PokerStars’s second foray into live poker in New Jersey didn’t go much better than the first. Former PokerStars ambassador Ike Haxton has a huge chip on his shoulder about the real-money launch of Power Up. Phil Hellmuth sinks a $15,000 basketball shot. And more.

Big Stacks, Small Turnouts

Last year, PokerStars dismantled its regional live tournament brands (European Poker Tour, Asia-Pacific Poker Tour and Latin American Poker Tour) and recombined them into a higher-stakes “Championship” tour and a lower-stakes “Festival” tour. The latter first launched in New Jersey, as part of PokerStars’s attempts to regain a toehold in the United States. It was definitely a financial failure and largely regarded as an experience failure by those who attended.

The company attempted something a little bit different on the second try, rebranding the stop as PokerStars Megastacks – deep starting stacks being particularly popular among US recreational players – and lowering buy-ins even further. The results were not much better, but this may have been foreseen, as the event included only two tournaments. Both ran with overlays.

The first promised a $100,000 prize pool, but drew only $81,800. The second, called “Cheap and Deep,” was an unmitigated disaster, guaranteeing $25,000 on a $120 buy-in and drawing less than half of that. Some consolation was to be had for PokerStars in that its ambassador Chris Moneymaker won the event, but overlays of that magnitude on fairly modest guarantees don’t bode well for the company’s chances in the live US market, not in New Jersey anyway.

What Ike Don’t Like

PokerStars Power Up is going live for real money play. Some are excited, others dubious, but former PokerStars ambassador Ike Haxton is irate.

By his own admission, though, his objection has less to do with the quality of the Power Up product itself than the fact that the shift in strategy happened while he was a brand ambassador, and had him tacitly endorsing moves he was strongly against. Fair enough.

At least he understands what the real problem is:

Quick Hitters

– It turns out the Poker Brat is good at things other than poker! Don’t bet against him in basketball, because he just sank a cold 3-pointer for $15,000.

– Steven Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, is still all over the news, in no small part due to lack of an apparent motive. His wealth and his video poker gambling habit-slash-career are still the focus of that inquiry.