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Author Topic: A public plea to SealsWithClubs  (Read 8107 times)
ssaCEO
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June 27, 2012, 03:43:59 PM
 #21

ssaCEO, I don't disagree with what you've said, but here's the thing:

They can't make a bitcoin poker site illegal unless they make "free" poker sites illegal as well.  To do that, they would have to legitimize BTC as a valid currency and as "real" money.  That's the last thing they want to do... so a BTC poker site would be tough to shut down on those grounds, simply because it would open a different can of worms that no one in the current financial industry wants opened.


You raise a good point, which I think this is a common misconception in the Bitcoin community. It's not true that they would have to classify Bitcoin as a form of currency in order for gambling with it to be illegal. In most US states, and Federally, gambling with anything of any value is illegal if it can be exchanged for currency. The US government would never argue that casino chips from Harrahs are legal tender; but you can't start a website where people mail in MGM chips and get chips back, if there is an element of luck involved. The government doesn't make the case that Zynga credits are a form of currency, but Zynga would be violating state and federal law if they allowed a market to evolve in which their credits were traded out for money.

In other words it doesn't need to be "Money" to violate US law. The law prohibits anything with any value being risked on a game of chance if there's a reward. The only loophole is that some states consider poker a game of skill rather than chance; but even those states regulate who runs the games and how they're allowed to do so.

Only games of pure skill, like Gin Rummy, or Chess, or Golf tournaments, are excluded from this. The only other way around it is to either (a) only pay out money (no consideration) or (b) only accept money (no reward). If all three elements are present (consideration, chance, reward) then it's illegal gambling. Regardless of what form the consideration or reward takes.

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June 27, 2012, 03:57:11 PM
 #22

Again though, they'd have to assign value to Bitcoins, which means they'd have to investigate theft, etc...  Doing anything like that is going to further legitimize Bitcoin and that's something to be avoided in a lot of peoples minds.

If you're searching these lines for a point, you've probably missed it.  There was never anything there in the first place.
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June 27, 2012, 04:00:21 PM
 #23

Who gives a flying FUCK about the legality of Bitcoin poker? The online poker players sure as shit don't! If there is anything holding those players up from playing Bitcoin Poker, it's their faith in Bitcoin itself.

Throw the site up on Tor, fuck the government, and make boatloads of money.

And don't tell me that couldn't happen. The article I wrote on Silk Road gets over 20,000 hits a month, and growing!

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June 27, 2012, 05:47:57 PM
 #24

Who gives a flying FUCK about the legality of Bitcoin poker? The online poker players sure as shit don't! If there is anything holding those players up from playing Bitcoin Poker, it's their faith in Bitcoin itself.

Throw the site up on Tor, fuck the government, and make boatloads of money.

And don't tell me that couldn't happen. The article I wrote on Silk Road gets over 20,000 hits a month, and growing!

Really I hate to say that things are impossible, but poker behind TOR is pretty close.

Does anyone know any gambling games behind TOR now? Simple ones would be possible, but I suppose there isn't much demand. Though I suppose SD can be played over TOR! And the site could be reposted there easily I'd think.

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June 27, 2012, 05:48:52 PM
 #25

ssaCEO, I don't disagree with what you've said, but here's the thing:

They can't make a bitcoin poker site illegal unless they make "free" poker sites illegal as well.  To do that, they would have to legitimize BTC as a valid currency and as "real" money.  That's the last thing they want to do... so a BTC poker site would be tough to shut down on those grounds, simply because it would open a different can of worms that no one in the current financial industry wants opened.

Not necessarily true.  Some of the state laws I've read indicate that gambling anything of value is illegal online, which would most certainly include Bitcoins.

Still, the government essentially saying that they are worried about Bitcoin and Bitcoin poker and that Bitcoin is valuable would be pretty huge.

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June 27, 2012, 06:26:28 PM
 #26

It's not the players who have to worry, it's the site operator. Going big to the States is a risk that only makes sense if you make, literally, boatloads of money off it. There aren't boatloads of money in Bitcoin poker. There won't be until someone develops the US market for it. Which means that at the outset, for the operator, there's a long period of high risk exposure with very little payout while they try to develop this market. If they succeed in developing it without a legal challenge, larger players will jump in and take it away from them. If they fail they end up either with no earnings, or worse, in court.

Obviously poker players don't give a fuck about the legality, but investors do. I'm telling you why no big casino has been willing to enter the Bitcoin market. I heard exactly this from the owner of one of the world's biggest sportsbooks. They're watching and waiting to see if the smaller fry get snatched or not.

+1 @freemoney about poker behind being impossible to play behind TOR...

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June 27, 2012, 08:06:13 PM
 #27

With all that said I think it will take a Zhou Tong type of developer with nothing to lose to make it.

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June 28, 2012, 12:44:17 AM
 #28

I think playing via email would be more enjoyable than through TOR.

Heh, now I'm thinking about email poker. You could have a site or sites that helped manage your hands, but make it all work via email in case the helper sites got shut down. Super insecure right? Have to train everyone to use GPG. I'm not seriously doing this, it would be ridiculous. Though slow poker in general ought get more love, in a studying sort of way. I guess no one wants to play with people who are obviously training though, would be a pretty flimsy ecosystem.

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July 02, 2012, 02:01:17 AM
 #29

Legality Issues Aside....... Cool

I'll go outright and say (at risk of being banned from SwC.eu, which I love, because this may violate the ToS or make FreeMoney uncomfortable) that I've already completely reverse engineered the SealsWithClubs PokerMavens client to the point I can actually play from a python command line. What does this mean? Well, they could keep their backend, but I (or someone else) could develop a frontend on ANY platform if they were talented enough. If I made an Android-compatible SealsWithClubs client........ Holy shit. Can you imagine the audience? Shit, people play for hours on "Zynga Poker" or whatever the fuck, but it's all play money.

Only problem is, this little side project of mine was derailed when Diablo III came out Tongue

But I DO have a working SealsWithClubs client that is entirely controlled via a Python command line. At least, I did a few months ago and I haven't tested it since then. It probably still works, or will still work with a couple tweaks. Smiley

Translating that to a super simple Android GUI would be trivial to someone experienced with Android and GUI programming IMO, but I have very little GUI or Android programming experience. XD

EDIT: If freemoney requests it, I will send him the sourcecode for the Python Command Line client. It's super simple but super sloppy. There's a packet thread that listens and queues packets to send back and forth, and then there's a packet-parse/display thread, and then there's a command line thread that accepts user input. Most of the work was categorizing all the types of packets the server would send the client.

The server already basically tells the client what its allowed actions are at any given moment at any table, making the client software "dumb" software, meaning it doesn't have to know anything about poker, just what to display to the user.

Android GUI isn't the limitation here. You could use my source-code to develop an AJAX/HTML5 based client even and ditch the terrible Flash client. The beauty is being able to keep the backend the same, which is where all the custom (ie not easily modified without breaking) stuff is.

Or make a desktop client. Cloning PokerStars interface with a working backend can't be that difficult if I managed to create the client-backend in a week or two of work in my spare time.

The only thing complicated the client has is that they encrypt the hands dealt to you so that you need your privatesessionkey to decode them, but this can all be done with a simple SHA256 hash. This was implemented in the latest PokerMavens client update they put up. Or at least, the latest client update they put up a few months ago.

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July 02, 2012, 04:24:45 AM
 #30

That is fascinating. I'd love to see the code. admin@sealswithclubs.eu is the best way.


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July 02, 2012, 04:57:10 AM
 #31

I noticed a few months ago that the flash client communicates in plain text with the server, but didn't do anything with it.  I think at the time it was sending my hole cards in the clear too, but maybe that's changed now.

I don't understand what you're talking about when you say you could use sha256 though.

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July 02, 2012, 05:26:12 AM
 #32

I don't understand what you're talking about when you say you could use sha256 though.

It's still in plaintext like you said, EXCEPT for the hole cards, which are now hashed with sha256 using the private session key the server gives out at the start of the connection. Was very easy to figure out what the client was doing though. As I mentioned, this was implemented with the last client update they did back when I was actively playing.

That is fascinating. I'd love to see the code. admin@sealswithclubs.eu is the best way.

Check your PMs real quick, and I'll get you a copy of the code. Smiley

EDIT: Just tested it, and after a couple line tweaks looks like it still works. At least, Lobby Chat works fine. Don't have time to thoroughly test the in-game table commands, but they should be essentially the same as last time I created it. I don't think much changed client-wise/server-wise between "3.00 B7" and "3.00"...

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July 02, 2012, 06:28:31 AM
 #33

It's still in plaintext like you said, EXCEPT for the hole cards, which are now hashed with sha256 using the private session key the server gives out at the start of the connection. Was very easy to figure out what the client was doing though. As I mentioned, this was implemented with the last client update they did back when I was actively playing.

So how does the client know what its cards are if they are sha256 hashed with the session key.  sha256 is a one-way hash.  Does it have to brute-force them?  Seems unlikely, especially for omaha where you have 4 cards, not just 2.

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July 02, 2012, 06:50:18 AM
 #34

http://www.pokerth.net/
Pretty well poker client under GPL, with Android, Windows, GNU/Linux and MacOS X clients.
Why no one can just take this client and add bitcoin-related features to it? It will rock then.
And I dreaming about times, when I will be able to play poker, with bitcoins, with thousands players on the server, and without a rake (or with 0.5%).

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July 02, 2012, 07:15:05 AM
 #35

It's still in plaintext like you said, EXCEPT for the hole cards, which are now hashed with sha256 using the private session key the server gives out at the start of the connection. Was very easy to figure out what the client was doing though. As I mentioned, this was implemented with the last client update they did back when I was actively playing.

So how does the client know what its cards are if they are sha256 hashed with the session key.  sha256 is a one-way hash.  Does it have to brute-force them?  Seems unlikely, especially for omaha where you have 4 cards, not just 2.

Uhhh... Give me a second, I'll give you an example... Maybe I mis-phrased the way I said it uses sha256?

So the new version of PokerMavens sends your hole cards in a command packet called "ECards". The flash client knows then it must decode the values it receives before displaying them. An example would be I am dealt ECards Card1=7A, Card2=71, Card3=99, Card4=1E, Salt=<16 char hex string>. Those card values are garbage, because they're hashed. For the client to really know what those garbage cards are, it needs to also know the private sessionkey, which is a 20 character hex string established at the beginning of the session.

So without revealing the entire method, the client somehow uses a combination of the sessionKey and Salt together, which it then uses portions of that combination against the garbage card values in a mathematical algorithm, which results in the proper number. Each of these steps may or may not involve an sha256 method that is called (I can't reveal everything!).

For this example (and I didn't give you the Salt or SessionKey so revealing the answer does not reveal the method): The proper numbers would be 48 (Ks) and 14 (5d). Since I was playing Hold'em at the time, Card3 and Card4 either evaluate to 0 or some value greater than 53, which would be a garbage number that the client knows to discard and treat as 0. Valid card values are 1-52, each corresponding to a different facecard.

P.S.: FreeMoney has my sourcecode. Smiley If he gets a good, experienced programmer on board I honestly believe he could have a decent cross-platform desktop Python client that is close to PokerStars pretty damn quickly. I say this because I do not code as a profession and I learned Python about a month before I started working on the Python SwC client for the 2 weeks or so. If I was a professional coder, I imagine I would have done all this work much faster and more efficiently.

That's if the programmer doesn't want to port it to a better language, which I would highly recommend. Especially one that would port relatively easily to Android/iOS (like Java or C++).

It cannot be understated how "dumb" of a client it actually can be, since the server does so much of the heavy lifting. The server tells the client when to play a sound, when to do the deal animation, etc. The client is basically a rendered table that draws stuff on command, shows buttons on command and lets the server know when/which of the buttons are pressed and what values were typed on the screen at the time of press.

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July 04, 2012, 01:57:52 AM
 #36

ssaCEO, I don't disagree with what you've said, but here's the thing:

They can't make a bitcoin poker site illegal unless they make "free" poker sites illegal as well.  To do that, they would have to legitimize BTC as a valid currency and as "real" money.  That's the last thing they want to do... so a BTC poker site would be tough to shut down on those grounds, simply because it would open a different can of worms that no one in the current financial industry wants opened.


The government doesn't make the case that Zynga credits are a form of currency, but Zynga would be violating state and federal law if they allowed a market to evolve in which their credits were traded out for money.


Okay here's a question that's pretty off-topic but still related to the concept. In Diablo 3 where they have the real money auction house that allows you to sell and buy gold for real money. Aren't they technically making their own currency and therefore should be illegal?

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July 04, 2012, 02:00:46 PM
 #37

Okay here's a question that's pretty off-topic but still related to the concept. In Diablo 3 where they have the real money auction house that allows you to sell and buy gold for real money. Aren't they technically making their own currency and therefore should be illegal?

Buying and selling virtual goods like WoW gold or Bitcoin isn't illegal in and of itself, and doesn't have any relationship to gambling laws unless there's an element of chance. No government in the world views them as currencies; but they don't have to be currencies in order to be a form of "consideration" or "reward". It's equally illegal to gamble for amazon store credit, Thai Baht, or shoelaces. If there was a game of chance in Diablo where you could risk your gold, with a prospect of winning more gold from the house or from another player, and an element of chance was involved, then it would be tough to argue that they weren't running an illegal online casino.

It's the combination of consideration + chance + reward that makes it illegal. It's not illegal to operate a golf tournament, a poetry contest or a bowling league. An online chess site for Bitcoin would be legal. There are Gin Rummy sites that operate legally in the US for real money, because there's no element of chance in Rummy. All these things take out the element of chance. It's also not illegal to run a poker site with valuable prizes, and make money off of advertising, as long as people can't pay money into it to increase their chances of winning (flat-rate subscription poker sites are a very fuzzy legal gray area and might be legal) - this way you remove the consideration. And it's not illegal if you remove the reward, like Zynga, and take money for poker but don't offer any way to cash out winnings.

Linden Labs faced exactly this situation and had two realistic choices... they could shut down all the in-world slot machines and casinos, or they could prevent people from changing Linden Dollars back into USD. They chose to shut down all the in-world games that had an element of chance.

The PPA argument goes that poker gets around the chance element by being a game of skill over the long term. Unfortunately though, that's not the view of the US Government (yet).

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July 05, 2012, 03:23:40 AM
 #38

All of those games have chance. Swing at the monster.... miss. Swing at the monster... hit! Monster drops.... a dry bone or a dirty rag or a pile of gold!

The government goes after what the people in government want to go after.

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July 05, 2012, 12:21:35 PM
 #39

All of those games have chance. Swing at the monster.... miss. Swing at the monster... hit! Monster drops.... a dry bone or a dirty rag or a pile of gold!
Good point.
The government goes after what the people in government want to go after.
Or what the multi-billion-dollar Vegas lobby tells them to go after. I'm not even sure they're aware that you can make money playing Diablo. And then again, they might just attack Bitcoin virtual worlds from a completely different angle, not trying to prosecute them on gambling grounds, but going after them as potential money-laundering hubs instead. The FBI made a reference to that in their leaked Bitcoin report. Since they can't control the payment processors and force AML/KYC that way, they might decide to go after any site that facilitates the exchange of BTC between its users. But that's a much bigger process and one that concerns the whole Bitcoin community. The narrow gambling issue makes an easier target.

If you start from the assumption that the government's just doing Vegas's dirty work, and that the idea is to shut down any possible competition and starve the market before Caesar's Palace Online launches in the US with some kind of ludicrous 15% poker rake, then pretty much anything goes.

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July 05, 2012, 02:18:29 PM
 #40

So it's worth asking: If there's this virgin market for American poker players, why is it that PokerStars and Party Poker and Playtech and Microgaming haven't opened up Bitcoin deposits to Americans? In a word: It's probably illegal.

Is it worldwide illegal? If an American goes to a coffee shop in Netherlands and buy weed, nobody's going to get prosecuted.
If the site is located in a jurisdiction which does not criminalize online poker, and the operator himself doesn't live in US, would that still be risky to the site operator?
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