Deep Water Hold’em and Tempest Hold’em are the newest games to hit PokerStars, Nick and Mike tell you how they are played and discuss what sets them apart. Red Star Poker becomes the first MPN skin to announce its new home, the guys talk about what options they had and who might be next to move on before the network closes. Then Samantha is back to talk about Daniel Negreanu signing with GGPoker.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome, everybody, to The Pokerfuse Podcast. It is November 22nd, 2019, episode number 34. I am your host, Mike Gentile, along with my co-host, Nick Jones. This week on the podcast. We talked about it last week, and now, it’s here. PokerStars has launched Tempest Hold’em and Deep Water Hold’em for real money. Find out how the games work and what we think about them. With MPN’s closure on the horizon, over a dozen online poker rooms are looking for a new home. Red Star Poker, a key skin on the network, is the first to reveal its plans. Finally, GGPoker shocked the online poker world this week with a huge new ambassador signing, none other than Daniel Negreanu, one of the most recognizable names in poker.

Deep Water Hold’em and Tempest Hold’em go live for real money on PokerStars

Mike: PokerStars was back at it again this week releasing two new games, the first time in a while that we’ve seen them do so. We now have Deep Water Hold’em and Tempest Hold’em being offered by PokerStars. Nick, what are the main features of Deep Water Hold’em? Let’s start with that one.

Nick: Obviously, regular listeners will have heard these names before because we talked about them both last week and we were really just guessing at what these games could be, and I would say, we weren’t really too far off the mark. I mean, the main thing to say with both Deep Water and Tempest is they are based on the same game. The primary thing with these games is the cash. They’re no-limit hold’em. There are three blinds. Basically, there’s a mandatory straddle, the third blind or giant blind as PokerStars call it, which is double the big blind is always posted. There is a variable ante. That ante will change each hand depending on whether the previous hand went to showdown or not.

Mike: When you say change each hand, I’m assuming that means double.

Nick: Yes.

Mike: Is that correct?

Nick: It starts off at, I think, a fifth of the giant blind, the ante. Then, if a hand doesn’t go to showdown that goes to 2X that size, then, three 3X, then, up to, I think, the cap is for times that base size that it will get to, and then, as soon as somebody wins their hand at showdown, that resets back to one again.

Mike: Okay. Tempest seems to be quite the, I would say, is the more interesting of the two simply because it invokes a push or fold strategy. The game plays out as you have two options. There’s no calling, there’s no raising. It’s either you’re all in or you fold.

Nick: Yes, this is a type of game. It takes all those rules of Deep Water that we talked about, the style, the variable ante, the giant blind, and all that, but it is a push/fold game. It’s just all in or fold. It’s a format that we’ve seen for regular cash games in other operators that have been around for a long time, either mandatory all in or fold. 888 has that. GGPoker has that, and they offer them today.

Some operators aren’t explicitly all in or fold. They allow calling and checking, but they start with short stack. partypoker, Winamax both have short stack games where the buy-in is like 5 or 10 big blinds, which are effectively all in or fold and their stack sizes get a bit bigger. PokerStars is mandatory all in or fold, and there is a cap as well so you can never wager more than 10 giant blinds, I think.

Mike: What’s the starting number of blinds for Tempest?

Nick: That’s a good question. It is between 5 and 10 giant blinds is the buy-in in Tempest. It’s short-stacked game. It’s very interesting that they’ve taken one idea, which is quite interesting. We can talk a bit more of just about the idea, in general, and then, basically, going in two directions. One is quite a deep-stacked game, which just adds an extra slight strategic element to it or skill element to it, and then, they go on the other end of the spectrum, which is a real fast shove or fold, simple, and ultimately, probably solvable game.

Mike: What makes Deep Water a deep stack game? Is it you have the opportunity to buy-in for a larger amount than you normally would?

Nick: Yes, the binds are 50 to 150 giant blinds, which is the same as 100 to 300 big blinds. With the ante and the giant blind, I’m not really sure if people consider that especially deep-stacked. I don’t really know how the game is going to be played. Obviously, there’s a lot of money in the pot at the start. Even after a showdown hand, everyone’s putting in an ante, and then, you’ve got three blinds. There’s a lot of money in the pot, but it’s not fairly deep-stacked, I think, at least at the start. There’s definitely quite a lot of strategic considerations because everyone’s stack sizes will change each hand depending on what happened on the last.

Mike: We’ve talked about the giant blind being a big thing that separates these from other games, and also, obviously, the push/fold aspect of Tempest is different as well. What about the antes in the cash games? Is that’s something that we see a lot of that seems to be a twist that is not common?

Nick: It’s not common, but it’s not that rare. PokerStars has regular ante tables and deep-stacked tables, which might be all ante, I’m not sure. partypoker recently flouted the idea of turning all their cash games into ante-only cash games, but that didn’t come to pass, I believe. It still might be. I’m not quite sure. It’s one of those changes that a lot of people like the idea of because looser play is better, so they think that’s more fun. Ultimately, that’s it with these games. What’s perhaps interesting is that they’re probably less of a change to basic hold’em than the previous kind of novelty games that we’ve seen from PokerStars. Once you’re past the pre-flop stage and you’ve worked out having the antes, the game is exactly like hold’em. You just have to look at the pot size.

Mike: Yes, it seems like they’re trying to change up or shake up the established strategy of the day that is common for no-limit hold’em. Implementing the antes, implementing the giant blind, these are things that change strategy, and I wonder if they’re doing this to try and maybe reduce some of the edge of the professional players and give people more of a chance to learn the game from the ground up.

Nick: It’s not so much for change that it resets the all strategy. The additional strategy here is that you’re going to be playing looser the bigger the ante is, right? I mean, there is more money at the pot by default, and then, that’ll get even larger. I’m just looking at article that we’ve written here, the 25¢, 50¢ game, there’s a $1, obviously, giant blind, and at the start of the hand, there’s either going to be about $2.35 or up to $4.15 depending on the previous hands where there’s been a showdown. There’s quite a lot of variation there on how much pot you’re competing over. You just need to pay attention to see how big that blind is, and therefore, how much you should be contesting the pot, how much you should be defending the blinds.

Once you’re past that stage, once you’re past that pre-flop stage, as I’m saying, that’s it. Just then on, you’re just playing normal hold’em with probably a pot that’s larger. Normally, in hold’em, you’re going to be looking at pots post-flop and seeing how big they are and assessing your strategy based on that. It’s a change, but it’s not unfamiliar to anyone. You can certainly use anything that you’ve learned in prior hold’em games, certainly, if you’ve played ante games before and you can apply that to Deep Water Hold’em.

Mike: Just to be clear though, the antes are not a big blind ante like we had speculated that they could be last week, is that correct?

Nick: Correct, yes. It’s ante to everyone posts. It’s not live money.

Mike: Okay. Where are these games? Where have they been rolled out? I saw that it was just a partial rollout on the first day, but I’m not sure if that has since proliferated to all of their sites. What can you tell us? Where does it live?

Nick: It went live in the UK first for real money, and then, the .net client line for free play money. I think, same day, it rolled out to the market. The global international player pools, I think, got it the same day. We’re talking, it was Wednesday, this went live, so just two days ago from when we’re recording this. By the end of Wednesday, it was live in those markets. It’s going to go live in some of the shared liquidity markets as well based on, obviously, when it gets through regulations. I’m just looking here, it’s going to come to Estonia, Belgium, Romania, on their Russian Sochi client, Sweden. They might be live now, if not, they probably will be soon.

There are some notable absentees from that list. It’s not going live in Denmark, apparently. That might be a regulatory issue there. As we saw with the other limited edition games, I wouldn’t expect it to go live in the segregated markets unless it proves very popular. If you’re in New Jersey or new Pennsylvania or in the Southern European market, some games did eventually come to the Southern European market, and then, 6+ Hold’em is live in New Jersey, Mike? You might know better than me.

Mike: I don’t know off the top of my head. I’m not sure that it is, but definitely, we’ll check on that, and we could post something on Twitter for those that are looking for the answer and don’t feel like looking it up themselves.

Nick: In these markets, it just takes more effort to get a game pass through the regulations. I’d be surprised if it comes out. Also, interestingly, Tempest is going live in fewer markets. Again, I assume that’s a regulatory thing. Tempest is not going live in- just reading this, it’s not going live in Sweden and Romania, for example.

Mike: Okay, yes. It sounds like it definitely— I can’t think of another reason why they wouldn’t launch in a particular market if they are launching Deep Water, so yes, I tend to agree that that is probably related to regulatory restrictions. The last game prior to these two that PokerStars released was the beginning of this year. It’s been quite a while. That was 6+ Hold’em. Do we expect that PokerStars is getting back into the swing of things or do we expect that they’re going to give these two some room to breathe and it may be another extended period of time before they come out with a new game?

Nick: Yes, it’s interesting, isn’t it? 2018, we saw four games come two or three months apart, Split Hold’em, Showtime, Unfold, Fusion. Then, 6+ Hold’em came in January 2019 and there it’s remained, and we’ve had no other games. Even though there’s been hints that they have been working on these games, Deep Water we saw like eight, nine months ago, they were working on this, and then, there’s games like Swap Hold’em.

We’ve talked about, on this podcast before, there’s hints that a game like that might come. We do know these games, they expect them to only be limited edition. We imagine they’ll last a couple of months in the client. Everything points to them getting back into it anymore. Why there was this pause in 2019? We’re not sure. The 6+ Hold’em still remains in the client, and maybe they felt that they didn’t want to- they wanted to establish it as a permanent game before adding more. Instead, we saw things like Spin & Go Flash launch, more in the tournament area. I wouldn’t be surprised if, 2020, these come down and we have more to come for sure.

Mike: Well, in addition to the games that are incoming, we also have one that has reached its end, and that is the hybrid e-sports poker game Power Up. We had talked about this previously, and it was announced that they will be pulling Power Up. I believe it is gone now, is that correct?

Nick: Yes, Power Up came down the same moment these two new games went live.

Mike: The same release, they injected these two new games and pulled out Power Up.

Nick: Yes, that’s right. It’s interesting that perhaps the thing that I didn’t expect with these new games is that Deep Water and Tempest are effectively the same game but just implemented in different ways. One’s a push fold, one’s more deep-stacked, but it’s the same game. As we talked about it last week, thematically linked, with the whole nautical theme, that kind of stuff, but they’ve added them as two new tabs on the lobby. You’ve got that crammed in there next to 6+ Hold’em and tournaments and cash games. Power Up is obviously gone and you got deep water and Tempest next to each other.

Other than the graphics, there’s nothing to suggest they’re the same game. I’m surprised they didn’t go with something like Deep Water is the name for the game, and then, you got like Tempest addition, which is the push/fold version. Like we saw with- we got Spin & Go, and then, under that, you can go Flash if you want for the really fast one. That, to me, is a little bit confusing. For a new user, when you see these two new things, in my mind, it looks like two different games, not one, just a slight implementation detail separate to the other. Anyway, yes, those two tabs are in there replacing their Power Up tab.

Mike: Nick, what’s the likelihood that these games evolve into other formats? For example, we saw 6+ being offered as a spin that has since, I think, been pulled already. Do we expect these two new games to maybe show up as an MTT format or are they just going to be restricted to cash gameplay because of their structure?

Nick: II don’t see why you couldn’t have a Deep Water MTT. Yes, I don’t see why that wouldn’t work at all. The reality is MTTs add antes in as they progress anyway so that novelty is a bit more interesting in the cash game than it would in a tournament, but regardless, the whole variable ante thing absolutely can be added in as MTTs. We’ve definitely seen one thing they have done over the last year is they brought back some of those 2018 limited edition games in MTT format. They had some events in Scoop, maybe a few one-offs of like Fusion and Showtime, potentially. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Deep Water in there.

Another interesting thing is when these games are removed, will we see that all-in or fold dynamic used in another game because it’s notable that PokerStars doesn’t have that for regular cash game hold’em, which other operators do. It’s a pretty profitable game for operators to offer because it’s super casual friendly, you’re raking a lot of pots, a lot of people are going in on pots. It’s notable that PokerStars until now haven’t offered whilst many of their competition has, and now, it does, weather it proves popular and they want to adopt it into regular cash games or maybe you could apply that to any limited edition game, really, a push or fold version of it.

Mike: Have you had a chance to play either of these games?

Nick: Yes, I have played Deep Water Hold’em. Yes.

Mike: Tell me, how does PokerStars— What kind of a job did they do implementing Deep Water with Aurora, their new graphics client? Is there a lot of animations, cool sound effects? What’s that like?

Nick: Yes. From my experience, it’s very cool. I might get a lot of pushback from saying that because when I read things on forums, people have a lot of technical issues and they have a lot of bugs and they find that Aurora is very slow and laggy for them. From my experience, it’s fantastic. It’s obviously not going to appeal to hardcore grinders because we’re talking sound effects and animations, but for a casual player playing one or two tables, it’s awesome. They’re really atmospheric, yellowfish floating around, and bubbles and that thing.

For what they want to do, whether that is interesting to obviously the player base they want to attract, I don’t know, I can’t speak for them, but for my perspective, it’s well implemented. It feels very cool. It feels different. It’s obvious you’re playing a different game. Atmospheric is definitely the word. For me, they’ve really nailed down what they’re with Aurora and what can be achieved with it. Obviously, I can’t dismiss a lot of people saying that they have experienced issues with the client maybe on lower power machines. I haven’t tried it on my laptop, which is a bit lower power so maybe there’s some issues there. Yes, for my short experience with Aurora and with playing with Deep Water has been very cool.

Mike: We have two new games, Deep Water and Tempest. Each of them have a giant blind, they have escalating antes, and Tempest is a push/fold game as well. Look for those new in the PokerStars client, and perhaps, some more new games to be coming soon.

Red Star Poker leaves MPN for iPoker

Nick: It was a couple of months ago and we would have talked on this podcast about Microgaming and their shocking announcement that they were closing the MPN, Microgaming Poker Network, sometime in 2020. That left 16 online poker games on that network with a tough decision of where they were going to go and what they were going to do with their online poker offer. We have the first skin and quite a large one now signposting what they plan to do when MPN closes and that is Red Star Poker and their plans to move to iPoker.

Mike: Not a site that I have played on. Tell me what’s special about Red Star? How is this so important that it’s making the podcast?

Nick: It’s hard to gauge, but I think Red Star is quite a big deal. They have a large Russian and Ukrainian player base, and they represent a pretty significant portion of MPN traffic. Again, that’s based on just reading their customer support forums. They’ve got a very busy social media presence. They have a storied history. They’ve been around over 15 years. They have a long history maintaining a large player base and moving it between quite a few networks. This is quite a coup for iPoker. It could have a noticeable bump in traffic. It’s also interesting because Red Star focused on the gray markets, definitely would have been looking at some of the less established European options rather than iPoker. It’s quite noticeable they’ve gone for the obvious choice, the established choice, I guess.

Mike: 15 years in the business and a big presence in Russia, those, to me, strike as two reasons that this could be a big deal. What other choices did they have? They decided to go with iPoker, who got left out? What network didn’t they choose?

Nick: That’s a good question. Probably, my top guess— We wrote an article on Poker Industry PRO. If you’re a subscriber, do check that out. It was from a month or two back, going through all 16 skins and where they would likely go. Along with iPoker, obviously, it’s going to be a top choice for them and others. They definitely would have looked to GGPoker, GG Network. In many ways, they align quite well. I would say that GG have- and we’ll be talking about them a lot more on this podcast in the next segment, but they definitely have a history in some of the less clear-cut, white regulated markets, I would say, definitely been operating in a lot of the Asian markets.

Again, with Red Star, they have an interesting mix of countries they target. Russia and Ukraine, definitely their core markets, but then, if you go on their website, they have— It’s very specific the other markets they have targeted. It’s Argentina, Germany, and Norway are the other three. The only real thread between them and Ukraine and Russia is that they are gray markets. iPoker is interesting because to someone like GG Network, even an upstart network like BetConstruct, it’s a little known network but they have a history with Red Star. They use their sportsbook software, so that was definitely a candidate. Even the US-facing networks, like WPN and Chico Poker, could have been candidates for a site like Red Star.

Mike: iPoker is the big winner there. How many skins are left on MPN that we are going to be looking to see where they eventually land up?

Nick: There are 16 in total. This is the first one that has indicated, to our knowledge, what direction they’re going to go. Of the other 15, some will probably close, but a large proportion will move. MPN said that all of them indicated to them that they plan to move elsewhere. The reality is some will drop off, but there’s— I mean, a big group of them are the Betsson skins. Betsson, very large in MPN, operate Betsson, Betsafe, Nordic Bet. They have a lot of players, and they will definitely be doing something. They could be big enough to launch their own network in theory. Again, iPoker would be an obvious choice.

Now, I need to scan the article that I wrote a couple of weeks ago, but they don’t have their own poker software because they acquired Europe-Bet, which is a Georgian-licensed online sportsbook, and they have their own online poker software and an independent player pool. They could utilize that. They have a partnership with TonyBet. They run Betsafe in Lithuania on the TonyBet software. They’ve got options. They have to utilize a software platform for their own network, potentially.

Mike: Eventually, as MPN winds down, we’re going to see these skins picking and choosing their forward path. We’ve seen Red Star, they’ve chosen to join the iPoker network. As you mentioned, GG Network is another option for some of these skins. I’m not sure. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them decide to partner up with somebody like WPN or even Bovada/Bodog or whatever, the Ignition, whatever their name is these days. It would be interesting to see if that would be a partnership that some of these skins might bring their players to. The other question that I guess that I have is, might we see some of these skins get together to form a new network or maybe even partner with other existing operators that are on their own such as maybe Ignition.

Nick: Yes, it’s possible. Again, the only— I mean, yes, Betsson could do that. Then, there is a company Realm Entertainment. They run Bets10 and a site called MobilBahis. They were basically Betsson Turkish businesses that were spun off into an independent subsidiary. They could very well do what Betsson does. They could absolutely be a separate network. They’re maybe using Betsson’s software that we talked about before, their platform options, and they could provide skins on that. The others are, I’ll be honest, I think that— One interesting one is Kindred Group, own 32Red brand on MPN. They absolute could move on to Unibet’s poker software as a skin on that. They already have one other internal brand that’s on that network. That’s possible.

I’ll be honest, with the Red Star going to iPoker, I think that increases the chance that a lot of other operators would also go to iPoker because it answers a couple of questions that I had before Red Star made that move. One is there was some speculation that iPoker would go the same way of MPN and shut its doors. There’s not really much evidence of that other than they are facing some loss of some skins if the Stars Group/Flutter merger goes through. Flutter Entertainment have a lot of skins on iPoker. The Betfair and Paddy Power are two big skins on there. If they move, ultimately, and we’re talking two years down the line, but they could be pretty significant losses for iPoker.

For someone like Red Star, who’s bounced around from, they’ve been independent 15 years ago, CakePoker, then, to revolution, then to MPN, they’re not going to be jumping somewhere that’s going to disappear in a year’s time. They’re clinging in some assurances that they’re investing in iPoker and that it’s a place to the upheavals worthwhile and it’s worth sticking around.

iPoker have also shown that they are flexible on the type of operators they will work with. They are closed out, as I understand it, to Ukraine entirely across the network. They will going to open their doors to players in the Ukraine, specifically for Red Star. That’s a concession and accepting that they are willing to work with operators that might be more in the gray markets. It shows, to me, that if Red Star were going to go there, other companies- In some way, poker is important but not that important to them, Coolbet, sportsbook, folks in Scandinavia, Alibet, PAF. iPoker, it was an obvious choice before, and it seems even more of a certain now that a big brand like Red Star have made that move.

Mike: Are there any skins currently on the MPN network that— We’ve been talking about gray markets, are there any skins on the MPN network that would maybe shy away from joining forces with another poker room or another network because they operate in a black market? We had talked about perhaps WPN being a choice or a destination for some of these skins. Well, that, to me, they’re not operating in a gray market. They’re offering online poker to players in the US, which I guess is maybe vague under some legal interpretation they may have seen, but it is basically black market. Is there any concerns about skins leaving MPN that would join a network that may operate in black markets?

Nick: Yes, 100%. There’s quite a lot of the smaller skins on MPN that our listeners probably wouldn’t be familiar with, but absolutely would never consider, I don’t think, any of the networks you just mentioned. Might not be able to consider anybody, iPoker would be their top choice. On MPN, there is the- I think it’s Bulgarian National Lottery., I think it is.

Again, I think either they’ll close or maybe they’ll move to iPoker. iPoker absolutely has Playtech, has the white market credentials they’ve worked with. They run the only sanctioned network in Finland and Austria. They have skins in those two. They’re operated by state-sanctioned operators and they pool their player pool between them. That was a big deal for them two or three years ago doing that, and they’re unique in that way. They absolutely have those credentials. Grosvenor, a big UK bricks and mortar casino brand, again, they’ll really only be looking at iPoker, I would imagine. PAF, Alibet, they don’t really have much on the table but iPoker or closing, in my mind.

Mike: iPoker and the other big option that we have discussed is GG Network, GGPoker, what’s both of their statuses with regard to gray and black markets, for example? Does iPoker operate in any black markets? You’d mentioned previously that they do have white market credentials, what’s the other side of the spectrum look like?

Nick: Well, define for me what black market is. It’s all shades of gray, isn’t it? I don’t think they operate anywhere in the United States or Australia. They’re probably the two big no-nos right now.

Mike: Sure.

Nick: That’s certainly off-limits. It’s off-limits for GGPoker as well, absolutely. Do they both operate in Asia, Russia? Yes. Ukraine. Interesting, Ukraine actually has a licensing framework. It’s progressing this year, but I’m not sure if that’s really amenable to— I can’t say I’m particularly knowledgeable about the Ukrainian legislation right now, but that is something that’s happening. I don’t think when we talk about Red Star poker that they’re looking for licensing in the Ukraine.

Mike: Okay. We will see plenty of more activity with MPN scheduled to shut down, when, again?

Nick: Mid-2020. We heard a rumor of maybe May, but can’t say for sure about that. Yes, mid to late Q2, Q3 I think was the last official word.

Mike: Just for my own curiosity, is there still any possibility that the network as a whole could be sold off and operated by somebody else?

Nick: Potentially, but I’d be very surprised.

Mike: Okay. Over the course of the next six months, we can expect to see a flurry of announcements as the skins on MPN decide where they will operate or if they will operate in the future.

Daniel Negreanu signs with GGPoker.

Perhaps the biggest news of the week is the signing of Daniel Negreanu to become an ambassador for GGPoker. Previously the lead ambassador for PokerStars, Negreanu has now attached his name to a new online poker site. To talk about that, we welcome back Samantha Bevington. Sam, how are you doing today?

Sam: I’m good, thanks, Mike, how are you?

Mike: Good. Good. Good, thanks. I have to ask, you’re an industry insider. was this a surprise to you to see Negreanu sign with GGPoker?

Sam: Yes. I couldn’t actually believe it. Nick and I, we were driving to my parents, and he was like, “Guess who’s going to sign?” I was like, “Is it going to be Liv? That’s weird. Is it going to be Igor? That’s possible, but also doesn’t feel quite right.” It was a little bit more of a guessing game before I guessed Negreanu.

Mike: Did you guess where he was saying?

Sam: Yes, I should say that Nick was like, “It’s going to be with GGPoker.” How weird? Maybe weird isn’t the technical term, but it feels peculiar. [laughs]

Mike: It was definitely unexpected. We saw a lot of ambassadors leave PokerStars and hooked their wagons to the party poker train, but I don’t know that we ever really expected that for Daniel. I guess he could have signed with maybe, but given that their limited exposure is only in the US, that would have been quite the hefty price tag for them. I’m not sure that there were a lot of other places he could have gone, but GGPoker is definitely one of the up and coming networks. How do they classify themselves?

Sam: They classify themselves as an Asian-facing network.

Mike: All right. I think they also brand themselves as the fastest growing online poker network, if I’m not mistaken.

Sam: Yes. I should have checked this before actually we talked but I heard on a podcast recently that they’re the third biggest online poker network now. I can’t fact-check that-


Sam: – but that’s what I heard today.

Mike: They are very big. I believe if I looked through some of the articles that we have written, it probably pinpoints exactly where they rank overall. It’s definitely a great get for them. It’s going to increase their exposure tons. It’ll be interesting to see how they leverage this association with Daniel, who’s arguably the biggest name in poker today.

Sam: Yes, I agree. Just a couple of points, A, I’m just surprised that he signed with anyone just because the way he framed leaving PokerStars, it seemed like it was a family decision. He just got married, he wanted to start a family, and because basically gullible, I was like, “Okay. Yes, that sounds reasonable to me.”

Mike: That is probably the biggest reason that is used for anybody leaving any job anywhere.

Sam: I know. How do I not know better? [laughs] However, Jason Mercier, he said that and it seemed to be true. I don’t think he did sign with anyone else after leaving PokerStars.

Mike: No. I did see him doing some, I wouldn’t say doing some work, but attached his name to events that were run by other operators but no official signing anywhere for any long-term deals. No.

Sam: No. Then, to your second point, which was how will GGPoker utilize Negreanu? That is going to be really interesting. They’ve got a promotion running, which makes total sense that they would, and they’ve got a welcome bonus code if people sign up using Daniel. Basically, he’s going to have to go and play online. The promotional work that there’s four tables- four tournaments happening, it’s going to play down to the final table, on that final table, Negreanu’s going to play. It’s all online, and that takes place on the 22nd of December. I don’t know where he’s going to go to play that a couple of days before Christmas, but it isn’t going to be in Las Vegas.

Mike: I assume it will be back to the Toronto area. I believe he still has family in Canada, and so that probably won’t be a problem for him. I wonder though if we’re going to see GGPoker putting together some promotions similar to what we see at Run It Once, where they have their founder/brand ambassador, Phil Galfond. They’ve recently moved to get him more active at the tables. They’re creating promotions around playing with Phil. I wonder if similar to the signing promotion that GGPoker has going on. If we’re going to see more promotions that are geared toward giving fans or players on the network the opportunity of playing with Daniel.

Sam: That’s a really good point, actually. Do you know where Phil plays from when he does that, for Run It Once? Is he still based in the US or is he now over in Europe?

Mike: He’s in Vancouver, if I’m not mistaken. I’m pretty sure he’s in Vancouver, in Canada.

Sam: that’s a clever move from Run It Once to get him to play games because that’s a real pull. His name is such a pull for people. Having the opportunity to play against Negreanu, people are going to bite your hand off, aren’t they? To take up that opportunity, I’d say?

Mike: Yes. Who knows, maybe with Daniel having his master class and maybe they put him out for maybe a meet and greet, you can have something like learn, chat, play with the pros.

Sam: If you had to call it-

Mike: That was a joke, Sam. That was the old marketing [laughs] for Full Tilt back in the day.

Sam: Nice. I didn’t realize you were making a joke. [laughs]

Mike: Well, then, I guess it was probably a very good one.

Sam: If you had to call it, how long do you think Negreanu will be with GGPoker?

Mike: That’s a great question. It could be something that is very short-term, we don’t know, or it could turn out to be a more of a long-term deal. We have seen from time to time ambassadors come in. When I think about short-term ambassadors, Jeff Gross comes to mind. I know that he had signed on to play the World Series of Poker with 888, one year. It was limited to that period of time. There was no announcement as far as limiting Daniel’s sponsorship with GGPoker, but given the price tag that he comes with, the first thing that came to my mind was, “All right, how long is this going to last?” The popularity of GGPoker indicates to me that they possibly have the deep pockets to keep him on for a while. It also may depend on exactly what they are asking or requiring of Daniel and his family situation.

Sam: Is that family an inverted commerce?

Mike: I’m not sure, and I don’t know off the top of my head if children are in the future for Negreanu. I believe I may have heard him mention that that is a family goal for them but that could change things dramatically as far as the length of his sponsorship, especially if there’s travel needed for him to play on the network. A lot’s going to depend on what they require of him and what he wants to do as well.

Sam: Yes, it’s going to be really interesting to see how it all beds down over the next couple of months, and when that promotion is finished, what else they are going to introduce on the network. I guess it’s going to be a lot of watching this space.

Mike: Yes. It’ll also be interesting to see how Daniel goes to bat for GGPoker. We know that there was quite a lot of criticism of PokerStars when he was representing them and I think that he probably— There’s a lot of criticism of Daniel that he was just shilling for the company. I, personally, think that the points that he put forth are things that he personally believes in and it’ll be interesting to see. There’s already been some criticism of GGPoker that has come out, and it’ll be interesting to see if Daniel steps up and defends it or says, “Hey, this is not right.” I’ll be watching to see how his vocalness comes across and how that relates to GGPoker.

Sam: Yes, agreed, or whether it’s a meal ticket and that he’s got a watch his opinions.

Mike: Watch what he says? Perhaps, perhaps. Daniel was not the only ambassador movement that we saw this week. Who else did we see?

Sam: On the same day that Negreanu posted on Twitter that he was going to be joining GGPoker, Maria Konnikova announced that she was parting ways with PokerStars, which was mad because we only talked about her last week in the podcast that we did. Again, really didn’t expect that partnership to end and not when she’s got a poker book coming out next year. I don’t know when next year, but we’re nearly in next year already.

Mike: I don’t know exactly when it’s coming up, but it’s coming out rather soon.

Sam: I think it’s early 2020.

Mike: It’s interesting that they did part ways. Obviously, with every announcement that comes out for every ambassador that leaves a poker room, we never really quite know who initiated it. Was it one person or one party that didn’t want to continue? Was it that they couldn’t come to terms that was agreeable to both sides? We don’t exactly know, but this one is surprising because I think that we talked about last week, it seems like Maria’s story fits the marketing that PokerStars is trying to align itself with.

Sam: Yes, 100%. If it was PokerStars’ decision not to renew the contract, that is mad to me, absolutely madness because she’s an acclaimed author and her track record would make me think that this book is going to do really well beyond poker circles. A lot of the poker community, for sure, are going to want to read it, I do, but beyond that, it’s going to have a lot of reach. She has people like her previous books. They’re probably interested in what she’s done. In terms of creating a buzz in mainstream media, the average person who might not be a poker enthusiast but find her book, read it, then, want to get into the game, is crazy to me that PokerStars we’re in such a well-positioned or we’re so well-positioned as her sponsor that they wouldn’t have wanted to capitalize on that.

Mike: Yes. Hearing you talk about the inroads that Maria could provide into mainstream circles reminds me of another poker ambassador that left PokerStars, one which is one of the rare ones where we did know whose decision it was to end the relationship, and that’s Vicky Coren. She had a lot of pull and a lot of reach into mainstream circles. She did end up deciding to leave because PokerStars was advancing their interests in online casinos, which was something that I believe she had stated that she did not want to align herself with. Didn’t we see her recently somewhere?

Sam: Yes, she was on the Chip Race Podcast-

Mike: Oh, yes.

Sam: – and the guys interviewed her on that, which was a really good segment, just shout out to those guys. Yes, she was on that fairly recently, a couple of weeks ago.

Mike: Seeing Maria with her popularity, like you said, she’s an acclaimed author, she writes for several publications as well, it is quite interesting to see them part ways with somebody that could reach some of the audiences that they’ve indicated they’re trying to reach.

Sam: Yes, and I think just the difference with Maria and with Vicky is that when Maria was signed, which was 18 months ago, June 2018, PokerStars already had a real foothold within the online casino market. They were definitely going down that road. That was not a secret. Whereas, when Vicky left all those years ago, it was because they had only been a poker company and then they were diversifying.

Mike: Right. If Maria did initiate this, it would strike me as strange. I don’t know what her reasoning would be other than perhaps compensation or whatever they were requiring of her was more than she was willing to give or maybe it was too much travel. I’m not sure. I’m not saying that it couldn’t have been her decision. It just seems strange that this comes at this particular time, like you said, when she’s ready to launch into a campaign that is very much in line with what PokerStars, the image that they’re trying to portray.

Sam: Yes, I totally agree. Maybe we should ask Maria. [chuckles] She probably won’t tell us the real reasons.

Mike: Maybe call her after the show and see what she says, and we’ll have you back next week to tell us what you found out.

Sam: I wonder, just to a broader point, whether maybe PokerStars are just getting leaner. I can’t think of the right analogy, but we know that they, unfortunately, have had to lay off staff or they had a round redundancies. Maybe this is just a cost-cutting measure where they feel that there’s money to be saved. Maria is a big name, so she comes with a big price tag compared to others that they have or maybe it is just, yes, a cost-cutting measure. I don’t know.

Mike: Yes, it very well could be. If you look at it, it’s probably- most things boil down to money, so I would be surprised if cost wasn’t a factor. It’s just a question of was it the determining factor.

Sam: Yes, or the only factor.

Mike: [laughs] Quite possibly. Well, I guess if cost is the main reason and it was initiated by PokerStars, then, I guess we could expect to see other changes coming through their ambassador or the team pro turnstile as it is in the near future. Maria was a bit different, for the timing, because it seems like most of these changes happen right at the end of the year or right at the beginning of the year and this one is a little bit earlier than I expected, but we’re coming up to the time where if there are going to be changes, we will likely see them. We will be keeping an eye out for that.

Sam: Yes, definitely.


Mike: Well, that wraps up this episode of the pokerfuse podcast. As a reminder, please give us a like and a subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow us and interact with us on Twitter. Nick is at @pokerprojones. I am @SpookyBugs. Thanks, everyone for tuning in.