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The Weekly Turbo: New Jersey Legalizes Online Poker, Negreanu Challenges Gus Hansen

Weekly Turbo

Did you miss any of the top poker news stories this week? Well you've come to the right place to get caught up. We're covering New Jersey legalizing online gambling, a Team PokerStars-versus-Team Full Tilt Poker heads-up battle, and more.

Poker Legislation

New Jersey Legalizes Online Poker

Tuesday was a huge day for online poker in the U.S. as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill to license and regulate online poker in the Garden State. New Jersey became the third state to authorize online poker behind Nevada and Delaware, and followed the latter as the only states to approve full casino-style online gambling.

The legislature passed the bill with the exact changes made by Christie in his conditional veto, the biggest of which were increasing the tax on gross revenues from 10 to 15 percent, raising the funds earmarked for compulsive gambling programs from $150,000 to $250,000 a year, and adding a time limit of 10 years for the authorization of online gambling unless re-established by law.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak said he is hoping the virtual cards will be ready to hit the air in September. First a lot of work will need to be done in testing software and vetting applicants, but Lesniak hopes the legislature's urgency in approving the bill and the governor's quickness in signing will indicate that they want these licenses issued as soon as possible.

“I think the fall is a somewhat aggressive timetable but certainly doable, particularly since we put our stamp of approval on this so quickly,” Lesniak said.

The law is expected to mark the return of PokerStars to U.S. soil. Its parent company, Rational Group, is currently seeking state regulatory approval to buy the struggling Atlantic Club Hotel Casino, which otherwise likely would have closed.

Only casinos located within Atlantic City will be able to host Internet gaming sites. Initially, they will only be able to serve people located within New Jersey's borders, but the bill allows for the possibility that agreements could be made to allow the participation of other states and perhaps foreign countries in the future.

Read the full story here at PokerNews.com.

Another Online Poker Bill in California

As the largest state in the U.S., California presents a very compelling market for legalized online poker. And with Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey ramping up efforts to launch their own platforms, the Golden State doesn't want to fall too far behind.

On Feb. 22, State Senator Lou Correa introduced SB 678, also known as the Authorization and Regulation of Internet Poker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013. The measure would authorize the operation of real-money Internet poker within the borders California.

Correa's bill would require the California Gambling Control Commission to establish a regulatory framework for the licensure of eligible operators to run an Internet poker site. The bill would prohibit interstate compacts for now, but California and its 38 million residents would undoubtedly establish the best model for intrastate online poker liquidity in the U.S.

California now has two online poker bills in the legislature. In December, Sen. Roderick Wright reintroduced a poker-only online gambling bill. SB 51 is very similar to Wright's SB 1463, which failed to gain any momentum last year before the legislative session ended in August. Wright hopes his latest measure will be heard later this year.

View SB 678 in its entirety at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

Iowa's Push for Online Poker

On Thursday, an Iowa Senate subcommittee approved a bill that could eventually legalize online poker within state lines. The poker-only bill will be discussed by the Iowa Senate State Government Committee next week.

Senate Study Bill 1068 would allow licensed Iowa businesses to operate Internet wagering on poker. Once legalized, the industry would be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

Study bills in Iowa are generally developed to evaluate political reactions to a proposal before it is formally introduced in the legislature. Last year, the Iowa Senate approved a similar study bill to legalize and regulate intrastate online poker. However, the bill never moved through the House of Representatives because of a general lack of interest.

The legalization of online poker in the Hawkeye State could generate between $3 million and $13 million in state tax revenue, according to a study by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission last year.

The Des Moines Register has more.

Online Poker

Last week, Gus Hansen sent a spontaneous Tweet to Daniel Negreanu reminding "Kid Poker" of a famous hand they played on High Stakes Poker in 2006 (as if the hand will ever leave Negreanu's mind).

Gus HansenHey @RealKidPoker remember this hand http://t.co/BsakRJXa2o - Wonder if I ever get another chance to take your money ;-)

The two superstars exchanged some friendly Twitter banter over the following days, but Negreanu upped the ante on Tuesday by challenging Hansen to a Team PokerStars-versus-Team Full Tilt Poker duel. Negreanu offered to team up with two members of Team PokerStars to face off against FTP's "The Professionals" — Hansen, Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom — in a series of heads-up matches during EPT London on March 10.

Hansen and his FTP teammates accepted the challenge, and the Team PokerStars-versus-Team Full Tilt Poker heads-up challenge was born. Negreanu selected Team PokerStars Pros Isaac Haxton and Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier take take on Full Tilt Poker's team dubbed "The Professionals." The action will be played on Full Tilt Poker in a "battleship" style format with a best-of-three structure determining the winner. The victors of each match will collect $50,000 from his opponent and each member of the overall winning team will receive $10,000 in tournament buy-ins from the rival poker room.

The challenge kicks off on Sunday, March 10 at 10 a.m. ET and will be hosted online by Full Tilt Poker, allowing everyone to log in and rail the action.

Negreanu explained the full details in a video blog on Thursday:

Get the full scoop here at PokerNews.com.

Full Tilt Poker's New Schedule

Beginning last week, poker players have been able to find an exciting new tournament schedule at Full Tilt Poker. The world's second-largest online poker room is now offering prize pool guarantees on every single tournament, becoming the first and only online site to provide such an offer to its customers.

The new schedule will offer at least one guaranteed tournament every ten minutes and up to 225 guaranteed cash tournaments every single day. That includes up to 30 Rush tournaments, 20 multi-entry events, 15 re-entry tournaments, and eight multi-chance tournaments.

"From Rush tournaments to multi-entry events, Full Tilt Poker has always been the market leader in providing players with a huge range of diverse and innovative tournaments," said Sarne Lightman, head of marketing at Full Tilt Poker.

"Full Tilt Poker’s scheduled tournaments already offer round-the-clock action every day of the week with a wide range of buy-ins and guaranteed prize pools to choose from," Lightman continued. "The new schedule is another market first offering our players the only fully guaranteed schedule of any online site."

During March, FTP will guarantee more than $25 million in tournament prize pools and will feature a range of satellites allowing players to enter the larger events like the daily $150 buy-in Tyrannosaurus Rex at 15:00 ET.

Players can also look forward to a new tournament lobby that will make it easier to find the tournaments they are interested playing.

The full tournament schedule (with some hilariously-named events) can be found at FullTiltPoker.com.

Poker Business

A-Rod's Error

In 2006, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez teamed up with celebrities for a charity poker tournament to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Miami. The event, dubbed the 2nd Annual Dewar's 12 Hold'em Poker Tournament, attracted a who's who of A-list artists and athletes, including Michael Jordan, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, Lenny Kravitz, Vin Diesel, and Gary Sheffield. Phil Hellmuth was even invited to emcee and offer poker tips to the tournament's 300 guests.

All proceeds from the tournament went to the A-Rod Family Foundation. When it was all said and done, the event raised more than $400,000 toward Rodriguez's charitable foundation. It was deemed an incredible success.

But questions are now being raised about whether money raised in that event actually went where it was supposed to go.

According to a report by the Boston Globe, Rodriguez's foundation only donated 1% of the money it raised from the poker tournament. The Globe reported that the foundation used the money to make a $5,000 donation to the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund and a $90 donation to a Little League team in Miami. The rest? Your guess is as good as ours.

On top of that, the Globe reports that A-Rod's foundation stopped submitting mandatory financial reports to the IRS later that year. Thus, it was stripped of its tax-exempt status.

Apparently, Rodriguez isn't the only athlete to fall short on charitable promises. Read the full Boston Globe story for more.

Zynga's Picus Addresses Real-Money Gaming

During a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco on Monday, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus discussed his intentions to launch real-money gaming in both the United Kingdom and the U.S. Although Pincus didn't provide much new information regarding the company's real-money gaming plans, he said that the company will offer something different from most gambling sites by focusing on making social gambling games.

“We’re not the company to win the hardcore real-money gamers,” Pincus said. “But we think we are for the mass market audience.”

The hype of real-money gambling stemmed from Zynga's deal with U.K.-based poker company bwin.party Digital Entertainment last October. The deal will see the two companies launch real-money games such as poker, slots, roulette, and blackjack in the first half of 2013.

According to allthingsd.com, ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino are expected to launch in the U.K. by the end of June. Additional platforms are expected to launch during the first half of the year.

While Zynga's plans in the U.K. move forward, the company has also begun the process of getting licensed as an operator in Nevada. As of Tuesday, only Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey had approved some form of online gaming in the U.S., but others like California could soon follow suit. Zynga's headquarters are located in San Francisco.

Despite the company’s ambition and partnerships, not all has gone smoothly for Zynga during the past year. The company announced on Monday that it was cutting about 30 employees and closing or consolidating offices in Baltimore, New York, and Texas. Baltimore was home to a game studio that focused on CityVille2, which is now shutting down because of poor performance. The company will also be closing Texas offices in McKinney and downtown Austin, but employees in those offices will be given the opportunity to relocate to Dallas and North Austin.

CNET.com has more.

Poker Tournaments

Premier League Lineup Filling Up

Dan Shak, Marvin Rettenmaier, and Jennifer Tilly have been added to the list of players for next month’s PartyPoker Premier League VI. The three will join an impressive lineup that already includes Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Tony G, Phil Laak, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, Scott Seiver, Luke Schwartz, and newcomer Jonathan Duhamel. The event kicks off at Aspers Casino in London on March 17.

Shak is on quite a roll in 2013, already making three final tables and cashing for more than $900,000. He hopes to tack on even more to that total in London. “I’ve been following the Premier League since its inception six years ago, and I’ve always been interested in playing and very pleased to finally be able to participate this year,” Shak told the PartyPoker Blog. “I always like the challenge of playing against the best players in the world and this certainly qualifies!”

“Mad Marvin” Rettenmaier is a back-to-back World Poker Tour winner who should be adding spice to the $125,000 buy-in game. He told the PartyPoker Blog, “It’s great to be in a position to play in the PartyPoker.com Premiere League this year. I’d be mad to turn down the offer! I hope I can do myself and my sponsors justice.”

And of course, there’s Jennifer Tilly: “The Premiere League is always a fantastic show filled with surprises. This year I am thrilled to be invited to be a part of this elite group.”

The 16-player event is part of the World Poker Tour National Series London festivities and will award the winner a cash prize of $450,000.

The PartyPoker Blog has more.

PokerStars to Premier Zoom Tournaments During MicroMillions IV

On Thursday, PokerStars announced the fourth installment of MicroMillions, a popular online tournament series that gives micro-stakes players the opportunity to win huge cash prizes. The 100-event online poker festival will run from March 14 through March 24 and features a range of buy-ins from 11 cents to $22.

The $22 MicroMillions Main Event is set for March 24 with a $1 million guarantee prize pool and $150,000 guaranteed to the winner. The series will also feature a wide variety of formats like turbos, rebuys, shooutouts, and two $11 Sunday Storm specials.

Zoom Poker will also makes its tournament debut with two events taking place on March 14 and March 17. It will have the same option to ‘Fast Fold’ and instantly be moved to a new table with the shared pool of tournament players. The difference is, during the final three tables, the remaining players will play out the tournament in standard fashion.

“As part of my $100 to $100,000 bankroll challenge this year, I’ll be playing a lot of MicroMillions tourneys over the next couple of weeks," said Team PokerStars Online Pro Andre "acoimbra" Coimbra, who played all 100 MicroMillions events in the debut festival last year. "It’s such a fun series and it’s one where players of all abilities and bankroll levels can take part to win huge prizes.”

The third MicroMillions festival set a record as the largest online poker tournament series with a total of 1,308,994 entries. The biggest individual winner to date is MicroMillions II Main Event winner “SoyDelGlobo,” who turned his $22 buy-in into a $157,000 cash prize after besting 65,063 players.

For the full MicroMillions tournament schedule visit PokerStars.com.

EPT Grand Final Schedule

PokerStars recently announced the details for the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final. The EPT's end-of-season finale will take place at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort in Monaco May 6 through 15, offering a range of side events and — for the first time — live cash games.

This year's series will have a total of 50 events including the €100,000 Super High Roller, the €25,000 High Roller, the €10,300 High Roller Turbo, and a €1,000 buy-in event with a €500,000 guaranteed. As you may recall from last year, Dan Smith turned the EPT Grand Final side events into his own personal playground, winning three €5,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournaments for more than $488,000.

The series will close with the flagship €10,600 Main Event. Last year, Mohsin Charania added his name to a prestigious list of EPT Grand Final Main Event winners by beating Lucille Cailly heads-up for the $1,782,343.

For a look at the schedule, check out europeanpokertour.com.

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