Thursday, September 4, 2008

Invisible Skills of a Poker Player, Part I: Cashing Out

As it turns out, one of the crucial skills of the modern online player is cashing out. This is something that has only come into play since the creation of the UIGEA and the more recent demise of Epassporte. Unfortunately, those of us who lost the ability to make easy withdrawals by debit card are left with fewer and fewer options to retrieve our money. The most common one available is that of a check.

As anyone who has been cashing out regularly over the last few months could tell you, their checks have arrived in as few as four days to as many as a month and a half in some rare cases. Places like Full Tilt and Cake Poker have averaged turnaround times of 1 1/2 weeks in the past but more recently about 3 weeks from process to delivery. Since most professional players are not true ballers in any sense of the word, we tend to need that money greatly as it comes in. So I feel that it is pretty safe to say that most readers can relate to the idea of constantly being broke while waiting for spurts of payouts because we have become accustomed to getting checks from our preferred site in a specific time window.

If you have been a serious player or professional for any span over the last few years, you should be accustomed by now to all manner of negative surprises. Here is a partial list of those things:

1. The passing of the UIGEA and the subsequent closing of many sites.

2. The shutdown of Neteller to American customers and the seizing of player funds.

3. The abrupt shutdown of Epassporte.

4. The bankruptcy of Red Nines.

5. The complications of instant bank transfers from Full Tilt.

6. Massive delays in check withdrawals.

7. The much publicized cheating scandals of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.

Each of these incidents have left us all worrying about the state and safety of our money and our ability to play poker. Although it may come as something of a surprise, leaving a certain amount of money safely off-line is also necessary for your poker playing well being. After all, since we are all playing poker to make money, keeping most of that money is necessary to maintaining a healthy bankroll and lifestyle. So how does all this tie in together? If you are not or have not been in the position of having a good portion of your net worth safely off-line, you must always prepare for the worst when it comes to the delivery of your poker winnings.

Here is how I suggest doing that:

1. Calculate exactly how much money you will need two months from now and the frequency in which you will need it.

2. Add a minimum of $500 to that amount for unexpected expenses.

3. Despite how quickly your winnings have arrived in the past, assume a 30 day delivery time*.

4. Take the amount of money you are withdrawing and how important are the things that you need that money for and give that cashout a priority score of 1-5. For each priority scoring above one, add 4 days for each priority point. Drinking money would receive a priority score of 1, whereas the mortgage bill would receive a priority of 5, for instance.

5. Now add 7 days for the check to clear plus 2 days for each $1000 increment above $1000.

6. If you have not already done so, scan the front and back of your driver's license and also a utility bill that has your address that is on file with your poker site showing. If your site requires these things, they might not always tell you up front so go ahead and ask them by e-mail or live chat if they require any documentation BEFORE you make your cashout. Otherwise, your money might get left in limbo for a long time before you figure out anything is wrong.

Now that these things are out of the way, here are a few more tips to keep in mind.

1. If you are repaying a personal loan with some of your cashout money, give your creditor the maximum timeline that you expect to receive it. Do NOT promise them the best case scenario, as you will certainly disappoint or offend someone at some point in time if the money arrives later than expected (and it will).

2. Establish overdraft protection with your financial institution and keep your savings account funded in case things do not go as planned (they won't).

In the game of poker, optimism is a fools gambit. Just remember that.

*This time frame is for American players and may or may not apply to other countries.

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