2021 World Series of Poker

$42K Flip Involving Doug Polk Lands SugarHouse Casino $30K Fine

Doug Polk inadvertently had a hand in causing a regulatory breach in Pennsylvania.

While poker is often trumpeted as a game of skill, especially by those who have a vested interest in such designations, there's no doubt that most poker players love to gamble. That's why, at the end of countless cash games throughout history, players have engaged in "flips," sometimes for stacks, but usually for some odd chunks of money.

For example, a player cashing out with $3,300 when a game breaks might consent to a flip with a down-on-his-luck opponent stuck a few thousand who only has $300 left and wants double or nothing.

Or, in a home game with buy-ins consisting of $100s and $20s, it's common practice for players to throw their odd dollars into the middle and run out a hand to consolidate those monies to one player for an easy cash out.

All of which is to say, what happened at SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia just shy of two years ago is far from unusual, even if the stakes were a bit bigger than the flips in which most poker players are used to engaging. The aftermath of the incident resulted in a $30,000 fine for the casino, as well two individuals apparently losing their jobs.

SugarHouse Flip Incident

Back in March 2017, Doug Polk was among the players invited by "Poker Night in America" to participate in a filmed-for-TV cash game at SugarHouse.

As players were racking up to call it a session, Polk and fellow PNiA participant Jeremy Kaufman apparently negotiated a flip wherein the game dealt would be 10-card stud poker, with the best five-card hand winning. Each player would put up $42,000.

Shaun Deeb recorded and commentated the fun, which wound up being posted on Polk's popular YouTube channel.

Shaun Deeb
Shaun Deeb provided commentary and camera work during the $42K flip.

"We each get 10 cards, highest hand wins the whole enchilada," a grinning Polk can be seen saying. "All right, let's do this. I'm feeling lucky, good luck Jeremy."

In the hand, Polk takes a wide lead with aces up against eights up, also having three cards unturned against two. The players then negotiate a buyout with Kaufman shipping over $25,000. Ultimately, they find he would have won the hand as his last two cards would have given him a straight.

If that all sounds like a good time had by many in the aftermath of a filmed cash game — Matt Glantz stressed that it happened "hours after filming ended" — that's probably because it was.

PCGB Hands Down a Fine

The problem arose when regulatory personnel saw the video and reviewed security footage to confirm the incident, because "10-card stud poker" is not an approved game from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Therefore, the seemingly innocent flip between Polk and Kaufman was actually a violation of gaming regulations and subject to punishment for the hosting establishment.

At a March 6 meeting, the PGCB discussed the issue, which had apparently come to a conclusion after some negotiating led to a "consent agreement" between SugarHouse and regulators.

The board spokesperson opened the issue by saying SugarHouse personnel "permitted unapproved poker games" and that in the first incident, the "illegitimate hand" was 10-card stud.

Doug Polk: "Especially coming from Las Vegas where flips are completely acceptable, I didn't really think that it could cause any issues."

"The coverage showed that two patrons remained in the poker room after 'Poker Night in America' was over," the speaker said. "The poker supervisor instructed a dealer to deal the unauthorized game while a third patron recorded it on his cell phone.

"SugarHouse took disciplinary action against the two employees. Two of the supervisors subsequently resigned."

In another, separate incident, five hands of open-face Chinese poker were apparently dealt during the course of normal poker room operation.

The SugarHouse rep then responded to the charges.

"We, SugarHouse, did not permit, allow or support this activity," he said. "Two celebrity players convinced a dealer to deal a showdown."

As for the hands of OFC, he said a dealer "went rogue" and only about $600 changed hands before a supervisor put a stop to the activity.

In the end, the Board approved the agreement negotiated between SugarHouse and the regulators, wherein SugarHouse would pay $30,000 plus $2,500 in administrative fees.

Polk and Deeb React

That amount likely represents a drop in the bucket for SugarHouse, but what had many people saddened by the whole thing was that two people had lost jobs over a situation that most cash game players have witnessed dozens of times, at least.

Deeb said the players felt bad immediately when it came to light that trouble was stemming from the flip.

"We all apologized to the staff who got in trouble for us pushing them to allow it," he wrote on Twitter. "We took advantage of their kindness."

Polk expressed his contrition for the seemingly innocent incident via TwoPlusTwo:

"Just want to say that Im sorry my actions got the casino fined, but more importantly that people potentially lost their jobs over this matter," he wrote. "I just thought it would be a fun thing to stream that people on my channel would like seeing. Especially coming from Las Vegas where flips are completely acceptable, I didn't really think that it could cause any issues.

"Once again, I apologize that my actions caused harm to others, even if it was inadvertently."

  • A friendly $42K flip at the end of a cash game led to a fine and firings in Pennsylvania.

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