Posts Tagged ‘poker’
In the past, there have been thriving live poker scenes that have brought the game to people without having to go to Las Vegas or an Indian reservation casino to take part. The New York underground poker rooms are legendary, in part due to the seminal poker movie Rounders and part due to the legend of such rooms as the Mayfair Club (which spawned such famous professional poker players as Erik Seidel, Dan Harrington, Steve Zolotow, Howard Lederer and the late Stu Ungar, among others) and the Diamond Club. Writer Brad Willis penned an epic four-part piece about the South Carolina poker scene – and its unfortunate ramifications – entitled “Bust: An Insider’s Account of Greenville’s Underground Poker Scene,” for the website Bitter Southerner. For the most part, however, these ties to poker’s legendary past have been eradicated except for the Northwest, where poker rooms thrive but are facing a challenge.
In an outstanding piece for the Willamette Week, journalist Nigel Jaquiss examines the history of Portland’s poker room industry. While “social gaming” was allowed in many areas of Oregon beginning in 1973 that would allow for poker in “businesses and private clubs,” that social gaming wasn’t allowed in Portland until 1984. Even with that law in place, it wouldn’t be until 2007 that licensed poker clubs began to spring up around the City of Roses. Today, 13 poker rooms exist within the city limits.
The problem is the monumental opposition that these rooms are facing. Because of the outdated laws on the books that allow for these poker rooms to exist while there are laws against gambling, Portland’s city commissioners will convene next month to try to shut down these clubs. Two of the most popular rooms in the city, Final Table and Portland Meadows poker clubs, will be on hand to defend the honor of the poker rooms against the opposition.
As is the case in most locales when a disagreement comes up regarding gambling, there is a powerful Indian casino industry that thrives in the state of Oregon. Indian tribes operate eight different casinos, including the Klamath Tribe, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which operates arguably the most notable Indian casino in the Wildhorse Resort & Casino. These casinos are not pleased that they are losing a conservatively estimated $ 10-$ 15 million per year in revenues from Portland because the poker rooms exist.
The state of Washington is also watching the proceedings with interest. Washington’s Indian casino and card room industry encompasses more than 50 businesses, with most of those casinos located within driving distance from Portland. Those businesses, alongside the Oregon Indian casinos, would stand to see a huge increase in players if the Portland card rooms were to be shut down.
Over the past year, Portland law enforcement has also been surveilling the poker clubs, Jaquiss states. As the clubs are not allowed to employ dealers for the games – the deal is supposed to be performed by the players at the tables, not a designated person – the undercover work by Portland police focused on this rule (Jaquiss points out several highlights from the laws that govern Portland’s poker clubs). Four clubs, including Final Table and Portland Meadows, were found to be employing dealers and were penalized with a two-week closure and further examination to ensure they were abiding by the law. Two of those clubs accepted the decision and penalties; Final Table and Portland Meadows didn’t, bringing about the hearing in front of the city commissioners in April.
The eventual outcome of the Portland poker room industry is cloudy at best. Because of the conflict in laws between the licensing of room and the actual activities that violate state laws, the city commissioners would love to be able to force the closure of those operations. The poker rooms, naturally, are fighting the elected officials tooth and nail to be able to stay in operation. One thing that is clear from Jaquiss’ investigation is that there is an appetite for poker in Portland. What those people – the players – will do if the rooms are shut down is unknown.
My fellow online denizens, we are gathered here today for a funeral to celebrate a short but white-hot light that was snuffed out last week. International Online Poker passed away after a long illness otherwise known as “death by 1000 cuts.” While it seems that it was around for much longer than it was, International Online Poker was only 19 years old and had envisioned a much better life for itself.
Coming out of the womb of something called “the internet” and buoyed by the increase of home computers in the late 1990s, International Online Poker came to life in 1998 with its first home, Planet Poker. Soon after that, other homes began to emerge for International Online Poker, with each one improving on the previous domicile. Paradise Poker was next to host International Online Poker, but the true boom wouldn’t come until PartyPoker opened a new palace for International Online Poker to live just before the end of the 20th century.
PartyPoker made it cool to play poker, especially with people from around the world, and it thrived on a solid platform and good customer service. In 2001, however, another new place for International Online Poker to call home was built with even better amenities. Called PokerStars, the new place was unveiled but was quickly overcome by the news of the day, an attack in the United States that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City.
PartyPoker remained the dominant site for the next couple of years as PokerStars fought to get the attention of International Online Poker and draw it over to its new pad, alongside such other upstart homes as Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. In 2003, PokerStars got its edge in sponsoring a young man with the unlikely moniker of Chris Moneymaker after he won a seat to the World Series of Poker’s Championship Event. After Moneymaker won the tournament, more people began to flock to International Online Poker’s new hangout, especially when more World Champions became tied to PokerStars after their victories.
In 2004, another newcomer came along. The people considered “professionals” in the poker playing community decided it was time they got a piece of what International Online Poker was giving and opened their own home. Called Full Tilt Poker, those “professionals” promoted the factor they lived in the home as well, making for a great place for people to come and learn the game while enjoying the new digs. With outstanding properties popping up seemingly every day, International Online Poker was quite happy and celebrating whichever home it went.
The clouds were growing for International Online Poker, however. In 2006, the first chink in the armor emerged when the United States passed laws making it illegal to finance online gaming transactions. PartyPoker, in a highly difficult decision, pulled out of the country to stay in accordance with the new laws, as did 888Poker. PokerStars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker didn’t, however, leading the U. S. contingent – and, thus, International Online Poker – to go to those sites. The actions in the U. S. were limited to begin with but, as the years went on, other countries began to also knock chunks out of International Online Poker.
Germany, Italy, Spain, France…all introduced legislation over the next few years to ban online gaming save for sites that were expressly established and located in the country of the game. These moves also wore on International Online Poker as it pulled those countries’ players out of the overall pool and forced them into playing against their countrymen and didn’t allow anyone else in. It also didn’t help that those countries where “fenced off” play was located were taxed extremely, driving players from the game who could no longer make a living.
Just as International Online Poker was trying to get used to these changes, the U. S. dropped another atomic bomb of sorts. “Black Friday,” where the U. S. Department of Justice indicted the leaders of the three powers of the online poker industry – PokerStars, Full Tilt and CEREUS (the partnership of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker) – effectively knocking the U. S. out of circulation. International Online Poker was dealt a severe blow with “Black Friday” and it only got worse until International’s demise this week.
Alas, my friends, International Online Poker will never come back after the Australian decision. The current trend towards “nationalism” in politics has spread into our taxation and revenues systems. If a nation can tax something from its citizens to death and keep those profits for itself, they are going to do that (we’ve seen this with France, Spain, and Italy). If they can enforce laws that make companies come inside their borders to participate, then they’ll make sure they do that, too. What they won’t do is allow the old status quo to return, when someone in California could be playing the game against someone in Lithuania in a world-uniting endeavor.
Several locales will survive International Online Poker’s demise, each struggling to make it on its own. French Online Poker, Spanish Online Poker, and other nationally-restricted siblings of full-fledged International remain, with “International” now limited to the United Kingdom, Canada, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. That may seem large until it is considered that Asia may be the next to withdraw inside itself rather than see the money go elsewhere.
How strange is it that slightly more than a decade ago we now consider the “Golden Age” of the online game? It was a brief but bright light that burned twice as brilliantly. Now, International Online Poker is dead, never to return as we once knew it. And we can only sit back and wonder what could have been…
Australian online poker players, welcome to the hell we have had to deal with in the United States. On Tuesday, the Australian Senate passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, effectively eliminating online poker from the country’s entertainment landscape.
The bill was introduced in November by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge mainly as a way to shore up Australia’s sports betting laws. Sports betting – online and otherwise – has been permitted in the country, but there were severe restrictions on “in-play” sports betting, which is what it sounds like: bets placed on sports contests while those contests are being played. In-play sports betting was allowed, but only via telephone, not online.
With the advent of smartphones, though, offshore operators introduced apps to allow players to place in-game sports bets. They were able to get away with this because they had found a loophole that owed its existence to the law’s vagaries. Smartphones are phones, so in-play bets made with the devices are being placed with phones. Clearly, this is not the intent of the law, but operators still got away with it.
So, that loophole was tightened up, but along with it, other forms of internet gambling were killed. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 bans all forms of online gambling that are not explicitly legal in Australia. Only sports betting is explicitly legal, so poker is now illegal by default.
It is widely believed that it is now just a matter of time before most online poker operators exit the Australian market, a significant one in the industry. Vera&John – a bingo site – was the first operator to ditch Australia in anticipation of the bill back in December. 888poker followed suit in January.
Back in November, Amaya CFO Daniel Sebag said in an earnings call that PokerStars would probably get out of Dodge, too.
“In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player versus player games of skill,” he said. “At this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia. As we do not offer casino sportsbook in Australia, it currently contributes to about 2.5% of our revenues and we estimate it could reduce our EBITDA margin by up to a 150 basis points.”
It is a difficult issue for operators. In some countries, online poker is not explicitly legal, but it isn’t technically illegal, either, so they feel comfortable (or at least not too uncomfortable) offering poker. In Australia, there will be no way to acquire a license, since there is no poker licensing regime, and those who offer poker without a license could face stiff fines.
Even if an operator was willing to risk the fines, it will still probably leave. Take PokerStars, for example. PokerStars has been toeing the legal and perception lines very carefully in countries where it wants to operate. Part of this effort to make sure it is a responsible player in other markets. If it continues to offer poker in Australia, it may not be looked at as favorably in countries like the United States where it is still trying to make inroads via licensing and regulation.
It was thought by this point that the Global Poker League, the burgeoning team poker organization created by the Global Poker Index and its head honcho Alex Dreyfus, would have already started its second season. However, Season 2 of the GPL has been held up while Dreyfus moves forward with other endeavors.
Chief among Dreyfus’ current interests are the start of the eight-team GPL China. For that league, Dreyfus has been able to sign a major deal with JuzhongJoy, a Beijing operation that will assist Dreyfus with operations, distribution, and sponsorships inside the Communist (but still quite capitalist when it comes to business) nation. “We want to…become the NBA of poker in China!” Dreyfus enthusiastically stated in an e-mail announcing the partnership.
This isn’t the end of regionalized GPL outlets either. “I am happy to tease that GPL will support other regional initiatives such as the GPL Heads Up Challenge in France,” Dreyfus mentioned in the e-mail. “Alongside GPL China, we are currently preparing the rollout of GPL India and GPL Latin America also. Our goal is to connect poker fans and help them be a part of the GPL adventure, regardless of where they are.”
The India market is one that has been particularly red-hot of late. In February two outlets, the Poker Sports League and the Online Poker League, opened for business in the second largest nation in the world. It must be thought that Dreyfus, whom it appeared that both organizations were mimicking with the introduction of their leagues, is wanting to take on these upstarts and become the definitive regional league when it comes to poker.
The fate of the original GPL is one that has come up on a few occasions. Since the Montreal Nationals defeated the Berlin Bears in December in a series that went the maximum 11-game distance before the Nationals took down the title 6-5, there has been absolutely nothing that has come up regarding the GPL. There are reasons for this, however.
In an exclusive discussion with Poker News Daily, Dreyfus has said that “there were issues” with the inaugural season of the GPL. “In no way did we envision the season going nine months long,” Dreyfus commented and he is accurate. Few sports leagues can function on such an elongated schedule because keeping the attention of the fans is paramount. Dreyfus has said that he wants a shorter season and is working towards that goal.
As a part of that shorter season, Dreyfus says that there are changes afoot for the entire way the GPL operates. “I don’t think anyone want to see the same exact format of last year, with hundreds of matches played, long delays and such,” Dreyfus commented. “We know what we want to do based on the feedback from the audience and the mistakes we made…we will make the GPL a better product.”
Part of that new approach probably will not include changes to the online format that the GPL used in 2016. The online matches were found by newcomers to the Twitch streams to be a bit of a disappointment as they were expecting to tune in to watch the players actually sitting around a table under live circumstances. The online format of those matches, however, allow for players from around the world to be a part of the action rather than requiring them to be in a set location. There might be some changes made to the “Summer Series” – which basically were the online matches but with the participants standing inside “The Cube” to play while the World Series of Poker was running in Las Vegas – but Dreyfus would not elaborate on what changes would be made except to say they would be announced “soon.”
Dreyfus isn’t letting the GPL sit idle, as shown by his actions in India, France, and China. But it would be good to see something on the international circuit – even if it were just a start date – so that those who have become fans of the GPL know when it will return.
Demonstrating the validity of the information that appears in its pages, a noted tabloid rag has recently surmised that former “Late Night” host David Letterman is “obsessed” with poker – to the point where he is risking all that he has built in the entertainment industry.
The National Enquirer recently ran a story that, while entirely plausible, didn’t seem to have much in the way of evidence. Breathlessly stating that Letterman, who retired from his critically acclaimed and popular late night show in 2015, is looking at “upping the ante” (their words, not this writer’s) by delving into “high stakes” poker. According to the Enquirer, Letterman has been teaching his son how to play the game and this is “driving him” to take “his skills to Las Vegas, where he dreams of winning big!”
Of course, all this breathless concern is based on a singular source that isn’t named. The source taps the name of a couple of the biggest poker “names” in the entertainment world – Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire – with the source hand-wringing to the fish wrap, “Those guys are as close to professional players as you can get. Dave’s totally out of his league with them…he might be worth $ 400 million, but those guys will have no hesitation in cleaning him out!”
Now, never let it be that the evidence there to back up these assumptions. Affleck has been having issues with his marriage to actress Jennifer Garner that have been taking up most of his time – not poker – and Maguire is notoriously quiet about his personal life, although his past poker journeys at the World Series of Poker and in high stakes cash games around Hollywood have previously been noted. The Enquirer continues to piece together flimsy evidence that, because Letterman’s idol Johnny Carson was an avid poker player, that Letterman himself now wants to follow that path and that his friends are concerned he will “end up flat broke like NYPD Blue creator David Milch.”
Milch’s story is actually documented well. Milch, who also created two popular HBO series Luck (canceled after one season due to deaths of horses involved with the show) and Deadwood, gambled away approximately $ 25 million between 2000 and 2011, per the Hollywood Reporter. The Reporter details the extent of the financial troubles of Milch, who didn’t lose the money at poker (he was, however, a regular of the Carson poker games) but through horse racing. His ownership of thoroughbreds – and his wagering on the races in the popular California horse racing facilities – have allegedly seen Milch blast through upwards of $ 100 million and that he owes the Internal Revenue Service around $ 17 million.
Strangely enough, none of this purported “poker fever” was found in an actual interview with Letterman released this month. New York Magazine’s entertainment website Vulture recently sat down with the soon to be 70-year old and found someone quite as ease in his retirement. He does regret not being able to call out certain politicians – especially one in particular that he skewered for years – but applauds those such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and the cast of Saturday Night Live for carrying the mantle. Nowhere in the Vulture article is there any inkling that Letterman has become a raging gambling addict looking to put his fortune on the turn of a friendly card.
Whether Letterman is getting ready to attack the Super High Roller Bowl this year (hey, Poker Central and ARIA? There’s someone to call!) or is just going to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his lifetime of labor, the breathless vagaries of the Enquirer – which use to be laughed off as the insipid jokes that they were – seem to be completely out of line. And if they’re true? Who wouldn’t want to see David Letterman at their poker table?