Online Poker: Where Were the Regulators?

online poker

The poker world was rocked by the news last week that Amaya CEO David Baazov was charged with insider trading. Amaya has been under investigation by Quebec’s securities regulator the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) since 2014 when the company acquired the Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt, for $4.9 billion.

The Era of Unregulated Online Poker

Full Tilt

This is yet another black eye for online poker. From January 1, 1998, when Planet Poker, the first real-money online poker site, dealt its first hand of Texas hold’em, to Black Friday on April 15, 2011, when the United States Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against the three largest online poker sites in the country, scandal after scandal has shaken the public’s and players’ faith in the industry.

I can’t help but ask, “Where were the regulators?”

I remember the late Terry Lanni, CEO of MGM Mirage, set up an off-shore Internet gaming site in 2001, which quickly folded. In an article in Las Vegas Review Journal dated Nov. 15, 2007, titled “Gaming Officials Say They’re Ready to Bet on the Web,” Lanni explained that though the site was unsuccessful, “the endeavor helped the company work out problems that will be useful when relaunching.” At the time of the article, Lanni predicted online poker would be legalized in 12 to 18 months.

This article was written nearly a decade ago, and not much has changed regarding the regulation of online poker. From the time the first hand of poker was dealt online in 1998 to the superuser cheating scandal at UltimateBet in 2008 when players were cheated out of millions by Ultimate Bet insiders, the Nevada Gaming Control Board had a decade to be at the forefront of regulating online poker; instead, they did nothing.

When the state should have been the leader for the worldwide online gaming industry, Nevada adopted a wait-and-see stance. The gambling capital of the world lost the opportunity to shape the future of gaming. Because the state choose not to be a leader in the emerging online poker industry, Nevada will forever be in catch-up mode, and it’s the players who have paid the ultimate price.

Whatever the politics are behind Nevada’s decision not to regulate online poker at the dawn of the industry, the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s responsibility should always be to protect the consumers. They failed.

What has bothered me most about unregulated online gambling is the hundreds of millions of dollars the regulatory agencies allowed to be stolen on their watch. People from all walks of life–blue collar workers, professionals, retirees and students—who all shared a love of poker were cheated out of millions, and many never recovered anything.

Nobody from the Ultimate Bets, Full Tilts or Lock Pokers has paid for what was done. No one has suffered except the innocent small players who just wanted to play their favorite game online.

It is the players who paid for the legal defense teams that defended the crooks at Full Tilt, and the small fines they were levied were nothing in comparison to the hundreds of millions they stole.

And the fact that disgraced former Full Tilt CEO Ray Bitar is reported to have recently thrown himself a million-dollar wedding is another slap in the face to these players.

Russ Hamilton plays golf every day in Las Vegas with no remorse. Howard Lederer has the gall to show his face at the Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014 after running Full Tilt into the ground, and none of them has ever issued an apology.

This is a disgrace to the gaming industry that I love.

The Need to Legalize and Regulate Online Poker


There is always going to be greed in any industry where there is so much money, but it is the job of oversight and regulatory agencies to put consumer protections in place and regulate the owners and operators.

New Jersey also waited too long to regulate online poker. Instead players had to put their faith in regulatory bodies based on islands or territories they have never heard of like the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.

We now have Daily Fantasy Sports following the same path as online poker with hundreds of small sites popping up again with no oversight.

We as a gaming industry can do much better.

It was the players who uncovered the cheating at Ultimate Bet, and it was the players who lost when Full Tilt folded.

And now it seems PokerStars’ players will be footing David Baazov’s legal bills. In a twist of irony, PokerStars announced they were raising the rake the same week their CEO was charged with insider trading.

As Dave Gadhia, Amaya’s Lead Director and independent board member said in a statement, “”David Baazov has the full support of the independent members of the board.”

Amaya will stand by their man. Guess who’s paying?

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and casino/billiard marketing expert. Robert is most well-known for creating the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. He created Legends of Poker for the Bicycle Casino in 1995. He also helped create Live at the Bike, the first live gaming site broadcast on the Internet in 2002.

He has spent over 30 years in casino marketing and player development. He has served as an executive host at the Bicycle Casino and MGM. He is currently working as a casino consultant.

Robert can be reached at for consulting, marketing and coaching. Find Robert on Facebook at and on Twitter @thechipburner. Subscribe to Robert’s blog “Beyond the Numbers” to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Poker from a Woman’s Perspective by Patricia Chavira


hot women

What does this have to do with poker skill?


My birthday was last Thursday, and to celebrate my husband said we can go to dinner at my favorite restaurant, or he could put me in a tournament. I chose the latter.

We chose the $10,000 guarantee Pot Limit E.O. Stud 8/Omaha 8 during the World Series of Poker Circuit at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino on St. Patrick’s Day.

I had never played Pot-Limit before, but with a little coaching and encouragement from my husband, fellow Gaming Today columnist and creator of Omaha, Robert Turner, I thought I’d take a shot. He has pushed me to play out of my comfort zone, and it has really helped me in all my games.

Where Are All the Women?

Crowded Poker Room

How many women can you count in this picture?


The first thing that struck me when I looked around the room was the lack of women in the field. There was one woman at my table and another one sitting a table away. Three women out of a field of 50 is a sad commentary on the state of poker in 2016.

On Twitter there have been numerous debates about the reason for this, and the answers have ranged from biology and cultural expectations of women to outright misogyny. I can only speak from my own experience, and I can say, when anyone—male or female—is starting out playing poker live, the environment is extremely intimidating.

We all have a responsibility to make newcomers feel comfortable. If you cannot be friendly, don’t be rude. When I was starting out, men would often remark on my play. I simply learned to say, “Where can I get your book?” and that would often end the conversation right there.

“Nice Rack”

Nice Rack

I don’t think he means my chips.


On the opposite end of the spectrum are the men who are too friendly. When I started playing poker in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I would often have my dad accompany me. So when I would get a remark like “nice rack,” I would introduce the fellow to my father. One time the gentleman just racked up his chips and left.

Of course, being a woman at the table also has its perks and can give you a slight edge if you don’t let sexist behavior put you on tilt. I’ve had players say, “Honey, do you want me to call or fold?” I answer, and they do it. I wish I could get my husband to do the same!

I can’t say it enough, be courteous to your fellow poker player—male or female. The game will be better for all.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a weekly column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker.



Friday Poker Tournaments in Los Angeles


One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is the non-stop poker action. On weekends I like to play the Quantum Reload tournaments at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino, but with the World Series of Poker Circuit running there all month, these tournaments have been suspended.

Hollywood Park Casino

Corey Silver

Corey Silver, Tournament Director for Hollywood Park Casino

On my quest to find a new Friday night tournament, I discovered some great poker values around town. Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood has two tournaments on Friday. At noon is a $60 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament with a $10,000 guarantee. At 7 p.m. there is another $60 buy-in tournament with a $12,000 guarantee.

Both tournaments feature 20 minute levels, 10,000 starting chips and one $60 re-buy for 15,000 chips. In my experience, Tournament Director Corey Silver runs some of the best tournaments in town.

Commerce Casino

Commerce Casino

Commerce Casino, the world’s largest poker casino with over 240 tables, runs two tournaments on Friday. At noon is the $65 buy-in Deepstack Turbo, which features 10,000 starting chips, 15 minute levels and a $2,500 guarantee.

At 6 p.m. Commerce runs the $150 No-Limit Hold’em Megastack with 15,000 starting chips and 15 minute levels. There are no rebuys or add-ons in this tournament, and registration closes at 8:15 p.m. giving you plenty of time to make the tournament even if you get caught in L.A.’s traffic.



Across town in Gardena, the Normandie and Hustler Casino host Friday night tournaments at 7 p.m. Normandie’s No-Limit Hold’em tournament features a $40 buy-in, 6,000 starting chips and a $3,000 guarantee.

Players registered by 6:45 p.m. receive 500 bonus chips. Registration is open until 8:30 p.m. There are no rebuys or add-ons.

Hustler Casino’s $100 Super Friday tournament starts with 10,000 chips and features a $5,000 guarantee. There is one $70 add-on for 15,000 chips. The levels are 20 minutes with the exception of Level 5, which is 60 minutes. Players may re-enter during the first five levels. Late registration lasts until 9:20 p.m.

Hawaiian Gardens

Gardens Casino

The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens hosts a $15,000 guarantee No-Limit Hold’em tournament at 6:45 p.m. Players receive 7,000 starting chips for their $115 buy-in. Players can purchase 3,000 bonus chips for $10.

There is one $50 rebuy for 7,000 chips. Levels last 30 minutes for the first three levels and 25 minutes for the remainder of the tournament. Registration closes at the end of the 15-minute break after the third level.

Visit for more information.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a weekly column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker


World Series of Poker Circuit Going Strong at Bicycle Hotel & Casino

WSOPC 2016

The World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC) makes its only stop in Los Angeles at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino from March 3 – March 31.

The series kicked off with Event #1: a $160 No-Limit Hold’em tournament with a $75,000 guarantee. The tournament had an impressive turn out with 611 entries creating a prize pool of $88,990. players made the money with Christopher Doan of Hacienda Heights, California, taking the first place prize money of $22,715.

Event #2: Mega Million XIV


A highlight of this series is Event #2: the Mega Million XIV. This $1 million guarantee tournament featured 11 Day Ones, which ran through Monday, March 14.

All players who advanced to Day 2 got paid $1,000. Players who qualified for Day 2 more than once played the higher chip stack and received $3,175 for each chip stack .

Day 2 began on Tuesday, March 15 at 4 p.m. and played down to 54 players. Day 3 on Wednesday, March 16 will play down to the final 9 players. On Thursday, March 17 the final table will be streamed on Live at the Bike at 2 p.m.

Win a Seat


Players who are looking to satellite into the $1,675 WSOPC Championship on the weekend of March 26 can take a shot nightly at 8:30 p.m. for $150.

There will also be a freeroll on Monday, March 21 at 6 p.m. for the top 50 point leaders who play a minimum of 10 hours in cash games from March 3 through 12 p.m. on Friday, March 18. Ten $1,675 Main Event Seats are up for grabs.

Call (562) 806-4646 for more information.

Visit for room reservations.

Patricia Chavira is a freelance writer and social media consultant specializing in poker. She writes a weekly column called the “Poker Scene” for Gaming Today. Follow her on Twitter @pinkchippoker