It seems that the more things change in the vast and ever expanding world of poker, the more they stay the same.
German wunderkind Fedor Holz is still winning all the money, despite suggestions he was ready to hang it all up. Daniel Negreanu is still the darling of the media, despite taking on a new role as host of his own poker podcast, and PokerStars is still setting the gold standard in live events, despite plans for some new branding released this week.
All this, and more on the state of online poker legislation in California and the size of the 15th annual World Championship of Online Poker kicking off on PokerStars next month, in this week's Five Thoughts:
1. Don't Call It A Comeback
Kudos to Fedor Holz, who pulled the wool over the poker world's eyes while continuing the greatest high-roller heater of all time, coming out of "retirement" to book a win in the EPT Barcelona €50,000 Super High Roller for €1.3 Million last week.
To be fair, the 23-year-old German never really retired, as reported by various media outlets. Exhausted from the full seven-week summer grind at the 2016 WSOP, Holz simply spoke about making a less than full-time commitment to next year's WSOP and mused about the possibility of making a more substantial contribution to society than the average professional poker player does. So it wasn't really a shock to see him turn up in Barcelona and add to the more than $12 million in tournament earnings he's secured over the past six months while on this massive heater.
Holz has admitted he hasn't really figured out what he wants to do with his life yet, and at 23, that's more than OK. Obviously, if he wants to save the world, running off into early retirement and a volunteer position in the Peace Corps is an option, but it really isn't the best one for him right now. In fact, even if making a greater contribution to society is his ultimate goal, someone with his current skill set is still better off doing exactly what he's doing, making as much money as he can while riding out the heater, and figuring out later how he can best use some of it for the betterment of all.
It's certainly fun watching Holz dominate on the felt. He's a smart kid, humble, and proof that hard work and dedication pays off, even in poker. But it might be more fun watching him dominate in real life, figuring out his optimal line going forward, turning into some kind of new age Robin Hood of poker, and making a significant difference in his own life, and the lives of others, if, and when, he's ready to do so.
- "Retired" Fedor Holz Claims EPT Barcelona €50,000 Super High Roller Title for €1.3 Million
- German Superstar Fedor Holz Is Crushing, But Says It's His Last Full WSOP
- Fedor Holz Wins One Drop High Roller for First Bracelet and $4.98 Million
2. EPT Out, PokerStars Championships, Festivals In
This week, PokerStars announced a plan to rebrand its entire live events roster beginning in 2017, essentially taking it's wildly successful European Poker Tour event model to its biggest stops, around the different tours, across the globe and calling them PokerStars Championships. They also unveiled plans to continue to build upon the success of the smaller, regional tours, turning them into PokerStars Festivals.
The first scheduled PokerStars Championship will be held in the Bahamas from January 6-14, 2017, which is exciting for two reasons. First off, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will continue in one form or another. If the WSOP is poker's summer camp, the PCA is certainly its winter break, and poker players and fans from around the world should be overjoyed the fun is going to continue. Secondly, no one will have to pretend the Bahamas is in Europe anymore. Making the PCA a part of the European Poker Tour never made any sense geographically speaking. Now we can all just pretend that never really happened.
The PokerStars Festival events are designed to be shorter week-long live events with a fun, holiday feel, tailored towards recreational players and the first one is slated to go off in New Jersey from October 29 through November 6.
New Jersey in the Fall doesn't exactly scream out vacation destination, but the exciting thing here is that it all represents PokerStars' return to big-time live events in the United States. There's going to be more than 50 tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $100 to $5,000 and a number of unique features at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, and it's going to be the first time in a long time that Americans will be able to enjoy the hospitality and fun offered at PokerStars events without having to go overseas.
3. Negreanu Jumps in the Podcast Business
Daniel Negreanu launched what's sure to be a welcome addition to the poker podcast skyline last week. The Full Contact Poker Podcast is promising to be an in-depth look into the business side of poker, and with Negreanu hosting, it's a sure bet to be an informative and entertaining one.
Negreanu's agent Brian Balsbaugh was the first guest on the inaugural episode and the pair's lengthy discussion on sponsorship during the poker boom was a great listen, even if just as an example of a few great stories highlighting how much the game, and the business surrounding it, has changed over the past few years.
While the real challenge for the super-busy Negreanu will be keeping up with a regular schedule for the pod, here's hoping he does because his insights and access to the power players in this industry are sure to be second to none.
4. California Online Poker Hits a Snag
The fight to play legal and regulated online poker in California has morphed into a battle for where exactly California players will be able to get their game on.
Last week, a bill to legalize and regulate online poker in the State look poised to pass Assembly and head to the Senate, but by the time a planned Monday vote rolled around, that bill was off the table.
PokerStars' parent company Amaya, and the coalition of California tribal interests that backs them, sent off a letter opposing an amendment to the bill that called for a bad actor clause, putting a five-year ban, and possibly more, on companies accepting US wagers after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed in 2006.
The message here is clear: Online poker is coming to California, it's just a matter of who'll be allowed to host the games and collect the rake, and that lengthy battle appears to be just beginning.
5. WCOOP Gets Bigger and Smaller
When the 15th annual World Championship of Online Poker kicks off on PokerStars next month, it will be both the biggest and smallest ever.
Running Sept 4 to 26, PokerStars’ flagship online tournament championship will feature a record-breaking 82 events and more than $50 million in guaranteed prize pools. The Main Event will feature a $10 million guarantee making it one of the richest poker tournaments on the planet, online or off, and after a successful $51,000 Super High Roller event last year, PokerStars has doubled that record buy-in to $102,000.
That's the big stuff. The little stuff is that the World Championships will be mirrored by a low-stakes companion series for the first time ever. Mini-WCOOP will feature identical events from WCOOP at a small percentage of the cost. The entire small-stakes series has been designed to give recreational players and others who typically do not play WCOOP the opportunity to feel a bit of excitement surrounding the series.
Here's hoping, and expecting, this September brings with it another successful World Championship of Online Poker, now on both ends of poker's economic spectrum.