PokerStars NJ preview: Top Pair Episode 257 broadcast

Top Pair poker podcastEd. note: I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Josh, of, for providing the transcript of Episode 257 of the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast, which I co-host. Usually, I only repost interview segments of the podcast here on the Cardplayer Lifestyle poker blog (like this one), but Josh convinced me it was worthwhile to publish this one as well, as he gained a lot from listening to the podcast and since PokerStars is about to relaunch in New Jersey. You can listen to the podcast audio below; it’s followed by the transcript.

March madness St. Patrick’s Day daylight savings time and the first day of spring. It’s a packed month ahead, so be sure to include Home Game Poker on your list of activities. In this episode, Robbie talks about his herculean efforts to get a home game going. I touch on another mixed game with an interesting twist. We announce the latest winners of the J design sheet of uncut cards. We highlight one state’s efforts to decriminalize home poker games and explore the ramifications of PokerStars being added to the online scene in New Jersey. Chelsea be sure to spring ahead next weekend.

Bruce: Well, Robbie. I know you’ve had a lot on your plate this last couple of weeks, how are you running?

Robbie: Like a champion, my friend. Like a champion. We have been running well. For those who do not follow me as closely as Bruce, what he’s referring to is that this last week my wife actually has been away in Singapore. You know I guess trying to get as far away as possible from me but that has left me with the three youngins, which means of course you think okay, the guy is free, he’s got all this freedom and has to get a home poker game going while his wife is away, right?

Bruce: Right.

Robbie: So you think that would be an easy thing to do. No, apparently like I have the house is free, the kids are asleep after a certain time at night. So let’s go, let’s get it together and you know whatever I don’t know. I guess people are just too busy and whatever it is. I was trying everything and it just wouldn’t work out and finally I said to myself you know what? I really just want to play. How could it possibly be that my wife is going to be away for an entire week and I didn’t manage to get a game together? So I said, you know what? Let’s go and let’s invest, alright? And I put it out there on Facebook and I said, “Okay, free pizza at my house, free beer at my house. All you need to do is come.” And I couldn’t plan this season I would be prepared to lose a little money to me but you know jokingly of course but I was like, okay, you know why not? What’s the big deal? I’ll spring for pizza and beer. Lo and behold, right? And I didn’t actually make this one public, but if you were there last night, you would know people showed up. It was great. We had a home poker game and the best part about it. It was a great investment because I could’ve bought a lot more pizza and beer for the amount of money that I won yesterday.

Bruce: Wow! Home team advantage, huh! That’s good.

Robbie: Well, I don’t know. I guess maybe I was running well, I was running well and then I was playing pretty well. There was at some point actually to refer to one very memorable hand, I was the big stack at the table, I had probably 20% more than the next highest stack. We were eight players actually and there was a four-way all in. Now the beauty of it is I was under the gun and I just without looking at my cards I just sort of cold blind like the big blind and you know what one spot or two spots after me basically went all in liked raised you know pretty relatively high, the next one went all in, the one after that goes all in. I looked at my cards and I see pocket Kings, right? So I’m like, “Oh Lord, Lord this is fun.” So I just you know have an offer for a minute and I just pushed myself all in as the big stack and you know the other person sort of was committed because he had a smaller stack with four all in, right? And you know I said, “Well, I hope someone doesn’t have aces.” And three other players, they show all three of them had an ace, two of them had ace queen and one of them had ace king. So I was in excellent shape and I basically felt that all three of them the board ran out clean and I was very happy. That to get it the whole hand history and everything but that boosted me up even more for the night and I was like, “Thanks so much guys for the pizza.” So sorry if you are listening to this, my buddies. You know I hope you had a good time but that it was fun. The herculean efforts paid off and my wife is coming home tomorrow. So maybe we’ll have some other good home poker games in the future.

Bruce: So that was called the blind limp then. I know Chuck Weiss used to do that a lot too.

Robbie: Once in a while you know.

Bruce: Like what the heck, I’ll go ahead and I won’t even look.

Robbie: Yeah, just for feed we pay like 25 cents, 50 cents. So what’s 50 cents? Not a big deal. And once in a blue moon you know those circumstances work out, not just to have the Kings but that everyone else also has like premium hands and you know the money ends up going in before you even actually look at your card so.

Bruce: Well and if they knew you were blind limping then they’re not really considering you is a contender or as a danger in the end.

Robbie: Yeah, what’s the big deal you know?

Bruce: Like you know how many people are in the hand? Okay, well, Robbie is in but he just limped and he didn’t even look so you know he’s probably got seven deuces or something. What would’ve been cool as if you somehow managed very subtly look at the cards but. So like, “Ah man, with these pot odds I guess even with seven deuces I’ve got to jump in so you know.”

Robbie: But that was fun and yeah, just happy to have had the game you know as I always say. Of course I’m very happy that yesterday was a winning session but of course you know the most fun to me about the home poker game is playing with good friends and you know people that you know for a while or even new people that you don’t really know but are getting to know win or lose. You know that’s what the pizza and the beers is all about. To me it’s just having a good time and you know that’s what I really wanted you know, and luckily I had it. I got the whole bunch of really good friends here.

Bruce: And so the kids were cooperative as far as being tucked into their beds?

Robbie: Oh yeah. They were asleep.

Bruce: Not interrupting and wanting drinks.

Robbie: No, no. They were asleep but I will say lately my eight-year-old, my oldest, she was sort of been asking a few more, just inquisitive questions about poker and what is it all about and what you do. So perhaps it’s time and I will say that’s pretty much the age when I learned. I’ve got a picture of myself sitting around that proverbial of a very literal kitchen table with my dad, with my grandpa, my grandma and you know learning to a play five card draw, so maybe it’s the time.

Bruce: Yeah, that’s very cool. Very cool. Well, good job for getting folks there and good job for surviving the win.

Robbie: Thanks. And the pizza was pretty good too. How about you, Bruce? How have you been running?

Bruce: I’ve been running okay. You know normal, normal, haven’t been playing quite as much last couple of weeks. People have been on vacation and different things that come up, and so there haven’t been quite as many games.

Robbie: It’s only six out of seven nights for you this time.

Bruce: Yeah, really we did play last Saturday night over it at our engineers, Jeff’s house, we did this wheel of games thing and only we did the cash game version, and which is some of it we did with Robert Willis, the poker grump where you know we invested so much cash and portion of it got delineated to like eight different levels and then at the end we combined it altogether and played so.

Robbie: Okay.

Bruce: But one of the games we played and again just as more of background all these games were basically compiled by a gentleman by the name and I don’t know, you would have to be a long, long time listener of the podcast, his name was, he goes by P FAP FAP and he was a prolific poster in the Two Plus Two Poker Forum and we got to be kind of friend and we actually had him on the show a couple of times and he took the effort to actually put together or there’s probably 80 or 90 of these 3 x 5 laminated cards all color-coded of all these different games that he was able to discover that are basically variance to poker. Again not very many wild-card games or progressive pots, but this one I think was called raiders dubbed High/Low Raiders. Raiders meaning the football team.

Robbie: Oh, wow. Okay.

Bruce: So if you’re not a football fan or if you are a football fan, I’m sure you could call it the 49ers or the Steelers or the Cowboys or the Jets or whatever your team happens to be.

Robbie: Not the Patriots.

Bruce: Not the Patriots. Definitely not the Patriots, yeah, you would lose everything. Now you probably would win again, but just everybody. So, but it’s just like stud high lows, that 8er better you know it’s that 8er better. Eight or below is that half the pot for the low hand if anybody qualifies and then a regular five card hand from the year top hand wins. But there’s one extra variant where you would split the pot three ways and that’s third-variant is the winning football hand and by the football hand, you take all the numbers that could score in a football game. So you’ve got the number one or the ace which would score, you know point after the deuce which could be either a safety or a a two-point conversion. This three, which would be a field goal and the six which would be the text. So at the end of the game, anybody with the most points adding all those together in a five card hand would win the flip football portion of the pot. So you know if you’ve got somebody with a seven five low, they get the low and you got somebody with two pair or a set they get the high, you’ve got somebody with maybe a six, a three, a two and an ace they might win the football because that would be 12 points plus it would be a pretty good low. So I mean there’s a possibility with those numbers that you could scoop the low and the football so you have front of two thirds of the pot rather than one third of the pot and it sounds more complicated than it is and it’s really pretty simple. Once you’re playing it, you know you just keep in mind those 1234 numbers and if you get those four cards on there, especially you know in this particular variant if you had a pair of sixes that’s pretty strong hand.

Robbie: Right. But ace would only play low if I’m understanding, right?

Bruce: Yeah, ace would only low in the football. It would be the one. So, you’ve got the ace, the deuce and the sixes so.

Robbie: Interesting.

Bruce: Yeah, it was it was a lot of fun.

Robbie: It sort of creates for you to come up with a variant of that nature.

Bruce: Yeah, and of course again we’re through football for the next year. So if you’re kind of missing the game and want to kind of get back into that football frame of mind it was kind of fun to have.

Robbie: Sure. It sounds pretty good.

Bruce: Anyway we’ve got some pretty good emails from a couple of folks as far as the J design sheet of uncut cards. As you remember we’ve been offering it for somebody that just communicates with us either by the [email protected] or our Facebook site or our…

Robbie: On Twitter, right?

Bruce: Twitter. And we’ve got a couple of good entries that we picked, so let me announce those winners. First one was Pat and he’s actually from British Columbia, Canada. Yeah, that’s kind of cool. Our first winner that’s outside the contiguous to the 50 states of the US. Pat says, “I really enjoy your podcast. Been running our home game for 10 years now. We run a league tournament once a month where points are collected based upon a finish which is then used to calculate position and chip stacks for the year-end championship. We also play once or twice a month, just regular tournaments, but there they strictly are playing Hold’em. We have about two or three new inquiries every month and generally have about a pool of 20 to 28 people per tournament. One of the founders is a Poker Aficionado with cards and chips and I didn’t realize it until a couple months ago we’ve been using J design cards.”

Robbie: Pretty cool.

Bruce: So that’s from Pat and I responded back and said, “Wow! That’s interesting, Pat. How did you hear about us or how did how did you come across J design cards?” And he forwarded me another email from I guess one of the co-founders of the group, his name is Chris but he goes by Squigly. And his response was I have one of these and he already has a sheet of the uncut cards of the J design cards and he wanted in a contest that Jason was running with the Ante Up podcast. So he says, “Now we can frame them both at the same time, but it would be cool for the wall in the poker room.”

Robbie: Awesome.

Bruce: He says that if you’re responding to him tell him, “I bought some of Jason’s very first run of playing cards years ago after reading about on and These were the classic paisley version which we played with for years. The last few years we’ve played with his classic Victorian cards which are his latest release. They are my all-time favorite cards and feel, weight and design build the cards have been starting to show their wear after three or four years. We should probably pony up and buy another three setups.” And then it goes, concludes by saying, “I didn’t realize you’re listening to the podcast. I used to listen to them religiously and even contributed to the conversation via email a few times, but as my kids grew older and time decreases I’ve kind of lost touch so.” Chris get back involved and start listening again and congratulations to Pat for winning.

Robbie: Sure. And you know one of the best things that I’ve do this as well as podcast that I love look, I’ve also got you know kids and I just talked about one earlier in the show and then you know time is definitely a premium, but what I find is when you’re commuting to work actually that “dead time” even if it’s like 15 minutes or up to an hour or whatever it is a great time to listen to podcasts. You know, especially the ones like ours little under an hour in length it’s nice to the sweet spot, you know you can get half of it on the way to work, half on the way back and then you consume that you know love of poker type podcasts. Well, that came out really bad. That poker podcast that you love, but yeah, that’s a really good time and that’s when I do it, so you know if you’re looking for time that’s a good sweet spot. But sure, well, thanks for listening and for that great story and for letting us know about that [email protected]. That’s really cool.

Bruce: Yeah, I’ll definitely pass your comments on to Jason too so. Our second winner is Gary and he’s in the Southern California area.

Robbie: That’s great. That’s where I am from. Southern California.

Bruce: He says, “Well, thank you, Bruce and Robbie. Very excited and looking forward to receiving the uncut sheet of the J design cards. I’ve been a longtime listener of the podcast and I’m proud to say I’ve heard every episode.”

Robbie: Wooow!

Bruce: Wow! That is loyal listener. “You guys do such a great job with the show and making it interesting, educational and fun.” So wow, we love to hear that and that’s it’s exactly what we strive for.

Robbie: I think that Gary, right? Gary belongs in our hall of fame, every single episode. That’s great.

Bruce: Right. And he concludes kind of interesting and he says, “Hey Robbie, my sister lives in Israel and so the next time I’m in town I’d love to play at one of your games.” He didn’t say what town or whereabouts in his Israel and then he said, “Bruce, if I make it to Utah I would love to check out one of your games with Eric also. All the best.”

Robbie: That sounds amazing. Lock it up. Man, seed up with single Gary 100%.

Bruce: And so again we just we love to hear this feedback from listeners and love the great winners and well we’ll come up and we’re probably going to give a couple of more way over the next three or four episodes and so we’ll come up with little twist on how to win the next time. So be sure and keep listening and be sure to communicate with us and again we love to hear you to [email protected].

Robbie: And we’re certainly monitoring the social media airwaves, just hit us up @toppair on Twitter and look for the Top Pair Home Game Poker Podcast on Facebook, especially you Mr. Gary and everyone that come to Israel, that’s where I’ll be exchanging some information and hopefully meet each other real soon.

Bruce: Yeah, for sure. Well, we preach the gospel of home games here at Top Pair, but we admit in a lot of places the activities in the gray area. We applaud one state for its efforts to bring it into the light.


Bruce: Hey Robbie, I think you sent me the link to this article that appeared in Card Player Magazine about a state to finally taking some proactive efforts to to make online, excuse me to make home game poker a little more legitimate. I appreciate that.

Robbie: I certainly did, yes.

Bruce: It actually is pretty current. It came out in February 29th issue, which is just a couple days ago and it’s really interesting you know and it really obviously is germane to home game poker because we preach a lot of home game poker, have been in a lot of places, you know, my hometown. So like one of them it’s really in the gray or dark gray or black area even though you know nobody really gets after you unless you’re making a big enterprise out of it, but anyway this happens in Maryland, which is over on the East Coast just outside of Washington DC. It says a bill cleared Maryland’s House of Delegates last week that would remove criminal penalties that are rarely if ever enforced on home poker games the law. The books right now says that you can go to jail for up to a year and be hit with a $1000 fine simply for playing in a home game, no matter how small the stakes are and even if there’s no wreck or fees of any kind. Since House lawmakers on 30 voted 139 to 0 in favor of getting rid of the criminal penalties and as House Bill number 127 says it would allow those 21 years of age and over to conduct a home game if the game is not held more than once a week in an individual’s home. The bill says the game must be among players who share a pre-existing social relationships. I guess that would mean friends or fraternity brothers or employee or employers or fellow employees or relatives or something like that. This is I thought really interesting. According to the bill the game must have a limit of $500 on the total amount of money tokens representing money or anything or consideration of value that may be wagered by all players in a 24-hour period. So I saw that I thought, wow, originally first glance I thought, well, $500 buy-in that’s a pretty healthy game.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: Well, I guess you read it, and it’s not that. It’s there could be a maximum of $500 on the table at any time which that would be a pretty low limit game.

Robbie: Yeah.

Bruce: You know it would be if you’ve got eight players and in a $30 buy-in and a $30 rebuy that’s basically a buy-in and a rebuy for everybody.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: It does clarify and it says the language means there is a limit of $500 that can be on a poker table between all players at any given time.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: All the provision is clear about a dollar amount, the person that was talking about it says it’s highly doubtful that if you go over by $40 there are going to be any cops knocking at your door. The point of the bill is to make the act of playing at home legal and then the final little thing, which again I found really interesting it says they also put a provision in there for card games taking place in common areas of 55 and older residential communities. It will also be legal under the bill if they meet these certain conditions and then he goes on to say we actually had an incident in retirement community where some people were busted then the public got enraged because of that. And final thing it’s illegal to advertise the games according for proposals.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: Yes, an interesting law. I applaud Maryland for you know being proactive and kind of taken the cloud away from everybody and saying okay as long as you meet you know these three or four criteria go ahead and have your home game and breathe easy. You know you’re not be at risk, you’re not going to be in jeopardy or anything like that and I don’t know if that’s going to set as kind of a template maybe for other municipalities or other states and not to say, okay, well, this is this is a pretty good outline of a home game bill that we could have the kind of take it out of the illegal part of that. So I don’t know, what you think?

Robbie: Well, I’ve got to say you know I’ve got two things to say about this. The main thing first of all is that’s wonderful. I feel like this is sort of like housekeeping in a way for the legislators over there. You know the fact is, you know almost in a sense sort of like prohibition of like you know when people were drinking alcohol and stuff and the 18th amendment and then the 21st amendment. People are going to be playing home game poker so you might as well legalize it, give it a framework, you know, 90 somewhat percent of these home games is exactly as you’ve described low limit amongst friends who know each other etc., and not really advertised. That’s home game poker, that’s our audience here on the Top Pair Home Game poker podcast and that’s what they are sort of talking about. So I say absolutely way to go Maryland legislators, way to set an example and you know those stories that you here once in a while I think it was South Carolina where like the home game is busted and you know hopefully legislators will be able to look to this bill and law now as precedent and pretty much do something similar and just like you know take away the stigma and just you know say, yeah, it’s America’s game and it’s the world’s game let’s allow people to play poker. So that’s the one hand, on the other hand, who on earth is the Barney Fife who is going to be sitting by the door and say, “Yeah, you have $501 on the tables sir.” I mean come on. I get it, but like this is the most unenforceable possible bill. You know when you just look at you know the pure technical of the language or stuff. Again I understand what they’re trying to do and the bill has to say something, but they could imagine these legislators you know hypothetically picture this. Close your eyes and you say to yourself you know these guys and girls are sitting around table. Okay, we’re going to legislate this. Exactly how much money could be on the table? How old do these players have to be? And did anyone think of themselves, okay and we’re going to send in the SWAT team, okay because there’s a 20-year-old who hasn’t had his 21st birthday yet at the table? I find it funny just sort of like look at the opposite side of it, and hopefully it will get everyone listening to the podcast laughing a little bit. So it doesn’t seem like the most enforceable of bills, but I just sort of feel like if and when a game does cross the line and it’s busted they could also sort of look to the language of this law and say that okay these are the things that you violated and this carries such and such a penalty, etc. But you know the main point as I said before is that I certainly agree with the spirit of the law and hope that it will be adapted across many, many more states.

Bruce: Well, and the other area that I got a chuckle out of is the fact that all the players have to share a pre-existing source of relationship. So not only are they going to count every you know hot chip that’s on the table and a deuce quick addition, but they’re going to be okay, let’s take them in a private room one at a time so they can’t coach each other.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: How do you know the guy that’s hosting this game?

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: How long have you known?

Robbie: Exactly. Is you Facebook relationship real or is it just fabricated, right?

Bruce: What’s his nick name? Where did he go to college? You know sort of qualifying questions to make sure that you’re not a stranger so.

Robbie: This would be a funny episode the watch.

Bruce: It did have one other problem which I didn’t read which obviously is an important point and one that makes the most sense. It says the legislation adds that no one can benefit financially from the poker games except by winning as a player in the game. So that’s the old no wreck or no tips type of thing financially unless you win you know somebody else’s money.

Robbie: Right. That I like.

Bruce: But yeah, like I say, there never will be anything even like that passed here and so like social climate and everything is so dead set against any type of five gambling or fun or anything at all. So no hope for that here, but I say I think it is kind of a first step, you know, kind of putting a foot into the lake and saying, nobody biting off and this is not going to be too bad and there are thousands and tens of thousands of people we know because of all our listeners that play home games. And so we we applauded this that Maryland made this step and this really could all definitely put a link to this on the notes for this episode. So if you want to explore it you know further as far as the specifics and that will allow you to do it.

Robbie: And I will even go one step further, you know so many times when you know you want to be active and get something done and everyone is like turn to your legislators, right? Well, here you go. Here is an example where the legislators did something. If you live in Maryland you know reach out to them and say thank you, you know why not? And I’m sure that’s something they would be appreciative of.

Bruce: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think so too. I agree wholeheartedly so. You know I had another incident that happened this week that kind of made me go home. One of our players, I know we’ve talked about him here on the podcast before, Doug. He was a doctor, an anesthesiologist of all local clinic and hospital not far from here, was a frequent player in the game, was always one up for a weird twist or weird variation and liked to play these weird mixed games and was a character. About a year ago, we moved way to northern California and we definitely missed him. And you know as usual when you’re moving away everybody says, well, let’s keep in touch and you know let’s communicate and that very rarely happens, but it happened or occur to me because one funny tales he told one time is and his wife used to play too. They actually got married on 29th February, so they kind of joked that you know that we’ve got a original 15-year-old daughter, we’ve only practiced it four anniversaries and people go, “Really! What happened here?’ He’s very religious so obviously nobody communicates. So I just dropped him both a quick email saying, hey, happy anniversary on the 29th and remember it was the fifth anniversary and of course both of them responded right back, “Wow, great of you to remember. Were honored and yes, thanks for your best wishes and you know this is our fifth anniversary even though we got a 17-year-old daughter.”

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: And it just made me think you know about and I know we’ve talked about this kind of in the of the last episode when we talked about how to treat new members and people that are new to the game and you expressing what you enjoy about the game is the familiarity of the same people and the comfort level that you get. But we have obviously a bigger group here in Salt Lake with a lot of games and comings and goings and you just wonder what happened all the people that used to be really regulars that used to be able see them at least once or twice a month and really have some rapport with them and then all of a sudden they just kind of drop off the map. You know I don’t know if it’s due to you know change in her life circumstances, you know a marriage or kids or young kids growing up. There’s been some kind of a clash with maybe one of our regular players, some bad blood or something. It’s like, well, I can’t stand so and so and so I’m not going to go back to a game anymore. Did they have a bad losing streak or a change in their financial situations where they just didn’t have the disposable income? Maybe they’ve realized after you know, six or seven months of going through a lot of money that they possibly could have a gambling problem and so they are to stay away you know just not to go anymore.

Robbie: Or maybe they were like, hey, I can keep beating these games and maybe I should turn pro, let’s just go and play 5-10 you know, 25-50.

Bruce: Yeah.

Robbie: I’m sure that happens once in a blue moon.

Bruce: Yeah, there are some bigger games here in the valley that I know about that I don’t play in, but that could be a possibility too. So it just makes you wonder you know sometimes these people but we’re just so comfortable with, and then all of a sudden they’re not around anymore and that just kind of made me think about it. i haven’t had the instance, knock on wood of anybody that was a real record in a group you know passing away. I’ve kind of thought that in my mind you know what some of the problems [inaudible 00:31:53] you know what would we do? We have like a special tournament or you know a special game or something and that type of thing, but that I haven’t had to cross that bridge. I know you in your reporting you had a guide that was part of your group that had like kind of a chronic illness and that might have crossed your mind or not. I don’t know if you’ve had anybody that is a regular that has passed away.

Robbie: I don’t know. Not too much, but you know I’m still very much in my 30s, you know so thankfully we’ve got a little bit more life expectancy but of course you know my dad’s group you know they are older you know one generation above mine and you know I never think about it really or anything like that. You know I’m still thankfully very, very far away from everybody, but the fact of the matter is you know when you play with people for you know years and years at a time you become you know much more than just poker adversaries and poker friends. You know you become life friends and you know it is a tough thing to lose anybody or any friend and you know let’s hope that threshold stays very, very far away from us because you know that’s a tough thing. I can imagine you all sitting around the table and like you know one of you is clearly. It’s like you’ve got to have like an honorary to see that the table just sort of stays empty you know.

Bruce: Yeah. And again not to morose or dwell too much on a negative or everything, but I would love to hear if any of our listeners out there have had that situation where they’ve had a regular that has been an integral part of their group and their game for a number of years that by some reason either health or an accident or something you know has passed away kind of maybe what their feelings are and what they’ve done as far as a way to remember and a way to honor them or anything like that. So if anything like that occurs to you, you know let us know. We would love to share it at [email protected].

Robbie: And of course you know on Twitter @toppair and on Facebook look for the Top Pair Home Game poker podcast. I think that would make for some interesting reading, so you know stories we probably share here with the rest of our listeners as well.

Bruce: Yeah. Well, enough negative as opposed to the positive.

Robbie: Yes, plenty of positive. I’ll just jump right into it if that’s alright with you.

Bruce: Alright, take it away.

Robbie: Okay, take it away. We’re talking about New Jersey and PokerStars. Everyone remembers that fateful day, April 15th, 2011, otherwise known as Black Friday, when legal regulated online poker disappeared from American shores. And here it is back, well, it’s already back in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, but the big site that everyone was playing on his PokerStars and here we go. March 21 is the day that they are coming back to New Jersey and that’s it, you know they are back, PokerStars back in the United States.

Bruce: Wow! Now are they in any of the states? Has it been made legal or is this their first foray back?

Robbie: This is their first foray almost 5 years to the day that they disappeared from our you know computer screens and stuff. Of course they’ve been active around the world and everything, but in the United States you cannot have played a PokerStars since the April 15th, 2011, and here New Jersey is the first state to open up for them. Important to know a couple things, first of all, you don’t actually need to be living in New Jersey; you just need to be there in New Jersey within the geographical borders. You know so you could be let’s say in Utah and you can go ahead and open an account and then you know fly to New Jersey for vacation or a family event or whatever it is and when you’re there you can go ahead and play. So that’s pretty cool to know.

Bruce: And that’s kind of different as some of the other states again I don’t follow as nearly as closely as is a lot of people because it’s you know impossible to dream here in Utah but it seems like some of the other states they actually have a residency requirement where you know you have to like give him a cell phone number that’s registered in the state or something like that. Well, you’re right on the cell phone thing. I don’t think you need to be resident but the cell phone is basically the geolocation thing that’s built into the law you know because the fact is when you’re logged on and playing how can they tell you know where you’re located?

Bruce: Yeah.

Robbie:  So you know the software sort of pings your phone, you know wherever your phone is even if it’s a Hawaii phone number if you happen to be in New Jersey and you want to be playing that’s fine and you have your phone with you, and they can say, Oh okay, well, he is clearly or she is clearly in the geographical you know within state borders. And the second point is with regard to the whole state borders it’s an in trust state network not interstate and not international. So basically, anyone who’s playing in New Jersey is going to be playing against other people on PokerStars within the state of New Jersey. I’m sure the game is obviously available 24/7, but it’s not like you’re going to have the gigantic international player pool at least right now. It’s a baby step, it’s a first step, but a really awesome step. You know again there has been you know I guess you can play on over there and you can play on So it does exist, but you know when you think online poker there’s really only one name that sort of springs to mind immediately and that’s PokerStars and you know here they are, they are back back in New Jersey.

Bruce: Wow! And again I didn’t realize that too. I thought that you know once you’re logged on and you are in the state that recognized it as a legal venue you’d be playing with everybody else who is there on legally and you know people in England and people in Denmark or people in France or people in you know Slovenia, but it’s just people in New Jersey.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: That’s interesting.

Robbie: Well, that’s what is called the ring fencing and the reason it’s done unfortunately, you know as I said it’s a baby step but there’s nothing really PokerStars can do about that. You know they can go ahead and technologically open it up if they want to, but the law prohibits them from doing so. The fact is, you know like every good government they are greedy and tax hungry and they do so to say, well, you know why would we want you know the potential tax revenues from our you know citizens and people here in our state going somewhere else you know? And what they don’t realize is you know when there’s no liquidity, when there’s no giant player pool the games will not be going as often, and they will not be going 24/7 or you know with too many tables. So I think it’s a little bit of small-mindedness to just you know close the borders if you will. But you know like I said it’s a first step, and hopefully you know maybe they’ll come to agreements with Nevada, with Delaware and the other states where it’s legal and you know you can get people playing on and at least in those time zones. Think about it, it’s three in the morning in New Jersey, people aren’t going to be playing but if the borders were open and you can play internationally and three in the morning your logon and you play against people in Australia, people in Europe and stuff, so that’s why was so great you know when everything was in the wild wild west like that.

Bruce: Yeah, I know we did a pretty good article on it on one of your contributors that’s on your Cardplayer Lifestyle and we’ll definitely put a link to that.

Robbie: Thanks. I want to give to give credit to James Guill. He wrote a great piece, yeah 100%.

Bruce: And a lot of what is said in that piece talked about all the incentives that they’re coming up.

Robbie: Certainly.

Bruce: To get people to sign up or to get people back and they sounded pretty cool. They mentioned something called a spin and go and I’ve never heard that. I don’t know what exactly what that is.

Robbie: It’s an interesting type of…it’s a tournament basically and involves…I’ve never actually played one, but the best of my knowledge you know it has been going all over the rest of the world and here’s a new thing for US players. You know it involves either three people who sit down and basically you buy-in for you know X amount of dollars and before the game begins or the tournament like there’s sort of a random factor of like a dice being rolled or a random number generated whatever it is, is how much is the prize pool going to be for? So most of the time sort of like a scratch off card for a lottery. So you know you’re paying this small amount of money and usually let’s say if you’re paying you know three bucks a piece the prize pool is going to be you know whatever it is, eight dollars after you take off the wreck or whatever it is, and you know the top player is going to get winner take all or that sort of thing. But sometimes you can just you know lockout and you the spin and go and the prize pool could be up to $1 million, at least that’s international and you have people who have won a million dollars. Now maybe it’s like six people who are playing and again I’m sorry don’t know the exact details, but you know when you sign up for a spin and go that’s the idea, you sort of spin the dice, right and you go, this is the price pool we’re playing for. You know it’s a pretty cool thing. Now I imagine you know with the limited amount of players in New Jersey it’s not going to have million dollars spin and goes, but certainly you know it’s something that sort of gets people excited to play you know. Okay, usually up until now, when you play a three dollar tournament you know the prize pool is going to be nine dollars minus the reconnects, that’s It. But this is sort of like, hey, you could also get lucky and for a small little buy-in be playing for a fortune.

Bruce: Right. Wow! That’s cool. I’ve never heard of that before. Thanks for explaining that.

Robbie: Sure.

Bruce: That is interesting so. And then I think you had a chance when you were in the Bahamas to even look at their mobile app and I guess that’s to be you know something too that New Jersey residents can download and use that mobile app as far as access to it, right?

Robbie: Well, if you’ll excuse me for just a brief moment while I just meditate and re-experience how awesome the Bahamas was for a second cruise. Okay, we’re ready. That was awesome. Yes, it was very cool. The app is called Duel by PokerStars and I challenge you to a duel that sort of thing and as far as I know, I don’t know if it’s ruled out 100% to the entire world yet but you can you pretty much download it from anywhere. It’s a standalone app. It’s not like you’re playing you know with the whole group of players like the whole PokerStars lobby or any of the poker room lobby that you’re used to. It’s meant to be for heads-up play and you can just go ahead and play money against anyone else with a PokerStars account. So you can do from anywhere but for sure you know I did definitely try it out. It’s a really cool app and it’s fun to just sort of play against your friend. It’s sort of like a words with a friends with turn-based that you go ahead and you play your side of the heads up hand, you make your decision, you play in it’s your friend’s turn and they get pinged. You don’t need to be playing simultaneously like one against the other, you could be there in the middle of the meeting or in the other side of the world and they are not ready, but when they’re ready they’ll play their turn and then it pings back to you. So it’s also a really cool concept. I wrote whole article reviewing what the Duel by PokerStars app is all about and I firmly believe you know having tested it myself that’s you know a new product that PokerStars will be pushing especially in New Jersey. It’s not meant for high-stakes play, but you know a couple people will do it out for a few bucks a piece. It’s a way to get people excited about poker. So the fact is, anyone who had you know even 5 years ago or 10 years, if you were in New Jersey and you had a PokerStars account you can use if you remember your screen name and if you remember your password, what’s that word? You can you know can re-institute.

Bruce: Reactivate your account.

Robbie: You can reactivate your account and you can start playing again or if you’re new or if you’re like, hey, I guess it’s legal, this town is pretty cool. Maybe Duel won’t hind see you but what I guarantee and this is what James wrote so eloquently in that article you know, as the PokerStars machine is coming can they succeed in New Jersey? Well, I guarantee you they will certainly be investing a lot of money to give it their best shot. So exciting day for everyone in New Jersey or will be in New Jersey, planning to be in New Jersey on March 21st and beyond and hopefully the first step of many for PokerStars to just you know go back as far as possible into the United States online poker market.

Bruce: Well, that’s cool. We’ll definitely, we’ll put a link that article on the app too there so any of our listeners that are interested can you know click on that and find out all the deeds as they say, but yeah it’s kind of these two articles that we’ve explored sort of have some commonality you know talking about the Maryland article making home game poker legal and taking it out of the shadows. And we’re hoping maybe one state at a time that that’ll kind of you know domino, and the same thing with the PokerStars and the online playing a state-by-state is the same type of thing. You know it’s baby steps I guess and a couple of articles that are showing the first baby steps so we commend both states in both legislatures and lawmakers in those things for being broad-minded and seeing the potential and putting realistically the downside which there isn’t much and proceeding forward.

Robbie: Sure. And if I made just a brief public service announcement to all of our listeners in the United States, look this stuff does not happen in a vacuum, a lot of time, a lot of effort has been spent by lobbyists, people, you know the poker players alliance and people who are really, really trying to get poker legalized and regulated and they succeeded in Nevada, they succeeded in New Jersey and if you really, really want to have it back go ahead and send legislators your support, send the lobbyist your support maybe a little bit of funding and get them on the case of the legislators to it get legalized back in your state. They say as California goes so goes the nation. If you’re in California make it happen, you’ve got to work for it. It’s not going to happen if you just sort of let everyone else do all the hard work for you. You’ve got to take action and you know convince these people that hey, this is what we want. It’s about freedom, land of the free, right? So there’s my little political speech there.

Bruce: You know I agree, like get involved to  make your desires and to make it known and be part of groundswell so.

Robbie: Yeah, that’s very cool. It sounds good.


Bruce: Well, Rob we’ve kind of had a poker theme. Excuse me a sports theme and in some of our things today we talked about the program or the game variant that’s’ there that included football.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: And as everybody knows I kind of went through a bunch of things that happened in March and the synopsis but one thing I left out is March madness.

Robbie: Of course.

Bruce: Big thing here you know in college basketball where the brackets happen and everybody runs their brackets and tries to pick who the you know the teams will survive that initial lot of 64 and make it all away down to the winner.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: And a couple years ago, I think it was two years ago. I’m not positive, it might have been one year ago, but there was some pretty big announcement where Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world and definitely one of the richest men in the US put out a Prop bet, I guess you can call it.

Robbie: Yeah.

Bruce: He was actually going to put down the prize of $1 billion.

Robbie: Of a B.

Bruce: of a B if anybody could do a complete bracket all the way through and in other words, never losing any of those guesses all the way from you know by starting 64 to the winner of the final team.

Robbie: But what’s a billion dollars?

Bruce: That’s outlandish odd just like the lottery. And of course everybody thought if anybody was getting even close he would contact them and say, hey, let me buy you out of this.

Robbie: Right.

Bruce: For a million dollars or something like that, but it was a real interesting little thing that I read at the time and kind of kept it out for future reference that just brought a chuckle to me that they talked about this same thing and it says, the billion dollar March madness bet disproves time travel or else it proves that people in the future are just idiots.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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