Playing games online and getting paid to do so

Making money while enjoying what you do

A dream come true for most gamers, you do what you like, and you get paid to do so. And on the bright side, you do not have to work in a stuffy office, rather you can do it from the comfort of your own home, making sure that you enjoy every last second you spend on playing your favorite game. However, you have to make sure that you are a dedicated and avid player, otherwise you will not be able to make some serious money in the end.

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Internet poker’s online Jesus and ‘a global Ponzi’

Internet poker’s online Jesus and ‘a global Ponzi’

Bobby Ingram punched the air with delight. He had just scooped the £10,000 first prize in an internet poker tournament.

A semi-professional player with accounts at several online poker companies, his mood soured when he tried to claim his winnings. Despite receiving several emails confirming that the money would be paid into his account, Ingram — not his real name — is yet to receive a penny of it.

“To be honest, I’ve written the money off,” he said. The 29-year-old won the windfall at Full Tilt, the world’s second-biggest online poker operator, and is one of hundreds of players worldwide unable to withdraw funds from their accounts with the firm.

Last week, prosecutors in New York accused Full Tilt of making hefty payouts to its owners despite owing its players millions of dollars. They claimed the company had defrauded its players out of more than $443m (£287m) over four years.

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company but a global Ponzi scheme,” said Preet Bharara, a senior prosecutor in the New York state attorney’s office.

He accused the firm of enriching its owners at the expense of its customers. By the end of March 2011, it is alleged the website owed its customers $390m — but had less than $60m in the bank.

Despite this, the company allegedly distributed hundreds of millions to its owners. The biggest beneficiary, say prosecutors, was Chris Ferguson, Full Tilt’s co-founder, who was allocated about $85m.

The charges, contained in a civil claim, are the biggest scandal ever to rock the online gaming world. The allegations may also dash hopes that America, the world’s biggest gambling market, could legalise the $14 billion internet poker market five years after it was banned.

Full Tilt had been popular because it allowed its customers to play against — and be coached by — some of the world’s top poker players. It was one of these star players — Ferguson — who was behind the site’s launch in 2004.

Sporting a trademark cowboy hat and nicknamed “Jesus” because of his thick beard, Ferguson developed the site with former stock market trader Raymond Bitar.

Bitar, who has been playing poker since he was 12, ran a team of 35 traders in Los Angeles in the late 1990s. It was there that he met Ferguson, a computer expert who was fast becoming one of the most successful players on the poker circuit.

Together with a number of other professional players, they launched the site at a time when online poker was booming. It was one of several sites to shoot to prominence, along with Party Gaming, 888 and Pokerstars.

All the sites shared a common business model. Players deposited money into accounts, which they could access to bet on each hand of cards. The websites collected a percentage of the pot generated — known as the “rake” — for providing the playing facility. When players won, they could withdraw money from their accounts. This set-up proved a goldmine, making hundreds of millions for the sites’ founders.

Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company but a global Ponzi schemeIt seemed that nothing could derail the gravy train — until, in October 2006, the industry hit a massive problem. Lawmakers in the US — the industry’s biggest source of income — banned internet poker.

Publicly-traded operators, such as Party Gaming and 888, immediately stopped allowing US citizens to play on their sites, but private groups, such as Full Tilt, most of whom were based offshore, continued despite the crackdown. Indeed, they went to extraordinary lengths to do so.

For example, poker companies set up phony, non-gambling companies — online florists and pet supply stores — through which all payments from players were channelled. This made it appear to big credit card firms that transactions arising from online gaming were anything but.

The poker companies would also frequently engage third-party “payment processors” to help them with the alleged deception.

One such company, Intabill, based in Brisbane, Australia, provided this service for Full Tilt, Pokerstars and others. In the two years between mid-2007 and March 2009, Intabill processed more than $500m of gambling transactions.

It was so lucrative, Intabill’s twenty-something founder Daniel Tzvetkoff became a multi-millionaire with a garage full of sports cars, a super-yacht and a stake in a trendy nightclub.

In 2009, however, Intabill collapsed, owing its poker operator clients tens of millions. Full Tilt successfully sued the company for $43.5m plus interest.

Sometime afterm Intabill’s collapse, Tzvetkoff was arrested in Las Vegas and is reported to have informed on his former customers, the online poker firms.

The failure of Intabill sent poker firms scurrying to find fresh ways to ensure that US-based punters could continue to play.

They found a payment processor in Arizona willing to help by setting up dummy corporations through which transactions could be made.

After handling more than $100m of payments, the arrangement came to an end in the summer of 2009, when the Arizona firm had its bank accounts seized by US authorities.

Full Tilt and its rivals tried a new tactic. They began to persuade small banks under financial pressure to handle their transactions without disguising the fact that they were gambling-related.

One such lender was Sun First, based in Utah. The bank handled payments via third-party processors on behalf of companies including Full Tilt and Pokerstars.

The latter had even found a prominent law firm to write to the bank explaining that handling payments for online poker companies would be legal under US rules.

Sun First processed more than $200m of poker-related payments but ended its involvement with the internet gaming firms in November 2010, when forced to by US banking regulators.

As it became increasingly difficult for Full Tilt to collect money from its US-based customers, it allegedly began allowing players to gamble with “phantom money” the company had “never actually collected or possessed”, according to the civil claim.

Poker-related internet bulletin boards began filling up with posts from players wondering why they could not withdraw their winnings. Various class action lawsuits are now being prepared to help players reclaim their funds.

In England, Edwin Coe, the law firm, is reportedly preparing a claim on behalf of British Full Tilt customers. In Canada, Jeff Orenstein, a lawyer at Consumer Law Group, said that more than 1,000 players had registered interest in pursuing a case.

Some blame gambling authorities on Alderney, in the Channel Islands, that were responsible for regulating Full Tilt, and wonder why they did not intervene sooner.

Last week, Alderney held a hearing to decide whether to revoke the company’s licence, having suspended it in June. The outcome should be revealed this week.

Full Tilt, which could not be reached for comment, has blamed its problems paying players on issues with the third-party processors and on the actions of the US government. It has previously said it has always been committed to the integrity of the game and to abiding by the law.

Lawyers acting for Ferguson and Bitar have hit out at prosecutors’ description of Full Tilt’s activities as a Ponzi scheme. “Under any reasonable interpretation, the worldwide operations of the online cardroom are not a so-called Ponzi scheme,” said Ian Imrich, Ferguson’s legal adviser.

Four ways to save money at your business

Running your own business can be a costly exercise, no matter how big or small it is. Luckily there are plenty of ways to cut costs down to make sure you’re not spending when you don’t have to.

Shop around

Comparison is part of business and home life.  Keep an eye out for special deals at the bank or building societies, for example, get free bank accounts for the first 24 months. Seek out the best broadband deals and mobile phone contracts to make sure you’re getting the added value from shopping around.

Energy saving

Yes, it continues to be headlines news: energy and fuel bills. We have to meet them, but as the costs have gone up, so we have to find ways to manage them. There are many ways to save energy in the office, you could install energy saving light bulbs or install a smart-meter which some of the “Big five “energy companies recommend. Tempt staff to switch off when they leave for the day by giving a prize out when quarterly bill goes down. It’s a win win.

The classic is leaving equipment on stand-by, so go on, turn it off and be kind to your business and the environment. Even self adhesive thermal strips around doors can keep out drafts which account for nearly 10 per cent of heat loss. Technology continues to help businesses in this area, so apply daylight sensors to lights to maximise the use of daylight which is free.

Travel costs and pooling resources

Many large corporate companies have car sharing schemes. It can be scaled up and down depending on size of business. Shared travelling is brilliant for saving on costly fuel consumption, and means fewer car parking spaces are required.

Conference calls are another way of cutting costs; why not check in with your clients on a conference video call? It’s almost as good as being in the boardroom without forking out on train tickets and petrol.

There’s a shift in thinking that small businesses have to buy all their own equipment, so join a small business consortium to share the expense.

Purchase second hand 

Be clever, look out for second hand office equipment sales. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and find a couple of designer office chairs at knock-down prices. Business loans can help in the short term to get these essential things.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/smallbusiness/article-2391148/How-small-businesses-cut-costs-boost-profits.html

 

 

 

Make the most of free bets

Today, perhaps more than ever, the gambling industry is willing to give money away to new customers in order to get them to sign up. Whatever site you’re thinking of joining you’ll find there’s free cash available. And if there is free cash up for grabs, and you’re going to spend money on gambling anyway, why not take advantage of these offers?

For example, if you enjoy casino games like roulette or blackjack, you’ll find that every casino sites offers new players a welcome bonus when they first make a deposit. On some sites the bonus level can be up to 200% or more, depending on how much money you first put down. It’s a way of getting us to spend more, of course, but as long as you are sensible with the amount of your own money that you put in, you can really increase the ‘bang in your gambling buck’ by cashing in on these kinds of bonuses. £30 will go much further than the original £10 you were planning to put in.

And if you enjoy having a bet on the horse racing or other sporting events like the World Cup or Wimbledon, there are always free bets to be had when you join a betting site too. For example, at Betfair at the moment, new customers who place a pre-match Sportsbook bet on any of the World Cup quarter-finals will have their bet refunded as a free bet if the game goes to extra time. And on top of that, Betfair is offering another free £50 matched bet which can be placed at any time. If you’re going to be watching France vs Germany on Friday this week, you may as well have a free bet on the match to keep things interesting. Mind you, if the game’s anything like the quarter-final between the same two countries in 1982 – an epic which led to the first penalty shoot-out in World Cup history – it should make for pretty interesting viewing with or without a bet on!

For those people who like to place sports bets as much as they enjoy playing gambling games online, the best solution is to find a site that offers a bit of everything, with a choice of games and a sports book as well. While you could in theory get better value out of opening a number of casino and betting sites accounts and taking all the bonuses you can, it becomes far too complicated keeping track of your spending that way. Far better to adopt a cleaner approach and have one account for all your gaming and betting spends in one place.

The golden rule to remember when gambling, of course, is that you shouldn’t play with money you can’t afford to live without. And if you can keep that in mind, you can’t go too far wrong.

This article is provided by Common Sense Style Blog.