It seems weird to get excited about getting back something that is already yours. Imagine getting excited when a valet proudly announces, “It’s your lucky day! I’m going to give you your car back!” Well, of course you’re going to give me my car back…it’s my car. As illogical as it is, I still got excited a few months ago when I found out that my Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet money that vanished into thin air was going to be returning to me…or so I thought.
It felt surreal to me when I heard the announcement. Actually, surreal is the wrong word. It felt more like a hoax. I figured someone in the poker world had figured out a new innovative scam to try and steal people’s information or something like that. After some quick research, though, I found out that the claims were true. The Garden City Group was returning millions of dollars to players who had their money stolen by online poker sites Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker years ago after Black Friday.
I was excited, but not overly excited. I knew the process would be long and there would probably be some kinks along the way. Little did I know there might be a big kink that a lot of players would be dealing with.
I have never worked for Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker in my life. I have never been a sponsored “pro” collecting a check from them. This is something that a lot of players have been uttering over the past few months. Why is this important?
Well, let’s look at the first time that I knew something wasn’t right. As soon as I found out about the return of the money, I filed my claim. I didn’t waste any time and most likely was one of the first claims filed. When I put in my control number (the number that was given to us to submit our claims), it showed that I had zero dollars available. This was 100% wrong. I knew for a fact that I had five figures in my UB account. So I began digging.
I quickly found in the forums that some people had multiple control numbers. Aha! That’s probably what it was. So I called the Garden City Group (GCG), and they gave me a secondary control number. All was well again. That was until I put that number in and received a notice of $0 again.
Now I was confused. Then I saw that there was a note that anyone marked as a professional player may have a balance showing of $0. Let me reiterate here: I have never worked for Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker in my life. I have never been a sponsored “pro” collecting a check from them. So I was confused as to why my account was flagged.
I took to the forums and quickly found that a lot of people were falling under the same issue. They were flagged as pros, but were never a sponsored pro with either site and never received any sort of payment or compensation from the company.
My Follow-Up with the Garden City Group
I was not going to just give up on getting my money back. This was money that I had earned from hard hours of play, and it was money that was owed to me. I began calling and emailing the GCG to find out as much as I could and see how to remedy the problem. The first step was to figure out what this pro distinction meant. While speaking to the GCG on the phone, they informed me that it meant people that had been paid by Ultimate Bet or Absolute Poker as an affiliate. They also pointed out that the distinction did not come from the GCG, but that it came from Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet themselves.
I quickly informed them that there had been a mistake and that I did not fit the criteria they had for professional players (note that they have since changed their definition on their website, which I will cover later). Their response to me was that I needed to provide documentation that I was never a sponsored pro/affiliate with UB or AP.
Thank you for your below response, we understand it will be difficult to obtain some of the documents.
However, you still need to prove that you were not an affiliate during the time you played on Ultimate Bet.
Absolute Poker has identified you as an affiliate for Ultimate Bet. Since you have disputed your designation as an Affiliate, we will conduct a thorough review of this Petition for Remission but without supporting documentation, it will be more difficult to remove the designation without supporting documents.
Claims Administrator (DN)
Ummm, how exactly does one provide documentation that they haven’t done something? I have never been an astronaut, but I don’t have any documentation to back up that claim. I’ve never been the King of England, but I don’t have any court documents or official papers to prove that. I get providing documentation to prove that you DID do something, but it makes no sense to be asked to provide documentation that you DID NOT do something.
I stayed on them, though. The GCG finally said to write a letter explaining my position the best that I could.
Dear Mr. XXXXXXXXXX,
Thank you for contacting us. We have updated your petition to reflect you are disputing your balance. If you are unable to provide the necessary documentation, please send a letter explaining your situation in as much as detail as possible in response to this email.
Claims Administrator (IND)
I sent them the letter and then began the waiting process. For those curious, yes, I used the astronaut example in my letter to them. Sometimes simplicity explains complexities.
Two Rounds of Payments Are Approved
As stated, I did not dilly-dally or wait to get in my petition and my supporting information. The second the emails went out about this, I was on top of it, submitting the necessary information. I began contacting the GCG in early April of 2017. It’s now seven months later, multiple rounds of payments have been authorized and sent out, and I am still sitting here twiddling my thumbs.
I’ve regularly continued to follow up with the GCG, and I continue to get the exact same response. Here is the most recent email, from October 26, 2017:
Dear Mr. XXXXXXXXXX,
At this time, your Petition is still under review. Thank you for your continued patience.
Claims Administrator (LB)
While it’s promising that they have not denied my claim or anything like that, it is still a terrible feeling to sit here waiting as everyone else enjoys having their money returned to them. If I had been an affiliate as they said, this would make sense. If I had screwed around and didn’t get my documents and petition requests in at the time mentioned, this would make sense.
But here I sit, still with no response on my petition.
Changes to the Pro Definition and Website Updates
I’m sure that a lot of you that are reading this are in the same boat. According to the popular poker forums online, a lot of players have been incorrectly given this designation and are stuck without their money. As you can see from the original emails, the issue was with players who were affiliates. The pro designation meant players who were affiliates. Since then, the definition on the GCG website has changed.
Now it says that a pro poker player by their definition is “any player who earns a majority of their income from playing poker, or is known in the industry as a Professional, as approved by the Department of Justice.” Does this mean that anyone who played poker for a living is not entitled to get their money back? Does this mean that they are any less of a victim? It seems that, if this interpretation is correct, the Garden City Group is saying just that.
But, as with anything in the legal world, it gets more ambiguous. If you look under the section dictating the payment calculation formula, the GCG says:
This would insinuate that anyone with the pro or affiliate distinction WOULD be getting paid. However, they will be getting paid a different percentage of their money than the rest of the players. Again, it would be a positive that they are going to pay players with this distinction, but they’re going to pay them less? Look, I get it if the player was correctly marked as an affiliate, but in my case and in most of the cases I’ve read about, the distinction is wrong.
Even if we take their new definition of a professional player, it doesn’t seem fair to say that someone who played for a living is any less of a victim. By not paying them at all, the GCG will be saying that they aren’t a victim at all. By paying them LESS, they are saying that they are less of a victim because of what they chose to do for a living.
All of this is absurd to me. It’s not just absurd because I find myself stuck in the crosshairs of this confusing situation. I find it absurd that they can try and classify victims just based on what the criminal company says (remember, these designations come from UB/AP, not the GCG) or by what they choose to do for a living.
Let’s say a professional gambler and an accountant are leaving a casino, and they both get held up at gunpoint. The thief steals $100 from both of them and is later caught with the money. Should the accountant get more of his money back than the professional gambler? Should the gambler get no money back because of his profession? Should he get less back because of his profession? Is he any less of a victim?
I could use some more extreme examples, but I will spare you the tirade.
Where It Stands Now
It’s now November of 2017, and I still do not have my money or any update on whether I am getting it or not. I’m going to be fair and give the Garden City Group the benefit of the doubt that they will figure out the right thing to do here. Mistakes are being made, and hopefully, they can remedy them correctly. If mistakes aren’t being made and the pro distinction is really what the new definition is, then I hope the GCG figures out that people are no less of victims just because they choose to do something for a living.
Maybe they think that casual players deserve their money more? Remember this, GCG…casual players have other sources of income. They are probably the loudest with their complaints, but they still have food on the table. This money wasn’t luxury, disposable income for those that played poker for a living. This was how we paid our bills. This was how we ate. This was how we paid for clothes for our kids.
But, as I said, I will wait and give you the benefit of the doubt and time to do what is right.