Venetian cancels final two 'Stairway to Millions' events, leaves PokerGO and qualifiers hanging

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Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: September 19, 2022 24:54 PDT

Las Vegas's Venetian Casino has canceled the final two events of the PokerGO Stairway to Millions series, after earlier having cancelled the promised prize-pool guarantees -- totaling $1.1 million -- in those same events. The cancellations left dozens of high-buy-in pros outraged at the cancellation, especially players who had already won a seat into one of the final events and were left with no choice but to accept a cash refund for their previously-earned seats.

The two cancelled tourneys were Stairway to Millions Event #11, a $25,000+1,000 NLH tourney with a $500,000 guarantee scheduled for Sunday, and a $50,000+2,000 NLH finale with a $600,000 guarantee scheduled for today.

The Venetian's decision to abruptly cancel the final two events was communicated directly to would-be participants, but it was not shared on social media by either the Venetian or by PokerGO. The Venetian Poker Room's Twitter account has been silent since Saturday, despite both the Stairway to Millions events and concurrently scheduled DeepStack Extravaganza events originally on the slate.

PokerGO technically made the announcement regarding the final two events' cancellation in a single PokerGO live-reporting post announcing Paul Zappulla as the winner of Stairway to Millions Event #10 . PokerGO's acknowledgement assigns responsibility to the Venetian and hints at a disagreement bewteen the entities, reading simply, "The Stairway To Millions originally had 12 events on the schedule, but due to decisions made by The Venetian Resort Poker Room, the final two events were canceled."

Hendrix, Laplante lead Twitter pushback against events' cancellation

Perhaps no single player was more angered by the Venetian's abrupt cancellation than Adam Hendrix, the runner-up in the Stairway to Millions Event #9. Hendrix posted, "Tried to give benefit of doubt to @VenetianPoker but canceling a guarantee to a tournament you won a satellite into already is unacceptable."

Hendrix also noted that the cash refund in now accounted for any extra expected value Hendrix or similarly affected players might have enjoyed via having an edge on some of the other expected entrants, and that the chance to win a big payday in one of the final event was one of the inducements for attempting to satellite in.

Ryan Laplante offered another heated take and quickly amplified Hendrix's posts, including a follow-up that noted that Stairway to Millions events #9 and #10 had each failed to make their guarantee by just two players each.

Rash of not-honored guarantees plaguing poker series continues

Several players have noted that casinos and poker rooms pulling previously announced guarantees has occurred with far more frequency of late. A relevant comparison occurred in early August when the L.A.-area Hustler Casino yanked the guarantee from its Larry Flynt's Grand Slam of Poker main event , while also cancelling most remaining opening-day flights in the tourney.

Hustler later acknowledged its mistake and at least partially rectified the casino by issuing refunds to players , then adding a freeroll for prior qualifiers and announcing plans for a $50,000-added event as way of amends. However, and though the Venetian situation is less than 48 hours, that casino has yet to announce any similar compensation for its broken promises.

In June, Las Vegas's Orleans casino yanked all remaining prize-pool guarantees from its ongoing 2022 Summer Series after several early-series events ended up offering overlays. Not far away, the new MGM Grand Summer Series was also accused of pulling a guarantee, though that was a rather different situation -- the original schedule carried a misprint, unfortunate though that was, that was corrected later. The MGMGrand series did miss several guarantees but honored them while encountering scheduling conflicts with other Vegas series, perhaps showing that the Las Vegas tournament-poker market is near saturation at the present time.

In the Venetian's case, promotional materials for the Stairway to Millions include the vague disclaimer, "Management reserves the right to change or cancel tournaments." The line may offer the Venetian and its parent company, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the requisite legal protection, but yanked tournament guarantees have become an increasing issue impacting live poker.

Multiple posters responding to Hendrix's and Laplante's posts pondered whether regulatory bodies such as the Nevada Gaming Commission should investigate the topic. Non-honored guarantees violate the spirit of what a tournament guarantee is supposed to represent. The practice is also abusive to players, and it is essence not a guarantee at all, but rather just an example of false and misleading advertising. Of all the recent non-honored guarantees, however, the Venetian's are the first truly affecting a few of the game's elite pros, which may in turn produce a different sort of industry-wide pushback.

Featured image source: Venetian (via Flickr)