The biggest news out of the 2017 World Series of Poker on Monday (and into Tuesday morning) was arguably Doug Polk’s victory in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller Event, his third WSOP bracelet win in the last four years. Flying under the radar in that tournament, though, was a card controversy that resulted in a 45-minute pause at the tournament’s final table.
With just five players remaining in the tourney, the players noticed something was amiss with the cards. Polk posted on Twitter, “I looked down at my cards and discovered there were white dots at different patterns for each card.”
Haralabos Voulgaris, who finished fourth, also tweeted, “So it seems all the wsop RFID cards are marked. Or at the very least flawed.”
World Series of Poker officials blamed the issue on the automatic shuffler, but Voulgaris wasn’t so sure. He continued (quote combined from multiple Twitter posts):
Cards had speckled shiny dots in what appeared to be distinctive patterns based on value of the cards. Was not a function of shuffler imo. Was really spooky, took a few tries until we found decks which did not have the arrangement of dots.
I don’t think anyone at the final table or anyone i played with when at a feature table was in any way (at all) aware of the markings. Just want to get that out of the way – that being said, the markings did not look random to me. And I am sure I could have found a pattern. Unfortunately they whisked the marked decks away and didn’t let us have a look at them afterwards.
Responding to someone who expressed skepticism of Doug Polk, since he was the one who won the tournament, Voulgaris was quick to dismiss any thoughts that Polk may have tried to cheat, saying that Polk might have been the first to see the markings and was the first to ask the cards be removed from play.
For his part, Polk did buy the shuffler explanation, but only somewhat, saying that the dots on the cards did appear to be in unique patterns, agreeing with Voulgaris that it looked like it had to do with the value of the cards.
Neither player thought anyone at the table was trying to do anything fishy, as they either knew them personally or knew enough about them to not suspect their tablemates, but it was still disconcerting. Of course, the WSOP’s explanation may have been the correct one. The automatic card shuffler may have made some sort of dots or indentations on the cards that looked like someone had intentionally marked them. And since the human brain tends to want to associate patterns when there are none, the players may have been seeing something that wasn’t actually there. Occam’s Razor, if you will: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.
In the end, nobody at the final table seemed to think that the tournament – or at least the final table of the tournament – was affected by the markings. Unless the WSOP follows up and investigates the matter further, this will likely be forgotten in fairly short order.