Archive for December, 2017

2017 PokerStars Championship Prague Day 2 – Paul Michaelis Holds Lead, Money Bubble Up Next

 2017 PokerStars Championship Prague Day 2 – Paul Michaelis Holds Lead, Money Bubble Up Next

The final “big” tournament on the 2017 calendar, the PokerStars Championship Prague, has completed its second day at the Casino Atrium Prague. While the leaderboard may be a bit bereft of top pros, there is a fairly heated battle for first place as Paul Michaelis’ 630,500 chip stack hold the edge over Omid Mojaverian (597,500) and Erik Walfridsson (536,500).

409 players returned on Thursday to work the field down more from the 848 runners who originally started the event. Local favorite Michal Mrakes held the edge with 202,700 chips to start the day. He was followed up by Day 1B chip leader Tsugunari Toma (181,600) and Xixiang Luo (174,900), but down the leaderboard were some more notable players. Defending World Series of Poker Europe Main Event champion Marti Roca De Torres (170,900), former “November Niner” and Czech poker legend Martin Staszko (133,100) and several PokerStars Team Pros headed by Marcin Horecki (110,400).

With the schedule set for six levels of 75-minutes each, there was plenty of chances for play amongst the horde of players remaining. There was also the chance at getting to the money bubble as, after the final entries were accepted and tallied up, 127 players would walk off with a cash from their trip to the Czech Republic. €8700 would be earned for a min-cash by those at the bottom of the table, with the top seven finishers all guaranteed a six-figure payday. All wanted the top prize, however, which came in at €775,000 when the final numbers were calculated.

As usual at the start of a new day, there were a flurry of early knockouts from players on the short stack looking to double up quick. Stefan Schillhabel, Stephen Chidwick, Gaelle Baumann, Tom Middleton, Christoph Vogelsang, Manig Loeser and Sylvain Loosli were all out of the event within the first two levels. But a couple of players bore watching as they made their moves during the day.

Noted psychologist/writer Dr. Maria Konnikova, who has been pursuing poker over the past year as part of a book she is researching, was all in and got a double up through Guillaume Pau Davy when her A-10 caught against his pocket Jacks on a 7-6-3-A-Q board. She then turned around and nearly doubled again against Hari Bercovici when, on an all-hearts board, she was able to induce Bercovici to come along with her to the river where her J played. By the end of the night’s action, the good Dr. Konnikova had held onto enough chips to move onto Day 3 as a very short stack.

Michaelis slowly was making a decent chip stack until one of the final hands of the night catapulted him into the lead. After raising pre-flop, Michaelis saw Romain Lewis three-bet him to 20K. After a couple of moments, Michaelis made the call and the twosome saw a 9-6-5 rainbow flop that both checked. After a four came on the turn, Michaelis popped another bet into the center, this time for 33K, and Lewis made the call. The river paired with another four, which seemed innocent but set off the fireworks.

Michaelis moved all in, forcing Lewis to a decision for his tournament life. With 115,000 chips in front of him (still a strong stack to head to Day 3 with), Lewis thought for a good amount of time before the clock was called on him. As the clock clicked down, Lewis eventually made the call and was unfortunately on the wrong side of the decision. Michaelis’ pocket fives have flopped a set and rivered a boat as Lewis could only muster a 7 6 for two pair.

That hand thrust Michaelis into the lead with 635,000 in chips and, by the end of the night, it was good enough to hold the overall lead:

1. Paul Michaelis, 630,500
2. Omid Mojaverian, 597,500
3. Erik Walfridsson, 536,500
4. Boris Kolev, 510,500
5. Daniel Barriocanal, 504,000
6. Dimitrios Kalaroutis, 417,000
7. Paraschos Stavridis, 414,000
8. Fatima Moreira de Melo, 406,000
9. Kalidou Sow, 405,000
10. Robert Heidorn, 394,500

140 players will return on Friday afternoon to the Casino Atrium Prague, where the first order of business will be to pop the money bubble. 13 players will walk into the Prague afternoon tomorrow with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts, which should make for a very tense early couple of hours in the tournament. Once those 127 lucky souls are determined, the €4.1 million-plus prize pool will begin to get carved up as the latest winners on the PokerStars Championship circuit are determined.

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2018 WSOP Schedule Released

 2018 WSOP Schedule Released

The 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) schedule was released Tuesday, unveiling a slate that will run May 29th through July 17th. There will be 78 gold bracelet events, an increase of four from this year.

$ 10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship, best known as the Main Event, will begin Monday, July 2nd with the first of three starting flights. Like this year, when the tournament gets to Day 3 with a merged field (there will be multiple Day 2 flights, as usual), it will continue to run every day until its conclusion without a break. In previous years, the tournament paused when the nine-handed final table was determined, reconvening in November with the “November Nine.” This year was the first time in a decade that the November Nine format was discarded.

Historically, the Main Event has been the final tournament of the World Series of Poker, though sometimes there are some final, lesser events running simultaneous to the Main Event. In 2018, a dozen tournaments will actually begin after the start of the Main Event, including the Little One for One Drop and the Big One for One Drop.

Like this year, ESPN and PokerGO will provide live coverage, the former broadcasting on television, the latter online. The complete broadcast schedule will be released at a later date; we would expect the live final table (with a 30-minute delay) will be shown in its entirety on the ESPN family of networks as well as the WatchESPN app, but just as things changed last year with the partnership of PokerGO, you never know if there will be a surprise in store for 2018.

There are nine new events in 2018 and five events have been deleted from the schedule (thus creating the net-four difference from 2017). In a press release, the WSOP listed those additions, with removals noted:

1. $ 10,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em (replaces the $ 10k Tag Team)
2. $ 100,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em (new addition)
3. $ 365 PLO GIANT (replaces a $ 1,000 No-Limit Hold’em)
4. $ 1,000 DOUBLE STACK No-Limit Hold’em (10,000 starting chips) (replaces a $ 1,000 No-Limit Hold’em)
5. $ 565 WSOP.com ONLINE Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed (new addition)
6. $ 1,500 BOUNTY Pot-Limit Omaha (replaces a $ 1,500 No-Limit Hold’em)
7. $ 1,000 DOUBLE-STACK No-Limit Hold’em (30-minute levels) (replaces a $ 1,500 No-Limit Hold’em)
8. $ 1,500 THE CLOSER No-Limit Hold’em (15,000 starting chips, 30-minute levels) (new addition)
9. $ 50,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em (new addition)

The million-dollar buy-in Big One for One Drop is the final event on the WSOP schedule, running July 15th through July 17th. If you want to see a bunch of rich people play poker – or really good poker players who know some rich people – that’s the place to be.

There will be four online bracelet events, played in their entirety on WSOP.com Nevada. There were three last year; the addition is a six-handed Pot-Limit Omaha event.

While the schedule has been released, the WSOP has not published the tournament structures yet. Tournament organizers advise Main Event players to be sure to check the tournament structure each day of the event, as times may be altered to make for a better television/internet broadcast.

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Online Gambling Bill Makes It Through Michigan House Committee

 Online Gambling Bill Makes It Through Michigan House Committee

A bill to legalize online gambling passed through a Michigan House of Representatives committee Wednesday and though it will be nearly impossible for it to advance any further during this legislative session, there is some hope for the next.

The Bill, House Bill 4926, was introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden three months ago. He told Online Poker Report (OPR) in October that he wanted to see it pass the House by Thanksgiving.

“Throughout the month of October, I’m hoping to gain a lot of headway,” Iden told OPR. “If I had my way, we’ll be able to get everyone to the table and put a bill together and through the House before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll see how achievable it is, but that’s my goal.”

Well, it clearly wasn’t achievable, as it only just now made it through a committee and the legislative session is about to end. The good news, though, is that in Michigan, bills can carry over to the next session, so Iden will not have to start from scratch.

The bill stipulates that prospective online gambling operators would be required to pay a $ 100,000 licensing application fee. If granted a five-year license, the fee for the first year would be $ 200,000 and then $ 100,000 each year thereafter.

In October, Iden told OPR that the biggest challenge was arguably getting all of the state’s tribes and the three commercial casinos to all agree on the legislation. Lawmakers could always go ahead and vote for bills without the blessing of all the stakeholders, but is generally a good idea to get those who may be operating the gaming sites to be onboard.

“They’re constantly looking to expand their operations with new gamers. They realize they have generations of gamers that are going to be looking at new platforms, and if they don’t get on board they will miss bus,” Iden said to OPR.

For this Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee vote, Iden said that the committee did meet with stakeholders the day before in order to discuss the bill. The three commercial casinos – Greektown, MGM Detroit, and Motor City – all now apparently support the legislation when they did not previously (they supported legalized online gambling, just not the bill as written.

As first reported on Twitter by Gambling Compliance’s Chris Krafcik, there were two main amendments to the bill in committee. The first requires gaming servers to be located on the property of a licensed casino. Krafcik says this is important because it may put online gambling in sync with the Michigan constitution, which says that gambling must take place at a casino. Having the servers at a casino theoretically means that online gambling is occurring at the casino, in essence a new gaming offering by existing licensed operators, rather than an expansion of gambling.

The other change is an adjustment to the tax rate. The amended bill says licensees must pay a tax of 10 percent on gross gaming revenue, down from 15 percent previously.

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Massive NFL Survivor Pool Shut Down by Feds

 Massive NFL Survivor Pool Shut Down by Feds

I know sports betting is illegal in most of the United States, but dammit, it still really grinds my gears when a sports betting or betting-related enterprise, event, or site that otherwise isn’t hurting anyone gets busted. That’s what happened last week when federal agents shut down Ron & Mike’s Football Pool, seizing money and the business’s documentation.

First reported by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Ron & Mike’s Football Pool had been run by Ron Kronengold and Mike Bernstein for at least eight years. It was an online “survivor pool,” in which participants picked one NFL team to win each week. If that team wins, the participant moves on to the next week. If the team loses, the player is done in the contest. The big catch is that a player cannot choose the same team more than once.

These types of pools are common, both online (ESPN.com has one called the Eliminator Challenge) and among friends or in the workplace. They are a fun way to get a sweat during the NFL week and not only require at least a some sort of skill in picking a winner, but also to strategize picks, knowing you can’t just pick the team with the best matchup every week.

But Ron and Mike, based out of New York, ran their pool online for real money. If they did not take a rake from the entry fees, this would not be illegal in the state, so it is still a bit of a mystery why their site was shut down or what charges they might eventually be facing. According to ESPN.com, there was nothing in the contest rules that said the site was getting a cut.

That said, there was a lot of money involved, with total prizes this season estimated to be more than $ 2.5 million. ESPN reports that there were two pools initially this NFL season, each with a maximum of 10,000 entries at $ 100 apiece. Because of their popularity, a $ 200 “second chance” pool was created. A $ 100 mid-season pool and a $ 500 high-roller pool were also available. There were more than 23,000 entries across all of the pools.

Ron and Mike clearly didn’t hide the pool, as players could register at ronandmike.com (the URL is no longer active) and Kronengold himself received a trademark on the name “Ron & Mike’s” in 2012. At the same time, they only took cash for entry fees and players had to mail it to “Green River” at a Plainview, New York UPS Store P.O. Box.

Players who were still alive in the pools received a communication from Ron & Mike’s which read:

Please be advised that the Ron and Mike website has been forced to shut down at this time and is unlikely to open again. We understand your frustration and anger at this time but closure of the pool is beyond our control. We apologize to those that are still alive in our various pools and we ask for your patience and understanding while we contemplate the next steps. Unfortunately at this time we cannot make any additional comments.

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Grand Poker Network Unavailable for Over a Month

 Grand Poker Network Unavailable for Over a Month

When people – lawmakers, in particular – argue against regulating online gambling, point them to stories like this to show them why it is needed. Lightly trafficked online poker network, the Grand Poker Network, has been offline for about five weeks without any real indication as to when – or even if – it will be back up and running. There may be a happy ending to come, but right now, things don’t look particularly good for the network’s players.

The Grand Poker Network is not a household name in poker. It is comprised of just a few sites: Grand Poker (also known as Dragon Room), VietBet.eu, 5Dimes.eu, Island Casino, and SportBet. Even when it was up, PokerScout listed it with fewer than 40 cash game players on most occasions.

According to ProfessionalRakeback.com, players began having trouble connecting to the network on November 5th, 2017. Conversations with customer service resulted in varied reasons for the issue: the network was down for maintenance, the network was switching servers and updating its software, or even that the network was closing.

Indications when trying to login were that the network and/or software was being “upgraded,” but those upgrades never arrived. This week, ProfessionalRakeback.com had a brief online chat with a customer support rep from VietBet, who said that the network would be returning, but other than that, had no information to offer.

One of the interesting things in this situation, as ProfessionalRakeback.com points out, is that the Grand Poker Network was founded by 5Dimes, which itself is a highly respected online sportsbook (it operates other gaming sites, but it is most known for its sportsbook). So the fact that this Grand Poker Network saga has been going on for over a month is quite strange.

It is almost certain that 5Dimes is losing money on the poker room and possibly on the network as a whole. Why 5Dimes started the network is unknown, but it could have been as an honest attempt to develop another revenue/profit stream, or simply as a loss leader, a way to expose poker players to its flagship sports betting business. The latter tends to work the other way around: sports books launch online poker rooms, trying to draw sports bettors over to the poker tables. This way, the site can keep more of its customers’ money – someone who wins in the sportsbook may take the winnings over to the poker room and win or lose, the site generates rake from the winnings it paid the customer on the sports side.

I suspect the poker room/network was a genuine attempt at another revenue stream, as using it as a loss leader doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. 5Dimes has a well-established sportsbook, so pulling a handful of poker players over to sports betting wouldn’t be worth the expense and effort of developing a new poker room and/or poker network.

The fear among poker players on the Grand Poker Network right now is probably that the network is going to disappear with their money and is just stringing them along right now while management figures out how to best remove themselves from view. But we don’t know that to be the case – especially because of the reputation of 5Dimes – so unfortunately, everyone is just going to have to stand by until further developments reveal themselves.

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