April 10, 2013
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March 1, 2013
In another reminder of how it pays to be careful in the world of online poker, a thread on TwoPlusTwo – titled Aniket Warty BetSharks Issues – reveals that some former customers of the relatively short-lived BetSharks online poker room have yet to recover the funds they kept at the site.
Exact numbers are unavailable, but a quick look through the thread suggests tens of thousands of dollars are allegedly still owed by BetSharks to players.
One player offered insight into the experience he says he has had as a former Betsharks customer:
I stopped posting in this thread because the CEO of BetSharks Angelina Wang told me to do so or I would not be paid. I am owed $8,504 from BetSharks but I have received nothing after numerous times of being emailed that the wire is or will be sent out. This is spanning well over 6 months of emails. I even signed wire documents they sent me.
As of now I have received nothing so I went ahead this morning and I filed an international fraud with the FTC. I emailed Angelina Wang and I am awaiting her response. In any regards I am going to try to get my money back one way or the other. The detective I talked to said he has lots of experience dealing with getting money back from overseas.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. While the majority of online poker sites are run by trustworthy operators, there have been scores of examples over the last decade of operators closing up shop and failing to refund player balances.
The one positive in this situation is that appears Betsharks is at least maintaining contact with customers, suggesting some chance of an eventual resolution to the matter. Unfortunately for players, that’s about the only silver lining to be found in this months-long debacle.
February 16, 2013
Rakeback was once a pretty much ubiquitous part of online poker. Nearly every major online poker room offered some sort of rakeback to players, whether directly or through third-party affiliates. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for skins on the same network to battle each other for players by constantly bumping their rakeback rate, sometimes by as little as a fraction of a percent.
The days when players could expect such generous rewards are largely in the rear-view mirror, we’re afraid. While online poker sites still do deliver a fair amount of rake back to players via promotions and bonuses, flat rakeback deals – where players get a percentage of all rake paid returned – are pretty much a thing of the past.
VIP Programs Replace Rakeback
The VIP Program has always been something of a rival to the flat rakeback system. This rivalry was best expressed in the past by comparing the rewards at Full Tilt Poker (flat 27% rakeback) and PokerStars (tiered VIP system). The VIP system of Stars offered much higher rakeback at the top tiers, but those tiers were essentially off-limits to anyone but the highest-volume (or highest buy-in) online poker regulars.
PokerStars was never completely alone among major online poker sites in its decision to eschew flat rakeback deals. 888 Poker, for one, has long disallowed direct rakeback of any sort. But it’s only been in recent years that nearly all of the top 20 poker sites have come along and eliminated flat rakeback deals for players. Now iPoker rooms, Party Poker and Ongame (just to name a few) have adopted the PokerStars model, choosing tiered VIP systems over one-size-fits-all rakeback deals.
Can Rakeback Survive at Small Networks?
If there’s a hope for poker rakeback as a sustainable promotional model, it seems to exist in the form of small online poker rooms & networks. These rooms are more willing to offer flat rakeback to players for a number of reasons, including:
- To differentiate their room from competitors
- To make up for lack of games and other amenities
- To account for the fact that low traffic makes designing complex VIP systems incredibly challenging
These small rooms continue to offer flat rakeback in the status quo. The question is whether rooms of such caliber will be offering similar deals to players five years from now.
Rakeback was once a core part of the online poker industry. While the DNA of rakeback survives in modern VIP programs, the level of guaranteed value afforded to players by locked-in rakeback rates does not. The players who profit from this shift tend to be at the upper end of the poker food chain, an unfortunate arrangement for the long-term health of the game and the industry as a whole.
February 3, 2013
It almost sounds like the plot of a bad mystery movie: The world’s greatest poker player announces a new site, for which he has assembled a team of (now several-dozen) poker players. But no one knows exactly what the site is for, and as more and more pros are added, more and more questions come up.
But this isn’t a straight-to-DVD flick. The poker pro in question is Phil Ivey, the site is IveyPoker.com, and the list of pros representing the site grows longer by the day. Greg Merson. Patrik Antonius. Dan Shak. Jennifer Harman.
But what does IveyPoker do? What is it for? The site offers only this vague description:
IveyPoker.com is in the final stages of developing an innovative social poker game which also includes poker training content from some of the world’s top pros, shown below. Now things are getting further under way and you can come back here to find regular IveyPoker news.
Well, that clears things up.
Ok, so what we do know: The site seems to have some educational component – the training content from site pros will likely be focused on helping the new player learn how to play poker. But there are already hundreds of sites that discuss how to play poker. Sure, none of them have Phil Ivey, but even his name probably wouldn’t be enough to sustain such an apparently substantial endeavor. As of this article, there are 29 total pros on the IveyPoker roster.
Obviously we have to be talking about something above and beyond the standard online poker training site here. That’s probably where the “social poker game” comes in. But without any details, it becomes impossible to know if IveyPoker will be just another Zynga clone that shoehorns in content from its roster of pros or an actually innovative game that adds something unique and fresh to the ways to play free poker online.
One potential cause for concern is that the IveyPoker product appears to be something that’s being developed in-house (or close). You’d like to see an A-list development studio behind a product like this, but there’s no indication that a major partner like EA or Zynga is anywhere in the mix. Putting together a stable game that works on a variety of platforms is tough enough; designing it so that it will scale and engage players in a creative way is something only a few studios have shown the ability to do on a consistent basis. There may well be talented developers behind IveyPoker, but I’d feel more comfortable predicting a smashing success if an established team was publicly on board.
The lack of details released to this point also doesn’t do much to breed confidence. It’s now been several months since IveyPoker.com (somewhat awkwardly) launched, and we know as much about it now as we did then. While the informational scarcity may be a tactic designed to build suspense, at this point it may be costing the endeavor some credibility and goodwill among the poker playing community.
Obviously it’s far too soon for any final verdict. But, based on what we’ve seen so far, poker players have fair reason to lean toward skepticism.
February 3, 2013
This would have been a pretty short article five or so years ago, as online poker training sites are a pretty recent phenomenon. But now that the concept has caught on, the definition of an online poker training site has expanded to include a number of distinct types of training sites.
One type isn’t necessarily any better than the next. However, given the differences between the unique types of sites, players with unique goals could quite logically prefer one over the other. To help you make a more informed choice when it comes to picking a poker training site, we put together this quick guide to the distinct species of sites offering to help improve your game.
Generalist Training Sites
A generalist training site offers just what the name suggests: a general set of resources meant to appeal to the broadest segment of the poker playing community. You’ll find a mix of cash games, tournaments, low and high stakes, SNGs, game formats and so on. Generalist sites – think CardRunners – tend to sacrifice a bit of depth for all of their breadth, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find complex or advanced material on such sites. What it more often means is that the resources for a particular game will become less and less comprehensive as the game become less and less mainstream in nature.
Generalist sites are great for new players still trying to narrow their focus, or hobbyists who want to pick up a few new concepts for their next session. Experienced players with more specific aims may want to pick from our next category of poker training sites: Niche training sites.
Niche Training Sites
While generalist sites seek to capture the widest available audience, niche training sites carve out an existence by focusing on one particular format, stake or game. For example, Tournament Poker Edge is dedicated to – as one might suspect – tournament play, while GrinderSchool bases their video production around strategy for the micro-to-low stake games.
If you’re a player who already has a pretty good sense of where your strengths and interests are, then niche sites are going to provide you with the best value for your time and your money. These sites can take a bit more of work to uncover than the popular generalist sites, but that work is more than made up for by the utility of the training you’ll receive when you finally do locate the right site for your game.
Star-Driven Training Sites
Star-driven training sites are an odd category; they can sometimes crossover with niche training sites (such as Ben Lamb heading up a training site focused exclusively on PLO). Sometimes they’re also run as generalist sites like Phil Galfond’s Run it Once, where cash videos site alongside videos for tournament play.
The difference is often one of quality of over quantity (at least in theory); star-driven sites tend to offer less sheer output on average. You’re also buying more into an individual philosophy of poker with a star-driven site, as opposed to the more cosmopolitan view you might get from taking in the variety of perspectives available at broader training sites. But if the philosophy resonates with you and the volume of content provides adequate value for the price, then star-driven training sites can be an incredibly effective tool for brushing up your poker skills.
January 17, 2013
When people decide to go on vacation, the destination is usually the first decision that’s made. But what comes after that? The hotel, of course! The hotel that’s chosen can make or break the overall experience.
Luckily, many hotel owners know this and have taken a positive hotel experience to the next level. How do they do this? They’ve created hotel rooms that go beyond a simple bed, dresser and bathroom. These rooms have themes that are followed through in every detail of the room.
Themed hotel rooms are becoming more popular than ever, and for good reason. They allow vacationers to further escape from reality and experience their ultimate fantasies. Here are just a few of the best-themed hotel rooms from across the country.
Speakeasy Suite at the Carlton Hotel in New York City, New York
First up is the ultimate guys’ fantasy, a hidden room that can only be discovered after astute observation of the room. Once discovered, guests can sneak behind a bookcase into a hidden room; the only place one could gamble and drink in the prohibition days. Not only is this room the perfect place to gamble or play Jackpotjoy bingo sites online, it’s also the perfect place to drink the night away in its custom bar. If Jackpotjoy isn’t to the patrons’ liking, they can always admire the Tommy gun movie prop or the authentic rock from Alcatraz— Capone’s infamous incarceration site. This room is 450 square feet and can be inhabited for a mere $600 per night— give or take.
Barbie Suite at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada
Many little girls have dreamed about living in Barbie’s dream house, and this suite brings that dream to life. Designer Jonathan Adler leaves no detail unnoticed in this hot pink and black Barbie suite. Since it’s a massive 2,350 square feet, it can house up to 50 people. The furniture in the room is just as Barbie herself would have it, with large pink poodle statues and chairs clothed in dresses— there’s even a sunburst style mirror made with 65 original Barbie dolls. If all that isn’t enough, it even has 2.5 bathrooms, which include a steam shower and whirlpool bathtub, and a two-way fireplace. Thanks to its girly design and large capacity, it makes the perfect place for a bachelorette party. However, it will set its patrons back about $4,000 per night.
Romeo & Juliet Suite at the Anniversary Inn in Boise, Idaho
For the star-crossed lovers out there, this suite is the perfect fantasy. Sure, the tale of Romeo and Juliet didn’t end well, but their love story was something to be desired while it lasted. Couples can live out that dream in this two-story suite that emulates the classic balcony scene where Juliet called out for her lover. The floor of the suite is home to a romantic two-person jetted tub, allowing couples to reminisce of days past, and dream about what’s to come. Next, Romeo can carry his Juliet up a winding staircase to a plush, king-size bed. Since this room only costs approximately $300 per night— it’s a great option for couples everywhere.
Whatever occasion a hotel is needed for, there’s sure to be a themed-room that’s perfect for it. Travelers no longer need to settle for the standard bed, dresser and bathroom hotel rooms that are so prevalent at hotels across the country. And why should they, when they can have all of their deepest desires come true instead.
October 9, 2012
Online poker has brought a game that was previously something of a fringe interest, in global terms, to the forefront of the entertainment world. The proliferation in the number of online poker sites over the last decade or so has been near exponential, offering an ever growing number of opportunities to turn on, log in, and luck out.
However, if you want to stand the best chance of winning online poker, there are a few golden rules of thumb that you should always remember.
The first seems so obvious that many of you will think that it goes without saying, but the fact is that thousands of people are still caught out every day by falling for scam sites that offer outrageous introductory bonuses. Stick to playing online poker at reputable and regulated sites like skypoker.com, and you will ensure that you get a fair game – and that your personal details stay safe and secure.
Once you have found a good place to play, you need to make sure that you don’t fall victim to some of the other potential hazards of online poker. In a nutshell, it’s all about maintaining concentration.
Now, in a bricks and mortar the setting will in itself will provide plenty of stimulation to keep your attention, with input from the other players a physical stimulus to keeping sharp. At home, staring at a screen, it can be all too easy for your mind to wander, and if you can’t pay attention to the game you will never be able to win consistently.
So remove all possible sources of distraction. Don’t try and watch TV while engaged in online poker, and try to make sure that you have peace to play – a large group of friends or a party might make for a good atmosphere, but you are very unlikely to be able to give the game your full attention.
It is also a good idea to avoid playing multiple games simultaneously, something that is possible in online poker but would never be allowed in a real world casino. While this is particularly the case if you are just starting out in the game, it is also debatable whether even the most accomplished of players can be at their best when multitasking in this way.
You can however take advantage of the special conditions of online play, and again, do something that would not be allowed in many bricks and mortar casinos – use a crib sheet. While having the basic rules to hand can be very useful for beginners, more advanced players can also benefit from being able to quickly reference advanced tactical information, handily printed out on a sheet next to the screen. For more information about poker tactics, try looking here.
Lastly, make sure that you schedule enough breaks in your session, as it can be all too easy to play on way past your best. It is probably a good idea to set yourself some limits before hand, and then make sure that you stick to them.
October 2, 2012
For the last week or so, all eyes have been on Europe, and more specifically the goings-on at this year’s WSOPE. After an entertaining run of events that saw the veteran Roger Hairabedian finally taking home a bracelet and young hotshot Antonio Esfandiari adding more cash to his massive pile, it’s now on to the Main Event. The field has been winnowed down to 24 players and Joseph Cheong is in the lead, Carbon Poker’s blog has reported. As their post notes, the position in which he currently finds himself is not terribly dissimilar from one that went down back in 2010 at the WSOP Main Event, when Cheong was in contention for the title against Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener.
This year, Cheong is once again in striking distance of taking the bracelet, only this time the venue is Europe. In 2010, things didn’t go so well for Cheong at the WSOP; in fact he had a bit of a meltdown and ended up busting out. At the 2012 WSOPE Main Event, however, Cheong is sitting pretty at the moment, holding down the position of chipleader with 1.38 million chips. The Frenchman Paul Tedeschi is second in the chip count, coming in at 1.07 million.
The WSOPE is one of poker’s most prominent tournaments, especially and of course not surprisingly, it enjoys particular popularity amongst European players. It comes at a perfect time of year to attract the attention of US-based poker fans, as well, being that the wait is still on to see who will claim the WSOP Main Event bracelet later on this month. In Europe, where most countries have legalized online poker, the fan base for the game of poker has held steady for years, with many fans playing poker online via major sites such as www.carbonpoker.ag.
Carbon’s blog points out a couple of other players who are looking good at the WSOPE, including Jason Mercier and the “Poker Brat” Phil Hellmuth, who are in fifth and sixth place in the event, respectively. Carbon favors either Hellmuth or Cheong to win, but the player field in this year’s Main Event is stronger than has been witnessed in several years past, so it could go to anyone this time around. The grand prize is €1,058,403, so the next few days should be pretty interesting as the seasoned pros battle it out at the final table and the tournament winds down.
Cheong has been very on top of keeping his fans and followers updated via his Twitter feed, and for those interested in up to the minute updates from the tournament, the WSOP has news of the tournament on its site, as well.
September 26, 2012
Antonio Esfandiari, the man who took on the distinction of winning the biggest poker tournament prize in history when he won the Big One for One Drop Event earlier this year, which brought him an $18.3 million payday, is continuing his hot streak, having just picked up a bracelet at the WSOP Europe. Esfandiari’s win meant securing his third EWSOP bracelet and adding €126,207 to his career tournament winnings, bringing his career tournament cash total to $19,794,890. This was his third final table of this year. He beat out 626 competitors at the EWSOP to capture his latest bracelet.
The Iranian-born Esfandiari, who is 33 years old and currently resides in Las Vegas, crossed over to mainstream recognizability after his Big One for One Drop win, which was historic not only for its immense payout but also its record-breaking $1 million buy in. The tournament was a hot topic for poker fans and enthuasiasts, with weeks of build up and speculation as to who might win dominating the chatter on online poker forums, where talk usually cleaves to the best online poker bonus and more moderately sized tournaments.
Esfandiari has used his success at the poker table to gain a modicum of mainstream fame, with ESPN reporting via its blog that Esfandiari is certainly the first poker pro to use his winnings toward opening a tanning salon. After his Big One for One Drop victory, he took to reddit.com to discuss salacious details of his sex life and even went on the Howard Stern show, where he espoused even more about his personal life.
Esfandiari has even appeared in film and television projects, with Wikipedia noting that he has participated in poker-related and non-poker projects alike, including a turn on an episode of the popular HBO series Entourage as well as an appearance in the 50 Cent/Robert De Niro film Freelancers. He has also appeared alongside Phil Laak in the program I Bet You.
While Esfandiari clearly isn’t hurting for money, he took to his Twitter to thank those who have supported him thus far and to express gratitude for his win, saying:
Thank u 2 all my peeps for the support.Tonights WSOPE bracelet victory in the 1k NL tournament was incredible.THOUGHT I used up my1Time’s-)
— Antonio Esfandiari (@MagicAntonio) September 26, 2012
His win has also moved him up in Bluff Magazine’s Power Rankings, pushing him into the top 20. He is currently ranked 9 on the magazine’s top 20 list. Despite Esfandiari’s rising star and the potential uptick it might help provide for the game of poker, it remains to be seen whether a poker boom to rival the one that happened in the mid-2000s is in the cards, so to speak. Poker retains its fuzzy legal status in the United States, with legislation swirling at the federal level but with any movement unlikely until after the November elections. As this Americas Cardroom review notes, finding a room to accept US-based players is still a challenge.
September 10, 2012
As Nevada steams toward offering regulated online poker to its citizens, it is becoming clear that Nevada’s form of online poker will have some major differences when compared to most existing poker rooms, which are based offshore. Pokerfuse reported that the Nevada Gaming Commission will not allow peer to peer transfers, though celebrity endorsements, a major part of the marketing plans of all online poker rooms, will be permitted, with notable distinctions from how such endorsements tend to function with the foreign-based rooms with which we are all so familiar. Players looking for currently available online poker rooms in which they can play should be sure to visit playusapoker.com.
It is likely that the prohibition of player to player transfers is designed to prevent, or at least to mitigate, concerns about money laundering. Under the terms of the regulations, the only types of money-transfers transactions to be permitted will be those between the player and the room or financial institution.
Concerning the endorsement clause, as mentioned above celebrity endorsements will be allowed under the Nevada Gaming Commission’s rules. Unlike how most major rooms operate today, however, celebrities must be identifiable when playing at a table and will not be able to play in online rooms using secondary player accounts with anonymous avatars while accepting endorsement payments from the room, meaning that all celebrity endorsers will be completely transparent.
This news is certainly heartily welcomed by the online poker community, especially after the infamous superuser scandal surrounding Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker that occurred in the mid-2000s and other, more general concerns about the fairness of games conducted on many sites. Of course, allowing superusers, who possessed special accounts allowing them to view their opponents’ hands, is not quite the same thing as permitting a paid celebrity to maintain a separate account not associated with their public persona, there are many online poker industry observers and players alike who have long been supportive of more transparency in the industry as a whole.
It seems likely that regulated online poker will be available to Nevada residents by the end of 2012 or early in 2013. In late August, the first license was granted to South Point Poker LLC, which is a branch of the South Point Casino, a so-called locals casino located off the strip. Notable about South Point is the fact that they have built their own poker client to be mindful of the state’s regulations, as opposed to relying on an outside provider. For this reason, South Point has also been granted service provider and game manufacturer licenses.
Lawrence Vaughan, the CEO of South Point Poker said, “We are pretty excited to enter the online gaming world. This is an incredible step forward. It’s going to redefine gaming and what the state can do.”
Certainly many states will be keeping a close eye on developments with Nevada’s online poker regulation program, as more states are looking at the option of regulating online poker as a means of taxing the industry. Delaware is working on online gambling regulation, and in recent years many states, such as Maryland and Pennsylvania, have sought to expand gambling options within their states both as a means of competing with neighboring states and shoring up tax bases, which continue to suffer from the effects of the recession and housing bust. On the federal level, online gambling remains illegal, however there is some hope that Congress will take up the matter following the November elections.