Mike Leah Answers Critics About WPT Fallsview Ending

If you are on this website, you have probably heard by now of the controversy surrounding the end of the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in which Mike Leah came away with his first WPT title. It was neither streamed online nor televised, but upon reading the hand history on WPT.com, it was fairly obvious that Leah and Ryan Yu had made a deal prior to heads-up and that Yu was essentially dumping chips to Leah in order to let him win in exchange (probably) for first place money. The poker community has been split on the matter, with some feeling this violating the integrity of the game, while others have no problem with it, as players have different motivations and can do what they want.

Poker FeltOn Wednesday, Mike Leah addressed the situation via Facebook, explaining what went down and what his thinking was throughout.

Leah first stated that he understands why people may have had a problem with the deal, but it hurt to hear people say that he “bought” a WPT title and therefore he felt he needed to respond. He continued, giving a brief rundown of his tournament history and explaining that he usually does not sell pieces of his action (except in the most expensive high roller events) and that he does not like making deals at the end of final tables.

Then it was on to what happened at WPT Fallsview:

I wanted to win this tournament more than any other I can remember – I was messaging a friend early day 2 when I had 20 bb’s making plans for them to come back and watch the Final Table – I told them I was going to make it & win – This is not a normal occurrence for me – From 3 tables, to 2 tables, to the Final table I was focused on nothing else…..the word Chop or Deal was never brought up by myself or anyone else – And the way the chip distribution was; often myself with one of the bigger stacks and various short stacks I wouldn’t have even considered a deal as ICM gives more value to shorter stacks then I would ever want to give them in a deal.

Poker lingo update: ICM stands for Independent Chip Model, which is a mathematical formula used to determine the equity of a player’s chip stack. It is more than just a chip-chop, using the payout structure and chip counts to determine the value of each player’s stack in real money. In a typical deal, the shorter stacks usually want more money that the next elimination would pay, as otherwise they would just play it out. That money would come from the big stacks, who may be willing to give a little up in order to lock in a big payday. Leah didn’t want to do this, as the ICM calculation would work out better for him.

But when it got to heads-up. Ryan Yu had more than a 2-to-1 chip advantage and Leah, as he said, was much less concerned about the money than he was about the WPT title.

“As soon as we were Heads-Up he mentioned something about talking deal (Can’t remember his exact words),” Leah recounted. “I hadn’t considered making a deal until that exact moment; I believe my words were something like: ‘Well I wouldn’t consider any deal unless I got the win, trophy, etc….’ I didn’t know how Ryan would respond and honestly didn’t care I would’ve been happy to play for it – HU for a WPT title; not much more exciting then [sic] that. But very quickly he responded that he’d be fine with that if we did even ICM.”

“Wow I actually get to be responsible and not just ‘flip’ for 150k and I get a WPT title, a spot in the Champions Club, entry into the TOC and my 4th Fallsview title in 5 years…..” Leah thought to himself.

“How could I not agree to this??”

Then Leah explained exactly how they worked out the deal:

We worked out all the exact details and breakdown – We added the 15k seat to 1st for the ICM breakdown; worked out how much I would have to give him (As I would have to sign for, get paid for 1st and then give him the difference. We even agreed how much we were going to tip to the dealers/staff.)

We triple checked stacks, payouts and everything; they said we were going to have to play it out; Ryan & I figured the easiest/quickest way to get it over was just for him to raise fold large portions of his stack. We did this in an extremely obvious way, making a lot of jokes and having fun. We were both extremely happy with the outcome – Now looking back I see how it’s embarrassing/disappointing for the WPT, Reporting staff and even poker players/fans having ridiculous hand histories like that being posted on the website live updates and deciding the tournament that way.

Leah says that he and Yu meant no disrespect to anyone; they were just celebrating their respective “wins,” with Leah getting his coveted WPT title and Yu getting his ICM money. He is also adamant that he did not “buy” a victory, as he did not give Yu any extra money beyond the ICM calculation. They chopped based purely on ICM, as happens in many tournaments and as part of the agreement, Leah got the trophy.

As for “they shouldn’t have made it so obvious,” Leah feels that if they had drawn it out and concealed their intentions, it would have felt more like collusion. He wanted to be as forthcoming as possible.

Leah says he would have been happy to “play for the title” if that had been the rule, but that wasn’t the rule and he and Yu were able to come to a deal.

“People suggesting why didn’t we chop and leave something to play for or chop and play for the trophy/TOC – Those would not have been my terms – chop fairly and give me the win or we play,” he writes. Basically, he would have either played it out straight-up or made a deal, but not some hybrid of the two.

When it comes to the WPT Player of the Year points and the Tournament of Champions seat, Leah isn’t overly concerned about either. He feels that receiving something between first and second place points would be fair, but that’s not how the WPT does it. He doesn’t feel either he or Yu will be in contention for POY, anyway, so it doesn’t matter. And with the TOC, one of them was going to get the seat and they decided it would be Leah while Yu got more cash. Again, it wasn’t a big deal to either man.

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