Archive for the ‘What’s New’ Category

Poker’s Micah Raskin Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

micah-raskin-pokerPoker pro Micah Raskin was arrested in 2018 on federal and state drug charges.

However, he recently entered a plea bargain on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

These lesser charges will lighten his sentencing. However, Raskin is still likely to serve prison time.

What Did Raskin Do to Get Arrested?

Raskin was arrested last October for selling over 100 kilograms of marijuana. This distribution charges carry up to 40 years in prison and a potential $5 million fine.

He’s now pleaded down to a lesser conspiracy-to-distribute charge, though, which carries a mandatory five-year sentence. He’s currently under supervised release and will receive sentencing in June of this year.

Authorities raided Raskin’s Long Island home and discovered 358 pounds of drugs, packaging supplies, and other paraphernalia. Police, acting under New York law, seized the poker pro’s home, 2016 Corvette, 2016 Land Rover, and $140,000 in cash.

Prosecutors were able to prove that Raskin was receiving drug shipments, which he kept in his New York residence. He’d then transport the packaged marijuana to Baltimore, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Authorities tapped Raskin’s smartphone and found plenty of evidence in the form of texts and calls. They learned that he was part of a larger drug ring in the Baltimore/D.C. area.

Raskin Is Likely Done with Poker for a While

Micah Raskin wasn’t a poker celebrity by any means. But he had managed to carve out a decent career for himself.

His first tournament cash came in 2007. Two years later, he won a 2009 Borgata Deepstack tournament and collected $320,231. He’s continued to play the game ever since, racking up a number of smaller cashes throughout the years. Raskin has over $2 million in career winnings.

It doesn’t look like he’ll be adding to this total, though, with the five-year mandatory sentence that he’s facing. It’s a wonder if Micah Raskin will play poker again when he’s released.

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.

Biggest Poker Buy-in Ever will Be Featured at Triton Poker Series

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

2019-triton-poker-super-seriesThe poker world has seen some huge buy-ins over the years. But the 2019 Triton Poker Super Series promises to feature the largest buy-in yet (see teaser below).

The exact buy-in of the 2019 Triton Poker Super Series remains to be seen. However, it’ll likely be at least worth US$2 million.

The current record is a €1 million entry fee, which was featured at the 2016 Big One for One Drop tournament in Monte Carlo. Elton Tsang won this event along with an €11,111,111 ($12,248,912) payout.

The 2018 WSOP Big One for One Drop featured a $1 million buy-in. Justin Bonomo collected $10 million after taking down this event.

How High Could the Triton Poker Super Series Buy-in Go?

Again, $2 million seems to be a “reasonable” amount when predicting the Super Series’ buy-in. However, it’s possible that Triton could ask for anywhere from a $3 million to $5 million entry fee.

It’s hard to see this happening, given that it would thin the available field. But we can’t really rule out anything at this point, considering that Triton has only hinted at featuring the largest-ever buy-in.

We may not officially know until the series nears closer. It’s scheduled to run from March 2-9 in Jeju, South Korea.

Which Pros Will Play in the 2019 Triton Poker Super Series?

Jason Koon just signed a deal with Triton, so he’ll likely be one of the participants in the super high roller tournament. As for the rest, we’re left to guess among the usual high rollers.

Patrik Antonius, Dan Cates, Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivy, Paul Phua, and Brian Rast are all possibilities. Each has competed in big high rollers in the past and will likely be looking to do the same in Jeju.

Assuming the Triton Super High Roller Series buy-in is at least $2 million, then most/every pro will secure backing. They have a couple of months to get their funds together before the event begins in early March.

Libratus Poker Bot Now Working for US Army

Monday, January 21st, 2019

libratus-poker-bot-us-armyThe poker bot Libratus made headlines after beating some of the world’s best poker pros. But this AI was never intended to just be an amazing Texas hold’em player. Instead, it was designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers for bigger uses.

It now appears that Libratus is fulfilling its destiny and will be utilized by the US Army. Tuomas Sandholm, the professor who leads the project, founded Strategy Robot to apply Libratus’ skills to real-world use. His efforts have resulted in a two-year, $10 million contract with the army.

What Will Libratus Do for the US Army?

Carnegie Mellon’s AI proved its ability to make complex decisions by defeating a team of top poker pros. Libratus will now be tasked with running simulations to help develop military strategies and planning.

Wired reports that Sandholm declined to discuss the full nature of Strategy Robot’s projects. However, he did say that Libratus can analyze a simulated physical space, then decide where to best place military units.

Reliving Libratus’ Great Poker Victory

Some within the poker world wondered if a bot could ever defeat top Texas hold’em players. After all, the no-limit version involves complex human decisions, such as bluffing, bet sizing, and observing opponents.

Nevertheless, Libratus triumphed over poker pros in 2017 by using computational game theory. It beat pros to the tune of a collective $1.8 million. The AI played so expertly that it even developed the ability to bluff.

Sandholm and his team are now hoping to use these advantages in Strategy Robot. The program will essentially compete in war-gaming exercises, which test strategies on imagined opponents and scenarios.

Obviously poker and war are two different subjects. However, the critical thinking for both poker and war planning are similar. Libratus should definitely be of service to the US Army in its new role.

David Chino Rheem Wins 2019 PCA Main Event

Friday, January 18th, 2019

david-chino-rheem-pokerDavid Chino Rheem has emerged victorious at the 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event. Rheem triumphed over a 623-player field to win the $1,567,100 top payout.

This represents another victory in Rheem’s illustrious — albeit controversial — poker career. The first-place prize pushes Rheem’s live tournament winnings to $10,513,973.

Recap of Rheem’s Victory

Chino played well from start to finish. He reached the final table with the chip lead at 7.55 million. Scott Wellenbach, a 67-year-old amateur player, was in second with just over 6 million chips.

The final table was relatively uneventful for nearly 100 hands. But an elimination finally occurred when Brian Altman shoved with A-3 suited, only to be called by Rheem and his pocket queens. The board was no help to Altman, who exited in sixth place.

Rheem also provided the next elimination, when he called Vicent Bosca’s (A-J) shove with 5-3. The board gave Rheem a two pair, which was good enough to beat Bosca.

Paul Veksler was the next to go in fourth place. He went all-in with A-Q, but couldn’t get the help he needed to beat Chino’s pocket sixes.

Wellenbach, who donated his winnings to charity, busted out in third. His K-Q took the lead on the flop, only to see Rheem river a straight and win the hand.

Thanks to all of his eliminations, Chino carried a 5:1 chip lead over Strelitz in heads-up play. He only needed seven hands to end the matchup and win the tournament.

Rheem has sometimes butted heads with fellow pros over the years. But he’s continued grinding and furthering his poker career. This latest victory should pad his bankroll and help Rheem continue excelling in the poker world.

2019 PCA Main Event Final Table Results

1. David “Chino” Rheem, $1,567,100
2. Daniel Strelitz, $951,480
3. Scott Wellenbach, $671,240
4. Pavel Veksler, $503,440
5. Vicent Bosca, $396,880
6. Brian Altman, $297,020

Poker Pro Gavin Smith Dead at Age 50

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

gavin-smith-pokerPoker pro Gavin Smith passed away this week at the age of 50. The Ontario native died suddenly in his sleep.

Smith was a popular player during the poker boom and afterward. He became a well-known pro thanks to a combination of his outgoing personality and success.

From Taxi Driver to Poker Champion

Gavin Smith wasn’t born into the poker world. He instead drove a taxi to make ends meet. But Smith started getting more into the poker scene in the early 2000s.

2005 was his breakout year, as he earned over $1.8 million in live tournament cashes. Smith won the 2005 WPT Mirage Showdown along with $1,128,278 in this year.

Another one of Smith’s biggest poker accolades came when he took down the 2010 WSOP $2,500 NL Hold’em tournament ($268,238). This would be Smith’s first and only WSOP gold bracelet.

Overall, he earned $6,321,096 in live tournament winnings during his lifetime. Smith was also a popular TV poker player and once held a sponsorship with Full Tilt Poker.

Smith Slowed Down with Poker in Recent Years

Gavin Smith definitely had a successful poker career. But years of grinding had wore on him in recent years.

He began playing the game less and concentrating more on raising his children. He also had a recent marriage, only to divorce a short time later.

This isn’t to say that Smith wasn’t playing poker at all, though. He still participated in a number of tournaments and cash games across North America.

But the volume of hands and tourneys that he was playing had decreased significantly. This showed in his tournament results, as he’d only earned $108k in live cashes within the past four years.

Of course, Smith’s legacy was just as much about his gregarious personality as it was about poker. He’ll be sorely missed within the game and by those who knew him best.

US DOJ Reverses Wire Act Opinion – Online Poker in Trouble?

Monday, January 14th, 2019

us-department-of-justiceThe US Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a famous opinion on the Wire Act in 2011. Their Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) stated that the Wire Act of 1961 only makes interstate sports betting illegal. They believed that all other regulated forms of interstate online gambling are legal.

However, the US DoJ appears to have had a change of heart. They recently changed their opinion to state that all types of interstate online gaming against the law – not just sports betting.

What Caused the Recent Change in Opinion?

The DoJ’s OLC originally offered their opinion in 2011, after the New York and Illinois lottery commissions wanted to sell online tickets across state lines. They needed clarification on the Wire Act, to which the OLC said that everything except sports betting is fine.

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Las Vegas Sands Corp., complained about the matter. He also formed a group to draft the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which seeks to ban all forms of internet gambling.

Adelson has since thrown lots of money at the matter. It’s very possible that all of his lobbying has convinced the Trump administration to reverse the OLC’s original opinion.

What Exactly Did the OLC Say?

The OLC formed their opinion on November 2, 2018. However, they just published their updated take this week. Here’s a key excerpt from their opinion:

This Office concluded in 2011 that the prohibitions of the Wire Act in 18 U.S.C. § 1084(a) are limited to sports gambling. Having been asked to reconsider, we now conclude that the statutory prohibitions are not uniformly limited to gambling on sporting events or contests.

Only the second prohibition of the first clause of section 1084(a), which criminalizes transmitting “information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest,” is so limited.

The other prohibitions apply to non-
sports-related betting or wagering that satisfy the other elements of section 1084(a).

This isn’t the most-clear legal language from the 23-page document. But the passage appears to say that all internet gaming is illegal, because a “sporting event or contest” isn’t singled out. The newer OLC opinion is an angle shoot that focuses on one tiny aspect of the Wire Act.

This is only an opinion. Therefore, it’s unclear if it will affect the current legal online poker setup. Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada are all sharing player pools right now.

Navy Officer Steals $2.7m for High Stakes Poker

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

navy-poker-steals-moneyA Navy officer from Virginia Beach has been sentenced for stealing money to fund his high stakes poker career. Lt. Randolph Prince, 45, was sentenced to over four years in prison for stealing $2.7 million for poker, fancy cars, and a vacation home.

He directed his unit’s supply contracts for “inert training aides” to fictitious companies. He and his accomplices ran the fake businesses and profited from the contracts.

27 Year Navy Career Down the Drain

Randolph had a long and distinguished Navy career up until he was caught funneling millions of dollars to himself and buddies. He spent nearly three decades serving his country before turning to criminal activities.

“It’s a shame that he squandered an otherwise outstanding 27-year Naval career,” said Shawn Cline, Prince’s defense attorney. “He suffered from a terrible gambling addiction and abused a position of trust to fuel that addiction.”

The Navy Times reports that Clayton Pressley III (former sailor) and Lt. j.g. Courtney Cloman (flight officer) served as Randolph’s accomplices.

How the Plot Went Down

Prince, a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit 2, made requests to buy military equipment for his command. He signed off on the phony packages once they were delivered.

The Navy never received any of the products that they were paying for. Instead, Prince, Pressley, and Cloman were dividing the money up. They were eventually nabbed on charges of wire fraud and creating a false 2014 tax document.

Pressley is already in prison for identify theft and awaits sentencing on the latest charges. He’s currently serving two years in prison for his initial crime.

Cloman will be sentenced on February 7.

Prince is the first to be sentenced in the case. His 4+ year prison stint doesn’t bode well for Pressley and Cloman.

Prince began his Navy service in 1991, when he enlisted at age 18. He spent 17 years in the enlisted category before getting a commission in 2008. He became a lieutenant in 2012.

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.

Poker Pro Got through Dark Bathroom Bet with Meditation & Pushups

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

rich-atali-pokerPoker pro Rich Alati recently won a prop bet where he had to live in a dark bathroom for 30 days. Alati won the wager when his friend, Rory Young, bought him out for $62,400 after 20 days.

This is definitely one of the most-interesting poker prop bets of all time. And it only becomes more intriguing after Alati shed some light on how he got through the bet. Here are some details he shared with The Action Network.

Alati Passed the Time with Pushups & Meditation

There’s not a lot to do in a dark bathroom by yourself. Therefore, Alati created various distractions for himself to pass the time.

“I created a routine. I’d wake up and take a bath and a shower, I would eat, then I would do yoga and meditate and eat again,” he said.

“I worked out too. I was pretty creative. I did a lot of planks and sit-ups and pushups. I actually did incline pushups over the bathtub and dips from the ledge of the bathtub.”

Alati Had Unknowingly Prepared for the Bet

Rich Alati wasn’t preparing to live in a dark room for any measurable amount of time. However, he did do some things that helped him prepare for the wager.

“Rory didn’t know this, but things that I was doing in my life were leading up to this moment,” he explained.

“For the past six years, I had gotten into yoga, meditation and prayer. I had gone to Bali to a silent retreat where you don’t speak. And when you don’t speak, it turns you inward. I knew how to act in that room when it went inward.”

The Bet Caused Alati to Suffer Hallucinations

Alati’s family was concerned for him going into the bet. They had ever right to be worried too, because living in the dark is no picnic.

Alati suffered the downsides when he began to hallucinate. He had to battle these hallucinations until the bet ended.

“It started with shapes and colors. Then I saw a train,” he recalled.

“And I just had to convince myself it wasn’t real. But that was probably my hardest moment because there was some fear to it.

“[…] One time, the room was filled with all these white bubbles. I said to myself, “I know this is not real,” but I’m going to go along with it and I had a fun bubble party.

“There were other times, I saw windows on the bathroom, I saw ceiling fans that weren’t there, and at one point the ceiling just opened up and I saw the stars and the sky. It was absolutely beautiful.”