Archive for November, 2015
When he was on the popular television show earlier this year, he captured the attention of the poker community and the game show world with his talents. Now, after a two-week tournament, former poker professional Alex Jacob can lay claim to the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions title.
Jacob never seemed to be challenged during the run up to the Championship Match. In the quarterfinals and semifinals, he smoothly walked through the opposition. In fact, in his quarterfinal match last week, Jacob couldn’t be caught in winning that stage, holding $ 26,800 to his opponents’ $ 10,200 and $ 8400 to render Final Jeopardy a moot point.
On Friday, Jacob was able to easily outlast his two competitors, Matt Jackson (who would eventually finish in second place) and Kerry Greene (third). Over the two day competition that made up the Championship Match, Jacob would win both days to take down the $ 250,000 first place prize (to go along with his previous Jeopardy winnings of $ 151,802); Jackson earned $ 100,000 and Greene picked up $ 50,000.
In an interview with Variety following the completion of the tournament, Jacob gave credit to his poker background in preparing him for victory on Jeopardy. “The most challenging aspect was probably just dealing mentally with the high stakes and the knowledge that I could win the tournament if I played well. The one thing I had going for me is that I’ve played for a lot of money on national TV before,” Jacob, who won the 2006 United States Poker Championship in Atlantic City, said to Variety’s Whitney Friedlander. “The thing that makes Jeopardy different than poker, though, is that there’s always another poker tournament… you only get one Tournament of Champions.”
Jacob’s performance on Jeopardy is a rarity for people in the poker community – a player or former player who earned something for their appearance. Earlier this year, poker pro Vanessa Rousso was acknowledged by many to have played the “finest game in the history of” the television reality show Big Brother but, when it came down to the final three players in the contest, the manipulations saw her ejected in third place, short of the $ 50,000 that the runner-up would earn and agonizingly short of the $ 500,000 first place prize. It is arguable, however, that Rousso will be able to use the notoriety of that Big Brother run for publicity (and potential profit) in the future.
Previous to Rousso, such competitors/poker players as Tiffany Michelle and Maria Ho (The Amazing Race) and Garrett Adelstein and Jean-Robert Bellande (Survivor) have been on the “small screen” vying for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, they would all come up short in their efforts. In 2009, Annie Duke came within one slot of taking down Celebrity Apprentice, but was foiled by host Donald Trump and his personal friendship with Joan Rivers (any money won during that event was for charity, however). Even Daniel Negreanu and Beth Shak have taken part in The Millionaire Matchmaker, looking for romantic setups.
This list is going to grow as 2016 comes to the fore. In the next installment of the Survivor series set to begin in February, poker professional Anna Khait will be on one of the teams competing for a million dollar prize. The grueling episodes of that show are already in the can (recorded) and Khait has been very silent on the outcome of the competition, not surprising as contestants on these shows normally sign a confidentiality agreement before even stepping in front of the cameras. The show will take place in Cambodia.
Congratulations to Jacob for achieving such a difficult goal. While the $ 250,000 windfall might have some wanting to get back to the tables, it seems those days are gone for Jacob. He identified his profession as a “currency trader” for the entirety of his Jeopardy appearance and, when asked what he would do with the winnings, Jacob stated that he would use it to pay for his recent wedding and a big honeymoon with his new wife.
As we prepare to head into the final month of 2015, the battle for the two major Player of the Year awards have basically come down to two men. The man who has basically dominated the leaderboards since the 2015 World Series of Poker, Anthony Zinno, has now come under fire from another player who has had an outstanding year, Byron Kaverman. For the most part, it looks as though it will come down to these two men to determine the POY. (Due to the closure of their magazine and website, the Bluff Magazine Player of the Year standings have not been updated and, as such, have been dropped from our review.)
On the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year review, Zinno has been the overwhelming leader for virtually all of the last half of 2015. He tacked on some points in winning the Borgata Poker Open’s $ 1000 Heads Up Event to bring his current total to 6632 points. This type of points domination is something rarely seen on the CardPlayer boards; last year, POY Dan Colman seemingly dominated the field on the way to accumulating 5498 points for the entire year. Zinno had that beaten at the end of the WSOP.
Kaverman isn’t the only one who is trying to catch up to Zinno’s pace. In second place on the CardPlayer POY is Joe Kuether, who has been cobbling together some decent finishes in tournaments to grind his way up the ladder. His second place finish at the WSOP Circuit event in Hammond in October, along with his third place finish at the Borgata Poker Open World Poker Tour event in late September, has added 1760 points to his resume to run Kuether up to 5658 points. With some decent finishes in December, Kuether may be the one who knocks Zinno off the mountain.
In third place on the CardPlayer standings is Nick Petrangelo, who has been lurking for much of the 2015 tournament poker year. Although he only earned a few points for his third place finish at the European Poker Tour Malta Super High Roller event, those points were enough to keep him in this slot with 5526 points. Depending on his tournament schedule next month (Europe or the United States?), Petrangelo might find some events to push him further into consideration for the POY.
Although he has had a great year to this point, Kaverman has more work to do if he is going to seize the CardPlayer POY. Despite winning the EPT Malta’s High Roller tournament in late October (for 900 points), Kaverman still finds himself almost 1300 points behind Zinno with 5342 points. From a look at how points are awarded on the CardPlayer charts, Kaverman will probably have to win another tournament and/or have some deep runs in several events if he’s to move up higher.
The remainder of the CardPlayer Player of the Year rankings will earn a nice finish for 2015 but have a “slim to none” shot of taking the title. That includes Benjamin Zamani (4561 points), Jason Mercier (4294), Mario Javier Lopez (3898), Steve O’Dwyer (3890) Mustapha Kanit (3860) and World Champion Joe McKeehen (3748), who hold down the fifth through tenth place slots. These men aren’t locked into the Top Ten, either, as players like Dzmitry Urbanovich (3723 points), Rainer Kempe (3720) and WSOP Europe Championship Event winner Kevin MacPhee (3710) lurk beneath them.
The Global Poker Index Player of the Year rankings are intriguing in that there are some names there that didn’t appear in the CardPlayer poll. On the GPI’s standings, Kaverman has been able to amass 4736.9 points, with that victory in the EPT Malta High Roller earning him 550.31 points. That finish replaced one of his top 13 finishes for 2015 to help push him to his current mark. (Under the GPI POY, a player’s top 13 finishes are the only ones that count towards computing a player’s total points. A player’s point total can only increase if they have a finish that bests one of their previous efforts.)
Zinno is within shouting distance of Kaverman. With his 4649.07 points that are currently good enough for second place, he would need to replace his lowest POY point total (the 238.09 points earned at the Bellagio Cup XI event in July) with one that earns him more than 100 points more (provided Kaverman doesn’t do anything in December); that usually means that a player has to win a big tournament and Zinno is certainly capable of doing just that.
It gets more difficult as you work your way down the remainder of the GPI POY. Petrangelo (4406.04 points), O’Dwyer (4333.58) and Urbanovich (4095.19) hold the third through fifth place slots, but it will be difficult for any of them to even pass Zinno, let alone Kaverman. The story is also the same for those in the bottom half of the GPI Top Ten.
It is in this segment of the standings that we get some diversity between CardPlayer and the GPI. After Mercier in sixth place (4076.07 points), there is a completely different sixth through tenth place players. Connor Drinan (3996.08), Dominik Nitsche (3848.66), Fedor Holz (3834.3) and Scott Seiver (3834.1) are in these positions and could move up in the GPI Top Ten with some good work in December. If you’re counting at home, that makes for a total of 14 men who can state that they were one of the top ten tournament poker players for 2015 and we still have December to get through.
The December schedule will pretty much jam the big events in well before Christmas. The WPT will hold two events in Prague, the Czech Republic, and at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, while the EPT goes to Prague after the WPT departs. There are some smaller events that might have some chance to push some pros, particularly the WSOP-C stops in North Carolina and at the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Los Angeles and the Aria High Roller tournaments, but it looks like it is a two-man race for the different POY titles. Who will come out on top? For a prediction, look for Zinno to keep the CardPlayer edge and Kaverman his GPI crown, splitting the tournament poker Player of the Year races once again. By the time the presents are being opened on Christmas Day, we will know the results.
It has been very quiet on the cinematic front with gambling and poker movies as of late. The last “gambling” film that saw wide release was a remake of The Gambler starring Mark Wahlberg (save your money, the better film was the 1974 version with James Caan starring), which was released at Christmastime in 2014. Now a trio of films – two theatric and one documentary – have come to the fore, depending on what you may like.
One that has been out for a bit is the movie Mississippi Grind. Starring Ryan Reynolds (soon to be seen in the upcoming superhero film Deadpool) and Ben Mendelsohn, the story is set around Mendelsohn, a broke gambler who is trying to change his luck. He meets up with Reynolds and, as the twosome work their way down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and share their stories and experiences, they both make a few bucks amongst the adventures.
The film technically has been released, but if you blinked you might have missed it. After premiering at the Sundance Film Festival back in January of this year, Mississippi Grind was released to a limited number of cities on September 25. Three weeks later, it premiered on Video on Demand channels across the United States. Why it didn’t have a longer life span in the theaters isn’t known as it has received decent reviews; the website Rotten Tomatoes has it with an 89% rating based on 90 reviews and a 7.4 out of 10 average rating.
There is a film set for release on December 4 that has a smidgen of poker related to its plotline. The theatrical release Cold Deck is slated to hit theaters that day with a cast that is pretty much unknown except for veteran character actor Paul Sorvino. The co-writer of the film, Stefano Gallo, stars as the main character Bobby Locke, who goes broke in a poker game. With his mother in need of pricey medical attention, Locke conjures up a plan to rob a group of businessmen when they play poker at a local club owned by Sorvino’s character, Chips.
Of course, it can be expected that something goes wrong. The game is run by a gangster who sets out to take revenge on the thieves, at which point the poker theme of the movie is pretty much finished except for bad clichés. At this time, Cold Deck has not earned any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and there is little buzz on any other movie websites.
If the theatrical releases are leaving you less than excited, then the documentary that is now up for viewing might be your cup of tea. Entitled Freeway City, the documentary was released earlier this week on the Vimeo video service for the decent price of “FREE.” Focusing on the birth of the California card room industry in the 1930s, the documentary examines the man who opened the first card room in Gardena, Ernie Primm, and the development of the California industry since that time.
There has been a dearth of good poker films and/or documentaries pretty much since 2013. Several outstanding documentaries, including All In: The Poker Movieand Bet Raise Fold: The Story of Online Poker, both hit well with the poker audience. The theatrical release of Runner Runner, from the same men who wrote Rounders, failed to connect with the audience, however, despite having such star power as Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake on the screen.
It is going to be a tough road for any poker film to capture the essence of the game of poker without setting up outlandish Hollywood-style situations or endings. Perhaps the future for poker is in the documentary route as there are plenty of subjects that could be tackled; what may be lacking is the producers and filmmakers willing to delve into that type of subject or the genre, however. Outside of Cold Deck in a week, there is little in the well for 2016 when it comes to poker movies.
Last week, PokerStars launched its holiday promotion, the Christmas Festival. Not to be outdone, PokerStars’ little brother, Full Tilt Poker, has launched its own set of promos today, collectively dubbed the “Million Dollar Breakaway.”
Millionaries Club Lounge
The Millionaires Club Lounge promotion is an achievement-based raffle. As usual, for some reason Full Tilt requires everyone to first opt-in to the promo to activate it; after that, players will see a number of tasks listed on the “My Promotions” page. Players who complete three tasks in a week will be awarded a raffle ticket and those who complete all five tasks in a week will get another ticket. Anyone who completes all five tasks in all five weeks will be given five bonus tickets for the final raffle plus a special Robot Avatar.
Raffle prizes include iPhones, Beats headphones, VIP Las Vegas vacation packages, Titan Eclipse Power Banks, and more.
Also, considering Full Tilt says the value of all the prizes is $ 500,000, it seems like this should be the Half-Millionaires Club Lounge.
$ 25K Free Bet Take Off
This one is simple. Play real-money casino games through December 2nd and earn a prize draw ticket for every five Full Tilt Points earned. At the end of the promotional period, a total of $ 25,000 in casino chips will be distributed to those with lucky tickets.
This is an opt-in promotion.
Every day, Full Tilt will host a number of Vegas Pass Tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $ 5 to $ 100. In addition to regular prize money, the top five finishers in each tourney will win a $ 10 Vegas Pass Tournament Ticket. This Vegas Pass Tournament (which can be entered for $ 10 without a ticket) will be held on December 15th and the winner will receive a $ 10,000 Vegas prize package which includes business class flights for two to Las Vegas, seven nights at Caesars Palace, and private limo transfers.
First Class $ 50K Leaderboard
Another opt-in casino promo, this one will award $ 50,000 in prizes to the top 70 Full Tilt Points earners in casino games from now through Wednesday, December 16th. Top prize is $ 10,000. The top five all win cash, while the rest of the leader board wins casino chips.
The Holiday Maker
Again, you have to opt-in to this (Full Tilt wouldn’t want to give away money if it doesn’t have to). It’s actually pretty cool if you like slots, though. Through December 23rd, Full Tilt will give players 20 percent of their slots losses back. A couple caveats: players must earn at least 75 Full Tilt Points playing slots during the promo and the net losses must be $ 50 or more. So start mashing buttons!
You know what? Just assume everything is an opt-in promo. December 14th through December 23rd, players who stack their opponents at real-money cash game tables will receive one point on the Cash Knockout Leader Board corresponding to the table stakes. At the end of the promo, the top points earners on each leader board will win a share of $ 43,000 in cash.
Players who get felted during the promo be entered into a $ 1,000 Cash Knockout Flip Freeroll the next day.
Fast Track Freerolls
From December 23rd through January 3rd, players who earn 10 Full Tilt Points in one day will be able to play in one Fast Track $ 1K Jackpot Sit & Go Freerolls. Additionally, each day at 13:30 ET and 16:30 ET, there will be Fast Track Freebuys with $ 1,000 guaranteed prize pools. 50 cent re-buys and add-ons are available in these tourneys.
The news two days ago that Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt would be signing a letter from other AG’s in support of the federal ban regarding online gaming and poker came as a stunner. Not only did it surprise the online gaming and poker communities – and the casinos that support online gaming – but it particularly surprised Laxalt’s bosses in the state house and Governor’s quarters in Carson City. Evidence has now come to light that demonstrates that Laxalt may be directly influenced by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his continued drive to ban online gaming and poker.
Laxalt came out on Tuesday supporting the federal bill regarding the banishment of online gaming and poker, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) of 2016, putting out some flimsy arguments as to why he was taking the action. “Congress spoke on this issue (online gaming) and has an existing Wire Act,” Laxalt stated toJon Ralston on his show Ralston Live. Laxalt would then go on to state that further reasoning for his support was the factor that “it was an overreach by the executive branch” into the issue.
All of this is despite the current stance of the state of Nevada regarding the subject. One of three states to have passed online gaming regulations (albeit only for online poker), Nevada’s governor Brian Sandoval wasn’t pleased with his AG stepping outside the lines as he did. As reported earlier this week here at Poker News Daily, Sandoval stated that he was “very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry.” Sandoval also stated he disagreed with Laxalt’s vision of state’s rights versus federal legislation.
Looking a bit further into the issue, however, there is evidence to state where Laxalt’s decision came from. According to campaign contributions for Laxalt’s 2014 run for Attorney General, Adelson and his wife each are listed as donating the most possible for an individual donation ($ 10,000) and the Venetian Casino Resort and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation – properties owned by Adelson – also donated $ 10,000 each (in fair disclosure, Boyd Gaming, the Bellagio, MGM Resorts International and poker professional Cary Katz also donated the maximum to his campaign). This doesn’t include any contributions from political action committees (PACs) such as NV Jobs PAC and the New Nevada PAC, which received almost $ 500,000 from Adelson.
Laxalt also has a personal connection to Adelson’s operations. According to reports from FlushDraw.net’s Haley Hintze, one of the major lobbying firms behind Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) is j3 Strategies. Millions of dollars have been pushed through this organization to lobby against potential laws in California and Pennsylvania (j3 Strategies lists the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the CSIG as their first two clients). The lobbying group was behind mailings to Pennsylvania residents against current plans in the state to regulate online gaming and poker and a jerry-rigged opinion poll against online poker. They were also critical in getting Laxalt elected to the Attorney General’s office in 2014.
The founder and president of j3 Strategies is Robert Uithoven, who just happens to be a sitting board member on the CSIG. Uithoven, according to Hintze, actually testified on behalf of the CSIG during hearings in California earlier this year regarding online poker regulation. But what is astounding – and makes Laxalt’s denials of ties to Adelson hard to believe – is a statement from Laxalt himself and the identity of one of the members of j3 Strategies.
According to the j3 Strategies website (in blue at the bottom of the page), there are two “testimonials” as to the work of j3 Strategies. One is from Andy Abboud, who says the Las Vegas Sands Corporation has “relied on the counsel” of Uithoven in their “political and public policy initiatives.” The second is from Laxalt himself, which states, “We pulled off one of the most monumental victories in Nevada’s political history and it was done through the development of a thoughtful political plan, focused determination, and steady guidance every step along the way. I was proud to have Robert Uithoven by side through it all, helping build and lead my campaign team and oversee the execution of our campaign. He was always accessible and his daily counsel helped us secure a campaign victory that no political pundit in Nevada dared predict.”
Then there is one person that is employed by j3 Strategies. Listed as one of the members of the organization (of four, with the other three serving legal or promotional purposes) is Tessa Laxalt, who is by definition the only person listed as a registered “lobbyist” for j3 Strategies and who is the sister of Adam Laxalt (technically half-sister, but that’s not important here; let’s just say the family history is convoluted). j3 Strategies state that the female Laxalt has worked with the Las Vegas Sands Corporation as a lobbyist, but only after completing her internship with the Nevada Legislative Session earlier this year.
Laxalt denies any ties to Adelson or his CSIG, but it is difficult to believe him after the evidence is presented. It becomes even more difficult when he seems to be following a key piece of Adelson’s federal legislative efforts despite what his own state – and his fellow Republican governor – has decided as a course of action. These instances show that the effects of “crony capitalism” stretch down to the actions in the state legislatures, not just the halls of federal government.