The guys discuss the participation of the WSOP Main Event and look at some of the remaining 106 players. Nick and Mike then preview the upcoming igaming launch in Pennsylvania.

Talk then shifts to the new features being rolled out at partypoker and those pending at PokerStars. The pod wraps up with interesting developments in the regulated markets of Portugal and Sweden that touch some of the biggest online poker companies in the world.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello, and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. It is July 11, this is episode 21. I’m your host Mike Gentile along with my co-host Nick Jones. Nick, how is it going today?

Nick: Is going very good. Yes, very good in deed, thanks very much. Episode 21, feels like it’s a milestone for us in some respects.

Mike: Almost like we should hit the bars and go out drinking.

Nick: Yes, absolutely.

Mike: It’s a milestone here for 21 to be the age that people can legally drink. What’s it over in the UK?

Nick: It’s 18 to drink. I’m not quite sure what 21 or 40 in this country, for sure it’s something.

Mike: Anything? I am not sure.

Nick: Not sure, maybe listeners can tell us. There must be some milestone you unlock for reaching that age, but I can’t think of it. Anyway, poker, should we talk about some poker, Mike?

Mike: Yes, I think there’s plenty things to talk poker about today, so why don’t we dive right in.

WSOP Update

Nick: The world series of poker is obviously a thing that we’re keeping constant tabs on. We’re going to bring you a very exciting update this week. Mike is going to just take you through all the key stats, all the key numbers to keep you in the loop. Mike, take us through it all.

Mike: How about I throw it over to you and tell us what some of the key numbers are. I will start with today is going to be the start of day six. We have some results up through day five. I think the main event was pretty significant this year because it was the second largest ever, is that right?

Nick: It was second largest ever in terms of entries, 8,569 entrance to the $10,000 buy in main event. Second only to the 2006-

Mike: Jamie Gold.

Nick: -Jamie Gold one.

Mike: How many did they miss by?

Nick: It was only a couple of hundred, 204 players shy. Pretty impressive. I’m just looking at the chart that we’ve got here, it’s been growing at a pretty steady rate for the last five years. It was at a low point in 2015 where it got about 6,000, 6,500 entrance. It’s been going up by 200, 300, 400 people every year since then. I’ll throw it over to you Mike, what would you attribute that growth to?

Mike: I’m not sure. It could be the shared liquidity with New Jersey that has given them another platform to advertise, and perhaps, that’s raised some of the hype. I think there is probably more partnerships that WSOP has forged with other places in Europe such as their circuit events, that could have raised the profile of the event and maybe perhaps drawn a few more people over. Other than that, it’s hard to pinpoint anything else. Do you have any thoughts?

Nick: Couple of other factors that I could throw into the mix there. One is the number of ball prices and how many satellites online poker operators are giving away to the main event. I honestly don’t know if it’s gone up. I know this year there was a lot of unofficial packages given away, particularly through the Indian online poker rhymes. I think it was like half a dozen had some kind of promotion running which gave away multiple packages to the WSOP main event. Obviously, AT&T always does a bunch. Winamax is also an official satellite provider. That has been the case for a few years.

That alone and I can’t point to one thing, but it definitely felt like maybe it doesn’t operate as giving away packages. That can always change things a huge amount. It will be great to get some data on how many online satellite entries. Although some of them are unofficial so there’s never going to be that kind of data. I always think that that could be part of it and other aspects. I just wonder if because PokerStars is doing less live, there is just more demand for high profile events. The WSOP in the minds of the circuit pro-

Mike: That’s interesting.

Nick: has just- Maybe people were fatigued by going to Nevada for six weeks and that kind of thing and the stock around Europe ended the circuits here. Obviously, again, PartyPoker has risen to pick up a lot of the slack that PokerStars has dropped. PokerStars used to have a huge event once a month or every two months, and now it’s I think we’ve got four or five a year that are there championships. PashPoker, it’s got four or five million events. They have one in Vegas. We talked about that last week. There are all these external factors that people say like, “Oh, poker is not dead and it’s fantastic.” It shows popularity. There’s always going to be this mechanics behind the scenes which could affect things a lot more than you might expect.

Mike: Yes. Economic factors might have some influence as well. I know, here in the US, for at least a certain segment of the population, there has been some pretty strong economic indicators over the recent year to two years. That could contribute as well.

Nick: Yes. I suppose this currency fluctuations if we’re going to get into it, I’m not quite sure how the dollar is doing against the Euro on an annual basis, but that can always have a have an effect. Anyway, not to be put a negative spin on things. The second-highest ever is a fantastic result. When you look at the— It really followed a hockey stick graph up until 2006. It was always very, very, let’s have it just have a look at the stats. It was under 1,000 entrance until 2003.

Then it just skyrocketed up to almost 9,000 entrance in 2006. Then it quickly went down to 6,000 where it held the pace for about 10 years. We’ve really seen it grow year over year the last five years, which is fantastic. It’s great for the event. It’s great for players whether the professional recreational. Fantastic result. Who can you tell us who is still in the running for the main event? Can we expect to see anyone high profile on the final table?

Mike: I don’t know about the final table, but the chip leader currently is Timothy Su. He has a pretty significant chip lead. He has 19 million in chips. Second place is professional Sam Greenwood with just shy of 12 million chips. There’s a pretty big lead there by the chip leader. Some other notable names include Antonio Esfandiari, he’s still alive. Who else? Just scrolling down the list.

There was one name that jumped out at me that was profiled on I’d give credit to the writer but I don’t think they’ll tell you who the writer is for their updates. We see that the former Main Event champion, Joe Hachem, his son is still alive, Daniel Hachem, which there’s the father-son connection there that could be a first time for WSOP Main Event winner.

In the same vein, I also think that we have another opportunity to have that come true as well with Todd Brunson. I think Todd Brunson is still alive. I’d have to double-check. If so, his, his daddy Doyle Brunson is a former main event champion as well. We’re down to 106 players left. It’s pretty deep.

Nick: What’s the schedule? This podcast is going to be coming out on Thursday or Friday. For people listening now, what’s the action now? When’s the final table going to be?

Mike: That’s a good question. I believe it’s set to start on Monday, but that’s just a guess. I don’t recall off the top of my head.

Nick: They have a bit of a break today?

Mike: Well, at 106 players at day five, usually I could see it’s stretching into the weekend. Now they used to do the Monday. I’m talking out of school here, man. I’m not sure.

Nick: I’m going to have to look it up.

Mike: I’m thinking back to the November nine. I’m a bit confused there. One other name and I’ll throw it out there, so just for our audience’s sake, Nick is not the utmost at recognizing live players names. Could you say that’s correct?

Nick: I think that’s great. I think the listeners if they’ve listened to a couple of episodes of this podcast might have already cottoned on to that fact.

Mike: All right. Well, I’m going to throw a name at you and you tell me if you recognize this name. Okay. This person is— Wait, I just lost it. Sitting at— Wait, I got to Control F now. There it is. In 45th place with just under 5 million chips. Name of Gary Gates.

Nick: I do know that name. That’s only because it’s an industry name, isn’t it?

Mike: I’m not 100% sure, it’s got to be the same person.

Nick: Well, I mean neither the full name or the surname is that uncommon so there could be multiple Gary Gates, but, well I can’t even remember what position Garry Gates had, but he’s a PokerStars guy isn’t he?

Mike: Yes. That would be quite the interesting story if he were to go on in final table this event.

Nick: Well, I saw PartyPokers, Tom Waters, we had him on the podcast two or three weeks ago, went pretty deep. I’m not sure if he’s still in, but I think it was played day five.

Mike: Well, let me see, control F and we can find out, [crosstalk] .

Nick: Whilst you do that, I can say that the main event plays down to nine players tomorrow, so Friday, June 12th. Then they do take a break. You are absolutely right. They pick up the main event on Sunday, July 14th and they expect to play 14th, 15th, and 16th.

Mike: I thought they started on Monday, but yes, Sunday. No, it looks like Tom Waters busted in 196th place.

Nick: That’s still decent cash.

Mike: Yes, that’s a pretty deep run. Does it say here? It does not say what that was good for. I’d have to look that up, but we’ll let our listeners do a little bit of digging themselves if they’d like to find out some more information.

Nick: Well, everyone likes to be assigned homework whilst listening to a podcast, so that’s a [crosstalk] .

Mike: Cool. Overall, I’d say a pretty successful main event and definitely bodes well for live pokers, especially in the US going forward.

Pennsylvania Online Poker Launch

Speaking of poker in the US, we have a pretty significant event happening on Monday. Nick, are you familiar with what that is?

Nick: Being that I have been on this podcast every episode is bar one, Pennsylvania is going to go live in three, four days time.

Mike: Yes. Monday, July 15th is the beginning of the soft launch for IGaming in the state of Pennsylvania.

Nick: Big deals we talked about before. There’s huge amounts of fanfare, everyone jostling to grab the attention, ramming it down our throats with all the deals and promotions and websites and social and everything. For full details and we still don’t really know what’s going to happen, do we?

Mike: Yes, we don’t. There’s been all kinds of speculation from everybody’s launching to nobody’s launching. There was confirmation given to that at least two of the online casinos will be soft-launching come Monday, 2:00 PM eastern time. Those are Parks Online Casino in Hollywood Casino. We have not had any official announcement with regard to poker. However, based on our research, we think the most likely to be live on day one of the soft launch is PokerStars .

Nick: Yes. No official word from them though.

Mike: No, I think there’s been some people even reaching out to them and asking them on social if they can confirm whether or not they are going to be going live and it’s kind of just avoiding answering that question and there has been no confirmation.

Nick: Definitely sounds like behind the scenes there’s, I don’t know, a lot going on. Still a lot of boxes to tick or some delays and then there’s hopes that things will get sorted out, but no one exactly knows what’s going to happen come Monday.

Mike: That’s the thing, if they knew they were launching for sure, I don’t think there’s anything preventing them from saying so. We obviously have confirmation of two of the online casinos going live. The fact that they are not out there in front of this saying we are launching on Monday means that there are still issues that need to be resolved. In my mind anyway, that’s what it says. It’s going to be probably a last-minute thing. We’re already Thursday here with no confirmation. It’s possible we may get something in the coming days, but it might be just, we have to wait and see what rolls out on Monday.

Nick: WSOP must be another candidate for launching sooner rather than later.

Mike: They are. Based on our research and what we can determine, they seemed to be a step behind PokerStars at this point. PokerStars does have approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The latest documents that we were able to sift through still show as pending. That doesn’t mean they are pending, it could be that with all the work and everything going on, that the documents, the latest documents just haven’t been uploaded to the website. It could be that they’re right there ready along with PokerStars , but at this point, there’s a lot of questions. More questions than answers.

Nick: Okay. There we have it. In next podcast, we will must have, by definition, something concrete to say whether nothing’s gone out or just a couple of casinos have launched or fingers crossed, an online poker room or two will have at least clarified when they hope to launch. I guess stay tuned for that, and we’ll have an update next week.

New partypoker Features

Mike: Another topic that has been pretty popular on this podcast, things that we’ve been talking about is PartyPoker and some of the changes that they’re making. Nick, there’s been some recent additions to their list or new changes that have been rolled out. What can you tell us?

Nick: We had in the podcast, when we have them on three weeks ago, they have supposedly a list of 50, 60 changes that they want to make. They are taking them off the list. We’ve seen in the last couple of weeks a mix of new promotions, software updates, ecology changes, that kind of thing. One is that they’re running a promotion where they are rewarding players who start cash games which is a fairly smart thing to do. When there was at least the concern or even the expectation that their traffic might drop with the implementation of the Heartburn. Obviously, rewarding players who get games going and keep them going makes sense.

That’s something they’ve been doing. I think it’s not entirely clear if promotion is permanent. I think it’s definitely until the end of this month. It’s just giving extra cash back, I think 50% extra cash back or something for players who start games.

Mike: I’m curious to know how they’re going to measure whether that’s been a success or not.

Nick: Yes. That’s a very good question. I get the impression that if they get a good idea, they release it and see what happens. I think that’s probably a good way of operating is, I think they say quite candidly, they can’t do no wrong. They’re coming from a low point. They are the underdog in many respects going up against PokerStars , so they can just try a bunch of stuff and see what sticks. Obviously, they’re going to want to see definitely not that cash games declining with a change to their heart. Obviously, again, we’re going to a really quiet period, so everyone’s cash games are drying up to some extent. It’s just I guess a nice little boost to their cash game traffic.

Some of the other changes they’ve made, one is more straight up with the ecology changes, which is fairly minor. They’ve sped up the games basically by reducing the time to act the players have and the time bank as well, which is actually something we saw PokerStars did.

Mike: Did a while back.

Nick: Yes. Most exactly I think it was early this year. They basically cut your time to make a decision by 40% or something across the board. Something similar from PartyPoker, decisions times down from 20 to 15 seconds, that kind of thing. The things they talked about or they’ve got coming are obviously much grander in ambition and technical difficulty in implementing that we talked about before like live voice at the tables and face verification and that kind of thing. No updates on things like that, but they are progressing.

What is a quiet time and as we talked about in in the first segment, some of the executives are off playing the main event at the WSOP to be continuing to push stuff out is good to see. Of course, Robert Young has got his other side projects on the go as well.

Mike: Yes. What’s the latest with the He-Man Cheaters Haters Club or Fair Player or whatever? I don’t even know what they’re calling it these days.

Nick: I think perhaps one unfortunate thing with this project, which is now officially called Fair Play, when he spoke to us he called it Online Poker Against Cheating or OPAC.

Mike: No, he called it Fair Play with us. Then he went on Posker news and called it OPAC. PartyPoker had put out a blog post calling Fair Play the collection of all the cheatings.

Nick: That’s definitely the confusion. That it’s also the name to describe all the ecology changes they’re making, which Rob Young is overseeing. He’s also gone with Fair Play as the name of an initiative which is not backed by PartyPoker. That we believe what they are one of the founding members of or one of their first members, I guess, I should say, along with Rob’s Dusk Till Dawn Casino. It’s a separate entity. The idea is, and we talked about it before, an industry-wide blacklist of players who’ve been caught cheating or colluding to be shared with other operators, both live and online. This is probably why I didn’t go with online poker against cheating because he clearly wants it to cover live poker as well. It’s not officially—

Mike: Are there any other members?

Nick: It’s just those two. It’s a little bit tricky. The time that we’re speaking it’s been teased a lot this week, it hasn’t officially launched. However, we did find the website that will be launched. In that, he says that the first two members are just his Casino and PartyPoker, it does list some of the details of how this project is going to work. It’s quite stringent how it works. Basically, when somebody is added to the blacklist if you’re a member, if that player is on your site, you must ban them within 24 hours or risk getting your Fair Play membership revoked.

Mike: There are two points that people had raised that called the feasibility of this project into question. One is the privacy issues that they may run into. The second was that in the past, there have been similar organizations where operators were putting the names of their big whales on this list so that they couldn’t get joined by their competition?

Nick: Yes, and if you are a pro subscriber, we put up an excellent feature today, written by Samantha Bevington, that really dives into this in detail about the history of it and some of the problems that it may face. You’re exactly right. There was an attempt in the past, spearheaded by Alex Scott from MPN. He’s been talking about this publicly quite a bit and got a lot of the major operators to give a verbal commitment that they would you participate in Scott such-a-scheme.

I think this is quite a few years back but as soon as they started exploring the topics, they realize that particularly it is GDPR privacy law. Which are pretty serious business. I guess, maybe they’re pretty heavy-handed, they are also complex, but the default is that you just simply can’t do things like that you cannot share that kind of personal information with other industry bodies. That just kind of killed it dead in the water.

Mike: How do you set the threshold for what is proven and what is not proven? Due process is out the window when you have a list like this?

Nick: Again, I’m not going to pretend on this podcast that I know the depths of GDPR law and what can and can’t be done. I will say that John Defi was on Twitter and he said I will quote a couple of things here, “GDPR could be a big obstacle, but we will do whatever it takes to ensure we are GDP are compliant before proceeding.” He also said, “We are confirming with legal whether we can do this.”

They’re not completely ignoring that this might be a factor. However, even if somebody is a cheater, my default is that doesn’t remove the GDPR protections. It’s something that Rob alluded to saying, “They will have a clause in their terms of conditions saying that they will do this, and being that cheating is a violation of terms and conditions is debatable whether GDPR law applies.” That’s not my interpretation. Again, I’m not pretending to have anything more than a layman’s understanding, and maybe they understand it more. They obviously have a legal department and they would have discussed this with them, one would hope ahead of the stage that they’re at now. If PartyPoker has signed on as a partner which we have a slight question mark over again it’s on this website that’s not officially released. We reached out to Party today, who confirmed that the details of the website were accurate but couldn’t confirm that they were officially partners.

We’re not exactly sure on where we are with the project. Again, we’re looking at a website that’s not released yet. This blog posts this information is called example, blog posts. We’ll see how it shakes out. We can only hope that they are further along than some might give them credit for in exploring the legal ramifications of what they had to achieve.

Mike: Another question I have for you, I had seen if we go back a bit, one, Party had removed the downloadable hand histories. There was quite the debate going on at that time. I believe Rob had put out a challenge to anyone able to put together a PartyPoker without these downloadable hand histories.

I believe I saw on two plus two forums that someone had gone ahead and done that, recorded a video and put it out there.

Nick: That person was then banned and had his money confiscated from his PartyPoker account for using a piece of cheating software.

Mike: All right. I’ve seen people outraged that they would confiscate his money, his bankroll based on that.

Nick: Yes. This is not a can of worms, I knew you’re going to be opening this segment on this podcast because it’s not something that we have covered in detail and looked into it in detail. On the surface, it definitely seems to me that a clear challenge was put out and then somebody rose to that challenge and then showed proof, which was requested and then had his account banned for using-

Mike: Was it penalized?

Nick: It’s a bit of a most event switch, but we have not spoken to the person who developed this and we haven’t spoken and reached out to PartyPoker for their comment on it. I don’t feel too confident speaking off the cuff much more than that, but understanding on the surface, it seems quite surprising.

The main thing is that it doesn’t surprise me that this has been developed at all. They spoke quite honestly when we had them on the podcast saying that— I think Tom Watson said, I’m sure it could be developed and we have tools to detect if somebody does it. As it stands right now, we’re not aware of anything on the market that could do it somebody custom developed a screen scraper. They did it. I think Rob maybe spoke for himself, rather than from party post perspective when he put out a challenge maybe not entirely with all the full site necessary to that.

PartyPoker responded in the way that I guess, separate from Rob’s comment, they detected cheating software, whether that detection came from someone sharing a video of it happening, or they had their internal tools to do, we don’t know. I suppose the bot could have been demonstrated on a play money table, for example, if that player wanted to be more careful. It seems like a pretty unfortunate situation. It’s not surprising that this can be done and the period apparently it was.

Mike: I guess the outrage by some people that the bankroll was confiscated, I don’t share that outrage. I think it’s very good practice when they find a cheater that that is the first thing they do is freeze those funds. Because in the event that that cheater, was taking advantage of other players, then those funds can be redistributed.

Nick: It’s tricky and I think this person only had in $10 on their account because they knew what they doing and they knew the risks they were running. The difficulty comes when if somebody who says they were a spokesperson for a company puts out a challenge, that appears to authorize, basically you could call it black hat activity.

You have a very similar thing with pen testing, penetration testing, which is when hackers try to break into your website or break your app or that kind of thing. People have bug bounties if things are discovered that they have very clear terms of you can’t aggressively try and violate your terms and conditions or damages if you want to try and claim a bug bounty and a few do penetration testing is often done on a separate site, not on their primary site because you don’t want it impacting your actual day to day operations.

It’s similar to that. A challenge was put out which is basically someone saying I come and hack our site and then when someone does, you cry foul and say you can’t do that. I don’t know, it’s tricky. If that person had a lot of money in their account and just said, well, I saw a challenge and accepted it this would be much trickier of the position PartyPoker might be in.

Mike: Yes. Part of the backlash is due to the communication and it looked a canned email went out saying, “Hey, we’ve detected you cheating, we’ve confiscated your funds.” If that email or that message was instead crafted to say we’ve put a hold on your account until we determine future action same effect but comes across in a much more pro— I don’t know maybe in a better way in my eyes.

Nick: Yes. Actually, now just thinking about it then saying, “Oh, we don’t think there is any screen scraping out there to get it done I will hand histories.” They’re closing by their own numbers dozens of bot accounts every month. How else are they going to work other than scraping the screen and not just understanding the action which could easily be saved to a hand history but also clicking buttons and making decisions?

Obviously, that technology is out there because they’re closing all these accounts. Now, they just put out a press release this week another 60 something accounts were closed last month which again is fantastic that they have that transparency. Hopefully, that shows that people are out there doing exactly what-

Mike: Well, yes, we don’t know when those bots were operating. They could have been operating prior to the removal of downloadable hand histories.

Nick: I know that they were operating last month. Well, I suppose they could have been bot accounts for months ago that stopped operating and then they closed last month because they only just detected them. That seems pretty unlikely.

I imagine they did take them because they’re playing. Anyway, this segment has gone in on very long. Mike, we’re going to have to wrap this up somewhere. I can absolutely talk about this more, but we probably should put polls on it because we’ve got another half dozen things to talk about. [chuckles]

New PokerStars Features

Mike: Speaking of online poker rooms rolling out new features we also have some interesting news coming out of the Poker Stars camp. What can you tell us on that front Nick?

Nick: Yes, a couple of exclusives on Pro this week. Do check them out if you haven’t read them. From our understanding based on what software updates that we’ve seen from PokerStars they’ve got a fair few new features coming out. Some of them are very clear what they’re going to be, some of them definitely are guesses but there are four in total that I wouldn’t be surprised if were launched in the next month or two.

I will start with perhaps the most obvious or the one that absolutely will come out as soon as possible which is six plus hold and spinning goes.

Mike: Yes. Wow. I have been a big fan of the six plus game since we played it in the Bahamas earlier this year. I was early on saying that it was going to be a pretty big success. Moving it that format to the spins format is going be hugely successful as well.

Nick: Yes. They will be the first operator to do this. We understand having them in lowered luxury set and go product but it makes absolute sense. The only thing that PokerStars has to balance is just how many spinning go games and variance they will be offering. That might be the only reason that they held them back. They have a classic spin and go which is often up to 20 different— maybe I’m exaggerating.

Not far off, different buy ins because they have their regular ones from whatever low sense up to $500 buy in. Then they can easily have three or four special addition ones. $5 one for a Sunday million and there is constant emphasis there. They’ve got all them. Then they’ve got the Omaha ones which is the same thing and then they have spin and go max which is a permanent addition. Now there is going to be six plus which again makes complete sense. We could be looking at 40 to 50 different game types and buying levels for just spin and go.

Mike: What’s spin and go max again?

Nick: Spin and go max, that’s a great question, isn’t it? We’ve read about it, you would have read back at some point but remembering what it is just because they have so many options is very much the problem they face. Spin and go Max is you like spin and goes where a bunch of stuff is random like the prize pool, let’s make everything random. It could be a table of three to eight people. Then there are three random prizes that we pick and then we pick one of those three. Is there a shot clock in it like a game clock? I think there might be a random game clock so some games will stop after three minutes, and then you’re forced all in and then probably the past. It’s like, randomize all the factors. That’s Spin and Go Max, it’s random to the max. Then there will be six plus. No kind of surprises there but we’ve just very much expected to be exactly as we expect, they’ll probably have half a dozen binds to start the low stakes. There are probably added high stakes further on.

Next up really surprising to me this one, it looks like they’re going to have three mobile virtual objects. You can throw a tomato at somebody at the table.

Mike: That’s that’s an interesting feature. It’s not new?

Nick: No, it’s something that 888 have had for almost a decade and it’s good yes, it’s a fun feature. It just surprises me because it’s very much what they’re doing with Aurora the new client which is very much more engaging but we really haven’t seen anything from PokerStars that takes it to this level. This kind of recreational focused casual fun element to the games. Some of the things in the newer Aurora skins are fun or these animations and stuff but all their updates are often either restricting pros, how time to act and that kind of thing or adding new games but this is the first time for a long time that I can think that they’ve done something like this.

Pop quiz for you, before we move on. Name the five things that we believe you’ll be able to throw. If you can get three of them you win a prize.

Mike: Wow, Wow. I probably can’t get three of them I’m going to go with tomato because you said that. You said tomato actually.

Nick: I very much said tomato and that is on there, you can have that.

Mike: Oh All right. My mind is immediately going back to PokerStars VR and things that you could throw in that game.

Nick: That’s a very good point actually. Yes, we didn’t mention that in the article where you can throw-

Mike: Donkey? Can you throw a donkey?

Nick: You cannot throw a donkey.

Mike: Oh, how do you think that get you to throw donkeys?

Nick: I would say all the items are fairly realistic in the sense that they could actually be items that one could throw although one would be based on the weather.

Mike: Oh, a snowball?

Nick: Yes, the snowball.

Mike: Right. Okay. A bottle?

Nick: No.

Mike: At a poker table I’m thinking what is the most realistic things you were taught about.

Nick: That must be fun. That much more fun. There’s one other food item it’s a classic food item that you might throw maybe someone’s face.

Mike: A pie?

Nick: A cake. Okay, in fact it could be a pie and the last one is a trophy.

Mike: Wow, why would you throw a trophy?

Nick: Someone wins a good hand then I can go and have the trophy.

Mike: All right.

Nick: Okay, moving on they also looks like they’re going to be adding show stack as big blind. We’re going to feature the scene elsewhere. PartyPoker has got it, Winamax has got it so basically, you’re playing a tournament. You can see your stack size, and you can see the size of the pot in big blinds rather than chips.

Mike: This feature really surprises me that it’s taken this long to propagate. You would think that they would have had this pre 2006.

Nick: Yes, I agree. Maybe it’s just one of those nice to have but is it really helping. It just really helping the professionals more it’s another setting.

Mike: Knocked down the development priority list quite a few times.

Nick: Yes, it’s interesting to see them moving ahead with it certainly. Finally, the most curious and by far the one we are guessing the most at it does look like they will have a feature that it will be called all in cash out. We know there’s a feature called all in cash out and we also know that they sent a survey around to some players saying, “Would you be interested in a feature where when you’re all in you can cash out your equity at the table?”

Mike: Okay, that doesn’t seem like too big of a guess.

Nick: Well, so they send out the surveys quite a lot and they often come to nothing but obviously putting two and two together. One would think that they will have a feature where at the cash game tables, if you go all in under some scenario, you will be able to take out of the pot your equity. If you go all in with 90% equity, that your opponent has got some outs. You could just take 90% of the pot, rather than roll the dice.

Mike: That seems like it might be difficult to get through regulators to me because that feels like they are implementing some form of, let’s call it casino gambling right at the poker table.

Nick: Right. This is where things get interesting because it’s actually when you think about it quite a few ways this could be implemented. The one could be everyone can just have that setting. You go all in and the possum says, “Oh, do you want to just take your equity,” and then very much you are taking a bet with the operator. In that scenario, 100% PokerStars there’ll be some plague on this bet. You take pay some premium to get your money back.

It works in a similar way to insurance. I suppose in blackjack, I can’t remember how that works, but I there is all-in insurance has been done in online poker by third party sites where it was code-ensured play with the service and it’s not around anymore. Basically, it would take all your hands over a set period of time and you ensure all ends. If you run below— What’s the term, it’s been so long since I played online poker. You run below EVE. If you have a green line, it’s below the graph or the red line or wherever it was.

They would give you that money and vice versa. If you run above expectation, they take their money or however it works. This works in a similar fashion. As you say, that becomes more like it’s basically a casino side game then. Even if it is, people pay a premium. Some people might like that because it reduces their variants. It’s more like the operators taking the gamble for you rather than you are. It’s reverse.

There is another way that this could work. In some respects, it’s very much like run it twice. Run it twice reduces everyone’s variance. You have one board and you’ve got an announcement, if you run it out two times, then there’s more chance that you’ll realize closer to what your real equity is. Imagine you had run at 10 times, now you’re getting pretty close to losing equity.

This is basically it could be run it every single possible board. With the way running one twice works on the sites that have it is that you have to opt-in and only in an all import if your opponent is also opted in, you both run it twice, and then two balls come out. In this in theory, there could be a feature, which is all in cash out. If you and your opponent both have it, then you don’t get out of board and the pot is just split at that point. In that case, A, there’s no gambling because PokerStars never hold any money. B, in theory, PokerStars might not take a cut of it because no one takes a cut of run it twice balls.

Mike: Right, but that’s never going to happen because you’re always going to have someone over 50% equity and someone under 50% equity. Maybe if it’s 40%, they might go for it, but if there are 90-10 situation and you’re the 10, why would you ever take that 10%? That’s crazy.

Nick: I would take it every single time if you’re pure, serious poker player and you get it all in and they flip it over their cards and you got 10% equity, I’ll just take 10% of the pot, rather than one 10th of the time willing par. Maybe you have to opt into it. I’d say I don’t know if it’ll work this way, but this will be one way where it’s not like a casino side game. PokerStars is instead just giving the option of guys rather than did it cost you we just chopped this part up to what you’re actually is now.

The thing is, this just makes poker very boring. Right? Because now there’s no risk of going all in. There’s no danger of—

Mike: No risk. No excitement.

Nick: Yes. I’m wondering whether we could go at this completely wrong. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why PokerStars would want to do this. The argument is if you reduce players’ variance, then more money stays in the system, so more money gets churned around quick because there’s no really big wins. You’re in a really big part and you stopped for the night and maybe the next day you do a cashout. I guess with this, if everyone’s got it, everyone’s just trading much smaller pots and that money churns around quicker. He said it just changes what no limit cash games would be.

Mike: The interesting thing to me is this seems to be geared towards professional or high volume players which is contrary to a lot of the other changes they’ve been making which have been to entice and bring in more recreational players. I would think recreational players wouldn’t utilize this feature as much and would be much more likely to go for the big win.

Nick: It’s interesting, I would imagine a recreational player if they had 90% equity would probably take 90% the pot. That’s quite attractive.

Mike: Oh, yes. For sure.

Nick: nice how it’s worth mentioning that GG network has built-in insurance into the product, and I believe actually as I’m just reading a great article written by Anuj on this. It triggers if you have over 65% equity, you can take insurance in a no-win situation. You do pay a premium to ensure your hand. Again, so in that example, rather than you get your equity back from the pot, I think you pay your premium, but if you lose, you still win, I guess.

It guarantees that you’re going to win the pot regardless, I assume. Or maybe at least you get your money back I don’t know. This is very much a wait and see. All the options combined are pretty major product update, for PokerStars, for sure. Comes at an interesting time because we haven’t seen any new games from them from a while. I think we talked a few months back about we saw a game called Deep Water Holden would come out, and they definitely we saw image assets about that.

Again, whether that never made it out of testing because it wasn’t a hit, whether they’re holding it for summer, whether they were just winding us up the whole time to make us talk about, trying to guess what Deep Water Holden is and frankly, was never anything. All possible, we’re pretty confident these four features at least few of them will see the light of day fairly soon.

888 in Portugal and Heavy Fines for Many Operators in Sweden

Nick: Okay, we have been gassing for a very long time here, Mike, I see we’re already get approached another 45-minute mark, but there’s two topics we’re going to cram them right at the end. They also because we can’t have a podcast where I didn’t get super deep into some European regulation. I’m going to do a double bill here. I’m going to try and keep it to 10 minutes. Everyone’s going to have a great time. Sound good?

Mike: All right. Let’s go for it.

Nick: Portugal. We talked about Portugal last week. Pretty big deal because 888 launched online poker in Portugal.

Mike: Second only. Online poker room?

Nick: Yes, you did not fall asleep in last week’s episode, my friend. Very good. Excellent. 10 out of 10. So they went live. We commented last week, there was a few strange things about their launch that we were surprised to see. One is their rake. One is how they seem to be getting their domain wrong constantly. A few other things, but the main one is that they launched blast, which is their lottery sit and go game, which is to our understanding, not allowed under Portuguese regulation.

This is why PokerStars does not have their spin and go products, but when a state launched, not only did they have the game, it wasn’t just like an accidental, like they deployed the wrong bit of software and it had the tab. Like this was part of the launch. This was all on the website. Obviously, everything’s translated into Portuguese. It was on the press release that we got talking about how players could played last year like wow, okay. They’ve reinterpreted this regulation in a way that PokerStars hasn’t and says that they can offer these products. Yes, I was going to say yesterday, but it’s not, what day is it? Today is Thursday? A couple of days ago, I think they removed it. They removed blast, the product from the website. It’s gone.

Mike: Wow. So a question, were people actually playing for real money while it was up?

Nick: Yes. I can assume so. We can’t even see the content. For some reason they’re geo blocking the client, so we can’t see it outside of Portugal. From everything that we can see people were playing it. In fact, they had a high status €30 euros, and they had a 10,000 prize pool. So €300,000, I’d say it’s by far the largest, happened a couple of days ago. This is probably only happened a few times because this does not trigger very frequently. It’s probably one in a few hundred thousand.

These games aren’t popping up constantly like on PokerStars. From what we can see, and probably thankfully then a Portuguese player we don’t think was involved. Wasn’t one of the four people at the table, but these were shared with Spain. 888 did email their customers and just said we’re unfortunately removing this game. People had blast tickets, which had to be converted into regular tournament tickets.

It’s very bizarre. I’m not quite sure what happened behind the scenes here. If they really just didn’t realize at all in their six months plus— they got their license six months ago after all that preparation and seeing their competitor not having it, they thought they could launch here. I’m not really quite sure, but—

Mike: It may be a bit unfair to put this on 888. It could be that their liaison with the Portuguese regulator was saying “Yes, it’s okay.” Without realizing exactly what it was. I don’t know because of some of the things we’ve seen in the past from 888. I’m not so willing to just give them the benefit of the doubt but—

Nick: Something that I saw on the Portuguese PokerNews , something that I wasn’t aware of but apparently also not permitted under regulation is offering online satellites to live events. I’m assuming they’re right there. I was not aware of that at all but 888 in Portugal right now is offering online satellites to their Deep Stacks and to WSOPC event or something which the poker news said, “They still seem to be available in the lobby.” They also still apparently are charging 6.5% rate or something which again as we understand-

Mike: Which is above the maximum.

Nick: -as we understand it above the maximum. Let’s say in the not the smoothest of launches despite the amount of lead time they have whether there’s going to be repercussions for spreading a game that we don’t think they can. Maybe with high rates in the few counters, I don’t know.

Mike: I’m thinking back to the regulator again even if this is on 888 they have to share in some of this to allow this to go live. There had to been some testing period I would have imagined they had to approve the software before 888 rolls it out.

Nick: Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe they thought well it’s been approved so it’s all fine. Again this point it’s just a guessing game. Even when we wrote it up a week ago and we talked about on the podcast my knowledge is that this is not permitted I roughly understand the regulations. Again I make the assumption that a company like 888 would know more than me. They’ve got lawyers and their experts and they speak to the regulators and they’re much closer than you or I are to the thing. A week later it was just removed and it turns out that maybe they just I don’t know they didn’t realize. The regulator is infamously slow at multi-year wait for licenses to come out.

We’re pretty sure that other online Poker operators are waiting for a license. Pretty sure Winamax has been waiting for like two years wouldn’t be surprised Party Poker as well. As you know it’s going to make the regulator things where I would get all this time for this testing and all of this. Maybe it takes so long that people forget what they can and can’t do. [laughs] I don’t know.

Mike: All right. What’s going on in tweets? I know that that’s hot.

Nick: Well, here’s a regulator who has not waited to affirm its control over the market. Sweden went live at the beginning of this year and dozens of operators have been fined extremely high amounts for transgressions in the market. I’ve never seen a regulator come down so hard, and I’m not saying incorrectly, on the industry. $10 million of fines as we calculated have been levied on operators including all the big guys that you would think of. I’m just going to bring up the numbers here.

Mike: While you’re bringing that up let me throw a question at you. Are these four transgressions that happened prior to the regulated?

Nick: No. These are all the things that have happened since going live. In fact, the only cited handing down fines in the middle of May so we’re talking six weeks. One company has had their entire license revoked but we’ll get to that in a second. They basically fall into two buckets. One is promotions under Swedish regulations. Again, they are very player-protection focused. The reasons for this regulation, the justification quite rightly is to protect players at risk. To not encourage excessive gambling et cetera.

One of the stipulations is that new players can be offered bonuses but you can’t then encourage further play with future bonuses. This was something that seemed fairly clear because we knew ahead of time that PokerStars couldn’t launch Star rewards or anything really similar in Sweden because it’s an ongoing loyalty program. Six operators have been slapped with huge fines for offering repeat bonuses to existing customers. We’re talking to bets on a $2 million fine 19 million Swedish krona for playing this.

Mike: All right. I’ve got an interesting question, are any of those operators Svenska Spel?

Nick: No. Though I did see that some industry group was trying to get Svenska Spel fined for something. I can’t remember quite what it is. It’s interesting to see Spinnaker operated for years and years and years on their own in the market and famously offered no promotions or awards at all. Obviously they were ahead of the game on that one so now they are not in the list. Companies that are on the list, PokerStars, bet365, Bwin, which is PartyPoker, Betfair/paddypower.

All those companies will be fined, this is not poker related, but they were fined for taking accepting bets on sporting events where the majority of participants were under the age of 18. The regulation defines that to protect minors from ever being faced with, I suppose bribes for throwing matches. You can’t take bets on such sporting events. The tricky thing is, so they have an under 19s and under 21s league. Operators were taking bets on these matches and it just so happened that a couple of, so I dug into the PokerStars transgressions because they were hit with the highest fined one point $1.1 million for taking bets on two under 19 football contents where the makeup of the squad, the average age came in just under 18.

Most players in under 19 are 18 or maybe 19, but in a couple of these cases, they had I guess a couple of 17, 16-year-olds. The brought the average down. What PokerStars did, they defended what they did and said it’s very hard for us to know the full squad ahead of time.

Mike: Is that everyone on the roster or the actual players that are on the pitch?

Nick: It’s everyone on the roster. They were talking about 36 players in total. Two squads of 18, I believe.

Mike: How frequently do they make roster moves, how frequent does that change?

Nick: I guess it’s who turns up. I don’t know how big of a deal under 19 is, but it’s not super high professional. I imagine it’s just like who comes to the match. Again, from the regulator’s point of view, it’s like, “Well that’s your problem.” PokerStars said, “We don’t assign anything.” What PokerStars have done is, they suspended all bets on under 19 and under 21 matches.

Mike: That seems pretty soon. Why did they take the risk?

Nick: Other operators have pushed back and said, “Your regulation hasn’t been clearly defined. You’re not engaging in any dialogue.” Some of these are very much still pending. Again, these fines are massive. Sweden is a good market, but it’s almost $10 million of fines across,I think 14, 15 cases. There’s one case of global gaming, which I’m probably not that familiar to me and you or our listeners, but they operate in Ninja Casino, which was very big in Sweden ahead of regulation. They are a publicly listed company on the Nasdaq Sweden Stock Exchange, I believe. Big Deal.

They just had their license suspended and their share prices bombed out and they are appealing their decision. Again, their transgressions seem quite serious. They involve very pro anti-money laundering policies amongst also repeat bonus violations and other things. This was just, “You have to stop operating immediately.” Serious business.

Mike: Regulation for revenue. That’s what it is like. That’s what it is.

Nick: Well, I saw that the Swedish regulator announced that they had the Dutch counterparts come and visit to discuss regulation and how it’s been. Obviously, the Dutch are regulating themselves and putting together their policies and that’ll happen in 18 months. They probably would have heard a lot about successes and failures whacking down massive fines on these companies. Yes, definitely, operators need to start learning.

It’s interesting, referring back to 888 Portugal thing is this, if my understanding is correct, I would say that transgression is, I mean, launching a game, which you can’t, that’s how it seems.

Mike: Charging more rate than you’re allowed, those are pretty big.

Nick: Yes. I want to say that again, quite possibly wrong in some of these matters, but it’s interesting, you have to tow the line and know when the regulator is extremely serious and which regulators might allow these transgressions to pass, but there we go. I don’t think I kept that in 15 minutes. Exactly, but two bits of European regulation for you to round things out.

Mike: It was interesting nonetheless. Thanks for bringing that up.

Outro silliness

Mike: Well, that wraps things up for this episode. Any interesting topics to discuss on the outro today, Nick?

Nick: You know the big topic, Mike. It’s now outro go-to. How an intelligible statements did I make in the last podcast? Can you even remember where we set the line and what you took?

Mike: No, I don’t.

Nick: We set the line at six. You took the over. I went very low. You took the over. You win again. It was seven.

Mike: Only by one? That’s a great line by you then.

Nick: Was I suppose. Zero for you again, obviously.

Mike: To be fair, I talk a lot less.

Nick: This is going to be an hour-long podcast. I’m going to say, I’m going to go 10 this time.

Mike: I’ll take the under.

Nick: Thanks very much. I appreciate the support.

Mike: I’ll take the under for sure. I don’t have a problem understanding. A little bit surprised that someone that transcribes things for a living, might, but who knows.

Nick: Now he’s heard you say that and you’re probably going to get like 200.

Mike: I’m not name-checking anyone. It’s all anonymous at this point. All right. Well, I guess that wraps things up. Any last words?

Nick: No, Mike, this is the bit where you lull us into the beautiful outro music.

Mike: All right. I figured that we would try throw it over to you and this way take the pressure off me a bit, but-

Nick: Absolutely not.

Mike: Okay, it’s all me then. Thanks, everyone for tuning in and we will catch you next time.