Boiling Point Reached in Modiano Cards Debate

Alex Weldon : June 23rd, 2015
2015 WSOP

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Ever since the 46th World Series of Poker kicked off, players have been complaining about the new Modiano cards. The two main complaints are with the design of the spades – which makes them hard to distinguish from the clubs – and with the thinness and poor durability of the cards, which causes them to become marked easily. The latter is clearly the bigger issue, as it potentially affects the integrity of the game, even when players are not deliberately trying to cheat, as pointed out by David Baker last week.

WSOP officials acknowledged the problem with the cards and agreed to order a new batch of redesigned cards from Modiano to replace them. It was hoped that this would be the end of the issue, but the new cards have now arrived and have turned out not to be much of an improvement in the eyes of the players, which has only caused the level of tension to increase.

Compromises are being struck, with WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart insisting that the new Modiano cards are adequate for Hold’em and other flop games, but agreeing to use a limited supply of “old decks” (which I take to mean pre-Modiano decks from past series) for mixed games, where the cards receive rougher treatment.

Despite this partial solution, tempers on both sides are beginning to rise, with Stewart unable to resist assigning some of the blame to players themselves for squeezing the cards too hard. Although he attempted to make a joke of it, many players, like Ryan Laplante and Joseph Liberta were in no laughing mood:

A lot of people are angry with Stewart these days, perhaps none more so than Shane “Shaniac” Schleger. Last week, Schleger had been complaining loudly on Twitter about a variety of issues he had with the Rio, from the ongoing issue with the cards to the lack of available food at 3 in the morning. Eventually, his ranting (and the language he was using) seemed to get under Stewart’s skin, and the latter was unable to resist firing back:

Stewart’s snarky and arguably unprofessional response pushed Schleger over the edge, leading to a furious barrage of tweets calling for Stewart to be fired. Eventually Schleger calmed down and the two reconciled their differences, but Schleger’s Twitter feed from June 18 to 19 makes for some entertaining reading.

The series is still far from over, with 22 events left to come over the next two weeks. Given the way the tone of the debate has been growing steadily worse, and the continued apparent inability of the WSOP to remedy the various issues players are having, it seems likely that things will only get more heated from here. Attendance figures are down this year as it is, but if the problems with this year’s series and the way they’ve been handled may bloom into an even larger PR scandal, whose ultimate effects may not be felt until next year. After all, those who have already made the trip to Las Vegas may still end up playing despite their grievances, but if the experience is a negative one, many of those players may decide not to come back the next time.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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