Poker Stars Infuriates Customers ; October’s Crazy Gambling Stories ; Gambling No Sure Bet in Vegas

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PokerStars Raises Rake, Continues to Infuriate Customers
By Dan Katz

People were afraid that the purchase of PokerStars by Amaya Gaming would be the beginning of the end for the internet’s most popular poker room and as it turns out, they may be right. On Wednesday, the world’s largest online poker room made yet another customer-unfriendly change, announcing that it has raised the rake on many games.

Most of the changes go into effect today. Of particular note, all stakes of Heads-Up Hyper Turbo Sit-and-Go tournaments, favorites of the professional grinder crowd, will see their rakes increase. The total buy-in will remain the same, but the portion that is raked will go up, meaning less money goes into the prize pool. For example, the low $1.50 Heads-Up Hyper Turbos will now have $0.07 coming out for rake rather than $0.06. On the high end, the $1,000 versions now have $13.42 rake rather than $11.17. While it is a fairly small uptick on a percentage basis, these small numbers can add up quickly, especially in games like these that have small margins even for the best players because of the high variance.

The rake will soar in Hyper Turbo Multi-Table Tournaments (also known as Scheduled Tournaments). On the Two Plus Two forums, “PokerStars Steve” said that the rake will increase from 2 percent to half of what it is for regular tournaments at the same or similar buy-in levels. Examples given: $50 + $1 tourneys will now be $50 + $2.50 and $210.80 + $4.20 will now be $207.23 + $7.77. Knockout MTT’s will also have their fees increased. $10 + $10 + 1 will now be $10 + $10 + $2 and so on and so forth with the increases generally being lower on a percentage basis at higher buy-ins.

Fortunately, the rake is not increasing at all cash game levels. In No-Limit and Pot-Limit ring games, the rake had been capped at $0.50 for hands in which exactly two players were dealt cards; now it is $1 for all levels below $25/$50, while above that level it is going all the way up to $2. Also at $25/$50 and above, the rake cap when five or more players are dealt in is now $5, compared to just $3 previously.

And finally, beginning today, the rake on Spin & Go tourneys, which were only recently introduced on PokerStars’ dot com site, will be increased on all but the $1 level. Some minor changes are also being made to the prize table; the top prize is now 3,000x the buy-in instead of 1,000x and probabilities have been redistributed to make the instances of the 4x and 25x prizes more frequent, to the detriment of everything else.

At the turn of the New Year, other games will see their rakes increased. Hyper turbo satellite fees at stakes under $2,000 will be elevated to about 75 percent of fee that is seen in a cash prize hyper turbo. Additionally, and this one is a bit odd, tournament fees will start to be charged for re-buys and add-ons for players “whose play is subject to significant local taxes in the form of gaming duty and/or VAT.”

These rake increases have, needless to say, not been welcomed by players. It does not help that they have come shortly after PokerStars announced new foreign exchange fees as well as the introduction of Spin & Go tournaments, which have not been popular amongst the site’s more serious, high volume players.

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Crazy Gambling Stories From October

From Phil Ivey ‘Cheating’ To Iowa Cops Stealing From Pair Of Poker Players
by Brian Pempus
The gambling world can sometimes produce really off-the-wall stories. Every month there are plenty of cases of individuals going to extreme lengths to pay back debts, or of simply bizarre behavior at casino properties around the globe. It can be entertaining and sometimes sad.

October was no exception, as there was plenty that happened in the casino world.

Here’s a look at some of the most colorful and noteworthy from the month that was.

Casino Heist Remains Unsolved 22 Years Later

Just recently was the 22nd anniversary of an infamous Las Vegas heist that to this day remains unsolved, reported. In 1992, Bill Brennan, an employee at the no-longer-existing Stardust Hotel and Casino allegedly walked out of the casino with half-a-million dollars in chips and cash. Brennan worked as a cashier at the casino’s sports book.

He hasn’t been seen since.

New Jersey Busts Alleged Mob-Run Gambling Ring

Authorities in the state of New Jersey said they have busted a lucrative mob-run sports gambling ring. In total, 11 alleged members and associates of the Genovese crime family have been charged with “reaping millions in criminal profits” in New Jersey through loansharking, illegal check cashing, gambling and money laundering.

Doug Polk Calls Out Daniel Negreanu For Insulting High-Stakes Poker Community

Daniel Negreanu made poker headlines by Tweeting that he would be a winning player at the $25-$50 six-max no-limit hold’em games online, given two weeks of practice and study time. Negreanu was so confident, he was willing to bet $1 million on it. Polk, along with other high-stakes players such as Dan Colman, Ben Sulsky, Ryan Fee, Brian Hastings, and others were interested in betting against Negreanu, but neither side has yet to agree to the right terms.

Gambler On Tilt Makes Comment About Ebola At Cleveland Casino, Faces Felony Charge

Authorities in Cleveland are likely going to charge an elderly man with a felony after he apparently made a comment at the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland about his wife possibly having had contact with Ebola, according to The man reportedly was disgruntled after having a bad night gambling. Police said he will likely face a felony charge for “inducing panic.”

Poker Players Cope With ‘Highway Robbery’ By Cop

Poker players William “Bart” Davis and John Newmer­zhycky were driving through Iowa with out-of-state plates, which they said was the reason why they were pulled over by law enforcement that Davis and Newmer­zhycky said were “100 percent on the money hunt.”

A total of $100,000 was seized from them, as law enforcement in both Iowa and California tried to hit them with drug-related charges after finding a small amount of marijuana in their rental car and marijuana in their California homes.

Casino Thief Feels Remorse, Hugs And Kisses Employees Before Leaving

A man who robbed a casino in Guam apparently felt so bad for the employees he was holding up at gunpoint that he gave them hugs and kisses before he left with $5,000. According to the Associated Press, the robber was wearing a camouflage baseball cap on top of a black ski-mask and abruptly entered the Lucky Land gambling room with a silver handgun.

Judge: Poker Pro Phil Ivey Cheated At Casino

The cards did not fall Phil Ivey’s way in October. A judge presiding over his lawsuit against a London casino for withholding his $12.4 million in winnings he accumulated playing a high-stakes table game in 2012 said that the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner did in fact cheat the casino.

Two Men Get Jail Time For Running Poker Room Posing As Women’s Health Club

Two men have received prison sentences for operating what authorities claim was an illegal poker room in the back of a women’s health club that was used as a cover for the operation. The club was located in Runnemede, New Jersey.

According to the Courier-Post, a judge gave a 364-day jail term to Ryan Dion, 33, and a 270-day term to Thomas Rand, 43. Both men had pleaded guilty.

Michael Phelps Was Gambling At Maryland Casino Right Before Getting DUI

It’s no secret that Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps is into poker and enjoys spending time in casinos. He is friends with some poker pros, including Antonio Esfandiari. According to TMZ, Phelps, who was hit with his second lifetime DUI, was playing cards at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore shortly before getting pulled over.

Gambler Claims Maryland Live! Casino Staff Assaulted Him After He Counted Cards

A 23-year-old gambler says he was assaulted by security after the casino caught wind of him counting cards at a blackjack table in February, according to WJZ.

Public documents show that attorneys allege that the assault occurred when a security guard grabbed his arm and escorted him off the casino floor. The state has decided not to pursue criminal charges from the alleged assault.

Lawyers For Poker Player Claim Illegal Search

Lawyers for the defendants in this summer’s alleged illegal gambling bust that implicated high-stakes poker player Paul Phua are arguing that the government violated their fourth amendment rights. In other words, certain evidence must be suppressed.

Lawyers are saying it was an illegal search that led to the indictment.



When gambling isn’t a sure bet for Las Vegas

In 1995 when the movie “Casino” hit theaters, keeping gamblers playing was the cardinal rule in Las Vegas, but that’s no longer the case.

Gambling revenue on the Strip was down 12 percent in September — the second straight monthly drop. Now, Las Vegas is once again reinventing itself with a new generation in mind, and for them, gambling is not the primary draw to Sin City, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

One sprawling construction site on the Las Vegas strip isn’t for a casino at all; it’s for a new 20,000-seat concert arena and a multimillion park — a place to take a stroll when you’re no longer on a roll.

“These indoor-outdoor spaces are really the future of Las Vegas, so that’s what we’re accomplishing here,” MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said.

His company is working on the new projects between its “New York, New York” and “Monte Carlo” resorts. They’ve also turned the fronts of their casinos into pedestrian friendly hangouts.

When Murren began his career in Vegas, he never thought he’d be so focused on outdoor dining and parks.

“The casino design of 20 years was all inward facing,” he explained. “You wanted to suck people in and keep them in and that is the opposite of what we’re doing now.”

At the other end of the Strip, Caesars spent half a billion dollars building “Linq,” an outdoor space home to the tallest observation wheel in the world. It’s called the High Roller.
All of this is to keep Vegas relevant, especially with the millennial generation that’s more likely to be found dancing in state of the art nightclubs or singing at music festivals than playing the same old craps.

“They’re having fun,” Murren said. “They may or may not gamble at all.”

At this point, “a dollar is a dollar” Murren said. He doesn’t care if a customer comes for a weekend of gambling or if they’re doing other things, as long as they’re spending money.

Unlike Atlantic City’s nearly abandoned boardwalk, Vegas is on a hot streak.

The city is on pace to welcome a record 40 million visitors this year. Their average age dropped, however, from 50 in 2009 to 45.8 last year. New and smaller hotels catering to the young crowd are opening on the Strip, each one hoping their club scene is the hot new thing. Even the famed fountains of Bellagio are now dancing to the beat of DJ Tiesto.

“They went from Las Vegas being about going to see Frank Sinatra and then playing craps and you’re watching the show, to going to a nightclub, taking a selfie, putting it up on Twitter or Instagram, and you being the show,” University of Nevada Las Vegas director of the Center for Gaming Research David Schwartz said.

In other words, millennials will spend thousands of dollars on booze, but not on bets.

In the 1990s, 58 percent of a Las Vegas resorts’ revenue came from gambling. Last year it was just 37 percent. So the industry is now trying to increase the odds that millennials will gamble. Slot machines are being re-branded with popular TV and movie titles and what was once video poker now looks more like a video game.

David Chang, chief marketing officer for Gamblit, a gaming company focused on millennials, said young people are used to playing games for free on their phones so gambling is not the draw.

“The game is entertaining in and of itself,” he said. “The gambling part of this is part of the entertainment, but not the main focus of the entertainment.”

One part that isn’t much of a focus for millennials, according to Chang, is slot machines.

“Slot machines are really, really, really great entertainment experiences for a different demographic,” he said. “Older people.”

For now, Vegas is betting the house that this younger generation will continue to flock to Sin City.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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