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In Bad News For Online Gambling, AG Sessions Might Be Eyeing Reversal Of DOJ’s Position

Steve Ruddock April 17, 2017 0 comments
federal online gambling ban Sessions

The latest news for US online poker and gambling is not good. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be poised to change the current status of online gambling at the federal level.

What’s going on with online gambling at the federal level?

With the administration of President Donald Trump facing several investigations into alleged scandals, it looks like the pet cause of a billionaire casino mogul and mega-donor for the Republican Party — Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson — could jump to the front of queue at the Department of Justice.

Rumors are swirling that Sessions is considering overturning (paywall) the 2011 Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion that paved the way for states to legalize and regulate online gambling within their borders.

This is not a hot-button issue like health care or immigration. In the three states where online gaming has been legalized (Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey) everything is running very smoothly, as is the case in the four states that have legalized online lottery since 2011.

Federal action on this issue has very little support and plenty of opposition.

Still, supporters of legal, regulated online gambling are concerned that the new administration and the ultra-conservative attorney general have shown a willingness to revisit the decision. A reversal would undo progress on protecting consumers and creating jobs and revenue.

Which is why…

…not many people want an online gambling ban

The bills seeking to ban iGaming introduced since 2014 possess the extremely rare mix of policies that rankle Republicans and Democrats alike. Both sides of the political spectrum call the bill crony capitalism.

Republicans, particularly the small government types such as the Freedom Caucus, see it as federal overreach and an affront to the 10th Amendment. Historically, gaming issues are the domain of individual states. A straw poll at CPAC indicated nine out of 10 Republicans oppose a federal online gambling ban.

For their part, Democrats see an online gambling ban as unnecessary federal regulation. They are also skeptical of anything openly pushed for by Adelson.

In the end, there are no redeeming aspects of a federal online gambling ban. It would:

  • Stifle business
  • Kill jobs
  • Leave states scrambling to replace lost revenue.

As Chris Grove stated in a Huffington Post column:

“Banning states from making their own choices on regulated online gambling is a terrible idea that represents federal politics at its very worst.”

Failure on iGaming ban leads to a shift in strategy

Efforts to enact a federal online gambling ban are believed to largely be the work of Adelson. But attempts to pass such legislation have languished in Congress, gaining only modest support in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

With RAWA unable to gain traction, the supporters of a federal ban started looking for an alternative path to achieve their agenda. They turned their attention to the 2011 OLC opinion.

Sessions could reverse this opinion in much the same way it happened in 2011: through the Department of Justice at the behest of the attorney general.

But this would require an attorney general willing to take some heat, since overturning the decision would almost certainly lead to a legal battle, which even Sessions may have doubts the government could win. Such reversals are also exceedingly rare.

At his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he was “shocked at the memorandum” and would revisit it. But he also noted that even though he may not agree with it, the OLC opinion is likely on solid legal ground.

“Apparently there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position,” Sessions said.

Scholars and lawyers who have looked into the matter agree: The OLC opinion is the correct interpretation of the law. Courts, in the couple of cases that have come before them, also agree. (See, for instance, In re Mastercard International Inc., 2002, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit; U.S. v. Lyons, 2014, United States Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit.)

In the end, an attempt to overturn the 2011 OLC opinion could bring some closure to this debate. But it’s unlikely to turn out the way Adelson and online gambling ban proponents hope.

US Governors ‘Concerned’ About Possible Online Gambling Ban In Letter To Attorney General Sessions

Dustin Gouker April 7, 2017 0 comments
Governors letter online gambling

The National Governors Association didn’t mince words in sending a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions about online gambling. The group’s message: Stay out of our business.

Governors group talks iGaming

The governors sent a strongly worded letter to Sessions. Its key takeaway: “States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming.”

It’s fair to guess that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — the vice chair of the NGA — spearheaded the letter. He signed it and his state features online gambling in the form of iPoker. Of course, several other states have online gambling (New Jersey and Delaware) or lotteries as well.

That’s not to mention that state governments in general and governors in particular are not fans of the federal government telling them what they can and can’t do.

That particularly applies to the gaming industry. A variety of states have liberalized their gaming laws in recent decades, because they wanted to allow for casinos or other types of gaming. While not every state may want to allow online gambling down the road, they all see gaming as being under their purview. They don’t want to see the federal government leaking into something they see as entirely in their domain.

As a result of those generally held stances, we got the letter from the NGA.

The NGA letter on online gambling

Here is the full letter:

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

The nation’s governors are concerned with legislative or administrative actions that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales.

The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming—in a variety of forms—within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input.  A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens. 

As you review this issue, we encourage you to take note of the current regulatory mechanisms put in place by the states to ensure that consumers and children are protected, and that licensees comply with strict standards of conduct. States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming. A ban drives this activity offshore to unregulated jurisdictions, out of the reach of state and federal law enforcement and with risk to consumers.

The nation’s governors stand ready to discuss this issue with you further.

Why the letter about online gambling now?

The letter likely stems from a brief exchange during Sessions’ confirmation hearing. That took place earlier this year, and Sen. Lindsey Graham asked him about online gambling. In particular, Graham asked about a 2011 Department of Justice memo that said the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, not to online gambling.

Here’s the full exchange from January:

Graham: About the Wire Act, what’s your view of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Wire Act, to allow online video poker, gambling?

Sessions: Senator, I was shocked at the memorandum, I guess the enforcement memorandum, that the Department of Justice issued, with regard to the Wire Act, and criticized it. Apparently there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position. But I did oppose it when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual…

Graham: Would you revisit it?

Sessions: 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.

Is Sessions about to alter the future of online gambling? Probably not. But the governors want their opinion to be on the record.

Online Gambling Opponents Eye A New Tack, Via Incoming Attorney General Sessions

Dustin Gouker January 11, 2017 0 comments
sessions online gambling

A handful of lawmakers in Washington, DC, have continued to push to make online gambling illegal in the US, albeit unsuccessfully.

Now, however, the effort to stop or roll back iGaming expansion is hoping it has a friendly ear. That might come in the form of the nominee for US attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sessions took a question about online gambling in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday in the Senate. Whether Sessions becomes an ally of the interests that want to stop legal online gambling in the United States remains to be seen.

What Sessions said about online gambling

Sen. Lindsey Graham — a champion against online gambling in the US — asked Sessions about the topic. Graham has long been a supporter of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. That effort has consistently failed to date. Past iterations of the bill would update the Wire Act to make online gambling illegal. (Currently, online gambling is legal only in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.)

That legislation intends to circumvent a 2011 memo from the Department of Justice. That memo opines that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting. That memo, obviously, comes out of the department headed by the AG. It would be within Sessions’ purview to examine it.

Here is the interaction between Graham and Sessions:

Graham: About the Wire Act, what’s your view of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the Wire Act, to allow  online video poker, gambling?

Sessions: Senator, I was shocked at the memorandum, I guess the enforcement memorandum, that the Department of Justice issued, with regard to the Wire Act, and criticized it. Apparently there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position. But I did oppose it when it happened, and it seemed to me to be unusual…

Graham: Would you revisit it?

Sessions: 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.

You can see the full testimony here (about the 1:55:30 mark).

Parsing what Sessions said

The takes after Sessions mentioned online gambling have run the gamut.

Those who follow the gambling space sounded alarm bells as soon as Sessions said he might revisit the DOJ memo. But Sessions certainly wasn’t making a promise to issue a new memo on the Wire Act. Given the breadth of tasks handed to the AG’s office, it’s unlikely to be one of his top priorities. In reality, he was merely responding to a question from Graham on one of his pet projects.

To wit:

PPA responds

The Poker Players Alliance sprang to action after the Sessions comments, as well. John Pappas, Executive Director of the PPA, issued the following statement (excerpts; full thing here):

“In 2006, a Republican Congress and a Republican President passed and signed into law a bill that allowed states to regulate online gaming. This language was reaffirmed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2011 and empowered individual states to pursue policies that best served their citizens.

“A reversal of this decision would be a radical departure from the precedent given to the independent and legally based opinions generated by DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). We appreciate nominee Sessions’ pledge to give the issue ‘careful study,’ and we also have no doubt that such careful study will reaffirm what OLC, the courts and Congress already agree on: the Wire Act is limited to sports betting and states may regulate other forms of internet gaming.

“We also trust that he adheres to the longstanding practice of giving ‘great weight to any relevant past opinions’ when he reviews OLC’s 2011 position with regard to the Wire Act. The precedent of giving weight to prior OLC decisions is something both the Bush and Obama administrations advised in published ‘Best Practices’ memorandums.

Whether Sessions’ comments are truly concerning is obviously up for debate. If nothing else, yesterday was a reminder that its important for proponents of online gambling to be vigilant against attempts to hinder its progress.

WSOP Weekly: Why You Can’t Spell WSOP Without Mizrachi And Deeb

Sean Chaffin June 17, 2019 0 comments

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is already entering its fourth week. So, here is a rundown of what’s happened and what will happen in this week’s WSOP Weekly.

WSOP Quick Links

For a complete guide to the WSOP, click here.

For a complete programming guide on watching the WSOP on TV or online, click here.

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WSOP Winners Circle

Longtime pro Michael Mizrachi was once again at a WSOP final table last Thursday. This time, it was the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo event. With a big rail cheering him on, the “Grinder” took home $142,801 and his fifth bracelet.

It could be an even bigger summer for Mizrachi with the $50,000 buy-in Players Championship kicking off next Monday. He’s won the event three times (2010, 2012, and 2018), which has helped to propel him to $17.2 million in live tournament winnings.

The $2,620 Marathon lived up to its name. After a long battle on the felt, Russia’s Roman Korenev took his first bracelet and $477,401.

Meanwhile, in the $1,000 NLHE event, poker player Stephen Song won his first bracelet and $341,854. Though he has won two WSOP Circuit rings, had numerous deep runs, and made final table appearances, he can finally celebrate a breakthrough career win.

A big name came from behind in the $10,000 HORSE tournament last week. Though Dario Sammartino brought a 3-to-1 chip lead over his nearest rival to the table, longtime pro Greg Mueller rallied for the win.

The victory gave the Canadian his third bracelet and $425,347. The rally came as quite a surprise, given that Mueller had only three big bets at one point during three-handed play.

In other action, Howard Mash barely qualified for the $1,000 Seniors Championship after turning 50 last month. However, his timing could not have been better. The financial advisor from Coconut Creek, Fla., topped a field of 5,916 to earn a bracelet and a first-place money prize of $662,594.

Finishing up – a look at some big WSOP final tables

Event #35: $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Six Handed

With seven cashes already this summer, 2018 Player of the Year Shaun Deeb is at it again. In the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Six Handed, Deeb leads the final table of six and is looking for his fifth bracelet.

It seems Deeb had some extra incentive at a deep run in this one.

Getting the bracelet won’t be easy. Two-time bracelet winner Adam Friedman is second in chips and looking for a repeat performance. He won this event in 2018 for $293,275.

Longtime pro Matt Glantz sits third in chips and hopes to bring home his first bracelet. This player from Lafayette Hill, Penn., is a regular on the tournament scene in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. After making numerous WSOP final tables, he’s now looking to bring home a win.

Event #38: $800 Online NLHE Knockout Bounty

In Sunday’s big online action, Upeshka “gomezhamburg” De Silva took the title in the $800 Online NLHE Knockout Bounty. He took home $98,262 as well 18 $100 bounties for a grand total of $100,262.

The event attracted 1,224 players. The win is the second bracelet for this player from Katy, Texas. Several players from the Lone Star State have been close in recent days, but De Silva is the first Texan to snag a bracelet this summer.

The week ahead at the WSOP

Event 41: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship (June 17)

This event brings out players looking for a bracelet in this classic form of poker. The action kicks off on Monday in an event that has struggled to reach 100 in recent years.

Last year, Yaniv Birman topped an 83-player field for $236,238. In the last few years that total has generally trended downward as more events have been added to the schedule. Here’s a look at the fields over the last four years: 88 (2017), 87 (2016), 91 (2015), and 102 (2014).

The low numbers offer pros a shot at a bracelet in a small field. While he may not be a favorite among poker fans, Chris Ferguson seems to excel at this event. He took runner-up in 2017 and fourth in 2018.

Event 45: $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller (June 19)

No bargain buy-in for this one. The four-day event should bring out plenty of pros.

Shaun Deeb won it last year for $1.4 million and may have an opportunity at back-to-back final tables. He led the final table in the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Six Handed on Monday.

After that plays out, Deeb should be looking to defend his title in this event. The tournament attracted 230 entries last year for a $5.5 million prize pool.

If last year’s final table is any example, this could be interesting viewing on PokerGO on June 22. Last year’s final table also included Ben Yu (runner-up), Scotty Nguyen (third), James Calderaro (fourth), Jason Koon (fifth), Ryan Tosoc (sixth), and David Benyamine (seventh).

Event 52: $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Championship (June 22)

This is a biggie for Omaha players. It’s a coveted title and attracted 476 runners in 2018. Nevada’s Loren Klein won his third bracelet and just a bit over $1 million last summer in this event.

It’s already been a nice start this summer for Klein. He finished fourth in the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty for $100,775. Rep Porter took runner-up and Brandon Shack-Harris finished third. This year should produce an interesting final table as well.

WSOP Online Events

Pulling double duty has been a regular at the tables over the last week. Many players not only battle for a bracelet at the table, but also online at the same time. Here’s a look at this week’s online action:

  • Event 46: $500 NLHE Turbo Deepstack (June 19) – Players start with 40,000 chips and can re-enter three times. Players in New Jersey can also jump in the action for a shot at a bracelet.
  • Event 55: $1,000 NLHE Double Stack (June 23) – The big Sunday online action continues with this bigger buy-in event. Players start with 30,000 chips and are allowed three re-entries.

Bargain buy-ins

While there may not be as many small buy-in events on the docket this week, there are a few to check out.

  • Event #39 – $1,000 Super Seniors (June 17) – With the seniors event in the books, players over 60 can now jump into this one. In 2018, there were 2,191 entries, and Farhintaj Bonyadi came out on top for $311,451. Poker runs in the family for the Bonyadis. Her son is three-time bracelet winner Farzad Bonyadi.
  • Event #40 – $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (June 17) – This lower price point offering should attract a nice field of Omaha players. The event produced 799 entries last year, with New Jersey’s Ryan Bambrick taking the title and $217,123.
  • Event #42 – $600 Mixed NLHE/PLO Deepstack Eight-Handed (June 18) – This new two-day event offers a chance for a big payday at a bargain buy-in. It features a $500,000 guaranteed prize pool, with 30-minute levels on Day 1 and 40 minutes on Day 2.
  • Event #47 – $1,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em (June 20) – The Rio gets a different poker vibe each year during this fun event. Jessica Dawley, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, took this one down last year for $130,230.
  • Event #50 – $1,500 Monster Stack – The big-stack action continues with players starting with 50,000 chips. The five-day event features two starting flights and produced a $1 million payday for winner Tommy Nguyen in 2018.
  • Event #53 – $800 NLHE Deepstack Eight-Handed (June 23) –The small buy-in, big guarantee action continues in this event. This event is new to the schedule and features a $750,000 guarantee.

New Jersey player cashes in his first WSOP

The hashtag #MyFirstWSOP signifies a very special event in the life of a poker player. For John Forlenza, of Matawan, N.J., that first came this year – and ended with a Millionaire Maker cash.

A first WSOP cash is a momentous boost to anyone’s poker career. However, this 28-year-old won’t be found traveling the country playing poker for a living anytime soon.

He works as a civil engineer on bridges and highways in the New York City area. His responsibilities include managing subcontractors, project costs, scheduling, and materials.

However, Forlenza’s first WSOP was not his first time at the table.When not donning a hard hat at a construction site, Forlenza is a regular on the poker felt – live and online. His experience with poker stretches all the way back to his college days.

“I loved the idea of it being a strategy game you can play against people for money,” he said. “Playing in these games gave me some pocket money as I didn’t work in college.

Poker has become such a passion that he streams online poker sessions on Twitch under the name GameofEdges. He credits his wife Jennifer for his success on the felt.

When it comes to cashing in his first-ever WSOP tournament, Forlenza keeps things in perspective. Poker remains a recreational pursuit, but he loves every minute at the tables.

“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “It was a fun field, and I was just happy to be able to participate.”

Interview With Tax Professional Nathan Rigley About Poker Players And Taxes

Sean Chaffin April 8, 2019 0 comments

We have talked about poker players and taxes before. However, questions remain for many players. So, recently spoke with Nathan Rigley, lead tax research analyst with H&R Block.

His words rang true as advice for every poker player. Whether you’re a reg at a local card club, a top touring pro or someone in between, you need to consider your tax obligations when you play poker.

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All winnings are taxable

First and foremost, all gambling winnings are taxable — no matter the amount.

“Just because a taxpayer doesn’t receive a tax form does not make the winnings tax-free,” Rigley said. “Taxpayers still have a responsibility to report their prize on their tax return as ‘other income.’”

Those winning a larger amount at a casino are likely to receive a tax form, and the IRS will also receive that form. Not reporting it can have some ugly consequences, including:

  • Audits
  • Penalties
  • Interest

Don’t leave anything to chance and don’t try to conceal. Report those winnings to avoid a lengthy, and uncomfortable, visit with the IRS.

Keeping records helps in the long run

The IRS recommends gamblers keep an accurate diary or records to substantiate wins and losses on a tax return. For poker players, that includes sessions at the tables, buy-ins and amount won or lost.

You read that correctly; record losses because you can be deduct them against winnings. Winners can deduct losses, but only as much as the amount won.

For example, a player who wins $200,000 in a big Sunday tournament online must report those winnings to the IRS. Let’s say that, in the same year, that same player lost $32,000 worth of tournament buy-ins, but profited $9,000 at cash games.

Altogether, this player will have total taxable winnings of $177,000 ($200,000-$32,000+$9,000). So, losses can help players send less of their cash to the US Treasury.

Planning is important

When it comes to tracking wins and losses, here’s what Rigley recommends to include in gambling records:

  • Date and amount wagered, including tournament buy-ins
  • Name and location of betting or tournament
  • Amount won or lost

Obviously, online poker makes this task easier. Players can review buy-ins and wins and losses easily.

However, don’t merely rely on the poker software to keep your records. It is beneficial to review often and keep track independently.

Bettors should also keep verifiable documentation of losses and expenses including:

  • Buy-in tickets
  • Canceled checks
  • Credit card records

As a Boy Scout, when it comes to taxes, be prepared.

Remembering expenses

This year, tax filers have some new rules. For poker players, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed many aspects related to itemized deductions.

That includes the elimination of miscellaneous deductions that were subject to a 2% floor of adjusted gross income.

“This has been impactful for many taxpayers,” Rigley said. “Luckily, the deduction for gambling losses, though a miscellaneous deduction, was not subject to this floor.”

So, poker players can continue to claim gambling losses as an itemized deduction toward their gambling income. However, it is important to stay abreast of any changes to the tax code each year.

Are there differences in sports betting, poker, and other gambling?

To the IRS, there generally is no difference in various forms of gambling. The only difference may be if a taxpayer treats gambling as a sole means of earning a living.

Bear in mind, however, that the IRS is not a law enforcement agency. Even those who wager where it may not be legal are still expected to report winnings in their tax returns.

“Income from illegal gambling is treated exactly the same as those who participate in legal gambling,” Rigley says. “Gambling doesn’t make the winnings tax-free. Taxpayers who make illegal wagers and win still need to report the income on their tax return. If the taxpayer itemizes deductions, they can still deduct the loss to the extent of gain.”

Pros should treat poker as a business

Full-time players or those who view the game as more of a career have some different benefits and requirements. For instance, a pro player may be able to file as a business with a Schedule C form.

These players can also deduct expenses like a business or someone who works for himself. So, things like travel expenses, meals when at tournaments, and other business-related expenses may qualify as deductible for tax purposes.

However, filing as a business also has some additional requirements. Notably, players are potentially subject to self-employment tax and possible quarterly estimated payments. So, keeping good records and receipts is important.

There’s one additional requirement under the new tax reform. Players can no longer deduct non-wagering business expenses in excess of net wagering income. That keeps players from claiming a loss.

Save a chunk for the IRS

Players who score big in an event are advised to set a big piece of that cash aside for future taxes.

“We always suggest that the first check they should write is the IRS for an estimated payment on the taxes they will owe on those winnings,” Rigley says. “This is essentially a deposit toward your tax liability.

“The reason we suggest this is that it helps to avoid any underpayment penalties for failing to deposit enough taxes throughout the year, and psychologically it seems easier to write that check when the income is new rather than be hit with the balance due down the road when the return is filed.”

A player may also want to consider investment vehicles such as a Roth IRA or other options to lower their tax burden. An IRA also helps players plan for retirement and possible lean times.

Filing your taxes and writing a check to the IRS is never fun. However, making a concerted effort throughout the year can help take the sting out of the process.

Vegas Poker Guide For The Mixed Games Player

Jeff Walsh May 18, 2018 0 comments
Vegas Mixed Games

For many, the terms “poker” and “no-limit hold’em” are essentially one in the same.

But for those who really dig deep into the game of poker, it’s the ability to play every variant of the game that makes for the truly best all-around player.

Beyond no-limit hold’em, games like pot-limit Omaha, deuce to seven triple draw, badugi and stud hi/lo provide card players a measure of excitement and depth of strategy that goes beyond the oft-played two card game.

When summer hits Las Vegas and poker players from all over the world converge for the World Series of Poker, the mixed game action all over the city hits a fever pitch. So, for those looking to play a wider variety of poker games in their cash and tournament sessions, here are some Sin City poker rooms that are happy to oblige.

Bellagio Hotel & Casino

The legendary Big Game that takes place inside Bobby’s Room may be off-limits (and extremely high-limits) to your average mixed game player but that’s not to say there is not amazing mixed game action to be had at The Bellagio.

The Bellagio offers a standard $20/$40 Mixed Game which regularly runs. But during the summer, the card room prides itself on just how much non-stop mixed game action they spread. A quick call to the poker room will let you know that during the WSOP it quickly “gets ridiculous” how many tables get started and how high the limits are. Sure, there’s the occasional $4-8 mixed game for those who want to test the waters, but the standard limits can run the gambit all the way up to $300-600.

As is with just about all of the poker rooms in Las Vegas, the actual mix of games that is played is determined by the players that start the game but can be altered at any time.

Aria Resort & Casino

The Aria poker room is one of the most well-traveled rooms in Las Vegas and they are, generally, the closest rivaled room to the Bellagio when it comes to mixed games. Ivey’s Room, another high limit, mostly exclusive room is the site of many ulta-high-limit mixed games but regular rounders can find their way into an Aria mixed game that doesn’t break the bank.

On Tuesdays around 1 p.m. PT, there’s a regular $4-8 game that is held in the room. The format is “join the game, add a game” so whenever you take a seat in this game, you get to bring your favorite variant along with you.

The Aria also advertises that it will spread mixed games from $9-18 all the way to $30-60 and higher. When the summer comes though, it’s best to check in to see if there are any mixed games on the floor. The Aria boasts one of the busiest poker rooms in the city and when tournament series start up and players flock to the room, space can get tight and their mixed games can get squeezed out.

Wynn Las Vegas

Perhaps the most luxurious poker room on the strip is at the Wynn. The roughly two-year-old room is a favorite for those who enjoy the feeling of playing in the lap of luxury. It’s also a favorite for those who play in their regular $9-18 mixed game.

The Wynn indicated that during the summer, especially Thursday through Sunday when the weekend warriors come to town, there will usually be a mixed game. Limits start as low as the regular $9-18 but can jettison up to $1k-2k.

A sentiment expressed by the Wynn that is echoed by other rooms that offer mixed games is “if you have the players, they’ll spread the game.”

Venetian Las Vegas

No-limit hold’em is the standard in the Venetian poker room, but when the summer comes and their popular DeepStack Championship Poker Series arrives, mixed games become more of a possibility. The tournament area will be expanding into the convention space this summer allowing for more cash game action.

When they are spread, the room sees a trend to playing draw games — baduci and deuce-to-seven — but with their core audience being a NLHE one it’s best to call ahead to get on … or even start an interest list.

The Orleans

Located just off the strip, the Orleans also offers regularly spread $4-8 mixed. In addition, they have plenty of tables of Omaha Hi-Lo going at any given time. For players looking to start a mixed game from scratch, the Orleans may have a ready and willing player base to help you fill up your interest list.

World Series of Poker (Rio)

Of course, when going to the World Series of Poker to play mixed games one would hope that the Pavilion inside the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino would have an offering. If history serves as a guide, the big board will be offering a wide variety of games at some pretty high limits. Omaha 8 starting around $10-20 up through $75-150, a $50-100 Stud game and $10-20 mixed games have all been known to be spread in the midst of the non-stop barrage of gold bracelet tournament action.

Las Vegas Tournaments

In addition to the spike in mixed game cash options all around town, the summer tournament scene is replete with opportunities for the fan of the mixed game.

Those looking for the biggest tournament buy-ins will find them within the halls of the Rio during the World Series itself. But, for those looking to play some more moderate stakes there are a number of summer tournament series taking place that look to directly compete with the WSOP and provide excellent structures and healthy paydays.

Planet Hollywood, The Venetian, Binion’s, The Golden Nugget and Aria all have extensive tournament schedule and all include a variety of non-no-limit hold’em games over the course of the summer.

Date Venue Event Time Buy-In
5/27 Planet Hollywood H.O.R.S.E. (One Day Event) 12:00 PM $250
5/29 Planet Hollywood Dealer Choice 3:00 PM $130
5/30 Golden Nugget H.O.R.S.E. 11:00 AM $250
5/30 Aria Eight Game Mix 11:00 AM $470
6/1 Binion’s H.O.R.S.E. 11:00 AM $365
6/1 Planet Hollywood Triple Draw Mixer 2-7, A-5, Badugi 12:00 PM $300
6/2 Golden Nugget Omaha 8/Stud8 Mix 11:00 AM $250
6/2 WSOP (Rio) Mixed Triple Draw Lowball 3:00 PM $2,500
6/3 Venetian H.O.R.S.E. 4:00 PM $600
6/3 Aria Triple Draw Mixer 2-7, A-5, Badugi 11:00 AM $470
6/3 Planet Hollywood GOLIATH Dealers Choice 12:00 PM $300
6/4 WSOP (Rio) Dealers Choice 6-Handed 3:00 PM $1,500
6/4 Golden Nugget Pot Limit Omaha/O8/Big O Mix 11:00 AM $250
6/5 Binion’s Mixed Triple Draw (2-7, A-5, Badugi) 11:00 AM $365
6/6 WSOP (Rio) H.O.R.S.E. 3:00 PM $1,500
6/6 Golden Nugget Mixed Triple Draw (2-7, A-5, Badugi) 11:00 AM $250
6/7 WSOP (Rio) Dealers Choice 6-Handed 3:00 PM $10,000
6/7 Planet Hollywood H.O.R.S.E. (One Day Event) 12:00 PM $250
6/9 WSOP (Rio) Eight Game Mix 3:00 PM $1,500
6/9 Binion’s Omaha 8/Stud 8 Mix 11:00 AM $365
6/10 Aria H.O.R.S.E. 11:00 AM $470
6/10 Planet Hollywood H.O.R.S.E. + NLH, 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw 12:00 PM $250
6/12 WSOP (Rio) H.O.R.S.E. 3:00 PM $10,000
6/15 WSOP (Rio) Poker Players Championship 3:00 PM $50,000
6/15 Golden Nugget 8-Game Mix 11:00 AM $250
6/16 WSOP (Rio) Pot Limit Omaha H/L/O8/Big O Mix 3:00 PM $1,500
6/19 WSOP (Rio) Mixed Big Bet 3:00 PM $2,500
6/20 Binion’s Crazy 7-Card Hi/Lo Stud Mix 11:00 AM $365
6/21 Golden Nugget Omaha 8/Stud8 Championship 10:00 AM $570
6/21 Venetian Omaha 8/Stud 8 Mix 1:00 PM $600
6/22 WSOP (Rio) Omaha 8/Stud 8 Mix 3:00 PM $2,500
6/27 Golden Nugget Pot Limit Omaha/O8/Big O Mix 11:00 AM $570
6/28 Binion’s H.O.R.S.E. Championship 11:00 AM $585
7/1 Golden Nugget H.O.R.S.E. 11:00 AM $360
7/2 Venetian Omaha 8/Stud 8 Mix 1:00 PM $600
7/10 WSOP (Rio) NLHE/PLO Mix 3:00 PM $1,500
7/12 WSOP (Rio) H.O.R.S.E. 3:00 PM $3,000
7/13 Planet Hollywood H.O.R.S.E. (One Day Event) 11:00 AM $250

So whether it is cash or tournaments, for the mixed game maniac summer in Sin City provides all the action one could hope for.

Five Exciting New Poker Tournaments In Las Vegas This Summer

Matthew Clark April 27, 2018 0 comments
poker in las vegas

The summer schedules across Las Vegas, NV are innovative in new offerings for players. 2018 is no different with the World Series of Poker and The Venetian rolling out never before seen events. From $400 all the way up to $100,000, players have their pick at a variety of chef’s selections. Past introductions include Monster Stack and The Marathon and perhaps a few of these five events will have staying power past 2018.

1. $10,000 World Series of Poker Super Turbo Bounty

Date: May 30

The World Series of Poker schedule kicks off this summer with a fast and fun-filled event. The success of last summer’s $1,000 Super Turbo Bounty spills over into the high roller variety. A one-day event with every elimination worth $3,000 should produce a truckload of great hands, top pros, and a loaded final table.

With 20-minute levels all the way through, expect to see entrants gamble it up in the hopes of getting a piece of their buy-in back before the prize pool is even announced.

The popularity of bounty events online fit in well with players who are used to jumping back and forth between the live and virtual felt.

Buckle-up for the WSOP rocketship as it takes off for the moon in the first of 74 events.

2. $50,000/$100,000 World Series of Poker High Rollers

Dates: June 1-4 ($100,000), July 13-14 ($50,000)

The return of the $1 million Big One for One Drop created a void in the relatively reduced price of the $111,111 One Drop High Roller. The WSOP ensures the void is eliminated in 2018 with a $50,000 and $100,000 High Roller bracelet event.

Both events use familiar elements used on the PokerStars Live and partypoker LIVE tours. Big blind ante and shot clocks are in use for the duration of each event. The WSOP is trotting out the shot clock in a limited format and the two high rollers along with the Big One For One Drop are the only events where players have a set time to act.

Details of the WSOP shot clock are not yet known but businessmen and professionals alike should be pleased to see a faster-paced game. The only question about the respective final tables is how many tens of millions in combined earnings are going to be lined up to fight for the bracelet.

3. $1,100 Venetian Summer Savers

Dates: July 5-8 & July 9-12

Unlucky summer filled with poor variance topped off by an early exit from the WSOP Main Event? Have no fear, The Venetian is here. The DeepStack Championship Series has back-t0-back $1,100 $1 million guaranteed events starting on Day 2A of the Main Event.

The 2017 Venetian DSE III ran a $1,100 $1.5 million guaranteed Main Event post-lim that drew 2,096 runners and put $313,664 up top. Similar numbers are in the cards for both events in 2018.

The same structure applies to each event. Two starting flights, 20,000 chips, and 40-minute levels all the way through.

The Summer Savers are up against the Little One for One Drop and The Closer at the Rio. Players have the pleasure of quality options for their post-Main Event life.

4. $1,500 WSOP Pot Limit Omaha Bounty
Date: July 6-8 

Pot Limit Omaha tournaments and bounty formats are not slowing down in popularity. The World Series of Poker combines them for a Main Event post-lim. $500 of every buy-in goes toward a bounty and with starting stacks of only 7,500, chips are flying from the start.

It will be interesting to see how many players show up for this event. The $3,000 PLO Six-Max starts on July 8 and should keep four-card fiends in town for a few extra days.

5. $400 Venetian NightStack
Date May 31-July 1 

The Venetian’s answer to the World Series of Poker’s Giant comes in the form of the $1 million guaranteed NightStack. Eight starting flights spread across the DeepStack Championship calendar from May 31 through June 29. Five percent of each field advances to July 1’s Day 2.

Close to 3,000 entrants need to register to cover the guarantee and a six-figure first-place prize is going to be up for grabs. Day 1 flights play into the money and players have the chance to play in multiple opening sessions should they choose. The action moves fast with 15,000 starting banks and 30-minute levels.

Five Online Poker Players Quietly Making Waves

Matthew Clark February 2, 2018 0 comments
Online Poker

The modern poker world is a landscape full of relative unknowns. The lack of immediate endorsement opportunities and incentive to remain anonymous leads some of the most talented players in the world to fly under the radar. To try and shed some light on those players, below is a look at five of the most successful online poker players you’ve probably never heard of. All tournament earnings are from and cash game winnings are courtesy of

5. ‘BLaaZeKuSH’

This Canadian player dominated the micro-stakes circuit in 2017. ‘BLaaZeKuSH’ won the leaderboard for most money earned playing MTTs on 888poker with a $22 buy-in or below. With $98,724 in cashes, 88 wins, and 1,296 cashes ‘BLaaZeKuSH’ proved there is a living to be made beating the smallest of margins.

Those rankings are good for first, first, and second in the respective categories for 2017. Entering 2018, ‘BLaaZeKush’ is only a few thousand away from hitting $1 million in online MTT earnings.

Already in 2018, ‘BLaaZeKuSH’ has eight wins on the micro grind and we’ll see if they decide to move up in stakes before long.

4. ‘kofi89’

The #1 ranked player in the poker hotbed of Argentina is also ranked in the top 50 worldwide, according to PocketFives. ‘kofi89’ won Tournament Number One Billion on PokerStars in November 2014 for $329,587 and followed that up with a Sunday Million victory in March of last year.

‘kofi89’ is master of all PokerStars trademark tournaments with victories in the Sunday Grand, Big $162, and Hot $109 on their resume.

Still awaiting a major COOP breakout, ‘kofi89’ is awaiting their first final table performance in the premier events on PokerStars.

3. Jed ‘JCHAK’ Hoffman

The lone American on this list is a strong player in both the live and online realm. Hoffman is the current #1 player in Nevada and a superior on the World Series of Poker Circuit. Thunder Valley and Lake Tahoe witnessed Hoffman’s strong play as he final tabled both WSOPC final tables.

At the January 2018 Thunder Valley series, Hoffman made another live final table. Hoffman keeps to when home in Nevada.

Hoffman almost made the virtual final table of the WSOP $3,333 Online High Roller last summer. Combined, Hoffman’s live and online earnings add up to over $1.5 million.

2. Artem “veeea” Vezhenkov

Another individualized #1 player is Russia’s ‘veeea.’ Vezhenkov is a former PocketFives worldwide #1 and currently ranks 13th. In one of the rarest occurrences in online poker, he is a two-time Sunday Million winner.

Vezhenkov won his first Sunday Million in 2015 and then the second in July 2017. Add in a SCOOP and WCOOP win, and the Russian is a formidable name in the poker community despite not making many appearances on the live tournament scene.

1. ‘RaúlGonzalez’

In only six months, ‘RaúlGonzalez’ went from a marginal winner in the highest stakes cash games in the world to one of the top earners. ‘RaúlGonzalez’ was down more than $800,000 at one point in 2017 by playing in the highest stakes Pot Limit Omaha games PokerStars had to offer. As is the case with those games, ‘RaúlGonzalez’ hit an upswing and between June and the end of December, ran his graph to a seven-figure bounceback.

The toughest opponents are welcomed by ‘RaúlGonzalez,’ who battles with Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom and Ben ‘Sauce123’ Sulsky on a regular basis. ‘RaúlGonzalez’ closed 2017 with a $521,189 profit in December alone. Already in 2018, they are back on track and adding more winning sessions to their overall portfolio.

New Jersey Congressional Delegation To DOJ: Ignore Calls For Online Gambling Ban

Steve Ruddock January 15, 2018 0 comments
New Jersey State Capitol Building

In response to a letter from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging the DoJ to leave in place a 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinion that leaves online gambling decisions up to the states.

As US Poker reported last week, in addition to the Graham/Feinstein letter there has been growing list of letters supporting a federal online gambling prohibition in recent months.

The letter sent by the New Jersey delegation was addressed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and reads in part:

“We write to urge you to keep in place the Department of Justice’s 2011 opinion holding that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

“Placing a blanket prohibition for online gambling would be an antiquated approach to a 21st century issue, punishing states like New Jersey, which have invested in creating a safe and secure online gaming structure, while also permitting black market operators to put millions of Americans at risk.”

The letter also notes:

  • The “doomsday scenarios” critics predicted have not come to pass.
  • Legal online gambling has been effective in monitoring underage and problem gambling through a strict registration process, strong regulations, and constant monitoring.
  • Online gambling has been a big part of Atlantic City’s recent turnaround and has led to significant capital investments.

Most of New Jersey delegation is on board

The letter was signed by most of New Jersey’s congressional delegation – 10 out of 14 members – including both of the state’s US Senators.

The signatories are:

  • Robert Menendez
  • Cory Booker
  • Frank LoBiondo
  • Leonard Lance
  • Tom MacArthur
  • Josh Gottheimer
  • Albio Sires
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman
  • Rep Bill Pascrell Jr.
  • Donald Payne Jr.

Missing from the letter are:

  • Donald Norcross
  • Chris Smith
  • Rodney Frelinghuysen
  • Frank Pallone

The missing names shouldn’t be seen as supporting a federal online gambling ban. Rep. Frank Pallone’s GAME Act would allow states to legalize sports betting and online gambling, which makes it unlikely he would stand opposed to the letter penned by his colleagues.

Is concern warranted?

The short answer is yes.

A reversal of the 2011 OLC opinion would open a legal can of worms, but the Justice Department recently did the very same thing (usurped states rights with federal law) with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to enforce federal marijuana laws, even in states where marijuana has been legalized.

The good news is Sessions has recused himself from the online gambling debate (Sessions hired a lawyer who works for an anti-online gambling lobby group), which is why the letter was addressed to Deputy AG Rosenstein.

It’s also worth noting that support for a federal online gambling prohibition pales in comparison to opposition.

In addition to the New Jersey delegation, the National Governors Association encouraged the DOJ not to overturn the 2011 opinion in April of 2017.

Further, a resolution opposing federal interference in the state’s online gambling industry was passed by the New Jersey State Legislature last summer.

Opposition to a federal prohibition has also come from:

Another Year Means Another Futile Attempt At Banning Online Poker

Steve Ruddock January 10, 2018 0 comments
online gaming ban

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A small contingent of Congressional members is asking the Department of Justice to overturn a 2011 opinion that allowed states to legalize online gaming within their borders.

Since assuming the position of Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has been bombarded by requests to throw out the 2011 Department of Justice Office Of Legal Counsel opinion that set in motion the state-by-state legalization efforts.

The anti-gambling Sessions seems like the perfect person for the anti-online gambling crowd to woo on this front. During his confirmation hearing Sessions was asked about the OLC opinion by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and said it was a matter he would consider revisiting.

So far, Sessions hasn’t gotten around to online gambling, but that doesn’t mean he won’t. Even if it means getting into a 10th Amendment war with a number of states – something Sessions seems willing to do considering his recent marijuana decree.

Since the opinion, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have legalized online gambling.

Six states have also legalized online lottery:

  1. Illinois
  2. Georgia
  3. Michigan
  4. Kentucky
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Pennsylvania

But that hasn’t stopped the online gaming prohibitionists from trying.

This year’s efforts

A letter from Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets was sent to Sessions in May. Rickets letter was sent in response to a National Governor’s Association (NGA) letter that urged the new AG to leave the issue of online gambling up to the states.

In July, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote to Sessions in support of a federal online gambling ban.

In November, Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham sent a similar letter to the DOJ.

In December, four members of the House of Representatives, Daniel Donovan (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Tom Garrett (R-VA), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) followed suit, asking the DOJ to reverse the 2011 opinion.

The problem with all these letters is Sessions recused himself from online gambling matters after he hired an attorney that also works for an anti-online gambling lobby group.

Previous efforts date back over a decade

Previous attempts to ban online gambling go back over a decade.

In 2007, 43 attorneys general sent a letter of opposition to Congress opposing proposed legislation to legalize online gambling.

A new wave of opposition

But the prohibitionists didn’t truly find their voice until 2014, which happened to coincide with Sheldon Adelson’s announcement that he would “spend whatever it takes” to stop online gambling.

Shortly after the announcement, Adelson created the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and stocked it with well-known politicos as co-chairs who made the flimsy case against online gambling to anyone who would listen.

With Adelson’s support and financing, letters from attorneys general picked back up, but support for a federal prohibition has been severely eroded:

  • 2007 letter opposing federal legalization efforts: 86 percent (43 out of 50)
  • 2014 letter calling on Congress to prohibit online gambling: 30 percent (15 out of 50 + Guam)
  • 2015 letter calling on Congress to prohibit online gambling: 16 percent (eight out of 50)
  • 2016 letter calling on Congress to prohibit online gambling: 20 percent (10 out of 50)

In addition to the attorneys general, no less than five governors penned letters supporting a federal prohibition of online gambling in 2014.

The list includes:

History of RAWA

There were also legislative efforts.

From 2014-2017, legislation (the Restoration of America’s Wire Act or RAWA) was introduced seeking to prohibit online gambling at the federal level. The legislation led to several hearings, but support for the bans has been fleeting.

RAWA 2014 was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House and Sen. Graham in the Senate. The bill gained a little bit of traction during the lame duck session at the end of 2014 but was ultimately scuttled.

RAWA 2015 was more of the same. Same sponsors. Same rhetoric. And the same failure. The bill’s fate was cemented following disastrous (for its backers) March and December hearings in 2015.

RAWA was never officially reintroduced in 2016, but it made a brief reappearance late in the session before being tossed into the garbage bin.

By 2017, online gaming opponents had fully shifted away from legislative efforts like RAWA, instead focusing on overturning the OLC opinion.

So far they’ve had the same level of success with both strategies.

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