The European Poker Tour’s (EPT) Barcelona Main Event kicked off Monday, the first Main Event of EPT Season 13. It was a healthy turnout for Day 1A, as 466 players paid the €5,300 to take a shot at the season’s first big title. The total field should climb well over 1,000 runners; the first starting flight is almost always the smallest. Alex Brand sits atop the 243 surviving players with 178,800 chips.
It is a close race at the top of the Day 1A leader board. Bernd Vogelhuber is close behind Brand with 167,000 chips and after him, there are six players in the 150,000 range: Pael Krasnoselskii (155,000), Michael Addamo (153,100), Dorian Rios Pavon (152,700), Kestutis Gecevicius (152,200), Victor Bogdanov (152,200), and Igor Yaroshevskyy (150,000).
Should brand keep the momentum going and simply cash in the tournament, it would immediately be one of the largest cashes of his live tournament career. According to TheHendonMob.com, Brand has five live cashes for a total of just $ 28,276 (I say “just,” but that’s still eight times more than I have won in live tourneys). Three are for less money that he would win with a min-cash.
Oftentimes, the most significant hand of the day involves the chip leader and is the main reason that person made it to the highest rung on the leader board. Not so yesterday. One of the most exciting hands of the night played out during Level 8. According to PokerNews, Athanasios Fergiatakis raised to 1,900 pre-flop and was called by Koray Aldemir. Charlie Carrel shoved for 13,700 chips. After getting a count, Fergiatakis made the call. That still left Aldemir to act and he decided to make things even more interesting by himself going all-in. After once again asking for a count and then pondering his move, Fergiatakis called, having both opponents covered.
Their hands were good, but worse than you might expect in this situation. Carrel had 9-9, Aldemir had A-K of hearts, and Fergiatakis had 8-8. Carrel himself was surprised to be in the lead.
The flop was J-T-4, keeping Carrel in ahead, but giving Aldemir a gut-shot straight draw to go with his two over cards. A 9 was dealt on the turn, producing a welcome set for Carrel and eliminating Aldermir’s Ace and King outs. It was the Queen on the river, though, that changed everything. At first, Fergiatakis thought he had won the hand, as that card gave him a Queen-high straight, but then he realized it also gave Aldemir a Broadway straight. Aldemir took down the main and side pots, eliminating Carrel in the process. Aldemir finished the day with 127,700 chips.
Day 1B is already underway in Barcelona as a new batch of players has taken to the felts. We’ll check in later tonight or tomorrow to see how things went.
2016 European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event – Day 1A Chip Counts
1. Alex Brand – 178,800
2. Bernd Vogelhuber – 167,600
3. Pavel Krasnoselskii – 155,000
4. Michael Addamo – 153,100
5. Dorian Rios Pavon – 152,700
6. Kestutis Gecevicius – 152,200
7. Victor Bogdanov – 150,200
8. Igor Yaroshevskyy – 150,000
9. Jaroslaw Sikora – 139,000
10. Shaun Deeb – 136,500
In some of the least surprising news ever, it appears that online poker legislation will not be going anywhere in California this year. There actually had been some solid headway made in the last several months, but as usual, different stakeholder groups could not come together on a final compromise, so Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 2863 has been shelved.
As has generally been the case, the sticking point was a “bad actor” clause. Put simply, bad actor clauses put restrictions on the eligibility of online gaming operators who offered games to people in the U.S. after the UIGEA was passed in late 2006. A hardline coalition of Native American tribes, led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, has wanted these operators to be completely excluded from the California market. They claim it is for ethical and legal reasons, but really, it is because they are afraid of competition; the poker operator clearly targeted by the bad actor clause is PokerStars.
An earlier version of the bill, dubbed the “compromise” version, looked like it might have had the legs to not just come up for a vote, but actually pass. In that bill, PokerStars would not be barred via legislation, but rather be evaluated by California’s gaming regulators when the company filed an application for a license.
But the Pechangas and Agua Calientes were able to force an amendment to AB 2863, which once again instituted a bad actor clause. PokerStars and other operators who accepted U.S. customers after 2006 (but really, just PokerStars), would be prevented from applying for a gaming license for five years. One previous take on this would have allowed PokerStars to pay $ 20 million to skip the ban, but that wasn’t included in this latest case.
A number of tribes, as well as the state’s largest cardrooms, have allied with PokerStars and this “PokerStars Coalition” obviously opposed the amendment. Not only do they likely think it’s just plain wrong, but many already have deals in place with PokerStars for PokerStars to be their software provider, so if Stars has to sit out, these tribes and cardrooms would be left scrambling for another technology option.
In an interesting twist, according to Online Poker Report, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians were also opposed to the amendment, even though they were on the side that favors a bad actor clause. Their opposition came because they felt the language of the bad actor clause was too weak. The amendment stipulates that the cooling off period for PokerStars was to end in 2022, approximately five years from when the bill would have possibly passed. But those two dissenting tribes felt that that definition could actually mean that PokerStars would only have to sit out two or three years because it would still possibly take a couple years for regulations to be put in place, licensed to be handed out, and sites to get up and running. Thus, they wanted the bad actor clause to be redefined as lasting five years from the day the first online poker card is dealt.
It is still possible that AB 2863 could be voted on this year, but as the 2016 legislative session ends on August 31st, it is very unlikely.
As former President George W. Bush once so confidently said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Or something like that.
After two futile attempts to acquire top UK bookmaker William Hill, the pairing of 888 Holdings and The Rank Group has thrown in the towel, announcing on Thursday that they will not be making any further offers to buy the company.
In a press release, 888 Holdings CEO Itai Frieberger said, “We are disappointed that the board of William Hill did not share our vision of the combined businesses. We believe that there was compelling industrial logic for the combination of these highly complementary businesses, which in our view would have brought scale, diversification, and strong revenue and cost synergies, from which all shareholders would have benefitted.”
Rank CEO Henry Birch added, “We strongly believe that the transaction would have created significant value for all three sets of shareholders. We and 888 are grateful for the shareholder support we have received throughout this process.”
888 and Rank made their initial approach to William Hill on August 9th, proposing to form a new company, BidCo, which would then buy William Hill. William Hill shareholders were offered 199 pence per share plus .725 BidCo shares per William Hill share. Based on the prices of 888 and Rank as of August 5th, it was estimated that the total value of the offer was 364 pence per share, or £3.164 billion. William Hill shareholders would have owned 44.6 of the new company.
After William Hill’s Board of Directors declined that offer, 888 and Rank came back with a new one at a 394 pence per share estimated value, or £3.425 billion. Once again, it was for 199 pence per share, but rather than fooling with a new BidCo company, the stock portion was for .860 shares of 888 Holdings for each William Hill share. William Hill’s ownership portion of the combined company was also increased to 48.8 percent. That deal was also rejected.
Following the dismissal of the first proposal, 888 owner Eyal Shaked was salty, tweeting, “Pure ego made #WilliamHill reject #Rank and #888 £3.16bn bid and that will be their downfall.”
In their “Statement of intention not to make an offer,” 888 and Rank still seemed a bit perturbed at the developments:
The Proposed Transaction would have created a transformational force in the global betting and gaming industry and the UK’s largest multi-channel gambling operator by revenue and profit and was expected to have unlocked substantial cost and revenue synergies.
Notwithstanding 888 and Rank’s belief in the inherent value of their Proposals, it has not been possible to meaningfully engage with the board of William Hill. 888 and Rank respect the William Hill board’s position and, as such, after careful consideration each now confirms that they have withdrawn their interest and that they do not intend to make an offer for William Hill.
The thirteenth season of the European Poker Tour (EPT) has started and today marked the opening of the season’s first Main Event, at EPT Barcelona. More on the tournament itself in a later article, but for now, one of the more interesting bits of news coming out of the EPT recently was that PokerStars, which operates the Tour, changed the payout structure of its tournaments. Instead of paying 15 percent of the field, tournaments will now pay down to 20 percent.
In a blog post announcing the decision, PokerStars briefly explained that it was a way to make the events more fun for more people, giving people a chance to at least come away with something, even if they didn’t nab one of the top payouts. Of course, this means that those top payouts will not be as large anymore, as those extra cashes have to come from someone. PokerStars said, though, that the effect shouldn’t be as severe as people might think:
For example, 220 players bought into a €1,000 Hyper at Barcelona last year. The winner collected €45,134 and 31 players were paid out with 31st getting €1,878. This year, the winner would collect €38,028 but 47 players would be paid out with 47th getting €1,238. That same 31st player would get €1,921.
In an interview with PokerNews, PokerStars Department Head of Live Poker Operations Neil Johnson gave additional insight into the decision making process, saying that about half the players in EPT Season 12 played in only one or two events, even though each stop has dozens and dozens of tournaments, many with affordable buy-ins. He continued:
We started looking at the payouts in a vacuum and to see what made sense. We took all the preconceptions out of it. We saw that if we would pay out 20 percent instead of 15 percent, we could give 5 percent of the field a do-over. It’s effectively like saying ‘Thanks for coming, I hope you had a lot of fun. Sorry you didn’t make it into the big money, good luck the next time because here’s money for another shot.” If someone has a buy-in to play another poker tournament, that’s a good thing. So that’s the direction we ended up going.
“To keep a healthy poker economy, a solid liquidity for live tournament poker, you need more winners,” Johnson added later. “You need more people able to buy in and play so the fields continue to grow. You don’t want to see a situation where it just stagnates, which happens if there’s not getting new money in.”
Johnson said that unlike when the payout structure was increased from 10 to 15 percent, players were not surveyed to seek their input for this latest change. Looking back to the previous change, Johnson recalled:
The options were 10 percent, 12.5 percent, and 15 percent, and all three of them got 33 percent of the votes. Whatever we did, 66 percent was going to be angry. We did what we thought was in the best interest of the poker economy at that time.
This time, we ran all the data we had and decided again to do what we thought was in the best interest of the poker economy and poker players. We’ve done what we think was the right thing to do.
Many pros did not react to the change positively, as the money that is being removed from the upper-end payouts, particularly in the high buy-in tournaments, is a big deal for top tournament players. They don’t want thousands or tens of thousands of dollars being removed from final table positions, as that’s money they count on – as much as one can count on making a final table regularly – to pay the bills and to pay for more tournaments.
Shortly after the PokerNews interview, PokerStars decided to revert back to a 15 percent payout structure for €50,000 Super High Roller and €25,000 Single-Day High Roller events, which makes sense, since those are populated by pros who really don’t care about min-cashes and breaking even on their buy-ins.
In what was an unprecedented length for renegotiating a deal, the World Poker Tour and FOX Sports reached agreement on what is essentially a five-year extension of the contract between the two entities.
After previously having deals for two or three years, the five-year commitment from FOX Sports harkens back to the early years of the WPT. The first broadcast home for the tour, the Travel Channel, gave a five-year deal for broadcasting the WPT, but this was during the heyday of televised poker in the mid-2000s. Since leaving the Travel Channel, the WPT has spent some time on the cable channel GSN before landing with FOX Sports in 2009, where it has performed well for the sports giant.
Since its premiere in 2009, nearly 215 million viewers have partaken of WPT broadcasts in the United States, with almost half of that total coming within the last two seasons of action. Averaging almost a million viewers per week, the WPT has been able to deliver solid programming for FOX Sports over the years. With the new contract, the WPT will continue to get valuable airtime over FOX Sports and its regional affiliates (including two WPT marathon broadcasts, with the first this Labor Day) that includes 13 hours of “original” programming that is a step outside the normal tournament fare.
The head of the WPT was naturally excited by the extension of the partnership between the companies. “This unprecedented, five-year deal with FOX Sports elevates WPT into an elite and exclusive group of shows that have aired on television for nineteen seasons,” said Adam Pliska, President and CEO of the WPT. “This announcement is great for fans of the WPT and provides extensive, guaranteed exposure for our mainstream sponsors, including Hublot, Monster Headphones, Royal Caribbean International, and FIAT. We are proud of our new deal with FOX Sports, and we thank the network for its continued support and promotion of our content across its television and digital platforms.”
FOX Sports returned the compliments, with Josh Oakley, the Executive Director of Acquisitions and Programming, commenting, “The WPT remains a highly rated, regularly scheduled program on FOX Sports Regional Networks, and it’s a key part of our primetime lineup each Sunday. WPT is the perfect complement to our other sports programming, including MLB, NBA, NHL, and college football and basketball. We are excited to have this partnership through 2021.”
In this day and age of televised poker, any airtime for the game is valuable. When it originated in 2003, the WPT joined the World Series of Poker (and, arguably, the United Kingdom’s Late Night Poker) as the ONLY televised poker programming on the airwaves. Partially because of the success of the WPT – and partially because of the success of a young Tennessee accountant with the unlikely moniker of Chris Moneymaker at the WSOP Championship Event – televised poker boomed in the mid-2000s, with such made for television fare as High Stakes Poker, Celebrity Poker Showdown, Face the Ace, Poker Royale and the Ultimate Poker Challenge all appearing during that time span.
After the crackdown on poker in 2006 with the signing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, these shows disappeared for the most part. The WPT, the WSOP and the syndicated Heartland Poker Tour continued on with the banner, even after the “Black Friday” indictments of 2011. It is only recently, with such programming as Poker Night in America and some other entries, that poker has been attempting to reestablish its place on cable television.
If the political climate changes with online poker (not something to hold your breath over), then more poker programming could be brought to the public. It is good to know, however, that one of the stalwarts of the poker world in the WPT will have a solid home for the near future.