Hit and Run: William Hill Nixes Amaya Deal, GPI Partners Up with TenCent, Sit-and-Go 2.0

Alex Weldon : October 18th, 2016


William Hill pulls out of merger talks with Amaya. The Global Poker Index comes to China. “Sit-and-Go 2.0″ brings randomized payouts to live poker. And more.

Amaya, Goodbye-a

The future of British sportsbook William Hill remains unclear, as its latest attempts to find a partner have fallen through yet again. It was only a few months ago that William Hill found itself snubbed by GVC Holdings and 888 Holdings, who both cut off negotiations when it became clear that there were irreconcilable differences between William Hill’s self-assessed value and their appraisal. This time around, the roles of eager suitor and disinterested bachelorette have been reversed, as William Hill has abandoned merger talks with Amaya on very similar grounds.

William Hill retains a strong physical presence in the UK as a chain of betting shops, but has struggled to achieve similar success online. For that reason, some sort of merger or acquisition involving William Hill and the likes of Amaya or 888 would seem to make sense. It seems, however, that differences in opinion about the company’s situation and overall market trends are going to make such a deal difficult. Parvus Asset Management, which owns roughly 15% of William Hill’s stock, was the main opponent of the deal this time around and expressed its disapproval in no uncertain terms, with co-founder Mads Eg Gensmann using phrases like “doesn’t pass the smell test” and “value-destroying,” and saying that to even consider such a deal was a waste of valuable time and shareholder resources.

PokerStars VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser responded in predictably passive-aggressive fashion with a blog post seeking to correct the “inaccuracies” in Parvus’s appraisal of the company. Although he gets into the nitty-gritty of finances later on, he begins with the amusing claim that if others see the online poker market as unappealing, it’s only because PokerStars is so dominant no one would want to compete with them. “Well yes, obviously you don’t want to date me. After all, I’m clearly out of your league.”

Quick Hitters

- Apparently we’re not done talking about William Kassouf’s behaviour during the WSOP Main Event. The latest episodes of ESPN’s coverage have rekindled the debate over the acceptability of his table talk, but perhaps his future opponents would be more interested in Zach Elwood’s analysis of patterns in his “speech play” and what information of his own he’s giving away in the process.

- Casting continues for Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game, a dramatized account of the high stakes poker games organized by Molly Bloom. Already confirmed were Jessica Chastain as Bloom herself and Idris Elba as her lawyer, but the latest rumors have Kevin Costner and Michael Cera as possible additional cast members.

- The Global Poker Index has joined forces with Chinese poker operator TenCent Poker. The GPI will include TenCent tournaments in its rankings calculations going forward, and TenCent will promote the GPI within its mobile app, in addition to a few other joint endeavours.

- A new format called Sit-and-Go 2.0 will make its debut at the Punta Cana Poker Classic. The concept is very similar to that of the lottery sit-and-goes currently popular online, but with a prize pool randomization scheme that makes use of a physical deck of cards. The main difference is that Sit-and-Go 2.0 is played at a full 9-handed table, rather than short-handed, and the number of paid seats varies along with the prize pool, from a minimum of two seats paid for the smallest prize pools, up to a potential six seats paid when the largest prize pool hits.

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