Kelowna residents start online poker club amid pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna residents start online poker club amid pandemic

Image Credit: PIXABAY
June 17, 2021 - 7:30 AM

An online poker club started by two Kelowna men is attracting players across the country since opening amid the pandemic.

Kelowna residents Geoff Herzog and Jesse Sjoquist co-own PokerLake, an online private poker club that has been operating for the last year.

Partnering with an app called SoPo, the club lets people purchase chips and play poker online through their phone, Herzog said.

“We sell chips and you can play poker with them in our store, in order to remain legal in Canada, all bets have to be nine people or less,” he said. “Each person plays for themselves, but no more than nine people can be involved in any one hand of poker, so you can’t have a big tournament with multiple tables going.”

On the east coast, PokerLake found groups moving their in-person poker nights online through their app, he said. They have roughly 200 club members, mostly from the Okanagan and Ontario, but only residents from Canada, excluding Quebec, due to Canadian laws.

"It’s grown but it’s grown at a slow rate," he said. “We’re like any business, we’re getting going in our first year, slow and steady wins the race right? We hope to grow it and provide a safe place for people to host their home poker games virtually.”

According to the Canadian Criminal Code, keeping a common gaming or betting house is illegal unless the winner of any bets include no more than 10 people.

“I think it was designed to allow people to still host a game at home for their friends, so we’re essentially doing that, just doing it virtually,” he said. Games can be set up with people you know, or against strangers.

Herzog’s played poker in the U.S. for the last 16 years, but moved to Canada to play online after 2011. the U.S. Justice Department shut down the biggest online poker companies at that time, according to Forbes.

While Herzog is confident in his approach, the provincial government isn't so sure.

Travis Paterson, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said the B.C. Lottery Corporation’s Playnow.com is the only regulated commercial gambling website permitted in the province.

"No other person or company may conduct, manage, or operate a commercial gambling scheme in B.C.,” Paterson said via an emailed statement. “Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch has referred this matter to their enforcement division to determine if services offered by this company are in violation of the Gaming Control Act.  As the matter is now under investigation, we cannot comment further."


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