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The Tournament Directors’ Dilemma

by Roy Brindley |  Published: Jul 01, 2010


John DuthieWith so much money now slushing around the poker world, the Poker Million, inaugurated in 2000, played in the Isle of Man, and won by European Poker Tour founder John Duthie, has doubtlessly lost some of its gloss down the years.

At the turn of the decade a million was an outrageous sum in poker matched only by the main event of the World Series of Poker. These days there are scores of tournaments which can match and surpass the prize pool of the SKY Sports televised event.

The Poker Million was a watershed in poker inspired by Barry Hearn whose Matchroom Sport maintain the mantle of producers. Matchroom now produces more than 100 hours of televised poker annually and recently announced it will be producing the World Poker Tour European events.

The WPT is set to visit numerous venues around Europe during the 2010/11 season, with the first televised stop being the WPT Grand Prix de Paris at the Aviation Club de France.

The news never made the pages of the daily press but Hearn’s instalment as chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) most certainly did. It resulted in reams of national newspaper print.

That’s kind of bizarre as poker has a far greater global viewing audience and, as we know, poker’s prize money substantially outweighs that on offer in any snooker tournament. To put things into perspective, Hearn is proposing a guaranteed £4.5 million in snooker prize money next year. That figure represents about half of Monte Carlo’s EPT main event prize pool.

One of Hearn’s first appointments as chairman was to put a former Detective Chief Superintendent on the WPBSA board for integrity and disciplinary matters.

In light of current events (including the John Higgins frame-throwing allegations) this move has to be applauded but just what is on offer in terms of integrity within poker? As it stands anyone in possession of a suit and tie can, and often are, appointed as a tournament director.

I find this situation amazing. Hundreds of thousands of euro on the line and the players can find themselves at the mercy of a decision by a TD who is as qualified as a lollipop man.

I am in no way questioning the reputation of any individual, but mistakes can and will happen. Occasionally the odd questionable play also occurs. Here is one example of collusion I witnessed around six years ago in a continental casino.

The game was limit hold’em, the play was down to the final table. Sat alongside each other was a well-known player/mentor combination of the time.

With blinds in relation to the players’ stacks fairly massive the pair go into a preflop raising war, stopping when they were the only two people left in the pot. One player had committed a massive percentage of his chips and was left with just a few, enough for one big blind.

A king-high flop landed and the action between mentor and disciple was checked all the way down to the very end. When the players cards were exposed the young Jedi, the last player to act, exposed a near invincible full house of kings.

Naturally the hand won but the question had to be raised as to why he did not attempt to alleviate his opponent of his remaining chips? Surely he must be obliged to attempt to eliminate his rival. At this point an official should have questioned the play.

The net result was his mentor enjoying another six hands before he had to commit his remaining chips in the form of a big blind and, by the time that came around, two players had been eliminated from the competition meaning his winnings were increased by several thousand euro.

Now I don’t mind walk-on music and gimmicks but poker doesn’t really need them yet. What it needs is integrity, professionally qualified, licenced and regulated tournament directors all observing a governing bodies rulebook for the betterment of the game and the benefit of the players, its viewers, and those that place bets on the outcome of competitions. Spade Suit