TD Tony Burns resigns and is rehired amid MGM Grand tourney-guarantee kerfuffle

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: December 12, 2023 1:50 pm EST

An unusual situation involving a hot-button topic with many tournament players, the lowering (or outright removal) of event guarantees during in-progress series, temporarily found well-known tournament director Tony Burns resigning from his position as a tournament director during MGM Grand’s ongoing Winter Poker Challenge in Las Vegas.

Yesterday, Burns posted the following on his personal Facebook account:

What made the situation highly unusual is that Burns’s resignation marked the first time in recent memory that a tournament official had taken such a strong stance against the practice of renegging on tournament guarantees, which has become an increasingly frequent practice in series and events in Nevada and elsewhere.

The public pressure on MGM Grand jumped up a couple of notches when Chris Moneymaker, who hired Burns to head up his Moneymaker Tour launch, jumped online to offer his support for Burns’s decision:

MGM Grand reverses decision on lowering guarantees, Burns accepts rehire offer

The story, though, turned out to have a happy ending. Within hours, in the face of widespread support for Burns’s stance by poker players on social media, MGM Grand reversed its earlier decision and promised to fully honor series guarantees as originally advertised. Burns was actually the first to break the news of the reversal:

MGM Resorts International’s Director of Poker Strategy, Sean McCormack, quickly affirmed Burns’s post:

As expected, that announcement was met with widespread approval. That included Moneymaker, who encouraged players to participate in MGM Grand poker events:

MGM officials opted not to provide additional comment on the matter to PokerOrg, allowing the situation to play out as it had. It should also be noted that MGM Grand was neither the first nor the most egregious venue in renegging on pre-series guarantees.

The increasingly prevalent practice can impact players adversely, especially those players who might travel from afar to play in a series and who also base those travel decisions in part on the guaranteed prize money being offered. Reneged guarantees can also impact media outlets who might become reticent in helping to publicize series or tournaments where a previous history of such reneged guarantees exists.

It’s also not the first time a venue has done a full reversal after lowering or renegging on published guarantees. One recent example from 2022 occurred at Los Angeles’s Hustler Casino, which reversed course on a mid-series decision to pull the plug on later starting flights in its Grand Slam of Poker main event.

The largest such reversal in poker history, however, is likely that of France’s Partouche Poker Tour, which in 2012 came up €735,420 short of its previously advertised €5 million guarantee in a main event, then disavowed claims that it had publicly made such a promise. In the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, however, Partouche officials begrudging paid out the full €5 million prize pool, then went out of business immediately following the event. (The revived Partouche Tour is controlled by different operators.)