Partypoker Continues War on Bots, Suspends 57 Accounts

Partypoker suspended 57 bot accounts in October.

Partypoker announced this week that it shut down 57 bot accounts in October as part of ongoing fraud detection efforts. The crackdown included the confiscation of $15,627 in account funds.

The site announced the October efforts by its online  poker fraud team in a news release. That included 50 fraudulent accounts on its two main partypoker url sites and seven on its European networks.

In detailing these latest moves, partypoker noted that suspending these accounts was part of the latest figures in its “ongoing war on fraudulent bot accounts.”

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Partypoker battles bots, returns funds to players

A poker bot is a software program written to play against other players. The bots make use algorithms and mathematical formulas to play against human players.

Some bots are successful in siphoning away funds from other online poker players. Unscrupulous “players” may make use of several bots on differing platforms with hopes of regular profits. Bots usually violate a site’s terms of service.

As part of partypoker’s bot-busting efforts, the full amount seized in October was redistributed to all affected players.

“Partypoker encourages players to continue reporting all suspicious activity at its tables,” the site noted in a news release. “Partypoker promises to investigate all incidents reported.”

As with other poker sites, party invests in resources at safeguarding the safety of its players. That effort is spearheaded by a special poker fraud team made up of former poker pros.

This team investigates suspicious activity and aids in uncovering unscrupulous accounts. In the coming months, partypoker will continue updating players on the account closures made every month.

Part of a continued crackdown on bot usage

The latest moves by partypoker have been part of an industry wide effort to curb bots being used on online poker platforms. PokerStars and others have made attempts to rid sites of them.

With the prevalence of bots and artificial intelligence, Morgan Stanley even listed that as a reason to downgrade online poker stocks.

“This may be the first time that the investment world has taken a serious look at whether AI poses an existential risk to the business of online poker,” Online Poker Report noted in September. “It is, however, a problem that players and operators have worried about since the boom years.”

Some in the industry fear that the fear of bots and AI will deter players from getting in the online poker action. That could hamper efforts to grow the industry just as Pennsylvania has legalized online poker in the US.

Also in recent months, underground offshore sites have also revealed efforts to elimination of bots

PokerStars outlines security efforts in expanding into US

In August 2018, PokerStars gave a presentation to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as part of its efforts to launch in the state. The company touched on the issue of bots as part of its licensure efforts.

PokerStars noted that its protocols and safeguards are able to catch 89% of collusion efforts and 90% of bots. While these operators’ efforts may not be foolproof, they point to an industry trying to keep the game between humans.

More than 172 billion hands have been dealt on the PokerStars platform. The company outlined some of its security efforts and employs more than 240 security personnel at six offices around the world.

That personnel make use of proprietary fraud management systems to make sure the games are secure. The company employs another 65 employees to monitor for game integrity.

With money on the line, however, those efforts will need to continue. Player safety and security will be important caveats of growing the game beyond the four legal US states of New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

WSOP Announces More International Stops Including New Event in Barcelona

The WSOp International Circuit recently announced new tour stops.

The World Series of Poker Europe may have wrapped last week, but the series’ international circuit rolls on. The WSOP International Circuit announced seven 2020 stops on Thursday including a new event in Barcelona and return to Paris.

Beyond those, four previous locations return including:

In total, the 2019-20 WSOP International Circuit will feature 16 different tournament stops this season.

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“We continue to see great interest and feedback in our International Circuit series,” WSOP international director Gregory Chochon said in a news release. “New markets have performed well and we’re continually searching for new locales to bring the WSOP experience to players in those regions.”

WSOP International Circuit features a busy November and December

With the announcement of the new tour stops, the WSOPI enters a busy stretch. That includes three stops beginning Dec. 14 on three different continents.

With an event also set for Dec. 6, the WSOPI will stage four stops over the next six weeks to close out 2019.  Upcoming stops include:

  • Nov. 14-22 – Holland Casino, Rotterdam
  • Nov. 14-22 – Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort and Casino, Aruba
  • Nov. 14-22 – Star Sydney, Australia
  • Dec. 6-14 – Punta del Este Resort, Uruguay

Mexico has become new ground for poker tours recently with the WSOP and WPT both making forays into the country. The WSOP is fresh off it first Mexican series, held in Monterrey.

The opening event attracted 1,511 entries and a $244,777 prize pool (4.7 million pesos). The main event featured a $1,033 buy-in (20,000 pesos) with Roberto Borrego taking home $175,701 (3.4 million pesos).

A quick look at the WSOP International

Like the American WSOP Circuit, the international tour features two qualifiers per stop for the WSOP Global Casino Championship. That event will be held in August 2020 at Harrah’s Casino Cherokee in North Carolina.

The Main Event winner and the Casino Champion win automatic entries into the season-ending event. The international portion is expected to contribute 32 qualifiers to the Global Casino Championship.

US qualifiers include 50 at-large point qualifiers plus 70 qualifying winners and Casino Champions.

As with the WSOPC, international winners are also awarded WSOP Circuit gold rings. Here’s a look at the remaining stops on the WSOPI:

Tournament DatesLocation
Nov. 14 – 22Holland Casino (Rotterdam, Holland)
Nov. 14 – 22Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino (Aruba)
Nov. 14 – Dec. 9The Star Sydney (Sydney, Australia)
Dec. 6 – 14Enjoy Punta del Este Resort (Uruguay)
Jan. 10 – 19Casino de Marrakech (Morocco)
March 5 – 23Sonesta Maho Beach, Casino Royale (St. Maarten)
April 9 – 19Casino Barrière Le Croisette (Cannes, France)
May 18 – June 1Club Pierre Charron (Paris, France)
May 30 – June 7Casino de Marrakech (Morocco)
June 11-21Casino Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)

888poker Offers Chance to Play Like a God in Upcoming PKO Series

The 888poker God of the Arena Series features 24 events in November.

Channel your inner gladiator during November as the 888poker God of the Arena Progressive Knockout (PKO) Series get underway. The annual event runs Nov. 10-17 with 24 tournaments for players of all buy-in levels hoping to run like a god.

God of the Arena PKO features Regular, Mini, and Late variations of each tournament. Event 1 is a $215 tournament set for Nov. 10 with a $150,000 guarantee.

There is also a Mini version of this tournament on the same day with a $22 buy-in and $30,000 guarantee. The Late event that night brings a $55 buy-in with a $20,000 guarantee.

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What’s a Progressive Knockout poker tournament?

The God of the Arena PKO offers a bit of a twist on a traditional online poker bounty tournaments. In the progressive knockout format, a player’s bounty increases as he progresses through the field.

Each time a player eliminates another player, he receives a portion (usually 50 percent) of that player’s bounty. The other portion is added to that player’s own bounty amount – increasing the price on his head.

PKOs are a unique and exciting alternative to traditional bounty tournaments and bring about a different style of play. Players have a shot at a bounty bonus as the event moves along.

“Find a good balance between playing aggressively enough to accumulate bounties without being too loose,” Team888’s Martin Jacobson said about the tournaments.

888poker ambassador Chris Moorman pointed out one mistake to avoid in a PKO tournament

“The number one mistake I see people make in a PKO MTT is bounty hunting too hard with awful hands,” he says, “when it will ruin their stack if they lose.”

Some highlights of the 888poker God of the Arena PKO series

The biggest day in the series is the final day with the Regular, Mini, and Late Main Events set for Nov. 17. The day’s events begin with the $109 Warm Up with a $100,000 guarantee.

An hour after that kicks off, the $50,000 Mini Main Event gets underway with a $33 buy-in. Beginning between these tournaments is the main attraction – the $300,000 guaranteed Main Event with a $320 buy-in.

All tournaments in the series are in the no limit hold’em PKO format. Players can get in the action for as little as $8.80 with several $16.50 and $22 tournaments also on the schedule. 

Those looking to qualify for a fraction of the buy-in will find plenty of qualifiers to enter on the site as well. Players have a shot at some event bigger value. 888poker is offering free qualifiers for Event 1 ($150,000 guaranteed) and Event 23 ($300,000 guaranteed).

Here’s a complete look at the God of the Arena PKO Series schedule:

Date
EventBuy-in
Nov. 10#1 - $150,000 9-Max$215
Nov. 10#2 - $30,000 Mini 9-Max$22
Nov. 10#3 - $20,000 Late 9-Max
$55
Nov. 11#4 - $30,000 8-Max$55
Nov. 11#5 - $10,000 Mini 8-Max $8.80
Nov. 11#6 - $10,000 Late 8-Max$22
Nov. 12#7 - $50,000 9-Max$160
Nov. 12#8 - $20,000 Mini 9-Max$16.50
Nov. 12#9 - $15,000 Late 9-Max$55
Nov. 13#10 - $30,000 8-Max$109
Nov. 13#11 - $20,000 Mini 8-Max$16.50
Nov. 13#12 - $10,000 Late 8-Max$33
Nov. 14#13 - $30,000 9-Max$109
Nov. 14#14 - $20,000 Mini 9-Max $16.50
Nov. 14#15 - $10,000 Late 9-Max$33
Nov. 15#16 - $20,000 Freezeout $55
Nov. 15#17 - $15,000 Mini Freezeout$16.50
Nov. 15#18 - $10,000 Late Freezeout$33
Nov. 16#19 - $30,000 6-Max$109
Nov. 16#20 - $20,000 Mini 6-Max$16.50
Nov. 16#21 - $10,000 Late 6-Max$55
Nov. 17#22 - $100,000 Warm Up$109
Nov. 17#23 - $300,000 Main Event$320
Nov. 17#24 - $50,000 Mini Main Event$33

Re-entry Tournaments Stoke Debate Among Players

Re-entry tournaments have drawn some debate recently among players.

With the World Series of Poker Europe wrapping up, a debate regarding re-entry tournaments has consumed social media in recent days. The debate has focused on whether allowing unlimited re-entries is good for poker.

Numerous players have weighed in on the issue. Daniel Negreanu has long been a critic of re-entry events, preferring the game’s old days when freezeouts were the norm.

The argument spurred comments and opinions throughout the past week. Some even offered ideas on possible changes to re-entry poker tournament formats.

The issue certainly seems to be top of mind for many with many weighing in with their own analysis.

Re-entry poker creates some differing opinions on fairness

The re-entry format has been the norm for most tournament events for several years now. Tours like the World Poker Tour make use of the format for a few reasons.

  • Prize pools – Many feel re-entries help build prize pools, and offer larger payouts, which players have come to expect.
  • Happier players – The theory is that players who travel the circuit regularly get more bang for the buck with re-entries. After spending money on travel, a chance to re-enter after an early elimination offers a chance to get back in action.

Critics argue that re-entry formats benefit well-financed pros. Players with more money can fire away until they build large stacks with a better shot to run deep.

Last December, Dylan Linde won the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $1.6 million after firing five bullets. Those re-entries ran $10,400 each.

In an event that paid 126 players, Linde had to finish at least 24th just to make a small profit. Some players point to this type of bullet firing to show what’s wrong with the system.

Others argue re-entries are good for all involved regardless of poker status. The system is the same for everyone and players can decide what’s best for them.

“A good reg can get coolered too and have another chance,” poker pro Daniel Strelitz noted on TwitterOthers echo similar thoughts.

Criticism of the system and a few alternatives

Beyond simply favoring freezeouts and poker events with fewer re-entries, Negreanu thinks his return on investment is lower in these events.

“I believe this, but cannot prove it as fact: most pros who play a tournament with no re-entry option will have a higher ROI on that bullet than their first bullet if they are planning to reenter,” he Tweeted this week.

Kid Poker suggested paying out the number of players responsible for the prize pool rather than entries. A shorter number of payouts might help curb late registrations, he argues.

Others argued this top-heavy payout system would favor pros. Either way, Negreanu plans on adjusting his own tournament registration procedures in the future. 

One alternative idea is allowing fewer re-entries, maybe even a single extra bullet. Others favored smaller chip stacks for those who enter late or banning late registration altogether.

Some players don’t necessarily enjoy re-entry events. But they feel these can be good for recreational players when considering some pros’ expected value (EV). 

“The one good thing about it when top pros are playing re-entries at lower than their average buy-in, they tend to  play the re-entry period in a negative-EV fashion that is good for their opponents,” poker pro Ari Engel notes.

“Please don’t misunderstand – re-entries are awful, but this is one of the few good things about them for the perspective of the average player in the field, losing less money long run.”

Some tough choices when it comes to prize pools

Re-entries may be a challenge for some, but reduced fields could have a major effect on poker prize pools. Striking a balance that will still produce large payouts is a difficult needle to thread.

Some believe re-entries hurt recreational players’ chances in big events. But if prize pools diminish, would recreational players be as attracted to major poker tournaments?

Negreanu remains a believer in non-re-entry events, and believes fewer re-entries not only help recreational players but also pros. His argument is that pros tend to play better when they know there are fewer chances to get back in.

The Commerce Casino was set to kick off the LA Poker Open on Nov. 1. The property was taking a stab at finding a compromise between both side of the equation.

Players wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter in a starting flight in which they’ve been eliminated. These players could then enter another starting flight. There would also be no re-entry in one-day events.

The Commerce is attempting to find some middle ground and reach players who may favor fewer buy-ins. It will be interesting to see what players think, but the debate on the issue should continue.

A look at the WSOP in Las Vegas

The World Series of Poker has mostly been a holdout in keeping re-entries at a minimum in most events. It does offer some re-entry tournaments, including the gargantuan field record setters.

However, much of the series remain in the freezeout format or offer  limited re-entries. Here are some statistics from this summer’s 89-event series:

  • Freezeouts – 42 events including the Monster Stack, Mini-Main Event, and Main Event. These represented 46.6% of all bracelet events.
  • Single re-entry – 32 events, representing 35% of bracelet events.
  • Freezeouts and single re-entry – Combined, these made up about 80% of bracelet events.

Seth Palansky, Caesars/WSOP vice president of corporate communications, notes that the WSOP staff tends to be more conservative when it comes to re-entries. However, sometimes an additional entry can be favorable for certain events.

“When we analyzed our numbers and recognized, for example, that 44.7 percent of players in the seniors event made that the only WSOP event they played all summer, we decided adding a single re-entry to that event was favorable to all,” he says.

“If that is the one event you play and you run Kings into Aces early, you are going to want another chance to enter if you wish.”

The WSOP takes a nuanced approach, Palansky says, and doesn’t think about re-entries in isolation.

Other major considerations when scheduling events include starting: chip stack, level lengths, late registration periods, scheduled length of tournament, dealer costs, fees to pay dealers and staff, allocated dealers and staff, event location, number of events being run at the venue, venue objectives, length of series, and more.

Palansky believes the issue deserves more study in the industry beyond social media.

Striking a balance with more options

The WSOP has added more starting chips in recent years, generally with positive responses and record turnouts. Re-entries provide value for players by swelling prize pools and make it easier for operators to meet guarantees.

“There have been unintended consequences,” Palansky says. “Some have found the combination of re-entries and late registration as a way to gain an edge. Poker is all about exploiting edges or perceived value, but the other side of the coin is to understand whether there is a level playing field for all who enter an event.

“On one hand, someone re-entering seven times in an event means they have given all their chips to others seven times already. Those players receiving those chips are thrilled to get them. But when that eighth entry yields a deep run, some argue that the player ‘bought’ the result and had an unfair advantage.”

Some venues have become “addicted to re-entry,” Palansky says, as it provides better cost certainty and less risk. He argues re-entry has replaced some concurrent tournaments that could be scheduled. Palansky believes the WSOP has moved in the right direction.

“We feel at the WSOP in Las Vegas, we have struck the right balance,” Palansky says. “First off, we have a long tournament series with ample events and opportunities for everyone to either find or avoid individual events based on their preference.

“We at the WSOP feel the pendulum has swung too far with re-entries.  It’s important that everyone who enters an event has a chance to win that event. Certainly skill alters that and that’s okay – as in all of sports and competitions. But buying your way into the money is a concern. Re-entry has its place, it is just a matter of finding the right balance.”

China Bans Mobile Poker, But The Chinese Poker Scene Will Go On

Playing poker in China became much tougher this month. The country’s video game licensing bureau, the State Administration of Press and Publications, effectively banned mobile poker, leaving millions of players out of the game.

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How the Chinese mobile poker ban happened

Last year, the government agency suspended the licensing of games for nine months. Officially, the suspension came as part of a government initiative to combat youth video game addiction.

The State Administration of Press and Publications, which is overseen by the Communist Party‘s propaganda department, has approved 795 new video games in the first quarter of 2019. However, none of those approved games include poker.

The effect of the hiatus on approvals has already shown. As the South China Morning Post noted,

“China’s gaming market, the world’s largest, recorded its slowest revenue growth in 2018 in at least a decade.”

Any company hoping to market a game in China must be licensed by the government. So, unfortunately, those titles featuring poker or card games are out of luck.

At a time when the game is an upswing, the ban certainly disappoints players and those in the industry.

Poker in China WAS a growing market

With 1.3 billion people, China represents a huge opportunity to grow the poker industry. Poker’s popularity in China had been growing in recent years, mostly online as a social game.

Gambling is illegal in the country, but social poker offered an alternative to heading to Macau or Hong Kong. In a 2016 Business Insider article, Global Poker League founder Alex Dreyfus said:

Texas Hold’em is not part of the cultural roots of China, but this has changed in the last few years thanks to the introduction of free poker applications on mobile phones. Therefore, you have new generations of white-collar, educated and influential individuals that love the game and play regularly.”

At the time, he estimated 100 million Chinese citizens had downloaded poker games onto their devices. However, the Chinese government is now looking to stop that. 

According to Niko Reports, regulators launched a “crackdown on titles in the poker and mah-jong genre after China’s government became concerned about real world money being used in these games.” 

Beyond the ban, as of June 1, even discussing or promoting the game on social media will be outlawed. Some in the industry expect the moves to have a major negative impact on the Asian poker market. As Hong Kong Poker Players Association managing director Stephen Lai told the Morning Post,

“(The Asian market) was growing very fast, (but) now it is going to be more difficult for operators in Asia to organise poker events. Chinese players make up over half of the field.” 

An inside perspective about the Chinese poker scene

Professional poker player Xuan Liu and her family immigrated to Toronto when she was 5. Born in Tianjin, China,  Liu has almost $2 million in live tournament winnings and has played regularly in Asia.

On mainland China, poker has flourished even in a live atmosphere. Gambling is illegal on the mainland, but underground card rooms and even casinos do exist.

Liu believes those operations will continue.

“There has been significant interest in poker in China for awhile, but it’s always operated in the mainland in various shades of gray,” she said. “Those who really want to play will always find places to do so, whether it’s through the various local clubs that hold games, or online through VPNs and cashless play money sites.”

Liu also emphasized the importance of Chinese nationals playing in high profile events. A Chinese face at the EPT or the WSOP is critical to the growth of the game’s popularity on the mainland.

And The Award Goes To … Global Poker Awards Set For Vegas On April 5

The film industry has the Oscars, television has the Emmys and the world of music has the Grammys. In the same vein, the poker community will welcome the Global Poker Awards (GPA) on April 5.

The Global Poker Awards will broadcast live from the PokerGO Studio at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las VegasThe awards bring together multiple Global Poker Index (GPI) awards under one umbrella, including the American Poker Awards and European Poker Awards.

This year, Global Poker Index is partnering with Poker Central to stream the festivities for poker fans on the company’s PokerGO app. For this year’s event, organizers hope to recognize excellence on and off the felt, which will include successful players, industry leaders and media members.

“The awards are a great opportunity for everyone in the poker world to come together and not (just) celebrate the past year, but also the game we all love,” GPI and Hendon Mob Database President Eric Danis said. 

Global Poker Awards all about recognizing the greats

“I personally think it’s important to celebrate those who have achieved great things each year,” said Danis. “The awards also legitimize our industry. And, to be honest, it’s one hell of a fun time.”

The GPAs will feature 20 categories. Global Poker Index will soon release the categories, their nominees and more plans for the evening.

Once the nominees are announced, a nomination panel will determine the finalists in each category. Then, a jury of industry representatives will select the award winners.

As it happens, recognizing players this way is a shift from recent history. The American Poker Awards (APA) recognized US players and others for four years.

However, the awards have become an international affair, so a change is probably suitable. The GPI posted a tweet Thursday asking players, media and fans for submissions to be considered.

‘Best nights of the year in poker’

PokerStars sponsors the annual event. However, organizers believe streaming the ceremony live will garner additional prestige.

“We’re excited to have the awards presented on PokerGO for the very first time,” Danis said. “Everyone who attends the awards seems to have a great time and agree that it’s one of the best nights of the year in poker.

“Being able to work with industry giants like (producers) Mori Eskandani, a former American Poker Award winner, and Dan Gati will go a long way to help those not in attendance feel (like a) part of the show.”

Danis says that GPI is currently finalizing the awards list. Usually, the company rotates some awards in and out of the mix each year. He believes it’s important that so many poker entities have come together to present something to spotlight standouts in the industry.

“I’m really honored to have PokerStars and Poker Central/PokerGO partner with us for the first-ever Global Poker Awards,” he said. “I’m really excited to see who the nominees will be in each category. One category, in particular, the Breakout Player of the Year, looks to have contenders from all areas of the world.”

Danis continued, “That’s the goal with the Global Poker Awards, to make sure that every poker fan, player, industry member and media person from around the globe feel like they’re a part of it.”

Feel The Rush: GGPoker Debuts Fun New Rush & Cash Game

Players who crave more action at a quicker pace or have a short attention span can find both at GGPoker.  GGPoker has introduced its players to some rapid poker action with the debut of the “Rush & Cash” poker format.

The site presents a unique take with its version of fast-fold poker.  Rush & Cash features no waiting between hands, offers plenty of fun and excitement and a shot at some big rewards.

Don’t wait! Try Rush & Cash today!

How Rush & Cash works

Rush & Cash mostly operates like a traditional Texas Hold’em game. However, things change when players fold. Players can click the “Rush” button and immediately play another hand against different opponents.

Players don’t even have to wait for the previous hand to play out to switch tables.

Cash Drops add an extra layer of appeal for Rush & Cash

GGPoker has also thrown in some added value for players as well. Special “Cash Drops” reward Rush players with the equivalent of 65 percent rakeback. So, for players who choose this format, there is a nice, extra financial incentive.

At the beginning of randomly selected hands, chips rain down onto the table and go directly into the pot. Players can win amounts from 10 to 500 big blinds.

The smaller Cash Drops will go into the pot of the current hand. GGPoker will divide the larger Drops among all players at the table and add the funds directly to each player’s stack. So, players gain an excellent chance at building that bankroll.

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Get in on the Rush & Cash action

Ready to give Rush & Cash a shot? Here a few things to keep in mind:

  • A player can “Rush” to a new table any time, even if it’s not his or her turn to act, as long as that player is facing a bet.
  • GGPoker seats players randomly for each hand in Rush & Cash
  • On the other hand, all players will be seated on the button an equal number of times the more they play.
  • Rush & Cash games do come with all-in insurance.
  • Players may not run multiple boards in these poker games.
  • Traditional small and big blind rotations are not used in Rush & Cash games. Each player pays an ante, and the player on the button pays a “button blind.”
  • All Rush & Cash games are played in renminbi (¥), but players can enter the game with a US dollar balance. Dollars will be converted automatically into renminbi as players enter Rush & Cash games.

The blind/ante breakdown

Button BlindBuy-inRake Per Hand
¥0.10¥5 – ¥251/6 Button Blind per Player
¥1¥50 – ¥150
¥10¥500 – ¥1500

No rake will be taken from hands with 5 or less players!

Get in on the Rush & Cash action today!

Poker World On Alert After Player Disappears At Tournament

Several friends and family members of an Icelandic poker player missing for two weeks have converged on Dublin, Ireland. They have come to continue searching for Jon Jonsson, 41, who left his hotel to play a poker tournament and never returned. His disappearance has, once again, underlined the need for player safety and caution.

Jonsson was last seen on Feb. 9. Security cameras captured him leaving his hotel and walking down the street.

Family members say he left his cellphone, passport and wallet behind in his room. He may have had a few hundred euros on him for the tournament buy-in. 

Aside from a cigarette matching his preferred brand, there is little evidence about where Jonsson went. Jonsson’s brother, Karl Vilhelm, expressed his worry in an interview with the Irish Times:

“We do not know why he left the hotel. His fiancée went to the bar area for a coffee, (but) when she came back, he was gone. He (has) never gone missing before. This is very unlike him … if he works late or something, he always reports back to his family or fiancée. He is a father of four children. This is out of character.”

Needless to say, the case has garnered plenty of media attention in Ireland. Law enforcement officials have been asking the public for help in locating Jonsson.

“We will stay as long as we need to,” Vihelm said. “We are not leaving Dublin without our brother. That’s how it is.”

Cash-rich nature of poker makes player safety a priority

While theft or robbery may not have been the cause of Jonsson’s disappearance, the case is a good reminder for poker players. Poker players necessarily carry generous amounts of cash, which can make them an inviting target for criminals.

Thankfully, the robbing of poker players isn’t as common as it was in the days of the Texas road gamblers. The ability to play in legitimate casinos, rather than underground rooms, has helped stamp out some of that criminal activity. 

Even so, occasional robberies do occur:

  • In 2004, only months after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event, two men attempted to rob Greg Raymer as he walked back to his hotel room at the Bellagio. He had been playing cash games at the time and reportedly had $150,000 in poker chips. He fought back and the two men fled.
  • A man made off with cash from the poker room cashier at the Bellagio in 2017.
  • Thieves robbed and shot a player outside a social poker club in Austin, Texas,  in April 2018.
  • A mugger in Sacramento, Calif., recently robbed a poker player at knifepoint in his garage after the player won a few thousand dollars at the Capitol CasinoPolice believe the suspect somehow obtained the victim’s information from his playing card and waited for him at his home.

Caution and vigilance are keys to success

These cases outline the need for players to take caution when carrying significant amounts of cash, law enforcement members say. It’s important to be aware of one’s surroundings at all times.

I recently spoke with Justin Hammer, tournament coordinator at the Commerce Casino, about this issue. He urged players to take advantage of any VIP rooms and try to handle money as privately as possible.

“Large sums of cash is sometimes a necessary part of our game, but that doesn’t mean it should be on display if avoidable,” he said. “Commerce offers an armed escort to the car, or even around the casino if carrying tournament winnings downstairs for example. There’s security is on guard at all times in the parking lot, and also security available for an escort if players request it.”

Players hitting it big in a tournament can also request checks to avoid large stacks of cash. Most casinos also offer some service to transport money safely and efficiently throughout the property.

“Take advantage of these services any time there’s suspicious activity, or even if you just need some peace of mind,” Hammer said. “Those services are for players’ protection and convenience. We always want to help players get their money to where they want it to go as seamlessly as possible.”

Several US States Are Considering Launching Online Poker Sometime Soon

While the growing sports betting market has gotten plenty of news in recent months, poker players in the U.S. received some welcome news recently. A few states are making moves to launch online poker in the near future.

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Pennsylvania

Most notably, Pennsylvania is in the process of trying to roll out online gaming, including poker, by the spring.

Only Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware currently have legal online poker. All three states share their player pools through a multi-state compact.

Pennsylvania hopes to become the fourth state to join that compact, which would expand the US player pool to almost double its current size. However, a recent reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice has thrown a wrench into that plan.

The DOJ opinion declares that the Act’s purview covers all types wagering across state lines, rather than just sports betting. The fallout from this opinion could potentially affect the existence of the compact, payment processing, and online poker itself.

As a result, Pennsylvania is likely to begin with intrastate poker only. 

Kentucky

Nevertheless, other states appear to be interested in getting in the poker businesss. Kentucky is one of them.

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would legalize sports betting, online poker, and fantasy sports. Even though there aren’t any casinos in the state, many feel the addition of sports betting fits in well with the state’s horse racing industry.

Rep. Adam Koenig (R – Erlanger) is chairman of the House Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations and introduced the legislation. Koenig told WDBR,

“You can bet on sports on this right now illegally. We have an opportunity now to make sure this is done legally, safely, and in a regulated fashion.”

According to Koenig’s bill, players over 18 would be allowed to play and operators would face a 6.75 percent tax on revenue. Lawmakers see online poker as a possible solution to the state’s broken pension system. 

So far, the bill has several sponsors. Koenig believes it could pass the House. Movement on the issue may be slow, but offers the state’s poker players a glimmer of hope.

West Virginia

West Virginia was quick to get on the sports betting bandwagon in 2018. The Mountain State is now looking to add poker to the mix.

A new house bill, H 2178, would legalize online gambling in all forms including poker. The state’s lottery commission, which already oversees sports betting, would be charged with overseeing the expanded gaming options.

The bill also makes provisions for possibly joining interstate compacts if the issue became clearer in the courts. Similar to its sports betting expansion law, H 2178 would only allow five online gambling licenses, matching the same number of casinos in the state.

Thus, the state’s casinos would have the opportunity to run their own online games. They could also partner with other operators as has been seen in other states. 

There might be a bit of delay in passing the bill, however. In January 2019, lottery officials announced that they would focus on the expansion of keno and limited video lottery terminals for right now.

They pledged to return to online gambling soon, though. The lottery just wants sports betting to be a bit more settled before piling on.

New York

In New York, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for supporters of online gaming in the last few years. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. is hoping that recent news of a $2.3 billion budget deficit would propel his three-year plan to bring online poker and gaming to the state. He recently told Online Poker Report,

“When the governor is behind something, it moves. I would really hope to have the governor have an initiative behind the legalized expansion of gaming in our state. To maximize our potential as a state in this industry and for the recreational purposes of our residents, we need an initiative.”

It is possible that the state can legalize online poker as a game of skill. With a population of almost 20 million, the Empire State would become the largest state with legalized online poker.

What the DOJ Opinion Means for Online Poker in NJ and PA

Poker players across the country, including in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are wondering what this week’s Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act means for online poker. The new opinion reversed a previous department opinion of the act, which stated that the Wire Act affected sports betting only.

The new opinion stands in stark contrast to the previous one. As Online Poker Report noted:

“The new opinion now makes the Wire Act applicable to any form of gambling that crosses state lines, including online gambling and online lottery. Several states have legalized online gambling in the wake of the 2011 opinion, including New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Pennsylvania.”

The DOJ finalized the opinion in November 2018, but it wasn’t released until Jan. 14. The department has delayed implementation of the new opinion of the act for 90 days to give operators time to comply. A department official told Reuters:

“DOJ will continue to prioritize the most egregious conduct, including gambling activity that is part of a larger criminal scheme.” 

The Impact in NJ and PA

New Jersey

Legal experts believe the opinion will be challenged in court soon. New Jersey officials have shown particular stubborness in challenging gaming laws in court as of late.

In fact, New Jersey led the fight for state-by-state sports betting to the US Supreme Court. Now, less than a year after the state’s triumphant Supreme Court victory, there may be another major legal case about gambling taking shape.

“The opinion acknowledges that the decision will likely be tested judicially,” tweeted gaming attorney Daniel L. Wallach. “I think we could be headed toward the next big gambling case that reaches the Supreme Court, or at the very least, the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Wallach, a Florida-based attorney and a founding director of the sports wagering program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, believes several entities will look to challenge the DOJ. Potential challenges possibly range from online poker operators and their land-based casino partners, as in New Jersey, to vendors and suppliers.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the online poker industry appeared to be gaining a bit of traction after the state passed legislation last year. Online gaming, including poker, expected to come online in the early part of this year.

Observers also expect that Pennsylvania will want to share liquidity with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. However, Monday’s opinion casts considerable doubt on the viability of the Keystone State’s plan. For that matter, it casts doubt on the existing compact itself.

There are many possible scenarios for the outcome of this opinion

It may become hard to play and hard to pay

The DOJ’s move could be quite a setback for the industry. The opinion casts uncertainty on the future of online poker operators and support companies.

One possible scenario is that operators may revert solely to intrastate poker offerings until the legal situation can be clarified. Obviously, that would be a setback for what had been a slowly burgeoning industry. The effects would manifest in the form of lower player pools and smaller prizes.

Unfortunately, it is even possible that the opinion would affect intrastate online poker and gaming.  Even though the start and end point of a signal could be in the same state, it is possible that it could go out of state during its travel. Hence, a court could conceivably classify the transmission as an interstate transaction, and subject to the Wire Act.

Payment processing might also suffer due to this opinion. Some banking institutions may fear DOJ action for taking payments that might cross state lines. In states like New Jersey and Delaware, payment processing has already been problematic from time to time.

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The silver lining to a rather dark cloud

However, online poker players don’t need to start closing their accounts just yet. In past rulings, the 1st and 5th Circuit Courts of Appeal have defined the scope of the Wire Act to sports betting only – in direct opposition to the DOJ opinion.

The DOJ may also choose not to enforce its own opinion. Several states have passed recreational marijuana usage laws in recent years, but the practice remains technically against federal law. On the other hand, a federal solution via Congress seems highly unlikely.

Investors Business Daily notes that the DOJ may have difficulty justifying its opinion, too. There is considerable legal opposition, which includes previous court opinions, regarding the Wire Act.

That could offer some hope for online poker. As Deutsche Bank managing director Carlo Santarelli said,

“Given the genie has left the bottle, we think the DOJ will have a somewhat uphill battle to successfully defend its new position. We think it will require considerable leg work to undo what’s been done, and we think the process will take an extended period of time.”