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The issue has been debated up and down, backwards and forwards. The availability of offshore internet poker sites that are not regulated in many countries pose opportunities for poker players as well as risks. And for many players, the immediate benefits outweigh the long-term risks.

Poker players in the United States, for example, had the last of their large online poker sites ripped away suddenly on April 15, 2011, otherwise known as Black Friday. PokerStars, Full Tilt, Absolute Bet, and UltimateBet were the major sites catering to US players at the time of the government shutdown, and those options were suddenly gone.

For many of them, online poker was much more than a pastime, it was their livelihood and career, so they had no luxury of waiting for US legislators to debate online poker and attempt to regulate it. Even the few states within America that wanted to regulate online poker within their borders were slow to act and would only be able to offer a tiny fraction of the games that were once available on dot-com sites. The only other options were to move away from the US to an internet gambling-friendly country or take a chance with unregulated poker sites based offshore.

Some players did leave the US, but the majority began playing on sites like Lock Poker and Americas Cardroom. It didn’t take long, however, for Lock to disappear from the online poker landscape, taking all players’ funds with it and leaving players as victims without any legal recourse.

There are thousands of players who continue to play on ACR and other sites on the Winning Poker Network, as well as other sites that offer opportunities all too rare for American players these days. While warnings about the lack of safety and regulation mostly go unheeded, there are ways to protect player accounts and stay aware of any potential troubles.

Follow the News

Some poker news websites will write stories about troubles for offshore poker sites. If players begin to lodge substantial complaints about difficulties contacting customer service or withdrawing funds, there are some news sites that will write stories about it.

Search Social Media

The most immediate way to find out if players are having troubles with an offshore site or network is on social media. Twitter is the most easily searchable of the social media sites, so by looking up posts about a particular site, you can get an overview of how the players view it.

Check Poker Forums

The most frequented online poker forum is Two Plus Two. The “News, Views, and Gossip” section is where the majority of players post about substantive issues. If there are multiple complaints about an offshore site, there will be posts near the top of that forum, but there is a search feature as well. And if there are no posts but you have concerns, begin a new topic and ask for feedback from others who have played on a particular site. Players on 2+2 are not shy about telling the truth about their experiences.

Do Not Ignore the Signs

When the complaints begin to come in about troubles withdrawing funds or players fleeing a site in droves, it is time to withdraw your own funds. Initiate a withdrawal, starting with a reasonable amount that will allow you to gauge if there are significant problems. Many players choose to continue to keep their money on a site despite signs of trouble, only to wait too long and then find they cannot withdraw any money at all. It may not seem fair or even possible that your beloved online poker site would disappear without a trace, but it has happened numerous times in the past. Follow the signs and be smart with the money you earned. Get it while you can.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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