Posts Tagged ‘online’

Phil Galfond Announces Run It Once Online Poker Room Launch Coming This Summer

 Phil Galfond Announces Run It Once Online Poker Room Launch Coming This Summer

In September 2016, poker pro Phil Galfond announced that he was going to start his own online poker room named after his poker training site, Run It Once. His idea was to build something that would cater to players of all types, that would focus on fairness, and that would be transparent. Since then, we have heard so little about the new poker room that most of us assumed the project had been shelved. But last week, Galfond wrote a long blog post on RunItOnce.eu (which we assume is the web address for the poker room), explaining what has been going on and trying to get back to the concept of transparency.

Galfond explained that the delays have largely been related to software development.

“Our software delays weren’t the typical delays that come with the territory,” he said. “We made some significant missteps early in our software development (I don’t just mean our tech team – I’m as much to blame as anyone) and it set us on a course that’s been very difficult to navigate.”

He brought in new leadership and a new tech team, which resulted in a reworking of the development strategy. They believed they had the option of either continuing down the track they were on with the downside that future development would be hampered, or redo a whole bunch of things to increase flexibility, but which would also push back the launch even further.

They decided to go for a hybrid strategy of staying on track with cash games and launching them this summer while continuing to work on tournaments, which would be launched in Phase 2.

Galfond said this decision was made for a few reasons:

1. We didn’t want to release anything we aren’t proud of, so launching with unpolished and partial versions of multiple offerings was off the table.
2. We figured that you’d rather have something from us than to wait much longer for us to offer everything.
3. We were furthest along on cash games, and even if we hadn’t been, launching with tournaments only would be extremely challenging for a new site fighting for liquidity.

As mentioned, a big goal for Run It Once was to make a poker room for players, rather than make all decisions just to benefit the business. As such, Galfond said that the rake will be “sensible,” allowing people to actually be able to beat the games if they are good players. He also said the cash games will be “focused on fun and on pure, authentic poker.”

The rewards system will be good for both pros and recreational players. Pros will benefit the most, but recs should be happy, as well. And interestingly, Galfond said it will be impossible to leave rewards unclaimed.

Phase 2, which does not have a target date yet, will include:

1. General software enhancements, more user options
2. A distinct SNG offering
3. An innovative Tournament experience
4. An awesome nosebleed stakes offering, with several unique ideas from someone who’s played these games for a long time and thinks he knows what they need!

Between now and when Phase 1 launches, Galfond has promised to provide updates on what to expect.

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New Jersey to Share Online Poker Liquidity with Delaware, Nevada

 New Jersey to Share Online Poker Liquidity with Delaware, Nevada

A new day is about to dawn for online poker. Okay, am I severely overselling it with that introductory sentence. But still, that WSOP.com and 888 Poker will be facilitating the merger of player pools of New Jersey with those of Delaware and Nevada in about two weeks is a pretty big deal.

There are just four states that have legalized and regulate online poker, but New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada are the only ones to actually have sites up and running (Pennsylvania’s sites should be ready later this year). Delaware and Nevada have shared player pools for quite some time now and needed to do so because of their relatively small populations, but New Jersey had yet to get onboard. And because of New Jersey’s size – 11th in terms of population – getting the Garden State to share its players is important.

In a press release Monday, WSOP.com and 888 Poker announced that they submitted their software for testing to the regulatory agencies of all three states with the hopes of shared liquidity going live on May 1st.

“This has been a huge collaborative effort from all involved and it is important to thank the elected leadership and regulatory authorities in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey for their dedication and diligence to help move online poker forward,” said WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker Bill Rini in the press release. “Everyone has had the end user in mind throughout this process, and as a result, we believe the United States for the first time in a regulated environment, will have a large-scale multi-state offering that will propel the industry forward as soon as next month.”

WSOP.com, which uses 888 Poker’s software platform, is the only online poker room in Nevada. Delaware has three sites, each affiliated with one of the state’s casino/racetracks. They also all use 888’s software and are for all intents and purposes the same, as they share liquidity. The sites began sharing player pools with WSOP.com Nevada in 2015.

So, though there is competition in New Jersey from the likes of PokerStars and partypoker, 888 Poker/WSOP.com NJ is the only one that could have done this player pool merger, as it is the only one with operations in all three states.

When the merger takes effect, players in Nevada and Delaware will need to download new software and create new accounts. The old software will no longer be in service. No worries, though, as player funds, tournament tickets, and loyalty points will transfer over to the new account. Plus, as the accounts will technically be new, players can take advantage of new player promotions and bonuses.

The upshot of this for New Jersey players, aside from seeing a slight boost in player traffic (the boost will be more significant for Nevada and Delaware players), is that they will be able to compete in the World Series of Poker online bracelet events for the first time.

The WSOP anticipates that the first chance to do this will be Event #10, $ 365 No-Limit Hold’em, which will take place on June 3rd.

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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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Online Poker Bill Passes New York Senate Gaming Committee

 Online Poker Bill Passes New York Senate Gaming Committee

If at first you don’t succeed…you know how it goes. Such is the case in the New York state legislature, where for the third consecutive year, a bill which would legalize and regulate online poker has made it through the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee. S3898 passed easily by a 10-1 vote and now moves on to the Senate Finance Committee.

There was significant movement with the bill last year, as it not only made it out of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, but also the Finance Committee and then passed a vote of the full Senate in mid-June. Despite having half the year to get through the Assembly, it never even made it out of committee there. And it’s not even that it lost a vote; the Assembly really just didn’t bother with it.

One would think that it would move fairly quickly this time, as it is the same bill as last year. It was introduced around this time in 2017, getting through the first committee and reported to Finance in mid-February. Now, I don’t know what Senate schedules look like and there are certainly more pressing issues in Albany, New York than online poker, but it wouldn’t be difficult to envision lawmakers shuttling S3898 through the process in a hurry to get it over to the Assembly with as much time left in the year as possible.

Most of the bill is standard fare, but shortly before the full Senate vote last year, the dreaded “bad actor” clause was added. This type of clause, which has been seen in other online poker legislation, punishes operators who continued to accept U.S. players after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006. Some bad actor clauses outright ban these operators, while others delay their licensing application or assess fines.

The bad actor clause in the New York legislation says that, among others, this factor may be looked like by the New York Gaming Commission when evaluating the suitability of an applicant:

(f) Whether the applicant:

(i) has at any time, either directly, or through another person whom it owned, in whole or in significant part, or controlled:

(A) knowingly and willfully accepted or made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker) from persons located in the United States after December thirty-first, two thousand six, unless such wager were affirmatively authorized by law of the United States or of each state in which persons making such wagers were located; or

(B) knowingly facilitated or otherwise provided services with respect to interactive gaming (including poker) involving persons located in the United States for a person described in clause (A) of this subparagraph and acted with knowledge of the fact that such wagers or interactive gaming involved persons located in the United States; or

(ii) has purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or in significant part, a person described in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph or will use that person or a covered asset in connection with interactive gaming licensed pursuant to this article.

It does not appear that this bad actor clause is of the strictest variety, as it does not say that such an operator would be automatically deemed ineligible to receive an online gaming license. Rather, an operators actions after the UIGEA should be considered by the Commission.

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Betcoin to Re-Launch Bitcoin Online Poker Room

 Betcoin to Re Launch Bitcoin Online Poker Room

Bitcoin online gambling site Betcoin shut its poker room down on Christmas, but a month later it has announced that the poker room will soon reopen. Interestingly, the decision to rev things back up looks to be because of Betcoin’s bad beat jackpot.

Betcoin is one of the oldest sites to deal exclusively in Bitcoin and other cybercurrencies, having launched in 2014. Its ownership situation has been shrouded in mystery and when it made the announcement that it would be closing the poker room (the other parts of the business have continued to operate, the only reason given was “Betcoin.ag has been acquired.”

We don’t knew who acquired Betcoin and why the decision was made to close the poker room. It looks like player money was safe, so as unfortunate as the closing was, sometimes things happen.

A few days after Christmas, an apology post was published on Betcoin’s poker page.

“First and foremost, we would like to apologize to the great players that have played with Betcoin.ag over the past 4 years,” it started. “We apologize to you, because our research indicates that Betcoin.ag has not taken the very best care of you. We also apologize for not handling the Bad Beat Jackpot matter in the most expeditious and fair manner as possible for all of you great players.”

Betcoin then explained what it planned on doing with the bad beat jackpot money that it had collected without a winner:

Betcoin.ag is now committed to addressing your concerns in the most professional manner and immediately handling player concerns. We are very excited to be improving the overall culture. As our first matter, we believe it is necessary to distribute the Bad Beat Jackpot based on the percentages to players who have contributed to that Jackpot through the years. We will be calculating the totals over the next week to two weeks and expect that all distributions will be posted to player accounts by the second week of January 2018.

Alright, great. Everyone will get the money they contributed back. Seems fair, as the jackpot was never paid out. But last week, Betcoin said, “….it was determined that each contribution cannot be determined with 100% accuracy.”

“Without this 100% transparency and accuracy we believe the redistribution was unacceptable.”

So, what Betcoin has decided to do is reopen the poker room and gradually reduce the requirements for triggering the bad beat jackpot until it is hit. It seems like a strange solution; after all, there was a reason the new owners closed the poker room in the first place and I would be very surprised if that reason had to do with the bad beat jackpot. One would also assume that the poker room will remain open after the jackpot is hit (and the BBJ will be discontinued), so using the BBJ as the reason for the poker room’s revival is just perplexing. Perhaps spending more time figuring out everyone’s contribution would have been a better choice?

Betcoin has said that it will re-open the poker room the week of January 26th. Week naming conventions be damned, seeing as that’s a Friday, I’m guessing that’s the day it will happen.

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