Hit and Run: Aviators Start Strong in GPL, Amaya and the Panama Papers, iGNA Underway, Industry Woes Abound

Alex Weldon : April 5th, 2016
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The Global Poker League kicked off today and the Paris Aviators are early frontrunners. The iGaming North America conference is also underway and will run until Thursday. Nothing but bad news for Atlantic City, Caesars Entertainment and Paddy Power. The PokerStars Elite Series is all fun and games.

Davidi Kitai Impresses, but Cates Raises Questions

The Global Poker League is officially underway, with the first four matches of the season in the books. Each conference played two games, with identical lineups for each in the Americas conference, and only two changes to the second match in Eurasia. I’ll be doing a more thorough rundown of the day’s significant events tomorrow, but here’s the skinny in the meantime.

The first match saw Daniel Cates for the Berlin Bears fall first, in a preflop cooler where he had the misfortune to run Ace-King into pocket Aces. No shame in that, though. Much more concerning for his team was the second match, from which he was also the first to exit, but this time calling off against a fairly large 3-bet shove while holding only Jack-Eight suited. He took to Twitter to offer the excuse that he’d been playing an online cash game at the same time and mistook his hand for Ace-Nine suited. Cates was hailed as one of the better wildcard picks in the league, so if this is an indication that he’s not taking the league serious enough, it may bode poorly for Berlin.

On the other hand, I’m pleased to report that my top pick at the odds being laid, the Paris Aviators, also had the strongest start of any team. It was Davidi Kitai representing for Paris today, and he won first match and took 3rd in the second, for a total of 10 points. Of course, it’s still too early in the season to be breaking out the champagne, even if you took my advice and placed a bet on them… but I’m so rarely right about such things that I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Tight Race in the Americas

The two matches for the Americas played out rather differently than the Eurasian contests. In both games, the first in particular, it seemed to take quite a long time before the first player busted. Unfortunately for Faraz Jaka and the San Francisco Rush, the player in question was Tony Gregg both times, meaning that the Rush starts the season with a pair of goose eggs to match Berlin’s.

Up top, meanwhile, it’s quite a pile-up. Jason Wheeler of the New York Rounders took down the first match, but came up third in the second, duplicating Kitai’s results in the other conference albeit with the order reversed. Anthony Zinno, playing for the Las Vegas Moneymakers, was the runner-up. That was good for five points, late in the second match, he was just two cards away from making his team the early league leaders.

Zinno had made it to heads-up play against the Montreal Nationals’ Mike McDonald and had the chip advantage when the two found themselves in a classic coin flip situation. Zinno had the overcards and smashed the flop with two pair, but his rungood ran into McDonald’s runbetter, as the latter spiked a Seven on the turn to make a set. The river failed to boat Zinno up, and McDonald’s luck held through the next coinflip as well.

McDonald had finished 4th in the first match, so his contribution to the Nationals’ score was only 9 points, putting Montreal in a very close 3rd place in the Americas and in a tie with the Hong Kong Stars for 4th-5th in the league, at least until tomorrow’s heads-up matches, in which the Hong Kong Stars, Moscow Wolverines, Berlin Bears and Paris Aviators each stand to win up to nine points if their player manages a three-game sweep.

Quick Hitters

- BREAKING: Just as I’m posting this, an article has come out at CalvinAyre in which Stephen Stradbrooke takes a look at the already-infamous Panama Papers which were leaked yesterday, and specifically what they have to say about PokerStars owner Amaya and its not-CEO-for-now David Baazov, who took a leave of absence after being charged with crimes related to insider trading.

- Poker fans may be fixated on the GPL, but the eyes of many professionals and industry types are turned towards the iGaming North America conference, which also kicked off today. Rafi Farber at CalvinAyre takes a look at what he describes as “hidden agendas” to watch out for at the conference.

- The WSOP National Championship is now international. Its name has been changed to the WSOP Global Casino Championship, and will welcome WSOP Circuit event winners from around the world, rather than just the USA.

- Things just keep getting worse for Atlantic City. The gambling capital of the east coast is already in the process of going bankrupt and coming under state control, but if that wasn’t bad enough, state governor Chris Christie is suing the city for the last money in its accounts, as he doesn’t approve of how the city council was planning on dividing it up.

- Things aren’t much rosier on the other side of the Atlantic, as Paddy Power Poker, now a subsidiary of Betfair, is laying off about 10% of its employees, about half of them working in Ireland, the other half in the UK.

- Closer to home for me is the ongoing story of Quebec’s legal rumblings. As I reported a few months ago, my home province is contemplating an utterly stupid move to try to force ISPs to block gambling sites not authorized by the provincial lottery, Loto-Quebec.

- Pros may not be happy with PokerStars these days, but there’s excitement on the way for its play-money recreational players. The site will host the “Elite Series” from April 9-17, its biggest play money series to date. If you care about that sort of thing.

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