Pros invariably come late to a tournament. Deuce to Seven is normally played six handed. But in yesterday's event, with many tardy pros, many of the tables played three and four handed for almost an entire level. That works out to a lot of missed blinds. As players like Daniel Negreanu, Amir Vahedi, and Chris Ferguson learned, coming late meant coming into the tournament with almost 30% less than a starting stack. But if that were the only lesson to be learned, there would be no need for this article.
Sometime in the second level, the tournament director picked the blinding dead stacks off the table; stacks that by this point were at or under 7000 chips out of a starting stack of 10,000. Sometime after that, late registrant Berry Johnston (pictured) sat down to a seat with no chips. The tournament director brought over 9000 chips. Johnston's table protested and their play basically halted while they voiced their concerns. The adjacent table with Barry Greenstein and Andy Black, noticing that play had subsided at the Johnston table, initially started to protest relative to slow playing. When they realized what the issue was, they too stopped playing. The tournament director then suspended play at all the tables while the issue of starting chips for late arrivals was investigated.
When in doubt, go to the rules. According to WSOP rule #81, late registrants may incur a chip penalty of a maximum of three rounds of blinds and antes. For this tournament, this meant that late registering players should start with no less than 8200 chips; which is what Berry Johnston was then given. While less than the 9000 chips Johnston initially was given, this was still more than other late arrivals started their play with. What could the other late arrivals do? If they didn't protest before their first hand was dealt, they were out of luck. And what about players that registered on time, but showed up late? Phil Hellmuth, for example, showed up during the first break, after the second period. His stack had blinded down to under 2000 chips. Would Hellmuth receive 8200 chips? The answer is no; Hellmuth was a late arrival, not a late registrant, and therefore did not fall under rule #81's maximum chip penalty clause.
In this high profile tournament, it was obvious that the tournament staff wasn't focused on rule #81 as late arrivals filtered in. Stacks were left to blind off below 8200 and a player's registration status wasn't verified as they sat down. If the tournament staff was implementing the rule correctly, Berry Johnston never would have initially been given 9000 starting chips. But in the end, every time you sit down at to a tournament, whether it's a $40 tournament at your local casino, or a $5000 rebuy event at the WSOP, it's on you to protect yourself.