Live poker tournament forced to pay winners in precious metals

Over the weekend the Midway Poker Tour hosted a $1,100 buy-in event with a $100,000 guarantee in Chicago. It attracted 266 runners with a first prize of $55,060.

That first prize and all the other payouts, however, were not in cash. It took place in a hotel and was officially run as a charity event to adhere to Illinois gambling law. As such the organisers were not allowed to award prizes of more than $500 plus returned entry fee. To get around this the winners were paid a ‘prize’ of precious metals, like silver coins.

A bullion dealer was on site and purchasing the coins back from the players right away. Only a small amount of precious metals were on site, and the same coins were being recycled whenever another player would cash the event.

The players were unaware of this unusual payout system and some of them began to speak up when it appeared that the coins were not worth the equivalent value of what they had cashed for. The problems were compounded when the Attorney General’s office arrived and insisted that a full $258,020 worth of prizes were on-site.

The 4 Kids Sake Inc charity organisers, the official license holders, were then forced to spend the final day trying to secure a large amount of precious metals. They then arranged for a metal merchant in Wisconsin to guarantee they would buy the metal from the players off site.

The tournament was paused with ten players left and eventually they agreed to play out the final table, with Renato Spahiu winning it for $55,060.

Midway Poker Tour founder Dan Bekavac is also known for running a PokerBros skin, which is an unregulated and very controversial way some players have been playing online poker in regions where it is prohibited.

PokerNews were reporting at the event and it is worth reading their live updates to see how the events played out and when the players discovered they would not be getting cash for their win. It had shades of the Fyre Festival in a poker context.

This is not the first time and it won’t be the last time that a poker operator attempts to exploit a loophole in the law to offer real money poker in a region where it is not allowed. This one is particularly ludicrous just because of the thought of all the poker players having to turn into de facto bullion dealers just to realise their winnings.

Would you hold onto the metals if you won them? Let us know in the comments:

Barry Carter

Barry Carter

Barry Carter is the editor of and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy and PKO Poker Strategy

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