GVC Holdings, the company that bought bwin.party – and by extension the partypoker brand – for £1.116 billion (USD $ 1,697 billion) in September 2015, has announced that it plans to expand partypoker globally. The once-dominant online poker site pre-UIGEA has said that it will re-enter 21 “gray market” countries, or countries where online poker is not explicitly legal and regulated, but not explicitly illegal, either.
Speaking to eGaming Review, bwin.party’s Tom Waters, Group Head of partypoker, said, “Along with other operators in the industry, we do accept gameplay from customers based in yet to be regulated territories where customers are not prevented from accessing online gaming products.”
“We have re-opened registration for a number of markets and could potentially look to do more if the commercials support it,” he added.
The company has not put out an official list of countries yet, but Haley Hintze at Flushdraw.net wrote that the assumption is that 18 of the 21 will be countries that partypoker withdrew from in 2013: Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
All are currently or have recently been on the list of countries on party’s site that are deemed as off-limits. One would presume that they will all be removed from the list in the near future. Five were previously removed, so that leaves thirteen. Doing the math, that also means that there are eight other countries on the blacklist that partypoker will re-enter.
Hintze guesses that those eight will include Bulgaria and Turkey, some Pacific Rim countries, and possibly Lebanon.
It is widely assumed that bwin.party withdrew from gray market jurisdictions in order to lay the groundwork for a potential re-entry into the United States. It and other companies wanted to try to keep a squeaky-clean image so that state regulators would not have any reason to deny them an operating license should they apply.
And speaking of U.S. licenses, GVC Holdings was granted an operational waiver by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), which allows bwin.party to continue to serve online poker players in the Garden State.
GVC’s acquisition of bwin.party was approved by the UK Scheme Court on February 1st, after which the new company began trading on the London Stock Exchange under the ticker “GVC.” But though bwin.party is licensed in New Jersey and has been operating in the state, GVC, its new parent, does not have a New Jersey license. The operation waiver that was issued last week allows GVC’s subsidiaries to stay active in New Jersey while GVC’s own application is being reviewed by the DGE.
The caveat, though, is that bwin.party’s employees in New Jersey cannot have any contact with GVC until GVC is licensed. It shouldn’t really matter, as they were operating without GVC before the acquisition, but it is an interesting requirement.
The PokerStars makeover continues. This week, many players on the world’s largest online poker site have received e-mails telling them that their regular heads-up cash game tables will disappear on Friday, replaced with Zoom Poker tables.
The e-mail was brief:
We are writing to inform you that as of Friday 12th February No Limit Hold’em, Fixed Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha Heads-Up regular tables will be removed and will be replaced with Zoom pools.
Heads-Up Zoom is already in place at most stakes and will be added at $ 50/$ 100. We will also be adding Zoom No Limit Hold’em Cap games at stakes up to $ 25/$ 50.
This change is part of our commitment to reducing predatory behaviour and improving the recreational player experience.
The “predatory behaviour” referenced (and I’ll keep the Euro-spelling) is “bumhunting.” The crude term refers to when seasoned poker pros sit by themselves at a heads-up table, waiting for a recreational player or otherwise known poor player to sit down. If another pro or solid player sits, the bumhunter never allows the game to start. The “predator” is literally lying in wait for an unsuspecting mark. Poker rooms generally dislike this sort of practice, as getting abused is not something players like and when recreational players realize they were targeted, they often leave the poker room for good. Hell, even if they don’t realize it, it is not a good feeling to lose money quickly. You want happy players, not sad ones!
In addition, bumhunters clog up tables and inactive tables mean no money for PokerStars.
So, starting Friday – and you are all welcome for the advance notice – heads-up cash game players will have to settle for Zoom Poker. In Zoom Poker, bumhunting is impossible, as all players enter a Zoom lobby at the outset and are seated automatically by the system. There is no way to sit out and wait for lesser players; once you commit to the lobby, you play. Well, it may be theoretically possible to wait for recreational players, but that would require leaving the table and re-entering the lobby constantly and even then, you would only get one hand at a time against your preferred opponent. Good luck with that.
And that is the other benefit of Zoom Poker in combating predatory behavior: players get moved to a new table after every hand, so even if a pro identifies a casual player, the prey is gone in one hand.
This is not the first time the PokerStars family of sites got rid of regular heads-up cash game tables. In July 2015, Full Tilt announced, amongst other changes, that it was doing away with heads-up cash games entirely, citing bum hunters like PokerStars. On Two Plus Two, Shyam Markus, Full Tilt’s Poker Room Manager, said that in looking at cash game data, the more someone plays at the heads-up tables during their first month on the site, the less likely they are to return for a second month.
Historically, a PokerStars promotion has been something people can get excited about. So when I tell you that PokerStars is running a promo to celebrate the site’s 100 millionth player (including Full Tilt and all country-specific sites), you wouldn’t be crazy to get your hopes up. But don’t. I mean, yes, it is a promotion and yes, you can win something of value, but frankly, it’s a bit of a disappointment. But you know what? If you are going to play at PokerStars, anyway, and these promos end up fitting in to your game selection, go for it.
For the first two weeks of the month (starting yesterday, of course, but don’t worry about it – it shouldn’t be a bid deal), PokerStars has a couple VIP Steps Challenges for its players. Those who complete VIP Steps Challenge 1 by leveling up three VIP Steps during the two weeks will have a chance to win up to 1 million StarsCoin. VIP Steps Challenge 2 is similar, but it requires the completion of 10 VIP Steps for up to 2 million StarsCoin.
“Up to” is the operative phrase here as the chances of winning a million or two StarsCoin are extremely low. Like with Spin & Go jackpots, the prizes are determined by a probability table. The odds get better the higher up in the VIP tiers a player is, but don’t count on any sort of StarsCoin windfall.
For example, at the BronzeStar level, there is a 54.695 percent chance to win 5 StarsCoin for VIP Steps Challenge 1, a 27.50 percent chance to win 50, a 15 percent chance to win 100, so on and so forth until the 1 million chip prize, which has a .005 percent chance of hitting. The minimum prize is 100 starting with ChromeStars. ChromeStars and up will win 100 or 1,000 StarsCoin the vast majority of the time. The odds for the grand prize only elevate to 0.15 percent at best.
The VIP Steps Challenge 2 prizes are bigger, ranging from 50 to 2 million rather than 5 to 1 million. Odds are a little better to win something of note, but again, whatever.
For the final two weeks of the month, including Leap Day, PokerStars will offer challenges associated with milestones from the site’s history. PokerStars has not revealed what the actual challenges will be, but here are the milestones:
2001 – Launch of Real Money Poker Games
2002 – First WCOOP Main Event
2003 – Moneymaker wins the World Series
2004 – Launch of the EPT
2006 – The Sunday Million is Born
2007 – Daniel Negreanu joins Team PokerStars Pro
2008 – PokerStars hosts World Record Online Poker Tournament
2012 – Launch of the Mobile App
2013 – Launch of Zoom
2013 – 100 Billionth Hand
2014 – $ 10 Million Guaranteed in PCA Main Event
2015 – Football Stars join PokerStars
2015 – 13 Millionaires Made in Spin & Go’s
2015 – 253,692 Players in an Online Poker Tournament
2016 – PokerStars obtains license in New Jersey, USA
Once again, there is a prize probability chart for the challenges, which come in two flavors: Silver and Gold. Most of the time, the prize will be a seat in an All-in Shootout tournament (77.294 percent for Silver, 60.299 percent for Gold), but the rest are cash prizes. For the Silver challenge, the cash prizes range from $ 2 to $ 10,000 (.001 percent chance at the $ 10,000) and for Gold it’s $ 5 to $ 100,000.
The last part of the promo is a simple tournament. For 50 StarsCoin (guess you can use what you earned form the promo the rest of the month), players can enter a $ 100,000 Added VIP Club tournament.
It is on to the meat of the tournament today as both starting flights of the 2016 World Poker Tour (WPT) Borgata Winter Poker Open are in the books and the survivors from Sunday and Monday will come together to compete on Tuesday’s Day 2. Norman Michalek came out on top of Day 1B, bagging up 208,000 at the end of the night. His success means that there is an extremely tight race at the top of the standings to begin Day 2, as Michalek is in third place, just behind Day 1A leaders John Lee (210,700 chips) and Kou Vang (209,300 chips).
Day 1B was a bit more than twice as large as Day 1A, as 745 players came out for the second opening flight (compared to 359 on Sunday). Accordingly, more than twice as many players – 380 versus 162 from Day 1A – survived the flight. Thus, 542 players are about to take their seats to try to continue their march toward the final table. Registration is open until the start of Day 2, so a few more players may be added to tourney. Once registration closes, tournament organizers will be able to announce the prize pool and payouts.
The event has a $ 3 million guaranteed prize pool, but that number has already been eclipsed, with or without any last-minute entries. With a $ 3,300 buy-in less 3 percent taken out for dealer tips, the prize pool will be $ 3,533,904 if nothing else changes. With 1,104 entrants, we are probably looking at around 110 players paid.
The chip leader, Norman Michalek, is very much a regional tournament grinder. He has a long string of cashes on his live tournament resume dating back to 2010, the vast majority of which are in tourneys with buy-ins from $ 100 to $ 500, and mostly on the east coast. Makes sense, as Michalek is from New Jersey and thus mostly plays in tournament in Atlantic City and Pennsylvania. It looks like he has ventured out to Las Vegas for the $ 1,500 No-Limit Hold’em events at the World Series of Poker each year for the last few years and has cashed six times. He also has one WPT cash, a 15th place finish in this same event last year. All told, Michalek has won nearly a quarter-million dollars on the live tournament circuit.
The cards are about to get in the air at the Borgata as Day 2 gets underway at noon ET.
2016 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event – Day 1B Chip Leaders
1. Norman Michalek – 208,000
2. Abrahim Aboukhalil – 188,900
3. Cong Pham – 187,500
4. David Moreno – 181,400
5. Kim Noun – 166,500
6. Matthew Wantman – 157,900
7. Steven Graber – 157,400
8. Daniel Buzgon – 144,000
9. Farid Jattin – 140,600
10. Kevin Ho – 140,200
2016 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event – Overall Day 1 Chip Leaders
1. John Lee – 210,700
2. Kou Vang – 209,300
3. Norman Michalek – 208,000
4. Anthony Newman – 195,500
5. Abrahim Aboukhalil – 188,900
6. Cong Pham – 187,500
7. David Moreno – 181,400
8. Lawrence Lakatosh – 176,300
9. Jared Griener – 170,700
10. Steven Buckner – 167,300
As the Aussie Millions came to a close, the World Poker Tour (WPT) got its first Main Event of 2016 going as the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event kicked off in Atlantic City Sunday. It was fantastic timing, too, as just a week after a ridiculous, historic blizzard, the city broke its high temperature record for January 31st. In New Jersey, at the end of January, the thermometer hit a balmy 64 degrees, besting the previous record – set in 1988 and 2012 – by one degree. What snow?
359 players showed up for Day 1A of the tournament and about 200 were eliminated, leaving 162 to make it through to Day 2. John Lee emerged as the chip leader with 210,700 chips, but hot on his tail is Kou Vang with 209,300. Anthony Newman is also close, sitting in third place with 195,500.
Other notable names who still have chips include Kevin Saul (153,600), Barry Hutter (139,300), Vanessa Selbst (130,500), Anthony Gregg (127,400), Jonathan Little (110,400), Olivier Busquet (81,200), and Anthony Zinno (68,000).
Tournament leader John Lee has some solid live tournament experience, though most of his cashes are in rather low buy-in events under $ 1,000. He has earned $ 371,828 in his career according to TheHendonMob.com, most of that coming at the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, where he finished 44th and won $ 247,399. He has also already cashed at the Borgata Winter Poker Open, albeit for just $ 1,089. Then again, when that’s about double your buy-in from the $ 2 Million Deep Stack event, that’s not such a bad day. I mean, hell, I’d like to make $ 500 today.
There will be one more opening flight for the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event, the appropriately named Day 1B on Monday, which will begin at 11:00am ET. The survivors from both starting flights will return to the Borgata at noon on Tuesday for Day 2. The tourney will run through Friday with the live streamed final table.
2016 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event – Day 1A Chip Leaders
1. John Lee – 210,700
2. Kou Vang – 209,300
3. Anthony Newman – 195,500
4. Lawrence Lakatosh – 176,300
5. Jared Griener – 170,700
6. Steven Buckner – 167,300
7. Michael Morton – 160,400
8. Kevin Saul – 153,600
9. Geoffrey Cudd – 142,900
10. Barry Hutter – 139,300