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Gardens Casino Adds Flights to $1M Guaranteed, Angering Players

The Gardens poker room
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  • Poker players are up in arms after unscheduled flights were added to a $1 million guaranteed event.

In what many see as a bald-faced attempt at avoiding an overlay, The Gardens Casino in California has added multiple flights to a poker tournament and pushed the schedule back two days at the 11th hour.

Gardens Casino Poker Classic Event #2: $1 Million Guaranteed No-Limit Hold'em, featuring a $565 buy-in and jointly promoted with Poker Night in America, originally called for two starting flights per day from Sept. 16-22.

On Thursday, Gardens announced a revised schedule with a third Friday flight and two additional flights per day on Saturday and Sunday. The final day of the event, originally scheduled for Sunday, has been pushed to Tuesday. Satellites have also been extended, while two side events were canceled.

PokerNews could not find registration numbers for the event, and a phone call to The Gardens poker room had not been returned at the time of writing. Naturally, though, many assume organizers are simply attempting to shore up a lower-than-expected prize pool.

"Hawaiian Gardens is choosing to extend the starting days and adding flights until they finally eliminate this overlay — or simply reduce it to a number they're more comfortable with," wrote Todd Witteles at Poker Fraud Alert. "If you cannot afford to deal with a big overlay, then you shouldn't be running and promoting guaranteed tournaments."

Witteles added that players should contact the California Gaming Commission to air their grievances.

Indeed, many players reacted with fury, citing mapped out travel plans and work obligations that could potentially cause schedule conflicts should they advance deep into the tournament.

"I will never go back there," said Thomas Zanot, a poker player from Arizona. "They never host relevant tournaments and this was their only chance."

Some have directed their fury at PNIA. An email to a PNIA media contact did not receive an immediate response, but Matt Glantz, a producer for the show, maintained in Twitter responses to upset players that PNIA had nothing to do with the decision. He added he was "extremely disappointed."

Allen Kessler, a well-known champion of player value, did not attend the tournament but was nonetheless disturbed by Garden's actions. Though he has never attended an event at The Gardens, the well-traveled veteran of the game said it will be eliminated from future consideration.

Commerce Casino, he pointed out, just hosted an $1,100 event last week that produced an overlay of roughly $100,000.

"They bit the bullet and paid out the overage," he said. "I'm not sure about the legality of what occurred, but I am sure this is a scummy and unethical way to treat your customers."

Legally, the situation appears to fall in something of a legal gray area. At the bottom of the structure sheet, bold font, the following sentence appears:

"The Gardens Casino reserves the right to change or cancel the event at anytime."

Though that would appear on the surface to cover the legal bases for The Gardens, that may not be the case. Consumer protection laws and implied contracts could come into play.

"It is deeply concerning a licensed gaming establishment would so dramatically change the circumstances of a tournament and we are actively exploring whether or not those alterations run afoul of consumer protection," said Mac VerStandig of The VerStandig Law Firm.

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