You are the Tournament Director Series 5: Verbal and Physical Threats
The Hendon Mob get a lot of emails asking about tournament rulings relating to player conduct and verbal or physical threats. This one was sent in by Mr John Binns.
Best recount of incident is as follows: During a WPT event, just before a break, there were heated words exchanged between two players. During the break one of the two players made threats against the others life. This was over heard by several other players who brought it to the attention of the TD. Before play resumed security was called and names were taken but no action made against the person making the threats (he later was given a year suspension from the casino). Should this player have been allowed to continue playing or should he have been ejected from the tournament?
TDA rule #50 'Penalties and Disqualification' covers this decision pretty clearly (see below).
Based upon the witness reliability and nature of the threats, I would have no problem immediately ejecting the offender and deciding later whether this individual should be barred from future play. Threats are definitely abusive and disruptive behavior so TDA Rule #50 covers disqualification as follows:
50: Penalties and Disqualification
FIDPA (The International Poker Rules) Ruling (Marcel Luske)
#2 Management will attempt to maintain a pleasant environment for their customersand employees, but is not responsible for the conduct of any player. Managementreserves the right to refuse any player entry into the casino, card room, and/ortournament area(s). The following will not be permitted or tolerated:
We all understand that the TD has to make the decision as far as possible based on fairness.
David Flusfeder (IFP – International federation of Poker)
'In order to maintain a congenial environment for all players, the TD may, at his or her sole discretion, penalise, suspend or disqualify a participant who [exhibits]... abusive behavior...' This includes: 'verbally or physically attacking other competitors'.
In the example given here, I think the TD would be perfectly justified to disqualify the offending player immediately.
I had a similar situation at EPT Final Monaco and the best way for me to solve this is to talk to both players, with security present, and explain the upcoming ruling, and if there is any further problem. So one round penalty for both and last warning. I have to give a penalty for both players, because I can't guarantee, that also the other players said something similar to the other, just without audience!
I wouldn't take a player out of tournament, but I have to inform security, floorstaff and we have to observe these players. At MC it worked perfect, no discussion anymore and peace on all tables!
All the TDs agree that this is something that falls within their jurisdiction even though it took place on a break with no tournament staff present. There is also a general consensus that the security staff should be involved.
As Thomas Kremser says, “Every incident is different and has to be handled as such” having regard for the right of payers and staff to be protected from threatening and abusive behavior as well as the prospect of physical harm.
JP Macann and Thomas Lamatsch are right to point out that the TD is dealing with second hand information here, and although he must take decisive action he cannot necessarily be expected to make a judgement about who is and is not at fault.
If the incident had taken place at the table and been witnessed by tournament staff then it would be likely that the TD would want to issue penalties or even a disqualification.
In this particular case we agree with those who would speak to both players with security present and, as a minimum, issue a warning that further incidents would lead to penalties, or more likely, disqualification.
Furthermore, if the TD judged that penalties or disqualification were warranted based on the initial incident then that would be his call to make.
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