The Weekly Round-up – 7 June 2021:

Phil Ivey Virtue Poker Ambassador

The Tip Top Fox brings you the top poker and gambling industry stories of the week; New Cryptocurrency-based Online Poker Room Virtue Poker Launches; Ivey and NBA Star Paul Pierce to Take Part in Charity Tournament; Ali Imsirovic Tops “The PokerGO Tour” Leaderboard as USPO gets underway

New Cryptocurrency-based Online Poker Room Virtue Poker Launches

Originally scheduled for launch in late 2018, the new online decentralized poker platform Virtue Poker launched late last month, although many in the poker world may not have noticed.

This may be down to the fact the majority of people have not fully embraced the concept of cryptocurrencies. Either that or they have no wish to involve themselves in a volatile market that sees huge shifts in its perceived value, often overnight.

However, with well-established players such as Poker Hall of Famer Phil Ivey, Dan Colman, and Brian Rast on their team roster, it’s surprising that Virtue Poker’s launch did not garner more attention.

“I’ve been working with the Virtue Poker team for nearly three years, watching them build a next-generation poker platform,” said Ivey in an April press release

“Using a blockchain-based system creates a more secure and globally accessible payment system. I’m excited to continue my partnership with the Virtue Poker team and work to bring the platform to poker communities worldwide”.

Phil Ivey

The site, which uses the Ethereum blockchain and peer-to-peer networking, is essentially a cryptocurrency-based online poker room.

This is not the first poker site to base its currency transactions solely on cryptocurrency. Bitcoin-based online poker site Seals With Clubs (SwC Poker) run by former poker professional Bryan Micon has been operating since 2011.

Poker and Cryptocurrency

Originally launched by Canadian-American entrepreneur Joe Lubin back in 2016 as part of his ConsenSys blockchain technology company and other Ethereum-related business ventures, Virtue Poker has been five years in the making.

Poker and cryptocurrency have been closely intertwined since Bitcoin first started making waves back in 2009. Many poker professionals are heavily invested in the various cryptocurrencies on the market.

Popular poker sites like GGPoker and Asian-facing skin Natural 8, and Winning Poker Network sites Americas Cardroom and Black Chip Poker are just a few of the established online poker sites that accept cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, in addition to more traditional forms of currency.

Virtue Poker, however, is part of a new wave of online poker rooms launched in the last few years that are solely based on cryptocurrency and offer users the security of a decentralized platform.

Essentially, decentralized platforms are peer-to-peer (P2P) online marketplaces utilizing blockchain technology. All important data and user information is held by all members of the decentralized network, rather than with a centralized entity. Any alterations or corruption of this data result in it being rejected by the majority of the members in the network.

Blockchain RNG

Unlike more traditional online sites which hold player funds, the decentralized nature of cryptocurrency means funds are never held by the site itself. Instead, when players buy in funds are transferred from their digital coin wallet to an escrow account via an Ethereum smart contract. When a player cashes out, the contract executes. Any funds won are automatically transferred back to the players’ digital wallet.

Image courtesy of the 2018 Virtue Poker Whitepaper

According to the 2018 Virtue Poker Whitepaper, in addition to the security of player funds provided by the blockchain, the way the site operates its random number generator also differs significantly from more traditional online sites.

The game client is a desktop application. This is a state engine that runs the game logic, shuffles and deals cards using a Mental Poker protocol, and connects to other players at a given poker table.

Mental Poker ensures the decks are unreadable to any single player by encrypting and shuffling the cards cooperatively in a way that lets each card be “opened” by one, some or the entire group. The protocol uses communication encryption: cards can be encrypted or decrypted in any order.

Licence to Thrill

According to the whitepaper, Virtue Poker is also the only licensed blockchain-based poker application on the market. Virtue Poker holds a license from the Malta Gaming Authority.

“Blockchain technology provides modern and secure payment infrastructure that provides global accessibility to consumers, unlike our competitors. By working with regulators to become a licensed online gambling company, Virtue Poker now has legitimacy to crossover and compete for customers from legacy providers to bring blockchain-based wagering mainstream.”

Virtue Poker CEO Ryan Gittleson

Just how mainstream remains to be seen. Their potential player base can only include players from Malta, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Russia, India, and other countries that don’t explicitly prohibit online gambling and do not require local licensure. That means countries like the US, the UK, Australia, and the majority of both Western and Northern Europe are off-limits.


Ivey and NBA Star Paul Pierce to Take Part in Charity Tournament

Following their launch, Virtue Poker has scheduled a 12-man charity poker tournament for 22 June. Although the exact buy-in amount has yet to be announced, it is pegged as high stakes. The tournament will follow a two-round format with the 12 players spilt over two 6-handed tables.

After the first round, the top three players from each table will move to the final round; the winner picks the charitable organization that receives the proceeds from the event.

According to articles on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency news sites NewsBTC, and Bitcoin.com, the high stakes tournament will be live-streamed on the Twitch platform and feature Ivey and other members of the Virtue Poker Pro roster, Ethereum Co-Founder Joe Lubin, Founder and CEO of Ethernity Chain Nick Rose, and NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce.

“Through our partnership with SuperStarter and the execution of our Celebrity Poker Charity event, Virtue Poker will be able to grow our community’s foundation as well as showcase the platform to a broad audience,” said Virtue Poker CEO Ryan Gittleson.

NFTs On Offer

Virtue Poker is also partnered with the Non-fungible Token (NTF) platform SuperFarm. In addition to showcasing the platform, the tournament will also showcase one of the site’s other more unique functions.

Each entrant will receive a unique Non-fungible Tokens (NFT), which will be used as a bounty chip. Player’s who are eliminated will forfeit their NFT to the player that knocks them out.

Viewers watching on Twitch will also be able to win rewards and themed giveaways, including NFTs, by watching the event live.

“After working with the Virtue Poker team for over 3 years, I’m excited to see the platform launch and be part of their first live stream event on this innovative platform,” Ivey said of the event.

CEO Gittleson is also optimistic about the tournament:

“Virtue Poker is excited to take this next step to drive awareness and adoption of the world’s first blockchain-based P2P poker platform. Through the execution of our Celebrity Poker Charity event, Virtue Poker will be able to grow our community’s foundation as well as showcase the platform to a broad audience.


Ali Imsirovic Tops “The PokerGO Tour” Leaderboard as USPO gets underway; Jake Daniels, Sam Soverel, and Joe McKeehen Win First Three USPO Events

2021 US Poker Open Event #1 Final Table, image courtesy of PokerGO.com
2021 US Poker Open Event #1 Final Table, all images courtesy of PokerGO.com

As reported back in late April, The PokerGO Tour kicked off on 3 June with the 2021 US Poker Open. Running June 3-15, the 12-tournament series features a range of No-Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, 8-game, and short deck events. Buy-ins range from $10,000 to $50,000.

The world’s best poker players are in the midst of competing for millions of dollars at the PokerGO studio at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, with the action attracting the likes of Daniel Negreanu, the UK’s Stephen Chidwick, two-time Global Poker Index Player of the Year Alex Foxen and a whole host of other top professionals.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the players are competing for, throughout the year, players earn points for every in-the-money finish at each PokerGO Tour qualifying event. The top performer will be presented with the Player of the Year (POY) Award and a cash prize of $100,000. Cash prizes of $50,000 and $25,000 will also be awarded to the 2nd and 3rd place players, respectively. 

As another added sweetener, players at the USPO are also competing for a further $50,000 for the top performer of this particular series.

The PokerGO Tour Rankings showcase who holds the top spot in the world of high-stakes poker players. The man currently holding that honor is Ali Imsirovic.

The 24-year-old Bosnian poker professional followed up his 12 PokerGO Tour Final Tables since January – including five outright wins – with a 3rd place finish in the USPO Event #3 $10,000 NLHE.

This brings his live winnings for 2021 up to over $1.97M. Imsirovic sits atop the table with 1,416 in points, giving him a significant lead over next closest rival Sean Perry, who sits in second with 1,150.

As of 7 June 2021, the first three events of the USPO – #1 $10,000 NLHE, #2 $10,000 PLO, and #3 $10,000 NLHE – are in the books with all three attracting some of poker’s biggest names.

Jake Daniels Wins USPO NLHE Event #1 For $218,500

Texan poker pro Jake Daniels was the man to top the record-breaking 95-strong opening event, seeing off challenges from a tough seven-handed final table that included 2018 USPO champion Stephen Chidwick, Dan Shak, Barry Hutter, Steve Zolotow, Spain’s Sergei Reixach, and Tim McDermott.

Daniels won $218,500 after making his third final table of 2021, beating Dan Shak heads up to take down the largest U.S. Poker Open event in history.

This result brings Daniels’ total live winnings up to over $1.5M and marks his third major tournament victory in the space of the last 18 months, continuing the heater he has been on since taking down the $5,000+200 No-Limit Hold’em World Poker Tour – WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December 2019.

Those wanting to catch up on all the action can watch the stream of the final table on PokerGO. Tournament highlights are also available via their Day 1 Live Reporting page.

Sam Soverel Wins USPO PLO Event #2 For $175,500

It was Florida native Sam Soverel the man to triumph in Event #2 $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha.

Soverel defeated a 65-strong field and went wire-to-wire on the six-handed final table, defeating former US Poker Open PLO event winner Jordan Cristos heads up.

An accomplished high-stakes poker player Soverel boasts over $14.8M in live tournament earnings.

In addition to winning Poker Central’s High Roller of the Year competition in 2018, Soveral also won the 2019 British Poker Open and 2019 Poker Masters.

Those wanting to catch up on all the action can watch the stream of the final table on PokerGO. Live coverage is also available via the PokerGO Live Reporting page.

Joe McKeehen Wins USPO NLHE Event #3 For $200,200

Former World Series Main Event Champion Joe McKeehen bagged his second title and the third six-figure score of 2021 with victory in Event #3 $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em.

McKeehen has earned more than $10M in live poker tournament cashes since winning the 2015 WSOP Main Event for $7,683,346.

The Philadelphia native padded this out still further to the tune of $200,200 after beating a 77-strong field.

McKeehen bested a tough seven-handed final table featuring The PokerGO Tour leaderboard #1 Ali Imsirovic, Ray Qartomy, Steve Zolotow, Jake Schindler, Justin Saliba, and Barry Hutter, defeating fellow countryman Qartomy heads up to take the title.

That puts McKeehen second in the USPO championship standings, just behind Event #1 winner Jake Daniels and ahead of Event #2 winner Sam Soverel, who sits in third.

Those wanting to catch up on all the action can watch the stream of the final table on PokerGO. Tournament highlights are also available via the PokerGO Live Reporting page.

Poker fans can also catch the rest of the action for the nine remaining tournaments on PokerGO. The series concludes with the $50,000 Event #12 No-Limit Hold’em on 14-15 June.

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