Merge Poker Network Withdraws Services from Three US States

January 29, 2014

All US-based New Jersey and Delaware Internet poker players have reportedly been unexpectedly suspended from their online poker accounts via Merge Poker. Online messages from the network’s customer service department announced that Merge Poker would be discontinuing services to the two northeastern states, effective immediately.

Merge Poker Network is based in Australia and licensed in Curacao and has already deactivated Nevada player services, so that the network will no longer be offering US online poker services in US states that have legally regulated online poker because regulations in these states enforce hefty, multi-million dollar fines to sites that offer online poker to residents where they are not authorized to. It is for this reason alone that Merge has pulled the plug on US poker in these states, though the network doesn’t offer online poker to Kentucky, Washington, New York, Maryland, Louisiana, or Missouri residents either, nor to those players who reside in the District of Colombia.

In addition to online poker, the Merge Network also offers various casino games to online players including blackjack. These services will be suspended from these states’ players, as well. Merge, furthermore, has made no official statement to these affected players, only confirming their non-service to players who have asked about the state of their inactive accounts.

While the network has never pulled specific states from its list of US-friendly services due to the inconsistency of US laws that varies from state to state and across state to federal levels, but they have blocked French players since the country’s inception of its single-nation regulations that excludes all other countries.

Online rumors are circulating that the network will reimburse individual player accounts within three to eight weeks, but it is likely players will have to request this and see their inquiries through. The three affected states have a combined populous of around 12.5 million, which is about 3% of the nation’s population that totals 313 million people, according to 2012 census reports.

Carbon Poker is the biggest Merge Network skin, but other popular skins include PDG Poker,,, and PokerHost, among other smaller skins.

PPA Fights Back Against Federal Online Poker Ban Bill

January 25, 2014

Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson has been working hard to encourage a federal ban on online poker. He has the support of three state attorney generals as well as 10 signatures backing his anti-online poker campaign. But the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is also making an aggressive attempt to prevent Adelson’s letter from gaining more support.

Executive director for PPA John Pappas, says, “We’re working overtime to make sure the letters don’t gain momentum among state AGs, We understand 10 have signed already, and we’re hoping we can change their minds as well. It’s an odd thing for a state AG to support. Essentially, it’s asking Congress to do a federal power grab on states, telling them what they can and cannot authorize. Either AGs are being misled or they don’t care what the message is, they’re just going to go along with this because they’re being asked by Sheldon Adelson.”

Missouri AG Chris Koster, South Carolina AG Alan Wilson, and Nebraska AG Jon Bruning are the three main supporters of Adelson’s letter. Other signers include Hawaii’s David Louie, Arizona’s Tom Home, Michigan’s Bill Schuette, Montana’s Tim Fox, South Dakota’s Marty Jackley, North Dakota’s Wayne Stenehjem, and Wyoming’s Peter Michael.

One point made by Pappas is that these states with signatures are not the most populous states in the country, aside from Michigan, though he wants to ensure this situation doesn’t mimic the UIGEA where almost all states’ AGs gave support on the ban.

Also according to Pappas, around 10,000 letters and 10,000 tweets have been sent via email and Twitter through the PPA website to state AGs from players. Additional tweets and letters have also been sent outside of the PPA website, and more people are sending letters, as the PPA site offers a pre-written email that concerned players can use to contact their state AG, and it only takes less than 60 seconds to do so.

This being the very beginnings of Adelson’s campaign, it’s an important time frame to halt the Internet Gambling Control Act efforts before it gain too much momentum. The Internet Gambling Control Act is an amendment to the Wire Act that would federally apply to Internet poker and casino gambling, but the drafted bill has yet to gain sponsorship in the US Congress.

Pappas explains, “We want them to earn every inch they try to get in this fight. We don’t want them to push any effort that goes unchallenged. Since this is the launch of their campaign, we want to make sure it comes hard fought.”

Pappas believes the state AGs who have offered their signatures can be coerced to change their minds. He says, “An AG is not a lawmaker. I think the decision about gaming policy will be left to legislators and governors, and enforcement of those laws left to the AG. Certainly AGs can have opinions on it, but lawmakers and governors will set the policy.”

New Fast-Fold Adrenaline Rush at Full Tilt Poker

January 9, 2014

This week, Full Tilt Poker launched a new variant of online poker, deemed Adrenaline Rush. This new addition was part of a software update that also adds the first phase of casino games. The online poker site will roll out more casino games in the future as part of a multi-stage process to incorporate casino into the Full Tilt Poker software package.

The brand new Adrenaline Rush is a fast-fold poker game like its predecessor Rush Poker and builds on the concept of fast fold poker introduced and made popular three years ago by Full Tilt. It had just enough time to catch on before Black Friday. This way to play that is unique to Internet poker has become so popular since it was first introduced, that many other online poker rooms have adopted it and launched their own versions (i.e. Zone Poker by Bodog and Zoom Poker by PokerStars).

Adrenaline Rush poker is all 4-handed, and all the action takes place preflop. Buy-ins range from 5 to 10 BB, and betting is maxed out at 10 BB. Players may raise or fold, and these are the only options they have. If a raise has reached the 10 big blind max, however, or is greater than or equal to their stack, they may call.

If a player chooses to fold, they will be immediately be placed at a new table to face a new hand and new opponents, as is customary with traditional fast-fold variants. To keep the action moving swiftly, players may select the Quick Fold or Raise Max options.

Head of marketing at Full Tilt Poker, Sarne Lightman, says, “The name reflects the kind of emotional state the game delivers; it’s even faster than our original Rush Poker.”

Full Tilt Poker was the original innovator of fast-fold poker, and the phenomenon caught on so much that virtually every online poker site now offers some form of fast-fold poker. This type of online poker is popular because it allows players to see a great deal more hands per hour, earn more frequent player points, and essentially more pots. Fast-fold poker also makes for a more efficient online poker session because it omits waiting time between folds and new deals.

A significant amount of online hands played are fast-fold poker hands, and the trend doesn’t seem to be fading away. Players embraced the new form of Internet poker, which cannot be played in a land-based casino due to the technicalities of switching so quickly between tables.

In addition to Adrenaline Rush, Full Tilt Poker will be testing some free-play blackjack and roulette variants via the download client. A spokesman for Rational Group, owner of Full Tilt Poker, says that real-money versions will go live once the testing phase is complete.

He says, “As always, we will provide the high quality player experience, integrity, security, safety and support that players have come to expect from Rational Group brands.”

Casino games offered by the brand include a variety of blackjack games, including Atlantic City, European, and Double Deck variants. Players can also play on individual or multi-player tables. Multi-player roulette is also available, where players can actually communicate with each other throughout the game.

This is just the first phase of the expanded product launch by the Rational Group and Full Tilt Poker brand. While both Full Tilt and PokerStars are owned by the Rational Group, it is understood that PokerStars will continue to offer poker only, while Full Tilt will expand product range to casino games.

Full Tilt Poker Pro Hansen Accuses SallyWoo of Cheating

January 7, 2014

An unidentified high-stakes player, “SallyWoo” has had an eventful first week of 2014, up more than $500K in less than 1,750 hands played out over eight sessions. SallyWoo, who now resides in Mexico since Black Friday, has been raking in the pots as an Omaha Hi/Lo (FLO8) specialist.

Like other high-stakes players and friends of SallyWoo, Kyle “KPR16” Ray and Kyle “cottonseed1” Hendon, SallyWoo has joined in the recent trend of opting out of long-term tracking results. Fellow high-stakes player and Full Tilt Poker pro Gus Hansen is not the biggest fan of this new online poker movement and went head to head with SallyWoo in the chat box on Full Tilt Poker at the end of last month.

Hansen, who was the biggest loser of 2013, losing more than $8.4 million  at online poker last year, is up $155K this year, so far, playing more than 27 sessions and 4,485 hands. But following an upset after he was three-bet in a FLO8 game and a disconnect, he suggested that his friend thought SallyWoo should pay Hansen back the $4K he had put in before getting discoed. SallyWoo then made reference to a deal they had made prior should such an instance occur. At that point, Hansen started the accusations that SallyWoo was cheating via a computer program.

In the chat record, Hansen said, “the computer program right by your side – could be a slippery slope.” When SallyWoo asked Hansen if he was accusing him of cheating, he said, “nope I am not.” The two went back and forth arguing about a conversation the two had about a disconnection agreement and how many times it had been honored, as well as whether or not SallyWoo was using an O8 computer program, which he denied, stating he would request the chat records from Full Tilt to prove his innocence. Hansen insinuated that they wouldn’t likely play again:

Gus Hansen: since this was probably last time we played – I just wanna add it was funny you were so offended of me saying you have an O8 computer program – since obviously you do
SallyWoo: ohh lord gus, i dont cheat

There has been quite a stir over this in the forums and many are taking sides, though most seem to share Hansen’s opinion that SallyWoo is using a program, but think it was out of line for Hansen to accuse him of it.

One poster believes that Hansen was on tilt when this happened after losing the $4K that is just the tip of the iceberg when you look at the bigger picture—the millions of dollars Hansen has lost doing something that he’s supposed to be good at, while tarnishing the character of SallyWoo as a cheater when there’s actually no proof that he is.

SallyWoo continues to progress, though, playing against Viktor “Isildur1” Blom last Saturday and winning more than $240K off him in a 26-hand session at the $2K/$4K FLO8 tables in just over 14 minutes. He then made another almost $90K off Sankler in $500/$1K CAP NLH in less than 300 hands. Whether or not he will go up against Hansen again is unknown.

Perhaps Hansen needs to take a break and go back to the basics. Studying up on strategy and reviewing his game. Maybe some live poker will do him good because what he’s been doing for the past year is obviously not working.

Cab Driver Returns Poker Player’s Cash

January 3, 2014

On December 23, 2013, a poker player forgot $300,000 in the taxi’s backseat. The player was in a Yellow Checker Star and lucky for him, the driver was kind. Sometime after forgetting the money in the taxi, the driver, Gerardo Gamboa actually turned in the amount and it was handed back to the unnamed poker player–a well-known pro.

The driver came across the package after Bellagio’s hotel doorman gave him a brown-colored paper bag that someone had forgotten in the taxi’s backseat. Gamboa, an experienced tax driver since 1989, at first thought that the package contained chocolates. However, after a close inspection, he realized it had six $100-bill bundles adding to $300,000.

Upon realizing this, Gamboa quickly contacted his dispatch after which he went back to the office to hand in the cash. He went ahead to surmise that the cash he had collected belonged to a passenger that he had driven from The Cosmopolitan to the Palms Place Tower at a $9.10 fare, which earned him a tip of $5. After dropping the passenger at Palms Place Tower, he went to queue at Bellagio and while there, he came across the money.

After he reported the incidence, the Metro police were informed after which they carried out an investigation for four hours. Working together with the officials at the casino, they concluded that the money was for a famous poker player that wished not to be named.

Joel Willden, the field operations manager at Yellow Checker Star said that the player was very grateful and understanding. While at some point he got irritated, he was not aggressive or mad. He was just a bit embarrassed for having left $300,000 in a cab.

Gamboa later said that he could not trade his dignity for any amount and that his parents taught him this right from childhood. Yellow Checker Star did not only name him the Cab Driver of the Year but also awarded him $1,000 dollar reward and dinner for two. Besides, the anonymous poker player rewarded Gamboa $10,000 for his rare gesture.