Phil Hellmuth Proves His Poker Skills, NJ Lottery Proves It’s A Poker Fish

Written By Jessica Welman on August 26, 2017 - Last Updated on June 7, 2022
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The big fight is Saturday night with Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, but we can’t help but notice there were several other feuds in the gambling world this week.

The constantly arguing Phil Hellmuth kicked off the battles with his surprising victory on Poker Night in America. Really though, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw a bigger punch when he threatened to pull the Seneca Nation’s area of exclusivity for New York casinos.

MGM probably took on the biggest fight of all though. The company is making efforts to try and combat terrorism and bigotry in the wake of recent events worldwide.

Here is more on the week’s big battles in advance of the biggest gambling battle of the week:

Phil Hellmuth knows poker, but the NJ Lottery does not

This week, Hellmuth pulled what some of the younger poker players would call a double upset. It is not an upset on the scale of a McGregor win, but it was still surprising nonetheless.

Hellmuth was part of Poker Night in America’s King of the Hill heads-up tournament at Rivers Casino in Schenctady, NY.  He, along with young pros Doug Polk and Daniel Cates as well as three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Frank Kassela, played in the two-round event.

First, Hellmuth bested YouTube sensation Polk in the semifinals. Then he took on heads-up specialist Cates in the finals. Hellmuth was on the brink of elimination after a failed bluff, but battled back, using some of his White Magic to take the title.

Meanwhile, the NJ Lottery proved it would not stand a chance in a poker match against The Poker Brat.

The state lottery had to recall 1 million scratch-off tickets this week. The game, High Card Poker, had confusing rules that led to several player complaints.

In poker, hand strength is based on all five cards, even if someone does not have a pair. In the scratch-off game, only the highest card counted in no-pair hands. There were no tie-breakers. One player did not realize the difference and mistakenly believed he won $150,000.

Maybe NJ Lottery should just stick to Powerball.

Cold war escalates between Cuomo and Seneca

After months of a standoff with no progress, things heated up between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Seneca Nation. The issue at hand is that the Seneca tribe stopped payment on its three New York casinos. According to them, the compact stipulates payments through 2016. This even though the state and Seneca agreed to extend the compact through 2023.

Cuomo was previously silent on the issue, but this week he came out guns blazing. After dodging meetings with tribal leaders for months, Cuomo dropped two bombs on the group.

First, he publicly announced he would look into opening a commercial casino in the prevously exclusive-to-Seneca area of Niagara. Then he claimed there is a criminal investigation into Seneca for allegedly trying to spy on other casinos in the state.

Seneca balked at both comments. It appears any hope for a compromise in the near future is all but gone.

MGM taking stands and making moves

MGM Resorts’ properties will be at the center of the sports universe tonight for the Floyd Mayweather / Conor McGregor fight. However, the company kept busy with several other projects besides boxing this week too.

Rather than solely think about gambling, the company’s CEO Jim Murren focused on bigger, and arguably more important, things. Murren penned a letter to the entire company shortly after the terrorist incidents in Charlottesville, VA and Barcelona, Spain.

Not only did Murren encourage his employees to band together and condemn hate, he also said the company would be matching employee donations to several civil rights organizations. Groups like the Anti-Defamation League are among the six organitzations employees can effectively double their donation thanks to the initiative.

MGM also announced the launch of a new attraction at the MGM Grand this week. Last December, the casino opened the Level UP lounge. The bar aimed to draw in younger customers with skill-based slot games and video games.

Now the casino is expanding Level UP by adding a new virtual reality arena. The Zero Latency arena allows small groups to play virtual reality games together. They can shoot zombies or solve puzzles in a magical world. The new venue opens on Sept. 5.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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