How Much Longer can the Rio Host the WSOP?

March 17th, 2019

rio-casino-host-wsopThe Rio has hosted the World Series of Poker since 2005. This famed Vegas casino has seen some of the biggest moments in WSOP history, including Jamie Gold’s record $12 million Main Event victory.

Of course, the WSOP doesn’t have to be held at the Rio. Caesars Entertainment could move it to one of their other Vegas properties.

In fact, Caesars may consider doing so in the near future due to one big reason.

The Rio Isn’t What It Once Was

Binion’s Horseshoe casino was the previous home to the WSOP. It hosted the world’s largest poker tournament event from 1970 to 2004.

Many can look fondly back on Binion’s and its classic atmosphere. There couldn’t be have been a more-iconic place to host the event.

Unfortunately, Binion’s was no long suitable once poker and the WSOP boomed starting in 2003. Suddenly, tens of thousands of players descended upon Sin City for this poker event.

The WSOP was forced to relocate after two years spent in the cramped Binion’s, which is now shuttered. They found their new home in the much-larger Rio.

The Rio is still adequate in terms of size all these years later. However, its facilities aren’t quite on par with some of the newer Vegas casinos.

Players have been complaining about poor WiFi, a leaky roof, issues with bathrooms, and the drafty Amazon room for the past several years.

Of course, poker players are known for complaining the loudest among any gamblers. But they do have some good points about the Rio.

Where Else can the WSOP Be Held?

Caesars owns plenty of other casinos throughout Sin City. Of course, not all of them are big enough to accommodate the WSOP.

Bally’s, Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Paris, and Planet Hollywood are all fairly large casinos. Caesars is especially intriguing, because it features a conference center opening in 2020 that will span 550,000 square feet.

Of course, the Rio has certain elements that make it perfect for the WSOP. It has a spacious parking lot that ensures both players and railbirds can find a spot. Perhaps some renovations could do the trick and keep the Rio a viable spot for this annual event.

Bellagio Poker Room Robbed – Suspect Shot, In Critical Condition

March 16th, 2019

bellagio-robbery-2019The Bellagio poker room has been targeted in multiple robberies within the past several years. You can add one more to the list after yet another person tried to steal money from the Vegas casino.

A man entered the poker room on Friday night at 9:45pm, brandishing a gun and demanding money from the cashier’s cage. After securing the cash, they ran out of the north entrance and tried to carjack a guest using valet parking.

They were unsuccessful, though, and found themselves facing off against four police officers who responded to the scene. A shootout ensued, with the suspect hitting one officer in their bulletproof vest.

The police returned fire and hit the suspect. The officer only received minor injuries, but the suspect is now in critical condition.

A Look Back at Previous Bellagio Poker Room Robberies

You’d think that the Bellagio was a Wild West bank the way that their poker room keeps getting hit. This attempt is the third within the past decade.

Just last year, an armed perpetrator walked into the Bellagio with a blonde wig and glasses. They actually managed to get away after sticking up the poker room and have yet to be caught.

In 2010, the “Bellagio Bandit” made headlines everywhere after stealing $1.5 million in chips from the poker room. The bandit became characterized by his motorcycle helmet.

Anthony Carleo, who’s the son of a Vegas municipal court judge, was later arrested for the crime. He tried selling his chips to a person who turned out to be an undercover cop.

The Bellagio isn’t the only Vegas casino that’s been robbed in recent times. Last year, New York-New York was held up. In 2017, a Sin City pastor robbed the M Resort Casino three times, before finally being nabbed on the third attempt.

Nashua Poker Dealer Arrested for Cheating

March 14th, 2019

christopher-hopf-poker-dealerA New Hampshire poker dealer recently comprised every player’s worst fears by rigging a game. Christopher Hopf, 40, was arrested at a Nashua casino for steering winning hands to an accomplice player.

According to the authorities, they arrested Hopf, of Shirley, Mass, on charges of theft by deception. This crime is considered a Class A felony in the Granite State.

More on Hopf’s Poker Crimes

The Union Leader reports that police received a complaint at the Boston Billiard Club & Casino about an “employee stealing.”

They later discovered that Hopf was “manipulating the cards to help a player he was acting in concert with.” They acted on arrest warrants for both the dealer and the player, who has yet to be identified.

What Kind of Penalty Does Hopf Face?

A Class A Felony is subject to up to 15 years in prison, along with varying fines. Hopf’s criminal history — if there is any — would definitely weigh into what kind of sentence he’d receive.

Chances are that he won’t get anywhere close to the full 15 years in prison. He’s currently out of jail on a personal recognizance bond and will be arraigned on March 21 at Hillsborough County Superior Court South.

How Common Is a Cheating Poker Dealer These Days?

Movies and TV shows make it seem like poker dealers stack the deck left and right to help accomplishes. Hopf’s crimes breathe new life into this scenario, which isn’t as common as Hollywood wants us to believe.

A dealer can cheat with players, such as Hopf did, and split the profits afterward. However, casinos and the players themselves are pretty good at catching these perpetrators.

If caught, a cheating poker dealer faces felony charges. In Hopf’s case, he’s looking at a maximum of 15 years in prison of things go badly enough in court. Therefore, most dealers have a strong deterrent not to cheat.

Maria Konnikova Says Poker Should Be Taught in School

March 12th, 2019

maria-konnikova-pokerMaria Konnikova has had a meteoric rise in the poker world. She initially started learning about the game for research purposes. Now, the bestselling author has a deal with PokerStars.

Her poker experiences have led her to the conclusion that the game needs to be taught to school children. Speaking with EdSurge, she explained that it can be an invaluable teaching method.

“I would say that poker is a brilliant teaching tool,” she said. “My advice to teachers would be to actually, literally teach their kids how to play poker.

“But teach it correctly, so that they learn it not as this fun game where I can win chips. But as a way of understanding risk, as a way of understanding emotion and how you’re supposed to regulate emotion so that you make better decisions.”

Why Does Konnikova See Poker as Great for School?

Konnikova offered further explanation on why she thinks that poker should be used to teach school children. She believes that it offers important lessons in dealing with emotions.

“Because it forces you to deal with other people,” said Konnikova. “It forces you to recognize emotions in other people and in yourself.

“It forces you to control those emotions. It forces you to actually think in probabilities, to quantify risk, to make decisions based on the information that you have—to quantify uncertainty. And nothing else teaches you that.”

Of course, teaching poker to elementary students is an edgy concept. However, Konnikova believes that the skill element absolves poker from the pure gambling category.

“I think that it’s only gambling if you don’t know how to play. I don’t think that poker is gambling,” she explained. “Poker is a skill game with a chance element, but so are lots of things in life.”

SugarHouse Fined $32.5k Over Doug Polk Illegal Poker Hand

March 9th, 2019

doug-polk-downswingsTwo years ago, Doug Polk and Jeremy Kaufman played a 10-card stud flip for $42,000. That hand has now resulted in a $32,500 fine for SugarHouse Casino and cost two supervisors their jobs.

The event happened in 2017, when Poker Night in America was filming at the Philadelphia-based casino. Kaufman, an amateur player and businessman, wanted to do a fun gamble with Polk after the game ended.

They agreed to a 10-card stud flip with $42k on the line. Poker pro Shaun Deeb, who participated in the game earlier, filmed the hand and put it online.

What Happened in the $42k Hand?

Kaufman and Polk each turned over one card at a time until they could best the other player’s board. Polk was showing aces, which caused Kaufman, who was showing eights and fours, to negotiate a buyout.

He offered $25,000, which Polk accepted. The rest of the cards were turned over, showing that Kaufman would have won the hand with a straight had he let things play out.

Why Was SugarHouse Fined Over This Poker Hand?

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently discussed the 10-card stud flip at a meeting. They cited how 10-card stud isn’t authorized in the Keystone State and thus constituted illegal gambling in this case.

The two supervisors told the dealer to run the hand. He was let off the hook with a warning and still retains his job. However, the supervisors have since resigned over allowing the controversial hand.

Polk felt guilty for costing two men their jobs. He posted the following in a forum:

“I just thought it would be a fun thing to stream that people on my channel would like seeing. Especially coming from Las Vegas where flips are completely acceptable, I didn’t really think that it could cause any issues. Once again, I apologize that my actions caused harm to others, even if it was inadvertently.”

You can see the Gaming Control Board discussing the hand in the video below between the 1:15:00 and 1:20:10 mark:

Online Poker’s Future Uncertain Due to Wire Act Opinion

March 6th, 2019

us-department-of-justiceThe future of online poker is in limbo after a recent opinion by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

The DoJ has released an opinion that the federal Wire Act of 1961 applies to all forms of online gambling, not just sports betting. This contrasts the department’s previous opinion in 2011, when they said that the Wire Act only applies to sports gambling.

What Does the DoJ’s Opinion Mean for Online Poker

It’s unclear what impact, if any, the Department of Justice’s revised opinion will have on US online poker. Multiple states have already legalized the activity, and New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have active markets.

The DoJ noted that everybody has 90 days to comply with their revised opinion. But some states are already threatening action over the matter.

The New Hampshire Lottery has filed a lawsuit. New Jersey may not be far behind after blasting the federal government for overstepping their reach.

These same states have noted that they moved forth with internet gambling after the DoJ’s 2011 opinion. They’ve dumped a lot of money into setting up regulatory framework for their markets.

US Attorney General’s Office Issues Warning

The US Attorney General’s office has extended the time that states have to comply with the new Wire Act opinion. However, Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein notes that it will still be enforced nonetheless.

“Providing this extension of time is an internal exercise of prosecutorial discretion and does not create a safe harbor for violations of the Wire Act,” said Rosenstein.

The Wire Act is an antiquated law that was created to stop gambling across state lines. Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson has poured millions into a campaign to halt online gambling, using the Wire Act as his chief weapon.

Adelson has recently been battling cancer, though, and may have difficulty keeping up his war against internet gambling. As for now, though, the US DoJ and Attorney General’s office seem serious about the matter.

Phil Hellmuth Sets Goal of 3 WSOP Bracelets in 2019

March 5th, 2019

phil-hellmuth-2014-big-onePhil Hellmuth has already accomplished more in his poker career than just about any other tournament player. He’s especially notable for having won 15 gold bracelets.

However, the Poker Brat isn’t satisfied, and he’s gunning for more success in 2019. He recently tweeted about his lofty goals for the current year.

“A quick sketch of my ‘Yearly Goals’ (a ‘life tip’ I teach in my book #Positivity),” he noted, before showing all of the goals written on his bathroom mirror.

You can see everything he plans to do this year below, including winning another three gold bracelets:

Can Hellmuth Win 3 Gold Bracelets?

Few poker players have won three WSOP events in a single summer. Nobody has done so within the past several years.

George Danzer was the last to pull off the feat, winning two bracelets in the 2014 Las Vegas series and a third in the Asia/Pacific WSOP.

As if chasing three bracelets isn’t enough, he also wants to capture a couple of World Poker Tour titles. Interestingly enough, he’s always come up short in his pursuit of a single WPT win. He’s made five final tables, including a runner-up finish at the 2017 WPT Legends of Poker.

He also may struggle to sell 1 million copies of his book. His autobiography, Poker Brat, has done well in sales. However, Positivity is currently outside the top 650,000 books according to Amazon sales.

Hellmuth Should Be Fun to Watch in 2019

Regardless of whether the Poker Brat reaches his lofty goals, he should be very entertaining this year. He’s always good for table banter when the TV cameras are rolling, and he draws some mainstream attention to the game.

Even adding one bracelet to his already leading 15 WSOP victories would be impressive. Just imagine if he can actually pull off the feat of three wins.

New Jersey Mulls Lawsuit Over 2019 US DoJ Wire Act Opinion

February 28th, 2019

new-jersey-online-pokerThe Department of Justice (DoJ) recently released an opinion that the Wire Act makes all online gambling illegal. New Jersey has now fired back, threatening a lawsuit over the opinion reversal.

The most-recent DoJ opinion is directly opposite of what was offered by the Obama administration. The previous DoJ statement suggested that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

The Wire Act of 1961 deems that gambling offered across state lines is illegal. However, this law was made well before the internet and online betting became prevalent.

New Jersey Must Protect Online Gambling Market

The Garden State offers online poker and casinos. They have hopes of featuring internet sports betting if the activity is ever cleared up legally.

The old DoJ Wire Act opinion has cleared the way for New Jersey and other states to feature internet poker. But the current opinion under the Trump administration threatens this market.

Other states like Delaware, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have something at stake here too. The former two states are much like New Jersey in that their online markets are up and running.

Lawsuit Threat Comes from Stephen Sweeney

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who’s a big proponent of online gambling, is behind the lawsuit. He’s already sent a critical letter to the DoJ and has threatened a lawsuit if they don’t change their minds.

Here’s one excerpt from his letter:

“If the OLC 2019 Wire Act Opinion is not rescinded, I have authorized former Senator Raymond Lesniak to file suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of the New Jersey Senate for a Declaratory Judgment that the 2019 OLC Opinion is arbitrary and capricious and that the statutory problems of the Wire Act are uniformly limited to gambling on sporting events or contests.”

New Jersey and the other states mentioned could lose out financially on the money they’ve poured into creating internet gambling markets. That said, they’re not going to sit idly by and let the federal government suddenly ban online gaming on a federal level.

2019 WSOP to Feature 9 Online Bracelet Events

February 27th, 2019

wsop-online-braceletsThe World Series of Poker ran its first-ever online bracelet event in 2015. Things have come a long way since then, because the WSOP is set to run nine internet tournaments this year.

This influx of 2019 WSOP online bracelet events might seem a little surprising. After all, the series has become famous for its live action.

However, the world’s largest poker tournament event is simply trying to better showcase their Nevada-based internet poker room.

They’re also trying to cater to players’ requests over the last few years. The online bracelet tournaments have been very popular so far.

2019 WSOP Online Tournament Schedule

Sunday is traditionally online poker’s biggest day in terms of traffic. The WSOP is keeping with this tradition by hosting one bracelet tourney on every Sunday from June 2 to July 14.

The only exceptions include two tournaments on June 19 and July 3, which are both Wednesdays. Every internet event will start at 3:30pm PT.

Other Details on 2019 WSOP Online Events

One selling point to the online tourneys is that they’ll be pretty affordable for the average player.

Only three out of the nine events will feature a buy-in worth over $1,000. Those seeking a cheaper alternative to the land-based Rio tournaments will appreciate these buy-ins.

History of WSOP Online Tournaments

The history of internet WSOP tournaments dates back to 2015 and ’16, when only two such events ran. These tourneys were special, because the final tables were actually featured live at the Rio.

However, some players only traveled across the Nevada border specifically for the online tourneys. Certain players who made the final tables were then forced to travel a few more hours just to finish their respective event at the Rio. The WSOP heard the complaints and have decided to make each of this year’s internet events strictly online.

Last year featured four online bracelet tournaments. In 2019, WSOP officials have decided to more than double this number to nine tourneys.

PokerStars Bans Third Party Software – Including Seating Scripts

February 26th, 2019

pokerstars-heads-upPokerStars has announced that they’re going to ban third-party software tools starting March 4, 2019. This decision was announced a month ago, but was only made official this week.

Severin Rasset, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovations, explained the decision in a recent blog post:

“We all sit down at the table as equals. So, when a player takes the time out of their day to play in our poker room, we want them to know they’ve arrived in a safe and fair environment where the only thing to think about is the action.

“Also, that they’re not being targeted for their experience, and they have a clear and unambiguous picture of the additional resources available to them.

“For PokerStars, my vision is to limit as much as possible the use of tools that artificially enhance the process of sitting down to play, and play itself. Tools that can give players an edge over others and which detract from the journey of developing the skills necessary to become a better poker player.”

Seating Scripts Among the Banned Software

Stars is mainly concerned about seating scripts and automated starting hand charts with their most-recent move.

Seating scripts automatically seat players at a table where inferior opponents are playing. These programs use data compiled during the user’s current session to find weaker players.

Starting hand charts will be allowed as long as they’re just displays. However, anything that’s automated and makes moves for players will be banned.

What Is PokerStars’ Official Rule on the Software Bans

Here’s PokerStars’ official ruling on third-party software:

“Any tool or service that sorts available games or (semi-) automates the process of joining games based on the game-play statistics or notes of other players will be prohibited. A tool that solely (or semi-) automates adding players to a set number of tables, without any reliance on information about other players, is permitted.”

Why Is PokerStars Making This Move Now?

Rasset shed some light on why Stars has chosen now to finally shut down third-party software. Here’s an excerpt from his blog post:

“Why are we making these changes now? As I have discussed in the past, we are constantly looking for ways to better provide a safe and fair environment and to improve the overall experience when a customer chooses to play with us.

“However, we also need to be able to ensure that we create enforceable and sustainable policies, making sure that players who do follow the rules are not at a disadvantage.

“The changes we are announcing today follow an extensive period of development to ensure that we can achieve these goals.”