Hit and Run: Baazov Facing Insider Trading Charges, Live at the Bike on PokerCentral, WPT Tournament of Champions to Feature Shot Clock

Alex Weldon : March 23rd, 2016
PTP-Hit-and-Run

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Amaya CEO David Baazov will face multiple charges laid by Quebec financial regulators. Live at the Bike is coming to PokerCentral this spring. The World Poker Tour is putting players on the clock in the Tournament of Champions. PokerStars being selective in how it compares its rake to other sites, and for some reason naming tournaments after mountains.

AMF Amaya Investigation Leads to Charges

Not very long after its takeover of Rational Group – parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker – Montreal-based company Amaya became the subject of an investigation by the province’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF). The initial reason for the investigation was likely the anomalous behavior of Amaya (AYA) stocks in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the takeover, which suggested to some – myself included – that information about the takeover may have been leaked illegally. Amaya claimed no wrongdoing, and representatives from the company said that the jump in stock prices was easily attributable to investors acting on publicly-available information; indeed, Baazov had, earlier in the year, made remarks that could have been interpreted as signals that something of the sort was in the pipeline.

Reactions in the poker media were mixed with some, like me, feeling that the whole thing did come off as suspicious, while others saw no cause for alarm and considered the AMF’s investigation precautionary and a matter of course. It seems that the AMF has in fact found some indications of wrongdoing, as a total of 23 charges have been laid, five of them against CEO David Baazov himself. These include “aiding with trades while in possession of privileged information, influencing or attempting to influence the market price of the securities of Amaya inc., and communicating privileged information.”

Whether any of the charges stick is another question. Baazov is, of course, denying the allegations, and crimes of this sort are notoriously difficult to prove in court. That said, those very difficulties make it unlikely that the AMF would have made the decision to prosecute in the first place unless they felt they had fairly convincing evidence. It’s hard to tell what will happen at this point, but it’s certain that many in the poker world will be waiting with bated breath to see how it all plays out… not all of whom will be rooting for a not guilty verdict, given how unpopular the changes to PokerStars in the Amaya era have been with its professional player base.

The financial and legal facts of the story have been covered by major media outlets including the Financial Post and the CBC (Canada’s national broadcaster).

FlushDraw’s piece on the story includes the full verbatim text of statements from both Amaya and David Baazov himself.

PocketFives also takes a look at the story, including the up-and-down road of AYA stock since the beginning of the saga.

Naturally, a thread was quickly created on TwoPlusTwo, where the greatest concentration of Amaya-hating players resides. What you’ll find there, of course, is many, many pages of gloating and possibly-premature celebration.

Quick Hitters

- The other big PokerStars story of the week involves its rake hikes. Dan Katz at FlushDraw is a bit late to the party on that one, but his perspective is always one worth reading.

- Before the AMF investigation results were announced, PokerStars probably hoped to sandwich news of its rake hikes between positive stories about its New Jersey launch and an upcoming tournament mini-series. This latter will run from April 7-10 and is called the Mountain Series, because all the tournaments involved are named after mountains, from Sugarloaf to Everest. Why? Well, why not, I guess. Aside from its fairly large guarantees, the only really noteworthy aspect of the series is the Main Event buy-in, which at $2,100 is double that of the site’s highest-stakes regularly-scheduled tournaments.

- PokerCentral has announced the latest addition to its original content offerings, a televised adaptation of Live at the Bike, which has so far been enjoying success as an online stream available as a Twitch channel as well as through its own website liveatthebike.com.

- The use of a shot clock in tournaments is a frequently-debated subject in poker. The World Poker Tour will be the latest to try out the concept, adding one to its Tournament of Champions. The tour is also adding $200,000 worth of cash and prizes for the winner of the tournament. This includes an expensive round of golf with tour director Matt Savage, though given the lineup of players in the tournament, it’s unclear for whom this experience will be the greater privilege.

- In case this instalment of the Hit and Run isn’t sufficiently harsh on PokerStars and Amaya for your liking, here’s one more piece: an analysis of how PokerStars went about presenting its new rake structure in the best possible light, and what a more fair comparison of its pricing to that of its competitors would look like.

Get your daily dose of poker news with the PTP Hit and Run.

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