The Rumblings of Toronto Poker, and an Underground Site’s Dark Side

Updated: November 4th, 2012 by Dev Ops

A couple of disparate stories this week connect online poker and Toronto.  The second of the two is a piece in the Toronto Post, calling Toronto an underground poker haven.  The piece bounces all around like grease on a hot griddle on its way to saying that yes, Toronto has produced a lot of famous poker players, and yes, some Americans have relocated there to play online after the 2011 Black Friday events.

Perhaps the most famous American transplant now shacking up in Toronto is the latest WSOP main event champion, Greg “Gregy20723” Merson.  The “20723” part of Merson’s longtime online screenname comes from his zip code in Maryland, in the Laurel area he used to call home.

Merson’s not the only online player making hay from the north side of the border, though most of the Toronto connections, as noted in the piece, are more famous for moving the other direction.  The Post piece notes Daniel Negreanu, Evy Ng, Mike Leah and the always-wacko Matt “Adzizzy” Marafioti as famous Toronto poker players, and it could just as easily have mentioned Gavin Smith, Michael “timex” McDonald, Davidson Matthew and others.

There are lots of good players who hail from Toronto, but it’s a big area.  Not too surprising, really.

The piece talks about the live underground scene in Toronto, more than the online game, and it was in those games that Negreanu, Ng and Smith all got their starts.  It also talks about a handful of raids and robberies connected to poker games in the area, which again, happen.  It’s all nice weekend filler.

Then there’s the other Toronto online-poker story of recent days, of which most people aren’t even aware.  This week there was a rumor planted first on the discusssion forums and then from there unto 2+2.  This one’s a bot more scurrilous, and deals with a letter sent out from the owner of a small rakeback site based in Toronto.  The letter stated that the US-facing Merge Network was having cash difficulties and was in danger of going bankrupt:

We just wanted to send a courtesy email out to all our players who have had accounts with us on Merge in the past to warn them of upcoming trouble on the network.

We have good information that the Merge Network, yes the NETWORK, will go bankrupt in the near future.

We are recommending that all players cashout any funds they have on any sites on Merge immediately! Even if the site you are playing on uses it’s on cashier… this still puts your money at risk, as Merge will eventually default on payments to the skins it works with.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Organic Rakeback

Well, probably not.  The best summary of the changes going on at Merge has been written by Todd “DanDruff” Witteles over at pokerfraudalert, and I believe Druff has the gist of it.

Back to this “Greg” guy and the site.  Such sites are something of the bottom feeders of the rakeback world, and sure enough, in the 2+2 thread, came a direct denial from a Carbon/Merge spokesman, and indication from “Carbon Ryan” that the Organic RB site appeared to have a close relationship with rival Lock Poker, which departed the Merge Network over a large rakeback disagreement.

In other words, the whole thing stank of setup, although I don’t think this one falls on Lock itself; it’s just an affiliate partner gone a bit over the edge.  Yet another poster in the now-lengthy 2+2 thread opined that this “Greg” had a vendetta going against Merge, and this was part of that.  Frankly, that’s quite believeable.

A little bit of digging shows that this “Greg” is probably a Swedish guy named Greg Alex who now lives in Toronto: – Translate this page
Greg Alex. Titel: iGaming Consultant; Demografisk information: Stockholm, Sverige Nuvarande: Co-Founder at AffiliateControls, Partner at Organic Rakeback

… and who attempts to grind out a living from the poker fringes with sites like that.  We wouldn’t worry much about it, except if you’re going to sling shit, you ought to own the bucket.

Now back to that Toronto connection.  One of “Greg”‘s other business sidelines can be found here, an erstwhile relocation service to help American online players set up shop in Toronto.

There are lots of these services around, based also in Costa Rica, Europe, and Vancouver, and this one is pretty much normal for the niche.  But, that link to Lock Poker….

Note the diamonds, as are also present elsewhere on the site, including the Organic RB home page:

And compare that to Lock Poker’s own logo:

It’s probably not a Lock Poker site, but rather an affiliate who’s a little liberal in use of others’ marks, and that’s the connection that Carbon Ryan saw.  Too coincidental in any event.

Note that Lock Poker isn’t to blame for this; it looks like the actions of a sort-of-rogue affiliate who’s trying to carve himself a business selling VPN services as well; it’s as underground as underground Toronto poker gets, and would have been a much better tale than the Post piece… if only the guy knew.

The problem is, the rakeback-affiliate model looks to be slowly dying on the vine, and as always happens when market niches start to pinch shut, a few people always go over to the dark side.  There’s nothing wrong with promoting Lock, and here at BestPokerRooms we do it ourselves, but we do it the proper way, through added content, solid deals, and overall value.

Denigrating other networks through probably false rumors isn’t the right way to do business.  Sometimes the poker world makes you raise an eyebrow, and sometimes you just have to sigh.  Even if I were interested in a VPN hookup, I have to admit, I’d look elsewhere.


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