Archive for November, 2017

Christmas Gifts for the Poker Player in Your Life

 Christmas Gifts for the Poker Player in Your Life

The Thanksgiving turkey’s carcass has been cast into the trash, people have gotten over their tryptophan comas and life is moving on, so you know what that means…it’s time to start thinking about Christmas! Yes, that delightful time of the year when we look at our loved ones and say to ourselves, “What the heck do I get you this year?” If that person is a poker player, there are some suggestions that we here at Poker News Daily can make.

D&B PUBLISHING

Everyone thinks that poker books have gone out of favor. The exact opposite is true. If you look hard enough, you can come up with some great poker books that have been released over the past year. And, if you look inside the covers, you’ll probably find that D&B Publishing has been a part of bringing that book to you. There are at least three of their offerings you should take a look at.

First, there’s the autobiography of Phil Hellmuth. Poker Brat:  Phil Hellmuth’s Autobiography is as billed…the story of arguably the greatest poker player of all time in his own words. In the book, we get to find out some of the things that helped to drive the 14-time World Series of Poker champion from his quaint home in Wisconsin to reach his goals of poker superstardom. I challenge anyone to read this book and not hear Hellmuth’s voice reading it.

For a change of pace (and a bit of humility), there is the autobiography of 2016 WSOP Championship Event winner Qui Nguyen. From Vietnam to Vegas! How I Won the World Series of Poker Main Event is a hand-by-hand analysis of Nguyen’s victory at last year’s WSOP while simultaneously telling his life story. Beginning as a child in Saigon until that bright night in November 2016 when he captured poker’s World Championship, Nguyen tells a story (and offers insights into the hands that carried him to the title) that is engrossing and dramatic. (Writer’s note:  a full review of the book will be forthcoming.)

Finally, there’s the story of the United Kingdom’s Chris Moorman. Moorman:  The Inside Story of the Most Successful Online Poker Player of All Time is the book that arguably should have been released before his Moorman’s Book of Poker because it offers a bit of history behind Moorman himself rather than just throwing the reader into reviewing poker hands. There is some of that review in Moorman, but there’s some background given to the reader as Moorman delves into his life and what drove him to his success today.

These are but a few of the releases from D&B Publishing. It would behoove you to check them out if you’ve got a poker fan on your gift list.

MANCRATES

There are those people on your list that are quite difficult to buy a gift for. In those instances, you have to go more for the uniqueness of the gift rather than maybe its functionality. ManCrates is an outlet where you can find that unique gift.

ManCrates is offering an “Ammo Can Poker Set” which will at least give the base for someone’s next poker game (they may need more chips!). A 300-chip poker set is joined with two decks of cards inside an ammunition cannister, perhaps knocking off someone who has a fondness for weapons at the same time. If the poker set doesn’t exactly meet your needs, there are a wealth of other items that you might find for a gift.

BDO POKER TABLES

If you’ve got a bit of money to spend on that Christmas gift – and you’ve got some room in the house – then BDO Poker Tables may have something up your alley. Whether it is a simple poker table or a custom build, BDO Poker Tables should be able to come up with something that will please the poker player on your list. There’s a reason that the company is the official poker table of the World Poker Tour – they do quality work and for a fair price.

BLUE SHARK OPTICS

At least until they are banned, poker players can still wear sunglasses on the tables. The eyewear made by Blue Shark Optics are in high demand from poker players because of the variety of their product as well as the quality. The company states that their glasses stop “100% of UV and over 90% of Blue Light distortion with minimal color distortion.” This is critical in that UV light can damage your vision and, in extreme circumstances, can cause cataracts and macular degeneration. The company also offers eyewear for other life situations such as computer usage and driving, but it is their poker product that they are most known for.

There are usually some things out there that poker players would be excited to receive. What are some of the suggestions that you would make? Let us know and perhaps we’ll create another list of reader suggestions!

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Pennsylvania Online Gaming Has Passed, But Will Online Outlets Join Them?

 Pennsylvania Online Gaming Has Passed, But Will Online Outlets Join Them?

After more than a year of haggling over the details, the state of Pennsylvania passed online gaming, poker and DFS regulations for its citizens. While the passage of that bill was a watershed moment that brings to four the number of states with such legislation, the question now is when will it go live. Although state legislators are looking to move quickly on the issue, there are questions regarding the taxation that could keep suitors away from Pennsylvania’s burgeoning online gaming industry.

In a report prepared by Moody’s Investors Service, which provides financial bonds research for investors and other companies, the taxation rate for slots segment of the Keystone State’s online gaming industry could scare off some suitors. The rate of 54% is much higher than the rate that states such as New Jersey (16%) and slightly higher than that in Delaware (43.5%). Such heavy taxation could be anathema to online gaming operators, who would be looking to make more of a profit from the games than not even 50% of their “win.”

And what effect would that massive tax bill on casino gaming have on those who want to enter for online poker? While they continue to indicate that they want to be a part of the industry, companies like 888 Holdings (888Poker), The Stars Group (PokerStars) and partygaming (partypoker) might not want to invest heavily with either a poker or a casino gaming operation in a market that they won’t see a suitable return.  

For now, the big question is when the clock starts ticking on just getting the licenses handed out. Although Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law at the end of October, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board hasn’t yet started the clock on accepting applications for online gaming licenses. Currently the PGCB is putting the final changes on the regulations themselves, pushing back further the opening of the Pennsylvania online gaming industry.

Once the PGCB opens the licensing process, those casinos inside the state will get first crack at the three levels of licensing. Those three licenses – for slots, table gaming and poker – will be available for a $ 4 million price tag for individual license. If an entity were looking to get all three, then the “hometown discount” would be $ 10 million for all three. The time frame for those companies already located in Pennsylvania will be 90 days from the date the PGCB opens for business.

After that 90-day period, outside operators would then be allowed to apply. They wouldn’t receive the discount price for all three licenses, instead they would be charged at the $ 4 million per license price. That process would run for 120 days, making for a grand total of 210 days – seven months – before just the licensing procedures would be complete. Looking at the calendar today, that would mean that just the licensing process would take until the beginning of July 2018.

Once the licensing process is complete, then the actual testing process for the different gaming software would have to be completed. If the PGCB was expedient in its review process, it is conceivable that it could take 30 days before online gaming would be opened in the state. Playing on the conservative side, let’s say it takes 90 days for them to complete their testing. That now makes it October 2018 before the first bets can be taken in the state of Pennsylvania.

Although online gaming and poker are now the law in the home of the Steelers and the Eagles, it isn’t going to be anytime soon that the games start. Hopefully within that time, state regulators will consider joining with the other three states that have online poker regulations – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – and join that compact to fully maximize the abilities of the online poker segment of the industry. With 2018 around the corner – and several states examining the online gaming and poker question – a fully functioning and profitable Pennsylvania market would encourage others to join the party.

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U. S. Poker Open to Debut in February, PokerGO Named Broadcast Outlet

 U. S. Poker Open to Debut in February, PokerGO Named Broadcast Outlet

The start of any year is usually filled with a glut of poker tournaments and 2018 is no different. In January alone, the newly reborn PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the Aussie Millions, the World Poker Tour’s inaugural European Championship, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, FL, the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open and the start of the venerable L. A. Poker Classic take over the schedule. This isn’t even counting in the smaller tournaments from the World Series of Poker Circuit, the Heartland Poker Tour, or the Mid-States Poker Tour. Now another event will vie for the attention of the poker audience and the players themselves.

Beginning on February 1, the U. S. Poker Open (probably not called the United States Poker Open because that title is owned elsewhere) will take place at ARIA in Las Vegas. The eight-event schedule will not feature a tournament with a buy in under $ 10,000 and its Championship Event will be a $ 50,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament starting on February 9. All the action will be broadcast through the streaming services of PokerGO.

“The U. S. Poker Open is our newest marquee tournament positioned to kick off the high-stakes tournament calendar,” said Joe Kakaty, the president of Poker Central. “Our lineup of quarterly majors gives PokerGO subscribers year-round access to some of the best high-stakes poker in the world.”

The eight-tournament schedule does cover pretty much any variant of the game that exists. The kickoff tournament will be a $ 10K NLHE tournament, but February 2 brings a change of pace with a $ 10,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. Event #3 on the schedule kicks the stakes up with a $ 25,000 NLHE tournament. But the highlight for some players on the schedule will come on February 5.

On that date, a $ 25,000 Mixed Game Championship will be held. This mixed game tournament won’t be your run-of-the-mill H.O.R.S.E. event, instead it will feature an eight-game challenge for the players. Deuce to Seven Lowball Triple Draw, Limit Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Pot Limit Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo are the featured variants and players will be allowed one re-entry into the event.

This one event could be the “make or break” tournament of the schedule. Daniel Negreanu, a longtime partner and supporter of Poker Central, has said that the High Roller format has become stale, with the same players at the top simply shuffling the money around. By putting in the mixed game format, Negreanu feels it will bring different skills to the fore (not to mention different players) and, with hope, hype the interest of the audience for the tournaments being held.

It could also have the opposite effect. For many years, the mixed games events at the WSOP were broadcast. In recent years, however, there has been no stream of the games, in part because of the low number of players but also the difficulty in explaining the games to newcomers. It is the dance that televised poker has had to do – cater to the casual player while keeping the hard core pokerites interested in the proceedings.

The addition of the Mixed Game format could also be a bit of sour grapes by Negreanu. With the “young guns” of the poker world running rampant over the High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments worldwide, Negreanu isn’t garnering the attention that he once commanded at these events. In addition, he’s perhaps feeling the heat from players like Dan Colman and Fedor Holz, who are rapidly approaching his perch at the top of the all-time money earners list.

The question for the new U. S. Poker Open will be if there will be enough players to go around. Even though it is the start of a new year, smart players will have their bankrolls stretched to the max should they want to hit all the events in January alone. Additionally, most of the poker action will be on the East Coast of the country and outside the U. S., not in Las Vegas. In a couple of months, however, we will find out whether the U. S. Poker Open as created by PokerGO will be a success.

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Molly Bloom Breaks Silence in Forum Interview with Fortune Magazine

 Molly Bloom Breaks Silence in Forum Interview with Fortune Magazine

Breaking the silence she has maintained since her eponymous book was released in 2014, former skier turned poker “fixer” Molly Bloom talked about her life as THE biggest poker organizer in the world at a forum in California recently.

Bloom, who has kept a decidedly low profile since releasing Molly’s Game in 2014 and the work of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin with his first directorial effort in the film of the book, has been gradually upping her visibility of late. First was the premiere of the film in Toronto (which required Bloom to ask for and receive a waiver for entry into Canada because she is a convicted felon), which has received very strong reviews. Now, looking to perhaps promote the movie further, Bloom took part in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in Laguna Niguel.

Bloom’s interview on the forum was moderated by Fortune’s Pattie Sellers, who didn’t shy away from the tough questions. Sellers asked about Bloom’s motivation for getting into the underground world of poker and Bloom, to her credit, didn’t shy away either. “The motivations I had for being successful were somewhat dysfunctional,” Bloom started. “If you weren’t the best in the world in my family, it wasn’t impressive. I was looking for this thing that was going to make me feel fulfilled inside.”

That led Bloom, as most of the poker world knows, into hosting some of the highest stakes cash games in California and New York. Along with having the crème of Hollywood’s elite at her tables, including actors, directors, stockbrokers, hedge fund managers and other businessmen, Bloom oversaw millions of dollars that she earned. “In 2009, my tax returns showed over $ 4 million,” Bloom commented to Sellers.

It would also have its downside. “I didn’t have the traditional resource to collect on debts,” Bloom stated, meaning the ability to strong arm those who didn’t pay their debts. “One night, I saw someone lose $ 100 million.” This led to Bloom starting to take a rake from the games (“That’s where I crossed that little gray line,” she noted) and bullying from the Russian mob (who wanted a cut of her New York game or see that it ended). It also saw Bloom get into the vices of drugs and alcohol.

Sellers gets right to the point at the end of the forum interview. What was it that did Bloom in? Sellers lists off the usual suspects – greed, ambition, naivete – and Bloom responded truthfully. “I think it was all those things. I was in way too deep.” If there was a bright side to the situation, Bloom felt that she had found her footing as a businesswoman in a field that is utterly dominated by men. “I was (not an) object of desire,” she ends her discussion with Sellers by saying. “I was someone who let them have their money to play the game – or I didn’t.”

As stated earlier, premieres and screenings of Molly’s Game have been well received by the movie industry. Currently the website Rotten Tomatoes has a 95% freshness rating on the film after 37 reviews. There has also been talk about Academy Award nominations for Bloom’s portrayer in the film, actress Jessica Chastain, for the male lead in the film Idris Elba (who plays Bloom’s attorney) and for Sorkin’s adaptation of the film from Bloom’s book.

With Bloom offering more background into her life as THE biggest poker organizer in the game, she certainly is building interest in the film. Molly’s Game is set to premiere in wide release on December 22 (Christmas weekend), which would qualify it for this year’s Academy Awards (and others’) consideration. While it may not be the “poker movie” that most in the poker community want, it seems that the general public thinks it will be the “poker movie” they want to see.

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Northern California Casino Penalized by FinCEN for Ignoring Anti-Money Laundering Laws

 Northern California Casino Penalized by FinCEN for Ignoring Anti Money Laundering Laws

Wherever there is money, there is the potential for trouble. And A LOT of money circulates at casinos every day. As such, casinos are required to hyper aware of what is happening on their premises and must have procedures in place to report anything suspicious. Apparently, the 100-plus year old Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno, Calfornia, has been extremely lax in this regard for about the past decade and was recently hit with an $ 8 million civil money penalty by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for “willfully” violating anti-money laundering laws.

This is not to say that the casino, its ownership, or its management actually engaged in money laundering themselves – there would be much more trouble if that was the case – but rather allowed such activities to go on in the casino. And it was worse than just being negligent; according to FinCEN, management and staff saw financial crimes being committed on the casino floor and did nothing about it.

“For years, Artichoke Joe’s turned a blind eye to loan sharking, suspicious transfers of high-value gaming chips, and flagrant criminal activity that occurred in plain sight. FinCEN’s $ 8 million civil penalty results from the card club’s failure to establish adequate internal controls and its willful violations of the Bank Secrecy Act,” said Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director of FinCEN, in a press release.

“Casinos, card clubs and others in the gaming industry should consider their risk of exploitation by criminal elements, and understand that they will be held accountable if they disregard anti-money laundering and illicit finance laws,” he continued. “This significant action highlights the need for all entities, including those in the gaming industry, to build a robust culture of compliance into their policies and procedures to ensure they are not facilitating illicit activities.”

The violation of anti-money laundering laws had been going on from October 2009 through November 2017. During that time, two customers were arrested and convicted for loan sharking and other crimes in the casino; they were apprehended in a raid on Artichoke Joe’s by both state and federal law enforcement.

“AJC senior-level employees knew that loan-sharks were conducting criminal activity through the card club and using AJC gaming chips to facilitate illegal transactions,” FinCEN stated in the press release. “Nonetheless, AJC failed to file any Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on this activity. For example, there were several instances in which loan-sharks provided AJC chips to customers on the gaming floor within plain sight of AJC employees.”

I mean, really?

And that was just one notable instance of Artichoke Joe’s not giving a shit about the law. The casino didn’t have procedures in place to keep track of players “co-mingling” their bets, a practice which aids in disguising the source of funds, i.e. money laundering.

There were also no reporting procedures in place for prop players or staff to report suspicious activity. Basically, nothing ever got reported, whether it was loan sharking on the casino floor, players pooling big bets, or people making massive cashouts when they never exchanged money chips originally or even gambled at all.

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