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Imagine you entered a tournament with a guarantee as plum as $250K, with $50K kept aside for the winner, and you even played a starting flight only to find out that the remaining starting flights and the prize pool guarantee stand canceled. Sounds unbelievable in the super-professional poker industry, but this is what happened at the Los Angeles-based Hustler Casino earlier this week.
The poker venue has earned quite the reputation for its “Hustler Casino Live,” live-streamed cash game poker show produced by Ryan Feldman and Nick Vertucci.
However, the casino’s questionable move to cancel a widely advertised tournament mid-way has been a big letdown for poker players of the region.
Starting July 17, the casino hosted the $400K GTD Larry Flynt’s Grand Slam of Poker Memorial Tournament series. The event in question was the finale, a $350 buy-in event that began with the first of its 12 starting flights on July 31. Four starting flights played out, and 123 players registered, with nine advancing to Day 2. Earlier today, the casino tweeted it was calling off the rest of the flights due to “unexpected circumstances.”
The venue clarified that all players who played the tournament would be refunded their buy-in, and the collected prize pool of $27,000 would be in play for the nine survivors on Day 2. The worst part was that the venue pulled back the $250K guarantee.
‼️ Important Announcement ‼️ Prize Pool will be played on August 8th at 1PM! pic.twitter.com/Bt7cViCWur
— HUSTLER Casino (@HUSTLERCASINOLA) August 2, 2022
As shocked players and poker club owners like Doug Polk reacted, the casino later promised to refund all the players who had registered for the event.
The casino came out with a statement that it will give a “full refund for all players who registered in the $250k,” while the Day 2 qualifiers will “still (be) playing for the prize pool” – a $27,000 freeroll.
Poker tournaments getting canceled is nothing new. Earlier this year, the Las Vegas-based Orleans Poker Room canceled a $250K GTD NLHE Championship. Last December, the Social Club in Houston canned a planned tournament series before shutting down. But none of these events had begun, let alone completing multiple starting flights. Once the event takes off, it’s considered poor ethics to call it off or renegade on the advertised guarantee.
The two-time WSOP bracelet winner Ari Engel underlined the same point in his tweet. “Cancelling a guarantee mid-tournament by a semi-prominent American casino.. didn’t think I’d see that in 2022,” Engel said.
Cancelling a guarantee mid tournament by a semi prominent American casino.. didn’t think I’d see that in 2022 https://t.co/13nV0Ly6Ew
— Ari Engel (@AriEngelPoker) August 3, 2022
It was all the more unacceptable since the casino did not share any reason for canceling the tournament.
Poker watchdog Todd Witteles pointed out – “Can you guys explain further? Was there a major earthquake in LA that I don’t know about? If you simply didn’t draw enough people for it, pay the guarantee and never do them again.”
High-stakes pro Adam Hendrix quickly pointed out that “unexpected circumstances” quoted by the casino needed a better explanation, “Not a good look for a casino that hosts one of the biggest streamed games constantly.”
Need a little better explanation than "unexpected circumstances" when you slash a guarantee of a tournament that has people that already bagged. Not a good look for a casino that hosts one of the biggest streamed games constantly. https://t.co/ZwbcobWuRT
— Adam Hendrix (@AdamHendrix10) August 3, 2022
Doug Polk, who became a partner in Austin’s The Lodge Poker Club and Card Room in January, said the club canceling the guarantee was simply unheard of. The once retired poker pro claimed his club lost $625K in guarantees in May in the Lodge Championship Series but ponied up the loss.
We were ambitious with our guarantees at @LodgePokerClub in our championship series this year and the result was we lost 625k in guarantees in May. But we honored our guarantees and sucked it up.
Hanging poker players out to dry like this is unacceptable. https://t.co/KfxOh68cGf
— Doug Polk (@DougPolkVids) August 3, 2022
Director of Poker Operations for ARIA poker, Sean McCormack, said, “If you plan a big guarantee event that you could potentially miss, place an entry threshold for guarantee activation in the rules which sets a maximum loss the house is willing to take. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s transparent to players.”
Re: Tournament Guarantees
If you plan a big guarantee event that you could potentially miss, place an entry threshold for guarantee activation in the rules which sets a maximum loss the house is willing to take. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s transparent to players.
— Sean McCormack (@ThePokerBoss) August 3, 2022
Rob Yong, the owner of the UK’s famous Dusk Till Dawn poker club, chimed in – “Just pay. Plus amazing how many times everyone turns up on last day expecting added value, so you’re never dead if you have enuf tables.”
Hustler Casino Apologizes
Responding to the widespread player outrage, General Manager of Hustler Casino, Shaun Yaple, tweeted a video explaining that a “bigger club stepped on us after we released our schedule” and that “(it is) better to re-group and plan for the future (than) head off a cliff.”
But Polk still didn’t find the reason acceptable. He replied, “the reality of running tournaments is if another club announces a tournament, you ride it out.”
The reality of running tournaments is if another club announces a tournament you ride it out. Lose money? Regroup and make a new strategy.
It isn't the players responsibility for you to hit your guarantee.
— Doug Polk (@DougPolkVids) August 3, 2022
Yaple later told PokerNews – “(I) knew the decision to cancel the 250k would be heavily scrutinized” and had “explored alternate plans” like adding extra flights to the event, but that wasn’t feasible.
“Our size was a factor. We cannot support (a) large volume of players if we heavily advertised an overlay for the last couple of days.”
According to him, after considering all the available options, the casino decided to cancel the tournament while only four flights had run so that the least number of players would be impacted.
The event’s cancellation has drawn a lot of bad blood, and the timing couldn’t have been worse since the casino is celebrating the first anniversary of its super-hit Hustler Casino Live show.
Realizing the damage made by the announcement, Yaple, along with Hustler Casino Live producers Nick Vertucci and Ryan Feldman, put up a video apologizing to the players, with the promise “to do a large tournament (where) Hustler Casino will add $50k to the prize pool.”
— HUSTLER Casino (@HUSTLERCASINOLA) August 4, 2022
The casino had earlier announced a live-streamed game for Wednesday, featuring an all-star line of poker stars like Garrett Adelstein and Wesley Fei, marking the first anniversary of the Hustler Casino Live show.
We have over $1 MILLION on the table already in a $25/50/100 game!! https://t.co/R9DM7qv5ug
— Hustler Casino Live (@HCLPokerShow) August 4, 2022
Will the casino be able to tide over the poker community’s negative perception, or will this sour incident cause permanent damage to the reputation of the venue remains to be seen.