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Borgata Winter Poker Open Event #1 Frozen, Counterfeit Chips Discovered

borgata-logoThe Borgata’s annual Winter Poker Open series, just underway in Atlantic City, New Jersey, got off to an inauspicious start after tournament directors discovered that a large number of counterfeit tournament chips had been introduced into play during the series’ opening event.

Borgata staff verified that a large quantity of fake chips of the “5,000” denomination, generally in use in the middle stages of the event, had been added surreptitiously by one or more cheating players among the mass of 4,814 entrants during the event’s multiple starting days.  On Friday, early during play in the event’s official Day 3, play was suspended when the full extent of the counterfeit-chip introduction became known.  At that point, 27 players remained.

The latest developments, happening just hours ago, confirm that play in the event will be frozen indefinitely while casino and state investigators continue reviewing security tapes in an attempt to find the cheaters.  Such ringing in of fake chips, or of real chips swiped from other, lesser tourneys, is an occasional problem in poker tournaments, though few occurrences have been on the scale of this weekend’s Borgata happenings.

As part of the freezing of the event, the Borgata will also not be paying out (at least until the investigation is complete) the majority of the event’s more than $2 million in prizes to those final 27 players, assuming all are innocent and the cheater or cheaters have already been busted from the event.

Numerous allegations regarding the cheating have already flooded discussion forums and social media, with a couple of complicating factors already generally confirmed.  Among those are evidence that the Borgata used chips from multiple chip sets during the event, possibly making the identification of some of the fake chips more difficult by the many inexperienced dealers being pressed into service to deal the event.

borgata-fake-chipsTourney participant Luke Edwards (@7thecho on Twitter) Tweeted a photo of the obvious chip discrepancies in play, though his widely circulated picture (right) does not show any of the counterfeit chips, but instead shows two of the legit styles of gray “5,000” chips in play.  According to several reports, the actual counterfeits were similar to the duller gray chips on the left side of Edwards’ photo, but with a different weight and feel, although with a similar Borgata chip sticker affixed.

Borgata officials have not released an exact tally of how many fake chips were introduced.  However, the published chip counts for the remaining 27 players showed a collective count roughly 1.13 million higher than the combined initial starting stacks.  Even allowing for some growth of the total during occasional color-ups and race-offs of chips, it is possible that 150-200 of the fake “5,000” chips may have been added during play.

The Borgata has yet to announce any official statement on the number or identity of the players possibly involved, and is unlikely to do so until the investigation is complete and arrests (if any) are made.  Borgata CEO Tom Ballance issued a brief statement about the event’s suspension in conjunction with the official freezing of play via several local media outlets:

“Thus far, investigators have found that one or more tournament entrants improperly introduced a significant number of counterfeit chips into the tournament, gaining an unfair advantage and compromising the integrity of play for the event.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the criminal actions of these individuals can have a detrimental impact on more than 4,000 other entrants,” said Ballance. “We fully understand and regret the disappointment this cancellation causes our valued customers, and we will work diligently with DGE [New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement] investigators to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The integrity of our games and the confidence of our players is of the utmost importance to us.”

It is unknown whether the event will be allowed to continue, or if refunds will (or can) be issued to any participants who can be shown to have been directly and negatively impacted by the implied cheating that took place.  Other Borgata Winter Poker Open events are continuing while the investigation into this one continues.

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