Friday, October 13, 2006


No real point for the title. Played in the $80 SnG WPT Niagara super-satellite last night. 8 people showed up, meaning no second place prize and we all chipped in an extra $5 for the dealer. I was pretty much card dead the whole night, and watched as crap-hand after crap-hand that I threw away turned into the winner. Can't be upset about throwing away T5o though. Ended up going out 5th. I think everyone was calling me "Mike" for some reason... not my name. I waited around a bit, debated on playing the cash game... but my gut was screaming at me to leave... so I did. Donked off $25 more in a cash game on FCP when I got home, and decided it wasn't my night for poker. I think I'll be staying away from the club for a couple weeks... those busts in Ottawa have made me a bit nervous.


Ok, on to stuff that doesn't affect me quite so much, but is still poker-related. First, congrats to Hoy on getting a gig at Card Squad. Even more of a chance for all of us bloggers to know what he's up to when he's trying to steal from us.

It's Black Friday the 13th today - El Presidente Jorge W Bush signed the Port Security Bill, which of course has the completely relevant anti-online-gambling bill addendum. Again, being Canadian, this has little DIRECT effect on me, but plenty of collateral damage. It's looking far more likely that it really isn't going to do much more than scare off some people, and cause fish sites like Partypoker and Titan to fold up in the U.S... which again, doesn't have an effect on me, especially since I play on neither.

What is a bit more major though is what it's done to the big game satellites. Harrah's has apparently let the online sites know that it will no longer be accepting 3rd party registrations to the WSOP. I can't find a news link on this, but Change100 has got a bit of a write-up. Phil Gordon's predicting a field of 2200 next year because of this. I think this is a bit low, but unless a workaround happens or Harrah's drops this, it won't be a $12 million first prize again. Apparently, WPT is doing the same thing for US events. The fear seems to be that anyone who wins their way in, or the representatives of the company that would be there, would be subject to prosecution when the show up. This doesn't affect out-of-country events like the Aussie Millions, the EPT, etc..

Let me explain it a bit more for the slow -- this means people will have to register themselves to the event, and pony up the $10,000 buy-in (or whatever buy-in the event calls for). Pokerstars can't say "You won! Here's $2,000 in your account, and you're bought in to the main event. Just show up." The obvious solution would be to put $12,000 into your account, but as has been said by others - you have $12,000 in your pocket... do you fly to Vegas and spend it? Or does it go into your kid's college fund, or towards that downpayment, or the renovations, or the new car? Suddenly, playing against thousands of other people hundreds of kilometers from home with minimal chance of making the money seems less like a good idea. So this could effectively kill the huge WSOP boom.

This smells fishy to me. It makes NO sense to institute a blanket ban on 3rd party registration. Sure, the bulk of the players are from the US, but what about non-US players? What about satellites run from brick-and-mortar casinos? There is no good reason why *I* shouldn't be able to play in an online WSOP satellite and be able to go. It's not illegal for me, being Canadian, to transfer money to a poker site, so I face no prosecution upon arrival.

Now, there's conspiracy theories out there. Harrah's has contributed to Bill Frist in the past ($19,250 1995-2000)... but I don't see a contribution beyond that. I could be reading things wrong at Opensecrets though. There's rumours that they tacitly supported the UIGEA. There's speculation that this is a big step into Harrah's opening its OWN online presence. I can see why that last one holds some sway -- if you're the only place that offers a WSOP satellite entry online, then you're going to get some big time action -- but it contradicts the supposed support of the UIGEA.

What seems to be overlooked here is that Harrah's is in the process of being bought. Two private equity firms have bid for the world's largest casino company to the tune of $15.1 billion dollars. This offer was actually upped to $15.5 billion by the parties the other day. During all this? The ratings for Harrah's have been going down by analysts.

The fact is, Harrah's will be bought. They have big expansion plans in Vegas, they have the World Series, and they need the money and patience of a private equity firm to see this all happen effectively. They just happen to be holding out for $85 a share... making shareholders quite happy. This deal's been happening since mid-September at least.

So... big company, being wooed by lots of money. You want more money. They've kiboshed a plan to build a casino resort in Singapore because of this deal. New owners are coming in, this changes things. It changes relationships, it changes agreements, it changes plans, it changes legalities, it changes policies. It's all about the big picture. Nobody wants to buy a company that could be countermanding federal law. So Harrah's covers its ass by banning 3rd party registration. I don't think this will last forever, but it may very well affect next year's Series, and I think there may be some twists when it IS dropped.

As for the WPT? Well, I think they're just scared. They've spent all this time building a big brand, and between the ban from some big name players and now this, they don't want to risk losing it all. Heck, even the Shana Hiatt thing looks bad on them. It frankly sounds like an organization being run by lawyers these days.

Back to Harrah's. They're buying/bought Barbary Coast, they've got land east of The Strip... they practically own the east side of The Strip as it is. They've got big plans. Hell, they bought Binions essentially for the WSOP. They promised the WSOP is just getting started. How sad would it be if Jamie Gold is the biggest winner ever? *MY* guess? (and it's only a guess) - In a couple years, there won't be the WSOP at the Rio. It'll be at some other huge property from Harrah's, maybe even one that focuses on poker. Expect year-round WSOP satellites being run from their family of casinos as well, or officially sponsored events at non-Harrah's casinos (ie.- in Canada). If/when the UIGEA comes down, expect Harrah's to form partnerships with certain online sites to offer online satellites. Drives business for those sites, and Harrah's gets a cut. What? That's a dickish thing for them to do? Too bad, they'll be a privately-held company. Heck, the online presence doesn't sound too far-fetched either at that point. What Harrah's is doing is gambling. They know the WSOP isn't going to die. It will wane, it'll drop to Moneymaker or Raymer-year levels. Then they're hoping it will grow, only this time they'll be the ones controlling all the entrances. Remember, the goal of any company is to profit, and despite all the nice ideas of making the customer happy and playing nice with your neighbours, companies still have the mindset of if you control it all, you make all the money. On top of that, Harrah's is a business built on the compulsive, the addicted -- the gamblers. They know full well that they have a hardcore base that won't go anywhere no matter what they do. They also know that when they offer alternative means for people to get in cheap, that the fish will swim upstream to get there.

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