The Midway Poker Tour took place for the first time over the weekend, and it will almost certainly be the last.
The event at the Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove went off the rails on Sunday after a relatively smooth first few days due to prize money misdirection.
Here’s what we know.
Players paid out in ‘precious metals’
The event was advertised as a $1,100 tournament with $100,000 guaranteed.
So, players were under the assumption that they’d be paid out in US dollars.
That would not be the case. Instead, players would get “precious metals” for any winnings above $1,600.
The reasoning has to do with the Charitable Gaming Act in Illinois. Tournament organizers partnered with the charity 4 KIDS Sake for the event.
With that in mind, the Charitable Gaming Act states that organizers can only pay out $500 on top of the buy-in. So because the buy-in was $1,100, the maximum cash payout was $1,600.
The first-place prize was supposed to be $55,060. So, $53,460 of that was to be paid out in precious metals.
However, as long as the precious metals were exchangeable for cash, it’s not a huge deal.
But according to Poker News, chaos ensued when Terence Shiel of the state attorney general’s office paid a visit, informing organizers that they could not exchange precious metals for cash on-site.
Workaround leads to more chaos
On Sunday, organizers seemingly found a way to pay out their players in cash while abiding by the rules.
They purchased $208,000 in silver from Andy Mettille, co-owner of Wisconsin-based AMPM.999.
The plan was to give players their prize in precious metals, followed by contact information for a willing buyer off-site.
There was just one problem. Such a buyer didn’t exist at the value promised to players.
Organizers purchased the silver from Mettille at $35 per ounce. That was a retail price, meaning there was no one to buy back the silver at full value.
The owners of AMPM.999 provided the following statement to PokerNews.
“Given the events at the Midway Poker Tour in the Chicagoland area, we wanted to give you our side of the story. First off, we had nothing to do with the tournament and had no knowledge that it was even going on. At 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, we got a call looking for help because the tournament runners found out that they could not pay out cash and needed precious metals for the ‘prize.’
“They said they needed $200,000 in silver. We had almost half of that on hand. On the way to the tournament, we found a dealer that agreed to provide us the rest of it, which we purchased and then sold to the tournament organizers. We had agreed on a price as what we had on hand was mostly premium silver, most of it retailing from $30-$40 per ounce. Again, we in no way were associated with the tournament. All we did was fill in an order for silver.”
Midway Poker Tour owners defends actions
Midway Poker Tour owner and founder Dan Bekavac provided the following statement after the event.
“I busted my ass trying to bring live poker back for the players. I spent upwards of $55k of my own money getting this set up with the charity 4 KIDS Sake.
“We were informed on Saturday that we could not have a gold buyer on property to buy gold prizes, I suggested paying the $1,600 maximum ‘cash’ payout and give a certificate to pick up gold the next day at a coin dealer. If players were from out of town, have it shipped to them securely the next day.
“This isn’t the option that was chosen. It was decided that silver would be purchased by a supplier at $35 per ounce or $11 overvalue per ounce. This was not my decision. Players are still being paid out. Just not as much as expected due to overpaying for precious metals.”
To his credit, Bekavac has since said he will make up the difference to players who can only get $24 per ounce. He has already settled some of the lower amounts.
The larger payments, however, have yet to be settled. Champion Renato Spahiu, for example, is currently out $17,000.
The payout fiasco is obviously the main concern here, but the event’s problems didn’t stop there.
The Midway Poker Tour also used images that didn’t belong to them for their digital materials.
It was brought to our attention that our proprietary image of bestbet poker chips was used without our knowledge or authorization by The Midway Poker Tour. bestbet was no way involved with this event and is working to get the image of our chips removed from their materials.
— bestbet Jacksonville (@bestbet_jax) October 5, 2020
We can safely say this: The inaugural Midway Poker Tour didn’t feature many winners.