Posts Tagged ‘Fallsview’

Controversy Emerges Over Mike Leah’s WPT Victory at Fallsview

 Controversy Emerges Over Mike Leah’s WPT Victory at Fallsview

Earlier this week, veteran poker pro Mike Leah was able to capture another leg of poker’s Triple Crown, topping the field at the World Poker Tour’s stop at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic. Along with his victory in 2014 at the WSOP Asia/Pacific, it now leaves the popular Canadian pro only one step (an European Poker Tour victory, now that series has resumed) from that magical poker achievement. But there is a significant taint to the WPT championship, one that has left Leah explaining his actions and others wondering if it was an acceptable way to win the championship.

First, the details of what occurred. Beginning heads up play against Ryan Yu, Leah was at a 2.5:1 chip disadvantage. The two took an unscheduled break from the action and, after their return, the cards hit the air to determine the champion. On the very first hand, Yu stuck four million chips in the center and, after Leah responded with an all-in, Yu folded despite the fact it was only another 695K to call. This move gave Leah the lead and it would get worse.

On the very next hand, Leah limped in and Yu raised five million of his 6.76 million stack. Leah came over the top for the additional chips that Yu had and, amazingly, Yu folded his hand. On the VERY NEXT HAND, Yu raised for 1.7 million chips, leaving 40K behind, and after Leah came over the top of THAT bet, Yu folded once again. With scraps left, there were a few more all ins that Yu would win before he was eventually eliminated with Leah taking the title.

Those are the facts. Now for the additional harsh reality.

There is some discussion as to whether the WPT has or doesn’t have a rule against making deals at the final table. In the 16-year existence of the organization, there has NEVER been a blatant chip dump such as this that determined the champion of the event. Because of the factor of Player of the Year points, the potential future bonuses (a WPT champion automatically qualifies for the WPT Tournament of Champions and has the right to play in subsequent years) and other benefits of the victory – not to mention the “competition” that was supposed to be evident in the WPT product – the WPT founders implemented the “no deal” rule.

However, that is being questioned by the very person who should have overseen the action, WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage. In response to a Tweet Savage – who is currently on the floor at his home casino, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, overseeing the action at the L. A. Poker Classic – indicated that he had changed the “no deal” policy when he took the position with the WPT in 2010. If this is the case, then it was the quietest rule change that has occurred in the history of poker because no poker media outlet nor anyone else can recall the “rule change.”

While there is debate as to whether this violated the rules of the WPT, there is the question as to whether it violated the rules of the casino or the gaming body overseeing it. Quite frankly, in no casino in the world would such a blatant chip dump be allowed. That the Fallsview staff ALLOWED for such an action to occur in their casino is utterly surprising, not to mention that there are allegedly laws against chopping tournaments in Ontario (the Canadian province where the event took place).

According to some involved in the discussion, Ontario’s Alcohol & Gaming Commission does not allow casinos to facilitate any “chops” in poker tournaments. If there is any private decision by the players to chop the tournament, the tournament still is to play out and then the money handled by the players AFTER the tournament has been completed.

Poker Fraud Alert’s Todd Witteles also brings up other uncomfortable issues regarding the chip dump. In particular, Witteles asks when it was determined that such an arrangement took place. If it took place BEFORE the third-place finisher had been determined, then there could be the potential for collusion between Leah and Yu to ensure that they would reach heads up against each other with a deal in place.

Leah, for his part, has taken to social media to defend himself. In a Facebook post, he admitted that “(he saw) how it’s embarrassing/disappointing for the WPT” for he and Yu to have done what they did. He falls short of any apology for their actions, however. Poker News Daily has also requested comment from Savage as to the actions in Canada and, as of press time, no comment has emerged (Poker News Daily will update as appropriate).

What is obvious is that there was a massive chip dump in a major poker tournament, not the daily 2PM event at the Mirage. What actions can be taken to ensure that this type of situation either doesn’t happen again or, at the minimum, is exposed to the light of day to provide transparency for these events (the EPT perhaps had it right when they allowed for chops and even added it to their commentary so that fans knew what occurred; they also reserved some of the prize pool and the trophy for the players to play for)? There will be ramifications of what took place at Fallsview and some in the poker community may not be comfortable with those changes.

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What the Hell Happened at the End of Mike Leah’s WPT Fallsview Win?

 What the Hell Happened at the End of Mike Leah’s WPT Fallsview Win?

On Tuesday, I posted a quick write-up of the 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event final table, won by Mike Leah. Leah was understandably thrilled – it was his first WPT title after coming close a few years ago and he did it essentially in his own backyard. But as I read and subsequently wrote about the heads-up portion of the tournament, it looked really fishy. I didn’t say much about it in the write-up, other than it being “strange,” as I didn’t want to start launching any accusations, but a day later, the poker community has been abuzz with discussion about the end-game, so I am certainly not alone in thinking something was amiss.

To set the scene, Mike Leah and Ryan Yu were heads-up for the WPT Fallsview title. Yu had more than a 2-to-1 chip lead, 10.800 million to 4.715 million with blinds and antes at 60,000/120,000/20,000. Things instantly appear borked. Here is how the first three hands of heads-up play went, according to (hand numbering by this writer):

Hand 1: Ryan Yu raises to 4,000,000 from the button on the first hand of heads-up play, Mike Leah (pictured) reraises all in for 4,695,000 from the big blind, and Yu folds.

Mike Leah – 8,735,000
Ryan Yu – 6,780,000

Hand 2: Mike Leah limps in from the button, and Ryan Yu raises to 5,000,000 from the big blind. Leah reraises all in for 8,715,000 and Yu folds.

Mike Leah – 13,755,000
Ryan Yu – 1,760,000

Hand 3: Ryan Yu raises to 1,700,000 from the button, and Mike Leah (pictured) pushes all in for 13,735,000 from the big blind. Yu folds, and Leah captures this pot.

“When you’re beat, you’re beat!” says Yu.

Mike Leah – 15,475,000
Ryan Yu – 40,000

So, on the first hand of heads-up play, Yu had already put in 4 million chips and only had to call another 695,000 with about 6 million left behind to possibly win the tournament right there. His fold after Leah’s all-in is puzzling, but I suppose in a vacuum one could think that maybe he was completely bluffing and didn’t want to throw good chips after bad.

The second hand is where things really start to look weird. Yu raised to 5 million pre-flop, nearly three-quarters of his chips. Nobody does that without just moving all-in. And then, once again, Leah himself shoved, forcing yet another Yu fold. It just didn’t make any sense.

Already questioning the validity of what was happening, the third hand absolute clinches that some funny business was going on. Yu raised to 1.7 million pre-flop, leaving 40,000 chips behind, one-third of a big blind. Once in a while you might see someone do something like this when the stacks are more even to save a bet for the flop, but in this case, Yu was as good as all-in without technically being all-in. BUT THEN when Leah shoved, YU FOLDED. On top of that, he had the audacity, to break out the “When you’re beat” line.

So to answer my “what the hell happened” question, it seems obvious that Yu and Leah had agreed to a deal before heads-up (the report said there was an “unscheduled break” after the third place elimination). Deals are very common at final tables, as often players don’t want a large money jump to ride on the high variance of escalating blinds. But they still typically play it out, often leaving a little money on the table as an incentive.

But this was unlikely to be a typical deal. What probably happened was that Leah agreed to give Yu more money in exchange for the WPT title. Essentially, Leah may have “bought” the victory, perhaps by giving Yu first place money. For the win, Leah also received a seat in the WPT Tournament of Champions and first place points in the WPT Player of the Year race.

That seems like the only realistic explanation. Throw the match and I’ll make it worth your while. What is nuts is that the two men – Yu, especially – made it so damn obvious. I have heard people suggest that perhaps Yu just wanted to be done at that point, that maybe he just didn’t care and was happy with second place money, but that makes no sense. He had more than a 2-to-1 chip lead. He could very well have won the tournament fairly quickly. Additionally, if he really didn’t care and didn’t have a deal with Leah, he would’ve just gone all-in every hand. If he lost, he would’ve been fine with it and if he won, all the better. By betting heavily and then folding to Leah’s all-ins, Yu signaled his intentions to everyone.

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Mike Leah Wins WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event

 Mike Leah Wins WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Main Event

Let’s just say that the Fallsview Casino Resort overlooking the Canadian side of Niagara Falls isn’t a venue that Mike Leah is going to stop visiting any time soon. On Monday night, Leah won his first World Poker Tour (WPT) title, taking the crown at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in what was the tournament’s largest field ever: 517 entries. His purse for the win was CAD $ 451,821 (about USD $ 358,520).

Leah isn’t going to be a repeat customer of Fallsview just because he won last night. Leah actually has quite the history at the casino, one which has treated him extremely well. Prior to his victory, Mike Leah won the CAD $ 1,100 preliminary event at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic three out of the last four years: 2014, 2016, and 2017 for a total of CAD $ 573,334.

“To do it here, where I’ve had so much success winning three tournaments already, is pretty cool,” the Ontario native told afterward. “So close to home, in my home country, it’s a pretty special tournament to win. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.”

Leah had gotten tantalizingly close to a WPT once before, finishing second to Anthony Zinno at the 2015 WPT L.A. Poker Classic. He doesn’t have any World Series of Poker bracelets, either, but he does have a number of WSOP Circuit wins.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Leah said to “Winning a WPT has been near the top of my goal list for a long time, especially getting so close almost exactly three years ago when I lost to Anthony Zinno heads up at LAPC, so I’ve been pretty hungry to get back here again since that.”

He’ll have a chance to improve on that runner-up finish soon, as the L.A. Poker Classic is the next stop on the World Poker Tour. Leah now has almost $ 7 million in live tournament earnings.

Unlike many major tournaments, the final day of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic did not begin at the final table, but rather with 20 players remaining. Leah was third going into Monday’s action with 1.235 million chips, 600,000+ behind the leader, Joe Ferrier.

For much of yesterday, Leah stayed in his general starting range. He dipped below 1 million chips for a little bit, then rose back up to around 1.6 million, but for the most part, he was in that 1-1.5 million chip range. The big move came with just seven players remaining when he moved all-in after some raising pre-flop and doubled through Tim Rutherford with A-K versus A-Q to jump to 3.105 million chips and into the lead. When he eliminated David Eldridge to clinch a spot at the official final table, he was in second place with 3.970 million chips.

He kept climbing from there, knocking out Joe Ferrier on the ninth hand of the final table to move to 6.930 million chips. At the start of Level 29 with four players remaining, he was at nearly 8 million. Leah couldn’t keep up the hot run for much longer, though, steadily dropping chips until, by Hand 75, he was back to second with 4.835 million. Ryan Yu had taken over the lead with 6.185 million. It really looked like Yu was going to steamroll from there, as he knocked out Carlos Chadha in third place to grow his stack to 9.630 million and then bounced Tim Rutherford in second to go into heads-up against Leah with a huge lead, 10.800 million to 4.715 million.

On literally the first hand of heads-up play, though, Leah made a bold move. Yu raised to 4 million pre-flop (the big blind was 120,000) and Leah, either holding a great hand or sensing a big bluff because of that strange bet, moved all-in. It was barely more than what Yu had put in, but Yu folded, giving Leah the chip lead.

On the next two hands, Yu continued to play rather strangely. Leah limped pre-flop and Yu raised to 5 million. Leah re-raised all-in and Yu folded, leaving him with just 1.760 million chips to Leah’s 13.755 million. Then, Yu raised pre-flop to 1.700 million and Leah shoved. Obviously, Yu needed to put his last chips in, an amount that was less than the small blind, but for some reason, he folded AGAIN, leaving himself with just 40,000 chips.

Yu survived a few more hands, but it was academic from there as Leah won his first WPT title. Unfortunately, this event was neither live streamed nor televised, so I don’t know if we will find out what Yu had in those key hands. It was bizarre.

Cover Photo Credit: World Poker Tour via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Darren Elias Makes History, Wins WPT Fallsview Poker Classic

 Darren Elias Makes History, Wins WPT Fallsview Poker Classic

In what was one of the longer final days of a World Poker Tour event, poker professional Darren Elias – who just over two years ago joined the ranks of players who have won back-to-back tournaments on the circuit (Anthony Zinno and Marvin Rettenmaier) – battled through the final 22 players to win the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic late Friday night.

Elias started the penultimate Day Three in the middle of the remaining 22 players with 617,000 in chips (good for 10th place). He looked up the ladder at Ron Laplante, who held almost three times the chips of Elias (1.724 million) and David Eldridge (1.7 million) and would start the day as the chip leaders. Along with Elias, Kristen Bicknell was looking to add to her two World Series of Poker bracelets by adding a WPT title to her trophy collection.

It looked bleak for Elias at the start of the day. He would double up Manig Loeser within minutes of the opening bell to drop to only 370,000 chips, then would do the same for Paul Pritchett. After Elias opened the betting to 55K, Pritchett dropped his remaining 218K in the center and Elias had to have a look. He was live with his Q-10 against Pritchett’s A-J and found some fortune in the K-Q-2 flop to take the lead, but the ten on the turn to give Elias Queens up also gave Pritchett a Broadway straight. After the river blanked, Elias saw his once bountiful stack shriveled up to just 230,000.

Elias started his comeback by doubling through Mark Zajdner in a blind versus blind battle, his pocket Kings holding from the big blind over Zajdner’s Q-9 push out of the small blind. Elias would eliminate Danny Noseworthy in 18th place to get back over his starting stack for the day (660K) and then river a straight against Laplante to crack the million-chip mark. By the time the unofficial final table of ten was set, Elias was once again a contender in the middle of the pack behind Abdull Hassan, Laplante, and Bicknell.

After chopping a pot with Buck Ramsey when both players had pocket Aces, Elias would make his big move two hands later. After a raise to 105K from Chrishan Sivasundaram, Elias moved all in from the button for 885K. Believing himself to be priced into the call, Sivasundaram made the move and winced when he saw Elias once again holding pocket Aces. Sivasundaram could only muster pocket tens for the fight and, after the board only improved Elias in coming down 7-6-4-3-A, Elias saw his stack crack the two million mark.

After a level up, Elias would finish off Sivasundaram to take over the chip lead from Eldridge, but that would be short-lived. Eldridge took a hand off Elias to reach 3.3 million and, after he eliminated Laplante in ninth place, saw his stack reach 4.475 million. When Eldridge knocked off Bicknell in seventh place to set the “official” WPT final table, his chip lead was firmly established with 5.175 million chips, roughly 2.3 million more than Andrew Chen and more than three million more than Elias.

Elias got back into the middle of the fray in doubling up through Chen. With all the chips in pre-flop, Elias was in tough shape with his pocket nines against Chen’s pocket Queens. That all changed when the 9-7-6 flop gave Elias a set to push him to the lead. Needing to dodge one of the two ladies remaining in the deck, Elias saw a trey on the turn and a five on the river to seal his double up and push him into second place behind Eldridge with 3.2 million chips.

Surprisingly, Eldridge and Elias were very active not only against the rest of the table but also against each other. After Eldridge eliminated Loeser in fifth place, Elias would take two of the next four hands with both coming against Eldridge. Once Elias sent Chen out in fourth place and dismissed Jean-Christophe Ferreira in third, he went to heads-up play against Eldridge with a slim 1.1 million chip lead.

Instead of a drawn-out affair, the heads-up match was decided in only three hands. On Hand #69 with an A-A-4-Q-Q board showing, Eldridge oddly couldn’t find a call to Elias’ all-in move (with Elias covering him) after Eldridge had started the betting with a million-chip raise pre-flop and folded his hand, leaving him with only 750K behind him. Two hands later, those remaining 750K in chips were in Elias’ hands as, holding a J-6 off suit, he was able to turn a King-high straight against Eldridge’s 10-9 (a flopped pair of tens and rivered two pair) to win the championship of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic and tie the record for most wins by a player in the history of the WPT (three, held by Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem and Zinno).

1. Darren Elias, $ 449,484*
2. David Eldridge, $ 300,982
3. Jean-Christophe Ferreira, $ 193,583
4. Andrew Chen, $ 143,199
5. Manig Loeser, $ 107,399
6. Abdull Hassan, $ 86,184

(* – Canadian dollars)

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A Look Back at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Ticket Scalping Mess

 A Look Back at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic Ticket Scalping Mess

The World Poker Tour (WPT) Fallsview Poker Classic $ 5,000 Main Event kicks off Wednesday and will culminate on Friday with the crowning of a champion. Chances are, everything should go smoothly, but two years ago, Fallsview was the scene of stupendously poor planning resulting in ripped off and dissatisfied players. Let’s reminisce, shall we?

In 2015, Fallsview had but three tournaments, just as it does this year: a $ 1,100 event, a $ 2,500 event, and the $ 5,000 Main Event. Players could buy-in to the tournaments directly or win a seat via live satellite. The problem that emerged was not with the Main Event, but rather with the $ 1,100 preliminary tournament.

The way tournament organizers setup the event led to a massively broken economy when we really should never have to talk about the “economy” of a tournament in the first place. There were three factors that came together to create the fiasco:

1)    A maximum capacity of 500 players for each of the two starting flights.
2)    No alternate list.
3)    Entry cards were transferable.

The first and third points are probably self-explanatory, but if you are unfamiliar with an alternate list, it is essentially a waiting list to get into the tournament. Alternates have to wait to receive chips and seat until someone is eliminated. It’s basically like waiting for a seat at a full restaurant; you get your name on the list and once your name is at the top and someone leaves, you are shown to your seat. In poker, it is a way give people a chance to play when there is not enough space in the poker room to accommodate the demand.

The problem that resulted was rampant ticket scalping, especially shortly before the start of the second flight. With the three above factors in place, people who weren’t even poker players bought entries for the tournament knowing that it would end up sold out. Then, when players wanted to register, only to find out there were no seats available, the scalpers swooped in and charged massive premiums.

At the time, talked to poker player DJ MacKinnon who said, “The tournament area is next to the food court and Fallsview permits the scalpers to hound people coming off the escalator to ask if anyone wants to buy or sell tickets. The morning of (Day 1b) the cafeteria was crowded with a bunch of people near the tournament area trying to sell tickets. I know of two tickets that sold for $ 1,800 and $ 1,600 respectively.”

Scott Davies had just made two final tables at the Aussie Millions and therefore was unable to register in advance. On Two Plus Two, he called the situation “so gross.”

He then summed it up well:

Pretty awful that the casino creates perfect conditions for the scalpers. They cap the number of entries, let people buy multiple fully-transferable tickets, and then don’t take any alternates the day of the event. So it essentially cuts off the supply at the same moment demand peaks creating a black market. It literally brings out all of the bottom of the barrel scum of the earth to the poker area. These guys show up the day of the event with heaps of tickets and no intention of ever playing the event. I can’t believe the casino allows these guys to do business in their casino, they are as obvious as ticket scalpers at a sporting event/concert, and just as sleazy.

It was a situation that did not need to happen.

Fortunately, things were fixed last year as well as this year. This year, tickets were non-transferable and only one purchase was allowed per person, so there was absolutely no incentive for scalpers to buy any. Now, a better solution would have been to allow resales but control them, perhaps by linking a ticket to a loyalty card, so that transfers can only be made at face value or lower. That way, satellite winners or those who perhaps couldn’t play at the last minute could still sell their tickets. At least the scalping problem has gone away.

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