Cristiano Ronaldo joins PokerStars – See Video Here

May 28th, 2015

ronaldo-pokerstarsMaybe PokerStars is like all us fair-weather soccer fans who get World Cup fever every four years. After all, they just added the biggest possible footballer to Team SportStars – Cristiano Ronaldo – a year after the 2014 Cup.

In a move that I, and only I predicted weeks ago (…okay, probably not even close to true), Ronaldo finally confirmed all the rumors that have been swirling about signing with PokerStars. “I’m looking forward to taking my game to the online and live poker tables and meeting my fans head to head,” said Ronaldo. “Although football is my world, poker has always been my game. I’m very excited to join the team.”

Michael Hazel, interim CEO of PokerStars, now turned Ronaldo fanboy, had some glowing things to say about their new sponsored athlete. “Ronaldo is one of the most famous names in the world and PokerStars is thrilled to partner with him. We look forward to him spreading his love of the game worldwide by sharing his PokerStars experiences with his huge social following and fan base,” Hazel said.

This move comes on the heels of PokerStars signing Neymar, which was not long after Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned his nose up at the brand. In any case, it seems that Stars definitely has two guys who can really contribute to their growth from a social-media-popularity-contest standpoint.

Ronaldo has 103 million Facebook fans along with 35.5 million Twitter followers. Neymar has 51 million Facebook friends and 18 million Twitter followers. Combine the two together and you have a hell of a lot of people viewing their posts.

It’s still unclear how much PokerStars is paying for these two soccer legends – definitely millions of dollars to each. But given the massive social-media reach they have, and endless line of adoring groupies, it won’t be hard for Ronaldo and Neymar to generate more popularity for the world’s largest poker site.

Gambling911 vs Haley Hintze in Battle over Lock Poker

May 27th, 2015

haley-hintze-vs-gambling911Lock Poker is closed for good and its owner, Jen Larson, doesn’t look to be coming out of the woodwork any time soon. That said, the poker world wants somebody new to blame, and affiliate site Gambling911 seems to be taking a fair amount of heat over pushing Lock in the past.

Noted poker writer Haley Hintze is especially on the offensive, writing a piece at FlushDraw that calls out Gambling911 and CardPlayer for “yanking their Lock Poker ads and links way too late.” There are plenty of other people who Hintze throws shade at, but the only fun one right now is Gambling911, because they wrote a rebuttal that we’ll get to in a minute. But first, here’s the excerpt that Hintze wrote on the alleged National Enquirer of poker:

“Gambling911 (and its owner, Chris Costigan): Amid the furor of the Portugal retreat, G911, the poker world’s National Enquirer, ran an exclusive two-part softball interview with Lock’s Jen Larson that neatly sidestepped all the hard issues and lies being spewed by the company. Costigan was himself rumored to be an invitee to the Portugal retreat, and ran Lock ads for well over another year.”

Written in a style that would make you think it was an independent piece, offered by another site, Gambling911 lashes out at Hintze for her claims against them. Costigan offers up some quotes for his writer that bash Hintze for her previous support of Howard Lederer, at a time when some predicted Full Tilt was running a Ponzi scheme (pre-Black Friday). Here are a couple of good quotes from Costigan:

chris-costigan-gambling911“Back in the day when Ms. Hintze was writing for PokerNews.com, she would often write glowing tributes about Howard Lederer, who, at the time, many of us in the industry suspected was running some type of ponzi scheme. I don’t fault her for doing so, but you know what they say about people who live in glass houses.”

[cont'd later] “Ms. Hintze needs to lay blame regarding the Lock Poker debacle where it rightfully belongs, with the folks who were running Lock Poker, not with the dozens of ad partners, affiliate sites, employees and poker players who were duped the same way Hintze was by Lederer and Absolute Poker.”

Not appearing in Costigan’s quotes are the writer’s opinion of Hintze, or at least what he believes the poker community thinks of the former PokerNews editor. Below are a couple of gems about her:

“Hintze, who is viewed by many in the poker world as an angry, interest-conflicted and talentless hack writer with no real knowledge about poker, is also under fire from poker blogger Richard Marcus, over another personal attack she penned on FlushDraw.net.”

“Hintze is also a wannabe poker pro whose card-playing career has been disastrous.”

Ouch, harsh words and definitely not what you’d call objective journalism – although I know very little about the latter myself, or even journalism in general (see the dozens of immature and sexist things I’ve written on this blog for reference). But perhaps Gambling911’s attack is warranted if they’re not as guilty of over-promoting Lock Poker as Hintze makes them out to be.

Zombies invade WSOP (New Comic Book)

May 26th, 2015

wsop-zombies-comicIt seems that you can’t watch TV for two hours these days without something zombie-related popping up. Hell, Walking Dead is so big that they even made a show just to talk about a show. So it doesn’t surprise me that the World Series of Poker has caught zombie fever too.

Specifically, PokerNews editor and gold bracelet winner Chad Holloway has created a comic book dubbed World Series of Zombies (WSOZ), where Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Vanessa Selbst and Phil Hellmuth are the stars (we can only hope that Hellmuth is the first one eaten).

“Bringing WSOZ to life has been a goal of mine for a long time, and I can’t wait to debut it at the 2015 WSOP,” Holloway told PokerNews. “I hope both poker players and zombie fans will enjoy what was designed to be a fun and light-hearted take on poker’s premier event.”

As you can see to the right, there were some pretty sweet covers created for WSOZ, with Chicago-based comic book artist Terry Huddleston doing the one on the left (as well as artwork for the entire book), and two-time Survivor contestant and comic book artist Erik Reichenbach drawing the cover on the right. Reichenbach explains his special variant cover by saying:

“When I first started coming up with sketches for the cover, I kept coming back to a horde of zombies behind Negreanu and what I could do to make them distinct. The idea of zombie showgirls made the most sense for a zombie apocalypse in Las Vegas. The juxtaposition of terrifying showgirls coming after the patrons just felt like the right way to put zombies into the world of poker.”

Assuming you’re interested in this comic book, it’ll be available in the Rio this summer. So if you’ll be playing in the 2015 WSOP, be sure to check out WSOZ.

Offshore Online Poker Sites crushing Legal US Poker Sites

May 22nd, 2015

offshore-poker-sitesWhen Nevada became the first state to legalize online poker in 2013, the prevailing wisdom was that other states would follow suit and create a large and successful market. But fast-forward to today and there are only two other states that offer internet poker (Delaware and New Jersey). What’s worse is that the American .COM market is getting crushed by offshore sites, with the latter gaining traffic while US operations have collectively fallen by 23% in the last two years.

Bodog is the poster child for offshore success, having moved up to being the third-largest online poker site in the world with 1,700 cash game players per hour (PokerScout data). They are followed by the Winning network (500 players), Merge Network (475 players) and Chico network (475 players), which rank 17th, 18th and 19th respectively in the world.

Meanwhile, the Delaware Poker network, which now shares liquidity with Nevada, is the biggest legal US online poker operation with 190 hourly cash game players. They are followed by WSOP Nevada (170 players), WSOP/888 NJ (160 players) and Party Poker NJ (130 players).

Why are Offshore Sites dominating Legal US Sites

The obvious reason why unregulated offshore sites continue to dominate the regulated US iPoker rooms is simple mathematics. Offshore sites offer their services to 47 states that have yet to decide on iPoker, which makes up over 306 million American citizens. The other three regulated states, on the other hand, only comprise about 12.7 million US residents. Considering this, it’s no wonder why Bodog alone has over twice the amount of players as the American market.

Given how slowly regulation is moving in the US, it’s tough to say when more states will legalize the game and increase the potential player pool. California, Pennsylvania and New York are moving closer to legal US online poker, which would be a huge boost. But until that happens, it doesn’t look like the current US market is any competition for the offshore sites.

Phil Ivey in Another Chrysler 300 Commercial – Also wins $500k in Online Poker

May 16th, 2015

phil-ivey-pokerThings are really going Phil Ivey’s way these days since he was recently featured in his own Chrysler 300 commercial, and he won $500k in online poker.

Beginning with the first story, some may already be aware that Ivey has done a Chrysler 300 commercial, as part of their “Kings and Queens of America” series. However, that one featured plenty of other self-made entrepreneurs too. This time around, Ivey was all by himself in a commercial, which is pretty amazing when you consider that poker players don’t normally carry much mainstream fame.

The message here is: “There’s nothing wrong with being flashy…so long as you’ve done the work to back it up.” Kind of funny because the 10-time WSOP champion isn’t overly flashy, nor do I consider driving a Chrysler 300 to be flashy (maybe just slightly yuppish). But again, it’s cool that Ivey is the centerpiece of this commercial.

And do you want to know what else is cool? How about the fact that Ivey’s online poker graph is finally going up once again. He won nearly $500k this week, through a combination of Full Tilt ($280k) and PokerStars ($201k). With this week, Ivey, known as “RaiseOnce” on PokerStars and “Polarizing” at Full Tilt, moved himself out of the position of this year’s biggest online poker loser. That distinction now belongs to Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom, which you can see below:

2015 Biggest Online Poker Losers
Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom – $1,494,604
Phil “Polarizing” Ivey – $1,330,470
“Sanlker” – $726,621
Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond – $470,721
“BigNittyBanker” – $459,090

As these losses indicate, Ivey has not played exceptionally well in online poker lately. In fact, he’s down over $6.3 million on his Polarizing name at Full Tilt. The good news, though, is that he’d made $19.4 million in pre-Black Friday (April 2011) profits, and he has more than enough outside businesses going that he won’t ever have to worry about money again. High stakes poker is truly just a game to him, and one that he’s finally winning at again.

Jessica Dawley fired up about Sexism in Poker

May 13th, 2015

jessica-dawley-pokerBased on stats that suggest women only make up about 4 percent of poker tournament fields, it’s little surprise that poker is largely guilty of sexism at the tables. But 888 pro Jessica Dawley doesn’t care about the stats, and she certainly doesn’t like sexism in poker either – especially when it’s the women using their femininity to get ahead.

“I really hope to empower women to be independent and rely upon themselves, and to break through all the barriers, and to use their knowledge and intellect more than their sexuality,” Dawley told Philly.com, during a recent stop at Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino. “That’s one of the biggest letdowns for me. I feel, as a female, we’ve come so far, and yet we set ourselves back so far by trying to use our sexuality to get ahead in life. If we want to be treated as equals, then try to use ammunition men would [use].”

Of course, everybody knows that men play their role in how women act and are treated in poker. “Women feel intimidated at the poker table because of the way we’re treated by men,” Dawley explained.

Some of the comments that Dawley, a 32-year-old military vet from South Florida, has heard at the tables include “This is a guy’s game,” or “You belong in the kitchen.” Upon hearing these 1950s-style comments, Dawley is never phased and is very good at holding her own. “I give it right back to them.” she said. “But, unfortunately, other females shy away from that. I can understand that. You’re going there to have a good time, and you get berated at the table.”

Dawley certainly brings up some good points in the Philly.com article about why men act this way towards female poker players and how women can handle these situations. That said, if you’re a female player, or a guy who needs a manners check, then it’s definitely worth checking out this piece on poker sexism.

Neymar signs with PokerStars – What will his Impact be?

May 7th, 2015

neymar-pokerstarsWorld-famous football star Neymar signed a deal to represent PokerStars, ending weeks of speculation on the matter. Neymar will join his Brazilian countryman and retired footballer Ronaldo along with tennis champ Rafael Nadal on Team SportStars.

Signing the 23-year-old definitely seems like a good move on PokerStars’ part. After all, Neymar is young enough to connect with a youthful fan base, and he actually enjoys playing the game too. His impact will really be felt through his social media following, with 51.2 million Facebook followers and 18 million Twitter subscribers.

Stars is really trying to hit the social media world hard, as their recent forays into the live-streaming site Twitch indicate. So it’s only natural that they would add a famed athlete who has almost 70 million collective social media followers.

Amaya Chairman and CEO David Baazov spoke about the mass appeal that Neymar will have on their brand with the following statement:

“Neymar Jr is a young and extremely charismatic megastar who loves interacting with fans on social media, is comfortable on camera and loves the game of poker. And as a superstar with one of the world’s most famous football clubs and football nations, his appeal is global. This partnership is a great opportunity to market the game of poker across the globe and attract new fans.”

What’s interesting is that Stars made an attempt at signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a sponsorship deal worth €3-4 million a year. The Swedish footballer said no, but they actually landed a more-famous and better fit for their brand in Neymar. Now, this isn’t to say that the sponsorship buck stops on the FC Barcelona forward – there’s always the chance that they could sign Cristiano Ronaldo too. But it’s pretty clear that PokerStars already has made an expensive, but great move by adding Neymar.

Should We read into Cristiano Ronaldo Poker Pic?

May 6th, 2015

cristianao-ronaldo-pokerIt seems like poker has caught football fever in recent months, or maybe it’s just all the rumors surrounding which mega-footballer PokerStars has their sights on. Their deal to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic for €3-4 million failed, and stories immediately sparked up over PokerStars possibly signing Neymar. This has yet to happen, but now there’s talk of Stars adding Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo to their pro roster.

Still quite possibly the greatest footballer in the world, Ronaldo has also been known to play the occasional poker game or two. After he scored a hat trick against Sevilla, the 30-year-old instagrammed a picture of himself playing poker to celebrate. And I do have to say, I much prefer this pic over the underwear ad starring himself that’s currently on Ronaldo’s Instagram. With 17 million followers – enough to make Dan “King of Instagram” Bilzerian look like a mere court jester – we can be fairly certain that many people saw Ronaldo playing poker.

The one thing that really stands out about this picture is that the chips are from the PokerStars VIP store. Draw your own conclusions here…he plans on signing with them…he wants a deal with them…or he simply got the chips by playing at Stars? Whatever the case may be, it’s not out of line to wonder if Stars would sign the Portuguese legend.

If they did, it might get kind of crowded with Ronaldos since the retired Brazilian football star of the same name is already on Team SportStars. But it’s a good bet that if the price was right, PokerStars would happily add another Ronaldo to promote their brand. After all, they were willing to give Ibrahimovic up to €4 million per year, and he definitely has less star power than Cristiano.

Daniel Negreanu addresses PLO Rake Complaints with PokerStars

May 3rd, 2015

daniel-negreanu-plo-rakeAs perhaps the most-recognizable face at PokerStars, Daniel Negreanu hears many questions and complaints from those who play there. And the latest issue to arise involves PLO rake at PokerStars, which many players think has become far too high.

It’s tough to argue this point when considering that low-stakes PLO features rake that’s over 100% higher than NLHE games. Negreanu has been well aware of the problem since March, when he discussed the matter on Joe “ChicagoJoey” Ingram’s podcast. More recently, he answered disgruntled posters on TwoPlusTwo, which is usually a losing battle no matter how you slice it. Here’s one post from Kid Poker:

Totally on board and have been for some time on this issue. Coincidentally I have a meeting later today and was already planning on bringing this issue up again. Obviously I can’t make any promises since I don’t have the power to make these decisions, but I can promise you that I will do my best to make a case for an adjustment here. Thanks for the additional summary showing the rake differences between NLHE. I will log that and bring it to the meeting.

If you’re thinking that this made Negreanu some quick buddies, well, you’d be wrong and right. Some applauded the 6-time WSOP champion for stepping in and actually interacting with players. Others brought up old comments that Negreanu made about how winning players are hurting the game, and that he believes it’s perfectly within Amaya Gaming’s right to raise rake at PokerStars.

Whatever may have been said in the past, it’s clear that Kid Poker is at least willing to voice players concerns with Stars. Furthermore, he actually responds to players via social media and forums, something that other famous pros in their ivory towers (or Panorama Towers in Vegas) could take notes on.

Back to the original point, will Negreanu’s talk with Amaya yield any results? He said himself in the forum post that there are no guarantees, and it appears that he has about as much pull as a 5-year-old in tug-o-war. Still, it would be nice if he could have some small effect on influencing Amaya in this PLO rake matter.

Waiter quits Job after €55k Poker Haul – But German Bank freezes Money

April 26th, 2015

german-bankAn Italian waiter working in Germany thought that he’d achieved every poker player’s dream of freedom after winning over €55,000 on PokerStars. However, his dream has been put on ice along with the money that a German bank froze under the banner that online poker is illegal.

The story all began when “RuiDeck,” a 29-year-old Sicilian man who was waiting tables in Dresden, Germany, won a $22 seat in the $1 million MicroMillions Main Event. RuiDeck only had $11 in his account at the time and decided to use 10 FPPs to win the seat. But a magical run occurred next, which saw him take third place and earn $59,480 (approx. €54k).

This encouraged him to quit waiting tables and try to make online poker his career. However, this is when further trouble began because he had to wait on a €40,000 withdrawal due to European Union banking standards, which are put in place to prevent money laundering. After weeks of waiting, he was finally told that the money was frozen because online poker is illegal in the federal state of Saxony.

PokerStars was nice enough to lend a helping hand and write a letter to the bank. However, it seems unlikely that this will do much good, considering that Stars is only licensed in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The matter looks even more grim when one considers that another German man had €63,490 in blackjack winnings frozen due to online gambling being a grey area in Deutscheland. 15 out of the 16 federal states do not condone online gambling, however, they all have their own pieces of legislation on the matter. This being said, Germany definitely seems like a country that could benefit from federal legislation on the matter, whether legal or illegal.