Bitcoin Poker: How ‘Seals With Clubs’ Is Coming Back Strong After High-Profile Arrest and Shutdown

If you remember Chris Moneymaker, you probably remember April 15, 2011, colloquially known in poker communities as ‘Black Friday.’ After an indictment filed by the United States Department of Justice, poker sites such as Full Tilt, Pokerstars, and Absolute Poker shuttered their doors to US players. Poker night in America was over. Vegas and Indian Casinos were once again the only places available. Even then you had to have a bankroll. Casinos don’t have micro-stakes. 

That is, unless you had some bitcoin and a ‘Seals with Clubs’ account. 

Shortly after ‘Black Friday,’ a young poker player named Brian Micon filled the void and thirst for internet poker. And he did it with bitcoin. He launched Seals With Clubs in September of 2012. Cryptocurrency and poker enthusiasts alike flocked to Micon’s DIY poker platform.

bryan micon seals with clubs
Figure 1. Seals With Clubs founder and professional poker player Brian Micon.

An Honest Bitcoin Poker Offering

With a basic user interface and minimal options, at first, Seals With Clubs was a hangout for darknet marketeers and grinders. All bonding over their unwavering faith in the future of bitcoin. But that didn’t last long. Soon word spread and seats began to fill. Withdrawals were successfully made and Seals With Clubs began a reputation of an honest poker offering. 

In the first months after ‘Black Friday,’ internet poker had been relegated to lackluster and seemingly fraudulent Chinese applications and offshore servers. With a growing reputation Seals With Clubs quickly became a trusted alternative. Unlike sites such as Carbon Poker and others, on Seals With Clubs you deposited in bitcoin, played for bitcoin, and withdrew in bitcoin. Your BTC deposits were never converted to fiat in the process. That was a big deal. Especially for crypto-enthusiasts like myself.

As ‘Seals’ reputation grew and tables filled, daily tournaments with guaranteed prize pools began taking place. And soon other games were made available; such as Big O, Open Face Chinese, and Courchevel. The poker community began to take notice and Micon found himself the center of attention. The poker press heralded Micon and his upstart poker platform, Seals With Clubs, but in the process drew the attention of the authorities.

Seals With Clubs Shut Down

Seals With Clubs was shut down on February 11th of 2015 shortly after Micon’s house was raided. Micon pleaded guilty to operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system and avoided jail-time. Shortly after, Seals With Clubs (SwC) was purchased and re-launched under different ownership.

With the lowest rake in town and a solid reputation, Seals With Clubs 2.0 launched. Though most of the user base had fled, a few stuck around and it slowly became a haven for crypto-enthusiasts looking for something to do with their bitcoin other than just ‘buy and sell.’ 

With an average player base of about 200 at any given time it became more of a hangout. The guaranteed tournaments kept players playing and the wealth of game options kept the cash games going. But things began to grow a bit stale.

The unnamed owners who took control of SwC after Micon’s withdrawal decided to take action. Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in price had cost the platform users and stakes which were previously considered ‘micro’ were now twenty and thirty dollar poker games. New players weren’t coming and old players began cashing out. Enter Seals With Clubs 3.0.

Figure 2. Seals With Clubs 3.0

The Launch of Seals With Clubs 3.0

Released in November of 2018, Seals With Clubs 3.0 is a complete makeover of the ‘Seals’ brand and aesthetic. They even took the time to give the platform a new user interface and chat. With super low micro-stakes, no rake tables, and a new ‘Bad Beat Jackpot’, SwC is making a real attempt at a comeback. And anyone with a few Satoshis (micro bitcoin denominations) can join in the fun. I also dig the 8-bit aesthetic they used to redesign their homepage and banners. 

SwC’s stellar reputation in the cryptocurrency community speaks for itself. (They reimbursed me for both the BCH and BTCG forks and refunded bitcoin to my account after identifying a rake bug years later.) Not only do you need only a few Satoshis but you can rest assured your Satoshis are safe in the ‘Seals’ wallets. They also have a Bitcoin Talk thread to address complications, as they’re still working out a few bugs.

I’m excited to play a bit of poker, once again, with my bitcoin. I’ve never played Big O in real life nor OFC 2-7. But I’m happy to have the opportunity on SwC’s 3.0.

We recently had the opportunity to ask the owners a few questions about the re-launch of ‘Seals.’ The site operator, who goes by the name Glitch in the SwC chat, gave us some insight into their thoughts and opinions on running an internet bitcoin poker site:

Carty Sewill, Block Explorer: What brought you to re-launch? And how has Seals With Clubs’ past affected your future decisions?

Glitch, Seals With Clubs: The team decided that it was time to upgrade the software. SwC Poker spent far too long on the 2.0 platform and our players deserved a better experience. After looking at the global online poker marketplace, we found that no one else had a nice platform and treated the players fairly. Because of bitcoin, we can charge an industry-lowest rake and still make a profit. Once players see our new software and see the great deal we are offering they will start showing up in bigger numbers. We are already seeing an increase in traffic with only a few weeks of operation on the 3.0 platform.

CS: What makes SwC different to other BTC poker sites (or those that claim to be)?

Glitch: SwC Poker is unique in that we offer the game purely using bitcoin, on our own network, with reliable multi-platform software, and charge industry-lowest rake. Because SwC Poker has a long history of always paying out players, new players can be confident when making deposits. 

Withdrawals on the 3.0 platform are averaging only a few hours. We know that players want fast cashouts, a variety of games, stable software, and a good value for their poker budgets. 

Our “No Rake Microstakes” tables allow players at the lowest stakes to use our platform absolutely free. No other poker site is doing that because no other poker site really cares about the players. The industry seems to always move towards higher rake and less player rewards. After our recent upgrade, we now offer low-rake Bitcoin poker in a competitive package that is set to compete with bigger traditional poker sites in 2019.

CS: How do you feel about your less-than-forthright competition and operating as a trusted entity surrounded by scam sites?

Glitch: Not sure about that question, as SwC Poker can only speak for itself. Bitcoin poker players know to do research on poker sites before putting their money on. When they research us, they find our long history of always paying out players quickly and handling any situation with high ethics.

CS: What’s the largest pot, in bitcoin, in Seals With Clubs history?

Glitch: We do not have older data, but some players have talked about 1000 BTC pots played on the 1.0 platform.

CS: You’ve all been committed for so long. What drives your passion?

Glitch: It is not the same team throughout, but the members today have the passion to make bitcoin poker very successful. We think that using bitcoin the rake can be made very low, which will help fuel a healthy poker economy.

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Carty Sewill

Carty is a graphic designer and cryptocurrency enthusiast based out California. He enjoys sci-fi, Seinfeld, and philosophy. See his work at his website

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