This past weekend, one of the stars of the online poker world screwed up. He screwed up to the tune of one thousand dollars. And the worst part is that it he did not lose the money at the poker tables.
Eric “Sheets” Haber, who, along with Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy, is one of the founders of the poker training site, attempted to transfer money to a friend on Full Tilt Poker, something he does frequently. Unfortunately, instead of sending a thousand dollars to Kevin Saul, who goes by the screen name “getpwn3d,” he forgot about the internet geek spelling and transferred the funds to “getpwned.”
Full Tilt denied Sheets’ request to reverse the transfer and “getpwned” has not sent the money back.
This now brings me to the point of this column – the need for better procedures for inter-account transfers at online poker rooms. While Sheets most definitely deserves the blame for the mistake, it should never have been so easy for him to make it.
To transfer funds to another player at Full Tilt Poker, all you need to do is go to the Cashier, click on the Transfer button, and enter the other person’s screen name, along with the dollar amount. That’s it. Make a typo like Sheets did, and you had better hope that the new screen name does not exist. If it does, that money is being sent to a stranger.
At PokerStars, an online poker room renowned for its good policies and excellent customer service, the method is the same. Poker rooms need to implement better measures to ensure that accidental transfers never happen. The way to do this is simply to require the transferor to enter more information about the transferee. And it does not have to be much; just enough to make it almost impossible to accidentally send one thousand dollars to a guy with a silly nickname.
Party Poker has the right idea. Not much more is required at Party Poker than at Full Tilt or PokerStars, but it is almost certainly enough. At Party Poker, in addition to entering the other person’s screen name, you must also input their first and last names. If this was the procedure at Full Tilt, Sheets would have run into an error when entering Kevin Saul’s name, as it would not have matched the screen name that was entered. Sheets might have gotten frustrated for a couple minutes, but he would have eventually figured out why the transfer was not being accepted. This would also, in my opinion, decrease the likelihood of someone being scammed by an unscrupulous trade partner, as a scammer (assuming the personal information on his account is legit) would probably hesitate more often if he knew he had to supply his real name.
UltimateBet and Absolute Poker have similar systems to Party Poker, except that the two sites on the Cereus Network only require the screen name and first name, not last name.
In addition to multiple pieces of personal information, I would also like to see one more layer of security developed for inter-account transfers: a PIN or password confirmation system. What I envision is the money sender creating some sort of PIN or password upon initiation of the transfer. In order to complete the transaction, the recipient must enter this PIN or password on his end in a confirmation window in the cashier or on a secure webpage. Only upon successful PIN or password confirmation will the money be moved from one account to the other. The recipient will have a small window in which to complete this step, maybe 24 or 48 hours, and will be given three attempts, just in case he mistypes. For a password system, both numbers and letters would be required (and the word would have to be of some minimum length, maybe six characters). For a PIN system, I would require the number to be at least six digits to make it almost impossible for someone to randomly guess the number (provided it isn’t something like 111111) in three tries. Better yet, I’d allow it to be as long as, say, eight or ten digits to even further decrease the odds of someone guessing it – they would not only have to get the digits right, but also guess the correct length. This system guarantees that the two parties would have to be in communication prior to the transfer, as the recipient would have to be told the PIN or password from the sender. There is virtually no way, with this added feature implemented, that an unintended recipient could receive funds from another player.
Nothing I suggested here should be very difficult to put into place. It really is mind boggling to me that at some online poker rooms, especially ones as huge as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, it is so easy to accidentally send money to the wrong person. It will require a little time and money for the poker rooms to implement these measures, but in the long run, customers will be happier and customer service representatives will not have to spend time handling problems resulting from inter-account transfer mistakes.

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