Table Talk: WSOP Lays Down the Law

Know The Rules

Chan Pelton is not a household name in poker, but more people know of him after the recent incident at the World Series of Poker Circuit event in Florida. He stole a tournament chip and felt the wrath of the WSOP for violating a basic tournament rule.

The rule is a basic one. Do not take tournament chips from the tables. In fact, tournament chips “may not be removed from the tournament area or the assigned event,” and that rule is made clear at the start of any WSOP or WSOPC event. And it has been in place for many years.

Pelton said he took the chip as a souvenir. It happened as he was leading during heads-up play in Event 9 of the WSOPC series at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. He was preparing to take down his second WSOPC title with that PLO event win, and he swiped a chip from his stack. It would have only hurt his own chip count, though it didn’t, and he won the tournament. But the action did not go unnoticed, and he admitted to the act. It was also verified by the poker room’s surveillance cameras.

He won the tournament, but the incident was already being investigated. And in the end, the Palm Beach Kennel Club made a ruling about 10 days later.

Acknowledging that the intent of the player was not to cheat and that the action did not impact the tournament result, the Palm Beach Kennel Club decided that Pelton was in direct violation of the rule. He was disqualified from the tournament, effective from the time that the action took place. Jeffrey Green, who finished the tournament in second place, was then declared the winner and given the first place prize money of $12,181. Pelton had to forfeit that money and the gold WSOPC ring, as well as his points earned toward a seat in the $1 million National Championship. The difference in the prize money was redistributed to all players who cashed in the event.

He was also banned from the PBKC property and all future events in associated with that facility. WSOP then made an additional statement to concur with the PBKC decision and add that Pelton was indefinitely suspended from all WSOP-related events and all Caesars-owned properties.

Some players thought that the decision was harsh. Considering his intent to cause no harm, some felt that he should’ve been offered some leniency.

On the other hand, I am among those who agree with the punishment. It’s not often that I agree with the WSOP, but its officials were right to strictly protect their rules and enforce them. I’ve said it before: Rules are rules.

For one thing, the player was receiving more than $12K and a gold ring to commemorate the victory, to add to a gold ring that he already obtained in 2012. He also has trophies from other events that he has won in the past. The money and ring weren’t enough to commemorate the event? The write-up on the WSOP website and his winner photo were not sufficient? That’s just too bad. Greed doesn’t often have a good end result.

Second, there have been several incidents in the news recently regarding players who have introduced counterfeit chips to casinos. There was the Borgata incident with chips in a major tournament, the fallout being so severe that there is still no resolution for the 27 players who were still in the tournament when it was suspended. And even more recently, two people tried to introduce counterfeit chips at the Maryland Live Casino in a number of table games before being caught.

Casinos have been paying attention to those incidents and doing what they can to prevent such actions at their facilities. The theft of a tournament chip can seem innocent enough, but it could also be a way to examine the chip and try to counterfeit it for cheating in future events. The chip could have also been stolen to use in another WSOPC event later in the series, such as the WSOPC Main Event that Pelton likely intended to play.

Did the WSOP make an example of Pelton? Sure. And it was absolutely the right thing to do. There can be no doubt that the rules of a tournament or of a casino will be enforced.

Pelton took a risk and lost. He lost big. His poker career may not be over, as there are many non-Caesars properties at which he can continue to play poker. However, his name will always be associated with this incident, his reputation tarnished, and his ability to compete in any WSOP-related event gone. That is the price he pays for breaking the rules.