With phone call home McHugh proves no two deals are ever alike

You might not have spotted it, a throwaway observation made by our reporting team at the ANZPT Perth Main Event, but there was a moment just before heads up play began that caught my attention.

Michael Doyle had just been eliminated in third place, leaving local man Stephen McHugh and eventual winner Michael Kain at the table to play for the title. At first both men decided they would play it out. But then they had a change of heart. After all, there was AUS$170,000 to play for, so they stopped play to discuss a deal.


scrap_of_paper_18feb15.jpgThe traditional way to calculate a deal: A scrap of paper

There's nothing unusual about this, deals happen all the time in poker. But no two deals are ever alike. Sure, there's a formula to use, and most of the time it all happens without much of a glitch. But sometimes there's a new element to get your talking, such as in Perth, where faced with the ICM numbers, McHugh did what he had to do. He called his wife.

But let's take a step back a second. Because like I said, deals can be unpredictable things. Like the one at EPT Prague back in Season 9, an event won by Swedish player Ramzi Jelassi.

With play three-handed Jelassi, David Boyaciyan and Sotirios Koutoupas paused to talk numbers. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but then Boyaciyan began to speak.

Boyaciyan was the short stack, but was adamant, as a former runner-up in the same event and a self-proclaimed heads-up specialist, that he was being short changed on the deal, much to the consternation of Koutoupas who grew more animated, insisting that Boyaciyan was being unreasonable.

This went on for some time, Koutoupas standing over the table like he was demanding a confession from Boyaciyan, who in turn remained cockily calm, leaning back in his chair refusing to budge. Eventually Koutoupas cracked, tearing up the deal and playing on out of sheer spite.


the_prague_deal_18feb15.jpgThe Prague deal, with Koutoupas standing

It proved a good decision. Boyaciyan crashed out in third place for about €100,000 less than he'd been promised. Koutoupas was delighted, and last year went one better to win the Main Event title at EPT10 Deauville. Perhaps fortuitously, deals are not permitted in French poker tournaments.

While that deal had appeared like a summit between three warring factions, the deal in EPT10 Barcelona was more like a deal by committee.

It would be a big year for the baby-faced Tom Middleton, who would win his first title. But the title and a first prize of €942,000 didn't come easy.

Negotiations began four-handed. Normally the back of an envelope suffices, but in this case there was paper, a laptop, staff, even conferences with backers standing a few feet away on the rail. Middleton was watched all the way by another EPT champion Toby Lewis, who guided his man through a tricky process than ultimately ended in stalemate.


middleton_lewis_18feb15.jpgTom Middleton (far left) seeks counsel from Toby Lewis (far right)

But while theatrical, it was not acrimonious like Prague, no whiff of spite, even when Middleton told the others, who were keen to come to an arrangement, that they had to play on.


the_barcelona_deal_18feb15.jpgThe Barcelona deal that ultimately collapsed

Then there was the High Roller deal during the Grand Final festival in Season 9.
Typical of €25,000 events, it had produced an all-star final, with Igor Kurganov, Chris Moore, Toby Lewis and Vanessa Selbst all departing before talk turned to a deal. Steven Silverman, Anthony Gregg and Lebanese player Fadi Kamar were left to begin discussions.

Figures were settled on only for Kamar to disappear to make a call. He returned a short while later with the bad news. No deal. A little surprised Silverman and Gregg set about a slight revision. Would a second draft do for Kamar? Again, he walked away from the table to make a call. Silverman and Gregg could only look at each other aghast.


fady_kamar_18feb15.jpgFady Kamar (phone not pictured)

I can't remember how long this went on (read our blog post about the deal written at the time), or how many calls were made. But I do remember thinking that it might have been easier if had Kamar handed his phone to Silverman and Gregg. To their credit they kept things light hearted, which a lesser man might have struggled with given that there was €2.2 million to divvy up. After prolonged data roaming Kamar was able to agree to an even three-way chop.

So like I said, no two deals are alike, and while McHugh down in Perth also reverted to the phone, his call made it one of the more original deals I can remember. Not a call to a mysterious backer, or a fellow pro, but to his wife.

There might be many married men reading this who can think of a few reasons why they might call their wife at such a crucial moment. For McHugh it was his faith in her ability to assess whether it was a good deal or not. Evidently she thought it was, because when he hung up he agreed to it. Or at least we can only assume that's what she told him.

Still, there was something refreshing as well as original about McHugh's choice, and maybe a lesson in there for us all. It'll take some beating for originality, but Tweet us @PokerStarsBlog if you have any ideas.

Read the account of that moment in Perth on our ANZPT coverage page.


Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.
Stephen Bartley
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