Chop, Chip Dump Stir Controversy at WPT Fallsview

Tongues are wagging over what should be adhered to regarding tournament poker’s protocols in the wake of a blatant chip dump that closed out the recent World Poker Tour’s WPT Fallsview main event. The official winner of the event is Canada’s Mike Leah, with second place going to Ryan Yu.

Except that’s not quite how it went down. Yu enjoyed a nearly 4:1 chip edge when heads-up action began. The two players took an unscheduled break at that point, then returned to action to see Yu blatantly dump the majority of his chips to Leah over the next several hands, thus giving Leah the win.

WPT LogoWell, of course, they chopped, and the terms of the chop most certainly included Leah getting the official win, and with it some certain secondary benefits.

First, let’s post the official hand-for-hand recaps from the faked heads-up duel. The dumping literally could not be more blatant:

Heads-Up Chip Counts
The players are taking an unscheduled break.

Ryan Yu – 10,800,000 (90 bb)
Mike Leah – 4,715,000 (39 bb)

Hand #94: Mike Leah Takes the Chip Lead

Ryan Yu raises to 4,000,000 from the button on the first hand of heads-up play, Mike Leah (pictured) reraises all in for 4,695,000 from the big blind, and Yu folds.

Mike Leah – 8,735,000
Ryan Yu – 6,780,000

Hand #95: Mike Leah

Mike Leah limps in from the button, and Ryan Yu raises to 5,000,000 from the big blind.

Leah reraises all in for 8,715,000 and Yu folds.

Mike Leah – 13,755,000
Ryan Yu – 1,760,000

Hand #96: Mike Leah

Ryan Yu raises to 1,700,000 from the button, and Mike Leah (pictured) pushes all in for 13,735,000 from the big blind.

Yu folds, and Leah captures this pot.

“When you’re beat, you’re beat!” says Yu.

Mike Leah – 15,475,000
Ryan Yu – 40,000

At that point Yu was forced all in on every hand, having less left than a single big blind. It took a couple of hands for Leah to formally close out the win, which occurred when Leah’s 9-5 outran Yu’s J-8 when a five fell on the river. That last had is the only thing you’ll find within the WPT’s official recap of the event.

Officially, Leah’s “win” was worth CAD $451,821, while Yu’s second-place finish counts for CAD $301,217 in recorded earnings. I’d wager a healthy amount that the actual payouts were reversed, with Yu walking off with the $451K, while Leah got the $301K, plus a couple of things perhaps more important: The $15,000 seat and invitation into the WPT’s season-ending Tournament of Champions, and a greater number of earned points in the WPT’s annual “Player of the Year” race.

With the “official” win at Fallsview, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, Leah jumped to 13th in that chase with 1,050 points. Art Papazyan leads the 2017-18 WPT POY race with 2,400 points, but there’s a lot of WPT season left to play.

The optics on this win stink to say the very least. Chops near the end of any tourney are a way of life, though they’re normally not condoned by the sponsoring tours or venues for a host of reasons, many having to do with taxation and gambling-operations licenses. This deal forced the WPT to insert an utterly farcical winner’s quote from Leah into the event recap, which emits odor as follows:

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Leah said after winning. “Winning a WPT has been near the top of my goal list for a long time, especially getting so close almost exactly three years ago when I lost to Anthony Zinno heads up at LAPC, so I’ve been pretty hungry to get back here again since that.”

Except Leah bought the win, rendering it an utter non-win in most peoples’ minds, if not the official record. (Published allegations on forums and social media assert that Leah may have purchased his other Fallsview wins in similar fashion.)

And mind, Ryan Yu is every bit as horrible in his actions as Mike Leah. Uttering “When you’re beat, you’re beat!” moments after dumping off all your chips shows an utter disrespect for the protocols of the game and the sponsoring entity, in this case the WPT. Leah’s actions, of course, display a similar disrespect.

It’s not a matter of whether chops should or shouldn’t be allowed, or whether Yu could have been any more obvious about ending the sham once the deal was reached. Clearly, both Leah and Yu had better things to do then pretend for the sake of the venue and series that put on the event that afforded them the opportunity for such large paydays, even if that begs the point a bit as well.

And it’s also not about the money. What it is about is the integrity of the win itself, and in this case, there’s also the integrity of the Hublot WPT Player of the Year race and that upcoming WPT 2017-18 Tournament of Champions. Both of those have now been fouled by Leah’s and Yu’s actions.

It’s probably time that major poker series and events include a clause governing such non-competitive behavior as demonstrated here by Leah and Yu. Such a clause might declare that in the event of chip-dumping, both players are awarded second-place POY points, or perhaps no POY points at all. Call it the cost of doing chopping business.

Players who want to chop the cash up between them, fine, the event organizers can look the other way when that’s discussed. However, extra benefits such as buy-ins to closed events and rankings points in ongoing races extend far beyond the reach of the actual poker event being chopped. That stuff has to be protected from being corrupted, as happened here. It’ll be interesting to see if the WPT or any other series puts such protections in place in the wake of this blatant dumping.

(Author’s note: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the owners or publishers of Flushdraw.)

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