On Wednesday, June 8th, Event 8 of the World Series of Poker came to a head after four grueling days of battle on the green felt. Called the ‘donkament’ by players and media, the $1,000 No Limit Holdem Champion Event hit final table status earlier than expected. But the big news from the final table wasn’t just that Sean Getzwiller was the last man standing, collecting the 1st place prize of $611,185 and the gold bracelet – it was the discovery of marked cards.
The small buy-in of Event #8 attracted 4,178 players and at the start of Day 3, poker pro Jon “PearlJammer” Turner led the 59 players remaining. Hitting the final table on Day 4 with Turner was Sadan Turker, Lawrence Riley, Daniel Haglund, Hunter Frey, Stefan Raffay, Max Weinberg, and Odette Tremblay, who was only the second woman to make a final table appearance so far this year. Even after four days of intense play, Turner was still on his toes and under the bright lights noticed something wasn’t kosher with the deck.
Final tables of Championship Events at the WSOP take place under very bright lights, this is not only for the increased visibility of spectators who are always gathered deep, but also for the TV cameras that are rolling. It was those ultra bright colored lights on the set of the final table that made something fishy jump out at Turner - there was something amiss with the Four of Spades.
The floor was called and the tournament put on hold while the floor staff started an investigation and inspection of the other decks. This is when WSOP Officials discovered that the problem wasn’t just with the Four of Spades in that deck, but that all small Spades from deuce through five in many other decks had an identical mark. In a surprising move, WSOP officials decided the best course of action was to move the players to an outer table away from the bright lights, where any potential discrepancies wouldn’t be visible under the dimmer lighting. Officials obviously felt that this was a much quicker solution than inspecting dozens of decks to find a good one.
Marked Cards: Then and Now
The marking of playing cards goes back to the end of the19th century, when crooked card games were the norm and marking cards was a sly cheating gamblers trick. But the days of unscrupulous riverboat gamblers and shady games in frontier saloons are long gone. Now casinos keep a sharp eye peeled for any fouled decks by inspecting them as soon as they come off the table. Decks which are found to have any abnormalities or flaws are discarded, which is one reason it is hard to believe this episode was caused by human hands. Add the fact that an untold amount of fresh in the box sealed decks all had the same exact flaws, and it is obvious the marked cards was due to a manufacturer’s error.
Bicycle Playing Cards and the WSOP
The current official provider of cards for the WSOP is the United States Playing Card Company (USPC), makers of the Bicycle brand playing cards. In 2004, USPC acquired KEM, their top rival in the field of playing card providers. Then in 2007, they signed a sponsorship agreement with the World Series of Poker, the single largest poker tournament in the world. Three years ago, in 2009, USPC entered into a licensing agreement with the WSOP and introduced a line of playing cards and poker accessories co-branded as Bicycle and World Series of Poker.
This latest flawed deck controversy doesn’t speak well for the USPC who should take their sponsorship deal with the WSOP seriously and set the highest possible standards for the decks of cards they produce. This is not some nickel and dime home game here, it is the WSOP; where millions of dollars are on the line and a flawed deck can give anyone with a sharp eye and sealed lips a huge, unfair advantage.
GoDaddy; Another WSOP Sponsor
The WSOP recently announced a new member to their growing list of sponsors – giant Web hosting provider and domain name registrar GoDaddy.com. Signing on as a new premier below the ‘flop sponsor’ of the 42nd Annual WSOP, meaning their branded logo will be prominently displayed front and center, right under the flop on all of the tournament tables.
Go Daddy CEO and Founder Bob Parsons said, “We like this poker sponsorship because so many of the fans are passionate, loyal and interested in the Internet, we’re all in, baby!”
WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart commented on the new deal by saying, “When you talk about GoDaddy.com, you are talking about some of the best marketers in the world, who are thoughtful about their platforms and selective in their promotional partnerships. We know GoDaddy.com has a fun and edgy style and we welcome them into the greatest poker spectacle on the planet, which shares its personality.”