Nemo re-does giveaway of WPT World Championship ME seat following controversy

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: December 06, 2022 04:13 PST

Chess champion and fledgling poker personality Qiyu "Nemo" Zhou has completed a re-do of the giveaway for a WPT World Championship main event seat after her first attempt at a giveaway, in which she awarded the seat to her poker coach and reported boyfriend, Alex "Thallo" Epstein, drew widespread condemnation throughout the poker world.

In the revisited drawing, Zhou generally followed the rules that she had initially created for her giveaway of the World Poker Tour seat package, however, which is valued at $12,000. This time, though, Zhou removed Epstein from being eligible to win the seat, after the suspect circumstances of the initial drawing came to light and Epstein, who like Zhou was under fire from other players, returned the seat.

The new winner, "ecgab", was the second player to be selected as Epstein's replacement, as the first person randomly selected, "Dhanish" was also unable to accept the prize. Ecgab's (@ecgab1025 on Twitter) identity remains unknown. In the re-done drawing for the seat, Zhou also apologized for the way she ran the giveaway the first time around.

'Fake giveaway' accusations begin to fade

The initial seat giveaway generated much the wrong type of publicity for Zhou, a/k/a "Nemo", the 22-year-old influencer who sought to generate more traffic for her social-media channels through what critics alleged was a fake contest with a preselected winner, in Epstein. (A more complete recap of the situation can be found in this TikTok video recap.)

The quagmire expanded when Nemo admitted that she had originally wanted to just give the seat to Epstein without running any sort of public giveaway. Epstein, in turn, admitted to submitting an early entry to the giveaway and then editing his answer after the fact to include the needed solution, a hidden code phrase that was placed within one of Nemo's video posts.

Both Zhou and Epstein reversed course in the face of the public pressure after initially being defiant about the circumstances surrounding the initial giveaway, Zhou, for instance, deleted a longish post in which she defended her personal reasoning for selecting Epstein, a former WSOP bracelet winner as the initial giveaway recipient. Before she had deleted the post, images of which were saved by others (below), it added plenty of fuel to the fire regarding the accusations that the contest portion of the giveaway was faked:

The haughty tone of Zhou's initial response did little to soothe critics, nor did Epstein's admission that he'd gamed the contest's requirements in order to submit a timely and correct entry do much to sell their justification of events to poker-world observers.

It's also publicly unknown as to whether the site that donated the seat package for the giveaway, WPT Global, may have stepped in and refused to accept Epstein as the "winner" of the initial competition. Neither WPT Global nor the WPT itself issued any sort of public statement about the controversy WPT Global is an international entity as is actually a separate corporate concern from the WPT itself, which is based in California.

In the end, the episode will stand as a lesson in how not to run a giveaway. Zhou's U-turn and the selection of a random replacement will likely spare her and Epstein any legal repercussions, though neither player improved their overall image as it pertains to future marketing opportunities, something that will take a much longer period to undo.

Featured image source: PokerGO