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PokerNews Op-Ed: Dealing for Titles is Not Acceptable

Eric Rodawig
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  • WSOP bracelet winner Eric Rodawig isn't a fan of what went down at WPT Fallsview.

This is a guest post from 2011 World Series of Poker bracelet winner Eric Rodawig, reflecting how he feels about the much-discussed deal at WPT Fallsview.

Imagine this: It’s fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady walks over to Nick Foles up 33-32 and says, “Look, Nick, I want ring No. 6. Why don’t you throw a couple interceptions and we’ll get out of here and you guys can have all the money?”

There would be massive outrage, and for good reason. It's not acceptable in any competitive event to throw or negotiate for the title, and that includes major poker tournaments.

There is a crucial difference between making a deal for prize money, which is widely and appropriately considered acceptable, and making a deal for the title and the accolades that come with it, which is not.

Heads-up at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic, Mike Leah and Ryan Yu made a deal to divide the payout according to their chip stacks and give Leah the title. The deal was not officially sanctioned, so Yu raise-folded a few hands in order to dump the vast majority of his chips to Leah.

This made a mockery of the tournament, both for spectators and other players, including players in the subsequent WPT Tournament of Champions. Playing under false pretenses in a major publicized tournament, chip dumping for a title, shifts the perception of poker from MMA towards WWE. Not playing honestly down to a winner calls the integrity of the tournament and its players into question and is a huge detriment to the game of poker.

"Not playing honestly down to a winner calls the integrity of the tournament and its players into question and is a huge detriment to the game of poker."

Everybody involved with poker needs to be confident that the actual outcomes of major poker tournaments are determined in accordance with the rules and not deals between the players. Fans want to see a captivating product on the internet or TV without missing out on the most exciting parts of a final table, and they want to know that their favorite players actually did win the tournament.

Sponsors need to know that the winners they’re funding aren’t tarnished. Betting, staking and fantasy markets along with player of the year charts and leaderboards need fair outcomes in order to function properly. Do you think the PokerShares crew reasonably expects that bets for or against players are resolved based on poker alone?

People can debate whether tour organizers should or should not facilitate deals, but everyone can look to PokerStars for the exact right example of how this should be done. When players want to chop a major tournament, PokerStars will make it happen, but they require a certain amount of money be left on the table for the winner and the remaining players to play it out for the title. Tournament directors should make the rules explicitly clear that any chip dumping or soft play –- even heads up –- will result in a disqualification.

Viewers do not want to see money negotiations interrupting an event, and how will recreational players feel if they see publicized chops all the time and then make a final table where nobody rightly wants to chop with them? Players who do make a money deal on broadcast events should take care to be as unobtrusive about it as possible.

TD's should make the rules explicitly clear that any chip dumping or soft play –- even heads up –- will result in a disqualification.

For example, during the 2014 WSOP National Championship, it came down to three professionals and an amateur who busted fourth. Almost immediately after he busted, one of the pros –- and I still can’t believe this made it onto TV given how the WSOP feels about deals –- smiled knowingly and said something like, “So, guys, how about we take a little break?” That's 100 percent code for, “Let’s go talk about a deal.”

But at least in this case, if the players did agree to some sort of deal, you’d never know it, because there were two more hours of great poker after the amateur busted.

When PGA golfers face a sudden-death playoff, you don’t hear them say, “You know what? $600,000 is a lot of money for one hole. Let’s split the cash and head back to the clubhouse early.”

Poker players must hold themselves to the same standard as other elite competitors, because accepting a title you didn’t earn is the ultimate example of “play bad, get there.”

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