Archive for the ‘Poker World Commentary’ Category

Getting to Know the Top Players of 2014 So Far

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Just past the midway point of the year, it’s time to check-in with the performances of the best players in the world. Player rankings are calculated weekly according to the Global Poker Index, which takes into account past performances and wins.

1. Ole Schemion

Ole has managed to finish in the top 10 of an impressive four major tournaments this year, including coming first at the PokerStars.it EPT Sanremo High Roller Event. The German based player who has only cemented his place as one of the top poker players in the world in the last few years is firmly sitting atop the rankings at number 1. He’s a great player to follow for the rest of this year with a great chance at winning Player of the Year.

2. Daniel Negreanu

Year after year Negreanu consistently finishes near the top of the player table. He is one of the few original superstars to not only maintain his high profile, but also continue to achieve success at the toughest events. While he hasn’t managed a win yet this year, he’s had a slew of strong results to put him in the running for Player of the Year again. Notable finishes include a pair of second place results at the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop and $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship at the World Series of Poker.

3. Paul Volpe

A star on the rise, American Paul Volpe is sitting comfortably in the number 3 spot after taking home the title at Event #13 of the World Series of Poker, also known as the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship. Volpe is a chameleon, known to play several varieties of poker strongly. He has had solid finishes in events this year playing Omaha, Hold’em, Razz, and of course 2-7 Draw.

4. Bryn Kenney

While he doesn’t play too many events, Bryn Kenney has secured the fourth spot so far based off his tournament win at the $1,500 Six-Handed 10-Game Mix event at the World Series, highlighting his versatility. He played four events at this year’s World Series, finishing in the top five of an amazing three of them. If you’re looking to see consistent top quality performances, Kenney is the man to follow.

5. David Peters

Rounding out the top 5 is workhorse David Peters. While he still hasn’t cemented his reputation in the poker world, he has all the potential one could ask for and the work ethic to match it. He is known for playing a staggering amount of events. At the World Series this year alone he played in an impressive 8 events. While he was unable to win an elusive bracelet, his strong overall performance has allowed him to consistently stay near the top of the leaderboard.

Not only is there a lot to learn from all of these top class players, but you’ll have fun doing so as you follow them. There is still a lot of tournaments to be played, with many changes in player rankings to come.

The Loss of a Legend: What the Death of Chad Brown Means to Poker

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Anyone who has ever had an interest in poker knows who Chad Brown is. The news of his death on July 2nd, 2014 sent shockwaves throughout the poker community. As an experienced poker player, Brown had faced heavy odds many times before and come out on top, but his three-year struggle with cancer was one he could not overcome.

Who was Chad Brown?

The man from the Bronx, born in 1961, was a man of many talents and a strong work ethic. He spent his teenage and early adult years as a minor league baseball player as well as an actor and model.

Poker didn’t seriously enter Brown’s life until he was 32 and had his first taste of success competing with the best in the game. He is one of the most accomplished World Series of Poker (WSOP) players, cashing a total of 38 times with 2 runner-up awards. You also might know him from several strong finishes on the WPT and EPT.

For all his efforts and success, Brown won more than $3.6 million in registered events. There were few that weren’t happy for him when he was named the 2006 Bluff Magazine Poker Player of the Year.

Sickness for Brown

The bad news started to come for Brown in February of 2011. Despite his reputation for being one of the fittest and healthiest poker players, regularly exercising and competing off the poker table as well, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer called liposarcoma. Over the years he suffered through chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and even had five surgeries.

Despite this constant torture, Brown displayed the positive attitude and spirit that he always had, and continued to play and succeed on the poker table. He was able to come 2nd in a side tournament at the WPT Borgata Winter Open, and even had a solid run into the Main Event.

It’s surprising to many to learn that Brown was never able to capture an elusive WSOP bracelet, despite his consistent and strong performances. A classy gesture by the WSOP director, Jack Effel, was seen at the WSOP in 2014, just before Brown’s death. Effel awarded Brown with an honorary bracelet, a prize that we all know would have been won in the future if not for this tragedy.

There are few in the poker community who have not been affected by the passing of Chad Brown. He returned back to medical care in the Bronx, the same place where he spent so much of his life. Brown passed away with all his many close friends and family on the morning of July 2nd.

From Brown’s last blog post:

“I’ve had tremendous support from family and friends who have been in the know from the get-go on every aspect of my illness…Anyone wondering if I’m going through a hard time, the answer is no. This is just part of life and I’m okay with everything. I accept it. And right now I’m just looking forward to the next hand.”

Is the $4.9 Billion Acquisition of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker Good for Poker Players?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

The big news on the morning of June 12th was that the owner of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, Rational Group Ltd., had been bought out by Amaya Gaming Group, Inc., along with other companies in the Oldford Group umbrella.

Adding these two poker juggernauts to other gambling properties, Amaya Gaming Group has just become the biggest online gaming company by far, gaining an approximately 85 million new players in this deal.

Could this be the Answer for American Players?

Due to events leading up to and following the day known as Black Friday to online poker players, it has seemed like poker in the United States may not return. However, with new ownership that has a stellar track record of being transparent and following proper procedures to meet regulations, there may just be a bigger hope now than before.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) fights for the rights of poker players and the availability of online poker in the U.S. Executive director of the PPA, John Pappas was optimistic about the big deal, saying, “Amaya’s acquisition should remove any perceived impediment for this popular brand to once again be available to players in regulated U.S. jurisdictions.  This is a positive development for poker enthusiasts and the potential return of the PokerStars brand will grow our game.”

Now despite that optimism, the CEO of Amaya Gaming has claimed that this acquisition was not dependent on obtaining a license in the U.S., although that may be a possibility in the future. For now, the company is set to license their industry-famous software to New Jersey online poker platforms.

Amaya and the Rest of the World

Amaya Gaming has extensive experience and presence in many major global markets across the world. The CEO has already stated that the primary goal of this acquisition is to grow the already over $1.1 billion in revenue these two massive poker sites generate on an annual basis.

Plans to accomplish this include introducing casino games and sports betting. With a new customer base of over 85 million customers, these new introductions could have a profound effect. While that $1.1 billion in revenue may seem impressive, making up about a quarter of the online poker industry, the casino games industry comes in at a hefty $25 billion a year. Gaining a substantial portion of that market could take the two online gambling sites to previously unknown heights.

Amaya’s Background

Rational Group was always based in the Isle of Man, not exactly the most regulated “country”. This contributed heavily to the stigma and wariness of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars.

Amaya Gaming on the other hand is based in Montreal, Canada. This instantly adds a significant amount of trust and credibility to these tarnished giants, that suggests a more legitimate organization. Most of Amaya’s business is not online, but physically based in casino and lottery solutions. This is the first major only foray for Amaya, and it promises to be an interesting one.

The deal should be completed by September, so stay tuned for further developments and details.

Poker is Coming to Crimea in a Big Way

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Russia is a country where gambling and online poker is in jeopardy, but there are some interesting proposals for the latest Russian acquisition, Crimea.

This is far from a politics blog so I will skimp on the political acquisition of Crimea by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and however questionable it may have been, it is now an interesting new area.

When Putin puts his mind to something, he usually gets what he wants, and recently he has drawn up a draft law to allow a new casino to be built and operated in Crimea

Now that the study about a new gambling zone in Crimea has shown encouraging potential, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to present a draft law that will allow Crimea’s authorities to choose a location for a new casino.

For the economically torn nation, this could help a tremendous amount. There are international investors lining up to be involved in this project that is set to make over 10,000 jobs, a substantial boost for the weak regional economy. The starting date of the casino has not been names however, and could take a while before it is open to the public.

An interesting part of the design plan is that it is intended to be a major tourist attraction, and more than just a casino. The plan is for it to be a year-round resort, which is why major companies are interested in getting in on the ground floor. This casino plan extends far past just poker and casino games, and is intended to be the start of a revolution in the area.

Most casinos traditionally have some funding from a country’s government, but because of the substantial interest from outside investors, it’s likely that no government intervention will be needed. In fact over $1.5 billion has already been secured for the project.

Here’s where it gets exciting for poker players, the head of the Russian Association for the Development of the Gambling Industry, Samoil Binder, has recently said, “We will have to organize sports events like the world [poker] championship in Las Vegas.” More major tournaments to watch and play in can only be good for the global poker scene.

Russia has very few existing designated gambling zones, which would make a newly renovated Crimea a major attraction. The growth and development of the region will be exciting to watch in the years to come.

Could Virtual Reality for Poker Be the Next Big Thing?

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Virtual reality gaming has been the dream for first person shooter (FPS) game and massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) for ages, but it hasn’t been thought of as an addition to poker until now. Talks of incorporating the Oculus Rift with online poker have recently surfaced and are getting players excited.

Introducing the Oculus Rift

oculus rift virtual reality

Image via Flickr by Sergey Galyonkin

If you haven’t seen the Oculus Rift before, it’s a sight to behold. The product is essentially a pair of “goggles” that work seamlessly with certain games to provide an incredible virtual reality experience.

Just recently, the company was acquired by Facebook for $2 Billion, a major investment into the future potential of online gaming. Your eyes see a 1080p resolution on a 7-inch OLED screen. It keeps track of your head movements and relays them to the game, introducing some amazing possibilities. For the most part this technology is still in the testing phase of its development, only being released to game developers to work with, but should be coming out for consumer use in late 2014 or 2015.

How Does it Work for Poker

As noted initially, poker and traditional gaming doesn’t really go together, but virtual reality might just make it feasible. Not only would it be fairly simple to build a realistic poker game (compared to other video games), it would be able to add some of the environment that online players often miss.

Some players are unable to play live due to disabilities or sickness, while others are simply too far away or have no way of getting to a nearby casino or game. A virtual reality headset would allow you to immediately be immersed in a live poker situation.

Another way to think of this type of gaming is as a hybrid between live and online poker. You can combine the best aspects of online poker, with the look and feel of live poker, essentially getting the best of both worlds.

A likely setup would be to combine a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift (or any of its competitors) with a gaming system with motion-sensing capability like the Xbox One’s Kinect. This would allow you to not only look around and sense the environment, but to interact with real chips and hand movements. Until the holodeck from Star Trek is invented, this will be the closest you will get to immersive poker in your own home.

While all this could still be a year or two off before it comes a reality, the fact that pieces are in motion means that this is a very real and exciting possibility for poker players around the world.

WPT’s New Innovation: A Shot Clock for Live Poker

Friday, April 11th, 2014

The World Poker Tour (WPT) has long been the ambassador for televised poker. While poker may be enjoyable to play, most games wouldn’t be too interesting to watch. The WPT has been able to bring tournament Texas Hold’em to the masses in an exciting format. The latest proposed innovation is a 30 second shot clock, is this good for poker?

The idea is to limit everyone to 30 seconds per decision, after that their hand is declared dead and discarded into the muck. In the past players have been able to call for a clock on players who consistently take too long to make decisions, where the tournament manager would come and enforce a time limit, usually a minute. This shot clock would apply to everyone automatically, which would speed up the game substantially.

Adding Suspense to the Equation

poker shot clock

When you watch a player try and make a decision, you unconsciously put yourself in their position. This is why you feel nervous and maybe even break out into a light sweat when watching intense action.

A shot clock adds even more pressure to the situation. As if hundreds of thousands of dollars weren’t already enough to risk on a single decision, players would potentially have to make a decision within 30 seconds. From a fan’s perspective this would be great, adding even more excitement to broadcasted final tables.

Is this Fair to the Players?

Most decisions at the table are made within a few seconds, but when players consistently take a long time to actually make their play, it drags out the game considerably. Standard habits like playing with chips, adjusting their glasses or cards every single action to not give away any tells wastes everyone’s time.

There are however, certain situations where a player might need more than 30 seconds to make a tough decision. Not all the rules pertaining to a shot clock have been decided yet. One possible option is to allow for a set amount of time extensions for big decisions. This is similar to how the NFL allows coaches to challenge calls that they believe are wrong.

At this point it appears that the shot clock will be implemented in future WPT tournaments at some point, but will likely be introduced on a trial basis. If all goes well, some small tweaks may be made and then it will be used full time. It should result in faster play, more exciting play and could be a great move for the poker industry.

Russia Taking Action Against Online Poker

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

online poker ban in russia

Image via Flickr by Chingster23

If the past has taught us anything, it’s that the legality of poker will fluctuate time and time again. The United States has been the big example in recent years, but as legislation improves in the U.S., online poker is taking a hit in russia.

On March 21, 2014, all of Russia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have prevented customers from accessing over 600 gambling related websites. This includes all of the well known sites like Poker Stars, Party Poker, Titan Poker and Unibet.

The strange thing with this sudden takedown is that the order being cited as the reason for action was given almost a year ago, in June of 2013. Pokerstars.com was blocked last year in September as part of this order, but had since existed through Pokerstars.net/ru.

Another point of note is that while people in Russia cannot access these websites, client functionality is still working for the time being, which means you may not have noticed any changes at the table. This will limit the amount of new players being able to sign up and is overall a step in the wrong direction for poker players in Russia.

This blockage was largely unexpected, as it is not illegal in many jurisdictions in Russia to play online poker. What remains uncertain is whether this is part of a larger plan to eradicate online gambling in the country, or if this is simply an action taken based on existing policies.

Gaming Intelligence claims to have inside sources, which led them to write “while a limited number of gaming domains currently appear on the list, it is believed that this is the start of a much wider crackdown on online gambling,” earlier this week.

If you don’t live in Russia you may not think this is a big deal, but just as Black Friday took a toll on the poker industry as a whole, blocking online poker in Russia could have a significant effect. A smaller player base affects everyone, and it could lead to legality issues in countries that have close ties to Russia.

While there isn’t much you can do right now to support Russian players, let this serve as a reminder to get involved and support online poker in your Country whenever legality issues are discussed. Poker is a fair game of skill and should be treated as such.

New Bill Introduced to Ban Online Poker in the U.S.

Friday, March 28th, 2014

senate meeting online poker

Image via Flickr by Waldo Jaquith

The state of online poker in the United States always seems to be in controversy. During recent Senate and House meetings, a new bill that proposes to ban Internet gambling in the U.S. was introduced.

This bill was backed by long-time gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson and sponsored by representatives Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jason Chaffetz of Utah. The bill is going by the name the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act”.

In order for a bill to gain support, sponsors try to recruit co-sponsors to lend their backing. So far they have struggled to do so, which is good news for the poker world. While Senator Graham was able to add Dianne Feinstein from California, he was only able to get two other co-sponsors.

Chaffetz had seemingly more success, getting nine co-sponsors, but none from Democrat party are from states that currently offer gambling of any kind. In plain terms, there is currently not a lot of support for this bill.

Before celebrating a victory, it’s important to make sure the job is done. John Pappas is the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), who work to ensure that poker players are treated fairly. He is urging players to contact their lawmakers and ensure that they will not support it.

This bill is being driven by Adelson and his massive wealth, most of it coming from being the owner of the Las Vegas Sands, a casino. It’s no surprise that he is a large contributor to Graham’s election campaign this year and is opposed to online gambling that could take away a large part of his business. Last year Adelson contributed $15,600 to Graham’s campaign. While Graham claims he is supporting this bill out of his own moral integrity, you couldn’t be faulted for coming to other obvious conclusions.

While the fact that there are still a dozen co-sponsors may be concerning, these are mostly long-time opponents of gambling as well. As long as they are unable to garner a substantial amount of additional support, poker should be safe for the time being. Given that Adelson is one of the largest Republican contributor, he also isolates most potential Democratic support.

One of the key goals of this bill, according to Chaffetz, is to bring up the issue of online gambling to Congress. In the past the Department of Justice (DOJ) have ruled over related issues, as they had in December of 2011 when they stated that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

While this logic sounds fairly reasonable at first, Pappas sees it differently: “There’s been ample opportunity for Congress to discuss these issues. We’ve been begging Congress to discuss these issues for the past six years. There’s been numerous hearings on both the House and Senate side, and numerous bills introduced. As far as I know, Graham and Chaffetz have been absolutely silent when it comes to those discussions.”

Schedule for World Series of Poker 2014 Revealed

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the largest poker event in the world. While it used to be exclusive to the poker elite decades ago, it has consistently expanded and improved to allow everyone interested in poker to play a part of it.

Many events are televised and have live updates online so you can follow along with tournament progress.

If you want to play yourself there are many options at your disposal. There are side games and smaller tournaments that operate throughout the summer at surrounding casinos with poker fans and tourists alike. One bonus is that most of the elite players are at the WSOP tournaments, so tables are often extra soft.

If you have the desire and bankroll to do so, you can enter an event yourself. The buy-ins range from $1,000 to $1 million which means there’s a tournament for every budget. If you have previous evidence of tournament success you can even look into getting staked by other players to reduce the cost and risk you take on.

Finally, on all the major online poker sites there are satellites that you can buy-in for for a small amount and have a chance to win a seat at a major tournament. Depending on the site you may win an all-inclusive package that includes travel and accommodation costs as well.

Tournament Details

world series of poker chips

Image via Flickr by Plutor

You can see the official schedule here, which outlines the summer schedule. There are 65 events in total that start on May 27th at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which is the 10th straight year it has been held at this venue.

While the tournament schedule is similar to last year, it has nonetheless been improved in small ways based on player feedback. Veteran WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel commented “We have tweaked our schedule and feel very good about the opportunities it presents poker players of all levels.”

The main event is the final tournament as usual, and is expected to have a $10 million grand prize for the winner. It is a 10 day tournament that pits all the best professionals and amateurs against each other.

Another highlight of the series is the ‘Big One for One Drop’ tournament with the million dollar buy-in. This tournament is limited to 60 people and will have a grand prize of $20 million.

You can pre-register on the WSOP site or wait until live registration begins at the casino on March 1st.

Allowing Fish to Spawn

Monday, May 13th, 2013

One of the epic fails of the online poker industry has been protecting the fish. Back in the day (think 2003), there were significant player protections so newbies didn’t get completely hosed. For example, players were limited to the number of tables they could play at once (just one for awhile  at 888 Poker). Limit poker was also far more popular back then, and no limit tables were a bit of a rarity.

While limit poker is more boring than no-limit (which is why no-limit eventually won out), limit does help protect newbies from losing too much, too quickly. For example, a common newbie mistake is calling a raise cold with a non-suited ace and rag. In limit, they won’t lose their whole stack if they hit an ace but lose the hand. In no-limit, they will.

If someone calls with A6 offsuit and manages to just win by hitting an ace, they likely will win a small pot, but will lose a medium to large one. Since the variance in the size of the pots is much smaller in limit than in no-limit, this means that your wins won’t be drastically smaller than your losses. For example, if the blinds are $1-$2, winning with A6 just by hitting an ace may net you a $10-$15 or so in winnings in both limit and no-limit. However, in limit, the most you’ll likely lose with this hand is maybe $20, but one could easily lose $40+  if they don’t know any better at no limit.

With limit poker on the backburner and multi-tabling the new norm, the fish eventually died out of poker rooms. However, the past few years of prohibition in the US may allow a ‘respawning’ time. Once legalized online poker catches on (by this I mean more than just one site in Nevada… more like  people in California, New Jersey, and a couple other states playing too), there will be a significant increase of interest in poker. A lot of these people interested used to play poker back in 2004-2006 and have forgotten about how much money they may have lost back then.

With all of this dead time in the poker world, recreational players will be able to muster the courage to give it a go again. I don’t think we’ll have a boom similar to the first poker boom, but we’ll certainly have an increase in casual players. Hopefully though, the poker rooms will build in some player protections (the number of tables someone can play at once, disabling tracking software/player notes, or pushing limit poker again, etc.), so that the fish don’t go the way of the dodo again.