I’m very sure this is going to be one of those blogs where I weigh in on something I don’t understand because I don’t play poker at a level where chops I’m involved in have any real value.
No lives are getting changed on the outcome of a heads-up deal between me and a drunk opponent at a €50 buyin local game.

Even if I end up on a serious final table, I’ll have got there via a satty and I’ll already be so quids in, I won’t even care what the big girls offer me, I’ll snap it, even if I’m getting cash-slashed by players that actually understand what’s going on at the time.
Ostensibly, ICM chop enforcement, or the even further step of “not facilitating deals” is an initiative to protect players like me (and then protect the house from players like me whining the fuck when I do work out what happened).porkchop1

When I run tournaments, I am torn, because on one hand I want them to chop it any which way, fuck-off and end my 16 hour shift.

On the other hand, I hate to think anything dodgy is happening under my brand and my nose; that’s personal and professional pride, built on a belief that integrity is key to the success of all aspects of poker.

There are three factors that I do not have to contend with when running €200 buyin tourneys:

  • Exposure: TV cameras, media teams
  • Extra Value: Large prizes with huge value that are not cash, such as league points or exclusive tournament entries
  • A global audience of opinionated shitbags

This topic has popped up for me because I noticed Mike Leah being attacked on Twitter as apparently he has been super unethical in conjunction with his HU opponent, Ryan Yu, in the WPT Fallsview Main Event.
They were talking about flipping heads-up for $150k+, so it’s obviously a monster event, and there were extra prizes in the form of a “Tournament of Champions” entry and points for the POY award.

All so far above my level, I’m not even sure I know what this shit is, but somebody seems to think they’ve been robbed because of the deal done between Leah and Yu.
It would seem that it’s “unfair” that whichever one of them gets the tourney entry gets it and it’s “unfair” that the chop points affect POY.

I mean, it’s so obviously “unfair” that people playing at my level, who didn’t actually know TOC existed until yesterday can plainly see the vicious travesty that has occurred when the two, experienced players left in the tournament, chopped the value left to be shared between them.

porkchop2They took the value they had won between them and shared it in a way they both agreed on without intimidation.
I really feel, in the modern poker climate, the only way to have an important opinion on that is to be the third player at the table, and negotiate yourself in there.

Mike Leah has put a well-articulated and considered set of points together to explain why he believes he has not been unethical.
I think it’s very patient of him, cos in his spot, I’d have just posted a picture of my own bare arse and gone on holiday with my winnings.

I do think chops have to be looked at individually, but I cannot see a lack of ethics here unless some vital info has been missed from the discussion.

That leads onto the next criticism I have seen on this chop, that it happened “off screen”, or even in total private, as in no TD or objective third party even had ears on the chat.
This criticism is two-fold, firstly on a level of transparency and clarity, and secondly on the level of depriving viewers of media streams, or readers of blogs the up to date real-time skinny on the action.

Gotta say I agree with the first complaint, but that is from an operator viewpoint; always have ears on your punters.
Live poker tourneys are alternate revenue stream drivers, a marketing exercise, if you break even you succeed massively, so let’s not have anything happen that just sharts on the brand, right? I can’t stop that if I’m not listening.

The operator is a trusted intermediary for the money (let me hear ya say BLOCKCHAIN), and should always be aware of discussions and the exact conditions of its movement, even if not always actively involved in the direction of the discussion.

I would agree that in a TV/streamed tournament, where players knew the broadcast conditions were in place at start of play, that they are all committed to every gaming action being public on stream, and chop discussions count as gaming actions in the story of a tourney.
I know some pro-players have issues with aspects of televised games, but I feel they need to evolve with this as the nature of the future of their business; define and implement strategies, knock up a powerpoint or summat.

As a regular viewer of TV poker I want to see the game play out, but as I player and a human being, I have to understand why these big guys chop their value. It’s all very well me clapping my hands at home when someone’s forced to punt $150k on a flip, but that is their lives!porkchop3

It is frustrating as a viewer to see a chop, and watch everyone walk away from the table to chat to their mates. It’s highly anti-climactic, and it makes for bad TV.

I have a foolish suggestion, but I’m running with it.
I propose Chop N Prop regulations for TV tournaments:

  • The prize value is chopped by remaining players
  • All discussions from players must be held at the table with players allowed to talk to 3rd parties only away from the table
  • 3rd party talks will not exceed a specific amount of time
  • The clock will not be stopped
  • The house will have a time rule in place and at that point, where no agreement is made, chop talks will be stopped for a set amount of time
  • The house will prove a method of establishing (in a chop of 3+ players) privately that each player is in fact agreeable to publicly accepting or declining chop.
  • The house listens, verifies no-one’s being bullied or manipulated to the best of their capabilities with paper/media records of discussions for transparency/audit
  • The house FACILITATES STUFF FOR ITS FUCKING PLAYERS and ensures all payouts are processed via cage to agreed chop amounts with no trust transactions between players required
  • The remaining players have to play the rest of the tournament to conclusion, and the loser(s) have to complete prop(s) decided on by the winner


The last point that’s repeated by critics of this venomous chop between Leah and Yu is that there was “chip-dumping”.
There was chip-dumping after there was no more value to be won? And the house would in no way facilitate the agreed chop of which they were clearly and obviously aware?

I’m really not sure how I can even engage with this point, because it seems so ridiculous. The alternative would be for some big pantomime that the chip leader spewed and made stupid bad decisions to look as if he “genuinely lost” to the other player.
So, wait… now we’re punishing players on social media for NOT being disingenuous and fake?
I can’t keep up with this.

In theory, I could win a satty, go on a sick heater and end up winning a tourney like this.
I might get to three-handed and not take a chop because I’m terrified as a result of not knowing what the maths is, the house not supporting me, and because I might get tarnished as unethical.

I might then luckbox the other two and end up winning an entry to TOC “fair and square”.

Should I really be there over another, better player who may have only chopped heads up with another great player, but has final tabled multiple events and won far more, for longer and more consistently than me?

porkchop4After years of bleating on about variance, shouldn’t we all now be much happier to openly discuss why chops happen, and be pleased to see a player who clearly deserves to be in a tournament called “Tournament Of Champions” actually be there?

I don’t understand why people are upset about this, and I don’t understand why or how either player did anything wrong.

I don’t approve of the way this specific brand operator handles chops, I think it’s archaic, and I do agree that players entering a TV tournament should have to commit to some entertainment based concessions.

I don’t understand much about the world of pro-poker players, but what I do know is that in the Chop and Prop world I imagine Mike Leah gets his agreed prizes, gets no grief on social media, gets applauded by all for a recognition moment in a long career of hard work , gets respect as a person and a player and then ends the day streaking through the casino because he lost the Chop and Prop.

I like my world. It’s nice there.