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Should US Players Hit Merge, Bodog, or Cake Following Black Friday?

Some fans of Killer Poker Analysis have been asking me whether Merge, Bodog, or Cake are viable online poker options for US players following Black Friday. Personally, I had no money in these sites before Black Friday, and I haven’t put any money on these sites since. If the DoJ went after PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP, then it’s only a matter of time before the DoJ goes after Merge, Bodog, and Cake. After all, is Merge, Bodog, or Cake conducting business differently from how PokerStars, Full Tilt, or UB/AP did? If the DoJ thinks they have a case against PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP, then I’d be shocked if the DoJ couldn’t build similar cases against Merge, Bodog, and Cake.

There’s a chance that the DoJ might not pursue action against Merge, Bodog, or Cake until they can make charges stick to (or make settlements with) PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP. And if this is the case, there’s probably a timeline on the order of months for Merge, Bodog, and Cake to be somewhat viable playing options for US players. However, a timeline on the order of months is pure speculation. The bottom line here is that unless the DoJ can’t settle with PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP – and then fails to make any charges stick – it’s only a matter of time before Black Friday repeats itself with Merge, Bodog, and Cake.

It’s probably highly unlikely that funds seized in a second wave would be kept by the money-hungry US government. But given that a prosecution precedent now exists, I think that the US government will be less lenient with Merge, Bodog, and Cake – and less understanding of those in the US who choose to play for real money at those sites. We can all be confident in getting money back from PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP, but I don’t know if we can be as confident in getting our money back from Merge, Bodog, or Cake despite our legal system being based on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Suppose that the DoJ were to allow for Merge, Bodog, and Cake to give balances back to US players? Even if this were to happen, how confident can we be in getting our money back? Bodog’s non-poker business is robust enough where the probability of getting stiffed by Bodog is probably very close to 0. Merge and Cake are less certain. Before putting money on to Merge or Cake, I’d want to randomly sample tables at various times of the day – in an attempt to gauge the percentage of US players. If the percentage of US players were to be high, I’d stay away. If the percentage of US players were to be low, I’d feel safer.

Personally, I’m staying away from online poker until online poker businesses are able to serve US players without any legal ambiguity on any front (after all, being able to play legally means nothing if online poker sites don’t have a legal means by which they can transfer funds to and from player accounts). Granted, this decision is largely motivated by the availability of live poker Las Vegas. I know that some are saying that it’s important to play on Merge, Bodog, or Cake – to make a statement that US citizens want to exercise their right to engage in leisurely activities of their choosing in the privacy of their own homes. However, members of Congress aren’t going to care about traffic numbers on Merge, Bodog, and Cake. As I point out in Black Friday: A Wake-Up Call for a Broken Nation, we have a Congress filled with elected representatives that don’t act for the people and by the people. We have a Congress that acts for special interest groups and for those with deep pockets. Thinking and writing are what I do best, so that’s what I’ve been doing. However, at some point, the US people need to do more than rant on the internet. We need to act. Only through tangible action can we:

1.) Overhaul Congress as it currently exists

2.) Get all fourth degree laws off the books

3.) Return the US to its libertarian roots.

To the question cited in this blog entry’s title, my answer is this. I’m currently not playing online poker until online poker operations are able to serve US customers without any legal ambiguity on any front. And for those with easy to access to live poker, taking my route seems to make the most sense. For those without easy access to live poker, I don’t think playing on Merge, Bodog, or Cake is absolutely horrible. And the lower the percentage of US players on your site of choice, the less horrible your decision to play online becomes. But you should only be playing on Merge, Bodog, or Cake as long as you’re fine with losing all the money in your account. After all, even if online poker were to be unambiguously legal on all fronts, it would still be poor form to have money you need in an online poker account. Having money you care about in an online poker account is simply bad life management.

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

P.S. I hope that I’ll be able to implement my tournament endgame knowledge where it’s most effective (multitabling online tournaments) sooner rather than later!


Feel free to repost this as long as you include the following author box (including hyperlinks):

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author, an instructor at PocketFives Training, a member of Team Moshman, and host of the popular poker strategy podcast, Killer Poker Analysis. Tony blogs about decision optimization on and off the felt at


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4 Responses to “Should US Players Hit Merge, Bodog, or Cake Following Black Friday?”

  1. Bainn says:

    Depends how much people in the US want to scratch their poker itch, now they have tested the waters the DOJ probably feel confident about tackling the smaller sites.

    If players must play over the next month then they should only deposit an amount they will not miss over an extended period, also it is possible the smaller sites may decide to cut their losses if legal proceedings are taken against them and players could have a real hard time retrieving any monies deposited.

  2. Yeah…I think I should make it clear that I think the probability that US players lose their balances is extremely low. I think the probability that US players get separated from their funds for awhile at some point is non-negligible. Basically, it just comes down to not having important money online.

  3. Collin says:

    Bodog is safe because its headquarters is not based in the USA. The USA DoJ cannot go after bodog.

  4. The HQs of PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP also aren’t in the US.

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