Lock Poker Should Be Boycotted
If you're a US player still brave enough to play online after Black Friday, you're probably playing on the Merge Network. The Merge Network is comprised of a lot of different "skin" sites, all combining to form one network of games. For example, if you play on Hero Poker, you're probably sitting at the table with players on Carbon Poker, Lock Poker, Black Chip Poker, and many others. While other networks still offer games to US players, Merge is the only realistic choice at this point. All of the other US-friendly networks have too many show-stopping issues, including being too small (Yatahay, Everleaf), too slow at paying players (Cake), or anonymous tables (Bodog/Bovada).
Indeed, Merge's games come the closest to emulating the experience we enjoyed on the large sites prior to Black Friday.
But how safe is Merge? Nobody knows. Everyone playing there understands the inherent risk, and one would be wise to only keep the minimum necessary on the site, withdrawing any excess.
So, okay, if you're going to play on Merge, how do you choose a skin? And is there really any difference among skins? They all offer the same games, the software is the same, and the promotions offered seem incredibly similar.
The short answer is YES. There is a huge difference among skins. While I could spend this blog reviewing each of the Merge skins, or outlining the dangers of playing on the bad ones, I'll save that for another time. Instead, I will highlight one really, really bad apple on the Merge Network: Lock Poker.
You should not play on Lock Poker. Avoid it. In the site's short history, it already has been involved in two ugly scandals -- the latest of which was just made public a few days ago. If you continue to play on Lock, you will get cheated in some way. Even if you've been okay there so far, it's just a matter of time until they rip you off. It's time to withdraw and leave the site NOW.
If you're currently a Lock player, you might not want to leave because, simply put, it's your only option. Sure, there are other Merge skins, but you've probably been led to think that rakeback is no longer available on the Merge Network unless you were grandfathered into it prior to June 1, 2011. So if you have rakeback on Lock, you can't get it anywhere else on Merge, right? WRONG. Rakeback is still available on several Merge skins. It's not supposed to be, but it is. I'll get to that in a little bit. But just keep that in mind if you're entertaining the choice of leaving Lock.
In May, 2011, it became clear that not all was right at Lock Poker.
A month earlier, Lock ran a contest in conjuction with BLUFF Magazine. The contest was simple: The player who won the most money on Lock Poker during the month of April would be the winner. The prize was rather impressive: The winner would get a free seat to the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event, officially become a Lock Pro ELITE (which presumably had other nice benefits), and would be featured on the cover of July's BLUFF Magazine. The details can still be found here.
Of course, it doesn't take a genius to realize the big flaw in this contest. Since the only criteria was total winnings in the calendar month of April, it would be extremely tempting for one player to dump chips to another, and then split the value of the prize package.
And that's exactly what happened. But it wasn't just any old player who engaged in the chip-dumping scheme. It was existing Lock Poker Pro Jose "Girah" Macedo who won the contest, and he did so with super-obvious cheating. Rather than slowly getting friends to dump him money in order to finish first, Macedo waited until April 30th, played a super-high-limit PLO match with a previously-unknown account, and "won" over 100k, barely putting him ahead of the legitimate second-place finisher, who had labored hard to win the contest.
This had obvious cheating written all over it. Among the suspicious factors:
So why was this Lock's problem? Sure, they could be accused of running a flawed contest, and using poor judgment in choosing pros, but is it really their fault when someone else cheats?
Normally, no. However, in this case, Lock purposely ignored all of the evidence and awarded Macedo the prize. They did not question anything. They did not look up any IP addresses. They did not raise any of the obvious issues that came from this highly improbable come-from-behind victory. Instead, they congratulated Macedo, put out a press release naming him the winner, and gave the middle finger to the guy who actually should have won. They were very clearly willfully ignorant to his cheating, in order to gain the PR from one of their own pros winning the contest (and getting featured on the cover of BLUFF).
Think of it this way: Say I ran in a marathon with a $25,000 prize for first place. World class marathoners finish the race in a little over two hours. If I crossed the finish line after 45 minutes -- something humanly impossible to do -- and the organizers still awarded me the $25,000, they would also be somewhat guilty of defrauding everyone else in the contest. Why? Because it's the responsibility of the contest organizers -- both legally and morally -- to deny prizes in cases of blatant, obvious cheating. This cheating was about as blatant and obvious as it could be, and yet Lock kept their mouths shut, instead choosing to glorify Macedo's "accomplishment". Only after public outrage occurred did Lock sheepishly disqualify him, and even then, they put out a dishonest press-release claiming that he was only disqualified for some minor infractions of the contest rules:
Now, some of you still might not be impressed. Sure, the Macedo contest thing was shady, but perhaps you see it as just a company trying to protect the public image of a highly-publicized contest (as well as the image of one of their overhyped pros). Maybe it's not indicative of Lock's culture and honesty as a whole.
But sadly, that's exactly what it was indicating...
Right around the same time -- in the spring of 2011, Lock was up to even more no-good. In this case, they were offering a "bonus rakeback" promotion in order to snag the action of high-volume grinders. See, Merge had a rule for all skins restricting rakeback to a maximum of 35%. This was done to prevent skins from competing with one another, and "poaching" players from other skins by offering better rakeback deals. However, there was no rule against "bonus" awards, and the skins took advantage of this to offer above and beyond the 35%. Almost all skins were guilty of this in some form or another, and Lock's method was to promise players 10-20% extra rakeback, which would show up in their "casino bonus" account.
Knowing that most poker grinders were not interested in playing -EV casino games, Lock made it clear that the money could immediately be transferred to the player's poker account, and required no actual casino play. Other than the very minor effort to transfer the money between the poker and casino accounts on Lock, the money was supposed to be just as good as traditional rakeback, and was to be immediately available for withdrawal. There was also no play-through requirement (that is, the player didn't have to play any more in order to be entitled to withdraw the money.)
This sounded like a great deal, and many grinders abandoned their regular skins, switching to Lock. Merge rules prevent the same player from having rakeback on more than one skin simultaneously, so these players also gave up their rakeback on their previous skins in order to take advantage of this promo on Lock.
Unfortunately, the deal players actually got did not resemble at all what they were promised.
Their May payments came 6 months late. All other payments came on time, but with a very severe change in terms: The players were required to "play through" between 40-160 times the amount they wanted to cash out of the bonus money. The play-through was also required at the casino (where the house always has an edge), not the poker room. That is, if they earned $1000 in bonus rakeback, they were required to wager between $40,000 and $160,000 in the casino before they could cash any of it out! Even worse, the original $1000 was never available for cashout -- it was only money to be used to win other money. So if you made $1000 in rakeback bonus, and successfully made $160,000 in wagers in their casino and miraculously came out $500 ahead, you could only cash out $500 -- not $1500!
However, in reality, it is almost impossible to wager that much money at -EV casino games without losing the original stake. This made the promised bonuses literally worthless.
Basically, Lock earned a lot of money by poaching players from other sites with promises of 10-20% bonus rakeback, yet never delivered on that promise. Not only did the players themselves get cheated, but so did the other skins that the players abandoned in order to play on Lock.
A good description of the situation is on pokeraddict.net.
When called out on this, Lock claimed that they accidentally advertised the wrong terms of the bonus, so therefore are not responsible for what they promised. (Seriously, that was their excuse!) Later they claimed in the 2+2 forum that they are "working on a solution", but I wouldn't hold my breath. Lock blatantly cheated people and stole the extra rakeback they promised.
It is just a matter of time until Lock finds itself embroiled in yet another scandal. Get off of that site before it's too late. Your money is not safe there, and you should not patronize a site with such a recent history of blatant dishonesty and theft. If you learned anything from the situations at Full Tilt and UB/AP, the money in your poker account is never actually yours until it hits your bank account. It is important at this point to pick poker sites with the highest appearance of integrity, and to jump ship at any sign of shadiness.
Even better, you can quit Lock without having to give up the Merge games you're currently enjoying. There are tons of other Merge skins that are dying to take your action, so cash out of Lock immediately and sign up elsewhere.
But isn't there a rule on Merge against getting rakeback on accounts created after June 1, 2011? Yes, but most of the skins aren't following it. There are plenty of ways around the rule, to where the skin awards you a weekly "bonus" that just happens to be equivalent to what you would have gotten in rakeback. If you ask around, you can find skins that not only give rakeback for new accounts, but actually give you much better than the 35% that was once offered. If you need help, e-mail me at dandruffpoker -at- yahoo, and maybe I can give you some directions. However, you probably don't need my help. Just browse 2+2 and you'll probably figure out what to do.
Bottom line: GET YOUR MONEY OFF LOCK NOW BEFORE YOU ARE THE NEXT VICTIM.
I encourage any representative of Lock Poker to respond to this blog. If they can prove to me that my accusations are inaccurate, I will post both a retraction and an apology. In fact, I'd love to have them on my first radio show broadcasted from this site. I doubt this will happen, though, as I think they realize that they are guilty, and they know that I am not the type to softball questions to them.
As a final note, I don't play on Lock, and they have never cheated me or any of my personal friends out of any money. This is not personal. The worst they ever did to me was slowpay me about 2 years ago, but that has nothing to do with my desire to write this blog. I just hate shady poker sites, and I felt it was time to call out one of the worst skins in the business.
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