There’s plenty that people can complain about PokerStars for – their rake increases, the way that they messed up the European Poker Tour (don’t get me started) and other things – but every once in awhile they do get a situation right. Such a time arose recently in a PokerStars promotion which saw a competition result that wasn’t a fair one.

Why You Don’t Combine Results from Sports…

PokerStars runs a promotion called “The Big Race” that, in the past, had awarded seats to major European Poker Tour events based on the performance of the outcome of horse races. In this particular circumstance, “The Big Race” saw players assigned to drivers in Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrome that could earn the player a seat into the European Poker Tour’s stop in Prague, Czech Republic. A $2 buy-in poker tournament would take the top 20 finishers and randomly assign them a driver and, whichever driver won, that player would win too by getting a seat to the EPT Prague.

If you were one of those top 20 players, you could certainly hope that you’d get one of the “big guns” of Formula One racing such as the United Kingdom’s Lewis Hamilton or Germany’s Sebastian Vettel. Thus, when Romania’s Daniel Dohotaru, one of the top 20 finishers in the poker tournament, was assigned Finland’s Valterri Bottas, he probably wasn’t thinking that he had a shot at winning. As they say, however…that’s why they run the race.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

When the Russian Grand Prix was run in September, Dohotaru was probably not expecting anything from the race. After Bottas qualified first and would start from the pole position, however, the chances for Dohotaru went up exponentially. As the race started and Bottas maintained his lead, Dohotaru could almost taste the thrill of victory, not to mention that special “Golden Ticket” of going to the EPT Prague for free.

Then the ugly head of sports reality brought about the agony of defeat. Formula One racing is arguably a very corrupt sport, with different scandals scarring one of the premiere racing series in the world. One of the worst things that often occurs in Formula One racing is something called “team orders” which dictates that, on a two-driver team, one driver and his performance is valued above the other driver. In the case of Team Mercedes, whom Bottas and Hamilton both drove for, Hamilton is the #1 driver, as earned by his five World Championships.

With Bottas running ahead of Hamilton slightly passed the halfway point in the race after both men had pitted, Team Mercedes ordered Bottas to allow Hamilton to pass him and take over the second place position behind then leader Max Verstappen. Verstappen, trying to wait for a course caution that would have held his position if he pitted, had to instead pit late in the race, at which point Hamilton took over the lead and would eventually finish the race first with Bottas second.

Making it Right

The “team orders” victory by Hamilton not only roiled the Formula One world (there is discussion about ending the practice), but it also had an effect on the outcome of the PokerStars “Big Race” promotion. Dohotaru, who in essence had his seat to the EPT Prague taken from him by situations he could not control (AKA the “team orders” that forced Bottas to give up what would have been the first place slot), was naturally disappointed with the outcome. But PokerStars would step up and make things right.

As a result of the “team orders” actions of Team Mercedes during the Russian Grand Prix, PokerStars gave another €7500 package to Dohotaru (his entry fee and travel/lodging expenses). When the tournament kicks off on December 12, Dohotaru will join Roberta Ban (who had Hamilton in the race) as the winners of the “Big Race” and both will be looking to challenge the crème of the European poker community in an event that has become one of the prestigious stops on the EPT schedule. Kudos to PokerStars for righting the wrong that had occurred and good luck to both Dohotaru and Ban as they head to the capital of the Czech Republic in December.

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