WSOP Updates: Whose chips are they, anyway?
Floor! You can't walk around the main WSOP room for five minutes without hearing a floor call. The floor staff are there to settle disputes, interpret and apply the rules and generally keep the games moving smoothly. Sometimes they make mistakes. Today there was a colossal mistake made at the restart of the No Limit Hold'em Short-Handed Event #5.
Thirty-nine players were remaining at seven tables, I happen to be there when the chip bags were brought out and distributed to the tables. A short time later the players began to arrive and one of the early arrivals noticed that his seat had no chips. The floor was called and a simple mistake was made, someone assumed that the chip bag for seat 6 at table 118 had been misplaced or lost. So, a runner was sent to the cage to check the storage locker, the report comes back: no missing chip bag. Meanwhile players are assembling at the tables and, per a new rule, showing identification to match their name on their chip bag before the bags are opened.
Now the reason I am at this particular table is that Gavin Smith (second in chips) is seated in seat #3 and in seat #2 is Daniel Negreanu (the chip leader) and oh by the way in seat #1 is Kathy Liebert. So as these professional poker players gather way down there at the far end of the table, they chat and laugh and have no idea that the player in seat #6 has no chips. The floor has now gone to the cage himself and while he is away a senior dealer supervising the tournament restart comes by and tells the dealer in the box to open the chip bag in seat #4 and stack the chips: "You are going to need to blind the player off until they arrive."
The senior floor in charge of the event returns with a rack holding 101,000 in chips; this is the amount of chips the player in seat #6 had in the official chip count at the end of play the night before. No one except the players in seats #5 & #6 and this reporter see this happen.
Now I need to say here that members of the media have a certain standard of conduct when covering a poker tournament, at least the seasoned writers and photographers do.
One cardinal rule is that we never interfere in the table action. We do not comment on the action, we do not offer any advice or interject any of our thoughts on the play or on the interpretation of the rules. Sure, we may write about it but we are there observe play and not to effect it. Now I have to question whether, in this case, if that was the best thing for me to do at this point but that is what I did.
What I wanted to say was: "You have to inform the players what you just did. You may have just added 101,000 chips to the tournament. They at the very least need to know that a floor decision has been made." This did not happen.
Next thing you know, cards are in the air and since this is a short-handed event, every six hands Gavin Smith is going to be in the small blind with an empty seat in the big blind and Daniel Negreanu and Kathy Liebert on his immediate right. Daniel and Kathy pounded on Gavin every time the dead blind situation came up. Finally, Gavin had enough and he defended twice and it cost him 50,000 chips - about 40% of his starting stack.
Finally, after just over four rounds, Daniel says:
"I wonder how long this guy is going to wait to show up, with these blinds and antes short-handed, he will be gone soon."
Someone else says: "Do they know who this guy is?"
and then: "Was there a player in that seat last night?"
Daniel says he doesn't remember anyone, nor does anyone else at the table. The player in seat #6 suddenly says:
"I wonder if those were supposed to be my chips?"
"What do you mean your chips?"
"Well they lost my chip bag."
"What are those chips you have been playing with?"
Oh, the floor brought me chips from the cage."
Now I must say that of all the players on the circuit, Daniel Negreanu is one of the calmest and most reasonable players I have watched over the years. Daniel shot out of this seat and nearly shouted:
"They added chips from the cage to the tournament!"
Gavin and Kathy just sat there a moment and Gavin asked:
"Say that again."
"They gave me new chips from the cage."
Now Gavin is up and floor calls are being shouted:
"You added chips to the tournament?!"
"What kind of *#@!* decision was that?"
OK, just a goof right? Wrong! Gavin has been playing in a situation (with a dead big blind) for 3 plus rounds, a situation that should not have existed. Daniel and Kathy would not have been aggressively stealing blinds with a player in the big blind; that player should have been the player in seat #5 because there was no player in seat #4, not last night and not today.
They count down the seat #4 stack and it matches exactly what would have been in a 101,000 stack minus the 14,800 of blinds and antes that have been added to this tables play. Gavin has been put at a disadvantage, I will leave it to poker theoreticians to calculate how much of one.
The new floor decision is that the remaining chips in the phantom seat #4 stack should come out of play but the tournament is held up until Floor Supervisor Jimmy Sommerfeld is called to make the decision. Gavin is steaming, again I will let you decide and debate just how unfair the situation had become.
Some things to consider:
-at 3600 chips a circuit (6 hands) the blinds and antes totaled roughly 25,000 for the first one hour level and 5200 a circuit and 32,000 for the next level. In approximately 2 and a half hours the entire 101,000 extra stack would have been in the stacks of the other five players at table 118. Not just dead money but free dead money.
-Gavin Smith would have been in the same disadvantageous position for all of that time.
-Why didn't someone look at the chip bag in seat #4 at any time?
What happened here, you ask. Well it's really quite simply. Someone heard: "I don't have a chip bag." And assumed that a chip bag was missing. When, in fact, what happened was that in distributing the bags at the table someone read seat #6 and put that bag in what is normally seat #6 just to the dealer's right of mid-table but in a short-handed tournament that is seat #4. No one ever looked at that chip bag or read the name or the seat number on that bag and five players playing for a total prize pool of $1,895,200 had their chances changed and also gain an advantage, however slight, over the other 34 players, as table 118 had additional dead money put into play.
Six and a half hours into the tournament, Gavin Smith went out in 12th place.