Archive for the ‘Poker World Commentary’ Category

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.

Real-Money Online Poker Launches in Nevada

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Legal online poker has finally arrived in the U.S., at least for 1% of its population.

The state of Nevada’s legal online poker market officially launches today at 9:00 am local time when Ultimate Poker will begin accepting deposits. Ultimate Poker is a subsidiary of Station Casinos LLC. Their namesake, which has drawn raised eyebrows from some in the poker community due to it’s similarity to the scandal-ridden site Ultimate Bet, is owed to a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ultimate Poker recently signed poker’s all-time leader in live tournament winnings, Antonio Esfandiari, as an ambassador of the site.

Ultimate Poker will accept business from anyone 21 years of age or older provided they are located within Nevada’s geographical borders. The company will triangulate signals from the mobile devices of their customers to confirm geographic compliance. Players can deposit using a MasterCard, bank transfer, via a mailed check, or by visiting any of Nevada’s 16 Station Casinos in person.

While news of legal real-money online poker launching in the U.S. carries symbolic importance, there remains a huge hill to climb for the game’s state of prohibition to come to an end in the U.S.; just under 1% of U.S. residents call Nevada their home.

Online Gaming Legalized in New Jersey

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Online gaming proponents in the United States scored arguably their biggest victory this week when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into a law a bill to legalize online gambling within the state’s borders.

The bill will allow Atlantic City casinos to operate online gambling sites including online poker rooms for residents of New Jersey. The state joins Nevada and Delaware as the only places in the U.S. with some form of legal online gaming.

Governor Christie vetoed a similar bill two years ago and conditionally vetoed this bill just weeks ago requesting some minor changes before signing it into law.

The new bill will pave way the way for PokerStars to re-enter the U.S. market; in January, the leading online poker room agreed to purchase the fledgling Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City.

It is not yet apparent when the first online poker games will go live in New Jersey, but it should be expected that the licensing process for gaming operators will take several months at a minimum.

New Jersey Gov. Christie Conditionally Vetoes Online Poker Bill

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Legal online poker could be coming soon to New Jersey. Yesterday, the state’s governor, Chris Christie, conditionally vetoed a bill that would have legalized online poker in his state. The news is seen as a positive step by online poker advocates. Two years ago, Christie outright vetoed a similar bill.

By conditionally vetoing the bill, Christie has indicated he objects to parts of the bill but is open to passing an amended form of the bill. The Internet gaming bill will now be redrafted by the state’s legislature with Christie’s recommended changes which are said to be fairly minor in nature. A primary element of Christie’s conditional veto include increasing the taxes on operators from 10% to 15% and creating a 10 year expiry date on the bill which would require the state to re-establish it as law in the next decade.

State Senator Ray Lesniak, the sponsor of the bill, anticipates the state’s legislative bodies will approve the changes to the bill within the next two weeks.

Not only is this news a positive step for proponents of online gaming in New Jersey, but it also indicates a potentially positive shift in the national attitude towards the subject; Christie is considered a potential Republican candidate for President in 2016. Christie’s willingness to endorse online gaming could have a ripple effect on others in his party who have historically been online gaming’s biggest detractors.

PokerStars Play Money Games Arrive at Facebook

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

In the world of play money Texas hold’em poker on Facebook, Zynga now has a competitor with a pretty good reputation: PokerStars.

The world’s largest real-money online poker room announced today that their play money-only “.net” version of their games will now be available through a Facebook app. The Facebook app will pair players from PokerStars mobile and desktop software games. Additionally, PokerStars’ “Zoom Poker” interface will be available through the Facebook app. Zoom Poker is a fast-paced style of online poker where upon folding a hand players are immediately moved into another game where a new hand awaits them.

PokerStars’ Facebook play-money games will permit players to send chips to their Facebook friends. One could expect the influx of new play-money activity on PokerStars through this new Facebook app to result in an uptick in the real-money action on the “.com” version of the site’s games.

Howard Lederer Settles with DOJ, Admits No Wrongdoing

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Howard Lederer’s troubles with the U.S. government in the wake of Full Tilt Poker’s collapse following Black Friday appear to be behind him. The former director of Full Tilt reached a settlement yesterday with the Department of Justice through which he forfeited an unspecified dollar amount but admitted to no wrongdoing in the case.

In September, the DOJ filed a civil suit against Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar and Rafe Furst seeking a combined $137 million in damages from the men on the basis of their responsibility behind the Full Tilt “Ponzi scheme”. Lederer was sought personally for $42.5 million. He agreed to turn over two bank accounts of unknown value to the U.S. as well as a vintage sports car and two Las Vegas properties with a combined estimated value of $975,000. Additionally, Lederer agreed to a civil money laundering penalty of $1.25 million; he has been given the next 36 months to pay that debt in two installments.

Rafe Furst settled with the DOJ four weeks ago in a similar fashion to Lederer, by forfeiting an undisclosed sum and admitting no wrongdoing. Bitar and Ferguson’s civil cases remain pending.

In the Howard Lederer settlement with DOJ court document, ‘The Professor’ maintains that Full Tilt Poker “was a legitimate business providing services to its customers within the bounds of the law.” As part of the settlement, Lederer also agreed to have no part of any business that derives money from online gambling in the United States until he obtains the appropriate authorization from all relevant government authorities.

Former U.S. customers of Full Tilt Poker remain without word from the government as to how they can process a claim on the money they are entitled to following the PokerStars buyout of Full Tilt Poker.