Posts Tagged ‘PokerStars’

PokerStars Wins Appeal Over Kentucky’s $870m Fine

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

kentucky-pokerstars-lawsuitA Kentucky appeals court voted to throw out an $870 million judgement against PokerStars. A three-judge panel reversed a 2014 judgement that awarded $870.7 million to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The fine stemmed from PokerStars (owned by The Stars Group) violating the state’s anti-gambling law from 2006 to 2010. It was was the biggest-ever fine leveled against a company in Kentucky history.

What Happened in the $870m Lawsuit

Kentucky State Cabinet Secretary John Tilly filed the $870.7 million lawsuit against PokerStars in 2010. The sum was shocking when considering that Stars only made an estimated $18 million off Kentucky residents from 2006-10.

However, the state argued that their citizens lost around $290 million over the five-year span. Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate agreed with the state’s assessment and ordered that PokerStars pay triple the amount for breaking the law.

Wingate added an additional 12 percent interest until Stars repaid the entire amount. All the money was supposed to go to the Kentucky government, rather than the players who lost.

The Rational Group, which owned PokerStars at the time, launched an appeal. This process has been carried on by the new owner, The Stars Group.

The Reversal

On December 21, a three-judge panel rejected the original ruling by the trial court. Judge Allison Jones believed that allowing the judgement to stand would do nothing for those who lost money at PokerStars.

“The Commonwealth is not bringing this action to collect the money and then return losses to the ‘losers,’” wrote Jones. “It is bringing this action to collect treble damages for its own benefit.”

State Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn is disappointed over the ruling. He wrote “[the] decision doesn’t appear to even address the substantive issues in the case, but rests entirely on procedural questions.”

Kentucky has the option to re-appeal the case. They could even go all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court. But as it stands, the Bluegrass State is currently a loser in this case.

This loss ends a string of successes by Kentucky against online gambling. Partypoker paid $15 million to settle a lawsuit leveled by Kentucky. Full Tilt Poker paid $6 million to end litigation.

Pros have Meeting with PokerStars – It results in Nothing

Monday, January 25th, 2016

pokerstars-meeting-prosMany poker pros have been angry ever since hearing in November that their PokerStars VIP benefits would be slashed. Even some of the sponsored players like Ike Haxton and Alex Millar quit PokerStars in protest. Well, the parent company, Amaya Gaming, has heard these players loud and clear and recently sat down with a few pros to discuss the changes.

Haxton, Dani Stern and Daniel Dvoress were all invited to Amaya’s headquarters to have a meeting that also included PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu. The hope for them was that they could get some benefits back for grinders, but this apparently didn’t happen. In a post on TwoPlusTwo, Stern describes the meeting as unproductive and filled with unconvincing arguments. Here’s one excerpt from the post:

Going into the meeting, our highest priority was to address PokerStars’ decision not to give the 2016 rewards they had promised to players earning SN and SNE statuses in 2015. We presented our view that the VIP program, as advertised on the PokerStars website until November 2015, was an agreement between PokerStars and the impacted players. We emphasized that failing to honor that agreement is not just a “miscommunication,” but an ongoing breach of trust. We reminded them that it is not too late to make it right.

dani-stern-pokerAlthough the PokerStars and Amaya representatives were apologetic and expressed regret at the impact that the decision has had on players’ perception of the brand, we did not make any real progress on this point. They denied having any firm obligation to give 2015 SNs and SNEs the rewards they were promised and asserted that they did not feel that doing so would be in the best interests of their business.

In the end, it doesn’t look like the meeting was so much about compromising with professional grinders, but rather trying to convince them the the VIP changes were necessary. And given that PokerStars previously stated in their terms and conditions that any player who achieved Supernova Elite level in 2015 would be qualified in 2016, the players have a good argument.

On the other hand, Amaya is a business and their responsibility is to profits – not pro players. So it’s doubtful that Amaya ever changes their position on the VIP changes, especially if traffic is going good.

PokerStars loses $870m Lawsuit to Kentucky

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

amaya-kentuckyAmaya Gaming, which owns PokerStars, has been battling the state of Kentucky in court. And unfortunately, Amaya has lost their lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, resulting in an $870 million win for the Bluegrass State.

Judge Thomas Wingate made the ruling after determining that PokerStars violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement (UIGEA) from 2006 to 2011. Wingate awarded Kentucky $870 million based on the total losses by the state’s residents in this five-year period. He also tacked on an additional 12 percent interest for each year until the entire amount is paid back.

Amaya is already working on an appeal that’s based on several aspects of the case. First off, they argue that Kentucky residents only lost $18 million; the $870 million figure doesn’t take into account any winnings or bonuses that the players earned from 2006-11.

Another problem with this case is that Kentucky used a 19th-century law that lets gamblers sue their opponents for losses. This law does not, however, allow a state like Kentucky to sue gambling companies for their own benefit. Given that none of the $870 million will be going to the actual players, this lawsuit is entirely for Kentucky’s benefit.

It certainly seems like Amaya has a good chance to win their appeal based on all the factors in the case. But assuming they don’t win the appeal, Amaya plans to seek the money from PokerStars’ old owner, the Rational Group.

Rational, an Israeli-based company that sold PokerStars to Amaya for $4.9b, led Stars during the time when they violated the UIGEA. This same company already paid $736 million to the U.S. government as part of a settlement. But the judgement that Kentucky won would see them get even more money than the federal government.

PokerStars continues Asian Push – Signs Chen-An Lin and Yaxi Zhu

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

chen-lin-yaxi-zhuLooking at the title, you might be wondering just who in the hell Chen-An Lin and Yaxi Zhu are. Well, apparently PokerStars knows who they both are because the world’s largest poker site has signed them to sponsorship deals. These aren’t the biggest names in the game, but they do fit Stars’ push into the Asian market. That said, let’s discuss Lin and Zhu more along with their career highlights.

Chen-An Lin

Taiwanese poker pro Chen-An Lin has accumulated $216,571 in live tournaments. His biggest career accomplishment includes winning the 2014 Macau Poker Cup along with $49,118. Lin also won a 2011 APPT Macau side event ($29,318) and finished sixth place in the 2015 Macau Poker Cup ($26,651). He’s used Taiwan’s close location to China to compete and cash in a number of other events around the country.

As for his use to PokerStars, it’s unclear why Stars chose him above other Taiwanese players – particularly Hui “KItty” Chen-Kuo, a cute girl who leads the country with $844,162 in live winnings. But I’m sure that Stars knows the poker sponsorship world far better than I do.

Yaxi Zhu

Hailing from China, Zhu has collected $252,280 on the live tourney scene. Last December she picked up a huge victory at the Eureka 4 Prague event ($147,980) and also tallied a notable 12th-place finish in the 2014 APPT Asia Championship of Poker ($52,352).

Like Kitty Chen-Kuo, Zhu is also a nice-looking woman, which used to be an easier route to pick up sponsorship deals. Sexism aside, what really sticks out about her is how quickly she’s managed to earn so much money. Zhu’s first live cash came in February 2014, and she already has $252k-plus in cashes. That said, it’ll be interesting to follow her career and see what she does in the future.

Should We read into Cristiano Ronaldo Poker Pic?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

cristianao-ronaldo-pokerIt seems like poker has caught football fever in recent months, or maybe it’s just all the rumors surrounding which mega-footballer PokerStars has their sights on. Their deal to lure Zlatan Ibrahimovic for €3-4 million failed, and stories immediately sparked up over PokerStars possibly signing Neymar. This has yet to happen, but now there’s talk of Stars adding Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo to their pro roster.

Still quite possibly the greatest footballer in the world, Ronaldo has also been known to play the occasional poker game or two. After he scored a hat trick against Sevilla, the 30-year-old instagrammed a picture of himself playing poker to celebrate. And I do have to say, I much prefer this pic over the underwear ad starring himself that’s currently on Ronaldo’s Instagram. With 17 million followers – enough to make Dan “King of Instagram” Bilzerian look like a mere court jester – we can be fairly certain that many people saw Ronaldo playing poker.

The one thing that really stands out about this picture is that the chips are from the PokerStars VIP store. Draw your own conclusions here…he plans on signing with them…he wants a deal with them…or he simply got the chips by playing at Stars? Whatever the case may be, it’s not out of line to wonder if Stars would sign the Portuguese legend.

If they did, it might get kind of crowded with Ronaldos since the retired Brazilian football star of the same name is already on Team SportStars. But it’s a good bet that if the price was right, PokerStars would happily add another Ronaldo to promote their brand. After all, they were willing to give Ibrahimovic up to €4 million per year, and he definitely has less star power than Cristiano.

PokerStars gets Far Prettier with Yuiko Matsukawa Signing

Friday, March 20th, 2015

yuiko-matsukawa-signs-pokerstarsDoes PokerStars have a Japanese schoolgirl fetish? Sure seems like it because their latest Team PokerStars addition is model Yuiko Matsukawa, whose schoolgirl photos and other modeling work are plastered across the net.

This is quite an interesting signing because Matsukawa has no live-tournament cashes; instead, it seems like she just started playing poker since she was spotted at the Macau Poker Cup before landing a sponsorship deal. However, it’s pretty clear that Matsukawa wasn’t signed on her poker merits.

Instead, this is your perfect example of a poker site signing a good-looking woman who brings more to the table than just a couple big live-tournament victories. Matsukawa furthered her fame by starring in a film called “Terrace House Closing Door,” which centers on a fake reality show involving six men and six women. Given the 24-year-old’s fame in Japan, this fits in well with what PokerStars is trying to do in Japan: get ahead of the market before the game is legalized.

In previous years, it seemed like there was no chance that Japan’s relatively traditional society would ever embrace casino gambling/poker games. This is, after all, the country that inspired the Last Samurai, a movie about a bunch of late-nineteenth-century, stubborn-assed samurais who refused to trade in their swords for guns, ultimately meeting their demise after charging a Gatling gun head-on.

yuiko-matsukawa-signs-pokerstars-1Of course, this isn’t to say that casino gambling is the Gatling gun and all Japanese are stubborn samurais for refusing to embrace the activity. But it’s pretty clear that their prime minister, Shinzo Abe, sees the value in legalizing casinos and not just relying on a bunch of pachinko machines to drive gaming revenue.

So by signing Matsukawa and their previous additions to Team PokerStars, Naoya Kihara and Kosei Ichinose, PokerStars is doing a great job at appealing to the large potential Japanese poker market before anybody else gets a chance.

PokerStars Return to US draws Closer

Friday, September 12th, 2014

What once seemed like it was years away appears to be drawing very close as PokerStars is poised to enter the United States again. The world’s largest online poker site has been out of America ever since Black Friday. However, according to New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, PokerStars should be in the US within the next few weeks.

Lesniak has been a catalyst behind New Jersey’s online gaming efforts all along, and he sees Stars as a major boon to the state’s operation. Furthermore, the senator envisions the Garden State as an international hub for internet gaming, with PokerStars playing a key role in all of this.

Assuming what he says is true, Stars could help out the ailing Atlantic City, which has already lost four casinos this year alone. Here’s a look at what Lesniak told PokerNews:

It’s going to be soon and it’s going to be huge. PokerStars is going to make a huge investment in Atlantic City, not just in Internet gaming but in their brand and in bringing attractions to Atlantic City.

Of course, one huge reason why Stars is suddenly being welcomed by the New Jersey government is because they were sold to Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion. Amaya brings a clean reputation to the matter since they had nothing to do with PokerStars’ pre-Black Friday operations in America.

The Garden State could definitely use a shot in the arm since their iGaming operation has only netted a disappointing $83 million through August. If they are to turn up the pace and generate more money, their iGaming will need better products, advertising and promotions.

Lucky for them, PokerStars figures to bring all of this to New Jersey. Additionally, Stars should cause other iGaming operations to step up or risk becoming obsolete. But first thing’s first, the Division of Gaming still needs to announce PokerStars’ acceptance into New Jersey.

Will Amaya Gaming finally get PokerStars in the US?

Friday, June 13th, 2014

The big poker news today – and it’s colossal – is that Amaya Gaming has made a deal with the Rational Group to buy PokerStars, Full Tilt and live tournament tour assets for $4.9 billion. For years people have speculated about the worth of PokerStars and now they know.

One of the key points of this deal is that Isai Scheinberg and his son, Mark, relinquish their shares in the company and ride off into the sunset with billions. The reason why this part of the deal is so big is because it means that PokerStars might finally be able to enter the elusive United States market.

The legal US online poker market is fully underway, with Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada all featuring regulated gaming sites. And so far, PokerStars’ attempts to enter these states have went like this:

Delaware – Stars was denied because Delaware is mainly looking for companies that offer both casino and poker games.

New Jersey – Review of PokerStars’ application has been suspended for two years in the Garden State.

Nevada – Nevada evoked the “bad actor” clause to prevent Stars from entering their market for at least 10 years.

The key point behind PokerStars’ bad actor status in Nevada is that they violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Moreover, the Scheinberg’s retained ownership of the Rational Group after they’d violated the UIGEA.

But now we have Amaya running the show at PokerStars. The Canadian supplier of gambling equipment has no ties to Black Friday, meaning it’s hard to use the bad actor excuse to keep them out.

Of course, despite what state gaming regulatory bodies may say, this is all about anti-competitiveness and helping in-state casinos get off to a strong start. So no matter how illogical it seems, certain US states may still try to call upon PokerStars’ past to keep them out, even though an entirely different company is now in charge.

As for Amaya, it’s likely that they were willing to spend $4.9 billion on Rational’s assets because they know there’s even more potential for Stars IF they can get into the US.

PokerStars’ US Fast-Fold Patent gives them a Tremendous Advantage

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

PokerStars has struck out three times in their efforts to enter the US online poker market. Nevada flat-out denied them, New Jersey said wait two more years, and Delaware didn’t want an operation without an online casino. But while Stars has watched fellow competitors like 888 and partypoker enter the US market, they still hold the trump card.

The Rational Group, PokerStars’ parent company, managed to gain a patent on fast-fold poker, which bodes well for their Zoom Poker product. Patent Number 8,727,850, listed as “Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming,” gives Stars exclusive rights to offer fast-fold variants. This means that 888, which offers Snap Poker, and partypoker, which offers FastForward, both need to worry about their fast-fold variants from a legal standpoint.

Apparently, all it took for PokerStars to gain the patent after hundreds of rejections was a meeting with a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) examiner. The examiner explained that Stars should change the phrase “folding out of turn” to refer to “when gameplay is at a position of another one of the first plurality of players.”

Thanks to this simple change, PokerStars now owns a key chip with regard to success in the Untied States. Many poker networks around the world are using fast-fold versions to attract more recreational players. After all, fast-fold poker moves players to a new table with fresh cards when they fold – thus allowing for more hands and less waiting.

With the US market still in its infancy, Stars figures to gain a big upperhand once a state does accept their gaming application. The world’s largest poker site definitely has a good opportunity to enter California. Many believe that the Golden State will legalize poker within the next year. And with Stars heavily lobbying politicians in a state with no major casinos – unlike Nevada and Atlantic City – they’re less likely to get shut out of California.

So whenever PokerStars does get accepted into the US, they’ll definitely have one big advantage over everybody else – as if they didn’t already with their massive size and resources.

David “Doc” Sands retires from Poker

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

David “Doc” Sands has become the latest famed poker pro to retire from the game. But unlike other players, Sands isn’t retiring because he’s burnt out or doing badly on the tables. Instead, he’ll be working for a hedge fund, as he told Doyle Brunson via twitter. Here’s a quick look at their twitter exchange:

(Brunson) There is a rumor going around that you are retiring from poker. Surely it’s not true?

(Sands) I am, to an extent. I took a job at hedge fund – learning how to place some bigger bets 😉

Sands has been playing poker since the mid-2000s. He first gained fame after racking up some impressive online poker scores, even achieving the number one ranking on PocketFives for a while. He’s earned over $3 million in online tournament cashes, with most of this money coming at Full Tilt and PokerStars.

Both he and his then-girlfriend (now wife), Erika Moutinho, achieved some mainstream fame after they made deep runs in the 2011 WSOP Main Event. This was obviously a true love connection because Sands busted out in 30th ($242,636), with Moutinho shortly following him in 29th place (same payout).

After this breakthrough in the live circuit, Sands went on to take second in the 2011 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond $100k High Roller ($664,027), second in the 2012 L.A. Poker Classic Main Event ($806,370), second in the 2013 PCA $100k High Roller ($1,259,320), and first in the 2013 WPT Championship $100k Super High Roller ($1,023,750). Thanks to all of these huge scores, he has $5,738,008 in live tournament winnings.

Given the success that Sands has maintained in recent years, it’s interesting timing that he would choose now to step away from the game. But on the other hand, maybe Doc is looking at investing as a way to turn his poker profits into even more winnings. Whatever the case may be, we wish him luck in the future.