Deal or No Deal

Jan. 27, 2012, Posted by Lee_Davy

Deal or No Deal


Imagine how the world of sport would change if professional sportsmen and women were allowed to create deals on the eve of their major tournaments. How about Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal flicking a coin before the final of Wimbledon? How about Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather playing rock, paper, scissors in the locker room before a world title bout? How about Usain Bolt and co looking at the ICM to agree the winner of the 100m Olympic Final, before the soles of jet-powered feet have even touched the starting blocks? No?

Well this is exactly what happens at the pinnacle of world poker

Shane Schleger is a member of the coveted PokerStars Team Online and he recently blogged about his great start to the New Year. On the very first day of 2012, Schleger, found himself on the final table of the Sunday Million. Where did Shaniac finish? WHO CARES! In fact Schleger writes that the end outcome was a seven-way split. In fact after reading the post I don’t even know who won the event! Schleger does write that in seven-years of playing poker he has only agreed to split on very few occasions, and this was the first time he had ever seen a seven-way split, but hasn’t this become par for the course?

Further on in the post, Schleger writes that he is not a fan of making deals because he believes it takes him out of the zone. Schleger went on to explain why he decided to chop and his decision making process was sound - but is it right? Are we taking something out of the game of poker by allowing deals to be made prior to the outcome being decided by skill? Even worse, are we allowing collusion to seep deeper into our game by allowing players to chop?

If you think a seven-way deal is taking the Michael then consider the debacle that occurred during the Foxwoods World Poker Finals held in Oct 2010. After the field had worn down from 2,176 to the final 23 players something incredible happened. While everyone would expect cans of Red Bull to be burst open in preparation for that final assault on the title, they all decided enough was enough and agreed to split $324,560 of prize money 23 ways!

I was not successful as a ball player, as it was a game of skill - Casey Stengel

This season the European Poker Tour (EPT) held it’s inaugural visit to Loutraki, Greece, and after six days of a combination of skill and luck we ended up three-handed. The three players left vying for the title, and first prize of €347,000, were Zimnan Ziyard, John Tamaras and Hauke Heseding. The gaps between the top three places were substantial to say the least at €347,000, €221,800 and €134,400. It was apparent to everyone that John Taramas was the least experienced player at the table, had fewer chips and was desperate to arrange a deal. The only thing that stopped a deal being agreed was Grecian law itself. The casino had to pay out in order of placement irrespective of any deal made between the players. So if a deal was to be struck, three complete strangers would have to trust each other to wire large sums of money to personal bank accounts - post event. Incredibly it nearly happened and I believe the reason a deal was on the verge of being struck was because everyone was completely cream crackered. After playing poker for six days resulting in each of them receiving scores way above EV, they were happy to just call it a day and flip for an EPT title. In the end, Grecian law stood strong and a deal was not struck. What happened next was scintillating. One minute we were watching paint dry and the next moment we were watching three players trying every trick in the book to win the first prize. Suddenly an exhausted Ziyard had more moves than Jennifer Tilley’s boobies as he took down the title and first prize.

The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them - Ernest Hemingway

Fast forward a month and the World Poker Tour (WPT) had set up camp in Marrakech, Morocco. The final three players were Mohamed Ali Houssam, Toufik Ourini and Maksim Martinov. As usual there was a clear favourite to win and it was the Latvian Martinov with the chip lead and a hell of a lot more tools in his locker than the two Moroccans. There must have been twenty partisan Moroccan fans on the rail cheering on Houssam and Ourini, and when the three of them called a time out they wandered off into that crowd to make a deal! 22 Moroccans and a Latvian chip leader discussing a deal to split hundreds of thousands of Euros! When they returned they had agreed to split the prize pool evenly. The Latvian’s exit was a clear indication that once you have locked up the money nobody cares about the title. On a flop of [6s] [5c] [3s] Ourini led for 30,000 and Martinov check-raised all-in for 950,000. Ourini had chips to play with and so it was a clear fold, but instead he called and showed down [Jh] [9c] for Jack high! Martinov held [6c] [3c] for two pair until the turn [5s] and river [9h] handed Ourini a higher two pair!

So an EPT title is won through skill, guile and hard work and a WPT title passes hands through pure luck. This is not a reflection on the two organisations because deals happen in every event in the world. Interestingly, in both final tables the decision to make a deal, or not, resulted in the same outcome - more excitement! Ziyard’s savvy and guile was amazing for the poker purist to watch and Toufik Ourini’s insane call against Maksim Martinov brought the house down with howls of laughter!

So what is my point?

I suppose I am not making a point and instead I am asking a question to drive a debate. Should we allow deals when we get to the final tables of our elite poker tournaments? By default the Grecian national law stopped it from happening, so if there was ever proof that the organisations could outlaw it then there you have it. I think it is vitally important that we all stick together and promote this great game of ours because after all we earn our living from it. So in my personal view I think deals should be outlawed, and in time we will all grow accustomed to the need to fight for our right to party. The ability to step away from the table and make a deal also makes it much easier for players to collude. You only need a few friends to get in the top five places and they will all know that a deal is possible as long as they get rid of the dead wood! So there is my opinion, what is yours?

 By Lee Davy

Lee Davy is a writer who likes to write about what is on his mind. His society filter eroded some years ago and these days he just says it how it is. You can follow Lee Davy on Twitter at . For personal contact try or check his blog out at


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