A penalty received by William Kassouf during the WSOP Main Event is this week’s most-discussed story. No legal single-game sports betting for Canada. Doyle Brunson and Vanessa Selbst exchange words on Twitter. And more.
When does table talk warrant a penalty?
The WSOP Main Event is currently being televised on ESPN in fourteen episodes (running back-to-back over seven weeks) in preparation for the November Nine. As is usually the case, those editing the footage have elected to highlight some of the more controversial players and moments, as well as the popular ones. We in the media love this kind of thing, of course, because it provides plenty of fodder for think pieces. The story that has received the most attention in this regard so far is that of British player William Kassouf, and the penalty he incurred in a hand against Stacy Matuson.
Kassouf is a big, big talker. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes obnoxious, and sometimes he arguably crosses the line into harassment and abuse. In the hand in question, he’d put Matuson on a decision for her tournament life, and began talking in an effort to (it turns out) get her to fold. Matuson, who like many people was already irritated at Kassouf, repeatedly demanded that he shut up, and when he refused, got the dealer, floor staff and ultimately tournament director Jack Effel involved. Although some of Kassouf’s talk was technically against the rules as he was alluding to the strength of his hand, and telling Matuson what he wanted her to do, it was the distress it was causing her that the tournament officials concentrated on. Ultimately, Effel told Kassouf he’d receive a penalty if he kept talking. Kassouf was quiet until after Matuson folded, whereupon he triumphantly showed his bluff and began gloating about it. That was enough for Effel, who handed out a one-round penalty.
The story is controversial for a few reasons: obviously, players engage in all sorts of table talk all the time, much of which is technically against the rules but is given a pass. Where is the line drawn? Well, wherever the tournament staff decide to draw it, of course, but that arbitrariness naturally worries many people. Here, though, it’s particularly worrisome in that Effel and Matuson know each other personally. There’s a valid argument to be made that Effel might not have come down as hard against Kassouf had he not had any relationship to the player complaining about him.
The latest opinion piece about the penalty is a debate-style column at PokerNews, with Frank Op de Woerd taking Kassouf’s side, and Marty Derbyshire taking Effel’s.
First on the story (as far as televised coverage of the hand goes) was James Guill at PokerUpdate, who came down in favour of the penalty first thing on Monday after the episode aired.
– Lee Davy at CalvinAyre is definitely a big out-of-the-box thinker, and a big fan of the Global Poker League. As the league struggles to keep the audience’s interest in its second half, Davy’s feeling is that it was a mistake to let managers draft themselves as players. His proposed solution: don’t have a manager at all, but rather let the fans themselves manage the teams via a democratic process.
– The Canadian House of Commons voted this week on a bill that would have opened the door for legal, regulated single-game sports wagering. Currently, some provincial lotteries offer parlay-betting, but as in the United States, betting on individual events is prohibited at the federal level. The bill failed, despite having once been supported by the now-majority governing Liberal party, and despite some Liberal MPs crossing the aisle to vote for it.
– A little bit of Twitter drama broke out between Vanessa Selbst, who is passionately anti-Donald Trump, and Doyle Brunson, who is equally passionately anti-Hillary Clinton. Selbst accused Brunson of being politically ignorant, and the latter inexplicably responded by bringing up her prop bet with Jason Mercier over the summer, stating inaccurately that she’d failed to make good on it (whereas what actually happened is that she hedged by betting against herself with others when Mercier would not let her buy out with him directly).
– Also on Twitter, Sorel Mizzi posted a photo of himself playing Pokémon Go while driving. I consider that a big no-no, and put him on blast for it.