The 2022 PokerStars European Poker Tour presented by Monte-Carlo Casino®️ continued today with the €25,000 High Roller, with a field crammed with the very best poker players from around Europe and across the world.
With the ongoing conversation surrounding cheats and scandals within the High Roller poker tournament, we spoke with several participants for their thoughts on the current state of the High Roller scene.
American Chris Brewer played in his first EPT festival earlier this year in Prague, winning a side event and cashing for over €400,000 (approx. $420,000). After a brief stint back in the United States, Brewer returned to Europe for the festival here on the French Riviera.
Brewer says that the past few weeks have been weird, with certain allegations being made public about members of the High Roller community.
“It does feel like everyone’s friends, so when you find out that something’s been happening, everyone’s like ‘What the fuck man?'” he says. “We all get along, we try not to screw or scam each other, so there is some level of players trying to protect one another.”
“If the game is unsafe, the game’s unplayable”
Playing in games that players know are safe and secure is the most important thing, according to Brewer.
“It’s the reason people don’t play private games or certain homes games – you don’t want to get cheated. If the game is unsafe, the game’s unplayable. Let’s say if you have a 10% chance of getting cheated, you probably can’t win money. I don’t think there’s a thing that’s more important [than having a safe game].”
Orpen Kisacikoglu agrees. He says that he has stopped playing online, owing to allegations of cheating such as ghosting, multi-accounting and real-time assistance (RTA) that takes place online.
“The whole thing made it so obvious that there might be so much more going on that we don’t even know about. Personally I just stopped playing online until further notice.
“I’m never going to play if feel I’m being cheated in an organized way”
“I’m never going to play if feel I’m being cheated in an organized way. People doing individual silly stuff every now and then doesn’t bother me too much, but if it’s like an organized cheating organization you don’t want to be around it.
Kisacikoglu says that he feels much safer playing live poker, but admits that nevertheless steps should be taken to ensure the safety of players in the live scene.
“I find live poker much safer than online, but even here we need to feel safe and we need to be able to trust what’s going on. As long as [certain people] are not around, I think live poker is business as usual.”
One player who’s already had success here in Monaco is Seth Davies, who finished second in the €50,000 Single Day High Roller for over €440,000. He says that behaviour such as cheating makes him feel as if he was robbed.
“It takes money out of our pockets and it feels horrible when you’re basically getting robbed”
“This sort of horrendous behaviour impacts me and impacts everyone who is doing it. It takes money out of our pockets and it feels horrible when you’re basically getting robbed.”
When poker was moved online during the pandemic, Davies said that he worked hard to ensure that his game was up to scratch. The fact that others were conspiring to work against him and others at the online tables felt horrible, he says.
“I was working really hard and doing everything right was horrible — not cheating or doing anything unethical — to find out later that guys that I’m friendly with, guys that I don’t view as enemies, guys that I enjoy hanging out with for the last however many years […] to find out what was happening feels horrible. Just horrible. A sense of justice of them having paid for it now makes me really happy.”
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That sense of justice is something that Ben Heath says is important in instances where there is 100% proof of cheating or banned actions. He says that when information like that is obtained, it should be shared between the necessary parties.
“Sometimes stuff is rumoured, or we’re not sure about, but we have some stuff where sites have 100% proof that some people have cheated in really bad ways. That kind of thing, where there’s no uncertainty, it should be shared […] with other operators. Especially where the sites that have it, [banned players] shouldn’t be able to play their live stops.
“Because at the moment, it’s on the players. Like ‘Why are we still playing with these guys when we know certain things have happened.'”
Heath also agrees that when playing for huge amounts of money, keeping games safe is the most important thing for players in those sorts of High Roller tournaments.
“I think overall the game is great, but it’s not great when every now and again you’re getting cheated by people who don’t care”
“Especially when the stakes are so big,” he says. “Over the year you can just get in so many dollars worth of buy-ins. But even if people are doing something to get a couple of extra percent edge, [you’re losing] a few hundred thousand a year.
“It’s never fun, especially because often if you didn’t know beforehand who is doing it, these guys can be your friends and you just didn’t know. I’m very good friends with so many people in poker and a lot of my closest friends have come from poker. I think overall the game is great, but it’s not great when every now and again you’re getting cheated by people who don’t care.”
One player who was not afraid to speak his mind was Dominik Nitsche, who says that cheating in the High Stakes community isn’t new and has always been a thing that you had to be aware of.
“People have been saying there’s been collusion and RTA everywhere for many years, and it’s the truth. It exists. It’s important to play in the games you feel safe in and in many instances it’s probably better to be safe than story. Don’t take any crazy thin spots if you’re afraid something might happen.”
Playing in the €25,000 High Roller here in Monaco is a much safer situation, he says, but it’s still difficult to balance personal relationships with competitors in the tournament.
“It’s important to play in the games you feel safe in and in many instances it’s probably better to be safe than story”
“I’m playing with people I have known for years and I’m pretty sure don’t cheat. I can’t know for sure, much like no one can know for sure that I don’t do anything! It’s just the truth! When you’re playing with a friend of yours can you really say that you’re not subconsciously not affected? What if you have a piece? It’s just the nature of tournament poker.
“The only thing I can say is better to be safe than sorry. The game isn’t worth it that much. If you think you’re getting cheated, you can’t win.”
Will Shillibier is based in the United Kingdom. He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German, and then studied for a NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism at Sportsbeat in Manchester. He previously worked as a freelance live reporter, and video presenter for the World Poker Tour.