The Weekly Round-up – 16 August 2021:

The Tip Top Fox brings you the top poker and gambling industry stories of the week; WSOP Issues COVID-19 Rule Clarification For Upcoming World Series; Poker Pro Matt Marafioti Dead In Suspected Suicide

WSOP Issues COVID-19 Rule Clarification For Upcoming World Series

There was quite a bit of controversy on social media following the release of the 2021 World Series of Poker Official Tournament Rules earlier this week. So much in fact, that it resulted in the WSOP issuing a statement clarifying the rules surrounding COVID-19 vaccination and player disqualification.

Most of the controversy stemmed from the wording of ‘Rule 115’ which states:

The rule, which self-proclaimed “Professional Poker Twitterer” Kevin Mathers was the first to bring it to the poker world’s attention on his Twitter feed, states that a player can be disqualified having received a positive COVID-19 test result or having come into close proximity with someone who has tested positive.

Any player who is disqualified – as per rule 114 – has their chips removed from play, and will not be entitled to a refund.

Player Confusion

Understandably, this caused some confusion amongst players, who were quite vocal in requesting some further clarification from the WSOP regarding exactly how this rule will work. After all, no one wants to post a $10,000 tournament buy-in with the potential they could be disqualified for a reason outside of their control.

As Mathers pointed out when addressing the various replies his tweet generated, while the WSOP rules don’t specifically require mandatory mask-wearing and vaccination there was:

“Still plenty of time for the state of Nevada to offer guidance that requires masks and/or vaccinations. That also goes for the WSOP to make their own announcements.” 

America’s Card Room Ambassador Vanessa Kade was another who thought that the WSOP needed to rethink the rule. Players needed more clarification on the potential for disqualification or the WSOP risked harming attendance at this year’s World Series.

It is worth pointing out that currently, the state of Nevada does require mandatory mask-wearing when in public. However, whether this rule will still be in place in September when the Series is in full swing remains to be seen.

WSOP Responds

Following the social media fall out the WSOP issued a clarification on how exactly “Rule 115” would be enforced, stating that the rule was in place for unvaccinated players. If a player is vaccinated and comes into contact with someone with COVID-19 they would not be disqualified unless they also tested positive.

Any unvaccinated player choosing to participate in this year’s World Series is taking a big gamble with their health, and also risking potential disqualification should they come into contact with someone with COVID-19.

Of course, with vaccination not mandatory and the discussion on the ethics of ‘vaccination passports’ still under debate, exactly how the WSOP will enforce this rule, or even know if a player has tested positive remains to be seen.

No Vaccination Proof Required

While the WSOP have been strangely silent on the subject of COVID-19 testing and proof of vaccination, GGPoker Ambassador Daniel Negreanu did post his clarifications on the subject. While it is important to note that Negreanu in no way officially represents the WSOP, he does work closely with them when it comes to discussing tournament rules and the like.

The WSOP has yet to offer further clarification on the subject, but those planning on attending the WSOP should seriously consider getting vaccinated if they haven’t already.

This is already almost a pre-requisite for any international players outside the US as the majority of airlines require both a negative COVID-19 test 24 hours before flying and full vaccination – as per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

While it looks like the WSOP will not be disqualifying players left, right, and center, nor will they require proof of vaccination at this time, these rules could well be subject to change.

Anyone planning on attending this year’s WSOP should take all of this into consideration and keep abreast of what is potentially a fluid situation. As events have already proven this year so far, rules can change pretty quickly when it comes to COVID-19.

Poker Pro Matt Marafioti Dead In Suspected Suicide

Matt Marafioti at the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Season 18. Image courtesy of WPT Flickr

According to a report in US online news website The Daily Voice Canadian poker professional Matt Marafioti has died in an apparent suicide.

The 33-year-old Toronto native plunged to his death from the 28th floor of a New Jersey apartment complex after posting troubling Instagram messages alleging “they are going to make me go missing. If I stay they are going to say I’m crazy and won’t leave.”

According to the Daily Voice report, Marafioti was staying with a friend after breaking up with his partner.

Marafioti had posted a disturbing Instagram post in the lead up to his death alleging he was about to be abducted from his friends apartment and tortured.

According to law enforcement officials involved with the case, Marafioti thought unknown pursuers “were coming to get him” and in a state of panic, jumped to his death from the 28th floor of the Winston Drive apartment complex.

Officers responding to the incident found the apartment door open and $24,000 in cash “stuffed into bags”.

Two young lifeguards were alone at the pool next door at 100 Winston Drive, the official said, when they heard Marafioti’s screams, then saw his body. Both were later offered counseling.

The Daily Voice

Marafioti’s long-time friend and fellow poker professional Randy Dorfman confirmed the report on Twitter.

Respected poker blogger and high-stakes player Doug Polk and Todd “Dan Druff” Witteles of the Poker Fraud Alert podcast both highlighted the story on Twitter last week.

Who Was Matt Marafioti?

As Doug Polk alluded to in his tweet, Matt Marafioti was one of the more well-known online high-stakes players during the poker boom of the early 2000s.

Playing under the handle “ADZ124” Marafioti was a regular in some of the biggest online games of the time, playing at stakes of $25/$50 and higher.

Marafioti burst onto the live tournament scene in the summer of 2007, taking down the $5,000+200 No-Limit Hold’em – Championship Event at the Empire State Hold’em Championships, Verona for a $198,473 payday.

While a WSOP bracelet eluded Marafioti, his best result from a monetary perspective came during the 2010 World Series, with a runner-up finish in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship, which was good for $381,507.

The Canadian pro won a staggering $2,846,163 over his 12-year tournament career – according to poker database website the Hendon Mob – with deep runs in several World Series of Poker, and PokerStars live events.

A Troubled Mind

However, Marafioti also struggled with mental health issues, vanishing for several weeks during the 2016 World Series after posting: “People in poker who are claiming I am a danger to myself/others are lying for self-motivated interests (Illuminati movements) to kill me.”

Marafioti surfaced close to three weeks later stating “I am 100% completely safe and have been since leaving Toronto…I didn’t realise that after 3 weeks people would already be looking for me, claiming I have this severe mental problem I don’t have.”

Judging by the social media posts shortly before his death, it appears that Marafioti was still struggling with his mental health.

Every life lost through suicide is a tragedy. The Tip Top Fox advises anyone worried about a friend, relative, or their own mental health to contact the Samaritans – who provide 24-7 telephone support. You can visit their website for more details.

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