Monthly Archives: July 2008

Bodog Investigations Terrify their Players

Those who check out gambling industry news from time to time have no doubt heard of former Bodog owner Calvin Ayre.  The self-made billionaire and flamboyant playboy has been the subject of many magazine cover stories while his problems with the US government have received just as much attention as his business skills and partying lifestyle.

And throughout all of the turmoil that Ayre has faced, he has never really seemed fazed by the threat of litigation against him and he’s even taunted the US government in the past through the media.  However, there are plenty of poker players and gamblers on his site that are very scared at the prospect of not being able to access their money (or even lose it) amid more serious investigations into the company and Ayre.

Just recently, the US government seized $24 million from bank accounts that have been servicing Bodog over the years.  And this may only be the beginning as the feds are warning that there is going to be a huge investigation into the company.  And even though Ayre has distanced himself from the company, he too would face criminal actions since he owned Bodog for so long.

Some of the banks that have had Bodog money taken from them include major chains like Wachovia, Bank of America, and SunTrusts Banks.  This creates further worry in poker players and gamblers who use the site as there is a very real possibility that their money could be put on hold or be frozen while further investigations would take place of Bodog and the bank accounts it has used.

An even worse scenario would be if the US government was able to take away much more money from Bodog or even shut it down entirely.  This would create the possibility that players could lose a lot, if not all of their money.  However, this would be the extreme scenario and I certainly hope that the people who play poker there wouldn’t lose their money as it would definitely hurt the industry quite a bit.

Tiffany Michelle and UltimateBet Officially United

Going back to the WSOP for a moment, one of the darker sides of the whole event was how Tiffany Michelle and Tony G got into it about how the former PokerNews employee in Michelle was supposed to be representing the company throughout the Main Event.  Now this story has been beat to death by some people so I don’t want to go into it anymore. 

The only thing I want to say is that her wearing UltimateBet gear to the Main Event caused the rift because PokerNews paid her buy-in and she argued that other PokerNews employees were allowed to sponsor other companies and so should she. 

Well today, the weird saga came to fruition when Michelle was signed by the scandal-ridden UltimateBet today.  Apparently they, like many other people in the poker world were very impressed with her 17th place finish at the Main Event which drew major attention since she was the last female standing.  I’m sure they were also impressed by the fact that she’s one of the more attractive women in poker today (I’d give her about an 8 personally).

And all this got me wondering if this is one move that UltimateBet is banking on to help them restore their already broken image.  If Michelle turns out to be a big star in the form of their already popular UB team member in Annie Duke, it would certainly help out a lot.  However, what’s to stop Michelle from jumping ship as soon as soon as her playing ability is solidified enough to match her looks?

I don’t know who’s right or wrong in the PokerNews dispute but the reputation has already been created in some people’s minds that she would leave for greener pastures if given the chance.  All of this created for an interesting story to watch develop in the future.

The World of Poker Backers

I’ve heard a lot about players in the past who have poker backers.  Basically what happens here is that the backers will put up some money for another player’s buy-in and possibly hotel room (or players) as something of an investment.  There are different arrangements depending on who the backer is but in the end, the backers always expect more in return than they give (hence the investment idea).

These backers can come in the form of major players or as just companies that invest in different interests and they almost always take some kind of huge cut from a big cash the player makes.  In addition to taking a cut, sometimes the backers will even want past money they put up for the player back as well.  Over the weekend I actually had the chance to talk to one of these backed players and get a little more insight into the backer world.

He said that he was backed by a company out of New York and had made some cashes during the WSOP this year and had cashed in some previous major tournaments as well.  However, he also said that he found himself almost 120K in debt to these backers before the WSOP and has had to win a lot of that money back.  With his WSOP cashes and mostly through online play, he has cut that debt down to about 15K but all of this has me wondering about something.

Why doesn’t he play exclusively online?  It seems as if he makes a lot more money that way and he won’t have some outstanding debt owed to a backing company either.  Sure he won’t get to travel to all the cool places that he does under the backing company as he’d be pretty busy playing online most of the time but eventually he’ll earn enough money to do what he wants anyways.  

In the end though, it’s his decision and it would be hard to give up all that traveling to different cities and countries to focus exclusively online.

First Scandals Now Checks Bouncing

There’s been plenty of news on some poker room scandals as of late.  Thousands of players were furious after being ripped off by Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker which had certain players who could see other players’ hole cards.  And plenty of poker sites and blogs were quick to report on this injustice so I don’t want to harp on it anymore.

But now there is a new problem arising in the poker room world where players are having checks bounce as they try to cash them in.  The problem seems to stem from rooms that use a payment processor called Zip Payments.  There are quite a few sites that offer Zip Payments as an option so a lot of people have been affected by this. 

The rooms that sent these checks out are now trying to rectify the situation by sending new checks to the affected players and, in a lot of cases, covering the bank fees and penalties that arose from the situation.  But this is just a band aid being put over a growing problem and a lot of people are looking for someone to blame.

And most of the blame for poker rooms being forced to use questionable payment processors like Zip Payments can be pinned on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was implemented in 2006.  Ever since the UIGEA act, poker rooms have been using these processors as a crutch and it doesn’t appear as if all of them are reliable. 

There’s already been enough problems with UB and AB rocking the poker world and this is the last thing that players need.  Hopefully poker rooms can find a 100% reliable method of getting money to players but this is probably something that will take a while to fix. 


Is Poker becoming a Legitimate Career Choice?

The federal government seems to believe that poker is a form of gambling and there needs to be restrictions put on it.  They treat the game as if it is a vice that people can’t control and so they need to be supervised like kids by their parents.  But every person who’s played poker for any significant amount of time knows that poker involves a great deal of skill and that people can come out on top in the long run if they have enough skill.

In fact, there are plenty of people out there who are taking these thoughts to the next level and preparing for poker as if it is a career.  Just recently I saw where a West Virginia community college was offering a course on poker and they had 70 people graduate from it this year.  Poker in college?  It’s something that I never thought I would see.

However, there are also those who are choosing the game of poker over college entirely.  Some of these college eligible players are starting with the game directly and not even choosing to enroll while others are taking college classes before they eventually decide that their futures would better be served in the game of poker. 

This route has worked for many players in the past including pros like Erick Lindgren and Annie Duke who cut out on their college curriculum on hold in order to go for the green in the game of poker.  In the case o Kathy Liebert, she quit her stock market analysis job at the prestigious Dun & Bradstreet company in New York City to move out West where she found poker much more enjoyable.

But in the case of the average player, it’s tough to say whether it is a good decision to skip out on an education to fall back on if poker doesn’t work out.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any statistics to say whether or not it pans out in the end on the average but I’ll definitely be looking for studies on this in the future.



Positives and Negatives from the 2008 WSOP

A while back I did some posts on great moments from early on in the WSOP.  Well since there have been quite a few events since then, I’d like to sum up some of the positives and negatives that took place during the latest chapter to the WSOP story.


1. Major charitable contributions from Jimmy Shultz and especially Eric Brooks

Poker is a tough game and money is never guaranteed.  That’s why it was so amazing when Eric Brooks and Jimmy Shultz decided to donate large portions of their winnings towards charity.  In the case of Brooks, the large portion was 100% of his $415,856 winnings and he donated this money to the Decision Education Foundation.  Shultz donated one-fifth of the $257,049 he won to the Charleston Fire Department which lost some men fighting a warehouse fire. 

2. John Phan and Erick Lindgren coming through in big ways

Before the 2008 WSOP, John Phan and Erick Lindgren were simply known as great poker players who’d never won a bracelet.  Things changed for John Phan when he won Event #29 of this year’s WSOP only to turn around again and win yet another event in the #40 which was a Triple Draw Lowball tournament.  Lindgren not only won his first bracelet in a Mixed Limit/ No Limit Hold’em game but he also won the Player of the Year honors after making three different final tables and almost making a fourth.

3. Biggest prize pool ever

For those who worried about the overall health of the WSOP since 2007 was a little down, worry no more!  That’s because this year’s WSOP had the most participants ever in 58,720 and the most money ever put in with $180,676,248. 


1. Final table move means no closure in WSOP yet

The moving of the final table by the WSOP may be the greatest idea ever in terms of ratings and make poker more popular than ever in the long run.  But for right now, all we can say is that it is delaying the results of the most hyped part of the WSOP by almost four months.

2. Who are these people at the Main Event final table?

As mentioned before, the WSOP Main Event is the most hyped part of the whole deal and it’s kind of sad when only hardcore poker fans know the people who are participating in the final leg of it.  

3. Main Event champs performing horribly

Since there’s not much bad to say about the other 53 events that made this the biggest WSOP ever, I’ll just harp some more on Main Event-related topics.  You’d think people like Jerry Yang, Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, and Greg Raymer would have developed some real poker skill by now since they’ve been playing quite a bit after their big Main Event victories.  But we’d all be wrong if we thought this as not a one of the four made any kind of splash in any event this year.  The closest thing was when Raymer went crazy when he finally cashed for the first time in 24 WSOP events after his Main Event win in 04′.

One Step Closer to Legalized Online Poker

Back in June, the defeat of Massachusetts representative Barney Frank’s proposed bill to halt the strict UIGEA regulations marked a sad day for the world of online poker.  The 32-32 tie vote meant the bill was done for and this decision brought more regulations from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve.  However, there may be some light on the horizon as the state of California is moving closer and closer to implementing legalized online poker. 

The proposal just recently passed through the California Senate Governmental Organization Committee and is on its way to the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.  The name of the bill is the California Gambling Control/Intrastate Online Poker Legalization Act and it seeks to legalize online poker gambling.

If it gets passed, the bill will take effect as quickly as July of 2009.  More importantly, if the bill makes its way through the California Senate, it would make California the first state in the US to legalize and run online poker for the people who live there.

Some people may have heard about this bill back in February when word of it first spread, however, this version of it is different in the fact that this is no longer a proposed study into online poker but instead an all-out plan to regulate and legislate legal Internet poker in the state.

And though this is just one state that is in the midst of legalizing online poker, it is the biggest state in terms of population in the US and would be a huge boost overall to the effort of getting online poker legalized in other places.  But if the legalization comes as proposed, it will also be interesting to see if this state-run brand of poker will be better or worse than the current method of international businesses running online poker.

Is WSOP Main Event becoming More like a Lottery?

In my last post, I discussed how the final nine players who made it to the WSOP final table really don’t have a whole lot of name recognition.  Probably the most popular player going into the final table that begins play on November 9th is David “Chino” Rheem who placed 5th in an earlier WSOP event.  Besides him, the list of people from what has been dubbed “The November Nine” ranges from semi-professional players to college students and accountants.   

But with three and a half months remaining before the final table festivities kick off, everyone knew we were going to get to know the November Nine sooner or later.  And already the human interest stories are starting to come forth as I just caught one today on the chip leader Dennis Phillips.

The Illinois native’s story began when he took a St. Louis baseball cap out to get signed by various star players only to have the tables turn when he became the chip leader when the Main Event play commenced.  Then Phillips was the one signing autographs as everyone wanted a piece of the little known truck sales manager.  Now, interestingly enough, Phillips is one of the more experienced players at the table.

Especially considering the fact that people like college student Craig Marquis are at the table. Marquis hasn’t even been playing poker for two years yet he’s primed to make at least $900,000 even if he busts out first.  Russian player Ivan Demidov doesn’t have a whole lot more experience than Marquis as he’s been playing for just over two years.

With some of the players that are still alive in the field, it almost seems to me as if the WSOP Main Event is edging its way to being more of a $10,000 quasi-lottery – with a lot better odds.  Sure you certainly have to possess some sort of poker skill to make it this far but with almost 7,000 players in the field, it’s difficult for any of the best Texas Hold’em players to make it to the final table.

Regardless of my opinions on the overall skill level of the final table participants, I still will be very interested to see how the final table finishes out and will definitely be tuning in.

No Big Names at WSOP Final Table

In years past, there is normally at least one semi-big name player out of the final nine people who take the felt for the World Series of Poker Main event final table.  For instance, Lee Watkinson and Alex Kravchenko made the final table last year.  In 2006, it was Paul Wasicka and Allen Cunningham making it to the last table while Mike Matusow played his way into the Main Event final in 2005. 

Of course there were household names made out of these final tables as well such as Jerry Yang, Jamie Gold, and Joe Hachem when they won the Main Event.  And 2008 will certainly be no different as the winner will be taking home over $9 million when everything is said and done.  However, they won’t have to go though any big-time players to do it though.

That’s because the remaining nine people who will play out the final chapter to the 2008 Main Event are not well known by any means.  In fact, you’d have to be a pretty hardcore poker follower to recognize some of the names left.  Here is the list of the last few players left and it’s not exactly a who’s who of poker:

Seat 1: Dennis Phillips – 26,295,000
Seat 2: Craig Marquis – 10,210,000
Seat 3: Ylon Schwartz – 12,525,000
Seat 4: Scott Montgomery – 19,690,000
Seat 5: Darus Suharto – 12,520,000
Seat 6: Chino Rheem – 10,230,000
Seat 7: Ivan Demidov – 24,400,000
Seat 8: Kelly Kim – 2,620,000
Seat 9: Peter Eastgate – 18,375,000

Regardless of whether these people are well known or not, one thing that is assured is that these people are in for some major money.  Whoever finishes 9th (and it’s a strong bet to be Kelly Kim at this point) will take home nearly a million dollars at $900,670.  And as mentioned before, the prizes will be going all the way up to $9 million. 

Plus, with over 115 days left till the final table is played out, we’ll probably be hearing plenty about these nine before the actual contest kicks off.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out!

Good News for Poker After Dark

En lieu of certain poker shows being in limbo such as High Stakes Poker, it’s nice to see one show that is proving to be a main stay on network television.  NBC has decided to renew Poker After Dark for yet another season after its quality ratings called for the show to be brought back.  But there will be a twist to the fourth season of Poker After Dark. 

Possibly in an attempt to fill the void for High Stakes Poker (which may never be seen on TV again), Poker After Dark has decided to switch the successful format of deep stack tournament to high stakes cash games.  And things might be more exciting than ever with this new format.

That’s because the blinds are said to reach $200/$400 and the minimum buy-in for the episodes will be $100K to $250K.  Plus there are already highlights from the first episode out featuring stars like Phil Hellmuth and Tom “durrrr” Dwan in heated competition.

One can only imagine how interesting the table talk will be in this season of Poker After Dark with Hellmuth and Dwan involved.  Last time these two met in a NBC event they were exchanging quite a few comments with each other. 

Hellmuth kept calling Dwan “son” in saying things like, “Son, I would tell you this much, son.  I would never have put more than $3k in the pot with two tens before the flop.”  Dwan fired back saying, “I was gonna’ say good game, sorry for the suck out, but when you phrase it that way it makes me not wanna.  Phil, that’s why you lose money online.  Pick your stakes heads-up.  We can play right now if you want.”

With the new format and the interesting personalities like Dwan and Hellmuth at the table, it will be fun to see how this new season of Poker After Dark shakes out!