Monthly Archives: December 2014

Eight Reasons I Love Poker: A Special Chanukah Edition

Everyone loves the holiday season. With all the family, food, and decorations all around, it’s difficult to not be full of hope for the promise of a new year.

With all the talk about backroom deals in Congress, iGaming revenues falling below expectations, and server crashes on US-facing poker sites recently, I want to use Chanukah — the eight day Jewish festival of lights — to put out into the community the 8 things that I love the most about the beautiful game of poker.

#1: Poker is a Fundamentally Fair Game

There is something truly beautiful about the simplicity of a poker hand. Victoria Coren put it best recently when she mentioned the “inherently fair nature” of the game of poker. You put your money down, and engage in a battle of wits with others for cold, hard, cash. Anyone can sit down and get chips in front of them. There are no office politics, no subjective interpretations of your work, no one to explain yourself to. Just you, the cards, and an opponent; the idea has always resonated strongly with me.

The 12 Biggest Poker Stories of 2014: #12 Sportify Poker

Poker entrepreneur Alexandre Dreyfus debuted a number of new ideas and initiatives during 2014.

Dreyfus announced the formation of a professional poker league called the Global Poker League and a companion event dubbed the Global Poker Masters where teams of players compete for their country a la the Ryder Cup.

2014 Also saw the expansion of the long-running European Poker Awards, with the announcement of a second award banquet, the aptly named American Poker Awards. Both award ceremonies will be preceded by the inaugural Global Poker Conferences – another Dreyfus creation.

Dreyfus also unveiled a new news website called and continued to increase the reach of the Global Poker Index, the Hendon Mob, and the company’s Fantasy Poker leagues.

Can You Spell V-i-c-t-o-r-y? Pratyush Buddiga Can

Professional poker players are typically known for being good with numbers, adept at figuring out percentages and the likelihood of winning various pots dependent upon a number of variables. But one particular poker pro has skills that go beyond the numbers, dealing more with words found on the printed page.

Pratyush Buddiga, a recent winner of the $25,000 Aria High Roller that earned a payday of $543,683, is a former Scripps National Spelling Bee champion. Buddiga won the spelling title in 2002 as an eighth-grader, claiming victory in heads-up competition by going all-in on the word “prospicience.”

For that victory a dozen years ago, Buddiga took home an engraved winner’s cup, $12,000 in cash, up-to-date volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica, and a set of Great Books of the Western World. Somewhere along the way, he likely picked up a poker book or two, as Buddiga’s lifetime earnings in live tournaments have now surpassed $3.2 million.

Spelling champ turned poker champ

The 12 Biggest Poker Stories of 2014: Honorable Mention

As 2015 fast approaches, I will be counting down what are in my mind the biggest stories in poker over the course of 2014.

I’ve settled on a total of 12 stories, but before I detail those Top 12 stories in the coming weeks, here is a look at a few stories that just missed the cut. The Honorable Mention of 2014.

$1.3 million online jackpot in New Jersey

New Jersey’s online gaming industry found itself behind the proverbial woodshed for most of the year, but in-between all of the necessary massaging of red cheeks there were plenty of highlights as well.

The Reality of Poker on TV, Gambling, Wagers and Amounts Won


When you see a poker reality show, are you amazed by the amounts of money involved? Does it seem like poker pros must be worth tens of millions of dollars to be playing in $100,000 high roller events and the million dollar One Drop? The most well-known professional players seem to have an infinite amount of money and they don’t seem terribly attached to their cash when you see the prop bets they make in front of television cameras.

We all know that reality shows on television aren’t exactly real. Some are scripted, and others just reward certain behaviors with camera time to encourage those behaviors, and the reality stars learn quickly what will earn them camera time and more money. I like to suspend my disbelief sometimes and forget that Bear Grylls has a camera crew nearby to help him if he needs it, but when it comes to poker on television, I have trouble.

Let’s start with a story

A few years ago I was in Las Vegas with my friend and coauthor Adam Stemple. We were eating at a Subway inside the old O’Shea’s and there were beer pong tables just over a waist-high wall from where we were eating. Of course, we started betting on the participants in the games. How else are we supposed to pass a whole five minutes while we eat our subs? We needed action!

Adam and I are not big gamblers. We’ll lay down a bet here and there, but we aren’t like a lot of poker pros who behave like they hate money on a daily basis. We were betting $10 a shot on the beer pong game, but we were in Vegas to play poker so we each had a few thousand dollars with us.

“Let’s kick the stakes up a notch for the kids,” Adam said.

We’ve been friends a long time. I knew exactly what he meant. When the next shot was a miss, I swore loudly and handed him $500, clearly within the sight line of the competitors. A college girl, couldn’t have been more than 22, came walking over and asked us if were betting on their game. We told her that we were and she asked what the stakes were. When we told her we were betting $500 a shot, she looked like we had just told her that we were betting our lives.

When she returned to take her next turn, she told everyone at the table that we were betting $500 a shot. They looked surprised, but there wasn’t real shock until she made her next shot and Adam handed me back the same $500 I had given him a minute ago. Seeing the hundred dollar bills exchanged had them all wide-eyed. Five bills is a lot of money to a college kid in Vegas for the weekend, trying to get drunk on $30 a night and splitting a hotel room five ways.

We kept this up for a few minutes while we finished our subs, and a couple of the other competitors came over to talk to us. We mostly told them the truth. That we are poker pros in town for a tournament series, that we were betting on their game, and that we would bet on almost anything. What we lied to them about was the stakes we were playing for.

It’s Mostly Harmless

It was not just a harmless lie, it was for their entertainment as well as ours. They had a neat experience in Las Vegas, met a couple big gamblers, and had real money riding on their performance in one of the dumbest games ever invented. They definitely went home with a story to tell their classmates, and they are probably still telling it. Why wouldn’t they, it’s a great story. And everyone who hears it believes that there are people who will bet $500 on the toss of a ping pong ball.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who would bet $500 on the toss of a ping pong ball into a dirty cup of beer, but I can tell you that it wasn’t happening that night. You can probably guess where I’m going with this. In many cases, the huge games you hear about just aren’t quite as big as they seem.

Is a million dollar buy-in cash game really a million dollar buy-in? Probably. The participants do likely have to put up a million dollars to play. But if they all swap action, then there isn’t really much risk. Even if only three or four of them swap 10% each, it cuts down on variance drastically. And many of those players have backers or have sold a significant amount of action in those games.

If a player sells 75% of his action, and swaps 5% with two other players, then the buy-in is really only $150,000 for him. If he has a backer, or sells all of his action, then he may not have any money invested at all. And what if an investor buys 50% of every player? What if that investor is associated with the television network and is simply cutting the stakes in half so that the players can afford to play. When does it become deceptive?

In my opinion, it’s television. When you watch something on screen, you should know that it can easily be manipulated and that you are only seeing what they have chosen to show you. I know a player who recently played on a poker broadcast who sold action on Facebook. It’s clearly not being kept a big secret, they just don’t mention it on the broadcast. I don’t think it’s wrong, just interesting.

This is reflected in all kinds of things that civilians, people who aren’t serious about poker, believe about our game. They think Antonio Esfandiari has actually won $26,000,000 in tournaments and must have mountains of cash. I’m sure Antonio is doing just fine, but he has basically admitted that he didn’t have all his own action in the One Drop, and estimates of his percentage are as low as 10%.

But I Thought that Guy was Rich?

When you count buy-ins and backing, some of the biggest names in poker who have millions in tournament “winnings” may not even be up significantly. Most of them are way up, and most of them are truly great players, but don’t believe the numbers you read online, they aren’t related to “reality” any more than the things you read about Kim Kardashian in the tabloids or the junk you can watch about ancient aliens on television. Just because someone says it doesn’t mean that it’s true. Even if you watch it happen on television, it doesn’t mean that the money really changed hands in the quantity that the cameras presented.

Is this good for poker? I’m not sure. I know that it keeps people interested, but I think people would be interested in the biggest buy-in events even if the entry fee was only $10,000. That’s a pretty big cash game to me. I also know that it’s not going to change. Selling action is a smart thing for many players, and I often sell action myself. In my bracelet win this summer, I had less than half of my own action.

There are debates about players trading action because it can influence how they play against each other, but there isn’t much to be done about that. Players can trade action without telling anyone and there is simply no way to verify that players don’t have a portion of another player’s action. Other than being conscious of the fact that some players in any major tournament will have traded some action, there is nothing to worry about. Just don’t let yourself be deceived into thinking that all of the numbers you see reflect reality when they may only reflect reality television.



New Jersey Law Would Require All Online Gambling Software Providers to Have a Casino License

Law Books

New Jersey Assemblyman and noted anti-online poker advocate Ralph R. Caputo is currently sponsoring a bill (Bill) that would make it illegal for any “Internet gaming affiliate” (Affiliate) to operate in the state without first obtaining a casino license.

It also stipulates that this licensing requirement could not be waved under any circumstances.

If passed, the Bill will remove the streamlined approach currently undertaken within the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) itself and instead subject Affiliates to the additional scrutiny of the NJ Casino Control Act (Act) and by extension the New Jersey Casino Control Commission (Commission).

The vote to pass the Bill out of the Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee was unanimous and it could now go to the full chamber for a vote.

Why Have One Sentence of Regulation When You Can Have Ten Pages Of It?

Currently, affiliates are required to obtain a “Casino Service Industry License” through the NJDGE. Affiliates seeking to partner with land-based casinos must meet the following NJDGE standard to be granted a license:

Q:Personnel/qualifiers must demonstrate good character, honesty, and integrity as well as financial stability, integrity and responsibility. Qualifiers must not have engaged in any conduct that is prohibited by Section 86 of the Casino Control Act.”;

This is a much less onerous burden of proof than the ten pages of regulations which the Commission has for granting a casino license – most of which merely serve as an outline/guide to the myriad of forms and declarations required of applicants.

Additionally, the Bill would add layers of regulatory oversight by keeping the NJDGE in its current role as an investigatory body for applications, while removing its ability to make a final decision on them by transferring that authority into the hands of the Commission itself.

Third Party Software Essential to the Industry

The potential for regulation to be ratcheted up is definitely a cause for concern amongst Affiliates. However, they are not the only ones who will be sweating the Bill as it moves through the legislative process.

Land-based casinos generally have zero background in running online gaming and therefore currently rely on partnerships with experienced Affiliates to successfully enter the market. This Bill threatens to severely complicate (if not entirely destroy) this model, raising the specter of a severing of the link between name-brand properties and Internet customers.

Given that revenues from online gaming have been far below projections, it is unlikely that a casino such as the Borgata will make the investment necessary to remain open if it can no longer easily partner with an experienced Affiliate such as PartyPoker. The much likelier scenario is that it will simply exit the market altogether, forgoing the revenue generated under the current system.

Therefore, the Bill could seriously undermine – if not destroy – the fledgling NJ online poker and gambling industry. That’s why serious opposition to it can be expected from land-based casino interests in the state.

In Case You Didn’t Know There Is This Company Called PokerStars

It seems as though no discussion about the regulation of online poker in the US is complete without at least a tangential reference to the possible return of PokerStars to the market.

Caputo is known to be anti-online gaming generally, but is especially vocal in his condemnation of PokerStars due to the indictments facing former owner Isai Scheinberg.

It is therefore likely that his sponsorship of this Bill is primarily aimed at ensuring PokerStars does not have a backdoor into the NJ market that would allow the company’s previous run-ins with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to be downplayed or forgotten.

Interesting to note on this point is that by requiring Affiliates to apply for a casino license, the Bill would also subject them to a provision of the Act which says the Commission may consider “undue economic concentration in Atlantic City casino operations.”

Given the fact that four Atlantic City casinos have already shuttered their doors this year alone, this provision could theoretically be used as a “fail-safe” to ensure that even if PokerStars could successfully argue its sale purged the company of the taint of illegality, grounds for denying it a license without facing a serious court challenge would still exist.

Whether or not that is a deliberate calculation on Caputo’s part or just a coincidence remains to be seen.

The Waiting Game

The casino properties in the state have as much interest in running an online card room as 888 has in operating an Atlantic City casino. The relationship between land-based and online gaming providers is a mutually beneficial one that the industry will fight very hard to preserve.

While the Bill has only passed out of committee, it is still something that will be closely watched by the industry and the poker community.



Senate Committee Approves Bills that Could Help Save Atlantic City


The New Jersey legislature is in the process of taking aggressive measures to help save struggling Atlantic City and possibly prevent a fifth casino from closing this year. On Monday, a state senate panel acted on a group of bills that have the potential to give Atlantic City casinos a needed financial boost and possibly save the Trump Taj Mahal from closure.

Atlantic City has seen four casinos close in 2014 and the Taj is scheduled to close on December 20. At present, approximately 9,000 jobs have been lost in connection with casino closures. The closure of the Taj would add at least 3,000 more to that total.

Tax Stabilization Act Would Guarantee Tax Revenue to the City


Perhaps the most important of the five bills is S2572, the Casino Property Taxation Stabilization Act. This bill would allow casinos to make flat payments of $150 million over the next two years instead of paying property taxes. After the initial two-year period, taxes would then be based on gaming revenue in the city. Tax payments could be as low as $75 or as high as $165 million. This system would be in place for at least 13 years.

For those thinking this looks similar to Carl Icahn’s plan for the Trump Taj, you would be correct. Icahn had asked for a similar tax break for the Taj from city administrators but was subsequently denied. This bill would not just benefit the Taj, but all casinos in Atlantic City.

Bills Would Look After Full-Time Employees

One of the reasons that Icahn encountered resistance in his quest for state aid was his desire to terminate union employee health care and pensions at the Taj. While he has backed off from that position, the legislature is making sure a similar fiasco doesn’t happen in the future.

Under S2583, licensed casinos would be required to give full-time employees a “baseline health care and retirement package.” This bill would seem to cover all full-time employees, and not just union employees.

Unite-HERE has yet to act on Icahn’s request for the union to drop their appeal of a bankruptcy judge’s ruling that the Taj could eliminate health care and pension payments to union employees. Icahn later decided that he would reinstate health care and provide partial pension payments to employees provided they drop their appeal.

Legislation Could Save the Taj

The odds of the Taj seem to be improving by the day and the passage of these bills may be enough to guarantee the casino’s continued operation. Major Don Guardian told the Senate committee that, “I do believe this legislation is going to save the Taj from closing.” Considering that S2572 would give Icahn at least part of what he needed to keep the casino open, Guardian believes Icahn will proceed with his plan to invest $100 million into the property.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney supports the bills and is focused on stabilizing the Atlantic City economy. Right now, between 8,000 and 9,000 people are without jobs thanks to the casino closures and up to another 5,000 are facing similar prospects. The most important thing right now, according to Sweeney, is to right the sinking ship that is Atlantic City.




Revel Files to End Deal with Brookfield and Award Bid to Straub

Revel Casino

First Revel wanted Glenn Straub to buy their casino. Then it seemed that nobody wanted Straub to buy the casino. Now, Straub may be the only hope for the casino to sell. On Tuesday, Revel filed an emergency motion to terminate its deal with Brookfield US Holdings, and requested that Straub be made the backup bidder.

The filing came after weeks of speculation whether Brookfield would back out of their deal with the bankrupt casino. Brookfield announced last month that they would terminate their agreement with Revel following their inability to negotiate terms with the casino’s power provider. Attorneys with Revel continued to try to negotiate to save the deal, but those efforts have appeared to fail.

Negotiations Fell Apart After New Demands by Brookfield

Revel attorneys had been in negotiations with Brookfield following their initial announcement to back out of the deal. Those negotiations were reportedly ongoing through last week, but sources with Revel revealed this week that Brookfield had demanded a series of new financial terms to the agreement, terms that Revel was unable to meet.

Brookfield was the winner in the Revel auction back in September following a heated auction with Florida real estate tycoon Glenn Straub. Straub was the staking horse bidder at $90 million and the price eventually reached $110 million before Brookfield was declared the winner.

Straub has fought the auction process at nearly every turn and was reportedly in the process of appealing the decision awarding Brookfield the winning bid. He went as far as to claim that Brookfield backed out of the deal because they felt he would win his appeal. Tuesday’s filing would award the Revel to Straub at a bid of $95 million.

Straub Not a Good Fit According to One Analyst

Following Brookfield’s announcement last month, Straub revealed that he is still interested in buying the Revel. However, some feel that he is not a good fit for the casino. Global Gaming Business magazine analyst Roger Gross spoke with KYW Newsradio on Wednesday and said that he was “a little fearful about what’s going to happen here, frankly, because he hasn’t given a vision for what he wants to do with the property, and some of the things we have heard have been kind of wild, off-the-wall ideas.”

Straub also spoke with KYW on Wednesday and told the station that he is keeping his options open. He said that he wasn’t going to explain his plans ahead of time unless it was a condition of the bid, and such conditions were not part of the Revel auction. Some of the plans that he has hinted to in the past included a “genius University” as well as a toned-down casino presence in the property.

A hearing on Tuesday’s emergency motion is scheduled for Friday. Straub has stated he may not attend the meeting. If he is awarded the bid, he will still have to face the same issues that Brookfield walked away from, including over $158 million in financing debt that the casino’s former power provider, ACR Energy Partners, refuses to negotiate on.



Online Poker Player Traffic Update – December 11, 2014


BIG:C;ash game player traffic rose a huge 10% last week, attributable mostly to PokerStars’ December Festival that features a Milestone Hands bonanza in addition to other cash prizes up for grabs away from the ring game tables.

As is often the case, the PokerStars cash tables see a large number of players scurrying for seats when Milestone Hands approach. And faster than you can say Amaya, many of those same seats are emptied once the Milestone Hand has been played.

At present, PokerStars is averaging 20,500 ring game players, according to PokerScout. That total is actually down a bit after reaching 21,000 seven days ago. But we can expect it to rise and fall according to the Milestone Hand counter.

Top Ten Traffic Site Happenings

Amaya’s other top ten poker site, Full Tilt, managed to move up a notch in the rankings to fourth place. Full Tilt now averages 1,500 cash players, trailing 888Poker and the iPoker Network, who clock in at 2,400 and 2,000, respectively.

A tie for fifth place between PartyPoker and finds both averaging 1,450 at the ring game tables, while Bodog/Bovada slipped one place to seventh. Roughly 1,350 anonymous players are typically found competing at any given time at Bodog.

Rounding out the top ten are Winamax, Adjarabet and, with the latter two switching positions in the rankings. Adjarabet is capitalizing on its Magic Hand promo, gaining 20% more players after enjoying 10% more action the week before.

Poker Host Leaves EPN for WPN

Traffic in upcoming weeks may be affected by Poker Host migrating from the Equity Poker Network (EPN) to the Winning Poker Network (WPN) earlier this week. Poker Host has been rather transient the last few years, staying at EPN less than a year, and temporarily residing on the Merge Gaming Network prior to that.

The Cake Poker and Revolution Gaming Networks also got to know Poker Host as one of their skins. Hopefully, the well-traveled poker room can find long-term lodging at WPN. Its stay at EPN was troubled from the start when some “winning” player accounts were closed. Rumor has it that those winning players are once again welcome to return to Poker Host, fittingly, at the “Winning” Poker Network.

Lock Poker Decline Continues

Player traffic at one of the online poker industry’s arguably worst-ever poker sites — Lock Poker — fell for the third month in a row. The latest decrease was 7%, which, unfortunately, amounts to only two players.

PokerScout estimates the cash game average at Lock to be 26 players, down from 28 previously. However, that follows declines of 15% in October and 18% in November.

Hundreds of Lock players continue to wait for their cashouts to be processed, and it’s not a stretch to believe that many wish that they never heard of (or deposited and played at) Lock Poker. It appears that slowly, but surely, players are coming around to realize that the best option is to avoid Lock.

Regulated U.S. Market

Over in New Jersey, player traffic rose 2%. The beneficiaries of the increase were the All American Poker Network (888) and, while Party Borgata experienced a mild dip in action on the cash tables.

Presently, Party Borgata still holds the crown of the most trafficked site among those that are regulated with a seven-day average of 160 players. But in Nevada is not far behind at 150. Of course, was able to grab players who were previously loyal to Ultimate Poker, which closed up shop one month ago.

Hopes continue that California will join the regulated U.S. online poker market in 2015. That would allow player traffic to shoot up considerably. A new bill was introduced earlier this month, but the general consensus is that the proposal (AB 9) offered by Assemblyman Mike Gatto is much of the same ol’ stuff.

Comparison to 2013

Globally, the online poker industry is down only 6% from mid-December 2013. These updates usually find that year-on-year comparison difference to be in double digit territory. The reasons for the lower percentage at this time are likely two-fold: the cold winter season and PokerStars December Festival.



15 Online Gambling Twitter Accounts to Follow in 2015


2015 is shaping up to be a big year for online gaming. California and Pennsylvania will revisit their online gambling bills; several other states are also likely to look into iGaming; sports betting will continue to be a hot topic in New Jersey and perhaps beyond; and the Daily Fantasy Sports industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of Twitter personalities that anyone interested in poker, gambling, gaming, and Fantasy Sports should follow.

Before I get started, let me point out that there is no doubt in my mind I overlooked some deserving people on this list, but the great thing about Twitter is the connectivity, so the people I have overlooked will become apparent simply by following the people listed below.

Victor Rocha @VictorRocha1 – 2015 is going to be all about the bass… I mean California (sorry, that song is catchy) and there is nobody with their finger on the pulse of the gaming industry and tribal interests in the Golden State more than editor Victor Rocha. Rocha’s Twitter feed is full of relevant links to gaming and tribal stories as well as Rocha’s own thoughts on a variety of topics.

Chris Grove @OPReport – Analysis, data, and informed commentary are the hallmark of the Editor’s Twitter account. In addition to his insightful tweets, you’ll also be following the best live-tweeter in the business.

Adam Krejcik @akrejcik – An Eilers Research Analyst, Krejcik is one of the Internet’s go-to sources for Daily Fantasy Sports news and information (what do you mean you’re not following DFS, it’s all the rage), as well as offering up his insights into the iPoker and iGaming industries.

Chris Krafcik @ckrafcik – The top man (North American Research Director) at one of the top iGaming news outlets (Gambling Compliance) is a must follow. Krafcik is not the most prolific tweeter in the world, but when he does tweet it’s often information no one else is privy to.

Adam Small @A damLoebSmall – The cofounder provides excellent insight on a variety of iGaming and poker issues. Small is a regular contributor to Twitter discussions on just about any topic that happens to capture his interest.

John Mehaffey @John_Mehaffey – The longtime poker industry columnist is a fountain of information on the industry as well as the local Las Vegas gambling scene, to the point that it sometimes seems like he has a mental database of the location of every gaming machine and table in Clark County.

Alun @Poker_Hack – A leading poker industry authority (and the Head of Content at Pageant Gaming Media) with a unique and varied perspective on the industry; he can also lay claim to one of the best Twitter snark games going; oh, and he hates semicolons.

_Tizzle @_Tizzle – A true poker industry insider (Tizzle is one of the minds behind PokerTracker), with strong insights and opinions, an incredible rolodex, and a very refined palate – _Tizzle is the go-to authority for fine dining in the poker community.

Alex Weldon @benefactumgames – A new columnist in the poker industry over at PartTimePoker, Alex is a really strong player and as a board game designer is able to dissect promotions and games like few others. His premiere column which included an adjustable fish to shark ecology model put him on the map and he’s been churning out good content ever since.

Marco Valerio @AgentMarco – The former QuadJacks presenter and interviewer extraordinaire has moved on to a larger role in the iGaming world. Marco is well-connected, covers all aspects of gaming, and filled with just the right amount of wanderlust (is there a conference he doesn’t attend?).

Kim Lund @InfiniteEdgeKim – While most of the people on this list advocate for expansion, consultant and longtime industry man Kim Lund focuses on an ancillary aspect of the gaming industry, as he continues to beat the drum for improved ecologies.

Robert DellaFave @DivergentGames – Somewhere between a commentator and an analyst, DellaFave is one of the top reporters in iGaming, with his work featured at a number of prominent sites. DellaFave has a keen eye for the analytics of the industry and often breaks down data from traffic reports to tournament series.

Roger Gros @GlobalGamingBiz – Along with California, another big story in 2015 will almost certainly be the continued remaking of Atlantic City and potential sports betting legalization in the state. So if you’re not following Global Gaming Biz’s Roger Gros for your New Jersey information, you’re doing it wrong.

Michelle Minton @MichelleMinton – Michelle offers up a libertarian point of view to the legalization discussion, and does so in a very academic way. Minton’s dissection of the 1961 Wire Act was key in pushing back against Sheldon Adelson’s online gambling prohibition efforts. The poker world owes Michelle a debt of gratitude for her research, writing, and diligence on this issue.

Steve Ruddock @SteveRuddock – Hey, that’s me! My Twitter account is full of iGaming links (to my stories and others), some opinions, and the occasionally witty remark.



Restoration of America's Wire Act not Added to Omnibus Spending Bill

poker usa

Online gambling opponents will have to wait another day for a federal ban on online poker.

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) — which would overturn a US Department of Justice interpretation limiting the scope of the current prohibition under the current version of the Wire Act law to sports betting — is not attached to the omnibus “must pass” spending bill by Congress.

The development is a major victory for the online gambling industry in the United States.

Fears had been circulating for months that a back room deal similar to the one that saw the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) attached to the omnibus bill in 2006 would happen again.

Although the anti-gambling lobby will undoubtedly continue its efforts in 2015, it will now have to do so by slogging its way through the normal legislative process. This promises to make the debate over the future of American online poker much more robust, open, and transparent.

More Money; More Problems

It appears as though the worst kept secret in Washington these days is that the anti-iGaming lobby is being almost entirely bankrolled by one man: Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson.

Normally, money and politics go hand in hand, especially in the United States where campaign finance regulation is weak. Nevertheless, pushback has begun to ferment at the grassroots level against the idea that one man could have so much influence over what is potentially a billion dollar industry.

Conservative groups especially have voiced strong opposition to the perception that Congress could be bought off by Adelson to craft regulation squashing direct competition to his personal, land-based, gambling empire.

Congressman Ron Paul dedicated an entire op-ed piece to his railing against Adelson’s influence on Capitol Hill and what he labeled “crony capitalism” in its most pure and brazen form.

This political climate appears to have given Republican politicians pause that they risk a serious backlash from their base if they are seen as walking in lock-step with the epitome of special interest money.

State Rights Arguments Also Resonate

In addition to disgust at the money being thrown around, Republican politicians are also hearing from voters in their base who are wondering out-loud why the federal government is even getting involved in regulating online gambling at all.

Land-based casino gambling has always been the prerogative of the sovereign state governments, and many conservatives view the idea of a federal ban as an example of encroachment on the principle of state sovereignty.

Grover Norquist — who is the president of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the most influential figures in conservative politics — has also come out strongly against any federal ban on exactly this point.

States’ rights is an important issue for conservative voters, and so this too seems to have scared off support amongst Republican politicians unwilling to be labeled as going against core political values.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The defeat of RAWA in this Congress is welcome news. However, it is only one battle in the larger, ongoing war to avoid the proverbial federal ban-hammer.

The iGaming industry has come a long way since 2006. This recent skirmish with big money validates the efforts of industry advocacy groups such as the Poker Players Alliance and the community in general to step out of the shadows and into the mainstream cultural consciousness of the nation.

Players and operators alike clearly do now have a voice in the halls of power.

Even more encouraging is to see that the issue has now been removed from the simple “pro” vs. “anti” gambling dichotomy and is instead being discussed in the language of the broader American political debate. This is a development that cannot be overstated.

It makes it much less likely — though certainly not impossible — that a federal ban will be able to get through Congress.


Although the omnibus bill can be amended at any time, the high-visibility of the issue in recent weeks makes it unlikely that online gambling legislation will be coming out of Congress until at least 2015.

All eyes will now be on California, as well as the possibility of an interstate compact between Nevada and Delaware. Should these happen, they will cement the industry even further and — given the amount of opposition already present to a federal ban — make it almost impossible to dislodge it.

For that reason, the coming year is shaping up to be the biggest one in the history of US iGaming.



Revel Lien Fails to Draw Bids; Taj Issues Ultimatum to Union

Atlanti City Lima

Tax Liens for three Atlantic City casinos went up for auction on Thursday, but only two were picked up. Revel’s $32 million tax lien failed to receive a single bid, while the Trump liens sold to a firm that is in the middle of a legal dispute with Trump Entertainment.

Also, Trump Entertainment has issued an ultimatum to the union in an attempt to force their hand. The Taj plans to close their doors on December 20, but has been working desperately with the union to avoid closure. Finally, the liquidation hearing for Trump Entertainment has been delayed until two days after the casino is scheduled to close.

Taj and Plaza Tax Bills Sold – Revel Bill Retained by the City

Atlantic City auctioned off 1,100 tax debts on Thursday, but the three garnering the most attention were the debts for the Trump Plaza, Trump Taj Mahal and Revel casinos. Tax liens for the Trump properties totaled $22 million and Revel had $32 million in tax lien debt placed for auction.

Interested companies compete against each other by offering lower interest rates on the property. Starting at 18%, companies move down incrementally until a single bidder remains. The winning bidder then pays the taxes on the property and then works to recoup those funds plus the negotiated interest rate. If the bills are not paid at the end of two years, the buyer can foreclose on the property.

Levine Staller attorney Michael Sklar placed the only bid for the Trump Properties. He opened the bidding at 0% and stunned those in attendance. Some questioned his motives and even for which client he represented. The purchase is also intriguing considering that Levine Staller formerly represented Trump Entertainment and is still involved in a legal dispute with the company over unpaid fees.

Just when you thought news for Revel couldn’t get worse, the tax lien failed to sell on Thursday. The call for the sale was primarily met with groans from attending bidders and eventually the lien was retained by the city for 18% interest. This now means that the city will have to continue pursuing taxes from the defunct property, a prospect that has become more and more unlikely due to the continuing issues surrounding the casino’s sale.

Taj Give Union Monday Deadline to Drop Appeal

According to, the Local 54 of Unite-HERE is facing an ultimatum from the Taj – drop the appeal or the casino will close. In a letter sent from Trump Entertainment on Thursday, CEO Bob Griffin gave the union until 5 p.m. on Monday to drop their appeal of the cost reduction package approved in bankruptcy court.

According to Griffin, “Two days ago, we actually thought we had reached a deal with you and the state. Every one of your demands was met, and Mr. Icahn, believing that you and the state supported the deal, even delivered his executed signature page. But even though that deal would have kept the Taj open, restored the union health care, restored the union work rules and established a new pension fund, you still didn’t sign.”

Griffin continued and pleaded for the union to act, stating that time was running short and money was running out. Should the union drop its appeal, it is likely that the casino will stay open after recent Senate bills were introduced to help reduce the tax burden placed on Atlantic City casinos. Primary debt holder Carl Icahn plans to convert debt into equity, take over as the casino’s primary owner, and use $100 million of his own money to improve the property.

Taj Liquidation Hearing Postponed Until December 22

On Wednesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross once again delayed the liquidation hearing for Trump Entertainment. The new hearing is now December 22, two days after the casino is scheduled to close. This new date has raised speculation by some as to whether the casino will stay open.

The most obvious speculation is that the court expects the Taj to seal a last-minute deal and keep the casino open. In such a case, the company would continue in Chapter 11 and work toward an eventual emergence from bankruptcy. Granted, if the Taj fails to keep their doors open, this case will be a mere formality and the company will go into Chapter 7 liquidation.



UNLV Needs Participants for Online Poker Research Project


A new online poker research study put together by the UNLV Department of Economics is asking respondents to offer up their thoughts on poker and regulations.

Are you at least 21 years old? Have you ever played No Limit Texas Hold’em for money either online or in a casino?

If you answered yes to both of these questions (these are the only requirements) the UNLV Department of Economics would like you to participate in a survey/research study to determine the general appetite toward regulated online poker. According to the survey’s “Purpose of the Study”:

Q:You are invited to participate in a research study. The study will provide information on poker player’s attitudes towards government regulation of online poker. This study is not sponsored by any firm or casino with vested interests. This study is purely educational and the results will culminate in a Master Thesis.”;

The Study was put together by Bradley S. Wimmer, a Professor of Economics at the Lee Business School at UNLV, who is listed as the “Principal Investigator” for the study, and Malissa Redona, an MA Student at UNLV, who is listed as the “Student Investigator,” and will likely be the person turning this into her Master’s Thesis.

The study takes roughly 15 minutes to complete and covers everything from your poker background to your understanding of odds. The study is completely anonymous and confidential.

Q:All information gathered in this study will be kept as confidential as possible. No reference will be made in written or oral materials that could link you to this study. All records will be stored in a locked facility at UNLV for 3 years after the completion of the study. Your responses will be kept completely confidential. We will NOT know your IP address when you respond to the Internet survey.”;

You can take the study here, but finish reading my column first – or bookmark it and come back to it, but make sure you do both.

I found the study quite intriguing, and was impressed with the scope of the questions. Additionally, I was not uncomfortable answering any of the questions and didn’t find any of them either leading or misleading – although I did find a couple questions to be vague to the point I could answer multiple ways.

The first part of the study asks a number of fairly mundane questions about your poker experience and your gambling habits, but halfway through you’ll be confronted with questions containing poker lexicon like VPIP, and will even have to put your math skills to the test in a later section where you are presented with two different “lottery” choices.

As expected, based on the synopsis, there is a considerable focus on regulations.

Would you rather…

One of the more interesting parts of the survey is a side-by-side comparison where you are presented with a pair of hypothetical licensed and unlicensed (regulated and unregulated) online poker rooms, and must determine, based on the various factors listed, which site you would prefer to play at.

There are a total of eight different questions in the comparison section, but each question presents you with a new scenario, where the two sites are presented with changing variables regarding the sites’ player-base, rake collection, site security, and the looseness of the game – the only constant is whether the site is licensed or unlicensed.

These comparisons will certainly test your loyalty when it comes to the importance of regulations (or whatever it is you determine important in an online poker room), and perhaps the most startling takeaway for me was how little the rake played into many of my decisions on where to play.

Why you should take the study

Studies like this are extremely important as we move into the regulated era of online poker. The results of this study will be beneficial not only to lawmakers and brick & mortar casinos considering online poker expansion, but also to online operators, since it will provide a data set on what makes online poker players tick and what really appeals to them.

Additionally, the UNLV Center for Gaming Research is one of the best in the world. They provide everything from historical data to research on current trends for the industry.

So, even if you don’t take the study, you could at least give them a retweet to get the word out to others:



New Jersey iGaming Revenues Drop Thanks to Caesars Jackpot Payout


New Jersey released their iGaming revenue numbers for November and there’s a bit of good news and bad news. The bad news is that NJ iGaming figures dropped to their lowest point in the industry’s short history. With that said, three casinos posted gains in November and overall figures would have been better if not for a massive jackpot payoff by Caesars.

On Friday, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) released the figures for November iGaming. Operators collected $8.73 million in Internet gaming win in November, down 7.87% from October. This is the lowest monthly total for New Jersey iGaming since its inception last year.

Caesars Jackpot Payout Spoiled the Month

On the surface, Caesars’ win during November looks abysmal. They collected just $1.1 million in November compared to $2.49 in October, a 44.81% drop. However, the drop in revenue was because the company had to pay out a $1.3 million jackpot in November. Otherwise, their revenue would have remained relatively flat.

Betfair also saw a solid drop in revenue for November. They pulled in just $539,547, down almost 37% from October. Betfair officially moved operations to Golden Nugget on November 21. It is unknown whether the drop in November is attributed to the move or just a temporary downward trend.

Golden Nugget Leads November Gainers

Golden Nugget, Tropicana and Borgata all posted gains in November. Thanks to the jackpot payout by Caesars, Tropicana vaulted to the #2 earner in New Jersey in November, while Golden Nugget moved to #3. Borgata still leads the way with $3.36 million earned in November, a small 3.26% gain from October.

Tropicana once again moved over the $2 million mark and finished with $2.22 million in Internet gaming win in November, up 13.62% from October. While their current jump to #2 in New Jersey is only temporary, continued growth could allow the company to legitimately leapfrog Caesars in the near future.

Golden Nugget was November’s biggest gainer, jumping 33% to $1.5 million. Again, it is unknown whether this jump is due to the Betfair move or if players from the now defunct Ultimate Gaming have made Golden Nugget their home. Regardless, Golden Nugget has gained significant market share in recent months and continues to prove that you don’t need online poker to be successful in New Jersey.

Online Poker Continues to Slide

While we can give a pass to table games in November thanks to the Caesars jackpot, it is clear that online poker is hurting in New Jersey. Revenues slid another 4.59% in November to $1.87 million for New Jersey iPoker. The seasonal “bump” never happened, and now the rumblings are beginning to creep up that New Jersey online poker needs to be revamped. With little variety among sites, recreational players just aren’t coming out as operators had hoped.

Despite knowing that the house has the edge in general iGaming, players continue to flock to table games over online poker. General iGaming out-earns online poker by a ratio of 3.65 to 1. It is time for poker operators to look at their sites and see what areas they can revamp to attract casual players; otherwise, online poker could start to become an afterthought in the state.



Harry Reid's True Colors Emerge in Online Gambling Fight


Here we are again.

We have yet another aging legislator calling for prohibitions on an industry he simply doesn’t understand.

In 2006, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens called the Internet a series of tubes and now, in 2014, we have Harry Reid (the current Senate Majority Leader and soon to be Senate Minority Leader) lamenting how difficult the Internet (speaking specifically about gambling) is to regulate because it’s “up in the sky.”

Reid angling for CSIG chairmanship?

According to Steve Tetreault of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid said he is in agreement with Sheldon Adelson. Online gambling should be prohibited. These comments came after the failure to have RAWA added to the Cromnibus pending bill.

Q:I think the proliferation of gambling on the Internet is not good for our country,” Reid stated. “I think it is an invitation to crime. I think it is hard to control for crime when you’ve got brick-and-mortar places, let alone something up in the sky someplace, and it is very bad for children.”;

Reid has long sought to ban online gambling, but with the important stipulation that online poker would be legalized. Unfortunately, Reid’s political speak over the years has made it difficult to figure which issue is more important to him.

His comments this week seem to put this debate to bed.

After several years of guessing whether Harry Reid’s opposition to online gambling trumped his desire to legalize online poker, we finally have our answer: Harry Reid would throw the baby out with the bathwater if he had the opportunity.

Harry Reid’s wishy-washy approach, and noncommittal comments on the topic have long frustrated iGaming advocates, but there can be little doubt where his allegiances lie following comments like this: “If there is a chance to (legalize) poker, I will do that, but I am not for the Wire Act.”

Reid was also quoted as saying: If RAWA was attached to the Cromnibus in the House of Representatives, “then maybe there would have been an opening somehow for poker.”

These statements should be quite concerning, and not just to online gaming advocates, but also to poker-only advocates. “If there is a chance,” and “maybe there would be a chance,” Reid said of an online poker carveout, which can be extrapolated to mean “I’ll take it if I can get, but if not, tough cookies, it all gets banned.”

This seems to clearly indicate Harry Reid would push for RAWA whether it had an online poker carveout or not.

If you don’t understand how something works, don’t try to fix it

I’m actually ok with Harry Reid metaphorically referencing the sky when talking about the Internet, but his other comments that followed demonstrate an incredible misunderstanding of how the Internet works; perhaps from spending too much time in conversation with Sheldon Adelson.

What nobody seems to want to answer is:

How do banks protect against online crime such as money laundering?

How does eBay or Amazon protect against fraudulent charges?

How does American Express verify someone is of age to apply for a credit card online?

So, why is it these companies and industries that do business online are seen as safe and secure, but an online gambling site is somehow uncontrollable – the Wild Wild West as some like to call it?

If you feel an online gambling site cannot verify someone’s identity, than you should also have these same concerns about online credit card applications that require background checks that are every bit as in-depth and intrusive as a regulated online gambling site.

Want even more hypocrisy? Sure!

The real questions I would like ask Senator Reid to answer are:

What makes online poker sites safer than online casinos?

And why are online horse racing and fantasy sports considered safe enough to receive an exemption in RAWA?

Senator Reid stated that online gambling sites are hard to “control for crime” and they are “bad for children.” Yet he is in favor of legalizing online poker.

The fallacy here is that somehow online poker sites (or horse racing, lotteries, and fantasy sports) can be regulated and controlled, but online gambling/casino sites cannot – even though the same companies would be running them and the same regulators would be overseeing them.

Here is the thing, you can be for online poker legalization because poker, as a game of skill, is inherently different than games of chance played against the house, but you can’t take this stance because you feel one is able to be regulated and the other is not.

Anyone who is for online poker but against online casinos based on security and regulatory concerns either doesn’t understand how the Internet works or they are trying to sell you some snake oil.


The strongest opponent of online gambling, Sheldon Adelson, is a self-admitted technophobe who does not understand how any of this technology works. Furthermore, as a billionaire casino mogul, he also has an alarming conflict of interest when it comes to online gambling.

He has recruited people who simply do not understand the subject they are speaking on, yet bill themselves as experts by appearing on shows with faulty data and/or going before legislative bodies. Or most worrisome, introducing legislation. Evidence here, here, here, and here.

And now we have the Senate Majority Leader, who also clearly has an education gap when it comes to the Internet, falling in line with Adelson’s crusade.

As the saying goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

On this issue we seem to have a lot of people speaking up in favor of Sheldon Adelson’s designs who would have been better served holding their tongue, Senator Reid among them.



Amaya Investigated by Canadian Authorities over Possible Insider Trading


Forbes magazine is reporting that both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Autorité des Marches Financiers were present at the Montreal headquarters of the Amaya Gaming Corporation on Wednesday in Canada in connection with an ongoing insider trading investigation involving the company’s stock.

Amaya spokesman Eric Hollreiser confirmed the reports.

The stock price (TSX: AYA) traded as low as $5.81 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in April. By June 5, it had risen to $10.06 before surging to $20.20 by June 13 on the news of the acquisition of PokerStars. While Canadian authorities have so far declined to directly answer questions about why they have opened an investigation, it is rumored that such a sharp increase over such a short period of time was bound to attract attention.

The company released the following statement:

“To provide clarification on a media report, Amaya Inc. (the “Corporation”) (TSX: AYA) confirmed that the Corporation and its officers are cooperating with the Autorité des marchés financiers, the securities regulatory authority in the Province of Quebec (the “AMF”), in an investigation with regards to trading activities in Amaya securities surrounding the Corporation’s acquisition of Oldford Group in 2014.

To the Corporation’s knowledge, this does not involve any allegations of wrongdoing by the Corporation. Amaya will continue to cooperate, if and as requested, consistent with our practice to always cooperate with regulatory authorities.

The Corporation will continue to monitor the investigation if and as it proceeds. The investigation has had no impact on Amaya’s business operations, employees or companies.”

Amaya’s stock price plummeted approximately 20% on the news.

Poker Community Reacts With Vindictive Glee, Some Worry About Player Funds

The 2+2 forums were alight with the news that Amaya could be facing serious legal issues in the coming months.

Any doubts that the company had managed to burn ten years of goodwill with poker players in the mere six months since it purchased the PokerStars brand were put to rest as posters seemed to outright revel at the thought of watching the Amaya brass squirm.

Comments ranged the entire gamut from those who expressed satisfaction at seeing the company face difficulties to others who openly hoped that they would “lose every penny.”

This sentiment only seemed to be tempered by wild speculation that if Amaya brass is eventually found guilty of a serious crime, player balances would not be safe. However, there is no chance of this happening. Player funds are held in separate accounts from PokerStars operating expenses.

It Just Became That Much Harder for PokerStars to Get Into US Markets

While Amaya may not care about its reputation within the poker community, the same cannot be said for how it feels about its reputation in the halls of power.

Currently, it remains unclear if the investigation involves anyone within the company itself, or on other individuals of interest.

However, with the contentious discussions around “bad actor” clauses swirling in California and New Jersey, the suggestion of illegality could not have come at a worst time. Given the company’s recent high-profile, it is unlikely that such extraordinary action would have been taken if authorities weren’t extremely confident that they have a solid case against someone.

If the company is in fact directly implicated in the future, there is no doubt that state legislatures in the US will be paying attention.



Stockton College Closes Deal on Showboat; Will Offer Classes in 2015

7147 SEAL

For once, Atlantic City has received some good news. On Friday, Richard Stockton College announced that they have completed their purchase of the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City and will begin to transform the former casino into its Atlantic City campus. The school purchased the casino from Caesars Entertainment Corp. for $18 million using funds from the school’s investment fund.

The Press of Atlantic City broke the story on Friday, revealing the property will serve as both a college campus and a hotel. Also, the school hopes that the purchase will help to develop a University Park style neighborhood in the area.

School Hopes to Bring 4,000 Students to Atlantic City By 2024

In an ambitious plan revealed by the school, Richard Stockton plans to try to bring around 4,000 students to the Atlantic City area over the next ten years. In addition, they plan to offer full degree programs at the Atlantic City campus within two years.

Plans for how the building would be used were also revealed on Friday. The casino will be eliminated and that space will be converted completely into academic and retail space.

Towers 2 and 3 will be used for student housing and will be complete with parking, dining and recreational facilities. Tower 1 will be converted into a hotel and will include several restaurants and retail outlets.

The college hopes to have the hotel open by late Spring 2015 and could start offering classes at the property as soon as Summer 2015. They plan to start offering a full schedule of classes at the Atlantic City branch starting in Fall 2015.

School Will Work With the City to Develop a University Park Neighborhood

Richard Stockton College is not stopping at merely converting the Showboat into a branch campus. The school is also working with local, county and state officials to redevelop the area around the casino into a University Park neighborhood to try to encourage economic growth.

Stockton College President Herman Saatkamp revealed that the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) would allocate up to $17 million that will be used toward renovations at the college.

Saatkamp commented on the neighborhood redevelopment plan, stating, “In urban centers across the nation, including Tampa, Indianapolis, Corpus Christi and Pittsburgh, revitalization has bloomed around institutions of higher learning. Businesses, from small entrepreneurs to large companies, are attracted to the opportunities to service college communities, benefit from the research and analysis being done, and tap into the educated workforce.”

Stockton Going Back to Roots With AC Campus

Saatkamp stated that the college would be going back to their roots with the new Atlantic City casino. When Stockton first opened, they held their first classes in the Mayflower Hotel in Atlantic City. To honor this tradition, one of the towers may be renamed Mayflower Tower.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian hailed the announcement as an early Christmas present to the city. He stated, “This is certainly going to be something that changes the city. I want students to become a part of the fabric of the city, get sand in their shoes, and maybe stay here.”

Former Showboat owner Caesars also praised the sale. Chairman and CEO of Caesars Entertainment Gary Loveman said, “Stockton’s acquisition of the Showboat exemplifies the efforts of the governor and legislative leadership to bolster Atlantic City’s non-gaming offerings. The diversification of activities available in A.C. stands to benefit all of the city’s stakeholders.”

Showboat was one of four Atlantic City casinos to shut down in 2014. Following the closure, Caesars enacted deed restrictions that prevented another casino company from purchasing the property. Saatkamp chose the Showboat because it was the best opportunity that he’d seen and for the overall condition of the property.



Molly’s Game The Movie Looking More Likely; Sorkin Allegedly Sleeping With Bloom

mollybloom 300x300

Hollywood news and gossip website, Defamer, has published a series of leaked e-mails from Sony Entertainment Productions (SEP) that seem to indicate it’s only a question of time, not when, “Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker” will be turned into a movie production.

Now that’s a tongue twister.

It was back in November that the Hollywood Entertainment News website Deadline broke the news that Molly Bloom’s memoir could be heading to the silver screen. Television producer Mark Gordon, and Oscar-winning screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin, the tag team looking to take the challenge on.

And it is a challenge.

The book’s characters are some of the most famous actors in Hollywood. One doubts that Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Tobey Maguire will be pleased to have their shit laid out for all to see. Then you have the added complication that Maguire’s father-in-law is Ronald Meyer, chairman of NBC Universal – it’s certainly a hot potato – not to mention the complexities of casting mimics for some of the world’s most successful actors.

That hasn’t stopped Sorkin jumping into bed with the project – quite literally – if you believe the contents of the aforementioned leaked e-mails. In a volley of communication thrown between Sorkin and the chairman of the Motion Pictures Group of SPE, Amy Pascal – Pascal writes “I don’t care if Aaron is sleeping with the girl or not,” leading the press to believe that Sorkin’s research has gotten very detailed indeed.

The leaked e-mails portray a conflict of interest between Pascal and Sorkin over where his expensive time should be spent. Pascal wants him working on the adaptation of the Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” whereas Sorkin is throwing his full weight around Molly’s Game.

“I don’t care if it’s a best seller, they are treating us like shit,” writes Pascal.

Pascal also makes an accusation that Sorkin is “broke” and just “wants to get paid.” Broke? How is that possible? Defamer also published a document that showed Sorkin getting paid $2m for his first draft of the Steve Jobs biopic, as well as $3m in deferred payments. I’m in the wrong job.

The e-mail chain shows that Paramount and 20th Century Fox are both interested in making Molly’s Game: The Movie, although Sorkin seems keen to keep his powder dry with Sony and in particular his relationship with Pascal.

It wasn’t only the future of Molly’s Game and Sorkin’s sexual preferences that were hung out for all and sundry to read. E-mails showing Pascal calling DiCaprio “actually despicable,” describing Angelina Jolie as a “spoiled brat,” and asking a colleague whether she should ask President Obama if “he liked the movie DJANGO?” – before reeling off several other movies about slavery – were also released to the general public.

The Daily Mail published an article indicating that a source informed them Pascal might be unemployed very soon.

We will keep you updated on the Molly’s Book movie project as and when we receive it.



Paul Phua Illegal Sports Betting Case: Five Defendants Sentenced

American Flag and Gavel 300x152

During the height of the FIFA World Cup this summer, members of the FBI raided three villas in Caesars Palace and arrested an array of people under suspicion of running an illegal sports betting operation on the premises. Last week, five of those people were handed their sentences.

Yung Keung Fan, Herman Chun Sang Yeung and Yan Zhang appeared before Nevada U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon where they pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of being an accessory after the fact to the transmission of wagering information. They were each fined $100,000, ordered to give up a further $125,000 in cash and assets, and handed a five-year probation that means they had to leave U.S. soil immediately and not return until their sentence has been served.

Two further defendants were tried separately. Inaugural Big One for One Drop participant Seng Chen ‘Richard’ Yong also received the same $100,000 fine and probationary sentence, but was ordered to forfeit $400,000 in cash and assets. A fifth member, Hui Tang, admitted to playing a more comprehensive role in the enterprise and was handed a $250,000 fine, five-year probationary sentence, and told to stump up $250,000 in cash and assets. A sixth defendant, Wan Kin Yong, saw all charges dropped.

That leaves Paul Phua and Darren Phua to face the gavel. Their attorneys are challenging the legality of the FBI search, which they believe was illegal. If you are unfamiliar with the case, the key argument centers around a plan concocted by the FBI, Caesars Security, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to cut off their Internet supply and then send in FBI agents dressed as technical teams so they could gain evidence of wrongdoing.

Phua’s lawyers believe that the warrant was only obtained because of the observations that the dummy technical team made during their visit to the villas, and therefore it should be thrown out of court. Prosecutors are taking the angle that as the ISP only cut off DSL service to the villas, leaving Wi-Fi in tact, meaning the defendants didn’t have to invite the FBI agents into the property.

Prosecutors stated that $13m in profit was created in the short time that the operation was up and running.

The two Phua’s will be sentenced this week.



Top 5 Poker Players of 2014

top 5

It’s that time of year again. Poker writers throughout the globe are asked to produce a series of ‘Best Of’ articles. It’s one of the most difficult tasks of the year. It’s also one of the most subjective.

For a start, there are so many different forms of poker. How do you differentiate between outstanding live tournament success and online tournament success? What about cash games? What about all the different varieties that poker has spawned?

It’s such a tough nut to crack that I’m not going to even try. If you want to know who the best live tournament players of 2014 are, then check out the Global Poker Index (GPI). If you want to know who the best online players of 2014 are, then head to PocketFives or HighStakesDB.

This is the page where you get my opinion. The headline is deliberately misleading. It’s designed to lure you into my trap. Now that you are here you might as well carry on reading.

In no particular order, here are five poker players who have made me sit up and take notice during 2014.

1# Philipp Gruissem

It’s quite a staggering statistic, but the $1.4m he earned in 2014 live tournament earnings is his lowest haul in the past four years. 45 people have earned more money than Gruissem in 2014, so why have I chosen him in my top five?

Together with Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree, Philipp Gruissem has founded Raising for Effective Giving (REG). A community of poker players who are making a positive difference in the world by donating a minimum of 2% of their gross winnings to a carefully selected group of charities.

Poker needs this. With gun-crazed misogynists, Danish High Stakes hackers, and dodgy online poker rooms hogging all of the headlines, we need people like Philipp Gruissem. The growth of poker needs more eyeballs, and the only way we are going to attract them is by partnering with mainstream corporations that are not affiliated with gambling. We need a paint job. REG is the glossy finish.

Gruissem has won $9.6m in live tournament earnings and $2.6m in online tournament earnings. He is young, good looking and intelligent. He could be waking up each morning on a bed of satin, surrounded by a bevvy of beauties from every corner of the world, eating lobster and caviar for breakfast. And perhaps he does. I don’t care. What I do care is he has had the foresight, maturity and the emotional traction to stand up and make a difference.

2# Matt Stout

Matt Stout is another player I have chosen for reasons that extend beyond the felt. When Stout is involved in the deep end of a major tournament, I am always willing him on to succeed.

I don’t get angry at the universe too often, but I do when it concerns Stout. Here is a man who puts the consideration of others before his own needs; a man who sacrifices his time and money to help others, and the luck needed to win a major competition still rolls into the fingertips of those far less worthy.

Sort it out God.

Like Gruissem, Stout is a man who believes in a higher purpose. In 2014 he created the Charity Series of Poker (CSOP), a non-profit organization created to help charities such as Three Square Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity. Stout has been involved in the world of charity since he was a teenager and his recognition of the benefit poker can bring to this much needed area of life is worthy of my vote.

It has also been a good year on the felt – the best of his eight-year career. He has won over $700,000 and finished third and fifth in major tournaments at the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour.

He is a great player, but he is an even greater man.

3# Dan Colman

Dan Colman is a creator of headlines. When he wins tournaments he creates them, when he spouts off about his views on life he creates them, and when he stands as solid as a rock, barely opening his mouth to even breath, he creates them.

Let’s forget about Dan Colman the man for a moment and concentrate on Dan Colman the player. Poker is a game where the shit can rise to the top. Ask anybody who plays regularly and they will give you a hundred poker players who have won millions despite not understanding the fundamental basics of this intricate game.

Colman is mustard. Everybody knows it. Nobody denies it. He is one of the most talented poker players to emerge in recent times, and his $22.3m haul in 2014 alone is an amount that has never before been won by any poker player alive or dead.

I know he won the One Drop. Even my Nan’s pet Terrapin knows that. But he also picked up $7m in additional cash beating the living crap out of all and sundry, in all levels of competition. From 17 player Super High Rollers to 1,499 player luckfests – he won them all.

Both Philipp Gruissem and Matt Stout were chosen because they have done so much to promote a great image for our game. But there is another side of our game that needs to be promoted. The part with the label marked ‘skill.’ The one that tells anyone willing to listen that poker is a serious sport. A game of skill. One where the cream rises to the top at a far greater frequency than the shit.

Colman was in more national headlines than Dan Bilzerian. Granted, it was because he stood stoically over a massive amount of dosh, after winning the biggest poker tournament of the year – but it was still news. It still promoted the game to a wider audience – and not even necessarily in a bad way. So he didn’t speak, so he didn’t want his photo taken – big deal.

What Colman has proven in 2014 is he has strong beliefs and values, that he stands by these beliefs and values, and isn’t afraid to express his opinion, albeit in the written form. Today, he writes on 2+2 and calls Phil Hellmuth a whore, tomorrow he will do the same whilst standing in front of a camera. He is young, and like any youngster, he will mature.

The game needs characters like Colman. Strange characters. Gnarly characters. The type that make plots into plots. The type that make you sit up and take notice, and in 2014, a lot of people were taking notice of Mr. Green.

4# Martin Jacobson

When it comes to selecting the most technically gifted players in the game, I am no expert. I know this because each time I single out a particular player and sing their virtues to my professional poker chums they call me a Muppet. I didn’t get Martin Jacobson wrong though.

You couldn’t wish for a better World Champion than the good-looking, smooth talking, level-headed Swede. It was also a well-deserved victory. Talk about getting your head down, dealing with the knocks and keep on plugging away.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand all the money is in the top three places, and winning a nice glass trophy isn’t really ‘all that,’ but to Martin Jacobson it is. I watched him playing heads-up for a European Poker Tour (EPT) title against a crazy Frenchman swinging a giant rubber rat in his face, and saw the deck rip his heart to pieces. The rat gleefully eating every single cell.

Jacobson had won close to $5m before his WSOP triumph. It wasn’t as if he was back in the kitchens from whence he once came, washing dishes to get his grinding money. This wasn’t about the money. It was about the recognition, the memory, and the legacy.

His final table performance was one of mastery. And what of his $10m? Part of it will be safely stowed away for the Jacobson family future, but most of it will be invested back into the game he loves. We will see him mixing it up in more High Rollers. Better for the $10m to go to a pro than to be given to a random nobody. Fairytales are nice and all of that, but they don’t pay the bills do they.

5# Davidi Kitai

My final vote goes to the Frenchman who isn’t really French at all. For years I thought Davidi Kitai was all garlic, arrogance, and il s’en fout! Then I realized he was Belgian. It only took me five years. What a great poker writer I am.

The first time I met Kitai I didn’t even know who he was. I was playing in a World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) £1k event in London. PokerNews said I was sitting at the ‘Table of Death.’ I didn’t feel very deathly. It was quite nice being in the middle of Chris Ferguson and John Juanda, and I thought Liv Boeree was a great thing to look at if I’m being honest. I eliminated Kitai and I remind him from time to time. In Belgian of course.

I think Kitai is a genius. His hand reading ability, coupled with his obvious strengths in picking up live tells, make him one of the most feared live tournament poker players in the world. OK, so Phil Hellmuth thinks he’s nothing but a crazy Frenchman, but I also made that mistake, so he can be forgiven.

He has so far earned $2.3m in 2014, and I expect that to grow. At the time of writing he is a strong contender in the EPT Prague Main Event. There are 13 players left, he is ninth in chips and by far the most experienced player at the table.

2014 has seen Kitai win another WSOP bracelet (his third), and it’s also the year that has seen him take a punt at the High Roller tournaments that seem to be dominating world poker these days. $1.5m of that $2.3m has been won in these formats.

He is also a delight to work with. He even has language as an excuse. He could fob me off quite easily. But he knows he is an ambassador for the game he loves. He is always available and willing to speak from the heart. He has had a fantastic 2014 and I believe will have an even better 2015.

That’s my top five players of 2014. Who would you choose and why?