Howard Lederer apologizes for Full Tilt Fiasco

May 20th, 2016

howard-lederer-full-tiltEver since Full Tilt Poker failed to ring-fence player deposits and customers couldn’t withdraw their money, there’s been a lack of accountability among the site’s previous owners. Howard Lederer was the most-visible of the four owners, doing a multi-part interview series called the “Lederer Files.”

During the Lederer Files, Howard never fully came out and apologized for any of the harm that he caused his customers. Instead, he spent most of the interviews deflecting blame and trying to make up excuses for why Full Tilt was unable to pay players back following Black Friday.

Well, it may be 5 years late, but Lederer has finally owned up to his mistakes as one of the owners of Full Tilt. This, of course, won’t reverse time and hasten the years that players had to wait on their money. But it’s nice that he fessed up to what he’s done wrong.

Interestingly enough, Daniel Negreanu, one of Lederer’s most-vocal critics, posted the apology on his Full Contact Poker website. Here’s one excerpt from the apology:

“I am writing to apologize to everyone in the poker community, especially to all the players who had money on Full Tilt Poker on April 15, 2011. When Full Tilt Poker closed in 2011, there was a shortfall in funds, a distressed sale to recover those funds, and a long delay in repaying players. Throughout this period, there was little explanation for the delay, and no apology. Players felt lied to. They trusted the site, and they trusted me, and I didn’t live up to that trust.

“I take full responsibility for Full Tilt’s failure to protect player deposits leading up to Black Friday. The shortfall in player deposits should never have happened. I should have provided better oversight or made sure that responsible others provided that oversight. I was a founder in the company that launched Full Tilt, and I became the face of the company’s management in the poker community. Many of our players played on the site because they trusted me.”

Lederer spends the rest of the apology discussing how, even though he was no longer in charge of Full Tilt’s day-to-day operations, he bears some blame for not being more involved in the process.

As for Negreanu, he stresses how this was the apology that people needed 5 years ago. He continues to say, however, that he won’t bear a grudge against Lederer any longer. Negreanu also writes that Lederer playing poker again doesn’t bother him, but he can’t speak for every other player.

Rock Climber uses Poker to pay for Climbing

May 17th, 2016

rock-climber-pokerThe life of a professional rock climber is not a glamorous one. Just ask André DiFelice, who actually has to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 per year to do the sport that he loves. So how does DiFelice cover this bill? Through live and online poker, which is helping him make a good living while he climbs.

The Canadian-born poker pro wanted to be a professional climber ever since he was 8 years old. And he followed in his brother’s footsteps, who’s also a pro rock climber and part-time poker player.

Unfortunately, DiFelice has undergone some injuries that have forced him to stop climbing for a while. In fact, just recently he tore a tendon in his right arm that left him unable to even grab a cup. But the silver lining here is that it gave him a chance to earn more money through poker.

“You can become injured when you climb too much. Or when you play too much poker, maybe you start not playing so well and that can go downhill very fast,” he told Vice Sports.

“So now that I have two and I’m focused on both, they both seem to be going very well. Basically I’m always motivated to do both. I don’t burn out.”

This balance has really worked in DiFelice’s favor in 2016 since he’s already made six figures through online poker tournaments. He’s also had some decent scores in live tournaments, helping him rack up $60k so far.

When he’s not playing poker or injured from climbing, DiFelice goes to the gym with his brother to train for “bouldering,” a specific niche in rock climbing. The training is like indoor rock climbing that anybody can pay to do, only in this case the climbs are a lot tougher.

Through his training, DiFelice hopes to have a good showing at the 2016 European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monaco. And all along the way, he’ll be playing poker as well to fund the trip.

Russian Online Poker Players could be Fined

May 13th, 2016

tatarstan-online-pokerJust recently, we discussed the widespread popularity of online poker in Russia. In fact, polls show that at least 16 percent of Russians are currently playing online poker. However, this might soon end thanks to budding legislation that would fine certain Russians who play the game.

The bill comes out of the Tatarstan region (pop. 3.8 million), which features a good number of poker players. Rafil Nugumanov, a Tatarstan State Council member who’s sponsoring the legislation, believes that his region has a gambling problem coupled with too many operators.

So his bill calls for anybody caught playing internet poker in 2017 and beyond to pay a fine worth 10k or more Rubles ($150 and up).

More fines would be placed on the families of underage gamblers (5,000 Ruples and up) in addition to landlords who allow online poker on their properties (150,000 Ruples).

One important thing to stress is that the legislation is only being discussed right now. However, if passed, it would definitely hurt the game in Tatarstan. It could even encourage more Russian states to pass anti-online poker bills.

Internet poker is already supposed to be illegal in Russia, but this hasn’t stopped anybody from playing. The current model gives the government the ability to block poker sites. However, these sites can also contest the decision, which weakens the supposed ban.

Considering the game’s illegality, some players have hoped that the government would just regulate online poker. And there has been a fair amount of talk in the Kremlin about doing so. But at this point, none of these talks have resulted in anything concrete.

2016 saw a law proposed that would make poker a skill game in Russia. But again, this legislation has just been sitting in government channels and not moving anywhere.

Assuming Tatarstan does pass their bill, it would hurt the chances of legalizing online poker or at least classifying it as a skill game.

Lindsey Graham puts Online Poker Ban into Appropriations Bill

May 10th, 2016

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham pulled a slick move by sneaking language that would ban online poker into the Appropriations Bill, which is meant to outline Senate spending. In addition to banning online poker, Graham’s excerpt would also ban all other forms of iGaming in the United States.

Following his failed Presidential bid, it seems like Graham has nothing to lose and decided to sink to a new level of cronyism. He’s often been linked to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who wants online gaming banned because he fears it would interfere with his Las Vegas Sands empire.

Graham is one of the staunchest proponents of Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which seeks to classify iGaming as a banned form of interstate gambling. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), another failed Presidential candidate, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also supported RAWA while taking donations from Adelson.

While it’s pretty obvious that all of these crooked politicians are pushing RAWA for the benefit of Adelson, there is cause for concern because this is exactly how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) became law. It was slipped into the SAFE Port Act just hours before President George W. Bush signed the legislation in late 2006.

Luckily, a Blasting News columnist named Dean Chambers believes that Graham’s underhanded move to ban online gaming will soon be shut down. Here’s one excerpt from his column:

sheldon-adelson“The bill goes next to the House Appropriations Committee, whose chairman is Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who can remedy this issue by removing the language before the bill heads to a Conference Committee and ultimately the White House for the president’s signature into law. Advocates of federalism and the Tenth Amendment are strongly hoping that is what will happen. This will be bad news for Graham and Adelson, and their effort to shut down state regulated internet-based gambling, and great news for advocates of limited government.”

Chambers goes on to blast Graham for pulling such a tactic just to help out his campaign backer, Adelson.

And he’s exactly right, given that three states have already legalized iGaming, and California, New York and Pennsylvania are moving closer towards doing so. Then we have Tennessee and Indiana, which have approved fantasy sports betting.

So one casino billionaire shouldn’t outweigh the desires of state governments to make their own decision on iGaming.

How Phil Hellmuth missed out on Golfing with Michael Jordan

May 8th, 2016

phil-hellmuth-jordan-golfIt’s well known that Michael Jordan has a deep passion for golfing. But did you know that 14-time WSOP champ Phil Hellmuth also loves golf too?

The Poker Brat recently discussed the game with Golf Digest while diving into a story about how he once missed out on playing with Jordan. Here’s a quick look at this story:

One time I was in Vegas with M.J. and his crew. I had dinner with them, gambled with them, clubbed with them. And Michael said that I should meet them for golf at 11 a.m. I told him that I don’t get up that early. He started laughing and said, “That’s right. You’re a poker player.” I promised to be there at 3, got there at 3:30, and they were on their 32nd hole of the day. I

t was a July afternoon, and he was out there in his sky-blue North Carolina golf cart, blasting tunes, going faster than the other guys in his ninesome. They roll real quickly, talk while the other guys are hitting and gamble for all kinds of money. I was ready to play when M.J. said to me, “Phil, it’s so hot, we’re going to call it a day.” That was a little disappointing. But we went to the clubhouse—which is totally baller—for Louis XIII cognac and 70-year-old scotch. Next time I get invited to play with Michael Jordan, I’ll get up a little earlier.

While this is definitely a cool story, it’s not the only one that Hellmuth had to tell. During his charity golf event “Tiger Jam,” Tiger Woods asked to meet the poker champion.

So Hellmuth made it to the 18th hole to hang out with Woods, only to find out that he’d be sharing the golfing legend with Jon Bon Jovi’s dad. Then somebody suggested that they clear the way for Hellmuth and Tiger to hit golf balls together, which gave them about an hour to hit with each other.

Another story involving Hellmuth on the course with athletes happened last year after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Championship. Andre Iguodala asked Hellmuth about playing at Vegas’ exclusive Shadow Creek club, so the Poker Brat set up a tee time with he, Igoudala, Harrison Barnes and Chamath Palihapitiya (part owner of Warriors).

“I teamed with Iggy, who had just been named MVP for the Finals,” said Hellmuth. “He was still in the groove. He’d step up with a 180-yard shot and get right at the pin. When we needed him for 140 yards, he pulled out his 9-iron and … boom! All day long he was clutch.”

There’s plenty more to Hellmuth’s Golf Digest interview, so I definitely recommend that you give it a read.

Faraz Jaka launches Travel Website

May 4th, 2016

faraz-jaka-trave-websiteThanks to a decade of going all over the world and playing in poker tournaments, Faraz Jaka has developed an affinity for traveling. And he’s taken this love/experience a step further by launching his own travel website.

FarazJaka.com offers the poker pro’s wealth of advice on how to get around different cities and where to go.

“Basically, I’m writing city guides to give you tips on what to do in all these different cities,” Jaka told PokerNews’ Sarah Herring. “Just like philosophy stuff. How to travel light, how to not get worn out when you’re traveling. Just literally like the tricks of the trade I’ve learned along the road for 10 years.”

It certainly makes sense that Jaka would start a travel website when you consider that he’s combining his experience with a passion. But what really sparked him to launch a full-scale website is how tired he got of answering the same questions from friends/family.

faraz-jaka-travel“It kind of started because I keep a notepad of all the places I’ve been and all the restaurants and all my recommendations,” Jaka explained. “And I’m always getting emails from friends and Facebook messages, ‘What should I do in Vegas? What should I do here?’ And I got sick of writing these messages so I’m like ‘Why don’t I just turn this into a webpage and send them a link.”

A quick visit to his website reveals that Jaka already has some good guides up for the Bahamas, Europe and US. Specifically, you can read about what to do in Berlin, Prague, Malta, Fort Lauderdale and Nassau. Guides are currently in the works for Chicago, Durham (NC) and Staniel Cay (Bahamas).

Poker can be a pretty repetitive game when you play full-time like Jaka. So it’s nice to see him branching off and doing something else that he’s passionate about too.

Poker killing Chess Popularity in Russia

May 1st, 2016

russia-chess-pokerOne thing that Russia has become really well known for is producing chess champions. However, in recent years, chess seems to be taking a backseat to poker.

Even up until the early 2000s, parks were popular gathering places for chess buffs who wanted to test their skills against each other. But the allure of testing one’s mind against an opponent no longer seems to be as powerful as the potential to win a huge fortune through poker.

As Bloomberg reports, a 2013 poll showed that 16 percent of Russians (approx. 20 million) play online poker, which is up from 10 percent in 2011. Assuming a new poll were to be released this year, we’d likely see an even higher figure.

Given all the Russians who are playing online poker these days, the government is pondering a move to regulate the game and earn tax revenue from it.

russia-online-poker“That so much economic activity is happening on foreign websites represents a loss to Russia in terms of potential tax revenue,” writes Bloomberg.

“The opportunity cost seems to have dawned on Russian officials as the state slides into financial distress, caused by a mixture of falling oil prices and Western retaliation against its foreign military interventions. Now the government is considering whether to build a legal, regulated online gaming system to boost the tax revenues.”

Currently, online poker is supposed to be illegal in Russia, but these laws haven’t kept anybody from playing. Chess, once the country’s most-popular mind sport, also isn’t keeping people away from the cyber sport. Even Russian chess-masters like Dmitry Andreikin and Almira Skripchenko have gravitated to poker and the potential winnings it can offer.

That said, expect more Russians to continue picking up poker while chess games become less and less populated.

David Williams to appear on MasterChef 7

April 29th, 2016

david-williams-pokerPoker pro David Williams has faced some of the world’s toughest poker players to earn over $8.6 million. But can he deal with the wrath of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay?

We shall soon see because Williams has been announced as one of the contestants for season 7 of FOX’s MasterChef.

Williams is one of 40 contestants who are hoping that their culinary skills can earn them the $250,000 top prize. The first episode airs on June 1 at 8:00pm EST, beginning with a heads-up challenge that will see 20 cooks eliminated on the first day.

If you’ve never seen MasterChef, it works pretty much just like any other reality show. Contestants put their best dishes/efforts before judges Christina Tosi and Ramsay, with the latter usually bellowing at them for added entertainment.

Given that we’ve never heard much about Williams’ cooking skills before, it’s entirely possible that he never makes it out of the first episode’s heads-up portion.

gordon-ramsayHowever, Ramsay seems to indicate that Williams should do fairly well after tweeting, “David is a bloody good chef.”

If you’d like to check out the poker pro’s competition, you can do so here.

As for Williams, we can imagine that he’ll be up for the challenge when considering how he’s been both a successful Magic: The Gathering and poker player.

Regarding the latter, Williams first gained poker fame when he finished second place to Greg Raymer in the 2004 WSOP Main Event. This earned him $3.5 million and started a full-time transition from Magic to poker.

He’s since gone on to win a 2006 WSOP $1,500 Seven Card Stud event ($163,118) and a 2010 WPT Five Star Classic title ($1,530,537). Williams has only had small cashes as of late, but the 35-year-old is still grinding in tournaments when he gets the chance.

Gus Hansen moving to Denmark, quitting High Stakes Poker

April 25th, 2016

gus-hansen-pokerGus Hansen recently made an appearance on Good Morning Denmark as part of a clothing drive for the Red Cross. And he made some big revelations on the talk show, including that he’s giving up high stakes poker and wants to move to Denmark “for good” to raise a family.

In the segment seen here (subscription required), Hansen’s appearance is advertised as “Millions of dollars, insane bets and wild lifestyle, now poker star Gus Hansen home to quiet Denmark [to] raise a family.”

During the show, the Great Dane donated an old Full Tilt Poker shirt to represent the possibility that he won’t be playing much poker anymore. He also discussed how he’s thinking of moving from Monaco, where he’s lived for much of his poker career, back home to Denmark.

Hansen became one of the most-iconic players during the poker boom as he appeared on shows like Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker. Unfortunately, he started taking heavy losses in online poker and putting a dent in the net worth that he built through sponsorships and poker business deals. We took a look at his losses in 2013, which totaled $13.6 million at the time.

They dipped even lower the next couple of years, bottoming out at $20.74 million according to HighStakesDB. This easily makes Hansen the biggest confirmed online poker loser in history.

The good news, though, is that he didn’t burn through his entire savings and appears to be doing well still. Given how bad his online poker career has gone, most players will be happy that he’s given up the delusion of beating the world’s best. Chances are that he won’t completely quit the game, but considering how tough poker nosebleeds are these days, even Hansen probably wouldn’t venture back into this territory.

Olivier Busquet dominates JC Alvarado in MMA Fight – Wins $150k

April 22nd, 2016

olivier-busquet-jc-alvarado-mmaPoker pros Olivier Busquet and JC Alvarado clashed in an MMA bout last night, with Busquet coming away with a third-round victory. He got Alvarado on the canvas and proceeded to pound his face until the fight was stopped.

Six months ago, when the two agreed to fight back in October, this result would have been a huge surprise. After all, Alvarado has been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since 2011, while Busquet never had any martial arts training in his life. Given his experience, Alvarado had to wager $150,000 against Busquet’s $120,000 in this prop bet.

Olivier was able to catch up to his opponent, though, after six months of intense training that saw him lean up and come into the bout very muscular. He was definitely the heavier fighter at 187.5 pounds, versus Alvarado weighing in at 165 pounds.

There were plenty of side bets on the action too, with poker pros like Dan Colman and Jason Mercier putting up big money. Those who wagered on Busquet were pleased to see him off to a strong start, landing hard strikes on Alvarado in the first round. At one point it looked like he could end the fight early, but Alvarado staved off the assault.

The second round began with back-and-forth action, before they went to the ground and Alvarado attempted a triangle. Busquet fought it off and had a nice ground-and-pound sequence that was interrupted by the ref for back-of-the-head strikes.

The third round featured more stand-up fighting before Busquet got a double-leg takedown. Alvarado tried some different submission attempts, but got nowhere. This opened the way for Busquet to do more ground and pound, leaving Alvarado bloodied and out of the fight.

Once the third round ended, Alvarado’s corner decided that he’d had enough and threw in the towel. Below you can see some live footage of the fight, courtesy of PokerNews.