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Jan 01, 2017

Should Poker Titles Be Given Away in Deals?

By RTR Dennis

665x200 dec16 poker title deals

Recently, we discussed the fascinating tale of Patrick Serda, a pizza server who won €719,000 in the 2016 EPT Prague €10k High Roller. Despite winning what amounts to over $1 million Canadian, Serda will continue working the pizza job.

But one overlooked aspect is how Serda went from having a 4-1 chip lead heads up against William Kassouf to surrendering his title in a deal. That said, let’s discuss how the deal went down, along with if poker tournament titles should exchange hands without playing.

Serda Wanted the Money, Kassouf Got the Title

A large reason why a deal was made in the first place was due to poker pro Max Silver, who bought a piece of Serda’s action. He blogged about the experience, including how a deal was initially discussed between Serda, Kassouf, and Tue Hansen.

Serda and Hansen couldn’t come to terms, and the latter would bust out when his A-J combo fell to Serda’s Q-7 hand. This left the Winnipeg native with a 4-to-1 chip lead over Kassouf, and the negotiations started again.

“I asked Patrick how much he cared about the title/trophy, he said it would be nice but it wasn’t hugely important to him and maximizing EV was more important,” Silver wrote. “I then proposed to Will that if it was allowed by the tournament organisers, did he want to take the trophy and title in exchange for a $10k difference than chip chop numbers.”

After some debate, the EPT tournament director said that they could include the title in a deal. Kassouf’s friends – including British pro Adam Owen – encouraged him to take the offer, but Will feared that he might later regret not having taken his chances.

“I strongly felt the deal was great for both parties, Patrick would get more money and Will would cement himself in poker history, not a one hit wonder,” explained Silver. “I believe that if Will plays his cards right after making the deal he would stand to profit significantly more in future career opportunities.”

While Kassouf stalled, he finally agreed to a deal that would award him the EPT Prague High Roller title and €532,500, while Serda would take €719,000.

Poker Titles in Deals – A Debatable Matter

This is the first time that I’ve heard of a tournament title being given away in a deal.

The reasoning makes sense: Serda cared more about money than a trophy, while Kassouf, a well-known poker player, benefits from the marketing opportunities associated with a prestigious title. This is what the players wanted from the deal, and it’s what they got.

But I have a hard time seeing a poker title being given away in a non-competitive nature. In a major televised poker event, it’s anti-climactic to see somebody who’s down 4-1 in chips win the title when heads-up action never occurs.

Most deals involve money exchanging hands, but the players battle afterward to determine who earns the win and trophy. This has been the standard in major events, and I’ve always preferred to see the champ determined through actual play.

Plus, Kassouf’s title is less attractive from a marketing standpoint when you find out that he didn’t actually win it on the table.

Maybe since this was the last EPT event ever, the director said what the hell and let the players do what they wanted.

But I hope that this isn’t the start of a trend, where famous pros and less-famous counterparts make deals that involve tournament titles. Furthermore, I hope that other tourney organizations won’t allow such deals.