Vegas Poker Players Await Bad Beat Jackpot Decision
More than 80 pairs of eyes are on the Nevada Gaming Control Board, all belonging to players who feel they should have received a part of a $120,000 bad beat jackpot from Station Casinos in 2017. The players and casino operator have gone back and forth about the issue, and the NGCB will make its final decision during the second week of January.
What is a Bad Beat Jackpot?
Considering it is the center of the story, it is important to define bad beat jackpots. Many live and online poker rooms offer them as a way to keep people at the tables and as a reward for enduring the worst of the worst bad beats.
The jackpots are progressive, meaning a small portion of the rake at each table goes directly to the bad beat jackpot, pushing it higher until someone hits it. If done online, all sites that share space on a particular poker network contribute to the same BBJ, and sometimes land-based casinos share BBJ’s among several poker rooms owned by the same casino operator. In most cases, ever player at the table at which the BBJ hand was played win something, with the losing player in the bad beat winning the largest portion of the jackpot – usually 50%. The player who wins the bad beat hand can win up to 25% of the BBJ. And most often, everyone in the entire poker room at the time of the BBJ splits the rest.
An example of a BBJ is when one four-of-a-kind hand beats another. Each poker room operator can set individual rules for their jackpots, with requirements that may include both hole cards in play for each player in the BBJ hand, or full houses must be aces full of jacks or higher. Rules are generally posted, though some may be in fine print.
Station Casinos Versus Players
Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas is part of the Station Casinos family of properties. The poker rooms share a bad beat jackpot among them. In July, someone hit it at Red Rock, and it affected more than 80 players across the Station poker rooms in Vegas.
Per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, t was around noon on Friday, July 7. Avi Shamir was playing at Red Rock in a hand against Len Schreter. Shamir had a straight flush, but Schreter had a higher one, and the bad beat jackpot hit at $120,000. Shamir expected to win $60,000, Schreter $30,000, and everyone else in the other four Station poker rooms at that moment was to split the other $30,000. That meant the minimum payout would have been approximately $375.
Schreter was excited and showed his hole cards out of turn and before the hand was officially over. The players verified that the river card was dealt, bets were made, and there was nothing about his choice to expose the cards that could’ve changed the outcome of the hand. Red Rock poker manager Forrest Caldwell, however, disagreed. According to his interpretation of the jackpot rules and in agreement with other casino executives, the jackpot was not valid because the exposing of the hand amounted to communication between the players, and “discussion of hands during the play by players, at the discretion of management, may void a Jumbo Hold ‘Em Jackpot.”
NGCB, We Have a Problem
Neither the players nor management were prepared to back down, so the matter was taken to the Nevada Gaming Control Board for a resolution. Investigator Bill Olliges reviewed the entirety of the situation, including the surveillance tapes, and decided the players were correct and should be paid.
Station Casinos contested that decision and requested a hearing, which occurred in December. It included Shamir, Schreter, and two other poker players involved in the jackpot, along with members of the NGCB and representatives of Station Casinos.
During the three hours of testimony and questioning, Shamir and Schreter attested to the financial and emotional struggles they have endured since the incident. All was noted by Chan Lengsavath, who put the information together in a report for the board with an undisclosed recommendation, but the previous investigation results were to be considered as well.
The board is expected to reveal its decision during its next meeting, which is scheduled to span January 10 and 11 next week.
Ultimately, the hearing was the last recourse for the players, but if Station is not happy with the result, its management can choose to appeal to the Clark County District Court and fight the case.