2013 WSOP Main Event

Two Identical Cards Appear on Board in WSOP Event

Despite all the planning, preparation, and good intentions of all involved, the World Series of Poker never goes perfectly smoothly. There are just too many people and too many moving parts for everything to go well all the time. Whether it’s an uncomfortable poker-room-in-a-tent, ungodly lines for restrooms, or obnoxious players who smell so bad they have stink lines emanating from their bodies, there’s always something. So far, the 2014 WSOP has gone pretty well, but a big boo-boo happened this week.

A deck contained two identical cards.

Worse yet, those two cards were directly involved in a big pot. As recounted by the victimized player, Christopher Ruby, on Two Plus Two (through a friend):

Ok so this really happened. Last night I was playing the 1500 PLO event. It was midway through level 8 with blinds at 300-600. I’m the small blind with a stack of roughly 20k. UTG +2 opens for a raise and gets one other caller and I flat in the small blind with AcAd5cJh. Big blind flats as well.

Flop is Qh72cc and i had NFD. I check/call raisers bet and we are heads up. Turn As, I check, he bets 3500, I pot and get it allin vs his QsQcJd7h. Qh hits river for quads but nobody including me realize both red Queens are hearts. I even take a picture and don’t realize the two Qh and the hand ends and I am left with 2900 and bust soon after.

Ruby posted the picture on his Twitter account shortly after the tournament, still not realizing that two Queens of Hearts were on the board. It wasn’t until the following morning that a friend pointed it out to him.

Two Queens of Hearts on Board (C) @chrisianruby Twitter

Two Queens of Hearts on Board at 2014 WSOP
(C) @chrisianruby Twitter

He has since contacted World Series of Poker officials, including Tournament Director Jack Effel, but has been told that since it wasn’t brought to anyone’s attention when it happened, nothing could be done to remedy the situation. Ruby is seeking at least a refund of his buy-in.

Unfortunately, according to WSOP rules, the decision to do nothing about it is correct, by the letter of the law. Rule 75 states, “Disputed Pots: The right to dispute a hand ends when a new hand begins. A hand begins with the first riffle.”

Odds are that if the duplicate cards were noticed in time, a misdeal would have been declared and, according to Rule 87 (B), the hand would have been re-dealt. I suppose the second Queen of Hearts could have been removed and a new card dealt, but the problem with that is that we don’t know which of those Queens was the “wrong” one. Removing the second one is about as arbitrary as removing the first one. At the same time, Rule 87 (C) states that if there has been “substantial action,” a misdeal cannot be declared and since there was substantial action after the Queen was dealt on the flop, it would make the most sense to burn the second Queen.

Of course, the question remains: how in the world did nobody not notice two Queens of Hearts on the board? It doesn’t seem like it could be quite as simple as people just not paying attention, but it probably was. It makes sense, though. The two players in the hand (and probably the dealer) were focusing on the one remaining out, the Queen of Diamonds. But they were probably just looking for a red Queen, since they had an expectation that there was nothing wrong with the deck. The Queen was the important part, not the suit. So when it was red, Christopher’s crushed emotions likely distracted him from actually “seeing” the suit, while his opponent was distracted out of joy. There was no flush in play, so they just weren’t concentrating on whether or not the suit was a Diamond. Additionally, once the Queen hit on the river, their attention then went to counting out chip stacks.

A bunch of the other players at the table had likely tuned out and those that were still watching were, like the two players involved, just watching for a Queen. Some players may have actually noticed the problem, but because an elimination increases their equity, they may have decided to remain silent.

In sum, it is not unreasonable at all that nobody noticed the duplicate card, except for maybe the dealer. As a player, how often have you ever scrutinized the suit of a big river card if you weren’t looking for a flush? And keep in mind that the players were already all-in; as soon as the river was dealt, the hand was over and the focus went to divvying up chips. It’s not like there were actions to be made on the river, either. Had someone been in the tank, there would have been a much greater chance that the problem would have been discovered, as board would have been sitting in front of everyone for a while. The player making the decision may have even mentally reconstructed the hand and seen the error.

While it is understandable that the WSOP will not compensate Christopher, it would be nice if he could at least be given his $1,500 back as a gesture of goodwill. The fact that he wasn’t actually eliminated there could be a sticky point, as he still had a chance (however poor it might have been) to make a comeback. But considering it was the WSOP that was at fault here (the dealer or whomever should have properly examined the deck before it was put in play), I don’t think there is a “slippery slope” risk if Christopher were to be reimbursed.

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