Sunday, August 27, 2006

From the Mailbag...

And I mean literally, in this instance, as in the arrival of my issue of the 2006 Pro and College Edition INSIDERS Betting Digest.

Lucky me.

I received unannounced, unasked-for solicitations all the time, but 99% of them arrive in the e-box, not the one at the front door. For instance, one of my favorites is the current recycling series of crud from Aspinalls Online Casino / Casino King / Magic Box Casino / 50 Stars Casino and others. These are all owned by an outfit called Intercontinental Online Gaming Ltd., and they change the name at the top and play around with the conditions of the offer, but it's all the same spam, and the stuff is even formatted the same, from one casino to the next, as the current spammed casino du jour arrives in my e-box.

So it was almost a treat when INSIDERS arrived in the real mailbox, with its four-color glossy cover and mostly cheaper two-color (black and pantone teal-blue) innards.

While the magazine was obviously advertorial, and 90% devoted to offshore sports betting, there as still something of poker interest: A two-page article entitled "How to Choose an Online Poker Site." Indeed, the article does a good job of touching all the basics, devoting multiple paragraphs to each of the following topics: Customer Service; Deposit Options; Payouts; Management; Licensing Jurisdiction; Security; Critical Mass (Players); Game Environment (Software); Free Play & Tournament Play; and Limits. And it sums everything up with this bold-faced paragraph, which I'll quote directly:

"After our in-depth research evaluating more than 100 different poker rooms on each of the ten categories above, we've made our selection for our 'Top Ranked Poker Site' for 2006. Please visit page 54 to see who gets this year's top honor."

Good enough, and I turn the few pages, and discover that the winner of the treasured gold seal of approval is none other than... City Poker. City Poker??!?!?? Okay, who is City Poker, and based on all those criteria listed in the article, how did they beat out those 100-plus other rooms?

Were that it so simple to just go to that City Poker site, and find out who owns them. That information is conveniently (and I'll say intentionally) not listed. lists them as being a Microgaming (formerly Prima) skin, while Poker Site Scout (more up-to-date and reliable), acknowledges that they exist but has their network affiliation as "unknown."

Well, there are a couple of clues for the digging. One is that they offer Badugi, and the second is this screen grab of the action from deeper within the City Poker site: Both point to this being a Tribeca skin of some flavor. And indeed, on the second page of logoed bullets listing official Tribeca "poker brands," right below Poker, City Poker indeed shows up on the list.

(Note to self: Must check out 'House of Deeb' site...)

Now, as for who owns City Poker, that's less clear, though it appears it's an alternate skin of the folks I just mentioned. The copy of INSIDERS that I received gives's offshore sportsbook major ink, including a large gold seal for "#1 Offshore Sportsbook." This INSIDERS thingie is clearly advertorial, but while does have its own poker room, it might be pushing thing even a bit too far down this version of Gullibility Avenue to throw out all the crap about evaluating 100-plus poker rooms on ten different attributes... and then choosing yourself.

Much easier to create a dummy skin, award them their own pretend gold seal of approval, have the site claim to have over 5,000 active members (oh, come on now!), and measure just how many idiots will send their dead prezzies off to a site that's been cobbled up out of thin air.

Nice try, BetUS. I won't even mention all the other gold seals awarded to bookmakers and other flavors of online sites, all of which are either affiliates, house tools, or have otherwise paid to have their warez mentioned within the black-and-blue pages of what's now clearly INSIDERS dreck.

The dead giveaway: Despite the mention of all these sites being evaluated, across all these very real points of concern --- and this goes for both the online-poker and offshore sportsbook sections of the magazine, the powers that be conveniently fail to show the actual grades. It's classic spin-by-disconnect, and it's just one case after another of "And the winner is..."

Just like voting for the Emmys.

104 pages of shuck-and-jive, to dig out a phrase now a bit passe. When all is said and done, that's what INSIDERS is. And City Poker doesn't get my business after all.

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