CHIP CHATTER: PokerStars PA/NJ, WSOP, GG Snags ElkY, Poker Charity, a Phil Hellmuth Netflix Story, and Much More

Sean Chaffin May 1, 2020
Chip Chatter brings readers all the news in online poker.

It’s an unprecedented time in the world of online poker – at least since before Black Friday. Live poker may be paused, Vegas closed down, and numerous tournament series shuttered, but online poker has sprung to heights not seen since the 2000s.

That has included the regulated US poker market, including sweepstakes sites like Global Poker and ClubWPT. International operators like PokerStars, partypoker, 888poker, and GGPoker are also reporting massive fields with so many players online.

Chip Chatter once again brings all the recent news in the world of poker. From online poker and charitable endeavors to sponsorships, the WSOP, and more – USPoker has it covered.

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PokerStars SCOOP scores in NJ, PA; Numbers continue growing online

As poker players continue to shelter in place, many have moved to playing online. The recent PokerStars Spring Championships of Online Poker (SCOOP) in New Jersey and Pennsylvania can serve as examples.

NJ SCOOP wrapped up on Monday and produced the biggest numbers in the history of the series. The $1.2 million guarantee was smashed with almost $1.8 million awarded in the series.

Pennsylvania saw similar success. The series awarded $3.2 million In the 100 events offered. That topped the $2 million guarantee in the site’s first-ever PASCOOP.

Internationally, other sites are reporting major fields as well. A recent Forbes article noted that 888poker has seen a 60% increase in activity in the US. A similar number may be seen for its interstate compact partner WSOP.com.

“We are seeing similar trends on our global poker network, a testament of a recreational destination that people are enjoying while sheltering in place,” 888 Holdings head of commercial development Yaniv Sherman noted.

That’s a trend around the online poker world. Even US-facing sweepstakes poker sites have seen big numbers. Global Poker reached record heights in its Home Series with the largest event in its history playing out on Sunday.

The SC540 Main Event featured a guarantee of SC500,000. With almost 1,300 players, the event actually produced a prize pool of SC643,000.

The World Poker Tour also recently refocused on its ClubWPT sweepstakes poker site. The tour notes that “new registrations for ClubWPT are up 39% year-over-year in Q1 in 2020 and billed subscribers increased by 8.3% over the same period.”

Caesars online casino opens in PA, WSOP.com still unavailable

PokerStars remains the only traditional legal real-money platform in Pennsylvania after launching in November 2019. Could a change be on the horizon?

In April, Caesars Entertainment launched its online casino in the Keystone State through its Harrah’s Philadelphia property. Unfortunately that didn’t include WSOP.com.

But could a launch be around the corner? WSOP officials are staying tight lipped even as US online poker is seeing record player and prize pools.

The site offers the nation’s only shared liquidity among Nevada, New Jersey, and in Delaware with its software partner 888poker. However, PA online poker couldn’t be part of that as of now.

“WSOP/888’s biggest advantage over its competitors is that it’s currently the only operator able to share liquidity between multiple states,” Online Poker Report notes. “Until the Gaming Control Board loosens the leash, however, Pennsylvania won’t be able to join the shared player pool with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

WSOP speculation continues after postponement

After weeks of speculation, the WSOP in Las Vegas has officially been postponed until the fall. The question now is: what can players and fans expect?

A fall WSOP puts the series in the middle of the NFL season. How would that affect ESPN’s live broadcasts of the Main Event that players and fans have become accustomed to? The series could also face several competing tournaments from the WPT and other series.

A fall series may also include a shortened schedule. Organizers may have to find a nice mix of lower buy-in events to maximize traffic and player pools. That could also include a limited number of the big buy-in championship events as well.

Online players will be in luck this summer however. The WSOP announced that expanded online events will be played out this summer.

The could include bracelet events as well as more international events with other partners. The WSOP has already partnered with GGPoker for the Super Circuit Online Series, which kicks off this weekend with 595 events and a $100 million guarantee.

Getting any kind of schedule together won’t be easy. Las Vegas casinos are all closed down at the moment. What would a major poker festival look like in the immediate aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic?

It’s a unique time in the world of poker and it will be interesting to see how things shake out. One thing is certain, cool Las Vegas fall temperatures will be much more pleasant than those 110-plus degree summers.

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ElkY, Boris Becker sign on with GGPoker

GGPoker has earned some big headlines in recent weeks. The site is now home to Daniel Negreanu and a new deal with the WSOP.

The site also made some news in April by adding some brand ambassadors. Popular French pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier becomes the latest player to join Team GGPoker.

Grospellier has more than $14.5 million in live tournament winnings and numerous major titles. That record includes WSOP, WPT, and EPT titles. 

“I am excited to join GGPoker, the most ambitious poker site,” he said in a news release. “With clear focus on software and making poker fun again, there has never been a better place to play online poker.”

The site added a champion of a different sort as well. Six-time tennis major winner Boris Becker will represent the brand and King’s Casino while playing online including the Super Series. A long-time poker player, Becker has lifetime live tournament earnings of more than $100,000.

GG continues to experience massive growth and is making a splash in the online poker market. It regularly rates as one of the top five platforms in the world in PokerScout.com traffic report.

Players lend a hand to media during pandemic

Poker players are a charitable lot and that continues during the Coronavirus pandemic. Poker Central, Global Poker, and the RunGood Poker Series have teamed up for the “Keep The Lights On” initiative.

As part of the campaign, a series of poker games will be streamed featuring poker personalities Jamie Kerstetter, Jeff Platt, and Brian “TheGoldenBlazer” Frenzel.

The three will play to raise money to support freelance poker media members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations will be made in the form of pledges collected through the Keep the Lines On support site.

Streamers will play in 10 tournaments a day and pledges collected based on number of cashes. As of Friday, the site reported pledges of $26,000.

“Poker Central is built on celebrating and elevating every single aspect of the game of poker, and in order to do that, we rely on the poker industry media to keep us all informed and tell the impactful stories that shape our industry,” Poker Central chief business officer JR McCabe said.

“Our goal with this fund is to provide as much support as possible to those who have tirelessly supported when Las Vegas and the rest of the poker world was shining bright.”

All events will be played on the Global Poker site, which has seen record traffic during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Giving back to those who cover our industry and keep poker thriving is essential in our eyes, which is why we are happy to provide the platform to this initiative” Global Poker general manager David Lyons said.

Frenzel is no stranger to raising money for the cause on Global. A 24-hour streaming effort in April helped raise almost $2,300.

Phil Hellmuth misses out on Netflix but helps to keep the lights on

Speaking of funds, 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth and his agent Brian Balsbaugh reflected recently onTwitter about an opportunity missed. In 2004 or 2005, Balsbaugh negotiated an appearance for Phil Hellmuth at a Netflix event in New York City.

The company offered to pay in stock but Hellmuth and Balsbaugh took $25,000. At the time, Netflix was finding success renting DVDs by mail. Streaming movies and television shows wasn’t even part of the business at that point.

In ‘04 and ‘05, a share of Netflix went for around $3 to $5 (and even went below $2 at times). At $5 that would have meant 5,000 shares of the stock for that $25,000, depending on negotiations.

With Netflix closing at $420 a share on Thursday, that stock would have now been worth $2.1 million today. It may have been a missed opportunity, but Hellmuth certainly has done pretty well for himself either way.

The Poker Brat spread some good vibes last week. He added some of his own funds and promotional push to the Keep the Lights On initiative.

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