Weekly Poker Roundup: July 31, 2015
There were a couple huge developments in poker this week. The week started with suitors continuing to run up the price on bwin.party and continued with Full Tilt Poker making some bold moves and totally revamping its cash games. Let’s take a look at what has been happening.
GVC Makes New £1 Billion Offer for bwin.party
Well, last week we said that the bidding war for bwin.party might not be over, that GVC Holdings might still be in play for the online gambling firm. As it turned out, that was exactly the case, as GVC announced on Monday that it has made another run at the parent company of partypoker.
On June 9th, GVC, along with Amaya Gaming, made a 110p per share offer for bwin.party and it looked like there was a good chance that bwin.party would be sold. But about a week later, 888 Holdings, which had courted bwin.party in the past, swooped in with a less lucrative deal, but an overall package that bwin.party liked better, so bwin.party chose 888.
This week, though, GVC upped the ante, offering 122.5p per share for bwin.party, making the deal worth just over £1 billion ($1.57 billion). This go around, GVC did it without Amaya Gaming. It is thought that the main reason why GVC ditched Amaya was that bwin.party did not like the idea of its company being split up after purchase between GVC and Amaya. It was said that GVC would likely take over bwin.party’s sports betting and casino gaming units while Amaya, which already owns PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, would grab partypoker. Thus, in order to finance the deal, GVC has enlisted the help of Cerberus Capital Management, from which it has secured a €400m loan. Up to 25p per share of the purchase will be paid for in cash, while the remainder will be in GVC stock.
Full Tilt Goes on Tilt Against Sharks
Full Tilt Poker warned us that there were going to be some major changes in store for their cash games, but I don’t think anyone expected anything this nuts. In an effort to make its poker room more hospitable for recreational players, Full Tilt announced on Tuesday that players will no longer be able to select the ring game tables at which they would like to sit. Instead, players will enter a cash game lobby, choose the game and stakes, and then be automatically seated at an appropriate table, not unlike how it works in Rush Poker.
Full Tilt did this not only to make things easier and less confusing for casual players, but also to prevent experienced regulars from hunting weaker players throughout the lobby, including using seat selection software, in order to sit at the same tables as them and abuse them in the games.
That’s not all Full Tilt did, though. It has eliminated all heads-up cash games and all stud, draw, and mixed games. The removal of heads-up games is an effort to get rid of “bumhunters,” strong players who won’t play against each other, but rather sit down at a heads-up table to wait for a weak player. Shyam Markus, Full Tilt’s Poker Room Manager, said that according to the company’s analysis, new players who try heads-up in their first month are much less likely to stay for a second month. Heads-up was driving players away, so Full Tilt got rid of it.
Ladbrokes, Gala Coral Announce Merger
Ladbrokes and Gala Coral, two of the UK’s largest bookmakers, announced that they will be merging in a £2.3 billion mega-deal. William Hill is the UK’s largest sports betting company with 2,300 betting shops, but after the merger, it will be unseated by the new Ladbrokes Coral. Ladbrokes has 2,194 locations and Gala Coral owns 1,845 for a total of 4,039. Gala Coral CEO Carl Leaver told The Financial Times that the new company will likely have to sell some of those outlets to satisfy the Competition and Mergers Authority, but it will still be the runaway leader.
While they are best known for their sportsbooks, both Ladbrokes and Gala Coral have online poker rooms, and both are on the iPoker Network. The network is currently ranked fourth in terms of cash game traffic, according to PokerScout.com. While Ladbrokes and Gala Coral will be merging in to a single company, the plan is to keep them operating as separate brands.
888 Introduces “Pause Tournament” Feature
888poker has had loads of connectivity problems in the last couple weeks, apparently because of issues with its internet service provider. These connectivity issues disrupt everybody’s poker games on the site, but create particular problems for tournaments, as those events are governed by clocks and it is much more difficult to sort out chip discrepancies in an ongoing contest with hundreds of players than it is in a cash game. In a cash game, if there is a connection issue on 888’s side and someone loses chips because of it, it is easy enough to look back at the records and refund that player his/her money. The player’s subsequent hands in cash games aren’t really affected negatively but in a tournament that keeps going after players are hurt by network problems, it is almost impossible to make it up to those players without just cancelling the tournament and issuing refunds. And even if that is the solution, people still lost time playing in the tournament.
As such, 888 has introduced a “Pause Tournament” button, which allows the site to pause the proceedings if there are connectivity problems. The tournament clock will freeze during the forced stoppage, just like it does during a scheduled break. In the meantime, 888 staff can try to get things fixed so that the tourney can continue (or be cancelled).
Of course, this is just a Band-Aid on an unfortunate situation. 888 has said its “top priority” is to get the ISP problems solved once and for all so that a Pause Tournament button isn’t even necessary.
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