WSOP Main Event Final Table Kicks off Thursday Night on ESPN-2

Every year thousands of hopefuls flock to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, and while those players come from every walk of life imaginable, they all have one thing in common – the dream of winning millions by becoming poker’s World Champion.

This year saw 7,221 such dreamers make their way to the Rio, but after seven days of intense action on the felt, that field has pared down to just nine survivors.

For the first time since 2008, the WSOP Main Event final table won’t be played out under the “November Nine” format – meaning no three-month break. Instead, the final nine took a two-day reprieve to rest, relax, study, and satisfy media obligations.

With that out of the way, they’ll head back into the fray Thursday night to begin a three-day push to the finish line. When play resumes, the tournament clock will show 68 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in Level 37. The blinds will be set at 400,000/800,000, with a 100,000-chip ante forcing the action.

Tonight’s segment will begin at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST), with ESPN-2 providing continuous semi-live coverage (on a brief tape-delay). Play will continue until three contenders have been eliminated, and that process will repeat on Friday night at the same time, with coverage shifting to ESPN.

The newest Main Event winner will be crowned on Saturday night, and once again ESPN will carry the coverage beginning at 6 p.m. PST.

Every player left in contention is guaranteed to take home $1 million, but all eyes are on the $8,150,000 prize awaiting the next World Champion.

As for those players, a truly eclectic group will be gathered to contest poker’s top tournament. Below you’ll find the final table lineup in order of current chip count, along with a brief biography to help you get to know the stars of the show a bit better:

Scott Blumstein – 97,250,000 chips / 122 big blinds
Seat: 2
Age: 25
Hometown: Morristown, New Jersey
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $312,142

John Hesp – 85,700,000 chips / 107 big blinds
Seat: 1
Age: 64
Hometown: Bridlington, England
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $2,207

Benjamin Pollak – 35,175,000 chips / 44 big blinds
Seat: 4
Age: 33
Hometown: Paris, France
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $2,967,782

Bryan Piccioli – 33,800,000 chips / 42 big blinds
Seat: 8
Age: 28
Hometown: Allegany, New York
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $1,909,374

Dan Ott – 26,475,000 chips / 33 big blinds
Seat: 9
Age: 26
Hometown: Altoona, Pennsylvania
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $3,656

Damian Salas – 22,175,000 chips / 28 big blinds
Seat: 6
Age: 42
Hometown: Chascomus, Argentina
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $919,525

Antoine Saout – 21,750,000 chips / 27 big blinds
Seat: 3
Age: 33
Hometown: Morlaix, France
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $5,551,412

Jack Sinclair – 20,200,000 chips / 25 big blinds
Seat: 5
Age: 26
Hometown: London, England
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $13,500

Ben Lamb – 18,050,000 chips / 23 big blinds
Seat: 7
Age: 26
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Live Tournament Earnings (Pre-Main Event): $7,207,830

The total prize pool for the final table can be found below:
1 – $8,150,000
2 – $4,700,000
3 – $3,500,000
4 – $2,600,000
5 – $2,000,000
6 – $1,675,000
7 – $1,425,000
8 – $1,200,000
9 – $1,000,000

Resorts Casino in Atlantic City Begins Offering DFS-Style Sports Betting Game FastPick

The first legal casino in America to be built outside of Nevada marked another milestone on Monday, when Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City became the first venue outside of the Silver State to offer legal betting on daily fantasy sports (DFS).

Working in conjunction with Washington D.C.-based company Sport Analytics & Data Corp (SportAD), Resorts launched the new FastPick sports betting product on July 17.

As of now, the game based on selecting head-to-head DFS matchups against the house is offered exclusively through the ResortsCasino.com online platform. However, as reported by Legal Sports Report, the brick and mortar casino has already experimented with a soft launch of live FastPick – setting the stage for casino patrons to place bets on DFS in New Jersey for the first time.

Players taking part in a FastPick wager are presented with 10 head-to-head matchups involving athletes within a particular sport. The objective is to select at least three players, or anywhere up to 10, with the house taking the other player in each matchup. From there, traditional DFS scoring is used to attribute points to each player based on their real-world performance in that day’s games.

The three-or-more pick requirement essentially turns FastPick into a parlay wager, as all associated matchups must be won in order to collect a payout. For now, wagers are capped between $10 and $200, with a maximum payout of $100,000 should a 10-player slate prove successful.

Joe Brennan Jr., who serves as chief executive officer for SportAD, issued a press release to announce FastPick’s launch:

“We are very excited about this launch with Resorts Gaming, which has a reputation of bringing innovative gaming content to market in both their casino and online.

With plenty of MLB baseball right now, and the NFL football and European Soccer seasons about to start, the ‘FastPick’ brand is in a strong position to capitalize on the daily fantasy sports market and attract players looking for a more fun and simple way to enjoy real-money sports games.”

Ed Andrewes, an iGaming industry consultant currently representing Resorts Digital Gaming, released a statement which framed FastPick as an alternative to traditional DFS platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel:

“We want to appeal to sports fans who want to get a piece of the action but don’t have the time to compete effectively against the traditional ‘professional’ DFS player.

We are thrilled to partner with SportAD to introduce the next generation of Fantasy Sports to our casinos as well as online and mobile.”

Mark Giannantonio, president and chief executive officer for Resorts, also went on record to praise his casino’s adoption of FastPick:

“I’m very excited about this new business. We expect it to be exciting for our online customers, and soon, for those who play at our casino.

The idea has always been for the brick and mortar casino to be integrated as much as possible with our online business.”

Given the current timing, bettors have only Major League Baseball (MLB) matchups to choose from, but FastPick is designed to offer a multitude of additional contests – including the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS).

FastPick has been approved by the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), and in New Jersey, DFS contests are considered to be legal according to the state’s attorney general.

The New Jersey Legislature also passed a bill to officially legalize and regulate DFS in June of this year, which awaits only a signature from Governor Chris Christie before becoming law.

MLB Commissioner Paul Manfred Says League Wants Input on Potential Federal Sports Betting Regulation

Continuing his organization’s slow but steady pivot away from outright opposition to sports betting, Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Paul Manfred recently explained that he’d prefer to collaborate on any potential rollback of the current federal prohibition.

As he met with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA) to discuss wide-ranging issues impacting the league, Manfred mentioned that MLB would continue to monitor a lawsuit filed against Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey – of which MLB is a plaintiff.

That suit was filed in 2012, with MLB joining the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) in objecting to New Jersey’s passage of statewide sports betting legalization.

But the MLB commissioner at that time was Bud Selig, a strict anti-gambling figure who opposed all inroads to legalized sports betting. Upon assuming the commissioner’s mantle in 2015, Manfred shifted the league’s public stance on the subject, falling closely in line with his counterpart Adam Silver of the NBA – who wrote an op-ed calling for federal sports betting regulation which was published by the New York Times in 2014.

District and appeals courts consistently ruled in favor of the leagues, but Christie and New Jersey continued the appeals process, and in June of this year the United States Supreme Court decided to hear the case.

Speaking to the BWAA, Manfred said the league “is tracking” the Supreme Court case – which has initial briefs scheduled for August 10, followed by oral arguments later in the year – but his comments seemed to suggest that MLB is preparing for the future:

“If there’s going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like.

We’re in the process of talking to our owners and figuring out where we want to be in the event that there is in fact a significant change coming.”

The change in regulations referenced by Manfred alludes to the potential repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992, which bars sports betting throughout the country. Under PAPSA, only four states are legally permitted to regulate sports betting (Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana), and only then due to being “grandfathered in.”

Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Christie and New Jersey, their ruling would necessarily strike down PAPSA’s overreaching authority on a state’s right to regulate the sports betting industry.

And even if the leagues’ original lawsuit and subsequent court victories are upheld, Congress is currently considering the Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement (GAME) Act – a bill introduced this May by Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ). If the GAME Act is authorized, and signed into law by President Donald Trump, it would explicitly repeal PAPSA.

In a statement announcing the bill’s introduction, Rep. Pallone outlined the reasoning behind legalizing sports betting nationwide:

“Despite the federal gaming laws in place today, Americans are betting up to $400 billion a year on sporting events alone.

It’s time to recognize that the laws are outdated, and the GAME Act will modernize them by increasing transparency, integrity, and consumer protections.”

In June, Geoff Freeman – president and chief executive of the American Gaming Association (AGA) – confirmed that his organization has held a series of meetings with the player’s unions from the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL over the last 18 months.

That same month, the AGA announced the formation of the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC), a lobby group consisting of law enforcement officials, civic leaders, and other stakeholders who support regulated sports betting over the status quo.

DraftKings and FanDuel Abruptly Cancel Merger After FTC Raises Antitrust Objections

Less than a month after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its objections to their proposed merger, daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel suddenly squashed the plan.

DraftKings’ chief executive officer Jason Robins issued a statement on July 13 to inform the public that FanDuel would no longer be brought into the fold:

“We believe it is in the best interests of our customers, employees, and investors to terminate our agreement to merge with FanDuel and move forward as a separate company.”

Nigel Eccles, his counterpart at FanDuel, also released a statement which provided additional context to the companies’ decision:

“FanDuel decided to merge with DraftKings last November, because we believed that this deal would have increased investment in growth and product development thereby benefiting consumers and the greater sports entertainment industry.

While our opinion has not changed, we have determined that it is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers, employees, and partners to terminate the merger agreement and move forward as an independent company.”

In November of last year, the world’s two largest DFS operators – whose rivalry spurred an infamous advertising “arms race” in recent years – announced the signing of a merger agreement. Under the terms of that deal, Robins was slated to become chief executive of the newly formed entity, while Eccles would assume a new role as chairman of the board.

Those plans continued unimpeded until June 19, when the FTC joined forces with the Attorneys General of California and Washington D.C. in “alleging that the combined firm would control more than 90 percent of the U.S. market for paid daily fantasy sports contests.”

The FTC complaint pointed to Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, along with Section 5 of the FTC Act of 1914, laws designed to prevent monopolies from assuming competition-free control over an entire industry.

The FTC and AGs announced their intention to file a complaint in federal district court, in hopes of obtaining a temporary injunction to pause the merger on antitrust grounds. This complaint resulted in a judge issuing a restraining order, which brought the merger to an immediate halt pending an FTC investigation.

This pressure play promised to entangle DraftKings and FanDuel in a lengthy litigation battle, one which both companies balked at in short order.

Markus H. Meier, who serves as acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, issued his own statement celebrating the merger’s demise:

“The parties’ decision to abandon this transaction is a clear win for American consumers.

For years, the vigorous competition between DraftKings and FanDuel has spurred innovation and favorable pricing.

In brief, consumers benefited from the intense rivalry between the two leading players in this space. If this merger had been allowed to go through, those benefits would likely have been lost.”

As is typically the case when former competitors decide to merge, DraftKings and FanDuel have had their financial foundations scrutinized over the last eight months. Indeed, financial disclosures released in 2015 document an operating loss of $509 million for DraftKings that year – incurred largely due to the aforementioned advertising blitz.

In his statement, Robins provided several figures designed to allay fears over DraftKings’ solvency, including the following optimistic appraisal of the company’s current state of affairs:

“We have a growing customer base of nearly 8 million, our revenue is growing over 30% year-over-year, and we are only just beginning to take our product overseas to the billions of international sports fans we have yet to even reach.”

FanDuel filed a response to the FTC’s original complaint in July which stated unequivocally that DraftKings was the largest DFS operator in the U.S. based on both entry fees and total revenue.

Pennsylvania Finally Passes Budget but iGaming Package Stalls Amidst Legislative Stalemate

Despite having passed the spending portion of a long-awaited $32 billion budget two weeks ago, lawmakers in Pennsylvania remain locked in a stalemate with Governor Tom Wolf over the issue of funding.

And one casualty of that legislative gridlock is the Keystone State’s comprehensive gambling expansion package, which includes legalization and regulation of online poker, casino games, and daily fantasy sports (DFS).

The omnibus gambling expansion bill was passed by the Senate in May, with the House providing its own approval in June, but despite achieving widespread support in both votes, it hasn’t yet become the law of the land. With the Governor’s office and the Legislature unable to find agreement on the terms of a funding package for the massive budget, the House’s estimate of $250 million to $300 million in additional annual revenue from iGaming alone has long been considered a crucial piece to the puzzle.

Per reporting from Philly.com, Pennsylvania is currently faced with a $1.5 billion deficit from the previous fiscal year – along with a projected shortfall of $700 million for the current fiscal year which began on July 1.

House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) spoke with Philly.com on July 11, the same day lawmakers adjourned the current session without yet finalizing a funding package:

“It’s got to get done… it will get done.

You know, sometimes a couple of hours away for everybody is a good thing. We can regroup and put it back together.

I don’t think anybody wants to do this all year.”

Reed’s optimism was based on the fact that the Legislature put members of both the House and Senate “on call,” meaning they must be prepared to return from recess for an emergency session on six hours’ notice.

That provision left members of the Legislature – and iGaming observers nationwide who hope to see Pennsylvania become the fourth state to regulate the industry – hopeful that a deal would be struck this week.

But as of Friday afternoon, with the weekend looming, only the Senate has remained in session – and that body has yet to take up the contentious gambling expansion issue for a second time.

One hurdle that had held up the iGaming debate for years in Pennsylvania concerned so-called video gaming terminals (VGTs) – or slot machine style devices that use video screens to recreate chance-based gambling games.

The initial plan to allow restaurants, bars, and other non-casino establishments to offer VGTs sparked fierce debate within the Legislature, with the House insistent that they be included to provide a steady stream of gambling revenue while the iGaming industry gets off the ground.

Per a report published by PennLive, however, leadership in the Senate moved to kill off the VGT proposal on July 8, with Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh County) offering a brisk dismissal:

“That is no longer part of the conversation here.”

Predictably, the VGT issue has resurfaced during the recent debate, and members of the House are currently said to be pushing for them to be added back into the bill.

Back on June 26, state senator Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware County) explained his reservations over VGTs to PennLive, pointing to their potential to drain income from established land-based casinos like Harrah’s Chester:

“My concern is we’re trying to come up with gaming legislation in the five days before the budget’s due, and I just don’t think that trying to ram it down in the last five days is good …

When you look at a business that generates almost a third of (the city of) Chester’s budget, that’s a lot to jeopardize. I just need a lot more time than a week or two weeks to make a decision like that.”

It’s been over two weeks since that quote was given, and the Pennsylvania Legislature remains unable to forge compromise on VGTs – leaving the widely supported issue of iGaming hanging in the balance.

WSOP Main Event Money Bubble Bursts; Several Stars Still in Contention

In a poker tournament of any magnitude, there comes a point where the friendly banter subsides, as the next elimination will send somebody home on the dreaded “money bubble.”

In poker parlance, this simply refers to the last player in the field to leave without a prize, and every tournament produces an unfortunate bubble boy (or gal) forced to watch giddy survivors celebrate their demise.

As one might imagine, the money bubble at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event is among the more intense situations in the game – as demonstrated by last night’s Day 3 festivities.

When play began on Thursday there were 2,572 players still holding chip stacks, but those numbers dwindled steadily throughout the day. Ahead of the action, tournament directors informed the field that they’d be playing through until the money had been made – meaning 1,084 players would be left in the fray.

Over the next 14 hours, well-known pros like Mike Matusow, Jason Mercier, Brian Rast, Sam Greenwood, and Adrian Mateos were all cut down. Joining them on the rail was a foursome of former Main Event winners, as Joe Hachem, Johnny Chan, Tom McEvoy, and Greg Raymer all lost the last of their chips.

For Raymer, who won poker’s most prestigious prize back in 2004, the end was particularly egregious. In two consecutive hands, “Fossil Man” faced maximum poker torture.

First, he lost a chunk of change with pocket tens to pocket sixes when his opponent spiked a set on the river. Next, after waking up with pocket kings and seeing an open and call in front, Raymer jammed his last 80,000 or so forward. He was called in one spot by pocket nines, but once again the deck delivered a two-outer to Raymer’s opponent, who flopped a set of nines. No help came on the turn or river, and Raymer took to Twitter to vent his frustrations:

“Just a devastating pair of hands. Oh, what might have been.”

When the clock had moved past midnight and into Friday morning, the field had finally shrunk to 1,086 players – putting the Rio on the precipice of a raucous celebration. Two more eliminations were needed before those left with chips would secure a coveted Main Event cash – and the $15,000 guaranteed payout along with it.

With tournament officials overseeing hand-for-hand play, in which every table deals a single hand in synchrony to determine final finishing order, a series of short-stacked all-ins played out that the PokerNews live updates team captured for posterity.

Roger Campbell peeked down at big slick in the big blind, and after calling an open, his Ah-Kc looked even prettier on the 9h-7h-2h flop. He held two overs and the nut flush draw, good enough to lead out for 15,000 and look for a quick fold.

Kenny Shih had other ideas, however, popping it to 65,000, only to see Campbell slide his last 225,000 forward. Shih committed the calling chips and tabled Qh-10h for a flopped flush, leaving Campbell in search of the deck’s remaining seven hearts. The turn and river were both bricks though, sending Campbell out of the Main Event just short of the money.

But the drama continued at several other tables, with a pair of all-in players surviving their showdown to stay in the tournament.

A third all-in was made by Quan Zhou, a high-stakes cash game player hailing from China, with the final board reading 10d-Jc-10h-7h-Kh. Facing off against Belgian pro and three-time bracelet winner Davidi Kitai, Zhou went for the big over-bet on the river, shoving 376,000 into a pot containing just over 200,000.

Kitai snap-called and tabled his Ks-Kd with a flourish, having made a full house on the river, while Zhou had only Ad-9d for the stone-cold bluff.

Because both players technically exited on the same hand, Campbell and Zhou were invited to a side table for one last hand – a random deal to decide who would be the official 1,085th place bubble boy. That player would receive a rebate in the form of a free $10,000 entry to next year’s Main Event, while the other would head home empty-handed.

Zhou wound up taking down the random hand, so he’ll be back next year for a Main Event freeroll.

Day 4 brings back 1,084 players for the Main Event’s “moving day,” as short-stacks who secured a cash will be shoving and praying, while big stacks gobble them up in preparation for a deep run.

Leading the pack will be Patrick Lavecchia with his 1,552,000 chips, although Pawel Brzeski (1,546,000), Antoine Saout (1,529,000), and Jeremiah Fitzpatrick (1,523,000) are all within striking distance. The rest of the top-10 includes Derek Bowers (1,376,000), Mickey Craft (1,345,000), Edward Nassif (1,345,000), Scott Blumstein (1,340,000), Artan Dedusha (1,288,000), and Greg Dyer (1,276,000).

Among the recognizable names with a shot at making a deep Main Event run are Kitai (1,116,000), 888 Poker Ambassadors Sofia Lovgren (996,000) and Dominik Nitsche (829,000), five-time bracelet holder Allen Cunningham (427,000), and 1998 Main Event champion Scotty Nguyen (232,000).

You can follow all the action via the PokerGo live stream between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Las Vegas local time, before coverage shifts to ESPN-2 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

2017 World Series Odds Update: Dodgers, Astros are the Favorites at Midseason

With the American League’s dominance in the Midsummer Classic continuing in a 2-1 win over their National League counterparts, Major League Baseball enters a two-day repose.

And while that All-Star Game result would’ve had major implications for the World Series in previous years, it was a simple exhibition with no strings attached this time around.

And that’s a good thing for baseball fans, as the NL-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and their sterling 61-29 record puts them just 0.5 games up on the AL-leading Houston Astros (60-29) in what promises to be a thrilling race for home field advantage in November.

Predictably, those two teams are the favorites to win the 2017 World Series, at least according to the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada.

The Dodgers lead the way at (+350), while the Astros are close behind offering (+425) to win it all. Coincidentally, the same two teams enjoyed identical odds of (+1400) during Spring Training, with five teams ahead of them in the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, and San Francisco Giants.

Aside from the Giants, who lost Madison Bumgarner early on to a dirt biking accident and forgot how to win, the other four powerhouses are all ranked among the current favorites.

The Red Sox (+600) hold a 3.5-game lead in the AL East over the rival New York Yankees (+1400), powered by ace Chris Sale and his glittering 11-4 record and 2.75 ERA.

In the nation’s capital the Nationals (+700) are running away with the NL East, holding a 9.5-game lead over Wild Card contenders the Atlanta Braves (+1500).

And even as last season’s World Series combatants have gone on opposite tracks this year – with the Indians holding a slim 2.5-game lead in the AL Central, while the Cubs trail by 5.5 games in the NL Central – both teams are offering (+800) odds.

Cleveland will need to fend off the upstart Minnesota Twins (+6600), while the Cubs are neck and neck with the St. Louis Cardinals (+5000) in chasing the division leading Milwaukee Brewers (+2500).

This year’s surprise team is the Arizona Diamondbacks, a last-place squad in 2016 that has been revitalized under first year manager Torey Lovullo. The D-Backs were winning on pace with the Dodgers all season, until a three-game sweep and subsequent swoon saw them fall 7.5 games off the NL West pace. They still hold the NL’s top Wild Card spot, sitting two games up on the Rockies and 9.5 games up on the Cubs and Cardinals.

Arizona’s record of 53-36 is the third-best in all of baseball – behind only the Dodgers and Astros – and at (+1600) odds to win the World Series, they’ve earned by far baseball’s biggest improvement over the preseason odds (+10000).

The only other teams offered better than 30 to 1 odds are the aforementioned Brewers and Rockies (+2500), who at one point in the year led both the Dodgers and D-Backs in the NL West standings.

Like the Colorado air, the Rockies have cooled off considerably since their peak, but they still hold a firm grasp on the NL’s second wild card spot – leading the Cubs and Cardinals by 7.5 games.

Team World Series Odds on 7/12
Los Angeles Dodgers +350
Houston Astros +425
Boston Red Sox +600
Washington Nationals +700
Chicago Cubs +800
Cleveland Indians +800
New York Yankees +1400
Arizona Diamondbacks +1600
Colorado Rockies +2500
Milwaukee Brewers +2500
Kansas City Royals +3300
Toronto Blue Jays +5000
St. Louis Cardinals +5000
Minnesota Twins +6600
Tampa Bay Rays +6600
Seattle Mariners +7500
Texas Rangers +7500
Baltimore Orioles +7500
Los Angeles Angels +7500
New York Mets +10000
Detroit Tigers +10000
Pittsburgh Pirates +10000
Atlanta Braves +15000
Miami Marlins +50000
Cincinnati Reds +50000
Chicago White Sox +50000
Oakland Athletics +50000

 

Regulators in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain Agree to Share Online Poker Player Pools

After pens were put to paper July 6 at a signing ceremony held in Rome, regulators representing four European Union nations officially entered into an online poker player sharing agreement.

Online poker rooms in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain which were previously “ring-fenced” platforms are now free to pool their player bases for the first time. Under the ring-fenced system, players in these four nations had only countrymen as opponents – thus partitioning player liquidity across each site.

The four signatories were the French Online Gambling Regulatory Authority, the Customs Agency and Monopoly (Italy), the Service of Regulation and Inspection of Games Service of the Portuguese Tourism Institute (Portugal), and the General Direction of Game Management (Spain).

In a press release issued to announce the compact, titled “The Convention on Sharing of Online Poker Cash,” the four regulatory agencies outlined their shared objectives:

“This agreement aims at improving cooperation and information exchanges among the authorities to allow the liquidity sharing between licensed online poker operators, fighting the illegal market and fraud, guaranteeing player protection and the respect of the anti-money laundering prescriptions.

The concrete implementation of the sharing will depend on the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction. The authorities commit to make their best efforts to enable effective implementation by the end of the year.”

The shift in regulatory strategy – which went into effect on the day of the signing – comes amidst a period of prolonged struggles for online poker since 2011, when France, Italy, and Spain began ring-fencing their games.

Per the online poker traffic tracking database PokerScout, the average daily player count for regulated sites in those three countries has been reduced by more than two-thirds of the pre-segregation era.

Due to their inherently restrictive nature, ring-fenced platforms are typically comprised of the same players contesting the same games at the same stakes, which leaves little in the way of variety. As such, high-volume players living in the four countries have flocked to locales where player pool sharing is already in place.

The four signatories clearly recognize that shared player pools are the best approach to reversing this trend, as the Convention states in its second paragraph:

“Considering that the attractiveness of online poker relies for a large part on the volume of liquidities brought by players accessing tables proposed by licensed online poker operators, and that the current partitioning of the national markets does not enable to gather a volume of liquidity sufficiently attractive for those players, therefore leading some of them to turn to illegal offer;

The authorities express their willingness, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain to strengthen their cooperation in order to enable the sharing of online poker liquidities between licensed online poker operators.”

The agreement will impact globally leading platform PokerStars more than its competitors, as it’s the only online poker site currently serving all four markets.

Current PokerScout data reveals PokerStars.pt in Portugal to have the top average daily player count of 39,562, followed by PokerStars.it in Italy (35,521), PokerStars.fr in France (34,713), and PokerStars.es in Spain (33,453). As those numbers suggest, joining player pools from the four jurisdictions would create a shared platform with more than 140,000 daily users.

The only other major online poker provider in the European Union that stands to benefit from the Convention is Winamax, which holds the distinction of holding France’s top market share.

Per an addition made to the Winamax company page on LinkedIn in January of this year, the site’s operators have been actively planning their expansion into the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese markets for at least six months.

Mike Wattel Denies Chris Ferguson Sixth Bracelet in Epic Seven-Card Stud Duel

Last week the World Series of Poker (WSOP) was rocked by a record-breaking performance, as Chris “Jesus” Ferguson set a new highwater mark with 14 cashes in a single summer.

That total has since been bested by John Racener, who has made the money an astounding 17 times thus far, but Ferguson hasn’t faded from the fight just yet.

With his recent runner-up finish in Event #72: $10,000 Seven-Card Stud World Championship, Ferguson upped his cash count to 16 heading into the WSOP Main Event.

As thousands of players competed in Day 1B of that Main Event, Ferguson found himself sitting at his second final table of the series, where he squared off against a loaded final table lineup.

Mike Wattel was a bracelet winner back in 1999, while John Monnette and Shaun Deeb have won WSOP gold thrice and twice, respectively. Veteran tournament pros Perry Friedman and Bryce Yockey were also in attendance, setting the stage for a thrilling final table to decide the world’s Seven-Card Stud champion.

And if the on-felt matchups weren’t interesting enough, Ferguson had the focus of the poker world fixed directly on him – with most fans, pros, and media members openly rooting for him to fall short. That animosity stemmed from Ferguson’s executive role with Full Tilt Poker, the failed online poker site that infamously absconded with player funds in the wake of “Black Friday.”

While the extent of Ferguson’s role in the Full Tilt Poker fraud has never been determined, his refusal to offer any semblance of an apology amidst his return to the WSOP last year made him a pariah in the poker world.

Even so, he managed to cash 10 times last summer, before putting on his record-breaking performance this year. With a win on Sunday evening, Ferguson would claim his sixth gold bracelet – and first since way back in the Full Tilt Poker boom days of 2003 – while vaulting his name to the top of the WSOP Player of the Year leaderboard.

Sufficed to say, the general public had a sweat on their hands when the Seven-Card Stud final table began, with the overwhelming majority hoping to see Ferguson flame out.

Instead, the man once revered by recreational players as “Jesus” displayed the poker acumen that made him a household name all those years ago.

According to the live update coverage posted by PokerNews, after Ferguson weaved his way to heads-up play against Wattel, he held 1,370,000 chips to the latter’s 3,030,000. Seven-Card Stud is a patient man’s game, however, and Ferguson dug in for the long haul, grinding out small pots and winning enough showdowns to eventually pull even.

Over the course of six hours, Wattel and Ferguson dueled deep into the night, each player holding wide leads at various points in the proceedings. With the clocks showing it to be early Monday morning, Ferguson found two diamonds in the hole with another diamond up, and the action went to seventh street. Despite showing a ragged board better suited for Badugi than Seven-Card Stud, Wattel was forced to commit calling chips – only to see Ferguson table his flush for the winner.

That put the chip counts at 3,925,000 for Ferguson against just 475,000 for Wattel – good for only two big bets given the current structure. It looked for all the world as if Ferguson had the sixth bracelet in his sights, but on the next hand of note it was Wattel who hit his gin card on seventh street.

With a chance to close out the match, Ferguson found split jacks and got Wattel’s remaining stack into the middle. He held split fives, and by seventh street Ferguson’s board showed Js-5h / Jc-8c-4d-Qs / 3h for one pair of jacks – still good over Wattel’s 2s-5s / 5d-10s-Kh-4c for a pair of fives.

The dealer slid out one final card and Wattel squeezed for the sweat, needing to find any pair or the case five to extend the match. When he peeled the 5c to make trips, Wattel staved off elimination while keeping the poker community’s hopes alive.

Ferguson maintained his composure even after Wattel moved back into the lead, and the two exchanged big stacks yet again until Wattel made his own diamond flush to claim most of the chips in play. A short time later he had them all, earning his second career bracelet – and first in 18 years of WSOP competition.

When the winner’s photos were snapped and media members assembled to hear Wattel speak, he made it clear that facing Ferguson added no incentive:

“I was trying to win for me. I didn’t care who the opponent was.”

Asked about the long wait in between bracelet scores, Wattel was similarly straightforward in his response:

“I was wondering if the second one was ever coming. Second one better than the first. I just feel relieved that I finally won one again.

It was an epic battle. He plays great and I had him, then he had me. I pulled it off at the end.”

Despite falling one spot short of the finish line, Ferguson improved his WSOP Player of the Year point total to 848.31 – good for third behind Racener (853.16) and Monnette (865.21).

All three still have the Main Event left to further solidify their standing.

Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling Hires Jeff Sessions’ Lawyer to Lobby; Forces AG’s Recusal

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has once again recused himself from a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, this time into the merits of 2011’s revised DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act.

The recusal comes on the heels of a Bloomberg report published June 30, which reveals that Sessions has hired his close friend and longtime lawyer Charles Cooper to represent him as the DOJ looks into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian election “hacking.”

Sessions was an active member of the Trump campaign before being elevated to the position of Attorney General, and his close ties forced his recusal from the Russia probe in early March.

The reason for Sessions’ second recusal stems from Cooper’s involvement with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), as Cooper was hired by CSIG in May to lobby the DOJ. Cooper’s objective while working on behalf of CSIG was to convince the DOJ to reinstate its previous interpretation of the Wire Act.

The Wire Act of 1961 prohibits sports wagers from being placed via telephone, and was previously used as the basis for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. When the DOJ released a revised opinion in late December of 2011, stating that the Wire Act applies to sports betting only – and not casino games or poker – the UIGEA’s five-year prohibition on all forms of online gambling was lifted.

This paved the way for individual states to legalize and regulate their own online gambling industries, provided they don’t involve sports betting. Thus far, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have done so, quite successfully in fact, with several states across the country considering similar legislation.

Multibillionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who owns the global Las Vegas Sands empire, provided financial backing to create CSIG in March of 2014.

That same month, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced Congressional legislation known as the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) – which parroted CSIG talking points in its attempt to overturn the DOJ reversal and ban online gambling once more.

The RAWA bill failed that year, as it has every year since – much to the chagrin of Adelson and his CSIG allies.

During his Congressional confirmation hearings in January before accepting the position of Attorney General, Sessions was asked directly about his personal stance on the 2011 Wire Act reversal. A longtime opponent of gambling expansion, and especially online gambling, Sessions expressed “shock” over the decision, before offering a more diplomatic appraisal:

“I would revisit it and I would make a decision about it based on careful study, and I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.”

A federal filing submitted by Cooper on June 15 of this year revealed his lobbying work for CSIG.

Cooper spoke with Bloomberg to refute allegations of impropriety:

“There’s been a change in administrations, and that’s when fresh looks take place.

This particular legal issue has certainly struck us as sufficiently questionable that it ought to be reconsidered.”

Political watchdogs and iGaming industry experts widely believed Sessions’ ascension to the DOJ’s top office would result in RAWA being revived for yet another legislative attempt.

Indeed, a June 20 report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute revealed that Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) has added RAWA-like language banning online gambling into a 1,000-page Congressional appropriations bill.

This is a similar tactic to the one taken by Dent and Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) in 2016, when the pair introduced HR-6453 – which also included language that closely mirrored RAWA’s original objectives.