Five Thoughts: WSOP.com's Launch, Matusow's Rant on Poker Night in America, and More

Posted 5 days 10 hours ago by Rich Ryan

On Thursday, WSOP.com officially opened its virtual doors to customers in the state of Nevada. According to PokerScout.com, the site’s 24 hour peak since the launch was 126 players, which was 153 players short of their in-state rival Ultimate Poker, and the seven-day average (55) was also less than that of Ultimate Poker (155).

On Sunday, during WSOP.com’s first major tournament (a $215 buy-in, $15,000 guarantee) there were 152 cash game players compared to Ultimate Poker’s 268. There was a $1,000 overlay in the event, and the winner, "NICKKKK" took home $4,350 after outlasting a field of 70 players.

On last week’s PokerNews Podcast, World Series of Poker Executive Director Ty Stewart foreshadowed an overlay like this when asked about the pending WSOPE satellites. He excitedly talked about the site generating “action,” and these kinds of overlays will certainly attract players who are otherwise unwilling to fork up the buy-in. Stewart, and the rest of the team at Caesars, are clearly confident that this powerful brand will be able to make up for any small loss they incur now as online gaming becomes more prevalent throughout the United States.

WSOP.com users are of course playing on an 888 Poker client, and the folks at 888 Holdings Ltd. were in the news again on Monday. The All American Poker Network (AAPN), the joint venture between Avenue Capital Group and 888, announced that they have entered a partnership agreement with Wynn Interactive, LLC for the development and deployment of Wynn’s online offering in New Jersey, Nevada, and additional states, as they become regulated.

In the press release, 888 CEO Brian Mattingly discussed the importance of player liquidity, which leads us to thought numero uno.

1. WSOP.com, 888, and the U.S. Player Pool

On the WSOP.com conference call, Caesars CEO Mitch Garber focused on interstate liquidity and trying to build player pools by linking states with Nevada, rather than build with other companies or sites. Garber didn’t dismiss the idea altogether, calling it a “business decision” they will have to make, but with a brand as powerful as the WSOP it’s easy to see why they want to grow their own player pool internally.

While 888 may struggle and ultimately fail to convince Caesars to join a network like their AAPN, Mattingly is still looking to capitalize on intrastate liquidity in Nevada. The news of AAPN’s joint venture with Wynn is a big step in that direction, and if 888 can lure more land-based casinos to operate as a skin under a larger network, then they could eventually have a double stranglehold on the U.S. player pool — one hand on WSOP.com, the other on the AAPN.

After the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was passed in 2006, 888, like PartyPoker, left the market.

“It has taken a long time to get ourselves ready for this,” Mattingly told PokerNews in an interview prior to the WSOP.com launch. “It’s a great feeling when you pull the whole thing together and you’re now in a situation of launching.”

It appears as if 888’s careful planning is starting to pay off, and us citizens of the U.S. understand that patience is mandatory with regards to online poker. The last 893 days since Black Friday have felt like a decade. Maybe more.

Another big development is on the horizon for online gaming in the U.S. — land-based casinos in New Jersey are on track to meet a state Division of Gaming Enforcement deadline of Nov. 26. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that casinos submitted additional information that was requested for Friday’s deadline, but could not name the casinos nor give an exact number of how many met the deadline.

Of course, the lurking giant in the bushes is PokerStars. Since partnering with Resorts Club Casino in Atlantic City this July, Stars has been very quiet, but I think it’s fair to assume that Resorts is among the properties meeting the various deadlines in the Garden State.

Ultimate Poker remains in the lead for now, but 888 and WSOP.com are climbing quickly and Stars is preparing to break through. As a consumer, it will be fun to watch these businesses do battle, especially once New Jersey finally launches.

2. The Mouth Goes Off

Poker Night in America released a video on Thursday, and it features a few unfortunate hands with Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. In the first, Matusow gets stacked with queens against Tom Schneider’s aces, and in the second, he is slowrolled by Shaun Deeb, who flopped quads.

Caution is advised before watching. The Deeb’s slowroll is painful yet hilarious, while Matusow uses some very adult language.

That clip is eight minutes and 22 seconds long, and I didn’t take my eyes off it. Not once. The last time I was this engrossed with a televised poker clip, Ernest Wiggins and Phil Hellmuth played one of the most insane hands in the history of poker.

Although Matusow’s explosion is the peak of the video, all of the players at the table are contributing to the entertainment value. The only quiet player is Matt Glantz, and he contributes to one of the most entertaining moments of the clip. When Matusow moves all in, he is looking down at his chips and the felt, and Deeb looks over at Glantz to tell him that a slowroll is coming. It’s brilliant.

After the hand, there is a little bit of awkward silence as Matusow threatens to quit, but even that is masked by Greg Mueller, who loudly pronounces how obvious the slowroll was. Matusow proceeds to go off, threatening to punch Deeb or anyone else in the “f***in’ face” if they slowroll him, which is terrific television. The PNIA producers must have been high-fiving one another in the truck while this was happening.

This clip gives me great hope for the show, and although Matusow was genuinely upset, he may have been “taking one for the team.” This clip is great for a potential sizzle roll that PNIA can pitch to networks, showing that, with the right lineup, televised poker can be funny and entertaining.

I’ll be on the lookout for any more clips from the show, and hopefully PNIA will announce a second stop soon. On their website, they’re currently slated to travel to “Yourtown, USA” on Nov. 4.

3. Zinno Wins WPT Borgata Open; Selbst Runner-Up

On Friday, Anthony Zinno took down the World Poker Tour Borgata Open, earning $825,099. Zinno has earned over $1 million in 2013, and now has over $1.3 million in career tournament earnings. The Rhode Island native defeated Vanessa Selbst heads up, and the Team PokerStars Pro earned $492,569 for her efforts. It was Selbst’s third big cash of the year — she won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller, banking $1,424,420, and finished fourth in the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final €25,000 High Roller, earning $380,656.

Selbst has cashed for over $2.3 million in 2013, and nearly $7.9 million in her career.

WPT Borgata Poker Open Final Table Results

Place Player Prize
1st Anthony Zinno $825,099
2nd Vanessa Selbst $492,569
3rd Cong Pham $301,225
4th Jeremy Kottler $251,968
5th David Randall $208,394
6th Eric Fields $168,610

David Randall also reached the final table, busting in fifth place for $208,394. Randall, who has appeared on the Strategy With Kristy Podcast several times, now has over $600,000 in career tournament earnings. Randall participated in one of the most exciting final tables in WSOP history in 2010, coming in third in Event #11, where Tom “durrrr” Dwan finished runner-up to Simon Watt and nearly bankrupted the entire high-stakes poker community.

Randall was eliminated by Jeremy Kottler after getting all his chips in the middle with pocket jacks against the {A-}{9-} of Kottler. Kottler flopped an ace, and Randall hit the rail.

At the start of heads-up play between Selbst and Zinno, Selbst had a slight lead. Zinno grabbed the lead when both players flopped top pair and his kicker held, and the tournament was over when his {A-}{6-} held up against Selbst’s {K-}{10-}.

This was an exciting event with a tough final table, and the WPT will return to Borgata in May for their $25,000 buy-in World Championship Event. It will be the first time that the event will not take place at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

4. European Union Rules Against Italy

In a preliminary ruling on Monday, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that it is against the law for EU member states to restrict national gambling markets in order to favor the economic of incumbents over operators licensed in other member states. The ruling came in the case of Biasci et al against Italy, and it confirms the EU's principles of freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services in terms of cross-border gambling.

In 2006, Italy blocked roughly 684 gaming sites registered in Malta from Italian Internet. The government then blocked all foreign gaming sites from the UK to Malta, claiming they were protecting Italian gamers from fraud. Critics disagree, claiming that the country was simply protecting its €2 billion gambling monopoly.

It is unsure what immediate impact this ruling will have — EU member states still require a license to operate gaming sites, and a site like PokerStars.it still excludes non-Italians — and this is only a preliminary ruling. Italy will certainly appeal, and even if their appeal is fruitless, it will still take time. Federal changes take time, and international political unions take even longer.

In fact, I think this decision has a larger impact on Spain’s player pool more that it does on the European Union pool based out of Malta. Spain is open to merging their pool with other countries, and Italy could be tempted to tag along, especially after this ruling. France seems to be very content doing their own thing within their own borders.

The big issue with online gaming in the Euro Zone is taxation. National governments aren’t as concerned with growing player pools as they are with protecting their domestic tax revenue. This is understandable, especially for a country like Italy that has battled economic issues for the past century.

This preliminary ruling could eventually impact international online poker, but for now, Italian sites will continue to operate on their own.

5. IveyPoker Launches Mobile App

Late on Monday, Ivey Poker announced the launch of a mobile application. In July, the company released a beta version of the game on Facebook, and according to Ivey Poker, the game has attracted over 10,000 users. Now, those users can access the game, training videos, and more on their mobile devices.

With the Ultimate Poker doing everything it can to grow, WSOP.com launching last week, and New Jersey’s pending launch at either the end of 2013 or the start of 2014, this news is tremendously underwhelming. Rather than pimp a free-to-play app, Ivey Poker should be more interested in pursuing real-money gaming in Nevada and/or promoting their training videos. Very few Americans are going to get excited about grinding poker for play money. Like I said earlier, the last 893 days haven’t passed quickly.

Ivey has a great stable of pros, and if they can’t offer real-money gaming yet, they should focus on pumping out videos. Lots of videos. Even if they’re short or very basic, feeding the community with videos is a better way of promoting the product then making play money gaming more accessible. I understand that there are baby steps that need to be taken, and mobile gaming is the future, but this is ultimately a lateral move for Ivey Poker.

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