Archive for December, 2017

Vanessa Selbst Announces “Retirement” From Poker

 Vanessa Selbst Announces “Retirement” From Poker

Everyone is looking for a fresh start when it comes to a New Year. For some, it is dropping a bad habit, such as smoking or cutting down on eating to drop some weight. For others, it is doing something different within the career they are pursuing or, in some cases, a change to a career course. On this New Year’s Eve, we can jot longtime Team PokerStars Pro and top flight poker professional Vanessa Selbst in the latter category.

In a lengthy announcement on her Facebook page, Selbst let her followers know that she was “moving on from my career as a professional poker player.” While admitting that poker has “given me so much over the last 12 years…It has been intellectually challenging, exhilarating, fun, and extremely rewarding,” she also admits that there are several reasons that she’s leaving. To that, Selbst states that it is “a number of factors, big and small,” that have brought her to this decision.

“The most obvious reason is that Black Friday has meant that, in order to do this job professionally, you either had to move out of the country or travel 90% of the time,” Selbst explained. “That was really fun for a period of time in my life, but as my late 20s turned into my early 30s and my priorities changed toward building a stable home and community and starting a family, the constant travel is no longer tenable.”

“Secondly, I don’t feel good about promoting poker as an ambassador anymore (I can’t tell amateurs they should come play online and it’s beatable for them when I don’t feel like it’s true),” Selbst wrote. “Lastly, whether because poker got more competitive or because we got older (or likely some combination of the two), poker recently turned into a real job…I had never treated the game that way–I always kept a very light poker schedule–I showed up and played for fun and did other projects back home as my “real work.” The shift in the nature of poker and what it requires put me at a crossroads and asked the question of me whether I would rather change my relationship to the game or move on.”

While Selbst may be giving up the rigors of the tournament poker grind, it isn’t like she’ll be stepping off and teaching law somewhere (Selbst does have a legal degree). “My next career I’m giving a shot is at a hedge fund,” Selbst declares. “I’m doing trading research and strategy. I’ve actually already been there for almost four months now, and the environment feels a lot like poker did back in the day – a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to try to beat our opponents at a game…It’s exhausting, exciting and completely humbling every single day.”

Selbst is quick to remind folks that her “retirement” doesn’t mean she’ll never step to the felt again. “Whatever happens with my next career, I know that I’ll never truly stop playing poker (just ask Fedor Holz what happens when you retire)!” Selbst concludes. “Seriously though, I will always love the game and the people in it and I’m so thankful for everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve experienced. So with that, so long, and thanks for all the fish!

Selbst retires as one of the greatest female players ever to grace the green baize. Beginning in 2006 when she finished in seventh place in a $ 2000 No Limit Hold’em event at the World Series of Poker, Selbst cashed in 84 tournaments around the world. The highlights of those endeavors was winning a World Series of Poker bracelet in 2008 in a $ 1500 Pot Limit Omaha tournament,  a major title on the now-defunct Partouche Poker Tour for a $ 1.8 million score and a $ 750,000 championship victory on the now-defunct North American Poker Tour at Mohegan Sun. Her most recent cash was in the Ladies’ Championship at the 2017 WSOP, which brought her career earnings to $ 11,851,384. That amount is first among female professionals and ranks her 41st in the all-time tournament earnings regardless of gender.

It is always disappointing to see someone who is quite talented walk away from the game, but one of the charms of poker is you can come back at any point in time. Here’s wishing Selbst the best of luck in the difficult hedge fund management world and that we see here “moonlighting” as a poker player soon!

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Stunning Late Season Move Puts Adrian Mateos Over Bryn Kenney in Player of the Year Races

 Stunning Late Season Move Puts Adrian Mateos Over Bryn Kenney in Player of the Year Races

In a stunning, late season move that is similar to what occurred last year, Spanish poker professional Adrian Mateos has used a surge of success at the tables to pass the man who has led virtually since the start of the year, Bryn Kenney, in the Player of the Year races in tournament poker.

Mateos began the month of December in fourth place on the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year leaderboard behind Kenney and it seemed that he was going to have a tough time catching the leader. Not only did he have to climb over two people to even reach Kenney, Mateos had to make up roughly 2000 points to even have a chance at equaling Kenney. But that is exactly what Mateos has done, utilizing the final PokerStars Championship event to do it.

After finishing off November by winning the $ 5000 Eight Handed No Limit Hold’em tournament at the Caribbean Poker Party, Mateos went on a run in December that was stunning. Beginning at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Mateos earned three final table finishes, but he wasn’t done yet. Flying back to Europe for the PSC Prague (which would turn out to be the final event ever on that circuit), Mateos earned four more cashes, three final tables and two tournaments that earned him POY points. By the end of December, Mateos had totaled up 2118 points to pass Kenney and take over first place.

It wasn’t like Kenney didn’t try to maintain his lead. He picked up 105 points for a seventh-place finish in the $ 25,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament on the WPT Five Diamond schedule, but it wasn’t enough to ward off the invading Spaniard. As of December 30 (and barring any last-minute finishes), Mateos and his 7220 points will earn the CardPlayer POY over Kenney’s 7173 points.

The remainder of the Top Ten on the CardPlayer list were seemingly OK with where they finished on the end-of-year rankings as they didn’t make a serious drive upwards. Fedor Holz, the runner-up in 2016 (more on this in a minute) will finish in the third-place slot in 2017, earning 5875 points (and more than $ 6.3 million) to hold off Koray Aldemir (5510) in fourth place. Justin Bonomo used a steady stream of cashes in the Five Diamond $ 25K tournaments to ease into fifth place (5411), while 2016 Player of the Year David Peters (5034), Stephen Chidwick (4912), Jason Koon (4859), Steffen Sontheimer (4782) and Benjamin Pollak (4660) round out the sixth through tenth places, respectively.

Mateos’ late season surge also saw him eclipse Kenney on the Global Poker Index Player of the Year race. Much like the CardPlayer ladder, Mateos was in fifth place to start the month on the GPI board with plenty of space for his numbers to rise (under the GPI rankings, only the 13 best finishes for a player, utilizing a complex calculating system, are counted towards the rankings). Of the seven cashes that Mateos had, five of them improved his 13-tournament total. That 1051.36 increase was enough to push him over the top.

As of December 30, Mateos has the top slot on the GPI POY with a total of 3504.71, while Kenney had to stand pat on his 3478.06 points because his effort at the Five Diamond didn’t knock off one of his 13 prior finishes. Chidwick also climbed a bit during the month of December, moving into third place (3247.43) over Peters (3244.62). Dan Smith, who won the $ 100,000 Super High Roller at the Five Diamond and picked up some more points in another $ 25K event, jumped up to fifth place (3235.92) to conclude 2017.

Rounding out the Top Ten on the GPI POY are Ari Engel (3206.87), Holz (3172.03), Koon (3138.27), Nick Petrangelo (3133.46) and Stefan Schillhabel (3123.39) in the sixth through tenth positions.

The final month of 2017 is remarkable in its similarity to what happened last year. In 2016, Holz dominated the POY races all season long before, in a last-minute rush, Peters was able to pass Holz and take away both POY titles. If Kenney doesn’t find a poker tournament between now and Monday, he will fall victim to the same late-season lightning strike that hit Holz in 2016, only this time at the hands of Mateos.

The end of season rush by Mateos also demonstrates one of the problems that the ranking systems haven’t been able to overcome. Of the eight tournaments (counting the Caribbean tournament) that Mateos played to overcome Kenney, four of them were High Roller events with a buy in over $ 25,000. Without those high-dollar tournaments (which add more points due to their buy-in but offer fewer obstacles in the number of players), it is unlikely that Mateos would have even gotten within sniffing distance of Kenney, who himself built the massive lead he had through primarily playing High Roller events (of his 29 cashes in 2017, 25 of them were in tournaments with more than a $ 25K buy-in).

Hopefully the CardPlayer and Global Poker Index rankings will find a way to deal with the far too numerous High Roller and Super High Roller events in 2018 (limiting the number of cashes from such events might be a good start). For 2017, however, the ink is almost dry as Adrian Mateos looks to become one of the youngest, if not THE youngest, player (23) to ever capture the awards in the two predominant Player of the Year races.

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2017 Year in Review: The Tournament Poker Scene

 2017 Year in Review: The Tournament Poker Scene

If you’ve looked at a calendar lately, then you know that it is the completion of another “trip around the sun,” as Jimmy Buffett famously put it. It is a time of reflection and examination of the future, so let’s get to the reflection part of the equation. In 2017, there were some great tournament moments, a popular pro who had some difficulties in the courts, and a World Champion who believes he’s ready for retirement. Without further ado, here’s a few highlights from the tournament poker scene.

The PokerStars Championships…Wait, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (Again)

At the start of January, poker players headed the Bahamas, but there were changes in the air and they all wouldn’t be for good. Instead of heading to Atlantis for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, online poker’s best and, in some case, luckiest players were met with the PokerStars Championship Bahamas, the replacement for the PCA, and the new PokerStars Championships Series, replacing the European Poker Tour. The name change of the long running tournament wasn’t the only facelift that players found once they landed on Paradise Island.

To start with, the ten days of poker action was just a little more active than players really liked. Amaya Gaming and PokerStars officials SCHEDULED 90 TOURNAMENTS for the span of the schedule, basically averaging about nine tournaments a day, not counting those in their Day Two proceedings. Many of those on the ground felt this was overkill. Add on the lack of other amenities that once made the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure one of the jewels of the tournament poker world such as player parties, SWAG and other VIP treatment and many players left the Bahamas saying they would never return.

The other events on the PokerStars Championships schedule featured tournaments that weren’t well attended, forcing The Stars Group (the renamed Amaya Gaming) to rethink its strategy. By the time the PokerStars Championships reached Prague in December, the decision had been made to bring back the old PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the EPT monikers. While those are popular moves, it remains to be seen if, in a crowded tournament circuit arena, that the players will come back to the PCA and the EPT.

I’m World Champion – Now What?

First off, the officials at the World Series of Poker made one of the biggest (and arguably best) moves of the year in ending the decade-long “November Nine” format. For the first time since 2007, the WSOP Championship Event was played straight through, with only a two-day break once the final table was determined. A sizeable contingent of the poker world widely praised that move and, in an unprecedented three-night event, the final nine played down to a champion who now could be considering retirement.

Eventual champion Scott Blumstein used a big double up through then-chip leader (and beloved amateur and grandfather) John Hesp to basically skate his way to the World Championship. Entering the final night of the tournament, he dominated Benjamin Pollak and Dan Ott, vanquishing Ott in heads-up play to capture poker’s World Championship and an $ 8.15 million payday.

Since winning poker’s greatest tournament, Blumstein has been making the rounds of the tournament poker world, but he admits that it doesn’t have the same draw as it did previously. In an interview with CardPlayer Magazine, Blumstein said he feels he’s “kind of beat the game of poker” and that there “aren’t many other goals that I can come up with right now.” While stopping short of saying he would completely quit the game, Blumstein said he is entertaining what to do with his life – and some of what he talks about aren’t poker related – post-WSOP.

It’s Tough to Be Phil Ivey

Normally anyone would give their right arm to become Phil Ivey. The ten-time WSOP bracelet winner and high stakes gambler travels the world, earning a great deal of money (from appearances) and basically betting huge stacks of money on anything. But there was one room in 2017 that Ivey found he couldn’t beat – the courtroom.

In a major decision this summer, the British Supreme Court found in favor of Crockfords, a high-end London casino, in a dispute between Ivey and the casino. Despite saying that Ivey didn’t cheat, the Court did decide that he “deceived” the casino as he won around £7.8 million (roughly $ 11 million) and that the casino did not have to pay him his winnings. After losing another case in New Jersey, where it was also concluded that Ivey’s tactics were illegal and ordered him to repay over $ 10 million, Ivey is out roughly $ 21 million. Perhaps that is the reason that Ivey, who has been a ghost on the tournament poker scene for several years, says he will be returning to the circuit in the coming year.

Anyone Got a Spare $ 25,000…$ 50,000…$ 100,000 Laying Around?

In 2017, tournament poker was put on steroids by the number of High Roller and Super High Roller events that were a part of the circuit. Usually with buy-ins from $ 25,000 to $ 100,000, these tournaments were normally well outside the budget of the average poker player. As such, these events also became the primary domain of many well-heeled players (or, some would accuse, a group of players pooling money and reaping the rewards) who were vying for the different Poker Player of the Year awards.

Bryn Kenney was the leader of many of these awards for nearly all of 2017. While there is no doubt as to the skill of Kenney, the man didn’t play the WSOP at all in 2017 and, coming to the final week of 2017, is still in the lead (or near it) in those POY races…how? Kenney has primarily played the high dollar tournaments; in the entirety of his 2017 record, only four of his 29 cashes in 2017 was in tournaments with lower than a $ 25,000 buy in.

Should tournament poker be the domain of the nobility of the poker world? Part of the charm of the game is that the Average Joe can take down even the best in the game on the right day. By secluding themselves off in the High Roller world, they’re not exactly taking on all comers. Perhaps the ranking systems will find a way to drag these players (Kenney is far from the only one who does this) into the Main Arena but, until they do, their performances must be viewed with a bit of a jaded eye.

There were plenty of other occurrences during the year…what were some of your choices for the best in tournament poker for 2017?

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Bitcoin Poker Site Betcoin Poker Closes

 Bitcoin Poker Site Betcoin Poker Closes

Betcoin.ag, an online gambling site that was one of the first to deal exclusively in cyber currency, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum, closed its poker room on Christmas day. The online casino and sportsbooks are still active.

The use of Bitcoin – and later other cyber currencies – started getting popular in the online poker world a few years ago (Betcoin.ag launched in 2014). Free of centralized bank control and perhaps more importantly, government regulation, Bitcoin has been used as a way for poker players to get their funds to and from online poker sites without worrying about sketchy payment processors and various workarounds.

The extreme runup in the value of Bitcoin – as well as its volatility – has caused some problems, though. Transaction costs have soared; it could cost a player $ 20 or more just to deposit $ 20 worth of Bitcoin. Rake at some sites has also skyrocketed, though some, like SwCPoker, have been proactive about lowering it. And the volatility can quite literally make someone lose money while they win at poker. Granted, a sharp drop in Bitcoin’s value would cause someone to lose money regardless of whether or not their Bitcoin was tied up in a poker room, but it could still result in the crypto currency being an unattractive funding method for players.

None of this is to say that the recent Bitcoin insanity has anything to do with Betcoin shutting down its poker room. Betcoin’s official reason is that it has been acquired by another company/site. We don’t know who purchased Betcoin, nor do we even know who owned it in the first place. It is one of the most mysterious poker sites on the internet.

Betcoin Poker might not really be missed, either. Players have had many problems with the site, stemming from allegedly shady activities by management. One incident that got publicity in the poker community was when Betcoin busted a collusion ring, but rather than banning the cheaters and giving funds back to the victims, Betcoin only gave some of the money back, using the rest to fund a freeroll. The cheaters were also allowed to keep playing on the site “under a strict watchful eye” and were permitted to keep some of the money.

The beginning of Betcoin’s farewell statement is as follows:

Betcoin.ag has been acquired and we regret to inform you that the new Betcoin will be discontinuing its poker service as of Monday, December 25, 2017. There are lots of fond memories to look back upon including the Betcoin Cage, the Daily Coin and hundreds of Bitcoin awarded in freerolls. We enjoyed posting about the achievements of our many players who hit it big with wins in major tournaments. But most of all, we have truly enjoyed providing a home to our great poker players these last 3+years. Betcoin poker hasn’t been just a place to play, but a community filled with unique individuals. The dynamic has been almost like a family, in that we loved, we fought, sometimes even dined together (virtually). While this is a big disappointment to us all, we hope to continue that type of camaraderie going forward as Betcoin moves into its next chapter.

The site reiterated that the casino and sportsbook are going nowhere and that player accounts there will not be affected.

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New York Governor Approves Credit Card, Internet Sales for Charitable Raffles

 New York Governor Approves Credit Card, Internet Sales for Charitable Raffles

It’s not online poker, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to little fanfare a week and a half ago that allows charities to accept credit and debit cards for raffles as well as sell raffle tickets over the internet. The “Charitable Gaming Act of 2017” was introduced in February and passed both the House and Senate in June. Cuomo vetoed a similar bill last year and it came as a surprise to many when he gave his seal of approval to this one.

When one thinks of charity raffles, one often thinks of churches or schools. The driving force behind the efforts to get this law passed, though, was the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, and specifically its nonprofit arm, the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. The Sabres run a “50/50” raffle at every home game (41 of them per year, not counting playoffs) in which fans in attendance can buy raffle tickets with cash. The winner of the raffle receives 50 percent of the pot, with the other half going to the Foundation for its charitable causes.

According to the Buffalo News, the Foundation raised $ 1.1 million from 50/50 sales last year (it also holds the raffle at Buffalo Bandits lacrosse games), a number which made up more than half of the money it raised from all events.

Rich Jureller, president of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, was very pleased about the new law, telling the Buffalo News, “It’s really going to create a lot of opportunities for us and any charity that wants to use new technology and new rules we have.”

One of the problems the Sabres have had with the 50/50 is that tickets could only be purchased with cash. The Charitable Gaming Act of 2017 will allow debit and credit card purchases, giving fans more options.

“It should certainly help us sell more tickets. And I’d imagine someone with $ 5 in cash would want to spend $ 10 [with a card],” Jureller said.

And of course, being able to expand sales to the internet could boost charitable raffles even more. The Buffalo Sabres Foundation imagines fans just pulling out their smartphones while at the games and buying raffle tickets as a matter of convenience. Fans watching the games on television could also participate.

The new law will take effect in six months. At that time, charities can begin advertising raffles online (and via newspaper, magazine, and other physical means, as well) and take debit and credit card sales over the internet.

The bill itself does not stipulate where raffle ticket buyers must be located, but it sounds like there will be some limitations. According to the Buffalo News piece, Senator Patrick Gallivan said that online sales will be restricted to customers local to the charitable organization. The Sabres, though, “believe it can sell online to people in Erie County and eight surrounding counties, except to people who are buying tickets while located in any locality that might ban the online sales.”

A spokesman for the state’s Gaming Commission said that the New York’s raffle law states that “charities can sell raffle tickets outside its premises provided local governments have OK’d such games of chance within their jurisdictions. Those sales can occur in the county in which the charity is located or in contiguous counties only if the charity has been gotten a raffle-selling license from those localities.”

Everything will be ironed out as the Gaming Commission determines the regulations over the next six months.

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