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Illinois Poker Tournament Players Shorted On Unusual Silver Payouts

State Law Surrounding Charitable Gaming Forced Tournament Organizers To Pay Majority Of Prize Pool In Precious Metals, Which Were Undervalued By 30 Percent

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A charity poker tournament in Illinois is in hot water with poker players after participants were shorted in their prize pool payouts.

Over the weekend, the Midway Poker Tour hosted its inaugural tournament at the Sheraton Hotel in Elk Grove, Illinois. The buy-in was $1,100 with a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool, and part of the rake was earmarked for a charity dedicated to helping children.

After two starting flights and 226 entries, 31 players returned on Sunday for day 2 of the event, where all players were guaranteed an in-the-money finish of at least $2,300.

This is where a typical poker tournament became anything but. According to Illinois state law surrounding charitable gaming, players could only receive $500 in cash on top of the return of their buy-in. The remainder of their payout must be awarded in prizes, which in this instance was silver bars and coins. Anyone that cashed would receive $1,600 in cash and the rest in the equivalent amount of the precious metal.

But this key information wasn’t publicized and many of the players who finished in the money were unaware that they would be receiving silver, according to a post on a popular poker forum.

“Apparently they bought a bunch of precious metals from some guy and were planning on having him on-site to immediately convert the precious metals to cash. But then the Attorney General found out about this and said they absolutely cannot convert the precious metals on site as it would be illegal.”

The owner and founder of the newly created tour, Dan Bekavac, was not at the tournament during pay outs and was effectively unreachable for most of the day, prompting many to question his legitimacy as a tour operator.

To make matters worse, in addition to not being able to quickly flip the silver for cash, players realized that they weren’t being awarded the correct amount, either. The silver amounts awarded were coming up short by about 30 percent of market price of $24 an ounce.

“As I’m leaving the hotel, the guy who was in the cash out line in front of me is telling me how the coins are only worth $700,” wrote the poster. “So we’re being shorted 30 percent?”

AMPM.999, the Wisconsin-based company that sold the poker tour the metals, said in a statement that the metals were valued above the spot price.

“At 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, we got a call looking for help because the tournament runners found out that they could not pay out cash and needed precious metals for the ‘prize,’” said the company. “They said they needed $200,000 in silver. We had almost half of that on hand. On the way to the tournament, we found a dealer that agreed to provide us the rest of it, which we purchased and then sold to tournament organizers. We had agreed on a price as what we had on hand was mostly premium silver, most of it retailing from $30-$40 per ounce.”

After a lengthy debate, the remaining players decided to play out the tournament and Renato Spahiu took it down for a “prize value” of $55,060.

In the aftermath of the tournament, the series’ Facebook page made several posts about the debacle and said that that anyone that was shorted will be reimbursed.

“Even after losing $58,000, I’m still working to pay these guys out that we’re shorted,” said Bekavac. “Sell your prizes and show me receipts. I will try my best to make everyone whole. Inbox me.”

The post showed a screenshot of a text from “Sami” that said he or she was shorted $900 and followed immediately by a $900 Apple Pay receipt. The most recent post on the page reads, “Again anyone who did not get paid in full by the charity send us a direct message and we will make you whole.”