Wednesday, June 08, 2011

2011 WSOP Day 8 - The Marked Cards Conspiracy and Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I discovered the controversy via BJ Nemeth's tweet when he posted a photo of the back of the Four of Spades. I was surprised to see a printing error by Bicycle, a reputable playing card manufacturer for over 125 years. Printing cards became a boom in the post-Civil War era, just around the time the earliest ancestors of poker became popular among soldiers on both sides of the war. The first deck of cards I ever had as a kid was a battered blue deck of Bicycle cards, and I learned by Go Fish and Crazy Eights on that very deck.

Photo courtesy of BJ Nemeth

When I moved to Las Vegas, Flipchip asked me if I played Omaha 8. He wanted to warn me that some of the older players often marked low cards, including Aces in O8's instance. I never played Stud 8 or Omaha 8 in casinos so I never had to worry about being hustled by card markers with extra long fingernails. Over the last decade, I played in card rooms, casinos, and home games across the country (and even a few overseas) and I've often encountered less than pristine decks. Were some of those cards marked? Probably. Did I care? Not one bit. If I played hold'em and suspected cards were particularly worn out and marked, I'd use one or both of my palms and fingers as a card capper so no one could see the back of my cards.

Every day, the floor staff removes/replaces sketchy cards out of decks, but a marked cards controversy pops up once a year at the WSOP. Here are a few notable ones....
- During the inaugural HORSE event in 2006, Andy Bloch tore up a damaged/worn card in protest because he was irked Harrah's didn't supply the tournament with a new batch of cards, and instead used the cards that had been in circulation the entire WSOP.

- In 2007, the WSOP signed a deal with a new card company -- except the cards were so horrendously designed, it was difficult to determine the 6s from the 9s. A group of pros (Daniel Negreau, Johnny Fucking Chan, and Mike Matusow) complained about the cards and they were instantly removed from play as KEM cards were introduced as a suitable replacement.

- I love talking to dealers about how each event is progressing. A couple of them tipped me off to some shenanigans in the 50K HORSE event (I can't recall the year and I'm too lazy to look it up... 2008 or 09?) when a not-so-well-known Full Tilt red pro was admonished for marking cards.
Marking cards is old, old, old school angle shooting and something you'd hear about during the heyday of crooked games at the end of the19th century, when card players had to watch their backs and not get swindled on riverboats or in frontier saloons.

In the instance, you have to assume Bicycle has slightly lower standards from what they used to be. Souvenir deck of cards don't have to be up to snuff, but anything used at the WSOP, especially at the final table, has to live up to the highest standards. On Day 8, Bicycle failed. Miserably.

In what appeared to be one of the more bizarre rulings at the WSOP, the final table was switched from the featured TV table on the Mothership stage and moved to an outer table. Why? The blemishes on the cards (every Four of Spades and the majority of lower spades) were only visibly on the TV stage due to the extreme lighting and usage of purple/red hues which made the blemish jump out at Jon "PearlJammer" Turner. He called the floor the moment he noticed the slight discrepancy. Alternate decks were inspected and more problems were discovered. The quick solution was to move the final table away from the Mothership and onto an outer table with less intense and diffused light. The marked cards were unrecognizable to the players, so play continued.

Anyway, Jon Turner began Day 3 of the massive 4,000+ field in the Donkament as the chip leader. He advanced to the final table with the lead, but had slipped to third in chips with five to go when play was suspended. You have to assume by the time the final table resumes, new decks will used.

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By the way, for a quick overview of Day 8 highlights, head over to RISE Poker to read my Day 8 recap and figure out why the hell Ricky Fohrenbach is wearing a pink wife-beater.

Also, within an hour of each other, I read two great pieces about the Full Tilt payment fiasco. Check out F-Train's About That River in Egypt and Kim's Full Tilt Last Out.

Also, don't forget about Wicked Chops Poker's More Girls on the Rail.

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Last 5 Pros...

Yes, it's back by popular demand. Enjoy...

The Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next To....
1. Andrew Robl
2. Eric Buchman
3. Alex Kravchenko
4. Jim Meehan
5. Burt Boutin

That's it for now. Don't forget to follow @taopauly on Twitter for daily updates from the floor of the WSOP. Also, if you're new to the Tao of Poker and like what you've read, then I encourage you to support independent writers and buy my book Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.


  1. Bah. You had to mention Burt Boutin. He's the one who knocked me out of the 2005 Event #2, which had at least five WPBTers (no cashes). I think it is considered the first official donkament - at the time being the largest WSOP non-ME field ever. Burt went on to finish very high in that tournament. In a movie about his life, Burt will be played by John Malkovich.

  2. Perhaps it is my age, my eyesight or something that I am on, but I can't find the issue with the cards from studying the photo.

  3. Hi pauly,
    Thank you for your valuable information.It will help a lot people to find the schedule of WSOP.