Jonathan Duhamel and PokerStars part ways

April 23rd, 2015

jonathan-duhamel-pokerRumors have been confirmed that Jonathan Duhamel has parted ways with PokerStars. Speculation started during the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, when Duhamel showed up without a PokerStars patch anywhere on his attire. And a quick trip to the world’s largest poker site reveals that the 2010 WSOP Main Event champ no longer appears on the pro roster.

Duhamel joins what’s become a growing trend across the online poker industry, where sponsored players have diminished value. Stars has recently let go of Alex Kravchenko, Dario Minieri, David Williams, Humberto Brenes, Jose Barbero and Marcel Luske. And a big sign that PokerStars no longer values former WSOP Main Event winners was when they dumped 2009 champ Joe Cada after he merely asked for 100% rakeback.

Other sites that have moved away from sponsored pros include Bodog, Full Tilt and Party Poker. The prevailing thought is that simply sticking a big-name poker pro in a tournament and slapping a team patch on them doesn’t draw recreational players. So many sites are busy trying to create an amateur-friendly experience over relying on a roster full of famous pros.

yuiko-matsukawa-signs-pokerstarsBut this isn’t to say that sponsorships are totally dead these days. Stars has proven this by signing several players over the last few months that meet their brand strategy. First off, they signed Jaime Staples and Jason Somerville because of their big presence on Twitch, the live-streaming site that’s seen as the next big thing in poker. Other signings reflect PokerStars’ ambitions in Asian – even in countries like Japan, where poker isn’t even legal. For instance, they signed model/actress Yuiko Matsukawa namely because she’s a hot girl with mainstream fame in Japan.

Whatever PokerStars’ ultimate plan is with regard to sponsored players, it clearly doesn’t revolve around those who are just good at poker. Instead, signed players need to be multi-dimensional (w/ a Twitch presence) or just be cute/Asian like Matsukawa with no clue on how poker works.

Chinese Authorities raid PokerStars’ APPT Nanjing Millions

April 19th, 2015

chinese-police-raid-pokerstars-tournamentChina is looked at as a very lucrative and untapped poker market. But the chances of tapping this market are about as good as my chances of tapping Kate Upton after Chinese National Police raided the APPT Nanjing Millions tournament.

Staged in Nanjing, an Eastern Chinese city with 3.6 million residents, this tourney was expected to go off without a hitch like any other live PokerStars event. And at first, this looked to be the case since over 2,300 players entered the APPT Nanjing Millions. But that was until authorities showed up to the Wutaishan Sports Center and shut down the event. As World Gaming Magazine reported through their Facebook page, authorities hung a sign on the door that read:

“Due to the APPT Nanjing Millions tournament being suspected of illegal gambling, the police are now investigating and the event is being ceased. All related staff should go and register at the designated location and co-operate with the police for the investigation.”

There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the crackdown, and a clear-cut answer has yet to be given for shutting the event down (beyond illegal gambling). But whatever the case may be, this definitely isn’t good for any ambitions surrounding the Chinese poker dream.

For the past few years, both players and poker operators have been looking to China as a country that could stimulate major growth in the game. However, China is currently in the midst of a crackdown on both gambling and political corruption. And it looks like their government officials aren’t buying the whole poker-is-a-skill-game argument that’s been flaunted in the U.S. so many times. Long story short, legal online poker in China may follow the same timeline as the invention of the hover car.

Natasha Sandhu ripped for plagiarizing Poker Articles

April 16th, 2015

natasha-sandhu-plagiarizing-poker-articlesAs somebody who’s been spinning out medium-to-above-average poker articles for almost a decade now, I’m not big on plagiarizing other people’s work. Sure, poker writers get “ideas” from each other and blissfully benefit from all the gossip threads that TwoPlusTwo users dig up from the dark recesses of the internet. But to completely steal somebody else’s work and slap your name on it…well, even Kim Jong-il might find something morally irreprehensible with this.

But apparently Natasha Sandhu doesn’t, or at least she claims ignorance in the matter of not knowing that plagiarizing is wrong. Poker sleuths ran a few of Sandhu’s PokerTube articles through Copyscape and found that a great deal of her writing was verbatim from other sites (see picture below, not the sexy bikini picture on the right).

Sandhu, who first became poker-famous through her engagement to Sam Trickett, combined with her hot looks (she’s a model), began working for PokerTube last year. And as I previously explained, her initial job was to provide video content for the site. Well, it seems that this job evolved into writing duties too, which, based on the current evidence, suggests that this went about as well as the Hindenburg and the Friends spin-off Joey.

To be honest, my in-depth knowledge of the plagiarizing subject comes from accounts on this TwoPlusTwo thread, which originally began as an attack against PokerTube for “stealing content.” I already got into this subject before, which you can see here in my PokerNews vs. PokerTube article.

natasha-sandhu-plagiarizing-poker-articles-2As for the Sandhu discussion, which begins in the later pages of the thread, somebody named “bubbleswubbles” seems to have the scoop, or at least from their opinion. I’m not 100% ingrained in the poker community, in fact I’m a serial forum lurker, akin to some 50-year-old bar hack/creeper who goes around photobombing bachelorette party pictures. So I don’t really know who bubbleswubbles is and if they had their writing ripped off by Sandhu. But regardless of their vendetta against the model, they do make some decent points about Sandhu claiming innocence, such as the following:

“I see it differently. She’s a full grown adult woman of at least somewhat average intelligence who stole someone else’s article and claimed it as her own. I can understand not wanting to judge people, but truth be told, she didn’t take responsibility. She didn’t say, yes, I stole someone else’s work and claimed it as my own, knowing that it was wrong to do so and that was a lousy thing to do. Instead, she acted like a child or someone too unknown to understand that what she did was wrong and played on people’s sympathy to try to weasel out of admitting that she did indeed know that it was wrong and did it anyway because she thought she could get away with it. There is a huge difference between not knowing something is wrong and not caring that it is wrong. She just didn’t care. In accepting that, you are saying that you think she is essentially a simple minded person. Do you really think that she is so stupid as to not know that something as basic as stealing someone else’s work and saying she was the creator of said work is wrong. Clearly she’s not a genius, but unless she is handicapped in some way, she knew exactly what she was doing and just did not care. By pretending to be too stupid to understand, she did play the victim card. I suspect she’s morally handicapped, not mentally handicapped.”

“They (PokerTube) don’t appear to care either, that doesn’t make her less responsible for what she chose to do, it just makes them wrong as well. Clearly you want to accept her excuses and I’m sure she is extremely adept at tugging on people’s little heart strings and playing the victim and I get the urge to want to be forgiving, but I don’t think it hurts to call someone on what is clearly unacceptable behavior and I don’t think it would kill her to just suck it up and admit she knew what she did was wrong and did it anyway and learn a lesson from it. If she’s not competent to make decisions for herself, perhaps someone could be assigned to hold her hand and help her make these complicated moral decisions that the rest of us manage to make on a regular basis. Yes, we all make mistakes, but then we admit to them, hang our heads in shame and learn from it. If I do something wrong, I at least have the balls, so to speak, to admit to it. I don’t flutter my eye lashes, act like a child and try to manipulate people into thinking I’m too dumb to be held responsible for what I did.”

All I can say is, ouch!!

MILF Angela Jordinson wins 3 Straight Poker Tournaments

April 15th, 2015

angela-jordinson-pokerAngela Jordinson may not have any WSOP bracelets and, hell, she doesn’t even have $100k in career poker winnings. But what Jordinson recently did is a feat that few pros would even consider possible: win three consecutive poker tournaments in three days.

Her incredible feat took place in the 2015 Spring Poker Round Up at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Pendleton, Oregon. And Jordinson kicked off the win streak by topping a 537-player field in an Event #1: $125 No-Limit Hold’em tournament ($10,828). The following day, on April 12th, she played in the Event #2: $225 No-Limit Hold’em tourney and beat out 447 players for the $18,348 top prize.

Could lightening strike a third time? It certainly did in the Event #3: No-Limit Shootout, which saw 214 players unsuccessfully try to stop Jordinson from scoring the $8,731 first-place payout. In all, she earned $37,907, but it almost feels like she should be getting an extra $1 million bonus for accomplishing such a rare feat.

“The last three tourneys have become a blur,” Jordison told PokerNews about her amazing 3-day run. “I have played more heads-up [poker] in the last three days than I ever have in my life. I had hands hold against big draws, suck outs, big lay downs, taken beats, and thrown some big angela-jordinson-poker-2bluffs. There were times that I had a difficult time in containing my aggression and my stack was up and down like a yo-yo.”

Jordinson would finally bust out of Event #4 and head home to Bend, Oregon. Far from a poker pro (she has about $85k in winnings), Jordinson is a bar owner and mother of two who’ll soon be sending her kids off to college. And judging from the pictures posted here, the only thing more amazing than her three straight tournament victories is that this young-looking lady is old enough to have college-aged kids.

Okay, moving past my weirdness, besides helping her kids attend the University of Oregeon, Jordinson also looks forward to playing some more poker. Specifically, she’s going to the 2015 WSOP in search of some gold bracelets. We’ve seen players win three bracelets in one WSOP, but could a certain woman win three straight?

Jaime Staples lands PokerStars Deal – Another Sign of Poker Twitch Growth

April 12th, 2015

jaime-staples-online-pokerWith a very solid $467k in online poker winnings, Jaime Staples is certainly a good player. But is the mid-stakes tournament grinder deserving of a sponsorship deal from a major site?

PokerStars certainly thinks so, especially given Staples’ presence on the live-streaming site Twitch. The Canadian has become one of the most-followed players on Twitch, and he recently shared his victory in the PokerStars Big $109 with over 4,800 viewers. Following the biggest score of his career, Staples received a dream call from Stars asking him to sign a Friend of PokerStars deal.

“I really do think Twitch will be an integral part of growing the game. In the same way online poker influenced live poker, streaming on Twitch will revolutionize poker viewing: more hands, fewer commercials, and completely on demand,” said the 23-year-old. “Best of all, there’s no barrier of entry for production.”

It’s obvious that PokerStars is banking on the growing Twitch phenomenon to bring them more customers. And they appear to be assigning great value to anybody who can score a sizable Twitch audience through self-promotion, strategy teaching skills and overall likability. Going further, guys like Staples can now land sponsorship deals with $467k in online winnings, an amount that would otherwise require model-like looks and at least a double-C rack to attain any kind of deal.

Again, I’m not trying to bash Staples’ skills because $467k is far more than I’ve ever won in internet poker. But on the other hand, there are players who’ve earned millions without any hope of landing a sponsorship in today’s poker climate. In any case, the reason why Stars signed Staples is because they think that he and his Twitch audience are worth it.

A few weeks ago, PokerStars signed Jason Somerville to a presumably much-bigger deal. Somerville, a very accomplished pro with over $6 million in combined online and live earnings, has amassed over 50k Twitch followers. So Stars tabbed him to kick off their new Twitch channel and help poker grow in general through this streaming service. Considering the Somerville and Staples signings, they definitely haven’t lost faith in Twitch’s potential.

Phil Ivey stars in Chrysler 300 Commercial

April 9th, 2015

phil-ivey-chrysler-300It’s a pretty good bet that Phil Ivey doesn’t drive a Chrysler 300 and instead has some mix of top-end luxury cars sitting in his garage. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool that he got to star in a Chrysler 300 commercial that was recently released.

The commercial is entitled “Kings & Queens of America,” which alludes to the fact that the U.S. has no monarchies or royal blood, but rather entrepreneurs who take what’s out there. Directed by “Game of Thrones” actor actor Peter Dinklage, this 60-second spot includes Chrysler’s version of kings and queens, or rather people who’ve created their own success in life.

To be quite honest, I don’t know who the hell any of these people are beyond Ivey – at least from their faces alone. Luckily, PR Newswire is there to back me up with a tidy little clipping about the commercial. Here’s an excerpt that discusses the random faces I see featured:

Those featured in the campaign include Becky Hammon (first full-time female NBA assistant coach); Alexis Ohanian (tech entrepreneur/Reddit cofounder); Mercedes Yvette (jewelry designer/The Gilded Fox); Lynn Le (founder of sportswear company Society Nine); Caroline Styne (restaurant owner); Nolen Niu (furniture designer/Nolen Niu Inc.); Avi Brosh (hotelier); Kwaku Alston (photographer); Andrew Sasson (hotelier); Tiffany Schrade (jewelry designer); Smith Henderson (novelist); Phil Ivey (professional gambler/entrepreneur); and Shawn Williams (martial arts studio owner/instructor).

Okay, so I’ve heard of Becky Hammon, I know what Reddit is, and I know of Ivey pretty well…so I think that I’m good. Assuming you’d like to watch the commercial yourself and see if you can identify any of these money monarchs, then take a crack below:

PokerStars could be eyeing Neymar

April 7th, 2015

neymar-pokerstarsPokerStars is apparently good at dealing with rejection because, not long after Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned down their sponsorship deal, they’re rumored to be going after Neymar.

This union was already suggested by multiple poker news outlets – including ThePokerPractice – when the story of Ibrahmovic turning down a €4 million deal surfaced. So it’s little surprise that PokerDoc is reporting that PokerStars and Neymar are in discussions. Here’s a bit from their story:

The information came to Pokerdoc through a source who was recently playing a home game in the house of Neymar own. She said negotiations for hiring the playmaker of the Brazilian team are well advanced and, therefore, the announcement may come out soon.

Okay, so yeah, the ol’ somebody-who-plays-in-their-home-game report isn’t always the most-reliable source. But it also isn’t the craziest thing in the world to think that Neymar could be considering a poker sponsorship deal – especially since he’s put pictures of his home game on Instagram before. Additionally, it’s obvious that Stars is willing to spend money on an elite footballer, given that there’s confirmation of their pursuit of Sweden’s Ibrahimovic.

The report goes on to claim that if the 23-year-old Brazilian does sign with PokerStars, he would be playing in at least three live tournaments every year, including EPT Monte Carlo. PokerStars Brazil has yet to confirm the report, and they merely stated that their discussions with Neymar are just a rumor at this point.

Even still, I can only fantasize about what Neymar could bring to the table regarding boosting poker’s image. He’s young, likes the game and has some of his best football years ahead of him. So if PokerStars does indeed sign him to a deal, it would not only be big for them, but also the rest of the poker world.

Ilari Sahamies taunts Dan Cates during Online Poker Session

April 4th, 2015

ilari-sahamies-dan-catesIt seems that Ilari Sahamies is truly back, both in terms of his online poker winnings and his legendary trash talking. During a recent high stakes session involving Dan ‘Jungleman12′ Cates, Sahamies took the liberty of questioning Cates’ sexuality, then adding that he himself was drunk at the end. Here’s a quick look at the highlights of their chat log, with the full version appearing on TwoPlusTwo:

lari FIN: ike
Ilari FIN: u my man
w00ki3z.: sec illari
w00ki3z.: let me see if I can sort something
Ilari FIN: wookiez semi gay

(cont’d later) Ilari FIN: wookiez shut uop
Ilari FIN: u r gay
w00ki3z: **** illari

(cont’d later) w00ki3z: i have gf genius
Ilari FIN: u have none

(cont’d later) Ilari FIN: im totally drunk

Judging from the entire chat log, these two aren’t bitter enemies. But this type of chat was typical from Sahamies in his heyday, which lasted from 2009 to 2011. And it looks like “Ilari FIN” might be starting a new era of success, and along with that is coming the trash talking that he is so well known for. Regarding his online poker successes lately, Sahamies has made $895,547 in 2015 alone, and his HighStakesDB graph shows that he’s up around $1.5 million since December of last year.

The Finn was once one of the most-dominant high stakes PLO players, eventually reaching $7 million in lifetime profits on Full Tilt Poker. Unfortunately, he lost a great deal of this money in 2011 and stopped playing online poker for a while. But now he definitely looks to be back and is one of the toughest PLO players at PokerStars right now. And given that Ilari FIN is a headline-maker, I can only hope that his success continues throughout 2015 and beyond.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says No to PokerStars’ €3-4 million Offer

March 31st, 2015

zlatan-ibrahimovic-pokerZlatan Ibrahimovic may be one of the biggest soccer stars in the world, but he has no intent on being one of the biggest poker stars. The Swedish-born footballer, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, reportedly said no to PokerStars in a sponsorship deal that would’ve paid him €3-4 million a year.

This report comes via Le Parisien, as they revealed the top 10 secrets about Ibrahimovic, with #4 being that he “may refuse gold contracts.” I don’t speak French, so I’ll let Google Translate explain what Le Parisien wrote on the matter:

With an annual salary slightly above €16 million gross, the Swede is the highest paid player in Ligue 1. With this compensation, it is allowed to refuse it a few weeks ago, a contract with the Poker-Stars society. This partnership, which had found him VIP Consulting agency Hocquemiller Frank, was to bring him 3 to €4 million. At the last moment Ibra declined the offer, without explanation.

While there’s been no official explanation on why Ibrahimovic denied the deal, this TwoPlusTwo thread throws out some possible explanations, including that “he doesn’t like poker,” “he can’t be bothered doing silly commercials,” and “his father is a Muslim and gambling is banned in that religion.”

Okay, so a lot of this is pure rumors and speculation, but there has to be some good reason why he wouldn’t take an easy fortune to do a few silly commercials for PokerStars – besides that he makes €16 million a year already.

In any case, there are lots of other fish in the sea if Stars decides to snag another footballer for Team SportStars – aside from the retired Ronaldo of course. The other Ronaldo, Neymar, Gareth Bale or Lionel Messi are other mega-stars who might be willing to listen to talks that include €4 million for pretending to like poker. In Neymar’s case, it’s not even pretending since he actually plays.

Poker’s Guy Laliberté may be selling Majority Stake in Cirque du Soleil

March 30th, 2015

guy-laliberte-selling-cirqueHigh stakes poker player and famed Cirque du Soleil owner Guy Laliberté has built his company from the ground up into a multi-billion dollar entity over the past 30 years. But now, it seems that Laliberté is interested in cashing out and selling a large portion of Cirque du Soleil.

The Canadian billionaire owns 90 percent of the company and was initially looking for somebody to purchase a minority stake. However, TheGlobeAndMail.com reports that he’s now interested in selling the bulk of his 90 percent controlling interest.

Laliberté intiially attracted a number of potential investors, but many of them have been scared off after examining the company’s “deteriorating financial condition.” Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec is one investor that’s stuck around, however, they only want a 10 percent stake at most and would like to join a winning bid. Caisse’s concern is that the company’s shows are struggling and they need a large amount of capital to spark a turnaround.

Goldman Sachs, which is running the auction, has valued Cirque du Soleil at $2 billion. However, it’s a wonder if the sale price will come anywhere near the valuation when considering the shaky financial status of the company. Investors have been given one week to come up with an offer for Laliberté.

Assuming Laliberté does fetch a decent price for his company, it’ll be interesting to see if he returns to the online poker tables again. The Montreal native is considered the biggest online poker loser in history with $25 million in losses, which is even more than Gus Hansen!

Laliberté left poker with a bad taste in his mouth, not only because of the losses, but also because he believes that he was cheated by high stakes pros. As I discussed before, Laliberté says that certain players were using endless funds given by FTP, and they would inflate pots by betting big. Given that Laliberté was already at a disadvantage, players pumping up the pots would cause him to lose more.

In any case, this was years ago, and Laliberté is still very much involved in poker, having spearheaded the $1 million WSOP Big One for ONE Drop. So regardless of whether he plays online again, he will at least be playing some live tournaments and helping drive the WSOP Big One.