Betting with phantom chips

William Kassouf is a good poker player with a bad reputation. He is known for his incessant “speech play” at the tables and while some people find it entertaining, it seems that most think he’s just being an asshole. And then there was the time in 2018 when he was caught palming chips from a roulette table. He apologized, blaming intoxication, but he hasn’t been able to live it down. This past week, he was the center of more controversy as multiple people have accused him of shady behavior at the Irish Poker Open.

The first incident comes courtesy of Barny Boatman, who was playing in a cash game with Kassouf. According to a tweet from Boatman, Kassouf sat down at the table, but instead of putting chips in front of him, he simply said he was in for €300. Somehow, he was dealt into a hand and called a bet and raise for €30, again without actually using chips. It was like a “trust me” situation. After “calling,” he finally put three €100 chips on the table. He then called a flop bet, but still never put in that pre-flop €30 until Boatman spoke up.

Poker pro David Lappin of VegasSlotsOnline News asked Boatman for more explanation, to which Boatman replied, “He made a very unsubtle attempt to short the pot. I waited long enough to be certain he was never gonna put the money in, although it was written all over his face that he didn’t intend to. When I called it out, he did, as you might expect from him, a very bad acting job, pretending he had forgotten and didn’t know how much he owed.”

Dine and dash?

The bigger controversy came later in the night, though stories on what did or did not happen differ. Leo Worthington-Leese posted a video to social media in which he said that Kassouf bought in short to a Pot-Limit Omaha game, about €300 when everyone was buying-in for at least €1,000, and lost it all on an all-in. He rebought for the same and soon found himself on the losing end of an all-in again.

As there was a side pot and a main pot, it took the dealer a little while to sort things out. While that was happening, Kassouf allegedly picked up his chips and “runs out of the card room.”

Worthington-Leese was outside the poker room at the time and only heard of the alleged incident from a friend immediately after, though he says he had it confirmed by a couple people at the table.

Keith Littlewood corroborated the story, tweeting that he was one of the three players in the pot. He later told PokerNews that after the all-in bets, “None of the stacks was counted or brought in the middle. Kassouf told the dealer, ‘Just leave it and sort it after the river.’”

At the end of the hand, when it was time to sort out the pot and the stacks, “Then [the dealer] went to do the main pot, and just the blinds and antes were there. Kassouf’s stack had disappeared, and so had Kassouf. Everyone was asking where Will’s stack was. The dealer called the floor, who then got the security guards to go and find him. He had disappeared without a trace.”

Littlewood admits that he did not see Kassouf leave, but he was gone and so were his chips, so everyone put two and two together.

In his defense, Kassouf has denied any wrongdoing, telling PokerNews that he neither took his chips nor fled the poker room.

“I had lost both pots, so I got up to speak to my friend Nikolay Ponomarev at our table and another friend Alex Zeligman at another table (as they were both on my flight back to London) before I walked out of the poker room. There was no issue at the time when I was there, and nobody called the floor for any reason, either, whilst I was in the poker room,” Kassouf said.

Irish Poker Open tournament director JP McCann confirmed with both Ponomarev and Zeligman that they spoke with Kassouf after the hand, meaning that Kassouf apparently did not make a break for it, as one might if trying to pull off the scam of which he is accused.

Image credit: / World Poker Tour

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