2019 World Series of Poker

Maurice Hawkins Discusses Racial Incident Leading to Player's WSOP DQ

Maurice Hawkins
  • Maurice Hawkins discusses racial incident that led to Sorin Lovin's disqualification from WSOP event.

On Friday night, an incident went down at the 2018 World Series of Poker Event #66: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em when a player used a racial slur during the tournament. As a result, WSOP officials confirmed that player was disqualified from the tournament.

The clash was precipitated by a hand in the penultimate level of the night. With blinds at 300/600/100, the board was showing {9-Clubs}{k-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{8-Clubs} and around 10,000 chips were already in the middle when Sorin Lovin, who hails from Italy, and another player checked. Maurice Hawkins bet 4,800 and Lovin raised it to 10,100. The other player folded and the river brought a {j-Hearts}. Lovin quickly bet 20,000 and Hawkins made the call.

Hawkins tabled {a-Hearts}{6-Hearts} for the nut flush but lost the pot when his opponent tabled {9-Diamonds}{8-Hearts} for a full house. Lovin said: "Thank you, my friend," to Hawkins, who didn't reply.

PokerNews caught up with Hawkins who revealed that he and Lovin had been playing against each other all day but hadn’t engaged in too much table banter up to that point.

Hawkins: "Going back and forth is all in the game but when you start getting personal with people’s background ... you don’t cross those lines.”

“I guess he was a little salty,” said Hawkins, who stated he’d previously bested Lovin in several hands. “We really hadn’t talked much except in that hand. I asked, ‘Why you say thank you?’ I guess he just wanted to be mean. I don’t really trip off that stuff, he was trying to be an asshole to me.”

A couple hands later, Hawkins claimed two gentlemen came to Lovin’s rail and began pointing.

“I joked, ‘Yo, tell me how to say kiss my butt in Italian,’ and everybody laughed, like the entire table,” Hawkins explained. “All his friends laughed and then he said what he says.”

Lovin dropped the n-word with some players, such as Dutch Boyd and Ryan Feldman, claiming to have heard "What’s up, n*****?" while Hawkins and other perceived it as "Shut up, n*****."

“I heard shut up n*****, it was meant to call me like a boy or any other derogatory name,” Hawkins continued. “I took a moment, looked down at the ground and thought about my life, my family, and pretty much that I can’t get banned from the WSOP. If we hadn’t been at the WSOP, I’m sure things would’ve gone a little bit different.”

Maurice Hawkins
Maurice Hawkins is known for his polarizing table talk.

Instead of confronting Lovin, whose slur echoed throughout much of the room, or escalating the situation, Hawkins showed restraint and left the area while the dealer immediately called for the floor. Lovin was initially given a penalty for the rest of the evening, a decision that didn’t sit well with Hawkins.

“Banter is banter but when you start getting into that whole other level, it just sets a precedent. Going back and forth is all in the game but when you start getting personal with people’s background, people who’ve suffered and where they are from, oppression, you don’t cross those lines.”

Hawkins: "I felt really special by how all the people were supporting me, that they understand how hurtful that word can be."

Hawkins added: “People have their racism deep inside of them, you might not even know it’s there until they let it out. I feel bad for the guy. I feel bad that he feels that way. I never really understood people feeling that way because I’ve never felt that way.”

While Lovin sat out, Hawkins wound up busting the tournament. Meanwhile, Lovin went on to bag 70,100, which placed him 40th in chips out of the surviving 228 players with 203 spots getting paid. Later that night, Hawkins took his grievance to social media where he garnered support from many members of the poker community. Still, he felt the incident warranted more than a penalty.

Fast forward to Saturday during the Day 2 restart. Hawkins was off property when he received word from a fellow player that Lovin was met by WSOP officials who informed him that tournament director Jack Effel had disqualified him for his actions.

“I like the fact that when Jack heard they came to a consensus about what the WSOP stands for, I think that was pretty huge,” said Hawkins. “I saw all the people on Twitter. I’ve never thought of myself as part of the poker community, I’ve always kinda felt like an outsider, but today I felt really special by how all the people were supporting me, that they understand how hurtful that word can be. Coming all at once from people I didn’t expect, it was nice, almost tearful. That was a unique feeling because I don’t get a lot of love from people in poker ever. That was pretty strong.”

The message was clear and a precedent set; racism and vulgarities directed at another player are unacceptable at the WSOP.

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