Weekly Poker Roundup: June 6, 2016
Merge Network Stops Accepting New U.S. Players
According to John Mehaffey at PokerNewsDaily.com, the Merge Gaming Network has decided to stop, perhaps only temporarily, accepting new customers from the United States. Merge, once the largest U.S.-facing offshore poker network (Bodog now claims that title), is one of the few international networks or poker rooms that accepts American players without being licensed in the U.S. Rooms on the network include Carbon Poker, PlayersOnly, and SuperBook.
This is not the first time Merge has done this, as most of its sites paused the acceptance of new U.S. customers in May and June 2011, not long after Black Friday. Of course, before then, Merge benefited from players who had been with Full Tilt, PokerStars, UB, and Absolute Poker – sites that were shut down in the wake of the Black Fridayindictments – fleeing to the Merge sites.
The recent decision by Merge may have to do with payment processing problems. In the past Merge had major problems getting checks out to players, often taking months to do so. Things have improved greatly recently, with times down to weeks, but some reports have said that a major payment processor is no longer working with Merge. The network may need to make sure it can handle the flow of payments before it starts allowing more U.S. players into the fold.
MGM Buys Borgata
Last Tuesday, MGM Resorts International announced that it has purchased Boyd Gaming Corporation’s share of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City for $900 million. Boyd and MGM had previously owned equal stakes in the glitzy gaming property through a joint venture, Marina District Development Company, LLC.
MGM is the dominant player on the Las Vegas Strip, owning the Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Mirage, and Monte Carlo. It owns a number of other properties in the U.S. and internationally, but this Bellagio is the first property in Atlantic City that it will own in full.
After MGM assumes Boyd’s share of the Borgata’s debt and refinances it, it is estimated that the sum that will actually be paid to Boyd Gaming will be $600 million. After the acquisition, MGM Resorts International will sell the Borgata to MGM’s real estate investment trust, MGM Growth Properties LLC, for $1.175 billion. MGM Growth Properties will then lease the Borgata to MGM Resorts International for $100 million per year.
Online Poker Bill Passes NY Senate Committee
An online poker legalization bill has made it over one hurdle in New York, though that does not necessarily mean eventual passage is anywhere close to guaranteed. S5302, introduced by New York State Senator John Bonacic, passed the state Finance Committee by a 20-8 vote with one member of the committee not voting. The bill had previously gotten through the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee by a 9-0 vote.
Despite the good news, though, online poker is apparently not receiving much support in the legislature. Part of the issue is that the focus right now – when it comes to online gambling – is daily fantasy sports (DFS). DFS leaders DraftKings and FanDuel were recently embroiled in a high-profile legal dispute with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who declared DFS illegal in the state. The two DFS sites tried to take measures to stay active in New York, but eventually agreed to withdraw from the market. There is currently DFS legislation making its way through the legislature, though, and if it passes, DraftKings and FanDuel will likely be able to start accepting New York players again.
The DFS bill is far from a guarantee, but the Poker Players Alliance seems to feel that it has a better chance than the online poker bill, as the PPA has been communicating with New Yorkers and elected officials to try to get DFS and poker joined at the hip, promoting the benefits of legalizing and regulating both.
Rainer Kempe Wins Super High Roller Bowl
Rainer Kempe took a dominant chip stack into the final table of the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl and used it to march all the way to victory, winning $5 million in the process. Kempe didn’t quite traverse the entire final table without losing the lead – he flip-flopped with fellow German Fedor Holz a few times heads-up – but overall, his run seemed fairly stress-free. It should have been; with a chip stack bigger than his two closest competitors combined to start the day, it would’ve taken a massive cooler for Kempe not to make it into the top two or three.
Kempe began heads-up with almost double the chips of Holz and for a while, he was increasing his lead and it looked like it would be an easy path to victory, but Holz made a comeback and the lead began to flip-flop like it frequently does at final tables. Eventually, Kempe regained control and on the final hand, the two players got into a raising war pre-flop until Holz was all-in. His pocket Deuces is normally an excellent heads-up hand, but Kempe had him nailed with his own pocket Eights.
Prior to this victory, Kempe had earned nearly $2 million in live tournaments. He had a number of six-digit cashes, the largest of which was for €539,000 ($591,722) when he won the 8-Handed High Roller Event at EPT Prague.
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