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What Do You Get For Winning at Merge Gaming? | A Lifetime Ban!

Carbon Poker Logo

Carbon Gaming, on the Merge Gaming Network, has recently resurrected one of the unsavory tactics from its past: banning winning players. Beginning around March of 2017, this latest wave of restrictions has affected both relatively new customers as well as those who have been playing at the Merge Gaming Network for years unscathed. It's not known what the exact criteria are for determining whom to ban, but it seems that the network is targeting those with a history of winning play over several months.

This activity is not just limited to Carbon Gaming however. Other brands on the network, including and also engage in the practice of banning winning players. The entire Merge Gaming Network does not allow anyone to win in its poker room.

How insane is that? A poker game that can not have winners!

Do you really want to give your business to,, or knowing tha they will ban you if you win a few bucks on the tables? What would happen if you won in the sportsbook? Would they kick you out of there too? Or if you had a good run in the casino? Would they cancel your bonus and kick you off the platform?

Details of the Account Restrictions

Not Allowed Circle and Bar

Carbon is prohibiting certain players from accessing the poker room. They can still bet on sports or play casino games, which is one of the key pieces of evidence pointing to the fact that it's the players' poker talent that's relevant in this situation. If the reasons for the restrictions were bonus abuse or cheating, then these players would most likely be banned across the whole product suite at Merge rather than just poker. Some individuals have stated on a thread at that they weren't prohibited from poker altogether but rather prevented from playing more than a few tables at a time. The lowest cap implemented appears to be a max of two tables open at once.

Adding insult to injury, the affected players are still subject to the normal fees that Carbon applies to withdrawals. So not only is Carbon declaring winning regs to be persona non grata, but it is actually forcing them to pay for the privilege of getting their money back! Even Bitcoin transactions, which should cost the firm no more than a few dollars each to process, incur fees of 5% of the amount paid out. After being thrown off the poker site, twoplustwoer “The Muffin Man” reported receiving an email from Carbon containing details of a “100% POKER RELOAD BONUS.” Now, that's just rubbing salt in the wound.

Banning winning players at Carbon Poker and Merge Gaming Network


UPDATE June 8, 2018: A quick glance through the popular poker forums shows that users are reporting lowered BTC withdrawal amounts of $2,500: down from the previous $5,000. This means that players who are banished from the site now have to wait longer to get their cash. Given that the people who are banned are solid winners, we expect that it's not uncommon for some of them to have many multiples of $2,500 in their accounts. We have confirmed this information directly on the Carbon cashier website:

Max Bitcoin Withdrawal at Carbon Just $2.5K


Why Is Carbon Poker Exiling Winners?

Hundred Dollar Bill

This new policy by Carbon is undoubtedly a clumsy attempt to protect its recreational users, particularly lucrative sports bettors, from handing their bankrolls over to more savvy adversaries at the poker tables. Other poker sites have also taken steps to protect less experienced players, like Ignition Poker with its anonymized gameplay and PokerStars, which no longer has normal heads-up tables. What most of these measures have in common is that they permit professionals to still ply their trade albeit with a decreased edge.

Carbon's actions are different from those of its competitors because they prevent some individuals from playing poker altogether. This is a self-defeating course to take because once the most skilled individuals are eliminated, slightly less profitable players will see their winrates increase. They will then occupy the same role that the now-banned individuals had, and so nothing will have been permanently achieved unless Carbon eliminates these new winners as well and continues doing so in the future. This never-ending spiral is a recipe for reduced player counts, lower poker revenue, and dissatisfied customers.

Merge Network History


From the time Carbon Poker joined with to create the Merge Network in 2007, it was a reputable place for players from the United States and all over the world to enjoy card games. While it wasn't the largest poker room around, it certainly had a friendly, welcoming vibe and unique promotions that its loyal players enjoyed. In 2010, and (both skins operated by Jazette) switched from the Cake Network over to Merge, vastly increasing its size.

When Black Friday occurred in April 2011, stranded U.S. players had to look for a new poker home, and many of them chose Merge. With a large player pool, soft competition, and profitable promotional specials, it stepped into the void created by the departure of PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker from the American poker scene. Merge became the largest U.S.-friendly poker network, and its future seemed rosy.

However, these enviable circumstances would soon deteriorate. Skins began to poach players from each other and offer under-the-table rakeback deals that broke network rules. Notwithstanding its popularity, the network's revenues started to fall. Jazette Enterprises (owners of and PlayersOnly) came to some kind of financial arrangement with the network to provide much-needed capital. It's not clear how the equity stakes were divvied up, but Jazette began to take an increasing role in the decisions of the network from 2012 onwards.

Unfortunately, Jazette is mainly a sportsbook operator that views its poker division as a marginal sideline at best. It has taken several steps that irritated the poker player base and made it more difficult for them to sustain long-term play. These dubious moves included:

  • Removal of player-to-player transfer ability (Nov. 2012)
  • Termination of the rakeback program and replacement with a VIP scheme (Feb. 2013)
  • First reports of winning players being banished (Nov. 2013)
  • Ending of VIP rewards (July 2014)
  • Closure of the affiliate program (June 2015)
  • Removal of stud, draw, and mixed games (Oct. 2015)
  • Discontinuation of cash leaderboard competitions (Jan. 2017)
  • Latest round of expelling winning players (March 2017 to present)

Merge Gaming Network Today

Downward Trending Graph

The result of all these questionable decisions has been a continuous shrinking of player traffic. From being the #1 U.S. network post-Black Friday, Merge is now in fifth place. According to numbers from, there is an average of only 160 cash game players online, making Carbon barely one-seventh the size of market leader Ignition Poker. Even's DE/NV site, which is only open to players in two states, is larger than Merge. If you are still interested in learning more about this site, we have written a very thorough Carbon Poker review that you can indulge in.

There's more to worry about here than just a company that neglects poker to focus on sports though. Bodog/Bovada/Ignition does the same thing, more or less, but they're a top-rated bookie with a history of honest and speedy payouts. CarbonSports, on the other hand, is rated D- by, and there have been many times during the past decade when customers have had to endure multi-month waits before receiving their cashouts. You can check out the current status of Carbon Poker withdrawal timeframes by looking at Professional Rakeback's own U.S. offshore poker sites payout report, which is updated monthly.

While it's too early to definitively say for sure that Merge and Carbon are destined for complete failure, the signs aren't looking good. Dwindling traffic, an uncongenial environment for winners, and excessive fees levied on withdrawals combine to paint an unfavorable picture. If you'd rather be safe than sorry, it might be time to transfer your roll to another site. Take a look at our list of the best poker sites open to Americans, and find one that suits your tastes.