Equity Poker Sites

January 17, 2018
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Updated Review of the Equity Poker Network

Introduction to the EPN
Equity Poker Sites

It is a common practice for online poker rooms nowadays to join a poker network rather than operate completely independently. Sites that are part of a network are responsible for recruiting players and managing them, just as they would be doing if they chose to operate independently. However, the advantage of being part of a network is that all of the member poker skins (the industry term for the various poker sites belonging to a particular network) get to share the same players, tables, and software. Each member pays the network a designated fee for access to the network's software and being given the privilege to use it.

Frequently, individual sites, particularly if new or fairly new, have difficulty consistently attracting the high levels of traffic needed to make the platform viable. So the increased player pool that results from being part of a network can be a win-win for the operator and players alike. In addition, with the responsibility for updating the software and adding new games left to the network, the individual sites should be able to put more time and money into making other enhancements that players appreciate, such as a bigger Welcome Bonus.

Joining a network can also have certain disadvantages. If there are internal management problems, for example, if personnel at one of the poker sites in the network doesn't like certain network policies, there is little, if anything, the disgruntled managers can do. Slow payments are another possibility. These kinds of problems can be very disruptive to the continued smooth operation, not only of the individual sites, but also the network they belong to, and the Equity Poker Network, unfortunately, is a case in point.

The Difference between the Equity Poker Network and Other Poker Networks

The Equity Poker Network (EP) came into existence quite recently. It was founded in November, 2013 by Clive Archer, an online poker industry veteran and entrepreneur who envisioned a revolutionary nonprofit organization, which would function as a cooperative for small to medium size online poker rooms. Archer had also founded Action Poker (subsequently acquired by EPN), and at one time worked for Bet On Line, so he had many connections in poker circles.

An important difference between EPN and other poker networks was that instead of trying to earn a profit from each participating poker skin by taking a share of each one's rake, it let the networks keep 100% of the rake and charged all of them the same monthly fee. The intent was to make it easier for the larger operators to make money.

Another feature that set apart EPN from other poker networks was its decision to prevent player "poaching" by not allowing players to have separate accounts with different skins on the network. Most poker networks don't care if their players have multiple accounts and jump from one skin within the network to another. However, the people who take advantage of this option tend to be seasoned players, the type that EPN didn't want making easy prey of the less skilled players for whom the network was intended. This line of thinking was behind EPN's rationale for building a "fair play" system in order to give beginners a better chance of winning. EPN was specifically set up to meet the needs of casual recreational American players, a diverse but neglected group whose options to play poker legally online in recent years have been very limited.

In addition, EPN was widely praised for establishing a "Clearing House," the purpose of which was to hold players' funds in escrow as insurance in case individual operators reneged on honoring their players' withdrawal requests. Like many of other EPN's decisions, this was a great idea in theory that has not worked so well in practice. The one worst case scenario that EPN and its players could not have possibly predicted has now happened. Not only its flagship site, Full Flush Poker, but EPN itself is offline, stripped of its license, and nonfunctional.

An Early Success Story

November, 2013 not only marked the launch of the EPN Poker Network, but also that of its flagship site, Full Flush Poker. Coincidentally, November, 2013 also marked the debut of legalized online poker and casino gambling in New Jersey. However, the New Jersey sites could only be accessed by those who were geographically situated in New Jersey at the time of play and, conversely, anyone geographically situated in New Jersey, would be denied access to EPN sites.

Besides Full Flush Poker, another prominent EPN member early-on was the U.S. friendly bookmaker 5Dimes. Within a short period of time, other skins also joined the fold, including PokerHost and Heritage Sports, and the popularity and success of EPN and its members grew dramatically. In its heyday, EPN had a dozen members.

Security and Fairness

EPN has always had its headquarters and server in Curacao. This is the same jurisdiction giving EPN and each of its members their license to operate.

Despite being a new venture, EPN quickly gained a reputation for being trustworthy, bolstered by the impressive credentials of its owner, Clive Archer, speedy withdrawal processing times, and the added security afforded players by the separate escrow account.

Software and Games

The software used by EPN came from a Norwegian firm called Playsafe Holdings AS. While not as well known as some other gambling software providers, its decade of experience indicated that its products were trustworthy and up to industry standards.

The game choice was more limited than on some sites, reflecting the fact that the intended market was casual, recreational players. Full Flush Poker, the network's biggest site simply offered the basics: limit and no limit hold 'em, Omaha, and Omaha High Low. Some of the other skins offered a few other games along with a small casino platform.

Even at the peak of its success, EPN never attracted huge player traffic. Ring games, which were more popular than tournaments, only brought in a few hundred people over the course of a typical seven day period, not the thousands of active players that simultaneously frequent some online poker rooms.

Full Flush Poker

Full Flush Poker was not only the first site to become an integral part of EPN, but also, right up until its suddenly going offline on September 30, 2016, the network's biggest poker skin. So a brief description of what Full Flush Poker had to offer is in order.

One of the problems frequently encountered by new, relatively unskilled online poker players is that their lack of skill is very transparent. They are easy to read, but lack the ability themselves to be able to discern when a player has the goods and when a player is bluffing. That makes them easy prey for sharks and grinders. Full Flush Poker offered a friendly online playing environment consisting entirely of low stakes games that were also for the most part shark-free. With 1-2 no limit being the highest game offered and most players preferring the limit games instead, seasoned players recognized that they could find much better fishing opportunities elsewhere.

The fact that the site was both U.S. and beginner player friendly, combined with a very generous Welcome Bonus, got many players in the door. And while the favorable games did keep the customers coming back, other forces were unfortunately simultaneously at work that made them not want to come back.

Most online poker rooms that offer a potentially large Welcome Bonus release it in segments during the course of clearing it rather than requiring the player to clear the bonus in full before having any access to any of it. However, Full Flush Poker required clearing the bonus in its entirety as a precondition to having any of it available for withdrawal, which players could not have liked.

In addition, the loyalty program had little to offer. Not only was there no VIP program, but loyalty rewards points earned through ring game and tournament play could only be used for buying into tournaments; they could not be converted into cash.

A third major problem was with the game themselves since they were almost always shorthanded. It requires a lot of skill to make money in a shorthanded game, which the players at Full Flush Poker didn't have, and on top of that, the very small stakes already significantly limited any opportunities to make money. The tournaments, though cheap, were also largely a waste of time since the small chip stacks and rapidly increasing blinds, combined with unlimited early rebuys reduced them to crap shoots. Another tournament policy which undoubtedly turned off many players was no late entry. As time went on, players lost interest in the tournaments and the fields became very small.

One consolation, at least for a while, was fast payouts of winnings. However, even then, players had to contend with limited banking options and hefty withdrawal fees.

The Beginning of the End

While each individual skin that was part of EPN has its own story, over time, for one reason or another, most of them left EPN in the hope of finding greener pastures elsewhere. For example, 5Dimes left after just one year, choosing to operate independently.

One critical event, however, which in retrospect seems to have precipitated the network's downward spiral, was the December, 2015 resignation of EPN founder and former director Clive Archer. Actually, in the months leading up to his resignation, poor health prevented him from continuing to play an active role in the network's operations. Archer was also a consultant to Full Flush Poker, and that responsibility ended as well. When Archer stepped down, new owners took over the business.

Reports had been circulating for some time that the network was experiencing financial difficulty, but it was not until 2016 that many players began complaining about long delays in getting paid. At Full Flush Poker, for example, it appears that the only withdrawals to have been processed in recent months have been those for small amounts ($360 or less) and for which the requested payment was cash rather than another banking method. Since the summer of 2016, payments have come to a standstill. Additional, but unconfirmed, reports say that Full Flush Poker owes $5 million to affiliates. In any case, the Full Flush domain is now for sale for $1,500.

The Equity Poker Network is Now Offline

At the present time, Full Flush players waiting to be paid and/or switch to another EPN site appear to be out of luck. Starting on September 30, 2016, Full Flush players reported that the site was suddenly offline. Some of them indicated being advised by Technical Support that the situation was due to a temporary software upgrade glitch. But as the days and weeks continued, and not only fullflushpoker.com, but also equitypoker.com remain offline, players are more concerned and rightfully so.

On October 31, 2016 Full Flush Poker posted a message on social media stating that the site was "in the process of updating our gaming solutions to offer a new, more exciting platform." The notice also promised to offer daily updates on progress while apologizing for any inconvenience. Full Flush Poker also assured players worried about their deposits that "all balances are safe." There has been no further communication from Full Flush Poker or other skins that are still on EPN or from EPN itself.

Meanwhile, the Government of Curacao, which was the licensing body for EPN and its constituents, despite its widely known reputation for being much more lenient than some other jurisdictions, has nevertheless suspended the licenses of EPN and the only three remaining sites: fullflushpoker.com, thebackroomcasino.com, and bellugo.com. Of the three, only the latter (currently operating without a license) is still online. A fourth site, Heritage Sports, which operated a poker skin on EPN, closed its poker room on September 30 and removed any reference to poker on its home page.

At this point in time, we have no further news with regard to EPN or whether or not players still waiting to be paid will receive their payments. However, given the various events that have taken place in 2016, if EPN should reopen, we cannot recommend playing there.

Instead, we would like to recommend Americas Cardroom on the Win Poker Network. Like Full Flush Poker, Americas Cardroom welcomes casual recreational American players. It also has a much longer history of operating online than EPN (since 2001 compared to 2013), and has an excellent reputation and none of the problems that plagued Full Flush Poker and EPN. For more information about the Winning Poker Network and Americas Cardroom, visit www.americascardroom.eu.

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  • Fast gowing new real-money poker sites that is available to U.S. players
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