The spring and summer months have always been slow periods for the global internet poker economy, but some regions—particularly New Jersey—have clearly struggling more than others. For the month of June 2015, the NJ online poker market suffered the lowest yield since the state introduced regulation in 2013.

NJ Online Poker Revenue Down Again in JuneLast month, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) reported that NJ online poker operators harvested just $1.83 million. That figure represents a 46.8% drop compared to the state’s all-time high of $3.44 million generated in January 2014.

Diminishing player traffic—and consequently, revenue—is expected around this time of year. The iPoker industry endures a seasonal drop in activity all over the world. But the NJ online poker market has more reason for concern when comparing last month’s revenue to that of a year ago. June 2015 bears a 10% decrease compared to the same month’s figures in 2014.

In fact, aside from the relatively steady months of February and March, New Jersey has witnessed a perpetual month over month decline in internet poker revenue.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, regulators in the Garden State are enjoying a continuous boost from the online casino market. That division nearly struck 10-figures in June, reaping $9.83 million; a staggering 83.38% more than NJ online poker sites.

NJ Online Poker Market’s Leaders

There is some confusion among which network actually leads the NJ online poker market. If we go by revenue, the Party Borgata Network is at the forefront. Based on cash game traffic numbers from tracking website PokerScout, however, it’s WSOP/888 that leads the pack.

There are only two internet poker networks operating four sites in the Garden State. Party Borgata operates and, while Caesars Interactive’s and share they’re players on WSOP/888.

When comparing NJ online poker revenue, Party Borgata is on top with 51.8% of the market share, while WSOP/888 follows right behind with 48.2%. In terms of traffic however, WSOP/888 appears to have a significant lead of 170 average cash game players, compared to just 110 on Party Borgata. One would have to surmise that Party Borgata is drawing more tournament traffic, and/or higher stakes players to the virtual felt.

NJ Online Poker / Casino Markets Combined

When balancing the books for both NJ online poker and casino markets in June, Party/Borgata remained on top by claiming 29.6% of the Garden State’s overall iGaming market share. Caesar’s Interactive came in second with 22.6%. Tropicana and Golden Nugget, which operate online casinos only, trailed close behind with 21.95% and 21.64% respectively. Another casino-only operator, Resorts’ grade was negligible, managing to grasp just 3.43%.

New Jersey Still Awaiting PokerStars Entry

At this point, there’s only one thing that can truly turn the NJ online poker market around, and that’s the eventual introduction of PokerStars. The world’s largest internet poker site, owned by Amaya Gaming, is still waiting for a ruling from state regulators on whether a license will be granted, and according to Amaya CEO David Baazov, it could happen as early as Fall 2015.

PokerStars entry should have an immense impact on the Garden State, raising awareness ten-fold and giving existing operators significant reason to become more competitive with their promotions and tournament offerings.

It’s also worth noting that Amaya Gaming is currently in negotiations to acquire and its many interactive gaming assets, including its operations in New Jersey.

Update: Confirmed this morning, July 17, 2015, 888 Holdings has won the bid for, agreeing to a $1.4 billion buyout of the company and all of its assets.

After six long, grueling days, the 2015 WSOP Main Event has delivered the fatal blow to 6,393 of the total 6,420 field of entrants. Of the mere 27 that remain, all eyes are on Daniel Negreanu. The 40 year old Canadian poker pro has accomplished many things in the poker world – far more than most can ever dream of – but the WSOP Main Event Championship has perpetually eluded him.

Daniel Negreanu in Final 27 at 2015 WSOP Main EventHe learned to play poker at 15 and by 22 he was packing his bags, leaving Toronto for the brilliant lights of Las Vegas to ‘live the dream’. Success wasn’t instant, but in 1997 the live tournament scene welcomed him with open arms. He cashed in 6 events, three being 1st place finishes, and collected over $75k that year. It was all uphill from there.

Daniel Negreanu has since become one of the most decorated poker pros in the world, earning the nickname ‘Kid Poker’. He’s captured a total of 6 WSOP bracelets and 2 WPT Titles. He has already been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, tying David ‘Chip’ Reese as the youngest inductee at age 40. He’s been named CardPlayer’s Player of the Year twice, and is ranked #1 on the Poker All Time Money List with $30,095,734 in live tournament cashes.

With so many accolades, it may surprisesome to learn that, despite a multitude of attempts, Daniel Negreanu has never even cashed in the WSOP Main Event. Twice he’s landed in the bubble of the WSOP Europe Main Event, finishing 43rd in 2012 and 25th in 2013, but the ultimate prize of all – the WSOP Main Event Championship – is now just 26 eliminations from his grasp.

Final 27 of 2015 WSOP Main Event, Daniel Negreanu in 9th

As the final 27 players wait to be seated at the last three tables just a few hours from now, Daniel Negreanu holds the 9th highest chip stack of 8,495,000. The leader going into Day 7 is Thomas Kearney (14,400,000), followed closely by Matt Guan (14,230,000) and Erasmus Morfe (12,085,000), all of American descent.

As Day 6 came to a close, Daniel Negreanu told CardPlayer TV how he felt about his position in the 2015 WSOP Main Event, guaranteed to earn his first cash and, hope upon hope, a Championship bracelet.

“There is one event in the world that everybody pays attention to, even if they’re not into poker, and this is the one!” said Kid Poker. “So making a deep run here is extra special. Winning is like that feather in the cap that we all want before we die, and this is a great opportunity. I’m going to seize the moment.”

Notable Eliminations from Day 6 of the 2015 WSOP Main Event

Yesterday’s action saw some remarkable players heading for the rails.

Bracelet winner Justin Bonomo found his chip stack running dry in 64th, worth a $96,445 payday. 2x EPT titlist Toby Lewis ran aground in 53rd for $137,300, followed by 2010 WSOP Main Event  final tablist Matt Jarvis in 51st for the same $137,300 cash.

Brian Hastings, who’s already snagged two bracelets this year (3 in all), was ousted in 49th place for $137,300 as well. Bracelet holder Steve Gross fell in 47th, also for $137,300, trailed by online poker pro Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon in 43rd for $164,086.

One of the last to exit the arena last night was Kelly Minkin, who collected $211,811 for finishing 29th and earned the esteemed title of last woman standing in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.

Final 27 of 2015 WSOP Main Event

Rank Player Name Chip Count
1 Thomas Kearney 14,400,000
2 Matt Guan 14,230,000
3 Erasmus Morfe 12,085,000
4 Joe McKeehen 11,975,000
5 Mario Sequeira 11,685,000
6 David Stefanski 11,485,000
7 Alexander Turyansky 10,785,000
8 Zvi Stern 9,940,000
9 Daniel Negreanu 8,495,000
10 Justin Schwartz 7,510,000
11 Patrick Chan 7,400,000
12 Anton Morgenstern 6,955,000
13 Thomas Cannuli 6,220,000
14 John Allan Hinds 6,210,000
15 Pierre Neuville 6,000,000
16 Chad Power 5,300,000
17 Blake Bohn 5,000,000
18 Federico Butteroni 4,980,000
19 Fedor Holz 4,645,000
20 Neil Blumenfield 4,315,000
21 Christoph Brand 4,120,000
22 Joshua Beckley 3,745,000
23 James Magner 3,500,000
24 Max Steinberg 3,290,000
25 Kilian Kramer 3,175,000
26 George McDonald 2,875,000
27 David Peters 2,100,000


The Portuguese government recently chose to regulate internet wagering, with license application scheduled for acceptance in September 2015. However, with an exorbitant tax rate, online gambling in Portugal may continue to be dominated by black market operators.

Online Gambling in PortugalThere was a resounding cheer of joy from enthusiasts of online gambling in Portugal when regulators chose to end the monopoly of the state lottery on internet wagering. But it was soon revealed that licensed operators would be required to pay taxes of 15-30% on gross gaming revenue (GGR), and that could deter many legitimate operators from applying for a license.

According to a study of online gambling in Portugal by PricewaterhouseCooper, it’s already been predicted that up to 80% of all companies who receive a license to operate will go out of business within 12 months. And that summation was derived immediately from what gaming analysts are calling an exorbitantly high tax rate.

As a direct result, analysts fear that grey market operators will thrive in the Portuguese iGaming industry. Because unlicensed operators won’t have to pay punitive taxes, they will be able to provide fans of online gambling in Portugal with more attractive promotions and bonus offerings.

PokerStars & Full Tilt Withdraw from Online Gambling in Portugal

In lieu of the licensing application process that kicks off in two months, Amaya Gaming has withdrawn its PokerStars and Full Tilt offerings in the region. The online poker giant wants to make sure that, when September rolls around, its operations are seen as wholly compliant and worthy of licensure.

In a statement from PokerStars, the operator made it clear that they “fully expect to apply for a license in Portugal so that we can provide a fun, safe and competitive environment for Portuguese consumers to enjoy online poker.”

Other Operators Take Precautions while Weighing Options

Several other major online poker and casino operators have followed in the footsteps of Amaya Gaming by withdrawing their services from the soon-to-be regulated Portuguese iGaming market. However, they’ve yet to decide whether it will be worthy of their time, effort and money to apply for a license, or simply avoid online gambling in Portugal from here on out.

888 Poker, Betfair, PKR and William Hill are just a few of the iGaming operators who fit into this category. They have already ceased operations in Portugal, but are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach before pursuing steps to re-enter the market in a licensed, and consequently taxed, capacity.

These companies would prefer to evaluate the landscape of online gambling in Portugal once regulation goes into effect in the fall. If the market becomes saturated, the high tax rate could spell disaster for profit margins.

Examining the current situation in France does not incite a positive outlook. Online gambling in Portugal is shaping up to mimic that of the several year old French market, where high taxes and ring fenced networking has hindered growth.

If, however, the Portuguese government takes a strong enough stance against unlicensed operators, it could leave enough wiggle room for a few licensed operators to compete for traffic and generate enough revenue to survive in the newest European online gambling market.

The odds of regulating internet poker in California just got worse as Assemblyman Mike Gatto has essentially given up on his CA online poker bill, AB 9. Mike said in a statement that, due to having found “no consensus” on the issue, he’s removing his measure from the committee hearing scheduled for next week.

Assemblyman Gatto was the first of several politicians in the Golden State to introduce a CA online poker bill in the 2015-16 legislative session. AB 9 hit the table in December of 2014 as one of the first measures presented in the state.

Key Features of Gatto’s CA Online Poker Bill AB 9

Gatto’s proposal provided a framework for authorizing, regulating and licensing online poker operations in California. When AB 9 was first introduced, the Assemblyman noted that his CA online poker bill would give both players and operators “certainty and security that will legitimize the game, support locally-owned businesses, and keep much-needed revenue in the state.” Mike Gatto gives up on CA Online Poker Bill AB 9

AB 9 had several distinct parameters set in place to limit the state’s internet poker market to restricted operators. Only licensed tribal casinos and commercial card rooms would be permitted to participate (i.e. no horse racing tracks), and a ‘bad actors’ clause stated that any operator who accepted California players after December 31, 2006 (post-UIGEA) would be prohibited from obtaining a license.

While the horse racing industry and Amaya Gaming (owner of PokerStars & Full Tilt were opposed to AB 9, there were many tribal gaming operators and card rooms who supported Gatto’s CA online poker bill. The most significant among them was the Pechanga Coalition, a 7-tribe strong group of California tribes who are staunchly opposed to competing with PokerStars or the horse racing industry if and when internet poker is authorized.

Gatto says “No Consensus” means ‘No Go’ for AB 9

In a press release issued on his website yesterday, Mike Gatto explained why he’s giving up on his CA online poker bill.

“I am canceling next week’s hearing of my Assembly Bill 9.  I believe this is the right thing to do at this point because there is no consensus on the issue yet,” wrote Assemblyman Gatto.

He did point out, however, that “My bill has an “urgency” clause, and thus it can be resuscitated at any time.”

He went on to speak of the hard work he’s put into internet poker legislation since 2012.

“Over the past three years, I have met with representatives from nearly every software provider, card room, gaming tribe, racetrack, and internet-poker operator who has an opinion on the subject.  I gave my word to both supporters and opponents of AB 9 that my goal was consensus, and that I would not move forward with anything that achieved less than that,” Gatto said.

Although AB 9 is all-but dead at this point, the Assemblyman promised to continue his efforts towards establishing a framework for the authorization of online poker in California. “I will continue working to craft legislation on which the interested parties can agree, and which is good for the people and treasury of the state of California.”

Bryan Micon, accused of operating a Bitcoin poker site out of his Las Vegas home earlier this year, returned to Nevada on Thursday to appear in Clark County Court. He has accepted a deal to plead guilty to lesser charges in hopes of avoiding jail time for committing a felony offense.

Bryan Micon Seals With ClubsThe 36 year old owner of Bitcoin poker site Seals with Clubs (SWC) would be sentenced to an as-yet undetermined length of probation. He also agreed to pay a fine of $25,000 and give up all of the properties seized by authorities back in the February raid of his home, including $900 in cash, 3.0996 in Bitcoins, and a collection of computer equipment.

In taking the deal, Bryan Micon’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, said that the felony charges would be reduced to a gross misdemeanor. Micon declined to comment to the press after the hearing, but Schonfeld called his client’s plea bargain “an appropriate resolution”.

When police first entered Micon’s home with a search warrant in February, the Bitcoin poker site owner fled to Antigua. He’s been living there with his wife and young daughter for the last three months, refusing to return to the United States even after the Nevada Attorney General issued a warrant for his arrest in April.

According to court documents, Bryan Micon has been accused of illegally operating an unlicensed online poker operation from March 1, 2014 to February 9, 2015. Despite the date range in question, records also state that the Nevada Gaming Control Board first became aware of Seals with Clubs when an individual from Belgian complained about the Bitcoin poker site in August of 2013.

Operating an online gaming site that uses real money is illegal in Nevada, unless the proper licensing is acquired.

From his temporary residence in Antigua, Micon consistently claimed that he had done nothing wrong, based primarily on the fact that SWC was fueled by the crypto-currency, Bitcoin, rather than traditional money.

Last week, it was revealed that Bryan Micon had agreed to travel back to Clark County in order to face the charges against him. As part of the conditions of his return, a judge rescinded the arrest warrant so that Micon could turn himself in without incident. After a brief booking, he was released on his own cognizance until Thursday’s court hearing.

The plea agreement offered by prosecutors, and accepted by Bryan Micon and his defense lawyer, must still be reviewed and approved by a Clark County judge. Schonfeld explained that, if the judge fails to accept the deal and issue probation, his client will still have the option of withdrawing the guilty plea.

The original felony offense Micon faces carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison with a $50,000 fine. Which way the case will proceed is impossible to predict because, as Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt pointed out, this is the first time they have prosecuted a case involving an online poker site that utilizes digital currency like Bitcoin.

Bryan Micon is scheduled to return to the Clark County Courthouse next week.


The pride of the Italian professional poker community, Max Pescatori, will be taking home his 4th WSOP bracelet; his second this year. The 44 year old poker pro cashed in for $292,158 on Monday after surviving Daniel Negreanu and Stephen Chidwick in the 2015 WSOP $10,000 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship.

Max Pescatori wins 2nd WSOP Bracelet of 2015With a 5-figure buy-in, the 3 Day event drew a crowd of 111 participants to the Rio’s registration booths. By the end of Day 1, Pescatori was on the low-end of the stacks, failing to receive notable mention among the 64 players set to return for Day 2. He fared better upon his return, one of only 11 players worthy of going into Day 3. Chidwick led with 808k chips at the start, but the Italian pro wasn’t far behind at 549k.

Shortly after the elimination of Richard Sklar, the final 6 converged on center stage, featuring a wide range of nationalities: Thomas Butzhammer of Austria, Gary Benson of Australia, Aleksandr Denisov of Russia, Daniel Negreanu of Canada, Stephen Chidwick of England and Max Pescatori of Italy.

Butzhammer was the first to fall, ending in 6th for $51,022. After eliminating the Austrian, Benson found himself short stacked, falling victim to Pescatori in 5th for $63,981. Next out was Denisov, collecting $81,865 for 4th when Chidwick scooped the remainder of his chips.

That left three elite poker pros around the felt. On the very next hand, Chidwick jumped head of Pescatori with 1.2mm, but Negreanu held the lead with 1.4mm. Soon after, it looked like the Brit was going to sweep the table when he rose to 2.1mm, leaving just over 600k in front of each of his opponents, but that wasn’t the case.

All three took part in the hand that would end up being the demise of Negreanu. Pescatori scooped the pot, sending Daniel out in 3rd for $113,062, and thus began his comeback. Just a few hands later, the Italian poker pro was ahead 2-to-1 in the counts, and the very next hand would seal the deal.

Back and forth they bet until the sixth street, when Chidwick put the last of his 1.12mm in the pot, and the cards were tabled.

Max Pescatori: K♠ 10♦ / 10♣ 8♥ 5♠ 2♣ / (x)
Stephen Chidwick: K♣ J♣ / 8♦ K♥ 10♥ 7♣ / (x)

Chidwick was ahead with a pair of Kings to Pescatori’s 10’s, but as he pulled the A♠ on seventh, preparing to double up and take the lead, his Italian foe drew a gorgeous set with 10♠.

Max Pescatori was crowned the victor of the 2015 WSOP $10k 7 Card Stud H-Lo Championship, awarded his 4th WSOP bracelet – the second this year alone – and $292,158 for the 1st place finish.

After getting the closest he’s ever come to a bracelet of his own—Chidwick has made 9 WOSP final tables in his career—Stephen was left with the honorable consolation prize of $180,529.

2015 WSOP $10k 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship
Final Table Results

1st Max Pescatori $292,158
2nd Stephen Chidwick $180,529
3rd Daniel Negreanu $113,062
4th Aleksandr Denisov $81,865
5th Gary Benson $63,981
6th Thomas Butzhammer $51,022

The game of poker is technically classified as a sport. But when we think of sports, we picture young, virile athletes with toned muscles. If you saw a silver-haired senior running the length of a basketball court with the likes of Steph Curry, who do you think would win? It’s that exact sentiment that 72 year old Andre Boyer believes worked to his advantage last night at the 2015 WSOP.

Andre Boyer wins 2015 WSOP Split Format NLHEBoyer was one of 873 entrants in Event #34, $1,500 Split-Format No Limit Holdem. And if you’re not familiar with “split format” poker, you probably don’t play a great deal of variety online.

The split format structure was originally devised as an online poker format for fast-paced grinders who put in long hours at the virtual tables. For this 2015 WSOP event, it meant Day 1 would consist of full tables, Day 2 would shrink down to 6-handed, and Day 3 would be comprised of all heads-up matches. Finally, once just 8 players remained standing, they would be merged into a full, final table of 8.

This may not sound like your grandfather’s poker game, but if Andre Boyer happens to be your grandfather, it most certainly is!

Andre Boyer, 2 Decades of WSOP Success

Hailing from Quebec, Canada, Boyer is no novitiate to the felt, or the World Series of Poker. In fact, he’s cashed at least once in every WSOP since 1996 except two (2000, 2012). In that first year, Andre Boyer actually found himself seated at the 1996 WSOP Main Event, finishing in 6th place for $97,500 before Huck Seed went on to win it.

It wasn’t until 2005 that the Canadian poker pro experienced ultimate success at the World Series of Poker. He entered a $3,000 NL Holdem event, 1,010 entrants strong, and went on to defeat American poker pro Matt Glantz in heads-up to collect his first WSOP bracelet and $682,810.

With last night’s win, Andre Boyer increased his career live tournament winnings to $1,560,604.

2015 WSOP Brings 2nd Bracelet for Andre Boyer

The WSOP victory that almost never happened; that was Boyer’s experience last night at the Rio.

When the final table was polished down to two, Boyer faced off with French poker pro Erwann Pecheux. Boyer was way down in the counts, holding a mere 10♣ 5♠. When the flop fell Q♦ 10♠ J♦, it was all he could do to shove his remaining chips into the middle.

But Pecheux was quick to call, tabling J♣ 4♣. With the Frenchman well ahead, Boyer found minimal solace in the A♥ turn that offered a slight chance of chopping the pot. But then his tournament life was miraculously restored by the 10♦ river, giving Boyer the set, the win, and a renewed chance to win his second bracelet.

It took only 6 more hands for Andre Boyer to collect the rest of the chips. Up 5.5mm to Erwann’s 1.3mm, the Canadian did not hesitate to call when Percheux shipped.

Andre Boyer: A♥ 3♦
Erwann Percheux: K♠ 6♠

The crowd was mostly silent as the dealer began laying out the board: 4♦ J♣ J♠ 10♦ 8♥

And with that, Andre Boyer was crowned the victor, receiving his second WSOP bracelet and a worthy prize $250,483.

Erwann Percheux was gravely disappointed, having finished runner up on several occasions in major events, but never earning a title. He did not go home empty handed, though, pocketing $156,098 for his 2nd place finish.

In his post-win interview, Boyer was asked how he felt about competing against a predominantly younger crowd. “I really think being older can be an advantage,” he said. “They look at me and think I’m a tourist. That’s okay with me. I try to turn that to my advantage.”

On Monday, the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) issued an update on its blog that spoke of the current and future outlook for the online poker platform. The very last subject touched upon was one of great intrigue for the player community, regarding the pursuance of a more robust, anonymous poker initiative.

Anonymous PokerAccording to the blog post, authored by Alex Scott, Head of Poker for MPN, the next update to the software platform will include a new concept known as Alias Changes.

As of sometime next month, players will be permitted to change the nickname seen by their opponents at the tables. MPN’s latest initiative follows a long-time developing trend of delivering a more anonymous poker experience to recreational players.

“Our next major release, due next month, also introduces Alias Changes,” announced Scott. “[P]layers will be able to change their alias every 1000 real money hands or every 30 days, whichever is sooner, and everyone will get one free change when the feature rolls out.”

The Head of Poker explained MPN’s intentions behind the new alias changing policy as a simple one. “[W]e want to stop parasitic players from ruthlessly pursuing weaker players. We also want regs to play each other once in a while,” said Scott.

Reasoning behind the New Alias Change Policy

MPN has come to the conclusion that recreational online poker players have a tendency to leave a poker site/network after experiencing an extended run of what they may see as bad luck. In reality, they are most often the victims of bum hunting seating scripts, being preyed upon by “parasitic” players with greater skill.

Scott said, “we don’t want players to create a new account with a new poker room just because their alias is unlucky. So we’re making the alias change feature quite prominent and I hope that a lot of players will use it.”

When the new platform update rolls out in July, members of MPN will immediately be given one free option to change their alias. From there, players will be permitted to change their nickname once every 30 days, or each time they compete in 1,000 real-money poker hands, whichever comes first.

MPN using Anonymous Poker to Combat Seating Scripts

Seating scripts have been a hot topic for more than a year now. These scripts are employed by bum-hunting online poker players to automatically seat them at tables the moment known recreational players appear.

“As promised, we continue to make efforts to combat seating scripts and other parasitic behavior,” explained Scott.

“Our Grouped Lobby de-emphasises table selection, while also taking high-level measures to combat and track seating scripts,” continued Scott. “If our research shows that we can effectively police a ban on scripts, we’ll do so.”

Debate over Anonymous Poker

The debate over anonymous poker games has been ongoing for quite some time now, and there are strong arguments on both sides of the fence.

On the one hand, we have veteran online poker grinders who play multiple tables at a wide range of stakes. They believe it’s their right to exploit weaker players in a virtual community, just as they would in a live setting—albeit easier to do so online—and that operators won’t survive without their consistent contributions to the rake.

On the other hand, recreational players make up the bulk of the community—the proverbial bread and butter of the online poker industry. If all the recreational players being preyed upon choose to leave a network or stop playing altogether, it could spell disaster for the online poker industry.

Operators are left in the middle. Should they appease the grinders, who contribute much more to rake than the casual variety, by allowing them to target the weak? Or should they protect the feeble masses (and their business, as the same time) by enforcing an anonymous poker regime?

It’s become quite obvious which path MPN has taken.

It’s official – Keith Lehr has earned his 2nd World Series of Poker bracelet after taking down the 2015 WSOP $10k Heads-Up Championship (Event #10) for $334,430!

What’s not official, however, is whether there was a cheater in the midst in the final rounds of heads-up play. Several of his opponents have alleged that 5th place finisher Valeriu Coca was not playing a straight game.

Keith Lehr Wins 2015 WSOP HU Championship

Keith Lehr wins 2015 WSOP $10k Heads Up Championship

Keith Lehr 2015 WSOP $10k Heads-Up Champion photo courtesy

Keith Lehr adorned his second WSOP bracelet on Thursday after defeating a field of 128 entrants in the 2015 WSOP $10,000 NLHE Heads-Up Championship. It’s been 12 years since the American poker pro collected his first piece of jewelry in a 2003 WSOP $3k PL Holdem event worth $255k. His latest win put another $334k in his pocket, bringing his career live tournament total to $2.18 million.

Lehr faced fellow American Paul Volpe in the final heads-up battle; one that turned out to be much quicker than his previous 6 opponents. It took just 24 hands for Lehr to overcome Volpe, but it wasn’t an easy task.

Paul commanded the table early on, up 4.495mm chips to Keith’s 3.185mm by hand #9. But by hand #16, the tides shifted heavily when Volpe got the majority of his chips in on Ace-High. Having flopped top pair, Lehr called him all the way down to a 1.2mm bet on the river. After tanking for a bit, Lehr made that call as well. His Jacks prevailed and he took a strong lead of nearly 3-to-1 in the counts.

From there, it was just a matter of time. The next 7 hands were a mix of walks and bet-folds, leading up to hand #24.

Volpe raised 80k from the button, called by Lehr before the flop came down 7c-6h-3d. A few raises later and a tanked called by Volpe brought the Qs turn. Keith Lehr wasted no time shoving his stack. Volpe hesitated before calling with his remaining 1.5mm.

Lehr tabled Qd-8s, good for top pair, but Volpe’s 6s-3s was ahead. It looked like Paul would survive and snag a huge pot, but the 8c river put an end to the day.

Keith Lehr hit QQ-88 to beat Volpe, claim the last of the chips and win the coveted bracelet, along with $334,430 for 1st.

For his impressive efforts, Paul Volpe was awarded the 2nd place prize of $206,620.

On a side note, Volpe is well on his way to another high-money finish, ranked second in chips behind Jason Koon in the 2015 WSOP $10k PL Holdem Championship, where just 10 players remain in contention as of writing.

Valeriu Coca Accused of Cheating his way to 5th

Valeriu Coca accused of Cheating at 2015 WSOPAmidst the celebration of Keith Lehr’s win, a much darker story was brewing in the background. Valeriu Coca, who was eliminated during the Round of 8 by Lehr, was being accused of cheating his way to that position.

His primary accuser is Connor Drinan, who lost to Coca in the first money-round of the tournament (i.e. Drinan walked away empty handed). Drinan said that Coca played very slowly, double checking his cards often and always waiting for Drinan to look at his cards before Coca would lift his own. In short, Drinan accused Coca of marking the cards.

Connor said Coca played perfect against him up until he started waiting for Coca to look at his cards first. Once Drinan became more guarded, he said Coca was clearly uncomfortable, started folding and playing worse, although he still won the match.

According to Drinan, Coca’s other opponents felt Valeriu was playing strangely as well and suspected something underhanded was going on; including Keith Lehr and Byron Kaverman. When it was all over, Kaverman lead the charge by filing a complaint with WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, who called for an immediate investigation.

SethPalansky, VP of Corporate Communication for the WSOP, said, “We are aware, monitoring very closely with all resources at our disposal. Those include surveillance, security, and forensic examination of cards. We take integrity very seriously, as evidenced by our lifetime bans, and would enjoy nothing more than catching a cheater in our midst.”

Valeriu Coca Already Banned from Poker in Prague

Accusations of cheating are extremely serious. Already, many poker pros have scorned Coca’s accusers for being sore losers. But in the case of Valeriu Coca, there is at least good reason to be suspicious; not just because of his mysterious behavior in the 2015 WSOP HU Championship event, but because he’s been caught marking cards before.

According to reports, Cocoa spent a great deal of time hustling poker players in Prague. As the story goes, he would start at low limits, playing terribly and losing often, then move up to high limits where everyone wanted to play against him. That’s when sources say he began marking cards, and after a short while, played a very loose aggressive game that saw him winning consistently.

This went on for months before a dealer finally noticed the cards were visibly marked, with all Aces and Kings ever-so-slightly bent at the corners. Valeriu Coca was subsequently banned from all Prague casinos, and players who faced him back then said he played the same way as he did in the 2015 WSOP HU Championship; slowly, asking for opponent’s chip counts and waiting for them to pick up their cards before he did.

Is Valeriu Coca a cheater, or a very calculating poker player who got into the heads of his opponents to earn the 5th place prize of $54,545? We will have to wait until the WSOP finalizes its investigation to know for sure.

The Patriot-News is a leading newspaper out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—the state capitol—where political matters make the headlines more often than Cat Williams says the “F” word. On Friday, the Editorial Board published a dogmatic op-ed in which they urged state legislators to pass an online poker law, not just because it would greatly benefit PA’s enormous budget deficit, but ‘because they can’.

“Pennsylvania legislators should pass an online gaming bill in June both because the state needs to close a seemingly insurmountable budget gap in the next fiscal year, and, simply, because it can,” read the op-ed.

The editorial quickly pointed out that Pennsylvania is facing an estimated general fund deficit of $2 billion in the coming fiscal year. The board referred to the deficit as “troubling for its potential impact to the state’s current and future debt.”

While the writers claim to be under no false pretenses that passing an online poker law will suddenly fix all of the financial problems in Pennsylvania, they do believe it will “help ease the deficit.” However, they also pointed out that, even if a bill were passed this month, online gambling wouldn’t likely generate any revenue until “late next year or 2017”.

Patriot-News calls for passage of PA online poker lawThe op-ed compared probable revenue from online gambling in PA to that of the existing market in New Jersey. We all know that iGaming was a disappointment in the Garden State, harvesting a mere fraction of the tax dollars that Gov. Chris Christie had anticipated. However, the state did pull in $18.5 million from regulated online poker and casino games.

“The Garden State’s revenues are rising this year, though, and Pennsylvania, with 43 percent more state residents 21 years of age or older, stands to gain more tax dollars with similar legislation,” read the publication.

The Editorial Board noted that Pennsylvania is greatly lacking in public pension funding, and there’s not nearly enough left in the budget to pay for the much-needed reconstruction of crumbling roads and bridges. “Although Pennsylvania will not realize huge benefits by entering online gaming, it cannot afford to ignore a legitimate revenue source.”

The op-ed went on to criticize legislators for ignoring what could have been a vast source of state income in the way of severance taxes on natural gas extraction. “If Pennsylvania continues to refuse to realize tax revenue on a finite resource, one for which significant profits are earned daily by companies outside the state, it must find revenue elsewhere.” The editorial went on to call online gambling, “a resource Pennsylvania should mine now.”

Most Viable PA Online Poker Law

There are currently four propositions on the table to get an online poker law in place. The one that’s expected to receive the most attention (i.e. voted most likely to succeed) is HB 649, introduced by House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman and State Representative John Payne. That also happens to be the online poker law most strongly endorsed by the newspaper.

“Legislation sponsored by Rep. John Payne…would legalize and regulate online gaming and it is worthy of consideration.”

The writers noted a report by in which the analytical website said online gaming “is not legalized but Pennsylvania residents that gamble online are not likely to be prosecuted because the state is very lenient about their online gambling laws.”

The underlying problem therein is that PA residents are gambling online, but they are doing so in a potentially unsafe, unregulated environment. Plus, their dollars are flowing into offshore websites that aren’t subject to taxation that could be benefiting the state.

Passage of an online poker law to enforce regulations that include “geolocation, technology that permits a website to see the physical location of a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and restrict access if the user is outside Pennsylvania,” could change all that.

“Pennsylvania has the means, the motive, and the opportunity to pass online gaming legislation before the end of this budget cycle,” wrote the Editorial Board. “Its elected state representatives should pull the trigger so the state can capture tax dollars it is losing to external operators while protecting its youth.”