Frequently Asked Questions
Questions regarding the E4ROW smart-contract
Q: What other applications can the E4ROW contract be used for?
A: We’re currently working on a head-to-head shooting contest (where, of course, players bet and win Ether) and two other poker variants (Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha). The E4ROW contract can be used for any game in which funds need to be held in a secure 3rd party escrow and we welcome other developers to use it.
Q: Is the contract open-source? Where can I find the code?
A: Source code for the E4ROW contract, the Token contract and the code for the Uncle Finney’s Poker app are all available on GitHub. You can also see the current states of the contracts at Etherscan.io here: E4ROW Escrow, E4ROW Token
Q: How do you get around the long Ether block time?
A: While the average blocktime is less than 15 seconds, in some cases blocktimes extend to over one minute. When this happens it will usually not slow down the game. This is because each player’s bet-transaction is created and signed with the player’s private key on the player’s smartphone (Players never reveal their private keys to the server). The signed bet-transactions are delivered to the E4ROW contract via the back-end server, such that the pace of the game is usually not impacted by occasional long blocktimes. If any deposit is not submitted to the back-end server in time, or if any deposit fails, then the player that submitted that deposit automatically forfeits the game. At the end of the game the E4ROW contract pays out all the deposited funds (minus the escrow fee charged by the contract) to the winner. In the unlikely event of some sort of server error (for example, if squirrels eat our server and the game cannot be completed), then after about 15 minutes the E4ROW contract will return all the deposited funds to their original sources, without taking any escrow fee.
Q: Is the game provably fair?
A: With the advent of Ethereum smart-contracts, there has been a rush to create and publish “provably fair” gambling DApps, including provably fair poker. Reference for example, EtherRoll, Etherdice, EtherSlots, and Pokereum. Uncle Finney’s Poker is a hybrid of a centralized poker manager, controlled via a traditional back-end server, a decentralized front-end (which runs on smart-phones), and the E4ROW contract which serves as an escrow service. Since the entire game is not managed by the contract, it is technically not provably fair; however our solution provides verifiable fairness measures unmatched in any other current poker offering. When Proof-of-Stake finally emerges, and if blocktimes are sufficiently reduced, our development team is prepared to move the entire game onto a contract making it provably fair. To learn more about how Uncle Finney’s Poker addresses the issue of ‘provable fairness’, please review the document “A Verifiably Fair Poker Game” in the E4ROW blog.
Questions regarding Uncle Finney’s Poker
For questions regarding Uncle Finney’s Poker not addressed on this site, please refer to the Uncle Finney’s Poker site.
Q: Is it legal for players to play the game?
A: Government laws regarding gambling vary from place to place — and since Uncle Finney’s Poker is available worldwide, there is no way for us to know how strict governments are about gambling everywhere where the game might be played. There is no U.S. federal law against gambling online. On the federal level, gambling online is perfectly legal. It is however possible to run afoul of a state or local government law, but even there prosecution is extremely rare. In general, even those jurisdictions that regulate online gambling in fact only regulate the establishments that promote and/or profit from the gambling; they rarely go after the individual players. Of course it is solely the players’ responsibility to determine what is legal in their particular jurisdiction, and to assess the strictness of their own local regulatory and law enforcement agencies.
Q: Is it legal for Uncle Finney’s Poker to host the game, or for the E4ROW blockchain contract to serve as an escrow for the game?
A: As mentioned above, there is no U.S. federal law against gambling online. On the other hand, that didn’t stop federal officials a few years ago from declaring that online gambling was illegal in the U.S.. Then last year, the Department of Justice changed its stance by saying that all online gambling is not illegal — just online sports betting. The U.S. government now says that it’s up to the states to decide whether or not to allow their residents to gamble online. States such as Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have already begun offering legal online gambling, and many more states will likely soon follow.
Even where there are local regulations against online gambling, it is doubtful that they could be applied to games in which there is no casino. Because Uncle Finney’s Poker is a head-to-head contest in which you never play against “the house”, the game most closely resembles a living-room poker game between two players — and it is very unlikely that any government would enforce a regulation for this sort of gambling. However, it is ultimately up to the player to determine the legality of their actions. The developers are simply providing an environment for players to find each other, a deck of cards, and the use of an independent Ethereum smart contract that acts as an escrow, securely holding and distributing the funds to the winner. We are not a casino -in fact there is no casino in the process, just two players going head-to-head and an open source contract on the blockchain.
We are acutely aware that governments can be capricious in their interpretation and enforcement of the law. Ultimately we like to believe that we are somewhat protected by the simple fact, stated so eloquently by our heroes at vdice.io, that E4ROW “…owns itself. It is an autonomous entity, executing as code on the Ethereum (ETH) P2P network. It lives in the Ether, in the realm of ideas and magic. Enjoy it.” As hard as we tried, we couldn’t have said it more perfectly. Thank you vDice.io for your poetry.
Q: I noticed that you guys are selling Finney (Ether) in your app. Doesn’t that run afoul of Know-Your-Customer and Anti-Money-Laundering laws?
A: Know-Your-Customer and Anti-Money-Laundering (KYC, AML) laws have been instituted in Australia, Canada, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. The standards are not at all uniform, but all have the objective of preventing banks and exchanges from being used, intentionally or unintentionally by criminal elements for money laundering activities and/or the funding of terrorism.
In general bank and other financial institutions are required to collect personal identifying information from their customers in order to reasonably assess the likelihood that funds are being used for illicit purposes. For example, in some places, any combination of transactions reaching or exceeding 10,000 USD within 48 hours is to be considered suspect, and reported to the appropriate authorities.
Our goal with Uncle Finney’s Poker is not to sell Ether. Very reluctantly we sell a tiny amount of Finney (thousandths of an Ether) to players, for the sole purpose of letting them try out the game — and to introduce them to Ether wallets and the world of Ethereum. Since we only sell microscopic amounts of Ether, and since we strictly limit the total amount of Ether that any player can buy, we believe that it would be a far stretch to tie this to money laundering, or to claim that we are bound by the KYC laws.