photo: Samantha Clemens / Las Vegas Review-Journal
Life is about to get more complicated for Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber.
He wouldn’t have it any other way. With the World Series of Poker nearing the end of its six-week run at the Rio, Garber’s attention will focus on launching the tournament’s pay-to-play regulated online gaming website in Nevada.
Caesars Interactive — a Montreal-based subsidiary of casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. — is also moving forward with online gaming prospects in New Jersey. The casino operator owns one-fourth of the Atlantic City gaming market.
Garber’s division also handles Playtika, Caesars expanding free-play social gaming operation.
Meanwhile, Garber’s duties will soon include CEO of Caesars Growth Partners, an entity created by Caesars Entertainment as a growth oriented business.
Every so often poker players should give something back to ease the take take take mentality. I’m pretty sure that’s why the charity tournament was invented.
So if you’re in an altruistic mood this weekend and looking to feel good about your game, there’s the $125 buy-in Ante 4 Autism event at Golden Nugget this Sunday, January 27. Cards go in the air at 7 p.m.
The tournament benefits Autism Speaks, a real charity that preeminent Vegas poker hostess Karina Jett says is “very dear to my heart.”
“In the United States, autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed now in one in 88 children and one in 54 boys,” says Doug Krinsky, the event founder.
The first 100 players will receive an free T-shirt and Autism Speaks pin. The top five finishers receive special prizes — including a queen-size gel-infused memory foam bed set, and a leather recliner — while the winner gets a plaque, cash prize (which he may or may not choose to donate back to the charity) and warmth around his heart.
“The Golden Nugget has welcomed our event with open arms and we hope to announce shortly other professional poker players that will be joining us as well,” co-host Scott Graham said.
The cold weather is bearing down on the East Coast, and sadly there are still thousands of residents who are without power or even warm homes due to the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. This past weekend, PPA Grassroots Director Drew Lesofski hand delivered hundreds of fleeces, hoodies, and other winter-weather clothing to communities in need. The items were made available thanks to a very generous donation of clothing from PokerStars to help those in need.
Upon receiving the boxes of fleeces and hoodies from PokerStars, PPA connected with local charities in New Jersey to distribute these items. Drew met with hundreds of families who stood in line at a local American Legion Hall in Keansburg, NJ to distribute the PokerStars items and other donated goods. “Warm clothing is a cherished item for those affected by the storm and the community was so grateful for the donations. I am proud that we could help, even in a small way, those who have literally been left with nothing due to Sandy’s devastation,” said Drew.
Cirque du Soleil drums pounding in the Rio Amazon room, a crowd of poker fans with phone cameras aloft, the WSOP’s first ever $1 million buy-in tournament started Sunday afternoon. Guy Laliberte’s One Drop charity, which helps provides safe drinking water worldwide, sponsored the event and had raised more than $5.8 million.
The 48-player tournament is a veritable who’s who of the poker world — Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, Bobby Baldwin, Mike Sexton, Antonio Esfandiari, “Elky” Bertrand Grospellier, Jason Mercier, Phil Galfond, Gus Hanson, Roland De Wolfe, Haralabos Voulgaris, among others.
More than an hour into the tournament, however, fans were still awaiting a (grand?) entrance from 12-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, known for his self-aggrandizing late arrivals in big tournaments.
Fans try to get a glimpse of the lineup at Big One For One Drop
Big One For One Drop feature table
One Drop table featuring Durrrr
One Drop table featuring Jonathan Duhamel
One Drop table featuring Negreanu
One Drop table featuring Elky and Jason Mercier
Food cart for millionaires, and/or billionaires
One Drop founder Guy Laliberté announces “shuffle up and deal” for the biggest tournament in WSOP history
One Drop table featuring Ivey, Seidel and Esfandiari
Some familiar faces and players worth looking up in the charity NLH mix … er … mixed martial arts.
One of my favorite charity tourneys of the year is this Saturday — Operation All In … Randy Couture’s poker tournament and charity auction benefitting his Xtreme Couture GI Foundation. Karina Jett hosts the event, so you can expect her usual brand of fun and merry band of Full Tilt Red Pros in exile. And because OAI is more MMAish than pokery … well, let’s just say you can be sure to see some rather douchetastic! unique table interaction. And with a reasonable buy-in ($220 w $100 rebuys), you stand to get a fair share of genuine downtown tourists, too — excited by their chance to play with the fighters more so than the poker pros.
The winner gets $10k in cold American cash this year, too … no fancy qualifiers for some future maybe-cool new event in some other country. And though I haven’t personally looked into how legit Randy Couture’s foundation is, I do get a sense he takes the effort kinda personally and isn’t going to let the funds raised here get squandered en route to the beneficiaries. For many soldiers, the war isn’t over just because they are starting to come home.
It’s been an interesting relationship in Vegas between mixed martial arts and poker over the past 12 or so years … the state of which will be on display in the form of tax-deductible feelgood poker … this weekend at the Golden Nugget.
Read below for official deets on what’s going down.
Who: The Duke of Fremont presents “Pinstripes & Polka Dots” What: $100 NLH (w $20 rebuys) When: Friday, Oct 28, 6pm (red carpet cocktails begin at 5pm) Where: Golden Nugget, Downtown Las Vegas Why: Fundraiser for Clark County Museum Guild
Click to enlarge: Melanie Iglesias has her panties in a wad over something related to her break-up with the WPT.
Undercleavage: This stylish lingerie not available at K-mart offers a new way to look at Lacey Jones’ right boob.
Pot-committed: Survivorist Jim Rice found a more legal way to earn a living than online poker by selling weed.
Tenacious P: Jack Black is still kinda sorta into poker.
Baller beware: No TV show ever came of an idea about bar-bill wars between Kobe Bryant and Antonio Esfandiari.
A little poker gossip because sometimes in serious times we like the petty …
Melanie Iglesias vs. WPT (and QuadJacks?)
The guys at Quadjacks have called it “Flushgate” — and reportedly have received quite a bit of wrath from non-poker types over “the abrupt resignation of three Royal Flush girls” — 2010 Maxim Hometown Hottie winner and now MTV personality Melanie Iglesias, Michelle Banzer, and brand spankin’ new RF girl Mica Javier, who had only been on the job for a few weeks. The purging all went down last month right around the time of press announcements for the World Poker Tour’s new Season X … ooh, juicy! You could almost be certain somebody was gonna cry, if not more formally cry foul.
Catpacking in AC
We can only imagine how cut-throat that world can be — where looks absolutely are tied in with your success. Call us old-school here at Pokerati, Melanie is great and all, but she’s still no Lacey Jones, who recently did a lingerie photoshoot with power-model Katerina Van Derham. Meanwhile, here’s a new video featuring Lacey and Maria Ho helping Christina Lindley pick out a dress for her birthday party at the Borgata in Atlantic City this weekend … and New Jersey celeb-hunter Michael Berman interviews this threesome, being dubbed “the Cat Pack” here for the kickoff of WPT Borgata, where there may or may not be openings for three new Royal Flush Girls.
Speaking of old school, Phil Hellmuthappeared last week on the A&E show Storage Wars — advising a group about strategy in their game of swag auctions, which apparently involves a combination of luck and skill. Not too familiar with that show … when do we get to hear someone say to Phil, “Going, going, gone!?”
Dealer’s Choice: From Poker to Pot
A relatively unknown poker player named Jim Rice is representing poker (whether he likes it or not) and pot on Survivor 23: South Pacific. Supposedly a pal (and business partner?) of Paul Wasicka’s, the 35-year-old from Chicago is now a medical marijuana dispenser in Colorado (woot!). His most recent cashes include a 3rd and a 23rd on the Heartland Poker Tour, this year and in 2008, respectively. And now with online poker more illegal than selling weed (in some US jurisdictions) … makes you wonder if certain poker pros would rather be Jim Rice or Jean-Robert Bellande.
Jack Black Rising or Falling Poker Celebrity?
There’s always new Hollywood celebrities getting in on poker — and hosting a charity tourney is often their first foray into niche hero-status and/or business opportunity around their personal poker addictions. Could Jack Black be the latest? The last-place finisher in the WPT’s 2009 Hollywood home game is hosting a charity tourney next month at the Commerce Casino in California, but otherwise still has much to prove before he becomes the next James Woods, whom you may recall back in 2004-05 kicked off his effort to become the Adam West of Poker.
Vegas Living: Closing Down Blush
The luxe but laid-back “boutique” nightclub Blush, at the Wynn, is closing after a four-year run. Ahhh … I remember this “ultra lounge” as the site of multiple VIP poker parties and the place where upon moving to Vegas I met a guy who explained to me the process of importing women to the US for a life of hooker-dom before having to excuse himself to go sell coke. But perhaps more famously, Blush is the place where Antonio Esfandiari “lost” a game of who’s got bigger ballers to Kobe Bryant — with the NBA star supposedly racking up a $21,000 champagne bill that had celebrity and sports media mocking some poker player being called “the magician” … even though he somehow got Kobe to pay for the last 15 bottles of Cristal.
In the good-for-poker category … Poker Gives is in the midst of its second annual National Poker Month. Not to be confused with the PPA’s National Poker Week, PG’s September declaration is about a nationwide series of charity tournaments “that unites the poker world to generate goodwill through ‘giving back’ and supporting worthwhile charities.” (Emphasis theirs, not mine.)
There have already been events in Arizona and yesterday here in Vegas at the Venetian. Coming up are an event Monday at the Golden Nugget and another at the new Tropicana Poker Room (which fyi, few know, had its opening day on Black Friday) on Saturday. More than 15 events — in the $60 to $125 range — in 15 different venues in seven states.
Our goal is to disperse the highest percentage of funds possible to the charities. While some fundraising operators are actually businesses for profit, Poker Gives is designed to give back and we do so in every way possible. Board members and founding members of Poker Gives receive no salary whatsoever. All expenses and administrative costs are minimized so that the maximum is directed to our charities.
– Poker Gives
Charity tournaments can be a dime a dozen … or more appropriately for poker, probably closer to 5 dimes a dozen. And some are better than others as an event and/or as a fundraiser. But apparently some big-timers in the poker biz (Mike Sexton, Linda Johnson, et al) saw too many such tourneys used as fronts for shady activities I mean not necessarily distributing funds appropriately, and thus back in 2008 created Poker Gives. It’s an effort designed to cultivate the collective giving of poker players and poker rooms around the country to make more notable donations to more mainstream 501c’s (Paralyzed Veterans of America, Make a Wish, Special Olympics, the USO, the Shriners, among others). It also becomes, imho, part of what some say is becoming a “movement” to clean up poker and make it more, er … presentable?
Also this week, as in today, is an Epic Poker charity event at Pokerati’s home room, the Palms. It’s a $240 with $100 rebuys event — hosted by Kevin Pollak, with all sorts of extra goodies overlayed — and the top three winning seats to the upcoming $1,500 Epic Pro-Am.
While this isn’t officially part of National Poker Month (I’m curious why not, too) tonight’s tournament at the Palms does benefit Fallen Heroes USA, a PG thumbs-up charity partner. Should be good times for a good cause; and who knows, maybe a Pokerati Game will break out with extra players in the mood to just be giving money away?
Tonight’s semi-random collection of websites that have recently caught my eye for various reasons is brought to you by Suited Cribs — your 2011 WSOP housing hookup and VIP services connek!
OK, the links:
G2E Asia — the AGA brings its trade show to Macau, prepping Western gaming industry round-eyes for a new level of expansion in China and across Asia.
PokerGrump — an accidental low-stakes Vegas grinder, respected colleague on the license plate beat, and another guy I read often but don’t link up enough … generally thoughtful insight, and fun “guess the casino” posts, though few are as hard as this one:
highlight for answer
PokerGives.org — Mike Sexton, Linda Johnson, and Jan Fisher’s philanthropic endeavor has undergone a website redesign as they continue efforts to make sure charity poker tournaments give back as much as possible.
DFW Gambler — don’t know who runs this site, but it kinda-sorta picks up where Pokerati left off upon skipping town, keeping the Dallas/Fort Worth poker scene up to date with solid, regularly updated info on local charity tourneys, big events in Oklahoma and Louisiana, and different free games — whether they be WPT Amateur Leagues or lesbian bar poker at Sue Ellen’s. Bingo, too!
The Poker Life Coach — Jen Dunphy was once responsible for keeping Harrah’s employees on their A-game, and now brings her motivational services to MGM Resorts. Not sure if she’s more happy drill sergeant or corporate therapist … but for poker players needing to work on their life skills (she won’t give up names of clients? Balls!) it seems she’s no Sam Chauhan … but then again, she’s also no Sam Chauhan.
Live Poker Training — Not sure if Shaun Deeb needs a life coach or just a mom. But either way, he’s got a boot camp March 26-27 … for players wanting to learn how to win so much money it doesn’t matter if you never learned to throw away pizza boxes or lift the toilet seat.
Zynga PokerCon 2011 — you know they are new to poker when they call their inaugural event Poker CON. But the best we can tell, even though the folks at Zynga supposedly have made millions without paying out any winners, they aren’t the second coming of UB … but they could well be proof that recreational players are more valuable than online pros. And they’ve hired me (along with Michele Lewis and BJ Nemeth) to tell you all about the Zynga version of BARGE — so already we think they’re great, obv!
Suited Cribs — The guys to handle your WSOP housing needs, and all variety of poker services, from laundry runs and VIP transportation to nightclub line passes. Say you heard about them from Pokerati for a special surprise AND to have me personally check out your summertime Vegas rental to make sure the internet works and no pillows smell like urine.
Don’t think anyone’s quite ready to put out an Amber Alert … but the guy seen here, name unknown, went missing in post-bubble action during the Heartland Poker Tour’s recent Red Rock Vegas stop. Anyone recognize him? Darvin Moon owes him money.
It’s not that Darvin’s trying to welch — in fact I’m pretty sure he’s already handed over chips to HPT executives — but this man won half of Darvin’s action in a charity raffle and apparently skedaddled off before filling out his contact info form. Moon finished in 37th place, for a $1,487 score.
It was an $1,100 event, so not sure if the 50 percent of Darvin’s payday that mystery dude’s got coming is gross or net. Also not sure who gets the extra dollar. But regardless, if anyone recognizes or knows this guy and/or his lady friend … there’s either $194 or $744 somewhere with no name on it waiting for them.
BTW, it seems those friendly Fargoans (Fargoers? Fargocites?) might be getting sick of 20-foot snow tsunamis and temperatures in the negative digits. They’re coming back to Vegas in a couple weeks … for a charity event with Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson and Phil Hellmuth. Raise Your Hand for Africa looks to be a celeb-packed event … and not necessarily your usual poker-playing Hollywooders.
What looks to have been a rookie armed robbery of a min-stakes poker game in Michigan caught on video … just like EPT Berlin … you know, if PokerStars ran live events in the $30 to $40 buy-in range that start at 7 and have 15-minute levels.
At about 1 am Wednesday night/Thursday morning, two armed men entered “The Tilt Room” at the Bob-Hi Lanes near Muskegon, Michigan (a small port town of about 174,000). Upon being laughed at by players and managers, one of the robbers pistol-whipped a room employee as the duo grabbed cash on the bar, then stuffed their pockets with the rest of the money on hand. No one was seriously injured. Police say they are looking for two black males, one about 6’4″ the other 5’9″.
No word on how much money the “blue-hoodied bandits” got away with. By law, Michigan poker rooms are allowed to sell up to $15,000 in chips each day.
Low temperatures in Las Vegas have crossed into the high-50s (ÂºF) … which means it’s holiday charity season in the Valley, and some in LA.
One of the more fun events gets started in a couple hours at the Golden Nugget (which seems poised to take over from the Hard Rock as the primary LV charity destination) … so if you’ve got nothing better to do this afternoon than get warmed up for some Vegas Halloweening, why not help out the soldiers while mingling with some big-time MMA, small-time Hollywood, and mid-tier poker world:
Operation All-In benefitting Xtreme Couture GI Foundation
organized by Randy Couture and Karina Jett
$225 buy-in, $100 rebuys
1st prize $10k
I had a blast at this event last year, not because I “moneyed” to score a Full tilt swag bag for my 30somethingth-place finish … but just because it was just more fun than the usual charity show. For the more casual player, it’s the only time you’ll see MMA strongmen somewhat intimidated by scrawny poker geeks while entertaining the festive-drinky feelgood tourists … many who can’t seem to believe they are “in the ring” with so many people they’ve watched on TV — all for a tax-deductible donation less than they were planning to drop on a single sitting at a smokey $5 blackjack table.
A buy-in to this event also gets you in to Randy Couture’s Halloween Bash this evening at the Golden Nugget’s surprisingly undouchey nightclub Gold Diggers.
Check it out … caught my eye the other night … Cashout tourneys. Though I’m not sure if they’ll be a regular thing, they made their debut this past weekend @AriaPoker. Interesting concept — essentially tournaments with pre-established guaranteed chops, allowing players to cash out at any point (and go home) … you know, should they not like their chip situation, have somewhere else to be, be on tilt from incessant angry wife texts … whatever … backer with a gun? Apparently they also can cash out and keep playing, too.
Full Tilt began offering these online a while back, but no clue how they worked out. According to the sign, these were the first ever in a land-based casino. I ventured over to see how it was playing, but they were down to three and it seemed at this point it was just straight poker. Mel Judah sat at the final table but wasn’t playing. I assumed he was sweating, or at least trying to woo, the lovely middle-age Asian lady still with chips. That may or may not have been true, but turns out primarily Judah was there because it was his game — supposedly his creation.
UPDATE: Oops, turns out the lovely lady was JJ Liu. One of these days I will learn actual players.
Hard Rock charity knocks
Upon his own early elimination, Gavin Smith took over as charity photog, no-flash rules be damned!
Also stopped by the Hard Rock this weekend … first time since Detox and the shuttering of their room (and operations) that made @hardrockpoker the Pokerati game’s home for most of 2010. No new-resto construct has begun — just a bunch of tables stuffed in the back of the old room, with their previously decorative orange-luxe highback leather chairs lined up in front of the TVs that used to entertain 1/2 players. With football on and one viewer lounging per screen, It was both awesome and sad.
Anyhow, the new smaller spot is still called the “Poker Lounge” … nice-ish, but looks unsettled in. And though it seemed clear from a matter of simple square footage that the Hard Rock’s days as a red-carpet poker venue are gone, none of that seemed to stop the good times at Gavin Smith’sDarius Goes West charity tourney (with Bryan Devonshire) … which was kinda a birthday party for the namesake beneficiary, Darius Weems, the kid with an extra-funky form of muscular dystrophy that Smith says inspired him to a WSOP bracelet this summer. Darius had just turned 21 (he wasn’t supposed to live past 16 I think?) … and really, can you think of a better host to welcome those coming of age into the glorious world of degenerate gambling?
Here’s video from the final table, with Layne Flack, David Plastik, and at least one semi-awkward kiss:
BTW, fwiw, the Hard Rock has changed their basic game to 1/3 NL, with a $500 max buy-in.
Elsewhere in Vegas …
Unvetted, unconfirmed word has it that Fiesta Henderson has closed their poker room. Supposedly they lost their players to the Club Fortune casino, which began holding a $40 bounty tourney ($10 for each knockout) and taking a better-for-locals high hand jackpot drop. (You’ll have to pardon Pokerati for not digging into this plausibly controversial game-shift.)
And here’s a globally funny poker picture … from power Vegas player Eric Baldwin at EPT-London:
As you know, I’m not really watching much poker this summer; however, I am rather excited about finally getting to play a little, tournament-style — and Friday I’ll be doing just that in Karina Jett’s All-In 4 Autism Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament. There’s just something about a tax-deductible underlay that makes ridiculously fast and luck-based blind structures appealing.
I played last year, and with just a single rebuy, I actually cashed. Got a really nice gift bag with some coupons and not one, but two Full Tilt swag t-shirts. (I think I finished something like 30th place out of maybe 150?
But the awesomeness of the Vegas charity scene became clearly apparent to me not from any “celebs” at my table, but from a very drinky maniac a few seats to my left. He was playing terribly but without fear, putting in rebuy after rebuy and playing any two cards, which sometimes got there allowing him to take down a big pot.
Katkin bought in for a single $300 tax-deductible good-cause bullet, and with blinds rising quickly, maintained a 10-20 BB stack throughout to get to the final table. There, he knocked out Howard Lederer and outlasted Allen Cunningham to win $5,000, a week’s stay in a fancy-room suite at the Rio during the WSOP main event, and $1k in food comps at any of the restos there.