Five Major Poker Controversies 2016

Controversies are almost part of every game and poker is no exception. All through the year 2016, we saw many controversies happening in the poker wold. Right from Antonio Esfandiari’s disqualification from the PCA Main Event and William Kassouf’s eliminations from the WSOP Main Event to a shocking story of Sorel Mizzi’s online cheating, we witnessed various strange things happening in poker circuit.

Poker Controversies 2016

1.Esfandiari Disqualified from PCA Main Event

The biggest controversy that came to the fore in the year 2016 included the dramatic story of Poker legend Antonio Esfandiari who was disqualified from the $5,300 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event following his unethical behavior of peeing in a container underneath the table.

Reacting to his behavior, PokerStars spokesman Eric Hollreiser said “Following a violation of our tournament rules for players participating in the PCA, Antonio Esfandiari was disqualified from the main event.” He further added,“We do not expect to provide any further details on this issue.”

Antonio-Esfandiari (1)

The international poker player Antonio Esfandiari has apologized for his behavior, calling his actions “unacceptable” and saying that he was “not happy with myself today.” He did say that he also made a prop bet to the poker-playing businessman Bill Perkins, which he had won ultimately.

2.William Kassouf Eliminated from WSOP Main Event

William Kassouf was eliminated from 2016 WSOP Main Event due to his continuous and excessive talk to the table mates. As the world’s biggest poker event got down to the final few tables, it became clear that many survivors were growing tired of Kassouf’s efforts to gain information from them and tilt them by talking to them through all hands. Kassouf continued irritating players on the table and eventually was disqualified from the WSOP Main Event, following his misconduct on the poker table.


This incident took place when there was an angry face-of between William Kassouf and Griffin Berger over $27,800,000 pot in the WSOP Main event. Both players got into heated discussion on the table and finally Griffin called Kassouf an abusive person. Since Kassouf had a history of using his mouth to gain undue advantage and he had tilted many pros this way, he was disqualified for his unruly behavior. It got mixed reactions, some found it right, while others termed it as ‘partiality to Kassouf’.

3.Sorel Mizzi Banned from PokerStars for Online Cheating

Already infamous for online cheating, Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi was banned by PokerStars for playing on the poker site from the United States from other player’s account. This was not for the first time, his story of rule violation dated back to February 2016 when a poster on Two Plus Two alleged that Mizzi played in the 2015 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event and made it to the final table, while sitting in his apartment in the US. As per the online rules, PokerStars doesn’t let anyone in the U.S. to play on Following his violations of online gaming rules, Mizzi was banned this year from playing on PokerStars for quite some time. Confirming the same, the professional poker player Mizzi said, “I can’t play on [PokerStars] for a couple years,”


4.Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino & Negreanu Controversy

The $50,000 High Roller event of the 2016 “Rock ‘n’ Roll Poker Open”, which took place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, was won by Ben “Ben86” Tollerene for $495,228. The event however missed a very big name – Daniel Negreanu, who decided to take part in the event at the last moment and wired $100,000 to the casino to take part in the event before heading to Norway.


The controversy erupted when the casino decided not to release Negreanu’s wire in time for him to take part in the tournament. Negreanu was very unhappy and vowed not to step inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for the rest of his life. Here is what he said via Tweet:

“No 50k tourney for me I guess. Sent my wire to @shrpo, they received it, but won’t release the money to me. Too steamed to borrow, buh bye.”

“My first trip ever to @shrpo and you’d be smart to bet a lot of money it was also my last. Off to Norway tomorrow night.”

“Common sense is often lost within large corporations. Did they think I was going to rob some random wire for $100k and steal from the casino?”

5.Qui Nguyen’s WSOP Main Event Win Overshadowed by Accusations

When Qui Nguyen became the 2016 WSOP Champion after defeating Gordon Vayo in a mammoth heads up match, his victory was overshadowed by various accusations. One very controversial allegation came from his fellow pro Andy Philachack, who claimed giving Qui Nguyen $2,500 for 50% of a potential WSOP Main Event seat back in 2011.


On Twitter, various poker pros came out to support Philachack and believed his story. Others said that his story was untrue and missed out some key details. Many others went on to say that Philachack coined that story to take advantage of Nguyen’s windfall at WSOP in order to try and recoup some of the money. To explain everything later on, Philachack took to Twitter and said that he only shared his story because“he wanted people to know what kind of person he is,” adding “It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle.”