Another heads-up challenge
There is something about poker drama that is just so intriguing. It is usually a strange brew of stupidity, bravado, triviality, and actual seriousness that combine into a cool, refreshing drink. Over the past week, one such controversy erupted on social media, turning a bit of a nothingburger into a feud between two respected members of the poker community.
For background, another heads-up challenge was recently confirmed between 21-year-old upstart Landon Tice and strong recreational high roller and hedge fund manager Bill Perkins. Tice was very bold in seeking out competition, so much so that in his deal with Perkins, he agreed to $200/$400 stakes for 20,000 AND he will pay Perkins nine big blinds per 100 hands. That’s $720,000 forked over to Perkins if the challenge goes the distance. Tice also has a similar game lined up against Rob Yong for 15 bb/100.
Tice is considered one of the best young players in world, educated and financially backed by other greats. He is better than Perkins, but Perkins, despite his amateur status, is a very good player. He is also quite rich and is used to playing for nosebleed stakes.
In a tweet thread, Chan said that he was looking at Twitter posts one day and came across a PokerShares tweet, retweeted by McDonald, not coincidentally the owner of PokerShares. What McDonald shared was a screenshot of the line for the challenge on PokerShares, which had the two players even, at -109 each.
Chan found a juicy betting line
After consulting some friends, as he didn’t know much about Tice, Chan placed a bet on the kid, figuring getting the favorite at virtually even money was a great bet. The line didn’t move, so he bet two more times, both for the €1,000 max. PokerShares later e-mailed him to say they cancelled the second two bets because it’s a €1,000 maximum in total.
A few minutes later, the site e-mailed him again to say that the bet includes the $720,000 handicap, so Tice must win by more than that for the bet to win. The screenshot, as Chan points out, mentions nothing about that.
Chan then shared screenshots of a conversation McDonald initiated with him, which started with McDonald asking, “Are you dumb?”
McDonald said the bet obviously meant who won the challenge and since the challenge included the 9 bb/100 handicap, Tice must win by more than that. Chan told him that should be in the terms of the bet, that PokerShares needs to make it clear. McDonald actually agreed that it was a “suboptimal look” for the bet to be unclear and corrected it.
Neither man wants to back down
In the meantime, though, there was still the matter of Chan’s bet. He wanted to keep it without the handicap, as that’s what he thought it was when he placed it. McDonald said, per the terms of the site, that PokerShares had the right to cancel bets if there was a human error in the posting of the lines. Chan told him that for goodwill, PokerShares should let the bet ride the way Chan had interpreted it.
“I’m obviously aware that Pokershares have a right to cancel my bet,” Chan tweeted. “But as I see it, they’re just plain wrong here. If you run a business and fuck up, you own it and you bite it. Especially in this business where reputation and service matter. You’re the house.”
Chan cited his experience in the early 2000’s working at PokerStars, saying that Stars founder Isai Scheinberg would routinely take a hit if the site screwed something up or even refund a player’s money when it was the player’s fault, just to be a good steward of poker.
Loads of people weighed in on both sides. Chan got worn out by all the responses so he took a break from Twitter, saying he was going to take care of his daughter. He also posted a screenshot of a $1,000 donation to the Hong Kong Humanitarian Fund. Of course, McDonald had to jump on that, tweeting:
In the end, the whole thing is a dumb argument between two guys who have known each other a long time and seem to normally like each other. They both have valid points, but let their egos get in the way, rather than just one of them agreeing to something and letting the other have his way. Monetarily, it isn’t a big deal for either of them, but they got hung up on principle and wanting to win an argument.
Was the bet listing unclear? Yes. Should McDonald have let Chan just go with that bet? Perhaps. Should Chan have understood it was a mistake and either accepted it or cancelled his bet? Perhaps. Should they have just come to an agreement and let it go? Of course.