Archive for March, 2012

Terrence Chan Wins in MMA Debut

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Poker pro Terrence Chan‘s debut on the professional mixed martial arts (MMA) stage was a success. The limit hold’em specialist, known also by his online screenname ‘Unassigned’, beat Alex Lee in a second round submission as part of the recent Legends Fighting Championship (LFC) fight card. The LFC pools top MMA talent from around the Asia-Pacific region for competitions in Hong Kong.

Said Chan on Twitter after the win, “Thank you thank you thank you everyone! It was a super tough fight, so happy to get the win! Thank you all for the love and support!”

The 31 year old had tweeted hours before the fight that he felt, “calm, rested and peaceful.” Chan had just two weeks to prepare for the bout after receiving a late invite from LFC matchmaker Mike Haskamp.

Chan is known to the poker world for his track record in limit hold’em tournaments. In 2009, he won not one but two Spring Championships of Online Poker (SCOOP) titles in six-max limit hold’em tournaments in one night. Later that year, he won a WCOOP bracelet in a tournament of the same format. The Canadian also has over $900,000 in live tournament winnings according to the Hendon Mob database.

Judge Declines to Accept Plea Agreement of Black Friday Defendant

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Bloomberg is reporting that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has refused to accept the prosecution’s plea agreement in the case of former SunFirst Bank official John Campos. Campos, a former part-owner and vice-chairman of the Utah bank, along with ten other men was indicted last April in the famed “Black Friday” case against online poker rooms.

The bank executive was indicted for several bank fraud and conspiracy related charges. Campos reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a misdemeanor banking charge. Judge Kaplan has refused to accept the plea agreement and asked prosecutors for a written explanation for why they are walking away from the case. Campos is the 6th person in the Black Friday indictments to have reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown explained to the Associated Press that there are risks with taking the case to trial. He stated that Campos had been advised by experts in the gambling world that told him it was legal for his bank to process online gambling transactions.

Campos would face just a maximum of one year in prison if sentenced under the plea agreement. In the agreement, prosecutors call for a sentence of zero to six months. A June 27th sentencing date has been set during which Judge Kaplan will decide whether or not to accept the plea agreement.

There are two primary explanations why the DOJ has thus far taken it easy on Black Friday defendants. Most likely is that they are worried about losing the case should it go to trial and are thus willing to negotiate “slap on the wrist” plea deals to ensure a guilty conviction. It could also be possible that they are saving their resources and building allies for the targets they really want which are the owners and operators of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker.

When Poker Is Gambling

Monday, March 26th, 2012

There’s a popular stance in the poker world, usually taken among optimists campaigning in favor of the game’s legal status, is that poker is not gambling. This view, when stated as a simple matter of fact, is wrong. Making a blanket statement that poker is not gambling shows a bit of naivety for the reality of one specific form of poker: tournaments. Specifically, large-field multi-table tournaments. This is one form of poker that one sometimes has no choice but to call gambling.

I’m a tournament player. So I guess you could say I like to gamble. I’ve been playing multi-table tournaments for around eight years now. In that time, I have played my fair share of cash game hands along the way. But not too many. I don’t really like cash games. They’re a grind. One does not need a particularly large sample size, a few ten thousand hands will do, in order to justifiably say that their participation in poker cash games is not gambling. Because it’s really not. In the long run, and it doesn’t take that long to establish a “long run” in cash games, the players utilizing the best strategic approach will come out ahead. This is not as true for large-field multi-table tournaments.

In order for the variance of one’s participation in large-field multi-table tournaments to play itself out, they need to play a lot of tournaments. It takes literally years upon years of playing these tournaments to start to see the “long run” picture. For this reason, poker large-field multi-table tournaments (let’s say 1,000+ entrants) are more or less a form of gambling.

I enjoy playing the massive-field tournaments offered at PokerStars. I generally only play on Sundays as I am busy with other commitments the rest of the week and am less appealed by the smaller fields (and thus smaller prize pools). According to one stat-tracking website, the average field size of the tournaments I play is 4,500. That’s a lot of people.

Part of the appeal of these tournaments is the soft competition you’ll find in them. One weekly tournament at PokerStars, the ‘Sunday Storm’, an $11 buy-in with a $300,000 guaranteed prize pool (that’s at least 30,000 players every week), is delightfully soft. Probably only something like 1,500 or so of the participants in that tournament play it from start to finish without really making any type of a “significant” mistake. I like to think I am one of those people. That’s the objective of tournaments really: play solid, don’t screw up, and hope to be in the right place at the right time when other people punt away expected value. In the Sunday Storm, there are a lot of people punting away EV.

However, here is why the Sunday Storm is gambling and nothing else: even if I thought I would win it five times as often as an “average” participant would, that would still mean I will only win it once every 115 years! And that I assumes I play it every single Sunday. In other words, it’s safe to assume that I will never win that tournament in my lifetime even though I am much better than the average participant in the field and even if I played it every single Sunday for the rest of my life. It will take nanotechnology enabling me to live for hundreds of years in order for me to reasonably expect to win the Sunday Storm in my lifetime, and that assumes it holds a field-size of 30,000 players and never grows (and that bots never destroy online poker beyond repair which is another discussion altogether).

An unfortunate truth is that a very large part of one’s expected ROI in poker tournaments comes from outright winning them. Such a large percentage of the prize pool is awarded to a very small handful of players at the top, that anything short of a win is a failure in a certain sense. As PCA winner Galen Hall says, “you’ve got to win the games!”

I might have an expected return on investment (ROI) of around 200% in the Sunday Storm meaning I could expect my $11 investment to yield me a profit of $22 on average. If you’ve ever played the tournament, you would know that is not an unreasonable estimate for a capable player to make. But due to “long run” issues of large-field online tournaments such as these, that ROI will never be realized in a realistic amount of time. There is no long run. It’s just a gamble. Most people’s lifetime ROI in the Sunday Storm will hover around -100% to 100% while a few people will have an ROI of something absurd like 43,000% just from one fortuitous deep run.

This is the reality of large-field multi-table tournaments. Even if you play thousands of them a year (not easy to do), you’re still looking at upwards of a decade or more before you can expect the variance to begin to level out. As a result, this form of poker should be regarded as gambling. Humans do not have a long enough life span for everyone in the poker world to expect their variance in multi-table tournaments to even come remotely close to leveling out. A few players get most of the money while the rest are left with empty pockets on a gamble that didn’t pay off. And make no mistake about it, poker tournaments are, for all intents and purposes, just another form of gambling. But lest any Republican politician read this and use it as fuel to go on a self-righteous freedom-banning binge, it’s worth remembering that all of life is a gamble. In this crazy world, poker tournaments fit right in.

Oh Look! More Speculative News about the Full Tilt Sale!

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The trend of a new speculative news report in poker media regarding Full Tilt Poker’s sale to Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT) continues as PocketFives.com reports Laurent Tapie, managing director of GBT, has relocated to Dublin, home of Full Tilt headquarters, to oversee the acquisition and relaunch of the once second-largest online poker room. According to the article which sites an unnamed source, the acquisition is “a done deal” and “should be signed next week”.

It will be interesting to see if this latest update follows the months-long trend of news about the Full Tilt sale failing to come to fruition. Most recently, EGR Magazine reported that the deal would be finalized by the end of last week. This prediction proved false when that deadline was missed days ago.

In February, it appeared the deal was in jeopardy on news that former sponsored pros of the site owed $16.5 million in outstanding debts.

The poker world has continuously been left to scratch their heads throughout the lengthy negotiation between GBT and Full Tilt. Poker media outlets continue to make reports based on speculation passed down from unnamed sources. Although this onslaught of unreliable reporting has been frustrating, it does represent vastly more information regarding the sale of assets and repayment of players worldwide than has been offered from the Full Tilt Poker camp itself. It remains anyone’s guess as to if and when this deal will be completed as clearly little faith should be placed in the rumors and deadlines being distributed by various poker media outlets.

Full Tilt Buyout Deadline Passes

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

As the week reaches a conclusion, the poker world is left with more guessing and speculation regarding the Full Tilt Poker buyout by Groupe Bernard Tapie (GBT). Last week, EGR Magazine reported that the buyout was expected to be completed by the end of this week. As of 7:00 p.m. ET on Friday, no news has surfaced of a finalized deal between the two parties. The EGR prediction was made based on talks with a GBT lawyer who said that although the March 16th deadline for finalizing a deal would pass, he still expected a deal to be completed by the end of the current week.

Poker pro Daniel Negreanu, who hasn’t kept his feelings about Full Tilt’s mismanagement quiet, recently said in an interview with PokerStrategy that, “The players are not getting paid. It’s over. It’s gone. Forget it. I’m telling you now. Tapie ain’t paying nobody. This deal is falling through. You lost your money. It’s just not gonna happen.”

The passing of this week without any news of a deal between the two parties gives Negreanu’s prediction some weight. But it’s really impossible to say what’s truly going on behind this fiasco as Full Tilt’s public statements have been infrequent and the word of GBT’s lawyers seems difficult to trust. It appears the poker world will continue being drug along with limited information until the next big update about the FTP/GBT deal which by now seem silly to place any faith in.

Poker Pro Prepares for MMA Debut

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Terrence ‘Unassigned’ Chan announced on his blog recently that he will compete in the Legend Fighting Championships (LFC) in Hong Kong in two weeks. The mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting series invites the top talent from the Asia-Pacific region to compete for supremacy.

The next LFC fight card takes place on March 30th. Chan will fight Muay Thai fighter Alex Lee on the under-card. Said Chan about the pending matchup, “Make no mistake, I am probably the underdog here. This is going to be a tough fight. Doing a quick search, my opponent is a veteran of over 20 ring fights in Muay Thai, boxing and karate.” He continued, “So I am fighting someone bigger, stronger, taller (by about 5 inches!), more experienced and who, being HK born-and-bred, will likely be the crowd favourite too. Do I care? Not in the least. I’m full of confidence and being the on-paper underdog is only going to make this win taste sweeter.”

Chan is known to the poker world for his track record in limit hold’em tournaments. In 2009, he won not one but two Spring Championships of Online Poker (SCOOP) titles in six-max limit hold’em tournaments in one night. Later that year, he won a WCOOP bracelet in a tournament of the same format. The Canadian also has over $900,000 in live tournament winnings according to the Hendon Mob database.

Chan has been training in Muay Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fighting for nearly a decade. His debut as a professional MMA fighter will be aired live on YouTube.

Ray Bitar Speaks After Nearly Year of Silence

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Following nearly a year of failing to make a public statement to the poker world in the wake of Black Friday, Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar ended his silence in an interview with PokerStrategy.com. The entirety of the three-question interview is below. For the impatient, we have included a tl;dr version of the interview after its conclusion.

PokerStrategy.com: Ray, there has been public outrage surrounding the fact that you have been silent since the Black Friday shutdown and indictments. Can you say why you haven’t made any public statements?

Ray Bitar: There are two reasons. One is the ongoing legal process which has precluded me from providing any relevant information surrounding the on-going investigation, and of course, I have not wanted to jeopardize the process in any way. While I could have made general statements throughout this process, they would not directly relate to the issues under investigation. Any such statements would be so general in nature that they would not provide answers to the many questions people understandably have.

The second reason is that, along with others, I have been working every single day since Black Friday to ensure players are repaid, which has been my top priority, as well as working on the future plans of FTP. This work had to be done out of the scrutiny of the public eye. And so while it might satisfy people to have specific information about those ongoing discussions – and it would certainly take some of the heat off myself – I am convinced that such public statements would diminish the likelihood of a successful outcome, which is what we need to be focused on.

My love for the sport and the poker community has made it very difficult to keep silent, particularly in light of the many angry sentiments directed at FTP, myself and others, in newspapers and blogs. Given the lack of information that has been made public, I can certainly understand these sentiments. My primary focus has been and continues to be working towards getting us to where we want to be – the repayment of the players and the survival of the company. I have been fully dedicated to this cause and am doing everything possible for a beneficial outcome.

PokerStrategy.com: What’s been happening since Black Friday?

Ray Bitar: My life has drastically changed since last April. As a manager of Tiltware, I have been cooperating fully with the DOJ so they can complete their investigation. Beyond that, I spend a good deal of my time making sure that FTP survives and that the players get repaid. I know that these events have hurt a lot of innocent people and it’s my main job to make things right. I continue to work on these issues, day and night until we resolve them.

PokerStrategy.com: Is there anything you would like to say to the online poker community?

Ray Bitar: I would like to offer my sincere apology to all who have been affected by these events and to clarify that my silence was not an attempt to “hide,” or “ignore,” the situation. It was done out of necessity to ensure the focus remained on the continued efforts to reach the best outcome for the players. My entire focus is on obtaining a successful resolution for the players. I hope that before long I can provide some good news for all of the players involved.

tl;dr version:

PokerStrategy.com: Ray Bitar has graciously offered us some of his time for a brief interview. Ray, what’s up?

Ray Bitar: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
blah.
blah blah.

Basically the CEO (who should have been long ago fired) of a company who owes $200 million+ to online poker players around the world is silent for 11 months then decides to reassure everyone that he genuinely is “sorry” and is working to get people their money back. Also, really, PokerStrategy.com? He “graciously” offered you his time? It might have been reasonable to skip the niceties when publishing this highly belated statement from a man who did next to nothing within that statement to grant the poker world the explanation and answers they are owed.

How Much is Signed Howard Lederer Shirt Worth?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

A recent picture tweet by Gavin Smith from the Bay 101 Shooting Stars event taking place right now shows poker pro Dan O’Brien sporting a signed “I busted Howard Lederer” t-shirt. The annual WPT event designates some pros as “shooting stars”. If you knock one of those players out, you receive a cash bounty and a one-of-a-kind t-shirt which, presumably, many of the pros autograph for you. Have a look at the shirt Dan O’Brien is wearing today in the tournament. Presumably, he received this shirt in 2010 when he finished 3rd in the event for $293,000.

With Lederer’s current status as a fugitive from U.S. law whose company, Full Tilt Poker, owes the poker world tens of millions of dollars, one can’t help but think about how much that t-shirt could potentially yield in an auction. Think about it. A world full of degenerate gambling poker players with money in their pockets to burn. Surely someone would pay $1,000 for that shirt. But how much would O’Brien be willing to sell it for? I asked him just that on behalf of PokerTips. In a tweet, O’Brien said, “I’ll sell it for $10k now, but I’d prefer an auction for max value.”

At that price, the shirt is likely to remain O’Brien’s!

888 Poker Ad Banned in UK

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

One of the fastest growing online poker rooms recently had a television ad banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the United Kingdom. The ad promotes 888 Poker’s PokerCam tables where webcam technology enables you to see your opponents. The ad depicts a man playing at the PokerCam tables and receiving the pleasant surprise of facing an opponent sitting in a bikini poolside. The voiceover states, “you never know who you might meet at a PokerCam table.”

Have a look at the ad:

It’s extremely nitty of British authorities to ban this ad which seems innocent enough. If they were going to ban it, it should not be on the grounds of being sexually suggestive but rather for being just downright misleading; I’ve never seen anyone but ugly European dudes at the PokerCam tables I’ve sat at!