BY RUSS SCOTT
MAY 26, 2009
WSOP STRENGTHENS PLAYER CONDUCT RULES FOR 2009
We know 57 bracelets will be awarded starting this week at the 40th annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, but it remains to be seen how many players will run afoul of promised tougher enforcement against abusive language and inappropriate behavior.
The reality is, some players don’t give a bleep about the rules. They just keep breaking them.
The 2009 crackdown on conduct can be traced directly to the unfortunate behavior of two high-profile players last year — Phil Hellmuth in the main event and Scotty Nguyen in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. (mixed games) tournament honoring the late Chip Reese. The nastiness was captured for TV audiences.
Hellmuth’s rant against Cristian Dragomir came when the Romanian won a 573,000-chip pot holding 10-4 suited against Hellmuth’s A-K offsuit. Dragomir called Hellmuth’s big pre-flop re-raise, then bet out 300,000 on a 10-9-7 flop. Hellmuth folded.
“This is how I lose my money to some idiot,” Hellmuth said after Dragomir proudly showed his weak starting hand. “Buddy, you’re an idiot is what you are. This guy is the worst player in history and they (spectators) are cheering. You are an idiot. Did you see what this idiot just did?”
Hellmuth, who holds a record 11 bracelets and ranks eighth on the all-time WSOP money list with more than $6 million in winnings, received a warning for verbal abuse but no penalty.
Nguyen’s actions were worse. He appeared to violate at least eight rules covering disruptive behavior, repeated foul language, excessive celebration, etiquette, exposing cards, and collusion. In a setting where just one f-bomb can land a penalty, Nguyen posted his victory unscathed by officials.
WSOP brass knew something had to be done for 2009.
“We saw a couple of things last year that we weren’t too pleased with or proud of and recognized that some changes needed to be made,” said WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack during a recent media conference call. “We believe that we’ve set in motion a structure for those changes.”
Tournament director Jack Effel said the most important change is a penalty tracking system which will keep a computerized record of every infraction radioed back to a central station. “If we see that a person has been issued a warning or a penalty before, we’ll be able to assess the appropriate escalating penalty,” Effel said.
“The communication wasn’t there” last year, Effel acknowledged. Faced with a huge area to cover in the Rio Casino’s Amazon Room, long days of competition, and many supervisors making separate decisions, Effel said officials realized the need for a “central database location where we can track all the warnings and penalties.”
Pollack called the new system “a quantum leap forward. And I think it’s going to have a good result. But as with everything, it’s going to be a work in progress.”
The commissioner noted that “inappropriate conduct” actually is a rare event at the WSOP. “We’re talking about a limited number of incidents and a handful of players over the course of a tournament that runs 50 days and last year had 58,000 registrants,” he said.
“Our intention is to make sure that the behavior of a few does not impact the experience of the many,” Pollack said. “We want a tournament that continues to be conducted in a civil, courteous and comfortable manner for all concerned.”
The key to achieving that rests with floor supervisors, who this year have received additional training and a new penalty option. “We have added a one-hand penalty this year,” Effel said. Penalty choices now include a verbal warning, sitting out from one-hand to four rounds, disqualification and expulsion.
“We will be watching, we’ll be tabulating, and we will be enforcing,” said Effel.
But are Phil, Scotty and other rule-breakers listening? We’ll know soon enough.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
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