Virtual Felt

Virtual Felt

Monday, 12 August 2013

Adam 'Snoopy' Goulding with the big online stories.

Bang for Their Buck
Poker behemoth PokerStars flexed its muscles with even more fervency this June as it smashed another record out of Centre Court to leave Guinness salivating on the sidelines and eagerly anticipating the next astonishing feat.


A dollar-bill entry and $300,000 guarantee was enough to see 225,000 enthusiasts take to the cyber felt, making this the biggest poker tournament… in history… ever! Last-man-sitting was “Mr.SlavoPro” of Russia, whose bang equated to a cool $25,000 reward.

Around the same time, PokerStars also celebrated its hundred-billionth hand with two million in cash prizes. A congratulatory message on a $0.02/0.05 cash table preempted the landmark moment, leading to all six players moving all in quicker than a pack of wolves on a three-legged cat.

Remarkably, all players had a shot after the turn, but a bricktastic river meant that the $103,800 jackpot (and colossal $31.55 pot) went to “microulis69” with Jd5d on an Ac2cJc9dTh board, dextrously surviving the onslaught of 8d2s, 7c3s and other such monsters.

Of course, sleep is a taboo word at Stars, and at time of writing they are feverishly preparing for the fifth instalment of the MicroMillions, a series of affordable 100 events with buy-ins ranging from 11c right up to the $22 Main Event with a $1m guarantee. Guinness back on standby.

Hitting the Mark

It hasn’t all been party poppers and glass-clinking up at PokerStars HQ, however, as the Department of Justice dug its teeth into the wallet of CEO Mark Scheinberg, son of founder Isai who was one of 11 individuals indicted in the events of Black Friday.


Following extensive negotiations with the Southern District of New York, Scheinberg agreed to forfeit $50m, thereby settling government complaints against PokerStars but freeing him of any “wrongdoing, culpability, liability or guilt”, which makes one question the purpose of the bill in the first place.

Nevertheless, this resolution may path the way for PokerStars' entrance into New Jersey; following the breakdown of negotiations with Atlantic Club, which PokerStars was hoping to purchase and use as a nook into reentering the US market, reports suggest the online poker company is now holding talks with Atlantic City's Resorts Casinos.

With New Jersey set to become the third state to legalise online gambling, the $50-million could prove a sound investment for the company’s long term future.

Vigorous with Vig

Given the carbon footprint of your average live poker pro, currency exchanges are a common sight in hotel lobbies as players seek to circumvent the extortionate fees of financial institutions and translate their pound sterling into local tender at a spot - and money-saving - price.

Recent times, however, have witnessed an influx of players forming [insert appropriate currency here] signs in their eyes and charging vig (vigorish: interest paid to a lender) in a bid to profit from the exchange. With players completing the annual pilgrimage to Sin City, this emerging trend has become more prevalent, with players such as former EPT London Champion David Vamplew coming under fire for charging a two-per cent vig on transactions.


While Vamplew has received criticism on Twitter, and subsequently the Blonde Poker forum, there’s an argument to suggest that he’s within his rights to make a quick buck, and if players don’t like his terms, then they can simply decline the offer. However, many protest that it goes against the “ethos” of the poker community and could backfire one day when Vamplew’s the one in need of assistance.

Either way, it’s likely Vamplew won't be too irked at present with his runner-up spot in WSOP event #2 for $342,450 being augmented by the same feat in event #53 for $413,157. While the bracelet has eluded him by a gnat’s nostril hair, the 25-year-old Scot now boasts a near $3m in live winnings and probably won’t be requiring any favours any time soon.

Lights, Camera...

Despite the World Series of Poker, the nosebleed stakes at Full Tilt Poker witnessed more action than a Die Hard boxset as poker’s high-rollers sacrificed the sins of Vegas for the fishier-than-usual oceans of the online felt.


One player who took advantage was Isaac “luvtheWBNA” Haxton, ambushing the $200/400 and $400/800 six-max tables to amass a $712,879 profit in June alone, having already collected over $1.6 million at the GuangDong Asia Million in Macau earlier in the month.

In what is arguably the liveliest action since Black Friday (multiple pots teetered on $500,000) the most wonga found its way into the virtual pocket of Hac “trex313” Dang who made over a million with German Limit specialist 'kagome kagome' not too far behind.

The Race for Second

For the last few years PokerStars has been the Phil Taylor of poker with a dominating monopoly over the rest of the field and a 90 per cent command of the overall traffic. The race for second, however, is being hotly contested, with iPoker sharing similar figures to Full Tilt Poker, the latter of which is a subsidiary of the perennial pacesetters.
Not too far behind is which, according to, recently overtook the floundering PartyPoker as the fourth largest, cementing its status as one of the few flourishing cardrooms amid the current recession.


While its software may seem primitive in comparison, 888 has extended its reach by solely targeting recreational players through an ardent advertising campaign, a renowned figurehead in Shane Warne, and shark-repelling restrictions such as table limits and bans on SharkScope and unauthorised rakeback deals.

Having recently been approved for a US return in Nevada, and potentially New Jersey, the future seems bright for 888.

Monkey Business

If you think the weather is scorching now then get ready for an even greater heat wave this August as Black Belt Poker bring yet more sunny spells with the return of Samurai and Monkey Magic.


Taking place on 8th August, Monkey Magic is an exclusive loyalty freeroll available to both poker-playing primates and anyone who has been Orange Belt or above for a minimum of just two months. Rewards are aplenty with the winner earning $500 in online tournament entries.

Meanwhile, the Samurai is a $250+25 hold’em freezeout open to all players. Despite the juicy overlay last time, Black Belt is maintaining the $10,000 guarantee. Satellites will be readily available throughout August with feeders from as little as five bucks.

Check out the site for details on all tournaments and promotions.

Run Away

Ever since Rounders helped spark a poker boom, nostalgic players across the globe have been yearning for a repeat performance or another cinematic experience that reflects the changing poker climate and the many highs and lows that have made the industry what it is today.

While Lucky You, Deal, The Grand and All In have all failed rather miserably in their attempts, hopes were initially reignited by the upcoming Runner, Runner, penned by the writers responsible for Rounders and starring the A-list duo of Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck.


However, while the early signs were positive, the opening trailers quickly dissipated any excitement with the story leaning more towards that of a crime drama and featuring cringeworthy quotes such as “I've been three-tabling; statistically, it’s the right play” – not to mention the familiarly hammy acting of Timblerlake as a Princeton student who travels to a remote island to confront the owner (Affleck) of an offshore site.

It soon became clear that this was a film for the masses that uses gambling as a vehicle, rather than a poker film for fans of the game, so for the time being it appears as though the wait will carry on. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with spotting the Boatmans and co in Trance, blowing the dust off your Maverick cassette, or waiting for the arrival of BET RAISE FOLD, an upcoming documentary detailing the story of the online game. Now, if only those pesky politicians didn’t keep moving the goalposts mid-production…

Money Talks
Wealthy business magnates change their views with the wind, and to whatever perspective will add a few more bucks to their money banks. So I wasn’t too surprised to hear that Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson changed his tune on online poker, labelling it as “one of the most addictive games” and claiming regulation could cost America jobs.
In a Forbes report titled “Online Gambling is Fool’s Gold”, Adelson – who just so happens to operate casinos such as the Venetian and Palazzo – suggested that online poker would encourage underage gambling, as well as facilitate betting under the influence.


While many will no doubt spot the hypocrisy and take Adelson’s condemnation with a pinch of salt, the truth is that money talks and Adelson’s influence stretches beyond the casino floor, having donated an alleged $100 million to Republican causes from his $20 billion net worth. The sad moral of the story: when you’re rich, people tend to listen, however malign the message.

Bodog President Resigns

After three years at the helm, Jonas Ödman has stepped down as President of the Bodog Poker Network in order to explore other pastures and start up his own business venture.
A near 10-year veteran of the industry, the Swede was a huge factor in introducing a recreational poker model that gave protection to the casual player from the poker pros by offering them an anonymous poker experience. He was also one of the first key players to realise the fundamental flaws in marketing to professional players.

Ödman leaves Bodog, currently based in Antigua, as a top-10 site in terms of traffic, and one of the few that continues to supply online poker to the American public despite the UIGEA and aftermath of Black Friday.


Tags: Adam 'Snoopy' Goulding, David Vamplew, Ike Haxton, Mark Scheinberg, PokerStars, 888Poker, Runner Runner, Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake