Five Thoughts: Ultimate Poker Deals a Real-Money Hand of Poker in Nevada, and More

Ultimate Poker

On Tuesday, at around 9 a.m. PT, the first American-regulated hand of online poker was dealt on the virtual felt in Nevada. It took a few minutes once the tournament appeared in the real-money lobby, but a $5 sit-n-go on Ultimate Poker eventually filled up, and the nine Nevadans who registered for it made history.

For poker players in the United States, this is a “small step for man” moment. Ultimate Poker doesn’t offer the best software, and only people who are physically in the Silver State can play, but it’s a very important first step for the future of poker in this country. Likewise, the Ultimate Poker staff appears to be very willing to make this the best product possible, and they lived up to their own hype by launching their site before any other land-based casino in the state. Kudos to them.

According to Chris Danek, who has been posting on TwoPlusTwo under the name “Daxonovitch,” the company is doing its best to expand outside of Nevada and pioneer intrastate online poker. Ultimate Fighting Championship, a partner of Ultimate Poker, also started in Nevada and has since expanded to 46 states.

Some individuals are still griping about the name “Ultimate” Poker, but Danek and others have continuously stressed that there is no connection to Ultimate Bet.

I look forward to the expansion of Ultimate Poker and to trying it out myself during the 2013 World Series of Poker. I am not a Nevada resident.

1. Ultimate Poker Deals a Real-Money Hand of Poker

That’s right, you don’t need to reside in Nevada to play on Ultimate Poker — you just have to be in Nevada. Using several forms of triangulation, including your cell phone, Ultimate Poker can track its players to make sure they are within state boundaries. There is some speculation that you can use a virtual private network or simply leave a cell phone in the state to trick the system, but I agree with Jon Aguiar when he says the following:

The company is having problems with Verizon and Mac, however. Verizon isn’t allowing Ultimate Poker to triangulate their customers, and no Mac client has been released yet. Again, we turn to Danek, who said the following regarding an estimated time of arrival for a Mac client:

“I can’t really provide ETAs on things like that (competitive advantage and all that), unfortunately. What I can tell you is that we’re busting our butts to bring more and more to you. I’m working on the version that will release in a couple months (and the one after that).”

From that statement, we can derive that there is a plan. Not just for the present, but for the foreseeable future.

Danek also confirmed that, among other things, HUDs are legal, you can deposit and withdraw at Station Casinos, there will be a VIP program in the near future, and that this is certainly a soft launch when it comes to software.

“We have bright developers, smart people, and a host of people who’ve logged a combined several million hands online and live. Give us constructive feedback and help us move forward in the right direction and I guarantee you we’ll get there.”

If, like me, you’re currently outside of the Silver State, PokerNews' own Kristy Arnett recorded a video blog of her registering, depositing, and playing on the site:

One would assume that traffic on the site will spike during the WSOP, but we don’t know if it will have any competition by then. At the rate the other land-based casinos are moving, it’s unlikely, but has already started to distribute fliers throughout Las Vegas. Only time will tell.

The “giant leap for mankind” moment for online poker in the U.S. is coming. It’s embarrassing that in the “Land of the Free” we have to sweat such small things, but right now, patience is paramount. We are very close.

2. Birthday Boy Binks his Largest Live Score

On Saturday, Griffin Benger, known as “Flush_Entity” online, celebrated his 28th birthday in Berlin, Germany. Oh yeah, he also won the EPT Berlin High Roller and a cool €429,000 ($562,343).

EPT Berlin High Roller Final Table Payouts

1Griffin BengerCanada€429,000
2Aaron LimAustralia€240,100
3Philippe KtorzaFrance€144,000
4Max LykovRussia€102,900
5Martin KabrhelCzech Republic€82,300
6Joni JouhkimainenFinland€68,600
7James MitchellUnited Kingdom€54,900

Benger, a member of Team Ivey, entered the final day third in chips with seven players remaining. He quickly surpassed both Max Lykov and Martin Kabrhel, who entered the day first and second in chips, respectively, and eventually found himself three-handed against Philippe Ktorza and Aaron Lim. Benger had nearly 80% of the chips in play and made quick work of Ktorza. The heads-up battle against Lim took a little longer, but even after doubling through the Canadian, Lim was never able to cross even the two-million-chip threshold.

On the final hand, Lim open-jammed on the button for roughly 16.5 big blinds. Benger called with queen-jack, which was slightly behind Lim’s king-deuce, and by the river, Benger had made Broadway. Benger stood up from the table to give his rail a giant bear hug, while Lim was off to the cage to collect €240,100 ($314,728).

Lim has now recorded three six-figure scores since March 14th, including wins in the APPT Seoul Main Event and Event #4 of the World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific.

For Benger, it was his first six-figure score, and his largest score by over half of a million dollars. He talked with our Sarah Grant after the win:

Benger then tweeted the following about how “weird” the festivities were going to be:

Don’t worry kids, things didn’t get too weird. The next day, Benger woke up to grind the Sunday tournaments and won two EPT Grand Final packages and finished runner-up in the Super Sized Sunday, earning $30,000.

Not a bad weekend for the birthday boy.

3. Pidun Finally Makes the EPT Berlin Final Table, Then Wins It All

Daniel Pidun runs really well in the capital city of Germany. In 2011, he finished ninth in the EPT Berlin Main Event, earning $64,044, and in 2012, he finished 17th, earning $26,147.

This year, he not only made the final table of the EPT Berlin Main Event, he went ahead and won the whole thing.

1Daniel Pidun€880,000
2Robert Haigh€531,000
3Lasse Frost€325,000
4Pascal Vos€255,000
5Alexander Helbig€202,200
6Roman Herold€155,000
7Julian Thomas€110,000
8Roman Korenev€77,000

Pidun started the final table second in chips, and fittingly enough he entered heads-up play against Robert Haigh, who was the chip leader at the start of the final table. Pidun took the chip lead away from Haigh during Level 31, and by the time heads-up play began, Pidun had amassed an 8-to-1 lead. The two Germans battled for a short while before Pidun moved all in on the button with nine-eight suited, and Haigh called with ace-king. Pidun made a pair of eights on the flop, and held as the turn and river both produced bricks.

Despite finishing short of the ultimate prize, Haigh still walked away with €531,000 and now sits in second place in the Season 9 European Poker Tour Player of the Year race. Jan Bendik of Slovakia holds the lead by a few hundred points.

According to some of his friends on the rail, Pidun only plays one event a year. You guessed it, the EPT Berlin Main Event. The story doesn’t check out though — he has several cashes on his Hendon Mob page outside of the EPT Berlin Main Event — and there’s no need to exaggerate the facts. Pidun’s accomplishments on the felt speak for themselves, there’s no need to tell us that he walks barefoot and uphill to and from the Grant Hyatt Berlin to play in the event.

Pidun isn’t a professional. He doesn’t grind every day. And yet, he somehow found a way to dominate in Berlin, averaging a ninth-place finish over a three-year span in the Main Event. That is incredible.

Like Benger, Pidun talked with Sarah Grant after the victory:

4. Luske Wins Two Side Events, Mandavia Wins Another Heads-Up Spade

When covering an EPT, I rarely have time to focus on the wide array of side events offered. With tunnel vision on both the Main Event and the High Roller, it’s easy to miss who wins what, but in Berlin, two stories stuck out.

First, Team PokerStars Pro Marcel Luske won two side events. Two. It’s the second time he has done that this season on the EPT, winning two side events at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. In Berlin, Luske took down a €1,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event for €32,000, and a €1,000 Seven-Card Stud event for €7,170. The Flying Dutchman bested more than 100 players in the PLO event.

Back in January at the PCA, he took down two mixed-games events — one a $1,000 Eight-Game tournament, the other a $1,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament.

Luske’s last five cashes are all wins — he took down a €500 No-Limit Hold’em event at the PokerStars Hold’em Challenge Winter Edition in Narmur last December.

The Flying Dutchman has never recorded a million-dollar score, yet he has over $4.1million in career tournament earnings.

Ankush Mandavia, one of the most feared heads-up sit-n-go players in the world, took down the €1,000 Heads-Up event, earning €11,870. It was his second heads-up victory during Season 9 of the EPT — he won the €1,000 Heads-Up event at EPT Prague for €19,600.

Mandavia’s largest live cash came in 2011 when he finished 13th in the EPT7 Grand Final Main Event, banking €60,000.

In 2011, playing under the handle “pistons87,” Mandavia won the $10,000 World Championship of Online Poker heads-up bracelet. Mandavia defeated Daniel Negreanu in the semi-finals and then “aku” in the finals.

Luske seems to be on form, and with so many non-hold’em events during the WSOP, perhaps the Flying Dutchman can make another deep run in Las Vegas. Back in 2004, he finished runner-up in the Seven-Card Stud World Championship, and in 2008 he recorded third- and fourth-place finishes in the WSOP's $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. and $5,000 World Championship Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo events, respectively.

For Mandavia, there is only one heads-up event at the WSOP, but with the Spring Championship of Online Poker and the EPT Grand Final around the corner, he has a couple of opportunities to take advantage of his expertise.

5. Another Deep Run for Salsberg

For a brief time, after he made back-to-back World Poker Tour final tables, it looked like Paul Volpe was a legitimate contender for the WPT Season XI Player of the Year title. Then Matt Salsberg, who won the WPT Grand Prix de Paris and final-tabled the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open and the WPT Borgata Poker Open, decided to finish seventh, 13th, and 10th in the WPT Grand Prix (Venice), the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown, and the WPT bestbet Open, respectively.

Good game, Mr. Volpe.

Thanks to his big win in Paris, and a handful of other five- and six-figure scores, Salsberg now has over $1.2 million in career live-tournament earnings. Prior to 2012, he only had around $240,000.

The producer and writer, most notably linked to Showtime’s Weeds, has happily traveled both the domestic and international poker circuit over the past year, but teased the idea of an Entourage-like poker-based show last fall. The details are still a bit hazy, and nothing has been green lit yet, but any extra exposure for poker would be welcomed.

Although this transition to a poker-playing lifestyle might not be permanent, Salsberg will certainly become one of the most prominent nonprofessional grinders once he returns to Hollywood. If he can somehow get his poker-themed show onto a major network like Showtime or HBO, then he will be viewed as a very important and influential figure within the poker community.

For now, Salsberg is focused on winning the WPT Player of the Year title and the customized table that comes with it. There are just two more events on the calendar for Season XI of the WPT, and it will be interesting to see whether Salsberg can make a deep run in either the PartyPoker WPT Canadian Spring Championship, or the $25,000 WPT World Championship.

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