Miscount of Players on Bubble Causes Uproar in Sydney Poker Tourney

  • The Star Sydney Champs Main Event paid to 63 places
  • After double elimination, TD announced everyone left was in the money
  • Counting error discovered after further play, 64 players remaining
  • Players upset, wanting payouts changed to 64 places
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An incorrect count of players in The Star Sydney Champs Main Event led to players thinking the money bubble had burst when it hadn’t.

Bubble burst, then reversed

A simple counting error by tournament staff at The Star Sydney Champs poker festival over the weekend created confusion and upset players on the money bubble.

Play had gone on for 10 to 15 minutes after the double knockout before the tournament was paused.

With 600 entries in the AU$3,000 (US$ 2,037) Main Event, the top 63 finishers were to cash. After a double elimination, the tournament director announced that everyone remaining had made the money, and hand-for-hand play would not be necessary. After a few more hands, it was discovered that there were still 64 players left.

According to a first-hand account from Salvatore Fazzino, the player who eventually hit the rail in 64th place, play had gone on for 10 to 15 minutes after the double knockout before the tournament was paused.

After about 20 minutes, he explained on Two Plus Two, the tournament director admitted the mistake and instructed the dealers to go hand-for-hand as the tournament was not yet in the money.

Players furious, want 64 players paid

Many players were upset because they believed they would have played differently if they had known that the money bubble had not yet burst.

Nobody was eliminated in the short time between the double knockout and the realization of the counting error, but that did not matter to some. The dynamics of tournament poker, they argued, are significantly different just before and just after the bubble.

Most of the players felt that because the tournament had been altered, even if for a short time, 64 players should be paid instead of 63. The tournament director listened to the complaints and then walked away to talk to someone on the phone.

After a few minutes, she confirmed that the event would pay to 63 places and play was to resume hand-for-hand until the next elimination. Players were told they could e-mail the poker operations manager on Monday with any concerns. This irritated the players further, but the tournament played on.

Real bubble boy takes brutal beat

Fazzino was the unlucky bubble boy after the commotion. 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 on Two Plus Two, Fazzino said a couple of the casino’s regular players felt that the poker room would “make it right” and still pay the player who bubbled, despite the ruling.

He originally thought that might have influenced his decision to call off his chips on the river with some severely short stacks remaining. After some thought, he realized there was probably no way to lay down such a strong hand.