New Study Shows Support for US Online Poker

December 30, 2013

The latest polling from Reason-Rupe shows that most Americans are not opposed to the regulation of online poker. Reason-Rupe conducted a survey of more than 1,000 Americans on various topics including whether the government should allow or ban people from playing online poker games.

The results show that 65% of the respondents said the government should allow online gambling and 32% said it should be prohibited. The rest of the respondents selected “don’t know” or just declined to give an answer.

This poll sharply rebukes the research that Sheldon Adelson carried out that claimed a majority of the population in the United States oppose online gambling.

There is a correlation between the survey that Reason-Rupe carried out and what OPR conducted in early December. The OPR polling required Americans to give out their opinion with regard to the regulation of online poker.

From the survey, 19.4% said they strongly support the regulation and more than 29% said that they strongly oppose the regulation of online poker. As with the response gathered during the Reason-Rupe poll, about 1/3 of the Americans showed opposition to regulating online poker.

When you check the demographic details offered by the Reason-Rupe poll results, you will find a couple of interesting results regarding support for regulation of online poker. Here is the breakdown:

  • More Republicans support the regulation compared to Democrats. The polls showed that 75% of Republicans favored legalization and 58% of Democrats favored it.
  • The support for regulation declines with increase in age. About 70% of the Americans below 55 years favor regulation as compared to the 56 percent of those above 55 years
  • The support for the regulation increases with the increase in the income of the respondents.
  • The support for the regulation increases with the increase in the level of education of the respondents. Those with a high school diploma or below expressed 55% of support while college graduates and post graduates supported regulation by 76 and 73%, respectively.

Phil Laak Owes California Back Taxes

December 27, 2013

With winnings of up to $3,136,008 of poker tournament plus a WSOP golden bracelet still for him, Phil Laak obviously likes bluffing. However, the California state is one opponent who is rightly known as his bluff. Reports show that Laak has not paid taxes right from 2010 and 2011.

The tax collectors in California now demand that he pays $24,874 as tax incurred within these two years. This is a pretty small amount for Laak considering his massive winnings in poker.

When such a thing takes place, it is natural for the poker world to assume that possibly the player is hard up. However, this is not the case with Phil Laak given that he is still collecting good tournament scores.

In 2013 alone, the Unabomber (mainly because of his sunglasses and hoodies) collected winnings amounting to $433, 740. This was his third best year in his 12-year tournament game. Since 2004, Laak has collected the lowest amount of $119,120, which greatly testifies to his own consistency.

Another essential thing to note is that Laak regularly performs well in high and mid stakes real money games. Therefore, the bottom line is that Uncle Sam from California, or whoever is responsible for taxes in California, should receive their money.

On the other hand, Laak should note that the poker world is still kind to him. In the 2013’s summer, he took the 19th position in the $111k WSOP, One Drop tournament where he earned $173,723. Besides, in 2013, he earned $109,385 from the Poker Main Event’s WPT Legends. This gave him $109,385 after finishing in the fifth place.

In addition to his continued success in the poker world, Phil Laak continues to hold on to Jennifer Tilly, his longtime girlfriend. These two have been together since 2005, a time when Tilly emerged the winner of WSOP Ladies Hold’em, which was her very first tournament. Today, Tilly and Laak are probably the best known couple in the poker world. Whether Phil Laak will clear his tax dues remains to be seen.

NJ Online Poker: 3 Weeks In

December 22, 2013

New Jersey’s third week in iGaming proved to be quite eventful including developments, technology issues, and a great rise in new players.

Despite these headlines, there was a nominal fluctuation in poker traffic for the last week with NJ. being slightly dominant over in three consecutive weeks. However, week three was still a defining week for this state in which losers and winners emerged, system flows manifested and the big picture broadened.

Out of the 7 Atlantic City casinos, which took place in “soft play” roll-out of New Jersey, Only the Golden Nugget made it. The DGE cleared the casino last Friday when it is expected to carry out full-scale iGaming operations. However, it’s yet to be known when Golden Nugget intends to rollout its own self-branded poker platform.

The delayed entry of Golden Nugget into the online poker market of NJ may indicate a death blow. Two factors help to support this assertion:

Despite its plans to set up a poker platform at a land based facility this month, this casino is not known to be a premier platform for poker players.

Out of NJ’s 6 regulated sites, only WSOP and PartyPoker show signs of life. This creates the belief that the NJ poker community may not sustain many poker sites.

The other astounding yet greatest news of the week is that the DGE suspended PokerStars application for two years. The DGE stated that the reasons for the suspension were the pending indictment of Isai Scheinberg – PokerStars founder and the engagement of some PokerStars leaders in US gaming even after the UIGEA.

This is possibly a good image for the integrity of NJ’s iGaming industry. It is also a positive gesture for though it dashes the hopes of those who expected to see PokerStars’ player volume, great VIP structure and excellent software to the New Jersey market.

In other developments, planned a server switch, which was expected to create a temporary pause in action. However, the entire server experienced a crash for about 6 hours. Sadly, most of the evening’s major events were to wind up at the same time. Huge payouts were yet to be made and players visited the Two Plus Two – a dedicated forum for WSOP as well as Twitter hoping to get answers to their concerns and questions.

At first, Bill Rini, WSOP’s head of online poker asked players to check out the server outage policy of WSOP, which suggest a refund to all players affected but confusion loomed as to how much each player should get.

Tom Dwan No Longer with Full Tilt Poker

December 17, 2013

Full Tilt Poker will not be renewing Tom “durrrr” Dwan’s contract for sponsorship under the site’s high-stakes pro team known as “The Professionals.” This comes after a long stint of Dwans’ absence from the site’s high-stakes tables and lack of participation in Full Tilt Poker promotional events, which many believe is a big part of the reason that the relationship between Full Tilt and Dwan has come to an end.

2+2 forum members have posted that they noticed Dwan’s picture had been removed from the sign in screen over the weekend. Full Tilt offered the following statement: “Full Tilt Poker and Tom Dwan have agreed to part ways following the recent expiration of Dwan’s contract,” confirming the break up.

The Professionals is a group of players that regularly frequent the high-stakes tables on the site and include high-profile nose bleed players Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Gus Hansen.

Dwan has been recently spending his time in Asia at ultra-high stakes live games, specifically in Macau. He relocated there in 2012.

Dwan and Hansen were the only two sponsored poker pros who remained on with Full Tilt after the site’s buyout by the Rational Group—parent company of PokerStars. The Rational Group bought out Full Tilt Poker after making a deal with the US Department of Justice following Black Friday.

Full Tilt’s page dedicated to The Professionals has now removed Dwan and only depicts Hansen and Blom, where all three players used to be represented.

A Full Tilt Poker spokesperson commented, “To have one of the most respected names in poker on our team has been a great pleasure. We will continue to watch Tom at the tables and wish him every success in the future.”

Dwan has not made any public comments on the matter and has only tweeted that his phone is missing calls. He suggests texting until he responds as a solution to the problem.

PokerStars to Remain a Bad Actor to State Poker

December 13, 2013

Unfortunately, one of the biggest and most beloved online poker brands will not be a part of the New Jersey regulated and legal online poker market, and may not be part of regulated US poker at all for that matter if other states follow suit. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware now offer legal online poker and have taken great lengths to offer it in a way that protects the residents of these states. However, New Jersey just doesn’t feel right allowing PokerStars to operate online poker services to New Jersey residents.

When the Nevada Gaming Commission first set up shop for real money Internet poker, they were very careful about their selection process, setting a very high bar for New Jersey and Delaware. These precedent states that will set the standard for all future state gambling projects have done an excellent job in the careful selection process that dictates which companies can and cannot operate online gambling sites from within a state, and one of the clauses in the application process is that “no bad actors” may participate in state poker or casino operations.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has suspended PokerStars’ application blaming the federal indictment against PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg for the rejection. PokerStars is not going to be a viable applicant for New Jersey online poker if the case against Scheinberg remains “unresolved.”

“The Division’s determination is based primarily on the unresolved federal indictment against Isai Scheinberg for the alleged violation of federal gambling statutes, namely, the Illegal Gambling Business Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the involvement of certain PokerStars executives with Internet gaming operations in the United States following the enactment of UIGE,” according to a statement by the division.

PokerStars spokesperson Eric Hollreiser commented to the press, “We are disappointed that the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has suspended the review of our application at this time. We note that the DGE will resume the review of our application if our circumstances change. We will remain in open dialogue with the DGE and will update them on changes in our situation as they occur.”

Despite the fact that the US Department of Justice cleared PokerStars to enter back into the US regulated market when they bought out Full Tilt Poker, states are likely still going to take this stance against the company until Scheinberg faces charges, and as long as he remains off US soil, it is likely he will ever face a courtroom.

Instagram and High-Stakes Poker’s Playboy Bilzerian

December 11, 2013

Known as the Playboy King of Instagram, Dan Bilzerian, net worth of $100 million, is a high-stakes poker player who lives a loose lifestyle and frequently posts pics of his tomfoolery on social media outlet Instagram. At just 32 years old, Bilzerian developed his poker skills while studying at the University of South Florida. But his chancy lifestyle has weighed on his health. He’s already suffered a double heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. Cleared for physical activity by his doctors, he’s once again back in the saddle, but hopes to untarnish his reputation before it’s all said and done.

Bilzerian, also known as “Blitz,” calls himself an “actor/astronaut/a**hole” on Instagram, where he has more than 100K followers. His extravagant shenanigans that portray half-naked women, excessive sports cars, massive amounts of guns, and other controversial themes.

His Instagram army enjoys the bearded playboy’s eccentric lifestyle depicted in posts, like a recent Instagram photo of a topless woman swimming in his pool with a live seal. The caption read, “My buddy actually had a seal brought to the house and put in the pool haha.”

Another pic of his LA mansion garage shows two luxury cars with customized license plates “SUCK IT” and “MR GOAT,” as he is known by at the high-stakes online poker tables. The caption on the photo, “While I’m more of a t*t guy, I do appreciate a nice a**…”

Apparently fast cars and fast women aren’t the only thing Bilzerian is fond of. One Instagram photo shows a table full of semi-automatic weapons with the comment, “My greatest fear is that someone will break in & I won’t be able to decide what #gun to shoot them with.”

Originally from Tampa Bay, MR GOAT does do some acting on the side and claims that his life has always been non-cautious and that he didn’t get to enjoy much of his childhood after his father, former corporate takeover mogul Paul Bilzerian was sentenced to pay a $1.5 million fine and spend four years in jail in 1989. The younger Bilzerian recalls that in high school he wasn’t “super-cool,” which may or may not have anything to do with his overly assertive personality. He also went to military school and lived with Mormons for a year in Utah. After getting caught with a machine gun in his trunk during his senior year in high school, he went to jail, but still obtained his GED.

As a gun rights advocate, Bilzerian made his way 99% through Navy SEAL training but was honorably discharged two days before graduating due to a safety violation, according to IMBD.

He then went to college, which he thoroughly enjoyed, especially once he began playing poker. He says, “I went broke after sophomore year, gambled away all my money, sold some guns, turned $750 into $10,000, flew to Vegas, turned 10 thou into $187,000, went back to school, played better.” He explains, “I respected the money. You have to go broke to respect the money,.”

Throughout his poker career, he’s been successful in multiple tournaments, namely placing 180th in the WSOP Main Event in 2009. Bilzerian is also co-founder of Victory Poker.

A gambler through and through, he describes betting on everything in life as an “essential condition.” He will take just about any bet he’s offered from jumping from a 90-foot cliff to swimming across a lake full of alligators. In 2011 he made a bet on a drag race at the Las Vegas Speedway and won $385K when his 1965 A/C Cobra beat a 2011 Ferrari 458, considered at the time to be one of the fastest cars in the world.

But he doesn’t always win the bet, especially when it comes to his health. Bilzerian’s heart gave out two years ago when he flew back and forth to play 24-7 poker from Maui to Las Vegas twice in three days. He had previously had a double heart attack, but this time it was only a pulmonary embolism. His health is said to be in good condition now.

While he does put on quite the show for his Instagram following, he Bilzerian claims that he would like to clean up his image and rebrand his playboy reputation as “the gentleman of poker.” His charitable efforts thus far include helping victims of Typhoon Haiyan, donating $100K of his poker winnings to charity, and offering assistance to those in need on an individual basis. He aided a couple that was trying to adopt four underpriviledged children who were sick and another woman who had lost all of her limbs.

When he’s not playing poker, Bilzerian enjoys extreme sports, racing cars, MMA training, mountain biking, scuba diving, and snowmobiling. He’s also a stunt man and has been in three movies: “Olympus Has Fallen,” “The Other Woman,” and “The Equalizer.”

WSOP Cleveland Relocated to St. Louis

December 9, 2013

Much to the dismay of many Cleveland-area players, who were looking forward to the WSOP stop in Cleveland next spring, the tournament announced that it will instead stop in St. Louis in late march instead of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland due to the casino’s size.

The tournament made the following statement last week:

“Despite the World Series of Poker Circuit’s belief in the Cleveland market as an exciting market to host a second World Series of Poker Circuit event in Ohio, it has been determined after further due diligence that the space originally conceptualized to host it will not be sufficient for the guest experience the property and the World Series of Poker both desire and require.”

The senior VP and GM for Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, Marcus Glover, says that both the poker tour and the casino had “exhausted every reasonable option” to try and make it work before finally seceding from the idea. Caesars Entertainment, owner of the WSOP, also has stake in Horseshoe.

Glover says, “The ability to provide an optimal experience for our loyal poker guests – as well as our non-poker customers — was primary to this difficult decision. We are fully committed to finding a way to accommodate a future World Series of Poker Circuit stop in Cleveland.

“We particularly appreciate the understanding of our guests and will continue to seek opportunities to further enhance the poker experience at Horseshoe Cleveland.”

When the announcement was made last May that the tour would make a Cleveland stop, they have been faced with the problem of how the Horseshoe would fit thousands of players that were expected to register. There would have been 12 events, two days each, and each event would average about 800 players. This would have required 30 tables, which the Horseshoe’s poker room would not have allowed for.

The original plan was to host the event in the ballroom of the adjacent Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, but not after the Ohio Casino Control Commission vetoed the plans citing the constitutional amendment that allowed gambling in Cleveland, only allowed it in certain places.

The press release also stated that the company “still desires to make Horseshoe Cleveland a future World Series of Poker Circuit stop and will continue to have dialogue with the property to weigh options for future events there.”

The tour will instead stop at downtown St. Louis’ Lumiere Place.

University of Waterloo Breeds Poker Stars

December 9, 2013

Over the past decade, as gambling has become a trend in the collegiate generations, some US colleges have garnered a reputation for producing students who are exceptionally trained in gambling, such as MIT and its blackjack card counting team. Now the University of Waterloo is quickly becoming known for its poker players. Specifically a school for math, engineering, and science, the students who attend the University of Waterloo are already deemed intellectual, so it isn’t surprising that many former Waterloo students are now popping up at big-money tournaments around the world.

University of Waterloo graduate and professional poker player Xuan Liu says, “We wanted an alternative lifestyle. We saw something bigger that was possible. And given the economy at the time, when we were students and even right now, I think it was important and valuable for us to take certain risks.””

And the school is quite proud of its poker alumni with news of their victories regularly updated on social media as well as the university’s website, and poker is becoming more accepted as an intellectual game than an irresponsible past time.

Mike Watson, whose garnered around $6.8 million is a Waterloo graduate, and Will Ma actually taught a class on poker at MIT this year in which students actually got credit for. WPT named Xuan Liu on their “Ones to Watch” list for August. Liu, now 28, has more than $1.4 million in live earnings and more than $300K in online earnings.

Liu says, “Playing so much poker and studying poker so much in college definitely made me a terrible student. I missed a lot of classes, improving on my poker game.”

As a child growing up in China, she says that she’s always been into games like mah-jong, but nothing ever grabbed her attention like poker did when she was studying at the University of Waterloo in 2003. It was during this Moneymaker era that poker began to gain popularity in the US and the WPT had started airing on the Travel Channel the year before. Cameras that showed the players’ hole cards made it all the more intriguing.

At the age of 17, Mike McDonald, who is now 23, began studying at Waterloo. He dropped out after three semesters to pursue poker.

He says, “I love competition, I love just the idea of basically just trying to outsmart your opponents and hopefully get paid for that. I love the fact that I get to travel so much. Financially, I’ve done pretty well. There’s a bunch of reasons I keep playing poker.”

Now with $5.5 million in live tourney winnings, he registered at Waterloo to study to be an actuary. He plays online as well, but prefers to keep his usernames and winnings private. At 18 he won the PokerStars EPT German Open for $1.3 million in 2008.

The reasons why Waterloo seems to breed poker players is simple. The math-related majors attract students who are looking to apply their knowledge to real world experiences. Poker allows just that.

Paul-Ambrose, University of Waterloo graduate, whose career winnings total $1.9 million, says, “There’s a lot of very bright people there, which helps.” He explains that after students saw other students becoming so successful, they also wanted to partake.

“I met a lot of other people who were playing poker, so we all talked about poker a lot. I know that after I left Waterloo, that continued and expanded. So yeah, I do think that having some people be successful as well as having a very large group of intelligent people definitely helped,” he explains.

The UW Poker Studies Club meets every week and provides the perfect avenue for players to talk about their game, socialize, and practice together. Ma also adds that the long, cold winters that keep students in doors and the small, sleepy town encourages students to stay in their dorm rooms and play poker.

Another key component to the Waterloo poker craze is the age group of the students. McDonald says, “If you look at the top poker players in the world, a gigantic number of them are 18- to 25-year-olds who basically just don’t really know the value of a dollar.” He continues, “That allows them to be more rational and more analytical about their decisions than someone who when they win a big pot, they’re thinking about the car they could buy, or when they lose a big pot they’re thinking about the house they just lost.”

But as these students begin to grow up, we may see a trend in them taking a couple steps back from poker. Paul-Ambrose, who is 30 now, has begun to withdraw from full-time poker. “When I started playing, there were a lot of recreational players relative to the number of serious players. That ratio has changed significantly. It takes a lot more talent and hard work than it used to, to make a living at poker for sure.”

“Most of the best online players are quite young, early twenties is even getting into the old stage,” says Paul-Ambrose.

And McDonald explains that a lot of the Waterloo star players have moved back to where they came from over the past few years.

According to Mike McDonald, many of the star players who went to UW have since moved away over the last several years.

McDonald explains, “I might be the only one who still lives in Waterloo. Some have moved to Toronto, some have moved to the States, some of them are in grad school, some of them are married with families.”

And for a time in 2005, the poker club had actually ceased to exist because all of its members had graduated. In 2008, though, Arush Kuthiala says he and some friends started it up again. He says h feels a deep sense of pride when he sees former club members playing on TV.