Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Please Pardon Our Mess, Um, Forever?

OP-ED: It's time to tear down the Echelon eyesore

by , Jul 23, 2012 | 11:25 am

Here’s a better idea than Boyd Gaming Corp.’s plan to spend $4 million on palm trees, landscaping and facades to hide a shuttered $4.8 billion development on the Strip that has sat unfinished since 2008 and is one of the boulevard’s biggest eyesores.

Just tear it down.

The fact is Boyd’s original concept for the CityCenter-like Echelon project – five hotels of various sizes, a large casino, 750,000 square feet of convention space, 30 restaurants, 300,000 square feet of retail and entertainment amenities, all covering 87 acres – is not going to happen.

Not in this lifetime.

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Poker in the US – Is it ever going to happen?

by , Jul 19, 2012 | 8:00 am

Last week, Raymond Bitar, the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, was arrested at JFK Airport.

He was charged with gambling, bank fraud and money laundering offenses in connection with the operation of an Internet gambling Ponzi scheme. This recent arrest has brought up questions in the poker community and in the media about the legal issues surrounding this hot button issue. 100% legal online poker in the United States isn’t an IF situation; it’s a when situation. Poker is a game of skill, that’s a fact. In the long term all good players will win, and all bad players will lose. In the short term, it’s gambling. But even in the basic, short term sense, even gambling isn’t illegal. Just walk down the strip in Vegas and you’ll see gambling is alive, well, and legal.

With good reason, the United States government, and any other government, should hold no moral high ground as to how their citizens can spend hard earned money. People treat gambling as fun, whether they are playing poker, slots, table games, or anything else for that matter. Players know they probably aren’t going to win, but they play because it’s entertainment. By making all gambling illegal you may as well just outlaw movies next. You’re essentially telling your citizens what they can and cannot spend their entertainment budgets on.

It’s all about money

Online poker isn’t “illegal” because it’s gambling. Online poker is illegal because online sites are making millions of dollars and the Uncle Sam isn’t seeing a penny. Online sites are seen as rogue, off-shore entities that print money without giving a red cent to the United States Government. It hasn’t stopped many American players, who turn to sites to find rooms that still accept US players.

Add to this the fact that established brick and mortar casinos, which have been paying more than their fair share of taxes, are shut out of the online market. These billion dollar casinos employ lobbyists to push their agenda, which is live, in-casino gambling. They feel they benefit from no online gaming and, if there is going to be any online gaming, they feel they should be the ones to offer it. They feel they’ve paid their share, and it should be their sites making millions, and not some “rogue off shore entity”. Casino.org recently released an infographic that details exactly how much money the US is losing by not regulating the industry.

It’s these two reasons why online poker has been made illegal and, as soon as they find a way to set these American owned sites up with the tax money being paid to the United States Government, poker will be legal again.

The trend is slowly moving that way. Nevada has already passed state legislation that allows online gaming and there are four other states pending. It’s going to take time, but it will happen.


Mucked Up

How can it be dirty play to take down a pot that is rightfully yours?

by , Jun 5, 2012 | 3:37 am

I want to clear something up that happened during a hand in a $1,500 no limit tournament. I have heard that some are accusing me of using my influence to get a favorable ruling and/or that I took a shot to win a pot.

I’ll let Pokerati readers decide.

On the river, I bet. My opponent calls, to which I announce, “nothing.” My opponent does not turn over his hand, so I table my jack-high. He looks befuddled, picks up one of his cards so only his next-door player can see it. He does NOT table his hand. Only one player sees his one card, which is a queen and would be a winner. He takes his two cards face down and places them on top of the stub of the deck.

The dealer pushes the pot to me. Two seconds go by and everyone is kind of stunned. One guy at the table mutters “sick call” thinking the guy called and couldn’t beat a jack hi.

The dealer does make a little mistake by not mixing all the cards together to make sure that the hand is unidentifiable. Now my opponent looks puzzled and says, “Wait, I had the winning hand.” Yes he did, but he mucked it. Now he’s saying he should get the pot.

We call floor and tell our stories. The floor asks if the hand is identifiable. We all say yes. He leaves and comes back to the table and says that my opponent gets the pot. So I ask, “When is a hand ‘over’? And are you telling me that a player can muck his hand and then get awarded a pot?” He says, “hold on, I’ll be back.”

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Don’t Shoot!

Violence & Poker - Is it worth reporting?

by , Feb 28, 2012 | 7:12 am

Come in, sit down, and let me slide an analogy across the table. Imagine that two businessmen meet over a game of poker. During the course of that game, they hammer out a deal to create a brand new company. Should the poker media report it? I don’t mean morally. I mean, is that something you – our particular audience – would find interesting? I doubt it. Even if you happen to possess a particular partiality for late-night business deals, that interest is irrelevant to poker. To co-opt a bit of Latin, your interest in the story qua poker is nil.

Here comes the second half of the analogy. Imagine that two gentlemen meet over a game of poker. During the course of the game, they get into a disagreement that results in one player wounding his opponent by means of gunfire. Exciting right? Violence, crime, projectiles! I’m sure you’d be interested in that sort of thing. Hey, and it involves poker too, so that means that we can report it in the poker media. Win win!

But really, does a reader’s desire to learn about this violent crime have anything to do with the fact that it occurred next to an upturned circle of felt? Once again, your interest in the story qua poker is minimal. It’s unlikely that you’ll be asking what the stack sizes were when the shooting took place or whether the man with a bullet in his leg has ever won a WSOP Circuit ring.

At this point it’s fair to ask, ‘so what?’ If a story provides titillation, who cares that it only has a tangential relation to poker? If the audience enjoys it, print it.

There is a problem however and to expose it we can ask for a helping hand from one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that we could never truly know when one thing caused another. Instead we could only establish that two events were regularly correlated. We can lay aside his intellectual musings for the moment, but his insight into the human condition is extremely relevant. Hume’s discovery was that when two events happen frequently one after the other it is a natural human tendency to assume that the former plays a part in causing the latter, even if their connection is just coincidence.

In many ways, the press have the power to curate your world view. So far as the poker media are concerned, what we choose to report makes a big difference to what information you absorb. Twitter and Facebook have broken down those barriers to some degree, but a written report from a major poker news outlet still highlights an event in a way that the burbling of social media cannot match. In other words, we can make certain correlations more distinct.

To quote another equally important thinker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If we choose to regularly report on poker shootings, both ‘poker’ and ‘shooting’ become more commonly correlated in the minds of our readers. The knowledgeable sorts who bookmark Pokerati can see through such illusory causation, but not every site is blessed with such learned readers. The openness of the internet also means that anyone could pick up on a story at any moment, immediately highlighting it in even bolder lettering; adding to the weight of correlation. Not to mention poker’s many enemies, who will leap at the chance to trumpet any bad press they can find.

Let’s leave crime reporting to the crime blogs, except in cases where poker plays a tangible role. Focussing on stories of shootings at poker games adds nothing of interest to the general tapestry of the game and only serves to further denigrate the image of a pastime that is fighting for legal and moral recognition.


The unco-operative Mr. Beckley (Part II)

No question mark this time—further indications that he's not a co-operating witness

by , Dec 28, 2011 | 12:31 pm

I wrote a blog post a week ago suggesting that Brent Beckley, who pleaded guilty on December 20th to two federal counts in the Black Friday indictments, may not be a co-operating witness for the government. This was based on a reading of the press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (the USAO) and a comparison of what we know of Mr. Beckley’s situation with what we know of Bradley Franzen’s circumstances. Recall that Mr. Franzen pled guilty this past May to three counts associated with the same superseding indictment. Last week’s post was not based on a review of Mr. Beckley’s plea agreement, a copy of which was posted at the Association of Players, Casinos, and Webmasters’ website.

Based on a comparison of Mr. Beckley’s plea agreement with Mr. Franzen’s plea agreement, I’m even more convinced that Mr. Beckley is not a co-operator.

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The Unco-operative Mr. Beckley?

by , Dec 21, 2011 | 10:12 am

Brent Beckley pled guilty in US federal court in Manhattan yesterday to two counts contained in the criminal indictment unveiled in April of this year (United States v. Scheinberg et al). The first count was conspiracy to engage in unlawful Internet gambling, contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 371—this is a general conspiracy provision applied to the purported UIGEA violations. The second count was conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, contrary to 18 U.S.C. § 1349, with reference to offences under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1344. Mr. Beckley was the “director of payment processing for Absolute Poker,” according to the government’s press releaseVin Narayanan, who indicates that he has read the plea agreement, reports that federal prosecutors have recommended a sentence of between 12 and 18 months and that Mr. Beckley also agreed to forfeit $300,000 as part of his guilty plea.

One of the more intriguing parts of the US Attorney’s press release is the following sentence: “He [Mr. Beckley] is scheduled to be sentenced by United States Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on April 19, 2012, at 4:00 pm.”

Why is that interesting? Because I think it might indicate that Brent Beckley is not (or at least is not thus far) a co-operating witness for the government. I think he’s made his guilty plea to the court, thereby admitting his own involvement, but without rolling over on anyone else.

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www.bwinpartymgmboyd.com

Some thoughts on a new joint venture

by , Nov 1, 2011 | 12:29 pm

Yesterday, MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM), Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD), and bwin.party digital entertainment (LSE:BPTY) announced a joint venture in the United States. This as-yet-unnamed entity – to be owned 65% by bwin.party, 25% by MGM, and 10% by Boyd – would, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “offer poker to U.S. customers under bwin.party’s brands.”

There appear to be the usual outs for the parties if Congress doesn’t legalize Internet poker. While it may seem that these three are hitching their wagon to federal legislation (no particular surprise for Boyd and MGM), the release from bwin.party mentions the possibility of a state-by-state strategy being adopted. Unlike the federal JV, if the US goes state by state, “[t]he shareholders and shareholdings in a State NewCo may vary, depending on the state concerned and reflecting the contributions to be made by each shareholder. In addition to bwin.party, shareholders in State Newco may include MGM, Boyd and other partners.” Bwin.party seems to be leaving its options open, which is smart for them at this stage.

The various media stories also suggest that the deals are contingent on regulatory approval, i.e., sign-off from Nevada gaming regulators, who are expected to be key regulators under a federal ipoker regime. Will Nevada conclude that bwin.party is a suitable partner? It’s unclear. Bwin.party says it’s “preparing to enter into a suitability review with the Nevada Gaming Control Board in order to secure an advanced finding of suitability in anticipation of future US-facing real money poker opportunities.” Presumably it’s confident that it will succeed.

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Not If, But How …

@PPAPoker: Players have shifted attitudes in Washington DC

by , Oct 26, 2011 | 4:46 am

ppa al damato barton hearingAs you know, the House Subcommittee for Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing [yesterday] examining the potential regulation of Internet gambling.  The hearing entitled, “Internet Gambling: Is There a Safe Bet?” called upon a variety of witnesses to discuss how best Internet gambling can be regulated in the U.S.  Among the witnesses was Poker Player Alliance Chairman and former Senator, Alfonse D’Amato.  A complete list of witnesses and their full testimonies is available here. You can also watch the full 2 ½ hour Committee hearing on CSPAN.com here.

Meeting with members before and after the hearing, I was immensely proud to hear every lawmaker tell us that they are being contacted by poker players. The question on the lawmakers’ minds was not “if” internet poker should be regulated, but rather “how” regulation should look.

Senator D’Amato did an exceptional job and delivered impassioned remarks defending your right to play.  He urged Congress to adopt rules and regulations to ensure American consumers have a safe marketplace in which to play poker on the Internet.  In fact, when it came to consumer protections the conclusion of every witness before the Committee was that regulation was far better than the status quo.  And, more importantly, that sentiment was also expressed almost unanimously by the lawmakers who attended the hearing.  The question on the lawmakers’ minds was not “if” internet poker should be regulated, but rather “how” should regulation look.

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Ranking the Rankings

With Ivey off the leaderboard, who else is there?

by , Oct 5, 2011 | 2:59 am

{democracy:69}

NOTE: this poll is semi-scientific at best, and like my first fake ID, “for entertainment purposes only.”

Phil Ivey recently dropped off ESPN’s admittedly subjective player rankings, The Nuts. ESPN’s was the last of such lists to still include the self-exiled Full Tilt Pro in their Top 10. (Homers.)

I found this out via PartTime Poker, which seems to be doing a pretty cool monthly bit over there — breaking down player standings across four different ranking systems, each with their own calculation biases and level of subjectivity in determining the best poker players in the world.

Perhaps surprisingly, I still recognize most at least half of the 21 names comprising the four different Top 10s … but I’ll bet the rest of the world surely doesn’t. There’s a reason, after all, Jason Mercier doesn’t even have a Q-score.

So with subjectivity in mind … best player, winningest player, field strength, skill measurement, tournament luck, run-good ratios, late position likability, backer’s credit score …


Where is the Collective Outrage?

When I looked at the numbers, I had to re-evaluate

by , Oct 3, 2011 | 8:00 am

tom schneider political humor

Tom Schneider


OP-ED

Ed. Note:  Shortly after Tom wrote this piece, the AGCC revealed that some $330 million had been seized pre-Black Friday. I sent an email asking if this changed the math, to which Tom replied, “That’s almost all that they owed to players, just short $60 million which is purportedly what they had in the bank.  Makes my case even stronger.”


Just yesterday, I heard the news that the Department of Justice accused Full Tilt Poker of running a Ponzi scheme.  A Ponzi scheme is defined as a pyramid investment swindle in which supposed profits are paid to early investors from money actually invested by later participants.

I object your honor.  Taking money I deposit and distributing it to owners is no Ponzi scheme.  But wait, let’s look at some facts/guesses.

Had our politicians not passed a law that restricted financial institutions from transferring money to and from poker sites, all players would still have their money. 

In reviewing the DOJ complaint and other sources, the following information jumped out at me:

Money owed to players  ($390 million)
Cash on Hand, Seized or Frozen Cash, Deposits not Received From Players
Money seized by US Government $115 million
Deposits not received from players* $180 million
Money frozen by banks $42 million
Money in Full Tilt bank accounts $60 million
$397 million
Shortfall to pay account holders None/Zip/No Shortfall

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Feel the Shame

It's the scummy poker world, not just Full Tilt, on trial

by , Oct 2, 2011 | 5:33 am

jesse may poker shame

Jesse May


OP-ED

It didnt’t really bother me when Poker Spot folded, because that guy had history. And I laughed about the money Aces Poker stole, because anyone who trusted them couldn’t ever spot a cheat. The Ultimate Bet scandal wasn’t really that surprising, as we’d heard stories about him for years. And it never shocked me when they cheated me in Atlantic City, or went partners against me in Vegas, or at Foxwoods tried to do a runner with my funds. The nips, the moves, the cheats, the angle shooters, and those that were just plain thieves. For the past ten years when the stars put on their caps and badges and smiled for the TV, we used to smile to ourselves. And then we’d laugh as we’d tick off the big names in poker and say, “But he’s really just a little scumbag, isn’t he?” Because they pretty much all were. And that’s the way it’s always been.

I didn’t always think like that, of course, and neither did you. I came into poker just like yourself, wide eyed and dough faced and on the back of a little bit of luck. Full of passion for the game and a romantic view of the poker world and a desire to be accepted by the rambling gambling men who ruled. It’s natural when you have a pocketful of money and a bellyful of gamble and all the confidence in the world, it’s natural that when it comes to people you can be a little naïve. I certainly was, and so probably were you.

I’m ashamed that I have sat by in silence while you all cheated, stole, and lied. I know you, you thieving tournament directors, you scumbag poker players, you dirtbag angle shooters with your names stitched on your shirts. I know you. And I’m ashamed that I’ve sat here for twenty years and let you rule the poker world as long as I was still getting paid.

But you get wiser because you have to. My circle got small and my radar got sharp and I could count all the people that I could really trust on maybe one hand. And I told them they could trust me. And pretty much everyone else were scumbags and cheats. In poker, that’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it’s been for me, and that’s the way it is for you. And we don’t ever talk out of turn. Because in this world if you shit where you eat, then you’ll end up hungry. That’s what you need to know about poker. That’s what you need to know about me.

I’ve been around long enough so that just one more scam, cheat, or mismanagement of funds, one more of those should be just like more water off another duck’s back. But something happened to me when Full Tilt Poker collapsed. This one is different. This has laid me low. It’s not just anger I feel, it’s not just disdain, and I can’t sit here like I always do and smile to myself and point fingers and call them scum. Because what I feel more than anything else right now, is shame.

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It’s about to Be Illegal to Phone/Text while Driving in Nevada

Pokerati says: k

by , Sep 26, 2011 | 5:39 am

A new California-like law goes into effect next week in Nevada, making it illegal to text-and-drive, as well as use handheld devices for verbal and non-verbal communications. While it’s not clear to me if truckers got a carveout for CB usage nor where non-verbal communication via middle finger might fall … @JessWelman will likely be disappointed to learn the ban applies at stop signs and stop lights, too (“intelligent multitasking” notwithstanding).

The imminent talk-and-text ban on the Las Vegas Strip and across Nevada will not only have a notable impact on 10s of thousands of local lives … but also gives a good microcosm look at how a bill may or may not become a law. Stuff to think about as we watch the next push for federal online poker legislation this fall.

safety plate

Online Poker Logic
When I first heard about a “distracted driving” bill in Nevada, I was immediately concerned about lives lost and unnecessarily put at risk my future as a photographer of mildly amusing and sometimes pokery license plates. Though I have obtained many of these images with a handheld calling device while driving on Nevada highways, fortunately, using online poker logic, I’m sure I can find a lawyer who will tell me I’m totally in the clear.

nevada license plates

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Under Pressure

New allegations from the DOJ against Full Tilt; a good time to release the AGA Code of Conduct

by , Sep 21, 2011 | 7:38 am

Yesterday the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York sought leave to file a first amended civil complaint in US v. PokerStars et al. Mr. Pokerati posted a link to the amended complaint; if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s here. The government’s memorandum in support of the motion is here. As widely reported yesterday, the order granting leave to file the amended complaint was granted.

I have read the amended complaint and the exhibits, all of which are available on PACER. Two of the bigger allegations in the amended complaint – I won’t call them “new” – as they relate to Full Tilt are that Tilt: a) didn’t hold player funds separately from operating funds, contrary to its public statements; and, b) distributed money to its insiders when the enterprise was insolvent. The two allegations are discrete but connected; player funds being co-mingled with operating funds set the stage for the alleged misappropriation of ‘easy money’ by the principals.

Some have spoken about the prosecutor’s characterization of this as a Ponzi scheme. This appears to have been mentioned twice in the press release from the US Attorney’s office: once in the headline and once in the second paragraph of the release. There’s no doubt that use of this term was designed to get maximum media exposure, but it wasn’t a true pyramid scheme. A Ponzi scheme needs investors seeking returns and payouts to older investors using newer money. Here, there were players depositing money – not investing – and, while some of the funds may have been paid out to players cashing out, it seems that they were mostly used to line the pockets of the insiders. I wouldn’t have used the term, but the allegations point to something conceptually akin to a pyramid scheme, i.e., an inherently unstable financial structure perpetually relying on new funds to keep it going, so I’m not put out by use of the term “Ponzi scheme,” even if it was done for political reasons.

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Good for Poker or Good for TV?

Non-disclosure rule has long existed, and for good reason

by , Aug 1, 2011 | 4:45 am

matt savage table talk

Matt Savage


OP-ED

My dedication to poker tournaments and the game itself is two decades old. Starting with my first foray into the role of tournament director in 1997 and through my founding of the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) with Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Dave Lamb in 2001, I have worked tirelessly to standardize tournament rules and to make poker a better game for everyone involved.

This is the reason that we host the website www.PokerTDA.com, open the TDA to all interested parties, and make myself available on Twitter and other social media outlets. My passion for poker only grows when I share it with others.

The rule is not new, and does not ban table talk by any means … A recreational player may not understand, nor even care to know all the rules, but professionals who make a living at the game should.

During the 2011 World Series of Poker “nearly live” telecast from the Rio, I became aware of comments from Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) through my own Twitter feed (@SavagePoker). He said that the TDA created a “new” rule that banned table talk. This certainly is not the case and in hindsight, it was learned that he had received an incorrect ruling at the table that had nothing to do with TDA rules. Since social media has limited words with which to sufficiently explain the rule and its longtime existence, this clarification seems necessary.

The TDA board, in conjunction with tournament directors and card room managers, has donated thousands of hours to standardize rules in the best interest of the game.  When well-known poker players like Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth choose to say on national television that “the TDA has it wrong” and “does not care about what the players want,” it becomes personal.

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The Jon & Harry Show

Decoding a letter asking the Attorney General for amped up aggression in online gambling crackdown

by , Jul 18, 2011 | 12:25 pm

By letter to federal Attorney General Eric Holder dated July 14th of this year, US Senators Jon Kyl and Harry Reid have made known their views on Internet gaming. Or rather: they’ve let the AG know what they want the Department of Justice to do without exactly saying what their position is. (Thanks to Chris Krafcik for circulating the letter.)

This letter, from two senators coming from very different camps on the Internet gaming issue, is a very interesting document both for what it says and for what it doesn’t say.

What it says is that the Department of Justice has been lax in pursuing foreign private Internet gaming operators and that this has “led to a signficant and growing perception … that the Department of Justice thought that the case [against operating Internet poker and other Internet gambling websites] was uncertain enough that it chose not to pursue enforcement actions.” The senators state that it’s important for the DOJ to pursue “illegal Internet gambling” in the United States “aggressively and consistently.” Most notably in this paragraph, Senators Kyl and Reid assert that Internet poker websites have been offering online play to Americans for many years “with apparently no repercussions.”

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