Archive for the ‘Online Poker’ Category

Scott Wellenbach Donates $671k in Poker Winnings to Charity

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

scott-wellenbach-pokerIt’s not uncommon for successful poker players to donate a portion of their winnings to charity. But Scott Wellenbach has taken things to a new level after donating his entire $671,240 payout from the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA).

Wellenbach, a devout Buddhist from Nova Scotia, scooped this payout after finishing third in the 2019 PCA Main Event. This is quite an act of kindness when considering that the $671k prize represents over 85% of his career winnings.

Why Did Wellenbach Donate All of His Poker Winnings?

Poker is sometimes looked down upon for its predatory nature. Skilled players hunt fish in hopes of making profits. Wellenbach discussed this subject with CBC News last year.

“A significant amount of your money is won from people who are too addicted, too drunk, too unstudied or too masochistic to play well – and we all have those features within us.

“In any case, I feel there’s a tension about winning money under those circumstances and I guess I rationalize my addiction by giving away the winnings, saying, ‘Well, at least I’m doing good things with it.'”

The amateur poker player added that he hopes the money will make a difference.

“I hope that somehow a wise decision happens and the money goes to good purposes and certain human beings or other sentient beings, animals or whatever, beings with feelings, [so] that their lives are eased in some way.”

Wellenbach Is a Big Practitioner of Buddhism

As mentioned before, Wellenbach is very in tune with the Buddhist religion. He translates the religion’s teachings from Tibetan and Sanskrit when he’s not playing poker.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the 67-year-old’s poker donations go towards Buddhist nuns in Tibet and Nepal. They also go to Doctors Without Borders.

Wellenbach spends an hour per day meditating. He ramps up his meditation habit during tournaments, so that he can maintain discipline during each event.

888 Poker Buys Remaining All American Poker Network Stake

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

888poker-leaving-australia888 Poker has purchased the remaining stake in the All American Poker Network, making them the lone owner.

888 previously claimed 47% equity in All American. Their partner, Avenue Capital, owned the remaining 53%.

888 Poker struck a deal to buy out the remaining 53% for $28 million. They’ll pay $10 million right away to Avenue Capital, with the remaining $18 million coming before April 2019.

888 Poker Takes Another Step Forward in US Market

It’s no secret that 888 Poker has been positioning themselves to be a leader in America’s regulated online poker market. They’ve gained licensing in every state with legal internet poker and have continued investing on this front.

Itai Frieberger, CEO of 888 Holdings, believes that buying the All American Poker Network moves them one step closer to their goals.

“[This deal is] an important strategic step towards 888 achieving its exciting long-term potential in the US,” says Frieberger.

“Taking outright ownership of AAPN gives 888 additional operational, technological and commercial flexibility to develop innovative and exciting new partnerships and launch in new states, through both B2B and B2C channels, as and when future regulation allow.”

History of the All American Poker Network

The All American network was launched in 2014 as a collaboration between Avenue Capital and 888 Poker. Their goal was to spread the network to as many states with legal online poker as possible.

Things have moved slowly over the past five years, though, with only four states currently offering regulated online poker. Pennsylvania, the fourth state to legalize the activity, won’t launch their market until summer 2019.

Avenue Capital may have gotten tired of waiting and decided to sell their stake. 888 Poker, on the other hand, appears content with waiting for things to materialize.

888 Poker and the All American Network are currently running in Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada. The network features a monopoly in Delaware, where they supply internet poker to the state’s three racetracks.

888 uses the All American Network to share liquidity between all three states. They’re likely to add their Pennsylvanian player pool to the equation when the Keystone State begins offering online poker.

Lindsey Graham Still Trying to Ban Online Poker

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is reviving his attempts to ban online poker across the United States. He wants to use the confirmation hearing of future attorney general William Barr to rail against poker and other forms of internet gambling.

According to Gambling Compliance, Graham will likely be the next Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. He can therefore use this platform to get Barr to hear his thoughts on online poker.

“This will be one of the first things I will talk to Mr. Barr about,” says Graham.

Graham Wants an Update on the 1961 Wire Act

Lindsey Graham was infamously part of casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s attempt to take down online gambling. Adelson funded an effort to pass the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which sought to ban internet gaming on a federal level.

Graham, who’s received significant contributions from Adelson over the years, played a key role in trying to get RAWA passed.

The South Carolina politician has continued his efforts under the Donald Trump regime by working on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The latter lent Graham an ear but ultimately did little to reverse the Department of Justice’s 2011 opinion on the Wire Act. The DoJ believes that this 1961 law only applies to sports betting.

Another Futile Effort?

us-online-pokerNeither Graham nor any other Adelson-backed politicians have had any luck with pushing RAWA through.

Graham is currently the most-powerful politician standing who could get the law passed. However, it seems unlikely that he’ll have any better chance convincing Barr to join his futile quest.

Sessions was about as anti-gambling as a politician can get. But even he failed to act on helping RAWA pass.

The federal government as a whole is giving little credence to online gambling right now. They’ve instead left the matter up to the states.

With several states already featuring online poker, it’s unlikely that Congress wants to step in and ban the activity any time soon.

PokerStars Parent Company & NBA Sign Partnership Deal

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

pokerstars-nba-dealThe NBA and PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, have signed a partnership deal. Both sides will promote each other via gaming (Stars) and social media channels.

This agreement opens the way for The Stars Group’s BetStars to appear on NBA.com and NBA TV. Besides the advertising benefits, BetStars will receive real-time data.

NBA Head of Fantasy and Gaming Scott Kaufman-Ross has the following to say:

“This dynamic partnership will be another way to create authentic fan engagement with league logos and official NBA betting data, while leveraging Stars’ global expertise to further optimize the fan experience.”

BetStars Hoping to Capitalize on NBA Partnership in America

It’s no secret that The Stars Group has been eyeing expansion in the United States. They’re currently approved to offer online gaming in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

BetStars is licensed to offer sports betting in New Jersey. The hope is that Pennsylvania will feature internet sports betting at some point too.

Aligning with the NBA — America’s second-most-popular pro sports league — will definitely help The Stars Group’s presence in the US.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) could potentially threaten this with a bill that would allow the federal government to control sports betting. Hatch’s legislation calls for the U.S. Attorney General to approve legal online and land-based sportsbooks.

The legislation also calls on the federal government to deny any operators that accepted American wagers starting Oct. 13, 2006 and beyond. This is when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was signed into effect.

NBA Also Has Deal with MGM Resorts

The NBA formed a partnership with MGM Resorts International four months ago. They were the first major sporting organization to do so.

Since that time, the NHL and MLB have also inked deals with MGM Resorts. The NFL is the only major sports league to avoid entering into an agreement with a sports gambling related business.

PokerNews.com (IBus Media) Sued for $6m

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

pokernews-sued-copyrightPokerNews.com has been hit with a $6 million lawsuit over copyright infringements. The plaintiffs claim that the parent company, iBus Media (owned by The Stars Group), used their music in hundreds of podcasts without permission.

Despite being warned, PokerNews continued to use the music without paying any compensation. Here’s an excerpt from the lawsuit:

“Accordingly, iBus Media is liable for its infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyright interests, either because it has directly engaged in infringing activities or because it is secondarily liable for infringing activities undertaken by others.”

Roc-A-Fella Records & Others Are Behind Lawsuit

IBus Media is being sued by several music labels, including Roc-A-Fella Records, Capitol Records, PolyGram Publishing, UMG Recordings, and Universal Music.

The group of plaintiffs note that iBus Media committed 315 acts of copyright infringement in 522 episodes of the “PokerNews Podcast.” The plaintiffs notified iBus Media of the issue in December 2015, but they continued using the music without permission.

Court documents state:

“IBus Media does not have any license or other authorization from Plaintiffs to reproduce, distribute, adapt or publicly perform in the United States any of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted musical works.”

Some of the artists used in the PokerNews Podcast include Billy Idol, Black Eyed Peas, and The Who. The plaintiffs are seeking $150,000 in statutory damages for each song that was illegally used, which would amount to $6 million if the lawsuit goes to court.

PokerStars Now Behind IBus Media

Last year, it was revealed that The Stars Group (TSG) — PokerStars’ parent company — has full ownership of iBus Media. The company was started by Antanas “Tony G” Gouga in 2002. IBus’ crown site, PokerNews.com, has become the biggest poker news outlet in the world.

PokerStars’ old parent company, Rational Group, began purchasing equity in iBus as early as 2010. Tony G eventually sold all of his holdings in the company, leaving TSG as the sole owner today. That said, they’re on the hook for the copyright infringements if iBus Media is found guilty.

Gordon Vayo May Have Lied in PokerStars Lawsuit – Being Countersued

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

gordon-vayo-pokerstars-lawsuit-withdrawnFor the past year, poker pro Gordon Vayo has been in the process of suing PokerStars for $700,000. Vayo claims that PokerStars owes him $700k for a tournament that he won in the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). But Stars has now launched a countersuit worth $280,000 on the grounds that Vayo falsified evidence.

PokerStars refused to pay Vayo after alleging that he played the SCOOP from California. This is a clear violation of Stars’ terms and conditions, because Americans aren’t allowed to play on their site. Vayo, meanwhile, claimed that he was in Canada at the time of the victory.

Vayo Withdrew His Lawsuit

Vayo recently withdrew his lawsuit and is no longer seeking payment for his win. PokerStars alleges that the only reason he did this is because he falsified documents to support his case. Here’s an excerpt from their court papers:

“As soon as [PokerStars] discovered the forgery and confronted Vayo about it, Vayo voluntarily and unconditionally dismissed this action, and his counsel withdrew. [PokerStars] is thus the prevailing party in Vayo’s frivolous lawsuit, and it is entitled to recover its fees and costs.”

How Did Vayo Falsify Documents?

Gordon Vayo won the 2017 SCOOP Event #1 High $1,050 NLHE tournament along with $692,460. However, Stars refused to pay up after stating that he used a virtual private network (VPN) to play from the US.

Vayo countered that he had evidence that he was playing the tourney from Canada. Vayo then sued PokerStars on grounds that they had no proof he was playing from California.

Just last month, Vayo’s attorney’s withdrew the lawsuit. This move came just after PokerStars accused the player of forging and doctoring evidence.

Specifically, he may have forged ATM transactions in order to sell his case. PokerStars is now seeking $280,000 in legal costs stemming from the matter.

PokerStars Launches Virtual Reality Game

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

pokerstars-vrPokerStars has released a new virtual reality (VR) product that’s available for free download. PokerStars VR can be used by any player with an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headseat.

This product gives players a virtual view of the poker table. It also features authentic effects, such as allowing players to peek at their hole cards and touch their chips. They can even interact with other players, performing actions such as chatting with and high-fiving them.

Severin Rasset, Stars’ director of poker innovation and operations, said the following about PokerStars VR:

“When we showcased the product it was amazing to see people really enjoy and become engrossed in the game.

“We wanted to venture into the world of virtual reality because we believe it is an exciting avenue of technology to explore and something that our players would appreciate.

“I highly recommend that everyone tries out the game as it can only truly be understood and enjoyed by experiencing it.”

What to Expect from PokerStars VR

The virtual reality PokerStars game only supports play money tables right now. The site is currently testing out the product to see how it’s received. Assuming the feedback is positive, they’ll likely move forward with real money games. Oculus Rift and HTV Vive headsets can enjoy the free VR poker app through the Oculus store and Viveport store, respectively.

Lucky VR has served as the developer for PokerStars VR. This product launched as part of a live demonstration at 2018 EPT Barcelona in August. The following month, Stars ran a beta test that involved around 150 players. As of November 8, PokerStars VR has been available to the public.

One exciting thing about this game is that players can select where they want to stage their VR poker game. Options include a Macau hotel suite, Monte Carlo yacht, and saloon.

Players will be able to react with different props depending upon their environment. Some of the props include cigars, drinks, food, and animals.

Pros Are Big Fans

Some of the PokerStars Pros have tried the VR game and truly enjoy it. Jamie Staples is especially a big fan of PokerStars VR.

“It’s not going to appeal to the grinders that typically are playing six to eight tables, but it’s going to appeal to pretty much everyone else,” said Staples.

“It’s a broader way of playing poker, it’s a richer experience. I think everyone from who’ve never played before to who enjoy playing for play money with their friends, will love it.”

China Banning More Poker Apps

Friday, November 9th, 2018

china-bans-poker-appChina has proven particularly tough on online poker, banning a number of apps back in June. They’re apparently not done with this crackdown either, because a new round of poker app bans has recently been announced.

The only difference in the current ban is that China isn’t blacklisting apps operating out of their own country. Instead, the latest moves are aimed at poker sites operating from foreign countries, such as the Philippines, India, and Vietnam.

Two of the most-famous apps that’ll be blacklisted include Poker Tribe and Poker King, both of which are available through iOS and Android devices.

Poker App Bans Announced on China Central Television

The recent blacklisted poker apps were revealed during a government-supported piece that appeared on China Central Television (CCTV).

The segment discussed how Poker King has been earning 50 million yuan ($7.1 million) per day in player-paid commissions. Poker Tribe and Poker Horde were also mentioned on CCTV as successful operations.

The news segment dove into how some Chinese poker players are gambling away thousands of dollars on offshore poker sites. For example, a man named “He” said that he’s lost 400,000 yuan through Poker King.

China Poker Crackdown Will Continue Into Foreseeable Future

China’s mission to ban poker apps doesn’t appear to have any end in sight. This is the second major move they’ve made in less than six months’ time, and the government seems determined to prevent its citizens from playing online poker.

Of course, Chinese players can still use alternative means to enjoy poker apps, such as Bitcoin and virtual private networks (VPNs). But for the time being, it seems that these legal moves may produce the desired effects regarding the average player.

After all, most Chinese online poker players don’t want to deal with the hassle of the learning how to use a VPN or Bitcoin.

PokerStars Rolls Out Fusion – A Blend of Two Poker Games

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

pokerstars-fusionPokerStars has always been one of the biggest innovators in the online poker industry. And they’re rolling out an interesting new game called Fusion, which blends Texas hold’em and Omaha.

Fusion is very similar to hold’em in that you receive two hole cards. But after the flop, you and everyone else still remaining in the hand receive a third hole card. Following the turn, you get a fourth hole card.

Game Turns from Texas Hold’em to Omaha

As you may know, Omaha is characterized by each player receiving four hole cards to start the round. Therefore, a Fusion game gradually changes from hold’em to Omaha as rounds move past the turn.

The winner of the hand is whoever pieces together the top 5-card hand, using two out of their four hole cards along with three of the five community cards.

Unique Strategy Involved

Pocket aces is the best starting hand you can receive in Texas hold’em. But it’s important to realize that this game also blends Omaha elements, meaning pocket aces doesn’t always guarantee you anything. After all, hand winners tend to form stronger hands in Omaha games.

Another thing to consider is that you’re acting with less information than you normally would in Omaha. You don’t receive your fourth hole card until after the turn, which makes it more difficult to evaluate your hand.

Nevertheless, Fusion presents a different type of strategy that players who are experienced with hold’em and/or Omaha may enjoy.

Fusion Is Available for a Limited Time

Severin Rasset, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovation and Operations, discussed the site’s latest offering.

“We want to give our players games that they have never played before and bring a unique offering to the table,” Rasset said.

“Fusion mixes two well-loved formats together, giving an exciting twist to the game. We eagerly await player feedback and look forward to seeing everyone joining the tables and giving Fusion a try.”

Keep in mind that Fusion will only be offered on a temporary basis. So if you’re interested in trying it, you’d better do so soon.

Stars Group’s Takeover of Sky Bet Approved by UK

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

the-stars-group-pokerThe Stars Group has been in the process of taking over Sky Bet in a $4.7 billion (£3.6bn) acquisition. The UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has now approved the move.

When the takeover is complete, Stars Group will become the world’s biggest publicly listed online gambling company.

Why Is Stars Group Acquiring Sky Bet?

The Stars Group has done a good job of transitioning to the online casino and sports betting industries. They earned $1.3 billion in 2017 revenue and are headed in the right direction.

Nevertheless, the Canadian company is still overly reliant on poker (i.e. PokerStars), given that $877 million of their revenue comes from it. Furthermore, internet poker offers lower profit margins than casino and sportsbook products.

Sky Bet isn’t as large as Stars Group, considering that they generate $400 million in annual revenue. However, the British gaming company does have a strong following in the casino (Sky Casino) and betting (Sky Bet) departments.

The Stars Group notes:

“[Sky Bet] dramatically improves The Stars Group’s revenue diversity, creating a balanced spread across poker, casino and sportsbook with a broad geographic reach.”

Still Details to Finish Before the Deal is Complete

The Stars Group still needs to finish paying Sky plc and GVC Capital Partners $4.7 billion to complete the deal. $3.6 million of this amount will be in cash, while the remainder will consist of shares in The Stars Group.

Debt financing is the main source of the $3.6 million cash. This includes unsecured notes, a revolving credit arrangement, and loans.

The deal will also see Sky Bet CEO Richard Flint move to an executive chair position, while former CFO Ian Proctor will move to the CEO position.

Flint seems to be fine with the move, stating the following:

“I am confident that the new management structure, which includes an operational board for SBG, will allow us to maintain our unique culture that has delivered success over the years and continue delivering market share gains in the UK online betting and gaming market, building on our position as the UK’s most popular online betting brand.”