After more than five years of travel through the courts in the United States, the final settlements regarding Full Tilt Poker were quietly reached earlier this year, ending the saga of the now-defunct twice over online poker site and putting it into the history books.
The issues that Full Tilt faced were directly related to the “Black Friday” indictments by the U. S. Department of Justice against top officials from the online poker room. Indicted directly criminally in the case was Ray Bitar, the Chief Executive Officer of TiltWare, and Nelson Burtnick, who was the Director of Payments for Full Tilt Poker. In addition to those men, a class-action civil suit was filed against Full Tilt executives Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson by a player consortium consisting of Steve Segal, Nick Hammer, Robin Hougdahl, Todd Terry and Bradley Clasen, looking to retrieve monies that were taken in by Lederer and Ferguson, rumored to be in the $ 450 million range.
There had not been tremendous action for a few years regarding the case but, in August or September of 2015, talks began in an attempt to settle grievances between the parties. The plaintiffs in the case needed to have their court costs taken care of, which could have been into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Lederer and Ferguson needed a conclusion to the case simply to get it off their docket. As a result, in late 2015 an agreement was reached and, in January 2016, the court costs were settled for the plaintiffs and each received a token $ 500 payday from those court costs.
The big thing about the settlement of the case is that it will effectively end any further actions against those in Full Tilt management. After the settlement, the case was dismissed with prejudice, basically stating that the defendants could not face legal actions regarding the same case ever in the future. This brings an end to a tragedy that became even worse when it was exposed five years ago.
2011’s “Black Firday” saw the shutdown of the three most powerful online poker operations in the United States – PokerStars, the CEREUS Network rooms Absolute Poker and UB.com and the aforementioned Full Tilt Poker – by the U. S. Department of Justice. After a few days of negotiation, PokerStars was reopened to U. S. residents to allow them to retrieve their poker balances from the site. The same deal was offered to both Full Tilt Poker and CEREUS but, as it soon would become evident, neither of those rooms were in the position to refund their customers’ money.
In the case of Full Tilt, years of payment to the principal owners of the company – the official group that made up Team Full Tilt, such as Lederer, Ferguson, Bitar and others – had left the coffers depleted, so much so that there wasn’t money on hand to pay the approximately 75% of their clientele from the U. S. that had money with the company. It was rumored that Full Tilt Poker, when the deal was offered to pay back players, had only $ 60 million in its “ready cash” fund and could not complete the deal (the CEREUS Network rooms were in even worse shape).
Full Tilt Poker would eventually lose its license for operation in the fall of 2011 and it appeared that everyone’s money went away with the site. Then, in 2012, PokerStars stepped up and bailed out the DOJ by settling their case with the feds, paying out $ 731 million and getting Full Tilt Poker in return. While PokerStars walked away with the Full Tilt property, the players got paid back – although in some cases it would take almost four years and some received nothing at all for their affiliate revenues – due to the PokerStars largesse. (To this date, the CEREUS Network has NEVER had any discussions of player refunds and, for the most part, that money is considered lost.)
Of course, the settlement of all legal issues against Lederer and Ferguson led them back to this year’s World Series of Poker. While Lederer failed to cash in the handful of events he played, Ferguson was much more visible, playing in a multitude of tournaments and cashing 10 times for almost $ 250,000, including a fourth place finish in the $ 10,000 Six Handed No Limit Hold’em World Championship. Bitar, once thought to be near death when he was sentenced for his role in the Full Tilt fiasco in 2013, got married in an elaborate ceremony earlier this year and looks to be in the peak of health.
With the closure of the final legal case involving Full Tilt Poker, it may be thought that the poker community can move on. The stain left by such men as Lederer, Ferguson, Bitar and others isn’t the type that goes away easily, however.
Now that the World Series of Poker-proper is over and we’re just waiting for All Hallows’ Eve Eve and the start of the Main Event final table, other poker festivals can now start to try to turn the attention of poker players and fans back to them. As such, PokerStars is running a special Spin & Go promotion to give players a chance to win seats in the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona Main Event.
From July 18th through July 31st, PokerStars.com and its family of sites that share liquidity will host special €10 buy-in Spin & Go’s whose grand prize is a €9,000 prize package for the EPT Barcelona Main Event. That package includes the €5,300 tournament buy-in plus €3,700 for travel and expenses (the latter amount will actually be credited in U.S. dollars). PokerStars will not be making travel and accommodations arrangements for the winners; players must do that themselves.
The number of prize levels has been reduced for the EPT Barcelona Spin & Go’s. Rather than eight prize tiers, as the regular Spin & Go’s have, the EPT version has just four tiers. Here is the breakdown, listing the prize pool multiplier, first prize, and the frequency of that multiplier hitting:
900x – €9,000 EPT Barcelona Package – 25 in 100,000
6x – €60 – 2,500 in 100,000
4x – €40 – 24,775 in 100,000
2x – €20 – 72,700 in 100,000
Though the chances of hitting the EPT Barcelona package are very low, they are actually not too bad when compared to regular Spin & Go’s. There is no 900x multiplier normally – there is a huge gap between the 12,000x multiplier jackpot and the 240x jackpot – but the 900x multiplier still compares quite favorably. For example, in a regular Spin & Go, the 240x multiplier has a 50 in 1,000,000 chance of coming up, much worse odds than the 25 in 100,000 that we see on the EPT Barcelona chart. And the 900x multiplier obviously provides a better return than does the 240x multiplier. Heck, the chances of hitting the EPT Barcelona jackpot are still better than spinning the 120x multiplier normally.
Naturally, there are also differences in the probabilities when it comes to the 2x, 4x, and 6x multipliers, but people playing the EPT Barcelona Spin & Go’s likely don’t really care about those. The goal here is to the win the EPT prize package.
EPT Barcelona will be held at the Casino Barcelona in Spain from August 16th through August 28th, 2016. The first day is strictly for satellites, while the “real” tournaments begin on August 17th. Not counting satellites, there are close to 50 events at EPT Barcelona, highlighted by the €5,300 Main Event, which will run August 22nd through August 28th with two starting flights.
The Global Poker League is in a hiatus at this time, taking a break after finishing the first half of their inaugural season and their “Summer Series” during the run of the World Series of Poker. It’s certainly been an interesting run so far for GPL creator Alex Dreyfus’ pet program and it has seen its share of ups (getting “Breaking Bad” actor Aaron Paul on the L. A. Sunset and actually seeing him win an event in Las Vegas) and downs (early software glitches with the GPL poker client that were quickly fixed). There’s going to have to be more fixes made, however, if the GPL is going to succeed.
Dreyfus noted some of the problems the GPL has faced to this point and admitted the repairs were in the works. Such things as merchandising the league and its teams (something that still doesn’t exist) and putting more of an emphasis on the players are something that they should have done from the start. These types of things are paramount to getting people to care about your teams, your players and, by extension, the league; it’s your product, you have to be able to promote it and not just throw it out on the stage.
There is one perceived problem that Dreyfus is taking care of: the headquarters for the organization. Previously all activities for the GPL were performed in Malta, but Dreyfus realized during the Summer Series that the headquarters needed to be in Las Vegas. As such, the GPL will be making its move to the studios that were constructed for the Summer Series and will be broadcasting from there in the future.
But there are other things that the GPL are doing that could use some work.
One of the biggest issues for the GPL has been its format of play. When it came to the actual play of the GPL schedule, many casual poker fans thought that it would be the players themselves physically sitting around a table and battling it out live for the fans’ entertainment. When it came out that the players were actually going to be playing online (as the GPL has technically done for their entire existence – more on this in a moment), the sneers from many in the chat room on Twitch and other commentary arenas was plainly heard. It is also possible that many, upon seeing that it was online poker and not physically live poker, never came back to view the GPL again.
Even with the Summer Series, the opportunity to actually bring some live play together in “The Cube” was missed. In this writer’s opinion, “The Cube” wasn’t the thrilling, groundbreaking experiment for poker that was expected. It was a Plexiglas box with some neon lights on the edges, not the “Thunderdome” of poker that many might have been expecting. Add in after that the players continued to play online – standing in front of a little monitor that contained the GPL poker client – and much of the buzz that was built for “The Cube” fizzled.
The solution for this one, fortunately, is pretty easy. For the regular season contests, the internet and online poker is the best format to handle the GPL schedule. With teams representing areas from Asia to the Americas (and players sometimes living in those far flung areas), it is completely illogical to have live matches for those segments of the season. But be upfront about it and tell the audience that they’re going to be seeing online poker, not some grand table set up in a room with some of poker’s biggest names physically seated around it. Those that want to watch the proceedings will be there with bells on and those that aren’t interested will find something else to take their time.
For the Summer Series – and the postseason – if you’re going to bring players out live, bring them to a physical table and ditch the computers. You want an audience to get into something? They’re going to have to see something other than two people staring at each other for a couple hours on end. The frenzied crowds that you see at e-Sports events (what Dreyfus has often said the response would be to action in “The Cube”) aren’t going to be freaking out about…two people looking fiercely at each other with their hands clasped or stroking their chins.
Furthermore, while the inter-conference play idea was outstanding (the first time it had been seen on the GPL), the heads up inter-conference matches weren’t the way to go. The proper way to do the inter-conference battles was to go with the Sit and Gos, taking three teams from the GPL Americas and three from the GPL Eurasia sitting down to the felt and battling it out. Once a week the GPL could have done this during the Summer Series, along with the heads up matches, and drawn in the viewers to watch the players live action decisions. That would have provided some excitement, especially if Fedor Holz of the San Francisco Rush or Jason Mercier of the New York Rounders – two players who were taking the WSOP by storm while the Summer Series was going on – were involved in the Six Max sit and gos and maybe even a heads up match.
As it sits now, the GPL is in a bit of limbo. A look at the website shows that there isn’t anything scheduled as to the second half of the season other than the World Championship in November, whereas previously it was stated that action would resume in August and now has it coming back in September with no dates included. Such indecision at this point shouldn’t be going on, even if it is your inaugural season.
Through it all, Dreyfus has asked the poker community to allow for the GPL to work out its kinks and get through its errors before judging the final product. That time is ticking, however, and some of the delays are a bit concerning. When the second half of the GPL season is complete and a champion is crowned in November, that will be the time to make some final determinations, but there’s always room to look at where you can improve.
The poker boom’s origin story begins in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. ESPN’s television coverage was coming of age, allowing millions of viewers to revel in the victory of an amateur with the glorious poker name. It was also the first time that most people had heard of online poker, thanks to the fact that Moneymaker had won his seat into the Main Event via a satellite on PokerStars. Television coverage plus ZOMG ONLINE POKER and you had the explosion of a game that was previously thought to only be played in smoky back rooms.
Today, online satellites are as common place as micro-stakes cash games; loads of players win their way into the Main Event via internet qualifiers every year. But it is not every year that two players at the Main Event final table qualify via satellites from the same online poker room. That is what happened this year, as both Griffin Benger and Fernando Pons won their way into the $ 10,000 Championship via 888poker.
Griffin Benger, while perhaps not as well known to the general poker public as chip leader Cliff Josephy, may be the most accomplished player of the November Nine. Like Josephy, he is an online poker legend, known by his screen name “Flush_Entity.” According to records kept by PocketFives.com, Benger has won about $ 6.5 million in online poker tournaments alone in his career and has hit the top spot in PocketFives’ worldwide rankings a number of times. Prior to the million dollars he is already guaranteed for the Main Event, he had won about $ 2.4 million live tournaments, as well.
Benger has also been a commentator this summer for the Global Poker League’s Summer Series, so the tables will be turned on him this fall when someone else provides a running commentary on his poker play.
I was actually in Malta. I went over to my friend’s place, and he was there rooting me on, bought me a smoothie, and we were just there playing, My friend Roland – shout out to Roland. I wasn’t going to come play the Main Event unless I won a package, and I sort of decided last minute to register to play the tournament because I find those satellite to be great. Check them out on 888poker. It all just worked out. I steam-rolled through the final three tables of the satellite and got there. Locked it up pretty easily.
Just like Chris Moneymaker famously won a $ 39 satellite to get into the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Fernando Pons won a €30 satellite on 888poker do qualify for the Main Event this year.
“I guess I’m the PonsMaker,” he told 888poker.
Pons is mainly an online poker player; he has just two live tournament cashes listed on his profile at TheHendonMob.com. In fact, this was the first time he ever played in a World Series of Poker event. Too easy, right?
Pons, smartly, did not expect to get this far. He has been traveling with his friend Massa Paola, who has played in the WSOP for six years. They only planned to stay in Vegas for five days, so when Pons went on his unexpected deep run, he had to keep buying more clothes so he could appear presentable. Paola described Pons to 888poker as “dedicated, quiet, and focused.”
When the November Nine picks up in a few months, Benger will be seventh in chips at 26.175 million, while Pons will be the shortest stack at the table with just 6.15 million.
After a two-month span that saw him earn almost $ 10 million, Germany’s Fedor Holz has emerged from the orgy of poker in Las Vegas as the overall leader of the two major Player of the Year leaderboards in the industry.
Holz’s play has simply been mind-boggling since Memorial Day in the United States. Coming over from Germany with the object of playing as many events as possible (between the World Series of Poker, Poker Central’s Super High Roller Bowl and an assortment of High Roller events at Aria), Holz could easily say he had a little bit of good fortune on his way to the midpoint of July. Not only was Holz the runner-up at the Super High Roller Bowl (for a $ 3.5 million payday), he won three of the various Aria High Roller (either $ 50,000 or $ 25,000) tournaments to the tune of $ 1.3 million. Wrapping up his sizzling summer swing in Sin City, Holz captured his first bracelet at the WSOP by winning the One Drop High Roller for a $ 4.9 million bank. Add it all up (including his three other WSOP cashes) and it means there’s a German bank that will be the recipient of a $ 9,952,698 windfall (thanks to the Hendon Mob database for the official stats).
The thunderous roll that Holz has been on is reflected in the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year race. Not only has Holz come from nowhere to take over the lead with his 5738 points, he has been able to make sure that his lead is a dominant one. The second place competitor, Justin Bonomo, is a major tournament championship victory behind Holz with his 4470 points (a 1268-point deficit). Third place David Peters, who used the 2016 WSOP to bank his first bracelet also, is definitely in the mix with the two men above him with his 4331 points.
After the top three, there is quite some distance back to the fourth place slot. After picking up his first WSOP bracelet (to go along with a World Poker Tour title), Tony ‘Bond_18’ Dunst has stayed in the conversation for POY. It is arguable that Dunst has had the best first six months of 2016 as, back in February, Dunst was the runner-up at the Aussie Millions Main Event and he has put together some solid work in other tournaments. Still, the 3740 points Dunst has put together lags behind the triumvirate atop the standings.
Rounding out the Top Five is one of last year’s top players who finished 2015 in the Top 20. Defending World Champion (at least until November) Joe McKeehen has played some outstanding poker through the first six months of 2016, earning him 3738 points and putting him fifth on the CardPlayer leaderboard. Only two points behind Dunst, McKeehen easily could threaten the players above him should he get on a heater during the second half of the year.
Rounding out the Top Ten on the CardPlayer rankings are Chance Kornuth (3730 points), Dan Smith (3629), Cary Katz (3320) Anthony Gregg (3223) and Ari Engel (3202) in sixth through tenth places, respectively.
Although it may be a more intricate system, the Global Poker Index Player of the Year race comes up with the same conclusion that CardPlayer Magazine did. Holz rumbled to the top slot with eight of his finishes since May 27 contributing to his 4727.64-point total. Holz’s competition on the GPI POY is a definitive departure from that of CardPlayer as 2016 WSOP double bracelet winner Jason Mercier is the man primarily chasing him at this mark. Mercier has put together 4339.38 points so far in 2016 on the GPI rankings and, bar the performance of Holz, it would be Mercier that many would be speaking about as the best player so far in 2016.
One of the interesting mechanics of the GPI rankings is the closeness in point totals put together by the players. Holz’s lead over Mercier (388.26 points) is almost dominant when compared to Mercier’s edge over third place Nick Petrangelo’s 4200.71 points (138.67 points). In fact, there are only two more players in the GPI tables that have been able to eclipse the 4000-point mark: fourth place Bryn Kenney (4063.37 points) and fifth place Anthony Zinno (4058.35).
More departures from the CardPlayer rankings are seen further down the GPI standings. Steve O’Dwyer (3975.92 points), Peters (3935.82), Dominik Nitsche (3823.32), Sean Winter (3818.11) and Adrian Mateos (3798.23) are in the sixth through tenth place slots, respectively. If you’re scoring at home, this means that, between the two ranking systems, there are 18 men who can claim that they are in the Top Ten rankings in the world of poker (Winter and Mateos, for example, don’t appear in CardPlayer’s Top 50 and Mercier is the 31st best player).
It may seem as if there’s plenty of time for the tournament pros to take a break but, before they know it, the different tours will be back in action. What has become a traditional restart to the tournament poker calendar, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in Hollywood, FL, will kick off its action at the end of July. The World Poker Tour has already gotten back into their Season XIV schedule with a stop at Choctaw, OK, and will continue with the start of the Legends of Poker later this month in California. Finally, The European Poker Tour comes back for its 13th season in Barcelona, Spain, beginning in August.
These are just the major tournament schedules that will be in action soon. There are a host of minor tournaments held around the world that could push some new names into the mix and the overweighing factor of High Roller events could skew the rankings even further. Whichever way you look at it, there’s going to be a fight for the different Player of the Year awards…that’s if Fedor Holz cools off anytime soon.