Sydney, Australia - An avoidable counting error made by tournament staff at the Star Sydney Champs poker festival sowed chaos, resulting in upset players on the money bubble.
The play had already continued for 10 to 15 minutes after the double knockout before the tournament was stopped. With 600 entries in the AU$3,000 (US$ 2,037) Main Event, the top 63 finishers were to cash in. After a double elimination, the tournament director proclaimed that everyone who was still in the running had made the money, and hand-for-hand play would no longer be needed. After a few more hands, it was then discovered that there were still 64 players left.
According to witness, Salvatore Fazzino, the player who eventually hit the rail in 64th place, play kept on going for 10 to 15 minutes when it was suddenly paused. After another 20 minutes of waiting, he explained that the tournament director had admitted to making a mistake and told the dealers to go hand-for-hand as the tournament was not yet in the money.
Upon learning of this odd development, a lot of the players became incensed because they believed they would have played differently had they had known that the money bubble had yet to burst.
Nobody was ousted in the brief period between the double knockout and the recognition of the counting error, but that did not matter to some. The dynamics of tournament poker, they claimed, are substantially different just before and just after the bubble.
Most of the players believe that because the tournament had been changed, even if only for a short time, 64 players should be paid rather than 63. The tournament director listened to the gripes and then walked away to talk to someone on the phone.
After a few minutes, the director confirmed that the event would pay to 63 places and play was to continue hand-for-hand until the next elimination. Players were told they could e-mail the poker operations manager with any other concerns. This did little to placate the hot-under-the-collar players but the tournament continued on.
Fazzino was the unlucky bubble boy after the hubbub. He had flopped a full house, holding pocket Jacks on J-5-5 flop. Joe Antar, one of the biggest stacks in the field, held 9-5 and rivered a 5 for quads. Fazzino moved all-in and was picked off.
Recalling the hand, Fazzino relayed that a couple of the casino’s regular players felt that the poker room would “make it right” and still pay the player who bubbled, in spite of the ruling. He initially believed that might have affected his decision to call off his chips on the river with some severely short stacks left. After some thought, he came to the decision that there was probably no way to lay down such a strong hand.