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    Poker World Report Card: Week of April 28, 2013

    Posted by Mark Gahagan May 6, 2013

    What a week for the first iteration of the Report Card here on QuadJacks. Three different online sites make headlines in big ways, and it all leads to some interesting reactions from around the poker world.

    Quick Intro

    Each week I’ll take a look at the big stories of the week and look at how they got perceived within the poker community, including my own perspective. Think of it as an editorial of sorts, but one that also attempts to gauge how the public reacted to the stories in the first place. At the end of each story all the major players are assigned grades. For instance, an ‘A’ means things were handled well or it was good press, or alternatively an ‘F’ means that things couldn’t have gone much worse for the entity involved. All grades are final, and any request for a re-grade means I have to look at the whole story again and re-grade everyone’s scores, and that may lead to lower overall grades.

    Ultimate Poker Deals First U.S.-Regulated Online Poker Hands

    Right off the bat I want to get people off the “first legal hand” train that much of the mainstream media was riding on. While it is fair to argue that online poker rooms were not licensed to operate in any state and thus were violating the law, the act of playing online poker has never been illegal, which was reaffirmed by the DoJ Wire Act memo in 2011. That said, this is the first time a room has been sanctioned by a U.S. entity to provide the online poker service to a customer, so it is at least as my headline suggests.

    Anyhow, reviews of the site have been mixed, including our own review written by Matt last week. While players are happy to see online poker emerge in Nevada, the site itself is very barebones. Ultimate Poker has acknowledged this by stating repeatedly that there will be a massive update in the coming months that will improve the functionality and offerings of the site, but they have to be pretty confident that they aren’t going to get a competitor in that time frame.

    For those that play(ed) online poker on a regular basis, Ultimate is certainly lacking in many of the features you came to know and love from the likes of PokerStars and Full Tilt. At the same time though, there may be a need to tamp down expectations, as those two sites were simply in a class of their own compared to the rest of the sites on the international market. Unless competition gets fierce in Nevada (or nearby states like California start legalizing online poker), I would start learning to live with less.

    Final Grades

    • Ultimate Poker – C+: Look, they were first to market, but only because they ran a stripped-down version of their software through the labs and it has the feeling of a glorified beta release more than a finished product. Ultimate has even acknowledged this to a degree (not the beta part, but the stripped-down version part). I certainly wouldn’t rule them out yet, but that big client update is gonna be pretty important.
    • Players’ Expectations vs Reality – D: This is less an indictment of the poker playing public and more an indictment on the shift from what we were used to seeing to what we are getting now. Are the expectations going to line up with the reality? It’s too soon to tell.
    • Antonio Esfandiari – B: He gets the necessary ding for representing an incomplete site, BUT he gave an interview the day after our review and reminded me why he’s one of my favorite poker personalities.
    • April 30, 2013 – A: WE GOT TO PLAY ONLINE POKER AGAIN! (If you were in Nevada…) (…and don’t have Verizon…)

    Pokerstars and Atlantic Club Deal Goes Haywire

    Thanks to developments that occurred after the week was over (including PokerStars’ lawsuit that was filed the day of writing), it seems a bit unfair to call the deal dead. That said, this was a bit of a blindside for the Rational Group, who certainly had to be operating under the assumption that they were on track for acquiring the Atlantic Club due to the minor fact that they were in the licensing process. A good portion of the media speculated that the termination might actually be illegal, given the following subsection of New Jersey regulations:

    …the contract shall not specify a closing or settlement date which is earlier than the 121st day after the submission of a completed application for licensure or qualification, which application shall include a fully executed and approved trust agreement in accordance with section 5 of this 1987 amendatory and supplementary act. Any contract provision which specifies an earlier closing or settlement date shall be void for all purposes.

    The Rational Group, agreeing with this assessment, filed for a Temporary Restraining Order to block the closing of the contract and is now filing legal action against the current Atlantic Club owners. Needless to say, it’s rare for there to be egg on the face of anyone at PokerStars, let alone have something not break their way…ever.

    Final Grades

    • PokerStars/Rational Group – B: They reacted on the announcement of the closure a bit late, long enough for us to start speculating on what the heck went wrong. Still, since then (and what I assume were lengthy meetings with their counsel), they have hit back, and hard.
    • Atlantic Club – F: I am no lawyer, but I think the regulations are pretty clear in this matter, and what happened was an attempt to get around the sale for whatever reason. Maybe the Atlantic Club owners were worried they were selling for too little or…
    • The AGA (or just Caesars) – I: …somebody played their hand too early and it might backfire. The lobbying group gets an incomplete mostly because the outcome of the Atlantic Club deal is 100% of their final grade. If they see a PokerStars entity that they have all but declared war with in New Jersey, they failed miserably, but if this actually gets pulled off and the deal dies, then it’s a huge win for the AGA (or just Caesars). I’m not suggesting there is any funny business on the part of the AGA, but I would be less than surprised if reps from other casino companies (namely… Caesars) were whispering sweet-nothings into the ears of the current owners to talk up a higher price and make them pull the plug on the current deal. (Did I mention I think Caesars might have had a hand in this?)

    Lock Poker vs. Two Plus Two

    After getting burned by Full Tilt Poker in 2011, the poker community has gotten a little more vigilant regarding sites and their potential insolvency. Lock has consistently scored low for cashouts, and it has recently gotten to the point that 2p2 posters want Lock to be held accountable. 2p2 pulled Lock Poker ads from the site and is discussing with Lock Poker officials about the situation, but nothing has come of the talks yet as of time of writing.

    Look, when sites like 2p2 go on witch truth hunts, there is both speculation and truth running rampant. This has led to some predictable issues: no checks received in months, weird rules regarding transfers not being eligible for withdrawal being alleged, evidence that Lock Pros are given massive endorsements but paradoxically won’t deal with Lock itself, etc. (You can look this up on 2p2 if you wish, I won’t link because much of this is not 100% confirmed or consistent. The interpretation of the facts can and will go haywire, as it always does when you have incomplete information.) A bright spotlight is being shone on Lock, and it looks like they might be in trouble.

    Final Grades

    • Lock Poker – F: Uh, yeah, you could have seen this coming a mile away. This is a mountain of bad publicity with very little good coming out of the mouths of the people at Lock to date.
    • U.S. Players – F: Sorry, but this is a subtle reminder, you just can’t trust overseas online poker providers that operate in the U.S. at this point in time. The workarounds to get money to the U.S. customers have to be getting harder by the day, and the fact that players need to be the regulators because the regulators won’t do anything says something about the state of affairs at some of these places (see previous problems at Alderney, KGC, etc.).
    • Two Plus Two – B: This was hard to decide, because on the one hand the cashout issues have been a problem for months and it’s only now that the powers that be over there have decided to get the ads pulled. Still, once again, if we have to regulate the poker industry ourselves, 2p2 is probably one of the better places to try. While some (including the author) may deride the site for some of its more unintelligent troll-happy users, there are some very good people on the site that try to get things done.

    QuadJacks – May 6, 2013

    About Mark Gahagan

    Mark is a co-host and producer of the Cardrunners news podcast Rabbit Hunt as well as a poker columnist. You can find his podcasts over at Cardrunners, and you can follow him on twitter @Mark_Gahagan.

    View all post by Mark Gahagan

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