WSOP POY Bombshell: Negreanu’s title retracted due to data error

The official Twitter account of the WSOP dropped the explosive tweet yesterday which revoked Daniel Negreanu’s 2019 POY title and handed it to Robert Campbell.

Thanks to a sharp-eyed Russian journalist by the name of Alex Elenskiy, the Player of the Year crown for 2019 now rests on the right head.

The POY crown spent just 5 days on Negreanu’s head

Data discrepancy changes the standings

The data error mentioned by WSOP was found in the standings for event 68, with Daniel Negreanu listed as having finished 36th place. Closer inspections by Elenskiy found that the list of players who cashed between 32nd and 46th place in that event corresponded exactly to the cashes between 32nd and 46th place in event 87. This raised suspicions that there had been a mistake, which WSOP later confirmed.

The number of points awarded were not trivial, with Negreanu receiving an extra 213.1 points, along with (seemingly) $4,734 in prize money. The statement by WSOP did however state that the points were not added until two weeks after the event, which makes it more plausible that Negreanu may not have noticed the error at the time.

The adjusted standings are as follows:

1 Robert Campbell 3,961.31
2 Shaun Deeb 3,917.32
3 Daniel Negreanu 3,861.76

Deeb accuses Negreanu of cheating

In the immediate aftermath of the tweet from WSOP, Deeb took to Twitter to accuse Negreanu of knowingly accepting the points. His argument was based on his belief that Negreanu would have been checking the leaderboard and tracking the points scored with keen interest; and so, would have known about the mistake instantly before refusing to say anything. WSOP’s assertion that the erroneous points were not added until two weeks later casts some doubt on this point of view, but it remains possible. Deeb tweeted the following statement after WSOP’s announcement:

The other point of interest lies in the fact that WSOP seemingly awarded $4,734 in prize money to players who didn’t cash that event and didn’t know about it themselves. Each event has a set prize pool, after all. If the 32nd to 46th place finishers were paid out instead of the real finishers in those positions, there would undoubtedly have been an outcry from the players who hadn’t been paid.

The only other explanation is that both the true, and false finishers in those positions were paid out, which would have caused an obvious discrepancy in the amount paid and the prize pool.

It is very hard to believe the WSOP would not have noticed this error if that were true, which raises the prospect that WSOP knew of the mistake but covered it up to avoid embarrassment. There is no proof of any intentional cover up by Negreanu, WSOP or anyone else at this point, but it’s difficult to see how none of the 15 finishers or WSOP officials noticed any error in prize money or points towards POY until yesterday.

Negreanu speaks out on Full Contact blog

Daniel Negreanu was quick to respond to the news, posting on his blog that he received a phone call from Seth Palansky informing him of the mistake and that he had no negative feelings or emotions at all and spent the remainder of the phone call discussing changes he had been arguing for in the POY system for years.

Importantly, towards the end of the post, he claimed he hadn’t been closely keeping track of the point but would in future:

“I need to verify for myself that my point totals are correct as they happen. Double, and triple check. I trusted the WSOP to have it right, but I should still verify my point totals to ensure they are aligned with what the website showed. I didn’t do that, but I will make it a habit in the future”.

The fallout

The WSOP have clearly suffered a huge amount of embarrassment due to this mistake and admitted as much in their Twitter post. They claimed that they will overhaul their processes in the Player of the Year race and the poker world will at least hope they keep their word in terms of adding up the numbers correctly. As for Negreanu’s statement that he’s completely ‘zen’ about it all, that would be a surprise considering he can appear quite angry and agitated in his vlogs sometimes when a single event is going against him.

Deeb’s comments could potentially cause a fallout all of their own. He has publicly accused Negreanu of knowing about the mistake and hiding it for his own gain, which could amount to libel. Whether or not he is right, it would be hard to prove it as true if Negreanu deemed his character had been stained by the accusation and wanted to pursue legal avenues.

Article by Craig Bradshaw