Archive for January, 2018

Spain and France Combine Online Poker Player Pools, PokerStars First Site Onboard

 Spain and France Combine Online Poker Player Pools, PokerStars First Site Onboard

Spain and France are no longer going it alone in the online poker space, as they have taken a bolt cutter to their chain-link ring fences and now share online poker liquidity. As everyone expected, PokerStars became the first online poker room on Tuesday to merge the player pools of the two countries.

The announcement of the shared liquidity deal came in July. In addition to Spain and France, Italy and Portugal were also in on the agreement to merge their online poker player pools. The original hope was to get the shared liquidity done by the end of 2017, but a couple weeks into 2018 isn’t too bad.

Portugal is expected to get onboard in the near future (though Portuguese officials have been fairly quiet on the matter), but Italy’s participation is actually up in the air at this point, despite last year’s announcement. According to a November report from CasinoNewsDaily.com, Italy, at least at that point, had yet to even open the bidding process for shared liquidity licenses. The application process was supposed to have begun in September.

In the meantime, Spain and France are a go, and this is clearly important because player liquidity is of vital importance to online poker rooms. Online casinos can get by with smaller player populations since the players are not competing against each other. It is just fine if there is only one person at a blackjack table (in fact, most players would probably prefer to play alone), but a poker room with sparsely populated tables will have trouble surviving.

There is a reason why small poker rooms have a hard time growing. Think about it. If you download the software of a tiny poker room, logon, and see only a handful of active tables, each with just two or three players, would you want to deposit and sit down? If you are a tournament player, would you want a lobby full of small prize pool tournaments with fewer than 20 players each or Sit-and-Go’s that take forever to fill up? No, probably not. On top of that, there is a good chance that those that are actually playing there will leave because the games are just so bad.

Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal have all be able to maintain their solo poker industries, but results have been underwhelming. Chief Operating Officer of Stars Interactive Group Guy Templer is confident that the new shared liquidity environment will benefit everyone:

This will be great for players and great for the poker category. The French and Spanish regulators have done an excellent job in enabling a dramatic improvement in the gaming experience in their jurisdictions. Now French and Spanish players can access a larger player pool with bigger prizes, promotions and a better selection of games, all with the confidence provided by a trusted, licensed operator.

Having a strong, competitive regulated offering – which comes from combining player pools – has proven to be attractive to consumers who might otherwise be choosing to play on un-licensed and potentially un-safe sites. We’re looking forward to extending this to Italian and Portuguese players, and offer our full support to the relevant authorities in those countries to do so. In particular, we would encourage Italy to resume their drive toward shared liquidity which after a good start has recently slowed considerably.

PokerStars will also use its Seat Me table seating system in the new joint offering. Seat Me was launched on PokerStars Spain almost a year ago in order to prevent “bumhunting” and seating scripts by eliminating all ability for players to choose the tables at which they sit. Now, players just choose their stakes, game type, and table size and the PokerStars client automatically puts them in an open seat.

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Four U.S. Reps Write RAWA-Like Letter to Deputy AG

 Four U.S. Reps Write RAWA Like Letter to Deputy AG

Sheldon Adelson continues to lurk. As shared last week by Poker Players Alliance vice president Rich Muny, four Congressmen have written a letter to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asking him to reverse the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) clarification of the Wire Act from late 2011 which said that the Act only prohibited sports betting. The letter was dated December 19, 2017.

The letter was signed by Republican U.S. Representatives Dan Donovan of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Tom Garrett of Virginia, and Louie Gohmert of Texas and looks a lot like a letter signed by Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein about a month earlier. The letters make the same points and were almost certainly written by Sheldon Adelson’s team. Adelson has stated that he will do “whatever it takes” to eradicate online poker and online gambling in the United States.

The Wire Act of 1961 says that sports betting over communications lines is illegal. While it makes sense that the Act would extend to internet sports betting, it doesn’t make sense that it would extend to all online gambling, which is how the Department of Justice interpreted for years. Around Christmas 2011, the OLC clarified the interpretation of Wire Act, explaining that it only applied to sports betting. This opened the door for states to legalize and regulate online gambling within their borders and to date, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have done so.

Adelson, to counter, crafted the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a short bill that would basically erase the OLC’s clarification and put into law the DoJ’s previous, incorrect interpretation of the Wire Act. It was introduced more than once in the Senate by Graham and in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but other than a couple joke hearings in the House, never made progress. In fact, most lawmakers see it for the crony capitalism that it is and don’t give it much consideration.

The letter is a sort of RAWA end-around. If Adelson can’t get his law enacted, might as well try to get the Deputy AG to just invalidate the OLC’s Wire Act clarification. It provides the usual warnings about online gambling, specifically that online gambling can’t be monitored as well as brick-and-mortar gambling and online gambling can be used for terrorist funding, even though the former is likely false and there is no evidence of the latter. It also cites the same, old, mis-interpreted FBI letter. Won’t anyone think about law enforcement?

Anyway, here is the complete letter:

Dear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein,

Two days before Christmas in 2011, the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion overturning 50 years of interpretation of the federal Wire Act and opening the door to online casinos.

With the stroke of a pen, an unelected lawyer in an obscure office fundamentally changed our nation’s gambling policy – taking an activity previously confined to distinct, controlled, and monitored physical locations and permitting it to be offered 24/7 on mobile devices, laptops, tablets, and home computers.”

Internet gambling carries with it significant law enforcement implications, as the pervasive nature and anonymity of the internet makes it ripe for exploitation by criminals. The FBI has warned Congress that “online casinos are vulnerable to a wide array of criminal schemes,” and that it “may provide more opportunities for criminals to launder illicit proceeds with increased anonymity.”

The FBI also stated that “online poker could be used to transfer ill-gotten gains from one person to another, or several people,” and has testified before Congress that it has been investigating the use of online casinos by terrorist organizations. Other legal issues arise in preventing online casinos from targeting children and, since the internet knows no state boundaries, in protecting the rights of jurisdictions that bar the activity.

In advising Congress, the Bureau inferred it has higher priorities for its limited resources than regulating a legalized Internet gambling industry – specifically, “Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Cyber threats to critical infrastructures.” Considering how difficult and resource-intensive pursuit of Internet crimes can be, it is unclear from where the funding will come for law enforcement to police an online gambling industry.

These, and other law enforcement issues should have been fully considered before the Justice Department decided to stop fully enforcing the Wire Act against online casinos – but, according to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, law enforcement concerns were not part of the mix.

A decision of this import, and one which carries such law enforcement risks as this does, should only be made after a full and public debate in Congress. As such, we urge the OLC Opinion be withdrawn to stop the spread of online casinos across the country in order to give Congress the opportunity to work with your department, as well as state and local law enforcement, to establish a clear federal policy.

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Maria Lampropulos Wins 2018 PCA Main Event

 Maria Lampropulos Wins 2018 PCA Main Event

The first of Maria Lampropulos’ recorded live tournament results dates back to only late 2014. For more than two years, she had just one cash that broke the five-figure mark; most were for less than $ 10,000 (my usual disclaimer applies: I would do morally ambiguous things to have a poker resume like that). In April 2017, she broke through, winning partypoker MILLIONS Nottingham for $ 1.255 million. The rest of the year, it was back to four- and five-figure cashes. But who cares when the times you hit one, you hit it BIG? Yesterday, Maria Lampropulos did it again, winning the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event, good for $ 1.081 million.

Lampropulos was in solid shape going into the six-handed final table, sitting third in chips with 3.505 million. Reigning Player of the Year Adrian Mateos was the chip lead with 5.675 million, while Shawn Buchanan was second with 3.755 million. Rounding out the final table were Koray Aldemir (2.34 million), Daniel Coupal (2.34 million), and Christian Rudolph (905,000).

As expected, Rudolph was the first to go, moving all-in after Lampropulos raised pre-flop. They both hit a piece of the flop, but Lampropulos’ pocket Sixes improved to a set whie Rudolph’s A-8 only improved to a pair of 8’s. Nothing the rest of the way helped him and Rudolph was out in sixth place. That hand also elevated Lampropulos to a temporary chip lead with 5.4 million chips. A few hands later, she gave a third of it back, losing a big hand to Buchanan.

After a break, on just Hand 16 of the final table, Daniel Coupal was eliminated in fifth place when his desperation 4-8 suited fell to Buchana’s K-J.

Then, on Hand 31, Buchanan took out Adrian Mateos in fourth place. Buchanan had 8-5 of diamonds and Mateos A-K offsuit, so it didn’t look like much of a matchup. The 6-Q-K two-diamond flop, though, gave Buchanan confidence and the two men got into a raising war until Mateos was all-in and Buchanan called. The 4d on the turn gave Buchanan a flush and knocked Mateos out of the tournament. The hand also gave Buchanan a commanding lead going into three-handed play, as his 11.310 million chips were twice that of the other two players combined.

He maintained that lead until Hand 67, when Koray Aldemir bluffed him off of two pair (A-7) on the river. Buchanan got his revenge, though, quickly taking back the lead and then eliminated Aldemir on Hand 96 with A-8 over K-7.

Going into heads-up Buchanan had Lampropulos doubled, 11.775 million to 5.675 million. He extended the lead a bit, pushing Lampropulos’ stack below 4 million, but Lampropulos suddenly doubled-up twice in a span of three hands to flip the table. Now it was Buchanan with fewer than 4 million chips.

A few hands later, it was over. His stack down to a nub, he limped with K-5 and Lampropulos moved all-in with T-7 suited. Buchanan called because, well, you have to do it some time. A Ten landed on the flop to give Lampropulos the lead in the hand. Buchanan couldn’t find a King and the tournament was over, Maria Lampropulos crowned as the news PCA champion.

2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event – Final Table Results

1. Maria Lampropulos – $ 1,081,100
2. Shawn Buchanan – $ 672,960
3. Koray Aldemir – $ 481,560
4. Adrian Mateos – $ 372,600
5. Daniel Coupal – $ 293,560
6. Christian Rudolph – $ 229,760

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2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event Day 5: Adrian Mateos Storms from Short Stack to Lead Final Table

 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event Day 5: Adrian Mateos Storms from Short Stack to Lead Final Table

It’s going to be difficult for anyone to come from beneath Stasiewicz and challenge for the final table, but Day 2 chip leader Oleg Titov (488K) and Mateos (236K) are ones to watch if it is to happen.” That was one of our final sentences from yesterday’s report on the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event and, sure enough, it came to pass. After 13 hours of play on Saturday, three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and former European Poker Tour champion Adrian Mateos emerged as the chip leader going to Sunday’s final table.

16 players started the day on Saturday with 2016 Poker Player of the Year David Peters sitting high on the top of the leaderboard. He was the only player over the three million chip mark (3.105 million), but Maria Lampropulos (2.313 million) and Adalfer Morales Gamarra (1.196 million) were willing to take on the challenge. You had to look way down the leaderboard to see Mateos, who came into Day 5 with only 236,000 in chips and looked to be one of those players heading for the rail quickly on Saturday.

Instead of exiting the Atlantis Resort Spa tournament room early, however, Mateos fought tooth and nail to stay in the event. The Spaniard check shoved his stack on the river against Jonathan West on a 9-5-6 flop to breathe some life into his stack and was able to double up through Daniel Coupal when his A-3 caught against Coupal’s pocket eights on a Q-A-10-K-Q board. Those two hands got Mateos healthy and near a million chips (919K) as the afternoon wore on.

Instead of Mateos hitting the rail, some of his fellow competitors took his place. Gamarra took down Florian Maurer in fifteenth place when Gamarra rivered a Queen with his A-Q to knock off Maurer’s pocket sixes out. The big action was at the top as players shuffled through the leader’s chair, however, as nobody seemed to get a firm grasp of the leaderboard.

Shawn Buchanan made the first big move, jumping to the lead after doubling up to 1.65 million through Gamarra. Then Michael Farrow took over the lead after eliminating Jean Ateba in fourteenth place. Lampropulos was up next, battling with Oleg Titov and coming out on the winning side to push her to 2.63 million. Finally, it was Koray Aldemir’s turn to sit at the helm, betting Farrow off the pot to crack the three million mark. This was in the span of 20 minutes!

Stasiewicz never could get anything going, ultimately dropping from the tournament in thirteenth place at the hands of Buchanan. Aldemir, still holding on to the lead, extended it in eliminating Jonathan West in twelfth place and climbing to 5.455 million. Mateos also continued his climb upward, once again using an A-3 but this time against Peters’ pocket nines, on an A-8-8-5-Q board to reach almost two million in chips; Peters could not come back from this beat, eventually falling in eleventh place at the hands of Coupal as his A-J failed against Coupal’s Big Slick.

While Peters was picking up his eleventh-place money ($ 75,640), the unofficial final table was set. Gamarra was one of the very active players during the day’s play and he was unfazed when he took his A-10 off suit against Farrow’s pocket fives. The flop was clean, but the Ace on the turn changed fortunes. Farrow, looking for one of the two fives left in the deck, instead saw a ten give Gamarra two pair and send Farrow out in tenth place.

Now at one table, the tournament wasn’t “official” yet. There was one more player that needed to be eliminated for that and three more to reach the goal set at the start of the day (six handed). Aldemir was the dominant leader at this point, his 5.915 million chips over Lampropulos’ 2.875 million, and Mateos was still in the lower levels of the leaderboard with his 1.16 million stack. The final nine headed off and, stunningly, Mateos went on a rush.

Lampropulos made the table official with her elimination of Patryk Poterek in ninth place, but the first two dozen hands were uneventful other than that. On Hand 58, however, Aldemir would lose the lead to Lampropulos when he couldn’t beat Titov pocket Queens with an A-7 off suit. Titov, however, turned around and doubled up Buchanan to make the Canadian a threat in the tournament. After taking a break following the 63rd hand of the final table, there were still eight players left.

Buchanan would use those newfound chips to mount his own charge to the lead. By the end of the next break (Hand 89), Buchanan had passed both Lampropulos and Aldemir to take over the lead. Another 90 minutes of action, however, would tell a different story.

Mateos started his march to the top by first knocking out Gamarra when Mateos’ flopped pair of eights survived the open-ended straight draw of Gamarra. Now on 3.71 million chips, Mateos stayed on the offensive, taking more chips from Aldemir when he sneakily played pocket Kings for all their worth on an 6-9-Q-6-6 board. After that hand, Mateos had won four of the previous seven hands and was in the lead with more than five million chips.

The news wasn’t so good for Titov, who was the Day 2 chip leader. His chip stack slowly slipped through his fingers until he was down to his last 600K or so in chips. After Coupal moved all in from the button on his small blind, however, Titov thought he found a point to make a stand. It turned out to be the wrong move – Coupal held a decent A-J off suit on the button but Titov could only muster a K-2 off suit for the battle. An Ace came on the flop (along with a deuce), but no one else would get anything on the trey turn and the eight river. As Titov shook hands and realized he was the television table “bubble boy,” Mateos was in firm control of the festivities.

1. Adrian Mateos, 5.675 million
2. Shawn Buchanan, 3.755 million
3. Maria Lampropulos, 3.505 million
4. Koray Aldemir, 2.34 million
5. Daniel Coupal, 1.275 million
6. Christian Rudolph, 905,000

The final table promises to be an excellent battle between players who have been on both sides of the fortune scale. Mateos’ battle back from the short stack is evident, but Buchanan, Lampropulos, Aldemir and Coupal have been fortunate to stay in the upper echelon of the leaderboard for much of the tournament. Rudolph was up in that group but, since he has sunk to the short stack, it isn’t realistic to see him winning this championship. That’s why they play tournaments to the end, however…

Today’s final table will be running simultaneously with the $ 25,000 High Roller action, so the PokerStars TV crew will be stretched covering both events. Beginning at 3:30PM (Bahamas time, 2:30PM Eastern time), the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event final table will play out with everyone guaranteed a big six figure payout ($ 229,760) and a new Hendon Mob flag. The top prize is the goal, though, where $ 1,081,100 awaits the eventual champion.

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Million Dollar Bad Beat Jackpot Hit on Chico Network

 Million Dollar Bad Beat Jackpot Hit on Chico Network

You don’t hear much about online poker bad beat jackpots anymore. Back in “the day,” they were quite popular, as players loved having that miniscule chance at a gigantic payday in what would otherwise be a regular cash game. But over time, people stopped wanted to pay the extra drop for the jackpot and the bad beat tables declined in popularity. They still exist, though, and one of the largest jackpots of all time was hit this past Sunday night on the Chico Network, worth $ 994,119.

The Chico Network is comprised of just three poker rooms – BetOnline.ag, TigerGaming.com, and SportsBetting.ag – but it still sits at 15th in PokerScout’s cash game traffic rankings with a seven-day average of 700 cash game players. One thing that likely elevates the Chico Network despite having such a small roster of skins is that it is a “gray market” site, meaning that it accepts U.S. customers.

On the Chico Network, the bad beat jackpot starts at $ 100,000 and increases constantly, as long as it hasn’t been hit. An extra rake is taken from the pot at specially-marked bad beat jackpot tables at the rate of 10 cents per $ 4 in the pot, with a maximum of 50 cents per hand. For a hand to qualify for the bad beat jackpot, a player must lose a hand holding four of a kind Jacks or better. At least four players must be dealt into the hand, the hand must go to showdown, and both the winning hand and losing hand must use both of their hole cards.

The loser of the hand – and thus the “winner” of the bad beat – receives 27.5 percent of the bad beat jackpot. The winner of the hand gets 15 percent, the other players who were dealt cards at the table split 15 percent equally, 5 percent is split evenly among players at the other bad beat jackpot tables, 10 percent goes to the house, and the remaining 27.5 percent is used to seed the next jackpot.

In the big hand on Sunday, there were four players dealt in. “pokerplayer4ever” had Qd-Td, while “Tyrant” had Jd-Jc at a $ 1/$ 2 No-Limit Hold’em table. Tyrant raised to $ 5 pre-flop, pokerplayer4ever re-raised to $ 18, the other two players folded, and Tyrant called.

The flop of 8d-9d-Jd had to have made pokerplayer4ever’s heart jump, as he had just flopped a straight-flush. Tyrant checked, pokerplayer4ever bet $ 10.17, and Tyrant called. The 4d came on the turn and both players checked. The river was the Jd, giving Tyrant quads! He checked, pokerplayer4ever moved all-in for $ 179.22 and at that point, Tyrant had to know he was about to profit a couple hundred bucks or nail the score of a lifetime.
Think about it. Tyrant had quads and saw his opponent, who had been aggressive except for the turn, move all-in with four diamonds on the board, plus straight and flush possibilities. Tyrant had almost every hand dead to rights, so he was definitely winning – in most cases – a $ 400 pot.

But there were two combinations of hole cards he could lose to – Q-T or 7-T of diamonds – and one of those was the hand that pokerplayer4ever had. And since they were at the bad beat jackpot table, Tyrant knew he was about to make some money.

As the loser of the hand, Tyrant won the largest portion of the bad beat jackpot, $ 273,382.82. pokerplayer4ever received $ 149,018.49 for winning the hand and the other two players won $ 74,509.25 and $ 74,509.24.

The sad part of this tale, though, is that there were two players at the table who were sitting out. Those bathroom breaks cost over $ 37,000 each.

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