Adelson Shuts Out Online Poker News Reports from Venetian Poker Room

June 7, 2014

Sheldon Adelson’s stance against online poker is no secret by now, and his strong and very rich opinion has some people nervous. Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, makes it very clear just how far he’s willing to go to “protect” the US from online gambling. He’s threatened to “spend whatever it takes” on his anti-Internet gambling cause and in January of this year, he formed the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

Adelson’s argument against online poker and online gambling is that it is morally wrong, preying on underage gamblers and other vulnerable sectors of society, as is explained in the bill he had drafted that would prohibit online poker regulations at the state level, including those that have already initiated regulations and have experienced a successful market.

Adelson, being the owner of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the Venetian Hotel and Casino, has even taken a stand in his own poker room. In the past, Adelson has allowed his poker room at the Venetian to run at its full potential, putting finances over his moral stand against online poker. But not anymore.

During a Mid-Stakes Poker Tour event that was part of the casino’s Deep Stack Extravaganza series, poker media group PokerNews was prohibited from reporting live updates from the event simply because the online news site promotes online poker.

The Venetian declined to comment, but many believe that Adelson is decreasing poker activity on his property. Last year’s tournament expanded from 59 to 119 tables, spreading into the Palazzo Hotel and Casino next door. But this year, the Venetian has restricted the series to just their poker room, despite an original schedule that could have clearly supported more.

Furthermore, players are getting shut out of the tournaments because of an early registration deadline and cash game tables. With nearly double the tables of the closest competitors, during non-WSOP time, the Sands Poker Room at the Venetian is the largest poker room in Vegas.

Tommy LaRosa, Venetian Tournament Director, wrote, “I simply have no room to keep registration open as late as you would hope. There would be no room to fit additional players. I would love nothing more than to keep registration open until dinner break, have 1,000 player fields, maximize revenue and prize pool. Unfortunately though, I do not have 400 tables like the WSOP.”

What scares people is that Adelson’s threats against online poker may be materializing to reality. Forbes is now actually reporting that Adelson’s efforts are helping, pointing out mainly that the American Gaming Association no longer supports online poker, as well as the sleepy online poker markets set up in the three states where online poker has been regulated, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.

But not all hope is lost. If California, the nation’s most populous state, can get legislation passed, the online poker market in America may just turn around. California may have to allow PokerStars a piece of the pie, though, if they are to reach an agreement with all 14 tribes. Thirteen tribes have agreed to legislation that includes a bad actor clause, something that the Morongo Band of Mission Indian tribe, partner to PokerStars, is not willing to endorse.

Black Friday Informant Sentenced to Time Served and $13 Million Fine

June 7, 2014

Thirty-one-year-old Daniel Tzvetkoff, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to one count conspiracy and one count operating an illegal gambling business, has avoided prison in New York this week. The Australian kingpen of online gambling transactions was sentenced on Wednesday for illegally processing gambling funds via US banks through several major online poker sites.

Tzvetkoff was accused of processing, via his company Intabill, roughly $500 million in online gambling transactions from players to gambling sites, disguising these transactions as non-gambling payments, unbeknownst to the US financial institutions through which players held bank accounts used to fund online poker accounts.

Since his arrest in 2010, Tzvetkoff has cooperated with investigations into online poker investigations that ultimately led to the Black Friday indictments of PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker owners and executives, which US District Judge Lewis Kaplan apparently took into consideration. Tzvetkoff was sentenced to time served and forfeiture of $13 million.

According to Tzvetkoff’s attorney, Robert Goldstein, Judge Kaplan had approved Tzvetkoff’s relocation to Australia, where he now works as the chief technical officer of a respectable organization.

In a phone interview, Goldstein stated, “Daniel is a capable, highly skilled and intelligent young man, and he looks forward to a productive, happy and quiet life with his family.”

Since Black Friday, eight of the 11 defendants have plead guilty and this includes former Absolute Poker owner Brent Beckley and fomer Full Tilt CEO Raymond Bitar. Charges against three of the indicted, including Israeli-Canadian PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, are still pending.

In hopes to stay off the “bad actor” list PokerStars settled with US civil courts, agreeing to forfeit $731 million in restitution. PokerStars has taken over Full Tilt Poker and made good on their bad rep in hopes to be allowed back into the US online poker market at the state-regulated level. In fact, they have a close-knit coalition with the Morongo Band of Mission Indian tribe in hopes to get back on virtual US soil through California regulations of online poker. However, as an alleged “bad actor,” there is much opposition to their return. An agreement will have to be made to come to terms with this problem, as the Morongo tribe is the only California tribe that is opposed to legislation on the floor now that will allow and regulate online poker in the state. Both of the two bills out there include bad actor clauses and would prevent PokerStars from re-entering the US Internet gambling market via California.

Absolute Poker, which is no longer in existence, has also settled US civil charges related to the UIGEA and Black Friday. Traffic Up with WSOP Efforts

June 7, 2014

In an effort to boost the online poker room of the same name, WSOP kicked off a promotion that would ultimately tie into the live events when they started in May. And it’s working. The WSOP is in full swing and all the energy put forth into boosting web traffic is paying off. traffic has  been up around 50% where it averaged around 100 players at a cash game and now is averaging around 140. traffic peaked on June 2nd with 373 players and has now dropped back to its regular average, although cash-game traffic worldwide was down more than 4% during that time. This surge in participation was vital to the long-term survival of Nevada’s state-regulated online poker industry because in the month of April, it saw its first decline in revenue, a 14+% drop to just under $800K.

With new attractions, more comfortable chairs, additional cage windows where players can access their online poker accounts, and a new Internet poker grind room added to the WSOP at the Rio All-Suite in Las Vegas, event facilitators are hoping to drive more traffic into the tournament and then keep them around to check out in the meantime. Players are even being offered a 100% deposit bonus on all deposits made via the live cages, which over the next month, will likely entice a lot more players to sign up before the last event takes place on July 7th. Mobile devices, laptops, and tablets are allowed at the table this year after the cash bubble, which hopes to serve the online poker market as well.

And not to mention the advertisement, as the WSOP is literally blanketed in logo graphics.

In addition, tourism in Las Vegas is up thanks to the WSOP. More than 80,000 players representing some 100 different countries are expected to come through the Rio over the 65-event series. But not surprisingly, all of this has not seen any improvement in other Nevada online poker sites’ traffic. Ultimate Poker, Nevada’s first online poker room and now second biggest, has maintained its 50-player average at cash games over the past few weeks. Furthermore, according to PokerScout, the state’s third Internet poker shop, Real Gaming, isn’t experiencing any traffic at all.

With the WSOP promising to take down the corporate umbrella that has shaded the series from fun in the past, many are hoping that this marks a new era in the WSOP.

Another Millionaire is Made at the WSOP

June 6, 2014

Lifelong hockey player, aspiring novelist, poker player, and upstate New York native Jonathan Dimmig outlasted 7,976 other poker players vying for the title of millionaire in the third annual Millionaire Maker event of this year’s WSOP in Las Vegas. Dimmig’s win resulted in a $1.3+ million-dollar payday and a gold bracelet. This is his biggest win since he cashed an $11K paycheck at a WSOP Circuit event. This was his first WSOP cash.

“My goal on the first day was just to make it through the day. I’d played the Main Event here all the last three years and never even cashed in that. So coming in, my goal was really to just get the money off my back and just cash—that’s really all I wanted to do,” said Dimmig.

And so he did. At the final table, the chip lead changed seats five times, but Dimmig outbested Jeff Coburn in a not-so-long heads up showdown that wrapped up a 12-hour final table. The day saw Stephen Graner as the chip lead, but he was ousted in 6th place. James Duke then had the chips for a stint, but ultimately bowed out in 3rd place, leaving Dimmig and Coburn to finish it off.

“It’s not my style to sit back and wait and let others bust out so I can move a notch up the pay ladder,” Dimmig said earnestly. “I noticed some of the guys were just trying to get up the money ladder, and I don’t think like that. This is a life-changing event. I don’t want to look back in 30 years and say ‘what if?’ This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you got to go for it.”

Dimmig now has earned the first seven-figure payout of the year and becomes the world’s newest poker-made millionaire.

“I played hockey all my life and, as everyone knows, I’m from Buffalo. The Sabres have never won a championship; the Bills have never won a championship; so I’m proud to bring a little piece of championshipness to the city, because where I’m from is really a great city.”

This was the second-biggest poker tournament in history with almost 8,000 registrants, second only to the 2006 WSOP Main Event that drew in 8,773 players over four days. The MM drew in 8,000 in one day, spanning two flights of starting play. 1,751 players re-entered, making for 6,226 actual participating players, which is still impressive. No other single day in poker has ever attracted that many players to one event.

The prize pool amassed nearly $11 million and included more than $1 million to the first place finisher, as was the case last year. The first year paid Benny Chen $1.1 million for his first-place feat. The top 12 placers each earned six figures, and the top 99 finishers earned at least $10K.

Some recognizable faces in the crowd included Steve Gee, who finished in 754th place; Andy Block, 432nd; Mike Sexton, 357th; Humberto Brenes, 315th; Greg Mueller, 138th; and many others, as you can imagine.

Brock Parker Wins Third WSOP Bracelet

June 5, 2014

We see another heads up match between two previous bracelet winners, this time a two-time bracelet winner wins his third in Event #10 $10K Limit Omaha Hi-Low. Now three-time bracelet winner Brock Parker, known as a Limit Hold ‘em specialist before this event, will now be well-respected as a Limit Omaha player, as well. As an early leader in the 2014 Player of the Year race for the series after a final table finish in the $1,500 Razz event, this win further cements him as a contender.

Parker has made 10 final table finishes in WSOP events in as many years, only one of those a non-Hold ‘em tournament. And now, at a table of O8 specialists, Parker has proven himself once again, this time against fellow WSOP bracelet earner, Richard Ashby. Ashby’s previous one bracelet comes from a Stud event, though he was appearing in his fourth career OHL final table, which also included two female players, Shirley Rosario, who lasted to 4th place, and Melissa Burr, who lasted to 8th place. These ladies are the second and third women to make a final table this year, following Vanessa Selbst, who won her third bracelet this year.

Other notable final tablists in this event include Dan Kelly, also a previous bracelet earner. This is Kelly’s third cash in this event, finishing 12th in 2012 and 20th last year. This year, he finishes in 9th place.

As the second of 13 $10K championship events this year, this event attracted 178 players that amassed a prize pool worth $1.67+ million split between the top 18 finishers, which included a slew of other bracelet winners including 17th-place finisher and five-time bracelet winner Jeff Lisandro; 18th place-finisher Perry Friedman; 14th-place finisher Andrew Brown; and 10th-place finisher Eli Elezra, who also racked up some POY points.

Another First-Time WSOP Bracelet Winner is Made

June 3, 2014

Another first-time bracelet winner was made at the 2014 WSOP. Event #6 $1500 NLH Shootout saw 948 registrants that dwindled down to a final table of all US players, one Belarussian, Alex Bolotin, and one Bulgarian, Dimitar Danchev. But Danchev was no match for Bolotin, who went into showdown together, Bolotin came out the victor, winning just shy of $260K and his first gold bracelet.

Bolotin has been around for about several years and has had quite a bit of success, as well as a long list of cashes, but never had he won a coveted bracelet—until now.

His theory on why his name isn’t as well known as some other NLH players is simple. Bolotin says, “The reason I flew under the radar is because I had a lot of final tables, but I didn’t have a lot of wins. Nothing feels sweeter in tournament poker than winning a tournament.”

This win brings his career WSOP winnings to $1.3+ million, almost half of which came from a second place finish in 2007 in a $5K Six-Handed WSOP event when he took second place to Bill Edler and earned more than $500K. But according to Bolotin, the money pales in comparison to the win.

Smiling, Bolotin explains, “I won double the money for second place and I was throwing my glasses against the wall. It wasn’t a happy day. Finishing second hurts. This feels much, much better. It feels euphoric, actually. So many close calls and that’s what we come here for every summer—to win gold. It is kind of a stamp on a long career; it feels sweet.”

Already number one on the Belarussian all-time money list, this further proves that he is the most progressive player from the European country. He will receive his bracelet with the Belarus anthem playing in the background. Though he lives in New York, he takes pride in his homeland.

He says, “It’s my homeland, so it does matter a lot to me. I’ve been living in the US more than 2/3 of my life, so now I feel more American than Belarussian, but I am happy to be the number one player from Belarus.”

The last 12 players standing included Josh Arieh and Shawn Busse both bracelet winners, finishing 4th and 8th, respectively. Jon Lane finished 3rd, while David Trager finished 7th. In 5th was Steven Loube, and in 9th, Maxx Coleman.

Other notable players included Greg Merson, 99th; Mike Matusow, 77th; Humberto Brenese, 71st; Joseph Cheong, 67th; and Shannon Shorr, 27th.

Bracelet #5 Goes to Tuan Le

June 2, 2014

The first of 13 $10K events in the 2014 WSOP, Event #5 $10K Limit 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball,  has come to an end. In a bracelet-winner-laden event, successful poker pro who lacked a bracelet, Tuan Le was victorious. Up against Justin Bonomo, who is yet to win a bracelet, the showdown was on after the two eliminated a final table full of some of the best Triple Draw players in the game.

Tuan Le has been on the poker seen for quite some time, only about 10 years ago being considered a young gun, who had won many events and been successful in almost every avenue of poker except WSOP. This was the first WSOP final table he has made it to, and it was a tough one that included the likes of Eli Elezra, who finished third, Nick Schulman, fourth, George Danzer, fifth, and the great Phil Galfond, sixth.

“This was my first time playing this particular event,” said Le following his win. “I’ve been playing Deuce-to-Seven for a while, but this was my first to play it here at the World Series. I really have not played that many events here in the past, but this year I decided to just give it a shot and go for it.”

Perhaps 2-7 is the secret to the 36-year-old California-native’s WSOP success, as it just earned him more than $355K.

“This final table was as tough as it could possibly be. I seemed to get on the right side of every hand and got maximum value for it.”

This event was new this year and attracted 120 players who amassed a prize pool worth more than $1 million that paid the top 12 finishers. Seven of those top 12 were bracelet winners, including Elezra, who bested Daniel Negreanu in the $2,500-buy-in version of this same event last year. Both Galfond and Schulman were two-time bracelet winners.

One-time bracelet winners Jason Mercier, ninth place, and David Benyamine, twelfth place, were also part of the stiff competition that Le faced. Although Le has kept a low profile over the past few years, we will likely see more of him in the future.

Vanessa Selbst, Poker Pro, Wins Her Third WSOP Bracelet

May 31, 2014

Event #2 of the 2014 WSOP has been played out, and US player Vanessa Selbst has taken the win. The $25K Mixed Max NLH tournament began with 131 registrants, with only the top 16 players receiving a piece of the $3+ million prize pool. This event is new to the schedule and is the only $25K-buy-in event on the schedule for this year.

This is 29-year-old Selbst’s third WSOP bracelet, tying her with Barbara Enright for most WSOP bracelets won by a female, and this is only the second event. A fourth bracelet could still be in the cards for the Yale Law School graduate who went heads-up against Jason Mo after four days of play before her victory. This win, which netted her more than $870K, also puts her total WSOP earnings at more than $2 million, just $75,000 away from the biggest female earner in WSOP history, Annette Obrestad. Mo took a healthy $538K for his second-place finish, and JC Tran, last year November Niner and 5th place finisher in the 2013 WSOP Main Event, came in fourth with a $290K payday, equal to third place finisher, Alfred Decarolis.

Now for the first time ever, a woman holds the first spot in the WSOP Player of the Year race, which is an exciting feat for Selbst, as well. She said after her most recent win, “I understand why people want to talk about women and the achievements of women in history that way. Obviously, I would like to be considered in a conversation for the best poker player, not just the best female poker player. I think I’m starting to get there and people are starting to recognize that.”

Three WSOP bracelet wins is indeed a feat for any player, male or female, and in fact, there are only 30 other people in the three-bracelet category, and even fewer with more than three bracelet titles. Selbst’s first bracelet win was back in 2008, and since then, she’s taken time to finish law school and get married, but never failed to find herself back at the felt. This recent victory has been a redemption win for her, though as she explained that she hasn’t been happy with her performance in recent tournaments prior to this one.

Other bracelet players who cashed in this event include Noah Schwartz, 16th, Nick Schulman, 13th, and Kevin Song, 12th. November Niner from the 2011 WSOP Main Event, Matt Giannetti, finished this event in 5th place. All of these names are likely to show up again before it’s all said and done with, between now and the confirmation of this year’s November Nine.

Rational Group Obtains Patent that May Make Fast Fold Poker Exclusive

May 23, 2014

In the early stages of online poker, a mere Texas Hold ‘em cash game was sufficient to draw in the masses. But as the Internet poker industry has grown, so has its vast and seemingly unlimited potential for alternative variations and avenues of play. Such variations include Omaha poker, Draw poker, and Razz. Alternative means of play have also grown, such as mixed games and the incredibly popular fast fold poker variants. However, the Rational Group, owner of both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, is attempting to monopolize fast fold poker via patenting in efforts to offer it exclusively, despite the fact that other sites do offer their own versions of the game.

On May 20th, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has issued a patent to the Rational Group for the fast fold poker idea, Patent Number 8,727,850, known as the “Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming.” With this patent, other online poker sites could potentially be greatly affected.

After years at working to patent fast fold poker, rewording the applications dozens of times, the office finally accepted and patented the game in the Rational Group’s name, who technically didn’t invent the variant (Full Tilt was first with Rush Poker), but seeing how the Rational Group owns Full Tilt, this may have had something to do with the final acceptance of the patent application. If it is confirmed that Rush Poker is in fact part of the patent, the two sites (Full Tilt and PokerStars) could ultimately be the only sites online where this highly popular type of online poker game is offered. And this means no fast fold poker for US players until one of these sites gets into a regulated state market like California.

Fast fold poker is so vastly popular because it offers an accelerated format in which players can see more hands, more pots, and more wins per hour. Shuffling players around as soon as they fold or a hand is completed is a very efficient way to play Internet poker, and many online players enjoy the fast-paced format it offers. And it cannot be played live, so it is even more unique to online play.

This means that fast fold variants like Bovada’s Zone Poker and PokerStars’ FastForward Poker would likely be effected. and 888 are looking to offer Snap Poker, which may never even see the light of day if the umbrella of this patent proves big enough. Zynga’s Jump Poker would also feel the effects. While the result would be amazing for Full Tilt and PokerStars, it would likely push the format out of US play all together, hurting the entire industry as a whole in the long run.

But how will this affect the global market? Bill Gantz, intellectual property lawyer of Dentons Law Firm says that fast fold poker restrictions will not affect non-US sites and is furthermore surprised that the patent application was ultimately accepted after being rejected so many times.

Gantz says, “The amendments which allowed this patent to issue should seem obvious to the entire poker industry, and there should be ample grounds for vigorously challenging this patent.”

And there likely will be appeals from affected online poker sites as the industry continues to grow and the world continues to adapt to online poker.

888 Poker Bans US Citizens Regardless of Residence

May 21, 2014

After Black Friday, 2011, and post-UIGEA, many of the most prominent and high-staked online poker sites either chose to leave or were forced out of the US Internet poker market. This left hundreds, if not thousands, of online poker pros without an office. They were no longer able to log in to their online poker accounts at PartyPoker, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker, and PokerStars, the biggest and main sites where big-money poker pros made their livings. As a result, many of these players relocated. Some to exotic locations, some north to Canada, and others went south to Mexico. However, relocating just for the sake of playing online poker may not be as easy as it once was, as most elements of this industry ultimately prove to be.

Players have started reporting that one online poker room in particular, 888 Poker, is restricting access to online poker players who are US citizens but have relocated to Mexico or Canada. This news has come via email to these players, which explained that 888 Poker had decided to end their membership with the site and that their online poker accounts at 888 Poker had been closed with a how to guide in obtaining any remaining account balances. Furthermore, these players were also asked not to open any accounts at any 888-affiliated online gambling sites, with a warning that if they did, the accounts would be closed and any balance would not be refunded.

An 888 rep unofficially posted the following comment on the TwoPlusTwo poker forum: “We continuously monitor all 888 Poker accounts and activities and take steps accordingly. In the event you have received this email that you feel is an error, then please contact the support team and you will be answered in due course.”

With any luck, this is an isolated incident and other online poker sites that are readily available to Mexico and Canada players will not follow suit. 888 Poker is still open and running for Canadian and Mexican citizens, who haven’t seemingly been effected or received any similar emails; however, some reports are beginning to surface on the online poker forums that indicate differently.

Typically, when an online poker site makes the call to shut out a particular sector of players, they allow existing players to remain active, while only rejecting new players from the affected region. This is not the case with 888 Poker. Poker players and pros affected by this action will now have to put their chips elsewhere, which is just more annoying than anything, really.

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