Brandon Cantu

Brandon Cantu, Jesse Martin Dispute Gets Physical at WSOP

The other day, I somewhat lamented the lack of non-poker drama at the 2014 World Series of Poker. I feel better about things now. The latest: fight, fight, fight!

Well, it wasn’t much of a fight, but it still involved physicality. And don’t we all want to see brawling poker players? Of course we do. I imagine the Phil Hellmuth versus Sam Grizzle bout over a decade ago was far superior to this one, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

It happened during a 2-7 Triple Draw hand of the Dealer’s Choice event. Brandon Cantu, very good player who has won two bracelets in his WSOP career, got into an argument with Matt Szymaszek. Jesse Martin, Szymaszek’s friend, chimed in from another table, creating a second argument with Cantu, one which quickly escalated in ferocity until Cantu went over and shoved Martin. A player at an adjacent table witnessed the entire thing and posted about it on Two Plus Two, so we’ll let him describe the action:

Up until the hand in question, the floor was called over to that table several times for rulings, and each time, a heated argument preceded the floor’s arrival.

When this hand came up, they were playing a draw game. When the floor came over to listen, the dealer was attempting to explain what she saw, and couldn’t finish because both Brandon (seat 2) and the guy in seat 6 kept yelling variants of “NO! That’s not what happened!” or “I’ll show you EXACTLY what he did!” etc.

Finally, she manages to tell the story: on the last draw, Brandon verbally pats, his opponent taps the table (indicating a pat), and then Brandon physically checks the river by tapping the table. His opponent then makes a checking motion with his hand, so Brandon opens his cards. At this point, his opponent objects, claiming that he hadn’t checked.

While the situation was being discussed with the floor (in a matter which, from reports, didn’t sound totally genial), Jesse Martin started yelling at Cantu that he is angle shooter and that Szymaszek knows how to play draw games. The two started yelling f-this and f-that, you’re an angle shooter, he’s an angle shooter, etc., until Cantu got so fed up that he rushed at Martin. According to the Two Plus Two poster, “They definitely made contact, and from my POV, about ten feet away, I thought Brandon actually landed a slap / punch. A floor man steps in, and a few minutes later there are about 5 security guards around their table.”

Jesse Martin (C) WSOP.com

Jesse Martin, 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner
(C) WSOP.com

Martin wanted Cantu booted from the tourney; Cantu did take a long break (45 minutes, according to the witness), but was eventually permitted to continue playing.

Martin gave his side of the story on Two Plus Two yesterday, essentially saying he was defending his friend’s honor:

Just wanted to say quickly that the only reason I got involved is Brandon was repeating calling my friend a liar and angle shooter which is the most ridiculous claim ever. I understand as an outsider you could think I shouldn’t have gotten involved and maybe I shouldn’t have…but

I live by the code that if you are one of my best friends and also happen to be one of the top 1 percent of honorable people in the world (the guy honestly has as squeaky clean of an image and reputation as you could imagine) then I am gonna come to your defense regardless if it’s my place or not when I see someone like Cantu not only attacking you but winning the argument based on how loud he is yelling and how well known he is.

As for the physical contact that was made, Martin said it was nothing significant, just a shove, but that it was “ridiculous” and that he felt Cantu should have been kicked out of the event.

Cantu gave his side of the story in an interview with PokerNews.com (as did Martin, but it was easier to grab his words from his Two Plus Two post). His version of events during the hand that led to the initial argument with Matt Szymaszek was the same as described earlier. Cantu claimed, though, that it really wasn’t a big deal, that Szymaszek probably didn’t mean to check, but he did, so that should be his binding action. It was Martin’s insults from another table that upset Cantu. Cantu was particularly offended that he was being called an angleshooter, which is something nobody except those who revel in the heel role want to be called. He admitted to one angleshooting offense from five years ago, but said he feels bad about it and has never done anything like that again.

Cantu admitted to going over to Martin and “getting in his face,” but never admitted to getting physical. In the interview, he is clearly upset about being called an angleshooter, harping on that point through most of the discussion. He blamed Martin for the altercation and said he had no problem with Szymaszek.

According to PokerNews, WSOP security reviewed video footage of the incident and saw that Cantu did, indeed, push Martin. Both players were warned that they would be disqualified if anything else happened.

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