Nineteen months after a controversial payout debacle involving shorted silver, players from the Midway Poker Tour have been made whole by co-founder Dan Bekavac, who over the past few months has won two mid-major tournament titles.
PokerNews has confirmed directly with affected players that they were either made whole or consider the matter settled.
Back in October 2020, the Midway Poker Tour hosted an event in Illinois and had to operate under the Illinois Charitable Gaming Acts and Regulations (230 ILCS30), meaning organizers were only able to pay out $500 in cash atop the cost of the $1,100 buy-in. As such, players only received $1,600 in cash no matter their finish with the remainder of their “prize” would be awarded in precious metals.
The planned loophole was that those metals could then be bought back on-site for cash, thus making the players whole. Unfortunately, organizers wound up overpaying for the metals and that lost value was passed along to players to the tune of approximately 30% of their advertised prizes. To top it off, no one was on-site to buy back the metals as originally planned.
During the fallout, Bekavac vowed to make players whole. Those plans seemed to stagnate in 2021, with Bekavac fanning the flames of discontent by showing up to poker events throughout the Midwest to play while players remained shorted.
“It was always in my head that these people need to get paid.”
In November 2021, Bekavac did reach out to PokerNews via email stating:
“Things are getting much better for me financially, within the next 45-60 days max I should be in a position to pay out the 8 guys that didn’t get paid from the Midway Tour.”
In March, Bekavac won the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) Riverside for $193K, at which point he began making players whole. Between March and last weekend, each affected player confirmed Bekavac had contacted them and made satisfactory repayments, which occurred before Bekavac won the MSPT FireKeepers for $252,090 and his record fourth MSPT title.
In a podcast interview with PokerNews, Bekavac stated: “I reached out to you in November of 2021 before I even won anything and I asked for the list to get things going because, you know, it’s one of those things I want to take care of, even though, you know, it wasn’t necessarily my responsibility. But, you know, the burden was put on me.”
He added: “It’s just one of those things I don’t like to owe people money and I don’t like the feeling of people thinking I owe anybody money. So, it was always in my head that these people need to get paid. Obviously, I started a business that was doing very well. That’s why I reached out to you and said, let’s get these guys taken care of.”
Bekavac Gives His Side of the Story
In the interview with PokerNews, Bekavac talked about the genesis of the Midway Poker Tour and then went into detail on what happened at the inaugural event from his perspective. According to him, much of the situation was brought about by poor decision-making by their charity partner, who had the authority as the license holder.
“They didn’t tell me how high the markup was at the time,” said Bekavac. “That was going to be a small markup. And my opinion, small markup, five or ten grand, you know, not 30%, not $75,000 markup for silver. That’s just insane. And I told them, I said, if you guys do this because I believe it’s the charity is running the tournament, not us. We’re promoting it, and I told them, ‘If you do that, I will not be here tomorrow because it’s going to be absolute f***ing chaos when these players realize that 30% of their prize pool went to some guy in Wisconsin who supplied them with silver coins. It’s not going to end well for anybody.’”
Bekavac claimed to have offered an alternative involving certificates that would have gotten players paid in full the following day.
“I explained that to them thoroughly that if you take 30% of this price pool away, that players are going to revolt,” he said. “I said they’ll wait one day. They are not going to be mad about waiting one day to get their full price, and if for some reason people were from out of town, it even said right in the certificate, I mean, we’ll securely mail you your price and that was the number one solution for me.”
He continued: “It was a solution that I thought was best for everybody. Everybody involved, everybody gets paid, you know, the tour would have made money, the charity would have made money, we would have been reimbursed for some of our expenses, but in the end, I lose $70,000 for putting up the event. All the advertising I wound up holding the bag, paying back 30% for everybody who got paid out.”
Some players did get made whole in the days after Midway Poker Tour as Bekavac and his partner, Jason Trezak, utilized funds from their Poker Bros online operation. However, because of the payout debacle and the fact tournament organizers required players to sign up for a club account, Poker Bros suspended the Midway Club.
“It wasn’t necessarily the plan, but I mean, it makes it easier when you have, you know, revenue coming in to pay people back faster,” Bekavac said of the online option. “You know, when that happened, you know, with the heat that was on us, the administrators over in that app said, you know what, hey, we don’t want you to participate anymore.”
It was at that point that Bekavac and Trezak, who have since had a following out, essentially ghosted the poker community until the former began showing up to live events.
Showing Up to Play Events
Bekavac’s appearances in poker tournaments certainly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with some calling for tours and venues to ban him. Was he concerned with what others thought?
“Not at all, because I mean, I know that I did nothing wrong,” said Bekavac. “I lost so much money in the deal. I put together something that was supposed to be great and it was beyond my control. The outcome was beyond my control. It’s not like I went out and personally f***ed somebody or cheated anybody. I tried to put on a good event and do something for the players and it didn’t work out.”
He continued: “I tell people, you know, you can’t hit home runs if you’re not swinging for the fences, and that’s what happened. So, I feel no shame in anything, and the people that know people that were involved in the operation you know what happened. They know the true story and that it was nothing but good intentions, and it should have worked very well and everybody should have made a lot of money.”
“I feel no shame in anything, and the people that know people that were involved in the operation you know what happened. They know the true story and that it was nothing but good intentions.”
Even so, Bekavac admitted that if he could go back and do it again, he would’ve done at least one thing differently.
“If I could go back and do it over again, I would have just forced them to do what I told them to do. Just told them that, look, you know, you’re this the worst decision you could ever make, like looking back, I could have been harder on them and just forced them to do it. But at the time when I spoke to an attorney friend of mine, he told me not to be involved in the money at all, that it’s actually illegal for me to be involved in the money with them.”
Similarly, Bekavac claimed that it was on the advice of legal counsel that he distanced himself from the Midway Poker Tour in the aftermath by changing his social media pictures.
“That was advice from my attorneys to take down to see anything because we knew that people would go in and just start, you know, talking shit like they did,” Bekavac claimed. “He told me just take down anything poker-related. So that was on the advice of an attorney just told me to do it and just, you know, kind of stay silent until we figure out the best solution to the problem.”
Bekavac also admitted he probably should have been there on Day 2 instead of being off-site and not responding to messages as the payout debacle unfolded.
“I think it would have been better if I was there, but I don’t think it would have changed a single thing,” he said. “[the negative] stigma is still going to be there even now, even though everybody is paid in for there’s nobody that’s owed a single dollar for anything.”
As for paying players, Bekavac offered some details on how it was arranged:
“I met with everybody. Whatever you’re owed, you know, you can get 100% of it. Just give me a 1099 or I’ll give you 75% of it in cash. And all the players except two wanted cash, two did give me a 1099. So, everybody’s paid in full. Midway is completely off my mind, you know, everyone’s been whole.”
While Bekavac wasn’t afraid to delegate blame throughout the interview, at times he did assume some responsibility for what transpired at the Midway Poker Tour.
“It’s something that needed to be done and it didn’t feel right with me,” he said. “You know, at the end of the day, I was the person behind it. So I felt it was my responsibility to just make sure it’s taken care of.”
While a resolution to the Midway Poker Tour silver payout debacle seems to have been found, the entire incident will no doubt be remembered within the poker community and serve as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when looking to take advantage of legal loopholes.
For more, listen to Bekavac on the PokerNews Podcast below:
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.