ANOTHER ONE OUT: 888poker Adds to List of Poker Operators Ceasing Russian Operations

888poker announced that it won't be accepting players in Russia as of March 15, adding to a growing list of operators leaving the country.

With the war in Ukraine now almost in its third week, another online poker operator announced Monday that it was leaving the country. 888poker won’t be available to players in Russia as of Tuesday, leaving the country’s players fewer options.

“All 888poker operations in Russia will be suspended starting March 15th until further notice,” the company noted on Twitter.

The company now joins partypoker and PokerStars in leaving the market. Online poker operators have joined a list of many corporate entities that have stopped operating in the country.

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Exodus of online poker operators

Partypoker became the first operator to announce its exit from Russia in February even before the country invaded Ukraine. Party officials cited regulatory concerns for closing up shop in Russia.

PokerStars then made the move last week with 888poker now following as well. Stars also canceled the PokerStars Live European Poker Tour that was scheduled for March in Sochi.

The iPoker Network appears to have left Russia before the current conflict began as well.

GGPoker appears to be operating in the market as of Tuesday. Other live poker tours have also dialed back events in the country with outfits like the World Poker Tour not scheduling events in the country.

Slowdown in traffic

Russia was one of the largest markets for online poker operators. The country has seen major gains for the game in recent years, both in live tournaments and online.

With the shutdowns, operators have seen some traffic hits. PokerStars saw its seven-day average drop to 4,400 players as of Tuesday, according to Online Poker Report. That’s a dip of about 15% the usual number.

Most operators have seen the market as a gray market. The country officially outlaws live gambling except in four regions, including Sochi.

However, online gaming has been more murky with most major operators still allowing Russian players until now. Stars attempted to work on the regulated side of the market, reaching a deal with Casino Sochi to co-brand a poker client.

Following the events in Ukraine

Like many around the world, poker players have been following the war in Ukraine as it plays out on television and social media.

Many were captivated by Eugene Katchalov’s plight to get his family out of the country as Russia invaded. He Tweeted his family’s escape and news of events on the ground during the early days of the invasion.

Many players have followed the events and shared some news from the war. Daniel Negreanu was particularly moved by the words of a Russian soldier.

Katchalov continues sharing insight from Ukraine. He noted that Leon Tsoukernik, owner of King’s Casino in Czech Republic, has helped in settling some of his family members.

Tsoukernik, whose property hosts the annual World Series of Poker Europe, also set up facilities for up to 500 refugees. Those efforts received some accolades among poker players.

GAME OVER: PokerStars Announces Pullout of Russian Market in Light of Ukraine Invasion

PokerStars announced on Wednesday that the company would no longer be operating in the Russian market.

The fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to affect business operations around the world. Many international companies have pulled out of Russia in recent days and that includes online poker operators.

The latest came on Wednesday with PokerStars announcing it would be pulling out of the country.

“Important update: we are suspending all our services in Russia,” the company noted on Twitter.

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PokerStars, partypoker out in Russia

The withdrawal of one of the world’s largest poker operators will leave many players in the country looking for another option. The move also follows partypoker exiting the market in early February.

Party had legal concerns regarding continued operations in the market.

“It’s correct we are removing services from various locations due to regulatory issues,” party Twitch and community manager Colette Stewart noted on the site’s Discord server.

Stars now seems to be continuing that trend with war raging in Ukraine. As PokerScout reported last week, operators aren’t scheduling live events in the country after the invasion. 

Party, GGPoker, 888poker, and the World Poker Tour have no events planned in the country at the moment. PokerStars also canceled the Sochi stop on the European Poker Tour that was planned in March.

“PokerStars can confirm that EPT Sochi has been canceled,” the company noted in a statement to PokerScout. “An event will not be held in Sochi until such time that it is safe for staff and players, and appropriate to do so.”

Punishing Putin or punishing players?

As more companies exit the Russian market, some critics argue these types of moves are punishing the Russian people instead of President Vladimir Putin. Others argue pressure on the country as a whole might help bring change to the country’s leadership.

As for poker, the country had been a growing market for online poker prior to the arms buildup and invasion. In the wake of increased sanctions on the country, online poker companies may also now see the country as just too challenging to continue operating.

As of now, at least PokerStars and partypoker see too much risk in taking on Russian players. No other operators had yet announced ceasing operations in the country as of Wednesday.

Several players on Twitter urged 888poker and GGPoker to follow the lead of PokerStars and partypoker. However, those companies’ haven’t made any announcements regarding operations in the country.

Poker players follow events in Ukraine

Like many around the world, poker players have watched events play out in Ukraine. Many players recently followed the plight of Ukrainian poker player and entrepreneur Eugene Katchalov

The former WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic winner was born in Ukraine, but his family moved to the United States when he was 2 years old. Katchalov moved back to Ukraine five years ago, but sought to get his family out of the country when fighting began.

As he and his family drove to the border, Katchalov gave a first-hand account of what was happening in the country. 

“Just saw two military helicopters fly overhead,” he noted. “Certainly haven’t felt nerves like this since 9/11 in Manhattan.”

The family eventually crossed into Hungary. Katchalov has continued offering updates from friends and family still in the country.

Poker Tours Not Scheduling Events in Russia After Invasion of Ukraine; PokerStars Shelves EPT Sochi

Poker operators and tours aren't running or scheduling events in Russia after the country invaded Ukraine last week.

The events playing out in Ukraine have brought international sanctions and concern as Russian military forces continue shelling Ukrainian cities. While poker may seem trivial in such a situation, the war has affected the prospects of Russian poker.

The country has not only been a hotbed for online poker, but the ski resort town of Sochi has also hosted numerous live poker series.

With the invasion of Ukraine still underway, PokerScout reached out to operators about their stance on the country. Many tours are avoiding the country as of now in light of recent events.

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PokerStars cancels EPT Sochi stop

Online poker began growing in Russia, as well as in Ukraine, during the poker boom of the 2000s. And in recent years,  Sochi has become a popular spot for major poker tournaments.

The city is the largest resort city in Russia and situated on the river of the same name along the Black Sea in southern Russia. 

PokerStars announced in September that the upcoming European Poker Tour event in Sochi would return from March 18-27. Those plans have now changed in light of recent events.

“PokerStars can confirm that EPT Sochi has been canceled,” the company noted in a statement to PokerScout. “An event will not be held in Sochi until such time that it is safe for staff and players, and appropriate to do so.”

The company says qualifiers for the event can email [email protected] with any queries.

A look at other tours and operators

PokerStars isn’t the only company to comment on their plans for Russia. The World Poker Tour has also run events in Sochi in the past as well.

The WPTDeepStacks Sochi ran in August with 413 entries and a $576,815 prize pool. Maksim Skripkin came out on top for $114,187.

The WPT now has no immediate plans in the country. That includes the Main Tour and the recently-rebranded DeepStacks, now known as WPT Prime.

“While the World Poker Tour has held events in Sochi in the past, our 20th anniversary season does not include any stops there,” WPT Vice President of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael said.

Partypoker has also run events in Sochi in the past. The company offered no comment on the issue this week, but has no live events scheduled in Russia, according  to the partypoker Live schedule.

The company announced earlier this year that it had completely exited the Russian market, citing legal concerns.

GGPoker had no comment on the issue as well. The operator has no plans for live events at the moment, so Russia wasn’t a consideration. 888poker and Unibet also have no events scheduled in Russia.

Players watch situation with concern

Like many around the world, poker players have been watching events unfold in Ukraine. The country’s winningest player, Eugene Katchalov, Tweeted his efforts to get out of the country last week.

At age 2, Katchalov moved to the United States and is an American citizen but moved back five years ago. He’s now been updating others via Twitter about the situation on the ground.

Many players responded and commented that they were happy to see his family was now safe.

Despite the invasion and his own situation, Katchalov placed blame not on the Russian people but on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Hate the war, loathe Putin, but don’t hate Russian people or culture!” he noted.

The country’s efforts at fighting off Russian forces have impressed many, including Daniel Negreanu.

As of Tuesday, the situation remains critical for Ukrainians. Russian forces continued bombing residential areas and military facilities alike, according to media reports. More than 1 million people have already fled the country.

Market Updates: Ontario Regulations Restrict Online Poker; Partypoker Pulls Out of Russia

WSOP.ca and GGPoker are hosting the WSOP Winter Circuit Ontario from Dec. 4 – Jan. 9 with $5 million guaranteed.

Canada has long been a card-playing hotspot and that goes for online poker as well. However, players in the province of Ontario may have received some unwelcome news recently.

In late January, provincial officials released a launch date for the Ontario private online poker market. The new rules, however, may leave players locked out of the international player pool.

Instead, players will find themselves in a “ringed-in” environment, similar to the state-by-state approach currently in the United States.

“On (Jan. 28), the province revealed the launch date for its new market, April 4,” Online Poker Report noted. “On that date, companies without an operating agreement will have to cease serving Ontario customers. Those that don’t comply will find themselves on the province’s black list.

“Those who do launch in the new market will have to comply with its regulations. Among these, Online Poker Report has learned, is the stipulation that Ontario poker sites cannot share traffic with other jurisdictions.”

A new playing field

Where the market is exactly headed remains an open question at this point. Until now, Ontario players could play in the open market on major sites like PokerStars and partypoker.

These sites would now have to re-enter the regulated market and provide a separate platform within the province. This would be a major departure from the historical online poker scene in the country and set it apart from other Canadian provinces.

“‘Sharing traffic’ is not allowed as pooled liquidity is not permitted in the Ontario regulated market,” a provincial gaming regulator told OPR.

Players in Quebec, British Columbia, and Manitoba have the option of official government-sanctioned sites. Those sites in Quebec and British Columbia already have a shared network and liquidity. Ontario could possibly join that at some point.

However, players in those other provinces also have the option of playing internationally in a gray market. Ontario players may not have that option.

Under the new regulations, poker platforms are disincentivized in Ontario under the plan. An operator that continues offering poker to Ontarians could be blackballed from ever offering legalized poker, sports betting, and other online gaming. That would curtail significant revenue generators in the province.

Players concerned about market changes 

Operators haven’t responded yet to the change in the Ontario market. The moves have left some players disappointed in how the process has played out.

Mike Millard, 33, live in Whitby, Ontario, just outside Toronto. He’s a part-time player who works in digital media strategy by day. However, Millard plays poker about 24 hours a week as a second job.

“I grind most of my schedule on partypoker, but fill the schedule with PokerStars and GGPoker tournaments sprinkled in,” he says.

For major series, Millard may even take the entire time off work. The new changes have him frustrated with where online poker is headed in his home province.

“To anyone – like me – who thought the new Ontario regulations were a good thing … this is absolutely brutal news for poker players based in Ontario,” he recently noted on Twitter.

“I’m really curious how successful this will be. With the ability to play on all major sites and anti-government sentiment regarding their involvement with live casino poker, I can’t see why anyone would play on an Ontario-only site.”

Another ringed-in market?

Ringed-in markets allow players only to compete against other players in the same jurisdiction. In other words, Ontario players would be limited to playing against others in that province only.

The potential player pool for these players would shrink from the global market to Ontario’s almost 14.6 million people. These types of “ringed-in” or “fenced-in” markets have limited success as seen in US states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

India and Italy also feature similar setups for players in those countries. Ontario’s population comes in just ahead of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million in the US. The Keystone State is the US’s largest online poker market by comparison.

Another reason operators may want to comply is the potential to operate or continue doing business in the US. As more states expand online gaming, companies don’t want to be seen as operating illegally in other countries.

“US regulators tend not to look kindly on operators who serve black markets,” OPR notes. “Even if Ontario can’t directly force operators to comply, the threat of losing market access in the US will be sufficient in most cases.”

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Partypoker exits Russia

In other news along these same lines as not serving black markets, partypoker also pulled out of Russia last week. Parent company Entain cited legal concerns for the move.

“It’s correct we are removing services from various locations due to regulatory issues,” party Twitch and community manager Colette Stewart noted on the site’s Discord server.

Russia is a large market that has seen considerable online poker growth recently. However, Entertain has worked to shift to regulated markets in recent years and left other markets as well.

PokerStars has made similar moves in some markets in recent years, but remains operating in Russia as of now. The company’s European Poker Tour also has a stop scheduled for Sochi from March 18-27.

888poker, GGPoker, and some other sites still operate in the country.

Triton Poker Announces New Super High Roller Series in Russia, Postpones Bali Event

The high stakes Triton Poker Series action is set to return in March at Casino Sochi in Russia with four events.

The high stakes Triton Poker Series action is set to return in March at Casino Sochi in Russia. The Super High Roller Series Russia (presented by Luxon Pay) offers players four Triton events from March 1-6.

The announcement comes after the company recently had to postpone the planned Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in Bali, Indonesia. The new Russian event offers players a chance to get back in the action.

Poker fans also have the opportunity to watch plenty of high stakes action with the streamed coverage online.

“We know that these tournaments are valued favorites, and we thank our fans, partners and team for their continued support as we stay on course with providing our fans significant live coverage of our exclusive games,” Triton Series CEO Andy Wong said in a news release.

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What to expect from the series

Players jumping in the action will have four events to check out. A $50,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament kicks off the series on March 2.

All Triton events run alongside the PokerGO Super High Roller Bowl (SHRB) series. The $250,000 SHRB event highlights that series and should attract some of the biggest names in poker.

Nine other SHRB events are also on the schedule with buy-ins ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

Those events run March 6-14. All the Triton action will be streamed live on the company’s official YouTube and Twitch channels. Here’s a look at the four Triton events planned for Casino Sochi.

DateEventTournamentBuy-in
March 11NLHE Six-Max$50,000
March 2
2NLHE Eight-Max$100,000
March 43Short Deck$75,000
** no fourth event scheduled
March 5
5Short Deck$125,000
 

Triton delays Bali tour stop

The series may be returning to Russia, but series organizers recently had to postpone the series planned for Bali for Feb. 17 through March 1.

The event was to be Triton’s first of 2022. The recent surge in Omicron infection rate in Asia, however, brought heightened travel restrictions during the ongoing pandemic. Triton organizers chose to postpone the series to a later date.

“We’ve been incredibly humbled by the interest our first 2022 event of the season has garnered, however disappointed that current circumstances impedes us from hosting and broadcasting the live Bali tournament,” Wong said.

“The health and safety of our players, partners and team is always a priority and we look forward to returning to host these exclusive live tournaments to our audiences anytime, anywhere with the high-level poker entertainment.”

Triton officials are working through possible alternatives to supplement the absence of the season’s first event. The tour should release an update soon.

PokerStars European Poker Tour Returning to Sochi In March; Brazilian Event Also Coming

The PokerStars European Poker Tour will again head to Sochi, Russia, at Casino Sochi in March, the site announced this week.

Fresh off other recent announcements regarding the return of live poker, PokerStars added another event to the schedule this week. The site’s European Poker Tour will again head to Sochi, Russia, at Casino Sochi in March for another series.

The festival runs from March 18-27 with a $2,400 (₽175,000) Main Event running March 22-27. The announcement comes as more live events return, including the World Series of Poker and Brazilian Series of Poker. The World Poker Tour has also run several events in the US this year.

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Other highlights from the series in Russia

Not too many details on the series are available yet, but a full  schedule should be released as events get closer.

However, there are a couple more tournaments that have been announced. The $1,057 (₽77,000) EPT National event runs March 18-27.

Also, players looking for bigger action will find a $5,094 (₽371,000) High Roller. PokerStars Live will release dates and information on that event later.

Another EPT Sochi event kicks off this week as well with a festival running Oct. 2-11. Here’s a look at the highlights of the series:

  • $1,827 (133,000) Main Event – Oct. 7-11
  • $3,540 (257,600) High Roller – Oct. 10-11

A look back at the EPT Sochi 2021

The EPT’s return to Sochi began in March of this year. Russia’s Artur Martirosyan, known as “mararthur1” online, took down the Main Event for $325,000 and a spade trophy.

Viktor Kudinov won the High Roller for $98,000 after a heads up deal. Players should look for online qualifiers as the 2022 EPT Sochi gets closer.

Are more EPT events ahead?

Casino Sochi has hosted EPT events since 2017. The property promises safety measures in place to protect players and staff during the era of COVID.

Russia remains the only EPT stop announced so far. Players responded on Twitter about any possibility of another announcement regarding other venues in the future.

A look at the Casino Sochi. (photo courtesy PokerStars)

However, popular stops such as Barcelona, Prague, London, and Monte Carlo aren’t part of the plans as of now.

Could that change soon? That’s not known, but Stars recently announced the return of the Brazilian Series of Poker Millions as well. That series runs Nov. 24 to Dec. 5 at the WTC Sheraton Golden Hall in São Paulo with $2.8 million guaranteed.

PSPC getting closer?

On the horizon, PokerStars has promised another version of the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC). The next event was set for Barcelona after the record-setting 2020 event in the Bahamas

However the event was cancelled because of COVID. Could the PSPC return in 2022? No word yet, but with more live events returning it seems like there is at least a possibility.

The company continues to promote the popular Platinum Passes that reward players with:

  • €22,500 buy-in
  • Six nights’ hotel accommodation in a five-star hotel
  • Airport transfers
  • PSPC merchandise
  • €1,250 in spending money
  • Exclusive Platinum Pass winner events during the event

A pass is worth about €30,000, but one hasn’t been awarded in 18 months. That changes on Oct. 7 when the Cardplayer Lifestyle website hosts the Mixed Games Festival at the Westgate Casino in Las Vegas

A ​​$200 HORSE tournament caps the series with a Platinum Pass on the line for the winner. This puts the event right in the international poker spotlight with one player taking home quite a prize.

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Partypoker player wins $1 million; Site launches WSOPC Passports, Cash Boom promotion

A Russian partypoker SPINS player recently won $1 million.

A million bucks. That might be a goal for many poker players and one on partypoker recently made it a reality.

OdwaznyKot,” from St. Petersburg, Russia, became the newest player to win a $1 million prize through the site’s SPINS games. Playing a $250 buy-in game, he hit a jackpot multiplier boosting the payouts by 4,800 times the buy-in.

A poker pro for 10 years, OdwaznyKot couldn’t quite believe he’d triggered such a massive opportunity.

“Has this really happened to me?” he recalls after seeing the jackpot show up on screen. It turned out to be quite a February for this player.

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Playing a partypoker SPINS for a mega win

When all the chips were in, OdwaznyKot’s [Qh9h] held up against his opponent’s [10c8h] for the massive pot. He becomes partypoker’s latest SPINS millionaire.

 OdwaznyKot plans to use some winnings for a vacation and devote time to self development and improving his poker game. Away from poker, he enjoys chess, practicing Muay Thai boxing, traveling, and exploring other cultures.

The big winner started out as a successful StarCraft player. He even won his city championships during his youth.

OdwaznyKot later moved into poker, which looks to have been a wise decision. What does he enjoy about playing at partypoker?

“I like partypoker’s attitude towards professional players who love this game and devote their lives to it,” he says. “Bonuses, promotions, leaderboards, and the rakeback systems are really amazing.

 “It’s great to see that party remains the platform where poker skills and mastery still dominate.”

He follows in the footsteps of James “James23C” Carmichael, who made history on June 11. He became the first partypoker SPINS $1 million jackpot winner.

Big payouts all around for partypoker SPINS jackpot players

Partypoker SPINS are three-handed jackpot-style tournaments ranging in buy-ins of $0.25 to $500 in a fast-action format.

The SPINS are part of the site’s recent efforts to redesign and improve the partyoker mobile platform. With a small field, they are easy to play on a mobile device.

As OdwaznyKot shows, they can pay off in a big way. That includes the other two players at the table for the ultimate jackpot multiplier.

Second and third-place finishers in the tournament won $100,000 each for their efforts. That’s certainly a nice result as well.

Partypoker Passports expand to WSOP Circuit international events

Partypoker also recently announced a new MILLIONS Passport promotion for 2020. Players can win a Passport online, which can be used at the site’s MILLIONS events.

A Passport includes a complete event entry and much more.  Each MILLIONS event is held at a luxury destination where MILLIONS Passport holders will experience VIP treatment. They’ll enjoy luxury hotels and exclusive extras off the felt with a value of at least $11,000 per event. 

In February, Partypoker also introduced Passport for the World Series of Poker Circuit in 2020. A WSOPC Passport is a flexible satellite package, allowing winners to use them for selected international events within 12 months of winning it. 

Exclusive WSOPC Passport satellites will be held on partypoker with $16.50 Phase 1 events running daily into a weekly final every Sunday.

Players won’t be able to buy in to the Sunday final. All $1,500 packages are won by $16.50 Phase 1 players. WSOPC Passport events include:

EventGuaranteeDateBuy-in
Barcelona€1 millionJune 11-21€1,100
Russia (Sochi)NAJuly 16-2677,000 RUB
Montreal (Playground Poker Club)CAD$2 millionAug. 27 – Sept. 7CAD$1,100
BrazilNAOct. 21-28$1,100

Partypoker Daily Cash Boom promotion pays $8,000 in daily prizes 

Partypoker is offering yet another major promotion for players. The new “Daily Cash Boom” promotion was launched Feb. 25 in conjunction with the release of its most popular games on mobile.

The campaign offers players the chance to win a share of $8,000 every day through two separate “All-In or Fold” tournaments.

With tournaments usually complete in 15-20 minutes, this lightning-quick format allows players to win some quick free cash. With only two options – all in or fold – these tournaments are fast and furious. 

To qualify, players must opt in and earn the minimum points requirements each day. Two tournaments are offered daily including:

  • $5,000 Daily Cash Boom – Simply earn 5 points by playing regular cash or fastforward games.

– $3,000 Daily Cash Boom – Earn 2 points playing SPINS games each day.

Tickets expire after 48 hours and players can qualify for both tournaments each day. To locate any valid tickets, visit the “Promotions” section and then look in the “Tickets” section.

“We’re rewarding players of all levels with some extra cash for hitting the tables at some of our most popular games through the Daily Cash Boom promotion,” partypoker managing director Tom Waters said.

“There’s $8,000 in tournament prizes to be won every day and the low daily points requirements mean everyone has a chance to win some free money.”