Thursday, March 23, 2006

Explosion of Internet poker stokes interest in live games

Frank Fahrenkopf said poker was dead in Nevada -- but that was before Internet gambling came along.

"Casinos were closing their poker rooms," the president/CEO of the American Gaming Association said. "But TV made it exciting and the Internet made it accessible."

Poker -- no limit Texas hold'em in particular -- has exploded onto the gambling scene again, in part, because of televised poker tournaments and online poker rooms, where novices can practice without fear of embarrassment.

The World Series of Poker, owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc., and the World Poker Tour both sponsor satellite tournaments in Reno. Winners have the opportunity to get a free buy-in to larger tournaments.

Margie Heintz, the poker room manager at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino, agreed that the resurgence of online poker's popularity has helped bring people into a casino to try it in person.

"A lot of people continuously say they have played online but never in person," Heintz said. "I have been in poker rooms for 31 years, and no-limit hold'em had become a dinosaur.

"Now, people from all walks of life want to try it."

Poker is just one of many types of gambling available online, despite the controversy about whether online gambling should be legal in the United States.

The controversy started in 1961, when Congress passed the Wire Act, which prohibits using telephone lines to bet on horse races across state lines.

An exemption was made by the Interstate Horse Racing Act, which 21 states adopted to allow betting on televised races.

When Internet gambling broke onto the scene in the 1990s, the Justice Department decided the Wire Act was broad enough to prohibit Internet gambling.

So gambling site operators moved offshore so U.S. gamblers can play without breaking the law.

The industry estimates that Internet gambling brought in $12 billion to $15 billion, with about 60 percent of that coming from the U.S.

Hard numbers are not available since online gaming isn't regulated.

"With everything we look at, there is something about gambling that relates to America," said Ken Adams, a Reno gaming analyst. "Eventually, we would want regulations and controls because outside the U.S. is outside our ability to control."

Fahrenkopf said for the past 10 years, Federal bills have been presented that would make it illegal to make any kind of wager on the Internet.

"Nothing has passed," he said. "But our companies still don't want to get involved with it."

Many brick-and-mortar casinos don't consider online gambling direct competition, he said.

"10 years ago, probably 60 percent to 70 percent of profit came from gambling," he said. "Today, it makes up only about 45 percent of the bottom line.

"People aren't coming to gamble, but the complete package with entertainment and dining."

Online gambling has been so lucrative that operators are buying up smaller Web sites and some have already gone public.

"In most countries, major gaming companies are moving into position to participate," Adams said.

But if gambling on computers isn't your thing, most major casinos have reopened poker rooms to get the real experience.

Heintz said the poker rooms in town are busier than ever.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Battle Royal to Be King of Poker

Jonathan Waessil is short-stacked. In poker, that means everybody else at the table has more chips than you do, but you're still alive. In life, it means we're sitting on his sofa in a modest little apartment in a modest little complex near a freeway construction zone in Garden Grove. Not a bad life, by any means, but the 65-year-old Waessil is about to make the biggest move of his poker-playing career.

He's suing the World Poker Tour and its officials in federal court, alleging that founder Steven Lipscomb purloined Waessil's idea and turned it into the wildly successful TV series that features weekly poker tournaments.

He's seeking unspecified damages, and I had to ask: "Are you bluffing?"

"I'm not bluffing. I'll go to the last dime. I intend to answer anything he puts out there."

If that means money, Waessil knows he's in trouble. "Unless I get some people who are going to really help me," he says, "there is really probably no way for me to stand up against a machine like Lipscomb or anybody else."

The WPT just began its fourth season on the Travel Channel and is one of my favorite TV stops. Lipscomb, a lawyer who had earlier success in TV and film producing, is considered the genius behind the series.

Every time he watches the show, Waessil says, he hurts. He says Lipscomb approached him in the Hollywood Park casino nearly 10 years ago and identified himself as a lawyer. Waessil says Lipscomb apparently had heard that he'd been pitching to casino owners the possibility of televising poker. "He said he was looking for something interesting," Waessil says.

A poker player from way back, Waessil was convinced it could become a popular TV "sport." The suit says he "for four years … single-mindedly devoted himself to nurturing his billion-dollar idea from merely a good idea to a viable and marketable plan."

After that one and only meeting, Waessil says, Lipscomb stole his dream.

Not so fast, says Adam Pliska, general counsel for the WPT. "I am absolutely certain that this is a groundless case," he told me by phone. He didn't want to go beyond that, other than to say the WPT would respond in court.

That brings us back to Waessil's sofa and talk of giant-killing. Waessil says he's a former private eye and was in show business — in the way, apparently, that a lot of people are, sort of. "I made a living for a while," he says, "but not a very good one. I was never a big success, I can tell you right now."

His TV poker vision was simple: "My idea was that these players have a whole lot to say," he says. "The individual stories they tell while they're playing poker at the table would absolutely blow your socks off."

He also envisioned commentators, a TV audience of spectators and the emergence of some poker players as stars — all of which are elements of the WPT broadcasts.

I have no idea whether Waessil's lawsuit has a ghost of a chance. Maybe it does, or maybe he's just another guy trying to steal a pot with a crummy hand.

"Do you think you have a shot?" I ask.

"I've got a shot," he says. "I'll tell you why I've got a shot. I've got truth on my side."

I remind him that poker players aren't especially known for the truth. Much of the game's charm lies in their roguish ability to lie and misrepresent. Very true, Waessil concedes, but there are moments of truth.

"If you don't get the cards, that's the truth," he says, staring me in the eye. "If you're not getting the cards, you gotta know how to stay in the game as long as you can until it changes. Or just accept what's going to happen, take those licks and stand up tall. Because if you don't get the cards, you cannot win the game."

With all the solemnity I could muster, I ask, "Have you got the cards?"

Without blinking, he says, "I've got the cards."

Saturday, March 4, 2006

World's first online poker wedding only days away

With the world's first online poker wedding only days away,, the world's largest online poker room is incubating its newest enterprise - a Party Poker offspring! The bride and groom Jackie Johnson and Gary Suffir have announced they are planning to start a family and that all bets are for a baby called Chip - if it is a boy.

The couple first met online on in September 2004 in a $30 Omaha game in the site's virtual chat rooms after Jackie defended Gary in a row over a bad beat. After initially communicating via the buddy function on the website and being in consistent contact for months after that, Jackie moved to New York City from Las Vegas to live with Gary in March 2005. Now a year later, they are getting hitched at the Paris Hotel in Vegas on March 7th, with famous poker ambassador Mike Sexton as a witness. And the couple are rapidly stacking the deck by planning a new family.

"We thought that if the baby is a boy we could call it Mike after Mike Sexton but in honor of the way we met we'll call him Chip," said a smiling Gary. "If our baby is a girl we may call her Linda after Linda Johnson, the first lady of poker, but Queenie is a possibility."

What about Doyle after poker legend Doyle Brunson? "I don't think so - my chips would be on Chip." added Gary, a 28-year-old New York attorney.

Gary and Jackie are celebrating their honeymoon on the Party Poker Million V Cruise around the Caribbean, starting on March 12th. With their minds on a family and the full house it would bring the poker mad couple aren't worried about building a bankroll on the cruise, they already figure they have a royal flush. "It is going to be great playing poker on our honeymoon," said Jackie, who credits Gary with her improved Omaha play. The couple actually considered having their honeymoon in Omaha, Nebraska but the card-playing cruise stopping in Jamaica and Grand Cayman won the day.

Gary and Jackie's friends and family are taking part in a special online tournament before the ceremony, while plans for the wedding itself include a unique poker wedding cake and poker floral displays. There was speculation that the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Suffir would dress as a king and queen and request 'Cry Me A River' for their first dance, but their celebration of happiness and poker is being handled as straight as their poker faces.

The couple couldn't be happier as they contemplate going all-in for life. "We're just so happy to have found each other and we can't wait to start a family," said Jackie, a 27 year-old artist. spokesman Warren Lush said: "It is with great delight that we are hosting what we believe is the world's first online poker wedding. We hope that they'll have and to hold'em forever and ever."

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

A beginner's guide to poker chips

Poker is one game that has influenced almost whole of the United States of America. The influence of this table game can be seen in any nook and corner of the country and the world as well. The game has picked so well from the fan fairs due to which it made it to the clubs very conveniently. But that was not where it was meant to be. It found an easy opening in the casinos as it was a very popular pass time. And today the people are happy to play it at homes too. Thus the game is going places. But ever imagined the game with out the real accessories? No way can’t the game be played with out the surreal stuff. And not all can have the fun with out the actual jazz attached to it.

One would wonder if he or she can ever be able to get the game to home in all it glory and actuality. It might seem a distant dream, but not any more. The game buffs can actually have access to the best quality of gambling accessories. From deal tables to poker chips, everything is available for amazingly affordable prices. These can be had on an online market or from companies directly dealing with manufacturing, marketing and distributing this stuff. One would wonder why one should buy this stuff. But not always can one get the chance to drive up to a casino and spend time and money with his friends and all. So why not keep a poker table at home. Priced at very affordable level these can be kept at home by all people. And that’s not all. The companies dealing with this kind of stuff also manufacture the poker chips. These are customized to the needs of the buyer. And the people can have a gala time looking at the custom made chips to deal.

Then the competition organizers can go for the names on the chips. They are designed according to the requirements and carry the emblem and the denominations as ordered. The chips color combo can also be decided and the shapes to can be customized. The table texture and the color is for the customer to decided. One can get the chip and the tables designed in the same pattern and enjoy the fun.

There are good reasons why one should go for this investment. Have you ever imagined taking your inquisitive son to a pompous casino? It’s very difficult to take the child to a all adult place. But with chips and tables at home it’s a casino in the out house too. And then there are social gatherings which need to be amply entertained. Having the stuff at home would minimize the mind boggling job to think about the games. Every one knows how to play poker and who doesn’t want to win? So it always is a good idea to have one. With poker chips of choice poker is surly double the fun.