August 14, 2006

Some tough questions for Harrah’s

Business as usual?
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the degree to which many in the poker community consider the 2.2 million extra chips found at the WSOP main event “business as usual.” Cheating has been around since before poker and apparently many have learned to live with it, the skillful making money in spite of it and the losers losing anyway. There’s the possibility the chips were added through incompetence rather than dishonesty, and there’s still a tiny chance the reports of the final chip total are simply wrong. I wasn’t there.

But notwithstanding all this, there are some tough questions for Harrah’s, questions which ought to be asked by the Nevada Gaming Control Board:

  • Harrah’s decided to use the same chips in the main event as they used in previous tournaments, including super satellites. Were the chips counted at the conclusion of each event? If not, why not? If so, how many chips were missing after each event?
  • If they did discover missing chips, was there any effort to use the video surveillance to catch the cheaters?
  • Were there official chip counts done at any point in the main event? If not, why not? If so, what was the result? What was the discrepancy between each official count?
  • Were the same precautions taken to guard and log the movements of the house bank of tournament chip as are taken with casino chips of similar value? If not, why not?
  • How many dead stacks were blinded off through errors during day one? What is the list of names of people who were allowed to play on a different day but had stacks being blinded off on another day? Why were so many errors possible?
  • Were there stacks being blinded off for players who had been given refunds? If so, why?
The current explanation by a Harrah’s spokesman, that the extra chips were a result of rounding up during chip races, has been proved impossible both by me and by Jerrod Ankenman, co-author (with two-bracelet winner Bill Chen) of the forthcoming book The Mathematics of Poker. I don’t know if a complaint has yet been lodged by any of the final 27 players, who seem to be the most hurt by the cheating or incompetence. The chip counts reported by poker journalists are full of errors but it seems to me that most of the chips were added during the play from 27 players to the final nine. That should all be on videotape.

I’m looking forward to some answers and, more importantly, to some major reforms in the integrity of these large tournaments.


SimonG. said...

You could take the view that the last 27 were helped by the errors/cheaters - or at least not inconvenienced by it.

The worst affected could well be indeterminable individuals that would have made the money had they not been cheated by someone that 'suddenly' had a few extra large denom chips that knocked them out or merely were deprived the opportunity of attacking absent blinds etc.

Regardless, tourny chips obviously need to be tracked, the technology is already there, if only Harrahs had the foresight to juice the main event for a little more than $5 mill then perhaps they would now be able to afford it...

Easycure said...

It is amazing what Harrah's has gotten away with.....but it is more surprising that there are not more players of your stature that aren't coming together with similar concerns.

Extra chips, the changing of the length of levels (it went from 120 minutes to 100 minutes in the middle of the Main Event), the extra chips, the millions taken off the top, the arrogance of the was all just too much.

It's going to come to a head within the next year or two....and it could get very ugly.

I, personally, appreciate your being so public with your displeasure. It needds to be discussed out in the open.

Anonymous said...

If the entry fee was $10,000 for 10,000 in chips, I think Harrahs should pay the extra 2.2 million dollars. Harrah's may also have pocketed the money by misrepresenting entrants. Harrah's should add the missing cash to the prize pool, and hopefully pay 220 extra spots their money back. Start a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

I think Harrahs should pay an extra 220 spots. They allowed it to happen or were in on it.

Zak said...


I played in the ME as well and I have no doubt there were unethical issues happening with the chip counts. I thank you for making this issue more public and I hope you as an individual or part of a larger group spearhead this effort to make Harrahs take some more responsibility and accountability. If I were well know within the poker world I would be one of the loudest voices of outcry.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Belated comment ... but indeed, Richard, good stuff. I particularly appreciate your linking to the math post, as I would not have found it on my own.

Let's face it ... the corporatization of poker is a reality that we have to accept. Like the internet itself, it can have both good and bad ramifications. It's up to players (and the media) to intelligently look after the integrity of the game.