The World Poker Tour’s stop at the Borgata Poker Open came to an end late Friday night, but to call it an ending that was deserving of one of the marquee events on the tour’s schedule would be a stretch. After five days of action that started with 1156 entries, three men – Donald Maloney, Uke Dauti and Kevin Albers – struck a deal that split up the remaining money from the prize pool. Then, with the seat to the 2020 WPT Tournament of Champions and the trophy on the line, all three men moved all in and Maloney, who started the hand with the most chips, made a runner-runner straight on the river to knock out his two opponents.
A Travesty of Play
After having eliminated former WPT champion Victor Ramdin, Jerry Maher and Dave Farah in sixth through fourth places, respectively, Dauti led the two other men with his 23.15 million chip stack. Maloney was in second place with 15.775 million, while Albers pulled up the end of the trio with his 7.225 million. But Dauti would first double up Albers to lose the lead to Maloney and Maloney would go on a bit of a run to put some distance between him and his tablemates.
Then, “something” happened.
According to the WPT live updates, only ten minutes after beginning Level 34 (150K/300K with 300K antes) and with Maloney (22.025 million) holding the lead over Dauti (15.55 million) and Albers (8.575 million), the players took an “unscheduled break” for a reason that was never cleared up on the official WPT reports. Other outlets noted that the “unscheduled break” was to make an ICM deal for the remaining prize pool, which saw Maloney take away a payday of $487,784, Dauti picking up $464,338 and Albers getting the remainder of $378,664.
And this is where it gets even cloudier.
The WPT update says that there were another 17 hands played – although they don’t account for seven of those hands – before the final act played out. Other reports say that the players, following the deal being struck, immediately pushed all in on the next hand with the $15K seat in the WPT Tournament of Champions and the WPT Champions’ Cup trophy on the line. In looking at the final hands, it seems there was something afoot.
Dauti would push all in from the button and, in the small blind, Albers called for less. Maloney, in the big blind, made the call with his stack covering both of his opponents. These were the hands turned up:
Dauti: 5-3 off suit
Albers: J-3 off suit
Maloney: 10-4 off suit
The K-5-3 flop was good for Dauti, but the shenanigans weren’t over yet. A six on the turn opened up a potential straight for Maloney, which came home when a deuce hit on the river for Maloney to hit a runner-runner straight draw. That’s how one of the most prestigious titles on the World Poker Tour circuit, now in its 18th year, was handed out.
Come On, WPT…At Least Give the Illusion!
For his part, Maloney tried to make it look innocent. According to the OFFICIAL WPT final table report, Maloney said following the tournament that his opponents were “tired” and “didn’t really want to play anymore,” so they decided to push all in. “It was meant for me to get the title,” Maloney arrogantly stated.
***EDITORIAL: IF YOU’RE GOING TO ALLOW DEALS, BE OPEN ABOUT IT
This is the second time in the past couple of seasons that a WPT tournament has been bastardized by a deal at the final table. In 2018 at the WPT Fallsview, Mike Leah and Ryan Yu were heads up for the title, with Yu holding a 2:1 lead over Leah, when some chicanery occurred. What happened is Yu bet out a big stack of chips, Leah came over the top of him all in and, instead of calling, Yu FOLDED his hand. It took a couple of hands like this before Yu had dumped his chips off to Leah and Leah would take the title.
It came out after the tournament that Leah and Yu had, previous to the final table start, discussed an ICM chop of the event. With that ICM in place, Leah was also guaranteed to win, no matter what, because Yu would dump his chips to Leah if he were ahead or, if he were behind, Yu would make sure to be severely crippled in chips to make a comeback almost impossible. It was Chip Dumping 101, despite what Leah said following his tainted championship.
When the WPT originally went on the air, there was a “no deals” rule because tour creator Steve Lipscomb wanted it to be a competition and felt that deals would tarnish said competition and make it look less “sporting.” Final table deals are one of the ugly little realities of tournament poker, however, whether it’s a $50 buy in at the MGM or a $25,000 buy in on the European Poker Tour (more on this in a second). But, until recently under the reign of tournament director Matt Savage (who stated that there is “no longer a no deals rule in effect” since he took over in 2010), deals weren’t made on the WPT – at least not openly.
The EPT has ALWAYS allowed for the players to make deals at the final table. They have also ALWAYS been open about these deals, with the discussions duly noted in the official final table transcripts. They didn’t hide behind anything; they didn’t make “unscheduled breaks” a part of the action, and they didn’t have their champions make statements about how they “deserved” the championship.
WPT…if you’re going to allow for deals,
COME OUT AND STATE IT. Make the discussions a part of the official records.
Follow the EPT in this regard – it does maintain some integrity of the game
instead of farcical endings that occurred in 2018 and in this event.
For the record, here’s how the 2019 WPT Borgata Poker Open concluded:
1. Donald Maloney, $487,784* (officially credited with a $616,186 finish)
2. Uke Dauti, $464,338* (officially credited with a $410,787 finish)
3. Kevin Albers, $378,664* (officially credited with a $303,903 finish)
4. Dave Farah, $227,077
5. Jerry Maher, $171,386
6. Victor Ramdin, $130,000
(* – reflects three-way deal)