CHIP CHATTER – Wire Act, Poker Politics, WPT Goes Big in NJ, PokerStars Summer Series

Sean Chaffin July 1, 2020
A look at the news in the world of US online poker.

Online poker in the US continues to roll. The WSOP Online series kicked off this week and operators just wrapped up some big series.

There has been plenty of good news for players and Chip Chatter once again has the ins and outs of the US online poker world. That includes news and notes from the Wire Act to political poker. Here’s what’s happening.

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Wire Act reaches appellate court

The jurisprudence surrounding the Wire Act remains an obstacle for the growth of the industry. The Department of Justice issued a reinterpretation of the act in 2019. That changed an Obama-era opinion and now stated that the opinion applied to more than just sports betting.

The New Hampshire lottery sued to block its implementation and there has been a court battle ever since. As expected, gaming interests have aligned with the lottery.

The lottery and industry won the first round in court, but the issue remains tied up in appeals. The First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals heard arguments on June 18.

The issue could have a massive impact on the gaming industry. Interstate compacts offer a chance at increased player pools and payouts as seen in the WSOP interstate compact in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

If the industry wins, states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia could join these compacts. A loss could see the industry unravel with “fenced-in” markets becoming the norm. That would hamper small population states like West Virginia.

OnlinePokerReport.com recently offered a great look at even more of the issues involved during the appeals court hearing.

“Whatever decision ultimately emerges from the First Circuit,” the site notes, “will have significant implications for the future of legal online gambling in the US.”

Connecting with voters via online poker

While the Wire Act is tied up in court, one legislator is using poker to connect with constituents. Pat Garofalo is a Republican state representative in Minnesota and loves playing poker.

Garofalo even hosts a regular online tournament with anyone who wants to jump in the action. He’s also been a driving force behind attempts at legalizing sports betting in the state.

The weekly games use PokerStars Home Games option on the operator’s free poker site. The weekly events started during the Coronavirus pandemic. The virtual tournaments are open to anyone and he sends out an invitation on Twitter.

The first game brought in 10 people and has continued to grow. There are now a few games a week consistently attracting more than 180 players. As a politician, Garofalo wants to make a few things clear about the games. He stresses everything is on the up and up, and winners don’t even take home campaign swag.

“It is very important that people know I take no rake or charge any money to play,” Garofalo tells USPoker. “I just enjoy bringing people together to play a game I enjoy.”

As a state legislator, Garafalo doesn’t get to play as much as he’d like so the online fun has been nice. He enjoys the math, probabilities, and numbers involved in poker as well as the competition. Despite his own gaming efforts and interest in poker, don’t look for legalization in his state anytime soon.

“The establishment gambling industry fears anything online,” he says. “They have made a lot of investments into a business model that revolves around people being onsite. Until that changes, I am pessimistic anything will change in Minnesota.”

Positive press for poker with new book by Maria Konnikova

With the release of The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova, the poker world has seen some nice press lately. That has included articles in the New York Times and the Guardian in the United Kingdom.

The book highlights the bestselling author’s interest in poker as well as the role of luck in people’s lives. Some tutoring from Erik Seidel helped kickstart a poker career that has included a major tournament win.

Konnikova even became a PokerStars ambassador for a bit. She spoke with USPoker last week about the book and even online poker. When the WSOP Online kicks off, the New Yorker may even head to New Jersey for some bracelet hunting.

“I don’t think online bracelet events should necessarily exist because I do think there’s a lot of potential for cheating and shenanigans online,” she says. “That said, it’s happening so why not see if I can go out there and play a few events. It almost seems lazy not to.”

No doubt winning a bracelet would add to her book promotion even more. The Biggest Bluff and the growth of online poker during the Coronavirus adds to a nice wave of industry positivity. Many hope that continues with more states willing to open up with legalization.

WPT event tops guarantee in New Jersey 

The big online numbers in New Jersey continued Sunday with the WPT Online Poker Open at partypoker in New Jersey. David Coleman took down the $400 buy-in tournament for a cool $56,586.

He also takes home an $11,000 package to play in the Five Diamond Poker Classic in Las Vegas. The event attracted 868 entries for a $317,540 prize pool of a nice addition to the $300,000 guarantee. The event featured live updates on the WPT website as well as on social media.

WPT Online Poker Open champion David Coleman (courtesy WPT)

This marked the first time longtime partners WPT and partypoker have teamed up in the Garden State. The Online Open became the biggest partypoker event ever held in the state. Additional co-branded events between the two companies seem likely, although no events have been announced yet.

In recent years, partypoker NJ has moved to smaller buy-in qualifiers and a wide range of buy-ins for tournament series. That seems to be paying off at least during the Coronavirus era.

“The event was a huge success, and to be honest I thought the guarantee was a little too aggressive but thrilled to see they surpassed it,” WPT executive tour director Matt Savage told USPoker. “It’s a testament to the outstanding satellite program that the team put in place. I envision our WPT partnership role increasing in the near future.”

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PokerStars Summer Series Crushes Guarantees

Players in New Jersey as well as Pennsylvania have also had plenty of action in the PokerStars Summer Series.

The PA series featured 38 events with an overall guarantee of $757,000. That total prize pool, however, swelled to almost $1.3 million.

Unique players equalled 3,342, producing a total of 19,492 entries. The $200 Main Event featured a $150,000 guarantee with a final prize pool of $242,358. That included 811 unique players and 492 re-entries.

“ComecomecomeTD” took the top spot for $30,146 after a three-way deal. Two players – “thpinal” and “AndrewYang2020” both won two events during the series. “Thpinal” was also a double event winner during PASCOOP as well.

In New Jersey, the Summer Series was made up of 40 events with a $500,000 guarantee. That total was also cracked with a total prize pool of $642,165.

That produced 1,315 unique entrants and 7,796 total entries. The $300 Main Event promised a $75,000 guarantee but ultimately paid out $97,440. That included 229 unique players and 119 re-entries.

Mummy’s Bitch” took home the title for $17,896. Two players won more than one event: “senor stinks” won two; and “laura33188” took down five events.

With live tournament poker still on hold, it’s a good bet operators will be cranking up even more series in the coming weeks.

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