US unregulated site Jao Poker appears to have gone under. Phil Galfond weighs in on the Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu controversy with an admirably balanced take. Japan will likely get its first casinos, but has some decisions to make. These stories and more in your weekend roundup edition of the PartTimePoker Hit & Run.

The Jaoke’s On You

The US “unregulated” (i.e. black) market is dubious at the best of times, but the concept behind fledgling poker room Jao Poker was so transparently shady that it’s amazing anyone bought into it in the first place. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, it is (or was) a poker site built around a multi-level marketing scheme. Or, put in less euphemistic terms, a Ponzi scheme. Rather than spending money on traditional marketing approaches, Jao asked its players to “invest” $250 for the right to be player-affiliates, after which they could then earn money back by getting others to sign up as players, or better yet, as player-affiliates themselves. Oh, and they were asking people to send money via PayPal, a service which is notoriously aggressive in going after anyone using it for anything with the slightest whiff of gambling about it.

Let that sink in a bit. It’s both an illegal poker site moving money through a US-based, gambling-unfriendly payment provider, and a get-rich-quick pyramid scheme, wrapped up in a bow. It’s the sort of thing you would come up with if you were striving for efficiency in your bad life decisions.

To make matters worse (or better, if you’re into schadenfreude and weren’t stupid enough to deposit there yourself), the site’s most vocal promoter Tam Nguyen also happens to be a walking PR disaster, frequently going off the rails and hurling abuse at anyone criticizing him or the site. He also has to be one of the world’s worst liars, as you can see in this Facebook video in which he simultaneously insists the site is merely down for maintenance, says he doesn’t actually know what’s going on, reassures players that their money is safe, reassures himself that probably no one had that much money on there anyway, and clarifies that he’s just an ambassador and has never had anything to do with running the site himself… all while exhibiting so many physical tells that you hope for his sake he’s an online-only guy and has never sat in a live poker game.

If you couldn’t laugh, you’d have to cry.

Quick Hitters

– Publicly trashing Daniel Negreanu has been a popular sport in the poker world ever since PokerStars – which he continues to promote – began making a series of unpopular changes, starting back in late 2015. Most recently, Doug Polk went after Negreanu for some things he said regarding rake and how it relates to the reg-rec balance at tables and the experience of casual players. Phil Galfond responded over the weekend with his own take on the issue, which is one of the most nuanced and balanced things anyone has had to say on the subject. Rather than attempt to summarize his point here, I’ll simply recommend that you read it yourself.

– Also on the subject of the US unregulated market, Americas Cardroom’s latest OSS Cub3d tournament series got underway yesterday. Before you rush to deposit, though, you might want to listen to what Joey Ingram has to say about them.

– Japan opened the door to legal Las Vegas-style casino gambling back in 2016, but is still mulling over the details of regulation. The latest idea that’s been brought to the table is charging an entry fee for Japanese citizens but not for tourists, to discourage habitual play and generate money for anti-problem gambling initiatives.

– PokerNews took a look at how PokerStars’ marketing strategy has changed over the years, as embodied by its choice of ambassadors.