WSOP’s Jeffrey Pollack still kicking, wants NHL in Vegas

October 25th, 2014

Thought Jeffrey Pollack would fade away into the woodwork after the Epic Poker League disaster? Not a chance as the former EPL Executive Chairman and ex-WSOP Commissioner is on to a new venture: working with billionaire William Foley.

And as the New York Post reports, Foley’s biggest pursuit right now is trying to bring an NHL franchise to Las Vegas. He hopes to accomplish this goal by the 2017-18 NHL season. Here’s more on what the Post has to say about the deal:

One scenario is for Foley to buy the money-losing Arizona Coyotes and move them to Las Vegas, a source said.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway reached a deal to acquire a controlling stake in the Coyotes franchise. Barroway sees flipping the team as a good investment, the source added.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s half brother, Jeffrey Pollack, has been advising Barroway, sources said. Pollack also lives in Las Vegas.
While an NHL spokesman declined to discuss what, if any talks the league has held with Foley, he said it was “categorically wrong” that Foley is planning to buy the Coyotes and move them to Sin City.

As the report suggests, there’s some definite uncertainty regarding any plans to move the Phoenix Coyotes. Of course, with the lenghty amount of years that it takes to reach a deal of such magnitude, there’s not going to be any confirmation on if the Phoenix scenario is for real or not.

Another option is simply expansion, an idea that Bettman is open to. So with enough push from Foley and his crew, this is a deal that could definitely happen.

And Pollack will be critical to making it a reality since the adviser not only has a family connection with Bettman, but also knows the Las Vegas market fairly well. In any case, it’s interesting to see the path that Pollack’s career has taken. He’s much like his former colleague, Annie Duke, who became a business speaker after crashing out as the EPL Commissioner.

EU Court sides with Poker’s Pier Paolo Fabretti in Italian Tax Case

October 24th, 2014

Italian poker pros recently got some favorable news after the European Union Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that Italy can’t unfairly tax players for winnings earned in other EU countries.

The Italian government has a weird policy in place whereby they don’t take income taxes from poker winnings earned in nationally licensed, land-based casinos. However, they do levy income tax on money won in live poker tournaments outside the country.

PokerStars pro Pier Paolo Fabretti had become somewhat of the posterboy behind this policy. The Provincial Tax Commission of Rome claimed that Fabretti owed taxes on the €52,000 prize that he scooped for winning the 2009 IPT Nova Gorica High Roller in Slovenia. Rome’s Tax Commission also looked into his other tournament prizes over the years and required taxes on these too.

Roman poker pro Cristiano Blanco was another player whom the Commission was targeting. Blanco has over $835k in live tourney winnings, including €380,000 ($498k) that he picked up for finishing second at the 2007 EPT Dortmund (Germany) Main Event.

The CJEU’s reasoning for backing the poker players is that Italy’s policy of exempting domestic poker winnings and taxing foreign earnings restricts freedom of trade. Going further, poker pros would be less likely to play in other EU countries knowing that they not only incur travel costs but also extra taxes.

Another point that the CJEU made is that there’s no legitimate reason for the biased poker taxes because this policy doesn’t protect consumers nor prevent crime. Given that the CJEU sided with Blanco and Fabretti in this case, it will be interesting to see if any similar poker tax cases are brought to the EU in the near future.

Post-Blom/Hansen Full Tilt debuts New Advertising Campaign

October 24th, 2014

It’s only been a few days since Full Tilt dumped Gus Hansen and Viktor Blom. And already the online poker site has debuted their new marketing approach, which seeks to appeal to the average person, rather than skilled players who actually care about pros.

Anybody who previously read about Full Tilt’s move away from “Pro-centric advertising” shouldn’t be surprised at the angle that these commercials take. Dubbed “The Call” and “The Bluff,” these new ads are pro-free and feature amateurs trying to make important decisions.

In many ways, the commercials hearken back to the mid-2000s, when poker was seen as a somewhat mystical game where untold fortunes lay. Furthermore, the ads are all about regular guys, with one shoving all-in because he doesn’t think his opponent “has the heart,” while the other guy considers the call because he’s “not leaving without a show.”

All in all, Full Tilt should be applauded for their new approach, which is miles away from their old motto of “Learn, Chat and Play with the Pros.” Take a look at the ads for yourself and see what you think:

Viktor Blom, Gus Hansen dropped by Full Tilt Poker

October 21st, 2014

Sponsored pros were once a staple of the online poker industry. But Viktor ‘Isildur1′ Blom and Gus Hansen recently found out the hard way that this is no longer the case these days. Both were let go by Full Tilt Poker in a move that’s officially disbanded “The Professionals.”

Blom, Hansen and Tom Dwan were signed to be Full Tilt’s Professionals after the site’s post-Black Friday launch in late 2012. Dwan was eventually dropped by FTP in late 2013 while Isildur1 and Hansen remained with the team. However, almost one year later, they are both gone too.

Anybody who’s searching for reasons why need look no further than what’s currently happening in the online poker industry. Few sites see the use in having sponsored pros wearing their patch, given the heavy focus on recreational players. So offering lucrative contracts to players like Blom and Hansen is an archaic business model in today’s poker world.

An additional reason for getting rid of their remaining sponsored players is likely their recent performance. After bursting on to the internet poker scene in late 2009, Isildur1 has failed to recapture the magic he had back in those days. Currently, HighStakesDB shows Blom as being over $3 million in the hole at Full Tilt.

Of course, this is nothing compared to Hansen – perhaps online poker’s biggest loser ever (close competition with Guy Laliberte). The Great Dane has over $20 million in losses, and his graph shows a consistent downward spiral since the relaunch of Full Tilt.

So if the industry trend wasn’t already against these two, their lackluster results didn’t exactly convince FTP that they couldn’t do without Blom and Hansen. And don’t expect any more big signings to fill these guys’ void.

Poker Night in America incites Massive Twitter Battle

October 19th, 2014

Who knew that a group of poker pros sitting around a table and bullshitting with each other would incite such anger? WSOP bracelet winner Allen Bari recently stirred up some emotions when tweeting his opinion on how bad it was that David “ODB” Baker was the show’s biggest name. This drew the attention of PNIA’s creator, Todd Anderson, and the twitter battle was on:

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV @audavidb only because we couldn’t get you!! Whiners not allowed!!!!!!

Allen Bari – @PokerNight_Todd @PokerNightTV @audavidb I wish I was watching the usual bull fight/Nascar rather than this poker show you guys puked up

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV @audavidb Well why don’t you? 800 channels to watch but you always find @PokerNightTV How does that happen?

Allen Bari – @PokerNight_Todd @PokerNightTV @audavidb I enjoy seeing what not to do when creating a poker show.. using it for research purposes buddy

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV @audavidb Critics are easy to find. How about you create something yourself buddy? I DARE You

Allen Bari – @PokerNight_Todd @PokerNightTV Dare accepted.. I think I’ll create a food business, btw thx for running out of content that u had to use me

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV I doubt you could create a decent bowel movement. And will never use you again so stop watching. @please #loser

Allen Bari – @PokerNight_Todd @PokerNightTV remember me when you look back on this time and realize what an awful product you put into the world

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV remember me in 5 years when this show is a world wide reality and airs every night. Bet on it. @whineyassbitch

Todd Anderson – @allenbari @PokerNightTV And you obviously want to be on the show. It’s Shakespearian. “You doth protest too much” Sorry. #never

Allen Bari – I love the nights where I get out of line on twitter, and weed out those that follow me but are begging to be blocked

Did Bari poke the hornets’ nest because he’s jealous of not being on the show? Perhaps, but he’s been known to stir up trouble in the past anyways. And Anderson definitely didn’t sit back and take Bari’s comments with a grain a salt. In any case, I don’t agree with Bari that this is a terrible show and I recommend that you watch it below:

Mike Leah wins WSOP APAC High Roller – Grabs $600k and First Bracelet

October 17th, 2014

With over $3.3 million in live tournament winnings and plenty of huge online poker victories, Mike Leah was starting to enter those discussions about the greatest poker player to never win a gold bracelet. However, Leah finally got his first bracelet in the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific $25k High Roller.

Like any high roller victory, this one certainly wasn’t easy as the Canadian was pitted against a stacked 68-player field. Despite the tough competition, Leah built a stack so big that he had over half the chips in play when the final table started. From here, the skilled pro used his advantage to bully other players and adapt when the table dynamic changed.

Leah’s prize for his expert play was a massive A$600,000 payout. Other players who fared well include Jesse Sylvia (3rd, A$216,811), Jonathan Duhamel (4th, A$145,003) and Brian Roberts (6th, A$85,027).

Following the win, Leah expressed relief about winning his first bracelet. “I’m obviously very happy – I don’t know if it has sunk in yet,” he said. “I’ve been trying to accomplish this goal for so long. There is just relief that I’ve finally done it.”

Leah went on to discuss how badly things were going for him at the 2014 WSOP APAC, before he turned it around with the high roller win:

I just tried to stay focused on every single hand. I didn’t want to think too far ahead. I wanted to bully the table around, but was trying to find a balance between using my chips and not being reckless.

This has been a great year for me. The first nine events here I felt I really played awful. I punted a bunch of events and wasn’t happy with how I played. It just seems once I can get into a tournament and off to a good start, getting a lot of chips, I really zone in. All the tournaments I have done well in this year have been like that.

2014 WSOP APAC $25k High Roller (AUD)
1st: Mike Leah – $600,000
2nd: David Yan- $360,025
3rd: Jesse Sylvia – $216,811
4th: Jonathan Duhamel – $145,003
5th: Sam Khouiss – $110,078
6th: Brian Roberts $85,027
7th: Sam Higgs – $65,035
8th: Andrew Hinrichsen – $50,021

Study says Poker Players are Skinny Drunks

October 13th, 2014

If you’re a poker player, then we have good news and bad news: you are most likely skinny and a drunk.

This finding comes courtesy of a study from Jackpot.co.uk, which undertook the task of finding out which type of gamblers were the healthiest. We can tell you right now that it wasn’t slots players because they topped out at 31 on the BMI scale – well above the UK national average of 27.

Poker players, on the other hand, fared much better with a BMI of 25. A good reason why is because 58% of the rounders said they exercise at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week. One more healthy habit of poker players is that they’re less likely to smoke than the average Brit.

But on the downside, they did rate pretty high in the drinking category. Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, given that many poker players hang out in bars.

So what is it that makes poker players largely healthier than their slots counterparts. Well a big factor is age since the average poker player/survey-taker was 38, while the average slots player was 45. People tend to gain more weight as they get older, which explains that it’s not just watching reels spin that makes slots aficionados fat.

The relative youthfulness of poker players may also explain why 23% of them drink more than the UK’s recommended weekly amount. Many players spend time traveling to tournaments and hang out at bars or clubs when they’re away. Likewise, many young internet grinders like to socialize at bars since they don’t meet many people at work.

In any case, it’s good to hear that the study of 2,131 gamblers found that poker players rank low on the BMI scale.

Poker Pro Matt Smith wins $1 Million in Fantasy Football

October 9th, 2014

Fantasy sports have been growing in popularity over the past decade and a half. And since fantasy sports offer positive expected value for those with skill, it’s little surprise that many poker players embrace the activity.

Case in point, numerous poker players flocked to the recent “Millionaire Maker” fantasy football event at DraftKings. For a $27 buy-in, entrants got to play for a $1 million top prize and an overall prize pool of $2.2 million.

As this event got near the end, poker players Brian Hastings, Aaron Jones and Tony Dunst all had a shot at winning. However, it was a lesser-known poker player named Matt Smith who’d eventually capture the title along with a $1 million payout. After winning, Smith wasn’t quite sure what to say so he just tweeted this:

I don’t even know what to say. I’m in complete shock and can’t thank everyone enough for all the support!

As mentioned before fantasy sports have been attracting more and more people every year. And this has given rise to daily fantasy sports, where players pay a buy-in, draft their team and see the game play out in a single day.

Switching to another note, somehow daily fantasy sports continue to be completely legal across the United States – yet online poker is only legal/regulated in three states. I’m not sure why this is the case….oh wait, yeah I am. Professional sports leagues have done heavy lobbying over the years for various interests, and making sure that fantasy sports stay legal is one them.

The NFL has especially benefited from the widespread popularity of daily fantasy sports – and season-long leagues too – because these generate far more interest in the games. Call it a double standard while online poker waits on the sidelines, but it’s an unfortunate reality now.

Phil Ivey loses £7.7m Crockfords Case – Is Precedent set for Borgata?

October 8th, 2014

Phil Ivey took a bad beat in court when a UK High Court judge ruled against him in a £7.7 million baccarat edge sorting case.

Predictably, Ivey argued that edge sorting is not cheating and he wouldn’t use the technique if he thought it cheated the casino. The judge believed that Ivey didn’t think he was really cheating. However, the judge still sided with Crockfords’ argument that Ivey went above and behind the normal scope of advantage play, including asking for a bunch of favors under the guise of being superstitious (i.e. cards tilted at 180-degree angle, same deck used, Chinese-speaking dealer).

After the case was decided, a disappointed Ivey continued to profess his belief that he won fair and square. The 10-time WSOP champ said the following:

I am obviously disappointed with this judge’s decision. As I said in court, it is not my nature to cheat and I would never do anything to risk my reputation.

I am pleased that the judge acknowledged in court that I was a truthful witness by saying that ‘I am entirely convinced that Mr Ivey did not consider that what he was doing was cheating.

I believe that what we did was a legitimate strategy – we did nothing more than exploit Crockfords’ failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability – clearly today, the judge did not agree.

There’s also a $9.6 million lawsuit filed by the Borgata against Ivey that’s yet to be decided. Another edge sorting case, Ivey was actually paid the $9.6 million in baccarat winnings before he left the casino. However, Borgata now wants their money back and, like Crockfords, they’re taking their case to court.

Given what happened in the Crockfords judgement, there may be some precedent here. Of course, Borgata is dealing with a different country and they already gave Ivey the money. This case is supposed to be decided next year, so it’ll be interested to see if Ivey goes 0-for-2 or he gets better luck this time.

Popular Jason Somerville gone from Ultimate Poker

September 27th, 2014

Over the past year, Ultimate Poker has been busy slashing their roster of pro players. Once boasting over a dozen signed pros, Team U now has only a handful of players representing them. And you can count one less because Jason Somerville is rumored to be out at Ultimate Poker (UP).

This is quite strange, given that Somerville is one of the more popular poker pros in the game today. Furthermore, he just launched a webseries called “RunItUp,” which was supposed to be exclusive to UP. However, one sign that Somerville is done at the site includes the fact that he’s been uploading RunItUp episodes to his own channel as well.

As F5Poker reports, the main reason why Somerville could be done is because UP doesn’t have the money to keep sponsoring him. They just pulled out of the New Jersey market after their partner, Trump Taj Mahal, announced a tentative closing date of November 13th. Upon announcing their exit from New Jersey, UP’s parent company, Ultimate Gaming, also said that Taj Mahal still owes them $1.5 million in revenue payments – money they might never see.

Things haven’t exactly been booming in Nevada either. According to PokerScout, UP averages 60 cash game players an hour in Nevada, which trails market-leader WSOP.com and their 100 players an hour. UP’s cash game traffic has remained relatively stagnant over the past year, thus indicating little growth in the Silver State.

Seeing as how the poker room doesn’t seem to be gaining much ground, it’s a wonder if their remaining pros will be around in another year. Antonio Esfandiari, Danielle Andersen and Dan O’Brien are still sponsored by the Nevada-based company. But these three can’t be cheap – especially Esfandiari – and UP continues to struggle in an American online poker market that hasn’t quite taken off yet.