Merge Poker Network skin PDC Poker Due Diligence

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While we know PDC Poker is a skin of the Merge Poker Network, many online poker players are unfamilliar with the history of PDC Poker. The Online Poker Circuit takes a look at the history of PDC Poker – a skin of the Merge Gaming Network of Online Poker Rooms.

Overview of my Personal History with PDC Poker

My experiences with the Merge Network began far before the formation of Merge as an online poker network – with PDC Poker, which then was poker.com. I recall playing on PDC Poker in their earlier stages. The software was nice, though the color scheme was a bit lacking. I would later learn just how nice the software platform was, as they added several innovative features to the online poker room, which made the overall experience so much better. The developers and decision makers within the pdc organization really paid attention to detail, as they accepted feedback and responded personally to many “feature requests” posted in their forum. Their presence in their online forum really projected a sense of community to me.

I felt as if I knew the company reps personally – which later it turned out I would come to know them. I felt as though I had a say in their direction. Many of their other active poker playing members surely believed the same. The community that was cultivated within the early stages of merge was second to none.

A short while later, pdc poker had rolled out a major release of their software. They offered a huge freeroll for depositing poker players, if memory serves me correctly. Poker.com were having problems with tournaments upon this update, as the tournaments would crash when they were seating. Additionally, there was some serious lag for anything, whether it was playing a hand, or trying to register for a tournament. It took me several minutes to get my tournament registration confirmed for this huge freeroll. I had adjusted my weekend plans to play in this free tournament. I recall the 3 or 3:30 start time, I was sitting in front of my computer only to see the tournament crashed and consequently canceled. To my surprise, I was paid out! I believe the exact amount was $52.30. Each player who was registered received a similar amount. That was about $25,000 they just pissed away on a tournament cancellation, I remember thinking to myself!

A few hours later, they managed to make some adjustments and get the tournament running again. They were running the same $25,000 freeroll they just paid out! I managed to register for this one as well, and placed 32nd, getting another $40 or $50 for my efforts. I checked my account over the course of the next few days, and the money was mine to keep! I was impressed.

The PDC poker room offered several free entry poker tournaments. This was a real value, as the tournament fields were no where near the size of those encountered at sites like Absolute, or any of those found on the Microgaming platform. Additionally, the prize money was richer, so I was competing against less people for more money, definitely plus EV from both a time, and a monetary standpoint.

I also recall PDC poker.com reaching out to the online poker community sometime in June 2006. A rogue poker roomwho had operated on the poker room network, CheckNRaise poker, went under. Stuck were several players who were assured World Series of Poker Main Event seats from CNR. Perhaps it was for publicity’s sake, maybe to help establish credibility, or perhaps to help out troubled, wronged poker players, poker.com stepped in and funded the WSOP seats for these players that were screwed. Regardless the reason, poker.com stepped up. I was proud of them for doing so, and the act of generosity made me feel more comfortable playing on their site.

The most personal, and the majority of my experience with this poker network came via the Blogger Poker Tour. I established myself as a leader of this competition amongst the online poker writers hosted by poker.com.

I developed a close relationship with Shane Bridges, the then media manager for poker.com who was the BPT Commissioner. Shane is by far the best banner man in the online gambling industry. In addition to being in charge of the advertising at Carbon Poker, he is also an affiliate manager for them now, and a hell of a guy, I might add. I ended up shipping out to Australia to provide blog coverage of the poker.com players in the Aussie Millions. It was here that I had the opportunity to meet the players on the poker site who won the right to compete in the largest poker tourney in the Southern Hemisphere – held at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.

I met and spent time with several of the people who made Poker.com what it was behind the scenes. In addition to meeting Shane in person, I also met Kris – the front man of the poker.com brand, as well as Paul Cherry and Helen.

Additionally, I met Liam who was an affiliate relationship manager. And of course, I had the opportunity to meet and spend a great amount of time with the Queen of Hearts herself, Tina Wallmann. Tina and I spent countless hours together, as her job was to take care of the players, serving as the poker.com hostess. As a red-blooded male, it was my duty to spend as much time with her as possible!

I had a great time hanging with Tina, which I may discuss in future blog posts. Truth be told, I had an amazing time in Oz all around, thanks to poker.com and most specifically Tina, Shane and Kris. Poker.com, Carbon Poker, and the Merge Network have earned my friendship, my trust, and my respect.

Overview of PDC History

Exact details of the events that took place, causing this apparent re-branding between poker.com and Carbon Poker are, in all honestly – unknown to me. I could just call someone at Merge and ask them – and probably will some day. I prefer, however, to do my own homework at this time and personally research the company before turning to anyone for questions.

I do know, however, that prior to February 2007, the company owning the PDC Poker Software was not the same company who owned the domain name in which it operated. It is my belief that a split between these two groups led to the formation of the Merge Poker Network, as well as the apparent rebranding of poker.com into Carbon Poker. Keep in mind, as with most privately held companys, there’s an abundance of information unavailable to the public. With that in mind, here’s what I’ve been able to drum up regarding the background and history of poker.com, PDC poker and the Merge Network.

PDC unofficial history

The history of the original home of the Merge Network of Poker rooms goes back to the Poker.com domain name. Poker.com dates back to December of 1998, according to the Wayback Machine. The internet archives suggest, Poker.com got its start as an affiliate portal, offering lists of magazines, books, chat rooms, game lists, sports books, and discussion groups. The original poker.com design apparently came from Liz – at BT Designs, who to this day has a poker.com banner on her btdesigns website.

In mid 2000, poker.com was an affiliate portal – promoting various online games, as well as poker tournaments, and other gambling related offers. Offers from Visual Casino, as well as a list of free slot machines, java games you could play for free, and free shockwave games were all openly advertised on the poker.com website. In addition, links to online sports books, horse racing portals, along with the ability to play draw poker right on the website by pushing a button were all present on the poker.com website; as were links to newsletters from Mike Paulie and John Vorhaus.

During this time frame, poker.com was a publicly traded company over the counter in the USA – trading under the symbol PKER – headquartered in Vancouver BC, Canada. The stock symbol PKER was additionally associated with companies such as LEGALPLAY ENTERTAINMENT INC, Communication Services Inc., Algiers Holdings, Antico Holdings SA, Fin Com Financial Communications Inc., Alacorp and Blue Sea Inc.

In 2002-2003 Poker.com Inc became associated with Skill Poker System – a US Based company boasting the claim of being the only legal online gambling provider in North America. Additionally, Poker.com Inc became involved in litigation with regarding the dispute over the Poker.com URL/domain name and trademark dispute. Additionally, then CEO Michael Jackson stepped aside and Mark Glusing took the helm. Amidst this domain hijacking, apparently, a poker room from Aztec Riches was readily available to poker.com visitors. Poker.com Inc.

proceeded with its plan to develop a proprietary software platform and license out to online casino providers, paraphrasing a statement made in one of the public company’s annual reports. This domain hijacking was rumored to be a result of internal issues, as opposed to straight up jacking from an outside hacker. It appears that in April of 2005, the domain was returned to its rightful owners, and a settlement was reached. The name of Liz Bryce a Vancouver BC resident and member of AlaCorp was associated with the domain jacking incident.

Poker.com begins to take form

In May of 2005, Tina Wallmann – the Queen of Hearts and spokesmodel for poker.com’s online card room, made an appearance on the poker.com website – along with the classic “As seen on TV” logo. Shortly after, Poker.com went live as an online poker room. My best guess is that it was during this time, operations of Poker.com were relocated to Brisbane, Australia.

Operations continued with Poker.com continuing to upgrade and improve its poker software – introducing innovative features on its platform such as allowing their players the ability to rabbit hunt or show one card. In the poker room’s infancy stage, I recall posting ideas and suggestions on their forum for features we as poker players would love to see. In an unprecedented manner, the actual decision makers (Kris who headed up poker.com) would reply to the feedback. The hierarchy at poker.com made it a priority to be one with the community of poker players they were building within their brand.

Enter the Merge Network

In February, 2007 poker.com became a gambling portal, linking to poker sites such as FullTilt Poker and 888.com. At the same time, Carbon Poker emerged – seemingly taking the place of the poker.com I once knew. I recall waking up, noticing this change and emailing Kris and Shane, thinking the domain was jacked. I later received news of the reorganization.

Without sending any emails or making any phone calls, here is the information I’ve obtained regarding the ownership or controlling interest of the Merge Gaming Network:

Listed owner or head of Merge Gaming Network and PDC Poker – Donald Moffatt – PDC Global Collections Ltd +44.1624821520 (this is apparantly a UK/Isle of Man number)

Additionally, the domains of PDCPoker, Merge Gaming, and Carbon Poker is listed as being registered to:

  • Poker.com NV
  • New Haven Office Center, Emancipatie Boulevard 31
  • Cuaraco, AN
  • Phone: +599.97341000 (Netherland Antilles calling code)

It is my belief that PDCPoker and Carbon Poker are owned and run, at least in part by the same company. This would make complete sense, considering the affiliate programs are both housed under the PDCAffiliates website, which is also registered to Poker.com NV. Further research suggests the Merge Network is in fact controlled through these same groups. As a result, it would seemingly be fair to say PDC/Carbon Poker control the Merge Gaming Network. It should be noted, when looking up DNS information on other poker rooms utilizing the Merge Platform, the rooms I sampled did not turn up similar results.

So where is the PDC Poker Centrally Located?

The offices for PDC Poker are physically located in Brisbane, Australia. Given the above, my deduction is that the offices of Carbon Poker, as well as the Merge Network and PDCPartners are also located in Brisbane.

Company names I can link Historically to the Merge Network

Here’s some past companies, partnerships, corporations, and business entities I’ve been able to link to PDC Poker at one point in history or another:

  • Skill Poker
  • Communication Services Inc
  • Algiers Holdings,
  • Antico Holdings SA,
  • Fin Com Financial Communications Inc.,
  • Blue Sea Inc
  • skill poker system
  • Blue Diamond International Capital
  • Pokersoft Corporation A.V.V
  • GamblingVision Group Inc
  • Casino Marketing S.A
  • Genius Goods Inc
  • Ala Corp
  • Communication Services Inc.
  • LegalPlay Entertainment
  • Unine
  • LegalPlay
  • 564448 BC Ltd
  • poker.com Inc
  • Fabulous.com
  • Poker.com NV
  • BT Designs
  • Fin Com Financial Communications Inc.,
  • Alacorp
  • Blue Sea Inc.
  • PDC Global Collections, Ltd

As a final note, I can attest to the above findings only in so far as to say I’ve found this information. Other than from personal experiences, which I have clearly identified, this information is stuff I have stumbled upon in my research. I can neither swear any of it off as gospel, nor can I dispel anything that may be mythological. I welcome anyone to chime in that can further clarify anything specifically clearing up the history portion of this review, as well as anyone who can share any insight to the domain jacking incident referred to above.

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