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Top-10 unfortunate poker tournament results

25 February 2013

Apparently, there's a bit of controversy surrounding the World Series of Poker's decision to increase the buy-in for the Ladies Event tenfold, then offer a 90 percent discount to women.

The people who are the most upset by this seem to be searching for controversy where there is none. Obviously the goal here is to eliminate men from the Ladies Event. And I hope it works.

The move reminded me of Jonathan Epstein. Epstein is best (only?) known as the guy who made the final table of the 2011 Ladies Event. I'm pretty sure it was the worst poker result I've seen in person.

It made me think about all the poker tournaments that ended up with winners who never should have won, and other results that did damage, whether it be long- or short-term, to the game. Sadly, it didn't take me too long to come up with the 10 worst results in poker tournament history.

10. Dutch Boyd finishes 12th in 2003 WSOP Main Event
On the face of it, there was nothing amiss in Russ "Dutch" Boyd's deep run the year Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event. In fact, he was a bit of a media darling in ESPN's coverage of the event. But the finish (and ESPN's complimentary coverage) gave Boyd added credibility in the poker community, credibility that he used to help launch PokerSpot, an online poker room that defrauded players of $400,000 when they were unable to pay players the balances in their accounts. PokerSpot wasn't the first, nor likely will he be the last, to launch an unsuccessful online poker room. But he lied about the state of payments and instructed others within the company to do the same. There's nothing wrong with having a business fail -- most of them do. But lying about it to attempt to cover up that failure, well, that just doesn't fly.

9. 2012 WSOP Main Event final table
There's nothing wrong or controversial about last year's WSOP Main Event final table. But in my opinion, it was a giant missed opportunity. Two women, Gaelle Baumann and Elisabeth Hille, finished 10th and 11th, respectively, just bubbling the final table, meaning the WSOP would have a Main Event final table filled with men for the 17th year in a row. Barbara Enright's fifth-place finish in 1995 remains the only final table appearance by a woman in the Main Event. Having one woman make the final table would have been good for the game. Getting two there would have been great for it. I have no ill will towards the nine men who did make the final table, but I wish at least one of the women who made such a deep run had been playing in October.

8. Epstein's WSOP Ladies Event final table appearance
Epstein wasn't the first man to enter a Ladies Event. In fact, in 2009, Greg Sessler, a 22-year-old man, won the Ladies Event at the WSOP Circuit stop in Lake Tahoe. But Epstein's final table came on a much larger stage with a field nearly 10 times as large. It was embarrassing for everyone involved, including Epstein, who didn't even have the stones to face the media after his ninth-place finish.

7. Dan Fleyshman robbed at WSOP Europe final table
Dan Fleyshman made a brilliant overbet bluff at the final table of the 2010 WSOP Europe Main Event, and Nicolas Levi was pondering what to do. Finally he decided that angle shooting was the best option, and made forward motion with his chips to try to get a reaction out of Fleyshman. Tournament Director Jack Effel (correctly) ruled that Levi's forward motion indicated a call, but unfortunately for Fleyshman, his hand was second best and he lost out on a pot of 714,000. Fleyshman ended up finishing seventh, and Levi busted fifth.

6. Chino Rheem wins inaugural Epic Poker League event
The Epic Poker League was supposed to be the PGA of poker. But Chino Rheem's win in the first event seemed to be an omen that things weren't going to go well for the fledgling league. Rheem owed dozens of people large sums of money, and there's a twoplustwo thread a mile long about Rheem's sketchy dealings. When the winner of your inaugural event has to face dozens of people at the payout cage waiting to collect on debts, your league isn't off to a very good start.

5. Russ Hamilton wins 1994 WSOP Main Event
For almost a decade, there wasn't much notable about the 1994 WSOP Main Event winner, but when Russ Hamilton's name started to be connected to the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal, it put a real stain on the poker world. Cheaters make poker look bad, but when it's former world champions who cheat, it looks even worse. There's never been any evidence or accusation that Hamilton cheated to obtain his 1994 bracelet. But when there's doubt as to whether Hamilton's picture belongs on the walls of the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino with the rest of the Main Event champions, it's not good for the game.

4. Scotty Nguyen's drunken 2008 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. title
The $50,000 Poker Players Championship (previously the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event) is perhaps the most prestigious tournament on the poker calendar. The tournament winner gets a trophy with Chip Reese's name on it, a name synonymous with all that is good about poker. Scotty Nguyen's win in 2008 was a travesty, not because of who he is, but because of his behavior at the table. Don't get me wrong, it was great theater and I can't help but watch the YouTube montage below over and over and over. But it's a train wreck fascination, and it was very bad for poker.

3. Ivan Freitez wins 2011 EPT Grand Final
I don't know if I've ever seen an angle shoot as dirty as this one. Ivan Freitez is holding the virtual nuts, says "I raise" then throws out calling chips and says he meant to say call but his English is bad. The move came with just 10 players left. Eugene Yanayt (aka the guy who got robbed) ended up finishing in sixth, but that's little consolation when the angle-shooting jackass wins the entire tournament for €1.5 million.

2. Constant Rijkenberg oversells himself for EPT San Remo
If you understand the poker economy, you've probably heard stories about players "overselling" themselves in poker tournaments. When you oversell your action, you take in more money from backers than the tournament entry fee, but would have to pay out more than 100 percent of your winnings if you actually cash. For that reason, you'd think that any scumbag who oversold himself would figure out that he should find a way to bust out of the tournament before finishing in the money. Somehow, Constant Rijkenberg didn't get that memo. Not only did Rijkenberg cash at the 2009 EPT San Remo, he won the whole thing for €1.5 million. The only good thing that came out of this was that Rijkenberg will never get staked again. But with a seven-figure cash, he probably will never need to.

1. Partouche Poker Tour
Not once, but twice the Partouche Poker Tour has been wracked by cheating scandals. And the tour reneged on a €5 million guarantee when the entries didn't match the guarantee last year. Not much about this tour inspires any confidence and on the whole the tournament has been very bad for poker. Thankfully, the tournament series will not return this year due to player criticism in the wake of the guarantee that was not a guarantee.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.