About Jesse, Online gambling content writer
Interview with Jesse.

I started playing online poker in 2005 after seeing the movie Rounders. I specialized in short-handed fixed-limit hold’em until the UIGEA passed in late 2006 which caused me to quit poker for the most part. In the summer of 2007, I started playing no-limit hold’em cash games online after seeing that PokerStars and Full Tilt were consistent with cash outs.

I was a small stakes and mid-stakes regular for a couple of years and a moderator for the beginners section at one of the top online poker forums when I was approached about writing strategy articles and other general content. I anticipated online poker not really lasting forever because of the legal problems that kept coming up, so I started hedging my bets by developing a group of clients that I would write for in the online gambling space.

After Black Friday happened, online poker was effectively wiped out in the United States, and my backup plan looked like a really good idea after all. Right now I write and produce other types of content for online casino, bingo, poker and sports betting sites full-time.

More often than not gambling online is “muddled” by bureaucracy as such the US Federal Government said that it will not regulate it on a national level but it’s up to individual states to do so. Do you think regulation has been a success in the US so far?

New Jersey is probably the best example of online gambling being regulated on a large scale within a state. We got to see a lot of problems come out of that like issues with people being denied payments because of mistakes with processors. Another big issue was that the projections for revenues for online gambling in the state were particularly unrealistic, so when the actual numbers came in, everyone was let down.

Despite these problems, I think the regulation of online gambling in New Jersey has went really well. They’re still seeing growth in terms of the number of accounts being created, and the revenues are a pretty big deal since the state is having so many problems with Atlantic City.

As far as other states following the lead of New Jersey, it’s not that simple as just using them as a model for what to do. For example, most states don’t have established casino brands or licensing boards that foreign operators could pair with.

A lot of people in the industry, myself included, thought 2014 was going to be the year that a lot more states started to regulate online gambling after following the lead of New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out like that even though a whole lot of states had legislation looked at for the regulation of the industry. The state-regulated model is solid and in line with US law, but getting all of the individual states to act is going to mean players will have to wait longer to get games in their respective states.

I see that you’re a keen poker player. How would you describe the online poker environment in the US at the moment? In other words is it properly regulated, fair and do up-and-coming poker players still have a future in the US?

I don’t recommend that new players in the United States try to start off at poker to move up through the ranks and turn it into a full-time income. There aren’t any sites with a large enough volume of players to really support that kind of thing right now, and it doesn’t look like there will be in the near future.

The current environment for US poker players consists mostly of being able to deposit and play on a number of networks that have between 500 and 5,000 players online at any given time. The options for perks like rakeback are really limited, and there isn’t much possibility for multi-tabling or exercising extensive table selection. The rake is also higher at microstakes games than it has ever been before.

On the topic of regulation, only three states regulate online poker right now: New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. The only hope for online poker in the US is that the states decide to pool together their players like a 2014 agreement between Delaware and Nevada would do. Until this is done on a large scale and more states regulate the industry, online poker is just going to get worse and worse for these players.

Many online poker operators such as Bovada now offer casino, sports betting and even live casinos. Any particular reason for this and how does this benefit poker players?

PokerStars is facing a really big problem right now. Despite having the largest player pool by far, they also have the toughest competition of any online poker room in the history of the game. The reason for this is that they only offer poker. This means that they cannot attract recreational players from other types of gambling.

With a site like Bovada that does offer the different types of gambling, you’ll get a lot more recreational players coming in to enjoy some poker since they got bored with whatever else they were playing. This means softer games and less of regulars having to fight with other regulars over the few recreational players who happen to show up.

I actually wrote a piece lately on how the Amaya Gaming Group is adding casino games and other types of betting to PokerStars. A lot of the players are mad about this because they believe it will take away some of their action, but the reality of the situation is that it will make the games a lot softer at PokerStars over the long run because it will bring in more recreational gamblers.

On your website (Potentialeight.com) you state that you have a degree in mathematics. For the sake of the novice player out there can you please tell us in laymans terms how the house edge is calculated (you can use any game as an example)?

The house edge or house advantage is just the amount of money you’ll lose on average as a percentage of your bet. So if you bet $100 total on a game with a two percent house advantage, you’re going to lose $2 on average in that game. Now you might get lucky and win more than you normally would on average, or you might get unlucky and lose more, but the average stays the same.

I’ve gotten a fair bit of attention over the years for some of the mathematically-driven things that I’ve written regarding poker. I have a skill set that allows me to be pretty good at breaking down fairly complicated ideas in ways that beginners can understand without needing some advanced understanding of mathematics.

Late last year, I actually wrote a complete set of EV Calculation Tutorials for poker situations that only require the reader know how to add and multiply. It walked the reader through being able to do just about any type of expected value (aka average payout of a play) calculations. It was between 20 and 25 pages printed, and it’s something that’s gotten a lot of attention because of the relative simplicity of the approach used.

In your expert opinion, do you think the industry is properly regulated? If not which mechanisms do you propose to make it safer?

It seems like every country, state and province with regulated online gambling has their own specific problems. In any example I can think of, the problems come from lawmakers writing the law in a way that doesn’t take into account the reality of the online gambling world.

Here’s a good example. In Canada right now, online gambling is banned on a federal level with the exception that the provinces can offer their own games. In turn, most provinces (with the exception of Alberta and Saskatchewan) offer some sort of online gambling portal.

The problem is that the provinces aren’t allowed to just offer licenses to other operators, and because they can’t really compete with companies who have been doing this for a decade or two, they aren’t able to achieve any significant market share. I’ve read reports that the market share for the provincially-operated games in a place like British Columbia is anywhere from five percent to 20 percent.

On top of that, the only type of online gambling that the federal government in Canada outright bans is sports betting on fewer than three events at the same time. This really came to a head earlier this year when the Canadian Gaming Association completely ripped their legislature a new one because of all of the illegal bets that were made on the Super Bowl that the governments could have profited from without that pointless rule.

So what you have in Canada, and the reason it’s such a good example, is that the provinces are allowed to offer games, but they’re completely held back from making the best decisions for both the players and the governments.

Online casinos offer first time visitors welcome bonuses just for pitching. Why are bonus offers predominantly slots centric and not table game centric? Please explain to us how the playthrough attach to a bonus is calculated?

If you look at the practical, in-action payout rates and house edges for games, slots tend to have a higher house advantage than table games. Any player can quickly find a perfect strategy chart online for blackjack and even video poker in most cases, and many of these games are set up so that the house advantage is less than one percent with correct play. In fact, a few blackjack and video poker games have a house advantage lower than one-quarter of a percent.

Along these lines, it makes sense for the operators to offer bonuses that are better for slots players than table players. This extends to both the size of the bonus offers and the level of the play-through requirements.

A play-through requirement is basically protection for the site to keep people from abusing the promotions, and it’s usually a multiple of your deposit and/or bonus. So if you have a 100 percent match on a $75 deposit with a 20x play-through requirement on the deposit and bonus, then your total requirement would be 20 * $150 = $3,000 and you would be required to wager a total of $3,000 before you’d be able to cash out.

Once you clear those requirements, some bonuses can be cashed out along with your winnings and cash balance. Those are called cashable deals. They tend to be advantageous over non-cashable bonuses since they basically just turn into cash when you’ve finished the play-through. Non-cashable deals are removed from your account when you cash out.

Would you say online casinos offer better perks than their land-based counterparts?

First consider that if you take into account having to tip and having to arrange for travel and the extra time it takes to get to a land-based casino, then online casinos can be a much better option if you’re just looking at the bottom line. There’s so much overhead for playing in land-based establishments that there’s really no comparison.

If you look at the pure comps and bonuses and things like that by themselves, then online casinos can have an advantage as well. You can often get value in several different ways for the same amount of play when you are playing online. For example, you could be working on a deposit bonus while taking part in a leaderboard competition and earning comp points which convert to cash all at the same time. You can’t really do this in a land-based casino, and the comp programs aren’t usually enough to compare.

With that having been said, some of the perks of land-based casinos aren’t monetary. For example, there’s the social aspect of it and enjoying time meeting new people. There’s a bit of a trade-off between the two.

Being an avid poker player, has it taught you any skills that you can apply to every day life?

Even though I was pretty deep into mathematics outside of poker, I didn’t really start getting into game theory until I started taking poker seriously. Game theory really acted as a sort of interface that allowed me to connect this amount of mathematical knowledge that I have to my everyday interactions in this abstract way.

Aside from that, it also taught me to have a much different relationship to money. You really have to numb yourself to the amount of money being in play a lot of the time so that you don’t have adverse emotional reactions that could hurt your profitability. In turn, I think this has led me to be more rational and less emotional with handling money in the rest of my life.

Before a players signs up at an online casino what advice would you give to the player?

I get asked this a lot, and my advice is always the same: Do your research to find something that matches up with what you want. There are so many online casinos out there today that it doesn’t make sense to settle for something that isn’t exactly what you want. This includes game selection, chances for promotions and even the general theme of the casino.

Another piece of advice that I’d like to give is to really have a bankroll management plan in place that starts from your budget as a whole. If you budget a certain amount of money for online gambling each week, each month or whatever period of time, then it makes it very clear what your expectations are for bet sizes, taking advantage of promotions and things like that. It also helps to draw a clear line on what is compulsive gambling and what is not which is a pretty big deal.

Is online gambling here to stay and where do you see it in another 5 years time?

Online gambling isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t matter how much policing they do because it’s still going to happen. Every attempt at prohibition for online gambling has failed miserably, and that’s going to continue being the case until they just regulate it.

The most growth I’m seeing right now in the industry is in the mobile sector. Over the past 18 months or so, online casino and poker software companies have really turned up the volume on how they handle mobile with more games coming out each year than the year before. I think that more people will be playing by mobile in 2020 than on normal computers.