This week everyone’s talking about A Curly Haired Man who bought into a $125 tournament in Vegas and got seated in a $25k tournament. He played it for 7 hours, donked out three players, amassed a massive stack, and had a lovely time before he and his giant stack were eliminated from the tournament by Security.

Obviously, the poker forums and media have gone batshit over this little gem with everyone having an opinion on what should have happened to the guy and the three players that he knocked out. Today’s blog is simply my opinion on this, the story that showed potential for being the greatest rags to riches tale ever told, but ended up just being a massive fail.

One of two things happened here:

  1. He was cheating, and he was colluding with the staff member who was working on the registration desk. He has chosen an idiot as his accomplice in this scenario, because unless your super power is bio-EMP, cage cameras will usually notice that sort of stuff.
  2. The tired, overworked, minimum wage employee at The Aria made a very costly mistake and Curly either didn’t notice, or didn’t care to highlight it.

If he was cheating, and doing so with the help of casino staff, then they were right to jack him out of the tourney. They should have brought angry dogs in to chase him out, for effect, as a stern warning to anyone who wants to cheat at this game.

A cheat, you say? RELEASE THE HOUNDS!
A cheat, you say? RELEASE THE HOUNDS!

I think they still should have left his chips in play, and fronted the buyin themselves on the basis that they made a mistake by employing a cheat. If the dead stack cashes, the winnings go to charity.
The casino shouldn’t have got off lightly here, even if they were being cheated. The casino’s job is to protect the integrity of the game, and if a couple of (not very bright) cheats can get this far then they are not doing that, and they should pay.

If, as I think is more likely, the casino staff member made a very silly mistake, s/he should be disciplined in line with company procedure, end of that story. I think Curly should have been allowed to keep playing. I don’t believe this guy had any pre-meditated plan to skank the house, the tournament, or the other players; the house had responsibility here and dropped the ball. Maybe if they’d realised their mistake after ten minutes then it might have been reasonable to remove him from play, before he got heavily involved in the tournament. After seven hours and three eliminations, it had gone too far, he’d played his way to that position because the house had mistakenly put him in that seat.
At that point, he deserved to be there.

I don’t think it matters if he realised the mistake or not. I bet he did, but it’s entirely unprovable, and irrelevant, because it wasn’t his mistake. Poker is about capitalising on others’ mistakes; alerting the casino to their error there would have to be seen as a –EV move.
I’m an a honest person, I work in casinos and know that eventually someone would realise I hadn’t paid the full whack, but I’d still keep my mouth shut and sit at those tables with those High Stakes Pros. I would have to assess it would be worth the gamble on my casino membership to see what the outcome would be. I wouldn’t give a fuck if I got banned from the whole of Vegas; what a story!

Given that they made, and have admitted to making, the original mistake, I think the casino should have filled the $24875 shortfall on Curly’s buyin and let him play it out. The second the High Stakes guys realised they were playing against $125 buyin ranges, they’d have started taking him apart anyway.
This would have shown that the casino and tournament operator was committed to taking responsibility for their mistakes, and would have ensured the tournament played out in the way it was supposed to after Curly went on his early level rampage.
Okay, he SHOULDN’T have been there, but once he was, the playing field was irreparably changed by the house’s mistake, why should they get to change it yet again? If he’d donked off the stack before they’d got to him, how were they going to take those chips out of play? Would they still take $25k out of the prizepool?

Taking chips out of a tournament is not a great plan. Tournament poker is a fairly simple format, the number of buyins should directly relate to the number of chips in play.
I have seen it done, where there has been a mistake on either the house, or a player’s, part and a stack has been pulled from a comp. It’s most usually an early day1 and the stack needs to be part of a later day1 and hasn’t been touched by a player, just blinded in. I’ve never seen it done when a player has played for seven hours, and I’ve never done a mid/end of tourney chip-check that’s been missing 4xstarting stacks. That is a shambles.

For my next trick, I will make 10% of the chips in play...DISAPPEAR!
For my next trick, I will make 10% of the chips in play…DISAPPEAR!

I have been in a situation where somehow I didn’t have enough money in the till to cover all the buyins; I was missing one whole buyin at the end of the entry period and could not immediately ascertain the exact mistake . My employer made up the shortfall, and after a full investigation, we discovered I’d entered a guy for day 1a AND 1c, like a plonker. We didn’t take the chips out, and we didn’t remove the money from the prize pool, the dead stack blinded in and was therefore as equally shared as it could have been. We fucked up and we paid for it, the way it should be. I got bollocked for being a total muppet, which was justified.
I kept my job, because mistakes happen. If you have humans, you will, at least occasionally, have mistakes. This is okay, as long as the decisions made in correcting those mistakes are as important to a business as processes to prevent future mistakes.

The Aria’s decision to remove all these chips from play is very questionable. Unless they have some reason to believe that the three players Curly knocked out were ALL colluding and passing chips to him, (which is ridiculous) then there was no reason to pull those chips from play, other than to save themselves the $24875 they needed to put into the prizepool to account for their mistake.

The casino are apparently willing to compensate the three players who were eliminated by Curly, I don’t know the exact details, but Justin Bonomo tweeted that it may be around 20% of the buyin. This means The Aria are going to be in for nearly as much as if they’d just staked Curly after they’d discovered their mistake, and they’ve still done nothing towards addressing how the integrity of the tournament has been so severely compromised.
If I was one of the players in the tournament at all, I’d be grumbling. If I’d lost some chips to him, or to someone who’d won some chips off him, I’d be getting louder, if I was one of the three who’d been knocked out by him, I’d be apoplectic and trying to jam my $5k hush money in the nose-hole of a tournament official. They’d have brought it on themselves, by removing him from the game, they are saying that he shouldn’t have been there, and they were the ones who put him there.

Some things are worth more than money.
Some things are worth more than money.

This is not about the size of the sum of money, I’d feel the same about a £30 donk-fest where this had taken place. The only thing that would shut me up is the casino openly stating what had happened and letting us know that Curly was now staked to play this game, same as everyone else and if I’d been knocked out by him, then that was tough luck.
When a business makes a mistake, they need to hold their hands up and admit it and offer the fairest resolution possible, not the one that saves them money or tries to create an image they don’t deserve.

I feel as if The Aria are trying to create a brouhaha around the incident to distract from taking full responsibility for their mistake. They’re trying to make it look as if the guy did something wrong, when he didn’t, he sat in the seat given to him by their staff after one of their staff gave him the wrong ticket. They want it to look as though this sort of thing can only happen when a punter is actively on the make, not because they make stupid clerical errors with $25k buyins.

In my opinion, they made a foolish mistake and then compounded the error by further compromising the overall integrity of tournament in an attempt to save face. They want to give the impression that they had the transgression in hand, when the time for that had passed, they had the opportunity to “have it in hand” at the registration desk, and they didn’t. Now, they’ve made themselves backers to a low-stakes guy playing in a high-roller event on a 99.5%/0.5% split in their favour.

I’m glad a story like this has engaged the poker community, because I think it’s important that people are interested. Tournament operators should be more careful than this, the initial mistake was not acceptable.
Players should be keeping their wits about them, understand how live tournaments work and question the slightest apparent discrepancy, a good operator will always have an honest answer. In addition, provided an operator owns up to a mistake, and makes the fairest resolution decision with the players, not themselves, in mind, then I don’t think they should be hounded for a mistake, assuming the same mistake doesn’t happen again!

Above all else, this incident has caused me to re-consider the amount of felt hours I give over to playing satellites. I’m not going to bother in future, I’m just going to rock up to The Aria with a funky wig and a handful of buttons, I’ll be sitting in the nearest High Stakes event before my jet-lag kicks in.

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