Rafael Nadal no longer with PokerStars?

October 8th, 2015

rafael-nadalBack in June 2012, PokerStars inked a historical poker sponsorship deal with Rafael Nadal. The tennis legend was at the top of his game and quickly brought more mainstream recognition to poker. But now, a little over three years later, it appears that this union is over because Nadal isn’t on the Team Sportstar page any longer.

Interestingly enough, there’s been no news about this omission from the Sportstar page; however, whenever somebody disappears from PokerStars’ website, it never turns out to be a bonehead move by an IT person.

Perhaps it’s the fact that the world’s largest poker site is fronting millions for Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and (retired) Ronaldo to represent them, coupled with the fact that Nadal’s contract is over. Maybe it’s also a little of the tennis champ never plunking down in any live EPT events. Whatever the case may be, the 29-year-old Spaniard will be missed in the poker world.

There were never any expectations of Nadal to be a regular on the poker circuit. Instead, this was more of an athlete’s journey from poker novice to, well, somebody who just learned their starting hand requirements. But he certainly provided some memorable moments, such as the video below where he learned bluffing tips, or when he found out that you can play online poker through tablets.

Now that Nadal is gone, the trio of aforementioned football legends will carry the banner while Dutch field hockey star Fatima Moreira De Melo, (recently signed) snowboarder Zoe Gillings-Brier and Swedish skier Marcus Hellner will also be represent the brand. Obviously signing these big sports stars must be paying off for the site because they keep recruiting new ones. And it will be interesting to see who else PokerStars brings aboard in the future.

Annie Duke offering Financial Advice – Dear Lord

October 4th, 2015

annie-duke-business-speechDespite being part of the famed UB trainwreck and helping steer the Epic Poker League off a cliff, Annie Duke is still giving advice to people. And this time, her words of wisdom center on managing your portfolio. And no, tip #1 was not to refrain from investing in any poker operation that Duke is involved with.

Speaking at the Investment Management Consultants Assoc. (IMCA) in Las Vegas, the WSOP champion centered her speech on the Kenny Rogers-sung phrase “you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” – a.k.a. know when to walk away from bad investments.

Duke also discussed how, during the Cold War, Washington strategists were looking for a game to model their back-and-forth moves against the Soviets. They first chose chess, then went with poker due to its mix of psychology and dealing with uncertainty. “Poker is a game of decision making under conditions of uncertainty over time,” she told the IMCA crowd.

The former poker pro also covered some of the key mistakes that investors make, especially continuing on with a bad investment just because one has already committed lots of money to it. Instead, the ideal move in this situation would be to pull out what money you have left just because the odds of succeeding are low.

One more gaffe that Duke covered involved people not investing in their future selves. The problem is that people don’t know their future selves, and they instead want to direct all their money to who they are today.

A final piece of advice that she offered revolved around learning from your mistakes. “If you credit all wins to your skill and all losses to bad luck, you never learn and never improve,” she said.

Annie Duke is no doubt loathed by many in the poker community today. However, if Duke does have one redeemable quality, it seems that she’s good at relating what she learned in poker to the business world.

Phil Hellmuth will play Poker at Fan’s (Your) House

October 2nd, 2015

phil-hellmuth-2014-big-oneWant to take on 14-time WSOP champion Phil Hellmuth in poker? If so, he’s up to the challenge because Hellmuth is asking his fans why he should pick your home game to visit. Here’s a look at the Poker Brat’s recent tweet:

“New York, Oct 3rd, I will play poker at a fans house, bring a mixologist and @KimoSabeMezcal. Why should I choose you?”

As the hashtag indicates, Hellmuth is working with tequila brand Kimo Sabe Mezcal on this promotion. And he wants his fans to tweet why he should come to their house and take them on.

Hellmuth already looks to have plenty of intrigued fans because his Twitter feed is pretty busy right now. So if you’re interested in having the 51-year-old poker pro show up to your home, give him a reason to.

And do remember that he’ll also be bringing a mixologist from Kimo Sabe Mezcal with him. So even if you don’t like the Poker Brat, you’ll at least get some pretty sweet drinks.

Interestingly enough, Hellmuth has been holding some big home poker games of his own in the Silicon Valley area. He has everybody from tech billionaires to NBA stars drop by his house to play a few hands. And despite his own poker skills, Hellmuth sometimes gets the worst of it.

He recently spoke about a $180k flip that he lost to an unnamed player. Hellmuth also talked about losing around $35k to current Boston Celtics forward David Lee once too. Assuming you win the Twitter contest he’s holding, the Poker Brat would be more than happy to tell you all these stories in person.

Dominik Martan: Moneymaker of 2015 WCOOP?

September 28th, 2015

dominik-martan-pokerIt might seem like the days of some mild-mannered amateur like Chris Moneymaker satelliting into a huge poker tournament and winning big are long gone. But Dominik Martan may prove that the poker-amateur dream is entirely still alive.

The Czech qualified for the 2015 PokerStars WCOOP Main Event by using just 12 Frequent Player Points (FPPs). And what’s amazing is that he’s now cleared the money bubble in the $5,200 buy-in tourney, meaning he’s guaranteed at least $12,000.

“It’s a big experience,” Martan said. “I never done this before, so it’s a big moment for me.”

‘Never done this before’ is the perfect way to describe Martan’s poker career so far. Born in the small spa town of Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, Martan is now preparing to go to college. And on the side, he’s been playing poker, with his largest previous cash being €2,258 ($2,856). But he’s already set to blow by this amount with his latest guaranteed score of $12k.

Actually, though, Martan could end up winning a lot more than this. He’s currently in the top 20 chip stacks of the remaining 240 players, which puts him within striking distance of the $1.5 million top payout.

This wouldn’t equal the $2.5 million that Moneymaker won after satelliting into the 2003 WSOP Main Event. But it would certainly be a giant score for a 20-year-old who’s only been playing poker for three years.

Any of the bigger scores in the 2015 WCOOP Main Event would definitely help Martan improve his prospects in the poker world. He has a very small bankroll right now and has been sticking to tourneys with €200 buy-ins or less.

“If I make the final table,” Martin told the PokerStars Blog, “it will change my life.”

Whether he ultimately ends up making the final table or not is still up in the air. But it seems that for just 12 FPPs, he’s at least getting quite an experience for the time being.

Simpson on Poker Tracking Software: Build It into Client or Ban It

September 26th, 2015

ian-simpson-poker-softwareThe big discussion in online poker right now revolves around tracking software. This issue became a hot-button topic when high stakes pro Patrik Antonius claimed that tracking software is the reason why he doesn’t play NLHE or PLO online any more.

Of course, Antonius was referring to the more-advanced programs, but even simpler tracking software has come under fire lately. And poker pro Ian Simpson believes that he has a solution to the debate: build software into a poker room’s client, or ban it completely.

As Simpson explains, only serious players are going to pay over $100 for software that tracks opponents’ tendencies on every hand seen. For instance, you can know how often your opponent c-bets or 3-bets based on the stats that the software tracks/calculates. What’s worse is that players can even share databases through certain software programs, allowing them to get stats on opponents whom they’ve never even seen before.

Another problem is seat-scripting software, which enables players to quickly scan for bad players and sit to their left. When you combine this with regular tracking software, there’s no telling how much of an edge a skilled player will have over their software-less opponents.

Here’s an excerpt from Simpson’s CardPlayer blog on the matter, where he also discusses the problem with entirely banning tracking programs:

To make the playing field equal again I think tracking software should be built into the poker client, so that everyone can use it, or like other sites have done, it should be banned completely so that no one can use it. Many recreational players don’t even know that it exists at all, and are oblivious to it. This puts them at such a severe disadvantage. Tracking software is insanely powerful nowadays.

The thing that really upsets me about tracking software is that people can share databases using it. It just seems unfair to me that someone could play a thousand hands against one opponent, and they both learn about each other’s tendencies, for that opponent to then share this information with a friend, or sell it on to someone. An opponent that someone has never met before shouldn’t start out from sitting down at the felt with an advantage over someone in the form of information about their tendencies acquired over thousands of hands gained from playing against someone else. They have no idea that he knows exactly how often they C-bet an ace high board for example and he can use that information to make money off of them. He or she is starting out with a massive advantage over an opponent that they have never met, and what’s worse is that opponent has no idea this has happened and is pretty powerless to counteract it. The only way I can think of to neutralise database sharing would be to ban the software, but that in itself would cause massive problems. Software allows many players to play many more tables than normal, and poker clients make more money with the more tables a person can play. The other problem would be software gurus making their own trackers without poker clients knowing it, forcing the practice underground.

Poker vs. Daily Fantasy Sports – Why is DFS allowed?

September 25th, 2015

daily-fantasy-sportsFor Americans who love online poker, one of the greatest hypocrisies in existence right now is daily fantasy sports (DFS). It’s unclear whether or not DFS is truly legal, but there’s no denying that it is “allowed” in 45 of 50 U.S. states. So why is it then that daily fantasy sports is considered acceptable while internet poker is largely a black-market affair?

Well for starters, we can look towards the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, which makes it illegal for banks to accept financial transactions involving iPoker, online casino games and sports betting. This of course didn’t render online poker illegal; it just made it impossible for sites to legally take deposits from American players. But interestingly enough, fantasy sports got a carve-out in the UIGEA.

This carve-out was originally meant for season-long leagues played on sites like CBS and Yahoo. After all, the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL knew back then that they’d better protect fantasy sports because they generate so much casual fan interest. But now that fantasy sports have evolved into the daily version, where you can bet thousands of dollars on a daily basis, it’s obvious that the situation has changed greatly.

Many poker players (and the general public) have questioned why DFS is essentially considered legal today. And the truth may lie in the fact that DFS isn’t really legal, but rather tolerated until each state decides to examine the matter independently.

It may be some time before we truly find out where the legal boundaries lie regarding DFS. The NFL especially is lobbying hard to keep things as they are because of the aforementioned fan interest that fantasy sports create. But with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt questioning DFS, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone asking for a hearing on the subject, and countless articles about the legitimacy of DFS, it’s only a matter of time before these games are really put to the legal test.

Vanessa Rousso finishes 3rd on Big Brother amid Conspiracy Rumors

September 24th, 2015

vanessa-rousso-big-brotherThere was a conspiracy theory being floated that CBS rigged Big Brother for Vanessa Rousso to win, in order to promote her upcoming show Poker Face. However, Rousso busted these conspiracy rumors by finishing third place on the popular reality show.

The 32-year-old poker pro looked to be in command of the competition heading into the final three, having won the first stage of the “head of household competition.” But Steve Moses was able to win the second stage, giving him a chance to evict either Rousso or Liz Nolan. Despite having an unofficial alliance with Rousso, Moses decided to eliminate the stronger competitor.

“Across 17 seasons of this game, I’m thoroughly convinced you are the strongest female ever to play,” Moses told Ruosso. “I so admire your game. I can’t justify taking a stronger player to the final vote.”

Moses was voted the winner while receiving $500,000; Nolan took second and earned $50,000. As for Rousso, she walks away empty handed but did manage to impress Big Brother fans thanks to her skills.

There’s no official word on Rousso actually having an upcoming show called Poker Face. This rumor supposedly came from a Big Brother cameraman, so we’ll have to wait and see if it actually comes to fruition.

That said, it’ll be interesting to see what Rousso ends up doing next. She was doing a lot of DJ’ing work while building her music career. But given that she had some success on Big Brother, perhaps she’ll keep going after TV opportunities. One thing that’s for sure, though, is that Rousso won’t be playing as much poker as she once did. Despite earning over $3.5 million in her poker career, she announced last year that she’ll continue to look for opportunities beyond poker.

PokerStars Players targeted by Cheating Spyware

September 18th, 2015

argentina-online-gambling-hackerOnline poker players may have a new reason to think that PokerStars is rigged: spyware is revealing their hole cards to random hackers.

As discovered by IT security expert Robert Lipovsky, a trojan virus called Win32/Spy.Odlanor has been used against both PokerStars and Full Tilt players. Once a player’s computer is infected, the perpetrator can then try to join their table and, when seated, see their hole cards.

This is somewhat like the “God Mode” that Russ Hamilton against UB players – except, in this case, it’s just faceless hackers who may never be traced.

Poker Players can unknowingly download Odlanor at Any Point

The scary thing about this online poker spyware is that you can download it at any time while downloading useful programs. Lipovsky writes that this is a definite possibility if you get software from sources other than the official website that the program comes from. Poker-related programs like Tournament Shark, Poker Calculator Pro, Smart Buddy and Poker Office can all be used to attach the Odlanor malware.

Odlanor takes Screenshots of Players’ Cards

poker-spywareWhen Win32/Spy.Odlanor is executed, it will take screenshots of PokerStars and Full Tilt tables when the victim is playing at either site. The screenshots are obtained by the hacker, who can see both the player’s cards and ID. They can then search for the player’s ID, join their table, and continue getting screenshots of their hole cards to gain a giant advantage.

Eastern European Countries are heavily using Odlanor

While hackers from any country can use this spyware to unfairly win money, Lipovsky has found that the largest concentration of Odlanor users are from Eastern European countries. Eastern Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus are heavily using this software at PokerStars and Full Tilt.

Given that PokerStars probably knows of the threat now, hopefully they can do something to combat the problem in the near future.

One-Armed Poker Dealer making Headlines

September 11th, 2015

heather-schneck-poker-dealerFor some of us, including myself, dealing a deck of cards can be difficult enough with two arms…now imagine trying to do it with one arm. But amazingly, Heather Schneck has managed to be a successful poker dealer with her lone arm.

The Florida-based dealer lost her limb in a 2008 car crash. Since then she’s maintained an 8-to-5 IT job while moonlighting as a poker dealer at Cape Coral bars and bowling alleys.

Schneck’s dealer job is unique because she does it through the No-Limit Entertainment poker league. Winners receive a paid bar tab or gift certificates while Schneck’s wages come entirely through tips. And if there’s anybody who can make good money through tips alone, then it is definitely Schneck who frequently jokes with customers and has no qualms with humor about her arm.

“I’m her right-hand man,” a bar patron told USA Today while whacking non-existent drums. “Bah-dum-bump.” Schneck followed him up by saying, “If he hadn’t made the comment, I would have.”

The 36-year-old further showed her penchant for self-effacing humor with a t-shirt that read, “When I said, eat me…This is not what I had in mind!!”

It’s good that Schneck can joke these days because she went through some real trauma during the car wreck that severed her arm.

“The truck sliced into the vehicle like a can opener,” she said, while admitting that she can’t really remember anything from the crash. Heather also lost half her blood and flat-lined in the emergency room while her poker friends stood by in the waiting room. Luckily, she survived the ordeal and was playing poker again just 13 days later.

Not long afterward she was training to be a dealer, taking classes for her new future job. And while there was nothing in the classroom that could teach her to deal faster with just one arm, Schneck did learn enough to become an official dealer for No-Limit Entertainment. Now, through a combination of her IT job and dealer gig, she’s working to cover school loans, medical bills and save for a prosthetic limb.

Gaetano Preite hides Friend’s Chips in Poker Tournament – Gets Eliminated

September 11th, 2015

Let it known that poker tournaments are not the time to prank buddies! Gaetano Preite found this out the hard way after pranking his friend, Nicola Luigi Abrusci, on Day 3 of the €990 buy-in People’s Poker Tour Main Event in Malta.

Preite wrote about the episode on Facebook after it happened. “After a perfect tournament, I am here to communicate that I will not be allowed to join the final table at the People’s Poker Tour in Malta because of something unfortunate and surreal,” he stated.

It began when the final hand of Day 3 was played and Abrusci had just busted a player. It’s at this point that Preite had some fun with his buddy by hiding the chip stack that he’d just won. Here’s a look at how he describes the rest of the incident:

“When we got to the last hand of the Day 3, I decided to play a prank on Abrusci and I moved away a pile of the chips he just won from the player he eliminated. Then, I went to my supporters to tell them about the trick I played on our friend.

“I have been asked to pose for some photos, and once I got back to the table I noticed that Abrusci had already bagged all his chips. I immediately try to explain everything to the tournament director, but I had been told that although it was obvious that I did not attempt to steal the chips, my behavior was strongly against the rules.

“I know I have risked too much for a stupid joke, and I respect the decision taken by the event’s management, but I also think they have been too strict. They know me, my personality, and how professional I am as a player, therefore I am sure we could find a ‘lighter’ sanction to punish my behavior.”

A rep for the People’s Poker Tour confirmed the events that happened as Preite described them, adding that his joke during the tourney was unacceptable.

Given that the young Italian was set to make the final table and compete for some major prize money, being eliminated with no cash will definitely be a painful lesson on not making these kinds of jokes in the future.