Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Whose Turn Is It, Again?

What a weird week already, and it’s only Wednesday. And I guess it’s May already, too, which means the World Series of Poker is just around the corner to start distracting us all even further.

Been trying to follow all of the online poker-related developments, although it’s starting to feel a little like I’ve accidentally sat down at a table where they’re dealing some brand new variant with multiple flops and extra streets where I’m not sure about hand values and I don’t even really know how many betting rounds there are.

Kind of makes me want to sit back and take a hand or three off, just to avoid playing out of turn or any other missteps.

On Monday I was writing about the current troubles at Lock Poker, the latest issue to emerge symbolizing the confusing and highly uncertain world of so-called “rogue” offshore U.S.-facing online poker sites. Easy enough to draw a conclusion there to steer clear of Lock and other such sites, although it’s still a bit headachy trying to delve into the specifics of what is happening with the communications and cashouts (or lack thereof) and ever-shifting landscape for players.

Then yesterday came the sudden launch of Ultimate Poker, which created some huge buzz and various conversations and commentary throughout the day and night.

Again, lots of questions linger as the site moves into its second day of offering actual U.S. licensed and regulated real money games to players in Nevada. PokerScout reported a peak of 136 players on the site during its first day of dealing, and a quick check of the “Hand ID” numbers at the moment suggest more than 25,000 hands have been dealt at the cash tables and in sit-n-gos.

Amid all of the talk of triangulation -- a word that always sounds short of breath -- and other matters related to players’ attempts to get up and running on Ultimate Poker, I wondered some more about how quickly the sucker went live, with only a few hours in between players being able to make initial deposits and the games getting underway. (No free play games, either, to test out things beforehand.)

But like the great majority of those talking about Ultimate Poker right now, I’m not actually playing on the site as I am not in Nevada. Thus am I hesitant to say much at all regarding how things appear to have gone during UP’s first day, although I have been following with interest the various posts, forum comments, tweets, and other talk about what’s happening.

Then last night came what appeared to be another item of apparently uncertain significance as Alexandra Berzon of The Wall Street Journal reported that the deal between PokerStars (or, rather, the Rational Group) and the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel (or, rather, Colony Capital LLC) had reached an impasse thanks to the passing of an important deadline established between the two entities.

According to Berzon, the deal had been contingent on Rational obtaining a Preliminary Casino Authorization (i.e., a temporary license) to operate in NJ by last Friday. That day came and went, and thus the agreement between the two parties expired. While the significance of the news was initially unclear -- neither side had offered any on-the-record comments for Berzon’s article -- this morning it sounds like the deal is well and truly nixed, as the Atlantic Club’s CEO is confirming that to be the case. Though again, it is hard to pin down what it all means for New Jersey and/or PokerStars going forward. (Hard for me, anyway.)

Finally, there was one more item popping up this morning over on Politico suggesting that yet another federal online gambling bill was about to be proposed by House Rep. Peter King (R-NY). Actually that item initially suggested another Congressman (Jay Rockefeller) was to propose the legislation before a correction soon followed.

Of course, it seems like just about every story we’re hearing at present having to do with online poker seems in need of correction. Or at least revising to add further clarification. And the fact that half of these stories are hidden behind pay walls doesn’t make it any easier for the majority of us wanting to know what’s up.

I’ve made the analogy before here about how reporting on poker -- like poker itself -- is often a “partial information game,” although when I have it has been in the context of reporting on tourneys in which those of us on the side cannot see hole cards or know players’ thoughts, entire shared history, and so on.

Such a characterization seems appropriate with regard to stories about the status online poker in the U.S. at present, too. Like I was saying above, the whole scene regarding online poker’s present and future in the U.S. is getting so muddled it’s becoming increasingly difficult even to follow the order of play.

Makes the game more unpredictable, I guess, and thus more apt to surprise us. Even so, I think I might just sit out and watch for a while before getting further involved.

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