Posted on 14th November 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

After the recently displayed preview, PokerStars Virtual Reality is now live and available to download and play in all of the company’s global markets. Immerse yourself in a totally unique VR world and experience the game play like no other before!

PokerStars’ latest innovation was created in collaboration with virtual reality developer Lucky VR and represents a perfect mix of serious gameplay, fun interactivity and social engagement that adds a whole new poker realm for players and gamers to explore.

This is where the worlds of online and live poker collide and participants can choose their own environment to play in such as Macau 2050, The Macau Suite, The Showdown Saloon, Monte-Carlo Yacht, and The Void.

Intuitive controls enable easy gameplay, and players handle chips and cards and talk and interact just as they would at the real table at a land-based casino. There are also voice commands, interactive props to have fun with, integrated Twitch broadcasting and media streaming on Oculus Rift for those who wish to both play and stream.

“When we showcased the product, it was amazing to see people really enjoy and become engrossed in the game,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars.

“We wanted to venture into the world of virtual reality because we believe it is an exciting avenue of technology to explore and something that our players would appreciate. I highly recommend that everyone tries out the game as it can only truly be understood and enjoyed by experiencing it.”

PokerStars VR went through a closed beta testing in September when 150 participants played using Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and the feedback was fantastic. The experience was described as fun, fully immersive and a blast to play. Poker is once again bringing people together and PokerStars is excited to invest in the next generation of the game.

PokerStars VR is now available to download in all of the company’s global markets through Oculus, Viveport and Steam, so you can start exploring this augmented experience.

Posted on 7th November 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Although poker is illegal in Israel, it’s a big deal in this country, played usually in clubs and apartments in the form of “underground games”.

So far, poker players were facing a year in prison for the first offence while the organizers of poker tournaments were facing three years of imprisonment, but all this is likely to change in the near future if a bill proposed by Likud party member Sharren Haskel is passed into law.

In the past, poker was considered gambling rather than a game of skill, and therefore it wasn’t permitted. The Supreme Court recently ruled that poker is a game of skill, not luck and now, Haskel’s bill is intended to legislate the ruling.

“The fact that the players go to contests and tournaments year after year strengthens the conclusion that it is not a game of luck,” Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel explained.

The ruling makes poker’s designation as gambling unjustifiable and therefore opens the door for legislation. The poker’s classification could potentially result in the creation of a new poker market in Israel.The bill would regulate the Israeli Poker Player Association and empower it to organize both national and international tournaments, while the Finance Ministry would have overall control over poker in Israel and would tax earnings.

Israel has no casinos but runs a state-run lottery and sports betting. That didn’t stop Israeli poker players to make it to the big league entering the global high-level tournament scene. Amir Lehavot is the most successful poker pro from Israel in the terms of winnings with more than $5.7 million in tournament prize winnings. He won a WSOP bracelet in 2011, and made it to the final table of the main event in 2013.

Timur Margolin of Ramle, with earnings of $1,742,590, is another top Israeli player who won Monster Stack 2018 and took home $153,000 at the latest World Series of Poker. His career earning have amounted to more than $1.7 million. Other notable players coming from Israel are Zvi Stern, Rafi Amit and Asi Moshe.

Israeli poker players have so far won a total of 12 WSOP bracelet wins and their continual successes are the main reason why Supreme Court changed its ruling. If legislators in the country proceed with the online poker bill, poker could be made legal in Israel before the end of 2019.

Posted on 31st October 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Partypoker is back on top!

At least according to EGR Operator Awards 2018 where Partypoker won Poker Operator of the Year for the second year in a row.

Going back-to-back is a rare feat in the industry but Partypoker nailed it again. At the award show, often referred to as the Oscars of the iGaming industry, Partypoker won the prestigious award in a tough competition, beating down both Kindred Group and Stars Group.

“I’m absolutely delighted that the efforts of the team have been recognized for the second year running,” said Partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters. “Everyone in the team has worked so hard to get Partypoker to where it is now and we are excited about how we can now take it to the next level.”

Last year, Partypoker competed with 888poker, Pokerdom, Sky Betting and PokerStars who previously won the award three times in a row.

Partypoker added a new live tour, new ambassadors, site-wide rake back and a software refresh to step up its game and therefore tore down the competition. Despite this year’s heavy changes to the site’s VIP program, live events roster and poker software, the year-on-year revenue rose 42%.

“Partypoker provided many examples of their growth and improving returns from their customers, and showed a real mixture of improving the product and customer interaction, stitched together into an overall strategy,” EGR explained in their website. “What resonated most was the piece about truly understanding the customer.”

Patypoker’s parent company, GVC Holdings, was also recognized for its top performance over the past year and took home two awards, Operator of the Year and Casino Operator of the Year.

In the past twelve months, GVC finalized the successful migration of bwin.party and the merger with Ladbrokes Coral. It was a transformational year for GVC and with not one, but two acquisitions, they emerged from the process even stronger than before. All online divisions including Ladbrokes, Coral, Brazil and Partypoker, are contributing impressively.

William Hill also won two EGR Operator awards, Mobile Operator of the Year and Slots Operator of the Year as well as bet365 as Sports Betting Operator of the Year and Mobile Sports Product. LeoVegas won Affiliate Programme of the Year, while Evolution won Game of the Year for its Lightning Roulette.

Posted on 24th October 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Gaming solutions provider BetConstruct has been granted a license by the Malta Gaming Authority to add online poker to its set of licensed products.

Class III approval has been granted for online poker vertical for under both B2B and B2C licenses. The new license will lead to opening a new network of online poker sites which is a great news for online poker in Europe.

In addition to their Class II and Class IV licenses, BetConstruct has been granted a Class III license by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) to provide online poker solutions to its clients. Class II license enabled them sport betting solutions and Class IV the provision of fantasy sports covering both B2B and B2C.

BetConstruct also secured a Class I license earlier this year under which the supplier can provide games from Malta-based casino providers. They have made a full circle with acquiring the Class III license.

“We are very pleased to secure online poker licence as a result of the continuous development and improvement of our software,” said BetConstruct founder and CEO Vigen Badalyan. “Meeting high technical standards of MGA, we now offer to build on high game profiles and attract maximum player numbers with our poker software.”

New license could potentially lead to opening up a whole new network of online poker sites in Europe and it’s been a positive sign for further poker European invasion. The UK has set the gold standard in the past few years but with the shared liquidity pool, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal are catching up. The changes are a sure sign the industry will grow strong in 2019.

Since BetConstruct platform met the high standard of MGA and their software got certified, their sites can now integrate poker in addition to spots and casino gaming. As well as receiving B2B license, the London-based company also received a B2C license which means they can build its own online poker sites in the upcoming period.

“European operators can take full advantage of our system providing increased levels of protection for novice players from losing their bankroll to far more experienced players and advanced game functionality including multi-table play for professional players” Badalyan added.

Posted on 17th October 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Following the record-breaking Galactic Series, PokerStars announce yet another eight-figure guaranteed tournament series for players in Southern Europe.

The Southern Europe Championship of Online Poker (SECOOP) will be held at the end of the month for players from France, Portugal and Spain with €10 million guaranteed prize pool and three platinum passes for grabs.

The PokerStars Europe is yet to announce all the details about the debut of SECOOP tournament series, an extension of the WCOOP naming used in the dot-com market, and the event is expected to become an annual staple in the market.

Southern players, who have been sharing European liquidity pool and the much-expanded tournament offering, will once again have the chance to win some life-changing amounts of money.

The SECOOP will be held from 28 October to 12 November with more than €10,000,000 in guarantees spread across 149 events.

“We are happy to transform our renowned COOP series into a COOP specifically for our players in Southern Europe that will allow them to compete for bigger prize pools in prestigious tournaments,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations at PokerStars.

“Our players have really enjoyed our shared liquidity offerings and we look forward to seeing everyone playing at the SECOOP virtual felt.”

Events will be spread across two-week period with buy-in from just €5 to €250. The star of the show will definitely be the €250 buy-in Main Event on 11 November that has a €1 million guarantee. Other events interesting to watch will be two Sunday Specials on 28 October and 4 November with guarantees of €300,000 and €350,000.

If players deposit at least €50 with the code SECOOP to play a freeroll, they can win one of 200 entries to the Main Event. Second Chance Freerolls will also be held for players who bust events out of the money, awarding €3,500 a day in SECOOP tickets.

And that’s not all. PokerStars is giving away three Platinum Passes across SECOOP Challenge and Daily Leader Boards which will advance 16 players, the top ones from 16 different leaderboards, to a freeroll.

Players can participate in the SECOOP Challenge if they collect eight stamps from eight daily events during the tournament series. Four stamps will get you into one and eight into both SECOOP Chalenge freerolls.

The freerools will take place on 18 November at 20:00 and 20:15 CET. All players from France and Spain will have the chance to Platinum Passes, worth €24,000, but not those in Portugal.

Posted on 10th October 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Great news for poker players!

It has just been announced that the U.S. Poker Open will be back in February 2019 from Aria Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas strip. Aria, already a home to other high-roller series, including the Super High Roller Bowl and the Poker Masters, will now welcome the second leg of the High Roller Triple Crown out of the PokerGo studio.

“The U.S. Poker Open, and the trio of high roller majors including Super High Roller Bowl and Poker Masters that comprise the High Roller Triple Crown, further solidifies ARIA as the epicentre of high-stakes poker action,” said Sean McCormack, director of poker operations for ARIA.

“We will continue to bring our guests the most player-friendly poker events in the industry with our Poker Central partnership firmly in place through the foundation of the PokerGO Studio.”

The expanded ten-event tournament will be held from 13 to 23 February and the poker’s most experienced players in the world will compete for the title of U.S. Poker Open champion. Championship points will be awarded to players who cash in each of the ten events on the schedule. The whole tournament will be live streamed exclusively on PokerGo, the Poker Central’s OTT service and original episodes will air at a later date on NBC Sports Network.

The second annual U.S. Poker Open will feature five $10,000 buy-in tournaments, three $25,000 buy-in tournaments, one $50,000 buy-in tournament and will further expand the high-roller contest with a new $100,000 buy-in main event. Poker Central will award the winner with a $100,000bonus payout in addition to the coveted championship trophy.

“The turnout across each phase of the High Roller Triple Crown continues to impress and, with the next U.S. Poker Open champion receiving a cash award of $100,000, we’re expecting that trend to continue,” said Sam Simmons, vice president of content at Poker Central.

“The entire series will serve as a fitting kickoff to a year of even more world-class live events and original programming that PokerGO subscribers will love.”

The star of the 2018 U.S. Poker Open was Stephen Chidwick who earned $1,250,650 along with the first-ever U.S. Poker Open trophy and title. He managed to cash in five events and final-table four events. He won two back-to-back $25,000 events, No Limit Hold’em and Mixed Game Championship. He also finished second to David Peterson in another $25,000 No Limit Hold’em.

Chidwick also earned a total of 990 Player of the Year points which moved him right on place 21 in the 2018 Card Player POY standings.

Posted on 3rd October 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

The summer behind us demonstrated that sky is the limit when it comes to online poker gambling in any sense of the word.

Not only did the number of poker tournaments increase drastically during the past period but the numbers are nothing short of mind-blowing. Just over the last month, seven major online poker markets have hosted ten tournaments in some of the largest poker markets. Total guarantees offered were a record-setting $170 million but even such high prize pools were surpassed to a whopping $217 million.

With more and more jurisdictions striving to open online poker and sports betting services, the competition will only increase which basically means more tournaments will come with higher prizes.

The World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) alone, that took place between 2 and 18 September, went with a bang. There were 185 tournaments, over one million entries and a prize pool of $100 million.

The situation was quite jaw-dropping in the spring when a total of 1,590 tournaments were held by the major online operators. Total guarantees offered by the sites were $140 million and that figure was surpassed to $177.5 million. The sum was distributed through the dot-com market while an additional $40.3 million was shelled out through segregated European markets.

But the spring situation can’t compare to the recent numbers when prize pools increased to a total of $217,803,107.

Still, like in all parts of life, the success has its dark side. The industry has suffered various attacks that led to cancellation of tournaments and cash games over the last couple of months. Eight out of ten top online poker sites, including PokerStars, 888poker, partypoker, Winamax, Americas Cardroom, have been targeted and suffered high-profile dedicated denial of service (DDOS) attacks.

They are all pursuing legal action but it’s a tough task considering how easy is to buy a DDOS attack right on the Internet and how many people want to make the industry look bad because they suck at poker or want to tear the competition apart.

Posted on 25th September 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

The world’s largest poker site PokerStars has decided to combine both live and online poker in a brand new VR experience.

Always testing its limits PokerStars is at the top of poker innovation to make the game more compelling, accessible and interesting for both the old and new players. This time, they’ve come up with PokerStars VR which combines the best of live and online poker to create a brand new way of playing poker. This multiplayer game is currently in a closed beta with around one hundred invitees playing and testing the game using Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Steam.

“It was really amazing,” PokerStars Team Online Pro Jaime Staples said, shortly after having his first hands-on experience with PokerStars VR. “I’ve never tried VR, so, the first thing that I thought was it was super immersive. I was in this world. The other world didn’t exist anymore. That was really cool.”

PokerStars VR initially offers the No-limit Texas Hold’em version of poker. Free-to-play, authentic and immersive social poker game completely recreates the live poker environment. Players come together from all over the world, using avatars that interact around the game, pick outfits, socialize and chat as if they’re in the same room. Players handle chips and cards, study opponents, pick up tells, chat in real time just like in the real world. They can do all this while streaming shows or sport and virtually order drinks and food.

The product was first previewed at the biggest UK’s games event Euro Gamer in Birmingham, held last week. It was developed with Lucky VR, featuring intuitive controls for easy gameplay, voice command controls, integrated Twitch broadcasting, video streaming and social media integration on Oculus Rift for those who want to play and stream.

“With live poker, people love it because you’re at the table, you can look at people, try to read and socialize as well. You feel the chips, the cards. Then with online poker, you get all the strategy, the numbers, the mathematical aspect and the speed. All the games, 24/7. But bringing the two together is what players really want. That’s why we’re working with Lucky VR to build this, bringing the best of live poker and the best of online poker in one experience” said Manuel Bevand, the member of PokerStars Innovation team.

The official launch is set for the end of this year and poker world will be presented with something totally unique.

Posted on 19th September 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Had it not been for the sports betting and re-openings in the Garden State, the gaming market would have been downward flat last month.

The online poker market revenue was down 12.8% year-over-year despite the shared poker liquidity with Nevada and Delaware but New Jersey hopes the upcoming PokerStars New Jersey Poker Championship (NJCOOP) will heal some wounds.

New Jersey Division of Gaming released state figures last week and six poker rooms in Atlantic City raked $2.23 million in August. The three internet poker operators generated $1.81 million which is, compared to the August 2017 and $2.08 million, down for 12.8%. The online poker market was $14.8, down 11.2% comparing to the same period last year when it was $16.67 million.

Caesars (WSOP) raked online poker revenue $725,000, Resorts (PokerStars NJ) $650,000 while Borgata raked $ $439,817. Caesars has an 18.8% revenue increase compared to the same period last year but considering the shared liquidity pool, they should have done better. PokerStars NJ is hosting the NJCOOP starting 29 September until 15 October with at least $1.5 million guaranteed over 47 events so they are looking forward to changing the current situation and the comeback of online poker.

But despite the poker’s downfall, the overall revenue for all casino games reached $25 million in August which is 16.6% rise compared to August 2017.

Golden Nugget brought in almost the third of the amount, $8.17 million. The second in line is Borgata, an MGM Resorts’ property with $4.65 million in the internet gambling revenue, followed by Resorts World with $4.02 million, Tropicana with $3.59 million and Caesars with $3.48 million.

Two Atlantic City Casinos Revel and Trump Taj Mahal reopened under new brands Ocean and Hard Rock in July and entered this competitive and established market.

Sports betting brought in $303.9 million in August which is 24%r rise comparing to the $244.8 million in August 2017. Total gambling winnings for the industry rose to $1.86 billion, a 3,5% rise compared to the same period last year so online poker’s slide was only a small wave in the sea.

With NJCOOP on the horizon, the following weeks are a great opportunity for poker to make some amends.

Posted on 4th September 2018 by Maya Michaels in Poker News

Essel’s Group PokerNation has announced they will stop operations and part ways with its international software provider Microgaming Poker Network from 15 September.

The online poker website operated by Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Subhash Chandra’s Essel Group, stated they will resume operations within 90-120 days with their own customized software and upgraded features and capabilities.

The news was confirmed on the website itself.

“PokerNation has made the decision to part ways with its partner Microgaming, its current software provider. We would be taking a break and discontinue our poker operations as part of a re-structuring process from 15th of September, 2018.”

The re-launch date is still unknown but the operations on the current site will stop on 15 September and all customers are welcomed to withdraw their funds until 30 September.

PokerNation should invest a lot of money into revamping the site and its operations but the legal situation in India makes it uncertain to guarantee success. The first online poker license was issued in 2016 but only within Nagaland region. In July, India’s Law Commission recommended creating a new set of laws regarding the industry to stop them acting in the grey area, which is a huge step forward.

“Since it is not possible to prevent these activities completely, effectively regulating them remains the only viable option,” states Gambling and Sports Betting India report.

If poker becomes legal in all India, it will boost the player base and therefore make easier for sites to maintain their businesses.

Mumbai-based Sachar Gaming Pvt. has also closed its poker site Khelplay.com in March under the explanation of restructuring process but it was speculated at the time that Microgaming’s India Poker Network has failed to create a substantial player pool and maintain liquidity in India.

The site continued operating under their rummy brand, and Khel Play Rummy is now, next to Microgaming’s Poker Lion and Poker Yaar, a place where Indian players can enjoy playing online poker.

In a previous hit to Microgaming operations, Thrill Poker has also closed its operations earlier this year. It was one of the first sites to join hands with Microgaming in 2014 but then turned to Swedish software provider Cubeia a year later before winding up operations.

With only two operational sites, Poker Lion and Poker Yaar, Microgaming’s foray in India didn’t quite go as planned but things can change pretty fast if federal regulations on poker are passed.

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