It seems numerous poker pros are getting involved in opening poker rooms. Doug Polk and Mike Matusow both jumped on board with ownership stakes in Texas card rooms recently and it seems there are clubs everywhere in the state.
Now the man who helped kickstart the poker boom and also became synonymous with online poker is getting in the action. Chris Moneymaker is looking to open a new poker social club in Paducah, Kentucky, in September. He spoke with USPoker this week about the ins and outs of opening the club.
“I’ve been wanting to open a room for years, and almost did in Dallas,” he said. “But I landed in Paducah for the room.”
Certainly a club owned by one of the biggest names in poker should attract some poker fans looking to rub shoulders with the winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event.
WSOP to poker poker room entrepreneur
Plans call for the Moneymaker Social Club to open Sept 1. Paducah is home to about 25,000 people and sits in the far western part of the state. The location is close to neighboring states of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee, offering a nice spot to draw players.
Moneymaker notes that about 15% of the state’s population play poker and that Kentucky has an active poker scene. Casinos are illegal in Kentucky, however social poker clubs have become popular as seen in some other states. Home games are also a regular part of the poker scene.
The state’s clubs often function in a manner similar to country clubs, with poker simply substituting for golf. For Moneymaker, what are some of the challenges in launching something like this?
“Legal hurdles to make sure you are operating within the state law,” he says. “Buildout has been brutal. But everything has been smoothly so far.”
Moneymaker has received some positive vibes so far from potential players.
“Well people seem excited and I am obviously hoping for a great turnout,” he says. “But with these things, you just never know. I want the room to serve as the model I want to do going forward. A true social club with a poker room. A blue-collar country club.”
Once the room opens, Moneymaker has more plans in the pipeline than simply using his popular last name to bring in players. Some major tournaments seem to be part of the mix.
“Once we get open and get comfortable, I’m sure that we will put on some big events and hopefully unique things for the area,” he says.
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) July 13, 2022
Longtime online poker rep now poker club operator
Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Moneymaker’s journey in the 2003 WSOP resonated with ESPN viewers around the world. He went from a PokerStars qualifier to Main Event champion.
His win as well as the growth of online poker helped bring millions of players into the game throughout the 2000s. He went on to represent Stars for years and now serves as an ambassador for an offshore online poker site.
When it comes to the online version of the game, where does he see online poker over the next 10 years?
“Unfortunately, stagnant,” he says. “We may be heading into a big recession and I do not think the government sees online poker as a huge money generator like daily DFS (daily fantasy sports) and sports betting.”
In the meantime, look for Moneymaker to spend more time in the Bourbon State. That will come with plenty of work getting the Moneymaker Social Club up and running. He’s heavily involved with the day-to-day work of getting a new business off the ground.
He adds: “If you know any good drywall finishers, I’m all ears.”
All the poker world’s attention has shifted to the World Series of Poker Main Event over the last week and a familiar name is among the chip leaders. With about 1,000 players remaining, Chris Moneymaker sits among the topchip stacks.
The action reaches Day 4 on Friday and plenty of big names remain in the field. In other action, several big names are looking to win a bracelet in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better including John Monnette, Esther Taylor, and John Raceneer. Here’s a look at some of the news from the series.
Event 67: $10,000 Main Event World Championship
Players moving on to Friday’s Day 4 have all reached the money. Those eliminated will at least guarantee themselves a min-cash of $15,000, good news for the 1,000 players remaining.
But the biggest news may be the run of 2003 Main Event winner Moneymaker. After some huge hands on Day 2, Moneymaker continued to build on Thursday.
After the action wrapped up on Day 3, Moneymaker sat 12th in chips with just under 1.4 million. Continuing the deep run will bring plenty of interest and some Main Event deja vu.
Florida’s Jessica Cai leads the field going into Day 4 with 1.8 million. She comes into the Main Event with only $78,454 in live tournament winnings.
“(It’s) surreal,” she told PokerGO’s Jeff Platt. “I’m still in shock, but I’m definitely grateful to be here.”
Another one of our chip leaders, Jessica Cai pic.twitter.com/EEqwTxd0tV
— Jeff Platt (@jeffplatt) November 12, 2021
Other big names advancing to Day 4; winner payouts
Moneymaker isn’t the only Main Event champion still alive in the field. While his stack may be lighter, Martin Jacobson also advanced with a stack of 142,000.
A couple of Main Event final table qualifiers from 2019 are also still in the mix. Canada’s Alex Livingston finished third in 2019 for $4 million and brings 758,000 chips into Day 4.
Garry Gates took fourth that year for $3 million and returns on Friday with 180,000. Other returning to the action include Stephen Chidwick, Nick Petrangelo, Chance Kornuth, and Tim Reilly.
Some of poker’s biggest names won’t be moving on. That includes Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu. The Poker Brat bowed out on Thursday and Negreanu was eliminated earlier in the series. Doyle Brunson also returned to action on Day 2 but was eliminated late in the day.
Overall, this year’s event attracted 6,650 players for a $62 million prize pool. That’s quite a step down from 2019, with 8,569 players. Excluding 2020, which was mostly played online, this is the smallest turnout since 2015’s field of 6,420.
COVID certainly played a part as did vaccine mandates. The economy and inflation played a role in deflating numbers as well. Considering the environment over the last year however, these may be strong numbers. Players have been anxious to get back to the tables and seem to have responded.
Some big payouts await those who make the final table. The champion scores $8 million with the runner-up bagging $4.3 million. The top nine players will all take home at least $1 million. Here’s a look at all the top payouts.
- 1st – $8 million
- 2nd – $4.3 million
- 3rd – $3 million
- 4th – $2.3 million
- 5th – $1.8 million
- 6th – $1.4 million
- 7th – $1.225 million
- 8th – $1.1 million
- 9th – $1 million
Event 68: $1,111 Little One for One Drop
After three starting flights to start this event, the Little One now reaches Day 3 on Friday. Mathew Solitro, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, leads the field after qualifying on GGPoker. Chile’s Oscar Alache sits second in chips with Florida’s David Jackson in third.
Jackson scored a bracelet and $194,178 in the $777 lucky Sevens in the WSOP Online in September at GGPoker. He’s now looking for his second bracelet with 228 players remaining in the field.
2019 Main Event winner Hossein Ensan is also still alive with a healthy stack. The tournament produced 3,797 entries for a $3.8 million prize pool. The winner takes home the gold bracelet and $396,445 with the runner-up winning $245,068.
Event 69: $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better
When Day 3 of this event kicks off on Friday, 13 players return with some heavy hitters still in the field. John Racener returns as chip leader and is seeking his second bracelet.
Four-time bracelet winner John Monnette sits second in chips and will be looking for his second bracelet of 2021. In October, he won the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship for $245,680.
Two women also have a chance to break through with a win in this WSOP as well. So far, all open events have been won by men. However, Esther Taylor sits third and Carol Fuchs returns in sixth, bith with a chance to break that streak.
Taylor has $1.1 million in WSOP winnings, but is looking to win her first bracelet. Fuchs won the $1,500 Dealers Choice event in 2015 for $127,735 and is looking for her second bracelet.
The Stud Hi/Lo action brought in 372 players for a $496,620 prize pool. The winner takes home $113,459.
Event 71: $1,500 Bounty Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed
This event kicked off on Thursday with 860 players jumping in the bounty action and only 84 returning for Day 2. France’s Mourad Amokrane returns as chip leader and the only player to top 1 million chips so far.
Others returning to the action include Calvin Anderson, Team GGPoker’s Felipe Ramos, and Dario Sammartino.
Josh Arieh takes lead in Player of the Year standings
A huge week from Josh Arieh vaulted him to the top of the Player of the Year standings. The Georgia grinder has two bracelets this series and a sixth-place finish in the Poker Players Championship for $161,422.
— Joshua Arieh (@golferjosh) November 12, 2021
On Sunday, he also finished fourth in the $3,200 High Roller at WSOP.com for $96,049. It’s been a huge series for Arieh and he now has a shot at the POY title. Here’s a look at the standings as of Friday:
- 1st – Josh Arieh, 3,110.91 points
- 2nd – Jake Schwartz, 2,757.37
- 3rd – Anthony Zinno, 2,731.32
- 4th – Ryan Leng, 2,684.04
- 5th – Kevin Gerhart, 2,643.23
Several big events approach over the weekend as the Main Event plays out. The $888 Crazy Eights sees the action get underway after the first flight was canceled on Thursday. There’s also plenty of mixed game action over the weekend. Here’s a look at upcoming events:
- 70: $888 Crazy Eights – Nov. 12
- 72: $1,500 Mixed NLHE; PLO – Nov. 12
- 73: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship – Nov. 13
- 74: $2,500 Mixed Big Bet Event – Nov. 14
- Online Event 8: $7,777 WSOP.com Lucky 7s High Roller – Nov. 14
- Online Event 9: $777 WSOP.com Lucky 7s – Nov. 14
- 75: $1,500 Freezeout NLHE – Nov. 15
- 76: $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty – Nov. 15
★★★ Ready to get in the action at WSOP.com? Click here for a complete site review with exclusive USPoker bonus offers. ★★★
The first stop on the PokerStars Moneymaker PSPC Tour is just days away. The tour commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s improbable path to becoming the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion kicks off at Stones Gambling Hall on Aug. 4.
Each stop on the tour will feature an $86 buy-in Main Event, a nod to the buy-in of the online satellite Chris won on PokerStars that started his WSOP journey.
In addition to the prize-money, PokerStars is hoping to uncover another Moneymaker by juicing the prize-pool with a $30,000 Platinum Pass to the inaugural $25,000 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship that will take place in the Bahamas in January 2019.
“The tour is designed to give players the chance to emulate Chris’ win back in 2003 when he turned $86 into $2,500,000 by beating 838 players at the WSOP Main Event, sparking the famous ‘Moneymaker Effect’,” a PokerStars’ press release stated.
The Moneymaker PSPC tournaments aren’t just about poker, they will also be experiences.
Team PokerStars Pro Jason Somerville announced that Run It Up will be covering the first stop of the tour live from Stones with the help of Daniel Negreanu and Joe Stapleton.
All three are also expected to play in the event.
New event announced
Somerville also announced that a Moneymaker PSPC Tour event has been added to the Run It Up Reno schedule in October. The new stop brings the current count of Moneymaker PSPC Tour events up to 10.
“As a child of the Moneymaker boom, I credit much of my career to Chris’ massive victory in 2003 and it’s amazing to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his win by awarding a Platinum Pass at October’s Run It Up Reno. I’ve always admired Chris as an incredibly hardworking and humble ambassador of the game and I can’t wait to honor his achievement in Reno this fall,” said PokerStars Ambassador Jason Somerville.
According to PokerStars, the Run It Up Reno event will award two Run It Up Warriors with a Platinum Pass.
Moneymaker PSPC Tour schedule
|Aug. 4-5, 2018||Stones Gambling Hall||Citrus Heights, Calif.|
|Aug. 26, 2018||Lucky Chances||Colma, Calif.|
|Sept. 9, 2018||Foxwoods Resort Casino||Mashantucket, Conn.|
|Sept. 15, 2018||MGM National Harbor||Oxon Hill, Md.|
|Sept. 22, 2018||Gardens Casino||Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.|
|Sept. 23, 2018||Talking Stick||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|Sept. 30, 2018||PokerStarsNJ.com||Online|
|Oct. 7, 2018||Mohegan Sun||Uncasville, Conn.|
|Oct, 10-14, 2018||Maryland Live||Hanover, Md.|
|Oct. 23, 2018||Reno Peppermill||Reno, NV.|
Lead image courtesy of Carlos Monti/PokerStars
Low stakes recreational and amateur poker players across the US are being presented with a golden opportunity to get into what is sure to be one of the biggest tournaments of next year, or any other.
Back in December 2017, online poker giant PokerStars announced plans to run the first ever $25,000 buy-in PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament series in January 2019. Not only that, but it would be giving away more than 300 PSPC tournament entry packages, also known as Platinum Passes, valued at $30,000 each.
The Platinum Passes include the $25,000 tournament buy-in, cash for travel, and accommodations at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
In its omnipotence, PokerStars is adding another $1 million to the winner’s take, making the total giveaway about $9 million.
They immediately began giving away Platinum Passes to players in PokerStars tournaments across the globe and somewhat randomly through various social media outlets.
The Moneymaker PSPC Tour
Now, to mark the 15th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker‘s 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event win, they have put together a new multi-stop Moneymaker PSPC Tour of the US where they will give away an amazing nine $30,000 Platinum Passes.
Moneymaker famously earned entry into the historic 2003 WSOP Main Event through an $86 satellite on PokerStars. As a result, the Moneymaker PSPC Tour will feature a series of $86 buy-in events with a Platinum Pass added to the winner’s take. Moneymaker has also agreed to provide support to winning players as they prepare for the PSPC in January 2019.
The tour is actually Moneymaker’s brainchild and he says it’s all about giving players a similar opportunity to what he experienced:
“It’s been 15 years since the big win and it only feels like yesterday. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I want to give someone else the opportunity to feel that #winningmoment.
“I’ve played a lot of poker for years and during that time I’ve got to know lots of people at live events and meet-ups. Now US fans will have the chance to win an amazing prize and have some fun along the way. Come join me to play, you never know, this could lead to a life-changing moment like I had.”
Eight casinos and one online event
The Moneymaker PSPC Tour will hit a variety of casinos across the US and include one online tournament on PokerStarsNJ in September.
The festivities begin August 4 in Citrus Heights, California. Here’s a look at the entire Moneymaker PSPC Tour schedule:
- Aug. 4 – 5 Stones Gambling Hall, Citrus Heights, CA
- Aug. 19 – 26 Lucky Chances, Colma, CA
- Sept. 9 Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, CT
- Sept. 15 MGM National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD
- Sept. 22 Gardens Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, CA
- Sept. 23 Talking Stick, Scottsdale, AZ
- Sept. 30 PokerStarsNJ.com (online)
- Oct. 7 Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
- Oct. 10 – 14 Maryland Live, Hanover, MD
Dates and venues are subject to change.
More ways to win a Platinum Pass
PokerStars is also teaming up with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida to give more players in the US a shot at one of two Platinum Passes.
Players can enter for a chance to win a Platinum Pass by participating in two promotions at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. This includes the property’s $65,000 Summer Freeroll and its Play To Win Poker Promotion at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (SHRPO) tournament series in August.
The $65,000 Summer Freeroll gives players who log 100 hours through July 31 the chance to play in a freeroll. Now there will be a Platinum Pass up for grabs in that event as well.
The SHRPO Play To Win Poker Promotion is a straight sweepstakes. Players get one entry into a draw every time they buy into a SHRPO event or satellite. The draw for a Platinum Pass will take place on August 14.
According to PokerStars, five US players are already Platinum Pass winners. The list includes:
- Michael Page, PokerStars NJSCOOP Main Event High winner
- Derik Li, PokerStars NJSCOOP Main Event Low winner
- David Peters, PCA 2018 Wildcard winner
- Maria Konnikova, 2018 PCA National Championship winner
- Thai Ha, PCA Day 2 Draw winner
The 2018 NJSCOOP came to a close on Monday after 17-day series that included 40 high and 40 low buy-in events.
The New Jersey version of SCOOP promised to be “NJ’s richest tournament series ever” with guarantees of over $1.3 million.
It looks like PokerStars lived up to its promise with total prize pools totally over $1.5 million, more than $200,000 more than was guaranteed.
NJSCOOP 2018 is one for the record books
Of the 80 total events, only four high and six low buy-in events failed to meet the guarantee.
It was mostly the mixed games that had an overlay. The only game to miss its guarantee in both the high and low version was Event #34: Limit Stud H/L.
The largest turnout was for Event #37 – Low: $50 NLH Main Event. The 1,173 entries produced a prize pool of $53,371.50, over $13,000 more than what was guaranteed.
One of the tournaments that fell short was Event #37 – High: $500 NLH, 2-Day Main Event. It had a guarantee of $200,000 and fell short of its guarantee by $4,010. Even so, it still had 416 entries. You can still catch a replay of the final table on the PokerStarsNJ client.
With 70 of the 80 events exceeding its guarantee, NJSCOOP continues to prove itself as one of, if not the most popular online tournament series in New Jersey.
Moneymaker making money in NJSCOOP
As is often the case with online poker tournaments, it can be hard to see who is having a good series. Well, one player has a hard time flying under the radar regardless of where he is playing.
Chris “Money800NJ” Moneymaker, often credited with igniting the poker boom after his 2003 WSOP Main Event win, is recognized whenever he sits down at a poker table – both online and in person.
Streaming his series and tweeting about it makes it impossible to elude the headlines. As it turns out, this past weekend was headline worthy for the PokerStars pro.
And that was before his fourth-place finish in the $200 Mixed NLHE/PLO.
When asked about the highlight of the weekend, it wasn’t a specific hand or win that Moneymaker talked about. It was the community.
“It’s the community in New Jersey. I play the NJSCOOP every year, and it’s always the same guys,” Moneymaker told USPoker. “It’s a really tight-knit community. There’s a lot of communication at the table, a lot of talking back and forth, and it’s just a little bit different experience than what one would normally be used to when playing in an online setting. ”
Moneymaker in the winner’s circle
Moneymaker admits to having a target on his back every time he takes a seat in a tournament. It is no secret players play differently against the big names of the game.
Even so, he spent the weekend streaming his NJSCOOP grind, knowing full well it would attract attention and maybe even criticism.
“Streaming is tough because you’re trying to explain your thoughts, you’re trying to answer questions, and you’re also trying to play two or three tables at a time,” said Moneymaker. “It’s a lot of work. It adds to your day, instead of focusing on just playing poker, you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on.”
When asked if he thought streaming helped or hindered his game, Moneymaker said both.
“I think it helps overall, but it does hinder some. [It helps] when you have actually to vocalize your decision, explain why you’re doing it, and walk through the steps, so it makes sense to people.”
Moneymaker goes on to explain that it hurts the other games he is playing outside of the mainstream. He isn’t putting as much attention or time into the decisions in those events.
“At the end of the day, it’s okay to have the other ones lose a little bit of their expected value if you can increase your expected value in the main one.”
Moneymaker’s thoughts on NJSCOOP and poker in New Jersey
Moneymaker admits to liking this series. He travels from his home in Tennessee to the Garden State every year to play.
“[PokerStars] has a really good series here and it has grown since the inception. Every year it gets bigger. Last year, I think we were camping out at about a thousand people online. This year, I noticed that we had tipped over 1500.”
The numbers indicate online poker as a whole is declining in New Jersey. It seems as if players are looking towards shared liquidity and specifically, Pennsylvania coming online to help reverse the trend.
Moneymaker agrees Pennsylvania will have a considerable impact on the state of online poker in the state.
“The biggest thing for poker is having the volume and the mass of players that are playing at any given time. With Pennsylvania coming online, and then hopefully adding the player pools together it’ll make it a lot easier to find games. Then maybe you’ll start seeing more and more people playing during all hours of the day.”
Platinum Passes, SCOOP, and the WSOP … Oh, my!
PokerStars is getting itself ready for the time that legal and regulated online poker spreads across the U.S.
“People in the U.S. have very fond memories of PokerStars after Black Friday,” Moneymaker said. “They have a lot of goodwill built up in the U.S., and they want to be relevant in players minds. So as states do regulate, they’ll remember PokerStars.”
One way PokerStars hopes to remain relevant is by creating buzz about the PokerStars Player’s Championship.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunity for U.S. players to pick up Platinum Passes,” explains Moneymaker. “One of our big pushes going forth for the rest of the year is to get some of these passes into the pockets of U.S. players and get some buzz going around in rooms across the country.”
Two New Jersey residents took home a Platinum Pass valued at $30,000 – each by winning one of the two Main Events. Derik Li won his pass by claiming victory in Event #37 – Low: $50 NLH Main Event for $5,302.35. Michael Page won Event #37 – High: $500 NLH Main Event for $36,015.96 to pocket his.
Li and Page joined Maria Konnikova, Thai Ha and David Peters as US players who have secured a ticket to the highly-anticipated PSPC in the Bahamas in January 2019.
The next chance in North America for a Platinum Pass happens up north. While not in the U.S., a lot of players make the trek to Canada for SCOOP. Moneymaker is one of them.
Moneymaker has a busy few months ahead of him. After a few weeks at home with his family, Moneymaker will venture up north to his apartment just outside of Toronto, Canada.
It’s there that he will play the last half of SCOOP, one of his favorite online events. Coming off a successful weekend of streaming at NJSCOOP, Moneymaker says he will likely stream from May 13 – 18. Family and some personal appearances are preventing him from playing the full series.
He can’t, however, imagine not playing the tournament that made him a household name.
“I don’t want to say the excitement has worn off,” Moneymaker said about the Main Event. “Any time I’m able to go play a big buy-in poker tournament it’s always a really cool thing.”
One thing is clear after talking to the former Main Event champion is he loves his job.
“Whether I’m playing the Main Event or even if I’m in New Jersey, I realize I’ve got a pretty cool job. I’ve had it pretty well, and I’m very thankful for that.
PokerStars is making history, and it has nothing to do with a prize pool or the number of hands dealt. Instead, the online poker room is hosting the very first play-money charity poker tournament to benefit Right to Play.
Right to Play and PokerStars are partnering to raise much-needed educational funds for disadvantaged youth globally.
“This huge tournament will raise vital funds for our global charity partner, which has made such a positive impact on so many children around the world,” said Sue Hammett, Head of Corporate Giving for PokerStars, in a press release. “We’re aiming to have at least 5,000 players take part, which would raise enough to educate over 1,500 disadvantaged children for a year. So, please sign-up and invite your friends.”
The pros are playing and so should you
The poker community is very generous and is always looking for ways to get involved in making the world a better place.
The fact that PokerStars is hosting the very first play money tournament means you will see plenty of familiar names on the virtual felt.
Don’t miss your chance to play with your favorite players and collect a 5,000,000 play money bonus when you send a Team PokerStars pro to the rail. The tournament takes place on Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m. ET
A few of the players already committed to play are:
- Former World Champion Chris Moneymaker
- Team PokerStars Pro and Right to Play Ambassador Fatima de Melo
- China’s ‘Poker Queen’ Celina Lin
- Play Money ambassador Barry Greenstein
- EPT Main Event winner Jake Cody
Fatima de Melo and the importance of sports
Sports has always been an important part of life for Olympic Gold Medalist Fatima de Melo. Her relationship with sports makes her the perfect ambassador for Right to Play.
“I’ve experienced that sports and play make people feel connected and have common ground by a joint goal and pleasure,” de Melo told USPoker. “Learning life skills like communicating more effectively and solving problems is important to become better at working together to achieve those goals.
“It also teaches kids to understand and feel that you have to work hard at something to become better and achieve a goal, but at the same time, sports and play keeps them motivated because of the fun of it! It’s really a mini-society in which each individual has a different role and in which sports and play have a connecting and catalytic role.”
De Melo is excited for the opportunity to help raise funds for an organization she holds dear. She was able to play any sport she wanted while growing up, a luxury not afforded to every child. In the end, she settled on field hockey. Being able to play any sport she wanted, however, was something she looks back on as a privilege.
“It has made me feel very grateful for every opportunity I’ve had in my life and grateful to my parents for being able to give me the chance to try any sport I wanted and drive me everywhere to exploit my talent,” said de Melo. “I feel lucky to have been born in a country where women are able to feel free and independent.”
De Melo and her relationship with Right to Play
When looking for ways to give, Right to Play seemed a natural fit for de Melo. As an organization that empowers youth through sport and play, de Melo was honored to accept the role of Ambassador.
“I’ve seen kids in Uganda carrying their baby sister on their back when they were going to school and carrying them still during play time, without any sports shoes to support their feet and not even knowing what a marathon or the Olympics are,” de Melo begins as she describes how being an ambassador for Right to Play has impacted her.
“Right To Play helps them with learning all the basics, like hygiene, speaking up when there’s a problem at home, and understanding anticonception because aids is still a big problem there. I can keep going on and on about all the work that still needs to be done. But I’ve also seen that the younger generation is more developed, speaks up more, knows about the importance of condoms, and have more ideas about how they can make a safer and better life for themselves than the older generation. So that gives me a bit of hope.”
International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
The General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed April 6 as International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.
UNESCO declared sport and physical education a fundamental right for all. Holding the Right to Play charity tournament on April 6 makes perfect sense. The intention is to bring awareness to the role sport plays in promoting peace and tolerance across borders.
“We’re very grateful to our global partner, PokerStars, for delivering this exciting tournament to mark the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. It will help raise vital funds to help children in our programmes,” said Nikki Skipper, National Director for Right To Play UK. “It’s a fantastic initiative by PokerStars and will have a big impact on the lives of disadvantaged children around the world. We hope you will show your support for this tournament.”
Play and Support Right to Play
Play some poker and support Right to Play’s mission to “educate and empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities.”
The tournament takes place on April 6, 2018, at 8 p.m. ET. Simply head to the Play Money Lobby and search “Right to Play.”
The buy-in for the event is 1,000,000 in chips, and there is a 5,000,000,000 chip guaranteed prize pool. If you don’t have 1 million in play money, you can purchase it via the cashier for $4.99.
If you can’t play the tournament, you can still support Right to Play.
“Of course people can donate to Right To Play themselves through their website or even share social media posts about Right To Play so more people will get to know this great and effective charity,” de Melo concluded.
However, the two-event schedule with $125,000 in guaranteed prize pools was marred by sparse attendance and more than $31,000 in overlays.
PokerStars Festival New Jersey
PokerStars Festival New Jersey, held in the Fall of 2016, marked PokerStars first live event in the United States in almost six years. However, most of the events on the schedule fell well short of attendance expectations and some were even canceled. At the time, PokerStars admitted its lack of market familiarity and limited marketing effort had an effect on attendance. The failure to feature any guaranteed prize pools was also a factor.
This was all supposed to change with the introduction of the Megastack series to New Jersey. In fact, marketing efforts and press for the series started back in June. The PokerStars NJ online poker site launched in New Jersey in May 2016. Additionally, the site ran a robust satellite program allowing players to qualify for the series’ $220 PokerStars Sunday Special Live event for as little as $0.50.
The PokerStars Megastack series
The PokerStars Megastack series format itself was expected to attract bigger numbers as well. It was designed to bring live poker to players’ doorsteps at a low buy-in level. It also aims to offer a platform for players to build their way towards competing in PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival events. In fact, PokerStars Megastack has proven successful elsewhere.
The series’ April 2017 debut at London, England’s Hippodrome Casino drew over 520 entries. Additionally, the PokerStars Megastack Namur event at the Casino de Namur in France drew a record 1,051 entries for its Main Event last week.
New Jersey overlays
In New Jersey, the series’ $220 Sunday Special Live event drew just 409 entries across four starting flights Oct. 6 and 7. In fact, the event fell short of meeting its $100,000 guarantee. As a result, PokerStars was forced to pay out an $18,200 overlay.
However, the event wrapped up Oct. 8 with 60-year-old Egg Harbor Township, NJ resident John Monahan outlasting the field to capture a $19,920 first-place prize.
The second and final tournament on the PokerStars Megastack schedule was its $120 Cheap and Deep event. The tournament drew 119 entries Oct. 8, falling short of the number needed to meet its $25,000 guarantee. In fact, PokerStars was forced to cover a $13,100 overlay in this event.
Chris Moneymaker wins
Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker won the event, taking home the $6,220 first-place prize.
Moneymaker is widely credited with helping kick off poker’s boom in the early 2000’s. The Tennessee accountant qualified for the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event through a PokerStars online satellite. In fact, he went on to capture the WSOP Main Event title as an unlikely amateur taking on the world’s best pros.
Fellow Team PokerStars Pro Jennifer Shahade also attended the PokerStars Megastack series in Atlantic City. Shahade is a two-time United States Women’s Champion and FIDE Woman Grandmaster in the game of Chess.
The final three players at the 2016 World Series of Poker main event final table came to play on Tuesday night.
Beginning with an amped up Cliff Josephy doubling through a willing to gamble Qui Nguyen, three-handed play was a whirlwind of comebacks, aggressive and care-free play, and even multiple appearances by Monty, the luckbox dog.
This wasn’t the deliberate, high-level, optimal play-only we’ve come to expect at the WSOP final table. It was visceral poker, and it was incredibly entertaining to watch.
Poker is fun again
I started to go down this path in yesterday’s column, but what Nguyen just did for the game of poker is immeasurable. Nguyen proved poker, even on its biggest stage, can actually be fun.
His play was called unconventional, unorthodox, baffling and any other superlative you can think up to describe someone doing something that goes against conventional wisdom. I call it contrarian, and it proved that there is a style of play capable of exploiting any other style of play people choose to adopt. There is no “game-theory optimal” strategy unless your opponent is also trying to play GTO.
Sure, Nguyen’s style is probably a long-term loser, but what people aren’t understanding is this is the style that gives amateur, less-skilled players the best shot at winning. And seeing it work is a good thing. All recreational players want is a chance to win, they don’t need to be +EV.
Qui made a number of missteps that could have cost him the tournament. But without millions of hands of practice, years of study, and months of serious coaching, what chance does he have of out-GTO’ing Gordon Vayo? There are two ways to outplay someone at a poker table: By being the better player, or by making a completely unorthodox move at the right time and having the heart to trust your instincts and make the play.
Chris Moneymaker’s bluff against Sammy Farha at the 2003 final table comes to mind, and in 2016 Nguyen made several such moves. You need to be a competent player, play fearlessly, have impeccable timing, and of course a bit of luck, but it can be done, you can make a “poker play” that puts pressure on your opponent and causes an error.
Nguyen did all of this. He proved you don’t need to know shove charts; you don’t need to play by the book; and you don’t need to be an online wizard to win the WSOP main event.
More importantly, you certainly don’t need to do any of those things to have fun at a poker table, whether it’s the WSOP main event or a $1/$2 no-limit game at the local card room.
On the broadcast, Antonio Esfandiari mentioned how Nguyen (with an assist from the other 2016 November Niners who all played relatively fast) was a breath of fresh air. Whenever Nguyen would take one of his unconventional lines Antonio would remark, “Mow we’re playing poker!” Meaning, Nguyen was making plays because he thought he could pull it off, not because conventional wisdom says you lead out here or value bet there.
In summary: Volatile poker is a fun style of poker to play and it’s a fun style of poker to watch.
Oh, and it’s also good for poker pros.
A 90-minute highlight reel
As good as the action was on Sunday and Monday night, the greatest 90 minutes of poker in television history happened on Tuesday. The first hour and a half of the ESPN coverage was amazing to watch.
It had everything:
- A huge double up by Josephy on the first hand when Qui Nguyen decided to gamble with an A4.
- The cooler of all coolers, when Josephy ran a set of 2’s into Gordon Vayo’s set of 3’s.
- A comeback by Josephy who won multiple all-in confrontations to grow his stack from under 10 million to over 40 million.
This all happened over the course of 10 hands.
Six hands later Josephy was eliminated, when he tried to move Nguyen off a hand, but his bluff failed. Josephy was eliminated by Vayo on the very next hand.
Josephy went from a starting stack of 46 million, to over 100 million, to under 10 million, to back over 40 million, to eliminated in third place in a span of 16 hands.
As I said in the opening, these guys came to play.[i15-table tableid=20717][i15-table tableid=19346]
Three yards and a cloud of dust
If the first 90 minutes was a highlight reel, the ensuing eight hours was like watching all 1,030 runs of LeGarrette Blount’s career. Sure, there are some exciting runs mixed in, but for the most part it’s a lot of three yards and a cloud of dust.
Nguyen applied unrelenting pressure on Vayo throughout the heads-up match, but Vayo also caught Nguyen’s hand in the cookie jar several times, and it seemed inevitable that Nguyen would eventually make a fatal misstep. Two-and-a-half hours into heads up play I called it a night, expecting to wake up in the morning and read about a Vayo victory.
I woke up and checked my phone to see who had won, only to discover the heads-up battle was still going (commentator Norman Chad quipped the 2016 final table would be up against Game 6 and Game 7 of baseball’s World Series). Nguyen was in firm control and eventually was able to finish off Vayo off.
Yesterday I remarked the WSOP needs to shorten the stacks at the final table in order to speed up play. This was on full display during the eight-hour heads-up battle between Vayo and Nguyen.
I don’t want to compromise the skillfulness of the tournament, but for the WSOP to continue to be a live event that works on TV, something has to be done. You can’t have 90 minutes of excitement followed by eight hours of deep-stack heads-up play.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but the general public isn’t interested in eight-hour heads-up grindfests, and we’ve had that twice in the past five years. Greg Merson won the 2012 main event after a 12-hour session.
Perhaps it’s simply shortening the stacks by removing a couple levels along the way. Or perhaps it’s something more unorthodox, such as raising the blinds every 10 hands during heads-up play.
The bottom line is this: If the WSOP is going to be used as a marketing tool for poker — the one poker tournament the general public might watch — it has to be watchable.
It’s not ideal for poker players playing for millions of dollars, but poker may have to tailor the main event structure to make sure it’s a viable TV product. Getting rid of the November Nine is a good starting point.
If the main event doesn’t adapt, I’m not sure we’ll be watching the WSOP on ESPN, or any other major network.
On Tuesday the Global Poker League announced the first of its 12 franchises along with a few other tidbits of information on the fledgling poker league. The GPL has revealed that 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Chris Moneymaker will be the manager of the Las Vegas based franchise named in his honor: The Las Vegas Moneymakers.
The name is bit of a play on words, as making money is not only what people hope to do in Las Vegas, but Moneymaker is recognizable to serious poker players and casual fans of the game. Considering Moneymaker is credited with kicking off the poker boom, it’s only fitting that the Las Vegas Moneymakers was the first team the GPL announced, and may provide the GPL with the good juju needed to start a second poker boom.
But the Las Vegas Moneymakers are only one of 12 GPL franchises.
The lowdown on GPL cities
The GPL will be comprised of 12 teams during Season 1, each based in a major international city. GPL founder Alex Dreyfus envisions the league growing over time, with the potential for new cities to be added in the coming years.
According to Dreyfus, the cities were chosen, “based on the marketing opportunities and legitimacy to get some of the best/known players.” Dreyfus further explained the selection process, and his desire to separate GPL poker from gambling, saying, “We didn’t want to create a cliché with only casino cities, that’s why there is no New Jersey but a New York, and there is no Macau but Hong Kong. At the end, we are trying to build-up a sports franchise.”
In addition to Las Vegas, the other GPL cities include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Sao Paolo, London, Paris, Prague, Moscow, Hong Kong, and as I’ve just learned, Rome will replace the previously named Barcelona as a GPL city. The GPL expects to announce the franchise names, and team managers for the other 11 teams in the next week or so.
The 12 teams will be divided into two conferences, with New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Sao Paolo in the Americas Conference, and London, Paris, Prague, Moscow, Hong Kong, and Rome in the Eurasia Conference.
The GPL will officially launch on February 25, when the first GPL draft is held as part of the 2nd annual American Poker Awards conference. Each team will draft three opted-in players from the top 1,000 of the Global Poker Index, and will round out their roster with two wild-card selections, who are not required to be GPI ranked.
The role of the manager
The most intriguing aspect of Tuesday’s announcement was the naming of Chris Moneymaker as the manager of the Las Vegas team; the addition of managers in and of itself was a late twist added by the GPL. It’s unclear if the other team managers will also have some kind of connection to the home city or team name, or if Chris Moneymaker, and the Las Vegas franchise, is a special case.
According to Dreyfus, the team managers will most likely be players, and will most likely play as part of the team, although this is not required. Dreyfus called the managers, “the soul, the color, the spirit of each team.”
It’s also unclear if the manager will make decisions on who plays in what matches, or if they play more of a figurehead role. According to Dreyfus, matches will consist of two players per team per week (the finals will pit the full teams of five against one another), and with five players on each team, this decision will have to be made by somebody. My guess is this will likely be the manager.
You can follow the Las Vegas Moneymakers on Twitter @LASMoneymakers
Progress may not be as quick as players might like, but US online poker has seen some progress over the last few years. The days of wide-open international online poker are gone for American players, but the industry has taken a foothold with the state-by-state approach.
US online poker continues showing historical revenue highs for regulated states. Players can now find legal online poker in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Delaware, hopefully with more on the way.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at four things the US online poker industry is getting right.
US online poker options
Currently, players have three main real money online poker options in the US. Those include:
- WSOP.com – Nevada/New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan
- PokerStars – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan
- BetMGM (including the Borgata Poker and partypoker US skins) – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan
1 – Expanded tournament schedules with buy-ins and events for everyone
US online poker operators continue ramping up tournament series each month. The Online Circuit Series continues to attract nice fields each month at WSOP.com. The chance to win a championship ring seems popular with players.
At PokerStars, the platform continues running major monthly series as well. The site offers buy-ins for every level and plenty of poker variants.
After years of running more generic series,BetMGM/partypoker also began bringing more creativity in late 2021 with more expansive series. That seems to be paying dividends and the network has seen a resurgence in 2022.
US operators are finding the sweet spot in reaching across all buy-in levels. A shot at some nice guarantees through a small buy-in or tiny satellite price point is appealing to more players. All platforms continue offering some great nightly and weekly events as well, complete with satellites.
These aren’t gimmicks, but a connection to players who aren’t looking to be the next Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey. Most recreational players are simply looking for some fun playing poker after a day at work. Poker should be fun and US online poker operators are bringing plenty of it.
2 – Bigger promotions
Some extra bang for the buck is always nice and online poker operators continue with some nice extras on that front. PokerStars’ recent announcement of offering up Platinum Passes for US online players is a great example.
Players on the site have an opportunity to win a $30,000 travel package to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in January in the Bahamas.
That’s some nice value and Stars is offering passes up for grabs in the upcoming US Championship of Online Poker (USCOOP). Other opportunities continue in the coming months as well. Adding some unique trophy events to USCOOP is also a nice touch.
Again, these types of efforts add to the fun. WSOP.com continues with a nice Player of the Year feature that awards the annual winner:
- $10,000 in cash
- exclusive championship ring
- $1,500 online tournament tickets
This is a great promotion and expanding the concept should expand to Michigan and Pennsylvania. Other operators should also pick up the idea. WSOP.com also continues with a freeroll in September with a $10,000 Main Event seat up for grabs.
At BetMGM, Pick-A-Card promotion also offers players a daily shot at tournament tickets. That operator continues expanding its offerings as well. Operators are doing well on the promotional front and players are recognizing that.
3 – Keeping community focused
One thing many players say about the US online poker market is that it may be small, but it’s very tight-knit. Legalized states tend to have a friendly atmosphere where players know each other.
A quick scan at USPoker’s Winner’s Circle feature shows the loyalty to the game many players feel in each state. Players are also quick to share their successes and discuss the scene on social media.
Pennsylvania online regular and poker pro Jeff Stellwagon echoed those thoughts. He recently spoke with USPoker about his own poker life and the camaraderie among players in the Keystone State.
“I cannot wait for online poker to come to more states and to have interstate poker,” he said. “But I truly love battling against the Pennsylvania player pool every day and the community feel that we have here.”
From launch day of PokerStarsPA it has been an absolute honor participating in one of the most amazing communities on Twitch.
— Naigo1 (@Mark_Foresta) April 6, 2021
Fostering that community feel by poker operators only adds to the success of the industry. One aspect of the modern game adding to that? Streaming. Whether you’re new to Twitch or have no interest in watching others play poker online, the fact is that these online poker mini-reality shows continue growing the game.
US streaming may still be in its infancy compared to massive successes like Lex Veldhuis and Jaime Staples, but there is a growing group. That can only help add to the interest in the game and reach younger players.
4 – Live poker tie-ins
Adding some synergy from the online game to the live felt offers operators a chance at creating some real buzz around their platforms. The BetMGM Poker Championship this summer proved a nice success.
The company brought a large group of online qualifiers. New Jersey qualifier Benji Folson even finished fifth for $50,000.
“I had such warm, quality interactions with the other qualifiers, the Aria staff, the BetMGM staff, and many of the other competing players,” he says. “I understand the appeal of playing live MTTs much more now, and it’s not just because I luckboxed my way into a fifth-place finish.”
WSOP.com also offered some great online satellites this summer for live tournaments at Bally’s/Paris. The Tournament of Champions also seemed like a hit at the WSOP. The $1 million freeroll awards seats to players who win a championship bracelet or ring, whether live or online.
Could PokerStars be getting in on the act as well? The company ran the Moneymaker Tour for Platinum Passes in 2019. Road to PSPC events are already running internationally now as well. Could another live Stars series be in the works?
Challenges remain, but momentum building slowly
There are certainly positives for the US online poker market, but some struggles also remain. The market is still small and merged markets aren’t moving quickly.
Michigan officially joined the interstate compact with Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in May. However, no platforms have yet been approved to share liquidity with the Wolverine State yet.
Getting that accomplished could be a major boon for the industry. Adding other smaller states that have also legalized but not yet launched, such as West Virginia and Connecticut, could also be beneficial for the US market.
As USPoker previously reported, a combined US market of current legalized states would potentially place the US among the top 10 in global online poker markets Seeing more states, especially populous ones such as California and New York, could significantly add to the pool as well.
That would mean larger player and prize pools. The growth of sports betting and online casino gaming shows Americans are interested in more iGaming. As more states legalize those gaming options, adding poker seems like an easy add-on. Things certainly aren’t moving quickly, but there are at least some positive signs on the horizon.