Forum Files: Reaction to DKLeak, GPL and More

Alex Weldon : October 12th, 2015

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Last week was a big one for online gaming news. The week’s biggest story was of course the so-called “DKLeak” scandal, involving the two biggest players in the daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry, DraftKings and FanDuel. And then there’s was the Global Poker League press release which dropped last Tuesday, revealing “the Cube” among other details.

As is usually the case, these big stories have produced polarized views and lengthy forums threads. In this week’s Forum Files, we take a look at the spectrum of opinions on each of these important topics and others.

DKLeak: is it cheating, insider trading or none of the above?
Thread: DraftKings employee releases site info about pregame lineups.
Thread: Major scandal involving Draft Kings and Fan Duel?
Thread: Fan Duel Employee wins $350K on Draft Kings: Insider Information?

The future of the burgeoning daily fantasy sports industry is now up in the air, as what is probably the largest scandal in online gambling since Black Friday broke last week. It’s been all over the mainstream news, including such sources as CNN, ESPN and the New York Times; heck, even my father-in-law had heard something about it, and he gets his information from something called a “newspaper,” whatever that is.

So big is the story that it has produced three threads on TwoPlusTwo, in three separate subforums, which the moderators have decided to let remain unmerged. Of these, the one from the actual Fantasy Sports subforum (“DraftKings employee releases…”) contains the best-informed opinions, although the Politics thread (“Fan Duel Employee wins $350K…”) has some interesting points about the legal aspects of DFS in the United States.

As I pointed out last week, one major problem with the discussion of this scandal is that a great many people – including even some casual DFS players – don’t understand why the information in question is important. Even among those who understand the nature of the situation, however, it’s an open question whether Ethan Haskell and/or other DraftKings and FanDuel employees have actually cheated, or whether the problem is simply that they could have. There’s also a debate about whether such exploitation of ownership percentage data is most analogous to the Ultimate Bet superuser scandal, to insider trading on the stock market, or not nearly as bad as either of these things.

The Global Poker League: can it succeed?
Thread: New Global Poker League details revealed

Global Poker Index CEO Alex Dreyfus sent out a press release last Tuesday revealing some details about his new project, the Global Poker League (GPL), which is scheduled to launch early in 2016. The timing of the release was a bit unfortunate, as it was that afternoon that the DKLeak scandal first began to gather serious momentum, mostly overshadowing the GPL announcement. Nonetheless, he did manage to attract enough attention from both the poker media and poker-playing community to generate some discussion.

The biggest reveal of the press release was “the Cube,” an 11-ton glass enclosure allowing poker to be played in front of an audience with access to the players’ hole cards. The one-way soundproofed glass will allow the audience to see and hear the players, but not the other way around, thereby solving the problem of audience experience versus game integrity.

But will the Cube and other innovations be enough to turn poker into a successful spectator sport? This is the big question, and one without easy answers. Opinions have been split on the matter, both on social media and in the forums. Some feel that the Cube, and the GPL in general, are a stupid idea and doomed to be a high-profile failure which will be a disaster both for Dreyfus’s investors and the public image of poker, but others see it as an interesting experiment with a reasonable shot at gaining traction. One important point that’s been brought up a few times is that we – that is, people already deeply involved in poker – are not the target demographic. Dreyfus claims his market research shows that there’s an untapped segment out there, of people who are interested in watching poker but don’t play much themselves. For those of us whose preferred method of consuming poker is to play it, it’s very hard to judge the appeal of something like the GPL, not that it will stop us from debating its merits.

Can Full Tilt run on Steam power?
Thread: FTP to be available on steam

Late last week, the news got out that Full Tilt had quietly put its .NET client up for approval on Greenlight, the customer-based approval service for the Steam distribution platform. Steam is essentially an online store for computer games, and Greenlight is the system through which Steam users can vote on whether or not a given product should be made available through Steam. Of course, for legal reasons, only the play money version of Full Tilt can be distributed through Steam, even if it gains user approval, but the hope would surely be that some of the new play money users who come to Full Tilt by way of Steam could eventually be converted into real money players.

As with the GPL announcement, whether this move is a stroke of brilliance or pathetic flailing by a doomed brand depends on who you ask. Steam is undeniably a huge market, so if Full Tilt does manage to get its software onto the platform, that will mean a massive number of new eyeballs. On the other hand, it’s unknown whether Steam users will actually be interested in a play-money poker game without many bells and whistles, whether Full Tilt can actually compete with Zynga Poker for the play money audience, and what sort of conversion rate can be expected from play money to real money users. Opinions in the thread run the full gamut from wholeheartedly optimistic to utterly dismissive, and everything in between.

How PokerStars made it back into New Jersey
Thread: NJ DGE Releases 89-page investigative report on Stars / Amaya

The big story a couple of weeks ago was that Amaya has been granted approval to launch PokerStars and Full Tilt products in the New Jersey regulated online poker market. In last week’s Forum Files, we looked at the public response to that news. Now, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) released a lightly-redacted version of its 89-page investigation into Amaya, which includes various conditions imposed on the company in order for it to be granted said approval.

It’s a dry read, but fortunately some kind souls over at OnlinePokerReport have plowed through it so you don’t have to. The three most important facts are that the DGE demanded the firing of four executives, the payment to the state of New Jersey of about $425,000 in unclaimed pre-Black Friday PokerStars balances, and a commitment by Amaya to avoid any involvement whatsoever with a long list of people who were caught on the wrong side of things during Black Friday.

The released documents do provide the latter blacklist, but not the names of the four executives who had to be fired. One major focus of the forums thread, then, is on speculating who the four might be. Lee Jones and Shayam Marcus were put forward as possibilities, but it appears that Jones, at least, is still working for PokerStars. At another point in the document, four executives are mentioned to have been investigated: Michael Hazel, Israel Rosenthal, Charles Fabian and Serge Bourenkov, leading others to suspect these are the four to be removed, although the wording of the investigation results makes it sound like only Hazel and Rosenthal were found to have connections to the Scheinberg family and/or the company’s operations in the UIGEA-Black Friday era.

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