partypoker Eliminates Inactivity Fees

 partypoker Eliminates Inactivity Fees

After Black Friday, like a lot of poker players living in the United States, I stopped playing online poker. I had money on one or two sites and dabbled here and there, but for the most part, I quit because a) there was little traffic where I had money and b) I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to goof with the sites that did still accept U.S. customers. I only played low stakes poker for fun (and sometimes for “research”), anyway, so I learned to not miss it fairly quickly. A couple years later (or whenever), I had the itch to play again, so I logged in to the account where I knew I had money and…it was gone. Had I been hacked? Nope. Because my account was dormant for so long, the online poker room took my money. I couldn’t believe it, but the warning was in the terms and conditions. Many poker rooms have had inactivity fees of one kind or another and though its fees were not nearly as bad as some, partypoker was one of the most criticized, probably because it was also one of the most popular poker rooms. Fortunately, partypoker announced last week that it has put an end to these punitive inactivity fees.

In a blog post, partypoker said that it is “removing the fee altogether as part of its pledge to listen carefully to player feedback and respond positively to suggestions for improvements.”

The site’s poker ambassador Patrick Leonard expanded on that:

It can be very frustrating for players who have taken a break from the game to find that the inactivity fee has been charged. It has always been super easy to reactivate accounts and get the fee refunded but often people are just getting on with their lives and totally forget about it. I think removing this fee altogether will be widely welcomed in the poker community and it also shows that partypoker really is making good on its promise to take players’ opinions into account. There are some big changes happening in the near future including further improvements to our new lobby and table design. Online poker is starting to become the cool thing to do after work and at weekends again and right now there’s no better place than partypoker.

Players at partypoker were deemed “inactive” if they didn’t play for 180 days. On the 181st day, partypoker deducted a €5 inactivity fee from the account, provided there was at least €5 available. If there was less than €5, the account balance was just zeroed out. Accounts were considered re-activated if someone played a raked cash game hand, a real-money tournament, or made a deposit.

“Listening to players is central to everything we do at partypoker,” said partypoker Chairman Mike Sexton. “That means absorbing all comments and complaints, whether in forums, chat rooms or on social media platforms, in conversations with our customer service team or face-to-face at live events. Sometimes players wish to take a break from the game, for whatever reason, without having to worry about their account balances. Players should not be charged an inactivity fee and we are pleased to be removing this historical charge with immediate effect. We also want to reassure players that, of course, they will be welcomed back at any time.”

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Libratus Poker AI Wins Prestigious Computing Award

 Libratus Poker AI Wins Prestigious Computing Award

Libratus, the artificial intelligence powered by a multi-million dollar supercomputer that crushed teams of poker players in No-Limit Hold’em twice this year, was honored with the 2017 HPCwire Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of AI last week. The Libratus Poker AI was developed by Tuomas Sandholm and Noam Brown at Carnegie Mellon University.

I would suspect almost nobody reading this has any idea what HPCwire is – I know I didn’t before I read about the award. HPCwire calls itself “the leading publication for news and information for the high performance computing industry,” and if you visit its site, you would understand why. If anyone knows about high performance computing, it is the contributors and owners of that website.

Tom Tabor, CEO of Tabor Communications Inc., the company that publishes HPCwire, said, “HPCwire’s readership is broadly diversified; it includes industry leaders from the private sector, innovators in academia, and end users that are bringing HPC to the enterprise. Being selected to win either a Readers’ or Editors’ Choice Award is no small feat.”

At the beginning of 2017, Libratus took on the poker pro team of Jimmy Chou, Dong Kim, Jason Les, and Daniel McAulay. Each human played 30,000 heads-up hands against the computer over the course of about three weeks.

In order to try to eliminate as much luck as possible so that skill could be measured, the heads-up matches were played with a few special rules. First, the 20,000 chip stacks (50/100 blinds) were reset after each hand so that nobody could gain an advantage by swinging a big stack around like a club. Second, if there was an all-in and a call before the river, no more cards were dealt. Instead, chips were split according to the players’ equity in the hand. This way, nobody could get lucky by slamming a two-outer on the river. And third, hands were mirrored. That is, in a pair of matches, the hands dealt were exactly the same, except Libratus received one set of hole cards in one of the matches, while the human opponent received those same hole cards in the other.

For instance – and I don’t know how the pairings were actually setup – Jimmy Chou may have been dealt Aces against Libratus’ Queens in Hand #15,306. This hand would have been mirrored in Dong Kim’s Hand #15,306, in that he would have been the one to receive the Queens and Libratus would have gotten the Aces. Thus, it could not be said that either the humans or the AI were the beneficiaries of a lucky streak of hole cards.

Libratus won $ 14.72 per hand on average from the four players, for a total of $ 1,766,250. Kim was the most successful, only losing $ 85,649. PokerListings.com calculated that the probability of the four players actually outplaying Libratus and still losing that much money was between 0.0001 and 0.54 percent.

In April, Libratus did it again, beating a team of six Chinese players in Hainan, China, led by 2016 World Series of Poker bracelet winner Tue Du. Libratus did even better, dominating them for $ 22.00 per hand. There was real money on the line this time, as well, as Libratus earned a $ 290,000 purse for the victory.

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Indiana Says Smoking Ban in Casinos Would Cost State Jobs, Money

 Indiana Says Smoking Ban in Casinos Would Cost State Jobs, Money

Since the 1990s, smoking has been banned in most of the poker rooms of casinos across the States of America. For the most part, however, smoking has been allowed in other areas of casinos outside of the sacred poker room area. Individual states are now having issues with the implementation of smoking bans in their locales (passed for the health of employees and the public), with Indiana the latest to sound off on the issue.

The Majestic Star Casino in Gary, IN, is complaining to state officials that the ban on smoking indoors is influencing its bottom line. The anti-smoking law, passed in 2012, banned smoking in most public places. Some exceptions were allowed, such as for private membership clubs and bars, tobacco retail outlets and hookah bars and horse racing facilities and casinos. Local leadership, however, could extend the law as they saw fit for their own locations.

Apparently, that is what the Gary Common Council is looking to do. On the table for the Council is an ordinance that would ban smoking in the Majestic Star period, not just the poker room. The smoking ban is backed by a group called “Smoke Free in the G” and is looking to pass the legislation to protect the employees of the casino. Naturally, the Majestic Star sees it another way and has made their opinion known to the members of the Council.

Majestic Star Chief Executive Officer Peter Liguori has said that the ban on smoking would have a tremendous impact on the success of the casino. He estimates that a ban on smoking would see the casino lose about $ 3 million in tax revenues for the state. Additionally, Liguori says that 400 jobs could be lost if the measure was passed. A look at other states who have passed anti-smoking legislation for their casinos demonstrates that Liguori isn’t blowing smoke.

In the state of Illinois (one of the competitors for Indiana’s action), a ban on smoking (called the “Smoke Free Illinois Act”) was put in place in 2008. Player numbers for the casino industry in the Land of Lincoln suffered following the smoking ban, with attendance in casinos falling by 22%. Estimates show that the total loss in revenues was around $ 200 million for the first year of the ban alone, with the estimated tax loss totaling over $ 12 million for that year.

2008 also saw the Atlantic City casino industry implement a smoking ban, much to the dismay of its bottom line. Facing increased competition from such states as Pennsylvania (which allowed smoking), the casinos in Atlantic City saw a 15% drop in customers, arguably because of the smoking ban but also possibly because of the “Great Recession” of 2018. New Jersey politicos, seeing the numbers fall, decided that the ban was wrong and, within a year, rescinded the ban.

In Florida, the Seminole Indians try to walk on both sides of the line. While their poker rooms remain smoke free, their casinos allow for smoking. This is because as a sovereign entity, they can set their own rules regarding smoking outside of those set by the Florida legislature and the “law of the land,” the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act. According to noted gaming journalist Nick Sortal, however, the Seminoles are trying to walk a fine line with the issue.

According to Sortal, the Seminoles are trying “to balance the desires of both smokers and nonsmokers.” To achieve this goal, the tribe is stepping up efforts in trying to keep smoking on the floor of their casinos and out of what is described as “general areas” such as restrooms, walkways, and elevator banks. To cater to those who don’t partake of tobacco or are disturbed by the scent, Sortal also states that they have installed improved air filtration and air conditioning systems on their South Florida properties.

Considering that there seems to be a predominance of smokers in the gaming community, the issue of smoking/non-smoking is an important one. It is estimated that only 10% of the country uses tobacco products, however, so the times may be changing on that stereotype.

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Leon Tsoukernik/Matt Kirk Battle Ramps Up as Fellow Players Take Sides

 Leon Tsoukernik/Matt Kirk Battle Ramps Up as Fellow Players Take Sides

One thing that a poker player has in the world of gambling is his integrity. The trust of your fellow players – whether it be in financial transactions or in actual play of the game – is integral to being able to operate in the gambling community. Thus, the battle between King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik and high stakes pro Matt Kirk has captured the interest of the poker community, with several top players taking sides.

For those of you who are unaware of the situation, earlier this year Tsoukernik allegedly borrowed $ 3 million from Kirk during a heads-up poker match, which the Czech businessman then reportedly lost back to Kirk in Las Vegas. After trading text messages between each other in an attempt to rectify the situation, the duo was unable to come to terms of repayment and are now trading lawsuits. Kirk filed a lawsuit to get his money back in Clark County Court in Vegas and Tsoukernik responded with his own lawsuit against not only Kirk but also Aria in Sin City to the tune of $ 10 million.

Tsoukernik’s defense is that Aria continually plied him with alcohol to the point that he was “physically and visibly impaired.” Kirk, he says, took advantage of him in that state and kept him at the table by continually loaning him money to continue the game. Additionally, Tsoukernik alleges that Aria blocked anyone from coming to his aid to rescue him from the game.

Normally this wouldn’t have been enough to draw the attention of the poker community, but recent actions by Tsoukernik seem to have irritated many. At this year’s World Series of Poker Europe, WSOP officials announced the return of the “Big One for One Drop,” the million-dollar buy in tournament that features the deepest pocketed pros in the poker world, to Las Vegas for 2018. During the announcement of the return of the event, WSOP officials also announced the first player who had put their deposit down on their seat in the event:  Tsoukernik.

This bit of news seemed to set off several players. On his platform with CardPlayer.com, Gavin Griffin sounded off with his thoughts on the issue. “It has to be clear to the World Series of Poker that this man is untrustworthy when it comes to poker,” Griffin wrote on their virtual pages. “Why, then, would they want to be associated with him in any way? He’s defrauding and scamming their customers on a regular basis and generally making the high stakes games that are frequented by these players much tougher to deal with. After all, in poker, if you can’t trust someone to pay you when you play, how can you play with that person?”

Never one to hold his opinion, Daniel Negreanu also responded on the issue. In a Tweet on his account, Negreanu ripped Tsoukernik in saying, “The ‘I was too drunk’ excuse is such horseshit. Besides, this is the SECOND time this guy stiffed someone (allegedly Tsoukernik had a similar situation with the defending champion of the “Big One,” Elton Tsang, in which he refused to pay him a million Euro debt)!” Poker’s living legend, Doyle Brunson, also backed up Kirk in a Tweet.

It was another frequent High Roller participant, however, who had the best thought on the issue. Bill Perkins, who has paid out untold amounts in poker and prop-betting losses to many in the poker world, offered his thoughts through Twitter. “I’ve lost endless trunks of money tired,” Perkins began. “It hurt paying but paid every time, even when I wasn’t tired.”

There is still plenty to be heard regarding this case. Whether Kirk or Tsoukernik’s lawsuits even have merit (there were no contracts signed other than their verbal communications) has yet to be established and Tsoukernik going after the Aria is probably not a good idea (one casino owner suing another? Not a good look). It also could have ramifications on the usage of the King’s Casino in the future for the WSOP (could they cancel their contract because of Tsoukernik’s actions?). Alas, we will have to wait for 2018 to see how it plays out.

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Maxime Heroux Rides Big Stack to Victory at WPT Montreal

 Maxime Heroux Rides Big Stack to Victory at WPT Montreal

Bringing the second largest stack to the final tabl3e on Thursday, Maxime Heroux earned his first major tournament poker championship in winning the World Poker Tour Montreal at the Playground Poker Club last night.

Heroux came to the final table with a 5.345 million stack, good for second place on the leaderboard to start the day. The only player he was looking up at was restauranteur Pat Quinn, who had amassed a 6.145 million stack for battle. These two players held the overwhelming majority of chips on the table; poker professional David Peters (3.345 million), fellow pro Derek Wolters (1.095 million), 2014 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown champion Eric Afriat (1.04 million) and Brendan Baksh (940K) all added together didn’t have as many chips as Quinn alone and were at a disadvantage to the two top stacks. If they were going to make a move, it would have to be done early.

Peters attempted to cut into the lead of Quinn, but he only received misery for his efforts. He doubled up both Afriat and Wolters within the first 20 hands to sink to the bottom of the standings. As the chips continued to slip through Peters’ fingers, Heroux began to make some moves and, on Hand 36, took over the chip lead when his flopped two pair faded a flush draw from Afriat and put him over the seven million chip mark.

The first elimination would occur on the 40th hand of the day. Peters had survived one all in situation previous to this but, when he moved in from under the gun on this hand, Quinn decided to look him up. Quinn’s A-J off suit held a decent edge (60/40) over Peters’ K Q and, once the flop showed an Ace in the window, the task got more difficult for Peters. Peters would be teased by a second heart on the turn, but the 10♣ ended the dream as Peters headed for the cage in sixth place.

Over the next hour, the leaders seemed happy to shuffle the chips about, but the short stacks felt the need to get into the game. On Hand 58, Afriat opened the betting from the button and Wolters used a Time Chip before deciding to make his stand. Afriat paused for a moment before making the call and, once the cards were up, he realized he made the right decision. Afriat’s A-8 off suit was way out in front of Wolters’ J♠ 9♠, but the “poker gods” would have other ideas.

A Jack came up first for Wolters and the fates weren’t done with him yet. As Afriat’s rail called for an Ace to put him back into the lead, another Jack instead fell to leave Afriat drawing dead to Wolters’ trips. To add further insult, the river was the case Jack, giving Wolters “just” quads to defeat Afriat’s Ace-high and knock him out in fifth place.

Five hands later, arguably the grittiest player at the final table departed. Baksh never got a stack built up but he was able to stay around for a good deal of the action of the day. After Wolters used his newfound chips in a “blind versus blind” battle by going all in, Baksh decided to call and was in good shape for the double. Baksh’s A-4 caught Wolters’ Q-2 in a blatant steal attempt, but the board wouldn’t cooperate. The 10-10-7 flop stuck with Baksh, but the Queen on the turn wasn’t what he wanted to see. Left looking for one of the three remaining Aces, Baksh instead saw a nine on the river to depart the table in fourth place.

Although Wolters had knocked off two players, he still was looking up to Quinn and Heroux. Undaunted, Wolters took on his opponents and, within ten hands, he had pulled in front of both of his opponents. Another ten hands, however, saw Heroux pull back into the lead…it would be the last time he wasn’t the leader of the pack.

On Hand 96, perhaps the penultimate moment of the tournament took place. Quinn opened the action and, after Heroux made the call from the small blind, Wolters three bet the action. Quinn decided to muck but Heroux, after a moment to ponder, moved all in. Wolters would eventually call of his remaining stack and the duo were off to the races:  Wolters’ A-K was running against Heroux’s pocket sevens and the Q-J-9 flop brought a bit more drama. A deuce on the turn left Wolters drawing to 10 outs (any Ace, King or ten), but the river wouldn’t have any of it. Another deuce ended the tournament for Wolters in third place as Heroux went to heads up with Quinn holding a massive lead.

How massive? Heroux at 14.6 million had more than four times the chips of Quinn (3.575 million) and he would make quick work of the situation. Over 16 hands, Quinn’s chip stack never got any larger and, on Hand 112, it would all end. Quinn limped in and Heroux checked his option to see a 6-5-4 flop, which brought another check from Heroux. Quinn responded with an all-in move and Heroux immediately called. Heroux’s 4-2 wasn’t very mighty pre-flop, but catching bottom pair was good enough against Quinn’s 9-7 for the open ended straight draw. A deuce on the turn and another on the river only improved Heroux to a full house and scored him his first major tournament championship.

1. Maxime Heroux, $ 403,570
2. Pat Quinn, $ 271,030
3. Derek Wolters, $ 173,220
4. Brendan Baksh, $ 124,310
5. Eric Afriat, $ 95,370
6. David Peters, $ 78,050

(* – Canadian dollars)

The victory puts Heroux into this spring’s WPT Tournament of Champions but also may give him momentum to the final WPT event of this calendar year. The WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic begins on December 5 and is the final event for 2017 on the WPT Main Tour schedule. As usual, that $ 10,000 buy in event at the Bellagio will be one of the highlights of the tournament poker year and will be well attended by the crème of the tournament poker world.

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