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Hustler Casino Faces Backlash For Canceling $250,000 Guaranteed Poker Event Mid-Tournament

Los Angeles Cardroom Cites Competition From Nearby Poker Rooms As Reason

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The Hustler Casino in Los Angeles is under fire from poker players this week after canceling a tournament with a $250,000 guarantee.

In the poker world, guarantees are sacred. It’s a promise made by the casino to attract players, and those players buy in knowing the minimum prize pool they will be fighting over regardless of how many enter the field.

Canceling a tournament guarantee is rare, but not completely unheard of. Hustler Casino, however, took things a step further by doing it after the event had already started.

“Due to unexpected circumstances, we have decided to cancel our remaining dates for our tournament series and the $250,000 guarantee. We will still play day 2 for the players that have already qualified and they will be playing for the current prize pool,” Hustler Casino announced.

The event was part of Larry Flynt’s Grand Slam of Poker Memorial Tournament, and had a $350 buy-in with 12 different starting flights. Even if the casino were to not collect a rake and pay staff fees out of their own pocket instead of the prize pool, they would need at least 715 players to meet the guarantee.

Through the first four starting flights, there was just 123 that had registered. Flights day 1C and 1D drew 15 and 17 players, respectively.

Facing the prospect of a six-figure overlay, the casino instead decided to finish the event as-is, with no additional prize pool. It was a move that obviously did not sit well with the rest of the poker community.

When pressed for a reason for the cancelation, Hustler Casino General Manager Shaun Yaple said that a “bigger club stepped on us after we released our schedule. Better to re-group and plan for the future than head off a cliff.”

That excuse also didn’t work for poker players, who pointed out that the “bigger club” in question, the Parkwest Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, has been running their Legends of Poker series every August for several years, except during the pandemic.

Regardless, citing unexpected competition will get no sympathy from poker players, nor other rooms that have had to eat huge losses for ambitious guarantees. New Texas cardroom owner Doug Polk pointed out on Twitter that his Lodge Poker Club lost $625,000 in overlays this May.

The biggest overlay remains the $2.5 million that the Seminole Hard Rock in South Florida paid out for their very ambitious $10 million guaranteed Hard Rock Poker Open in 2014.

After hearing the almost-entirely negative feedback, the casino relented and decided to apologize by completely refunding back the players their buy-ins, while also allowing them to compete for the money in the existing prize pool, worth about $27,000. Yaple also stated that the poker room would be hosting an event in the future with $50,000 added the prize pool.

“It was definitely the wrong decision and I apologize,” said Yaple. “We want to make it right.”

The move to reimburse the players was spearheaded by Hustler Casino Live operators Nick Vertucci and Ryan Feldman, who stream live cash games and would undoubtedly be affected by the hit to the property’s reputation.

This summer, the Orleans in Las Vegas took some heat for dropping their own $250,000 guaranteed event, although they axed it the day before it started. Other events, even online, have been criticized for adding starting flights or extending registration windows in order to avoid overlays.