Live Tournament Security With Kenny Hallaert

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Live Tournament Security With Kenny Hallaert Audio

Kenny Hallaert is one of the Belgium’s greatest live tournament players, and with close to $1m in live tournament earnings ranks as the fifth most successful player in the Belgian all time money list.

Live Tournament Security With Kenny Hallaert

He is also a tournament director and I invited him onto the show to talk about security, and standards, around our live tournaments in the wake of the fraudulent chip scandal that recently muddied the waters of the Borgata Winter Poker Open.

What are your thoughts on the decision to cancel the tournament, and freeze unpaid prizes until a thorough investigation has been undertaken?

“As soon as the tournament organizers are made aware of the fake chips they have to immediately stop the tournament and find a solution. At first the tournament was cancelled for 24hrs, but then they probably realized they needed more time.

“It seems like they have put the tournament on hold right now, so it’s unsure whether they will continue the tournament or not. If they do, it will be extremely complex to gather all 27-players together to recommence where they left off; so who knows what will happen next, but for now I feel like they made the correct decision.”

How do you think they will move forward?

“I think it will be hard to play out the tournament, as it will be so difficult to find a date where all 27-players are together again. I think the best solution is to pay out the remaining 27-players based on their current chip counts.

“Firstly, they need to find out how this happened. It’s possible that the player{s}who brought in the chips have already left the competition. There is no way of knowing if the culprit{s} still exists within the final 27-players and you cannot accuse any of them right now.

“They will have to investigate it further, but it will be hard to figure it out. There was nearly 5,000 players – that’s more than 600 starting tables – so there are a lot of things that could have happened. It will be very hard for them to find the players who did this.”

In your experience, how was this even able to happen?

“As a Tournament Director it’s one of the worst things that can possible happen to you. You always have security high on your mind when you organize a tournament, but if someone is going to create fake chips and bring them into such a big tournament then you have a big problem on your hands.

“It’s such a big tournament so you don’t have total control of how many chips are in play until the field gets much smaller. It’s very unfortunate that it happened, but very hard to avoid if people try to create fraudulent situations like this.”

Should we stop players counting their own chips at the end of the day and devolve this responsibility to the dealers?

“The reason we ask players to bag and tag is mainly for the press. But imagine big tournaments when you have 500 players going into the next day. The chip counts could take hours if completed by dealers. When I am down to the final table I make an exact chip count, add up the numbers and see if it’s correct, but you don’t do it in the early or middle stages of the tournament.

“If you do put fake chips into the tournament, players will notice them. One million chips is a lot. That’s 50 extra starting stacks.”

This still happens because the players who have done such things in the past don’t seem to be punished. Take Jean Paul Pasqualini and Cedric Rossi as an example. They allegedly conspired to take $2.5m away from the Partouche Poker Tour final table and they still have that money.

“Once the players have been paid out the only thing you can do is go to court with the case. As a player you have a big responsibility to immediately report something suspicious to the floor. When there is money involved you will always find people trying to cheat. It will always happen. It’s not just in poker, it’s anywhere where money is involved.

“As an organizer you don’t want these things to happen and will do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t. But if two people are seated together, and they are making signs to each other, it’s tough to see that kind of thing.”

Do you believe the world of poker is doing enough (casinos/tournament organizers) to prevent security issues such as this? Can they do more?

“If they did the cost would be extremely high, and the rake would increase enormously. If we had to put a camera on every single table for example. Imagine the Borgata tournament in question. You have 2,000 players in one flight – that’s 200 cameras – then you have to hire additional floor staff for the field size; it all increases costs.

“The tournament organizers, and casinos, always try to do their best but there is also a limit. I would love to have cameras on every table but the cost would be too high.”

What improvements could be made?

“You have to make sure staff are well trained and they quickly see things that are not right – that cheaters are seen. That’s one of the things you could do, but you try to keep track of your chips as well as you can. At the final table you count the chips, after the day you count the chips, you do an inventory at the end of the tournament to see if chips are missing.

“But if people are going to bring chips into a tournament – you can’t search everyone as they walk into the casino. It’s almost impossible when you have 2,000 players coming into your casino within a window of 10-15mins time. It would hold up a tournament for hours.

“We try to do everything we can, but whilst people still try these things it’s tough for us.”

Mike Matusow talked about the problems that can occur with chip smuggling in re-entry tournaments where you can take one of two different stacks into Day 2.

“The re-entry tournaments are more sensitive to collusion. Especially the ones where they can choose to bring their biggest stack into Day 2. This allows them to gamble it up, dump some chips to another players, etc. I would never organize a re-entry tournament like this. It’s way more sensitive to collusion.

“Maybe we could improve standards where dealers have to count chips stacks at the end of each day so we have the correct amount; but more dealer hours mean more costs. Players complain that the rake is too high already. They also want better structure, better service, more chips, longer levels, and decrease of the rake. You cannot do both. Local taxes are sometimes very high, so it’s not always that profitable for local organizers. There are a lot of costs to take into consideration. Extra cameras and man-hours means that the costs would be too much. Rake would have to be increased and the games would become unbeatable from some players”

So what you are saying is if we had to add extra costs for increased security the players would end up paying for it?

“They have to take this added cost from somewhere, so the players will have to pay if they want better security and better service. We are already doing everything we can to keep security as tight as possible – but there are limits.”


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