Ugly Sister Story

by thetank
Submitted on Tue, 31/10/2006 - 6:46pm

I’ve fallen foul when trying to run, or assist in the running of poker tournaments before. Sometimes because of 50:50 rulings or players' angle shooting causing a bad atmosphere, sometimes players getting arsey over blind levels and such, on one occasion, an impromptu boxing match between chip rivals causing a little logistical problem when we turned the table the right way up again.

Poker players are a particular bunch, when they pay their juice, they expect to be taken care of. Even if it’s just a £1 they rake, things are expected to run smoothly. When their contribution to house is in the region of £50, it is demanded.

While I can understand these demands, I often sympathize when tournament directors get it in the neck. Organising things is not the easiest job in the world, and the larger the scale of the tournament, the more likely that a mistake or two will be made.

Having said that, when 8,773 players travel to Vegas and pony up $10k apiece, and when the house takes at least $5 million of this, you’d expect a different level of professionalism and accountability.

In the World Series Main Event this summer, the extra $2 million chips being brought into play is inexcusable.  Some well meaning detective types (who probably spend more time on the internet than I do) deduced that the chips had to have appeared during the colouring up (but they called it a coloring up) of the $5k chip to $25k chips.

With 3 tables left at this point, one player at each table bought up all the five thousand chips, and exchanged them with a tournament official for 25 thousand chips. It is at this point that the error occurred.

Too many $25k chips were given out by the tournament officials. The worrying thing is that no-one spotted the error. When I’m in a tournament playing for a three hundred quid prize, I always check when I’m changed up. I imagine the players playing for their share of eighty million dollars were similarly conscientious. Very interesting to think that a player probably did spot he was given too many chips, but decided to keep schtum and play on. Ethical questions aplenty are raised here, but they shouldn’t have to be, guys getting paid five million dollars should know how to make change. 

Having saved a few pennies by not employing people who can count, when the eyes of the world came upon the final table, you think at least the tournament director would have a little savvy and ensure everyone would play inside the rules.

If I play at a £20 freeze out in Glasgow and announce my hand while deciding on whether to call or not, you can bet your Wellington boots that I’ll be reprimanded. Not so it seems, on the biggest stage in poker. A youtube search for Jamie Gold and “top top” should show you what I’m talking about. I think it’s bang out of order, collusion is what it‘s called where I come from, and it should be stamped out of the game. Sometimes I wonder who has more control, a WSOP tournament director or a pro wrestling referee.

I guess I’m a little miffed because I used to be excited about the WSOP, it was every poker players dream to win it, to put your name alongside the legends that have been immortalized by all the gambling writings we ordered from Amazon. The fame, the respect you would command from your peers, your family, random people in the street. The fortune, never having to worry about money ever again. Above all else though, it was the title we wanted. World Champion.

As it was, as it is now, as it will be again, where there is a hope, where there is a commonly held dream, where there are masses striving to achieve one solitary goal, there will be people behind the scenes, pulling the strings and trying to make as much money as they possibly can.

Harrahs know everyone wants to be the WSOP champion, and it's unlikely that anything anybody can do will change this anytime soon. They can put on a crappy comp, it’s still going to be billed as the premier event in poker.

I think entrants into the world's largest and best poker events who pony up the green they need to buy-in, should be made to feel like real competitors. Play in a glamorous venue, on the casino floor. Not out the back in a big shed and made to feel like some convention delegate. Of course you can’t fit 9,000 folk in a casino is what they‘ll say, well try blaming’ harder or raise the buy-in is what I say!

But if they insist upon playing the comp in a soul-less shed, why have four day ones? Spend a bit more money you tight fisted misers, last time I checked, Las Vegas didn’t have any shortage of convention space. Heaven forbid they might plug some of that $5 million the players gave them to run the Main Event into actually making their lives easier, or will everyone need a fortnight off work to play this in the future?

To be honest, after all my gripes, it’s still not enough to put me off. That’s what I hate the most, I know I’m being exploited, but I want to pursue that dream regardless. One wonders what kind of beast the world series would have become next year if Harrahs hadn’t blocked 3rd party registrations in the aftermath of the Port Security bill.

Maybe that will prove to be the one good thing to come from the recent American anti-online poker legislation. Less runners in the WSOP may see the return of the day where it was possible for someone to win twice, a true legend made and legitimacy lent to our chosen card game.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Cinderella story, but our current world champ is hardly a carpenter’s son. He’s a Hollywood agent, makes it more of an ugly sister story.

Thomas 'thetank' Stott