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Gossip Column: Controversial Ruling Creates Stir at EPT Barcelona & Joseph Stiers Sues WSOP

Kristen Bicknell and Joseph Stiers
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  • PG News August 25, 2018
  • 6 Mins Read

Poker and controversy seem to go hand in hand, but that also serves the purpose for this edition of the PokerGuru Gossip Column.

Sports and controversy have had a long-standing relationship. While some controversies are created, others appear out of the blue. The latter is more appropriate for the incident that took place during Day 1 at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona High Roller resulting in a chopped pot between Enrico Coppola and Kristen Bicknell. What happened you ask? Well, you can just read our first story for all the juicy details.

And while you are reading up on the controversial chopped pot, you can regale yourself with the next story which is also of a contentious nature. This time it’s the world’s biggest poker festival that has found itself in the unfavourable limelight. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is being sued by Maryland-based poker pro Joseph Stiers and the man has a lot to say about his wrongful removal from the 2017 Main Event.

Controversial Ruling Plagues EPT Barcelona High Roller Day 1

While challenges were aplenty during the EPT Barcelona High Roller, Day 1 brought a particularly intense and controversial hand. At Level 4, Louis Nyberg raised from under the gun and Enrico Coppola called. Kristen Bicknell then 3-bet from the button and Nyberg folded while Coppola made the call.

Kristen Bicknell
Kristen Bicknell

All was well till this point when the dealer inadvertently dropped the deck and spread it, mixing up the folded cards. The floor was called, and the dealer was instructed to shuffle the deck and await further orders. Soon, it was announced that the pot would be chopped between Bicknell and Coppola, with two players remaining in the hand! However, the table disagreed, and the floor sought a second opinion. Finally, the ruling stood, and the pot was chopped.

The hand made quite a buzz on social media as this was going on, Christopher Kruk shared the incident on Twitter.

Within no time, there was a slew of responses. Seasoned pro Kenny Hallaert who’s the tournament director for the Unibet Open quoted the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) ruling.

Ari Engel openly disagreed with the ruling. “This does not seem like the correct ruling to me,” he said.

There were others who felt that the hand needed to play out and Ryan Beauregard, director of poker operations at Wynn Las Vegas was one of them. “They had it right the first time,” he said. “Shuffle all and continue the hand. A very common ruling actually,” Beauregard said.

David Mock also agreed. “I think you have to just use the folded cards and proceed with the hand? It just can’t be a chop.”

However, the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) states that there are some rules that are appropriate for the situation.

Rule 35 D which states, “Once substantial action occurs a misdeal cannot be declared; the hand must proceed”.

Rule 36, “Substantial Action (SA) Substantial Action is either A. any 2 actions in turn, at least one of which puts chips in the pot (i.e. any 2 actions except 2 checks or 2 folds) or B. any combination of 3 actions in turn (check, bet, raise, call, fold). Posted blinds do not count towards SA.”

According to these rules a 3-bet pot comprises of substantial action and therefore a misdeal should not have been declared. Chopping the pot wasn’t also necessarily a misdeal as chips were exchanged as a result of the hand.

Nevertheless, the recommended procedure – RP-4. Disordered Stub, which was released in 2013 may also be considered for this incident.

“When cards remain to be dealt on a hand and the stub is accidentally dropped and appears it may be disordered: 1) it is first preferable to try to reconstruct the original order of the stub if possible; 2) If not possible, try to create a new stub using only the stub cards (not the muck & prior burn cards.) These should be scrambled, shuffled, cut, & play then proceeds with the new stub; 3) If when the stub is dropped it becomes mixed in with the muck & burncards, then scramble the stub, muck & burncards together, shuffle, and cut. Play then proceeds with the new stub.”

If this procedure is applied to the situation then the ruling that was made is undoubtedly incorrect.

Joseph Stiers Sues WSOP For Main Event Ejection Ruling

Even though the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) is now over, controversy surrounding the brand still continues. According to court documents, Maryland poker pro Joseph Stiers is seeking “equitable and injunctive relief” and punitive damages from Caesars Interactive Entertainment, owner of the WSOP.

Joseph Stiers
Joseph Stiers

Stiers claims that he was ejected from the 2017 Main Event without refund from the $10,000 buy-in tournament on Day 3 with a large stack of 630,000 in chips. Stiers was previously banned from Caesars’ Horseshoe Casino in Maryland after he created a ruckus when the casino suspected him of card counting at blackjack. Horseshoe confiscated $350 in chips from him, and Maryland gaming regulators reportedly ordered the casino to refund that money.

In Stiers’ account of the WSOP Main Event story, he had left the tournament area for the scheduled dinner break when he was accosted by the casino security and Las Vegas police. At the time of his alleged ambush, Stiers was among the top nine stacks.

“I was grabbed, handcuffed, and quickly moved to a private room,”Stiers recounted.

He said that he was informed he would be disqualified from the event since he was “trespassed from all Caesars properties.”

The WSOP told him he had been barred since December 2014, but Stiers claimed that he has been playing at the WSOP in the years since his ejection from Horseshoe Baltimore, even finishing in 640th place in the 2016 Main Event for $18,000. But later clarified that he had entered the event as “Joseph Conorstiers”, which combined his middle and last names, and registered for the event as hailing from Washington, D.C., rather than Maryland.

Acting as his own legal representation, Stiers wrote, “Caesars/WSOP had always accepted my money and retained my money when I was losing poker tournaments, which totaled to over $200,000, but only enforced this trespass eviction during a tournament when I was in a position to win up to $8 million and had around $150,000 in current chip equity”.

Claiming that he is a victim of “freerolling”, Stiers blamed WSOP for the loss of his poker career.

“I can barely explain the tremendous amount of pain defendants caused me when I realized years of my hard work and dedication were for nothing,” he said.

Meanwhile, the WSOP on their part denied the accusations, whist also admitting that Stiers was in fact removed from the 2017 Main Event without refund, however, they did not give a reason for the action. The WSOP said it has the right to “raise additional defenses” as the case progresses, adding that “discovery has not yet commenced or been completed.”

And with that we conclude this edition of the PokerGuru Gossip Column. Stay tuned for more tid-bits from the poker world.

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