Thursday, 23rd May 2024 15:10
Home / Poker / A refresher in security and integrity after emotions boil over at EPT Prague

Something very unusual took place at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event in Prague this week. But its rarity is a testament to the good nature of the vast majority of EPT players, as well as PokerStars’ commitment to game security and integrity, which aims to ensure the safety of its players and staff at all times.

On Day 1B of this €5,300 tournament, a table-side altercation took place between Michele Nizzardelli and Ghattas Kortas that resulted in disqualification for the former. According to eye-witness reports, confirmed by tournament staff, some on-felt needling escalated into a physical confrontation after Nizzardelli eliminated Kortas from the tournament.

As he made his way from the table, Kortas reacted by removing Nizzardelli’s hat. Nizzardelli responded with a shove in the back. The players then squared up and Nizzardelli is reported to have head-butted Kortas.

Needless to say, a head-butt is far, far beyond the line of acceptable action — be it on the street or a sports field, let alone at a poker event. Nizzardelli, who still had chips at the time, was duly disqualified from the tournament without refund and escorted from the premises. He has subsequently been banned from PokerStars live events.

Kortas has also been sanctioned, according to PokerStars tournament staff, who also revealed that the same player had been cautioned at a previous event for bad table etiquette. While details of further action are confidential, suffice to say the matter is in the capable hands of the PokerStars security team.

But what lessons can we learn from what happened here?

Cameras are everywhere on the EPT


The first thing to remember is that altercations like this are vanishingly rare on the EPT, despite the sometimes confrontational nature of poker. It actually might be surprising that in a room containing hundreds of players, most of whom are tired or in an emotionally elevated state, we almost never see this kind of thing.

Even new players have likely watched the EPT on live streams, so are broadly aware of acceptable behaviour. Furthermore, all players understand that poker has a great deal of chance at its heart, with cruel outdraws just a part of the game. It’s not worth blaming either the dealer or an opponent for something that is neither of their fault.

That said, verbal abuse, regrettably, is a more common fact of poker, with players sometimes allowing their emotions to control their mouths. Dealers often suffer the brunt of this — but they absolutely shouldn’t. It’s something the EPT is keen to police.

“We take this aspect of the game very seriously,” says Julien Liarte, Business Development Manager of the European Poker Tour. “We want to ensure our staff and our players feel safe and comfortable at our events and we have a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to transgressions.”

He adds: “It goes without saying that any violence is absolutely unacceptable, but verbal abuse is also not tolerated at all.”

TD Toby Stone is called upon to make penalty decisions


Liarte joined Toby Stone, EPT Tournament Director, in suggesting that players remind themselves of the tournament rules and the EPT’s security policy, which is accessible to all on the PokerStars Live website. These rules are always dictated by common sense and common decency, as well as the law of the land.

But sometimes there are potential grey-ish areas that require a human ruling, and the key phrase here is “sole discretion” when referring to either PokerStars Live or the tournament director. In other words, the people in charge of the events not only make the rules, but they can apply them as they see fit to ensure fairness and safety for all.

However, before it comes to that, the list of PokerStars live event rules is extensive and very well worth reviewing. It is based on the Poker Tournament Directors Association Rules (TDA), with various updates and deviations clearly highlighted.

These cover such topics as the Covid-19 protocol as well as rules specific to a live-streamed tournament, where the use of electronic devices and deal-making are slightly different from normal.

Stone is often the person required to rule on etiquette violations and potential sanction for players. He says that most transgressions warrant little more than a verbal warning and that players usually quickly apologise and fall into line.

Poker should be fun for everyone to play and watch

However, penalties then grow in severity from missed hands, through missed rounds, “elimination, disqualification and exclusion from all PokerStars Live Events”.

There’s a notable difference between “elimination” and “disqualification” too: an eliminated player would get a payout if the tournament was already in the money. Disqualification means ejection without any trip to the cage, regardless of the tournament situation.


In certain extreme cases, PokerStars will of course also notify the authorities. But it’s worth remembering that every inch of the tournament area is in view of several security cameras, not to mention the eyeballs of hundreds of players and staff.

The overriding message is straightforward: play sensibly and fairly, and the game will stay safe and fun for everyone.


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