Weekly Poker Roundup: July 18, 2015
The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event was still obviously on the top of everybody’s minds in the poker world this week, as the November Nine has been determined. But that’s not all that happened, so let’s start off with what was really the biggest news of the week:
888 Holdings to Buy Bwin.Party
In a stunner, 888 Holdings plc has agreed to acquire Bwin.party Digital Entertainment plc for £898.3 million ($1.4 billion), upending the apparent momentum of a deal that Bwin.party was working on with GVC Holdings/Amaya Gaming for a similar, though slightly lower, monetary figure. Bwin.party shareholders will receive 39.45p plus .404 new 888 shares for each share they own, putting the per-share value of the deal at about 104.09p. GVC and Amaya had offered 110p per share.
In addition to the obvious product enhancements and additional revenue, 888 said in a press release, “It is expected that such cost synergies will amount to not less than US$70 million per annum (before tax) by the end of the 2018 financial year.”
The new combined company will certainly be a bigger player in the international online poker market. 888poker is already the number two cash game site, according to PokerScout.com, with a seven-day average of 2,300 cash game players. PartyPoker, the flagship site of Bwin.party, boasts 1,000 players. There are clearly going to be overlapping customers, but if the combined figure is around 3,000 players, it will be way ahead of the number three site, Bodog, which has 1,700 cash game players. PokerStars is still way ahead with 15,000.
More interestingly, the deal now gives 888 a virtual monopoly in the United States regulated online poker market. In Nevada, the only viable poker site is WSOP.com, which operates using 888’s software. All three Delaware sites also use 888’s software. WSOP.com and 888poker combined their cash game tables in New Jersey and their only competitor has been the Party Borgata Network. But now that the “Party” portion of that will be owned by 888, the entirety of the New Jersey internet poker market is controlled by 888. That should change next year, though, as PokerStars is expected to finally launch in New Jersey in 2016.
2015 WSOP November Nine Set
The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event reached its final table on Tuesday after a week and a half of play and 6,411 eliminations. The November Nine has been determined and leading the way is Pennsylvanian Joe McKeehen with a dominant chip stack. His 63.1 million chips are more than twice the number of the second place player and are the most to start the Main Event final table since Jamie Gold’s stack in 2006.
One of the biggest stories of Day 7 of the tournament was not so much who made the final table, but who didn’t. 2014 Poker Hall of Fame inductee Daniel Negreanu began the day in ninth place, but was unable to gather much momentum and eventually bowed out in 11th place, just two spots short of the November. Nine. Negreanu is a fan favorite, one of the most popular poker players of all time, and would have been a great audience draw for the ESPN broadcast of the November Nine.
Speaking of the ESPN broadcast, it will begin on November 8th, shown “semi-live,” with just a short delay. The final table will be narrowed to four players that night. Those four will return on November 9th to play down to two and the heads-up match for the bracelet will be held on November 10th.
Here is how the players will be seated:
Seat 1: Zvi Stern — 29,800,000
Seat 2: Pierre Neuville — 21,075,000
Seat 3: Joshua Beckley — 11,800,000
Seat 4: Max Steinberg — 20,200,000
Seat 5: Thomas Cannuli — 12,250,000
Seat 6: Joe McKeehen — 63,100,000
Seat 7: Patrick Chan — 6,225,000
Seat 8: Federico Butteroni — 6,200,000
Seat 9: Neil Blumenfield — 22,000,000
Full Tilt Poker Previews Changes
Full Tilt Poker Managing Director Dominic Mansour previewed upcoming changes to Full Tilt Poker in a recent blog post. He said the economy of online poker needs to change, as it is essentially in a situation in which the rich get richer. “In today’s online poker world, unless you’re the market leader enjoying the ‘more you have, more you get’ network effects of mass liquidity, the ratio of casual to professional player has become unbalanced,” he wrote.
He said that the poker economy needs to become friendlier to the casual player. “We’re making big changes to our Ring Game lobby to make the playing experience as welcoming and fair as possible and helping to make the game work in the mobile environment,” Mansour said. “We’re also restructuring our rake to fuel that new rewards system, which is going to connect with players of all levels, new and old, in a highly innovative way like no other online poker site ever has.”
While he was vague about most of the changes, he was specific about a couple. There will be “increasing contributions” in cash games with stakes up to $0.05/$0.10 (presumably this means the rake percentage will be higher) and the ultimate rake cap at stakes $5/$10 and $10/$20 will be raised.
Borgata Counterfeit Chip Culprit Formally Charged
A year and a half after bringing down a huge poker tournament at the Borgata, Christian Lusardi was finally charged for his role in a counterfeit poker chip scheme. On January 14th, 2014, first event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, a $500 buy-in, $2 million guarantee tourney, began. Two days later, with just 27 players remaining, the tournament was suspended because counterfeit chips were found at the tables. After a short investigation, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement decided to cancel the tournament.
160 chips with a $5,000 tournament denomination, had been introduced into the tournament by Lusardi, who was also the chip leader after one of the days (and won bonus money because of it). When the chips were found, but before he was caught, he tried to flush his remaining fakes – over 500 of them – down the toilet of his room at the Harrah’s Casino Hotel. The chips, though, clogged up the works, generating complaints from other guests at the hotel. The hotel’s staff traced the plumbing issues back to Lusardi’s room, which is how he was caught.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said that Christian Lusardi “….was indicted by an Atlantic County grand jury on charges of second-degree trademark counterfeiting, second-degree attempted theft by deception and third-degree criminal mischief.”
He could face as much as 25 years in prison.
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