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Over the Top

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Dec 01, 2007

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We "Brits" are a fairly reasonable and laid-back bunch, on the whole. We're definitely not given to hyperbole or dramatic gestures, and generally give a measured response to whatever is thrown at us; it has something to do with the weather, probably. So, I was flabbergasted to hear (firsthand) a couple of sorry tales from this year's World Series of Poker.

The first story (not as dramatic or serious as the second) involved Paul Jackson of Dusk Till Dawn. He was playing in a pot-limit Omaha game when a situation arose that required a floorman to adjudicate. The latter gave his verdict, which Paul obviously disagreed with, because he asked to see the rules.

"Not possible," was the reply. "Ask me whatever you want and I'll give you a ruling," he added.

"That's fine, but wouldn't it be much easier to see the rules posted somewhere so that we could read them rather than fall afoul of them in the first place?" Paul asked quite reasonably.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because they're proprietary to Harrah's."

Choke, splutter, splutter … for once in his life, Paul Jackson was at a loss for words. It's rather sad, I think, that in such a prestigious festival of poker, rules that affect us all cannot be seen to be fair, transparent, and well thought out.

The second story involves Phil Peters. He won a package to play the main event, and he and his wife were staying at Bally's for the duration (about three weeks). They both enjoy playing poker recreationally, although both are very competitive. He also enjoys playing blackjack, and I'm sure is a winner at it.

One night, he and four of his friends chipped in $300 each and he turned that $1,500 into $6,000 while playing blackjack in the hotel where he was staying. So far, so good.

Three nights later and well fortified with alcohol, he decided to play some more blackjack. The croupier took his thousand dollars without giving him chips, and the next thing he knew, he was surrounded by security and an official who pronounced him to be trespassing!

"Take your thousand dollars and don't set foot on any property belonging to Harrah's," he was told.

"I can't do that. I'm scheduled to play in the World Series of Poker, and my wife and I are both staying in this hotel as part of my package."

At this point, they hustled him into an office and produced a piece of paper that he was supposed to sign, stating that he would never again enter a Harrah's premises. If he did that, he would be allowed to stay the night (as his wife had gone off somewhere to play in a small tournament and could not be contacted).

They had come to an impasse, so he called for the police. Big mistake.

The police listened to both sides, then handcuffed him and took him down to the local jail. Unfortunately for him, the Bally's official had indicated to the policeman that Phil was probably acting under an alias, as card counters usually do that.

So, although he was carrying his passport, the police registered him as a John Doe. Therefore, when his wife returned to the hotel and some friends said they had seen her husband in handcuffs, she spent a frantic and unsuccessful day trying to track him down.

Now, Phil is a slight, stooping man of over 60 years of age who does not dye his thinning gray hair in a futile attempt to look younger. Nevertheless, he was kept in handcuffs, and treated as a felon (fingerprints and mug shot were taken), and when he spoke out when not supposed to, he was thrown into an isolation cell like a dangerous criminal.

Twenty hours later, he walked free, and contacted his very distraught wife, who then joined him at Wynn Las Vegas. Bally's refused to refund his hotel money, as his wife could continue staying there on her own if she wanted to. Mmm.

But you can't keep a good man down, so after a few days of chilling out, he returned to the blackjack table in his new hotel. This time, however, his treatment was so much more civilized. He was politely asked not to play blackjack, but was welcome to go anywhere else in the hotel.

Harrah's finally agreed to let him play in the World Series, rather than have to refund the buy-in.

Is it just me or does anyone else think the response in both tales is over the top?