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Epic Poker League - A Controversial Start

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Nov 01, 2011


The first ever Epic Poker League main event title belongs to none other than controversial character Chino Rheem. The U.S.-based Epic Poker League differentiates itself from other tours “with ambitious objectives” according to its owners Federated Sports + Gaming. These include, “nationally televised events, interactive digital programming and social media games, Epic Poker is positioned to become synonymous with excellence and innovation within the poker entertainment industry.”

Just over 200 players were invited to take part in the Tour (based on recent tournament performance) which consists of four rake-free $20,000 buy-in tournaments, each with $400,000 added, culminating in a $1 million freeroll for the 27 highest ranked players.

In all it’s an innovative concept and one which will be under much scrutiny — as much because of its timing in the wake of Black Friday as its controversial start.
So tournament one saw former World Series of Poker main event finalist Rheem defeat two of the hottest players on the tournament circuit threehanded in Jason Mercier and Erik Seidel and was rewarded with a cool $1 million for his efforts. He now has $5.6 million in career earnings, though Rheem himself has admitted that his bankroll is closer to zero.

Rheem was the subject of much controversy in the few weeks preceding the event for his failure to pay back debts and for welching on various prop bets. Though he has always been a talented poker pro, winning a World Poker Tour title and making the November Nine, Rheem has had trouble holding on to his money over the past few years.
Perhaps his good friend Robert Mizrachi summed it up best when he tweeted the following during the final table, “GL @ChinoRheem show the world ur skills and turn ur Life around bro.”

Before play began, Rheem expressed his desire to win and get back to even with the poker world on Twitter. He said, “Final table of the 1st @EpicPokerLeague main event! All I wanna do is win & do the right thing! I’m so close and it feels good knowing that!”

It took Rheem 212 hands at the final table to secure the victory against one of the toughest line-ups in recent memory. Huck Seed battled as the short stack for quite some time before finally busting in sixth place and Gavin Smith followed him out the door in fifth a short while later.

Hasan Habib entered the final table in first place but struggled with Mercier, Seidel, and Rheem all night long before being eliminated in fourth. Mercier lost a flip to bust in third and Seidel could not overcome his large chip deficit to rack up his third seven-figure score of the year.

The final results were:
First Chino Rheem $1,000,000
Second Erik Seidel $604,330
Third Jason Mercier $360,970
Fourth Hasan Habib $237,560
Fifth Gavin Smith $154,260
Sixth Huck Seed $107,980

However, the drama continued a week later when the Epic Poker League put Rheem on probation for violating the league’s Code of Conduct, after allegedly failing to pay back the debts owed to other poker players.

The EPL acknowledged that Rheem’s “financial obligations incurred prior to the League’s formation” but claims that they impacted league play.

The committee, which handed down the disciplinary action, consists of the following: Stephen Martin (chairman), tournament director Matt Savage, poker players Eric Baldwin, Andy Bloch, Chad Brown, Joseph Hachem, Michael McDonald, Nick Schulman, Alec Torelli, and league commissioner Annie Duke, who is a non-voting member.

The complete statement from the EPL read like this:

_As of today’s date, the Standards & Conduct Committee has voted to place Epic Poker League cardholder David “Chino” Rheem on probation subject to the rules and procedures governing the conduct of Epic Poker League members as a result of ongoing personal financial obligations incurred prior to the League’s formation but impacting the League during the Inaugural Epic Poker Main Event. The terms of Mr. Rheem’s probation, designed for the Committee to effectively monitor the personal conduct of Mr. Rheem as he works to meet his personal financial obligations as required under the Players’ Code of Conduct, are as follows:

1. Mr. Rheem’s probation will remain in effect until Mr. Rheem has satisfied his pre-league formation financial obligations.

2. Mr. Rheem must continue to proactively repay his outstanding debts by, from this point forward, using any and all proceeds Mr. Rheem personally receives from personal poker winnings worldwide to satisfy all of his remaining financial obligations in an orderly fashion.

3. Any new violation of the Epic Poker League rules (including the Players’ Code of Conduct) or the law by Mr. Rheem — now that the Epic Poker League play has been initiated — will result in an immediate suspension of Mr. Rheem’s League card and eligibility to participate in Epic Poker League events.

4. In reaching its decision, the Committee recognized that Mr. Rheem used best efforts and all of the proceeds he personally received from winning the Inaugural Epic Poker league Main Event to partially satisfy outstanding financial obligations. Mr.Rheem must continue to demonstrate this commitment to honoring all of his financial obligations.

Effective August 18, 2011
Signed, Stephen Martin, Chair, Standards & Conduct Committee_

Good Timing For Timex

One month later the second $20,000 main event of the inaugural Epic Poker League season attracted only 97 entrants, a total drop off of 40 players.

Though there were a number of factors that likely led to a poor turnout, the primary culprit seemed to be the ongoing PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), and World Poker Tour Paris coinciding. These events caused many of the European card-carrying members of the EPL to stay put and even a couple dozen American players to temporarily move abroad to play.

Of course, the smaller field size didn’t discourage the 97 who did play since they were battling less players for a part of the $400,000 overlay, which juiced the prize pool up to a whopping $2,301,200.

Only 50 players survived the first day of play and they then returned for five levels before calling it a day including defending champion Chino Rheem who was in sixth place overall.

However it was Mike “Timex” McDonald who was crowned the second Epic Poker League $20,000 main event champion. McDonald finished off the elite field at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to take home $782,410 in prize money.

The Canadian, who happens to be the youngest member of the Epic Poker League, outlasted a final table that included Nam Le, Dutch Boyd, Isaac Baron, Fabrice Soulier, David Steicke, Sean Getzwiller, and the seemingly inhuman poker machine Erik Seidel, who now has nearly $6.3 million in earnings for 2011. McDonald battled it out with Steicke at the end of the eight-max event, as the Australian took $506,260 for his runner-up finish. On the final hand of play McDonald’s A-4 held against Steicke’s K-2.

“I couldn’t have a better birthday gift than this,” said McDonald, who would soon after turn 22. “It was a tough day, against tough players at the table. The Epic Poker League is extremely competitive and it’s rare I’m at a table where I feel that many of the players are better than myself.”

The final results were:
First Mike McDonald $782,410
Second David Paul Steicke $506,260
Third Fabrice Soulier $299,160
Fourth Erik Seidel $184,100
Fifth Nam Le $126,570
Sixth Isaac Baron $92,050
Seventh Sean Getzwiller $69,040
Eighth Dutch Boyd $57,530

Chino Rheem did not make the final table of the event but the poker world remains interested in this new development in the game — the Standards & Conduct Committee — which is likely to throw up some interesting moral and ethical scenarios over the coming months. ♠