Archive for July, 2017

Editorial: Should Chris Ferguson Be Able to Accept WSOP POY Award?

 Editorial: Should Chris Ferguson Be Able to Accept WSOP POY Award?

With the close of the Las Vegas leg of the World Series of Poker last week, the WSOP Player of the Year race became a flashpoint for the poker community. While it has created a great deal of controversy over its scoring, the person who emerged on top after all the events were finished in Sin City – former World Champion and Full Tilt pariah Chris Ferguson – seemed to incite another round of outrage. That outrage was simple – should Ferguson, for his sins in the poker community, be able to accept the POY award, let alone play in the WSOP?

Let’s start with the second statement in that question first. As far as playing in a publicly available event, series or even simply a cash game, Ferguson has the right to participate.  Short of convictions for offenses such as murder, a person should be allowed to take part in the proceedings in Las Vegas. Hell, even after they might have served their punishment, those who have committed murder might be more accepted than someone who has cheated on the tables, had connections with organized crime or other egregious actions that have landed people in the “Black Book.” Besides, do we really want casinos to oxymoronically be the “morality police?”

Since we’ve established the right to play in the games, then it might be natural to assume that someone should be eligible for the rewards that come with excellent performance. In the case of the WSOP POY, the person leading the standings at the close of the Las Vegas leg would receive a €10,000 buy-in to the WSOP Europe Main Event (roughly a $ 11,500 prize, with current exchange rates). After the points were calculated from the 71 tournaments that comprised this year’s schedule, Ferguson had emerged as the points leader (898.46), eking out the top slot over Ryan Hughes (876.35) and John Monnette (865.21).

With Ferguson set to receive the rewards for his play this summer (and let’s put it this way – any system where a two-time bracelet winner over the span of the WSOP such as David Bach only gets enough points to be in 70th PLACE needs to be revamped), the outrage from the poker community was adamant. Because of Ferguson’s involvement in the Full Tilt Poker scandal – in which the company did not segregate player funds from business funds (causing the eventual collapse of the company) AND the “Black Friday” actions of fraudulently accepting gaming transactions and billing them as other things such as “office supplies” or “golf equipment” – arguably most people believe that Ferguson should not receive the award or the prizes involved with it. Much of that comes from how Ferguson conducted himself following the actions of “Black Friday.”

When the indictments of April 2011 came down, much of the online poker world scurried to figure out what to do (the one exception? PokerStars, but that’s a discussion for another time). Not only was Full Tilt Poker attempting to save its business, the CEREUS Network rooms of and Absolute Poker were under siege, too. When the Department of Justice allowed the rooms to open to remit bankrolls to players, only PokerStars stepped up; the others mentioned could not give the players money back because…they didn’t have it.

Issues would get worse for Full Tilt, with Ferguson in a position of knowledge about the company, as 2011 wore on. September 2011 would bring the revocation of the site’s license by gaming authorities and, as a result, the company went under. But it was Ferguson’s lack of concern regarding the shutdown and eventual closure – he didn’t say a word, he just slinked away with millions in his pockets – that riled the senses of those who had been aggrieved. His return last year to the WSOP (alongside Howard Lederer) only rubbed salt in the wounds.

This is the problem for many – Ferguson (whom I once held in quite high esteem) and all the rest HAD to know what they were doing was wrong. If they weren’t knowledgeable about the workings of their company – the one they all joined in to create – then that is mismanagement of the highest order and that includes fraud. That they got away with paying a bit of money (OK, a LOT of money in some cases) and weren’t adequately punished for their transgressions doesn’t sit well with many.

There are people that literally lost their lives over the decisions of these people in particular and Full Tilt Poker as a whole. Some lost tens of thousands of dollars, even after “everyone” was “made whole.” And even for the people who were paid…we lost our belief in the people that created this company “for the players.” We lost our belief in that they were honorable. And we lost our belief in the honor of the game of poker, that you do what’s right, no matter what. Quick question…where do you think the Full Tilt Poker remittance would be if it hadn’t been for PokerStars?

Why are people like Mike Matusow, recent Poker Hall of Fame inductee Phil Ivey, and others who were an alleged part of “Team Full Tilt” given a pass? That’s an outstanding question. But the ones that we know had knowledge of what occurred – Ray Bitar, Lederer, Ferguson, perhaps some others – still have never adequately explained why they did it nor (and especially in Ferguson’s case) offered their mea culpas to a satisfactory point. And that is why people still have a problem with them at the WSOP or any other tournament location and why people are having issues with Ferguson taking anything regarding the POY.

The poker world may be getting itself in a snit over nothing – it isn’t known whether Ferguson has accepted the seat and will travel to King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, come October anyway to participate in the WSOP Europe Main Event. He hasn’t participated in a tournament outside of the WSOP since “Black Friday,” meaning that he does see that he is persona non-grata for the most part in the poker world. The very fact that he might not go to the WSOP Europe is enough that, over the span of those 11 events, another person would pass Ferguson for the championship and make all this hand wringing for naught.

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NJ Gov. Christie Signs Resolution Decrying RAWA

 NJ Gov. Christie Signs Resolution Decrying RAWA

One of the aspects of politics that makes me die a little inside is that there are times when I have to side with some shit brain whose words, ideas, and actions are so ass-backwards that it makes me wonder how they make it out of the house in the morning without impaling themselves on their toothbrush. So when New Jersey Governor and private sun bather Chris Christie signed a joint resolution urging the United States Congress to not give any RAWA-like bills any sort of consideration, I have to swallow the bit of vomit that bubbled up into the back of my mouth and at least give him a polite golf clap.

It’s not like he’s doing it for any other reason than to protect his state’s online gambling industry and it’s not like anyone on Capitol Hill or in the Trump administration will heed him any mind, but it’s better than not signing the joint resolution.

Despite multiple failures to gain any traction and widespread criticism from both sides of the political aisle, RAWA – or something like it – keeps threatening to rear its ugly head again. The devil spawn of billionaire Republican donor and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Sheldon Adelson, RAWA (the Restoration of America’s Wire Act), aims to effectively ban all online gambling in the U.S. Three states- New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada – have legalized and regulated online gambling industries and several others are working on it.

Most people with a brain and any sort of honesty know RAWA is bullshit, but Adelson and a select few of his cronies couldn’t care less.

Assembly Joint Resolution #137 is basically just a statement, holding no real clout of any kind, but it is a way for the New Jersey government to at least get its feelings on paper so that perhaps someone will read it and have the thought of online poker occupy their day for a moment.

AR 137 was introduced in January, but nothing really happened with it until early June, when it passed by a 36-1-3 vote in the Assembly and then a 75-0-5 vote in the Senate later that month. Chris Christie signed it on Friday.

The important part of the Resolution is as follows:

This resolution urges United States President Donald Trump, members of President Trump’s administration, and Congress to oppose any measures and actions that would prohibit states to conduct Internet gaming. Recent measures in Congress, if pursued by the new Congress and supported by the President and his administration, would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including Internet gaming.

After reminding the reader that Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would revisit the U.S. Department of Justice’s clarification of the Wire Act, the Resolution goes on to say:

A federal prohibition against Internet gaming would directly and negatively impact New Jersey by dismantling the investments that the State and Atlantic City casinos have already made to implement and regulate Internet gaming, taking away the economic and employment opportunities already realized by the State and its residents, and foreclosing the future potential of Internet gaming to generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, create high-tech software jobs, and foster valuable business ventures for Atlantic City casinos in this State.

It is unknown if the Joint Resolution has been translated into Russian for easier consumption by the White House.

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Scott Blumstein Had Backers for 2017 WSOP Main Event

 Scott Blumstein Had Backers for 2017 WSOP Main Event

You know what might* be cooler than winning a bunch of money playing in the World Series of Poker? Winning a bunch of money at the World Series of Poker without the difficulty of actually playing poker. That was the case for several people over the weekend, as a number of Scott Blumfield’s buddies rode the rail of their lives, having invested in the WSOP Main Event champ’s buy-in and, in turn, receiving a share of his winnings.

It is not uncommon for a poker player to have “backers” in a big buy-in tournament, as the costs can be difficult to handle. By taking on investors who pay a portion of the buy-in for a proportional share of the prize, a player can better afford to participate, even if he or she limits the earnings potential.

Blumstein has not made public all of his financial arrangements with backers, but we now know that he did not have “all of himself,” as the poker lingo goes, in the 2017 WSOP Main Event. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, four of Blumstein’s friends from New Jersey posted some of his $ 10,000 buy-in, though in the grand scheme of things, their contribution wasn’t much.

Peter Gerolamo, Aldo Boscia, John Scuter, and Nick Muldrow each gave Blumstein $ 60. When he won $ 8.15 million before taxes, their investment had grown to $ 40,750 each (technically, the 0.6% that each contributed should have earned them $ 48,900 before taxes, but their deal with Blumstein may not have been for winnings in exact proportion to their percentage of the buy-in, which is normal).

Boscia said that Blumstein could certainly swing the $ 240 that his four friends pitched-in, but he was all for it for the fun.

“He wanted us to sweat it out with him,” Boscia told Rovell.

“The truth is that a bunch of guys who had small stakes in me helped me the most at the end, when I needed support, when I needed to be driven places,” Blumstein added. “I can say pretty confidently that without their support, I might not have won it all.”

Watching the final table progress on ESPN, it was evident that Blumstein – who couldn’t seem like a nicer guy – really drew energy from his friends and family, who flew in to support him when he made the final table.

Those four guys weren’t the only ones who had a piece of Blumstein.

“My dad sold a half a percent to the owner of a bagel shop,” Blumstein revealed to Rovell. “A friend of my grandfather’s, who is 93 and plays poker, had 2 percent.”

This would also imply that Blumstein’s dad had a piece, considering he “sold” half a percent ($ 50) to someone.

Blumstein did actively seek out investors, posting his request on Twitter in June. Nobody took him up on that specific offer, but ESPN says Blumstein did find a backer for the piece he was looking to sell.

Poker pro Asher Conniff also backed Blumstein, paying $ 420 of his buy-in for three percent of his winnings ($ 244,500).

Conniff was thoroughly impressed with Blumstein’s performance in his first-ever WSOP Main Event (can you believe it?), saying, “No one is prepared for the amount of pressure that comes with the final table. Some of the moves he made proved he had the balls of a champion.”

*Let me emphasize “might” here.

Cover photo credit:

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Macau Police Nab Pair of Chip Counterfeiters

 Macau Police Nab Pair of Chip Counterfeiters

Last week, Macau’s Judiciary Police arrested two men for alleged casino chip counterfeiting, charging them with fraud. It is also very possible, if not likely, that the men are linked to as many as six other counterfeit chip cases since July 19th.

In a press release, the police department indicated that it responded to a complaint from a casino on July 22nd that it suspected two men of running counterfeit chips. The men were apprehended and were discovered to have 85 fake chips both on their persons and at the table. Each chip had a face value of HKD 10,000 (approximately USD $ 1,280).

Going further, it was found that the men had arrived from the “mainland” (China) that day and had gotten in touch with a local accomplice who provided them with 100 counterfeit chips, all with face value of HKD 10,000. It is thought that the men scammed the casino out of HKD 350,000 (USD $ 44,813) through a combination of cashing in the chips and using them to gamble before a dealer noticed the bogus chips.

The accomplice has not been caught.

Police have said that there were six similar cases in just the three days before the men were caught, with a total of 32 chips with denominations of HKD 10,000 found. The Judiciary Police have not said outright that they believe that all seven cases are related, but they also “do not rule out the possibility that these cases were committed by the same criminal syndicate.”

It sounds like the two men who were arrested were not going to receive the entire benefit of the proceeds from the counterfeit chips, but were instead getting paid for their role in the operation. According to a report from local new outlet TDM, Judiciary Police spokeswoman Lei Hong Nei said, “They would have received 150,000 dollars each as a reward.”

Considering the face value of the fake chips the two men were given was well in excess of HKD 150,000 (either HKD 1 million or HKD 2 million in total – the press release is not clear as to whether each person was given 100 chips or if they were given 100 chips combined), it seems like the goal was to launder them through the gaming tables and then cash out as much money with legitimate chips as possible. After delivering the cash to their handlers, the men likely would have then received their HKD 150,000 reward.

Though the exact casino or casinos where the counterfeit chips were put into play have not been named, TDM has said it believes Galaxy Macau was the venue. It is not known if the casino was targeted for a specific reason, but one were to guess, one might theorize that it was determined that the casino had the most lax security and/or keen-eyed dealers. But again, that would just be a guess.


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Ontario Lottery Commission to Outsource Operation of 3 Toronto-Area Gambling Sites

 Ontario Lottery Commission to Outsource Operation of 3 Toronto Area Gambling Sites

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. (OLG) is currently conducting a bidding process, seeking to turn over control of the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) gambling venues to a private operator. According to the Globe & Mail, Canada’s most read weekly newspaper, the selection should be made within the next few weeks.

The three locations whose operations would be transferred to the chosen company are the Woodbine Racetrack, Ajax Downs, and the Great Blue Heron Casino. As one might be able to tell by their names, Woodbine and Ajax are primarily horse racetracks, but both do have sections operated by OLG that contain slot machines and electronic table games. Great Blue Heron is more of a traditional casino.

The OLG believes the GTA is an underserved gambling market, according to the Globe & Mail, and it believes outsourcing the three venues would allow them to grow and operate more efficiently than if OLG continued operating them itself. The private operator could build out the three locations as larger, more all-encompassing casinos, as well as build a fourth casino, all provided local approval.

It looks like the OLG will pay the winning company for operating the casinos a minimum of $ 72 million per year for the 22-year duration of the contract. The company will also get to keep as much as 70 percent of the gambling revenue. The company would still have to work with the OLG and show that it has solid plans to increase revenue.

Essentially, what the OLG is trying to do here is very much like a classic client/consultant business deal. The OLG, the client, is outsourcing part of its business that it is not its core strength to a consultant, the private company. The client will receive a long-term monetary benefit from the improvement of the business (the casinos) while not having to spend time and money tackling the problem itself. The consultant gets paid (and in this case, gets paid long term via multiple revenue streams) and provides its expertise to the client.

A source close to the RFP process told the Globe & Mail that three of the companies that have gotten involved in the bidding include Caesars Entertainment, Brookfield Asset Management (Canada), and the Genting Group (Malaysia). Our readers are likely familiar with Caesars, but not the other two. Brookfield is a massive company that owns assets in the real estate, energy, and infrastructure areas. Through subsidaries, it owns Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The Genting Group owns the Resorts World properties as well as more than 40 UK casinos, including Crockfords Casino in London.

As the Globe & Mail writes, Woodbine is potentially the most important of the three gambling sites, located right by the Toronto airport on busy stretch of highway. If it could be built up as a Las Vegas-style casino, rather than a race track with a bunch of slot machines, it could be a boon to the local economy.

“The OLG’s modernization plan is the catalyst for Woodbine Entertainment to unlock the value of the Woodbine lands to sustain horse racing on our 680-acre site and bring real economic development to Rexdale,” Woodbine spokesman John Siscos told the Globe & Mail.

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