Archive for April, 2016
Senator Diane Feinstein Pens Opposition Letter to California Efforts to Regulate Online Poker, Legislators Ignore Her
Offering her opinion from a national seat on an issue that the state is trying to figure out (the civics people in the audience will realize how that sounds), California Senator Diane Feinstein recently penned a letter to the California General Assembly in opposition to their efforts to pass effective regulation of online poker. The state body’s response? Passing said legislation out of committee by a unanimous vote.
Feinstein penned her letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon in response to Assembly Bill 2863, which had its first hearing in front of the California Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee last week. “I write to strongly oppose legislation that has been introduced in the State Assembly to authorize online poker in California,” Feinstein’s letter begins. “I urge you to consider the potential widespread harmful implications of online gambling, particularly for young people in California.”
The senior Senator from California continues on to point out a study from BioMed Central, a for-profit scientific (online) publisher from the United Kingdom, regarding online gaming and youth participation. In that study, researchers Tara Elton-Marshall, Scott Leatherdale and Nigel Turner posited that “youth are gambling online despite restrictions” (they don’t note that they probably are smoking, drinking and other activities as well despite restrictions), which is enough for Feinstein to conclude that it has to be stopped. She goes on to tie in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s out-of-date research on the subject from the early 2000s and states that “mechanisms” can “conceal the location of players” from the online gaming sites.
Where Feinstein really goes off the reservation is on the activities of “Black Friday.” Despite having paid nearly $ 1 billion in fines over the 2011 indictment of founder Isai Scheinberg (whom Feinstein talks about as if she’s never heard of him) and being cleared of any charges, Feinstein brings up PokerStars, saying they “provide a ready avenue for money laundering and other possible offenses.” She also states they are harmful to children, but doesn’t go into detail, and insinuates that the new ownership of PokerStars, Amaya Gaming, isn’t trustworthy either.
From all appearances, the letter Feinstein sent to the California legislators sounds like a lobbyist from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling wrote it. The letter contains all of the fingerprints of arguments that have been used by the minions of the CSIG – and have been thoroughly refuted by repeated demonstrations of geolocation technology and identification verification – and pretty much no individual thought from the Senator herself.
So what was the reply from the California Assembly’s Governmental Organization Committee? In an 18-0 vote, AB 2863 – despite still-significant differences between many of the various parties involved in the case – was passed, sending it along to the California Assembly for consideration and potentially a vote. One of the most powerful voices in demonstrating that regulation was necessary was the Poker Player Alliance’s Executive Director, John Pappas.
During his testimony in front of the committee, Pappas related the history of unregulated rooms that had suddenly shut down, leaving thousands of U. S. players in the lurch. “Lock Poker last April shut down and took millions in player deposits,” Pappas noted. “Because there is no regulatory oversight, there is nothing the players can do to get their money back.”
Pappas’ testimony, while not the only key point in advocating for regulation of the online poker industry, was probably the most powerful to the committee members. Before the bill can move to the Assembly and, perhaps, the California Senate, the differing factions have to find a common ground to solidly put in the bill. Despite the moves by Pappas and the drive from the Assembly committee, they cannot force the factions into a deal.
While many are optimistic about passage in 2016, there is the stark reality that the discussions have been going on for almost a decade on this subject. As such, it would be best for online poker players to temper their excitement over this issue as there are some powerful players – including a sitting U. S. Senator – who could still impact the decision.
EPT Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller Day 2: Final Table Determined with Ali Reza Fatehi Leading
The season finale for the European Poker Tour, the Grand Final, rolled along on Friday with Day 2 action in their €100,000 Super High Roller event. After firming up the prize pool with the close of late registration to start the day, the end of the night brought the final table into clear view with Iran’s Ali Reza Fatehi atop the leaderboard.
38 players returned from the 44 players who put up 56 buy-ins on Day 1 Thursday, but they would be joined by some (through late registration/rebuy) who arrived a bit late to the party. Fedor Holz, who had been a bit preoccupied with the €10,000 High Roller event on Thursday (where he finished fourth) was one of the newcomers after winning a €10K satellite into the tournament; he was joined by the third place finisher in that tournament, Sergey Lebedev, who chopped up that High Roller with eventual champion Chance Kornuth and Philipp Gruissem. With rebuys from Max Altergott, Nick Petrangelo and Timofey Kuznetsov, the final numbers came in at 61 entries, with the final eight players taking down a payday and the eventual champion earning a nice €1,775,500 for three days of work.
So the 43 runners were off for Day 2 with quite the slog before them. It didn’t seem that they had €100,000 on the line, however, as several players were looking for big doubles or a day off before the start of the Grand Final on Saturday. Lebedev was the beneficiary of one of these moves, sitting behind a small-blind Dominik Nitsche who had shoved all in when Lebedev woke up with Big Slick in the big blind. Lebedev called and he had Nitsche’s A-10 dominated; once the board ran out eight high, Nitsche had a spot on the rail with his name on it.
Nitsche wasn’t alone in viewing the action from the sidelines. Daniel Negreanu, Isaac Haxton, Fabian Quoss, Thomas Muehloecker and start-of-day chip leader Mikita Badziakouski all were early victims of the action as, once the tournament was down to the final three tables, Mustapha Kanit had moved into the lead with 1.6 million chips. After the redraw, Fatehi came out of the woodwork to challenge Kanit after his A♦ 5♦ nut flush defeated Max Silver’s K♦ Q♦ second-best flush to double up to 1.5 million.
This seemed to spark Fatehi’s aggression as he was responsible for knocking off Stanley Choi and Silver soon afterwards to move into the lead, but Kanit wasn’t so eager to give up his position. He utilized the double-knockout to take down Jason Mercier and Sean Winter to push over the two million mark and bring about another redraw with two tables left. Kanit kept the pressure up, chopping a bunch of chips from Ivan Luca, but he would slide back behind Fatehi again in doubling up Luca later on.
The duo kept the chips flying as the skies darkened on the Mediterranean coast, but Fatehi took firm command of the tournament just as the dinner bell sounded. On a K♥ Q♥ 4♣ 4♥ 3♣ board, Fatehi moved all in on Christoph Vogelsang, who agonized over the decision as many of the players stopped to watch as they headed to dinner. Although he admitted he “wasn’t strong,” Vogelsang didn’t believe Fatehi and made the call, only to his dismay see Fatehi had the goods with an A♥ 5♥ against Vogelsang’s A♦ Q♦, solidifying Vogelsang’s longer dinner break than he expected after being eliminated. The additional chips to Fatehi’s stack pushed him over the four million mark.
It was more of a factor of who would join Fatehi at the final table than whether Fatehi would have the chip lead at the end of the night. Once Ole Schemion eliminated Mike McDonald in ninth place (for no payday), the final eight men were set for Saturday’s showdown with Fatehi holding a massive chip lead.
1. Ali Reza Fatehi, 5.18 million
2. Stephen Chidwick, 2.92 million
3. Mustapha Kanit, 2.2 million
4. Ole Schemion, 1.685 million
5. Igor Kurganov, 1.23 million
6. Ivan Luca, 935,000
7. Sam Greenwood, 855,000
8. Paul Newey, 250,000
While these eight men will fight it out for the remainder of the nearly €6 million prize pool, the rest of the international poker community will prepare for Day 1A of the EPT Grand Final Main Event on Saturday. The €5000 buy-in tournament should be one of the biggest in the history of the EPT as players from around the world are in Monaco especially for the event. Defending champion Adrian Mateos is on hand to see if he can hold on to his belt as the champion, but he’ll have to fend off a field that could exceed 600 players. It makes for a busy day on Saturday as the EPT wraps up its Season 12 schedule in the ritzy confines of Monte Carlo.
According to reports from local news sources, the Normandie Casino – one of the original casinos in California which spread poker upon its legalization in the 1930s – will be temporarily shut down until new ownership can be found for the casino.
DailyBreeze.com writer Sandy Mazza reports that the Normandie will be closing temporarily due to the conduct of its ownership. In January of this year, the Miller family (which owns the casino) pled guilty to federal charges of money laundering and, under California law, felony convictions disqualify people from holding a casino license. Exercising great restraint, the California Gambling Control Commission held off until this week to actually revoke the Miller’s gaming license and is allowing them an additional 120-day period to sell the property to another owner.
Mazza spoke with Robert Turner, a poker player and casino manager who is intricately knowledgeable about the California card scene, who suggested in the article that former publisher Larry Flynt, whose own Hustler Casino is near the Normandie, would be the first choice to buy up the property. “It makes a lot of sense for Larry Flynt to (buy the Normandie) because he has a parking problem at the Hustler, and the Normandie sits on 17 acres if you include the corner,” Turner is quoted by Mazza as saying. “If they build a hotel and convention area with a larger casino, they could give Hollywood Park Casino some competition. Hollywood Park is going to dominate the west side. What’s happening there brings unbelievable potential to the area.”
In a discussion with Poker News Daily, Turner elaborated on his remarks. “There’s several offers that are or were on the table, but Larry needs the location,” Turner noted. “He might turn his current Hustler location into a strip club or a Hustler store. It also might be a waste of money on his part.”
That area is seeing a growth due to the relocation of the Los Angeles Rams to California. A proposed entertainment complex/football stadium is in the works for the Rams in that particular area, which is expected to be completed in 2019. Many of the casinos, including Hollywood Park Casino, the Gardens Casino and Hustler Casino have all been looking at major upgrades to “resort-style” casinos, featuring hotels, conference rooms and other amenities. The Commerce Casino recently completed a complete overhaul to upgrade its facilities in this manner and the Bicycle Casino is also in the middle of an expansion.
It is a far cry from where the Normandie started. In 1940, the Western Club opened up in Gardenia, spreading draw poker as its attraction and, seven years later, was purchased by Russ Miller and renamed the Normandie Casino. As one of six card rooms that originally operated in Gardenia (who had a monopoly on the industry for decades), the Normandie would be extremely prosperous through the 1960s. Once other cities in the Golden State started opening up card rooms, however, the Normandie’s popularity would decline. The club was further impacted when the California Indian tribes were allowed to open full-fledged casinos that included slot machines, something that all California card rooms are prevented from doing even today to the detriment of their revenues.
Not only will the closure of the Normandie under the Miller’s ownership mark the end of its ties to the origins of poker in California, it will also put some undue hardship on families in the area. 380 people will be laid off once the Normandie shuts its doors and, although some of those people may be able to hook on with other card rooms in the area, there will be a sizeable number that will be unable to find suitable employment. Thus, finding a buyer for the club quickly and potentially getting it reopened under new management is an imperative.
Then again, with the competition in the area, it is also possible that the Normandie may be gone for good. With the changes coming to the area, more parking may be necessary and such ground would be valuable for that purpose. It is also possible that, if Flynt buys the property as Turner suggests, he may even take it down to reduce competition.
Turner noted to Mazza that the times were changing, however. “It marks the end of an era,” Turner said. “I think it’s sad, but life moves on. It’s the changing of the guard.”
The final even for the European Poker Tour, its Grand Final festivities, has begun at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco and they aren’t going small. In fact, not one but two High Roller events – the single re-entry €10,000 High Roller and the rebuy €100,000 Super High Roller – were in action on Thursday, with one wrapping up its action and the other closing out its first day.
€10,000 High Roller – Day 3
23 players returned on Thursday from the original 214 entries (164 unique), looking to take the first trophy of the EPT Grand Final festival. There were some big names in the field, including Isaac Haxton, Philipp Gruissem, Anthony Zinno, Fedor Holz and Dan Shak, but they were faced with a true conundrum. There was still a nice prize of €439,000 awaiting the champion of this tournament but, with the Super High Roller beginning its Day 1 action as their Day 3 play began, the desire to take part in THAT event had some players wanting to wrap up their stay quickly. As it was, the players did fight pretty hard, whether they had their intentions set on getting into the Super High Roller or not.
Zinno would score the first knockout of the day, waking up with pocket Aces in the big blind when Ozgur Arda shoved his stack with only a K-9 off suit. Holz would keep pace with him a few minutes later, eliminating Diego Ventura when his pocket sixes stood in the race against Ventura’s A-10 off suit. Shak, however, wouldn’t be as fortunate, running his pocket sixes into Chance Kornuth’s pocket Queens to bust Shak from the tournament (a very short lived bust…he immediately ran to the Super High Roller and jumped into the action).
Around mid-afternoon, the final 15 men were determined when, at almost the same time, Pavel Plesuv took out Adrian Mateos and Gruissem knocked off Imad Derwiche. Gruissem’s day would get even better after eliminating Haxton in 15th place, punching his stack up over 1.65 million in chips. But it was a hand against Holz that had the tournament floor talking as late afternoon rolled around.
On a 3♦ 8♦ 7♦ flop, Holz would lead out for 180K and Gruissem, who was intently watching his opponent (according to the PokerStars blog), quickly made the call. Another trey on the turn brought an all-in from Holz and just as quickly a call from Gruissem. “You have Aces?” Holz asked of Gruissem as he showed pocket Kings, who shook his head no and tabled Q♦ 9♦ for the flush. Holz’s reaction? Smashing his remaining chips on the table, where they scattered like matchsticks despite the factor that there was one card left for the board to be complete.
As Holz stormed away from the table, the dealer burned and turned…another trey on the river, giving Holz a miraculous full house to best Gruissem’s flush. After everything was reset, Holz was handed a one round penalty for his actions. Holz probably needed the time to regain his composure and, at the same time, avoid any further issues as the final table was determined (the redraw, in fact, sat Holz and Gruissem beside each other).
Holz would take over the chip lead in knocking off Dmitry Yurasov in ninth place, Holz’s A♠ J♠ nut flush besting Yurasov’s K♠ Q♠ second best on a 6♠ 7♣ Q♥ Q♠ 5♠ board. Taking up the challenge, Gruissem surged back into the final table action, taking two hands from Felipe Ramos that saw the Brazilian hit the rail in seventh place. These two men would be very active, along with Kornuth, as the dinner break arrived.
After the sustenance, Gruissem became even more aggressive but sometimes actually had the cards. He showed Zinno pocket Aces in one instance and, after Zinno fell to Murad Akhundov in sixth and Akhundov himself succumbed to Kornuth in fifth, the final four – Kornuth, Gruissem, Holz and Sergey Lebedev – discussed a deal, which was quickly shot down by Holz. That would prove to be a bad decision by Holz, who might have earned more if he had done the deal rather than what occurred.
A few moments later on a 4-4-2-2-7 board, Kornuth moved in enough chips to put Holz all-in, sending the German deep into the tank. Despite still holding about 1.2 million in chips that would have kept him in the fight, Holz didn’t buy the story that Kornuth was telling him, making the call for his tournament life after several minutes and then trying to muck his cards after seeing Kornuth’s Q-2 (Holz did eventually show a Q-10). The decision not to take the deal versus finishing fourth might have cost Holz tens of thousands of Euros, depending on how the remaining prize pool would have been split four ways.
Down to three, Kornuth, Gruissem and Lebedev did reach a deal, cutting up the prize pool by ICM numbers with the leader Kornuth taking the championship.
1. Chance Kornuth, €351,108*
2. Philipp Gruissem, €299,162*
3. Sergey Lebedev, €292,750*
4. Fedor Holz, €169,000
5. Murad Akhundov, €133,680
6. Anthony Zinno, €101,500
7. Felipe Ramos, €74,100
8. Dmitry Yurasov, €54,180
(* – indicates three-way deal)
€100,000 Super High Roller – Day 1
The Super High Roller didn’t fail to draw a crowd for its opening action, with 44 players taking their seats (and 12 reentries coming from those men). When the last chips were bagged for the day, 38 of those starters still remained in action with Mikita Badziakouski sitting atop the table with almost a million chips beside his name (921,000, to be exact).
1. Mikita Badziakouski, 921,000
2. Max Silver, 785,000
3. Igor Kurganov, 755,000
4. John Juanda, 744,000
5. Ivan Luca, 660,000
6. Dario Sammartino, 651,000
7. Jason Mercier, 629,000
8. Mustapha Kanit, 585,000
9. Byron Kaverman, 534,000
10. Salman Behbehani, 525,000
Final numbers aren’t in on the Super High Roller as of yet due to late registration/reentry not closing until the start of Day 2 on Friday. With 56 entries already on the books, the prize pool is looking pretty rich for this tournament and its eventual champion. The champion will be crowned on Saturday, the same day that the EPT Grand Final Main Event is set to begin.
I got into the poker industry and the writing part of it, specifically, by a happy accident back in 2005. In the eleven years since, I have generally been able to write what I want on my own terms. There have been those rare times, however, when I have been told to stay away from a certain topic or perhaps adjust the way I wrote an article, whether it was to add some sort of mention, remove something, or alter the tone. Only a handful of those times did the request from someone up above truly frustrate me, but hey, it comes with the territory. Not every day is great in any of our jobs; I wasn’t about to quit just because someone pissed me off one day. But then again, I’ve never had a serious journalist role like columnist John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
On Tuesday, Smith resigned from Nevada’s largest newspaper because he was instructed to no longer write about casino barons Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn.
Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and billionaire Republican string-puller, purchased the Review-Journal in December 2015 for $ 140 million, an amount that seemed exorbitant. The prevailing opinion at the time was that he bought the paper in order to use it to exert political influence, but the paper’s publisher, Jason Taylor, said that Adelson would have no influence on editorial content.
Taylor was replaced on January 28th by Craig Moon, who reported directly to the Adelson family ownership. Prior to his installation, there was a disclosure in the paper about Adelson’s ownership; after his hiring, that disclosure was deleted. It was that day that Smith was instructed to stop writing about Adelson, a fact that remained largely a secret until this past Saturday.
On Saturday, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas hosted a public Society of Professional Journalists meeting during which Review-Journal editor J. Keith Moyer (who joined the staff in February) was interviewed. During the interview, he for some reason revealed that he had told Smith not to write about Sheldon Adelson. This jaw-dropping admission was live-tweeted by several journalists, including those from his paper, who were in attendance.
Moyer explained (or tried to explain) that Smith had a legal history with Adelson and therefore “it was a conflict for John to write about Sheldon.”
In 2005, Adelson sued Smith in response to a book he wrote about the CEO. That lawsuit was dismissed by a judge. A similar lawsuit for a similar reason was brought against Smith in 1997 by Steve Wynn. That suit was also dismissed.
When asked about the Wynn lawsuit, Moyer admitted he knew nothing about it. According to Jon Ralston of Ralston Reports, Moyer told Smith on Monday to stop writing about Wynn, as well.
It sounds like that was the last straw for Smith, who resigned Tuesday. Before leaving he explained his reasons via a letter he distributed around the office, saying, in part, “….if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that “commentary” tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.”
Smith’s entire letter is copied below.
Job Opening: Columnist
I learned many years ago about the importance of not punching down in weight class. You don’t hit “little people” in this craft, you defend them. In Las Vegas, the quintessential company town, it’s the blowhard billionaires and their political toadies who are worth punching. And if you don’t have the freedom to call the community’s heavyweights to account, then that “commentary” tag isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.
It isn’t always easy to afflict the comfortable and question authority, but it’s an essential part of the job. And although I’ve fallen short of the mark many times over the past three decades, this is a job I’ve loved.
But recent events have convinced me that I can no longer remain employed at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a spirited newspaper that has battled to remain an independent voice of journalism in this community. If a Las Vegas columnist is considered “conflicted” because he’s been unsuccessfully sued by two of the most powerful and outspoken players in the gaming industry, then it’s time to move on. If the Strip’s thin-skinned casino bosses aren’t grist for commentary, who is?
It’s been an honor working with you all. Your hard work and dedication remind me every day that journalism is better than ever – even if management leaves something to be desired.
John L. Smith