Nick and Mike review some of the record breaking numbers and interesting facts from the 50th Anniversary World Series of Poker. The conversation then shifts to the online bracelet events and the trends that became apparent this year. In other news, the guys talk about the launch of online casino in Pennsylvania, when online poker might be expected, and The Stars Group makes a deal for market access to New York in land-based sports betting and when/if online gaming becomes regulated in the state.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. It is July 17th 2019. This is episode number 22. I’m your host, Mike Gentile along with my co-host, Nick Jones. Nick, how’s it going today?

Mike: It’s going very good. How are you doing?

Mike: I’m doing pretty good.

Nick: I wanted to get started. I want to start this episode because we had a listener reach out to us after the last episode, which is always nice, a bit of two-way interaction on the podcast. I’m not sure if you remember last week, we talked about what you can do at the age of 21 because, obviously, it’s our 21st episode last week. I can remember anything that you can actually do at the age of 21 here in the UK. A listener, Connie, reached out and pointed out some things that you can do. I have since fact check that and there are four things that you can do as a Brit at the age of 21. I wondered if you want to try and guess some?

Mike: Wow. We know drinking is not one of them. All right, I can guess some. Voting.

Nick: No. You can vote.

Mike: Rent a car?

Nick: No.

Mike: What’s the age to vote?

Nick: 18.

Mike: 18.

Nick: Hold there, I got to say that they brought that down to 16. I’m not sure now.

Mike: 16, really?

Nick: No, it can’t be. There’s a discussion of that. It’s not that though. There are a couple of driving-related things though.

Mike: Be prime minister.

Nick: No.

Mike: No? Driving related, rent a car? No, we tried that one. Driver’s license? Dude, I’m lost.

Nick: You can get a driver’s license for a heavy goods vehicle. Essentially, I didn’t know this one, you can supervise a learner driver.

Mike: You can’t do that at 18?

Nick: No. You can start driving at 17 here and get your license at 18, but not until 21 can you sit in the passenger seat and supervisor a learner. You can also get your pilot’s license or apply for a pilot’s license. Finally, you can adopt a child or apply for adoption. There you go.

Mike: Wow.

Nick: I’ll tell you what, that is entirely unrelated to poker. Maybe we should talk about some?

Mike: Yes, I think there’s some big news in the poker world this week that we should be talking about.

Nick: Okay, let’s dive into it.

World Series of Poker Wrap Up

Mike: The 50th anniversary of the World Series of Poker is officially in the books. We do have a main event champion as of just a few hours ago. Take us through what we know.

Nick: We’re rolling down, obviously again, as always fingers on the pulse to be recording straight after this is finished. We might be the first podcast out with having the main event concluded. This is [crosstalk]

Mike: Saying that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lance Bradley and Donnie over at The FIVES were live right on the scene as soon as the final hand went down. I haven’t seen for sure so I don’t know.

Nick: Yes. The winner taking home $10 million is a German resident and Iranian born, Hossein Ensan. Who I will be honest, it’s not a name I’m familiar with, but it’s not a stranger to the live poker scene as I understand it.

Mike: I am also not familiar with him but that’s not surprising. I did see a video that Joey Ingram posted on social media at some point this week with him involved in a controversial hand from the EPT. Did you see that?

Nick: I was aware that he— Did he win that event? Because I know he’s—

Mike: I don’t know. I didn’t go on to see if he had actually won it. It was heads-up I believe at the time. I don’t know.

Nick: $10 million goes to him. Who else was on the final table? Any names jump out here?

Mike: The runner up was Dario Sammartino, who was involved in a controversial hand of his own. I think with 11 players left, the dealer, he had asked for a count after he was betting shoved on, and the dealer miscounted the other player’s stack. He then called and controversy ensued. He was runner up. Another significant name at the final table was someone that we name-checked in our last episode, PokerStars employee, Garry Gates.

Nick: Yes. He came forth for $3 million, so an incredible run for him. This is his first really big cash I think. He’s obviously not like a big live poker grinder as we understand it. We actually put up an article on pro today about kind of a double win for PokerStars getting their name out there despite obviously not really being a WSOP partner in any way. Not only did their Garry Gates come forth but their longtime investor Chris Moneymaker was one of two inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. Yes, pretty big coup for them I guess from the distant Isle of Man to get the double name-check in there.

Mike: Yes. They’re doing quite well for not being an official sponsor, that’s for sure. Yes, we could talk about both of those things. You want to dive into Garry Gates first or into the hall of fame?

Nick: Yes, sure.

Mike: All right. Let’s talk about Garry. Garry Gates, so I saw his exit interview and learned a couple of things. As you said, he is not a professional poker player and doesn’t claim to be. His $3 million prize for fourth place. I heard him mention in his exit interview that he was staked, which I guess is not a big surprise. Care to guess who staked him?

Nick: Isai Scheinberg.

Mike: [laughs] No, but I guess you’re not all that far off. It is someone from PokerStars or someone formally from PokerStars [crosstalk] as Isai is as well.

Nick: Steve Day.

Mike: Wow. No, where did that come from? [laughs]

Nick: Dan O’Brien.

Mike: Jason Mercier.

Nick: Jason Mercier. That’s much more likely.

Mike: He did make mention that he would be giving Jason millions, plural, and that he was a millionaire. With a $3 million prize, it sounds like he maybe had a third of himself.

Nick: Okay, cool. Huge spill for him. Fantastic.

Mike: I don’t know Garry personally, but from everyone that I’ve seen talk about him, he’s a quite the honorable guy and a good ambassador for poker.

Nick: I think he’s been working the live scene as an organizer for many, many, many years. As I understand it, he was instrumental in the organization of the PSPC. Did you meet him when we were in the Bahamas in January? I don’t think I did.

Mike: I did not. I’ve seen him around events many times, but I don’t think that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Garry.

Nick: I understand that he was really a core part of that being put together. What the future holds for him now that he’s a millionaire, we don’t know but a great result.

Mike: Two things about Garry before we move on to the Poker Hall of Fame; one, and I did not know this, that he used to work for PokerNews before PokerStars.

Nick: I did not know that.

Mike: The second is if for anyone that hasn’t seen Brad Willis was tweeting about— I think about a blog post that he was going to write. I haven’t seen the blog posts, but I did see the Twitter thread, and it basically goes through and tries to give people an inside look into the type of person that Garry Gates is. I found it really, really, really interesting. It was good. I suggest people go out and take a look at Brad Willis’s Twitter feed and try and get ahold of that thread and perhaps there’s even a blog post on it. I haven’t really checked, so I’m not 100% sure on that.

Nick: Cool. The Poker Hall of Fame, Chris Moneymaker along with— I can’t remember who else was inducted.

Mike: David Oppenheim.

Nick: Yes, into the Poker Hall of Fame. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know much about this ceremony. It’s not technically like WSOP owned and controlled as I understand it. Now, it is organized to happen over the weekend of the main event. They’re closely tied together and have been for a few years.

Mike: I’m not so sure. I think it might be owned by Caesars.

Nick: See, I think it’s Harrahs owned unless Caesars bought it from Harrahs.

Mike: Harrah’s is owned by Caesars.

Nick: Okay, so it’s Ceasars owned.

Mike: Harrah’s actually used to be the corporate name at one point, and then they changed it to Caesars, I believe. [crosstalk] Yes, it used to be Harrah’s one time.

Nick: There’s likely only three companies that control all gambling in the world, Mike. It’s all going to end up in the same place.

Mike: [laughs]

Nick: I didn’t really know much about the criteria. Obviously, somebody who’s had a longstanding positive influence on the game of poker, which Chris Moneymaker in my mind seems to be a slam dunk for that. He’s obviously had a huge impact. He has an effect named after him, so you can’t really get bigger than that,

can you?

Mike: No. I’ve got the criteria in front of me if you’re interested.

Nick: Go on then.

Mike: All right. A player must have played poker against acknowledged top competition, be a minimum of 40 years of age at the time of nomination, played for high stakes, played consistently well gaining the respect of peers. I don’t know about the high stakes one. I guess there’s no definition of high stakes. It’s not like he’s played low stakes, but you don’t see him in the super high rollers, that’s for sure.

Nick: That criteria points more towards the quality of a player rather than his advocacy of poker because he’s definitely more in that role. He’ll be the first to say and has done it in interviews with you I think that he sees himself as a recreational player, right? He likes meeting other recreational people, chatting at the table, that kind of thing, and his story always was the—

Mike: Everyman.

Nick: The everyman, exactly. I’m not sure were saying him being respected amongst other poker players that his quality of play is not how I would define him and define what legacy he will leave certainly.

Mike: Let me tell you the final criteria— criterion. Wow. I’m not sure about my plural and singular of that word.

Nick: Criteria is going to be the plural to that.

Mike: What’s the singular though?

Nick: Criterion.

Mike: Okay. Then I did get it right.

Nick: Yes, 100%.

Mike: It qualifies itself as for nonplayers, contributed to the overall growth and success of the game of poker with indelible positive and lasting results.

Nick: Okay. He’s that criteria and David Oppenheim would be the first criteria as a long-time high stakes poker player.

Mike: I’m not sure if they specify that, but he could be. [chuckles] He could fit in that bucket as well. Other people that got nominated and did not make it, Eli Elezra, Antonio Esfandiari. Are you ready for this one? Chris Ferguson.

Nick: Yes, I saw his name on the list.

Mike: That’s going to be a bit of a shitstorm I would imagine because, at some point, his numbers are going to be ones that cannot be ignored. The other surrounding circumstances around Chris Ferguson are going to come into play whether it’s by the nominating committee, the voters, or even just the public’s reaction. I’m looking at that one in future years to be a highly controversial inductee.

Nick: The guy likes to keep his head low as well these days, quite understandably. I can’t imagine him being there to accept such an award, to be honest.

Mike: It’ll be interesting to see. A couple of other old school people on that list, Ted Forrest, Mike Matusow, and Huckleberry Seed.

Nick: Wow. There’s loads before you even have to get Chris Ferguson that could get in there before him. There’s three or four names here that I would put above even if we ignore the whole controversy surrounding Full Tilt Poker that could trump him. Maybe the question never has to be asked.

Mike: Perhaps, perhaps.

Nick: Because I prepared for this segment of the podcast. As always, I want to be fully prepared for this. I’ve got a few interesting WSOP main event facts for you, Mike, which I might turn into quizzes questions, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Mike: A quiz? You stumped me. Quiz questions last episode, I remember.

Nick: Question number one.

Mike: Wait. Before we go into that-

Nick: Go on then.

Mike: – we’re going to keep score. Now, I’ll tell you what, I have questions that I could quiz you on as well.

Nick: Great. Question one, our winner, Hossein Ensan, has a German flag now, so he’s resided in Germany since he was 25 years old. Has there ever been a WSOP main event winner from Germany?

Mike: Yes, Pius Heinz.

Nick: Very good. One point.

Mike: Wait, let me guess, and I’m not looking at anything. My eyes are closed, you could see it in the webcam. I’m going to guess he was 2011?

Nick: Yes, very good. Very good indeed. Wow, I’m impressed. Has there ever been an— [crosstalk]

Mike: Wait, my turn. We’ll alternate, how about that?

Nick: Go on then.

Mike: Total number of entries for the 90 events of the WSOP this year? I’ll give you plus or minus 5,000.

Nick: What? Absolutely no chance I’ll be able to get that.

Mike: Within 5000?

Nick: Yes, within 5,000, no chance. Total— [crosstalk]

Mike: All right, make it— I’ll raise the—

Nick: Go on then, you were going to widen the bracket for me. I need you to widen it. [crosstalk]

Mike: Yes. 5,000, let’s go to 20,000.

Nick: Okay, 20,000, I can take that. Do you want to range of 20,000, or are we just going to— [crosstalk]

Mike: No, I want you to pick a number, it’s got to be within 20,000.

Nick: Okay. 115,000 entries.

Mike: You are not within the range. A total of 187,298 entries. An all-time record, 51% higher than last year.

Nick: That’s many, many entries.

Mike: That is many, many entries.

Nick: Question for you, so this is not fair, my questions are yes or no. Has there ever been an Iranian WSOP main event winner?

Mike: Yes. I know this dude because I’ve read the press release. I want to say that there were two prior.

Nick: Yes, see I haven’t read the press release, I literally just looked this up because I thought it was fascinating. This is an incredible thing, right? In 50 years, there have only been 10 non-US winners. Of those 10, two of them are Iranian. If we can count Hossein, that’s three, three of 10 have been from Iran. Isn’t that incredible?

Mike: Yes, that is pretty incredible. Wow, interesting.

Nick: Okay. Have you got another question for me?

Mike: Yes. Dude, I’ve got a long list, I can probably outlast you.

Nick: Do one more.

Mike: All right. I’ll give you one more as a quiz and then I’ll just rattle off some of these other facts and figures from the world series this year.

Nick: Go on then.

Mike: Prize money awarded, total prize money for all 90 events plus or minus 50,000. Same 50,000 range.

Nick: I’ve got no idea.

Mike: No, let’s make that plus or minus $50 million.

Nick: Yes, I was going to say $850 million.

Mike: Wow. $850 million?

Nick: $450 million.

Mike: $293 million.

Nick: That’s nothing on then.

Mike: 10% above last year, or above the last record, and 26% above 2017. I’m not sure which did not have the $1 million buy-in that 2018 had. All-time record there.

Nick: There you go.

Mike: Do you got another one?

Nick: I got a fact. I’m going to throw out a fact at you. First, I was just trying to find what was unique about this main event. I was looking at the first place and second place, and they were both non-US, and I wondered if they were the first one and two non-US finishers.

Mike: I would say no.

Nick: It’s only happened once before, I think, but it was in 2011. It was Pius Heinz and the Czech Republic’s, Martin Staszko, I think, or is that the Russian flag?

Mike: Yes, the Czech, right. Maybe, I’m not sure. That’s who I was thinking about.

Nick: I did find one unique thing about this and that is the winning hand, Hossein’s winning hand was the best winning hand we’ve ever had.

Mike: Ever?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: Wow. I know what it is.

Nick: Yes, he won with kings, and we’ve never had kings or aces before. We’ve had ace-king, there’s been 10s, there’s been pocket jacks. There’s been pocket queens as well, but never pocket aces and never pocket kings until now. That’s cool.

Mike: Kudos to you for looking that up.

Nick: There you go.

Mike: That’s some deep dive in there. All right, so I’m going to rattle off some figures from the World Series of Poker this year that are pretty notable. $1 million-plus prize pools, all-time record 62 out of 90 events. $2 million prize pools or greater, 34. $5 million prize pools or greater, 12. $10 million prize pools or greater, three. One $80 million prize pool, the second largest in history. Obviously, the main event there.

Events with 5,000 or more entrants, 12. Wrap your head around that for a second, this is just massive. The WSOP was a huge success this year. Tons and tons of record set. Second biggest main event of all time. I think the cries for poker is dead or dying can take a look at the results of the world series this year and maybe try and reconsider their position.

Nick: Yes, absolutely. Let’s put a pause on this, we’re going to go into the second segment. Don’t fear, we’re going to be talking more about the WSOP, aren’t we, Mike?

Mike: A little bit, yes.

Nick: A little bit more. Quick music break and we’ll see you on the other side. Online Bracelet Event Analysis

Nick: It seems like a pretty good place to break there because we also wanted to talk about the online bracelet event which also did particularly well, they really pushed the bet vote out with the schedule. It seemed like it was a resounding success. They didn’t set any guarantees for their online bracelet event, but they had nine in total, I think, this year?

Mike: I believe so, yes.

Nick: Which is more than doubled last year. Obviously, I wonder now, maybe I could just go straight in to see if you have read Poker Industry PRO’s article on this topic because we really crunched the numbers for these events. Would you like to take a guess? Do you know how much they paid out in their online bracelet events, their nine bracelet events?

Mike: I can tell you that I have not yet read that article. Yes, go ahead and close me up. How much did they win in the total of the nine events?

Nick: Yes, total prize pool.

Mike: All right, what’s my range? The plus-minus?

Nick: Half a million.

Mike: Half a million? Wow. Nine events, I will say— I don’t know, $8 million.

Nick: It was $9.8 million. Over a million on average per event. Every single one—

Mike: Wow, that seems big.

Nick: Yes, it’s incredible. They had no guarantees. Partly why, it could’ve been because they didn’t know until really the last minute whether New Jersey would be part of it or not. We’ve seen guarantees before in previous years, but they didn’t put any on it this year. Clearly, it’s not needed, because— All four of the events that they held last year that they repeated this year, all exceeded their turnout, all set records for the guaranteed price pool.

Particularly notable is there’s the 1K championship, I think it’s called, they’ve hosted it every five years that they’ve been able to offer it online. It’s growing every single year. It’s at $1.7 million now this year. It had 1,750 entries. Last year they had a million-dollar guarantee and it smashed it. This year, they didn’t have one and it exceeded it again. That was extremely successful.

Mike: I got a question for you. Did we have a winner from New Jersey for an online bracelet this year?

Nick: We had two.

Mike: Two? Wow, okay.

Nick: Let me see, we’ve got those details here in this article. I think it was two of the bracelet events that the nine were in New Jersey. I think they were the later ones. That wouldn’t be possible if hadn’t kept the events opened past the deadline before it was extended. The super high roller was actually the largest prize pool, not only in WSOP online bracelet event history but ever in the US regulated market. $1.8 million prize pool in the no-limit hold’em high roller event.

Mike: Wow. What was the buy-in on that?

Nick: The great question. It’s going to be here deep in the numbers, give me one second. The high roller, $3,200 buy-in. It got just under 600 entries total.

Mike: Wow.

Nick: Yes.

Mike: That’s still almost a $2 million prize pool in the US with very limited markets open. That’s a great number.

Nick: Yes, it’s incredible. Keep in mind that they had alongside this $3.5 million guaranteed summer championship series which ran over the period of the six weeks, which they do every year. On top of that they had these nine events which combined to about almost $10 million. You never see a series of that size and a market of this size. Obviously, you’ve got a lot more people in Las Vegas who can open their laptops at the table and play. The desire to play online poker, sometimes the world’s playing live poker, is absolutely there. It smashed it out the park.

Mike: Wow. Going through the numbers that we did in the last segment and touting how successful the 50th anniversary of the World Series of Poker was, I think if we were to pull out just the online events, like we’re doing in this segment, and look at their place in history, it’s going to be equally as successful, if not even more than the live events themselves. These numbers are just astonishing.

Nick: It’s interesting, it’s the first year where nothing has happened as well. Like if we look over the history, if we look at the 1K championship event, in the first year— The first two years, you had to finish the final table in Las Vegas live; they had that in 2015 and 2016. Obviously, that’s somewhat negative to some people that might want to do it. They also introduced the rebuy in 2016. In 2018, yes, added the $1 million guarantee.

Obviously, in 2017 they had the New Jersey player pool connected. In 2019, it’s the one year where they kept that tournament exactly the same, same structure, there’s no new player pool, there’s nothing new, and yet it still grew 8% and attracted 1,750 people to play it. The number of records set here— We tabulated the largest bracelet events that they’ve ever had of the five years; three of them were this year and two of them were last year in terms of the prize pool.

You can see the same again in total number of entries. The latent demand is there as soon as other markets can come online and share this player pool. There’s no question looking at just the small set of numbers how much potential there is in these markets.

Mike: Yes, the year on year growth and you were just talking about the championship event, but if you look at the total events overall between the number of events, the prize pools, the total entries, and like you said, with no significant event happening, the growth is really quite impressive.

Nick: The other thing is, not really that much promotion because, again, the WSOP didn’t even know if they could offer this in New Jersey, which is by far the larger market up until literally days before. I know they ran some satellites, and they had that question of, “What do we do if people can’t play in these events?” They must have held back a little bit in going all out because there was so much just uncertainty around the situation. With that cloud that was hovering over, to hit these numbers is just even more impressive.

Mike: I’m personally looking at 2020 as a potential breakout year for the online side of the WSOP. With the success they had this year and the potential of including Pennsylvania in that mix, it’s something definitely to look forward to.

Nick: Mike, it sounds like you’ve hit on the perfect transition point into the next segment, so we can break there again, pick off, and talk more about Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania iGaming Launch Details

Nick: Indeed, this was the week where the largest US to date came online for regulated online gaming and it did happen just.

Mike: We’re talking about the state of Pennsylvania. On Monday we saw, first out of the gate was Hollywood Casino, next up was Parx Casino, and today we should see SugarHouse live in the Pennsylvania online gaming market. Making that three in the first week of the so-called soft launch or test period.

Nick: We’ll touch on online poker, the lack thereof, and the hopes and the future in a bit, but just to talk about these three launches. They’re just casino games, it’s slots. One of them has online table games, I think, is that right?

Mike: What happened is Hollywood went first, they did not have any table games; they had slots, they had video poker, they had baccarat. They did not have BlackJack. I guess baccarat technically a table game, they did not have blackjack or roulette, no live dealer games. Parx came on later that day, and they did offer roulette and blackjack. Yesterday, which was the second day, Hollywood added roulette.

I haven’t checked to see if they’ve added blackjack today or anything else. We did have slots, we had video poker, we had baccarat, we had roulette and blackjack, all of those games are live, but as you said, no poker.

Nick: In total, how many online casinos do we expect to go live in Pennsylvania state this year?

Mike: It’s been very difficult to predict the speed at which these things are going to roll out. We’re in the second half of the year. We’re looking at three right here in the first week. I believe there are 10 licenses and total. I’m trying to predict how soon that’s going to be or what they need to do before they’re ready to launch is going to be very difficult. I think right now, what we want to do, is we want to hope that we are going to see online poker happen before the end of the year.

Nick: Yes. It’s just bizarre that there’s been so much lead time to this. It was what? Two years ago that the laws were passed, is that right?

Mike: Yes, just about two years ago, I believe it was maybe a year and nine months, something along those lines. I’ve been peppering the Pennsylvania gaming control board with questions to try and understand a little bit better where this bottleneck lies, whether it’s with the operators and the casinos getting their required documentation in for approval on time, or if there’s a backlog of work that the regulator is trying to clear up. As one might expect, they’ve been pretty tight-lipped on the actual reason for the rollout going the way it has.

Nick: It is bizarre how— With the two casinos that we know are live, so we don’t have anyone in Pennsylvania trying these out? Reading Twitter and some of the people who can, I’ve read that the two sites that are live, there have been a myriad of technical problems, geolocation issues, payment processing problems, mobile issues. For all this lead time and only two sites have got to this stage that they can launch, and they still seem to be hampered with problems is pretty embarrassing for everyone [chuckles] involved, I guess from my outside perspective.

Mike: Yes, add into that mix that your neighboring state of New Jersey has been operating online gaming since late 2013. You would hope that the regulatory bodies in both states would be working closely together. You would expect that as states get established with their online gaming markets, that future states would be able to build on that knowledge and expertise and would have less problems at rollout and a shorter turnaround time to make these things happen, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case in the state of Pennsylvania.

Nick: Yes, but so we’re talking like it’s five, six years of experience in New Jersey from regulators, the geolocation service providers, payment providers, and operators; even more for Nevada. Obviously, that’s not casino, but online poker had the same issues, questions of the geolocation, payment processing, all of that, it’s like eight years ago. Yes, and just to look at like how things happen in Europe, I’m not saying it’s a model to copy, but like with Swedish online gaming, they had an application process that lasted six months. Then after six months, 70 online casinos and poker rooms launched.

[chuckles] That’s the intent, and they’re looking at the same kind of timeline in the Netherlands. Now, I’m not saying that regulation didn’t have its problems and that might not have passed muster in the US, but there has to be a better middle ground. Anyway, that leads us on to online poker and what we can hope to happen there.

Mike: Yes. We’ve reached out to the people that we think are going to be some of the first to launch; PokerStars in particular, no word coming out of their camp, even though they appear to us to be in line to be the first one to go live. We also reached out to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board because they had looked at this. They wanted to provide a coordinated rollout.

They wanted to have multiple people going live at the same time so it’s not to give anyone any kind of advantage by getting out there early. The way that it’s actually happening, yes, there’s more than one, there’s three online casinos rolling out, but it seems to be lacking that big, like you said, what saw in what was it? Sweden, where they had 70 going live?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: This is just a small portion of the licensees that are actually launching their products now. I reached out, and I said, “Is this coordinated rollout that you’re trying to do going to happen on a vertical basis? For example, when online poker does come, are you going to hold up until we have multiple operators ready to launch?” They came back, and they said, “No, it’s going to be on a first-come, first-served basis. Whenever someone’s ready, they’re going to go live.”

Nick: Yes.

Mike: I guess that bodes well for it happening sooner rather than later, but that still doesn’t give us any indication of a timeline.

Nick: Yes, so I see a headline at the top of Pokerfuse right now, PGCB, “Cannot Predict A Timeline.” They’re responding to our inquiries, just not with any real detail. It’s the same with PokerStars. They said, “Watch this space as soon as possible,” that kind of thing. Question for you, I’m not sure what your thoughts are on this, does it surprise you at all PokerStars— The first question is, do you think PokerStars is planning to launch a casino under their own brand? If they are, does it surprise you that maybe the casino wasn’t first to launch with poker coming later?

Mike: In my opinion, I would guess that PokerStars is going to launch casino games. The complication there is their relationship to Mount Airy, and we know that Mount Airy has also a partnership with 888 for example. That being said, I still expect them to launch their casino games. I guess, one of the reasons that it may not be in the first group that has gone live is perhaps their games are tightly linked to their online poker client. If that’s the case, maybe the client itself needs approval before it can go live and that could be a cause for the delay. I’m not entirely sure.

Being in the US, I don’t have the opportunity to play on PokerStars’ casino on other markets where it’s live. I’m curious, Nick, and perhaps you know, are their casino games accessible outside of the poker clients? Do they have HTML5 type on the background?

Nick: Yes. I knew that question was coming, and I really should know the answer. Definitely, their primary way of letting users access casino games is through the downloadable poker client, and in no market do they just have casino, so like they perhaps haven’t looked at it. They’re ultimately all either HTML5 or flash-based game. I’m not actually sure if it is available if I go to PokerStars— I’m going to do it, now I’m going to go to

Mike: It’s quite possible that they have mobile apps too in [crosstalk]

Nick: They might have separate mobile apps. Certainly, yes. I think these games are— If I logged in, I think I could play these from the web browser. I think they are available in the web browser. I know they’re sports book as well.

Mike: Perhaps they are just so tightly linked to what’s happening in the poker client that— We don’t know. They could be accessible through the browser there, but there may be required or prerequisite parts of those that function in conjunction with the poker client itself. I’m not sure.

Nick: With poker in Pennsylvania, we’re looking at a two-stage process. Obviously, firstly, we need one and hopefully, more online poker operators to go live in the state, PokerStars first. People would love to see WSOP and some other operators come in. Then, of course, the gaming control board has to authorize across border shared liquidity. These operators can connect it with the New Jersey, and in the WSOP case, again New Jersey-Nevada. That’s a big if whether it happens at all, and if it does, the timelines are just going to be a total will guess, I assume.

Mike: There’s still things happening on the federal level, for example, the lawsuit that we saw with the state of New Hampshire and the lottery commission over there. I believe the federal government still has time to appeal that decision. There’s a lot that can happen over the next six months, for example, that could determine the path of shared player pools in the US. I tend to be pretty optimistic on the outcome of that. I would not be surprised to see Pennsylvania combined with the other player pools by the time the next WSOP rolls around next year. It’s also quite a bit of a question mark considering that we don’t even have online poker live in Pennsylvania yet.

Nick: We’ll do a long bit on that. I’ll take the negative position there and say that absolutely Pennsylvania players will not be able to play WSOP online events from this day come 2020

Mike: All right. Okay. We’ll have that. Some more news, in US related news, was the Stars Group, the parent company for PokerStars. They announced a partnership recently with— Wait, let me get the name so I can try and butcher the pronunciation. It is Akwesasne. Wow.

Nick: You nailed that, yes.


Mike: Akwesasne. Yes, I’ll go with that. Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort.

Nick: It’s a tribe, yes.

Mike: Yes. They have formed a partnership with them. It’s mostly going to be for their land-based sportsbook at the beginning, but it does give them first skin rights to offer branded real-money online poker casino games along with mobile sports betting, should those be allowed in the State in the future and—

Nick: This is New York, we’re talking about. You got that?

Mike: This is the state of New York, yes. They are also going to be partners with the resort in building out their land-based sportsbook, the del Lago property.

Nick: It’s interesting isn’t it because PokerStars big splash six months ago to nine months ago was their partnership with Eldorado which unlocked 11 US States. As we noted at the time, none of those states were the ones that immediately would be accessible. Then obviously they have these additional piecemeal deals. In Pennsylvania, it’s with Mount Airy which is unrelated in New Jersey. This allows them New York access which they wouldn’t have had under the Eldorado deal. Of course, Eldorado is buying Caesars, so he knows what’s going on. On top of that big deal that they made, they still have to go piece by piece and fill in the gaps where they can.

Mike: Yes. I think they’re playing the game, basically. They know they had seen that all of online— maybe not all but for the most part online gaming has been linked to bricks and mortar gaming facilities. They’re going out state by state which is another trend that they’ve seen happening. There hasn’t been a big huge push on the federal level to legalize online gaming. It’s been happening on the state level. They’re going into each of these individual states, they’re striking partnerships that will give them access if and when the laws change to allow online gaming in these states, and that’s their plan moving forward. Seems like it’s a pretty sound strategy, and I would expect that other online gaming operators are doing the same.


Mike: That puts a wrap on the episode for this week, Nick. Our standard outro conversation has been over the past three episodes or so, a conversation about our transcription service.

Nick: Very exciting developments this week as well.

Mike: Exciting development. All right, so we had refreshed listeners on the over-under wagers— [crosstalk]

Nick: It’s funny I can’t even remember what line we said. I remember you took the under—

Mike: I think it was six. No, was that?

Nick: The week before it was six, you too the over and it was seven. I can’t remember what we said last week, but I know you took the under. Either way, whatever it was, and this is a clue, whatever it was, Mike, you’re right because the number of unintelligibles in the podcast was exactly zero.

Mike: Wow. For both of us?

Nick: Down from like 22 weeks, yes. For both of us, yes. This is a fascinating development because I don’t know if you remember last week, but you joked about how I didn’t understand how a transcriber would have trouble transcribing me. I said, “That’s very nice,” but obviously after you saying that you’re going to be like 200.

Mike: [laughs]

Nick: I think it had the opposite effect. I’m thinking our transcriber went back and went, “Screw you guys.” It went well. You passively-aggressively got him to go back. I had to say, he might have just made the words up. [laughs]

Mike: That was not my intention.

Nick: [laughs] It might be unreadable the end result. The whole thing’s blown wide open now.

Mike: Let me ask this then. With no unintelligibles, it probably deserves a shout out for our transcription service.

Nick: Yes, a big shout out to

Mike: Are we sure that’s the name?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: Okay.

Nick: Yes, huge effort there, guys. Been working with them for six months now, they finally dialed in my accent. Can we go to back to back zeros though, that’s the big question now.

Mike: I’m going to guess no, I think we handled too many names in this episode around the World Series of Poker, and I’m going to say that I’ll take the over on zero.

Nick: Also, it’s Gotranscript, not Gotranscribe, so we’ve already got an, “Ah.”

Mike: [laughs], good services.

Nick: Did you just set the line there, I missed it.

Mike: I said I’ve taken the over on zero. [crosstalk]

Nick: I see. All right, on the nose for zero is for me then, and we’ll see how we do next week.

Mike: All right. Until then, take care everyone.