Stairway to nothing
Furious poker players took to Twitter over the weekend as The Venetian canceled two events with ‘guarantees’ totaling $1.1m. The poker room nixed both the $25,500 buy-in scheduled for Sunday and Monday’s $51,000 buy-in. These two tournaments represented over half the total guarantee of the now laughably labeled ‘Stairway to Millions’ festival.
due to decisions made by The Venetian Resort Poker Room, the final two events were canceled.”
The Venetian Poker Room left it to its broadcasting partner PokerGO to make the announcement. PokerGO’s statement read: “The Stairway To Millions originally had 12 events on the schedule, but due to decisions made by The Venetian Resort Poker Room, the final two events were canceled.”
This is the umpteenth time that a poker operator has failed to honor its tournament guarantee this year. Buried in the fine print of festival Ts & Cs is a get-out clause, permitting the poker room to pull the plug if it deems it necessary. This begs the obvious question: why are operators allowed to use the word guarantee when it is not guaranteed?
A unique format
The first eight events of the 12-event Stairway to Millions series all surpassed the guarantees but on Friday, just 18 players showed up for the $10,400 buy-in tournament, resulting in a $20,000 overlay. A similar fate befell Saturday’s $15,500 tournament, which fell $30,000 short of the $300,000 guarantee. With the writing seemingly on the wall, The Venetian bailed on its two largest tournaments.
Adam Hendrix finished runner-up in Event #9 for $37,050
The Stairway to Millions boasted a unique step format with every player who cashed an event advancing to a larger tournament the next day. As such it was a regular tournament/satellite hybrid. When Adam Hendrix finished runner-up in Event #9 for $37,050, he qualified for what turned out to be the final event. However, midway through the day’s play, he was informed that the guarantees for the final two events would be removed.
The poker pro later took to Twitter to vent his frustration:
In the end, the tournaments were canceled altogether, sparking further outrage. As soon as PokerGO made the announcement, a prominent voice in the poker community Ryan Laplante spoke out:
Consequences for false advertising
The Stairway to Millions series is part of the prestigious PokerGO Tour, which calls itself “the official tour for the world’s top professional poker players that play in high roller tournaments with a minimum $10,000 buy-in.” While it would certainly be unfair to lay blame at the feet of PokerGO, it’s a bad look for the streaming platform. If there’s one thing top poker players do not appreciate, it is being lied to.
The Venetian’s cancellations are made worse by the satellite aspect
In August, Hustler Casino drew the ire of the poker community when it reneged on a $250,000 guarantee. The gambling venue was rightly castigated in poker media for that broken promise. If anything, The Venetian’s cancellations are made worse by the satellite aspect.
Players effectively bought into earlier phases of this deliberately interlinked tournament series in good faith. They were likely sold by the carrot of that big ‘guaranteed’ prize at the end. Beyond the reputational damage, there ought to be consequences for false advertising.
After the Hustler Casino debacle, Shaun Yaple gave the $350 buy-in back to everyone who played plus he promised a future tournament with $50,000 added to the prize pool. The players who participated in this fiasco deserve similar restitution.