WSOP Player Disqualified for Spewing Racial Slur at Maurice Hawkins

Both Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth are now serious threats to make a deep run in the WSOP Main Event after building healthy stacks on Day 2C. But that was hardly the story of the day on Friday in another tournament at the Rio, where a player’s language at the table shined a light on how World Series tournament staff handles inappropriate behavior at the tables.

Maurice Hawkins, WSOP

When a player representing “Team Italy” called Maurice Hawkins the N-word in a $1,500 tournament, WSOP officials had to decide what kind of penalty to enforce. (Image: PokerTube)

Ivey, who has yet to appear at a televised feature table in the 2018 Main Event, quietly bagged 434,200 chips — a relatively massive stack, giving him 217 big blinds and putting him in 11th overall chip position when the Day 2 fields converge on Saturday for Day 3.

Hellmuth, with just five small cashes this summer, all for less than $10,000, bagged an 80-big blind stack of 162,700.

(CardsChat pro Ryan Laplante also bagged a nice stack of 192,000.)

While chip counts mean little at this point — Day 3 began with 2,786 of the 7,874 starting players remaining — some controversial action took place in a concurrently running $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament, where a player got disqualified for leveling a racial slur at WSOP Circuit superstar Maurice Hawkins.

What Did Sorin Lovin Say?

Adrian Sorin Lovin, a player who’s registration is from Russia but was one of several at the WSOP wearing blue shirts emblazoned with “Team Italy,” had advanced to Day 2 in Event #66, $1,500 NLH, with a relatively healthy stack and the field of 1,351 down to 227, which was 24 spots from the money bubble.

One player at his table that he tangled with was Maurice Hawkins, a pro from Florida who has 11 circuit rings. In a hand on Day 1, Lovin took a huge bite out of Hawkins’ stack with a boat beating an Ace-high flush, after which Lovin said, “Thank you, my friend.” (Hawkins didn’t reply.) 

But table talk turned ugly on Day 2, when at some point Lovin punctuated his conversation with Hawkins by dropping an N-bomb — a violation of WSOP rules that would eventually disqualify him from the tournament.

There was some debate about what exactly Lovin said.  Dutch Boyd and Ryan Feldman, both seated at a nearby table, claimed to have heard “what’s up,” while Hawkins and others on social media believe he said, “shut up.”

Regardless, the word that followed mattered more.

How Did WSOP Respond?

The first response by tournament floor staff was to issue a one-round penalty, much to the dismay of Hawkins and many poker fans.

Can’t see myself playing in a tournament where a man can, call me a racial slur. Then just get a penalty. Wonder if that’s the rules.Can’t respond, Because it’s against the Law and on camera. #HawksView

— Maurice Hawkins (@mauricehawkins) July 6, 2018

On further consideration, WSOP Vice President and Tournament Director Jack Effel decided to make it clear that overt racism targeting another player was unacceptable, and he disqualified Lovin from the tournament altogether and escorted him out of the Amazon room.

Hawkins would bust out shortly thereafter, short of the money, but expressed his appreciation for tournament staff taking the matter seriously.

Update on on the Racist guy from the WSOP.Jack Effel just showed America how to deal with Racism, and that’s Zero tolerance. I am proud to play in @Wsop and be apart of their brand. (Thankyou) He Perped walked the racist guy out of the Tournament Area and DQ”ed him.#HawksView

— Maurice Hawkins (@mauricehawkins) July 6, 2018

What Should Be Appropriate Penalty?

In addition to some people debating whether Lovin said “what’s up?” or “shut up,” social media also got riled up about what should be the punishment for pejorative use of such an epithet at the table.

Official WSOP rules give tournament staff a wide range of discretion. (See Section IV, Rules 40, 41, 42, and 46, and Section VI, Rules 113 and 114.)

Doug Polk polled his followers, and with 10,340 votes, a majority said Lovin should’ve received either just a warning or a 1- to 5-round penalty, while 19 percent said he should be banned for life.

An event occurred at the Rio during the main event recently where an African American man won a pot, and a white guy says to him "What's Up N****"

Saw some friends debating what should happen from that point. What do you feel is the appropriate recourse?

— Doug Polk (@DougPolkPoker) July 6, 2018

Polk’s nemesis Daniel Negreanu was among the group applauding Effel’s decision to boot Lovin from the tournament but not ban him for life.

Fantastic to hear!!!