Player Down: Miami John Cernuto Falls from Table

by , Jun 23, 2009 | 6:58 pm

The $2,500 Razz event came to an abrupt halt today when Miami John Cernuto collapsed at the table. Apparently action was on him, at first people thought he was asleep, and then someone said I don’t think he’s breathing … at which point they kinda poked him, and he fell to the ground felt.

Tournament officials stopped the clock and cleared the area while paramedics rushed to attend to him. No official medical report yet, but it appeared to be a heart attack. However, in the end, about 40 minutes later, he appeared to be OK. Like an injured athlete being carried off the field of play, Cernuto waved to the crowd and received an ovation as he left the Brasilia room and was calling someone on his cell phone en route to the hospital.

Pokerati was there to try to show how a major tournament handles such incidents — and though we know this matter isn’t about “us”, we apologize for the unclear photographs snapped before being expelled from the premises for trying to bring you the story:

Also apologies to those — all of you, as far as I can tell — who think publishing something like this is “inappropriate”. I respectfully disagree and welcome the debate on how much “reality” poker people should see.

Cernuto’s stack remains in play — about 14,000, making him one of the shortest stacks with 49 players remaining (out of 315) and 32 getting paid.

UPDATE: Word from Miami John on his health situation and recovery. (It wasn’t a heart attack.)

74 Comments to “Player Down: Miami John Cernuto Falls from Table”

  1. scott diamond

    BJ Nemeth said, The debate in this thread is about the photos, and only the photos. Dan’s attempt to take them, and security’s attempt to stop him. That’s it.

    Scott Diamond said, I wonder if the Rio would of treated you the same way, say if it were me or any other no name.

    Also I think the debate should be how the Personnel of the Rio acted.

    Was it proper? Or overboard. I think if the rio security and floor would of said in a normal tone. Sir, please step back no photos right now professionally to dan he would not be this upset.

    I have had to deal with bigger situations like this in my career and I always try depending on the siyuation to talk professionaly. Now when i am dealing with a bunch of gangsters in Compton, well it’s different, or in an an emergent situation such as the Metrolink crash last September or the MacArthur Park riots but those are different types of individuals and situations.

    This is the Rio not the Ghetto

  2. scott diamond

    Jen I am talking regarding taking the pictures, not how the medical staff responded.

  3. California Jen

    Wow. Wow. Wow. This is a discussion for another place and another time, but the “ghetto” (however you define that word) and the Rio should be treated exactly the same way. Anything else is called discrimination.

  4. Ed

    Has the Rio changed? When I visited LV back in ’98 and went to the Rio it felt very ghetto-y.

  5. scott diamond

    Ok Jen one of these days you will have to go on a ride along with me to see what I am talking about, I have never discriminated against ANYONE it’s just a different world and you cannot be using “SIR” when dealing with certain individuals( true gang members) you will get no respect

  6. DanM

    Actually every member of the media, poker or otherwise, should go on a police ride-along. Awesome, eye-opening experience.

  7. BJ Nemeth

    How is it relevant to someone in the poker media? Unless you’re arguing that *everyone* should go on a police ride-along, media or not.

    But then you’re caught up in the trap of all sorts of things — Everyone should see “The Godfather.” Everyone should see the Grand Canyon. Everyone should witness the miracle of child birth. Everyone should backpack across Europe. Everyone should learn a foreign language. Everyone should …

  8. DanM

    ***Everyone should see “The Godfather.” Everyone should see the Grand Canyon. Everyone should witness the miracle of child birth. Everyone should backpack across Europe. Everyone should learn a foreign language.***

    I agree with all of the above.

  9. scott diamond

    Wow what happened to all the Love?

    I think what Dan is trying to say, media is media whether Poker or TV,Papers etc.

    Anything that educates someone on anything has to be good, right?

  10. DanM

    yes, and i went on my first of many ride-alongs in high school … forever changed my life. taught me not to believe what i see on the news, and in general that there’s always another story behind someone’s life.

    also taught me that gunfire is something to run to, not away from. (though you should, of course, duck.)

  11. DanM

    with that said, i probably shouldn’t tell Deputy Diamond that the rest of my education came from Compton-based gangsta rap.

  12. scott diamond

    Not to change the topic here, But thank you Dan for understanding. I just had my 23rd anniversary Sunday as a LA County Deputy Sheriff. I have been shot, stabbed,spit on hit, kicked plus hospitalized along with 5 surgeries (all in the last 5 years)One citizen complaint.

    I may not be a professional in the Poker world(media or Player) but I do ok in my world.(Law Enforcement and Daddy) 🙂

  13. scott diamond

    Funny you should say that Dan, oh by the way I have a few pictures of me doing my job..There hanging on the wall at Compton station!

    Anytime you want to go on a ride here, let me know

  14. Robert Goldfarb

    Dan, get real. You don’t display your strike-through snarkery every time you have a typo. You seem to be okay with editing those secretly, submarine or whatever you want to call it. They ONLY appear when you are trying to be funny or make a point. You might be fooling yourself, but you aren’t fooling the readers.

  15. Poker Shrink

    2+2 or Pokerati? Hard to tell in this thread.

    Dan supports Iranian fundamentalists! I can tell because he thinks freedom depends on photographs that tell the truth.

    Off with his head or buy him a beer, there appears to be no middle ground. Now back to Fox News, I mean CNN.

  16. DanM

    OK, where to begin …

    1. Ed, I think we may need numbered comments on Pokerati.

    2. To be clear, the WSOP in no way tried to *censor* me, though I did get pulled aside for a talking to that would leave me feeling really guilty had things turned out differently.

    3. The Rio security guy was just doing his job, even though I dispute his interpretation of his duties just as he disputes my interpretation of mine. I did not realize who he was, btw — thought he was a floor guy — and thus did not properly respect his authority and owe him an apology for that. However, I’ve always been more of a question-authority kinda guy anyhow. And because I was outside the ropes, not in them, I felt (and still feel) that my rights as a public citizen at a public event were in play.

    4. Yes, the WSOP is a public event, despite it’s being on private property. Though I know laws vary by state — and I am researching them further to update my own knowledge — I did find this ( ):

    In the 1940s, the Supreme Court took on the issue of “company towns” with regard to the First Amendment. Although the company town was private property owned by the company, the fact that it had been opened up to use by the public generally made it subject to the constitutional requirements of the First Amendment. Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946).

    While obv not the end-all-be-all in relevant case law, it is that “one thing” BJ refers to, and a starting point for future conversations. Many such laws will likely be challenged in the coming decade+ as the courts figure out how to handle a twitterfied citizenry that has the ability to insta-publish.

    4. ***Dan was not some “lone wolf” reporter, the only one with the guts to publish this story. The Miami John incident was described EVERYWHERE, from Twitter to Wicked Chops to Tao of Poker to the official live updates at ***

    With the appropriate disclaimer that I highly respect what BJ says and does … BJ, everything you photograph is covered EVERYWHERE. Are you saying that your photos have no relevance? You know they do, no matter how many people report on the same things.

    5. Let’s not forget, this is not the first time Pokerati has published a photo of a player on the ground in a similar position. Remember Eskimo Clark ’07? I ran into the same resistance trying to take that photo — only it was given by official WSOP photogs, not security. Obviously that was a who-are-you-get-the-fug-outta-my-way situation; I am happy that I have made peace with one of the principals I scuffled with that day, and don’t lose any sleep over the fact that the other guy and Eskimo won’t give me the time of day ever since.

    6. Who it was on the ground and why makes no difference to me. Though if it were Tom Schneider lying on the floor, I probably woulda fought even harder to keep photographing as much as I could. And that is kinda the issue(s) here. Fair enough clearing the area to all medics to do their work. But at that point, security shouldn’t worry itself what’s going on outside the contained area. The police understand this at every crime scene. (Why do you think they cover dead bodies?) Had I been able to act like any other citizen in that outside-the-ropes area, I woulda had better pictures to choose from, as well as the option to not publish any. I still had the latter option, I suppose, but that’s where my tilt factor came in.

    7. I wonder what woulda happened had more people in the poker media shared my viewpoint and tried to ignore the “hey, no photos, declaration.” my guess is there would be at least on great, tasteful shot that everyone would use, and we wouldn’t be having this debate.

    8. Factoring into my insta-decisions probably were some of my general beefs with poker media. For example, I really wish my colleagues wouldn’t clap at press conferences. even for the PPA. yes, we are all biased on the issue they champion, but that’s all the more reason to question, not cheerlead for a group that controls millions of poker dollars in a way that affects all our readers.

    9. Though I am thankful that some members in the media (and posters on Pokerati) have a heart, I do not think it was appropriate for one member of the media to stop a couple european photogs from taking pictures. leave that to security unless they are paying you to do their job. Yes we are all on the same team, but no we are not really.

    10. While all this may seem cold-hearted on my part … hey, I’m sorry. I have spent many hours debating and discussing how to handle even more difficult situations. For example, if it’s you and one shot person … do you try to help save their life or do you capture their death? My personal standards would be to first try to assist — humanity first — and then worry about doing your job — self-interest second. However, if say they are bleeding profusely and you can stop the blood with your fingers, there’s nothing wrong with using your free hand to also snap a pic. In this situation, paramedics already had control of the matter and were attending to the life at hand. With those experts in place, there was no reason for me to worry about my own abilities to save a life … so there was nothing wrong with my getting back to work, so long as i didn’t inhibit those first-responders from doing their job, which all the other press who were standing with me outside the ropes know is the case.

    11. Two mornings ago I changed the “inspirational” profile song on my Facebook page to “Back the Fuck Up” by Fear Factory … Ironic coincidence, but obv. heavy metal music is to blame.

    12. Robert, with all due respect, back-the-fuck-up! typos, misspellings, etc. are one thing. but when i make a reporting mistake i never try to hide it. you can believe i was trying to be snarky, but i know deep down inside i was trying to be accurate. had i discovered that error (that he fell to the table when nudged, not to the floor, for example) in a matter of minutes and with no comments, then yes, i probably woulda just submarine edited.

    13. ***I think if the rio security and floor would of said in a normal tone. Sir, please step back no photos right now professionally to dan he would not be this upset.***

    Again, just to be clear, that’s exactly what the first security guard said and did. I informed him that he would need someone higher up to tell me that, because I would not be listening to such a directive. I did not push forward (my intent wasn’t to get past the ropes), but I did try to change the settings on my camera to allow me to get a clearer picture from afar. That’s when the head of Rio security came to me (I thought he was a floor supervisor) and told me the same thing. I again said I would not be listening to his directive as I had a job to due (and obviously we didn’t have time to assemble an ad-hoc committee to arbitrate). At that point he told me “this is private property” and that he will have me removed. At this point, thanks to a poker agent actually, who said “pick a different battle, dan”, I realized this was not a fight I could win at this point and thus I left the Brasilia Room and began looking for other ways I could get in and get the picture I wanted, but I was unsuccessful at that.

    So there you have it. I think that covers about everything. Though I know I am in the minority here, I still stand by my underlying principles, though I would handle a few things differently if it were to happen again. And I think the end results would be the same — just with a better hedline and picture.

    It should be noted that security did not tell anyone to put their notepads down. Nor did they institute any ban on audio recording. Pen and paper, voice recorders, cameras … the internet … these are the tools of our trade. How we use them inside the ropes is often influenced by rules related to media business deals, and those of us given media privileges (mostly) respect that. How they are used outside the ropes is a matter of “rights” — so long as you don’t use a flash.

    You guys are welcome to carry on this debate — really, I think it’s a worthwhile one to have — but if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go back to leading what I like to think is Pokerati’s unique brand of coverage … helping you readers not in town feel like you are at the WSOP, and for those who are here have a better understanding of what’s really going on.

  17. scott diamond

    When they pulled you aside Dan did they tell you to hold out your hand so they could slap it?

    Goodnight Dan 🙂

  18. Lillian2611

    You did the right thing.

    This debate occurred very early in my college journalism program. About six weeks into my first year, a cyclist crossed an intersection against the traffic lights and was hit by a ginormous tour bus. The rider had no helmet and probably died instantly despite the relatively slow speed of the bus at the time (30mph at MOST).
    The program whose classroom neighbored ours was for paramedics; their entire student body, of course, ran to the scene to work on the cyclist.
    We sent one student. He and the professional photographers and cameramen from nearby news agencies endured ironic jeers from the crowd as they did their jobs. Later that afternoon we learned that even the paramedicine students had been tilted by my classmate’s participation.

    Taking those kinds of pictures, I now know, is one of the hardest things a photographer/reporter can do. Not only are we aware of the disapproval, we have the same emotional responses to danger and tragedy as everyone else.

    The thing is, the job means you take the pictures now and make editorial decisions about them later. But if you don’t take them, you can’t make choices about whether or not to publish.

    The photos here are quite benign, in my view, and publishing them was not a bad decision. They document a real-life event without compromising Cernuto’s dignity. I believe we’ve all seen much more graphic material online – Iran’s Neda, anyone?

    Thank you for getting what you could. If I’d been there I would have tried to see at least as much of what was going on and I won’t pretend otherwise.

  19. melissa h

    interesting discussion here.

    i think both bj and dan are right/wrong here.

    u know a grt photographer takes pictures first and asks questions later. also for the most part a photog rarely decides whats published. the editor does, thats why we have them and thats a good thing. cooler heads prevail and objectivity stays in check.

    if your decision to make a photo of someone or something is based on youre personal feelings then you need to have a chat w/urself.

    making photo choices based on who you like or dont like when trying to record events as they unfold in a journalistic manner is the path to paparazzi photography.

    tabloids have an agenda. they seek out a celeb and try to make a photo that will “fit” a story. usually a concocted story, but, a story none the less.

    in the case of the wsop, are you looking for photos that present the wsop in a “certain” light or is your objective to record events as they unfold?

    as a photographer and as one whos known miami john for 12yrs being in dans position would have been tough for me. if i was covering the series, in a manner that bj has been ala the globes big picture, then the shots are absolutly necessary and i would have been able to make them knowing i was doing my job.
    i would have made the one on the floor, the thumbs up, and if i missed the thumbes up i would have got the into the ambulance one w/caption noting thumbs up.

    from a personal side the only thing i may have done was call (or have a team member) call mrs. cernuto to advise her that images of her husband would be online and to pls. advise her family.

    ive been in spots where i shown someone in what could be perceived a violation of privacy and on the rare times its occured ive done my best to proceed with as much compassion as possible.

    i also have put away my camera many times out of respect, but, the second ive done that -story over. as a photographer when ive done that ive failed to do my job properly.

    i thinks its a difficult spot to be in but if youre going to the wsop to cover the series unless you want to be the guy making party pictures the kinds of shots like miami falling will present themselves.

    as for the writers who say it could be written no photo necessary, that doesnt work if ur a photog. almost all events can be written and many are written (if ur a good writer) better than the photos.

    the public vs private spaces arguement is a valid one (at least legally) but have you all notice how many public events have been occuring in “private” places?

    for so long photographers were treated like heros and protected from danger. during wars or any kind of conflicts they would come thru wearing the words PRESS and were safe.
    then came the days of killing journalists, and now just shutting them out completely. china, iran, iraq etc.

    here in the US if your going to shoot an event your only credentialed if you make photos that the event promoters want.
    if you show anything they deem unfavorable your out.

    i reccomend that you all sit down quietly and look at the current iran election photos.
    u can view them here: (

    that includes the murder of the woman known as neda. altho this is different it clearly illustrates the importance of pics and being able to take them. almost every shot of the struggle in iran photos show someone who is being compromised by being in the picture.
    do you protect that person or do you show the world what is happening and perhaps protect something bigger?

    i realize miami collapsing with internal bleeding isnt the same, but then again is it?
    just an opinion…best melissa

  20. melissa h

    lol after i posted ubove, i see the note that my comment is awaiting moderation…im looking for my moderation but i just dont have any! -melissa

  21. scott diamond

    Dan I am sworn by the County of los Angeles and the Stae of California which gives me the right to carry my weapon where ever I go,on or off duty. My position in the sheriff’s Dept allows me to take my gun anywhere in the USA…

    Disneyland, Six Flags,Angel Stadium,Kodak Theatre,Staples Center are all public places,but they will not allow me on the premises with my gun off duty and the Kodak theatre and Staples does not allow me inside in Uniform without their head of securities permission.

    So the Rio being public, but private..It’s a new trend.

  22. Johnny Hughes

    I have always found that the comfort and joy of a police ride along had to do with whether you were handcuffed in the front or the back. One time they let me drink my last two beers, and sing.

  23. Justtt21

    The title was inappropriate, the content of the article was fine.

  24. Brian

    Hello Mr. Expert,

    When are going to write up a follow up article on this post… is it going to be anytime soon? 🙂

    “We run a Lawyer Directory about Child Custody Laws” …
    ( )