Archive for the ‘Poker World Commentary’ Category

Negreanu and McClelland Join Exclusive Club

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

The Poker Hall of Fame is a big deal, in fact, it only had 21 living members until this year. Daniel Negreanu and Jack McClelland were the two poker players selected to join the hall of fame this year out of 10 nominees.

The other 8 nominees were:

  • Bruno Fitoussi
  • Bob Hooks
  • Ted Forrest
  • Jennifer Harman
  • Humberto Brenes
  • Mike Matusow
  • Chris Bjorin
  • Huck Seed

Any poker fan of the last decade can recognize the quality of those nominees, but even so, Negreanu and McClelland made strong cases for induction into the hall of fame that could not be passed over.

Daniel Negreanu’s Contributions to Poker

Negreanu has had a legendary career thus far, and there are no signs of it stopping any time soon.

There are few players with the passion and ability that Negreanu possesses, which is part of the reason why he is loved by most of the poker community. Affectionately named “Kid Poker”, the Canadian has won 6 WSOP bracelets, and has a whopping 31 WSOP final table appearances.

Negreanu is the last of a generation of players. He dropped out of school in order to play in underground games, and despite failing multiple times, his passion and determination was rewarded with the accomplishments as a professional poker player that we see today.

On top of being a great player, Negreanu has also served as an ambassador of the game, especially once onine poker exploded. He has been a PokerStars pro since 2007, one of the longest serving sponsored professionals.

Jack McClelland: A Poker Legend

The younger demographic of poker these days knows Jack McClelland as a prolific tournament director. He has hosted hundreds of tournaments and was the driving force behind the expansion of poker through much of the United States and other countries like Russia and Isle of Man.

After 5 decades as a poker director and player, McClelland called it quits in 2013. He’s seen it all during his career, from launching the first ever WPT event in 2002, to seeing it off as his last event, knowing that he had a great impact on its success.

While McClelland’s calling was in the administrative side of poker, that doesn’t mean he was a terrible player. McClelland had a solid 9 tournament cashes and one win during his career. While they aren’t Negreanu-esque numbers, most players would be thrilled to share similar accomplishments.

The Poker Hall of Fame is the ultimate acknowledgement of skill and passion in the world of poker. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t believe that Negreanu and McClelland do not belong.

More Changes for Zynga Poker – No Real Progress

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

For years poker players have been waiting for Zynga to convert their massive free poker user base, built on Facebook, into real money players. A stimulus like this could revitalize a, frankly, stale state of online poker.

While there’s still money to be won in online poker, the margins keep getting smaller as players learn to play more optimally. An influx of inexperienced players who learnt the game playing on a free platform would significantly soften the games. Zynga currently has the most play money poker players of any site, with Pokerstars not even reaching half that amount.

However, so far Zynga has only launched a real money platform in the U.K., using the same software as PartyPoker. That was early in 2014, and there has been little progress since then.

The Latest Change

Instead of focusing on converting more players (in different countries) into real money players, Zynga has recently overhauled their free money skin and setup to try and retain their players. The new Zynga poker platform created mixed feedback since its launch in September.

After just over a month of feedback (a substantial portion negative), Zynga has decided to split their user base into two sections.

Players have the option of using the newest Zynga poker platform, but they can also play Zynga Poker Classic, which is the exact same platform as players formerly used. While the two groups of players are not allowed to play directly against each other, it is a fairly simple process to switch from one platform to the other, and can be done as often as a player likes.

Why choose one over the other? If you’re still a play money poker player, and still not ready to take the jump to real money sites, the new Zynga platform offers a little more competition. There are leagues and other competitions that were created to add a little more variety and entertainment, although it pales in comparison to the entertainment that real money poker provides.

For experienced players: Don’t expect Zynga to launch any new real money platforms any time soon outside of the U.K., they’ve already shown that they are expanding extremely slowly, if at all.

For current Zynga poker players outside of the U.K.: If you’ve been looking for more fun and competition, there are many real money options out there, you’ll just have to get used to some new software.

Full Tilt Says Goodbye to Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom

Friday, October 24th, 2014

There are few poker fanatics that don’t appreciate the absolutely insane hands that Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom have been involved in over the years due to their unique and ‘crazy’ playing style.

However, it seems that Full Tilt is headed in a different direction with their sponsored pros lately, which started by letting go Tom Dwan earlier in 2014.

After Hansen’s and Blom’s contracts expired in mid-October, Full Tilt opted not to renew them.

Before you get worried about never seeing Hansen or Blom play online poker again, don’t worry, they’re still around. In fact, Blom won a massive $261K pot just a few days after being let go from the pro team.

A Look at Hansen’s Online Career

Gus leaves the Full Tilt team after losing approximately $20 million during his time. This has earned him the title of one of the most losing online poker professionals of all time.

Hansen is known for his wild playing style and playing a wide variety of games. Despite his outrageous online losings, Hansen is still respected overall in the poker world, largely due to his endurance as a player at the highest level and his 3 WPT titles, along with 1 WSOP bracelet.

A Look at Viktor Blom: AKA ‘Isildur1′

Blom took the poker world by storm in 2009, eventually being signed by PokerStars in the following year. The amazing thing was, that for almost everyone in the poker world, no one knew that it was Blom playing as Isildur1 on PokerStars and Full Tilt.

While professionals lined up to get their shot at the crazy-playing ‘fish’ at first, they soon learned that he might have been better than initial stats indicated.

Blom moved over to Full Tilt and joined their team of pros late in 2012. He finishes his sponsorship deal with net losings of approximately $3M on Full Tilt.

The Future of Online Professionals

It seems that both major sites owned by the Rational Group, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, are moving away from the professional branding that they have used so extensively in the past.

Both sites are trimming down their list of sponsored professionals, perhaps in an attempt to shift their player recruiting strategy.

Remember that until recently, the two poker giants competed against each other. There was always a heated competition to sign the best and most popular professionals in the game. Once combined however, there aren’t many other sites that have the funds to sponsor professionals at this level.

It’s possible that it’s just not worth it on both sides of the deal to continue these types of sponsorship deals.

Wherever online poker and its high stakes professionals is heading, don’t worry, there will always be action at the top of the game to give you the thrill of watching hundreds of thousands of dollars being won and lost in single hands.

Big Changes in UK Online Poker as Regulations Come Into Effect

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

September 16th marked the passing of the first main deadline associated with the newest UK gambling regulations. This Tuesday marked a deadline for online poker rooms to apply for a UK online gambling license. 

The deadline is in anticipation of October 1st, when the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act becomes active. Online gambling companies of all types – poker rooms, casino games and sports betting sites - must all obtain a UK license before the start of October if they wish to continue operating.

There is one further main consequence of this legislation, which won’t come into effect until December 1st. There will be a point of consumption tax on gross profits from any online gambling operator. This tax is 15%, and while it is unclear how this will affect poker room operations, it’s possible that they will increase rake or cash out fees.

What are Poker Rooms Doing?

The added expense and licensing process has already forced many small operators to shut down their poker and gambling platforms. However, most of the big brands will continue to operate as normal, so players will not see too much of a change as a whole.

Pokerstars, Full Tilt, Partypoker, 888 and Unibet are all expected to continue operating in the UK, assuming there are no hiccups with the licensing process.

Sites on the iPoker network on the other hand are choosing both options. Most of the major sites plan to continue operating, most notably Winner and Titan, which have both launched a localized version of their site on .co.uk domain extensions. Mansion poker, however, is one of the first well-known casualties so far. The popular iPoker site closed down right before the application deadline, as of September 15th.

The iPoker sites that are adapting to the changing situations, Titan and Winner so far, are both owned by PT Entertainment Services, a subsidary of Playtech. Playtech is known for their poker software and ownership of poker rooms. The current users of the sites have been transferred over without any significant difficulties.

Due to the structure of the legislation, the rooms continuing to operate need to have an intermediary license until the UK applications are evaluated and accepted or rejected. Titan and Winner Poker are bth using an Antigua license, which is one of a few different valid options for now.

Online poker in the UK is changing in a major way behind the tables, but if all goes as expected, there shouldn’t be too many differences for the average player. We will keep you informed if rake, fees or related operations are changed in the future because of this legislation.

Betfair Faces New Obstacles in New Jersey as Trump Casino Closes

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Betfair has been well-known in the online gambling industry since its inception. However, the legislation associated to online poker (and gambling) across the U.S. and many other countries has had a big impact on the success of Betfair’s revenue and options. The company was set to team up with Trump Plaza, a New Jersey casino, but it has recently been revealed that this casino is set to close. 

Operating an Online Gaming Site in New Jersey

New Jersey has always been a popular place to gamble, which is why it’s one of the main centers of attention in the battle for online poker legislation in the U.S.

Due to recent legislature, online gambling sites must currently hold an Internet gaming permit (IGP) in order to operate legally. The problem, however, is that only land-based casinos are eligible to apply and receive an IGP. The solution that online gaming sites have to employ is to partner with existing casinos and work out a licensing deal.

Originally there were 12 casinos that were permitted to apply for an IGP in 2013, the year the legislature was passed. This number has already been drastically cut down in 2014, projected to be at only seven casinos by the end of the year. The limited amount of casinos in the state compound the problem for Betfair.

With the closure of Trump Plaza and its casino, Betfair now needs to find a new partner if they want to continue operating in New Jersey. Given the overall presence of Betfair in the state, along with how much money they have invested, it’s likely the Betfair will attempt to find a new ally. However, this may not be easy or feasable.

The company has several obstacles in its way now. There are no casinos left, of those seven that have not paired with online gambling sites or are. Of these casinos, most have no incentive to enter a partnership with Betfair, as they already have significant exposure for their brand. Considering that Betfair’s main asset in this situation is their brand recognition, it is unlikely they will want to operate under a different name.

On top of these challenges, Betfair hasn’t had great success in New Jersey so far. For this year, they have achieved a revenue of $3.6mm, which may sound impressive, but is actually the worst in the New Jersey iGaming industy.

With very few options and not being able to bring too much to the table, Betfair may have to pay exorbitant licensing fees to potential suitors in order to continue operating. That being said, there is still room for growth in New Jersey’s poker and gambling industry, so future earning projections may make a deal that is difficult in the short term a good long term decision for the gaming giant.

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.