SCOOP: doncarignano grabs ultimate salvation in Event 22-High morality play

scoop2009_thn.gifIt's not often that a poker tournament serves as an object lesson in excellent ethics. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you 2011 SCOOP Event 22-High, $3,150 No-Limit Hold'em (4-max).

Five-handed, two tables of players agreed to simultaneously sit out until a question of structure could be resolved - and once play resumed they folded until the button was back where it was when the sit-out began.

Three-handed, a compulsory min-raise, min-3-bet, and min-4-bet was agreed to - and carried out on every single hand.

Two-handed, each player agreed to mandatory button min-raises and big blind 3-bets of four times the big blind. Neither player missed a single one of those raises.

But that all happened after the tournament was almost over. Before then, 177 players entered the field,creating a prize pool of $531,000. The winner stood to bank $164,610. 11 members of Team PokerStars Pro and PokerStars Team Online had their eye on that prize. But it was Team Pro Ruben "rubenrtv" Visser who came closest to grabbing it.

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Seat 1: doncarignano (296153 in chips)
Seat 2: Ruben "rubenrtv" Visser (261449 in chips)
Seat 3: supfoolio (182537 in chips)
Seat 4: as1025 (144861 in chips)

On the final table bubble, Ruxandescu, supfoolio and as1025 were on one table. Visser and doncarignano were on the other. In a quirk of the 4-max format, the player that had the button at Visser's and doncarignano's heads-up table also had the big blind. Usually, in heads-up play, the button is the small blind.

Visser felt the strange format significantly and negatively impacted game play. He convinced doncarignano to sit out while he attempted to contact support to get the format changed. He also told the other three players, at the second table, what he was doing.

"Guys we are on sit-out," he said. "The SB inversed is just too messed up."

"Shall we do the same?" Ruxandescu asked.

"I think it's most fair," Visser replied. "I'm letting you guys know and am contacting support."

"I am ok to sit out if the game will resume from my button," said as1025, who had the button at the time.

"I don't intend to get an edge from this," Visser assured them. "Just trying to get some info."

With that declaration, all three players at the second table also sat out pending resolution of the issue. It turned out that there was nothing that PokerStars support could do to change the format in the middle of the event. Visser and doncarignano would have to play it out with the inverted small blind. Each of the five players sat back in, with the three players at as1025's table folding to the big blind until as1025 once again had the button.

Ruxandescu soon busted, collapsing the remaining players down to one four-handed table. The blinds started at 1,000 and 2,000 with a 250 ante. The average stack was 221k. Each player wished the table good luck, and then they were off.

After about ten minutes of play, Visser suggested the four finalists consider an ICM chop. The other three players agreed to look at the numbers. Play was paused. The host at the table specified that PokerStars would only be able to provide chip-chop numbers, and that the finalists were free to discuss an ICM chop but would have to calculate it on their own.

The host produced the numbers after a minute or two but it quickly became clear that a deal wasn't going to happen. Play resumed.

Chips passed around the table without much overall change in the stacks. A big pot here seemed to balance against a big pot there.

An hour later as1025 was still the short stack when supfoolio min-raised the button. as1025 was in the small blind with pocket 8s and three-bet to 13,350. Cue the four-bet from supfoolio and the five-bet shove from as1025. supfoolio snap-called with pocket aces and bounced as1025 from the tournament in 4th place, 6♥3♥2♣Q♠T♠.

Visser tried to broker another deal. Again the tournament was paused and the table host produced chip-chop numbers. Visser and supfoolio were willing to agree to the numbers as presented but balked when chip leader doncarignano tried to squeeze an extra $2,500 out of each of them.

"That's not gonna happen," said Visser. "I'll gamble after the deal but I'm not giving up anything. I'm already taking under ICM."

The three continued negotiating until doncarignano finally agreed to take just $2,000 from supfoolio. The final deal chopped the money as follows: $118,651.73 for supfoolio, $115,700.44 for doncarignano, and $83,057.83 for Visser. An additional $6,500 was set aside for the winner.

With the deal in place, the players began discussing how to speed up the conclusion of the tournament, as they were all more than 100 big blinds deep. They agreed to a mandatory button min-raise, mandatory small blind min three-bet, and mandatory big blind min four-bet for every hand. The agreement effectively changed the blinds from 1,250 and 2,500 to 7,500 and 10,000.

"Let's just say I'm not folding much," said supfoolio.

With the "blinds" that high, Visser soon found a hand he liked, A♠7♣, and shoved with it. Doncarignano called with J♣9♠ and flopped a 9 to send Visser to bed in 3rd place. doncarignano and supfoolio would play it out heads up for the title, the SCOOP watch, and the extra cash. They instantly agreed to a compulsory three-bet to 10,000. When the blinds increased to 1,500 and 3,000, the compulsory three-bet was upped to 12,000.

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Ruben Visser

Each player took a turn all in. The swings were wild, as you might expect they would be with a compulsory three-bet to 12,000. On the final hand, each player was dealt an ace, but supfoolio's 7 kicker wasn't as strong as doncarignano's 9. That 9 kicker played on a board of 2♦8♦K♠J♦3♦ to end the most ethical SCOOP tournament we've ever seen play out.

Congratulations to doncarignano on a solid win in a tough SCOOP event. And congratulations to each of the other finalists on handling themselves with the utmost of professionalism and ethics.

2011 SCOOP Event 22-High $3,150 No-Limit Hold'em (4-max) results (reflects three-way deal):

1st: doncarignano ($122,200.44)
2nd: supfoolio ($118,651.73)
3rd: Ruben "rubenrtv" Visser ($$83,057.83)
4th: as1025 ($31,860.00)

Check out what else is going on during 2011 SCOOP by visiting the SCOOP homepage.

Dave Behr
@PokerStars in SCOOP