Posts Tagged ‘Award’

World Poker Tour to Honor Steve Lipscomb, Lyle Berman with WPT Honors Award

 World Poker Tour to Honor Steve Lipscomb, Lyle Berman with WPT Honors Award

Continuing the legacy of honoring those who were instrumental in their contributions to the World Poker Tour and the poker community also, the WPT will give their WPT Honors Award to two men who will join a legendary cast in May.

On May 22, the WPT will look back into their past and honor Steve Lipscomb and Lyle Berman, two men whose vision created the WPT and cemented its place in poker history. “The WPT is deeply proud to present two extraordinary icons of our industry with the WPT Honors Award,” Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour, said during the announcement of the awards. “These Honorees represent the pioneering ingenuity and passionate leadership that has abundantly influenced poker. Mr. Steve Lipscomb and Mr. Lyle Berman brought poker to new heights with the creation of the World Poker Tour, and their passion and dedication have allowed the WPT to become what it is today.”

It goes without saying that, without these two men, there wouldn’t be a World Poker Tour in existence today. Lipscomb was the man who came up with the concept of a tournament poker series that traveled to different casinos. He also knew how he wanted to present these tournaments. Rather than the staid productions that had come previously where the viewers weren’t shown the hole cards, Lipscomb knew that showing these cards would be critical to driving the broadcasts of the tournaments. With that in mind, he utilized the development of the “lipstick camera” as a method of providing the viewer with the excitement of the game.

From the time the WPT debuted in 2002, Lipscomb was instrumental in the success of the show. He served as the director and producer for every episode during the first eight years of the program, with the WPT becoming one of the catalysts of the mid-2000s “poker boom” that erupted during those years. For his efforts, Lipscomb has previously been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the inaugural American Poker Awards in 2015.

While Lipscomb was the one who had the idea, it was Berman who was the one who provided the monetization and the background to be able to work in the cutthroat casino industry. As a businessman, Lipscomb was responsible for the growth and expansion of Grand Casinos, Inc., which allowed him to be able to finance the WPT in its infancy. Because of his casino background, he was also a key player in the negotiations with the different casinos across the States of America and the world when it came to creating the schedule of events and to allowing for the taping of the programs.

Berman’s experience in the world of poker is also noted in his other achievements. He is a three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, earning over $ 2.6 million in his career in tournament poker. He is also a feared cash game player, giving him the gravitas to be elected into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2002.

The WPT Honors Award is a relatively new accolade in the poker world, but it has a glowing list of honorees. Former WPT announcer, hostess and tournament director Linda Johnson was the first-ever honoree in February 2017. Later that same year in June, former WPT announcer and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton and French poker legend Bruno Fitoussi (instrumental in bringing the WPT to the legendary Aviation Club in Paris) were also feted the award.

Ceremonies to honor both Lipscomb and Berman will be held during the play of the WPT Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas in May. That tournament will be held from May 24-26, so it is likely there will be one night chosen to honor both men simultaneously. Congratulations to Lipscomb and Berman for receiving this prestigious award!

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Libratus Poker AI Wins Prestigious Computing Award

 Libratus Poker AI Wins Prestigious Computing Award

Libratus, the artificial intelligence powered by a multi-million dollar supercomputer that crushed teams of poker players in No-Limit Hold’em twice this year, was honored with the 2017 HPCwire Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of AI last week. The Libratus Poker AI was developed by Tuomas Sandholm and Noam Brown at Carnegie Mellon University.

I would suspect almost nobody reading this has any idea what HPCwire is – I know I didn’t before I read about the award. HPCwire calls itself “the leading publication for news and information for the high performance computing industry,” and if you visit its site, you would understand why. If anyone knows about high performance computing, it is the contributors and owners of that website.

Tom Tabor, CEO of Tabor Communications Inc., the company that publishes HPCwire, said, “HPCwire’s readership is broadly diversified; it includes industry leaders from the private sector, innovators in academia, and end users that are bringing HPC to the enterprise. Being selected to win either a Readers’ or Editors’ Choice Award is no small feat.”

At the beginning of 2017, Libratus took on the poker pro team of Jimmy Chou, Dong Kim, Jason Les, and Daniel McAulay. Each human played 30,000 heads-up hands against the computer over the course of about three weeks.

In order to try to eliminate as much luck as possible so that skill could be measured, the heads-up matches were played with a few special rules. First, the 20,000 chip stacks (50/100 blinds) were reset after each hand so that nobody could gain an advantage by swinging a big stack around like a club. Second, if there was an all-in and a call before the river, no more cards were dealt. Instead, chips were split according to the players’ equity in the hand. This way, nobody could get lucky by slamming a two-outer on the river. And third, hands were mirrored. That is, in a pair of matches, the hands dealt were exactly the same, except Libratus received one set of hole cards in one of the matches, while the human opponent received those same hole cards in the other.

For instance – and I don’t know how the pairings were actually setup – Jimmy Chou may have been dealt Aces against Libratus’ Queens in Hand #15,306. This hand would have been mirrored in Dong Kim’s Hand #15,306, in that he would have been the one to receive the Queens and Libratus would have gotten the Aces. Thus, it could not be said that either the humans or the AI were the beneficiaries of a lucky streak of hole cards.

Libratus won $ 14.72 per hand on average from the four players, for a total of $ 1,766,250. Kim was the most successful, only losing $ 85,649. PokerListings.com calculated that the probability of the four players actually outplaying Libratus and still losing that much money was between 0.0001 and 0.54 percent.

In April, Libratus did it again, beating a team of six Chinese players in Hainan, China, led by 2016 World Series of Poker bracelet winner Tue Du. Libratus did even better, dominating them for $ 22.00 per hand. There was real money on the line this time, as well, as Libratus earned a $ 290,000 purse for the victory.

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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 UB.com 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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PokerStars Opens Voting for SCOOP Players’ Choice Award

 PokerStars Opens Voting for SCOOP Players’ Choice Award

The PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) is underway, but there is one event on the schedule later this month in which the details have yet to be completed. The 57th and final event of the 2017 PokerStars SCOOP is the Players’ Choice event, where the game type is to be determined by – as you might guess – the players. To tally the votes, PokerStars has put up a public poll on its Facebook page.

There are four event candidates, each chosen by one of the members of Team PokerStars Pro Online: Jaime Staples, Mikhail Shalamov, Randy Lew, and Lex Veldhuis. Here are the options:

No-Limit Hold’em Progressive Knockout – in this type of tournament, half of the buy-in goes to the prize pool and the other half is used as a bounty on each player’s head. When you eliminate an opponent, you don’t get all of their bounty, but rather just half of it. The other half is added to your own bounty. Thus, eventually there will be players who will be gigantic targets.

Jamie Staples, the popular Twitch streamer who suggested the Progressive Knockout for SCOOP, said in a press release, “I believe Progressive Knockouts are the future of tournament poker. It adds a layer of complexity, and excitement that starts from the very beginning of the tournament.”

No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max Win the Button Turbo – fairly self-explanatory, in a Win the Button tournament, the player who wins the hand receives the button for the following hand. The button does not move around the table like normal.

“This format is great,” Mikhail Shalamov said, “even when you’re not in the hand you get to cheer for other people to win the pot so that you don’t have to post big blind.”

No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max Deep Stacks Turbo – Randy “nanonoko” Lew is the proponent of this one, saying “A lot of times in tournaments we don’t get the option of playing with deep stacks like in cash games, so I’d love to see more deeper stacked tournaments come into play.”

Six-Max Pot-Limit Omaha – hey, another six-max game (and the press release prefaced it with a NLHE designation, which is obviously just a copy/paste error).

“Pot Limit Omaha is a great game,” explained Lex Veldhuis. “There is a lot of depth to it. Even when you’re short stacked in tournaments there is a still a lot of room to play. Every street is an all-out war because people can represent so many different hands.”

Players can vote for their choice (players’ choice!) on Facebook by selecting one of four emoticons, representing each of the four games. To be honest, I feel kind of bad for Lex Veldhuis, as the “angry” emoticon is associated with his tourney.

Voting ends at noon ET on May 8th and the winner will be announced that same day. The event will have three buy-in levels: $ 11, $ 109, and $ 1,050.

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World Poker Tour Names Linda Johnson First Recipient of WPT Honors Award

 World Poker Tour Names Linda Johnson First Recipient of WPT Honors Award

Recognized by virtually everyone in the industry as a pioneer in the world of poker, poker industry legend Linda Johnson has received nearly every accolade that can be handed out. That shelf of trophies and tributes will increase by one next week when the World Poker Tour honors Johnson with their first-ever WPT Honors Award.

“We are proud to present Linda Johnson with the inaugural WPT Honors Award,” said Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour. “The award represents WPT’s highest honor and will serve as a lasting tradition that allows us to recognize the most important people in our industry and in the WPT’s history. Linda played a unique role in helping shape the World Poker Tour, and she embodies all that the WPT stands for. In addition to her time spent with the WPT, Linda’s extraordinary contributions have helped better poker globally and her efforts have left lasting impressions that will forever impact our game.”

In her usually understated manner, Johnson quietly expressed her sentiments over receiving the honor on her Facebook page. “I am extremely honored to receive this award,” Johnson simply stated before adding, “Have I said lately that I LOVE poker? Thank you, WPT!”

The inaugural award, which will be given to those who represent outstanding contributions to the WPT and the poker community at large, is a natural to end up in the hands of Johnson. Along with being the first tournament director of the WPT and an announcer at their events, Johnson was integral to the actual birth of the poker circuit. Many of the tournaments that are now staples on the WPT Main Tour schedule are there because of the tireless efforts of Johnson, who organized the meetings that brought together the WPT founder Steve Lipscomb and casino mogul Lyle Berman with the casinos who hosted the biggest events in the game.

But Johnson’s efforts in the game go beyond what has been seen on the WPT circuit. The holder of a World Series of Poker bracelet (1997, Seven Card Razz), Johnson published CardPlayer Magazine for eight years before selling the business to Barry Shulman in 2001. After selling what is recognized as THE major magazine publication in the poker industry, Johnson moved on to make her impact in another area, player conduct in poker rooms.

Fighting against dealer and player abuse, Johnson was the founder of the Tournament Directors Association alongside other industry legends Jan Fisher, Matt Savage, and David Lamb in 2001. Since then, that organization has gone on to become the overseer of tournament rules that are used in hundreds of casinos around the world. As the Poker TDA was beginning to take off in the mid-2000s (along with her work in the WPT), Johnson would add another feather to her cap in becoming the chair of the Poker Players Alliance and, most recently, continuing her work with that organization as a member of its Board of Directors.

The WPT Honors trophy will go along nicely with the other awards on Johnson’s mantelpiece. A member of the inaugural class of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame in 2008, Johnson joined her fellow WiPHoF classmate Barbara Enright in the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011, becoming at that time only the second woman ever inducted into that prestigious Hall. The duo is also both members of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame.

Hopefully the WPT Honors will have a better history than another endeavor that was meant to honor the greats in poker.

In 2004 (soon after its birth), the WPT created the WPT Walk of Fame at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. Utilizing the same idea as Grauman’s Chinese Theater – in which honorees would be immortalized through their handprints, foot prints and possibly other recognizable features – inductees into the Walk of Fame sunk their extremities into cement for posterity. The inaugural class that year included the legendary Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen (who was a terror in the inaugural season of the WPT), and actor James Garner (who portrayed cardsharp Bret Maverick in the television series Maverick). Unfortunately, the WPT Walk of Fame seems to have never caught on. There hasn’t been another person inducted into the WPT Walk of Fame since that inaugural class more than a decade ago.

Johnson will be given the inaugural WPT Honors award on February 27 at a dinner attended by her family and close friends. Congratulations to Linda Johnson for just the latest in the litany of honors that she so aptly deserves!

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