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Five Thoughts: Business Decisions, WCOOP Wraps Up, and More

Five Thoughts

Nobody, save for Ebenezer Scrooge and Sheldon Adelson, enjoys making “business decisions,” yet we’re all forced to make these tough choices daily. They can be as simple as skipping out on lunch with a friend and/or coworker in an effort to get some work done, or as complicated as firing a friend and/or coworker in order to save your own job. Life is filled with difficult choices, and we are tasked with sorting through these problems in a way that will satisfy ourselves along with our loved ones, friends, and peers.

With large companies, business decisions come with additional complications. Decision makers have to not only balance their work and personal relationships when faced with tough choices, but they also have to be aware of potential PR implications. Announcements, firings, hirings, and other moves come with an additional level of scrutiny, and in many cases there is little that you can do to quiet the mob. If you try to make sense of your decision and break down why you are making a certain decision, all you are going to do is add fuel to the fire.

During the last week, PokerStars made a handful of business decisions. First, they parted ways with Team Pros Joe Cada, Marcel Luske, and Alexander Kravchenko. In a statement, PokerStars said:

” PokerStars can confirm that Joe Cada, Marcel Luske and Alex Kravchenko are no longer members of Team PokerStars Pro. We wish them all well in their future endeavours.”

Kravchenko simply stated that “everything good comes to an end.” Cada tweeted the following:

Joe CadaIf everyone is wondering what happened with Poker Stars and myself it's pretty simple. I asked for 100percent rake back, they said no.

Roughly six weeks ago, PokerStars also parted ways with Humberto Brenes, Angel Guillen, and Jose “Nacho” Barbero.

There were also rumblings late last week about PokerStars terminating a few of their affiliate partners. While the Team Pro roster changes led to a few unhappy tweets, this news was met with more outrage, mainly from those whose pockets were negatively affected. In response to the angry mob, PokerStars' Michael Josem said the following on TwoPlusTwo:

“PokerStars has agreements with thousands of third-party websites (‘affiliates’) to market our services to new players and encourage them to play at PokerStars. PokerStars routinely reviews its agreements with these affiliates to ensure that they are productive for the company. Earlier this week, PokerStars ended the agreements with a very small number of affiliates who were not recruiting many new players, and who were doing little active promotion of our services."

Eric Hollresier, Head of Corporate Communications on PokerStars, added this:

Eric HollreiserIt's a slow poker news day when dropping a handful of affiliate contracts drives random and wrong assumptions. #NextTimeCallFirst

Let's get into these business decisions.

1. The Angry Mob

The first issue, the Team Pro decisions, is a simple one to address. With Amaya Gaming's purchase of PokerStars, there were going to be some changes. That's just how these things work. I can imagine that explaining the need for some brand ambassadors is easier than others, and that the decision makers at Amaya aren't too familiar with Cada, Luske, and Kravchenko. In fact, outside of fellow Canadian Daniel Negreanu and a handful of select others, I'm not sure of the value of any Team PokerStars Pro with a brand new owner that wasn't previously embedded into the poker world.

The most irritating part of this story is when I read words like "cut" or "let go." From my understanding, just like the departures of Barbero, Guillen, and Brenes, these weren't contract terminations - they were contract expirations. PokerStars chose not to renew.

Cada had the right idea in his attempted negotiations, asking for only rakeback and not a salary, but unfortunately for him his request was denied. The American won his second bracelet this summer, becoming the first Main Event champion since Carlos Mortensen to win a WSOP event after winning the Main Event.

Joe CadaEveryone acts like I'm extremely bitter for not getting re-signed. I informed all the rumours that I didn't ask for the world or any $.

Joe CadaI was extremely happy all my years with Stars. I enjoy playing online vs playing live poker so I was disappointed getting let go.

As an American, it's sad to see another Yank go, but I understand that it's a business decision.

The affiliate cuts are a different beast because they are more complicated, but again I think we're hearing a lot of white noise. PokerStars had contracts with affiliates, and in the contract there is a clause saying PokerStars has a right to terminate the deal. After evaluating the current situation, PokerStars opted to terminate a small portion of their thousands of third-party agreements.

What is wrong with that? If these third-party sites aren't making PokerStars any money, or are making the company much less than they used to, then why should PokerStars pay them?

Most of the negative reactions from this are coming from self-interested individuals who are going to lose money. There are also those that are piling on just for the sake of piling on.

Now is not the time to light torches, grab pitchforks, and call for the heads of executives at PokerStars. All they have done over the past week or so is made a couple of small business decisions that will have little if any effect on their everyday players. If PokerStars takes away the SuperNova program or suddenly halves the value of VPP's, then the angry mob can get together and tear down the house. There may be a time where public outcry is necessary to re-establish balance between PokerStars and its customers, but now is not that time.

2. WCOOP Wraps Up

The 2014 World Championship of Online Poker wrapped up on PokerStars on Monday with the final day of the $5,200 buy-in Main Event. After a six-way chop that took nearly an hour to complete, Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz was crowned the winner, earning $1,300,000. He was guaranteed $1,100,000 after the chop and topped it off with the additional $200,000 which was set aside for the winner. Despite finishing in fifth place, Faraz "The-Toilet 0" Jaka won the second highest amount of money with $945,000. The other four players involved in the chop were Yuri "theNERDguy" Martins, Claas "neckbr4ke" Stoob, Elior "Crazy Elior" Sion, and Daniel ‘"19Dan86" Rudd.

The wunderkind himself Viktor "Isildur1" Blom was also at the final table. Unfortunately for him he was the first to exit.

WCOOP Main Event ($10M Guaranteed)

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool

1Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz$1,300,000*
2Yuri "theNERDguy" Martins$708,251*
3Claas "neckbr4ke" Stoob$651,430*
4Elior "Crazy Elior" Sion$780,227*
5Faraz "The-Toilet 0" Jaka$945,000*
6Daniel ‘"19Dan86" Rudd$769,813*
7Dylan "Pokerl)eviL" Hortin$214,200
8Todd "MaltLiquor40" Sisley$160,650
9Viktor "Isildur1" Blom$107,100

*Reflects six-handed deal

For a $5,200 buy-in online tournament, a player pool of 2,142 is astounding. I know it is PokerStars and they are capable of running satellites for as little as free-ninety nine, but it still blows my mind that they can generate a field this large for such a big tournament buy-in without the help of the 300 million plus people in the United States. Granted, the vast majority of the Americans that would be able to directly buy in to the tournament probably did so anyway from Mexico, Canada, or any other country that allows online poker, but there are still thousands of Americans that would've populated satellites and helped to push this number ever higher.

It's also a bit ironic that this tournament is the online equivalent of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 Million Guarantee, and PokerStars cleared the guarantee by more than seven percent.

Jaka joined the PokerNews Podcast on Tuesday to discuss the tournament and the deal-making process. There was a big buzz on Twitter while the six players were negotiating the deal because Jaka asked for roughly $70,000 more than the ICM value of his stack. Jaka explains that there were a lot of numbers flying around and that he made a simple mistake, but it reminded us all of the epic "I wont million" request from Marat "maratik" Sharafutdinov, winner of the 2012 WCOOP Main Event.

Jaka brought up an interesting idea, suggesting that perhaps the chat should be private during the deal-making process. Initially I was opposed to this idea for transparency reasons, but then I thought of all of the tweets and the TwoPlusTwo posts that were flying around while these six players were trying to agree on a deal. It seems like people that are not directly involved in the process could have an impact just by tweeting something along the lines of "Man, player X is really getting a raw deal here."

Then again, if a player is using all of his resources to make sure they get the best deal possible they should also be rewarded for their hard work. It's an interesting discussion and one worth having.

3. Quoss Crushing

Keeping things on the virtual felt, Fabian Quoss won the Sunday 500 on PokerStars, beating Christian “eisenhower1” Jeppsson heads up to earn $103,236. The German is on a bit of a heater over the last few months – this is his third Sunday Major victory since June.

Quoss’ first major victory came on Sunday 2, when he took down the $109 Sunday Rebuy. The German was joined at the final table by Artem “veeea” Vezhenkov and Steve “betrthanphil” Tripp, but no one could stop Quoss from winning and pocketing the top prize of $48,112. At the start of September, Quoss found himself in the winner’s circle once again. This time it was “The Sunday Major” on Full Tilt Poker, a $215 buy-in event with a $150,000 guarantee. Quoss was joined by two more pros, Joe “bigegypt” Elpayaa and Jeremy “daisyxoxo” Fitzpatrick, and he earned $47,880 for the win.

Quoss has not opted in to PocketFives’ online rankings, which, if I’m allowed to be a selfish member of the media, is a shame. In live events he’s earned over $5.7 million, including the more than $1.6 million he pocketed for winning the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller. Quoss ranks fifth on the all-time German money list behind Tobias Reinkemeier ($9.6 million), Philipp Gruissem ($9.4 million), Pius Heinz ($9 million), and Ole Schemion ($6.3 million).

Among the great German players, Quoss is the eldest of the group. This was initially surprising to me because he, like the others, exhibits a wonderful youthful exuberance, but he also comes off as the most mature member of the posse. My favourite moment with Quoss came at the 2014 Aussie Millions where he was just getting settled in for the A$250,000 Challenge. The folks at Crown Melbourne moved the tournament from a private room to the poker room in order to give the great fans an opportunity to sweat the event, and the players were OK with the move, but Quoss had one request.

“They serve a particular type of green tea in that room,” Quoss told Natasha Stipanov. “It’s the best I’ve had in the world – I’m serious. Can we still have it?”

Not only did Stipanov make this happen, but as a parting gift she gave Quoss an entire bag of this special green tea. I’m quite confident that this offering made Quoss’ fifth-place exit a bit less painless.

4. 2014 WSOP Main Event Premiers on ESPN

Coverage of the 2014 WSOP Main Event kicked off on Sunday on ESPN, and upon first viewing I thought it was refreshing and new. It was a bummer to see the coverage begin on Day 4 – we knew this going in – but Poker PROductions were able to squeeze out all of the Paul Pierce and Phil Ivey narratives during the initial two-hour blocks.

In fact, even though we only got to see him on one day of play, I don’t recall ever getting that much personality out of Ivey in a broadcast. He was telling stories, laughing, forgetting the date, and being extremely personable with his competitors at the table. There was also a fantastic little titbit from Norman Chad that I had never heard before.

Evidently, after busting to Chris Moneymaker in this epic, history-altering hand in the 2003 WSOP Main Event, Ivey chose to drive back to New Jersey. Just him, his thoughts, and a lot of Ivey faces for four days across America.

Phil Ivey is human after all.

The “first timers” segment was also very well done, introducing us to a few players that were playing the WSOP Main Event for the very first time. I remember there was a specific PA for Poker PROductions assigned to this task during the tournament, and the reporters would all chuckle when they asked if someone like Dan Smith was a first-time player, but the segment gives the audience specific rooting interests. It introduced us to Bobby Mapp, the grandfather who was put in by his family and rocketed to the chip lead before flaming out, and Billy Pappas, who viewers will see makes the November Nine.

Poker PROductions also did a nice job of covering the Ronnie Bardah story, but I’m a big fan of the Brockton Banana so I am certainly a bit biased.

The 2014 November Nine is a bit underwhelming on the whole, so we will see how the story unfolds. There are some great characters like Bruno Politano who is going to jump off the screen, but it’s going to take some effort to make quiet players like Martin Jacobson and William Tonking seem appealing.

5. Ivey on 60 Minutes Sports

“I’ll tell ya this, I wouldn’t want to play a game of tiddlywinks with Phil Ivey.”

James Brown drops this gem in a teaser for his interview on 60 Minutes Sports with Ivey. Among other topics, the centre of discussion is Ivey’s “edge sorting” dilemmas with multiple casinos. You can watch the entire teaser here:

The first thing that pops out to me is that James Brown was at the WSOP! How did I miss this? When Ivey enters a room, sits down, picks his nose, breathes etc., we tend to notice in the Live Reporting ranks. Here, we see Ivey walking with Brown in the hallways in broad daylight. Crazy.

The second thing that interests me is the producer’s brutal honesty about the piece. Evidently he’s been trying to get Ivey to agree to a feature interview for five years, but it’s only now that Ivey has agreed. It’s no secret that Ivey is currently trying to clear his name from any cheating allegations.

Unlike the WSOP broadcast, where Ivey is in his elements, this is a more buttoned-up version of the poker legend we all know. I’m still interested in seeing this piece, and I am happy that national sports fans are being welcomed into this conversation, but this is an obvious PR play by Ivey and his people to repair his image and support the prospects of Ivey Poker.

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