An Online Poker Room Operating Legally From the United States? You Bet!

Written by:
Jenny Woo
Published on:
Oct/01/2008

PurePlay.com's CEO, Jason Kellerman, sat down with Yours Truly while at Barcelona's European i-Gaming Congress and Expo and answered some questions about the subscriber based online poker company that was launched in November of 2004.

It's a controversial subject matter. PurePlay.com claims to be the first and largest legal model offering play-for-cash online poker. Subscriber based with risk free online poker - and, yes, they operate from the United States (San Francisco) even in these post UIGEA days (that stands for the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, and you don‘t need me to even try and explain what that law entails).

By the way, it's also really easy to sign up. It took your very own Jenny a minute to start my own account....so maybe now I can finally start playing like a pro. Okay, that may be wishful thinking on my part. However, read what Jason has to say about PurePlay.com and see what they have in store for the near future.

JENNY: What is it that makes PurePlay stand out from of the rest of the U.S. legal online poker sites?

KELLERMAN: In addition to pioneering the subscription poker model in the U.S., PurePlay now stands out as the largest legal model offering play-for-cash online poker with over 1.5 million players. At PurePlay, subscribers can play in as many tournaments as they want and win cash, but they never put their own money at risk. We have paid out over $4 million in cash so far to our customers. When we came up with this business model it was so unique that we applied for and were awarded a U.S. patent for it.

JENNY: PurePlay was chosen as one of the finalist for the Innovation of the Year Award by eGaming Review Magazine. Did you win?

KELLERMAN: I am thrilled to say that we did win the Innovation of the Year Award. The eGaming Review competition is the 'Academy Awards' of the online gaming industry, and we are honored to bring home this year's award for innovation.

JENNY: Do you advertise with eGaming Review? I'm always skeptical about how legit such awards are.

KELLERMAN: We do not and have never advertised with eGaming Review so there is no bias involved here. The awards are determined by an independent panel of judges.

JENNY: Who were you up against with this nomination?

KELLERMAN: There were some other very compelling innovations so we are proud to have been selected. We were up against two finalists from BetFair as well as Million-2-1, Racingworld technology and Jackpot Factory.

JENNY: I'm just wondering why I wasn't nominated for anything. So what does it mean to you for PurePlay to be one of the finalists for this award?

KELLERMAN: We were proud to be a finalist, and the ultimate winner of this year's eGaming Review Innovation of the Year Award, which celebrates excellence in the online gaming space. Winning this award capped an enormously successful year for us. eGaming Reviews' recognition of our model is a true endorsement of the strength and uniqueness of our proposition.

JENNY: As some of my readers may know, I'm not the greatest at poker. Example, when I played in Norway with Purple Lounge for the FHM European competition. The poker table can be an intimidating place online or in person and I myself felt about two feet tall. Hell, I was surrounded by 7 foot Norwegians. Seriously, how and where would you direct someone like me on your site?

KELLERMAN: The beauty of our product is that players can play risk free and still compete for real cash. Unlike gambling sites where it is a clear "If I win, you lose" proposition, at PurePlay, players compete without ever putting their own money at risk. This leads to a much more supportive, yet still competitive, community which is far less intimidating to the novice. We have many testimonials of how players went from novice to big cash winners just by playing at PurePlay. Some have even gone on to compete at huge offline tournaments like the World Series of Poker.

To reduce the "Intimidation Factor" a newer player can always try a few hands at a poker table to practice, or can compete in skill based tournaments with others at his/her skill level. Skill levels are determined by a rating that players receive based on the strength of their play.

Jenny, I have a tough time believing anyone intimidates YOU.

JENNY: You'd be surprised. In November of 2005, PurePlay was launched and offered the first legal model of play-for-cash online poker. Were people skeptical at first or did they jump in head first?

KELLERMAN: From the beginning, this online community has been very enthusiastic about PurePlay's legal risk-free, play-for-cash approach, and we grew rapidly from the outset. Fundamentally, PurePlay is appealing to a huge audience who want competition (and the thrill of winning cash) but are afraid to lose money. There are approximately 40-50 million of these players online today. Almost three years later, we are growing faster than ever, as more and more people hear about this unique offering.

JENNY: The UIGEA has been a hot topic for online gaming. Were you worried that it would affect PurePlay at all?

KELLERMAN: No because our model has never been gambling, so the UIGEA does not impact us at all. In fact, when the UIGEA was passed, it actually helped us as "stranded" U.S. players began to look for legal alternatives.

JENNY: PokerStars still take customers from the US and their legal counsel has been vocal that the UIGEA DOES NOT MAKE ONLINE POKER ILLEGAL due to the concept that it is a SKILL GAME, not ONE OF CHANCE. Assuming you believe this to be true, do you believe PokerStars should be allowed to continue allowing real cash players from the US?

Kellerman: PurePlay is not in a position to comment on the legality of any other online poker sites/models.

JENNY: Sheesh I feel like Katie Couric here. What magazines did you read before launching PurePlay? ......Just kidding. But let me ask you, on your LinkedIn profile, you wrote, "Current objective is to build my startup venture". Has that been accomplished? And if so, what is your new objective?

KELLERMAN: Guess I should update my profile! We have made incredible progress since we started this venture. We have grown to 1.5 million players and have awarded over $4 million in cash prizes to become the clear leader in legal U.S. poker. Our growth in the past year alone has been fantastic. Going forward, our objective is to continue to build on this leadership position, offering more exciting games and more cash prizes for our members.

JENNY: PurePlay subscribers pay the low monthly fee of $20. Tell our readers who are thinking about signing up with the site what they get for $20 a month?

KELLERMAN: Player's Club members can play for over $150,000 in cash prizes every month through unlimited daily cash tournaments. In addition to daily cash tournaments Player's Club members can play in weekly $2,000 and $5,000 tournaments, $10,000 quarterly tournaments, and can compete every day to win a seat to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Importantly, all tournaments at PurePlay require no buy ins, deposits or entry fees of any kind so all you can ever spend as a Player's Club member is $19.99 per month. They also receive valuable benefits such as individual performance ratings, skill based tournaments, live chat customer support and no ads during game play.

JENNY: I went onto PurePlay.com, and I noticed that it was quick and easy to start my own account. What's offered to someone like me who doesn't want to start a subscription just yet?

KELLERMAN: Our Basic membership is completely free. Currently, Basic members can play for up to $25,000 every month in daily cash tournaments. They can also compete daily to win a seat at the World Series of Poker or to win a $10,000 quarterly tournament. Again, none of our tournaments require buy ins, deposits or entry fees so our Basic membership is truly free.

JENNY: We need to ensure minors are not playing. What measures have you taken in this regard?

KELLERMAN: We take a number of measures to ensure minors aren't playing, ranging from blocking players who indicate they are under 18 to requiring all winners to provide government issued identification before they can collect a prize. We are also looking at using age verification software as an added measure.

JENNY: I'm sure you've been following the developments in Kentucky. That commonwealth's Governor has been attempting to seize domain names from online poker sites. What's your opinion on what is going on in Kentucky with that commonwealth's attempt to seize domain names? How can this be stopped? Would registrars really pull domain names from companies like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars?

KELLERMAN: It's too early to tell what's going to happen in Kentucky. My only comment is that it seems to be focused on gambling sites. Since PurePlay does not offer gambling, we don't spend time focused on issues like these.

In closing, PurePlay claims it is committed to responsible game-play and is not a gambling site, just as Mr. Kellerman insisted throughout our interview. The US Justice Department would not comment on the legality of PurePlay. Well, then again, I never bothered to call them either. But the company and Kellerman insist that, because they do not offer gambling, they make it impossible for players to lose money, but still provide an exciting and entertaining experience.

The website emphatically declares:

"Our goal is to maintain the thrill of online games while keeping it safe for everyone. We will be partnering with agencies, groups and associations to help promote safe and responsible game play, and to provide a conduit to assistance for those with gambling addictions."

----

Jenny Woo, Gambling911.com Senior Correspondent

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