After mixed results from their two previous stops in the Bahamas and Panama, the PokerStars Championship has churned on to one of the wealthiest places on Earth (the net worth of an average household in the city? $ 437,031), Monte Carlo, and the Monte Carlo Casino. The â‚¬100,000 Super High Roller tournament started on Thursday while a â‚¬10,000 tournament with a surprisingly low number of players wrapped up.
That â‚¬10,000 tournament was a bit of a surprise. Only 110 players made an appearance in the tournament, but the price tag of the event ensured they would be playing for a million-dollar prize pool (â‚¬1,067,000, to be exact). After battling through a field that included former World Champion Ryan Riess (who started the day as the chip leader), Luc Greenwood, Steve Oâ€™Dwyer, and Koray Aldemir, Ole Schemion was able to defeat Murad Akhundov to win the championship. While Schemion picked up a nice â‚¬274,750 score, the lack of numbers in the tournament might have been of concern to the PokerStars brass.
Those fears were somewhat allayed by the â‚¬100,000 Super High Roller. 47 players have come out for the tournament – and nine of them have re-entered the event – to put themselves in a â‚¬200,000 hole to start the PSC Monte Carlo. One of those who rebought in the tournament was Daniel Negreanu, who at least made the most of it by finishing the day in second place. Negreanu, who isn’t afraid to put some rebuys into a tournament, didn’t have to go beyond his second bullet after doubling through Dan Smith and chopping some more chips off Christoph Vogelsang to reach his apex for Day One.
PokerStars once again is welcoming actor/comedian Kevin Hart into the fray in Monte Carlo. Hart was a surprise appearance in the Bahamas back in January but didn’t show up in Panama for any of the tournament schedule in Central America. While Hart didn’t perform very well in the Bahamas, he will be around for a second day in Monte Carlo. On his second bullet like Negreanu, Hart would be the beneficiary of pocket Aces twice to keep his stack healthy. He also secured a seat to start Day Two on Friday, but not as a member of the Top Ten.
Leading the way for those that have VERY deep pockets is Daniel Dvoress, who more than tripled his starting stack to claim the lead dog honors in the Super High Roller:
1. Daniel Dvoress, 907,000
2. Daniel Negreanu, 864,000
3. Viacheslav Buldygin, 827,000
4. Ali Reza Fatehi, 770,000
5. Steve O’Dwyer, 676,000
6. Steffen Sontheimer, 661,000
7. David Peters, 591,000
8. Igor Kurganov, 516,000
9. Stefan Schillhabel, 505,000
10. Charlie Carrel, 443,000
The remainder of the 38 players in the tournament at this mark brings you the usual suspects that you’ve seen in Super High Roller tournaments. Dan Colman just missed making the Top Ten (432,000, eleventh place) and Hart, as previously stated, is in the mix (396,000, thirteenth). Bryn Kenney (429,000, twelfth), Fedor Holz (366,000, fourteenth) and Sam Greenwood (364,000, fifteenth) are all within shooting distance of the Top Ten, while Mustapha Kanit (104,000) and Stephen Chidwick (117,000) are a couple of players who have their work cut out for them.
The Super High Roller players aren’t sure yet what they are playing for as late entry and reentry for the tournament will be open until the cards fly on Friday at 12:30PM (Monte Carlo time, 6:30AM East Coast time). On Saturday, the â‚¬5000 Main Event will begin, facing a tough task in trying to improve on the Bahamas while not falling below what Panama did. Wrapping up the weekend will be the start of the â‚¬50,000 Single Day High Roller, which will draw the “big money” out once again. Finally, the â‚¬25,000 High Roller begins on Wednesday (May 3) and will conclude with the final table of the Main Event on May 6.
If you’ve been away from your television for the past few days, then you’ve missed the latest in uproars in the poker community. On this week’s edition of Poker Night in America from the Choctaw Casino in Durant, OK, the poker world was introduced to arguably the vilest creature that has ever been seated at a poker table. Going by the name Salomon Ponte – but loudly and crassly telling everyone to call him the “Hashtag King“ – this stain on the poker condition hit the felt in the PNIA cash game, a $ 25/$ 50 where the usual minimum buy-in is around $ 5000. Before he left, he had made a dubious impression on the program.
Over the course of an hour of play, Ponte proceeded to insult pretty much every player that was at the table, which included Shaun Deeb and Doug Polk. This wasn’t your garden variety, Mike Matusow “you’ve got little balls, I’ve got big balls” needling, these insults went into areas that no one should enter (hell, even professional basketball players KNOW NOT to do these things). Ponte proceeded to insult Deeb’s WIFE, saying “I’d rather be dead than have your fucking wife,” said that Deeb was a “fucking retard” and said Polk was “one of the biggest bitches in poker.” It was particularly sad to see Ponte, after spewing his vitriol, try to borrow money from the people he had disparaged (like they were going to give him money?).
Congratulations, poker world, we’ve finally found the point – poker doesn’t need more “characters” like Salomon Ponte.
Looking over the history of poker, there have been men – and some women – who have contributed to the game because of their larger than life personalities. You don’t think that the riverboat gamblers who traversed the Mississippi River during the 1830s and 1840s didn’t have a colloquial charm about them? What about such men who conquered the West as “Doc” Holliday, Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok and scores of others? The ladies were well represented by “Poker Alice” Ivers and Lottie “Poker Queen” Deno (born Carlotta Thompkins) in the late 1800s. Even into the 20th century, there were men like “Titanic” Thompson and, yes, even the man considered the “Godfather of Poker” Doyle Brunson. These people were THOSE personalities that made the game better and, as an added benefit, helped their wallet get fatter.
As the latter part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century began, however, those “characters” became fewer. Potentially because of the effect of online poker, the visage of the soulless hulk of flesh, sitting at a table in a hoodie with headphones clasped around his head, sunglasses removing the last vestiges of humanity, there are few players who capture the attention of those casual poker fans. The aforementioned Matusow attempted to carry the banner (taken out by a bad back that limits his sitting time), as did Antanas “Tony G“ Guoga (taken out by becoming a married man and a politician).
Since there is a dearth of entertaining personalities in the poker community, the poker programs in existence have little but (gasp!) skillful poker play and educational and technical points to be able to talk about during their broadcasts. They really want to talk about the art of poker and the psychological battle that is going on in front of those with a rudimentary knowledge of the game, but they also want to see the blood sport, the sparring, that one gets with mano y mano showdowns for huge piles of money. Thus, these shows try to create a “bad guy” for the fans to hate.
ESPN and the World Series of Poker have been the worst offenders in this field. Going back to Matusow in 2004 against eventual World Champion Greg Raymer, each year there’s been that “player you love to hate.” In 2006, Jamie Gold all but twirled a moustache at the final table as he won the World Championship; 2007 brought the “bulldozer” that was Hevad Khan (and who brought about the “Hevad Khan Rule” against overly exuberant celebrations at the WSOP); just last year, it was William Kassouf and his incessant table talk that drew the ire of the community.
But there was a difference in these famous “bad guys” that separates them from the embarrassment that Ponte was at the table. For the most part, there was no malevolence (Matusow? OK, maybe questionable there) involved in their actions. They were stretching the rules of the game of poker, seeing just how far out on the edge they could go while they garnered attention from either the poker press or (perhaps more importantly) the cameras of ESPN.
In Ponte’s case, there was venom in the words he spoke. This wasn’t an attempt to get into someone’s head while at the table, this was verbal assault that could have gotten out of hand and become physical. There’s no place for that at the tables and the producers of PNIA should have put the kibosh on Ponte’s actions before they got out of hand. The problem is that Ponte wouldn’t have given a damn; he was later ejected from the Choctaw Casino and, over Twitter, proudly stated he had been kicked out of about a dozen casinos, not something to wear as a badge of honor (really, how shitty do you have to be to get tossed out of a casino?).
Maybe it’s time the poker community learned something. You don’t have to be a dick to be a “personality” at the tables. You just have to be able to halfway carry a conversation, maybe be a little self-deprecating, and ensure that the people playing against you – and those watching on whatever outlet – are entertained. THEN you’ll be asked to every event where a telegenic personality is needed.
Sure, poker needs to have some colorful characters in its mix. Sometimes they even need to have the proverbial “bad guy” to get the fans riled up against. What we don’t need in the game are people like Ponte, who is simply a punk off the street who happens to have a bigger mouth than a bank account and no idea how to handle either. To put people on the air like that is a huge mistake and one I am sure that PNIA has learned from. Hopefully the poker community has learned from it also.
The iPoker Network has withdrawn all of its member sites from the Polish online gaming market in response to new gambling regulations that took effect on April 1st. Some sites, like William Hill and bet365, already left the market in March, but now it is everybody. Things like this have been happening more and more over the last couple years, but word is that some of the poker rooms didn’t even warn their customers in advance, leaving many people searching for alternatives.
Online poker had not technically been legal prior to the new regulations – only the lottery and online sports betting were allowed – but clearly sites were operating in Poland. Polish regulators to “diversify” the local market with the new laws, and by legalizing online casino games, poker, and bingo, as well as allowing poker tournaments to be held outside of casinos, it did to some extent, but all is not quite as it seems. The state-controlled gambling monopoly, Totalizator Sportowy, is the only entity permitted to operate online casino, poker, and bingo games.
Now, even with that, the iPoker Network might have tried to remain in the country, as most of its rooms do have online sports books. It would have been possible for the sites to apply for licenses. But it seems likely that the final deciding factor on the exit from Poland is the nutty tax law in place for online gaming.
Regulations stipulate that an online gaming operator be taxed at 12 percent of annual turnover, a calculation that is essentially insanity. Typically, operators are taxed based on gross gaming revenue, essentially how much money the site brings in from bettors minus how much it pays out. Turnover, on the other hand, is how much players bet without taking into consideration how much of that turns into actual revenue for the site or how much is returned to players in winnings.
At one point, it was suggested to make that number 20 percent, which would have been simply astronomical. For most small operators, it is not worth seeking a license with the current tax rate. The Polish government has said that it would take another look at the tax issue in the future, but who knows if that will happen. Online gaming operator bwin (not part of the iPoker Network) seems to be counting on that, as it applied for a gaming license this month.
In the meantime, sites and networks are deciding what to do. There is always the option to flaunt the law and just keep operating in Poland without a license, though it remains to be seen who might take that step. The government has said that it will start blocking unlicensed domains as well as their payment methods by July 1st, but steps like that haven’t always worked very well in other jurisdictions.
When it comes to legal news, the gambling world (or at least the gambling U.S.) has been focused on Pennsylvania this year, as it is expected that online gambling will be legalized in the Commonwealth before the year is up. Sneakily, though, a small move is being made to legalize and regulate sports betting in Pennsylvania, as well. On Tuesday, HB 519, a bill which would do just that, passed the House Gaming Oversight committee by a 13-1 vote.
That’s great news, but at the same time, it is a little bit misleading. Even if the bill goes all the way through the House and the Senate and then is signed by the Governor to become law, casinos in Pennsylvania won’t all of a sudden be opening sports books. This excerpt from page 10 of the bill should give a hint as to why:
The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall, when Federal law is enacted or repealed or a Federal court
decision is filed that affirms the authority of a state to regulate sports wagering, publish a notice in the
Pennsylvania Bulletin certifying the enactment or repeal or the filing of the decision.
Sports betting is currently illegal in most of the country, outlawed by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). At the time that law was passed, states that had licensed casino gaming for the previous ten years could have opted to be grandfathered into sports betting, but only Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware chose to do so. Nevada is the only one of the four that has true sports betting – the others have oddball sports lotteries. Thus, Pennsylvania can’t just up and start doling out sports book licenses.
HB 519 would essentially get Pennsylvania ready to launch a sports gambling industry if the federal government or court says that states are allowed. It might not be quite as simple as dropping the green flag and yelling, “GO,” but the competitors would at least be at the starting line.
As such, Pennsylvania will be closely watching New Jersey, which has been battling the federal government, claiming that it has the right to regulate sports betting in the state. The Garden State has gotten its butt kicked on the matter so far, but its case is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Pennsylvania is in the same Third Circuit Court of Appeals as New Jersey, it would make no sense for Pennsylvania to take up its own legal fight, as it would clearly lose.
Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Matzie, the lead sponsor of the bill, mentioned New Jersey’s efforts in a House Co-Sponsorship Memorandum he wrote in January:
As you may know, the State of New Jersey has tried, several times, to legalize sports betting. Although their initial attempts were denied, their final appeal was scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court on January 17. The Court, however, announced that it would wait until a US Solicitor General was confirmed to weigh in on the issue. This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry – and his support for legalization – on at least two occasions.
Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted. As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion dollar industry that already exists.
The next step for HB 519 is to go to the full House, but as we have discussed, even if it keeps going, sports betting in the state is far from a guarantee.
B2B internet gaming software developer GAN – once known as GameAccount Network – announced last week that it has been granted an online gaming license by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). GAN initially applied back in 2013, so this has been a long time in coming. The company contends that not only does this now allow it to offer online gaming in New Jersey, but also makes it look better for potential licensing in other states.
In a press release, GAN CEO Dermot Smurfit said:
We have long maintained that a key benefit of choosing GAN is the guaranteed integrity and strong compliance profile of our current and historic business activities, clean source of investment funds and the unquestioned suitability of our major shareholders, directors and employees to be licensed in New Jersey. Here is the proof of those long-standing statements. GAN has been thoroughly and professionally investigated by the NJDGE and we welcome the grant of our first privileged gaming license in the United States. In the heavily regulated world of Internet gaming, the significance of this gaming license cannot be underestimated and is a major asset for our Company and will deliver our shareholders significant value over time.
GAN has already had a presence in New Jersey, as it has been Betfair Casino’s software provider since November 2013. GAN ran slightly afoul of state regulations in the middle of last year when it unintentionally activated a new version of its mobile Android software for Betfair before it had been sufficiently tested, allowing six players from outside of New Jersey’s borders to gamble for real money. Fortunately, the DGE said that less than $ 350 was wagered in total and GAN got the problem fixed, so in the end it wasn’t that big of a deal. Nonetheless, GAN was fined $ 25,000.
GAN also partnered with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to offer its “simulated gaming” product in early 2016. As it sounds, “simulated gaming” is a fancy term for “play money gambling.” Like other play money gaming products on social networks, though, players can purchase additional chips for real money.
Offering play money gaming is not a big deal, but it may have been important in order to get GAN’s foot in the door for a future real money gaming opportunity with Borgata. Smurfit said at the time:
Our strategic market positioning is to serve as an enterprise-level solution for either Simulated Gaming or real money Regulated Gaming and, in certain circumstances, our single technology platform may serve both requirements. In 2016 Simulated Gaming will be served to the majority of Borgata’s patrons who live out-of-State and, in the event GAN receives Borgata’s consent to commence operations is equally capable of simultaneously serving real money Regulated Gaming to the Borgata’s patrons resident in New Jersey.
Borgata’s online poker room is currently powered by PartyPoker, but considering GAN’s new license and the deal struck between GAN and the Borgata last year, could a change be in the future for Borgata? One would think that with WSOP/888 and PokerStars present in New Jersey that GAN isn’t about to strike out on its own, so it will be interesting to see what it decides to do with this new found power.