Jamie Gold and Bodog part company

In news that I'm sure is going to upset legions of Jamie Gold fans (almost hard to say that with a straight face), Bodog has ended their endorsement deal with the 2006 Main Event winner. According to Haley at PokerNews, an email from Susan Mainzer, the Senior Media Relations Manager at Bodog marketing company Riptown.com Media states that:

"...the decision is placed squarely within the context of Bodog's other market choices surrounding online poker in the United States, including Bodog's recent decision to terminate all non-Internet related advertising within the States.

Nothing has been mentioned about Josh Arieh, David Williams, or Evelyn Ng, who are also members of Team Bodog.

To view the entire article, follow the "read" link below.

Department of Justice Targeting British Banks?

I ran across this article at CardPlayer.com and found it highly disturbing. Though we don't often quote entire articles, I do believe this one warrants it:

Department of Justice Wants Information about Poker Site's IPOs

The United States Department of Justice has expanded its war against online gambling across the Atlantic Ocean to the marbled floors of some of the world's largest financial institutions that have offices in Britain.

The Times of London reported Sunday that subpoenas have been issued against at least 16 banks to hand over information concerning their dealings with several online poker sites. It seems the DoJ is targeting online sites that trade their stock publicly on the London Stock Exchange. Online poker companies that floated on the LSE include PartyGaming, 888 Holdings, and Empire Online.

The subpoenas were issued by the Southern District Court of New York, which is the same district that's bringing a case of money laundering against two former NETELLER founders.

According to the London Times, the subpoenas were issued only days after President Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into law in October, and were recently reissued.

A representative of the court would only say he could neither confirm or deny the reports.

A few of the banks targeted are HSBC, Dresdner Kleinwort, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. The subpoenas asked for communication documents such as emails and telephone records concerning the online poker sites.

The original article can be found via the link below.

Source: CardPlayer.com

The Beginning of the End

bodog girlsNeteller is closing up in the USA, and I have to agree with Bill Rini: this is the beginning of the end for online poker in the USA.

I'm in shock, to be honest. I don't see how online gaming hurts ANYONE or does ANYTHING that is bad (mmmkay) and I just don't understand the jihad my idiot government is waging against online poker, while horse racing, dog racing, and state lotteries are still A-OK for anyone.

I'm worried, because though I don't make a ton of money playing online poker, I do make a significant portion of my monthly income writing about it and even though I'm not as good or well-known as everyone else on Team PokerStars, I've been a proud member of the team, and I've worked hard to be an ambassador to normal, every day players who don't play in the hard core 40-80 games. Now that the US market is rapidly closing up, I have this looming sense of inevitability that I'll lose that, too, and eventually I'll lose the ability to enjoy my evenings playing some low-limit SNGs or cash games.

See, I really like poker, but I'm not rich, and while I'm entirely comfortable risking the price of a night out for dinner and a movie to play cards and maybe even leave with more than I started, I don't see myself driving to Commerce or the Bike, or making a special trip to Vegas to play in a B&M room for higher stakes, with the associated
costs of travel and the extra investment of my time.

There are a lot of reasons to loathe my idiot government now, and this is right up there in my top five: they're telling me what I can do in my own home, and they're negatively impacting my ability to support myself and my family . . . and for what, exactly? So Bill Frist can pander to a minority of ultra-conservative whackos, and then not even follow through on his presidential bid?

This sucks. It makes me angry, and it makes me depressed.

(BoDog Girls tearfully included to remember the good times.)

Party Gaming Acquires Empire Online

Apparently it is official, the Internet is full of the news that Party Gaming has purchased online gaming sites Empire Online as well as Intercontinental Online Gaming for approximately $66.3 million USD in shares.

The acquisition will include Empire Online's gaming sites Noble Poker and Club Dice Casino, as well as Intercontinental Online Gaming's sites which include Swiss Casino, Sunshine Bingo, Magic Box Casino, and Casino King. Personally I have never heard of most of them, but maybe that is just me - I stick pretty close to just the poker end of things.

For more information on the acquisition, I recommend heading over to Professional-Poker.com as they have one of the better write-ups on it that I have seen.

PokerStars Voted Best Online Poker Room

BLUFF Magazine's Readers Choice Awards were just announced, and I was ecstatic to read that PokerStars was voted the Best Online Poker Room.

Though I'm not the most impartial observer, since pretty much everyone at PokerStars is a friend of mine, and I play for Team PokerStars -- you know, come to think of it, I'm about as far from an impartial observer as you can get -- I'm not surprised at all. I've spent a lot of time with members of the support and marketing teams, and I am constantly impressed with their passion for poker, their respect for their players, and their desire to give everyone the best customer service and playing experience possible.

So congratulations to everyone at PokerStars, and thank you to the readers at BLUFF!

Harrahs Reportedly Sold

At LasVegasVegas, flipchippro says that the rumors are true, and Harrahs will be sold to Apollo Management Group for around 17 billion dollars.

This is a big deal for several reasons beyond the obvious poker-related ones, and those reasons are scattered up and down the Strip from Tropicana all the way down to Sahara in the form of nearly every hotel that has a porn slapper out front; Harrahs is one of the largest employers in Las Vegas, and any changes in ownership will impact a whole lot of people who work in the hotel and casino industry.

It's also a potentially big deal for poker players: when the deal goes through, Harrahs will go from a publicly-traded to a privately-owned company, which should have some significant effects on the WSOP, not the least of which will be online satellites for the Main Event in 2007. After all the .net stickers in the Main Event and the UIGEA trauma in 2006, it seemed like Harrahs was going to make things very hard for the online sites to run the Moneymaker-style $40 satellites, but if the casino (and therefore the WSOP) is privately owned, that could change.

Poker Prohibition Act Hurts More than Just Players

Frist, Kyl, Goodlatte, Leach and other supporters of the poker prohibition act either failed to consider or chose to ignore the fact that passage of the act would affect more than poker players and poker sites.

There is an enormous industry built around poker's popularity right now, including magazines, television programming, and video games. Contrary to the laughable claim by the World Poker Tour that they are solely to thank for the boom, it is undeniable that online poker has driven the market.

People watch WPT or WSOP or Poker Superstars or any one of the other poker shows on television, get fired up, and race to their computers to pull or snap off a huge bluff. Those same people, who are hundreds of miles from a B&M casino spend lots of money on books and magazines to improve their game, which they play exclusively online. Maybe they buy video games for their kids so the kids can also play poker, without risking any real money. Now that those people can't play online, the industry they help support will suffer and most likely die.

Companies will stop buying ads, and will no longer spread money around the magazines and television shows that, for the last few years, has cascaded into employment for film crews, printers, editors, writers, and too many other jobs to list.

Bill Frist and his allies have, with one cynical, blatant, base-pandering move, hurt the livelihood of thousands of people -- perhaps more. Too many poker bloggers to count will lose enormous amounts of income, now that affiliate and advertising opportunities will almost certainly go away. Hell, this could mean the end of CardSquad, and WWdN readers are going to be pissed if I have to put all of my poker writing back there.

Over the last few days, I've clipped the following posts from Bloglines, which inspired this post:
  • Up for Poker has a magnificent, must-read commentary on the latest form of prohibition, which puts this into an historical context.
  • BLUFF magazine has a lot to lose if poker's growth and popularity in the United States is slowed or crushered. They've issued a statement, as has the PPA (who really dropped the ball on this one. This is why we joined, guys. This is why we joined.) You can read them together at Poker Gazette.
  • BG makes a very good point about why it's hard for him to get worked up about this.
  • Scurvydog wrote a post about how this will affect a lot more than his ability to play in a Wheetie or a Mook, and it is a very good representation of what I've read all over the pokerblog-o-sphere.
Scurvydog's post is what finally pushed me to sit down and write this. By taking away yet another one of our freedoms, the party of smaller government once again steps on the necks of anyone who is not ultra-wealthy or a multi-national corporation. Haven't we had enough?

The bottom line is, everyone who is not in the base Frist was pandering to when he jammed this through on Friday sees it for what it is, but that doesn't change one cold, hard reality: this bill's passage affects far more than just players or site operators. Poker is a huge business in America, and the unintended consequences of this bill's passage won't be truly felt for months. But when they finally are felt, it will hurt a lot of people who don't even play that much (if any) online poker. A lot of good people will suddenly be looking for new ways to support themselves and their families. For a government established by and for "the people," this Congress sure seems to have lost its way.

Image of Mustard Man provided in futile effort to "lighten things up."

One Year After Katrina - Update on Gulf Coast Casinos

It was a year ago this week when Hurricane Katrina first made landfall, decimating large portions of the Gulf Coast area in her wake. Only a few short weeks later Hurricane Rita followed suit, further destroying homes, lives, and businesses. It is hard enough to recapture the feeling of terror I felt (way up here in Canada, even) sitting on my couch watching the news unfold on CNN, I can't even begin to imagine how much worse it would have been for anyone who was directly involved or affected by the storms.

Though we all were wrapped up in the news and reports about the entire situation, being a gaming site our focus was naturally on discussing the aftermath and effect Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had on the casino industry in Louisiana and Mississippi. Was that really a full year ago? Tempus Fugit, as they say. Thinking of all this again, I began to wonder what happened to all the casinos - we have had various reports here and there, but never a full listing. So, following is a recap of the tragedy, as well as some information on the casinos today.

When the Hurricanes first made landfall, displacing many gambling barges hundreds of yards from sea to shore, it was impossible at first to determine the amount of damage caused and what it would take to repair them. When the numbers started trickling in, it was beyond comprehension. As Derek wrote last August 31:

"Harrah's Entertainment has the highest exposure down south. They have nine casinos that are in the path of the hurricane. Analysts expect Harrah's to lose almost $2.5 million in revenue for each day its casinos remain closed. MGM Mirage has two casinos in Mississippi and they're expected to lose about $1.1 million in revenue each day. To make matters worse, the state of Mississippi is losing half a million dollars in tax revenue each day due to the casinos being shut down. Not only are the residents of these towns suffering but so is the economy."

Rather than sitting around waiting for the final damage to be assessed though, people and businesses sprung into action. Many of the online poker rooms held Hurricane relief tournaments including PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Party Poker. Phil Hellmuth hosted a tournament at Ultimate Bet, and our own Wil Wheaton organized relief tournaments at Stars. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised and donated to the Red Cross and other relief organizations, proving once again what an amazing community poker players can be.

So now, a year later, what has become of the many casinos affected by the storms?

Continue reading One Year After Katrina - Update on Gulf Coast Casinos

WPT Responds to Player's Antitrust Lawsuit

In the middle of the WSOP, several professional players filed a class action lawsuit against the World Poker Tour, alleging that the release the WPT requires players to sign is overly broad, and infringes on existing merchandising agreements many top professional players have. Without signing the release, the players are not allowed to play in WPT events, and the players allege that the WPT "and its partner casinos have unlawfully conspired to eliminate competition, and violated the intellectual property rights of these players," according to a story at PokerNews earlier this year.

The suit created quite a firestorm, with many at the World Poker Tour asserting that players wouldn't have merchandising opportunities if the WPT hadn't helped spread their popularity, a claim that is a bit specious when applied to players like Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, and Chris Moneymaker, who are widely-known because of their WSOP achievements.

Today, the World Poker Tour responded to the lawsuit, and once again Poker News is on the case with the following observation: "The most interesting portion of the 22 page answer filed yesterday by WPT counsel is the WPT actually attempts to turn the tables. One portion of the answer asserts that any of the players in this suit that are affiliated with, or participate in the business decision making process of an online poker room are actually putting the WPT at an unfair advantage. The answer asserts that by participating in profits reaped by accepting US bettors via their online poker site, these players put the WPT at a competitive disadvantage."

You can read John Caldwell's report and try to wrap your head around the WPT's response via the link below.

Please note that CardSquad.com will not be responsible for any damage resulting from heads exploding when readers attempt to understand the World Poker Tour's convoluted response.

Hard Rock Hotel Sold

Well at least this is one property that didn't get imploded. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada was sold earlier this month to Morgans Hotel Group. The hotel includes more than 640 rooms and features a 30,000 sq. ft. casino plus many amenities. It appears that Morgans plans to keep the Hard Rock name and expand the property - a fate that most Vegas hotels don't achieve once a sale has been made.

Last November, Vince Neil hosted his "Off the Strip" Texas Hold'em Tournament at the Hard Rock, raising over $150,000 for charity.

Time Magazine Honors Wynn

Stating "He Didn't Invent Las Vegas. He Just Makes It Work", 64-year old Steve Wynn has been named by Time Magazine's 'TIME 100 Issue' as one of the top professionals in their Builders and Titans category. Responsible for the 1970's expansion and renovation of the Golden Nugget, as well as the mastermind behind The Mirage and Bellagio, Wynn is often credited with bringing luxury and elegance back to Las Vegas and setting a new standard of excellence for real estate developments in the city.

In 2000, Wynn sold his company Mirage Resorts, Inc. to MGM Grand, Inc. and subsequently built Wynn Las Vegas on the former site of the Desert Inn. His next development will be in China with Wynn Macau, scheduled to open in September of this year.

(image: Time.com)

February 2006 is Best Month Ever for Online Poker

Uh-oh, someone forgot to tell all the poker players and onlne poker room managers that poker isn't popular any more.

"Poker had its biggest year ever in 2005 reaching total Buy-ins of over $376 Million. Poker continued on its record setting pace to start 2006, with back to back record months. February buy-in dollars reached $25.8 Million, the best February ever recorded. This record comes on the heels of the fifth biggest month all-time in poker as January 2006 buy-ins grew 36% over January 2005 with buy-ins of over $38 Million."

So . . . I guess poker hasn't jumped the shark after all.

Bill Rini added some of his own thoughts on the "poker is dead" meme: "Basically, some chucklehead named Ryan Berger, who has the absurd title of Creative Director of Buzz, is saying that poker is doomed because it’s too popular. Because it’s gone mainstream, it’s lost its appeal. Uh, right, dude. Couldn’t the author get a quote from the Director of Cool? Mr. Berger, 1998 called and it wants its bullshit job title back. We’re supposed to listen to a guy who doesn’t know that idiotic job titles went out of fashion back before the turn of the century for advice on what’s hot and what’s not?"

Hayley also says, "Were I to write a poker piece that begged any pretense of seriousness, the last thing I would do would be to use as my leading statistic an overview of the decline in viewership of "Celebrity Poker Showdown" as viable evidence of poker's waning popularity. Yes, and because "Full House" ran for eight seasons and 192 episodes, it's one of the most seminal examples of American comedy."

I'm sure Peter Luria will be writing a follow-up article now, right?

. . .

Is there an emoticon for chirping crickets?

(via BG's Pulse of Poker at LasVegasVegas.com)

Poker and the Cola Wars

Ahhhhh Cola Wars. I can't think of any other two products in history that have been the cause of so much favoritism, brand-loyalty, or fodder for debate as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

When I was little, we had the choice of Having a Pepsi Day or Buying the World a Coke. Then we watched with wide eyes as a little child consoled Mean Joe Greene with a bottle of Coca-Cola, while the Pepsi Generation was off somewhere Catching That Pepsi Spirit.

While Coke spent decades inducing emotions in their customers, celebrities have always played an integral role in the marketing campaign of Pepsi. It wasn't always without incident, however. Madonna's campaign was pulled for being too controversial and Michael's hair caught on fire ending his Pepsi-pitch, but the celebrities continued to line up - Shaquille O'Neal, Britney Spears, Cindy Crawford, Faith Hill, Michael J. Fox, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, and many, many others have hawked the product at one time or another.

Yeah I know, this blog is about poker. I'm getting there...wait for it.

We all knew it was only a matter of time before one of the Soda Giants picked up on poker's popularity and got their grubby little hands in the mix. Pepsi didn't disappoint - well, Diet Pepsi, actually. Scotty Nguyen, Daniel Negreanu, and Phil Hellmuth are apparently going to play some Hold'em against The Can (yes, against a can of Diet Pepsi) and you just gotta know that beat beats will ensue. Adding a little flavor to the mix will be actor Jay Mohr, acting as The Can's agent.

Personally I can't wait to see Phil blow up in true Hellmuthian fashion when he loses to a piece of aluminum. As we all know, if it weren't for luck, he would win them all.

It's just a can; Phil. It's just a can.

Topless Poker Update

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, really, so you better brace yourselves for this one guys. If you happen to be standing up at your computer desk you should really sit down, and absolutely put down the beverage in your hand. 

They have pulled the plug on Sin Nightclub's plans to run weekly topless poker tournaments.

Wil wrote about Sin's plans to run these freeroll No Limit Hold'em tournaments - where the 'dealers' (dancers dressed as dealers, basically) would remove articles of clothing as the blinds went up, and topless private dancers would entertain throughout the evening.

Apparently, the Nevada Gaming Commission has categorized this as a form of illegal gambling. In other words - the casinos didn't like this much and in the end, we all know their money talks.

Original Source: Pokerati

Ultimate Sports Resort to Open in Vegas

A new project is planned for Las Vegas, but this won't be on the strip. The $4 billion complex is slated to be built near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and will feature over 5,500 rooms (of which 4,000 are planned to be under $59 a night) , a 150,000 square-foot casino (with smoking and non-smoking areas), ten sports arenas, nightlife, and tons of convention space.

The arenas will include a swim and dive center, a driving range, a bowling alley, shooting range, an ice rink, and other multi-purpose arenas.

I couldn't find any information that would confirm if there was a poker room planned - would be a shame if not though, with the clientele it would attract, it seems like the ideal place for some 'fishing'.

Picture: Rendering of the complex from the Ultimate Sports Entertainment website

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