Nick and Mike kick off the show by discussing things they won’t discuss on this episode. The guys update listeners on potential paths forward for shared liquidity in the US and the status of the upcoming WSOP online events. The conversation then shifts to more new games on PokerStars and things wrap up with news of the latest on the poker-streamer front.
- Poker topics that won’t be discussed
- US shared liquidity and the status of WSOP online bracelet events
- News cash games and tournaments at PokerStars
- The latest developments surrounding Twitch poker-streamers
- Live-streaming the Pokerfuse Podcast???
Mike: Hello, and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse Podcast. This is Episode 13, coming to you on Friday, May 3, 2019. I’m your host Mike Gentile along with my co-host, Nick Jones. Nick, what’s going on in your world today?
Nick Jones: What’s going on in my world? I will say that it’s felt like the first week at work for a world, it’s just been like a normal regular week. There’s been some interesting news, we’ve written about it, and it hasn’t been some mad rush of finishing a report or that thing. It’s been a very good week in my world. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like, just a nice Monday to Friday, where we publish news and carry on with our lives. It’s been very good from that perspective.
Mike: Those types of weeks do seem few and far between at times, I will agree. It’s good that things are getting back to normal. There’s a pretty full new cycle that’s happened over the last week or so. We’ll have a lot to talk about.
Nick: Yes, this is certainly going to be a full episode. It’s our first only week since we recorded the last one for a while, but it’s going to be than enough to carry. In fact, we could probably touch on some topics that we’re not going to be covering in the podcast this week.
Mike: There are some that maybe fall out of our area of expertise or just even topics that we want to cover. I would say that I definitely have recommendations of where the listeners can go and get more information. If they are so inclined, some of those topics might be— How did I put it out on a tweet on Pokerfuse this week? The battle royale week. Because it seems like there’s just so many people in conflict.
Nick: Yes. Always, of course, check out f5poker.com we do try and do wrap-ups and summarize some more of the social media oriented spats in the poker community. It’s topics that perhaps we don’t cover so much on this podcast. There was a prop bet boxing match in the last week, which we’re probably not going to talk about too much.
Mike: That you can find on f5, for sure.
Nick: Yes, absolutely. What else is there, probably stuff about markup.
Mike: Let’s talk about that prop bet though. Just at least by saying the names, it was Antonia Esfandiari and Kevin Hart had an actual boxing match. Definitely interesting to a certain segment of our listeners, I’m sure.
Nick: Yes. I read about that and people saying, we were shocked at how prepared and athletic Antonio was. I immediately thought back to the high stakes poker episode 9 or 10 years ago when he did the push-ups prop bet, and just smashed it out of the park. It turns out the dude is pretty fit. I think, as I recall, that high stakes poker ended up putting a ban on prop bets on the show. I think that was the last one. That’s how I remember.
Mike: I didn’t have the frame of reference that Kevin Hart was— I think I’ve heard that he’s well-trained at boxing perhaps, and maybe that was part of the reason that he was a favorite. That’s just out of my scope of knowledge. I didn’t have that reference.
Nick: Yes, that’s the most we’re going to dive into that. Other topics definitely markup, seeing every time I’m on Twitter, there’s somebody talking about markup which I don’t know anything about.
Mike: It started as markup. The feud that we’re talking about is between Daniel Negreanu and Sean Deeb then various other people that got involved in the markup situation, but it quickly devolved into more personal attacks. That’s another topic we won’t be covering.
Nick: If listeners out there would like to get our hot take on these topics, do let us know, we can probably chime into the segment here or there. It’s on social media, it’s on F5 Poker if you want more. At the time being, we’re going to leave it to some of the other great podcasts out there that really do get down in the weeds on these topics.
Mike: The Fives, I haven’t had a chance to listen to that exact episode, but I did read the description. They cover those two spats as well as the 50 Cent and some other poker player guy. I don’t even know who it is. [chuckles]
Nick: I haven’t got around to listening to it for a while, but I presume DAT poker podcast, being that it has a Daniel Negreanu as a co-host and Terrence Chen, probably both have opinions regarding the fight prop bet, and you’re going to get Daniels input on quite a lot of his side of the audience. [crosstalk] as well.
Mike: Also the Poker Life Podcasts with Joey Ingram, he’s been really killing it as of late as he normally does, but he did have a very entertaining episode where Shaun T was actually in studio and discussing this path from his perspective.
Nick: Yes, there you go. Of course, one more little plug for us if you want to browse more podcasts beyond this one pokerfuse.com/poker-podcasts/. I think we have a huge directory spanning eight or nine years of poker-related podcast that gets updated automatically. We have like dozen or so shows listed there. If you want to explore a bit more outside of mine or Mike’s voice then definitely dive in that.
Mike: Yes, now that you say it like that eight or nine years, I don’t think we even let the listeners know that we had a birthday not too long ago.
Nick: We did, you’re right.
Mike: It was April 15. A couple of weeks back. We are now officially in our ninth year.
Nick: There you go. On that bombshell, let’s dive into the news.
Nick: Mixing up our usual scheduling, we are starting the show with a segment on US-related news. Two things, Mike, I want to get your take on. We did a really interesting article on approaching poker industry pro this week about the latest in the Wire Act and potential positive interpretations there. Also want to touch on something I think it’s just been published on Pokerfuse about the World Series of Poker and both events in Nevada, New Jersey. The Wire Act, take us through where we are with that.
Mike: Yes, I definitely can’t take credit for this because this is not my arguments, but we did come across a blog post on Ifrah Law. For those of you that may not know Jeff Ifrah who is probably the top gaming attorney in the country, if not maybe even the world. He was very instrumental in the days following Black Friday with his representation. I don’t even remember who he is representing to be quite honest at that point. I know that at some point he was representing PokerStars. He came out and publicly was answering questions on two plus two. He really tried to engage with the community during that period of time.
Anyway, his firm is still actively involved in the iGaming industry, published a blog post that outlined a couple of potential ways forward, that on Interstate online poker in the US could coexist with the current opinion of the DOJ about the Wire Act.
Nick: This is not just his outside take on it. As you say like he’s directly involved. He’s involved in the current legal battle. Is that right?
Mike: Right. He’s representing one of the industry associations, the I development and economic association, which is basically looking out for the interests of online gaming in the US.
Nick: As those in the podcast will know, the Wire Act reinterpretation is throwing a huge spanner in the works of cross border share liquidity in online poker saying the bets can’t be taken across state lines, which seems to be fairly clear cut black ball of the current status quo. There are a couple of interpretations, I think, Jeff Ifrah put forward that might suggest there could be more charitable interpretations.
Mike: One is that they’re working because there’s a current court battle that involves the New Hampshire lottery commission. What happened when this lawsuit came out, the DOJ responded by saying, “No, we didn’t mean to include the lottery because things like Powerball—” Which is very popular here in the US would be in jeopardy. With that in mind, Ifrah put forth the idea that if we roll things like online poker and online casino games to be under the guise of state lotteries, that that could provide the opportunity for such activity as shared liquidity pools to exist. Now, that type of structure is currently in place in Delaware. Their lottery department does handle all of their online casino games and online poker. That is a potential way forward.
Nick: It’s bizarre. It’s basically, this reinterpretation of the Wire Act, which as we understand is was politically motivated, and there’s some very good reporting on that around the time about potentially this interpretation came out at the time that it did and where that political influence came from. It almost sounds like this interpretation was written without them even understanding the ramifications themselves. They wrote this, and then it was pointed out that, “You’re saying that the nationwide lotteries like PowerBall can’t exist.” “We didn’t mean it like that.”
Mike: Anyone that follows politics in the US knows that’s the MO this administration to begin with. Let’s not get too political. We can dive into the second option, which I find to be the most interesting. As they outlined it, there was a decision by a US Court of Appeals in 1993 that stated that the Wire Act was not designed to criminalize acts that either the states or Congress have deemed to be criminal. If you apply that to the online gaming industry as it’s evolved currently in the US including interstate online poker, it’s not explicitly illegal by federal law, and it’s not explicitly illegal, in fact it is explicitly legal in state law.
If they interpret the Wire Act to mean only those activities that are explicitly illegal within the states that would allow states that legalize online poker to offer interstate online poker and the current interpretation of the Wire Act would would then not prohibit, what we see with like the All American Poker Network that spans Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.
Nick: That seems to me, someone on the outside reading on the issue by far the most positive potential path forward which would allow for this interpretation to stand whilst still allowing for cross border shared liquidity.
Mike: Yes, what I’ve read is that the judge in the case is actually, I won’t say losing patients, but trying to move things forward at a decent pace. It’s possible that we could see something, some kind of decision coming out soon. The DOJ did extend their enforcement deadline to be June 14th, which I think we touched on previously. If that date alone is only like six weeks away. It seems like we’re going to have some clearer picture coming soon.
Nick: We have three key dates coming up in quick succession. The first is the start of the World Series of Poker which is the end of this month, the first events start right. I think 28th, 29th of May. That’s in three, four weeks time. We have this deadline for when current operators in the US markets must bring their operations in line with this new Wire Act interpretation. That has direct impact, and we’ll touch on this in a second, but has direct impact on the World Series of Poker, on 888, on Caesars who operate under MSIGA the cross border network that they run. Then we have Pennsylvania going life which is in mid-July.
As we know has been the case regardless, it was always going to be close liquidity initially, but with the hope that they would permit for operators. This is going to impact I think the operators that go live in Pennsylvania how much marketing push they put behind it, potentially which operators launch at all because if there is, it doesn’t look like there’s the near to mid-term hope of cross border shared liquidity, we’re not going to see some of the smaller operators entering the market trying to claim that market share ahead of this coming in. That’s three dates coming up in in the next two months which can absolutely define the shape of online poker in the United States.
Mike: It should be an eventful couple of months coming up, and it will be definitely interesting to watch.
Nick: As you say, they’re your core case is going on. As you touched them, Mike, sounds like the stakeholders involved including the judges presiding over it realize the timeline that everybody is working to, and decisions have to be hopefully clarified within some of these dates.
Mike: It’s happening rapidly, and will have potentially long-lasting effects, and will definitely have an effect on the very near term which will include the World Series of Poker. Maybe we can get into that now, it’s a good segue. The World Series of Poker has this year, for their 50th anniversary, upped the total number of online bracelet events to nine. I believe it was four last year so it’s more than doubled. Initially, they had come out because we had asked what is going to be the status of these online events because last year, the players that were actually physically in New Jersey, were able to compete for these online bracelet events and even one player from New Jersey won one of the events. The question was this year, how did they plan on handling it given the new interpretation of the Wire Act.
Nick: We knew in advance in recent press releases that they were aware that this interpretation will have an impact on what they can do. The WSOP is in a tricky spot because they have run promotions, they have run online satellites for players in New Jersey to play these online events. Depending on the decisions made in the course, they may not be able to. This has definitely been a cloud hanging over them, a decision that had to be made. We have a bit of information, I think, now will soon go up on Pokerfuse a few more details now.
Mike: Yesterday, we noticed that the online bracelet events were being promoted in New Jersey by WSOP. We reached out to them, Seth Palansky did confirm to us that at least the first two events will be open to players in New Jersey. Those two events, which I don’t have the dates in front of me, but they’re both in early June, do happen to take place before that enforcement deadline on June 14th. It seemed like that was a pretty safe move. It’s definitely encouraging to see that at least those first two events are going to be open to players in New Jersey as well.
Nick: You say it’s the safest move and say at least it gives them the scope to make a last minute call, basically. The easiest decision would have been to have dealt with this by now. They’ve just made the call and stopped any New Jersey players playing in bracelet events and dealt with anybody who’s won a package up to now with an equivalent version. That would have at least made it clear cut and made it easier for them to organize their marketing. Maybe they make a big thing about it, and New Jersey players want to package and fly them over to Nevada and play from the floor of the Rio or something like that. That was the alternative avenue they could have done and haven’t
Mike: I think they did take some very big precautionary step ahead of announcing these events. It has been flying under the radar a bit, and that’s that they removed any and all guarantees from these events. Presumably, in the anticipation that they may not be able to offer them to players in New Jersey.
Nick: There were originally guarantees posted on the online event.
Mike: No, but last year, three of the four events had guarantees. This year, none of the nine have guarantees. Last year the guaranteed events did really well. They all blew past those guarantees. It could be unrelated, but it seemed like it was a measured approach to take away those guarantees in the event that they would not be able to offer them to players in New Jersey.
Nick: It could be a bizarre time over May, June, July where we might have people playing the first two events, then all of a sudden they will have to be locked out of all the MTTs in the future. If you’re in Nevada grinding online the whole time, the first two bracelet events might have X number of entries, and then all of a sudden it cuts by 75%. This is all very much up in the air at the moment.
Mike: It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, especially for those people that were hoping to play these online events in New Jersey. It’s not everyone can make it out to Las Vegas over the summer, so that’s definitely appealing. It’s also something to watch if you’re in Pennsylvania. Because even though as you stated earlier, they weren’t planning on sharing liquidity with the initial roll-out, we all know that that is something that is on the minds of the operators which will eventually make it a priority for the regulators, and how that eventually plays out is yet to be determined.
A very common theme that we have noticed over the past year or so is new games coming out from PokerStars. Once again, this week there is more news regarding new games coming out from PokerStars. Nick, what what games can the players expect to see that perhaps they haven’t seen before or maybe haven’t seen in a while?
Nick: Preparing for this podcast, I was just putting together a few notes about all the games that we think are coming up or might be coming up in the details that we know. I realized this is going so long, I ended up throwing up in a really long Twitter thread of something like 20 posts about everything that we’ve covered. I think we don’t have some 12 or so pieces of content over the last couple of weeks about PokerStars’ plans for product development. None of it actually announced by PokerStars yet. This is just what we glean from some of the things that they do a little bit behind the scenes.
It’s something that we’ve done the last couple of years often announcing some of the games a couple of months ahead of time. It definitely seems that 2019 PokerStars are gearing up for two things. One is that we think that six-plus hold’em is going to be permanent, it’s something that we suspected from the outset, and Poke Star said wouldn’t be the case, but I still think it probably will be the case, it’s been live in the client for over a hundred days now. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. I think six-plus will be a game offered by the top two online poker operators for the foreseeable.
Mike: Is it officially the longest variant that has been released?
Nick: Yes, absolutely. The longest in 2018 of the four games that they launched. The longest lasted 65 days. They were all pretty consistently there in the client for two months. This is now three and a half months, something like that. What we think is six-plus I’ll stay in the client as a permanent game given the same stature as Spin & Gos as knockout poker which is another brand they’ve got for event tournaments, cash games, Zoom, these things. Then they will add another game on top of that, much like in 2018 they filter through Fusion, Split Hold’em, Showtime Hold’em. They’re going to add another game.
There are two current candidates of games that we think Poke Stars will be launching. One is Split Omaha which is a game that we have probably talked about in this podcast, I think we reveled the details early on this year. We can maybe going back three months. Split Omaha, as you’d expect, plays just like Split Hold’em, which is that two boards, two flops, turns, and rivers are dealt out. Then the top board splits the hand with the winner of the bottom board. If you win both boards you scoop the pot. And then presumably Split Omaha will be there except with Omaha, you’re dealt four cards.
Mike: I have a question in Split Omaha. That has the very real potential of being a four-way split pot every time, the high and low?
Nick: That would only if it be played as Hi-Lo or—
Mike: Yes, mixing that up.
Nick: It might not be, but generally speaking, I think there are more split pots in PLO than there are in Hold’em because you have to play three cards on the flop. I’m just double checking my logic there. I think broadly speaking there are more split pots. Split Omaha, it’s just an insane number of cards. If you have a six-handed table it’s 24 cards down at the table plus 10 on the board, you’re dealing out over half the deck every single game. If you get to the river with three people in it that is a very complicated showdown that I don’t think any can’t even understand who is winning what money. Yes, you will get quartered-pots fairly common.
I think critics will argue that it will be a very rake-heavy game because obviously the more splitting you get the harder it is to have a high winner, so effectively, the rake can be a bit higher. That definitely seems like a short term novelty. I can imagine that will be a— Split Hold’em is not huge success, I wouldn’t expect Omaha to be. That is still expected to come in the client maybe as a tournament. We’ll touch on that later on in this segment. The other game that they’ve got which is much more curious is DeepWater Hold’em.
Mike: Yes, we don’t know a lot of details about this one, but we do know some that differ from some of the other variants. Just trying to gauge what that game will be like based on the name alone, It’s me, I don’t know. Deeper stacks?
Nick: Deep, obviously, just is the only thing in there that might be a pun on a poker term. Being the you might sit with deep stacks. The theme is very much an ocean theme. You are under water in it. The W of the water in DeepWater is like a spear trident thing.
Mike: Poseidon. I always mix up my underwater gods, so I’m not sure—
Nick: [laughs] It is Hold’em, so it’s going to be a variant on Texas Hold’em obviously. The one thing that we could glean is there’s the suggestion that there will be a variable ante.
Mike: What would it depend on, if you won the last hand? I know in hold them they have, they’re called kill pots, right. Where the blinds vary depending on if a person one consecutive pots. It’s been a long time since I’ve played Hold’em.
Nick: Yes. I think that it’s a kill pot. If someone wins back back to back pots. I was just thinking there that maybe it’s something that the ante increases every time there’s a show down or the ante increases every time there isn’t a showdown until there is a showdown, something like that. Actually, just talking completely out loud, that’s a really good, interesting game. Although, it probably worked better with a splash pot thing because you encourage people more and more to try and win pots without showdown. Obviously, a variable ante fits in the idea of people sitting deep stacks because maybe you start very deep-stacked, but the ante increases, so you become shallower and shallower as some property occurs.
Mike: Yes, you’re right. This is sounding a bit better and more exciting the more we talk about it. This isn’t something that we had talked about prior to right now.
Nick: DeepWater observes, again, something that I think a F5 Poker had the little scoop on that, we’re getting back like three or four months. We have just seen further indications that this is making its way through PokerStars’ testing deployment.
Mike: No, it’s not that far back that we actually publish that on that F5. I remember because we published it on April first on April Fools Day because we weren’t quite sure if it was for real, and we figured that would be a good day to put it out there to Kind of CYA in case it turned out [crosstalk] actual.
Nick: Yes, you’re absolutely right. Those are the two next games which seem to be the most likely to go live as their next novelty cash game variant. On top of that, the Aurora client, we won’t delve into that too much. We talked about that, I think, quite in depth last week, but we think that that is rolling out. I think it’s live now on Mac, in many markets. It’s gone live I think in the .com market in a lot of places. That is being deployed fairly rapidly. One other things is we think 2018’s novelty games are going to make a return.
Mike: The reason they’re going to be making a return is they’re going to be offered in tournament format now, is that correct?
Nick: Yes. We believe that, and again, this we spied a while back, but it’s since been deployed in the global .com clients. Other people picked it up as well. In the filters drop down in the client where you can filter by what tournaments you wants to see, some new games have occurred in that filter. We have since confirmed that PokerStars is planning, again this is another official statement from PokerStars, but sources have told us that they will be deploying some but perhaps not all of 2018’s games as one off novelties for some MTTs over the coming weeks.
Six-plus Hold’em is one that we- only certain facts that might be one, that might be permanent as an entity because, again, makes it very much a lot of sense. I think both Sit and Go and an MTT format. That seems to be coming. Showtime Hold’em will come in tournament format. That’s quite interesting. That’s the game where you must show your whole cards. If Mike can remember.
Mike: Showtime, you have to show them when you fold at least one. Is that what it was?
Nick: No, I think you have to show all your hand if you fold on the river.
Mike: I think it was any person that folds at any time has to—Wow, [crosstalk]
Nick: What I will say, is that actually it’s very interesting in tournament format because obviously with the tournament you are locked into playing with the same people over a set period of time until tables breakdown and people are getting knocked out. With a cash game, people can get up and leave, but this you’re really going to build up some knowledge about how they’re playing based on their folded cards. I think that’s a really interesting addition. They also have got so to their Showtime Hold’em which is interesting because— Sorry, Showtime Omaha, because Showtime didn’t launch as a cash game, but it will apparently make its debut in tournament format. The same applies there, that’s going to be pretty interesting.
Mike: It’s interesting that that is debuting as a tournament as opposed to a cash game, that makes it different. Plus it’s wholly Omaha which is also another interesting facet of it. I was wondering beyond MTTs, might they bring back some of these variants in some mixed game formats to just sprinkle in here and there? I think that that would be an interesting way to get people’s appetites wet for these games as well in the times that are perhaps not a regular staple or a regular feature inside of the client and might get people to play them more when they are in there, so that they have enough practice and experience that they’re able to play them in those mixed game formats.
Nick: In fact if 2018’s games- the only one or the only two that don’t seem to be getting ready to try in tournament format is, Unfold is one. That game just doesn’t really makes sense in tournament format because that was the game where if you folded pre-flop, you could unfold your hand on the flop. The end result was basically you were playing a side game, you built up a solid pot with other people who unfolded to compete for different— There was no skill in it, there was no batting if you unfold your hands. It was basically like a casino side game.
Obviously, doesn’t really make sense in tournament format, that’s why that’s not coming. Split Hold’em is interestingly not in the list, and neither is Split Omaha and both these games— Split Omaha, we expect to launch at some point soon, but neither game is listed as in tournament format. You think Split Hold’em would work in tournaments. I’m not quite sure if there’s anything intrinsic there that wouldn’t work.
Mike: Have you seen MTTs with split games?
Nick: Yes, Hi-Lo is going to be played in—
Mike: It’s still on tournaments, true. It’s it’s good to see them mixing things up, it’s good to see them offering it out in different ways. Because I think what they’re looking for is they’re looking for their big hit. They want to get something that is really, really popular. Sometimes, for as much work as you do back in the office or in the lab, it really needs to be put out in the wild to see how players react and adapt and how it’s accepted.
Nick: I think that what they’re doing is very good. With the Aurora engine that we understand, it’s going to allow them to develop these games much quicker, put them out there much quicker, and start getting that player feedback, start getting the data to see if it’s resonating with a certain player type. I think it’s fantastic. Of course, these games that they’re developing, they’re also developing in the new Aurora client. Six-plus Hold’em, we see the new version in the new client is, in my opinion much better now seeing some people- early reviews from high volume players is mixed with this new client, but I think that is due to it just changing. I think we talked about this last week about players just don’t like change if they’re used to the software that they used day in, day out.
I think some of the niceties that are being added here don’t really benefit the high volume player. For a new player who might be first introduced to watching it on Twitch or want to download the client, they’re going to see something different, they’re going to see something that’s much more engaging to much more exciting visually. I think these two things combined make for quite an exciting opportunity for PokerStars to move online poker forward and definitely gives them a real advantage over the competition if they can iterate much faster. The fact that they’ve launched five new games than in the space of a year is pretty impressive given the classically glacial speed the online Poker operators to develop these games
Mike: From a development standpoint, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Nick: There’s one more thing that we should touch on in this segment because I’m going need to eat my own words a little bit. Mike, I’m not sure if you remember, I think it was two or three weeks ago PokerStars unveiled the UFC branding for their Spin & Gos. I was pretty quick to say that I just don’t understand why they would take this brand, and they would just plunk it on Spin & Gos, and call it done. I didn’t really see their bigger picture.
Mike: Tell us what that picture is because I’m not sure that I see it either.
Nick: More for me, but PokerStars have stated their bigger picture to their investors, they have an investors there. I Think their first ever- a few weeks ago, and they had a promo video for Pokers Stars and UFC is the perfect partnership. They really explored the possibilities with what they can do with this UFC brand. Whether some of these ideas that we’ll touch on, I think they’re very much in the concept stage. I think it was more to show, invest, analysis what they can do and why this partnership is so good. It definitely shows that they are planning to do much more with this UFC branding than just sticking on Spin & Go’s.
Mike: I think the popularity of the UFC is really the most attractive part for PokerStars because the potential of reaching new audiences is highly coveted by online Poker company?
Nick: To be fair, they show in this slide— I can’t remember the numbers now. It is like the UFC reaches like a billion homes or something. Maybe I just live in my British bubble. I actually think UFC is quite big in this country, but I’m pretty sure if I go and ask my friends, they wouldn’t know what UFC is. I don’t think they would know what it stands for.
Mike: It is big here. I can tell you that it’s outside of my realm or my reality. I don’t follow the UFC. I know plenty of people that are really, really excited about UFC, about MMA, the whole fight, boxing everything. The whole fight world is pretty popular here in the US. I think the UFC is, if I think back to my old days of wrestling, it appeals to a very wide audience, and it’s fun and entertaining for those people. It’s not so much about maybe the violence of hand-to-hand combat or anything. I think it’s more about the show. When people are entertained and exposed to other products that are being marketed as entertainment products, I think there’s a lot of potential there.
Nick: I stand by what I said a couple of weeks ago, though I didn’t really understand why they would just- they took Spin & Gos and just call it UFC Spin & Gos. The game is exact the same as before, but it’s just skinned as UFC. It’s particularly strange because in the client you go UFC Spin & Go you click on it, and then there’s Spin & Go Max which aren’t branded UFC but it’s under this UFC tab. It seemed like a little bit messy, perhaps even fractionally rushed or not fully thought through, but from this presentation it definitely shows that they have a lot more plans for it, a lot more make more sense to me.
UFC KO is one thing they talked about which presumably is a straight re-branding of their knockout tournament, but that obviously just makes a lot more sense to me. Thematically, it makes sense. I think just Knockout is not an already beloved brand the PokerStars has where I think Spin & Go is. They also instantly showed a very short clip of what they called UFC Tornado which looks really cool. It’s a very cool brand. In the client itself, it looks just like Spin & Go. We’re not sure whether this was just an idea for— They could re-brand Spin & Gos too and they decide to keep Spin & Go and just call it UFC Spin & Go, and just initially they thought, “Let’s call it UFC Tornado.”
I’m glad they didn’t do that because that would be extremely confusing, they can see that. Another thing is they might take that Spin & Go Max, which is three to eight-handed, slightly different rules and called that UFC Tornado, I can get on board with that. That’s interesting. They also talked about a couple of potential daily fantasy sports products, UFC perfect pick and UFC Payday, which if you read the article on poker news, we had some guesses of how these games might play. The top line is they have a lot of plans to utilize this UFC brand in a variety of formats in that product lineup.
Mike: It seems to be a strategy to expand their brand in the US market.
Nick: It’s interesting when you say the US market. Promotion they’re running right now, I think the current match is— I said match again. The current bout fight is in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, one of the two. I think it’s Rio de Janeiro.
Mike: I think match works too with wrestling, wrestling match, boxing match.
Nick: Yes, that’s true. Their current promotion I thought is really interesting. They are working with local street artists and they have painted I think— What’s the word?
Mike: Graffiti, murals?
Nick: Yes, murals that’s what I want to say, murals. I think of the fighters hidden around Rio. If you can find the picture, and I’m guessing snap in and put on social media, I didn’t read the PR. Then you get I think free tickets to see the fight or something like that. It’s not just US-focused, I think this is just open to preceding players actually. You can’t fly to Rio to— I think a fascinating promotion and it shows the scope that they have for this partnership.
Mike: That does sound very cool. We’re looking forward to seeing how this unfolds. No, not the game unfold, just plays how it out. I’m excited to see it.
Speaking of reaching new audiences, one of the more— It feels weird to call it traditional because it’s only over the past couple of years, but one of the ways online poker companies have been trying to reach new audiences is through Twitch where they are trying to expose gamers because it’s a gaming platform to online poker. I think that things have been on a pretty steady pace over the last- for this year for example, there’s been a lot of news coming out about streamers and online poker streamers in specific, and we have some additional news this week.
Nick: Yes. We must touch on this a lot in the podcast. It’s hard to avoid the topic. It feels like we’re almost in a second wave of Twitch focus in the industry. I think a couple of years ago there was a bit of a land grab for Twitch streamers. PokerStars really dominated it with their stable of pros. What we’ve seen this year is Partypoker aggressively and directly poaching PokerStars streamers. Back in January, PokerStars lost a trio of some of their big streams. Not the absolute top tier Jason Somerville, and I think Lex or probably their numbers one, two. The next level guys all departed, and then sooner or later switched over and announced their signing with Partypoker. We saw the last of those three announced their Partypoker ambassadorship this week.
Mike: That was Kevin Martin. Also a Big Brother fame or Big Brother Canada fame. I’m not sure because again, that’s out of my sphere of exposure. Just not into reality TV. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I know that his name has been associated with some form of reality show, Big Brother. I think it’s Canada. I don’t know. I’m rambling. He’s a former PokerStars streaming ambassador, not officially the title, but he was the latest to sign but not to join.
Nick: He follows Jeff Gross and Jaime Staples, both who left PokerStars along with Kevin back in January time, I think. The first two announced their signing to Partpoker fairly quickly, although Jaime is on the stand is on the cusp now of officially started his ambassadorship. He announced that he would be signing. I’m not quite sure what contract he was going on behind the scenes there. Presumably, it’s the same with Kevin Martin who left PokerStars a few months ago and is now has announced that he is a Partypoker ambassador.
Mike: I think Jaime is set to join this weekend maybe. Fourth is what sticks in my head.
Nick: Yes. Already on the roster of Partypoker is his brother who joined back in January along with like 12 other guys I think.
Mike: Yes. They’re taking a pretty aggressive stance toward reaching these new audiences through Twitch. That mirrors what some of the other companies have done including PokerStars, including even operators like Unibet and 888 as well, another big one. It feels like there’s a lot of focus on reaching these gamers through Twitch.
Nick: These two announcements, the Partpoker one and this PokerStars announcement, came within an hour of each other at least in my press release inbox. Pokerstars has announced that they have signed a dozen new ambassadors, all of them with a Twitch focus. Eight of them are under a— I’m just checking the exact terminology there. Sounds like they have created a new tier of PokerStars sponsored pro called PokerStars streamers. That’s the new banner. Eight of them fit under that banner, and four of them are official PokerStars ambassadors which I guess is a slightly different— I’m not quite sure how this directory is going to look when they update their website. 12 new guys on the PokerStars team. A huge expansion of PokerStars.
Mike: Anybody of note in that list?
Nick: Yes. In the PokerStars ambassadors, of which there are four. I was quietly laughing to myself before when when you struck me with whether it was Big Brother candidate contestant. Because number one in the ambassadors list is Arlie Shaban.
Mike: Shaban, yes, I think so.
Nick: Shaban he is a former Big Brother Canada contestant.
Mike: Really? I didn’t even know that. I knew that he was part of PokerStars promotion of their Platinum Pass and the Players Championship. I didn’t know he was a reality TV star as well.
Nick: He’s probably the big name.We suspected this quite a long time ago that PokerStars was working— They’ve been working with Arlie for a while. As you say, he won a Platinum Pass back in January. The lead up to that was very interesting, they worked with him for months. Quite an interesting promotion that they were running. We spied that they were going to formally announce him as an ambassador, and he has now signed for the team. He’s probably the most notable name on the list.
Mike: You know this move towards streamers as ambassadors is reminiscent to me of how ambassadors evolved from just your normal big name TV sponsored pros to online pros. That was a few years back, but we saw that the the way that poker companies were promoting personalities changed from the big TV star people that you’d see. It’s easy now to look back at Full Tilt, and say, “You had Howard Lederer and that whole Daniel Negreanu, that whole group of people.” Then it changed to be more localized to the online players, and they started getting sponsors from particular regions or that played particular games. Now, it feels like we’re seeing that evolution again into streamers.
Nick: That’s no clearer than the next three on the list of PokerStars ambassadors. So the trio of guys come from the website OP-Poker which was, I think, a grassroots website of players who created strategy content and news around Power Up for PokerStars, an eSports title. They were streaming on Twitch and doing YouTube videos, and putting out some really interesting content. They’ve been on our radar since they launched. Seen like a genuinely passionate group of poker players who wanted to share strategy about PokerStars’ new game. It’s obviously a perfect fit. They have worked with PokerStars before with Power Up, I think having them with their community sites.
There was definitely some kind of sponsorship, ambassadorship there helping them with their website. Now, officially all three of them are PokerStars-sponsored pros and are going to be streaming this new slate of PokerStars novelty games innovations that we talked about in the last segment. They will be presumably in there when these tournament get released streaming their action on whether it’s DeepWater, Hold’em or Fusion tournaments. Good timing there and a very smart addition to the team in my mind.
Mike: Keeping in the theme of poker streaming, perhaps we should start streaming our podcast. What do you think, Nick?
Nick: You think that I would have to put a shirt on.
Mike: [laughs] I’m sure that the the viewers would appreciate that. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Some podcasts do— I don’t know if they’re stream necessarily, but they’re definitely on YouTube and probably streamed as well.
Nick: It seems actually, because we we keep the podcast directory. I think you always push for that we need to start including-
Mike: The video.
Nick: – the guys who basically do podcast on video. In my mind, I think there’s there’s a clear differentiation because audio, I put in my phone and you listen to in your car, where video you watch. I know Joey calls his you know vodcast a podcast. Most people just call them podcast even though it’s removed from the idea of just pure audio.
Mike: I think there is a difference between what he does and a vlog for example because it feels like the vlog relies on the visual experience, where Joey is just having this conversation. While, yes, it’s definitely an added plus to be able to see the people as they’re talking because you get to see their expressions and such. I don’t know. It still does feel more like a podcast to me than a vlog does.
Nick: That’s very true. The listener wouldn’t have been able to catch my expression of raised eyebrows when you suggested that we should Twitch stream our podcast.
Mike: [laughs] Yes, it was quite entertaining because we could see each other while we do this. We will leave it there for this week. Thanks everyone for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.