PokerStars is getting ready to roll out a new lobby design, they have brought back the Hold’em/Omaha hybrid game Fusion and we may also see 6 Card Omaha at PokerStars in the near future. Nick and Mike also discuss the recent arrest of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, and they break down the new Sunday Major online poker tournament, GG Masters.


Full Transcript

Mike Gentile: Hello and welcome, everybody, to the Pokerfuse Podcast. It is January 29, 2020. This is episode number 40. I’m your host, Mike Gentile, along with my co-host, Nick Jones. This week on the podcast, there are more changes happening at PokerStars, from a new lobby design that is about to be widely distributed, to the return of Fusion. Plus, we have exclusive information on a new Omaha variant in the works.

Nine years later, and Black Friday is once again making headlines. We recap the indictments, discuss the recent arrest of PokerStars founder, Isai Scheinberg, and tell you what to expect next. Finally, GGPoker recently introduced its new Sunday major, GG Masters. We’ll tell you what makes it different from the competition and why you need to be playing this tournament.

What’s New at PokerStars

Well, there are some new and exciting things going on over PokerStars these days. We’ve seen a new lobby design in one of their regulated markets, we have word that we’re going to soon be seeing a new game, and we’ve also seen the return of one of their poker variance. Nick, what’s the latest over at PokerStars?

Nick Jones: Yes, a wide start really. It’s been a pretty busy week for both like surprise announcements, as well as little exclusives over on Pokefuse and Poker Industry PRO. The obvious one, the thing that’s out now that came out with no fanfare is PokerStars brought back Fusion, which was one of their half dozen novelty cash game poker variants that they’ve been spreading for a limited time over the last two years. That has appeared in the client yesterday, which was Tuesday. As we understand it, it’s back presumably for a second run for another limited period.

Mike: This is going to be another limited run then? This is not back permanently?

Nick: We guess. They haven’t made any announcements about it at all. There’s been some stuff on their official Discord channel just confirming that it’s back and it’s back in all the markets it was in before, so pretty much any poker room on the dot-com liquidity. Certainly, anyone that had it before will have it again. Now, you’ll see the Fusion tab there in the lobby, it’s exactly the same as before.

In theory, it could come back permanently. It’s interesting actually, it’s one of the busiest times in the PokerStars lobby because they still got Tempest, which they’ve had for two months now suggesting that it might be sticking around for— and normally, they last about six to eight weeks. It’s definitely past that now for Tempest. They removed Deep Water, a similar game, but they kept the far structured one. They still got 6+ Hold’em in there, and now they’ve got Fusion. It’s pretty crammed up there in the tabs of the lobby. I think it’s a fair assumption that we’ll just see another six to eight-week run.

Mike: Okay. A couple of questions that I have. First, Fusion then would be the first of these novelty variants that PokerStars has been introducing to make a return? Is that correct?

Nick: Yes, that’s definitely notable. We’ve only seen some of their games make a comeback for MTTs for a very short period of time, but Fusion is definitely— I’m just looking down, we’ve got a cool table on Poker Industry PRO if you want some more data on this. It was the fourth variant they released in that kind of way back in 2018. It started with Split Hold’em, and then Showtime Hold’em, and then Unfold, then Fusion.

Then, we got into 6+ Hold’em, which is still around, Deep Water, and Tempest. Fusion was one of the latter ones to come. It ran for 64 days. It was pulled just over a year ago. January 9th, 2019, it was withdrawn. It is the first one to make a comeback in cash game format. I definitely think out of them, Fusion is perhaps the most interesting, the one that’s got a bit more longevity and strategy to it than some of the others perhaps.

Mike: I do have one more question, but before I even get into that, let’s update or inform the listeners on exactly what Fusion is.

Nick: Yes, good question. Fusion is, as you might guess, a fusion of Hold’em and Omaha. It starts as Hold’em, turns into Omaha. You are dealt two hole cards. You have a pre-flop betting round. The flop comes, and then everyone’s dealt a third card. Then, you have the normal flop betting. The turn card comes, everyone gets a fourth card. Then, the game plays just like Omaha, so you have a fourth betting round, a river card comes, a final betting round, and then at showdown, you have to have used two of your four cards to make your best five-card hand.

Mike: Okay, so it still has the two and only two rule.

Nick: Yes, exactly. You get those two cards at the start, you can definitely use them, but then you get an optional third or fourth cards as well. It starts as Hold’em, ends as Omaha. It’s definitely an interesting game. It’s played in Pot Limit format. It is at a six-max table. Interestingly, they haven’t reintroduced it as kind of where you might find Badugi in the client or Courchevel, 5-Card Omaha, which we’ll get to some of these a bit later on in the segment.

They don’t have a special tab in the lobby. You don’t play it through what we called a blind lobby where you don’t get to choose your table. You just pick a bar and hit play and you’re taken to a table. Then, at the table, with Fusion, you get a really cool skin. It’s designed very differently, maybe special sound effects with the new Aurora client that PokerStars has, where if you were to play Badugi, you go to the normal cash game lobby, you click “fillter to Badugi,” you click on the tab, and it looks the same.

It’s interesting, they could have brought back Fusion and gone like, “This is being promoted to your standard game.” It’s not that. It’s back to a special tab in the lobby. That’s what makes me think that this will be a limited edition game. They want to keep it and treat it as like this special kind of one-off limited thing. That’s the vibe I get from it.

Mike: Okay. While you have that table up in front of you that documents the runtimes of all these poker variants that PokerStars has released, I guess my question is, is this the first time that we’ve seen them introduce one variant while they were still running another? Now, I know they’ve introduced some simultaneously, Deep Water and Tempest comes to mind, but is this the first time that they’ve introduced a new variant while they still had another one in the lobby?

Nick: Yes and no. It depends how you categorize them. Definitely, they had Split Hold’em, it came and went. A week later, Showtime Hold’em. It came and went. Then, Unfold. Then, Fusion. They were all sequential. Then, Fusion went, and then they launched 6+ Hold’em, and that’s remained in the client. That’s always been there. It’s been in the client now for just over a year during that last year.

Basically, in the first six months, they did nothing else. We definitely speculated on this podcast what do they do to introduce another game? Do they keep it out there? Will they ultimately switch it out? Ultimately, what they did, the next thing is they introduced two more games. There was a point where you had 6+ Hold’em, Deep Water Hold’em, and Tempest Hold’em.

Again, we thought at the time that that’s a really crammed lobby. They’ve removed Deep Water, they’ve replaced it with Fusion. In that respect that they both have Tempest and Fusion, which still I feel like temporary additions, yes, in that respect, it is the first time.

Mike: Okay. All right. Then, let’s move on. What else has been going on over at PokerStars? Why don’t we start with the new game?

Nick: What would lead into that is another interesting thing with Fusion, is that we had guessed that they would introduce another game by now, which they haven’t. Instead, they’ve returned with Fusion for a second run. We’ve had hints that they would run Showtime in Omaha format. Showtime was basically, if you fold at Showtime, you have to show your cards. Is that right? There seemed to be hints they would offer that in Omaha.

That hasn’t actually come to fruition. Similarly, Split Omaha, so they had Split Hold’em, and that’s where it’s Double-Board Hold’em, basically two flop turns and rivers. Then, there’s a hint they would do that with Omaha as well. Then, like a couple of months ago, they were suggesting that they would have a game called Swap Hold’em, which we have no idea about. One would guess it involves swapping your whole cards, maybe one or both your whole cards at some point.

That hasn’t come to market yet. Fusion has. Now, we’ve seen a hint of another game which we think is on its way, and that is 6 Card Omaha. We’ve seen hints that this will come but with the caveat that I just listed three games that they’ve hinted they would come, and they haven’t done yet.

Mike: 6 Card Omaha, popular game. Is that spread elsewhere? Is this something totally brand new by PokerStars?

Nick: Not totally brand new. As you would probably guess, 5 Card Omaha is somewhat common. PokerStars has had it for three or four years. Full Tilt has had it for five years. I would imagine that some of the Asian poker sites have it, but I couldn’t actually say off the top of my head. With 5 Card Omaha, it’s exactly the same. Instead of four cards, you get five. That’s literally the change.

It makes pre-flop actually even closer. You’re dealing out most of the deck or most deals at a full table. PokerStars is actually— I was quite surprised. I checked the lobby and they still run today a 5 Card Omaha in Pot Limit and in limit, and they run a Hi/Lo version. They also still spread Courchevel which is very similar, but I can’t quite remember the difference between that and 5 Card Omaha. Mike, can you shed anything on that?

Mike: I thought they were the same. Perhaps there is a difference though.

Nick: They definitely listed them separately. Maybe I can bring it up here again. The great thing about having run sites now for like nine years is that I know that back in our history somewhere, we’re going to find some details about when Full Tilt launched it in 2013. Courchevel plays the same as 5 Card Omaha, which is also known as Big O apparently, with the exception that the first card of the flop is dealt before the pre-flop betting round. There we go.

They still have all of that. Now, the suggestion is they’ll have 6 Card Omaha, and as you would guess that’s six cards dealt out. That makes the maximum table, you can have seven people maybe with the flop. Anyway, yes, six cards. Everyone’s hands are basically of equal value pre-flop. Almost every card on the deck is dealt out, a pretty standard game.

Full Tilt had spread this in 2013 up until 2016 when they were migrated onto the PokerStars platform. In many respects, for Full Tilt players who might have now become PokerStars players, this will be a return to a format they might have enjoyed a few years ago. I’m not aware of anyone else who spreads it online. We’ve seen that maybe Seals With Clubs, the bitcoin site, has offered this, but when we checked, we could not—

Mike: Wow, they’re still around?

Nick: I believe so. They went offline, then they came back. Anuj has been sleuthing on all this. He said he read about this and then checked them out and couldn’t find it. Maybe they had it and it’s been removed. We’re not quite sure. It’s definitely not that common. It’s a super splashy game where everyone probably plays post-flop and no one really knows what hand they’ve gone to the river, that kind of thing. There’s a hint that this will be spread by PokerStars.

Mike: Yes. Just to be clear, this is not yet available on the client. This is something that we’ve ascertained from some of our sources, and we have been able to make an educated guess that this is something that’s at least on their radar and possibly could be introduced in the near future.

Nick: Yes, and from what we see, it’s more likely to be introduced like 5 Card Omaha was or like Courchevel, or like Badugi was introduced. It won’t be, what we just talked about with Fusion, a big new blind lobby, a cool theme. It feels like it might just be introduced more like a new game. It might be being tested in some market or tested for a small cohort of players. We’ve seen no chatter of anyone experimenting with this. That might be possible. It might one of the things they try out and realize that it just doesn’t work for us for our players and it doesn’t come to market. We think the thing has a good chance that it will.

Mike: Then lastly, we’ve seen a new lobby design for PokerStars in Denmark. Denmark has traditionally been one of the testing grounds for PokerStars. That leads us to believe that a wider rollout is on its way. What do we know about the new lobby design, Nick?

Nick: Yes, this is really interesting to me. This is one of the biggest kind of user interface aesthetic upgrades to the lobby that PokerStars has done in quite a few years. It’s immediately recognizable as the PokerStars lobby. It is a full overhaul of the widgets, the interface, the color scheme. The thing that obviously jumps out the minute you look at it, and if you haven’t seen it yet, go to Pokerfuse.

Mike, I think you authored the article there. A really good article. We’ve got a cool slider so you can compare before and after what the lobby looks like, the existing into the new one. Obviously, the thing the first jumps out is that this is a flat design, a very modern design where all the buttons are flat and you haven’t got any drop shadows or anything like that.

Mike: Yes, there’s an obvious removal of any of the gradients shading that you would normally see, or that people are still seeing now in the PokerStars’ lobby as this new one has not yet rolled out beyond Denmark as far as we know. That, to me, really jumped out. There’s a lot more white space, a lot of the grey area that was previously or that is still in the PokerStars lobby has been muted. It just has a very clean, crisp, modern look to it. They’ve also rolled a new updated mobile client in Denmark as well that has the same new design. I believe that is what’s driving the redesign of the lobby.

Nick: Yes. I saw, Mike, you put something on Twitter a couple of days ago. What are your first thoughts having a little look at it yourself? Do you think it’s an improvement?

Mike: Well, I like some aspects of it, and others feel more comfortable with the gradient design. I’m not exactly sure. I guess I’m not that in touch with my feelings enough to know why I feel one way or another. It feels a bit colder and, I don’t know, bare, but it also definitely has a more modern feel. The gradient part of it is really the part that stands out to me. I don’t know. Maybe seeing it feels a bit old school, but it also maybe feels more realistic to me, something that has depth that isn’t just a flat something. I guess the flatness of the new design really communicates that this is something that we’re seeing on the internet maybe.

Nick: This is the funny thing, Mike. I do really like it. I think it’s a good step forward. They’re just flatter otherwise. It’s a very cohesive, well-organized, well-executed thing. Every aspect of the client had this visual interpretation throughout. One thing I didn’t like with some of the typography choices maybe, it’s just on my monitor. There’s something on the login screen, some of the bolds look a bit washed out and not as crisp as they could be.

Other than that, I really like the new tabs, that kind of thing. You touched on something very interesting with the whole modern. This is very much something that all mobile operating systems from Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 10, they all now have this flat design to some extent. I know Google says their material design isn’t flat and it has some depth to it, but broadly speaking, the color schemes, just the types of typography, generally flatter buttons and flatter UI controls, it’s everywhere.

I see it and I go, “It’s really nice and new and it looks modern,” but it’s only because that’s what we’ve learned. There’s nothing, to me, inherently better. If anything, some of the criticism of the flat design, that it’s a lot less obvious what a button is. It’s much less engaging or easy to understand because there was a reason that we had drop shadows in buttons because it’s obvious what you can interact with and what you can’t.

Those criticisms do stand up, but the reality is that we’re in a place that you get a new iPhone and it feels flat. If you download the PokerStars client and it looks like all drop shadow and stuff, it feels dated just because that’s the trend 10 years ago and this is the trend now. It’s almost an inevitability. For me, at least, I do think it just feels more modern and clean.

If I was a new user downloading this, I would feel like I’m using a modern app rather than something from 15 years ago. I still feel like all operators just need to drop the Excel spreadsheet of tables and have everything blind lobby because that still looks like poor user experience to me. I think it’s a great step forward for the sake of it’s a step forward that everyone is taking.

Mike: Yes. One of the things that jumped out at me and I wasn’t able to really dig deeper and find out exactly, because the two lobbies are not exactly the same. In the old lobby, it was obvious to me, building on a point that you had mentioned a little bit earlier, that you’re not sure how to interact with some of the elements of the software, of the web page. One of the things that I’m unsure of is in the old design, the links or the URLs that will take you to somewhere else on my system are underlined in blue.

In the new system, I haven’t seen that type of hyperlinking. I’m not sure what it will exactly look like, but that seems to me like that’s a pretty big candidate to be flattened or muted in this move towards having more cleaner, crisper, more white space in the new design.

Nick: I’m just trying to think where on the PokerStars download client you would have an underlined link to take you somewhere.

Mike: In the Fuse article, you can see the screenshot that we have, there’s a section in the lobby that deals with the Bounty Builders Series. They have outgoing links.

Nick: I see.

Mike: When I say outgoing, I just mean out of the main lobby part for the MTTs, for Spin, satellites.

Nick: I’d say with those, they have dropped the underline to it. I still think it’s quite obvious. One thing they’ve got is it seems like they’ve used the bright green color primarily for things that you can click on and primary action buttons, and so those links are still that green. To me, it’s hard for us because, obviously, the link is in the same position that it was in the last one. I know it’s there. It’s hard to know from a new user’s perspective if it’s an improvement or not, or the same where it’s got worse from an interactivity point of view. It still seems fairly obvious to me that that’s a thing that you can click on.

Mike: Yes. Overall, I like the new one better. The one thing that I would personally like to see is I’d like to see less white space. It feels cold and impersonal to me a bit. I don’t know that it’s— You can eliminate some of that white space and still not go the gradient route. I think that that is perhaps an iteration that could be made, but who knows? Maybe I’m the odd person out and this is just me, and other people really like that white space. Overall, I would definitely vote for the new lobby design, yes.

Nick: I’m just looking at the old one. They just use grays more like, say, the backgrounds of the filters. It’s just various different grays. You’re definitely right, like in the new one, it’s whites or just off-whites everywhere. I’d prefer it if it was just like lighter and better, but I do see your point. Probably, we should mention it, they’re definitely not the first poker operator to go flat design in their lobby.

The two big ones, I would say, MPN’s new Prima client and iPoker’s new client from a year or two back, they’re very, very flat design, perhaps going a step beyond this. They had been out for a while. In fact, Full Tilt, when it came onto the PokerStars platform and it was used as PokerStars software but they re-skinned it, that was also very much, like— there were a lot of components there that I would say were flat design.

It’s interesting because it was actually quite a big step from the old Full Tilt client, which I think was heavy in gradients and drop shadows and all that, to the Full Tilt one. Actually, I’m not a fan of the Full Tilt skin. That was an example of bad flat design, I suppose. I will say I’m no user interface designer, so take all this with a pinch of salt. It felt like it didn’t feel cohesive to me.

There was a lot of white space in that, and buttons weren’t clearly buttons, and they used a lot of outline buttons and things like that, whereas the PokerStars one, they’ve really built on that. They’ve obviously got the experience that they did with the Full Tilt one. This feels a lot more cohesive, a lot more well thought out throughout, quite good use personally of the wide space, buttons are clearly buttons, and these kinds of things. That was a good step forward.

Mike: It’s definitely going to draw attention. I’m not sure if we have any kind of indication of how long this test run is going to be in Denmark before it starts rolling out more broadly. Do you have any information on that, Nick?

Nick: No. Again, from what we can tell, no announcement from PokerStars, no email to Danish players , let alone anyone else. We’ve absolutely seen them testing in Denmark first. In fact, I was writing up about Fusion this week when they first launched Fusion. It came out in Denmark first. Normally, when this happens, and we’ve seen Denmark first, it’s literally hours or days and it’s going globally, like over the weekend, and then on Monday, it’s out.

We’re just about past that point now. It’s been live in Denmark for about four or five days at this point. It’s possible that they just roll it back and no one ever sees it. That absolutely could be the case. We’ve seen some things. PokerStars were testing something in the Italian market for two years, and then they rolled that back. That was 5-handed Zoom if I recall correctly. It’s clearly a step forward.

Maybe they’ve hit some snags, and that’s why they didn’t just pull the trigger on a two-day rollout . Maybe they’ve always planned to have a one-month rollout of that. You can tell, we’re totally guessing here. What we know is we’ve experienced this client. It is like for real money in one market. A huge amount of work has gone into it. I’d be shocked if they’re not working hard. It also just fits into their broad plan.

You’ve talked about earlier, Mike, the new mobile client that has this flat design. They’ve been releasing Aurora, the new game engine which powers the play at the tables. They released new logos a couple of years ago which switched to a flat design. A little teaser, we’ve seen hints of a new website from PokerStars, which brings all this together. They clearly have this pretty cohesive strategy of web, mobile, desktop, lobby tables all moving in one direction, multiple teams clearly working at different pacing, but that’s all moving forward. I’ll be shocked if this didn’t happen. In theory, it could take weeks or months for it to come. I’d guess more likely days.

Mike: Now, hearing you talk about it, the thing that’s probably a bit different from this particular instance with the testing in Denmark to others is I think this new design is driven by the mobile NG or next-generation project that PokerStars has undertaken. If that is the case, then perhaps, this would be one time that the actual deployment would be beyond PokerStars’ control too a bit. If they’re deploying out their own client, they’re completely in charge and in control of how that happens. If, however, they’re relying on the client being distributed through, for example, the Apple, the iTunes store, that could add some unpredictability to the actual timeframe of the process.

Nick: Yes, that’s very, very true. We will see, watch this space. I expect within days or weeks, you’ll have it if you’re in the dot-com market.

Isai Scheinberg arrested in New York

Nick: In what I think surprised everyone, last Friday, a fantastically written article by Nathan Vardi in Forbes, a very well researched and in-depth piece basically revealing the news the week prior, Isai Scheinberg, the founder of PokerStars and former CEO, surrendered to authorities in New York opting to hop on a flight from Switzerland to New York and faces charges where he pleaded not guilty.

Mike: Yes, Black Friday, still in the news almost a decade later. It’s, surreal, but yes, from what we understand, according to Nathan Vardi’s reporting, Scheinberg was in Switzerland, and the US had moved to have him extradited back to the US. He initially thought that, and then later decided to come in on his own, as you mentioned. He’s out on bail, $1 million was posted.

He was the only person that was indicted that had still not face charges. It seems to be that there is a deal in the works according to reporting from Forbes, so I would be surprised if that would result in any jail time, but it’s something that I expect that we will see a conclusion to rather quickly.

Nick: Yes. A little bit of backstory for our listeners who aren’t really aware of the Black Friday case, and then a couple of interesting little points in the Forbes article which were potentially easy to overlook. Very briefly, just under nine years ago with the Back Friday indictments which the US department of justice sees the domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, 11 men were indicted on charges ranging from operating an illegal gambling business, violations of UIGEA, the Unlawful Internet Gaming Act, wire fraud and money laundering. 11 men were indicted for these charges. There’s also the civil case against the companies of PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker.

The civil cases were ultimately resolved when PokerStars came to an agreement with the Department of Justice to basically bail out all Full Tilt players who were stuck without money because it turns out Full Tilt didn’t have any money. They purchased Full Tilt. It cost them $731 million, something like that, and that settled the case. PokerStars never admitted to any wrongdoing. However, the 11 indictments against the individuals remained. Have I got everything ready so far, Mike? Anything you need to correct?

Mike: Yes, that sounds pretty good. That’s a really good recollection.

Nick: Over the next nine years, 10 men faced their charges. Some entered not guilty pleas, some entered guilty pleas. Now, these charges, in theory, they faced— the maximum sentencing is from 5 to 10 years for each charge. Maybe some are up to even 25 years, but many of the men faced multiple charges, three or four or five. In theory, they had extremely long maximum sentences. The reality is that, in many cases, they would plead to one misdemeanor charge. Many of them avoided jail time entirely. I think Ray Bitar did a few days in jail or he might have avoided jail entirely.

Mike: No, his was time served. I think he was in prison but then was released.

Nick: P.T., who was one of the two people at PokerStars who was charged, the person that we actually know really nothing about but was involved in the payment processing site side, he pleaded guilty to one charge and was spared jail time. Some did serve more time. Chad Elie, five months, and Ira Rubin have perhaps the harshest sentence with a three-year sentence. Anyway, all of them but Isai had faced their charges. He is the 11th and final person to ultimately come to some deal, as you say, that’s currently ongoing to settle those charges.

Mike: Yes. As far as when this will be resolved, we know that the next pretrial conference is scheduled for the 20th of February. That, we anticipate, will be the next time that we have any solid news around this case unless, of course, a settlement happens prior to that, which I would imagine as possible.

That’s the when. The what is— The big question is, are prosecutors going to push for jail time given Scheinberg’s age and that all of these other indictments have all been settled? I’d be surprised. I’d be very surprised. I think that it’s likely that someone of Isai’s means had at least a preliminary deal in place before he even traveled to the US, and if that deal included incarceration, I’m doubtful that he would’ve come. I anticipate that it’s going to be a fine only and we’re going to move on from that.

Nick: It’s very interesting because on the one hand, again, in Nathan Vardi’s article, there was a hearing, and the prosecution told the judge that they are far along in negotiating a deal and, “We have an agreement in principle on the basic terms.” That very much sounds like— as you say, he was in Switzerland. He initially started to fight an extradition attempt, but ultimately, after negotiations, accepted to flying there facing the charges because they have this deal in principle, in basic terms.

It’s probably going to involve money and not jail time, you would think. The interesting thing is that— my supposition here is that although this started when he was in Switzerland, but he has been living for nine years in the Isle of Man, which has no extradition treaty and, from what we can tell from the outside, perfectly happy with that status quo. It was only when he decided to fly to Switzerland that the US authorities realized that this was an opportunity to try and extradite him.

I don’t know. It sounds to me like although he voluntarily came and that a deal is in the works, that’s only the case because he was forced into it because he was perhaps caught unawares in Switzerland. I’m making a few suppositions here.

Mike: Yes. It would surprise me that someone that has that type of pending litigation or those pending charges against them, that wouldn’t be in the forefront of their mind when traveling outside of the country which you have established as your safe haven. I’d be a bit surprised if he wasn’t aware of that when traveling to Switzerland in the first place. Maybe he didn’t think they would act so quickly.

The other question I would have is, while he was fighting that extradition, could he have gone back to the Isle of Man? Did he need to stay there until that was resolved? Was it stay there or come to the US, or could he have just returned to Isle of Man? I’m not sure. Again, I’d still be very, very surprised if there’s any jail time in Scheinberg’s future.

Nick: Yes. It would just surprise me that if he decided that, “Okay, let’s get this matter resolved. Let’s work with the prosecutors,” you would be standing on better terms if you just started that process from the Isle of Man because then, it would be entirely voluntary. If you are caught in a situation where you’re in no man’s land, in a country where you have to fight extradition proceedings and then go, “Okay. Well, you know what? Now, I’ll fly,” I feel like you’ve already given the opposition a step up that you didn’t necessarily need to.

If you’re in the Isle of Man saying, “Hey, I don’t need to do this, but I want to come and clear my name, let’s come to terms,” you would be coming at it from a better argument point, I suppose, the better point of view.

Mike: Yes. There’s definitely some unknowns here. I don’t think we’ll ever know what was being thought of at the time that things were happening unless we can get Isai on the podcast maybe.

Nick: Yes, let’s let him deal with the New York things. Maybe after that, he’ll come and chat.

Mike: Yes. Anyway, we’ll be looking to see this case resolved. Like I said, the next pretrial conference is scheduled to be held on February 20th. We also anticipate that there’s a possibility this could be resolved by then, so let’s keep an eye on this space.

GG Masters, the new Sunday Major from GGPoker

Mike: One of the top topics we’ve talked about recently on this podcast has been the emergence of GGPoker as one of the top online poker sites in the world. They’ve come out with some interesting new innovations as far as their software is concerned, and they’ve also recently launched GG Masters, which is their headlining Sunday major to compete with the likes of The Sunday Millionaire PokerStars. That’s Sunday something over at partypoker. What’s that called again?

Nick: The partypoker MILLION.

Mike: Yes. I’m always mixing those two up. In competition with those, we’ve seen overlays every week since it’s happened, which is good news for players, and definitely a sign that GGPoker should be on their radar of places to play. Nick, what more do we know?

Nick: Yes, it’s an interesting tournament. They’re trying to jump on the wave of— I think we talked on this briefly last week, maybe just in passing, but this wave of people wanting to see freezeouts, not tournaments with rebuys and addons, and that kind of thing. Their Sunday tournament starts in mid-afternoon European Time. Only $150 to enter, which is lower than about the standard Sunday majors classically around the $200 mark, although obviously, PokerStars has cut theirs in half, so $150 to enter, $300,000 guaranteed prize pool. It’s not up there with the millions quite yet, but again, the structure is so different from, obviously, what partypoker is doing.

It’s pretty ambitious for a site their size, and the fact that it’s just a tournament, there’s no multiple day ones, there’s no six hours of late registration, there’s no multiple rebuys, that kind of thing. What’s interesting is that they have fully committed to this because they’ve got a year-long leaderboard specifically to people who play. This will be available for all of 2020 every Sunday. There’s no going back on that now because they have a top prize of $500,000 ambassador ship to the network for the person who comes out on top.

Mike: Yes, I found that promotion interesting on a couple of levels. One, this is a new tournament and they’re trying to get people interested and excited about playing this new Sunday major. That’s not something that happens overnight. There’s going to be this ramp-up period of getting as many players as you can to play this event.

To have a promotion like a leader board which depends largely on volume over the number of weeks that people are to play, it seems like that kind of promotion loses its bite as the year rolls on because the people that were in early, the early adopters, the people that are playing the GG Masters from the beginning of the year, will definitely have an advantage over those that play later on.

Nick: Yes, that’s actually a very good point. I haven’t considered that. It really depends on how you structured your leaderboard. If you do it so that winning it takes you all the way up there rather than lots of little cashes, then perhaps, even if you start on month nine, if you can win it, plus maybe get another couple of cashes, that’s enough to take you to the top, maybe you’re sitting with a chance. You make a very good point, like interest in the leaderboard is going to wane. Although with that said, if you’re in the top 100, it inspires you to keep on growing and make sure you don’t miss a week to give you the best shot.

Mike: Yes. As you say, it’s definitely dependent on the structure. You could also limit the actual entries that make it to the leaderboard as well, so your top-five finishes across the year, which will-

Nick: That’s a very good point.

Mike: -negate some of that early advantage for the other people. There are definitely things you can do to structure it, but I’m looking at this promotion from a consumer’s perspective. While all those details could mitigate the advantage of the people that play earlier, when I’m a consumer looking at this promotion, that’s the first thing I think. I may not take the time to dig into the details to find out if, “It’s only your top three,” or all the points are really consolidated onto a top-five finish which would give more people a chance later on in the year as well.

Nick: Well, we can absolutely say that if you’re a player interested in tournaments like this, now would be the time to jump in. They’re four weeks in. They’re all playing every week. I would say that’s close to by design. I’ll talk about a bit more of that in a second, but they are committed to doing this the whole year, and if you enter now, you’ve got 11 months to work your way up that leaderboard.

Mike: Right. How do players do that, Nick? How do they get signed up on GGPoker?

Nick: The first thing they should do is probably go to where I saw just this week, Mike, we published a fantastic FAQ which taught me some things. I’ll tell you what it taught me.

Mike: What’s that?

Nick: They don’t have Sit & Gos.

Mike: Yes, [chuckles] I saw that as well.

Nick: That blew me away. What do have is they have a crapload of cash games and they have a lot of MTTs, and along with this Masters, they have a huge slate on a weekend schedule, and they always run bonkers guaranteed tournament series, their blinds series and stuff. Check that out. All the information is in there.

Mike: Yes. Plus, you’ll get all the information on welcome bonuses and, as any online poker player knows, that when you’re signing up, you definitely want to take advantage of those promotions that are on offer because that will directly help you increase your bankroll.

Nick: And the VIP program, which I’ve had a look at before and is like damn complicated. It has like 30 different levels to it split into six different tiers and all this kind of stuff. Again, particularly on the cash games, it’s quite a high rate but it has high rewards. The top tier is in the 50% or 60%, something like that. Definitely check that out. Anyway, on the overlays front, it’s one of those, again, we’ve talked on this podcast a lot before.

Does the operator want overlays or not? They’re in exactly the zone they want it, which it is overlaying like 10% to 20% every week. It’s costing them $10,000-$20,000 grand each week, and they are on Twitter. They ran a promotion just yesterday going like, “How many entries did we get? How much did we overlay?” The person who replies with the right answer gets a free ticket to next week’s thing.

They need 2,000 entries. They’re getting between 1,800 and 1,900. Last week, they’ve got the most just at 1,916, something like 1,911. Still, 90 plays short of covering. Even when you take into account their fee, they are still losing out money there. That’s a nice chunk of overlay for players to enjoy, but with that said, as I say, I think that’s where GGPoker wants it to be. The reason why I think that is week one, the tournament, and you had a $250,000 guarantee, it overlaid by $28,000, and then they up the guarantee next week.

Then, the next week, you’ve got 1,900 players and it’s still got a $15,000— they actually had a $37,000 overlay if we don’t include the operator’s fee. Last week was their best yet by like 10 or 12 players, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it covers next week, we’ll see it kick up to 350 or something. It’s one of those. I’m not saying promising absolutely there’s going to be value every week, but it seems like something that GG seems more than happy to be losing 10% on for the foreseeable to really promote their site and promote their tournament.

Mike: Yes. Looking back at last week, I think it comes out to about a $36,000 overlay which, if you think about it in promotional dollars, is probably something that GGPoker is comfortable putting out there as long as they can get the buzz from this overlay every week. I would imagine it’s going to overlay again next week and probably for the foreseeable future. Who knows, maybe the closer it gets to meeting its guarantee, maybe they up the guarantee again. This could be a plan throughout 2020. We don’t exactly know yet, but for right now, we know that there’s a lot of value in this tournament.


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.