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Sam Soverel Acts Out of Turn in $50K High Roller, Isaac Haxton Wants Him Booted

One of the things I most look forward to with the World Series of Poker is the inevitable controversy that erupts at some point during the two months. Who only wants to hear about what hole cards someone had or what card fell on the river? That’s boring. Inject the fuel of controversy directly into my bloodstream. And it look like I just got my fix early in the WSOP, as an out-of-turn action by a player at the final table of Event #5: High Roller – $50,000 No-Limit Hold’em for the 50th Annual* has ruffled some feathers.

A Big Oopsie

Let’s set the scene, first off. There were four players remaining in the $50,000 buy-in event with $458,138 going to the next player to fall. While the gold bracelet was coveted, especially in an event like this, the pay jumps were just as important as this stage. $640,924 to third, $917,232 to second, and $1,484,085 to first was a big deal. Andrew Lichtenberger was the chip leader, Ben Heath was second, and both Sam Soverel and Dmitry Yurasov had a similar number of chips.

Soverel began the proceedings, holding Js-9s, with a 400,000 chip pre-flop bet. Yurasov, with Ad-Td, moved all in for 4.93 million. Lichtenberger folded, putting the action on Heath, who asked Soverel for a count. Heath had both Soverel and Yurasov covered, but wanted to know how many chips Soverel had so he could gauge how likely he might be to make it a three-way all-in.

Needing a bit more time to ponder his move, Heath tossed a time extension chip onto the table, after which Soverel, who would have been next to act, inexplicably mucked his cards. Well, “inexplicably” may be the wrong word, as it looked like might not have been paying complete attention to Heath and thought the motion of tossing in the time extension chip was Heath flicking his hole cards to the dealer and folding.

In the video of the hand, Soverel appears to be embarrassed about what he did, almost not knowing how to respond. Yurasov was incensed, jumping out of his chair and complaining to someone on the rail (he spoke Russian, so I don’t know what he said). The hand continued without penalty, Heath called with Ah-Qh, and Yurasov was eliminated in fourth place. Soverel was knocked out in third place a short time after that.

This would have been interesting enough had that been it. To most people, I would think the whole thing looked like an unfortunate accident, one that Yurasov had every reason to be upset about, but an unfortunate accident nonetheless. For what it’s worth (likely not much to Yurasov), Heath said later that he was going to call regardless and that Soverel’s misstep did not affect his decision.

But then poker pro Isaac Haxton chimed in on Twitter.

Different People See Different Things

Haxton, never shy to share his feelings, wrote in response to an early recounting of the hand, “If this is reported accurately, anything less than disqualification and fourth place money for Sam is insufficient. You absolutely can’t let people get away with shit like this at the final table of a $50k.”

Aside from trying to reconcile a disqualification with still being given prize money, his take was certainly a hot one, considering it looked like an honest mistake. But Haxton didn’t think the mistake was so honest.

“The way you are so insistent seems like this kind of thing has happened before?” asked famed tournament director Matt Savage. “No way someone gets DQ’ed for mistake but it does seem like a careless and maybe convenient error. How can you DQ the ‘High Roller Player of the Year?’”

Haxton, though, said this isn’t necessarily out of character for Soverel.

“I’ve never seen anything this egregious before,” he wrote, “but yeah he certainly has a reputation for getting lost on his way to a new table if he’s about to be big blind, mucking losers in mandatory showdown AI spots, demanding new set ups as a stalling tactic, etc.”

And then Haxton went there.

“Yes I just watched it and I’m 99% certain it was intentional. It’s a respectable acting performance but he notices his mistake too quickly and all of his movements from the moment the time bank card hits the felt are unnatural and overacted.”

He later expanded on his call for a penalty, saying that Soverel should have been disqualified, his chips should have been removed from the table, and he should have been awarded fourth-place money. On top of that, Haxton feels that Soverel should be banned from the World Series of Poker for a year. He didn’t think there was any way that would happen, so he would have been satisfied with a sit-out penalty that lasted long enough so that Soverel was blinded off in third place.

After Haxton weighed in, opinions on the matter have been mixed. More people seem to think what Soverel did was an accident (as did the other players at the table), but Haxton certainly got people looking at the video replay differently, so not everybody is lining up to defend Soverel.

Regardless, I think we can all agree with the specific, ironclad conclusion that it was an unfortunate incident that may or may not have been an innocent mistake and that may or may not have affected the outcome of the hand.

*Yes, the name of the event just ends with “50th Annual.”

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