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Borgata WPO Tournament Decision Ignites Much Debate

Wendeen H. Eolisby Wendeen H. Eolis

During the past week, since  the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued its final order concerning the first event at the Borgata Winter Poker Open (“WPO”) last January, players have been arguing fiercely about the fairness  or unfairness of the rulings. Chatter has turned into full on posturing. Tournament participants are  communicating with friends, Borgata representatives, the DGE, poker tournament directors around the country, media and---lawyers.  Movers and shakers far across the poker planet are also popping up with takes on the decision.

A Quick Review of the Borgata Counterfeit Chip Caper:
The opening event of the WPO was suspended and ultimately terminated by the DGE before the third day was to commence, after determining that counterfeit chips had been introduced into the tournament. The DGE order provides for the disbursement of the undistributed remaining prize pool (which was frozen during the DGE investigation), together with the revenues earned by Borgata in buy-in fees. The DGE determined that Borgata was a victim of criminal conduct, not negligent and not liable for any other payments, in this matter.

DGE Order and Borgata Statement
One fuzzy issue in the order relates to the distribution of revenues earned by Borgata ($288,000+).  They are referenced in a “whereas clause” as monies provided to players “in consultation” with the Borgata.  The Borgata statement references the inclusion of the buy-in fees in player distributions as a voluntary contribution on the part of the Company.

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Playing Pocket Eights

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

Recently, poker writer, Roy Cooke described a hand he played in a $40-$80 limit hold’em game. Frankly, I question his decision and rationale for playing that hand, and wonder how others would play it.

He was on the button with 8-8, seated to the left of a highly aggressive opponent. A loose-passive player, two off the button, had limped in. Mr. Aggressive raised. Now it was Cooke’s turn to act, and he re-raised to force out the blinds and create a three-handed pot, where his pocket eights had a better chance of holding up without improving. Both blinds folded, and both Mr. Loose-Passive and Mr. Aggression called. Now it was a three-way pot.

Did Cooke Play it Correctly? With two opponents, the odds are that one or both have at least one hole card higher than an eight, and will pair up on the flop. According to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook, when two opponents see the flop, and one has an ace in the hole, he will catch another ace on the flop almost 25 percent of the time.

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Poker News Brief: Hellmuth’s Continued Bracelet Gifting

by Haley Hintze

The WSOP’s career wins leader, Phil Hellmuth, has resumed his practice of giving his victor’s bracelets to family and friends.  Hellmuth recently gave the jewelry honoring his record 13th win to wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya.  Palihapitiya is also a part owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, whose games Hellmuth frequently attends.  Most of Hellmuth’s other bracelets have gone to family members, except for his very first and his 12th, which was once publicly promised to UltimateBet co-founder Greg Pierson but went undelivered in the wake of revelations connected to the cheating on that now-defunct online site.

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Poker News Brief: Borgata Introduces UV-Stamped Tournament Chips

by Haley Hintze

January’s cancellation of the opening event of the Borgata Winter Open due the introduction of a large number of counterfeit chips has led to the casino’s introduction of new high-denomination chips incorporating UV stamping, detectable by security-camera filters. The expensive new chips debuted at the casino’s Spring Poker Open and are being made by Maine chipmaker Game On Chip Company, with the Borgata receiving conditional approval from New Jersey gaming regulators for their use. Final determinations in the cancelled January tournament have yet to be issued by the state’s regulators, while alleged counterfeiter Christian Lusardi remains in custody on related charges. More than $1.4 million in prize money had yet to be awarded when play was halted with 27 players remaining.

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Poker News Brief: PPA Announces “Fight Back” Campaign

by Haley Hintze

The Poker Players Alliance has announced a grass-roots campaign designed to put poker players directly in touch with federal legislators to protest anti-online-gambling bills under consideration in Congress.  Called “Fight Back,” the new effort targets twin measures introduced by US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), that are backed and drafted by the Sheldon Adelson-CEO’d Las Vegas Sands Corp.  While the twin bills have signed up about 20 co-sponsors, several legal and political groups have protested the bills, often as a violation of states’ rights regarding gambling.  Among the groups opposing the Graham and Chaffetz measures are Democratic Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL). More at: http://theppa.org/fight-the-ban/

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Poker News Brief: More Full Tilt Refunds Issued

by Haley Hintze

The Department of Justice-appointed administrator for the Full Tilt Poker remissions process, Garden City Group, released a second wave of refunds in early April.  Almost $6 million in online-poker balances was sent to about 2,800 players whose banking information could not be verified in time for inclusion in the larger first wave of payments earlier this year.  All told, GCG has issued about $81 million in FTP payment to date, with two large categories still under review – online affiliates and former players who enjoyed some form of sponsorship relationship with the site.  The funds for the ongoing refunds came from the 2012 PokerStars settlement with the DOJ, which acquired Full Tilt’s remaining assets in exchange for the remission funding.

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Decision on Borgata Counterfeit Chip Investigation is Here! DGE Ends Waiting Game

Wendeen H. Eolis

Wendeen H. Eolis

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Minutes ago, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported  at its website its  final order arising from its investigation of the Borgata counterfeit chip debacle in January of this year. Last Friday  PPN  provided an overview of the outcome of the order which was in place. then and has  been disclosed to the public, today.  To summarize: counterfeit chips were introduced into the Borgata Winter Open tournament's first event. The DGE canceled the event upon determining it had been compromised and has scrutinized the entire matter coming up with the terse order that can be seen here: The terse order can be seen here:

http://www.nj.gov/oag/ge/2014news/BorgataWinterPokerOpenFinalOrder.pdf

The Borgata has issued a statement that fleshes out the order, providing details concerning disbursement of monies.  It clarifies that players who did not cash, but may have been affected by the introduction of counterfeit chips will be refunded  their relevant  buy-ins; players who did not cash and were never exposed to the introduction of the counterfeit chips will not receive any refunds, whatsoever.  Players who were awarded prize monies but didn't pick up  their pay will also get their monies. The full Borgata statement can be seen here:

http://blog.theborgata.com/

Borgata Senior VP,  Joe Lupo,  is quoted as explaining  that the Company is distributing all of the unpaid prize pool money and also voluntarily disbursing to players the revenues earned from buy-in fees. While the DGE order includes the latter, a reading of the order confirms that the revenues earned by Borgata  that were included in the disbrsements came about from consultation with Borgata and not from an independent order on the part of the DGE.

Predictions:This means some 2100+ of the 2800+ players (for the 4800+ buy-ins)  in the tournament will probably be pretty happy,  presumably as  will those who cashed down through 28th place who have been or will be paid per the advertised allocation of prize monies. They all earned their awards prior to a determination of a compromised tournament.   Additionally, those in the second and third tier of the top 27, will probably  find the payout livable as the disbursement is equal or greater than  the original allocation for those spots.  As to the top nine, sparks are sure to fly, but as to whether it will be sound and fury signifying nothing or a colossal headache for DGE and Borgata remains to be seen.

It should be noted  DGE's delay in getting out its report after it allowed  many people to learn that it had been completed resulted in massive leakage, and significant misinformation that circulated for days. This state of affairs did  not help to soothe ruffled feathers of those who are unhappy.

Last Friday all eyes were on the DGE after the regulators sent up white smoke signals that resulted in alerting  executives at multiple casinos of an imminent decision.   By late afternoon the smoke turned gray—without explanation. No announcement materialized until today.   DGE’s further delay was almost inevitable, given its history in this matter; over the past weeks there have been several false alarms of an imminent announcement sounded by  DGE to many parties with close ties to the regulators.

No matter how well reasoned by DGE  the last bit of delay left Borgata personnel with their hands full--not only with new procedures but also with an onlslaught of queries  by frustrated tournament players--the entire weekend. 

Was the DGE miffed by news of their deliberations leaking out to the public (against their preference) slightly before they were to take the stage?  

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Poker News Brief: Borgata Sues Phil Ivey for $9.6 Million Over Alleged “Edge Sorting”

by Haley Hintze

The “edge sorting” technique used by Phil Ivey in conjunction with his ongoing suit against London’s Crockfords Casino has again surfaced, this time in the form of an action filed by New Jersey’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa against Ivey and companion Cheng Yin Sun.  The lawsuit alleges that Ivey and Sun conspired against the Borgata by exploiting minor printing variations on the casino’s cards, with Ivey winning over $9.6 million during four 2012 high-stakes sessions.  The Borgata also named as a defendant the cards’ manufacturer, Gemaco, for the same amount, alleging defective cards that failed to meet the terms of the company’s card-supplying contract.  The nearly 60-page legal document accuses Ivey and Sun of an elaborate series of manipulations and requests, many of which were described as “superstitions,” but which the Borgata alleges were intentional ruses designed to tip the odds in Ivey’s favor.

Breaking News: Borgata Chip Investigation Complete - Stunning DGE Report on the Way

Wendeen H. Eolis

Wendeen H. Eolis

By: Wendeen H. Eolis

After nearly 3 months of silence, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is poised to announce its decisions regarding distribution of the remaining prize pool that has been left in limbo following the cancelation of Event #1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open last January.

Shortly before day 3 was to commence, the DGE suspended the event, ultimately canceling it altogether due to the introduction of counterfeit chips into the tournament.

The remaining unpaid prize pool was put into a trust pending the outcome of the DGE investigation of the matter. According to lawyers surrounding the DGE and others familiar with the DGE's recent deliberations, the investigation has concluded.  All that  seems left is public disclosure of  its report and related rulings.

All eyes are on the DGE as the first weekend  of the Borgata Spring Open gets under way. Changes in tournament procedures are obvious, with far more personnel engaged in the coordination and supervision of the proceedings then ever before. And, bagging and tagging of chips at the end of play each day is taking considerably longer. It is apparently Borgata's obligation to verify each players chip count.  Previously, Borgata allowed independent chip counts annotated by players. 

The DGE's findings result in other specific procedural changes, as well, reportedly being implemented as part of  a studious effort to enhance the security of poker tournaments in all of the casinos they regulate in New Jersey, according to casino executives in multiple AC poker rooms.  The Borgata has also invested in high tech superior quality chips  for tournaments ; would be cheaters  beware!  

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Poker News Brief: New York State Online Poker Bill Introduced

by Haley Hintze

New York State Senator John Bonacic (R-42) has introduced a measure seeking to authorize intrastate online poker. The new proposal isn’t the first time online poker has been considered in Albany, after being considered in conjunction with a controversial casino-expansion effort that finally passed in 2013. Bonacic’s new bill would define poker as a game of skill and would create as many as ten online poker licenses, and would open the door to player-pooling compacts with other states also offering regulated internet poker, including neighbor states New Jersey and Delaware. The original draft language of Bonacic’s bill does include bad-actor language designed to block any online sites that serviced New York residents following the passage of the 2006 UIGEA.

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