We have talked about miscounting chips in a poker tournament on this site before, but I do not believe we have ever discussed what happens when the actual players in a tournament are miscounted. That exact thing happened this past weekend at The Star Sydney Champs Main Event when an error in counting the players on the bubble caused a ruckus.


The AU$3,000 Main Event had exactly 600 entries and was slated to pay down to 63 places. As is always the case in tournaments, tension built as the money bubble drew closer, since nobody wants to play for a long time and go home empty handed. After a double elimination, it was announced that there were 63 players remaining and the money bubble had burst. Joy! Hand-for-hand play would not be necessary and play continued, all the remaining players happy that they had made a profit, even if it turned out to be a small one.

According to a first-hand account on Two Plus Two, about ten to fifteen minutes had elapsed since the double knockout when the tournament director took to the mic and addressed the players, saying that there had been a mistake. At the start of the double elimination hand, there were 66 players left, which meant that there were now 64 players still in the tourney. They were smack-dab on the money bubble and suddenly nobody could start mentally cashing checks.

Much griping, but little the players could do

Players were pissed. Nobody had been knocked out of the tournament in the interim, but they argued that people play poker much differently pre- and post-bubble, which is true. On the bubble, the short stacks are usually trying to hang on for dear life, hoping they can outlast one more player. The large stacks often take advantage of this and bully their tables, knowing most players won’t want to take big risks with a cash looming. After the bubble bursts, the short stacks often throw caution to the wind, moving all-in in an effort to double-up. If they get knocked out, so be it – they probably weren’t lasting long enough to grab a pay jump, anyway.

And now they were all being told that they weren’t in the money. Many players wanted tournament organizers/the casino to pay an extra spot to make up for it.

The tournament director made a phone call (the tournament was now paused) and after a bit returned to let everyone know that play would go hand-for-hand and that 63 players would make the money, as planned. Players were told they could contact the poker operations manager on Monday with their comments.

As it turned out, the bubble boy was eliminated in excruciating fashion. He held pocket Jacks on a J-5-5 flop, a dream flop. He tangled with a big stack, who had 9-5. The fourth 5 was dealt on the river, after which point the bubble boy called off his stack and saw the bad news. Since he knew the tournament was on the bubble, it doesn’t seem like the confusion played into the decisions he made in the hand – after all, which of us wouldn’t feel supremely confident having flopped a boat – but it still had to have left a bad taste in his mouth.

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