The Poker Ambassador on the Pursuit of Better Poker

by , Sep 18, 2008 | 10:13 am

Mike Sexton apparently has a new gig over at my personal poker news RSS reader PokerNewsDaily, and in his debut column shares his real thoughts on the 2008 WSOP. They are respectful (of course) but, the WPT television co-host doesn’t hold back from addressing his concerns about WSOP floor staff, cheating, and death.

Some highlights:

Another problem I have: “What if someone dies before the final table is assembled?” Putting a little casket on the table and blinding a guy off would not only create a morbid setting, it would also change the strategy players might induce to move up in the money. And although a legend didn’t make that final table (such as Doyle Brunson), what if they did and then they died in October? What might have been perhaps the greatest final table ever would now be a very sad and tragic final table.

I also worry about collusion possibilities. … I’m not talking about players signaling one another as to what they have, but possibly just agreeing to soft-play each other, never bluff at each other, and only bet when you’ve got the goods …

My other problem with the WSOP was the way the floor people handled certain situations. … [Scotty Nguyen] was drunk and out of line on numerous occasions at that final table, criticizing his opponents, berating the cocktail girls with the “F” word and moaning to the tournament staff about it. Unquestionably, Scotty’s behavior deserved a penalty but none was given. I was disappointed with Scotty, but I was appalled the tournament staff allowed his behavior to take place. To me, this was a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the WSOP staff.

Perhaps that floorman was influenced by what happened to [Phil Hellmuth] earlier at the WSOP. … If top management doesn’t back up decisions by floor people, then naturally, they will be afraid to give ‘big name’ players penalties – and to me, this is pathetic.

… Why would any legitimate company want to sponsor poker if they see that type of behavior by the players? And shame on the WSOP staff for allowing it to happen.

15 Comments to “The Poker Ambassador on the Pursuit of Better Poker”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    How could the floorman be influenced by what happened to Hellmuth ( he’s referring to the Main Event) when it took place AFTER Nguyen’s HORSE antics.

    Also the “what if someone died” argument is so incredibly hack. What if someone died right after making the final table last year? It’d still be a sad and tragic final table (even more so in that case).

  2. Kevin Mathers

    It seems Mike could have made these arguments a whole lot better (re: the November Nine) if he said all this BEFORE the WSOP.

  3. DanM

    ***How could the floorman be influenced by what happened to Hellmuth ( he’s referring to the Main Event) when it took place AFTER Nguyen’s HORSE antics***

    You know what, I never thought about that … you’re right. I think the floor staff wanted so badly for Scotty to win (because some kid winning HORSE would be “bad for poker”) that they made exceptions.

    The exceptions for certain “name” pros was definitely present this year. I think the more egregious offense was changing the rules to let Scotty Nguyen have a fresh stack in an event he showed up late for.

  4. DanM

    I don’t think he’s on the Players Advisory Council. I know all these issues as they pertain to the main event — not the floor decisions — were heavily discussed and debated among the WSOP PAC before they went into effect.

    The death one was a biggie — as they couldn’t agree on whether or not a dead player should be blinded off or allowed to designate a sub in his will.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    Sexton isn’t on the PAC (a certain WCOOP winner is though).

    Regarding the death thing, if they designated a sub, imagine the problems that would happen if they allowed someone’s favorite pro to show up and play their stack.

    There’s always going to be favoritism among name players with tournament staff, it’s unlikely there’ll be any change in that. Nolan Dalla on one of Lou Krieger’s podcasts said there has been a discussion among the PAC regarding behavior after the events from this year. I believe he mentioned there may be some additional rules in time for the WSOP Circuit events.

    I don’t recall when Scotty showed up late for an event, but the late registration/late to show up issue has always been a problem:

    From this year’s rules:

    27. If the participant is not present at the start of the tournament, all forced antes and blinds bets will be removed from an absent player’s stack accordingly. If player shows up and still has chips remaining, [s]he may play his or her chips.

    86. Late registrants for any event will be subject to the following rules in addition to all other rules. In games with blinds, a player who enters during the first round of play will receive no penalty so long as the blinds have not passed their position. Players who enter after the first round of blinds must wait until their first opportunity to post to begin play. In games with only antes, the player must ante at their first opportunity.

  6. DanM

    Scotty Nguyen acknowledged to me this did indeed take place, but it was literally in passing, so I didn’t get to follow up for details.

  7. Marvin C

    I don’t see the difference between someone unfortunately dying in the months between play or dying the night before the last table starts. A simple rule would be to give the estate ninth place money and blind off the chips.

    As to behavior. Either you have rules for everyone or not for anyone. Scotty’s behavior was out of line in many ways, not the least of which was dumping. It was obvious to me that Scotty was trying to get down to him and Eric.

    I agree with Mike that no company would want to sponsor the behavior of Scotty. If I’m not misstaken, didn’t several players get penalties in the 2007 WSOP as shown on ESPN for using the F word once or twice?

  8. Poker Shrink

    As someone who was there and seated with Phil’s wife. The Hellmuth penalty was poorly handled and should have been rescinded. Mind you I am not a Phil Phan but in this situation the penalty was given by a the floor supervisor after he was told all of the details. He, in fact, was not present during the actual events and made a post hoc decision to give the penalty. In addition, the warning to Phil came after all the action, acting and antics were over.

    If they are going to have penalties, they need to be uniformly enforced. I have suggested to WSOP staff that a “yellow card” be used, so that a player who is warned will have to acknowledge the warning and will have no excuse when penalized on the next violation.

  9. Kevin Mathers


    They changed the F-bomb rule in 2007, so that you weren’t penalized for saying it, as long as it wasn’t directed at another player or tournament staff.

  10. DanM

    ***If they are going to have penalties, they need to be uniformly enforced. ***

    I think that was kinda Mike’s point. I didn’t want to cut-and-paste his whole article, but he says the problem was management over-ruling the floor. Just having access to the WSOP top brass isn’t something your average joe can enjoy.

    There’s nothing worse than (a floor guy) having responsibility but no authority. Sometimes the ref’s are gonna botch a call, and presuming it’s not because they are gambling on the outcome — and since there’s no instant replay in poker — I tend to think it should stand.

    BTW, I love the yellow-card idea. You could even do it up like soccer where the yellow carries over to the next tourney, so another minor infraction at two events in a row would also equal a red.

  11. edbucks

    November Nine = The Year of the Tards

  12. Earl Burton

    They actually did the card idea about three years ago in a tournament in Russia. It worked pretty well, if I remember correctly, with a yellow card as a warning and a second yellow card resulting in a red card, which carried a twenty minute penalty. The players liked knowing if someone had already received a warning and would be on good behavior (lest they get the red card) and floor staff would know as well who had already been warned (and would not allow someone to get by).

    As far as Mike’s comments, I think most of us have hashed and rehashed many of the thoughts in his article. I do agree, though, it would have been more impressive if those thoughts had come out prior to the WSOP.

  13. Steve

    Unlike some posters, I agree with Mike entirely on the death issue. Yes, someone can die the night before the final table, but the chances are astronomically remote and can not be reasonably forseen. The chances of someone dying (or being incapacitated) from sometime between July and November are very realistic and can be forseen (we’re talking about it after all). How long after the HORSE event did Chip Reese die? What if that event had the final table after his death and he got blinded out… would you still feel the same way? You could get the average expected value of his prize based on chip stack, pay him that minus a penalty (say 33 1/3% penalty), and then readjust the remaining payouts accordingly. NOTE: “readjustment” would not mean down unless the player that died had an above average chip stack.

  14. Poker Shrink

    On the death question. As the rule stands the stack is blinded off and will finish somewhere between 9th and 2nd. No different than an absent player, who is doing meth in a downtown motel.

  15. Steve

    Poker Shrink, no ones disagreeing with what the current rule is… just that it sucks when the final table is 4 months after the rest of the tourney.