Archive for June, 2016
Today when I confirmed to one of my two prized offspring (for clarification, I only have two children – I wasn’t implying that I have more and I only cherish two of them) that I was indeed born in the 1970’s, the other said that that makes me seem “ancient.” Of course, it isn’t just the mathematics of my age that makes me seem old to them, it is also the stories with which I regale them about how there was no internet when I was kid or how phones had cords or how my parents didn’t have to furnish every piece of equipment when I played Little League baseball. What also makes me feel old is when I think back to how long ago it was that partypoker (once spelled with proper capitalization) was the 800-pound gorilla of the online poker world.
You young twenty-somethings, with your Instagrams and your Snapchats only know of PokerStars as the dominant poker room. But once, more than a decade ago, it was partypoker. The poker room that was a party ruled the roost and we all enjoyed our dealt rakeback and plentiful reload bonuses. But once partypoker decided to pull out of the U.S. market after the UIGEA passed in late 2006, its player traffic sunk like a stone and PokerStars took over. party, while still one of the largest poker rooms in the world for a number of years, has largely been an afterthought since.
This past weekend, though, partypoker hit a level it had not seen for two years: the third largest international poker room in the world. According to PokerScout.com, partypoker now ranks only behind PokerStars and 888poker in terms of dot-com poker rooms that do not accept U.S. customers. PokerStars has a seven-day average of 12,000 cash game players, 888poker has a seven-day average of 1,800 (that’s not a typo – PokerStars is that much larger than everyone else), and partypoker has a seven-day average of 1,050 players, recently eclipsing the iPoker Network, which has 1,000. Bodog is actually ahead of partypoker with 1,250 players, but it still accepts U.S. customers, so it is not a fair comparison.
The poker room’s rise is likely thanks to the “Summer of Grind” promotion it has been running since June 20th. Continuing through August 14th, it is a very simple promotion, rewarding players for playing as many hands as possible. There are two missions: one for cash games and one for Sit-and-Go’s.
The cash game mission is called fastGrind and gives out cash for playing in hands at fastforward tables. It requires A LOT of hands, but fastforward hands are…fast…and there is still a month and a half left in the promotion. Players who play 30,000 total fastforward hands will receive $ 150 cash. Get up to 60,000 and that’s an additional $ 150. The 100,000 hand mark awards another $ 300, while the 250,000 hand milestone pays out $ 900 more. All told, players can win $ 1,500 cash if they reach 250,000 hands.
This is the part of the promo that is undoubtedly driving partypoker’s ascent, as customers are grinding away for that free money.
The Sit-and-Go side is similar, just with smaller numbers. The milestones for tournaments played are 400 Sit-and-Go’s, 750, 1,250, and 3,000, with incremental payouts of $ 100, $ 100, $ 150, and $ 650. That means those who complete 3,000 Sit-and-Go’s during the promotion will receive $ 1,000 cash.
Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to HB 2150 that would expand gambling in the state, including the legalization and regulation of online poker. That was fantastic, but it was still just a vote on an amendment. The bill was then sent to the Appropriations Committee for financial approval and then finally, on June 28th, the House gave a positive vote to HB 2150 as a whole, 114 to 85. HB 2150 has now been sent to the Senate’s Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.
There is nothing particularly unusual about the online gaming portion of the bill; both online poker and casino gambling would be permitted should the bill become law. As is the case with bills and laws elsewhere, this would be for intrastate online gambling, meaning that only people within Pennsylvania’s borders would be able to play on the Pennsylvania sites. And those people would have to be at least 21-years old.
The state’s dozen casinos would be allowed to apply for internet gaming licenses, licenses that will cost $ 8 million. Software providers and established online gaming operators that are not one of the twelve casinos may team up with the casinos to provide online gambling for the state’s residents. Those operators will also have to apply for a license, but their licenses will come at a reduced rate.
Pennsylvania will take 14 percent of the online gaming revenues in taxes, while localities will take another two percent, which will be used for grants.
What finally got HB 2150 over the hump in Pennsylvania was that the approved gambling expansion amendment was purged of language that would have allowed for a significant spread of video gaming terminals (VGTs) throughout the Commonwealth. In one version of the amendment, a handful of VGTs would have been permitted in thousands of small venues, such as taverns, across the state. The state’s casinos were dead-set against this, claiming VGTs would cut into their sales. The casinos had sizeable sway in the matter, so if VGTs would have been left in, HB 2150 would have gone nowhere. In fact, another, similar gambling expansion amendment that included VGTs was voted upon and it lost in a mirror-image vote to the amendment that passed.
There will still be some expansion of video gambling outside of casinos, but very slight. Airports will be allowed to have slot machines as well as gaming tablets in certain areas like traveler lounges. This makes sense in terms of casinos being fine with it, as the people that would partake in this form of gambling will overwhelmingly be people waiting for a flight out of town. They aren’t using the electronic gaming devices instead of visiting a casino.
As mentioned, the bill now moves to the Senate. Prior reports have said that it needs to get passed by the end of the month, as that is when the state budget is due, but it would be pretty surprising if it could get turned around that quickly. We will just have to wait and see.
PokerStars has halted the offering of real money poker games in Israel, according to both an e-mail that was sent to customers and a pop-up message that was presented to Israeli players upon attempting to login. The ban took effect Monday, June 27th. In a somewhat ironic side note, the founder of PokerStars, Isai Scheinberg, is Israeli.
It appears that this decision was made because Israel is what is considered a “grey” market in the online poker world. That is, online poker is not explicitly illegal in the country, but it isn’t legal, either. Israel does, though, bar most other forms of gambling and has typically used those laws to cover internet gaming, as well.
PokerStars has been withdrawing from grey markets over the years. It is generally understood that the decision to do so is to make its parent company, Amaya, look as squeaky clean as possible as it applies for operating licenses in various jurisdictions, the United States, in particular. Amaya doesn’t want any potential blemishes on its record when trying to apply for access in the States. There are a lot of customers to be had if Pennsylvania and California open up to internet poker and Amaya doesn’t need to die on the grey market hill.
Below is PokerStars’ e-mail to its Israeli customers, as shared on Two Plus Two:
Our management team regularly review our operations market-by-market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands. Following a recent review, we regret to inform you that we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in – or have a registered address in – Israel from June 27, 2016. We apologize for this inconvenience and hope you’ve enjoyed your experience – we invite you to continue playing with your existing account on our play money site here.
Player balances remain safe and secure, and players are able to withdraw their real money balances at their convenience.
You will be able to withdraw to your Visa card or WebMoney account providing you have used them to deposit within the last 12 months. If you have not, you will need to deposit with them before June 27 to be able to do so. The wire transfer option may also be available for withdrawals. Note that if you do deposit with WebMoney you will need to wait 48 hours from your last deposit before you are able to withdraw your funds.
A full question and answer page has been provided for affected players.
Any outstanding tournament tickets or T-money will be converted to cash. A $ 1 VIP Cash Rebate has been added to the VIP Store that can be purchased for 100 StarsCoin in order to facilitate players who would like to convert their StarsCoin to cash. Players who have made progress on their current VIP Step will receive the full prorated value of their current Step credited if the amount is 250 StarsCoin or more.
Please allow up to 72 hours from June 27 in order for these credits and conversions to be made, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
For American sports fans, this time of year is the doldrums of the sports calendar. The professional hockey and basketball seasons just ended (college seasons ended a while ago), college football is two months away, and the NFL season is more than two months away. Right now, it’s just baseball, which is cool and all, but the middle of the baseball season just doesn’t excite. Last week, though, was the opening week of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and with it came a new alliance between the CFL and DraftKings.
Just in time for the opening kickoff, DraftKings launched CFL contests, the centerpiece of which was the CFL $ 50K Kickoff Special, featuring a $ 50,000 guaranteed prize pool, a $ 5,000 first prize, and payouts down to 435 spots. The usual types of games were all there, from 50/50’s to heads-up matches to smaller guaranteed prize pool contests. Scoring format is similar to what players should be used to from American football games with some slight adjustments for the differences between the NFL and CFL.
The CFL also announced that it has entered into an advertising and promotional agreement with DraftKings.
“We’re pleased to form an advertising and promotional partnership with DraftKings that will elevate both of our brands,” CFL Senior Vice President of Marketing and Content Christina Litz said in a press release. “This new fantasy offering will give avid CFL fans and sports fans new to our league an opportunity to deepen their engagement with our game. It’s an important part of our strategy to serve our existing fan base better than ever before at the same time we attract new fans, including the next generation of fans.”
The key here is the CFL using this relationship to attract new fans. While the National Football League has been popular for decades, its rise to the top of American professional sports and into the immortal beast that it is has a lot to do with sports betting and fantasy sports. Football is by far the most popular sport on which Americans wager – much of that has to do with the infrequency of games and a scoring system that lends itself perfectly to spread-based betting. It is this gambling, combined with season-long fantasy – and now daily fantasy – that has driven much of the popularity of the game. Betting and fantasy sports give non-fans something to pay attention to and fans of single teams (as most of us are) an interest in all of the games, even ones between two terrible teams.
With this partnership, the Canadian Football League is attempting to follow in the footsteps of the NFL, even if that footstep is much smaller and way behind. Most Americans know nothing about the CFL, except that it is a league populated by players who couldn’t make NFL teams. But if CFL contests can attract any sort of reasonable percentage of DraftKings players, the league could see an uptick in its viewership, traffic to the league website, and the like as fantasy players investigate CFL games more.
George Danzer won Event #43: $ 10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split-8 or Better Championship at the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) early Tuesday morning, acquiring his fourth career gold bracelet. He is now tied with Max Pescatori in that category, topping the list of European WSOP bracelet winners. Danzer received $ 338,646 for the victory, bringing his earnings total for this year’s Series to just over $ 445,000.
Danzer made his mark on poker history in 2014, when he became just the sixth player to win three World Series of Poker bracelets in the same year. He won this very same event and $ 10,000 Seven Card Razz in Las Vegas, following those up with a win in $ 5,000 8-Game Mixed at the WSOP Asia-Pacific. He is just one of six players to pull the trifecta, joining Puggy Pearson (1973), Phil Hellmuth (1993), Ted Forrest (1993), Phil Ivey (2002), and Jeffrey Lisandro (2009). Danzer is the only one of the six to win his bracelets at different WSOP venues (which may or may not discount his feat in the eyes of some, but regardless, three in one year is amazing).
“It’s not like you win three (WSOP victories) every year. That’s tough to do,” Danzer said in his interview after the tournament. “Last year was a brick year for me, so this is becoming a much better year, so far.”
Like the exclusive three-bracelet club he joined two years ago, the final table of this event was crowded with extremely successful poker players. Eight of the final ten players, including Danzer, had previously earned WSOP bracelets. They included runner-up Randy Ohel, Eli Elezra, Justin Bonomo, David Grey, Scott Clements, Todd Brunson, and David Benyamine.
According to reports, the final table really got nuts when it was down to three-handed play, as Danzer, Ohel, and Bonomo, constantly traded the chip lead. And not just slight chip leads; each man had a sizable lead at one point or another. On one hand, Danzer, who was barely hanging on, had to triple-up on a two-outer just to stay in the game.
“When it got short-handed, it got crazy,” Danzer recounted. “Eight-or-Better becomes a game of lots of re-steals. It’s easy to lose the overview. Sometimes, you just have to look at your hand and hope it’s the best at some point.”
Danzer and Ohel were almost even in chips heading into heads-up play. A couple big hands helped Danzer open up a gap before finally putting Oher away. On the final hand, Ohel had to post the bring-in with a 3♠. Danzer felt fine completing with 4♣. Ohel added another bet and Danzer called. On the next street, Ohel was dealt K♥, but only checked when Danzer was given the 2♠. Danzer bet, though, and Ohel called. On fifth street, Ohel did bet after being handed the 2♣, only to see Danzer raise him with T♦. Ohel moved all-in and Danzer made the call, showing J♣-4♠, good for a pair of Fours. Ohel had 6♠-4♦, which didn’t make any sort of hand, but he had a gut-shot straight draw for the hi and a draw to the low hand. The 2♦ on sixth street improved Danzer to two pair, while the J♦ did nothing for Ohel.
On the river, Danzer was dealt the 8♦, leaving him with two pair for the high and no qualifying low. Ohel would need to hit his straight to scoop or at least get one more low card for a split pot. The Q♦ did none of that for him, though, giving the pot to Danzer along with his fourth WSOP bracelet.