Is Daily Fantasy Sports going through a Poker Boom?

November 21st, 2014

chris-moneymaker-andrew-luckEven today, many poker players like to discuss the Poker Boom, which, depending upon whom you ask, lasted from 2003 – 2006 (maybe until ’08). Regardless of when the Boom ended, many can agree that the downturn’s fondation was laid when the United States enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). But one activity that avoided the umbrella of this unfavorable 2006 bill against online gambling: fantasy sports.

Largely thanks to the NFL’s deep pockets and desire to keep fantasy sports alive – due to the fan interest it brings – fantasy sports don’t come with the same limitations as online poker and casino games (at least for Americans). So players can use PayPal and other handy forms of payment to fund their accounts.

This is just one reason why daily fantasy sports (DFS) have been exploding over the past 1-2 years. Now, just like online poker today, sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are offering multi-million dollar tournaments.

As we covered before, poker pro Matt Smith was a big beneficiary of one of these tournaments. Smith earned the million-dollar top prize in a $2.2 million NFL tourney on DraftKings. Other noted poker pros who did well in this tourney included Brian Hastings, Aaron Jones and Tony Dunst.

Of course, a boom isn’t built on the participation of pros, but rather the average Joes. And as this New York Post article indicates, Mr. Average Joe is setting his DFS lineup far more often these days.

The NY Post cites how FanDuel expects to pay out over $500 million in prizes this year, and over $1 billion in 2015. Their player base will also reach 1 million people this year, quadruple what it was in 2013. And while 1 million is FAR off the 50 million-plus that PokerStars boasts, it indicates that the largest DFS sites are growing by leaps and bounds.

Will DFS ever reach the lofty status that online poker did in the mid-2000s (and remains at today)? Well, there’s no Chris Moneymaker figure in the DFS world yet. But both DraftKings and FanDuel seem to be driving the game, much like PokerStars and Full Tilt did for internet poker. And with DFS tournaments growing larger and larger, it’s only a matter of time before the football-loving version of Moneymaker comes along.

Jorn Walthaus says Macau Poker Games not so Great

November 17th, 2014

jorn-walthaus-macau-high-stakesIt used to be that Bobby’s Room (Las Vegas Bellagio) was THE premier place for high stakes poker. But that largely changed a few years ago, when top-notch grinders like John Juanda, Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and others began mixing it up with billionaire fish in Macau. According to Dutch high stakes player Jorn Walthaus, though, the Macau poker games aren’t nearly as lucrative these days.

Walthaus describes a situation where a smoking ban and too many pros have driven away some of the recreational players. “The biggest difference between the games when I came here and now is I think…there are less recreational players,” he told PokerNews. “I was here when the smoking ban came, so no more smoking at the tables. And I think that really hurt the games. What happened is that a lot of professional players came here, and so there were more professional players at the table compared to recreational players.”

After spending eight months living and grinding from 10:00am to 4:00am every day, Walthaus made the decision to leave this gambling capital. His two reasons were A) the games got worse, and B) he can make more money playing online poker.

The Dutchman spent his time at the $300/$600 and $1k/$2k tables, and he says there were plenty of rec players at the table. However, he believes that the scene has largely shifted to pro vs. pro in recent times.

Given that Walthaus had trouble “getting satisfaction” from the Macau routine when he was winning, tougher games convinced him that his time would be better spent elsewhere. You can see everything that he had to say on the matter below:

Europeans expected to continue thriving at WSOP

November 15th, 2014

The 2014 WSOP Main Event featured some interesting history on the European side. First off, Martin Jacobson became the first Swedish player to win the tournament, collecting a $10 million payout in the process. And with Jacobson, Norway’s Felix Stephensen (2nd) and Netherlands’ Jorryt van Hoof (3rd) taking the top three spots, this is the first time in WSOP history that Europeans have gone 1-2-3. But is this just a rarity, or something that we can expect to see more of?

There were pretty good odds that a European champion would emerge because van Hoof and Stephensen came on to the final table with the first and second-most chips respectively. However, for the Europeans to sweep the top three spots – with four Americans on the final table – is a new landmark in the game. And according to Aaron Todd of CasinoCityTimes, we can likely expect more of this moving forward.

Todd’s argument stems from the fact that much of Europe has easier access to online poker. After all, multiple nations throughout the continent have taken steps to regulate the online game. Meanwhile, the United States has seen less and less regulation, thanks to the 2006 UIGEA and Black Friday (2011). The latter was especially a big blow because it took away Americans’ access to the biggest sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt.

Taking everything into account, it would seem like Europe has a big edge moving forward in the WSOP. “Maybe Europeans have a small advantage because online poker is still widely available,” van Hoof explained. “I guess that makes us able to practice more, so I hope America gets (online) poker back soon, so they’ll get to practice more as well.”

“I don’t want to be mean to all the Americans,” said Stephensen. “But I definitely feel like Europeans are stronger right now. You get in a lot of volume, and when you play online, it’s usually against tougher opponents than you play against (in live games). I think that has a big impact on why it’s evolving this way.”

If one isn’t convinced online poker availability could be increasing the Europeans’ presence at the Main Event final table, then consider the following stats that Todd provided:

In the last four years, 33.3 percent of the final table players have been European, 55.5 percent have been American and 8.3 percent have come from outside of America and Europe. In the previous eight years, 73.6 percent of the final table players have been American, 16.7 percent were European and 9.7 percent were from other areas.

Martin Jacobson: Surprise 2014 WSOP Main Event Winner

November 12th, 2014

martin-jacobson-wsop-main-event-champWhen looking through the 2014 November Nine, not many people gave Martin Jacobson a realistic chance to win. After all, he was sitting with 14.9 million chips – just the eighth-largest stack out of the remaining nine players. But through a combination of incredible poker skills and running good, Jacobson worked his way out of this hole and on towards the 2014 WSOP Main Event title.

By the end of the first day, when only three players remained, Jacobson, put himself in second place. His final opponents were Norway’s Felix Stephensen and Netherlands’ Jorryt van Hoof, with the latter holding the chip advantage.

Many would have picked van Hoof to win simply because the poker coach had the chip edge, looked confident and was playing aggressively. However, he lost a huge pot against Stephensen during three-handed play and things went downhill from here.

Once he busted out, it was Stephensen (58.5m chips) facing off against Jacobson (142m chips) for the title. Based on winning pots alone, this was a pretty even matchup, however, the difference-maker was Jacobson’s ability to win the big hands. The end was rather anti-climatic since it took the Swede just an hour to beat Stephensen.

Regardless of how easy the heads-up match was, Jacobson’s come-from-behind victory will definitely go down in WSOP lore. Furthermore, he’s also the first Swedish player to win the Main Event. Want more history? How about the fact that his $10 million payout ranks just behind Jamie Gold ($12m) in Main Event history.

His live tournament winnings have now surpassed $14.8 million, which moves him up to ninth place on the all-time money list. Jacobson also passed Chris Bjorin to become Sweden’s biggest all-time winner as well. Check out how the entire Main Event final table fared below.

2014 WSOP Main Event Final Table Payouts
1. Martin Jacobson – $10,000,000
2. Felix Stephensen – $5,147,911
3. Jorryt van Hoof – $3,807,753
4. William Tonking – $2,849,763
5. Billy Pappaconstantinou – $2,143,794
6. Andoni Larrabe – $1,622,471
7. Dan Sindelar – $1,236,084
8. Bruno Politano – $947,172
9. Mark Newhouse – $730,725

Mark Newhouse’s Nightmare: 9th Place at WSOP Again

November 11th, 2014

Mark Newhouse captured quite a few poker headlines this summer when he made his second-straight final table in the WSOP Main Event. Last year, Newhouse battled through 6,352 players to make the final table, only to bust out in ninth when it resumed four months later.

At the 2014 Main Event, he survived an even bigger 6,683-player field to once again land in the November Nine. This time, it seemed impossible for him to bust out first, given that he had experience and 26 million chips on his side. However, just as improbable as making two straight final tables in the November Nine era, Newhouse again busted out in ninth.

Despite collecting $730,725, Newhouse was very disappointed about his finish. He still went through the motions at a press conference, which you can see below, but he was far from thrilled about being the first November Niner gone again.

On the hand that saw him eliminated, Newhouse was trying to bluff William Tonking. The latter was holding pocket queens while Newhouse held pocket 10’s on a paired board (4’s). Mark went all-in on the river, hoping to force a fold in this large pot, but Tonking called and won with his pair of queens.

When asked what he was going to do after netting another large Main Event score, Newhouse simply replied that he’d “figure it out within the next hour.” The North Carolina native also said he was headed back to his hotel room, presumably to sulk about the disappointing finish for a bit longer.

While Newhouse may not be happy about a second straight ninth-place effort, it is pretty impressive that he now has over $3.5 million in live tournament winnings.

Does the Global Poker League stand a Chance?

November 6th, 2014

Taking a cue from sports leagues like the NBA and NFL, Global Poker Index founder Alex Dreyfus recently announced the formation of the “Global Poker League,” or GPL for short.

While few details are known on the GPL, this poker league follows up on Dreyfus’ mission to sportify the game and make it more entertaining for casual audiences. Here’s more from the man himself on what to expect:

GPL will be Poker’s professional league. The initial vision is to have a series of live events akin to a sports season co-hosted by international poker events, with between six to eight different franchises (poker teams) competing against one another with initial seasons lasting a short three to four months. Unlike the Global Poker Masters – where teams are comprised of each Nation’s top 5 available players – GPL teams will consist of “draftable” players from GPI’s Rankings and wildcard entries.

I’ve already presented this concept, and terms for participation, to a number of prospective future team owners. It’s been an extremely positive experience – reception has been warm across the board and we’ve already had a number of commitments from intrigued future ‘franchise’ owners. Commitments from leading figures from both in front of and behind the felt are rolling in too.

So does Dreyfus’ proposed league stand a chance of success? Well looking back through history, there’s a little thing called the Epic Poker League, which flopped miserably. The EPL was designed to be a professional poker league of sorts, where qualified players competed in tournaments – all marching towards a $1 million freeroll.

The EPL was a massive failure, highlighted by the fact that the $1 million freeroll never took place. In the aftermath, Annie Duke’s reputation was tarnished even more than through her long-term promotional ties to UB. So is Dreyfus destined to be the next Duke?

Probably not since he can learn from the huge mistakes of the EPL. Plus he seems like a very capable business guy. But this isn’t necessarily to say that a professional poker league will take off either. Only time will tell if Dreyfus can make his vision a success.

Read more about the GPL at Dreyfus’ blog.
Read more about the Sports Betting at GTBets and their blog.

Daniel Negreanu fully agrees with PokerStars’ Changes

November 3rd, 2014

PokerStars has started to look like a completely different site over the past few months. They’ve dropped famous pros, increased rake for certain games, introduced Spin & Gos, added currency exchange rates and have reduced upper VIP rewards.

Obviously you don’t make all of these changes without ruffling a few feathers, which is exactly what’s happened in PokerStars’ case. Many regulars are outraged because some of the moves directly affect their bottom line. And they are pointing the finger directly at Amaya Gaming, which recently purchased Stars for $4.9 million.

But the company’s most-prominent sponsored player, Daniel Negreanu, thinks a little differently on the matter. Writing in his blog at FullContactPoker, Negreanu explained that many of PokerStars’ recent moves are meant to bring new players to the game, rather than gouge everybody for money. He also explains that most of these changes were coming before Amaya bought the site:

I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about some of the recent changes at PokerStars and throw in my two cents. First of all, I think it’s really important to note that most of the recent changes were going to happen well before the new ownership group took over. The online poker landscape has changed over the last few years and many of these changes were inevitable in a competitive market for the company to continue to be the world leader. While I get it, nobody gets excited over rake increases, I think it’s really important to note that PokerStars remains the cheapest place to play online poker. The rake increases are still smaller than what the competition offer, and that’s before you account for the generous VIP programs.

It’s not hard to tell who’s side Negreanu is on after reading this post. So his opinion definitely won’t win him any favor with some of the die-hard regulars at PokerStars. But he and Stars both maintain that the changes are necessary to stay competitive with other poker sites and draw new players.

There’s probably definitely some truth to this, however, most of the players’ complaints about increased rake and currency fees also hold validity – especially when Stars is far and away the market leader.

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: