The brouhaha that occurred during a satellite tournament to the $25k Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open High Roller tournament has been one of the big poker topics of the week.

Essentially, with 10 players left (seven would receive seats to the $25k tournament and the eighth place finisher would receive $18k) it was folded around to Lilly Kiletto in the small blind who went all-in. Mike Dentale was in the big blind and folded.

The problem was Lilly had less than a big blind left (she had about 4k and Dentale’s big blind was 6k) which led to some people screaming that Mike and Lilly were colluding, while Dentale maintains it was just an honest mistake.

Jason Wheeler’s account of the incident, points to Dentale and Lilly speaking on break just before the hand, and Mike’s inability to immediately recall he had an Ace in his hand (a point Mike disputes).

Dentale’s defense was:

  • he was drinking;
  • He wasn’t speaking to Lilly per se, but rather to her boyfriend, who is a friend of Mike’s;
  • He was basically guaranteed a seat because of his stack and was playing on autopilot and folding.

Further reading and listening

Wheeler’s account

Dentale’s response

David Tuchman’s podcast with Dentale and call-ins from Wheeler and Mukul Pahuja

Occam’s razor

Occam’s razor states:

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

This is a pretty well-known principle, and one I like to apply in cases where you have two or more plausible (or in this case implausible) narratives.

Before I jump into this any further, I should mention that I’ve met Mike, and played with him for several hours, so I’m likely a bit biased. Mike’s table persona and off-the-table persona can probably be best compared to Phil Hellmuth. Basically, his table persona is a caricature of his actual personality. Personally, I found Mike to be both personable and polite away from the table.

Furthermore, Mike’s poker personality doesn’t bother me because I come from a large and loud Italian family and grew up in a town with a sizable Italian population, so a personality like Mike’s doesn’t faze me (I know, and am friends with a dozen Mike Dentale’s), but I get how he comes across to people not used to this type of personality.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on.

Mike’s version of events basically makes sense, and if it was John Juanda or Tom Marchese saying it, most people would chalk it up to a somewhat inebriated player feeling they had locked up a seat and playing on autopilot. On David Tuchman’s Under the Gun podcast Mukul Pahuja confirmed Mike had been drinking.

Wheeler’s version of events requires us to not only assume Mike and Lilly conspired to collude when Lilly is so short that even in doing so, it only increases her ROI incrementally and is unlikely to go unnoticed, and could get Mike DQ’ed. But, to collude in this way, purposely folding when it’s folded around to the extreme short-stack requires:

  1. Every other player to fold around to Lilly;
  2. A dealer error to even allow Mike to act once Lilly goes all-in for less;
  3. The dealer to allow Dentale to fold;
  4. The dealer to let Mike muck his hand so as to make it irretrievable;
  5. All eight other players to not step in and stop it.

Quite frankly, there is a better chance Mike and/or Lilly get DQ’ed or severely penalized for cheating than that this harebrained plan works.

If A is plausible than so is B

But here’s why I really believe Mike, and why anyone who believes he’s stupid enough to collude in such an obvious way has to at least accept that there is a reasonable chance his version of events is plausible.

Basically, it’s implausible to believe, “this guy is so dumb he would try to collude in a way that is going to create a controversy 100% of the time and possibly cost him a $25k seat and perhaps even get him 86’ed,” but then believe he’s too savvy to have a few too many drinks and not pay attention to a hand in a $25k satellite.

If you believe A is possible you have to, at the very least, entertain the idea that B is also likely and vice versa.

And, for anyone that doesn’t think a high-level pro can make an egregious mistake:

What could have happened

As I noted above, I can’t say it was definitely a mistake – even Mike admitted on Tuchman’s podcast that he understands how it looks from the other players’ perspectives.

As is often the case, the truth often lies somewhere in-between, which might very well be the case here.

Based on Mike’s comments on Tuchman’s podcast, it’s clear that he’s not above soft-playing friends or people he likes – Mike said as much. So, if we assume that there was some type of conversation on break, isn’t it more likely that Lilly said something along the lines of “I’m super-short, so go easy on me,” in a joking but not joking way, rather than the more explicit talk of collusion, “hey, if it folds around and I go all-in just fold, even if it’s less than a big blind.”

And if Mike’s intention was to  give Lilly a break if the situation presented itself,  he may have very well intended to soft-play her (well within his rights considering his stack size and the satellite payout structure) AND, at the same time made an honest mistake, not realizing how short she actually was.

There are levels of chip-dumping and soft-playing. There is a difference between giving a friend a walk when they’re extremely short (3BB or so) in a spot where you’d likely call another player, and blatantly colluding (folding illegally and trying to make their cards irretrievable) to keep someone in a tournament.

Suffers from the Sorel Mizzi effect

Mike’s been involved in a few other mini-scandals over the years, and coupled with his polarizing personality, he pretty much is never going to get the benefit of the doubt from the poker community when a he said/he said situation like this latest controversy arises.

Basically, 2+2 wants to see him get his comeuppance, as do the many poker players he’s berated over the years.