Ex-Amaya CEO Baazov’s Trial Potentially Sidelined By Paperwork Snafu

financial paperwork with man in background

A legal fumble is threatening to derail the entire case against former Amaya CEO David Baazov and two other men for insider trading relating to Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars back in 2014.

Baazov’s lawyers are alleging that Quebec’s securities regulator — the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) — accidentally shared private information with the defense. Specifically, the AMF is accused of sharing more than 300,000 privileged documents.

The problem is that six weeks into the trial, AMF wants the documents back. Baazov’s defense is calling it an “abusive procedure” and looking to get charges in the case stayed. It’s the third time lawyers have attempted to get the charges tossed.

Baazov faces five charges in total including influencing or attempting to influence the market price of Amaya’s securities.

Defense claims “violation of rights”

Earlier this month lawyers for AMF asked the judge to remove the aforementioned documents from disclosures.

Baazov’s representation quickly responded by filing a motion for a stay of charges for all defendants citing “repeated errors.”

The lawyers claimed that denying access to evidence in the middle of an ongoing trial represented a “violation of their rights”.

The trial is currently in week seven and scheduled to get at least 11 more weeks before the parties complete their proof.

Lawyers from Baazov also represent Benjamin Ahdoot and Yoel Altman. The legal team has already attempted to get the charges dropped two times before.

The first time lawyers moved to have the charges tossed due to an unreasonable delay in getting them to court. The second time lawyers argued the prosecution was late in disclosing evidence.

The judge, Salvatore Mascia, rejected both motions.

Stars Group stock hits record high

When Amaya purchased PokerStars for $4.9 billion in 2014 it instantly became the biggest online poker business in the world. Forbes hailed Baazov as the new “King of Online Gambling”.

The honeymoon didn’t last long. Baazov took an indefinite leave of absence in the spring of 2016 after the AMF filed five charges against him. Specifically, Baazov was accused of sharing private information with investors prior to Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars. The investors then used the information to buy up company stock months before the stock price peaked.

Since then, Rafi Ashkenazi has taken the reins of the company as CEO. He both moved the organization to Toronto and rebranded Amaya as The Stars Group.

Baazov’s ongoing case hasn’t seemed to have much of an effect on the Stars Group. The company just posted another solid annual earnings report thanks in large parts to its efforts to diversify with rapidly expanding casino and sports betting operations.

The Stars Group stock price hit a record-high of $47.30 CAD earlier this month. The company’s stock has been on the rise ever since it announced a potentially game-changing deal to purchase Sky Betting & Gaming for $4.7 billion in April. Stars stock has remained fairly steady over the last seven days hovering around the $46 mark.

It’s easy to forget that Baazov also attempted to take PokerStars private in 2016 but was ultimately unsuccessful. As of 2017, Baazov still owned a four-percent stake in the company, however.

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High-profile Baazov case continues

The case against David Baazov continues to make headlines in Canada. Some are calling it the biggest alleged case of insider trading in the country’s history.

Regardless of what happens with the new motion, the AMF has taken some heat over its handling of the high-profile case. Baazov’s lawyers have already filed to get the charges dropped due to delays in the proceedings.

In addition, a rabbi named Momi Pinto sued the AMF for infringing on his family’s rights in a raid that took place in their home. The raid was in relation to the Amaya case.

The judge in the Baazov case, Salvatore Mascia, will consider the new request to stay the charges this Thursday.

An Exclusive WSOP.com Tournament And Offer For PokerScout Readers

man on tablet at a poker table

You may have noticed a few more players on the WSOP.com software this week thanks to shared liquidity between Nevada and New Jersey and the site is celebrating by offering some value-added tournaments for PokerScout readers.

The PokerScout WSOP NLHE Special will take place on May 27 at 3:30 p.m. PST with a $365 ticket to the June 3 Online WSOP bracelet event added to the prize pool. The PokerScout special costs just $2 to play and the password is SCOUT.

WSOP.com is also welcoming players back to the site with a special reload offer with a 100 percent deposit match up to $1,000 with the code MAY1000.

Brave new world for WSOP.com

The new WSOP.com launched this week with players from both New Jersey and Nevada finally integrated into the same player pool. Delaware, which actually began sharing traffic with Nevada last year, will also be tagging along for the ride.

Shared liquidity between New Jersey and Nevada is something the US online poker market has been chasing for years but WSOP.com is the first site to actually make it a reality.

“It’s a monumental day for online poker in the United States,” said WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker Bill Rini.

“This is truly a game-changer for players and we hope is the model blueprint for additional states to join the fray.”

Nevada and Delaware-based poker players will likely be the ones to benefit the most.New Jersey has always had a significantly larger market thanks to its population and consistently ranks in the PokerScout top 50 in terms of overall traffic.

Interestingly, the new shared player pool also means that New Jersey-based players will be able to take part in the four online WSOP bracelet events this summer. It’s the first time in history that someone will be able to win a WSOP gold bracelet at the summer series without actually being located in Nevada.

WSOP.com also took the time to launch an enhanced rewards program that lets players earn up to 32 percent in rake back if they put in enough volume.

$1m-GTD Coast to Coast Classic scheduled for May

WSOP.com is taking advantage of that newfound liquidity with a new online series called the Coast to Coast Classic that will offer $1,000,000 in guaranteed prize money.

The series will take place May 11-20, 2018, which is just in time to get players ready for the physical 2018 WSOP in Las Vegas.

The series will offer a total of 32 different tournaments. It will also mark the first time that players from New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware will be able to compete against each other on WSOP.com in a major online series.

Buy-ins for the series will range from $11 all the way up to $1,000. The last day of the series, May 20, will feature a massive $200,001-GTD Main Event.

As an extra incentive, anyone who plays at least three events in the Coast to Coast Classic will receive a ticket to the 20 seat-guaranteed satellite for the online $365 buy-in WSOP.com event that will take place this summer in conjunction with the brick-and-mortar WSOP.

Numerous Online WSOP Seats Up for Grabs

PokerScout readers who can’t play in the WSOP.com special on May 27 will still have some options to win a WSOP ticket.

On May 26 there will be a USPoker.com WSOP Exclusive taking place at 3:30 p.m. PST. The tournament will have the exact same structure as the PokerScout Special with a $2 buy-in and an added $365 seat to the June 3 WSOP.com online event.

Online Poker Report will also be getting a special tournament with an added ticket to the $1,000 buy-in WSOP event on WSOP.com. Details on that one will be released shortly.

Meanwhile, both the PokerScout and USPoker.com special tournaments should already be viewable in the WSOP.com lobby.

Montenegro Triton Poker Series Was Real-Life Rail Heaven

pearly gates of heaven

The Triton High Roller Series wrapped up last week with renowned players Jason Koon, Phil Ivey, Richard Yong, and Mikita Badziakouski all making huge scores in Montenegro.

Ivey kicked things off by outlasting 61 entries in the first short-deck event, that’s 36 cards with deuces through fives removed, to earn $604,992.

Meanwhile, Malaysian businessman Richard Yong had to beat high-roller legend Steve O’Dwyer heads-up to take down 6-Max event for $388,024.

Belarusian Badziakouski continued his recent hot streak by winning the Triton Main Event for $2.39 million.

The biggest win, however, went to long-time high-stakes pro Jason Koon, who took down the $131K buy-in short deck event for a staggering $3.5 million.

Phil Ivey scores first cash in two years

Ivey, who held the title as the unofficial best poker player in the world for years, has been somewhat absent from the game over the last couple of years.

Prior to this week, he hadn’t recorded a cash since January of 2016 when he placed sixth in a Triton event in Manila for $656,500.

Ivey made up for lost time this week by taking down the $31,847 buy-in Short Deck for $604,992.

The event attracted 61 entries to create a prize pool of $1.8 million. The final nine included noted pros Alan Sass, Koon, and Daniel “jungleman12” Cates.

Cates and Ivey have had some legendary battles playing high-stakes online poker over the years so it was perhaps fitting that they were the final two players left standing.

In the end, Ivey got the better of Cates this time around but the jungleman still took down $407,515 for his efforts in the contest.

Ivey wasn’t finished in Montenegro, however, as we’ll get to later.

Yong Outlasts O’Dwyer, Haxton to Win 6-Max Event for $388K

The $31K 6-Max tournament was the smallest event at this year’s Triton Series in Montenegro but it ended up offering one of the most compelling final tables.

Every name in the final six was a well-known one with Richard Yong, O’Dwyer, Isaac Haxton, Winfred Yu, Richard Leng, and Wai Chan all competing for the $388k first-place prize.

Yong proved that he could swim with the big fish by beating O’Dwyer heads-up to claim the overall prize.

The Malaysian is still considered a part-time poker player but he has nearly $8 million in lifetime live-tournament earnings so his status as a recreational player is up for debate. He also helped found the Triton high roller series.

Meanwhile, O’Dwyer earned $251,719 for finishing second in the tournament and the American is up to a staggering $23 million in lifetime live tournament earnings.

Badziakouski wins $2.49 million in Main Event

Mikita Badziakouski is starting to get into Fedor Holz territory.

The young Belarusian only started playing high roller events in 2015 and has already earned nearly $10 million in his short time playing the circuit.

Badziakouski, who is known as fish2013 online, outlasted all 63 entries in the $132K buy-in Main Event to take down a hefty $2.49 million.

The final nine included a murderers’ row of high-stakes pros with Dietrich Fast, Manig Loeser, O’Dwyer, Ivan Leow, Steffen Sontheimer, Wai Chan, Peter Jetten, and Rui Cao in the mix.

Badziakouski beat online crusher Rui Cao heads-up to close out the tournament. Cao still locked up $1.6 million for finishing second in the event.

Koon stacks $3.5 Million in short deck monster

Koon has received his share of brutal high-stakes beats over the years but the cards went his way in the mammoth $132k buy-in short deck event to end this year’s Triton series in Montenegro.

The event attracted a 103 entries to create a massive $12.3 million prize pool, which easily eclipsed the Triton Main Event.

Koon outlasted every single entrant in the contest to rake in a stunning $3.5 million. It’s the biggest cash in Koon’s career and will take him to over $15 million in lifetime live tournament earnings.

Tom Dwan, who’s had a bit of resurgence at the Triton Series in Montenegro, had the unfortunate distinction of getting eliminated by Koon on the money bubble.

The final table didn’t disappoint, however, with a solid collection of names including Jetten, Rui Cao, Yu, Ivey, and Xuan Tan.

Phil Ivey ended up finishing third to bring his overall haul at the Triton series in Montenegro to just over $2 million.

It’s a tidy sum considering Ivey’s last publicly recorded tournament cash was back in 2016. That’s not even taking into account the sizable side games that were taking place in Montenegro.

That left China’s Xuan Tan to face Jason Koon heads-up. Koon had a sizable 2-1 chip lead going into heads-up play.

Tan put in a valiant effort that saw him draw even with Koon but it was at that point the American pro roared back to life and started dominating.

Koon turned a full house with king-queen Tan’s straight with jack-ten to close out the tournament and the series.

Triton’s next series will take place in Jeju, South Korea, in July.

GGPoker Heats Up in June with Giant $200K Hold’em Festival

Asia’s biggest poker network is loading up another huge promotion with over $200,000 in prizes set to be doled out in June.

The GGPoker $200K Hold’em Festival will run all of June with leaderboard prizes for four different levels of stakes.

Once again players will benefit from point multipliers on Saturday and Sunday, which gives the weekend warriors a fighting chance.

GGPoker will also have a high-stakes featured table tier where blinds range from $25/$50 all the way up to $100/$200, which should create some extra fireworks on the site.

Players who take part in said feature table games will receive 50 percent more points during the month of June.

Featured, High, Middle and Low stakes return

GGPoker will once again be utilizing the Featured, High, Middle, and Low stakes for June’s Hold’em festival.

The festival comes hot off the heels of the $200K PLO Festival that’s currently running for the rest of May.

Points for the Hold’em festival will be tabulated at the end of June with prizes being handed out for top players in the four different leaderboards. For instance, the points generated at the high tables will not count towards the low leaderboard and vice versa.

Players earn 1 point for every $.01 of rake generated at Hold’em cash game tables.

Here’s how the prizes will be allotted:

  • Low: Top 50 players receive their share of $20,000
  • Middle: Top 50 players receive their share of $60,000
  • High: Top 30 players receive their share of $90,000
  • Featured: Top five players receive share of $30,000

GGPoker will also be running frequent point multipliers for certain days of the month. The multipliers range from 1.5X all the way up to 3X for the last Saturday of June.

Be sure to check the GGPoker June Hold’em Festival calendar to get an idea of the best times to play.

GGPoker introduces action-packed Three-Blind Hold’em

The $200k Hold’em Festival is just one of the many reasons to play on GGPoker in the month of June.

GGPoker is also launching a brand-new Hold’em variant called Three-Blind Hold’em to ratchet up the action.

As you might expect, Three-Blind Hold’em adds yet another blind after the big blind, which cranks each hand’s mandatory bet from 1.5 big blinds to 3.5 big blinds.

Action junkies will love the format as players are incentivized to play more hands so they don’t get blinded down.

Three-Blind Hold’em tables also feature antes so it will be difficult for anyone to hide for very long. Players can expect to see a lot more flops and more consistent multi-way action.

New players looking to try Three-Blind Hold’em will be happy to note that games played in the variant count towards the June $200k Hold’em Festival leaderboard.

Three-Blind Hold’em goes live on GGPoker on May 28th so players will get a few days to try it out before the June Hold’em Festival begins.

Even More Gamble in All-in or Fold Sit & Go’s

It may not count towards the June Hold’em Festival but GGPoker also launched All-in or Fold Sit & Go’s for players who enjoy a little more gamble in their poker.

As with most all-in variants players are simply given two choices on each hand: Fold or go all-in. No calling allowed.

Regardless of how you play, it’s going to be a big summer on the burgeoning GGPoker network.

China’s Online Poker Black Friday Having Live Casino Effects

City of Dreams Casino in Macau

China will ban all forms of online social media poker games as of June 1 according to numerous reports.

The ban could have a catastrophic effect on the burgeoning poker industry in the region, which relies on social media poker to build awareness for the game.

At this point in time, there are no real-money poker sites allowed in China so play money poker is essentially the only game in town.

To make matters worse the government is also cracking down on any mention of poker on social media. IAdditionally, the game will no longer be recognized as a competitive sport.

The ban could stifle Chinese poker in its infancy and pundits are already likening it to a Chinese Black Friday.

Huge hit for all of Asia

The potentially devastating effects of a play money ban in China could have ramifications for numerous neighboring Asian countries.

Local tournaments in nearby countries regularly receive a sizable influx of players who qualified for events through play money promotions in China.

There’s also a good chance the special administrative region of Macau will take a significant hit from the ban.

First off, it appears the special PokerStars-branded poker room at the City of Dreams in Cotai will be closing.

According to reports, it was the City of Dreams parent company Melco Resorts & Entertainment that terminated the deal. The City of Dreams PokerStars LIVE poker room operated for five years.

Meanwhile, the big online players in China, including the massive Tencent Gaming, have already started to remove some of their poker apps from the Android, Apple App store, and WeChat store.

Hong Kong-based Boyaa Interactive, which runs the Boyaa Poker Tour, has already seen its share price drop 12 percent, according to a report from Inside Asia Gaming.

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More than virtual currency at stake

The ban on free-to-play poker may seem unnecessarily harsh but there are a few factors that likely contributed to the Chinese government’s decision to move for an outright ban.

In the past play money poker has been used as a way to play real-money games in China and especially Hong Kong using apps called agents.

It’s a concept that’s largely unfamiliar to most western poker markets but the agents basically allowed players to wager real money on free-to-play sites.

While the free-to-play sites were completely devoid of real money and consisted entirely of virtual currency the agents would allow players to put real currency behind virtual bets.

The practice was particularly popular in Hong Kong where several high-stakes online private games allegedly ran.

It’s unclear at this point how much agents played into the government’s decision to ban free-to-play poker.

Last gasp for poker in China?

The ban wasn’t completely out of nowhere, as the government has shown a reluctance to permit the game in the past. Chinese National Police raided a PokerStars-backed APPT event in Nanjing in 2015.

There’s no telling where poker in China goes from here but it goes without saying that it’s a huge step back for the game.

The complete legal framework for the upcoming ban hasn’t been released so some of the social game developers are hopeful there will still be space to operate.

Beijing’s Ourgame, one of the biggest players in Asian poker and owner of the World Poker Tour, released a statement saying it will conduct an in-depth examination of the new law.

It’s unknown what will happen to the numerous live events that PokerStars runs in Macau. Interest in the game remains high. The most recent Macau Millions main event attracted nearly 2,500 players.

It’s also unclear what will happen to the Alisports-backed International Poker Tour. The IPT offers various poker tournaments around the country combined with other mind sports like chess and bridge.

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888poker Rocks Boat With $100K-GTD Daily Big Fish Events

large and small fish in water

Huge one-time online series are a dime a dozen on poker sites these days but 888poker is shaking things up with a daily tournament series.

Big Fish Tournaments will run every single day on 888poker with $100,000 in guaranteed prize money.

The No-Limit Hold’em tournaments will be affordable to most players with buy-ins at the $5.50, $16.50, and $33 levels.

Despite the relatively low buy-in players will have a chance to win a sizable chunk of cash with guaranteed prize pools ranging from $5,000 all the way up to $35,000.

“The new schedule on 888poker offers great value to our casual players,” said 888poker ambassador Dominik Nitsche.

“It’s exciting to see that people will be able to compete for big prizes for such low buy-ins.”

Spin your way into Big Fish tournaments

The buy-ins for Big Fish are already fairly affordable but 888poker is also giving away some free entries into the tournaments.

As of this month, the daily free spin that every player gets through 888’s Lucky Chip promotion will award tickets to Big Fish tournaments. That means players can potentially gain free entry into the big $33 buy-in event that offers a $35,000 guaranteed prize pool.

888poker is also running a number of freerolls for Big Fish entry so players should keep their eye on the lobby. There are also satellites for Big Fish that start at just 50¢.

“888 has always been home for the lower stakes player, and today it just gets better and better,” added 888poker ambassador Parker “Tonka” Talbot.

“These guarantees are definitely very competitive and should provide some awesome prize pools for the low stakes buy-in range on a daily basis!”

24/7 action on 888poker

Thanks to Big Fish, players on 888poker are not going to have to wait very long for their next big-GTD tournament.

Action starts every day with the $5.50 buy-in $15,000-guaranteed tournament at 14:00 GMT and then runs all the way until 20:30 GMT when action closes with the $16.50 buy-in $10,000-GTD event.

Here’s a look at the complete daily Big Fish schedule:

Time/GMT Event name Buy-in
14:00 $5.50 Big Fish – $5,000 GTD $5.50
15:30 $33 Big Fish – $15,000 GTD $33.00
17:30 $5.50 Big Fish – $15,000 GTD $5.50
18:00 $16.50 Big Fish – $20,000 GTD $16.50
18:30 $33 Big Fish – $35,000 GTD $33.00
20:30 $16.50 Big Fish – $10,000 GTD $16.50

Low buy-ins, big guarantees

One of the ideas behind Big Fish tournaments was giving players a chance to play some big payoff tournaments with a relatively low buy-in.

The value shouldn’t be ignored by more serious grinders either as players like 888’s own Chris Moorman plan on getting on on the action.

“The new Big Fish series is a great way for tournament players to win big via a low buy-in,” he said.

“These tournaments are made for mid-stakes players who are serious about the game but don’t want to necessarily invest a large sum of money. These are well-structured tournaments with low risk but high reward payouts. Looking forward to playing it!”

XL Inferno set to light 888poker on fire

To say there’s plenty of action on 888poker during the month of May would be a bit of an understatement.

In addition to the aforementioned Big Fish tournaments, 888poker kicks off another edition of its famed XL Inferno series this week with $3 million in guaranteed prize money spread across 34 different events.

The series will run for 10 days from May 10-20th, 2018. It coincides with competitors’ POWERFEST and SCOOP to create one of the biggest months of online poker ever.

This time around 888poker is heavily incentivizing players to take part in Inferno XL by handing out free tickets to players who cash eight times, make multiple final tables, or win a couple tournaments.

888poker is also offering a stunning $1 million payoff if any player is able to win a total of five tournaments in the series.

Perfect Online Storm? SCOOP, POWERFEST Offer $100m+ in GTDs in May

gold Euros raining down

Online poker players who can’t get enough tournament action are going to love the month of May with two massive online series set to go off at nearly the same time.

PokerStars‘ iconic Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) is set to run May 6-21, 2018, with a total of 183 tournaments and $65 million in guaranteed prize money. It’s the 10th anniversary of SCOOP and PokerStars is planning to throw in some extras for this year’s series.

Meanwhile, partypoker’s POWERFEST will run May 6-20, 2018, with 366 different events and over $40 million in prize pool guarantees.

Between SCOOP and POWERFEST poker players will be able to choose between 549 different tournaments b$100m+ in prize pools during the month of May.

SCOOP offers $1m-GTD tournament every day

Players who live for big prize pool tournaments will want to pay special attention to the SCOOP schedule.

This year PokerStars spring series will be running at least one tournament with a $1 million-GTD prize pool every single day of the series.

As usual, all 61 events will each offer three different buy-ins at low, medium and high for a tournament of 366 different events.

Thanks to the different buy-in levels the 2018 SCOOP will offer something for everyone with buy-ins ranging from just $2.20 to a whopping $25,000 for the super high roller event.

Mix game players will be happy to note that there’s plenty of non-Hold’em action on the docket with everything from Triple Draw to Badugi on display.

Players will want to pay special attention to the following highlight tournaments:

  • The 2018 SCOOP will culminate with three different Main Events on May 20 with buy-ins set at $109, $1,050 and $10,300 with a combined $10.5 million in guaranteed prize pools.
  • PokerStars will also offer a special Phase event throughout the series where Phase 2 plays out on May 20. Buy-ins for Phase 1 will be a reasonable $2.20, $22 and $215 for low, medium and high tournaments respectively. Despite the small buy-in there will be over $2.5 million in guaranteed prize money.
  • May 9 is the day set aside for high rollers with $215, $2,100 and $25,000 buy-in tournaments. With over $4.5 million in guarantees, this could be a make-or-break day for hardcore grinders.
  • Five different $25,000 Platinum Passes will be awarded over the course of the series. Winners receive a package to the first-ever PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship next spring.
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partypoker set for biggest POWERFEST

partypoker has been expanding its flagship POWERFEST online series for years but the upcoming edition represents the poker site’s biggest ever with 366 different tournaments.

The series offers a variety of buy-in levels thanks to its micro, low, mid and high format. Buy-ins start at $1.10 and move up to $215 but that’s not including the super high roller events that reach into the stratosphere with a $25,000 buy-in tournament.

Some of the best online poker players in the world have competed in the $25,000 buy-in tournament including Sam Trickett, Viktor Blom, and Ben Tollerene so this year’s tournament is sure to be a highlight-reel worthy event.

This edition of POWERFEST also offers a slightly more balanced scheduled with slightly less reliance on standard No-Limit Hold’em thanks to an increase of PLO and 6-Max tournaments.

Here’s a look at some of the eye-popping numbers for this edition of POWERFEST:

  • 366 events with a total of $40 million in guaranteed prize money
  • 58 high roller tournaments
  • 17 championship events
  • 13 events offering guaranteed prize pools of over $1 million
  • 3 main events on May 20 with combined guaranteed prize pools of over $3 million
  • 1 super high roller with a $25,000 buy-in on May 17
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Online poker players have some big decisions to make this May with two of the biggest online series in recent memory taking place at essentially the same time.

Of course, most players won’t actually have to choose thanks to the magic of multi-tabling.

If — for some reason — players are looking to play just one series than small-stakes players will likely want to take a closer look at POWERFEST as the series offers a massive amount of small buy-in tournaments.

Players looking for bigger buy-in tournaments will likely want to check out SCOOP thanks to its plethora of high roller events.

In addition, players looking to play non-Hold’em events will also want to log onto PokerStars for SCOOP with PLO, Omaha-8, Badugi, Razz, 2-7 Triple Draw, and more on the schedule.

Meanwhile, players at POWERFEST will likely have slightly better odds at avoiding the more serious grinders considering the cache that comes with winning a COOP title.

PokerStars Buys Up Sky Betting For Whopping $4.7 Billion

shooting star in the sky

PokerStars augmented its poker and gambling empire this week with the acquisition of the U.K.’s Sky Betting & Gambling for $4.7 billion in cash and stock.

It’s the single biggest acquisition that PokerStars has made since Amaya took over in 2014 and pundits are calling it a pivotal moment for Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi.

The Sky Betting portfolio includes gambling, sports betting, and poker verticals with a strong integration into the U.K. market. The separate brands include Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino, and Sky Poker.

Sky Poker TV, in particular, played a key role in attracting new players to poker in the U.K. during the mid-2000s.

The Stars Group has allegedly been seeking a large acquisition for several years now. It previously considered a merger with William Hill in 2016.

With the Sky Betting acquisition, the Stars Group becomes the largest publicly listed gaming company based on revenue.

A “Landmark” Moment for Stars Group

The $4.7 billion Sky Betting acquisition is a truly staggering amount considering PokerStars itself was acquired for $4.9 billion in 2014.

To put things in perspective a UK venture capitalist company called CVC purchased Sky Betting for $1.14 million in 2014. That means the company will make out with a profit of approximately $3.7 billion in less than four years time.

“The acquisition of Sky Betting & Gaming is a landmark moment in The Stars Group’s history,” said Rafi Ashkenazi in a statement.

“SBG operates one of the world’s fastest growing sportsbooks and is one of the United Kingdom’s leading gaming providers. SBG’s premier sports betting product is the ideal complement to our industry-leading poker platform.

“The ability to offer two low-cost acquisition channels of this magnitude provides The Stars Group with great growth potential and will significantly increase our ability to create winning moments for our customers.”

Stars Group Targets Growth in Sports Betting, Casino

For the last few years, the Stars Group successfully grew its sports betting and casino businesses. The company wanted to avoid being completely reliant on the main tenant of its business: online poker.

The Sky Betting acquisition seems to be another step in the Stars Group’s attempt to become a worldwide gaming brand rather than simply the world’s biggest online poker operator.

With the deal, the Stars Group get better access to regulated markets like the U.K. It also gets more exposure for sports betting.

Sky Betting is currently home to the largest U.K. player base. It is also a leader in the mobile space. Over 80 percent of its revenues coming from mobile.

The Stars Group already reduced its reliance on online poker to 67 percent based on recently released earnings for 2017. Poker represented 73 percent of the Stars Group’s earnings in 2016. The Sky Betting acquisition will likely drive that number down even further.

Furthermore, Sky Betting’s strong sports betting segment could conceivably represent customer acquisition for PokerStars. After all, crossover players might take a shot at playing cards.

PokerStars, Sky Poker Merge in the Cards?

The emphasis on the deal is on sports betting and casino. However, Sky Betting does have a poker component too. It’s unclear what will happen to the site long term.

For the time being, Ashkenazi mentioned that Sky Betting and PokerStars will remain separate entities. In a year or two, there seems to be a fair chance that the Stars Group will want to share liquidity between the brands, similar to the approach that was used with Full Tilt Poker.

If Sky Poker rolled into PokerStars, that would mean the largest pool of online poker players would get even bigger.

Regardless of how the Sky Betting acquisition plays out, there’s no doubt it comes at a huge cost to the Stars Group. Only time will tell if Ashkenazi’s big bet pays off in the long term.

GGPoker Promo Offering $200K For Cash Grinders At Every Omaha Stake

a sirloin steak

Ever experience No-Limit Hold’em fatigue?

Apparently, people behind the GGPoker Network are familiar with the feeling. The network is loading up a huge $200,000 guaranteed Omaha points race for May.

The $200,000 GGPoker Omaha Festival will run from May 1-30, 2018, with a variety of different prizes up for grabs.

The promo will reward players at four different buy-in levels including low, medium, high and the very special “featured” category that offers stakes up to $100/$200.

The points will be added up for each different category. There will be cash prizes for the players who finish in the upper echelon for their respective category.

For every $.01 of rake that players generate while playing Omaha on GGPoker they will receive one point towards the race in that respective buy-in level.

Over 100 players will win prizes

You don’t have to finish first in the GGPoker Omaha Festival to win some cash. In fact, over 100 players on GGPoker will receive something.

It breaks down as follows:

  • Low: Top 50 players receive their share of $10,000
  • Medium: Top 50 players receive their share of $20,000
  • High: Top 30 players receive their share of $70,000
  • Featured: Top 15 players receive their share of $100,000

That’s a total of $200,000 in prizes. Players could conceivably hit the leaderboard in several different buy-in levels if they decided to put in some serious volume.

It also means that dedicated PLO players can simply play the stakes where they usually play and still get in on the action. Even players who never play Omaha will likely want to try playing for a few days just to see if they can get an early lead in the race.

Bonus points available on Saturday, Sunday, Monday

GGPoker is giving players a little extra incentive to get busy around the weekend.

The network will multiply points by:

  • 2.5X on Saturday
  • 2X on Sunday
  • 1.5X on Monday

The points multipliers mean that weekend warriors won’t be completely locked out of the challenge as they can put in some serious time on Saturday and Sunday to receive more than double their usual amount of points.

Players will have until May 30 to earn points. At the end of the month, all the points will be tallied up. Then the respective winners will be able to claim their share of the prize pool.

GGPoker Bolsters Pro Roster with Bryn Kenney

GGPoker, which has always been a popular poker portal for Asian players, seems to be set on expanding its market share.

The network’s traffic has been steadily growing over the last couple years (it’s currently a top 10 ranked site on PokerScout). Last month it added noted high-stakes pro Bryn Kenney to its pro team.

Kenney will serve as an ambassador for GGPoker around the world in addition to acting as a consultant for the player experience on the site.

You can even buy some of Kenney’s action through the site if you’ve always wanted to sweat one of the most successful high-stakes pros in poker.

PokerStars Officially Enters Indian Market with PokerStars.IN

older Indian man on laptop

There’s a new way to play PokerStars in India as of this week.

The Stars Group’s PokerStars.IN went live on Wednesday with a wealth of features for Indian players, including the ability to play special localized tournaments and use Indian Rupees on the site.

The site was launched in conjunction with the Sugal & Damani Group, which is the largest state government lottery operator in India.

Walled-off versions of the PokerStars software have existed for years and Pokerscout even monitors traffic separately for:

  • PokerStars.EU
  • PokerStars.IT
  • PokerStars.FR
  • PokerStars.ES
  • PokerStars.NJ

The vast majority of Indian players will be able to play on PokerStars.IN with support for both desktop and mobile devices.

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Tantalizing market for online poker operators

The launch of PokerStars.IN has been a long time coming with Indian poker going from a slow simmer to a rolling boil over the last few years.

It helps that Indian poker pros like PokerStars own Aditya Agarwal as well as Kunal Patni, Aditya Sushant, and Raghav Bansal have been blowing up on the international poker circuit.

Indian-American Nipun Java grabbed numerous headlines last summer when he managed to win not one but two gold bracelets at the 2017 WSOP.

For years online poker existed in a legal grey area in India but that era appears to be over. The very first online poker license was awarded back in 2016 and several more have been handed out since.

It also appears that poker is getting closer to being classified as a skill game like chess or rummy.

The market represents a potential goldmine for operators thanks to its massive 1.3+ billion-person population.

PokerStars CEO Rafi Ashkenazi has previously estimated the Indian market to be worth $150 million per year and growing.

Indian players locked out of global PokerStars

The downside to the new PokerStars.IN is that it appears Indian players will be losing access to the much larger PokerStars.com.

That’s common practice, as many of the jurisdictions where PokerStars operates restrict the player pool to that region only.

That means that players will likely miss out on flagship PokerStars like the Sunday Million.

On the bright side, PokerStars.IN will have its own exclusive tournaments and will be launching with a series of freerolls for players.

It didn’t take Agarwal long to take advantage of such tournaments as he took down the Hot 2500 earlier this week.

The majority of Indians will be able to play on PokerStars.IN but those who reside in states where online poker has been deemed illegal will not get access at this point in time.

PokerStars adds Indian Pro Muskan Sethi


It’s full speed ahead for PokerStars in India and the site also recently announced a new player acquisition.

New Delhi’s Muskan Sethi is the latest poker pro to don the trademark PokerStars red spade.

Sethi originally worked in the fashion industry but found the work unfulfilling and moved into social work.

As a social worker, Sethi found the time to play a little poker on the site and qualified for the 2014 PokerStars Shark Cage promotion where she finished runner-up to Mike Tindal.

After that Sethi picked up a poker sponsorship and even got a nod from President Ram Nath Kovind in an event honoring 100 Indian women who had achieved success in fields traditionally dominated by men.

On the poker side, Sethi has accumulated over $100,000 in online cashes in addition to another $44,000 in live tournament scores.

She will be joining the PokerStars team as an ambassador for the Indian market. Both Sethi and her teammate Agarwal will help promote poker as a skill game in India.