The World Series of Poker has confirmed that it will look into a dealer’s chip-counting error at the final table of the “WSOP in Paradise” main event that adversely affected the event’s third-place finisher, Daniel Nielson. According to PokerMedia Australia, which closely tracked Neilson’s deep main-event run, the dealer error transpired during an all-in hand during three-handed play between Neilson and eventual winner Stanislav Zegal.
The hand’s most significant action came on the turn, when Neilson, with A-K, moved all in while having Zegal covered and with a Q-K-5-9 board showing, and with no flush draw available for either player. Zegal had K-Q for top two pair and had a fairly easy call, and his hand held up when the river brought a 10.
The dealer counted the chips in Zegal’s all-in turn call and announced it as 48 million, and that took almost all of Neilson’s stack, leaving him only 5.2 million in chips. However, in information that had been accurately tracked by the final table’s on-screen graphics being used for streaming purposes, Zegal had only 38 million behind when he called off his stack.
No one on or near the final-table set caught the error when it occurred, and it quickly became uncorrectable. Nielson should have had 15.2 million in chips remaining, which would still have been a very short stack. He was instead left on the brink of elimination, and he bowed out in third for $900,000 a few hands later. Nielson would have needed to double up a couple of times anyway to climb out of the third-place slot, but the error made that more unlikely.
Nielson told PokerMedia Australia that he ran a post-tourney ICM calculation after learning of the chip error, which cost him roughly $116,000 in expected value. Nielson, of course, was among those who didn’t notice the dealer’s counting error when it occurred.
WSOP confirms error occurred
PokerMedia Australia inquired about the incident with WSOP officials, who soon confirmed that a counting error had occurred. Unfortunately for Nielson, however, there was nothing that could be done at that point.
“The official position in any tournament is that if action was accepted by all parties there would be no recourse once tournament play has concluded,” the WSOP’s Executive Director, Ty Stewart, told PokerMedia Australia. “Any corrective action would need to take place while the player remains in the event. We do not, nor does any operator in the world that I’m aware, retroactively award ICM value or any monetary compensation in such situations.”
Stewart added, “We are thoroughly reviewing the matter.”
Errors have impacted major events on other occasions
The episode again illustrated the human factor involved in almost every hand of poker, in that errors can and do occur. It’s unfortunate when it occurs in a high-profile, high-value situation, but given enough history, such errors are guaranteed to take place.
Chip-counting mistakes are just one of several ways in which staff errors can unintentionally affect an event’s outcome. PokerMedia Australia recounted a similar incident that occurred during the final two tables of the 2019 WSOP Main Event between Dario Sammartino and Nick Marchington, when Sammartino called a Marchington all-in wager that was announced (in another dealer error) as 22.2 million, but was later discovered to have been only 17.2 million. Sammartino, though, had a larger stack remaining and was able to overcome the extra five-million hit to finish second in the event.
Counting errors can occur in other ways as well. The 2006 Main Event, in which Jamie Gold dominated the late stages of play, was impacted by a color-up error on Day 7 through which an extra two million in chips — which was more than 2% of all the chips in play, were given to players at one of the three remaining tables.
It took a couple of months for the entire story to come out publicly, via a multi-part report by PN feature writers Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli. Of some interest is that neither eventual champion Jamie Gold nor the most prominent pro to make the final table, Allen Cunningham, were among those to have received some of the chips. The color-up error, however, almost certainly caused some shuffling of places among the other final-three-tables finishers.