tuesday will be interesting indeed, and today, under gloomy skies and with the smell of winter heavy in the air, my mood is not optimistic.

I admit to waffling on the degree of effect the UIGEA will have, though by this time next week, we will know. Long-time readers of this blog know the disgust I have for Firepay, yet that entity's withdrawal from the U.S. market is still the biggest blow to American online poker players to date. The reason is that e-wallets are the narrowest pipeline in the financial conduit that serves the market; now we have to pin our hopes on Neteller, and if Neteller buckles, then it's on to smaller sites such as Click2Pay and Citadel, who will feel even greater pressure to cave.

Illogical reaction or not, it can be like dominoes... or lemmings.

I take mild confort in knowing that the companies I hold in the highest disregard are the same ones that have beat the hastiest retreat. I've always been a great judge of character, even if I'm rather too forward in letting those judgments be known. But Party and Pacific? Large and appalling, both --- built upon predatory marketing practices, terrible customer service, and in the long run, we won't miss them. I tossed Pacific's spamming corporate ass off my computers years ago, and as for Party, I've been playing for some time on their dime only; when they've sent me a bonus, I've played it, but I haven't given them any of my money.

As for Firepay, they're reprehensible, and I again stopped doing business with them long ago. When the rest of you American readers make your final withdrawals from your accounts and discover that Firepay installed a mandatory $10 withdrawal fee (for U.S. accounts only), you'll be upset. Now, the kicker: Firepay quietly put that fee into place a week before they announced their attention to cut off service between U.S. customers and gambling sites, knowing full well that they were leaving the U.S., but waiting that week to announce it. That's called a gouge, and shows exactly the quality of Firepay. They're not exiting with grace and class; they're exiting with a final pound of flesh from the U.S. market, exhibiting exactly the type of multinational, extra-legal behavior that the Bush-ites proclaim as the reason for needing the legislation in the first place.

Of course, I find it ironic that the first instance of true immoral corporate behavior comes not from a gaming site, but from an online banking concern. Banking's such a reputable industry....

Well, I'm back to my private sulk. And I watch the clock, not knowing what else to do. Crisis, it's a time-eater.


C.L. Russo said...

Everyone's fixated on funding their accounts.

This is the real issue: Can the Gov't make ISP's block poker sites?

If so, game over. No one except the die-hards and pros are going to do what they'll have to do to play online.

Haley said...

It's the most vital point on its face, but also the one likeliest to be challenged on First Amendment grounds, and although IANAL, I think those challenges will be successful. Hell, I'll sue if no one else will, but some of our rich lawyerly types --- hear me, Mr. Raymer? --- need to buddy up with other lawyers who specialize in civil-rights issues and get some legal actions started.

Ultimately, whatever pressures the U.S. can bring to bear on the banking pipelines will have the greatest disruptive effect. ISP blocking won't and can't work, in my not-so-humble opinion.