Ultimate Poker’s Software Patch: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Since staking its claim as the first provider to offer online poker in Nevada’s newly-minted regulated market, Ultimate Poker has taken its fair share of slack. For those accustomed to playing on pre-Black Friday sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, UP’s initial roll-out came across as shoddy and second rate, lacking many of the baseline features players from the states had come to expect. In turn, as more established operators began filtering their way into the states, Ultimate’s traffic would “ultimately” suffer. And now, more than one year after online poker went live in the Silver State, Ultimate’s attempt at a poker client is still lacking in several key areas. A recent software patch addresses a few of its more glaring issues, while creating a new (albeit temporary) one of its own. But is the patch enough to reignite UP rivalry with Nevada front-runner WSOP.com? Ultimate Poker patch addresses several key deficiencies The most notable (and least visible) change comes in the way of more accurate location verification. As evidenced on its dedicated thread on Two Plus Two, UP’s faithful have experienced their fair share of disconnects. And while Director of Player Operations Terrence Chan and his “Aces” have taken a very personalized, hands-on approach to customer care, in many cases there was simply not much they could do beyond ensuring that players were taking the necessary steps to be geolocated. Those who followed all the rules and still couldn’t connect were, as they say, SOL. It’s unlikely that a single patch will provide a blanket solution to the geolocation issues that plague UP – and all state regulated sites for that matter – but at least it offers the prospect of hope. And that’s something the regulated market sorely needs. Also introduced via the software patch are wait lists. A feature that has existed on most credible sites since Windows XP was all the rage, wait lists are a much-needed change that could facilitate the growth of UP’s dwindling cash-game traffic. Side note: Of the recent changes to UP’s Nevada client, wait lists are the only major feature that have yet to go live in New Jersey. Auto top-up/reload was also added. As implied by the name, this feature will allow grinders to start each hand at a minimum preordained threshold, regardless of whether they fall below it or not during the previous hand. Furthermore, the lobby now boasts an Omaha tab. Unfortunately, players still must use workarounds to readily find PLO/O8 SNGs, as the Omaha tab only lists cash-games. Lastly, the software allows players the option to save their names and passwords. With the new patch comes a celebratory $100 reload match bonus. The offer is available until May 9th, so act quickly. The full patch notes can be found here. Geolocation error message resolved As is the case with most software updates, UP’s patch did not go off without a snag. Players who logged in would be unceremoniously treated to a banner informing them that their location could not be verified – even though it likely was. Chan suggested to players encountering this error to “try sitting at a table.” But for those who didn’t bother to read the patch notes, they would have little way of knowing that the error was in fact a small error, and not a glaring geolocation disaster. Luckily, the issue has since been resolved. Players that are still having trouble are encouraged to contact UP via live chat. Is Ulitmate’s patch too little, too late? The fact that it’s taken over one year for Ultimate Poker to introduce what the majority of the poker community considers to be standard features is a bit disjointing. Chan admits himself that there is still a ton of work to be done including: “time bank, synch break, notes, showing rebuys in the the lobby, deal speed, turn off animations/avatars, hand history replayer” etc. That wouldn’t be so bad if sites like WSOP.com were not already sporting many, if not all, of these features since launch. Which begs the question, “Why did Ultimate release a half-baked poker product in the first place?” My guess was so it could reap the rewards of being first in the market – a strategy that may have paid dividends last April, but is suffocating the team now. However, should Ultimate’s software at least get on par with WSOP’s by late-summer, it will position itself nicely for the fall season. By then, the current hype associated with the most recognized four letters in poker will have died down (outside of a few days in mid-autumn). With improved software and the same exemplary levels of customer care that Chan and his team have provided since day one, Ultimate might make another run for Nevada’s top spot. But Ultimate, do hurry up. Poker players are not always the patient type.

Looking Back at One Year of Nevada Online Poker

On Wednesday Ultimate Poker celebrated its First Anniversary. UP became the first licensed online poker room in the United States on April 30, 2013 and has now reached the historic one-year mark. While it seems like only yesterday the 2+2 forum exploded with the news that Ultimate Poker had gone live for real money play, it has in fact been a full year since online poker arrived in the United States (on a limited basis anyway) and it’s been quite the year, filled with ups and downs for the nascent industry. Here is a look at what I consider to be the most important things online poker players and the online poker industry have learned over the past 12 months. Regulated poker rooms are not just unregulated rooms repackaged I think a lot of people expected licensed online poker sites to simply pick up where the unlicensed sites left off, and this simply was not the case. You can see why people were of this mind, after all, companies like 888 and Party Poker are well known commodities in the iGaming world and have been providing a solid product for years. But a funny thing happened on the way to the NGCB for their licenses; regulators imposed some strict thresholds that needed to be crossed (some for the first time ever) including all manner of testing. Add to this the geolocation, payment processing and registration hurdles that needed to be cleared and what we got looked more like the birth of online poker back in the late 1990’s and less like the crisp clean graphics and seamless game play we had grown accustomed to by 2011. Basically, it’s going to take some time for the sites to iron everything out, but eventually I feel we will be back to complaining about insignificant things like tournament structures, and not about mid-game disconnects, by the time online poker turns 2 in the US. Poker players follow the money As much as the poker community has whined and cried for legal online poker over the years a huge swathe of players still frequent black market sites now that they have it. I understand they think they are getting better value and the illegal sites have more and better games, but it’s just delaying the time it takes for the legal rooms to overtake them – so the poker community is putting short-term gains in front of long-term gains. Don’t launch if you’re not ready Online poker is a hyper-competitive market and what we’ve seen so far is that inferior products are getting absolutely stiff-armed by players. In Nevada, Ultimate Poker, despite a six-month head start, a lot of advertising, and an excellent team and staff has watched WSOP.com slowly suffocate them – to use a UFC analogy, they are stuck in a triangle choke and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they either do something big to get out of it or have to tap out. The situation is even worse in New Jersey where UP didn’t get a head start and had to compete right out of the chute. In New Jersey the company has been unable to generate any type of loyal customer base and is turning into a nonfactor in the market. If Ultimate Poker is stuck in a triangle choke than South Point’s Real Gaming in Nevada and Betfair’s poker product in New Jersey have had their arm snapped and been asphyxiated, as neither site is even registering on the online poker radar. To me the message seems crystal clear: Don’t launch your product unless you’re ready, as you’ll probably do irreparable harm. The future is yet to be determined We’re just now getting a grasp on the amount of money sites are spending marketing (which equates to millions of dollars being pumped into the local economies) and the number of real jobs being created by the online poker industry both in-house and in ancillary industries like yours truly. What this tells me is the entire industry is still surrounded by an opaque cloud that is preventing even the best prognosticators from understanding precisely what will happen. On top of this we are also facing down a potential federal ban (unlikely) and more and more states exploring iGaming expansion. We have the pending interstate agreement between Delaware and Nevada set to launch this summer, with New Jersey now being floated as a potential partner as well. So when someone tells you, “xyz is going to happen and anyone who doesn’t think so is daft” just remember that nobody has been able to predict this burgeoning industry so far. Looking ahead to Year 2 Think of the US online poker industry like an episode of Restaurant Impossible. The place was a dump, one employee was stealing, and the owner was too stubborn to listen to anyone. The place needed to be gutted and that’s exactly what licensed online poker has done. Regulated online poker is our Chef Robert Irvine. Year 1 (like Day 1 of Restaurant Impossible) was certainly a struggle, but it feels like the heavy lifting is now done. The place has been cleaned and remodeled, the owner has seen the light, and the thieving employee is gone. All that’s left is to clean it up a bit and reopen the doors. Sure, there will still be hiccups as people are retrained, and the owner may revert back to old habits every now and then, but the foundation is in place to build on.

Nevada Traffic Report: Revenues Up, Volume Slightly Down

When analyzing Nevada’s progress in the regulated iPoker arena throughout April, the term “mixed bag,” comes decidedly to mind. Cash-game volume dipped on the state’s two flagship sites – WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker – marking the third straight month traffic is down. Yet, somehow, someway, revenues for the month of March were slightly up. There has to be a logical explanation for all this, right? We seek the answer to this confounding question in this iteration of Nevada Traffic Report. Nevada iPoker: By the numbers Last time we checked, Nevada’s cash-game volume was experiencing some rather violent swings, but ultimately trending downward. We noticed a different trend in the latter part of April; one tending towards market stability. Traffic was still down slightly overall, but varied very little from day-to-day. Whether or not this is a sign of what we can expect from the market in May is yet to be determined, but I’m inclined to think so. Cash-game 7-day averages across all Nevada-regulated sites as follows (April 29th):
WSOP: 91
Ultimate Poker: 60
Real Gaming: 0 Well, at least Real Gaming’s traffic tally held steady this week. On a more serious note, Ultimate Poker was the biggest loser this week, forgoing 7.7 percent of its cash-game traffic. WSOP performed more admirably, but still lost a handful of players, down 3.2 percent from last we checked. All told, the market lost approximately 5 percent of its cash-game mojo. Comparatively, the global market continued its seasonal depression, down 2.1 percent or so since April 14th. Thanks to PokerFuse Pro and PokerScout for providing the data that makes these reports possible. Strangely, Nevada boosts revenue gains in March Month-over-month online poker revenues in Nevada were up approximately $102,000 to $926,000 – a quite significant 12.4 percent gain. Yet, if we look solely at cash-game traffic over February and March, we notice that there is little correlation between revenue and cash volume in the Silver State:
February median cash-game traffic: 191
March median cash-game traffic: 189
February average cash-game traffic: 190
March average cash-game traffic: 178 As clearly illustrated, both median and average cash-game volume dropped in March. The aforementioned numbers also uncover how poorly Nevada’s iPoker industry performed in late-March as opposed to the beginning of the month. So why were revenues up? First off, looking at daily revenue averages (as opposed to monthly), the difference between February and March becomes less pronounced.
February daily revenue avg: $29, 430
March daily revenue avg: $29,870 Is it then possible that the increase in revenue is accounted for solely on the merits of Nevada’s MTT and SNG volume? While SNG traffic is not easily measurable, MTT turnouts, especially for major events, are. Comparing February turnouts to March, the following trends were revealed:
There have been slight increases in Major tournament traffic from the period of February 17th to March 24th.
The gains are more pronounced on Ultimate Poker then they are on WSOP. The data at least infers that rising tournament volume is a key contributor to Nevada’s month-over-month revenue gains. On a side, it appears that Ultimate Poker is becoming a tournament-only site in Nevada and in particular, ultra-competitive New Jersey – where cash-game traffic has virtually disappeared. Turnouts for Sunday Majors on the rise After a brief lull, tournament volume for Nevada’s biggest weekly online events exhibited renewed gusto. WSOP’s 15k Guarantee drew 94 runners, up one over two weeks prior, in smashing its guarantee by approximately $3,800. Ultimate Poker’s $10,000 Sunday Guarantee also performed admirably, enticing 106 players to pony up the $91 + $9 for a shot at glory. The 16 player increase still wasn’t enough to cover the guarantee however, as the $10k came up a mere $354 short. Maybe next week. WSOP’s Main Event qualifier also boasted increases, but still featured a staggering $2,600 overlay. Note to NV grinders – there is tremendous value in playing this tournament. Predicting April’s revenue – and beyond Given the substantial cash-game traffic loss that occurred in April, I wouldn’t expect Nevada’s iPoker revenue figures to be higher in April than they were in March. Larger tournament turnouts may offset the discrepancy somewhat, but I suspect April’s daily averages to be fall far short of February/March figures. However, as hype for the World Series of Poker reaches a fever pitch, traffic may start to pick up again shortly. Thousands of poker players swarm the Rio in a few weeks, some inevitably looking for something to do during their downtime. Even if just a paltry percentage of these poker tourists play online, it would do wonders for Nevada’s fledgling cash-game traffic. And having the state’s most popular online poker site brandish the WSOP moniker certainly won’t hurt. Should Nevada’ compact with Delaware go into effect sooner as opposed to later, the market may continue to flourish well into the fall. As as added benefit, cash-game traffic tends to rise organically once the weather cools. In short: Barring catastrophe, expect April to be the worst month of 2014 for Nevada’s iPoker market, followed by slight to moderate gains throughout. And if I’m wrong (it does happen), well, I’ll be sure to later deny all of the aforementioned predictions.

Nevada Online Poker Review: Revenue Up, Adelson Down

California and New Jersey may get the bulk of the attention, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that Nevada was the first market in the US with online poker, and offers us the best glimpse of the industry’s capabilities thanks to its near-year-long track record; capabilities that seem very positive when you consider in its 11th month of operation Nevada online poker revenue grew by 12% from February to March. In this week’s installment of the Nevada Online Poker Review we’ll take a look at the recently revealed revenue numbers from March and what they might mean, as well as Sheldon Adelson’s picking up a few new opponents in the fight over online gambling law in the US. So keep reading for the specifics on these stories and a whole lot more below. Nevada’s March revenue numbers The doldrums generally associated with the month of March did not make an appearance in Las Vegas (March in Las Vegas is actually a terrific time to visit the city weather-wise by the way) as casino revenue was up an impressive 7.6% statewide and nearly 11% on the Las Vegas Strip. Another sector that saw a nice increase was online poker, which was up over 12% on February, and even accounting for the shortened month, daily win also grew month-over-month. The gains are good news for Nevada, but also for online poker in general, as the industry has started to stagnate in recent months. The fact that Nevada’s online poker market was able to experience a 12% growth after nearly a year demonstrates that these early online markets are far from mature, even if traffic numbers have stagnated. Nevada is still hoping for a small shot in the arm when their partnership with Delaware kicks in (ostensibly in a few months) and perhaps an even bigger and more significant partnership with New Jersey is in the cards for down the road. Adelson besieged by conservative groups Sheldon Adelson is seen by many as a bastion of conservative principles but as he is learning his views on online gambling (Adelson is seeking a federal ban on all online gambling) do not necessarily jive with the state’s rights and personal freedoms arms of the party. Adelson was rebuked this week by a coalition of 10 conservative / libertarian groups including Freedom Works and CIE, who sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to the legislation introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), legislation which bears the not-so-subtle fingerprints of Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling group. One person who undersigned the bill was Michelle Minton. Minton is a longtime proponent of legalizing online gambling and followed up the letter sent to Congress with her own editorial on the topic which appeared on OpenMarket.org. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed A slight uptick in attendance this week as 94 players registered for the $15K guaranteed at WSOP.com. As always the tournament had little trouble eclipsing its guarantee, with the final tally hitting $18,800. Interestingly, this was the first week in quite some time that attendance numbers in the big Sunday tournaments increased at both Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
CindrllaMan $5,358.00
RichardParker $3,102.00
SirJWAB $1,880.00
whiteyslacks $1,504.00
allprowi $1,297.20
prettygaga $1,109.20
mlawson $921.20
imawhale $639.20
imr2d2 $507.60 WSOP Main Event Satellite Players in this past weekend’s WSOP Main Event satellite received yet another significant overlay as just 37 players registered for the $215 buy-in tournament, producing an overlay of $2,600. Thus far only one installment of this tournament has met its guarantee.
zOMGBobChow – Seat to the 2014 WSOP Main Event The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker After struggling to break the 100 player mark for several weeks Ultimate Poker managed a field of 107 players, just short of their $10,000 guarantee, as the tournament offered up a $263 overlay. I’m not sure who “Butters” is in Nevada, but this player is an absolute beast, and probably the most regular final table participant in the state’s online poker market. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
INtheMOMENT $2,900
Butters $2,000
Rick2007 $1,500
freephildirt $1,000
Slickest $800
lvkid7 $600
HumorMe $500
bansman $400
VegasPlayer $300 Traffic trends in Nevada Nevada’s online poker traffic numbers seemed to have settled into a new holding pattern with an average of 150 cash game players between WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker according to www.pokerscout.com‘s data. As noted above, tournament traffic seems to have picked up a bit, and with the influx of players during the World Series of Poker and the upcoming pooling of Nevada and Delaware players tournament traffic and cash gamed traffic should see a nice bump. The word on the street Regulated vs. Unregulated Have you ever wondered what it is that is drawing online poker players to illegal, offshore sites? Well, John Mehaffey of USPoker.com can answer that question. The veteran poker journalist tackled that question in his latest column and it’s a must read for all online poker providers, explaining where they are making missteps and what they can do to help attract these reluctant players. My solution is simple: Copycat Tactics Haven’t Paid Off for US Poker Rooms

Predictions for Year Two of Nevada’s Regulated Poker Industry

It’s been a tumultuous year for Nevada’s infant regulated poker industry, marked by precipitous highs, volatile trends and uncertainty. Since peaking just weeks before online poker went live in New Jersey last November, Nevada’s iGaming scene has suffered the ill-effects of a five month long slump; one which saw cash-game volume plummet to its lowest levels since before WSOP.com became the state’s second regulated poker site. To make matters worse, as of the time of this writing, the downtrend continues. Yet, proponents of regulated poker remain optimistic that Nevada’s gaming operators will right the ship, or at least stabilize it before it sinks. And while no one can predict with full confidence where Nevada will stand after another year in the regulated market, we can certainly make assumptions regarding its future. Let’s do just that. In the near-term, WSOP.com will become the only heavily trafficked poker site in Nevada Since overtaking Ultimate Poker as the market leader in early November, WSOP.com has never looked back. WSOP currently controls 60 percent of the market’s cash-game traffic and boasts larger tournament turnout numbers than its sole competitor. Going further, WSOP.com has also established itself as the second largest network, and arguably the most heavily trafficked single site, in New Jersey. That bodes well for WSOP should New Jersey eventually enter into a compact with the Silver State. Moving into the realms of pure speculation now: Should Pennsylvania legalize online poker, it’s likely that WSOP.com will represent Harrah’s Philadelphia. Suddenly, the possibility of WSOP sharing liquidity across three states becomes a distinct possibility. Already, WSOP’s vastly superior poker software and identifiable brand has elevated it beyond Ultimate Poker. Factor in the merits of an increased player pool, and it inevitably becomes a far more attractive option to Nevada grinders. 888 may pose a threat to the very site it services That being said, there is one potential complication. 888 Holdings, which provides the poker platform for WSOP.com in New Jersey and Nevada, operates its own branded site on a separate network – the New Jersey only All American Poker Network. The company also hosts Delaware’s three online poker rooms, all of which fall under the 888 brand. Confused yet? Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point. Due to the distinction between 888 and WSOP.com, it is presumed that 888 will be tasked with launching its own branded poker room in Nevada before it can share player liquidity with Delaware. As a result, WSOP.com would be left out of the U.S. regulated poker’s first interstate compact. Furthermore, with an established presence in Nevada 888 would be in the same enviable position as WSOP.com regarding the possibility of a shared liquidity compact with New Jersey. And thus, the same competition that currently exists among the two in the Garden State would extend into the Silver State. It is possible however, that 888 and WSOP.com will consolidate into one network. From a business perspective this probably makes the most sense. Nevada will enter into a shared liquidity agreement with New Jersey by year’s end In February, a deal was signed that effectively allows Delaware and Nevada to share online poker liquidity. Expected to go into effect sometime in late-2014, the deal marks an unprecedented victory for regulated online poker. As an additional caveat, the deal also lays the framework for other states to join in. At the present time, the only other state boasting a regulated iPoker scene is New Jersey. However, up until recently New Jersey officials have reneged from commenting on the likelihood of the Garden State entering the mix. It was largely believed that New Jersey’s substantial population, relative to the combined populace of Delaware and Nevada, was the driving factor behind NJ’s apathy. But with cash-game numbers spiraling downward in New Jersey, it appears that the state’s reps are beginning to have a change of heart, made evident by a recent statement by DGE consultant Mario Galea to CalvinAyre.com. During the interview, Galea specified that New Jersey’s systems were poised to “share data among states,” emphasizing that the groundwork for an interstate compact has been established in NJ. He also proclaimed that NJ will likely enter into a multiple state compact by the end of 2014. While it’s exceedingly unlikely that New Jersey players will be anteing up against Silver Staters in 2014, New Jersey’s only real shot of keeping up with California’s soon-to-be regulated iPoker market is to make a move – and fast. A compact with Nevada and Delaware seems like a logical first step. Nevada will buck the seasonal trend Generally speaking, online poker volume dips throughout the spring, reaching its low point around June, before steadily climbing throughout the summer and fall months. However, there are several indicators that Nevada will not suffer the same seasonal fate as its industry counterparts. First and foremost, online poker thrived in Nevada last June. However, this could easily be attributed to the unpredictable nature of infant markets. Still, cash-game traffic in Nevada did not enjoy the same heights reached late last June until early October, when there was an additional online poker room in operation. It’s possible that this same pattern repeats itself in 2014. Secondly, the presence of the world’s largest tournament series – the WSOP – will significantly bolster the number of poker players in town, some of whom will be itching to play online during their downtime. Keep in mind that the primary reason why online poker falters in the spring is due to the warmer weather. But summers in Nevada are notoriously oppressive, so much so, that on some days players will rather remain indoors than combat the heat. And finally, tourism in general is higher in Nevada during the summer months. While I can’t necessarily see Joe Average firing up WSOP.com while on vacation with his kids, stranger things have happened. On a side note, if Delaware and Nevada enact their compact sometime earlier than expected, it should provide Nevada with a modest traffic boost. Unlikely to happen, but possible. Gaming operators new to Nevada will not be profitable Nevada is far too small to realistically sustain more than one, or at most two, profitable online poker sites. This may change as players from Nevada gain access to out-of-state players, but for now new operators likely don’t stand a chance. One needn’t look much further than to Real Gaming’s failed attempt to enter Nevada’s iPoker market as a firm illustration of this point. And if you’re saying to yourself, “Real Who?” – well…exactly. Here’s hoping for a prosperous Year Two for regulated gambling in Nevada.

Nevada Online Poker Review: Ongoing WSOP.com Mini Controversy, Cal. Hearing, and More

The iGaming community is currently focused on California, where the State Assembly hosted an online poker hearing that featured several key individuals from the online poker industry in Nevada, including former NGCB Chairman Mark Lipparelli. But while California discusses the potential for online poker expansion Nevada continues to live it, dealing with all the ups and downs that go along with it. In this installment of the Nevada Online Poker Week in Review we’ll look at the good and the bad going on in Nevada, and the contentious and the uncontroversial. We’ll kick things off with the ongoing mini-controversy regarding WSOP.com’s customer service department (which is actually 888’s customer service department) and why it speaks to a larger issue in the US iGaming industry, followed by Las Vegas Sands Andy Abboud’s name surfacing as one of the people who spoke at California’s online poker hearing. So keep reading for the specifics on these stories and a whole lot more below. The WSOP.com customer service kerfuffle This weekend we brought you one of the most interesting stories we’ve seen in the one-year existence of Nevada’s online poker industry, as the first forum-based controversy involving a licensed, regulated online poker room got a little bit of attention. There isn’t much to the story itself (click the link above to see why), but it does demonstrate one of the issues the licensed online poker rooms still haven’t been able to solve, transparency. For whatever reason the licensed sites in the US have decided to continue the long tradition in the industry of being very opaque when it comes to their corporate structure and who and how things will be handled. In this example it was the customer support department, and because of a lack of transparency the entire community was under the assumption that WSOP.com was in charge of their own customer service, which isn’t the case, 888 handles the customer service. These things aren’t a big deal in and of themselves, but they do make things unnecessarily harder for the sites when things do go wrong, and then when they do have to explain what is going on, they wind up with conspiracy theorists thinking they are then making excuses up out of whole cloth to cover their butts. Andy Abboud goes west Wednesday’s California hearing on online poker wrapped up with Sheldon Adelson’s henchman Andy Abboud. Check out the 24 Things I Learned at the California Online Poker Hearing here. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed This week’s running of the $15k guaranteed at WSOP.com pulled in 86 players, down seven entries week-over-week but still more than enough to eclipse the guarantee, as the final prize-pool tally topped off at $17,200. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
SilverMoon $4,902.00
Rook1122 $2,838.00
nutsplease $1,720.00
SIT_TITE $1,376.00
Mikeciti $1,186.80
moanlikemoon $1,014.80
PaulDewald $842.80
dicma $584.80
aggie69 $464.40 WSOP Main Event Satellite Once again the WSOP Main Event qualifier featured a substantial overlay, as just 35 players registered for this weekend’s $215 ($200+$15) tournament, leaving WSOP.com on the hook for the remaining $3,000 of the $10,000 seat.
DiaperChanger – Seat to the 2014 WSOP Main Event The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker Apparently the seven players missing from WSOP.com’s $15k guaranteed went over to Ultimate Poker this weekend (with one of them bringing a friend) as UP’s $10k guarantee saw attendance jump eight players. UP’s weekly tournament features a $100 buy-in ($91+$9) so even with the increased number of entries UP still had to cough up over $1,000 in overlays. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
INtheMOMENT $2,900
Butters $2,000
Rick2007 $1,500
freephildirt $1,000
Slickest $800
lvkid7 $600
HumorMe $500
bansman $400
VegasPlayer $300 Traffic trends in Nevada It was bad week for Nevada online poker traffic as WSOP.com stayed below 100 average cash-game players and Ultimate Poker saw their average cash-gamed traffic dip to just 60 players according to www.pokerscout.com’s data. Traffic was already trending down, (last week’s numbers were 95 for WSOP.com and 65 for Ultimate Poker) but previous downward trends had been followed by a solid spike in traffic, a spike that did not occur this week. The word on the street Antonio Esfandiari begging for money at airport What happens when you forget your wallet and are stuck in an airport with no money? You go hungry until you can crack open some pretzels on the plane. But if your name is Antonio Esfandiari you can beg and plead until someone hands you $30. William Hill makes the case for election betting William Hill is making their case that betting on elections isn’t all that bad, and what better place to make that case than in Las Vegas! For those of you that don’t know, sites like InTrade are illegal in the US, so this would be a pretty big deal.

WSOP.com Customer Support Comes Under Fire; Is it Deserved?

WSOP.com’s customer support has been anything but supportive according to poker players on the 2+2 poker forum, but are they casting blame at the right people? At issue is the company’s handling of a collusion complaint, more specifically the follow-up questions regarding the investigation, which has now morphed into a critical analysis of their customer support in general. Coming under specific fire is the Head of Poker at WSOP.com Bill Rini, who is arguably the highest profile WSOP.com employee, and also the most reachable of WSOP.com higher-ups. Unfortunately, it appears that most people aren’t looking at the situation critically and Bill has become a scapegoat of sorts. What happened? First off, let’s not lose sight of the fact that WSOP.com did investigate the situation promptly; caught and punished the colluders; and refunded the affected player*. So a job well done on that front. *After digging a bit deeper the players in question “seemed” to be colluding and had their accounts shut down. No restitution was made to psasjc. It’s unclear if the alleged colluders had the money from their accounts confiscated. Where the criticisms began was in the aftermath, when the affected player (psasjc on the 2+2 poker forum) sought clarification on certain aspects of the investigation and felt as though he was being stonewalled and ignored. His concerns were curtly answered by Bill Rini, who told psasjc this was not something the company would talk about publicly, and their investigative methods and personal information were off limits. This has always been a major point of contention between online poker rooms and online poker players, as the poker community thinks they are owed certain information, especially after the many scandals in the industries past. But this is simply not the case. How collusion is dealt with is not something WSOP.com has to relay to the community, it’s something they have to relay to regulators. The situation received even more attention when it appeared on the PokerFraudAlert.com forum, with the site’s owner Todd Witteles going so far as to contact Caesars Interactive CEO Mitch Garber, and discussing the matter with another Caesars bigwig Seth Palansky. Palansky reiterated some of Rini’s comments to the community, stating that the 2+2 forum was not a support forum and they were moving away from discussing any support related questions there. Palansky also expressed support for Bill Rini and the job he has done. A part of the story most people are overlooking What wasn’t mentioned during any of the forum outcry, or in the discussion between Witteles and Palansky is something it seems that very few people are aware of: Caesars is not in charge of their customer support department. *WSOP.com does have some customer support people on staff who act in a managerial capacity.* Their online gambling partner 888 runs customer support for the WSOP.com site. So, while Bill and WSOP.com employees can bring these complaints to 888, it is then up to 888 to sort through everything and at that point there is little anyone from WSOP.com can do. The stones being cast at WSOP.com should probably be redirected at 888, although WSOP.com does bear some responsibility for the overall poor customer support. But Bill Rini really has little to do with any support issues. What we have is a situation where Bill Rini has been thrust into a position where he is seemingly the face of the site’s customer support, even if that isn’t part of his job description. This puts him in a very awkward of situation of not being able to answer the questions being posed to him, similar to a manager in name only. Is it a big deal? The US online poker industry is currently facing a number of issues they have no control over, from geolocation to payment processing, so you would think the last thing they would want to do is open themselves up to more criticism on issues they can control, like customer service. For some people that have been jaded by the multitude of online poker scandals over the years this lack of communication is a very big deal, as virtually every online poker scandal perpetrated by a poker room was precipitated by poor customer support and a lack of answers from the site in question. So the reaction by the community is somewhat understandable. That being said, we are in a different time and place now, and WSOP.com is a regulated online poker room. Poor customer support and “no comment” type answers may be frustrating and are certainly not the best business model, but they no longer indicate more nefarious goings on below the surface. My feeling on this is that the situation is what it is, a poorly run customer service department; something many companies are plagued by — see American Airlines — and not some broader conspiracy or portent of how the business is run as a whole. The root of the problem First off, 888’s customer support is far from ideal, in fact, most would call it abysmal thus far. WSOP.com could conceivably create their own customer service department, and hire someone skilled at answering questions on poker forums (arguably the hardest job in the world) but they really shouldn’t have to; this is supposed to be taken care of by 888, and Caesars has their own financial constraints it’s already dealing with. That being said, WSOP.com (and quite frankly every US online poker room with the possible exception of Ultimate Poker) hasn’t done the best job of communicating with the poker community on a number of levels. It’s somewhat unclear who the go-to guys from the company are, evidenced by Bill Rini having to deal with customer support questions. Furthermore, WSOP.com seems to want an idealized existence, and poker is far from ideal. The idea that they can have a dedicated forum on 2+2 and not expect to receive customer support questions is unreasonable. Poker players are accustomed to bringing complaints to light on 2+2 and if you have a dedicated forum you are going to be bombarded by customer support questions whether you want them or not. *WSOP.com expects to receive general customer service questions in their 2+2 forum, but if a request is specific, or requires account information to be accessed WSOP.com would like those to go through standard CS channels.*

Nevada Online Poker Review: The Study You Need To Read, Bovada Better Look Out, and More

The big news in Nevada online poker this week has sprouted from of all places a rumor, but it’s a big enough deal that it has commandeered a lot of the headlines, and it commandeered a few of the stories in this week’s Nevada Online Poker Review. So what is the rumor? You’ll find out as your reading this week’s column of course! In addition to the rumors we’ll also talk about an interesting column that appeared on the Center for Public Integrity website; the upcoming one year anniversary of online poker n Nevada; some more anti-online gambling rhetoric from a Las Vegas Sands executive; and the latest tournament and traffic trends in the state. Center for Public Integrity takes on iGaming The Center for Public Integrity unveiled an incredibly in-depth look at the current fight for online gambling, taking an unbiased look at both sides in the fight, including where their funding comes from and how they are spending their lobbying money. Anyone who follows iGaming should read this article and take careful note of its contents. Perhaps one of the more interesting slants of the story is the continued funding of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) by the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars, as well as Rational’s individual lobbying efforts at the state and federal level, something I was unaware of. Another piece of the puzzle that few people have a strong handle on is the role Joe Brennan Jr’s iMEGA played in the legislation that was eventually passed in New Jersey. Anniversary of Nevada online poker approaching In just two weeks time the Nevada online poker industry will celebrate its one year anniversary. How has the first year gone for Nevada online poker rooms? The industry hasn’t been what I would call a success, but it’s far from being a failure. So far online poker in Nevada has been the very definition of mediocre in my opinion. The market peaked relatively quickly, but has failed to continue to mature as most people had hoped; actually the current market, with three poker rooms, is smaller than when Ultimate Poker was the sole proprietor. The good news is, we have an impending interstate online poker agreement between Nevada and Delaware that is expected to launch this summer, and now rumors are swirling that New Jersey may be thinking about joining the Delaware/Nevada partnership. All things considered, Nevada has performed admirably considering they were hamstrung by being first state with legalized online poker (the guinea pig) and considering the sparse population they had to work with the expectations were never all that high to begin with. Sands COO says iGaming all about taxes for Feds Recently, Las Vegas Sands President and COO Michael Leven called the current efforts to legalize online gambling in the US a cash grab, saying the federal government was simply looking for something else to tax, and said of the entire conversation, “It’s all about finding more money,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Leven made the remarks at the Nevada Republican Party’s VIP Breakfast at South point — which ironically is one of three online poker providers in Nevada, with their Real Gaming product. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed This week’s running of the $15k guaranteed at WSOP.com attracted 93 players. With a buy-in of $215 ($200+$15) the prize-pool easily eclipsed the guarantee, topping out at $18,600. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
ucheckicheck – $5,301.00
FromBehind – $3,069.00
papaya – $1,860.00
ValueTown – $1,488.00
BeTheLight – $1,283.40
naifliest – $1,097.40
chairman99 – $911.40
bewater – $634.40
kingpin1 – $502.20 WSOP Main Event Satellite Just a week after meeting its guarantee for the first time, the $215 buy-in WSOP Main Event qualifier handed out one of its biggest overlays. Only 34 players registered for the tournament, which meant an overlay of $3,200 for the registered players. The winner of the tournament was a player with a terrific screen-name, “Don_Key” who will now find him or herself in the World Series of Poker Main Event with a chance at the $10 million first-place prize.
Don_Key — Seat to the 2014 WSOP Main Event The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker Ultimate Poker wasn’t as fortunate as WSOP.com as they handed out an $1,810 overlay after just 90 players registered for their $10k Guarantee, featuring a buy-in of $100 ($91+$9). Here is a look at the final table payouts:
GrnSmoothie – $2,900
oceansso7 – $2,000
Kado10 – $1,500
DrMcBoy – $1,000
VegasPlayer – $800
JP – $600
mrslick – $500
luckisreal – $400
swordfish515 – $300 Traffic trends in Nevada After some gains the Nevada online poker market has suffered a significant setback, as traffic numbers dipped roughly 13% this past week according to www.pokerscout.com’s data. WSOP.com saw average traffic drop from an average of 110 cash-game players to just 95, while Ultimate Poker suffered a similar decline, dropping from an average of 75 cash-game players to just 65 this week. What about South Point’s Real Gaming online poker site? The site is still struggling to gain any type of foothold in the market, and it’s tables remain virtually empty most of the day. Of course, there is still hope that the World Series of Poker, which kicks-off next month, will see a surge in players, and that the upcoming pooling of players with Delaware will also help out on the traffic front — with the above mentioned potential for a partnership with New Jersey that has been discussed being a Holy Grail of sorts. The word on the street New Jersey may finally be interested in joining forces You’ve already seen several mentions of this in this column, but just to emphasize how big a deal this would actually be, if this comes about average cash-game traffic would suddenly start approaching four-figures from all of the licensed sites combined. Basically, the only unlicensed online poker site that could compete would be Bovada.

Nevada Traffic Report: WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker Suffer the Effects of Seasonal Depression

Historically, the advent of spring ushers in a marked decline in the amount of global online poker traffic. 2014 has proven no different. Nevada’s newly-minted online poker industry, now approaching its one-year anniversary in the regulated iGaming space, failed to escape the seasonal downtrend, exhibiting nominal losses in both cash-game and tournament traffic. However, with the World Series of Poker and a shared liquidity agreement with Delaware on the horizon, Nevada appears well-positioned to reverse its woeful fortunes. But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. We examine the latest traffic trends in the Silver State’s regulated gaming market, and offer our own insight into the future of the industry, in this, our first installment of Nevada Traffic Report. Cash-game volume dips across the board After recovering from a five month low point in late-March, WSOP.com recovered briefly, only to lose steam once again. Ultimate Poker suffered a similar fate. Cash-game 7-day averages for Nevada’s three regulated poker sites, as of April 14th, listed below: · WSOP.com: 94 · Ultimate Poker: 65 · Real Gaming: 0 Compared to April 1st, traffic on WSOP,.com is down nearly 8 percent, but still slightly improved over its March 23rd low point of 89. Ultimate continues its seemingly endless downward spiral, dipping down to its lowest levels since first launching late last April. And according to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, Real Gaming has failed to record any traffic. This is largely due to the site’s utter dearth of marketing, but can also be partially attributed to Nevada’s small population, which is hardly large enough to sustain three online poker sites, let alone the upwards of six the Silver State may boast by year’s end. When compared to trends in the global iPoker marketplace, Nevada’s performance ranks well below average. Globally, cash-game traffic held steady from the period of April 1st – April 14th, whereas traffic in Nevada dipped 6.4 percent. Majors boast deflated numbers This week’s Majors also exhibited noticeable decreases across the board, with the week’s biggest Major, WSOP’s $15k Guarantee only drawing 93 runners. While the $15k still crushed its guarantee by $3,600, week-over-week turnouts were down 15.5 percent. WSOP would also give away one seat to the Main Event last week, awarded to a player that goes by the moniker Don_Key. Only 34 players entered the $200 + $15 qualifier, amounting to a $3,200 overlay. Ultimate Poker’s $10,000 Sunday drew approximately the same amount of runners (90) that it did last week. But that still wasn’t enough for the site to turn a profit, as even including tournament fees the site was forced to pony up $1,000 out-of-pocket. The last time UP’s major drew more than a 100 runners was on March 31st. Is help on the way? Due to a shared liquidity agreement with Delaware, cash-game volume on Nevada-housed sites should receive a modest boost come late-summer. I say modest because Delaware boasts a paltry population of less than one million, and thus far, traffic on its regulated poker sites has been close to non-existent. Then again, it’s very possible that more patrons from Delaware will take notice of online poker once a larger player pool is available. The upcoming WSOP should also help to bolster online poker traffic, as swarms of professional and recreational poker players will mob the Rio for a six week period beginning in late May. Still, with so much activity taking place at Las Vegas’ b&m casinos, it’s hard to fathom many players wanting to go to their rooms to play online, especially with so many juicy live cash games running. Arguably, Nevada’s best shot to stay/become relevant would be to forge an interstate compact with New Jersey. Due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is falling traffic numbers, New Jersey suddenly appears willing and able to share liquidity the Silver State and Delaware by the end of 2014. Should this happen, more states might be compelled to join in the mix, thereby creating additional interstate liquidity sharing opportunities in Nevada. But make no mistake; Nevada faces a long uphill climb.

Nevada Online Poker Review: Las Vegas Sands Controversy, NGCB Licenses, Traffic, and more

Nevada is fast approaching it’s one-year anniversary of legalized online poker, but that doesn’t mean everything has fallen into place without issue, or that the industry is now on secure footing. Setting aside the operational and technical issues the online poker industry has faced, there is also the ever-present storm cloud of Sheldon Adelson hanging over the industry, although a number of chinks in the armor are starting to appear that are making Adelson’s anti-online gambling crusade look more like the last stand of the 300 than Operation Overlord. In this week’s installment of the Nevada Online Poker Review we’ll take a look at a bit of defiance from the Sands Board of Directors; see which six casinos were granted extensions by the NGCB; take a historical look at Nevada Gaming revenue; and a whole lot more, including the latest traffic trends and tournament results. Sands board member now iGaming shareholder Well isn’t this an interesting wrinkle! Apparently one of the members of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Board of Directors, Jason Ader, has recently become the second largest shareholder of bwin.party, one of the giants of the online gambling industry, and a company that is licensed in New Jersey as an online gambling site. Las Vegas Sands is of course owned by Sheldon Adelson, the Sheldon Adelson who is currently spending millions of dollars to repeal online gambling in the United States, which will likely make the next Sands board meeting quite interesting. Perhaps Ader is simply taking a contrarian stance, or perhaps he realizes Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling are futile. Either way it makes for an interesting debate and is yet another interesting addition to the already tangled plot line that is online gambling in the US. 6 Casinos receive online poker extensions As we reported earlier this week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) extended the licenses for six Nevada casinos, allowing them to continue to develop their online poker products (if they choose to do so) without having to renew their license applications… a renewal process that would have come with a six-figure price tag. Here are the six casinos that received online poker license extensions in Nevada:
Boomtown Reno Truckstop
Grand Siena (Reno)
LV Golden Nugget
MGM Resorts
Z4Poker
Boyd Interactive Gaming You can read our entire write up on this story here. A Historical look at gambling revenue in Nevada With the Nevada Gaming Control Board finally releasing data on online poker revenue, which is currently looking like a $150 million a year industry based on the revenue numbers (Nevada’s cut of that revenue will be about $10 million per year) I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the bigger picture of the revenue generated by the casino industry in the state. Based on the following numbers, the online poker revenues being generated in the state are a mere drop in the bucket, but with revenues down $2.5 billion from their peak in 2007, every hundred million counts!
2001 — $9.3 Billion
2002 — $8.9 Billion
2003 — $9.2 Billion
2004 — $9.9 Billion
2005 — $10.5 Billion
2006 — $11.8 Billion
2007 — $12.5 Billion
2008 — $12 Billion
2009 — $10.5 Billion
2010 — $9.9 Billion
2011 — $10.1 Billion
2012 — $9.9 Billion
2013 — $10.1 Billion You can find more historical gaming data at UNLV’s Nevada Revenue page. Weekly Guaranteed Tournaments in Nevada WSOP.com Sunday $15K Guaranteed A really strong turnout of 110 players registered for the $15k Guaranteed at WSOP.com this past Sunday, creating a prize-pool of $22,000. Considering the recent turnouts the site may want to consider bumping the guarantee up to $20,000. Here is a look at the final table payouts from the tournament:
Kudos88 – $6,160
Ponzi_Scheme – $3,564
BeTheLight – $2,046
ValueTown – $1,606
tedlawson4 – $1,386
BShriever5 – $1,166
T54-T97s – $924
PokerStars – $616
Pweda287 – $462 WSOP Main Event Satellite For the first week since it has been offered, the WSOP.com satellite to the World Series of Poker Main Event didn’t offer an overlay, as a total of 55 players registered for the tournament, creating a prize-pool of $11,000:
1more1time — $10,000 seat to the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event
BShriver5 — $1,000 The $10K Guarantee tournament at Ultimate Poker While WSOP.com saw a nice uptick in tournament attendance it seems to have come at the expense of Ultimate Poker, which saw just 88 players register for their $10K Guaranteed tournament this past Sunday, which meant an overlay of nearly $2,000. For the second time in three weeks William Reynolds managed to make the final table, this time finishing in 6th place.
DWade420 – $2,900
I Love Beer – $2,000
HM2BC – $1,500
donthavename – $1,000
LadyFingers – $800
ReynoldsXO – $600
INtheMOMENT– $500
JCarver – $400
BrownPride – $300 Traffic trends in Nevada After a few months of steady decline there is finally a bit of good news coming out of Nevada as average cash-game traffic at WSOP.com has ticked back up to 110 players after dipping below 100 just two weeks ago according to www.pokerscout.com’s data. Ultimate Poker also saw some small gains for the second straight week as the site now boasts average cash gamed traffic of 75 players. South Point’s Real Gaming online poker site continues to be a complete non-factor in the market with average traffic still sitting at 0 — although the site is still in a testing period and hasn’t been marketed at all at this point. Overall, Nevada’s online cash-game traffic is once again approaching 200 players. The word on the street Culinary Union okay’s strike Last week we told you that the Culinary Union had authorized a strike of Downtown Las Vegas Casino, and this week the picket lines began as the Las Vegas Sun reported. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out, as it could be bad for both sides.