Cancellations, closings, and postponements in the poker world have definitely been frustrating. But with online poker seeing a rebirth in the US and exploding around the world, there is plenty of card-playing news.
Big numbers in US online poker and abroad
The big online numbers have continued in the US and abroad since the Coronavirus pandemic. The 18-event WSOP.com Online Super Series in March featured 18 WSOP Circuit ring events with an overall guarantee of $1.24 million.
The series ended up awarding more than $3.9 million, more than three times the guarantee. WSOP.com quickly scheduled the Spring Online Championships for players in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware (through 888poker.com) for April 1 to May 3.
As PlayPennsylvania.com notes, PASCOOP was already easily topping expectations during the early events. The first event, a $100 Nightly Stars, brought in more than 1,100 total entries for a prize pool of $102,540. That was twice the $50,000 guarantee. Similar results continued with only two of the first 32 events not meeting the guarantee (both $5 Low tier tournaments).
Internationally, those big numbers have continued and the PokerStars Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) serves as an example. The series was held online after the live series was cancelled, and attracted more than 21,000 entries with 9,163 unique players. That led to a $1.5 million prize pool, over twice the original $605,000 guarantee.
The $215 Main Event attracted 2,572 entries for a $514,000 prize pool, more than doubling the $200,000 guarantee. The event attracted players from 96 countries.
An update on Michigan online poker
Online poker is now going strong in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Jersey. The next two states to come online should be Michigan and West Virginia.
The latter, with a small population, may be more of a struggle without shared liquidity. But Michigan has about 10 million people, about 1 million more than New Jersey, and offers some promise for the industry.
So where does Michigan stand as of now? The Michigan Gaming Control Board develops rules and regulations for online gaming in the state. All staff are currently working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, MGCB communications specialist Mary Kay Bean says staff members continue efforts to develop rules for online gaming.
“The agency cannot license casinos nor applicants that will support their online betting operations until the administrative rules are promulgated,” she said. “We will share applicants’ names after we’ve completed vetting them and are ready to seek licensing approval from the five-member board.
“We expect online sports and casino-style betting to become available early next year.”
Two likely possibilities in the state include PokerStars and partypoker. The Stars Group announced an online gaming partnership on Jan. 6 with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority.
The tribe operates three properties including the Odawa Casino Resort in northern Michigan. The addition of PokerStars would be welcome news to many Michigan players.
The MGM Grand Detroit is also the largest casino in the state. MGM partners with partypoker in New Jersey through its Borgata property for BorgataPoker.com and BetMGM skins. Partypoker would be a nice option in Michigan as well.
Partypoker events raise funds for dealers, UK charities
Poker players can be a charitable lot and partypoker is hoping players are ready to ante up for a good cause. The site will host the Grand Prix 4 Dealers from April 26 to May 3. As part of the event, 100% of registration fees benefit dealers who were booked to work at partypoker LIVE events that have been postponed or moved online.
The $55 event features starting flights running everyday for the first eight days. Qualifying players advance to the final day on May 3. Satellites are running fromas little as $2.20. Partypoker has also begun a JustGiving page to help in the cause and hopes to raise $100,000 in the effort. Dusk Til Dawn Poker Club owner Rob Yong will match the total if that target is met.
Partypoker also hosts the UK NHS (National Health Service) Charity Tournament on April 16. At least 50% of the prize pool will be matched by partypoker and donated to NHS Charities Together. The umbrella organization represents more than 140 NHS charities.
These groups contribute £1 million a day to support the work of the NHS. The tournament will be available to players based in the United Kingdom. The £50 buy-in tournament will be rake free and unlimited re-entries are allowed for 12 levels.
“We are delighted to play our part in helping the poker community support the NHS and contribute to the national effort in combating COVID-19,” partypoker managing director Tom Waters said.
“Poker players have a long and proud history of coming together to support charitable causes. At this moment, that support has never been more needed.”
A golden fundraising effort via Twitch
In other charity news, PlayUSA.com online poker streamer Brian “The Golden Blazer” Frenzel conducted a 24-hour stream on April 10-11. The goal was to raise funds for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund .
The 28-year-old from Champaign, Illinois, played on Global Poker. The site promised to add to any donation as well.
In the past, Frenzel engaged in some conversations on his stream about how many sit and go’s could be completed in 24 hours. Not many viewers didn’t believe he could reach 500. To accomplish the challenge, he also had to be profitable.
“I’m generally a very driven and motivated individual, so I set that as my goal,” he says. “I didn’t have a specific plan for when it would happen, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, I figured it would be one of the best times to try to accomplish it. It was very nice to be able to tie in a charitable component.”
How did his effort go? Overall, the 500 sit and go goal was only in doubt for the first seven hours or so. He played as many as 17 tables and broke even over the first 200 tables or so.
“Fortunately, I went on an absolute tear from 200 to 300 and basically locked up the challenge around 7 a.m. with 12 hours still to go,” Frenzel says. “From there I just comfortably played eight to 12 tables until I hit the magic 500 number around 3 p.m. with four hours to spare.”
In the end, he profited $343 and had donations of $936. Global Poker kicked in additional $1,000 for almost $2,300.
“I was blown away that I was able to donate over $2,200 to the center,” he says. “I never would’ve guessed we could raise that much.”
Thanks to #BlazerNation for the support during the 24-hour stream we were able to donate $1,279 to the @funds4d
COVID-19 Response fund with another 1k to be coming from @official_glp! Thanks to everyone who came out to sweat the #500SNGChallenge for this great cause 🙂 pic.twitter.com/SGsNUxunie
— 🟩Brian Frenzel (@TheGoldenBlazer) April 13, 2020
Isai Scheinberg pleads guilty, details of arrest emerge
More details of the saga surrounding PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg came to light in March. Scheinberg pleaded guilty to a federal online gambling charge in New York. As part of the legal details of his arrest emerged.
According to the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the 73-year-old traveled to Switzerland in June 2019. Swiss officials arrested Scheinberg and he faced extradition to the US. Months passed as he appealed the extradition order, but dropped that in January.
After his arrest in New York, the feds released Scheinberg on $1 million bail. He forfeited his passport as he awaits sentencing.
“Ten years ago, this office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a news release.
“As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate US law.”
Scheinberg faces up to five years in prison for directing an illegal gambling business in the US, according to the US Attorney’s Office. A sentencing date hasn’t been made public yet.