The thirteenth season of the European Poker Tour (EPT) has started and fans better enjoy it while it lasts, as starting next year, the EPT, at least in name, will be gone. PokerStars announced this morning the creation of two new poker tours, the PokerStars Championship and the PokerStars Festival. The EPT is not so much being killed as it is being re-branded.
As PokerStars explained in a press release, the EPT has really outgrown the borders of Europe, so PokerStars wants to make “its biggest live events even bigger, by encompassing key PokerStars sponsored events from around the world and bringing players worldwide the much-loved EPT experience.”
It looks like PokerStars is following the formula of other competing tours and tournament series with one “major” circuit and one “minor” circuit, in a manner of speaking. We have seen this in practice with the World Series of Poker and its WSOP Circuit events as well as the World Poker Tour and its WPT National stops. In the case of PokerStars’ live tournaments, the “major” tour will be the PokerStars Championship, which essentially looks like what the European Poker tour will morph into.
Rather than reinventing the written wheel, we’ll just let PokerStars explain what the Championship is. Per the press release:
PokerStars Championship events will take place in major cities, organised by the most prestigious casinos across the globe, and are designed to deliver the best poker experience on the planet for players of all levels. A PokerStars Championship event will typically last 10-11 days and feature extensive schedules of up to 100 tournaments, including a €/$ 5,000 Main Event and a variety of cash games. The first PokerStars Championship event, the PokerStars Championship Bahamas, will kick off on January 6 until January 14 in the Bahamas, previously known as the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Other confirmed PokerStars Championship stops are Barcelona, Monte-Carlo, Macau and Panama, with more stops to be announced in the coming months. The PokerStars Championship will feature a revamped Player of the Year competition, featuring a tournament leaderboard for each stop. The player who tops each individual leaderboard will win a VIP package, including accommodation and PokerStars Championship Main Event buy-in for the first PokerStars Championship the following year, plus entry into a special invitational tournament featuring $ 100,000 winner-takes-all first prize. More information on PokerStars Championships can be found here: www.pokerstarslive.com/championship.
The PokerStars Festival consists of shorter tour stops typically lasting about a week. The buy-ins are purposely kept lower than on the PokerStars Championship, making the Festival geared more towards recreational players. Festival Main Events will run $ 1,000 to $ 1,500.
Kicking off the PokerStars Festival will be the first PokerStars tournament in on U.S. soil, at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Running October 29th through November 6th, it will have more than 50 tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $ 100 to $ 5,000. Interestingly, there will also be a “casino festival” with slots, video poker, roulette, and blackjack tournaments. PokerStars highlighted a few of the scheduled tournaments at the New Jersey PokerStars Festival:
• November 1-5, 2016, $ 1,100 PokerStars Festival Main Event
• October 30-31, 2016, $ 340 PokerStars Cup
• November 4-5, 2016, $ 2,200 PokerStars Festival High Roller
• November 4-6, 2016, $ 230 PokerStars Open
“We are committed to growing the poker market in New Jersey and part of this strategy is to help make New Jersey the poker hub of America in November,” said PokerStars’ Director of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser. “We invite players from across the globe to pitch up in the Garden State for the best live poker experience available in the world, live and online, with the first ever NJCOOP kicking off ahead of the Festival with plenty of tournaments on offer and big prizes.”
Yesterday, I made the understatement of the week when predicting the Day 1B turnout at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona Main Event: “The total field should climb well over 1,000 runners; the first starting flight is almost always the smallest.”
AS IT TURNED OUT…Day 1B eclipsed the 1,000 player mark all by itself, drawing 1,291 entrants. Day 1A’s total was 468, thus before late registrations are calculated today, the EPT Barcelona field is 1,759, easily beating last year’s record of 1,694. The official numbers have not been finalized yet as the late registration was until the start of Day 2, but it looks like somewhere around another 30 players were added on Wednesday.
If we estimate the field to be about 1,790 players, the prize pool will be around €8,681,500, as the buy-in is €5,000 and three percent is taken out for floor staff and dealers. As you might remember, PokerStars and the EPT made a change to the payout structure for this season; now 20 percent of the field will make the money, which means about 358 players will walk away with at least something to show for their efforts.
Russia’s Andrey Sharonov is the Day 1B chip leader with 278,600, also making him the overall Day 1 chip leader with 100,000 more chips than Day 1A’s leader, Alex Brand. Though the distance between the two players is significant, that the overall leader came out of Day 1B is not surprising, considering there were many more chips in play on Tuesday and therefore a better chance for someone to accumulate a hefty stack. The top four finishers from Day 1B all bested Brand’s chip mark.
Like Brand, Sharonov’s live tournament results are minimal, so if he keeps up his solid play, he will certainly boost his winnings total by a healthy percentage. According to TheHendonMob.com, Sharonov has three live tournament cashes for about $ 12,000 total. A min-cash in this tournament would best his top cash.
The plan for Wednesday’s Day 2 is to play through six 75-minute levels, which is a fairly short day by major poker tournament standards. While it may come close, the tournament is not expected to make the money today.
2016 European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event – Day 1B Chip Leaders
1. Andrey Sharonov – 278,600
2. Marco Caza – 262,000
3. Mikhail Molchanov – 195,000
4. Chani Hamasdi – 190,000
5. Miroslav Forman – 175,000
6. Quentin Roussey – 170,000
7. Alejandro Belluccia – 150,000
8. Raffaele Sorrentino – 140,000
9. Ruben Suarez – 140,000
10. Nadeem Younas – 135,000
2016 European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event – Combined Day 1 Chip Leaders
1. Andrey Sharonov – 278,600
2. Marco Caza – 262,000
3. Mikhail Molchanov – 195,000
4. Chani Hamasdi – 190,000
5. Alex Brand – 178,800
6. Miroslav Forman – 175,000
7. Quentin Roussey – 170,000
8. Bernd Vogelhuber – 167,600
9. Pavel Krasnoselskii – 155,000
10. Michael Addamo – 153,100
The European Poker Tour’s (EPT) Barcelona Main Event kicked off Monday, the first Main Event of EPT Season 13. It was a healthy turnout for Day 1A, as 466 players paid the €5,300 to take a shot at the season’s first big title. The total field should climb well over 1,000 runners; the first starting flight is almost always the smallest. Alex Brand sits atop the 243 surviving players with 178,800 chips.
It is a close race at the top of the Day 1A leader board. Bernd Vogelhuber is close behind Brand with 167,000 chips and after him, there are six players in the 150,000 range: Pael Krasnoselskii (155,000), Michael Addamo (153,100), Dorian Rios Pavon (152,700), Kestutis Gecevicius (152,200), Victor Bogdanov (152,200), and Igor Yaroshevskyy (150,000).
Should brand keep the momentum going and simply cash in the tournament, it would immediately be one of the largest cashes of his live tournament career. According to TheHendonMob.com, Brand has five live cashes for a total of just $ 28,276 (I say “just,” but that’s still eight times more than I have won in live tourneys). Three are for less money that he would win with a min-cash.
Oftentimes, the most significant hand of the day involves the chip leader and is the main reason that person made it to the highest rung on the leader board. Not so yesterday. One of the most exciting hands of the night played out during Level 8. According to PokerNews, Athanasios Fergiatakis raised to 1,900 pre-flop and was called by Koray Aldemir. Charlie Carrel shoved for 13,700 chips. After getting a count, Fergiatakis made the call. That still left Aldemir to act and he decided to make things even more interesting by himself going all-in. After once again asking for a count and then pondering his move, Fergiatakis called, having both opponents covered.
Their hands were good, but worse than you might expect in this situation. Carrel had 9-9, Aldemir had A-K of hearts, and Fergiatakis had 8-8. Carrel himself was surprised to be in the lead.
The flop was J-T-4, keeping Carrel in ahead, but giving Aldemir a gut-shot straight draw to go with his two over cards. A 9 was dealt on the turn, producing a welcome set for Carrel and eliminating Aldermir’s Ace and King outs. It was the Queen on the river, though, that changed everything. At first, Fergiatakis thought he had won the hand, as that card gave him a Queen-high straight, but then he realized it also gave Aldemir a Broadway straight. Aldemir took down the main and side pots, eliminating Carrel in the process. Aldemir finished the day with 127,700 chips.
Day 1B is already underway in Barcelona as a new batch of players has taken to the felts. We’ll check in later tonight or tomorrow to see how things went.
2016 European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event – Day 1A Chip Counts
1. Alex Brand – 178,800
2. Bernd Vogelhuber – 167,600
3. Pavel Krasnoselskii – 155,000
4. Michael Addamo – 153,100
5. Dorian Rios Pavon – 152,700
6. Kestutis Gecevicius – 152,200
7. Victor Bogdanov – 150,200
8. Igor Yaroshevskyy – 150,000
9. Jaroslaw Sikora – 139,000
10. Shaun Deeb – 136,500
In some of the least surprising news ever, it appears that online poker legislation will not be going anywhere in California this year. There actually had been some solid headway made in the last several months, but as usual, different stakeholder groups could not come together on a final compromise, so Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 2863 has been shelved.
As has generally been the case, the sticking point was a “bad actor” clause. Put simply, bad actor clauses put restrictions on the eligibility of online gaming operators who offered games to people in the U.S. after the UIGEA was passed in late 2006. A hardline coalition of Native American tribes, led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, has wanted these operators to be completely excluded from the California market. They claim it is for ethical and legal reasons, but really, it is because they are afraid of competition; the poker operator clearly targeted by the bad actor clause is PokerStars.
An earlier version of the bill, dubbed the “compromise” version, looked like it might have had the legs to not just come up for a vote, but actually pass. In that bill, PokerStars would not be barred via legislation, but rather be evaluated by California’s gaming regulators when the company filed an application for a license.
But the Pechangas and Agua Calientes were able to force an amendment to AB 2863, which once again instituted a bad actor clause. PokerStars and other operators who accepted U.S. customers after 2006 (but really, just PokerStars), would be prevented from applying for a gaming license for five years. One previous take on this would have allowed PokerStars to pay $ 20 million to skip the ban, but that wasn’t included in this latest case.
A number of tribes, as well as the state’s largest cardrooms, have allied with PokerStars and this “PokerStars Coalition” obviously opposed the amendment. Not only do they likely think it’s just plain wrong, but many already have deals in place with PokerStars for PokerStars to be their software provider, so if Stars has to sit out, these tribes and cardrooms would be left scrambling for another technology option.
In an interesting twist, according to Online Poker Report, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians and the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians were also opposed to the amendment, even though they were on the side that favors a bad actor clause. Their opposition came because they felt the language of the bad actor clause was too weak. The amendment stipulates that the cooling off period for PokerStars was to end in 2022, approximately five years from when the bill would have possibly passed. But those two dissenting tribes felt that that definition could actually mean that PokerStars would only have to sit out two or three years because it would still possibly take a couple years for regulations to be put in place, licensed to be handed out, and sites to get up and running. Thus, they wanted the bad actor clause to be redefined as lasting five years from the day the first online poker card is dealt.
It is still possible that AB 2863 could be voted on this year, but as the 2016 legislative session ends on August 31st, it is very unlikely.
As former President George W. Bush once so confidently said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
Or something like that.
After two futile attempts to acquire top UK bookmaker William Hill, the pairing of 888 Holdings and The Rank Group has thrown in the towel, announcing on Thursday that they will not be making any further offers to buy the company.
In a press release, 888 Holdings CEO Itai Frieberger said, “We are disappointed that the board of William Hill did not share our vision of the combined businesses. We believe that there was compelling industrial logic for the combination of these highly complementary businesses, which in our view would have brought scale, diversification, and strong revenue and cost synergies, from which all shareholders would have benefitted.”
Rank CEO Henry Birch added, “We strongly believe that the transaction would have created significant value for all three sets of shareholders. We and 888 are grateful for the shareholder support we have received throughout this process.”
888 and Rank made their initial approach to William Hill on August 9th, proposing to form a new company, BidCo, which would then buy William Hill. William Hill shareholders were offered 199 pence per share plus .725 BidCo shares per William Hill share. Based on the prices of 888 and Rank as of August 5th, it was estimated that the total value of the offer was 364 pence per share, or £3.164 billion. William Hill shareholders would have owned 44.6 of the new company.
After William Hill’s Board of Directors declined that offer, 888 and Rank came back with a new one at a 394 pence per share estimated value, or £3.425 billion. Once again, it was for 199 pence per share, but rather than fooling with a new BidCo company, the stock portion was for .860 shares of 888 Holdings for each William Hill share. William Hill’s ownership portion of the combined company was also increased to 48.8 percent. That deal was also rejected.
Following the dismissal of the first proposal, 888 owner Eyal Shaked was salty, tweeting, “Pure ego made #WilliamHill reject #Rank and #888 £3.16bn bid and that will be their downfall.”
In their “Statement of intention not to make an offer,” 888 and Rank still seemed a bit perturbed at the developments:
The Proposed Transaction would have created a transformational force in the global betting and gaming industry and the UK’s largest multi-channel gambling operator by revenue and profit and was expected to have unlocked substantial cost and revenue synergies.
Notwithstanding 888 and Rank’s belief in the inherent value of their Proposals, it has not been possible to meaningfully engage with the board of William Hill. 888 and Rank respect the William Hill board’s position and, as such, after careful consideration each now confirms that they have withdrawn their interest and that they do not intend to make an offer for William Hill.