Archive for March, 2016
Beginning next Tuesday, the brainchild of one of the most powerful men in the poker industry will actually come to fruition. On Tuesday evening, the Global Poker League will begin its inaugural season with its first live matches streamed to fans and later broadcast across the Poker Central channel.
The creator of the GPL, Alexandre Dreyfus, remarked on the creation of his pet project in an e-mail announcement to the media recently. “Three years ago it was an idea,” Dreyfus began in his e-mail statement. “Two years ago it was a Word document; one year ago it was a PowerPoint (presentation) (and) next week, it’s going live.” From those germinations of thought, the Global Poker Index has been born, but it has been a long course in reaching this point.
It took Dreyfus’ ability to combine several entities along the way to have the tools to put together a professional poker league, one tasked with the challenging goal of “sportifying” the game of poker. It all started in 2012 when Dreyfus picked up the Global Poker Index, one of the assets of Federated Sports & Gaming (the ill-fated endeavor that brought about the Epic Poker League) that was actually worth something, and turned it into arguably the preeminent ratings system in the poker world. Since that time, Dreyfus added on such entities as TheHendonMob.com (to cover the history of tournament poker and, once again, arguably THE go-to place for live tournament results) and other sites to drive the launch of the GPL and its inaugural 12 teams.
Now, come Tuesday night, it all begins for the GPL.
The GPL season will start off on April 5 with the two conferences squaring on in intra-conference battles. The six teams that make up GPL Eurasia – the Hong Kong Stars, the Moscow Wolverines, the Berlin Bears, the Paris Aviators, the Rome Emperors and the London Royals – will square off in two Six-Max battles scheduled for noon and 1:40PM (all times are Eastern Time U. S.). Following the completion of those two sessions, the GPL Americas teams – the L. A. Sunset, the Sao Paulo Metropolitans, the Toronto Nationals, the San Francisco Rush, the New York Rounders and the Las Vegas Moneymakers – will take to the felt with their own two sessions scheduled for 3:30 and 5:10PM.
These sessions will be played live on the GPL’s game platform and will be streamed live over the GPL’s outlet GPL.tv. If you do miss the live stream, there will be recaps done on Twitch and on Poker Central, which will dedicate programming time to the GPL three nights a week (Tuesdays through Thursdays) to offer up information on the current state of the GPL.
On Wednesday (April 6), the teams will actually begin playing each other. Starting at noon (Eastern Time), the GPL Eurasia will run with the following schedule:
Hong Kong Stars vs. Moscow Wolverines, 12PM
Berlin Bears vs. Paris Aviators, 2:30PM
Rome Emperors vs. London Royals, 5PM
And on Thursday (April 7), the GPL Americas gets into the act:
L. A. Sunset vs. Sao Paulo Metropolitans, 1PM
Toronto Nationals vs. San Francisco Rush, 3:30PM
New York Rounders vs. Las Vegas Moneymakers, 6PM
The GPL will consist of a 19-week regular season – split between a 14 week “spring” session and a five-week “summer” session following the World Series of Poker – at which point the playoffs will begin.
Dreyfus isn’t pulling any punches for the GPL Finals, either. The league has booked The SSE Arena at Wembley in London, the United Kingdom, to be the host for the inaugural championship battle. “London gives us the opportunity to build a fully immersive, interactive experience for the GPL Finals thanks to its regulated online sports betting environment,” Dreyfus said in explaining why London was chosen. “We are going to connect fans with one another as well as the GPL players at a leading entertainment venue. The experience is more than just ‘sit and watch’ – its full engagement.”
Poker fans may or may not be jumping on board with the GPL, but more importantly what will be the “make or break” of the entire GPL experiment is whether the general audience gets into the game. If the Everyday Fan views the GPL as a sporting contest – like a football match, a basketball game, something that can be viewed from a sporting angle – and will treat the event as such, then Dreyfus will have reached his goal of taking poker to the next level, of “sportifying” the game. The first step is the inaugural week of play…and that starts on Tuesday.
On Friday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed her final regulations for the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry in her state, making it the third state to implement DFS regulations. All three have happened very recently, with both of the others – Virginia and Indiana – passing their regulations this month.
Healey initially proposed DFS regulations back in November and little has changed between then and now. In a press release at the time, words she nearly mimicked in a press conference, she said:
These regulations are a first of their kind for the Daily Fantasy Sports industry, and they focus on protecting minors, ensuring truthful advertising, bringing more transparency to the industry, and leveling the playing field for all consumers,” AG Healey said. “This is a first step, but an important step, as we continue to evaluate this new industry and make sure our laws keep up with these evolving technologies.
As one would expect, the regulations include extensive language intended to protect minors. Nobody under the age of 21 is permitted to participate on a daily fantasy sports site; if a minor is found to be registered, his funds will be returned and his account will be closed. The minor could actually receive winnings, though, if it was determined that he simply registered as himself and wasn’t found out. If he misrepresented his age, though, his winnings will be taken away and given to another contestant.
Additionally, DFS contests are not allowed to be based on amateur sports such as college and high school sporting events. DFS operators cannot advertise at schools or colleges, either.
The regulations also aim to promote a fair game, one in which “highly experienced” players are easily identifiable by all players (denoted by an icon in the software) and that these players are not permitted to participate in games reserved for beginners. In addition, to prevent deep pocketed professionals from overwhelming tournaments, there are limits placed on how many entries a player can make in a given contest. For example, in a contest with more than 100 players, players are limited to 150 entries or 3 percent of all entries, whichever number is smaller.
And, of course, the regulations are intended to protect all customers of DFS sites. Player deposits are to be segregated from operational funds and credit cannot be extended to players. Individual player deposits are capped at $ 1,000 per month, but the DFS sites do have leeway to increase that on a case-by-case basis. Operators must also allow players to self-exclude or put restrictions on their own play.
Operators are required to be in compliance with these regulations by July 1st.
Moody’s Investors Service Downgrades Amaya Gaming Stock to Negative Following Insider Trading Charges
After last week’s blockbuster announcement that their Chief Executive Officer and five other men would be charged with insider trading, Amaya Gaming now has to deal with the fact that one of the top stock watchers in the industry has downgraded the outlook on their stock.
Once it was announced that David Baazov, the now-former Chief Executive Officer of Amaya Gaming who has taken a paid “leave of absence” from the company, was facing charges of insider trading in dealings with Amaya Gaming from Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Moody’s Investors Service moved their outlook on Amaya, Inc. and Amaya B.V. and their related assets to “negative.” The AMF is Canada’s version of the United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the federal organization that is charged with ensuring that there is no wrongdoing on the different stock exchanges in the United States.
In announcing that they were moving their outlook to “negative,” Moody’s offered a thorough reasoning for the decision. “The negative outlook considers Moody’s perception of increased credit risk for Amaya,” the statement began. “Moody’s believes these civil charges, along with the legal process that follows, could negatively affect the execution of the company’s operations and growth strategies, particularly given that Mr. Baazov is significantly involved in the development and execution of Amaya’s business strategies. Additionally, the negative outlook also considers the uncertainty with respect to how the regulators will react to any subsequent disclosure regarding the insider trading charges.”
In essence, this is why Baazov “decided” to take a paid “leave of absence” earlier this week. While there may be some truth to the statements that he was looking to prepare to defend himself against the charges that have been brought against him, Amaya could not continue to have him at the helm of the company for the exact impression that Moody’s presented. The additional idea that Baazov is still looking into a purchase of Amaya Gaming – something that was floated at the start of February – may still be on the table, but it looks very unlikely unless Baazov is found to be not guilty of the charges.
The saga for Amaya Gaming – and the potential groundwork for the insider trading charges against Baazov and his cohorts – stems back to the purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker from the Rational Group and the Scheinberg Family in 2014. In April 2014, Amaya stock was running around $ 5.85 on the Toronto Stock Exchange but, as soon as rumors began to emerge that Amaya was looking to make a deal for the world’s largest online poker room, the stock price rapidly increased. By the end of April, the stock price had climbed to $ 6.88 and the best was yet to come.
May 2014 would see the price jump from $ 7.13 to $ 10.82, a more than 50% increase in just a month’s time. When the deal between Amaya Gaming and Rational for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker was actually announced in June 2014, the stock price would almost triple to $ 30 by the end of the month. The price for Amaya stock would peak at $ 38.43 in November 2014 and has been on a rollercoaster since that time.
In December 2014, the AMF launched their investigation into the insider trading accusations against Baazov and five other men intricately linked with the Amaya/Rational deal. The stock price plunged to $ 27.10 by January 2015, but it would gradually fight back through the year. On November 9, 2015, the stock was trading at $ 31.23 but, following a less-than-optimistic financial forecast, the stock price plummeted to $ 19.59. As of this morning, Amaya Gaming stock is trading at $ 16.70, slightly down from its price of $ 16.98 at the close of trading on Tuesday.
Whether the “leave of absence” that Baazov has taken will have an effect on the stock for Amaya Gaming, it will certainly have an effect on the boardroom. Whether Baazov returns entirely depends on the results of any trial – or potential plea bargain – that is decided in the case.
Less than a week after being slapped with insider trading charges, Amaya CEO David Baazov is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company, so says a statement from Amaya Tuesday morning. While the reason Amaya leads with for Baazov’s break is “to focus on preparing an offer to acquire Amaya,” it follows with the reason everybody knows is the real truth: he has to gird his loins for the upcoming legal hell storm.
Rafi Ashkenazi, a holdover from Rational before Amaya purchased the company and PokerStars, will take over as interim CEO. He’s in an interesting position, caught between two ownership groups: the Scheinbergs who used to own Stars and those who own the bulk of Amaya, including Baazov. Divyesh Gadhia, a member of the Board of Directors, is the Interim Chairman.
Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers (the “AMF”) charged Baazov and others with a variety of securities fraud-related charges including “aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of the securities of Amaya inc., and communicating privileged information.”
The charges came after an investigation into a surprising run-up of Amaya’s stock preceding the announcement of its acquisition of PokerStars last June.
Here is the meat of the statement from Amaya:
Amaya Inc. (NASDAQ: AYA; TSX: AYA) today announced that Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, David Baazov, is taking an indefinite paid leave of absence from the company, effective yesterday. Mr. Baazov is taking this leave voluntarily to focus on preparing an offer to acquire Amaya and to avoid a distraction for the company while he responds to certain allegations made against him by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the securities regulatory authority in Quebec. Mr. Baazov will remain a member of Amaya’s board of directors.
The Board has appointed Divyesh (Dave) Gadhia as Interim Chairman, and Rafi Ashkenazi as Interim CEO. Mr. Gadhia has been an Amaya director since 2010, is the Board’s Lead Independent Director and is Chair of the Special Committee of independent directors established on February 1, 2016 to consider any proposal that may be made by Mr. Baazov, as well as other alternatives that may become available to Amaya. Previously, Mr. Gadhia served as the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice Chairman of Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited from 1992 until 2010, where he was responsible for strategic initiatives, regulatory matters and governmental relations.
Mr. Ashkenazi is currently CEO of the Rational Group, Amaya’s operating business, which includes the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands. Prior to becoming CEO of Rational Group in late-2015, Mr. Ashkenazi, an experienced gaming industry executive, served as Senior Vice President of Strategy for Amaya during 2015 and as Chief Operating Officer of Rational Group from January 2013 until early 2015, responsible for all customer-facing product and back-office functions for PokerStars and Full Tilt, including marketing, customer support, poker room management, IT management, payment processing and security, and game integrity. Prior to joining the Rational Group, Mr. Ashkenazi was Chief Operating Officer of Playtech, a global gaming software company.
Baazov said in the press release, “As always, I continue to be dedicated to doing the right thing for Amaya and all its stakeholders. I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company.”
You had to know this was coming at some point. PokerStars is but only one week old in New Jersey and already it has unveiled a new Spin & Go promotion. Starting yesterday, March 28th (Happy Birthday to me!), PokerStars New Jersey is launching a $ 100,000 Spin & Go Special Edition promo, giving Garden State players a chance to win, you guessed it, one hundred grand playing in the popular three-handed Sit-and-Go tournaments.
As a refresher (who knows, maybe someone in New Jersey is reading this and has never seen a Spin & Go), PokerStars Spin & Go’s are three-handed, hyper-turbo Sit-and-Go tourneys with a winner-take-all prize pool (most of the time). The big twist with these tables is that the prize pool is not known until all three players are seated. At that point, a spinner appears on the table and reveals the prize. Most of the time, it will only be twice the buy-in, maybe four times, but in very rare circumstances, the prize pool can be, in the case of New Jersey, 1,000 times the buy-in.
On PokerStars’ New Jersey site, Spin & Go’s have four buy-in levels: $ 1, $ 2, $ 5, and $ 10. Here is what the probability table looks like for the different prize pool possibilities:
2x buy-in – 75,342 in 100,000
4x buy-in – 15,284 in 100,000
6x buy-in – 8,280 in 100,000
10x buy-in – 1,000 in 100,000
25x buy-in – 76 in 100,000
100x buy-in – 10 in 100,000
200x buy-in – 5 in 100,000
1,000x buy-in – 3 in 100,000
As you can see, the chances of hitting the top prize pools are slim. If that does happen, though, all three players win something for the top three prize levels. The winner takes the total prize pool, but the other two players receive an addition 10 percent of said prize pool. Thus, for the 1,000x tier, the winner in a $ 1 Spin & Go would receive $ 1,000 while the second and third place finishers would get $ 100 each.
Starting today, though, PokerStars has changed the $ 10 buy-in level, making the top prize $ 100,000. The second and third place contestants would each win $ 10,000.
The odds have changed, too:
2x buy-in – 729,196 in 1,000,000
4x buy-in – 189,652 in 1,000,000
6x buy-in – 7,500 in 1,000,000
10x buy-in – 5,000 in 1,000,000
25x buy-in – 1,000 in 1,000,000
100x buy-in – 100 in 1,000,000
200x buy-in – 50 in 1,000,000
10,0000x buy-in – 2 in 1,000,000
Again, remember that the “losers” in the three top tiers still get a prize worth ten percent of the prize pool, added on by PokerStars. Thus, the prize pool multipliers are effectively, 120x, 240x, and 12,000x. This promo is only for the $ 10 buy-in level. All other buy-in levels have their standard prize tiers.
The $ 100,000 Special Edition Spin & Go promotion will run until somebody hits the big one.