Nick and Mike discuss the potential of partypoker launching online poker in Nevada, they then take listeners through a slew of recent upgrades rolled out by various online poker operators including some cool innovative features, and they wrap up the topics of the week talking about the mainstream media coverage of poker staking that appeared on CNBC.
- GVC seeks a license to offer partypoker in Nevada
- A plethora of online poker software updates are deployed throughout the industry
- Online poker gets mainstream media coverage via CNBC and its special on poker staking
Mike: Hello, and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. This is episode number 16 coming at you on May 23rd. I am your host Mike Gentile along with my co-host, Nick Jones. Nick, how is it going this week?
Nick: It is going really well. It’s going very well this week. It’s a lovely summer’s day. Been a lovely summery week. It feels like we’re in my favorite season of the year, so spirits are very high.
Mike: Very cool. Very cool. Any special plans coming up this summery time of the year?
Nick: I have a very exciting because we’ve both got long weekends, haven’t we? We both have vacation days on Monday both in the UK and the US.
Mike: Yes, true.
Nick: It will be very nice. We have a friend’s wedding that we’re going to which should be lovely, but it’ll all round just be a general jovial atmosphere throughout the United Kingdom I’m sure.
Mike: Any woodworking projects in store for this weekend?
Nick: No. Do I do woodworking? Have I given you that impression in the past?
Mike: I don’t know. Somebody does woodworking over in the UK. I wasn’t sure if it was you.
Nick: Absolutely, it wasn’t me. I do have a question that I wanted to ask you before we got started this week.
Mike: Okay. Sure.
Nick: Would you like to get inside the mind of a champion?
Nick: Because you have a big opportunity as it just cross our desk just as we hit the record button that Phil Ivey has followed in the footsteps of Daniel Negreanu with a masterclass- I don’t know what they’re called -season set of videos.
Mike: Class, I think is what they’re called.
Nick: Class, that would be it.
Mike: I saw the video for that. I have to say that it looks very, very enticing.
Nick: I’ve always been tempted with these masterclass things. I don’t know if our listeners are very familiar with it, but they just seem to try to do the top end of online instructional video. Here in the UK, I think a subscription for a year is £200. You get a film making class from Jodie Foster, and you get a directors masterclass from David Lynch and a poker class from both Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey. It’s definitely tempting. It’s all very glitzy and highly produced content.
Mike: Do you know is that a subscription basis for all of the classes, or do you buy them individually?
Nick: You buy them individually, but they’re priced so that basically you end up buying the whole lot. I think Phil Ivey’s class and maybe they all are is £85 if you just bought that, but if you pay two and a half times that you get access to dozens and dozens of classes for a year. The only thing that I was surprised by is it says it’s 100% exclusive. It’s the first time he’s done video lessons, but I’m pretty sure he did Phil Ivey training videos for his Phil Ivey free play site and stuff a few years back.
Mike: Yes. I bet that jumped out at me as well. He had his own training site. Perhaps there’s some detail in exactly the way it’s worded that makes it special for masterclass, but Phil Ivey has been on the training trail previously for sure.
Nick: I wanted to bring this up right at the front because obviously— Daniel Negreanu since he did his masterclass, he’s promoted it quite heavily, and it is the sponsors of DAT Poker Podcast, is it not?
Mike: Right. Yes.
Nick: He’s a host of it as well. I’m thinking we put in a good word here. Phil Ivey could come on as a third co-host. He can sponsor the— It’s a win-win-win situation.
Mike: I think that would be cool. Phil, if you’re out there, definitely check us out. Take us up on our offer if it suits you.
Nick: All right. With that in mind, let’s dive into the reality of the week’s news.
Nick: There was a very interesting hearing in Nevada last week which we wrote about on Pokerfuse on Monday with GBC seeking licensing in the state.
Mike: Earlier this month, GBC went before the Nevada not the gaming commission, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, one of those acronyms. But it was definitely the board and not the commission. They went before them for licensing, which in addition to other licensing in Nevada, would also include the ability for them to offer online poker in the state. The board voted 2 to 1 in favor of granting that license to GBC, and the issue is now before the gaming commission who is going to meet today. Probably within less than two hours of the recording of this podcast, we fully expect them to approve the GDC license application, but that’s not to say that it’s a slam dunk that we will see PartyPoker any time soon in Nevada.
Nick: The primary motivation as I understand it is for sports betting. Is that accurate to say?
Mike: Correct. Correct.
Nick: That’s what we’re working with MGM in Nevada to run sportsbook, and that’s the main reason why they’re seeking approval for their executives.
Mike: Right. In addition to that, piggybacking upon that, they did also apply for an interactive gaming license which in Nevada is only online poker. The question then remains, does having poker as a place for the sports betters to go for a change of pace, is that enough reason alone to open up an online poker room if they cannot connect the player pool in Nevada to their player pool in New Jersey?
Nick: I guess that’s the question. Are they doing this purely on the hopes that the Wire Act interpretation is shot down so that they will have the licensing necessary to launch an online poker room and connect it to the New Jersey existing network that they have there? Or do they actually have plans potentially to use this regardless, which is probably unlikely would be, I guess?
Mike: Yes. As I just said, they could want to have that as an amenity for their sports betting customers, so that is one potential reason to launch it in Nevada even if it’s going to be a segregated market. The other is there’s quite a bit of traffic that comes through Nevada for the World Series of Poker. We’re seeing that for the first time, partypoker LIVE is actually having an event during the time of the WSOP running this year. They may be looking at those two different reasons as potentially enough for them to go ahead and kick it off anyway.
Nick: We talked about that live event a couple of weeks ago on the podcast, and we mentioned at the time that it’s in quite short notice. They’re hosting this high-roller event in the area which a short notice, but ultimately, everyone’s going to be in Las Vegas anyway, so it seems like a smart idea. The thing that we failed to mention at the time and I think the connection between the two wasn’t immediately at the forefront of our minds was they announced this the day after this two-to-one vote came in their favor. We can only assume that that gave them confidence to reintroduce their brand in a real-money-gaming form in some format because it was like that press release sent button was clicked soon after that vote that came in.
Mike: Yes. If that is the case, if those two incidences are related, then that does bode well for them trying to launch this even if it is a segregated market. At least they’re seeing the value there in the brand exposure to accompany perhaps live events as well.
Nick: Obviously, the undertone throughout this conversation is the shared liquidity and the Wire Act. Currently, WSOP the only online poker network that operates across state lines. Still obviously a question mark if that’ll be around in one month’s time. We won’t go back over the whole history of that, but in most of our previous podcasts we’ve talked on this topic. Again, this week we have some more New Jersey revenue figures which hammered home the importance of shared liquidity.
Mike: I won’t dive into the absolute numbers or anything, but looking at it relatively, I think it’s important for the listeners to note that since shared liquidity has gone live in New Jersey, so since the WSOP, 888 or the All American Poker Network has been able to combine player pools in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, revenue for Caesars, who is the land-based casino that licenses the All American Poker Network, wsop.com and 888, they have led the market for 11 of the 12 months. Those 12 months they were the only operator of the three in New Jersey to post year over year revenue gains during that period of time.
You could look at it and you can say, “There could be some other extenuating circumstances that could have contributed to that”, but when we look at the Delaware revenue figures, which, by the way, there’s three racinos in Delaware, and they all operate on the All American Poker Network with the 888 software as the back end. We look there, and we also see that same trend over that one year period 11 of the 12 months have posted year over year gains. That’s on the back of- I believe it’s something like a year and a half or more than a year and a half of declining revenues year over year for every month prior.
Nick: Yes, and always in the backdrop here, you’ve got online poker struggling to stay flat where online casino revenue and now online sportsbook revenue just carries on exploding, so the appetite for real money online gaming in the state is experienced unchecked. I don’t think there’s been even one sequential dip in online casino revenue since this launch. Maybe there’s a few, but it’s pretty much a straight line going upwards. Since sports betting have come along, that’s just been additive, as I understand it. It hasn’t really taken much money away from other products whereas poker just sits there really just scraping by.
Mike: Yes. We did see that April was a bit less than March, and there may have been one or two other months that were sequentially not as high as the previous month. I don’t think that’s any indication of any weakness in the casino sector, online casino sector, as the year over year continues to skyrocket and double digit figures in growth in New Jersey.
I think the other wild card there also is Pennsylvania. It’s a big population and poses a great opportunity to pool liquidity, so a lot is riding on this DOJ revised opinion of the Wire Act. As of now, there’s nothing new to report. Listeners may note that the battle ground or the front lines of that fight right now is happening in New Hampshire. There’s a lawsuit there that was put forth by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission because they are concerned that the reinterpretation of the Wire Act could put multi state lottery businesses in jeopardy.
Nick: It feels like the best. We’re talking about the world series of PokerStars this weekend, right? I think or now.
Mike: Within the next within the next week or so, yes. It’s right at the end of May. They do have the first two online events that they are making available to players in New Jersey. The deadline, the enforcement deadline set by the DOJ comes shortly thereafter, but there is potential that that gets extended. There’s potential that it gets settled by then, so we may or may not see additional online events open up to players in New Jersey. I guess we can just wait and see.
Nick: Normally, we’d be at the segment of the podcast where we talk about PokerStars next crazy game or novelty that they’re launching, but I think because SCOOP is underway at the moment, all their focus is there. We’re in the second and final week of SCOOP, and I think soon after that we expect like DeepWater Hold’em or some of the other novelties they got kicking around will deploy. In the meantime, we actually have updates from a lot of other operators, all fairly minor but all together there’s been a string of kind of key new features released around the industry.
Mike: Yes, the one that really caught my attention came from MPN, Microgaming Poker Network. They are going to be introducing— I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s live yet.
Nick: No, it’s not live yet.
Mike: I saw that come across Twitter, where they are going to be implementing a tournament stack feature that allows the players to look into the lobby and get a relative viewpoint of how their stack compares to the rest of the remaining field.
Nick: Yes, it’s like a little single bar graph where it just shows where the mean and median average stacks are, what your stack is, what the maximum, minimum stack. It’s just a cool little display in the lobby. I think it’s a fun little feature which I haven’t seen anyone else implement. I would always see MPN— I know since they’ve introduced their new premier client maybe a year ago now, one of the things that they really wanted to do was— They told us they laid the groundwork for fast iterative improvements like this, but I think since launching, as any developer would, you get bogged down with fixing the bugs and the issues and bringing it up to parity with the prior software.
I’m hoping with things like that it shows that they’ve cleared that backlog and can start doing some new features because I’ve seen they have some exciting things in the pipeline that can start moving things forward rather than just playing catch up. That’s a cool one to see.
Mike: Yes. It’s not like that information hasn’t been available before. The average stack size and the largest stack size are usually pretty easily discernible in the poker client. I think this just gives a graphical representation that gives it a nice, cool look, slick look and feel. It looks like it will appeal to players.
Nick: It’s worth mentioning. I think MPN actually pushed out a software update version 41 point something today. It didn’t include that feature. Include a bunch of bug fixes, a few other features like that. They do push these out pretty regularly. Another site that’s in kind of a similar boat to MPN which is Unibet which has their own independent poker client, and they similarly are trying to do fairly regular updates. They did another one this week. I think maybe it was a couple of days ago. The main thing that they added was stack size in big blinds in tournaments, which is something that other operators have. I had to check. PokerStars has never added this feature. I’m not sure their reasoning for it. It’s interesting to see I guess a feature that you would think is a bit more kind of professional friendly is added, but yes, basically you can switch it so your stack size in big blinds rather than a- [crosstalk]
Mike: You say professional friendly, and it’s definitely a viewpoint or perspective that professional players or high volume players utilize. I think that that particular feature also bodes well for the recreational or low volume players because they may be familiar with the concept, but having it present right there in front of them or having to do less math at the table could favor the lower volume players as well.
Nick: Yes, for sure. Another operator that I think had a big software update was WPN/ America’s Cardroom.
Mike: Yes. From what I’ve seen that didn’t go exactly well. I know that some of us here at the Pokerfuse offices that play outside of the US were attempting to update to the new and latest software and were having some issues.
Nick: Yes, it seems that a lot of people are reporting that it’s been a mess. I think it’s fair to say. We’re not quite sure what the status of that is. I know this software was interesting for a really, really long time and was billed as a pretty big upgrade, so hopefully, they can get that sorted out. Another one that we’re waiting on is Run It Once, are meant to be pushing out an update soon, but we’ve yet to see that go live.
Mike: Right. Phil Galfond, during the charity tournament event recently, was playing around on the sandbox of the new updated software. There’s been a couple of peaks into what’s in the works there. I think that’s going on about two weeks now, two weeks ago now that happened, and we still haven’t seen it rolled out.
Nick: I still have my fingers crossed for them because they do— I did enjoy playing on their client when it was first released, but that was three or four months ago now. I think they’ve been really bogged down in just trying to fix real big ticket bugs because they’ve not made a lot of forward progress, unfortunately. This update, it brings some cool new features I think. There’s a new table theme for big Splash the Pot so that it’s obvious if you’re playing up in a big kind of hundred BB pot splash, I think the table changes themes.
There’s a couple of other cool features in there, but it doesn’t include resizable tables. It doesn’t include sit and goes or tournaments. It doesn’t include mobile clients. There’s still these big outstanding ones. I think even the small updates they seem to struggle to push out in a quick basis.
Mike: I saw some discussion over on the Two Plus Two forums about the priority of new features versus things like resizable tables and things that are considered to be necessities for modern online poker software. There’s some debate going back and forth about the reasons why such things are coming out sooner than others. It’s really hard to know without being on the inside to really understand what’s happened on the development front. Hopefully, it’ll get things worked out, and we’ll start seeing both these new cool features as well as some of the more expected features of online poker software coming out and coming together really soon.
Nick: A couple more quickly just to mention. One is we are waiting on and still expect May 28th will be the date where PartyPoker starts to implement their really large ecology changes. I think May 28th we’re expecting them to force the alias change and stop saving hand histories to the hard drive and maybe not implement the hard ban entirely. That will come a week later. Still no official word on that. We’re only five days away from that date so kind of wait and see there.
Mike: Yes. We also saw PokerStars with a bit of— We won’t call it a software update but the release of the new Oculus-
Mike: -Quest. That’s what it’s called. It’s a standalone headset that does not require the power of a gaming machine, and I believe that users can run it directly off their mobile phone. The headset itself I think contains the computing power necessary to run these VR games.
Nick: I’m not even sure if it needs a mobile phone. I think it’s literally like the entire computer is—
Mike: It’s standalone complete?
Nick: Yes. It’s like no cables at all. No standalone computer needed whatsoever, so everything is contained on your headset. Obviously, from a poker perspective, this console was released two or three days ago, and PokerStars VR, PokerStars Virtual Reality free to play poker product was one of the launch titles of the Oculus Quest.
Mike: While it’s not directly related to the traditional online poker, I think that the strides that they’re making in reaching new customers, new clients, new potential clients via the VR platform is significant. It’s exposing a lot of new people to the game, and it’s then just one step closer to attracting them or bringing them over to play on the traditional online poker platform.
Nick: It shows the kind of commitment to it that they were one of the launch titles. There were only about 40 or 50 titles listed to launch on the day of release. PokerStars VR was one of them and the only poker game and really the only kind of game of that type that I saw. I imagine given that it’s going to be a much reduced processing and GPU power in the headset it could have required quite a lot of recoding and rewriting to get it to work on a headset, so it probably wasn’t just a very trivial port.
For them to do that to get in the official Oculus store, it’s a pretty big deal. I think we talked about it on this podcast a month or two back that they added real money chips purchases for the free chips in the game, so it shows that they are looking at kind of a monetization stream for the product. The only negative that I’ve seen is that the game on the Stream store for like if you want just play on Windows with the headset connected, it’s very well reviewed. It has really high ratings. I think it’s classed as very positive ratings, and it kind of tops the charts in that style of game and has done very successfully and is well regarded.
We played it. Maybe you had a mixed experience of it. I think technically it was quite enjoyable. It was my first VR experience, but it was I thought technically quite impressive.
Mike: That was actually my second go around with PokerStars VR, and what Nick is referring to is I think it was just a calibration issue when we were down in the Bahamas that was making it difficult for me to actually pick up my cards because I had to bring my hands lower than the table would allow.
Nick: Which of course would be—
Mike: We attempted to— Go ahead.
Nick: Which of course would be solved if you were playing on the Quest which would be entirely detached from a desk or computer at all because it’s just going to be freestyle.
Mike: We attempted to get that resolved, but I think very soon after there was a power outage.
Nick: That’s right. What I saw, just briefly preparing for this podcast, is that the reviews on the Oculus Quest store have been kind of mixed. Some people saying that the graphical quality isn’t there and they had some kind of issues with that. That might just be a day once launch issue, but it may be that because this is a lower powered gaming experience the corners they had to cut have left the experience not as good as it is on the main machine. I’m sure that’s something that they can work out.
Mike: Another thing to consider too is we’ve been talking about Pokerstars VR as it relates to perhaps other VR titles. When you look at it from a competition standpoint, however, PokerStars is really the only major operator with this type of product out there, so they have to be gaining some momentum that is putting them ahead of the competition, and for their sake, perhaps will allow them to capture a bit more of the gaming market, which as we’ve seen with Twitch, is highly desirable for online poker operators.
Nick: I would like to see them offer it for real money, but I’m thinking that I’m not quite sure what avenue they could take to make that happen because the whole experience seems to be controlled by these stores, either the Oculus store or the Steam store or something, and they’re going to be strictly anti real money gaming. The path there doesn’t— I’m not quite sure if that’s really on the roadmap, but from the experience point of view, there’s probably no better way if you’re a casual single table player to play than in a VR experience.
Mike: Yes. There’s also regulation issues regarding real money as well. I would assume that they would have to resubmit everything for test. It’s not just a change to their current platform, but it seems like it would be a whole new game. Perhaps we could see something like this make it to the casino floor. I could see that would alleviate a lot of the problem of players having to have their own setups and might make for an interesting live poker experience.
Nick: Would you rather sit around a table with eight other guys with headsets on and a virtual dealer than a real dealer?
Mike: If it meant that I didn’t have to sit close to the guy next to me who stinks like hell, then yes, I would.
Mike: Earlier this week, online poker got a pretty significant mention in mainstream media. We saw CNBC release a mini-featurette on poker staking. I know that we covered that over on F5 Poker. Nick, I believe that you authored that piece.
Nick: I did, yes. Coming out of my F5 writing hibernation there to drop that guide. It’s a 20-minute video. The biggest thing that you watch is just they get it right. From everything I know, it’s a very accurate top-line overview of how live poker staking works. It doesn’t really demonize it. It just presents the facts. It covers the story of the poker boom, the moneymaker years, the branders and everything. It has interviews with Jeff Gross, Ryan Laplante, a few other kinds of Vegas grinders. I think it’s a really interesting video.
Mike: From a media perspective, I think they do a really great job. As you say, they cover the topic well. I think some of the graphics in the way that they, for example, the way they depict the recommended bankroll size that the grinder would need, I thought was very innovative and helps capture the audience’s attention. I have to say that it was so well done that I really want to give a shout out to the producer. I actually went to the end to find out who was the producer of that video, and I found out that it is, and I’m apologizing in advance in case I butcher your name, but it is Sam Rega, and he does a great job. He must have a very good understanding or at least a team behind him that has a very good understanding of poker in order to be able to pull that one off.
Nick: Yes. It’s up on YouTube on the CNBC channel. Presumably, this aired on on live TV in the US.
Mike: Yes. I would assume that it did.
Nick: Yes, very cool.
Mike: It’s possible that they just released it through their online portal, but I’d be very shocked if they put those many resources and got a high-quality product like this and didn’t actually put it out on their TV channel.
Nick: Yes. The only time that I maybe rolled my eyes a little bit is it felt like it got pretty promotional. The back kind of third of it, it talks to the founders of both YouStake and Staking Kings, which are two modern staking platforms where you can buy— I’ve never used the service before, but it’s obviously a great idea, a smart business idea. It was interesting, but it did feel a little bit promotional … [crosstalk]
Mike: One avenue they could have gone down is they could have talked about the history of staking a little bit more or at least the history of online staking a little bit more, which I think would have brought in Two Plus Two because that was a very popular platform before we started seeing these new dedicated staking apps or sites come around. That was one area I thought they could have done well on.
Nick: Yes. It picked up really at the end with a story which I don’t think either of us really knew that much although it was covered by sites at the time that YouStake actually had a legal battle with the SEC regarding their service.
Mike: Yes, that was really interesting. We encourage you guys to go out and check out the video, but just to touch on it briefly, YouStake was investigated by the SEC for potentially dealing in securities. As it turned out, what had happened is their investigation caused the company to put things on hold, and when they weren’t receiving a favorable outcome from that investigation, they turned around and they sued the SEC.
Nick: If you go to F5 Poker, it’s on there and in that story also linked to an article on Flushdraw, which was written at the time of the SEC investigation was going on. I won’t say what happens at the end because I think it’s just a really interesting story. Do go and check that as well because it’s a good watch and a good read.
Mike: Overall, definitely a plus for online poker to get such coverage in mainstream media.
Mike: Last week I was doing the podcast from Las Vegas. If you had a chance to listen to that episode, you will have recalled. One of the stories that I did want to tell on the podcast but I had forgot was that on my way to starting the trip I was flagged by airport security. TSA pulled me aside. There was something in my bag that definitely caused them to be alarmed. Nick, care to guess what it might have been?
Nick: I don’t know. Actually, I bet I can guess. This was in Chicago? This was in O’Hare, was it?
Nick: Was it the Yeti microphone.
Mike: It was. They were very confused, like, “What is this thing?” Because it’s pretty heavy.
Nick: It is heavy.
Mike: It’s sizable. They pulled out some swabs. They were testing it for chemicals, something or other. They went through my entire backpack as a result. It was quite humorous.
Nick: Again, just showing your commitment to the podcasting cause. You’re taking obviously what’s seen as a massive security issue, carrying that halfway across the United States for the recording. I’m going on a holiday next week, and I’m certainly not going to be taking up my Yeti microphone.
Mike: Yes, I’d recommend don’t.
Nick: That sounds like a terrible idea. It probably weighs more than the entire rest of my pack for a three-day trip.
Mike: Yes, it is quite hefty.
Nick: Yes, so I’m going to be leaving this. The thing is it’s mostly the base. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but if you disconnect the microphone from the base, it’s actually very lightweight.
Mike: I haven’t taken it apart.
Nick: I googled around and saw if there’s a travel stand that you could get for it. I think there’s a Kickstarter business opportunity there for any entrepreneurial listeners out there.
Mike: There you go.
Nick: Anyway, Mike, we’re either going to skip next week. We were going to take a little vacation, or we might have a special one-off.
Mike: Yes, there’s potential of both of those. Stay tuned to social media channels. We will let listeners know if that’s going to be happening next week or if we are potentially going to take a week off because Nick is going to be on holiday. Either way, thanks everyone for tuning in, and we’ll catch you soon.