Weekly Poker Update: October 12, 2020

Weekly Poker Update The Midway Poker Tour Logo

Most poker tournament play has been relegated to the online arena over the past several months. The necessary health protocols that need to go into place for a live tournament are costly and still quite can’t ensure the safety for players stuck in an indoor location for hours at a time. It’s just the way it has to be right now until things change.

Perhaps that’s why the promise of a new poker tour starting up in the middle of all this, with actual live tournaments as the driving force, should have been met with an air of skepticism. Ironically enough, the health concerns weren’t the problems that wreaked so much havoc on the Midway Poker Tour’s inaugural event last weekend. Instead, it seemed to be lack of coordination between the Tour’s founders and the charitable organization that was part of the tournament.

Nothing Gold or Silver Can Stay

For an excellent overview of the entire debacle, PokerNews gives the exact blow-by-blow rundown from a reporter who was on site during the event. But for the sake of our little recap here, we’ll explain the highs—or as the case may be, the lows—of the whole affair.

The Midway Poker Tour was intended to be a way back into the live tournament world and an attempt to be a player-friendly alternative to other tours. To start things off, an $1,100 buy-in and $100,000 guaranteed event was held at Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove in socially-distanced ballrooms.

When all was said and done, there were 266 entrants over the opening two days on October 2nd and 3rd, putting the total purse at $258,020, well over the initial guarantee. After the prize structure was calculated, 31 players were guaranteed at least $2,300, with the winner grabbing a total of $55,060.

That’s pretty good scratch for what was meant to be a regional-type tour. And it certainly would have been a promising start for the overall enterprise, were it not for some folks not reading the fine print before moving forward.

The event was held in conjunction with the charity 4 KIDS Sake, Inc. And that charity aspect is what caused the big issue.

Midway Poker Tour Promotion

It turns out Illinois gambling laws limit any type of cash payback in such an event to $500 above the initial buy-in. In other words, the most that players could walk away with in cash was $1,600, below the minimum and well below what the top performers were supposed to get.

This little hitch appears to have been noticed only at the last-minute by both tour leaders and charity workers. The solution was something that had been used by other events: combine the cash with precious metals which could then be exchanged for cash. But there were a few problems with that.

First of all, many of the players were unaware of this setup until they went to collect their winnings where notified. Not to worry, said organizers. The plan was to have a little bit of metal on site that would be sort of handed from player to player as they cashed out on the premises.

Illinois law insists that the metals can’t be just a sort of holding prize to be passed around, but that there would have to be enough for each winner to have possession of the actual winning amount. And it also stipulates that there could not be an on-site exchange. Basically, nothing that the organizers hoped to pull off was allowable.

A wild scramble to acquire over $200,000 in silver at least got the prizes to the players. But that also meant that they would have to be responsible for the effort of exchanging this silver on their own, with variable rates and fees complicating that process even further. In essence, the winners had to do more work to get the cash they earned at the tables.

The founder of Midway Poker Tour has since promised to all the players involved that all would be made right (and apparently that process has already begun). Still, it’s hard to imagine that this tour will be able to rev up the momentum it needs to try this again.

Oh, by the way, Renato Spahiu ended up winning the event. It’s never a good sign when who wins the thing is the least important part of a poker tournament story.)

In any case, we’ll have to wait and see if other real money poker tours (if any more of them decide to try their luck in this difficult environment for such events) can learn from the example here of what not to do. If not, they might want to hire a lawyer to check the landscape and make sure their players will be properly paid.

Postle Pushes Back

A few weeks ago, we told you about the saga of Mike Postle, a poker pro accused of cheating by many of his peers. Posner was called out after an incredible hot streak, fueled by unorthodox play, took place in a Sacramento casino during live-streamed events over about a year-long period.

Mike Postle Live Stream Poker Game

His accusers could never pinpoint how Postle pulled off the alleged cheating, which they assumed was fueled by his having access to the other players’ hole cards. Nor was any evidence ever uncovered of any misconduct during these tables. (Theories ranged from the information being passed to his cell phone to a transmitter hidden beneath his baseball cap.)

The scandal hasn’t shown any signs of letting up. And Postle is trying to fight back now by filing a $330 million lawsuit against some of his accusers. Some big names are included as defendants, including top poker pros Daniel Negreanu and Phil Galfond, as well as ESPN, who reported on the story.

The gist of Postle’s complaints is that the defendants made claims about his cheating even if they knew they were false. It falls in line with Postle’s previous insistence that the entire cheating story was a conspiracy against him.

Veronica Brill, who was a commentator on the controversial livestreams and brought the accusations into the spotlight through social media, is also on the defendant’s list. She told Wired magazine that she is hoping to fight the lawsuit and eventually get into court where facts will come forward. Don’t be surprised if you continue to hear a lot about this story in the coming months.