New Jersey Residents Cannuli and Beckley Post Strong November Nine Performances

888Poker most likely chose the best three players to sponsor with McKeehen, Cannuli, and Blumenfield. NJ natives Cannuli and Buckley both faired well.

The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event is history and Joe McKeehen took home the title in a performance for the ages.

While McKeehen took the title, two New Jersey natives performed very well at the final table. In addition, 888poker put their sponsorship dollars to good use and managed to have two of the final three players patched on Tuesday night.

Cannuli and Beckley made New Jersey proud

Two New Jersey natives made the November Nine. Cape May native Thomas Cannuli started the final table in sixth chip position while Marlton resident Joseph Buckley started the final seventh in chips. Both players managed to survive Day 1 action as the short stacks went out followed by a stunning collapse by fan favorite Pierre Neuville.

Cannuli and Beckley started Day 2 with the two shortest stacks. On the second hand of play, Cannuli picked up the best possible hand to double with. He shoved with pocket aces and found a call in the pocket tens of Max Steinberg. Unfortunately, Steinberg caught a ten on the flop and his set held to send Cannuli out in 6th place, good for $1.42 million. Following his bustout, Cannuli gave one of the best exit interview we’ve heard from an eliminated November Niner.

Beckley was the short stack at the start of Day 2 play but was the only player at the final table to secure a full double-up during the three days. He picked up pocket aces and after three-betting with the best hand in poker, Zvi Stern shoved with 10s-9s. Beckley called and his aces gave him breathing room.

Beckley was able to build chips on the second day and made the final three. He started the last day as the short stack but was able to work his way to heads-up play. Unfortunately, Steinberg was on fire and made short work of Beckley. However, a $4.46 million payday is nothing to be ashamed about.

888poker chose well for November Nine sponsorship

When 888poker announced which players they were sponsoring for the November Nine, a few eyebrows were raised but in the end, they made some of the best choices possible.

Two out of the final three players were wearing 888poker patches and the other player left a memorable impression due to his class in losing.

When it was announced that 888poker had sponsored Joe McKeehen, nobody was surprised. He was the overwhelming chip leader and the favorite to win it all. Their sponsorship of Thomas Cannuli was not totally surprising because he plays regularly on 888poker NJ.

The surprise signing was Neil Blumenfield. As the only true amateur at the final table, few figured he would compete. However, thanks to superior coaching and playing with little fear through the first couple of days, he was able to make the final three and walk away with $3.39 million.

We also saw a relatively limited promotional presence for, the online poker arm of Caesars.

Cannuli’s class in busting out left a favorable impression in the minds of millions and Blumenfield’s run was epic and proves that anyone can compete in the Main Event. Even if McKeehen doesn’t embrace the role of poker ambassador, 888poker got their money’s worth and then some.

Gov. Christie Vetoes Majority of Atlantic City Recovery Package

The proposed bills to help Atlantic City recover have almost all been vetoed by Governor Christie. Additional aid to schools was the only one approved.

Governor Chris Christie finally acted on a package of bills that were intended to help Atlantic City rebound from recent financial struggles. Unfortunately, it was not the answer that anyone had hoped for.

Gov. Christie vetoed the majority of the bills that have been sitting on his desk since June, leaving tens of thousands of Atlantic City workers and many businesses wondering what his end game is in helping the city recover.

Christie believed bills only answered short term ills

The majority of the package that has been sitting on Governor Christie’s desk since June was vetoed earlier this week according to an article from the Associated Press. One of the primary bills in the package would have let the eight remaining Atlantic City casinos make payments to the city in lieu of taxes over the next 15 years. This would give them a set amount each year to pay instead of an unknown amount that could go up each year.

Christie stated that, “While I commend the Legislature for attempting to devise measures to stabilize the city’s budget and finances, I am concerned that the bills, in their present form, fail to recognize the true path to economic revitalization and fiscal stability in the city.”

“While these bills represent the bipartisan efforts of many to provide important, near-term support to the city’s immediate challenges, I do not believe they meet the goal of setting a course toward renewed, long-term prosperity and economic growth. To achieve these goals, we must continue our work and go further to ensure that the next step leads to that economically vibrant future for Atlantic City.”

Another feature of the package included a bill that would have provided mandated employee benefits for casino employees. This became a key issue last year after the Trump Taj Mahal was allowed to terminate their contract with union employees and cut health and retirement benefits. The union appealed the ruling and is still awaiting a ruling by an appeals court.

The only bill that Christie signed was one that approved additional aid for schools in Atlantic City. Other features that were vetoed included a measure that would have disbanded the Atlantic City Alliance and used its $30 million annual budget to help the city in other ways.

Senate President blasts Christie for delay

State Senate President Steve Sweeney wasted little time blasting Gov. Christie for dragging his heels on the issue. He started by saying that lawmakers would take “immediate, constructive action” to resolve issues related to the bill.

He followed those statements by showing his annoyance at the Governor. “I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s failure to enact the package of bills to aid Atlantic City’s financial recovery and I am concerned by the time that was wasted since the plan was put on his desk close to six months ago.”

“Critical time has been lost to Atlantic City and to south Jersey’s economy, leaving tens of thousands of people in continued financial peril.”

Ironically, some of the parts of the five-bill package came from summits held by the Governor following the closure of four AC casinos in 2014. The tax payment bill was viewed as a way to stabilize certain casinos’ finances and prevent annual tax appeals. These appeals were usually won by the casinos and caused gaps in the city’s budget over the last few years.

Christie wants to hold $30 million in casino tax payments

After vetoing four out of the five bills in the package, Gov. Christie recommended that the state hold $30 million in casino tax payments from 2015 and 2016 until a fiscal recovery plan has been passed into law. Afterwards, the funds would be released to Atlantic City.

It is unclear why Christie proposed this set amount or to his end game in Atlantic City’s recovery. Christie is presently concentrating on his run for President but it appears that his chances at receiving the Republican nomination are slipping with each passing week.

None of the initiatives under discussion directly impact New Jersey’s online gambling industry, which has been a small but meaningful source of growth for casinos like Caesars and Resorts.

Christie’s failure to act over the last few months makes some wonder about his commitment to save Atlantic City. Most of the bills appeared reasonable and provided solutions for the next few years at least. Failure to provide some type of package in the near future could prove detrimental to recovery.

Image credit: Joseph Sohm /

New CEO Appointed As Part Of Major Changes At PokerStars

Rational Group, the division of Amaya that runs PokerStars, hired a new CEO as well as made changes to their ROW programs with rewards programs and others.

There are major changes underway at the world’s largest poker site along with a change in leadership. On Wednesday, the Rational Group announced that Rafa Ashkenazi has been named CEO for the company.

Rafi Ashkenazi takes over as CEO of Rational Group

According to, Rafi Ashkenazi has been named the new Chief Executive Officer of the Rational Group. Rational Group is the division of Amaya that’s responsible for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Ashkenazi had been serving as Senior VP of Strategy since earlier this year and reported directly to David Baazov. Previously, he had served as COO of Rational Group dating back to January 2013. Prior to joining Rational Group in 2013, he served as COO of Playtech.

According to Amaya CEO David Baazov:

“Rafi has been working very closely this year with our executive management team and returns to Rational Group with an even greater knowledge of our corporate strategy, vision and goals. Combining this knowledge with his operational expertise makes him an ideal leader for the Rational Group.”

Ashkenazi also commented on his new position, stating, “I look forward to re-joining the excellent team at Rational Group and working with them to continue to extend our leadership in online gaming.”

“We have great opportunities in the near future with our upcoming launch in New Jersey, the expansion of our casino and sports-betting businesses and our mission to grow the poker category.”

Ashkenazi will replace Michael Hazel as CEO of the Rational Group. Hazel is rumored to be one of the four employees that Amaya must terminate before PokerStars can launch in New Jersey.  

Ashkenazi will officially take over in his new role on November 9.

Shift comes after announcement of major changes for ROW players

Ashkenazi’s promotion comes just three days after PokerStars announced sweeping changes to the PokerStars experience for players outside of the United States. The first announcement, and one heralded by many, is that the company will continue its push to eliminate client access for HUD’s and other third-party data mining software. This change was done to attempt to level the playing field.

The other major announcement was not as well received. PokerStars announced sweeping changes to their VIP and rewards program that will significant impact it high volume and high stakes players.

Among those changes are a significant reduction in overall benefits and the elimination of VPP’s for high stake games. Furthermore, Supernova Elite players will have capped benefits in 2016 followed by the program being eliminated in 2017.

The reduction in benefits will range anywhere from 10% all the way to 60% for some SNE players. Numerous pros spoke out on the matter, calling it an apparent money grab by the site. Dani Stern, aka Ansky, was among the most vocal and stated that the new rewards program would cut approximately $50,000 per year from his bankroll.

The only players to see an increase in benefits are ChromeStar players who will see a 10% increase. According to Stern, that will equate to an average increase of 30 cents per month in rewards for ChromeStar players.

It is unknown at this time what type of rewards will be available for PokerStars NJ but it is expected that a similar program that’s offered to the ROW will be launched when operations begin in 2016.

DGE Conditions Guarantee PokerStars NJ Will Not Launch Until 2016

When the NJ DGE gave Amaya a set of conditions for the launch of PokerStars, one of them was to wait until 2016 to launch the hopeful savior of NJ iPoker.

Based on recent developments reported on the PocketFives Community Forum, it is likely that PokerStars will not be launching in New Jersey until sometime in 2016. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued a license with several conditions that PokerStars must comply to before receiving a license.

One of those conditions was the repayment of former New Jersey player funds to those that had failed to claim them. PokerStars has recently began contacting former players regarding those balances and will spend the rest of 2015 trying to facilitate the return of those funds.

Players received email with instructions on how to claim funds

A players with the screen handle “briangrim310” shared an email sent to him by PokerStars regarding his former balance. This player had just $4.27 in his account. According to the email, players can request their funds in the following ways:

  • Logging into the PokerStars client and contacting support or emailing [email protected]
  • Write a letter or appear in person to the following address:
    • PokerStars
      c/o Fox Rothschild, LLP
      1301 Atlantic Ave, Suite 400
      Atlantic City, NJ 08401

Players must contact PokerStars before December 28, 2015 in order to receive their funds from the company. Any funds that remain unclaimed after that point will be transferred to the NJ Unclaimed Property Department and players must contact that division in order to receive funds.

PokerStars presently has over $400,000 in New Jersey player funds and this money must be repaid to players or turned over to the state after December 31, 2015. According to reports, players with a balance under $1 are being encouraged to donate their balance to the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

Conditions mean PokerStars won’t launch in NJ before 2016

While some were hopeful that PokerStars would have a late 2015 launch, the conditions imposed by the DGE guarantee that the company will not begin their New Jersey operations before January 1, 2016. In addition to repayment of former player funds, Amaya, Inc. must terminate four employees that were deemed as unsuitable before the DGE will allow PokerStars to launch.

PokerStars has until December 31, 2015 to complete both tasks. While an announcement has not been made by Amaya, we can assume that the termination of the four employees has either happened or they have been given notice of their pending termination.

The conditions imposed by the DGE were quite thoughtful and could be copied by other states looking to legalize online poker. Repaying former players or releasing the funds to the state will help start the company with a clean slate and could help return funds to players that either were afraid to claim their funds or didn’t believe they would be paid.

PokerStars was the only online poker site in the Black Friday indictments to repay their players. They had returned the funds to the majority of the United States in the weeks following the indictment.

Absolute Poker and UB filed for bankruptcy and documents later revealed that Full Tilt has spent all but $10 million of nearly $400 million of worldwide player funds. PokerStars later purchased Full Tilt as part of their settlement with the DOJ, a settlement that required the repayment of Full Tilt players worldwide. That process is ongoing.

Garden State Super Series III Offers Over $800,000 In Guarantees

The third annual Garden State Super Series is opening with plenty of guaranteed money in tournaments of every skill level for maximum player enjoyment.

The Garden State Super Series III kicks off on Sunday on Borgata Poker and partypoker NJ. This is the third running of the GSSS and this time around, the series offers over $800,000 in guarantees, including a $150,000 guaranteed Main Event.

The GSSS III features 43 events that will run in conjunction with the daily events regularly enjoyed on both sites. Buy-ins for these events range from $20 all the way to $1,060. Satellites start for as low as $2.

Series offers something for every NJ online poker player

No matter which game you play or your bankroll level, there will be events available to you during the GSSS III. The series kicks off on Sunday with four events, including a $75,000 guaranteed NL with re-entry event.

Continuing each day through the 25th, the GSSS III offers events in every form of poker spread on Borgata Poker and partypoker NJ. In addition, this series offers two events with six-figure guarantees and a high roller event.

Event #20 is a $215 NL with re-entry event featuring a $100,000 guarantee, the largest non-Main Event tournament of the series. The final day of the GSSS III features six events with $260,000 in guarantees.

Event #39, the $215 Main Event offers the largest guarantee at $150,000. Also running on the final day is Event #40, the $1,060 NL High Roller. The event should feature some of the best online poker talent in New Jersey.

Earn your seat – satellites starting at $2

If you want a shot at over $800,000 in guaranteed prize money, take your seat in the GSSS III. Satellites are already running and start for as little as $2. If you’re new to Borgata Poker, they are offering a fantastic signup bonus.

Register for your free Borgata Poker account online and you will receive $20 free to your account. $10 of that bonus is immediately available in cash. You can use that to try out some of Borgata Poker’s cash games or to try and satellite your way into the GSSS III.

If you’d like to make your first deposit, Borgata Poker is offering an awesome matching bonus. Make your first deposit on Borgata Poker and they will match it 100% up to $600.

Sign up today and register for your seat in the Garden State Super Series III.

Below is complete list of events running during the GSSS III:

Day Date Time Event Description Total Buy In Buy In Fees Bounty Guarantee
Sunday 10/11/2015 4:00 PM GSSS #1 – $5,000 GTD NLH Slow Grind [Re-Entry]  $55  $50  $5  $5,000
Sunday 10/11/2015 5:00 PM GSSS #2 – $75,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $215  $200  $15  $75,000
Sunday 10/11/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #3 – $20,000 GTD NLH 6Max Rebuy  $55  $50  $5  $20,000
Sunday 10/11/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #4 – $5,000 GTD NLH  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Monday 10/12/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #5 – $20,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $100  $9  $ 20,000
Monday 10/12/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #6 – $5,000 GTD PLO 6Max  $55  $50  $5  $5,000
Tuesday 10/13/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #7 – $15,000 GTD NLH Bounty  $109  $80  $9  $20  $15,000
Tuesday 10/13/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #8 – $7,500 GTD NLH 6Max Turbo  $55  $50  $5  $7,500
Wednesday 10/14/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #9 – $20,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $!00  $9  $20,000
Wednesday 10/14/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #10 – $10,000 GTD NLH Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $10,000
Thursday 10/15/2015 6:30 PM GSSS #11 – $5,000 GTD PLO8  $75  $69  $6  $5,000
Thursday 10/15/2015 7:30 PM GSSS #12 – $5,000 GTD PLO Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Friday 10/16/2015 6:30 PM GSSS #13 – $1,000 GTD 7Stud  $20  $18  $2  $1,000
Friday 10/16/2015 7:30 PM GSSS #14 – $2,500 GTD FLH  $55  $50  $5  $2,500
Saturday 10/17/2015 5:00 PM GSSS #15 – $5,000 GTD NLH Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Saturday 10/17/2015 6:00 PM GSSS #16 – $10,000 GTD PLO Rebuy  $55  $50  $5  $10,000
Saturday 10/17/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #17 – $15,000 GTD NLH 6Max  $109  $100  $9  $15,000
Saturday 10/17/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #18 – $7,500 GTD NLH Turbo [Re-Entry]  $55  $50  $5  $7,500
Sunday 10/18/2015 4:00 PM GSSS #19 – $5,000 GTD NLH Slow Grind [Re-Entry]  $55  $50  $5  $5,000
Sunday 10/18/2015 5:00 PM GSSS #20 – $100,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $215  $200  $15  $100,000
Sunday 10/18/2015 6:00 PM GSSS #21 – $50,000 GTD NLH High Roller  $535  $500  $35  $50,000
Sunday 10/18/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #22 – $20,000 GTD NLH 6Max Rebuy  $55  $50  $5  $20,000
Sunday 10/18/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #23 – $10,000 GTD NLH Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $10,000
Monday 10/19/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #24 – $20,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $100  $9  $20,000
Monday 10/19/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #25 – $7,500 GTD NLH 6Max  $55  $50  $5  $7,500
Tuesday 10/20/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #26 – $15,000 GTD NLH Bounty  $109  $80  $9  $20  $15,000
Tuesday 10/20/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #27 – $7,500 GTD NLH  $55  $50  $5  $7,500
Wednesday 10/21/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #28 – $10,000 GTD NLH Super Bounty  $109  $52  $5  $52  $10,000
Wednesday 10/21/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #29 – $10,000 GTD NLH Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $10,000
Thursday 10/22/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #30 – $15,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $100  $9  $15,000
Thursday 10/22/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #31 – $10,000 GTD NLH Speed Down  $109  $100  $9  $10,000
Friday 10/23/2015 6:30 PM GSSS #32 – $10,000 GTD PLO8 6Max [Re-Entry]  $75  $69  $6  $10,000
Friday 10/23/2015 7:30 PM GSSS #33 – $5,000 GTD PLO Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Saturday 10/24/2015 4:00 PM GSSS #34 – $10,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $100  $9  $10,000
Saturday 10/24/2015 5:00 PM GSSS #35 – $5,000 GTD PLO Rebuy  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Saturday 10/24/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #36 – $20,000 GTD NLH [Re-Entry]  $109  $100  $9  $20,000
Saturday 10/24/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #37 – $7,500 GTD NLH Turbo  $55  $50  $5  $5,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 4:00 PM GSSS #38 – $5,000 GTD NLH Slow Grind [Re-Entry]  $55  $50  $5  $5,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 5:00 PM GSSS #39 – $150,000 GTD NLH Main Event [Re-Entry]  $215  $200  $15  $150,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 6:00 PM GSSS #40 – $75,000 GTD NLH High Roller  $1,060  $1,000  $60  $75,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 7:00 PM GSSS #41 – $15,000 GTD NLH 6Max Rebuy  $55  $50  $5  $15,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 8:00 PM GSSS #42 – $5,000 GTD NLH  $20  $18  $2  $5,000
Sunday 10/25/2015 9:30 PM GSSS #43 – $10,000 GTD Turbo  $215  $200  $15  $10,000

PokerStars NJ Online Poker Approval Comes With Conditions

Amaya Inc. has been issued a Transactional Waiver with Conditions with regards to the reentry of PokerStars into the United States online gaming industry.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released a pair of documents surrounding the licensing of PokerStars and Full Tilt. First, they released the 89-page report on their investigation of the purchase of PokerStars by Amaya last year.

Next, they released the transactional waiver to the public, one that is contingent on Amaya meeting certain conditions.

Transactional waiver issued – with conditions

Since last week’s announcement that Amaya would be licensed in New Jersey, we have been waiting on the official text of the transactional waiver and the DGE’s findings on their investigation. We finally received both on Friday.

The transactional waiver for Amaya and Resorts is a bit different from those issued to other entities in New Jersey. Their waiver actually is a “Transactional Waiver With Conditions,” with Amaya being required to meet certain conditions in order to operate and to continue operations in New Jersey.

The conditions that Amaya must meet are as follows:

• Amaya shall transfer the remaining funds of any New Jersey players that were not paid after Black Friday (April 15, 2011.) These funds must be in the state’s possession before PokerStars can operate in New Jersey.
• Four individuals presently employed by Amaya that also worked for pre-Black Friday PokerStars must be terminated. The DGE determined they “failed to establish the requisite good character, honesty and integrity required by the Act due to their involvement in the business activities of the PokerStars Entities between the enactment of UIGEA and Black Friday.” These employees must be fired by January 30, 2016.
• The following people are not permitted to be part of the company in any aspect – Isai Scheinberg, Mark Scheinberg, Pinhas Schapira, Yehuda Nir, Paul Telford, Paul Tate, Nelson Burtnick, Ray Bitar, Rafael Furst, or Chris Ferguson. The DGE is even requiring that Amaya contact them if any of these individuals so much as even contacts Amaya.
• The minutes of meetings of the Amaya Board of Directors, Compliance Committee and Audit Committee meeting must be submitted to the DGE along with any supporting documentation within 15 days of said meetings.
• Any complaints brought against Amaya, their subsidiaries or employees must be reported to the DGE.
• Amaya must keep the DGE informed on any expansions of gaming activities or new business conducted. Also, if their agreement with Resorts changes in any way, the DGE must be contacted in five business days.
• Finally, all business records must be available to the DGE for inspection whenever they demand them.

Seeing that these conditions must be met before PokerStars is permitted to operate a NJ online gambling site, it is unlikely that the launch will be a quick one. It now appears that those suggesting an early 2016 launch may be correct.

DOJ settlement and Amaya purchase led to licensing

In addition to the transactional waiver, the DGE also issued an 89-page report regarding the purchase of PokerStars and Full Tilt by Amaya, Inc. The report showed that PokerStars earned $44.3 million from New Jersey residents between the passage of the UIGEA and the Black Friday shutdown.

After Black Friday, PokerStars returned $5.01 million to NJ residents. There’s presently $427,000 in player funds still unclaimed that PokerStars must turn over as a condition of their license.

Ultimately, several factors led to the DGE approving Amaya for a license. Some of them are as follows:

• The DOJ agreement with PokerStars that permits them to operate in the United States if they operate where it is legal to do so.
• The separation of the Scheinbergs’ ownership in the company.
• The removal of all employees and management connected with operating the companies pre-Black Friday. This includes the removal of four employees mentioned in the TW.

In short, the DGE determined that the Amaya-run PokerStars is indeed a new company and separate from the one that operated in the United State pre-Black Friday. This is a huge decision that will have a major impact on other states as they decide whether to license PokerStars. Now the poker world will sit back and wait to see when PokerStars NJ actually launches.