Monday, May 30, 2011

Bizarre decision at Venetian

See the full story here. Ultra-short version: Venetian tournament last night, drunk player was repeatedly warned about his abusive language/conduct, finally crossed the line and was disqualified from the tournament shortly before the money bubble. Some time later, another tournament official for unclear reasons decided to reverse that action and reinstate the player, AFTER the bubble had passed, causing considerable confusion, outrage, and turmoil.

The player victimized by the jerk was Danette Levick, whose face you would likely recognize even if you don't know the name. She has been a dealer on "High Stakes Poker" and "Poker After Dark" since their inception, until the most recent season. She has also been a shift supervisor at the Treasure Island poker room. Those facts have nothing to do with what happened here, but do suggest (1) that she is more knowledgeable than the average player about rules, floor decisions, and limits of acceptable conduct, and (2) that she is likely to be able to call more attention to what happened than the average player, due to her network of contacts within the industry.

Of course, I know only the side of the story posted. But even so, it's hard to imagine any rationale for allowing a player back into a tournament after being disqualified for misconduct--especially with the money bubble having been passed in the interim. That is THE major inflection point in a tournament, and radically alters how players make decisions. In almost every tournament you will see the short stacks hanging on by their fingernails to make it into the money, followed by a burst of eliminations once a cash has been locked up. To remove a player from the tournament and remove his chips from play near that bubble, then reinstate him after the bubble has burst defies reason. In effect, it rewards his bad conduct by changing what had been only a possible cash into a guaranteed one. It allows him to skip over the treacherous bubble period and the many difficult decisions that stage of a tournament entails, as if transported safely in a time machine.

Even if the bubble weren't an issue, the reinstatement is a terrible idea. If the original floor person issuing the disqualification is authorized to make such decisions without seeking the OK of the tournament director, then his decision has to be final (with the exception of the player seeking an immediate appeal to the TD, which does not seem to have been the case here). Furthermore, if I were the floor person disqualifying a player for abusive conduct, the DQ would be accompanied by security removing the player from the casino.

When I first learned of this incident last night through Danette's Twitter feed, I replied that the reinstatement was the worst tournament official decision I had ever heard of. On reflection, I decided that it was probably only the second-worst, with the title still retained by the WSOP, when it rescinded Phil Hellmuth's penalty overnight, in a patently political courtesy that no unknown player could ever hope to receive. Though maybe not the absolute worst decision ever, this one by the Venetian TD ranks right up there among the most wrongheaded, bizarre, inexplicable, and apparently indefensible.

I hope the Venetian handles this publicly, and either admits to a major screw-up or issues a detailed explanation of how what appears to be an astonishingly asinine ruling can be justified.

Addendum, May 30, 2011

I just received a call from Kathy Raymond, the Poker Room Manager . Upon hearing of the events of last night's fiasco, she fully investigated the incident and hoped to find evidence to justify the poor decision that was made. She informed me that she had spoken to all concerned and had concluded that a horrible decision had been made. The player should not have been allowed to return to the tournament after being disqualified.

To her great credit, she has admitted that the events that transpired were unacceptable. She will be handling the matter internally to ensure that the situation is not repeated.

I would like to thank Kathy for the professional and expedient way she has dealt with the matter. The situation was not handled well on the night and she has done everything possible to get to the bottom of what transpired. Floorman Jacob, did in fact make the correct ruling and should have been backed up by his superior. Sadly, this was not the case.

I accept Kathy's apology and will be returning to the room again soon.

Danette D. Levick


Adam said...

I only have the same information as you, but this is terrible. Even with only one side of the story this is ridiculously bizarre. This is the type of thing you'd expect to hear about in a small "locals" casino where Danette is the tourist and the TD knows the drunk local well, not a major Las Vegas casino.

Regardless of whether or not a TD can overrule a penalty or DQ given by the floor, I don't know how you can make the decision many hands later -- after the bubble in this case -- or reinstate a player without giving the table and the dealer a full explanation of what's going on, even if just in layman's terms.

Specifics here aside, one of the things that would greatly improve integrity of poker and the players' experience would be if dealers and floor people enforced the rules in tournaments and issued more warnings and penalties. I generally see a rules violation every other tournament I play and don't think I've ever seen a warning. Generally I mean violation of one player to a hand but where alcohol is involved player conduct is a big issue as well.

Danette said...

While I have been so disappointed with dealers and floor decisions of late, I often keep my mouth shut these days as it seems to serve no purpose anymore...last night was a HUGE exception. Thank you for your blog post Robert.

Apology accepted! :)