Esports Looking to Rival Online Poker

August 26th, 2016

esports-online-pokerNot long ago, daily fantasy sports (DFS) were considered the next big thing to usurp online poker in the skill-based iGaming world. DFS has since stalled amid legal complications, but there could be a new challenger for online poker’s throne: Esports.

Having increased in popularity over the last few years, Esports are becoming more common in betting circles. Live competitions are also drawing more attendance, with over 200 million Chinese smartphone users saying that they’ve attended at least one live Esports event in the last year.

Forbes reports that the Esports market is currently worth $325 million, and it could balloon to $463 million by the end of 2016.

This isn’t quite up to the measure of online poker, given that PokerStars generates more than this in revenue by itself. But it shows that Esports are rapidly gaining popularity and should continue growing over the coming years.

But Forbes points out that Esports must overcome the challenge of little-to-no mainstream coverage. In contrast to poker, which is covered by ESPN, Esports are relegated to regional coverage and Twitch streaming. Here’s one excerpt from the article:

“Esports is similar to poker in that it has developed a culture that seems to accept the fact that spectators will place bets based on the outcomes of matches and possibly engage in fantasy sports-style play surrounding events. The industry has even started to see the development of competitors placing wagers on themselves prior to entering battle with controllers in hand.

“While poker may still be supreme, Esports is quickly catching up and displaying many positive signs that in some ways mimic poker’s successful attributes. It is only a matter of time until the Esports industry hits a total value of over $1 billion.”

It’s doubtful that Esports will ever force online poker into the background – at least any time soon. But what we probably will see is a balanced skill-based iGaming market that sees DFS, Esports, and online poker sharing the pie.

Poker’s Travell Thomas Charged over $31m Debt Collection Business

August 24th, 2016

travell-thomas-pokerPoker player Travell Thomas has been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud over a $31 million debt collection.

Thomas has fired back at U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, claiming that the case is racially motivated. Thomas even goes as far as to ask Judge Katherine Polk Failla to let him depose Bharara.

Bharara’s prosecutors have already argued against Thomas’ request, calling it “rank speculation.”

According to the New York Post, Thomas’ court papers claim that Bharara’s office has only criminally prosecuted debt collection businesses owned by black men. In contrast, non-black debt collection agencies have had their cases solved through civil courts.

“Whereas most cases are traditionally handled civilly, 100 percent of the debt collection cases that are being prosecuted against owners of debt collection companies by Mr. Bharara‘s office are being brought against black male business owners,” Thomas’ papers read.

Bharara’s office fires back that the non-black-owned businesses didn’t engage in any activities that could be criminally prosecuted.

“Thomas wholly fails to explain what those FTC enforcement actions involved and whether the conduct of the companies in those actions rose to the level of criminal conduct,” wrote Bharara’s prosecutors.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office has also questioned Thomas’ claims that only black-owned businesses have been criminally prosecuted, citing that his defense lawyers don’t fully know the racial makeup of the ownership.

Thomas’ debt collection business is accused of collecting over $31 million through threatening and intrusive means. Going further, the Buffalo, NY company would claim that it was associated with law enforcement agencies, and threatened criminal charges to anybody who didn’t pay up.

Thomas and his co-partner, Maurice Sessum, face a maximum of 40 years in prison for their alleged crimes.

As for Thomas’ poker career, he has $510,885 in poker tournament winnings and a WSOP Circuit ring.

Sorel Mizzi Banned From PokerStars Again for Using VPN

August 20th, 2016

sorel-mizzi-pokerPoker pro Sorel Mizzi has been banned from PokerStars for using a virtual private network (VPN) to play from the United States.

“I can’t play on [PokerStars] for a couple years,” he said in a recent interview.

The long-time appeared on the Poker Life Podcast with Joe Ingram to discuss rumors about his VPN use. Earlier this year, TwoPlusTwo users claimed that Mizzi was using a VPN to play in the September 2015 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event.

PokerStars is restricted from being used in every US state except for New Jersey. But Stars didn’t even launch in New Jersey until 2016, meaning there was no US location where Mizzi could play the 2015 WCOOP from without violating PokerStars’ terms and conditions.

“I decided to take a risk and play online poker from the United States,” he said.

Adding outrage is that Mizzi was also using somebody else’s account to play through the VPN. This constitutes multi-accounting, an offense that Mizzi served a three-month ban for in 2008.

He also received a lifetime ban from Full Tilt Poker in 2007, after he purchased another player’s account deep into a $1 million guaranteed event.

In this instance, Mizzi said that he’s not proud of playing through a VPN on another player’s account. But he tried to defend his actions by saying that other US-based players do the same thing.

“I was being sneaky and I got caught and it sucks,” Mizzi told Ingram. “Do I feel terribly guilty about doing this? To be honest, no not really.”

Mizzi playing in the WCOOP gained even more attention since he made the Main Event final table. Playing against his friend, Rory Brown, Mizzi tried unsuccessfully to warn his friend that he was playing under another account.

The rumors of this incident became great enough that Ingram decided to chat with him about using a VPN. After Mizzi admitted doing so in the July 25th episode, PokerStars caught wind of it and took action.

Google Using Poker Dogs to Stop VR Trolling

August 17th, 2016

vr-poker-dogs-googleVirtual reality looks to be the latest evolution in consumer technology. But one problem that companies are having in early VR environments includes trolling, or online harassment. And Google is attempting to combat this problem through the use of virtual poker dogs.

Much like the famous painting of dogs playing poker against each other, this VR simulation sees you playing online poker against a human opponent, only your avatars are dogs. The big twist is that you both have a small area that you must stay within.

As The Verge reports, if you try to leave this area, your screen will turn black and white, and your opponent won’t be able to see your avatar. A glowing blue bubble will then guide you back to your seat if you wish to keep playing.

The idea is to create a VR poker environment where players won’t get in each other’s faces and/or steal chips.

Aside from the personal space experiment, Google is also experimenting with high-five rewards. Every time that players high-five each other, they’ll see fireworks shoot out followed by a loud slapping sound. In contrast, being aggressive to another VR user doesn’t come with any rewards, which deters people from being rude to each other.

As you can see in the video below, VR poker would create an interesting experience that’s not currently available at major sites like 888 and PokerStars.

Right now, all of the emphasis is on the poker action, rather than treating the game like a virtual environment, where you can walk around a casino, pick up your chips, and hold your cards.

Of course, in the case of Google’s early experiments, it doesn’t look like you’ll be doing much walking until more safeguards are in place for trolling.

David Baazov Officially Out at Amaya, PokerStars

August 13th, 2016

david-baazov-pokerstarsDavid Baazov has officially resigned from his CEO role at Amaya Gaming 12 years after taking over the company. Baazov will also relinquish his role at PokerStars, which Amaya purchased for $4.9 billion in 2014.

“I am proud of my contributions in building Amaya into the successful company it is today, and continue to be supportive of its strategy and management,” Baazov said after stepping down.

In March, Baazov was charged with insider trading and temporarily left his CEO role to sort out the case.

Rafi Ashkenazi took lead of the company in what was supposed to be a short-term role. But now, with Baazov leaving the company, Ashkenazi will become Amaya’s permanent CEO.

According to Canada’s Financial Post, Baazov’s resignation comes as the Quebec-based company earned $285.9 million in Q2 revenue, which is 10.2% higher than last year’s second quarter.

One driving force behind the increase was casino and sportsbook revenues pulling in $60 million, led by Euro Cup 2016 betting. But online poker revenue remained stagnant at $216 million, mostly because of customers watching football matches instead of playing poker.

Despite the encouraging news, Ashkenazi told investors that the company needs to brace for a short down period.

“It typically carries a hangover effect for several weeks after completion and requires adjustments to the promotional calendar,” said Ashkenazi.

As for Baazov, he exits the gaming industry after over a decade of immense success. He co-founded Amaya in 2004, helping turn it into one of the biggest players in online gaming.

He also spearheaded the 2014 deal that helped Amaya acquire PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker in the biggest iGaming transaction in history. Baazov diversified PokerStars by adding casino and sportsbook offerings and capitalized on other revenue opportunities.

The company also worked to make PokerStars more friendly to recreational players by instituting VIP program and table selection changes. These weren’t popular with regulars, but Amaya saw it as a necessary in order to remain competitive in a changing poker environment.

Despite Baazov’s contributions, Amaya felt that they needed somebody who could dedicate 100% of their efforts towards the company.

“Even if the company is engaged in an ongoing a strategic process it needs a clear leader to can run the day-to-day operations,” said spokesman Ian Robertson.

Bovada Poker Leaving US – Players Moving to Ignition

August 11th, 2016

bovada-ignition-casinoAfter four years in America, Bovada will exit the US online poker scene and transfer their players to Ignition Casino. They will, however, keep their online casino and sports betting operations in the US.

Bovada sent an email to their online poker players detailing the change, which will be complete on September 30. Here’s one part of the letter, which you can read in full at TwoPlusTwo:

“We have important news we want to share with you. Bovada Poker has been acquired by Ignition Casino. This means you’ll be required to transfer your account by September 30, 2016. After this date, poker at Bovada will no longer be available. You’ll still have access to Bovada’s sportsbook, casino and racebook products.

Ignition Casino uses the same platform as Bovada, so the features you enjoy such as anonymous tables, Zone poker, mobile poker and guaranteed tournaments, like the weekly $100K, will be there waiting for you.”

The strangest part of this move is that Bovada and Bodog comprise the third-largest online poker site in the world. According to PokerScout, they draw 1,350 cash players an hour, ranking only behind PokerStars (13,500) and 888poker (1,800).

Some TwoPlusTwo posters speculate that this move has to do with separating the poker players from the more-profitable casino/sportsbook. Here are a couple of comments:

Bozo7: “Definitely looks like Bovada is just separating their sports bettors from their poker players. Not good.”

Rakeme: “It’s a shell company. They’re just separating the poker players from the casino/sportsbook players.” … “It ‘looks’ different, but it’s 99.99% likely that Bovada set this company up months, or years ago, for many scenarios that include the one it’s being used for now.”

Bovada came into existence after Black Friday (Apr 15, 2011), when the US Department of Justice cracked down on the world’s largest poker sites.

Bodog decided to exit the US after this and transferred their poker players to Bovada, which still seems to be part of the same company. The same looks to be true with Ignition, which will now be the company’s US online poker arm.

Annie Duke Talks Donald Trump, Poker in Wired Mag Piece

August 7th, 2016

annie-duke-trump-pokerDespite having been largely absent from the poker world since 2011, Annie Duke is still called on by mainstream publications to discuss poker. Such was the case when Wired Magazine asked Duke about her opinion on Donald Trump’s political strategy from a poker player’s perspective.

Specifically, Wired wants to know if the aggressive strategy that Trump used to power his way to the Republican nomination is starting to backfire. Duke thinks that Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’s struggling to endorse his party’s nominee, are catching on to Trump’s strategy and he hasn’t properly calibrated.

“In tournament poker you’ll see people that do really well for six months to a year and then disappear,” says Duke. “In general, those people do the exact same thing–they break convention by having this naked aggression where they’re moving all their chips without normal rhyme or reason.”

In the Republican nomination race, Duke points out that Trump’s rivals either avoided his aggression, or tried in vain to counteract it, like Marco Rubio. Wired and Duke combined to offer a better solution:

Over time, though, players figure out a more sophisticated approach–to lie in wait until they have a great hand, then lure the aggressor into betting into them. Purposefully or not, that’s how things played out with the Khan family, who represented a bet that Trump couldn’t help but raise, despite the fact that he was clearly holding bad cards against them. “You have to figure out just the right way to punish the aggression,” Duke says.

As for Ryan, Duke points out that he’s waiting too long to either make a full-hearted endorsement of Trump, or completely pull his support. Ryan is currently playing a middle-road strategy that doesn’t work in his long-term political favor. Duke says that Ryan needs to make an early move, even with a weaker hand, because it’s the best strategy in this case.

“Let’s say I wait until I’m 60 percent sure I have the best hand before I bet, but I allow the chips to get so small I have to do it twice,” she says. “The chances that I’ll double up are only 36 percent. But if I’m willing to be a 45 percent favorite I’m better off.”

Duke may have been out of the game for a while, but she did a good job of relating the Presidential situation to poker. No wonder she’s been making a career out doing public speaking engagements that involve poker. Here are videos of Duke in action:

Jason Mercier Discusses WSOP on ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show

August 3rd, 2016

dan-le-batard-showJason Mercier had an outstanding summer, winning two gold bracelets and the 2016 WSOP Player of the Year award. And this success earned him an invite from ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show.

One of the biggest topics of discussion with Le Batard and his sidekick, Jon “Stugotz” Weiner, was the large number of bracelet bets that Mercier made over the summer. They were especially interested in how he bet $10,000 to win $1.8 million – a wager that he just narrowly missed out on after failing to win a third bracelet.

The hosts, who are used to discussing mainstream sports, were curious about how bracelet bets work in poker.

“How does this work?” asked Le Batard. “Is this fun?”

Mercier then outlined how the bets work, why they make poker more exciting, and how he was disappointed on not being able to secure the last bracelet that would’ve won him $1.8 million.

This prompted Weiner to ask the most-direct question of the show, mainly for the general public’s sake.

“Do you have a gambling problem?” Weiner said after hearing about the numerous bracelet bets.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Mercier. “I play poker to make money, and I gamble to make money, so it’s more of a job for me.”

Other questions that came up included what Mercier’s best moment in poker has been (winning EPT Sanremo at 21), and what his worst day in poker was (losing $1 million in a day playing cash games in Australia).

Overall, this was a pretty entertaining show because 1) it’s a national radio program, and 2) Mercier is coming off a highly successful WSOP. If you’d like to hear everything that Mercier had to say, you can listen here, and it begins in the second half of the show.

Poker Bot Cheater TheMadBotter Confesses – Brags About $30k Profit

July 29th, 2016

online-poker-botA bizarre post appeared on 2+2 from a poker bot cheater, who wanted to both confess and brag about his successful botting operation. “themadbotter” wrote that he booked a $30k profit while explaining some of the advanced techniques that he used with the bots.

“I hope to shed some light on the current economy of botting and to help people understand the relationship between botting and poker sites,” he wrote. “Over the past 6 months, my bot has played 500k+ hands on ACR (Americas Cardroom) mostly at 50-100NL. With various promos and bonuses factored in, it has generated around $30k of profit.”

Expressing his desire to remain anonymous because ACR/WPN network has his personal information, themadbotter explained that advanced botting requires more work than just the standard “plug-n-go” bots.

“Plug-n-play systems generally require minimal technical expertise whereas **** and similar frameworks will require intermediate programming experience,” he explained. “In general, bots in 2016 all come equipped (or can be equipped) with stealth technology that will remove any overt indications of the software running during a session; they will generally show up as some nondescript process running in the background on task manager.”

Themadbotter explained that plug-n-play bots are, at best, only capable of winning at the lowest limits. However, a well-programmed bot that is frequently updated can win at cash game limits of $50 to $100 NL Hold’em.

“Around month 3 is when the bot really took off, after I worked tirelessly to integrate a Poker Tracker database with the bot profile. Depending on VPIP, aggression, cbet%, fold to cbet%, etc., and overall results of a particular opponent, the bot had close to 15 different ‘branches’ of play,” he wrote. “It would play a nit much differently than it would a lag, a fish differently than a rock. It would exploit players based on tendencies: e.g. those who folds to 3bets too often, those who 3bet light OOP, those who folded to positional cbets unless they had top pair+, etc.”

Some of the posters, including “ChicagoJoey,” seemed genuinely interested in learning about what themadbotter had to say, just to get a glimpse into the world of advanced poker bots.

But other players were angered by the brash poster, who violated ACR’s terms and essentially cheated other players out of money.

One poster named “NovaCaine” believes that he knows who the madbotter is based on a couple of regs disappearing from $50 and $100 NLHE games. This, or something else, must have spooked themadbotter, who wrote the following after so many detailed posts/answers:

“Sorry all, I was just lying, just trolling. Why can’t I edit my posts? Can a mod lock this thread please?

“I see from the FAQ that it’s likely due to the way this particular sub was set up. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you all, I was just bored and wanted to troll. This is why I could not post any proof. I hope that admin can delete this thread so as to not cause undue panic in the players or to unnecessarily slander WPN’s reputation. ACR should ask to have this thread deleted since there is no reason why my unfortunate misstep, with no proof or evidence to support any of the allegations in this thread, should unnecessarily cause them financial harm or bring negative publicity.”

Whoever themadbotter is, it looks like they’re done talking about the subject. This disappointed some posters, who were interested in picking the player’s brain more about the advancements in botting.

You can read the entire 2+2 thread here.

Qui Nguyen Gets Tournament Breakthrough in WSOP Main Event

July 24th, 2016

qui-nguyen-wsop-main-eventQui Nugyen has carved out a successful poker career in Las Vegas, frequenting Aria cash games ranging from $1/$2 blinds up to $10/$20. But despite his success and diligence in these games, his bankroll always took a hit in WSOP events. That isn’t the case now, though, since Nguyen is one of nine players who’ll compete on the WSOP Main Event final table.

The 39-year-old racked up three eliminations in six hands at one point in the final day. This helped build his chip stack to the point where, with just nine players left, he holds the second-most chips (69.925m).

“Today I was running hot,” Nguyen said after the final table formed.

With the 2016 WSOP November Nine now official, Nguyen has one of the best chances at the $8 million top prize. Only Cliff Josephy holds more chips (74.6m) right now. Even if disaster stuck and Nguyen quickly fell down the chip count, he’d still be guaranteed a $1 million payout for ninth place.

In either case, Nguyen is just happy that something has went right for him in tournaments.

The Vietnam native has been playing cash games for 10 years after moving from Florida to Las Vegas in the mid-2000s. He quickly learned the ropes of cash games and became successful, but tournament accolades have always alluded him.

“Usually I try to get in the money and never get in the money,” Nguyen told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Known as “Tommy Gun” in the Aria poker room, Nguyen’s best WSOP payout was a $9,029 prize for taking 54th in a 2009 WSOP $1,500 NLHE event. But his best cash is already guaranteed to be $1 million, and it should be a lot higher based on his impressive chip stack.

Nguyen’s road to entering this year’s WSOP Main Event was a difficult one. He busted out of $565 and $1,100 satellites in pursuit of a $10,000 seat. It wasn’t until his third satellite, worth a $1,100 buy-in, that he earned his seat.

Family members tried to convince Nguyen to sell his seat and make a profit. But the Vietnamese-born pro didn’t think the sale price was worth what he stood to gain.

“It’s just $10,000,” he said. “I lost a lot more in baccarat.”

Nguyen and the rest of the 2016 November Nine will take the felt on October 30th to battle for over $25 million of prize money.