Archive for February, 2018

Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

 Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

On Monday, Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) announced that it has entered into a five-yar agreement with Hard Rock International to be the company’s online gambling provider for its Hard Rock Atlantic City property, set to open this summer. The two companies had signed a Letter of Intent in late October, though at the time, GiG did not make it public that its partner was, in fact, Hard Rock International.

Gaming Innovation Group was founded in 2008 and has offices in six cities: Malta, Marbella, Gibraltar, Oslo, Kristiansand, and Copenhagen. It owns seven business-to-consumer online gambling and sports betting brands, focusing on European markets. That is, until now. The venture with Hard Rock will be GiG’s first foray into the young United States regulated online gambling market.

GiG explained what it will provide in Monday’s press release:

The agreement will see GiG furnish Hard Rock with a state of the art digital consumer portal, as well as the back-end platform to manage their operations. GiG has communicated ambitions to expand its platform services, focusing on larger clients by utilizing platform scalability. The agreement is a breakthrough for GiG’s platform services as it marks the first agreement with a major global brand and land based casino chain. GiG will also supply Hard Rock with its new front-end casino service, GiG Magic.

“We are excited to be part of Hard Rock’s inspiring and innovative plans,” said Robin Reed, CEO of GiG. “This agreement confirms the attractiveness of the GiG platform and the ability to support major operators in the industry. By adding a New Jersey license, we will move into our third regulated market, positioning GiG towards an important and growing iGaming market.”

Added SPV of Online Gaming at Hard Rock, Kresimir Spajic, “Hard Rock has an ambitious plan to become a global leader in the international online gaming space. We are confident that, together with GiG, we can disrupt the market, through product innovation and unique user experience.”

Hard Rock Atlantic City is the former Trump Taj Mahal, which closed in October 2016. Things were a mess leading up to the closure (aren’t they usually?) as Carl Icahn, the largest debtholder of Trump Entertainment Resorts took control of the casino when the company came out of bankruptcy in February 2016. In the months that followed, he refused to invest $ 100 million into the casino that he promised, holding out for tax breaks from Atlantic City and New Jersey. He got concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union, causing its members to lose pension and health benefits, but when the union later tried to negotiate to get their benefits back, Icahn wouldn’t budge. The workers went on strike and the Taj eventually closed, Icahn blaming the union.

Hard Rock International acquired the Trump Taj Mahal in late March 2017. It has plowed $ 500 million into the property, converting it to its Hard Rock brand and plans to re-open this summer. The online gambling products are expected to also launch this year, though GiG did not specify if this would happen when the casino opens its doors.

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Partypoker to Roll Out Software Update, New Power Series Schedule

 Partypoker to Roll Out Software Update, New Power Series Schedule

On Friday, partypoker announced that it will release a software update on February 24th which will “see a number of significant improvements to the playing experience.” In the same blog post, the online poker also revealed that it will launch the new Power Series on March 5th. Let’s take a closer look at each.

The software update appears to largely cosmetic, though cosmetic can be good if it makes it easier to see what’s going on at the virtual tables. In the partypoker blog post, the following changes were listed:

• Re-introduction of the oval shaped table alongside the existing table design
• New and improved player plates with larger fonts, improving players’ multi-tabling experience
• Improved display of player notes
• A brand new time-bank indicator
• A number of smaller enhancements, improving the look and feel of the tables

So, nothing earth-shattering, but if things on the table are easier to see and read, especially for multi-tablers, these changes should be positive.

As for the Power Series, we will have to wait and see, as the new schedule won’t be revealed until March. Partypoker says the new schedule will have “increased guarantees, an improved mix of game types and optimised structures.”

And since this is online poker, there will be leader boards. The weekly Power Series leader boards will start March 5th and will be divided into low, medium, and high buy-in levels in order to give as many players as possible a chance to earn rewards. The top ten players each week on the high leader board will receive a $ 5,300 seat to the Millions Online tournament later this year. Those who finish in the top ten more than once will receive $ 5,300 in tournament dollars.

The top twenty players on each leader board will receive prizes. The medium and low winners won’t get Millions Online seats, but rather tournament ticket prizes valued at $ 22 to $ 530.

Partypoker says the leader boards will pay out $ 60,000 per week in prizes, though it was not exactly clear in the blog post if that means $ 60,000 per leader board or $ 60,000 total across all three leader boards. It is likely the latter, as the ten $ 5,300 buy-in awards would leave $ 7,000 in prizes for the remaining 50 winners. That works out to an average of $ 140 per person, which seems reasonable, considering many of the prizes on the low and medium leader boards will probably be in the $ 22 range or slightly higher. $ 60,000 split among twenty people on a low buy-in leader board would be a bit much.

In the first month, the leader board prizes will be doubled in total value, as will the number of winners.

On the blog, partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters said:

We know that our players were expecting our 2018 Leaderboard promotion to start immediately after Powerfest, however we want the players to benefit from the enhanced playing experience on the new tables when working towards the leaderboard prizes. Therefore we have decided to delay the Leaderboard promotion until Monday 5th March to coincide with the launch of the new MTT schedule. We wanted to ensure that the players do not miss out on any value and therefore we have doubled the Leaderboard giveaway for the first month.

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U. S. Poker Open Rolls Along with Little Fanfare

 U. S. Poker Open Rolls Along with Little Fanfare

The inaugural U. S. Poker Open is rolling along at ARIA in Las Vegas, with its $ 50,000 Main Event set to begin on Friday. The question is, though, if you throw a poker tournament and no one pays attention, did it happen? If you’re looking at this tournament, then it hasn’t happened as it has been going on with little fanfare.

The schedule was that it may have been very popular for the top professionals in the world. A collection of poker tournaments, none under a $ 10,000 buy in, testing the world’s best players as they vied against each other for glory. Looking at the individual events so far, however, there hasn’t been the horde of professionals (or deep-pocketed amateurs) swarming Las Vegas for the schedule.

The first event, a $ 10,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, only drew out 68 ENTRIES, not players, for the event, which was eventually won by Justin Bonomo. What was supposed to be one of the more intriguing events, the $ 10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Hold’em tournament, only 64 entries were received (the tournament was won by Mike Gorodinsky). The numbers didn’t improve with a raise in the stakes, either.

The first $ 25,000 event, a No Limit Hold’em affair, brought 44 entries as Stephen Chidwick emerged victorious. Chidwick wasn’t done, however, as he came back in the very next tournament, the $ 25,000 Mixed Game Championship, and won it, too. Still, the 45 entries that came in for that tournament had to be a bit disappointing. The last completed event, Event #5’s $ 10,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, saw 67 entries and crowned Ben Tollerene as the champion.

So, what has been the problem with the U. S. Poker Open, as it seems as if the same players are just sitting there pitching in their donations? First off, that is what has been happening as several players have taken part in every tournament and taken part in several reentries, such as Daniel Negreanu. What is happening, however is an example of perhaps some bad scheduling on the part of the U. S. Poker Open and Poker Central, which envisioned the tournament schedule.

Poker Central, together with its streaming channel PokerGO, is always in need of programming. There’s only so many times you can run repeats of past events (as Poker Central learned when they were trying to cut it as a cable network) until the viewers start to tune out. In the past, they’ve struck gold; the creation of the Super High Roller Bowl and last year’s Poker Masters series have both been well received by the poker community.

You can only go to the well so many times, however. The U. S. Poker Open seems to be contrived, unnatural, rather than something that organically grows. It was bad enough that there was already an event that was once called the United States Poker Open (I do wonder if Poker Central tried to get the rights to that name), but to put something up with a name that acts like there is so much gravitas to it without any history makes it appear it’s being jammed down people’s throats.

Then there’s the scheduling. The start of a New Year is ALWAYS crowded in the tournament poker world. Beginning with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure through the Aussie Millions to the Borgata Winter Poker Open to the L. A. Poker Classic, there are a plethora of tournaments with long histories and a boatload of prestige and respect (and this isn’t even counting the mid-major league tournament circuits). If a player has a budget for tournaments, they’re more likely going to look at these established events rather than something that has no history to it.

So when would you schedule a prospective “U. S. Poker Open?” Well, there’s a lull in the last half of December. You want to influence the tournament poker scene? That would be the perfect spot for a 4-6 event series of high dollar buy in tournaments that would have an effect on Player of the Year races and, perhaps, set a player up nicely for the New Year.

Finally, there is that old poker adage of “sharks don’t eat other sharks.” Professional poker players aren’t going to go where they get the “greatest challenge.” They are going to go where the game is soft and the opportunity to make money is rampant. Thus, you’ll see pro players taking part in that 700-800 player tournament in the Bahamas or in Melbourne (and, if they fail, dive into cash games) rather than trying to outdo 40-50 other players who are just as talented as them in several $ 10K buy-in (minimum) tournaments.

Perhaps with time the U. S. Poker Open will become something. But it should be noted by Poker Central that the well is almost dry on this “High Roller” spree they’ve been on and they should consider some other options for programming (here’s one off the top of my head:  Poker House, a “Big Brother” type competition where 12 poker players are watched 24/7 as they live together, work together and…well, let your mind wander…with a tournament each week to knock off a competitor…or will they be knocked off?) When the U. S. Poker Open Main Event concludes on Sunday, will anyone really care?

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Nominees Announced for 2018 American Poker Awards

 Nominees Announced for 2018 American Poker Awards

After taking nominations for the different awards that will be offered, officials with the Global Poker Index announced the final nominations for their Fourth Annual American Poker Awards.

There is a slew of familiar names that dot the different awards that are being offered. Joe Ingram, who for years has offered up his views on the poker world through his “Poker Life Podcast,” is up for a couple of awards this year (Podcast of the Year and Video Blogger of the Year), joined by Daniel Negreanu (Biggest Influencer and Video Blogger) and Matt Savage (Biggest Influencer and Industry Person). By far, however, the output from the stables of Poker Central dominated the nominations.

Poker Central topped everyone in the field with six nominations, ranging from their “made for television” events such as the Super High Roller Bowl and the Poker Masters to their broadcasting team of Ali Nejad and Nick Schulman. Even their financial backer, Cary Katz, was named one of “Poker’s Biggest Influencers,” an award which should garner a great deal of attention.

These awards will be voted on by a blue-ribbon committee the day of the 2018 American Poker Awards on February 22:

Breakout Player

DJ Alexander
Michael Del Vecchio
Alex Foxen
Art Papazyan

Tournament Performance of the Year

Scott Blumstein (WSOP Main Event)
Darren Elias (WPT Fallsview)
Bryn Kenney (PSC Monte Carlo Super High Roller)
Doug Polk (WSOP One Drop High Roller)

Moment of the Year

70-year old John Smith makes back-to-back WSOP $ 10K Heads-Up Final Table
Ema Zajmovic – First female player to win an open Main Event on the WPT
Vanessa Selbst and Gaelle Baumann – Selbst loses full house to Baumann’s quads during first round of WSOP Championship Event)
Tom Dwan Returns to the States of America on “Poker After Dark”

Event of the Year

Super High Roller Bowl
partypoker MILLIONS North America
Poker Masters Event #1
WSOP Championship Event

Mid-Major Circuit

Mid-States Poker Tour
RUNGOOD Poker Series
WPTDeepStacks
WSOP Circuit

Journalist of the Year

Drew Amato
Lance Bradley
Bj Nemeth
Steve Ruddock
Jessica Welman

Broadcaster of the Year

Nick Schulman
Joe Stapleton
Lon McEachern
Ali Nejad

Media Content of the Year

Adrian Moreno in Tears following Win in WSOP Little One for One Drop (Amato)
Dead Money: A Super High Roller Bowl Story (Poker Central)
Poker Brat: The Phil Hellmuth Story (Phil Hellmuth)
Resilience Defined: Sheddy Siddiqui Raising his Two Boys (Bradley)

Podcast of the Year

PokerCentral Podcast
PokerNews Podcast
Poker Life Podcast
TwoPlusTwo Podcast

Video Blogger of the Year

Joe Ingram
Daniel Negreanu
Andrew Neeme
Doug Polk

Poker Streamer of the Year

Jeff Gross
Bill Perkins
Jason Somerville
Jaime Staples
Parker Talbot

Industry Person of the Year

Tony Burns
Sean McCormick
Adam Pliska
Matt Savage

Poker’s Biggest Influencer

Cary Katz
Daniel Negreanu
Doug Polk
Matt Savage

There will be other awards handed out the night of the American Poker Awards that have already been determined:

2017 GPI American Player of the Year:  Bryn Kenney
2017 GPI Female Player of the Year:  Kristen Bicknell
Award for Lifetime Achievement
Award for Charitable Initiative
Jury Prize
PocketFives Legacy Award
People’s Choice Award – Poker Personality of the Year

The People’s Choice Award is being voted on at this time by the general public. Visit the dedicated page for this award and be sure to cast your vote. It is also the only vote that is handled by the voice of the poker community. Counting that award, there is a total of 20 awards that will be handed out during a very busy ceremony!

The 2018 American Poker Awards will be handed out on February 22 at Andaz in West Hollywood, CA, beginning at 7PM.

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WPT Partners with Zynga Poker

 WPT Partners with Zynga Poker

The World Poker Tour (WPT) announced Wednesday that it has entered into a partnership with Zynga “to bring the WPT experience into Zynga Poker,” which means the launch of WPT-themed tournaments to Zynga Poker later in 2018.

“We’re incredibly proud to bring the World Poker Tour to Zynga Poker,” said Adam Pliska, CEO of the World Poker Tour, in a press release. “Zynga has built the largest social poker game, and we are confident their millions of players will enjoy their experience even more with the introduction of WPT-themed tournaments in Zynga Poker.”

Zynga does not offer real-money online poker, but when it comes to play money poker, it is easily the largest operator in the world. According to PokerScout, Zynga Poker has a seven-day average of 38,500 cash game players, dwarfing every real-money site out there. For comparison, PokerStars has an average of 11,000 players. In the past, Zynga’s number has been in the six-figure range.

As Pliska said, Zynga Poker is a “social” poker game in that Zynga encourages players to share their results and progress with their friends on social media. Games are available with an Android or iOS app as well as on Facebook.

Zynga Poker is not for the serious poker player. Don’t get me wrong, the games are legit as far as play money games go, but the whole thing, really, is just a mess. While it is play money, players can purchase chips with real money if they would like. The app bombards the user with opportunities to buy chips; I just logged into the Facebook app and had to close three or four windows with chip deals before being able to see the lobby. Really, nearly everything you click on opens a window for some sort of special chip purchase.

Like most mobile games, Zynga Poker is designed to incentive players to “level up.” Players gain experience points for playing poker – I earned XP buy winning hands and even folding hands. Leveling up gives access to various cosmetic goodies that players can purchase and place at their virtual seat. These objects serve zero purpose aside from decoration. Completing various challenges can also earn a player XP (I won three hands and completed a challenge).

As much as my head spins when navigating the lobby and looking at the tables, there are countless numbers of players who love Zynga Poker (well, I guess considering I gave a number early, “countless” would be the incorrect word here). And while most readers wouldn’t really get the point of playing poker for fake money, I suppose I can understand the appeal. I play a different mobile game on my phone and there really isn’t much reward in it aside from the satisfaction of doing well and the enjoyment I might get from acquiring the “next thing” as a reward for progressing and leveling up. Most of these mobile and social games are just ways for us to grind until the next level, to satisfy our need to collect things. Zynga Poker isn’t much different and you get to play poker at the same time.

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