With Christmas and New Year’s coming up, pros and amateurs alike are more likely to be spending the year’s closing weeks with their families than at the felt. The year’s last major events – the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic and Alpha8 Las Vegas – are in the books, and with them, the year is effectively over, as far as poker is concerned.

At the same time, 2016 won’t take long to get the ball rolling again, with both the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) and the WPT National Philippines with its $200,000 Super High Roller both scheduled to begin in the first week of the new year.

The poker world is in a forward-looking state of mind, and the forums denizens, despite their usual cynicism, are no exception. Grumbling about the PokerStars VIP changes is settling down somewhat, and many new threads have been popping up about possible future developments. One can even find the occasional optimistic thought being expressed.

What does BetStars mean for poker?
Thread: Pokerstars Sports betting?

PokerStars has just announced the launch of a new BetStars brand for its sportsbook offerings. Although sports betting has been available through the PokerStars client – in those regions which allow it – since the spring, the initial rollout was quiet, so the current marketing push makes it effectively a new product for a lot of people.

A lot of online poker players are dedicated to that game alone, so sports betting is not of much direct interest to them. The main question, then, is whether BetStars is going to be good news for the economy on the poker side of things. The consensus seems to be that it can’t hurt; one particularly interesting opinion came from user “Uhrenknecht,” who suggests that players who are poker players first and sports bettors second already play at 888 or PartyPoker, so on PokerStars/BetStars, we’re likely to see more sportsbook winnings getting brought over to the poker tables than vice versa.

Tom Dwan and the $200k Super High-Roller
Thread: $200,000 USD buy-in Triton SHR Series – Cali Cup

As mentioned above, the upcoming WPT National Philippines will include a $200,000 buy-in event, the official full name for which is the Triton SHR Series – Cali Cup. The list of participants keeps growing and already includes a lot of impressive names like Phil Ivey, Fedor Holz, Dan Cates and others.

It’s Tom Dwan’s participation that has got the forums buzzing, however. Dwan – and his various unsettled bets and debts – is something of a running joke on the forums, but these days he plays mostly the high-stakes cash games in Macau and rarely enters the public eye. His confirmed participation in the Super High Roller is therefore eagerly anticipated, though disappointingly, it doesn’t look like either the Super High Roller nor the Main Event will be streamed.

The Colossus returns
Thread: Dates for wsop 2016 at Rio released. Colossus 2

The World Series of Poker has released some preliminary schedule information about its 47th annual series, to be held next summer in Las Vegas, as always. The most interesting detail so far revealed is that the Colossus – the world’s largest live event – will be back and bigger than ever. Two additional starting flights have been added, and the money will be reached before the end of each Day 1, using a format which was tried out in this year’s World Series of Poker Europe “Oktoberfest” event.

Feelings about this year’s Colossus were mixed, so naturally the response to the announcement has likewise fallen into two camps. Most of those who actually played the event themselves seem to have enjoyed it and say they plan on playing again.

On the other hand, the biggest gripe about last year’s event was the lineups produced at the payout windows, due to the number of players participating and the rate at which they were busting out after the bubble burst. It took days for everyone to receive their money, and typical wait times were on the order of several hours. One big question mark about the new format, then, is whether having the bubble burst towards the end of each Day 1 instead of on Day 2 will mitigate or exacerbate the problem.

Speaking out against ring fences
Thread: End EU market segregation – 5 mins consultation

The European Commission is soliciting public opinions on the subject of websites using geolocation technology to selectively block users from certain regions. This is of course a hot topic when it comes to online poker in Europe, where some countries including Spain, Italy and France allow online poker sites only so long as they implement a so-called “ring fence,” i.e. a segregated server where players from the country in question can play against one another, but not against opponents from elsewhere in the world.

Although the consultation has to do with online commerce more generally, rather than poker or gambling specifically, forums user “Richas” sees it as an opportunity for players to educate the political and business public about the downsides to this way of doing things, and maybe get things changed in the future. He is calling on others from the forums and elsewhere in the poker community to take the time to make their voices heard. Certainly, it would be huge news for online poker if these large but segregated markets could be reintegrated into the global player pool, but it’s not the sort of thing that gets changed easily.