Australian online poker players have been on edge because of the possibility of upcoming regulations that will make their game illegal in the country, but it looks like for now, players will have at least another month to enjoy their pastime.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, championed by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge in November, would alter Australia’s current gambling laws to close some loopholes that have created a gray area of online gambling. The main goal of the amendment is to stop illegal “in-play” sports betting, which is just what it sounds like: sports bets that can be placed on contests while they are going on.
In-play sports betting is actually legal in Australia, but only if the bets are placed via telephone. In today’s internet age, though, many operators without Australian gaming licenses, particular those offshore, have created sports betting apps for smartphones that have effectively gotten around the restriction. Technically, phones are being used for placing bets and the operators have not been stopped.
But here’s the rub: while the new gaming law would close the in-play loophole, it would also prohibit any games that are not explicitly legal. Online poker is not explicitly legal, so should the law take effect, goodbye online poker.
One small bit of light for poker players is that there are several proposed amendments to the bill and delays have pushed back a second reading until at least March 20th, so Australians will still have at least that long to play.
Additionally, and this might not be much, but poker players have begun making tiny inroads with the nation’s lawmakers. A new grassroots poker advocacy group has formed called the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA). Through it, poker player Joseph Del Duca has been getting in touch with Australian legislators, trying to change minds on the potential poker ban.
One legislator, Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democratic Party, has been sympathetic to the poker players’ cause and has introduced an amendment which would create a carve-out in the bill for online poker and blackjack.
This is promising, but to throw a wet blanket on the party (no pun intended), the Liberal Democratic Party while, being represented in the legislature, is so small it has almost no clout. In fact, Del Duca is the only Senator of the country’s 76 Senators who is a member of the party. Nonetheless, he has said that he has been receiving positive feedback from his fellow Senators, and seeing as his amendment isn’t some whacked-out far-fetched thing, it may be quite possible that enough lawmakers see the light and legalize online poker if and when the new gaming amendment bill becomes law.
I have a great life, no doubt about it, but damn if I’m not looking at Maurice Hawkins right now and feeling a bit envious. Hawkins may not be a household name in the poker world, but few players can match what he has been doing over the last few years. On Monday, Hawkins tied the all-time record by winning his ninth World Series of Poker Circuit ring, taking the title in a $ 365 buy-in event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.
Hawkins is now tied with Alexandru Masek for the all-time WSOP Circuit ring lead, but Hawkins dominates in prize money, $ 1,366,228 to $ 711,761.
Hawkins is also the kind of poker player that people either love or hate. He is a talker at the tables, to put it lightly. He’s the kind of guy that would be perfectly cast as a character in a poker movie. But he doesn’t care what people think; he is who he is and he loves playing poker.
“I’m a good dude,” he told WSOP.com in an interview after his latest win. “Most people are pompous assholes. And I really don’t give a damn if they like me or not. We’re from two different places. I’m not taking anything from them, but I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten in my life. If they don’t like me, they can really kiss my ass. I would rather be under-respected and overpaid than over-respected and underpaid.”
Damn, man. I need to live my life by that last sentence. That’s some insightful shit right there.
He continued, “People didn’t like (Charles) Barkley on the court. People didn’t like Dennis Rodman on the court. I’m not here to be your friend on the felt. Now if I catch you at a bar, it’ll be a different scenario, you know?”
This isn’t the first record Maurice Hawkins has set, either. He has been on a sick roll lately. In 2016, he became the first person to win three WSOP Circuit Main Events in a single year.
In April of last year, he won a $ 365 Monster Stack No-Limit Hold’em tournament at the WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Iowa) stop, earning his fifth ring. He entered the Main Event the next day and won. That same month, he won the Main Event at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. Then, in November, Hawkins won the Palm Beach Kennel Club Main Event for his third Main Event victory of the year and eighth overall WSOP Circuit ring.
Only two other players have ever won three WSOP Circuit Main Events, but they didn’t do it all in the same calendar year: Blair Hinkle and Chris Ferguson.
Hinkle won his in 2010, 2013, and 2014, all, interestingly, at Council Bluffs. Ferguson won two Main Events in 2005 and one in 2007 and against much smaller fields than Hawkins did.
Hawkins and Ferguson are also the only two players to have earned more than $ 1 million on the WSOP Circuit.
In Maurice Hawkins style, Hawkins explained that no write-up of his third Main Event win was necessary, saying afterward, “We don’t need to explain who won. We all know when he got to the final table he was going to take it down.”
They are back at it again in California. For about the billionth time this century, an online poker bill has been introduced into the state legislature and if we have learned anything, there will be a lot of pouting on both sides leading ultimately to nothing. The bill, Assembly Bill 1677 (AB 1677), also called the Internet Consumer Protection Act, was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer late last week and will now begin all sorts of stupidity ending with us all saying, “Why can’t they just get it done already?
The bill would set the licensing fee for a cardroom or tribe to operate an online poker room at $ 12.5 million. The license would be good for seven years. The tax rate on gross gaming revenue is progressive; that is, the rate increases the more an operator makes. If an operators gross gaming revenue is less than or equal to $ 150 million, it will be taxed at 8.847 percent. From there up to $ 250 million, the rate is 10 percent. Below $ 350 million, the tax rate is 12.5 percent, and above $ 350 million, the rate is 15 percent.
Arguably the main reason nothing has ever gotten done in regards to online poker in California is because a hardline group of Native American tribes have essentially been adamant that they get everything they want, unwilling to compromise on most points. The composition of this group has varied, but the core members have been the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Barona Band of Mission Indians, the Lytton Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, the Table Mountain Rancheria of California, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the Yoche Dehe Wintun Nation.
These groups want as few entities as possible to be able to operator an online poker room. Thus, AB 1677 presents a compromise, not allowing California racetracks to obtain licenses. In exchange for being excluded, the racetracks would share in 95 percent of the first $ 60 million collected by the state (so $ 57 million). Additionally, racetracks could serve as service providers (for instance, the provider of the poker software) and partner with an operator, but at least half of the partnership’s revenue would have to go to the racetrack.
The hardline tribes have long fought against allowing PokerStars to have any chance to be included in the California online poker industry. As such, they have always wanted a “bad actor” clause in any legislation, barring operators who offered games to Americans after the passage of the UIGEA in late 2006. This bill does not have a bad actor clause, rather leaving it up to state regulators to determine whether or not a license applicant it qualified for a license.
Because of its position as the most populous state in the country – by far – California is the white whale of the online poker industry. If the game were legalized and regulated in the state, any operator who gained a license could make a pretty penny. On top of that, the other states that have legalized online poker – currently Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – would line up to for interstate compacts with California to boost their player pools.
Good luck at anything ever happening, though.
While many may credit entrepreneur Alexandre Dreyfus with the “team poker” idea (and be mistaken), it seems that he doesn’t hold the copyright on the concept. In India, a new team poker league is ready to debut and, focusing on one of the largest nations in the world, has an excellent chance at success – depending on how the nation embraces it.
Last week, India’s Poker Sports League began with its first live qualifiers, with the end goal of filling out the rosters of 12 teams with nine players each. Unlike Dreyfus’ Global Poker League, the PSL teams are all owned by Indian businessmen and, according to the creator of the PSL Amit Burman, the licenses for those teams was in great demand. “We sold out 12 teams within four days,” Burman commented during early live action in Delhi. “I don’t know how many other leagues can boast of this.”
Part of the draw of the league, Burman stated, is that generations of families gather together to play cards, regardless of age. “We are the only country where we grow up playing cards with our parents,” he boldly stated. “It’s high time that this skill game gets a professional touch.” Live qualifiers have already begun in such cities as Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta, and future qualifiers are scheduled for Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, and Goa.
With the PSL, the twelve teams that will take part – the Bengaluru Jokers, the Chennai Bulls, the Delhi Panthers, the Goan Nuts, the Gujarat Acers, the Haryana Hunters, the Hyderabad Kings, the Kolkata Royals, the Mumbai Anchors, the Pune Sharks, the Punjab Bluffers, and the Rajasthan Tilters – will each field a squad of nine players. Consisting of a captain/mentor, two pros, two live qualifying players, two online qualifying players and two wild cards, the teams will play for a total prize pool that is 3.36 crore. That breaks down to roughly $ 500,000 U. S. up for grabs between the teams.
India seems to be a hotbed of poker activity of late. Along with Burman’s PSL, there is another tour that is looking to do something similar but online. Jatin Banga founded the Online Poker League in partnership with GOPOKER, creating an eight-team league that started at virtually the same time as the PSL. Claiming “the largest prize pool that online poker in India has ever seen,” The OPL’s eight teams – the Bombay Badshahs, the Bangalore Billionaires, the Hyderabad Highrollers, the Delhi Dons, the Goa Gamechangers, the Kolkata Kings, the Chennai Cartels, and the Manipal Money Makers – will feature play over eight weeks all online.
It also seems that Banga has been reading someone else’s playbook. “We intend to sportify the game of poker and bring it to the masses,” Banga stated in a press release. “We have been working on this for a while now and the concept has materialized into something beyond what we had imagined. The never seen before structures and massive prize pool will keep the adrenaline rush going for the players along with a chance to make some serious money!”
While it might be easy to just discredit either of these efforts – and neither has any television broadcasting or has talked about online options – there is one area that they have an extreme advantage: potential fans. With an estimated population of 1.3 billion, it would take a much smaller segment of the country (say 5-10%) to make the endeavor successful. As such, this might explain the creation of the two tours, with the other differentiating feature of one being online and the other being a live endeavor.
It is also interesting that these two leagues actually embrace something that Dreyfus’ GPL has been trying to avoid, the fact that poker is played in casinos and its gambling nature. Dreyfus has often commented on how he wanted to avoid “gambling related” names for his teams (the Las Vegas Moneymakers are named for former World Champion Chris Moneymaker; the New York Rounders are attributed to the seminal poker film Rounders and the San Francisco Rush could be attributed to the bustle of a major city) to be able to appeal to a larger, more mainstream audience, but it seems the Indian teams aren’t hesitating to bring it up. The PSL live qualifiers are also going to be held in casinos, something that the GPL didn’t do with the creation of its own arena in Las Vegas.
As these two leagues get off the ground, there has been little to no information on what the second year of the Global Poker League is going to look like. Dreyfus has been occupied with the creation of a Chinese version of the GPL (GPL China), complete with its own 12 team league for its roughly 1.4 billion residents, but he has said that information is “coming.” It is obvious that there is an appetite for the team poker concept, but which one will reign supreme?
Noting that their numbers would make for a complication, the streaming poker channel Poker Central and ARIA in Las Vegas have expanded the field for the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl to a nice round 56 players.
“Based on the success of last year’s Super High Roller Bowl and the overwhelming interest in this year’s event, ARIA believed it was in our best interest to increase the size of the event by six players.” ARIA’s Director of Poker Operations Sean McCormack stated in a press release from Poker Central. The increase in the number corrects what was going to be a bit of a problem for the 50-player field in that, with seven player tables, there was going to be an odd table that started eight handed. With the increase of six players, that makes for eight, seven-handed tables.
With the increase in the number of players, there also comes an increase in the prize pool for the tournament. The previously stated $ 5 million first place prize (and, at $ 300,000 a pop, the $ 15 million prize pool) will increase the payout for the eventual champion to $ 6 million (from a $ 16.8 million prize pool). “These additions will give more players a chance to play in the best event of the year and play for an even bigger prize pool. Bigger is always better and the increase in prize pool and first place payout, along with the enormous prestige of the Super High Roller Bowl, will be welcomed by the players,” said McCormack.
Due to the success of the event – players flocked to the cage in 2016 to put their money down and, in 2017, 54 players put up the reserve for their buy in – both Poker Central and ARIA thought it would be a good idea to continue at this size moving forward. “Because of the overwhelming interest this year, ARIA’s intention moving forward will be to approach next year with a tentative field size of 56 players,” McCormack announced. “This will make for a better event and give ARIA more flexibility to make sure a wide range of players are involved in next year’s Super High Roller Bowl.”
The issue that most poker fans might have will be in how those six seats are going to be handled. ARIA, as the host casino for the tournament, had been allotted 15 of the 50 seats for their “high roller” guests (not necessarily professionals). The six seats added will also be dispersed by ARIA, giving them 21 of the 56 players at the table. This could be problematic due to the number of top professionals that have been excluded to this point.
As stated previously, 54 professional poker players had at the minimum laid down their reserve for a seat at the 2017 tournament, forcing ARIA and Poker Central into a decision. They could stick with their “first come, first served” format that usually is the norm for casino decisions, but the two entities instead chose a different path. Utilizing a “lottery” draw system, ARIA and Poker Central chose 35 random players to take part in the tournament, with the leftover 15 players (at that time) to be chosen by ARIA.
The drafted roster of 35 featured several notable top pros (including defending champion Rainer Kempe, inaugural champion Brian Rast and the only man who has cashed in both previous versions of the Super High Roller Bowl, Erik Seidel), there were some names that were left off the list. Although he hosted the lottery draft and has close ties with Poker Central, Daniel Negreanu was not one of the 35 players chosen in the lottery. Also left off the board were such players as the defending Player of the Year at the World Series of Poker Jason Mercier, the most recent champion of the $ 1 million buy-in WSOP “Big One for One Drop” Dan Colman and high roller regulars such as Dan Shak, Nick Petrangelo and Mike Watson. Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey were not a part of the field either, but neither had put their money down (among the 54 players) to be considered eligible for the lottery drawing.
The 2017 Super High Roller Bowl will be held between May 28-30 at ARIA in Las Vegas and we will probably see many of the names that, at this point, have been left off the list find their way to the baize. While the lottery idea might not have been the best one, kudos for Poker Central and ARIA to expand the field and make the tournament even more interesting for poker’s fandom.