Category Archives: Poker News

State Rights: A Hindrance or Help to Online Poker?

The state of Utah is currently mulling over a bill that would enable the states in the US to decide whether or not online poker will be legal in their jurisdiction.  If Congress decides to enact this bill, not much would change in Utah since they and Hawaii are the only two states in America which don’t allow any form of gambling at all.

The rush by the state rep who introduced this bill, Sheryl Allen, comes as a result of the future negotiations between the US and the World Trade Organization which is set to take place next year.  The WTO has stepped in before to settle disputes with Antigua and Barbuda when the nation contended that the US cost them $3.4 billion.  In the end, the WTO sided with Antigua and Barbuda as they were awarded an annual $21 million.

And many think that, when the US and WTO get together next year, the United States will be convinced to change their stance regarding online poker – and online gambling in general.  The general consensus around the world is that the UIGEA violates free trade and won’t stand forever.  If the US can enact some sort of law where states get to decide whether or not online poker and gambling is legal then they stand a better chance of having the WTO tell them what to do.

What I’m really wondering is if allowing states to decide the future of poker is better or worse for the game.  After all, if a state decides that online poker is illegal then residents who are serious about poker will have to move out of their home state in order to continue playing.  Those who decide to keep playing in states where it is illegal may face the consequences of a misdemeanor or felony charge. 

My guess is that the majority of the states out there will decide against allowing their residents to play online poker.  Those that do allow it will probably impose some kind of stupid rules to go along with letting people play the game online.  My hopes are that this bill doesn’t pass or even get any serious consideration from Congress.

Just How Much Money Did Party Poker Make?

Like a lot of other people who follow the happenings in the poker world, I recently noticed that Party Gaming (parent company of Party Poker) co-founder Anurag Dikshit pleaded guilty to charges of violating the United States Wire Act of 1961.  Basically this means that it took the US 2 years to find him guilty of offering online poker to Americans from 1999 to 2006 through the usage of communication wires.

For his punishment, Dikshit has to pay the United States government a hefty sum of $300 million in addition to possible jail time.  And according to news reports, Dikshit has already paid $100 million of the settlement and is set to pay the next 2 installments of $100 million within a six month span.  And the thing of it is, Dikshit only owns 27% of Party Gaming so how does he have $300 million sitting around to hand over to the US government in a six month span?

All of this really got me wondering just how much money Party Gaming could have made during its glory days before the UIGEA was enacted.  Now you’ve obviously got to throw in the fact that Party Gaming’s premier site, Party Poker, was the biggest room for about a 7 year span before 2006 and that’s why Dikshit was getting rich.  But how rich he got is the question. (P.S. You guys should also try out Betfred poker as they have a kick ass $600 sign up bonus).

Well according to the Forbes Magazine list of the world’s richest people, Anurag Dikshit was ranked as the 207th richest person in the world with $3.3 billion.  No wonder he can afford the $300 million fine!  What’s more is that two other Party Poker owners in Ruth Parasol and Russ DeLeon both own 14% of the company and share spot 424 on the list with $1.8 each.

So together the 3 are worth $6.9 billion which is mostly comprised of profits from the Party Gaming and Party Poker successes.  This makes the estimated $40 – $50 million bankroll of poker stud Phil Ivey look like pocket change. 

The Evolution of Poker Backing

Poker backing was once looked at as rich poker personalities paying buy-ins for washed-up players who couldn’t afford their own tournament entry.  And it hasn’t always been looked at as the best investment either since, for every Scotty Nguyen who earns his backer a million dollars, there are hundreds of stories where staking a player turned up nothing for the backer.  Another problem with poker backing in the old days was that players would win and then run off with the cash leaving messy court battles in the wake.

However, these fears and premonitions have all but vanished in today’s poker world where backing a poker player is as common as ever.  There are even websites and companies dedicated to bringing poker backers and players together in order to make both sides happy.  One such website is Poker Pro Exchange which allows backers to stake both online and live pros in various events.  They even have their players sign contracts in advance stating they will share whatever winnings they have to ensure that no problems arise.

Those who don’t have thousands of dollars to contribute to buy-ins and also get a piece of the action for very little by using sites like Poker Pro Exchange.  Last I checked, people were staking players in the LA Poker Classic for as little as $25.  Some of the players on their roster are quite well known too like “Cowboy” Kenna James and 1983 WSOP Tom McEvoy.  Major players like these can enter more tournaments when they’re backed which allows them more shots at hitting a big pay day.

And to me, the whole concept of backing a player for as little as $25 over the Internet is very interesting; but it also kind of reminds me of horse racing.  After all, you’re putting money on the player who you think will finish in a top spot and you can do it in several different tournaments too.  Who know though as it might be kind of fun to throw down a little money sometime and see what happens.

Poker is Most Widely searched Term

The fact that the WSOP had a record breaking year in terms of participants and the game of poker continues to thrive despite worldwide economic trouble is definitely enough to say poker is on an upswing again.  But for those who still doubt that poker isn’t back to where is was prior to the 2006 UIGEA, consider this: poker was the most widely searched term of 2008.

Lycos Inc, a company which provides numerous media services including search engine statistics, claims that poker was the most widely searched subject from January 2008 to December 2008.  And this is pretty incredible if you think about what poker is up against in the search engines.  You’ve not only got subjects like movies stars, actors, famous athletes, and news but also things dealing with the adult industry and poker was more searched than all of these.

Other subjects which were widely searched included Paris Hilton, golf, and former Vice President candidate Sarah Palin.  With her new show “Paris Hilton’s New Best Friend”, Hilton was looked up so much by people that she almost single-handedly eclipsed poker as a search term.  However, she fell just short of that mark according the Lycos stats.

The fact that poker is the most widely searched term of 2008 just goes to show how the game is catching on with general audiences as well as with those who put in hours at the table and read every strategy book under the sun.  With the number of people looking up poker, I expect the game to grow to epic proportions within the next 2 or 3 years. 

This is of course barring any unforeseen events such as another UIGEA-type disaster or the domain name problem caused by Kentucky.  Hopefully, everything is quiet on the legislation front from here on out so the game continues to grow at the rate it is going. 

Poker Stocks falling along with the Market

Those who pay attention to the stock market know that things aren’t exactly going well for most industries.  And because of the falling stocks, many businesses and companies are seeing their shares lose considerable value.  Unfortunately, the poker industry hasn’t been void of this problem and they’re struggling right now just like everyone else.

One place where this downward trend can definitely be seen is at PartyGaming (owner of Party Poker) as their stocks are only worth about one-third of what they were a year ago.  But if PartyGaming thought they were doing bad then they should take a look at what has happened to World Poker Tour Enterprises.  The WPTE opened this year with a stock price of $1.65 a share.  However, their online poker room crumbled over the summer and their TV deal with FSN is not as rich as the one with GSN was.  Now their stocks are sitting at just 36 cents a share.

Trouble has also hit a lot of the major poker software developers with Playtech and CryptoLogic suffering some pretty heavy losses.  At one point this year, Playtech was up over $700 a share but now it is mired at about $400 a share.  CryptoLogic has fared much worse since they opened the year at $17.46 a share but have free-fallen to $2.31 a share.

Now I’m sure the falling stocks of a few major companies won’t destroy the poker industry, however, this is a pretty disturbing trend.  I guess it just shows how closely the worldwide economy and online poker are tied together.  If people don’t have the money to play poker with, then they obviously aren’t going to be hitting up too many online rooms.  Hopefully things will start getting better soon.

How Legal is Online Poker?

Most poker players in the United States play the game over the Internet without any worries.  After all, there is no specific law in the US which states that online poker is totally illegal; only the UIGEA which makes specific elements of online gambling illegal.  You can say that online poker is illegal in certain states such as Washington where being caught playing over the Internet can yield the same punishment as raping someone.  But once again, it can’t be said that online poker is illegal across America…unless you’re listening to 60 Minutes.

A recent 60 Minutes broadcast of a segment called “The Cheaters” focused on the cheating scandals which took place at Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker (both have since been joined by the CEREUS network).  In the segment, 60 Minutes did present some facts to their general audience who probably has no clue how online poker really operates.  However, they also managed to botch several things within the show’s airing as well.

One thing they repeatedly said was that online poker is illegal which is not necessarily true.  As mentioned before, in certain states like Washington, it can be a crime to play online poker.  But if you’re talking about the US in general, then ‘no’ it is not illegal to play poker.  There are just too many variables at work to simply label online poker as being illegal.

Another thing that 60 Minutes got wrong was that no legal action has been taken in the case involving UB and Absolute Poker.  This is false due to the fact that the Kahnawake Gaming Commission is currently seeking legal action against Russ Hamilton.  This is a very big fact to get wrong along with repeatedly saying that online poker is illegal.  Hopefully, this misinformed segment on 60 Minutes doesn’t tarnish online poker much. 

WSOP TV Ratings

When Peter Eastgate raked the final pile of chips away from Ivan Demidov to become WSOP champion, it marked the end to a poker-filled extravaganza which began over five months ago.  It also marked the point at which people would see if the move by the WSOP and ESPN to delay the Main Event final table paid off.  Well the results are in and the move proved to be a big success!

The all-important Neilsen ratings showed that the 30 episodes of the smaller WSOP events on ESPN went up 6 percent from last year (0.90).  Regarding the main point of interest in the WSOP Main Event final table, ratings showed a big improvement from last year in the form of a 50 percent increase as 1.9 million households tuned in to watch – last year only 1.25 million households watched it.

Going further with this upward trend, ratings showed that the October 21st episode – in which the Main Event saw its field go from 79 players down to 27 – drew a bigger TV audience than did the 2007 final table.  With ratings like these, it appears clear that ESPN and the WSOP will probably keep the same format they used this time around.

But my questions is: was it the format which made this year’s WSOP final table so watched or was it the fact that poker is two years removed from the UIGEA?  After all, 2006 saw the biggest ratings ever for the final table, and WSOP in general, as Jamie Gold worked his way through the field towards $12 million.  However, the UIGEA struck later on in the year and took away a lot of the interest from the game of poker.  All this led to a down year in 2007 which made some people question whether poker had simply reached its peak and was on the way down.  

Fortunately, poker hasn’t reached it’s peak and looks poised to grow stronger than ever.  And maybe it’s a combination of both the switch and the two years separation from the UIGEA for why the WSOP ratings are on the upswing again; who knows?  Whatever the case may be I’m glad to see the promising ratings of the 2008 WSOP and hope that the game continues to grow in future years too.

Barack Obama Wins, Will Poker Win Too?

Last night marked a historic day for the United States as Barack Obama won a landslide victory over John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election.  Scores of voters turned out to help Obama defeat McCain 349 electoral votes to 173; this ensured that Obama would become the nation’s first black president.  And there may be no group of people happier about Obama’s election than poker players.

As I have written before, Obama is a person who’s played a fair amount of poker in his time (see this here).  When he was a senator in Illinois Obama used to play a lot of Texas Hold’em and 7 Card Stud and developed a reputation among his opponents as a smart player who didn’t bluff much.

During 2008 Presedential Race, word got out about Obama’s poker playing background and many professional players started to support his candidacy.  In being a fellow poker player, Obama also understands the game and has a softer stance on it than the man who ran against him in John McCain.  The big question is though; will this be a difference make in lifting the UIGEA? 

The government is already getting lots of pressure from groups like the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) to lift the UIGEA since iMEGA recently appealed their lawsuit against the US Department of Justice.  That probably won’t be enough to get the law lifted, but it’s definitely a help.  And with Obama as the president, that’s just another plus in the quest to banish the UIGEA.

I don’t know how big of a part Obama will play in the future as far as getting rid of these ridiculous online gambling laws, but I do hope it’s a significant one since his stance towards poker is favorable.

More US States barred from Online Poker

Being a resident of the United States, it makes me cringe every time another major poker network or room takes their services away from US players; pretty soon there may not be a whole lot of places where US people can play online poker.  And since the deal happened where Kentucky has seized 141 domain names, the process has only sped up.

The Microgaming Network is the latest poker entity to be spooked by the actions of Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and other government officials from the state.  That’s because Microgaming has announced that it will be pulling its services from 13 different states and Washington D.C.  The 13 states that will no longer be able to use Microgaming software include: Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Louisiana, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Nevada, and Washington. 

In being from Ohio, I don’t have to worry about this mess – yet!  It’s only a matter of time before other major poker networks start to fall in line with the ridiculous demands set forth by Kentucky; then more states will start to see their online poker freedoms revoked.  The 13 previously mentioned states will already be barred from using the popular Doyle’s Room. 

After the UIGEA, things seemed to get pretty quiet as far as the online gaming crackdown.  Unfortuantely, those days seem to be over with the inception of Steve Beshear’s campaign to rid Kentucky of the right to play online poker.  I just wonder how many more states will be affected in the future.

Electronic Poker Tables appear in Las Vegas Casinos

A few months back I wrote about how casino poker dealers should fear for their jobs since the induction of automated poker tables (see this here).  After all, these electronic tables are said to have several advantages over traditional poker tables – the most glaring one being that casinos could save more money over the long haul by using the machines.

Well now dealers should really worry since the automated tables have been making appearances in Las Vegas casinos as of late.  The Excalibur is the latest large-scale casino to utilize these tables and they have replaced every single regular table in their poker room. 

As mentioned before, the biggest reason that casinos have started using these machines is because they realize the amount of money that can be saved.  Going beyond the money aspect, automated tables are also virtually mistake-free, the tables won’t bitch when you don’t tip them, the game will go much faster this way, and cheating will be harder.

However, there’s plenty of downside to using the electronic poker tables too.  For one thing dealers will be losing their jobs, people won’t have the pleasure of chatting with the dealer, and a lot will be taken from the overall poker experience.

So my question is this: if a lot of casinos start switching to the automated tables, then what will motivate people to play poker at a casino rather than online in their own home?  Obviously people can still talk to other players, but it will be a lot more of a come and go experience with everything seeming much more robotic.  Plus the experience of being dealt cards and pushing chips back and forth will be taken out of the game.  In short the more casinos that choose go to this format, the less I’ll want to play poker in casinos.