Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino Flubs Poker Regulations, Hit With $30,000 Fine

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has slapped Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino with a $30,000 fine for dealing roughly a half dozen poker hands in game formats not authorized by the state, amid the aftermath of a “Poker Night in America” episode filming session held at the casino featuring several high-profile poker pros.

Despite some public chatter otherwise, the PNiA production effort was not in any way connected to extracurricular poker that led to the Pennsylvania regulators stepping in, except for recruiting the pros who participated in the filming session. Instead, according to the best reading of several reports on the story, two or more of the players involved pressured SugarHouse’s poker-room staff to deal a few hands of unauthorized poker to conduct some high-stakes “flips” — a little bit of pro degen action to add more life to what by many accounts had been a loose, friendly cash-game filming aftermath.

At least one of the hands, a 10-card “no peek” stud hand between PNiA guests Doug Polk and Jeremy Kaufman, was filmed by Shaun Deeb and ended up being posted by Polk to his YouTube account. The hand included each player putting up $41,000 (for a total pot of $82,000), with Polk winning most of that money after a buy-out late in the hand. Regulators also learned of an additional five hands of Open-Face Chinese, a 13-card game, being dealt out for high-stakes between some of the same players.

Whether or not the video is what brought the matter to the PGCB’s attention isn’t publicly known, but the problem was obvious: Neither 10-card no-peek nor OFC is among the list of poker variants allowed to be dealt at Pennsylvania’s licensed casinos.

The $30,000 fine is relatively unimportant. However, according to chatter on a prominent poker forum, either one or two of the poker-room supervisors who were on duty and who okayed the dealing of the unregulated hands had their employment terminated. This has not been formally verified, and it’s also true that these employees bore the responsibility for allowing the hands to be dealt.

However, in a moralistic sense, that doesn’t quite absolve the players involved of all responsibility. Despite — as many posters have noted — such “flips” are no big deal in a tourist-and-gambling-oriented state such as Nevada, that atmosphere simply does not exist in Pennsylvania. The state is newer to gambling, more under attack from gambling foes, and thus, much more forced to follow a strict line in matters such as this. Poker room staff really does try to please the customers. Here they tried too hard, to their lasting regret.

Polk has posted something of a public apology, writing this on a major discussion forum: “Just want to say that Im sorry my actions got the casino fined, but more importantly that people potentially lost their jobs over this matter. Im not sure how I was supposed to know not to do this, no one said anything to me and it wasnt like we were doing it in secret. I just thought it would be a fun thing to stream that people on my channel would like seeing. Especially coming from Las Vegas where flips are completely acceptable, I didnt really think that it could cause any issues. Once again I apologize that my actions caused harm to others, even if it was inadvertently.”

Deeb also posted an apology on Twitter, stating,”Sadly yes I think the fine was more too we all apologized to the staff who got in trouble for us pushing them to allow it we took advantage of their kindness.”

That’s fair enough, and seems legitimately remorseful. In it, though, there’s something all of us can learn. Sometimes even the most talented, rich, and famous poker pros among us just don’t fully think things through, right?

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