Poker News Round-up
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Poker News Round-up: Week #51
The long running trade dispute based around America’s refusal to honour commitments made under the General Agreement on Trade in Services seems to have come to an end, at least as far as Europe is concerned. The EU was one of a number of nations or unions claiming compensation after the US denied fellow World Trade Organisation countries access to their domestic market for online gaming with the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. In the face of strong protests from the likes of the EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and Antigua as well as WTO rulings that they were acting illegally, America was faced with a decision – honour the commitments they had made or face compensation claims for billions of dollars. Billions of dollars in compensation was deemed to be the preferred option rather than let people play a bit of online poker, and American taxpayers are now having to cover the losses incurred by gaming operators all over the world.
An agreement was signed between the US and the EU in Geneva this week after they agreed on a compensation package, and whilst a value was not given to the package there was much talk beforehand of the EU needing to be compensated to the tune of around $100 billion. The deal will not be in cash but rather trade concessions which will give the EU new opportunities in the postal, warehousing, technical testing, research and development sectors. Having compensated its WTO partners, the US is now free to amend its GATS commitments so that gambling services will no longer be covered under the agreement. The EU has said that it will continue to lobby for non-discrimination against its gambling operators, but if it was unable to achieve this with the threat of a $100 billion compensation claim to back it up, it’s anyone’s guess how they hope to achieve this with that threat no longer present.
The upshot for online poker is that what had remained a fairly persuasive reason for the UIGEA to be scrapped has now gone, and Barny Frank’s job of getting the floating voter senators onside has been made harder. Unsurprisingly Party Gaming share prices took a hit following this news.
The UIGEA was of course smuggled into US legislation under cover of another bill, and a similar situation was recently narrowly averted in Canada. An update to an existing bill covering illegal bookmaking planned to replace the term “telephone and telegraph” with “any form of telecommunication” but an alert senator realised the potential ramifications of the new wording. This seemingly innocent update could have resulted in online poker and other gambling over the internet being made illegal in Canada.
The bill had already breezed through four committee hearings before senator George Baker raised the alarm, and it is not clear whether this was an attempt by someone to get internet gambling banned by stealth, or whether the consequences of the update had genuinely been overlooked. After review, chairman of the legal and constitutional affairs committee Don Oliver gave assurances that the bill would be amended to clarify Canada’s position that online gambling would continue to be viewed as a legal pursuit.
Not to be outdone, the UK Gambling Commission has weighed in with a bit of petty legislation of its own. The Gambling Act of 2005 banned operators from advertising foreign gambling unless they were from an approved list, but the interpretation of what constitutes advertising seems to have been stretched somewhat recently. Card rooms running satellites to events such as the WSOP have been deemed to be advertising them and have been told to stop. For online poker this might not be too much of a problem as many sites are based outside the UK, but those sites based here as well as bricks and mortar card rooms will have to re-assess their schedules.
There’s plenty of live tournament action to bring you this week, starting with the Doyle Brunson Classic which was the $15,000 main event to the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. 664 entrants meant that there was a massive $9.66 million prize pool to be shared amongst the top 100 finishers, with $2.48 million waiting for the outright winner. Phil Ivey was quick out of the blocks, building a leading stack of 233,000 on day one which he doubled on day two to remain chip leader as players returned for day three with the bubble approaching. However, Ivey’s aggressive approach was the undoing of him and after spewing chips all day he eventually went out on a busted draw without even cashing in 103rd place.
Meanwhile Jordan Rich had been building up a big stack and with nine players left his stack was three times the size of his nearest competitor. As with previous chip leaders here though, it proved tough to hold on to the lead and by the time the tv table of six had been reached, Rich had been overtaken by Eugene Katchalov. All the while the Devilfish Dave Ulliott had been making steady progress and had most of Ryan Daut’s chips off him at the end of the day to be well placed in third.
The final table saw Katchalov eliminate Rich early on to gain a giant lead and from that point on everyone else was playing for second. Devilfish couldn’t make that second place but the $674,500 he picked up for third was nevertheless the biggest cash of his career. Ted Kearly was battered into second but picked up over a million dollars as consolation, whilst Katchalov’s destruction of the entire final table in 53 hands earned him one of the biggest tournament prizes of all time – a massive $2,482,605.
Not feeling so pleased with himself will have been Phil Hellmuth, who after losing a giant sum to Phil Ivey at Chinese poker in the summer, managed to get stuck for another $420,000 here after busting out on day two.
Meanwhile in Europe, Arnaud Mattern was another $1 million winner (or € 708,400 to be more precise) when he won the EPT Prague main event. Mikael Norinder had started the final table as chip leader but accidentally over-committed himself when he pushed too many chips into the middle intending to make a call. Having not made a verbal declaration, the ruling was that he had to make at least a minimum raise and when Mattern moved all in straight away with pocket kings, Norinder was priced in to call and subsequently lose. Mattern’s newly donated chips were enough for him to see off the rest of the largest EPT field so far this season and book his place in the grand final.
The final big tournament of the year takes place on Friday 21st December when Howard Lederer, Marty Smyth, Julian Gardner, Joe Beevers, Liam Flood and Ian Cox sit down at the final of the Ladbrokes Poker Million. Players take their stacks from the semi-finals through to the final table and Lederer is chip leader but Joe is in fourth place with around 50 big blinds to start with, so is in with a good shout. Good luck Mr Beevers.
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