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  1. If you play on WSOP.com in Nevada or New Jersey, then you'll be interested to hear the thoughts of Bill Rini (pictured), the site's Head of Online Poker and longtime friend of our online poker community. With word that WSOP.com will be running plenty of qualifiers for this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, hosting an on-site Grind Room at the Rio, and allowing cage deposits, we wanted to catch up with Rini to talk about the New Jersey and Nevada markets and educating the general public. Sign up for WSOP.com Nevadaand sign up for WSOP.com New Jersey. PocketFives: Thank you for joining us. WSOP.com has been awarding a ton of WSOP seats so far via satellites and we understand a lot more will be up for grabs. Bill Rini: The response has been good. We plan on awarding seats throughout the WSOP. We'll have at least one qualifier every day during the WSOP for the next day's event. Every evening, you can go on and try to take a shot at the next day's event. We'll start with the Casino Employees' event and run it throughout the entire WSOP. PocketFives: What are your overall expectations for the Nevada market in 2014? Bill Rini: I don't think anyone knew how to size our market correctly, so that's why some of the revenue estimates didn't pan out. We have seen where the market is and are trying to expand it. We're happy with the way things are playing out, though. The market expected everything to be a big explosion like it was in 2006, but I don't think we ever saw it like that. Instead, we saw things as being gradual. It's hard after everyone got scared away from the poker market in 2006 and 2011 to tell them it's regulated now and they should come back and play. We knew there would be a ramp-up period for people to regain confidence in the industry. PocketFives: Talk about the process of educating the general public about regulated online poker. Bill Rini: There is going to be a ramp-up period in the US unless there's some Chris Moneymaker-like event that happens. We plan on being here 20 years from now and are looking long-term. This industry changes way too much to set any expectations about the future. We went from one of the first regulated online poker rooms in the US to having signed compacts in less than a year here in Nevada. PocketFives: Speaking of the compact between Delaware and Nevada, we heard it could launch this summer. What can you tell us about a timeline? Bill Rini: The biggest obstacle for the compact is that there aren't any poker rooms to share the liquidity. 888 is running the poker in Delaware, but has not launched one of their brands in Nevada yet. That would need to happen first. Two companies would need to share a backend system in order to work together. There are a lot of technical issues that haven't been worked out. PocketFives: One of the main obstacles to liquidity in Nevada and New Jersey has been geo-locating players and having successful deposits. Has that learning curve lessened? Bill Rini: Geo-location is a technology that's constantly improving and the regulators are becoming more comfortable with making tweaks here and there that improve the customer experience. You have regulators being overly cautions about making sure people from outside those states don't play. I think the geo-location is fairly good, it's improving, and there are more vendors entering the market that handle it. You'll have an issue with depositing until all banks get on board with processing. Some banks just don't want to facilitate those transactions right now. Many banks have been receptive to the message, but banks don't always move at the same pace as gaming. For them, they are accepting a level of risk. It ends up being a cash transaction and they are trying to figure out how to manage that risk. PocketFives: Are there any software updates planned for WSOP.com? Bill Rini: We have a few things going on, a lot of which are behind-the-scenes things like allowing for cage deposits and withdrawals and emigrating some of the features and technology we have in New Jersey that we weren't able to update during the trial phase in Nevada. During the summer, there will be an update to the backend to bring it up to speed with what we have in New Jersey. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. If you're headed to the World Series of Poker this year or you live in Nevada or New Jersey, WSOP.com, a regulated online poker room, will be offering plenty of qualifiers for the WSOP and allowing cage deposits this year. The regulated online poker site launched after the summer series last year, but still found time to host an Online Nine event, a hybrid live and online tournament whose finale played out on the same stage as the November Nine. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, WSOP officials outlined plans for the integration of WSOP.com into its eponymous live event. WSOP.com Head of Poker Bill Rini told the media, "This is going to be the first year where real money gaming will be available on WSOP.com during the WSOP… From the start of the WSOP, we'll be debuting our cage deposit, which will allow players to deposit to their WSOP.com accounts directly from the cage." To celebrate the site's new cage option, WSOP.com will be offering a 100% up to $1,000deposit bonus and a 100% up to $1,000 reload bonus. The room will also have a customer service booth at the Rio, the WSOP's host casino, and WSOP.com ambassadors will be wandering the halls fielding questions from players. Sit and go and Step satellites will run for most of the events, including heads-up sit and gos with a $5,000 version for a Main Event seat. WSOP.com will hold Dinner Break Turbos during the nightly dinner break of the WSOP to allow players on property to play with ease. Also revealed were the dates of the next WSOP.com Online Championships, which will start June 1 in Nevada and New Jersey. According to WSOP.com officials, the series will have $500,000 in guarantees. The schedule for the next WSOPOC should be announced by the end of May. Speaking of the end of May, WSOP.com Nevada will be holding a High-Roller Series from May 25 to 31 featuring high-dollar buy-in events ranging from $215 to $530. Its Main Event will be held on May 31 and have a $530 price tag along with $50,000 in guaranteed money. The WSOP starts on May 27, which is in the middle of the High-Roller Series. In case you missed it from our article on Tuesday, "Players will be able to compete on WSOP.com in a special Grind Room that will be set up at the Rio featuring computers, plenty of power outlets, and a segregated wireless network." You'll be able to play in the Grind Room on your own device or using one of the provided computers, which should make for an entertaining atmosphere. WSOP.com's goal is to send 100 players to the Main Event through various qualifiers. Additionally, the call teased a potential hybrid online and offline bracelet event, although no details have been given yet. The site has already awarded 100 WSOP seats and expects to award another 100 through online satellites. Even if you don't live in Nevada, you can sign up for WSOP.com Nevadanow and then deposit once you arrive in the desert. You can also sign up for WSOP.com New Jersey. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  3. While internet poker has now been legalized in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in the US, some financial institutions in those states still refuse to process payments related to the industry. The wariness of banks to associate themselves with online gambling comes as no surprise. In 2006, the US Government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, legislation that prohibits banks from doing business with illegal gaming sites. "Considering the changes that were required of banks, as well as the increased risk exposure due to UIEGEA in 2006, and the fallout of the poker Black Friday indictments in 2011, it's understandable that banks have been cautious about accepting iGaming transactions," said Caesars' Head of Online Poker Bill Rini to the Las Vegas Business Press. That unwillingness to participate in the industry has led banks to reject player deposits and has stymied the growth of regulated online poker in the US. To counter the idea that some online gambling sites are still not completely legal, Rini and his counterparts have been meeting with processors, credit card issuers, and banks to explain the new realities of the industry. Even so, Rini says that informing financial institutions about geolocation and fraud controls has not been an easy task. "We're optimistic that things will only improve over time," he said. Online gambling operators hope that the recent addition of three new merchant category codeswill help streamline the process of transferring player funds via credit card. Codes have been created for state-run online lotteries, state-run online casino games, and state-run racing. Those categories will stand apart from code 7995, which will now be associated with unregulated iGaming transactions. Rini says that the new codes have led to more successful deposits on average, but highlights that more work needs to be done to reduce high decline rates. "It removes a barrier, but it's not like a light switch that was suddenly turned on," he said. "We have seen an uptick in acceptance rates since the new code was introduced, so things appear to be moving in a positive direction." Of course, financial institutions are not required by law to process iGaming transactions, no matter how illegal they are. While some banks don't understand the legalities of the industry, some simply don't want to be associated with online gambling. But for many, the fear of not complying with the UIGEA is still deeply engrained. "Visa's new merchant category codes don't impact our need to continue to comply with [the UIGEA]," said Wells Fargo in a statement. "While we assess the new codes, we will continue to block online Visa credit card transactions from online casinos, racetracks, and lotteries." Matthew Katz, CEO of the player verification firm CAMS LLC, sees the new codes as a step forward, but doubts their ability to change the mindset of wary bank executives. "They are not used to this level of visibility," he said. "There is also a risk of damaging their brand from taking these bets." Katz added that the market needs to grow much larger before banks start seeing the advantages of becoming involved. "There's really not enough revenue for banks to start accepting these transactions," he said. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  4. WSOP.com’s tournaments will never be mistaken for those at PokerStars, but then again, until the United States decides to get its metaphorical head out of the sand and actually join much of the international community in poker frivolity, they don’t have to. No matter, though, as WSOP.com has added a monthly capstone tourney, introducing the BIG Deal on the final Sunday of each month. The BIG Deal debuts Sunday, January 31st on both the Nevada and New Jersey versions of WSOP.com and, at least as of now, is slated to run on the last Sunday of the month through February 2017. The buy-in will be $500 on both sites and the New Jersey tournament will have a $30,000 guaranteed prize pool while the Nevada tournament will have a $20,000 guarantee. "We’re continuously having conversations with poker players. One theme that’s popped up multiple times is that some live tourney players can’t be bothered with $200 buy-in events," said Bill Rini, Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s Head of Online Poker. "Even some of our online players have mentioned that they’ve really enjoyed the larger buy-in events we’ve run during the WSOP and wish we had bigger buy-in events the rest of the year. So, really, we’re just listening to our players." Players start with stacks of 10,000 chips and blind levels will increase every 20 minutes. Ten percent of the field will be paid. The BIG Deal replaces the usual Sunday tournament with the same guaranteed prize pool, though there are a few differences. The current weekly Sunday major gives players just 5,000 chip starting stacks and the blind levels go up faster – every 15 minutes. And while the BIG Deal is more expensive - $500 versus $200 – it is also better value in terms of rake, as the entry fee makes up just 6.6 percent of the total price compared to 7.5 percent for the regular Sunday major. To put it simply; we don’t know what the demand will be. Nobody is regularly running $500 buy-in tournaments online in NV or NJ so there’s no benchmark out there," said Rini. "The buy-in is going to be too rich for some, while at the same time, there should be some new faces coming just for this. We’re just not sure what that mix will be at the moment." The other big difference is that the BIG Deal will be a re-entry tournament, whereas the tournament it is replacing is a freezeout. Both states will host $5 super satellites every day at 6:15pm local time. There are also $50 satellites with five seats to the BIG Deal guaranteed; they will be held on Saturday on the last weekend of the month. "Since this is something we’re hoping will be a regular event on the schedule, we’re not pushing it like we would a promotion," said Rini. "While we are running some satellites you're not going to see the calendar filled with satellites into this like we might do for a one-time promotional event. This past weekend, the Nevada Sunday $20,000 guaranteed tournament fielded 130 entrants, creating a prize pool of $24,050. It paid down to 25 places. Over on the New Jersey site, 188 players registered for a prize pool of $34,780. There was a similar tournament at the same time on each site, the Winter Poker Classic Main Event that actually awarded a WSOP.com championship ring to the winner, so that might have skewed the weekly tourney numbers some, but the comparable weekly tournaments on the final Sunday of December actually had smaller turnouts. That could be a coincidence, or the Winter Poker Classic could have helped draw more players to the weekly (rather than the alternative of players choosing the Classic OVER the weekly). "The reality is that we’ll run it as long as there’s strong enough demand for it. If players prefer the $200 event and the $500 doesn’t get much traction it’s possible that The BIG Deal won’t even run the full year," said Rini. "On the other hand, if the $500 does well, we might consider running both the $200 and the $500 or we may expand the $500 to more than once a month."
  5. Online poker players have become accustomed to poker sites going offline for software updates. When WSOP.com went offline in Nevada on Monday night, it was one of the most highly anticipated updates of all time. When the site came back online, players were able to play against players in other states for the first time in the history of U.S. regulated online poker. The re-launch of WSOP.com as the first interstate online poker room in the United States comes 6.5 months after New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware - the only three states that offer regulated online poker - entered into an agreement to pool their respective players in a bid to increase liquidity. "It's a monumental day for online poker in the United States," said WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker Bill Rini. "This is truly a game-changer for players and we hope is the model blueprint for additional states to join the fray." WSOP.com is the only operator that offers play in all three regulated states. Players were quick to react to the changes and are looking forward to what this means for the tournament schedule moving forward. The first Sunday of multi-state tournament action includes a $100,000 Guaranteed event with a $320 buy-in (with rebuys). Last Sunday, the $215 buy-in Ultimate Warrior in New Jersey offered a $40,000 guarantee and attracted 229 entrants. To help promote the launch, WSOP.com announced Tuesday morning the Coast-to-Coast Classic, a tournament series with $1 Million guaranteed over 32 events. Buy-ins range from $11 to $1,000 and guarantees go as high as $200,001. Players in New Jersey do not have to change anything to play on the multi-state platform, but players in Nevada and Delaware will have to re-download the software and create a new account. Players with questions about multi-state online poker can visit this thread on PocketFives.com.
  6. On April 16, online poker operator WSOP.com announced that they would be combining the player pools for all three states (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware) where online poker is currently legalized and regulated in the United States. The combined player pool is set to begin on May 1. The announcement comes with less than two months before the WSOP flagship event, the 2018 World Series of Poker which will contain four different online bracelet events. “We hope to break records in all of our events this year,” said Bill Rini, Head of Online Poker for WSOP. “We started off with the $1,000 WSOP bracelet event (in 2015) and the next year we had two events, last year we had three and this year we’re hosting four online bracelet events and we expect they’ll all perform spectacularly.” His hopes are warranted with players from New Jersey being able to participate in bracelet events for the first time from over 2,500 miles away. Though players in Delaware will be wrapped into the new player liquidity agreement, WSOP.com doesn’t operate those online poker rooms, keeping players from that state from participating in a sanctioned WSOP-specific tournament. The timing of the announcement is no coincidence according to Rini, it was important for the online arm of the most recognizable poker series to have liquidity happen before the start of this year’s WSOP. Then again, it’s been something of importance for quite some time. “We started working on this as soon as the multi-state agreement was announced by regulators in October of 2017,” Rini said “It was very important to us to get pooled liquidity out there before the WSOP. We really wanted to have New Jersey players eligible to play in our online bracelet events. And, of course, players were anxious to start playing interstate as well. I can’t think of a week that has gone by since last year where someone hasn’t asked me about it.” One of those players eager to dive into the new player pool is Jed ‘JCHAK’ Hoffman, a one-time #1-ranked player in Nevada and consummate grinding online player at WSOP.com. “A six-figure score will once again be possible in legal online gaming in the U.S. so that’s going to be pretty sweet,” Hoffman said. “I just hope that WSOP.com realizes that keeping poker relatively pure is extremely important and valuable moving forward.” As Hoffman looks forward to swelling prize pools and improved customer support, Rini promises that there will be some tweaking in the tournament schedule in the near future, even if he cannot expand on that just yet. “We’ll take advantage of the increased prime-time resulting from two time-zones to have a really powerful lineup of tournaments and guarantees are being tweaked accordingly. We also have a lot of other things in the works worth getting excited about, but you’ll have to wait for further announcements on that.” As players look forward to logging more hands with more players, the issues access of hand histories once again has risen to the surface with New Jersey's #1-ranked player Michael 'Gags30' Gagliano recently voicing concern over player security. "Big unanswered question is what is happening with hand histories," Gagliano tweeted on April 16, shortly after the initial announcement. "Players need access to downloadable hh (hand histories) to ensure game integrity and security. Removing huds is fine, however downloadable hand histories are vital to a safe gaming environment." Understanding the need for game security, Rini addressed the topic of hand histories and the current state of reviewable hands. "Players can replay their hands in the hand re-player that is in the client. That covers the last thirty days of hands played. We will, on a limited basis and within certain limits, provide hand histories over thirty days old. While the hands can't be imported into tracking software, it does allow players to review their gameplay which we, of course, recognize is a valid need," Rini said. "We're aware of the arguments made for unfiltered access to hand histories in order to audit game fairness but there are other mechanisms to deal with those concerns. This has worked for the Nevada market for close to five years now without incident and there will be additional regulatory bodies monitoring the integrity of the games with shared liquidity. If players are concerned about game integrity they can contact us or the relevant regulators to conduct an investigation." In addition to integrating the three player pools, WSOP.com is gearing up for another wave of poker tourists ready to fire up their online client for another summer grind when the official WSOP starts on May 29. While players in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have discovered a couple items that need attending such as the need for re-creating screen names and the removal of HUD's for players in New Jersey, Rini anticipates a fairly smooth re-integration of anyone playing on WSOP.com during the series. “For the most part it will be business as usual, except that they will have to create a new account if they had one previously,” Rini said. “The only thing that we want to make players aware of, and this applies to new players also, is if we have difficulty verifying identity we may need you to upload some documents like a recent utility bill or bank statement. We have always had this policy but if someone is coming to Vegas for the WSOP and has done this already, we will not be migrating that data over to the new multi-state platform, so they may have to do that again.” “That’s especially important for anybody visiting us from outside of the U.S. as it is often a little more difficult to access those documents after they leave.” Though not yet enabled, the shared player pool is being looked at as a major step forward in the progress of online poker in the U.S. When additional states like Pennsylvania finally get online, WSOP.com is Rini is hoping that they’ll be able to bring them into the fold as soon as possible. “Obviously, we’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen so far and we’re hopeful that Pennsylvania will allow shared liquidity from the start.” Players located in both New Jersey and Nevada will be available to register and vie for all four of the official WSOP online bracelet events beginning on June 3. June 3 – Event #10: $365 No Limit Hold'em June 22 – Event #47: $565 Pot Limit Omaha 6-Max June 29 – Event #61: $1,000 No Limit Hold'em June 30 – Event #63: $3,200 High Roller
  7. And just like that, the 2019 World Series of Poker schedule is complete after WSOP officials released the final piece of the schedule, the online bracelet events, on Thursday afternoon. The 2019 schedule includes nine online bracelet events that will be competed for on WSOP.com. This is a vast increase over 2018 when four events were played out online. "Just like the land-based WSOP, the annual summer series is also the best time for online poker players in the U.S. to chase big prize pools and WSOP gold bracelets," said WSOP.com head of online poker Bill Rini. "WSOP.com is offering a consistent gold bracelet schedule this year, plus non-stop satellites to both the online and live events, giving players the best opportunity to participate in the 50th Annual WSOP." The addition of these nine events means the 2019 WSOP will consist of 89 different events, another all-time high. The online events, which were available to players in Nevada and New Jersey in 2018, are currently only open to players in Nevada. WSOP officials have stated that the eligibility of New Jersey players is to be determined and is likely a result of the uncertainty regarding the new Wire Act Opinion from the Department of Justice. The nine events include eight No Limit Hold'em events and a single Pot Limit Omaha offering. Other variants aren't available in the WSOP.com client. 2019 World Series Of Poker Online Events Schedule Date Time Event Buy-in Chips Levels Re-Entry June 2 3:30 PM PT No Limit Hold'em $400 15,000 15 minutes 3X June 9 3:30 PM PT Six Max Pot Limit Omaha $600 15,000 20 minutes Unlimited June 16 3:30 PM PT KO No Limit Hold'em $600 20,000 15 minutes None June 19 3:30 PM PT Turbo No Limit Hold'em Deepstack $500 40,000 8 minutes 3X June 23 3:30 PM PT Double Stack No Limit Hold'em $1,000 30,000 15 minutes 3X June 30 3:30 PM PT No Limit Hold'em Championship $1,000 15,000 20 minutes 3X July 3 3:30 PM PT High Roller No Limit Hold'em $3,200 25,000 20 minutes 3X July 7 3:30 PM PT Six Max No-Limit Hold'em $800 15,000 15 minutes 3X July 14 3:30 PM PT Summer Saver No-Limit Hold'em $500 20,000 15 minutes 3X Along with the nine bracelet events, players can also qualify for other WSOP events online. Satellites began running two weeks ago and will culminate with the 25 Seat Scramble on June 30. For more information on the 2019 WSOP, read Everything You Need To Know About the 2019 WSOP.

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