Everyone knows that “nice guys finish last.”
You’re a nice guy. Here it is, the 49th annual World Series of Poker. As you look at your naked wrist you may be wondering why you have yet to take down a gold bracelet and secure yourself a place in poker history.
Look, you play well. You had aces. It can’t be that.
Perhaps it’s actually true that nice guys do finish last or, at best, bust out on the bubble. Maybe you’re thinking it’s time you switch things up. If being a good guy isn’t working out for you perhaps it’s time to unleash your inner bad boy.
And there’s nothing badder than getting outright banned.
So, if saying “please” and “thank you” just isn’t cutting it anymore here’s what it would take to turn full heel and get yourself kicked out of the Rio…maybe for good.
But be forewarned, for many getting a property ban is a lifetime sentence. We strongly urge you to use caution and, in all sincerity, not to do these things. But if you insist, here’s a gambler’s guide to getting banned from the WSOP.
Drunk and disorderly
“Casinos are private property. You are a guest, like being a guest in someone’s home. Do something the homeowner doesn’t like, and you may be asked to leave.” — WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky.
In 2013, bracelet winner David Diaz was at a Harrah’s property when, with a little help from alcohol, he shed his nice guy image for the night. Diaz allegedly got blackout drunk and began harassing people and causing some unwelcome chaos. His WSOP participation was terminated due to a Harrah’s-wide property ban.
Diaz, who claimed at the time he didn’t even remember the incident, apologized, tweeting: “I would like to apologize to Harrah’s, my friends, and to anyone my actions have affected negatively. I made a mistake and plan to do everything in my power to make it right and take the proper steps so that nothing like this will ever happen again.”
When it comes to disorderly conduct, throwing women’s clothing out the window of a hotel room should do the trick. In 2011, poker pro Carter Gill did just that – in an altercation, he threw the clothes out the window, along with his chances of competing in the remainder of the 2011 Main Event. Gill, who had already advanced to Day 2 of the Main, promptly received the boot from the property.
Lucky for both Diaz and Gill, they both received a reprieve. Both have been allowed back inside the Rio to participate in future WSOP events.
Abuse or threatening others
“I can tell you, if anyone threatens anyone in a casino, they are likely facing lifetime bans. Just not worth the risk because if this individual were allowed back in, and had a repeat offense, the liability on the company is far too great compared to the business opportunity that one individual represents.” — Seth Palansky.
Players who abuse another person or, even threaten to will for sure be at risk. Sometimes it means saying something you simply cannot take back. Even if it’s a joke.
Poker pro Sam Panzica was having a good time during the 2013 November Nine railing the final table, enjoying a few adult beverages and, by his own admission getting a little drunk. After being denied re-entry into the rail section of the Main Event final table, Panzica was forced to sit in the general admission section of the theater, something he wasn’t too happy about.
“We sat in the really last row of the theater and watch and at one point, mind you I am drunk and probably being louder than I should, I say ‘I wish I had an AK right now’ nothing more.”
That was enough to set off a chain of events that led him to getting 86’d from the Penn & Teller theater, placed in a cab and sent back to his hotel room at another property.
The next day when he returned to try and watch Ryan Riess win it all, the security guard that helped him into the cab pulled him from the line, and formally kicked him out for life. The guard claimed that he was overheard saying that he was “going to mow everyone down with an AK-47.”
Panzica continues to crush the live poker scene. He earned a $1.3 million score by winning the 2017 World Poker Tour Shooting Star tournament at Bay 101. But he remains banned from the Rio.
Physical altercations against employees (or anyone)
“Casino employees may be the front lines for the issue, but ultimately everything gets turned over to security personnel. They are the experts on the ins and outs and protocols and procedures. They determine ultimately what happens to the individual.” — Seth Palansky.
Under no circumstance should one person threaten or physically hurt another person. Ask Thang Luu what that will get you. Luu pulled off the impressive feat of actually defending a bracelet title by winning the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Low Split 8-or-Better event in both 2008 and 2009.
However, for Luu, he decided to literally break the hand that fed him.
The story told is that during an Omaha 8 cash game, when a dealer went to make Luu’s already face-up cards more visible to the table, Luu allegedly told the dealer not to touch his cards. Then, reportedly, with his fist rolled into a ball, he smashed the hand of the dealer shattering multiple bones in the dealer’s hand.
This incident occurred in 2009. Luu has not returned to the WSOP since.
Cheating and collusion
“WSOP staff has no role in getting anyone’s ban overturned. It becomes a simple liability analysis by risk management and security and whether it is worth to put casino guests, employees and licenses at risk for individuals who disregard rules.” — Seth Palansky.
So you’ve gotten to the point where you don’t want to threaten or cause physical harm. That’s good. But if you’re still resolved to wear the black hat, you can opt to go full scumbag and cheat your way to the top. But, if caught by the hundreds upon hundreds of cameras watching your every move, you’ll not only be booted from the Rio, but shunned everywhere poker is played.
Think they won’t catch you? Think again. In Event #3 of the 2010 WSOP, a middle-aged man in a baseball cap and his opponent were involved in a hefty pot right at the break. Most of the players left to destroy a bathroom or grab a $7 soda while the two players finished out the hand. Our older villain wins the hand and leans in to rake in the chips…with one hand. With the other hand, he casually reached into the chip stack next to his, and tossed in some of that guys chips for good measure.
Old Man Baseball Cap thought he got away with one, mixing in the stolen chips with the pot he just dragged. Nope. Caught and banned on the spot. He was booted from the tournament and the WSOP for life.
General Misconduct (or Misunderstanding?)
“Obviously, with the WSOP, it is even tougher. A ban from one property usually means a companywide ban for all Caesars properties. With over 50 properties, and other WSOP events at others, it can be quite punitive to an individual.” — Seth Palansky.
Bay Area poker player Pat Lyons thought he wasn’t asking for that much. A Total Rewards member since 2005, he’d grinded his rewards level to Seven Stars by playing poker and his penchant for playing the ponies.
“Finally I hit Seven Stars, that’s the epitome of the program. So, asking for waters and, little stuff, hot tubs and a nice room … It’s really a no-brainer that if you ask for free water or if a hot tub is not fixed … it’s a common amenity. Basically, I may have annoyed, or pushed, or prodded…”
Lyons, who speaks about his altercation with Rio staff contends that he was also on a decent dose of medication as he deals with chronic back problems. His request was to take an undetermined number of water bottles back to his room. He was also looking to have one of the hot tubs, the one that helped his back feel better, fixed, as it was not currently working.
“I may have said something, or not comprehended something,” Lyons said. “Looking back it’s all a very, very bad misunderstanding.”
A giant misunderstanding indeed. To hear Lyons tell his side, he was simply … emphatically complaining.
“They claimed, I heard through the grapevine, that I was being abusive to the employee. I bet so much money and gamble so much money, if I win I’m just going to increase the bet on the next thing. Why would I give anybody a reason to wish bad luck on me?”
He received a phone call he thought he’d never receive being a Seven Stars member. Banned. That was in 2016. Only weeks after receiving that phone call, this bad boy went on to win the Arizona State Poker Championship for $241,000. The very next week he captured his first World Poker Tour title at the 2016 Legends of Poker in Los Angeles for another $615,000.
So, perhaps getting banned is a good thing. But if you ask Lyons, there’s really nothing like the WSOP.
“I may have caught somebody on a bad day and I didn’t like being told ‘no’, so I’m guilty of that. I think I learned from it. I have some hope that I’ll get back in. If and when I get back in, I don’t care about a hot tub and I’m not asking for bottles of water,” Lyon said.
“I can never be given back these years, days and opportunities that I’ve missed.”
According to Lyons, his latest request to be reinstated has been denied.
“Our advice is don’t get close to crossing any lines and there’s nothing to worry about,” concludes Palansky. “But if your issue escalates, best to compose yourself long enough to ensure there’s no encounter on casino property, because once that line is crossed, it’s likely the last time.”