September 21, 2019 Live Poker News, Poker Gossip Petr Černý

Venetian Poker Room in Tournament Rake-grab controversy

The Sheldon Adelson-owned Venetian casino in Las Vegas has been slated for running a poker tournament in which any money raised above the guarantee automatically belongs to the house, rather than being paid out to winning players…

High stakes pro Ben Lamb described the unbelievable rule as ‘one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in poker’. Others called it ‘a racket’ and much worse.


The $250 buy-in, $150,000 GTD Lucky Shot Poker Series & Drawing event is a 2-day tournament, with six starting flights on day one scheduled from October 21st-26th.

As cash-game pro and popular poker vlogger Boski points out, the rake on the event could easily exceed anything the poker world has seen to date…

More potential problems contained in the tournament’s small print were quickly pointed out.

Twitter user @RealJPB stating: ‘Fine print also says they will only pay out a maximum of 81 players. If they have 1200+ entries you could get raked 50% AND have to finish in the top 6% to even cash.’


The Venetian Resort, situated on the site of the old Sands Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, is owned by Sheldon Adelson. He is a business magnate reputed to be worth more than $33billion.

Named last year by Forbes as the 15th-richest person in the world, Adelson is almost universally reviled by the poker community for his fiercely-selfish and deep-pocketed opposition to online poker legislation in the USA.


His ownership of the Venetian has not been without controversy, the Nevada Gaming Control Board fining the casino $1million back in 2002.

The fine followed a 12-count complaint centred on a rigged prizedraw that saw a luxury Mercedes car won by a ‘losing gambler’.

The winning ticket was hidden up the sleeve of an unnamed Venetian executive, as were the winning tickets for $20,000 and $10,000 casino chip prizes.

Added to the complaint were cash transaction reporting violations. Employees were placing huge bets for out-of-state customers, improper voiding of markers and liquor regulation violations.

More recently, in 2013, the Venetian returned $47.4million to the US Treasury after failing to report ‘suspicious deposits by a high-rolling gambler’ more than half-a-decade earlier.

Zhenli Ye Gon, described in legal papers as ‘the largest all-cash, up-front gambler the Venetian-Palazzo had ever had to that point’, was found with $207million in currency when his Mexico City home was searched in 2007.


The Venetian had failed to report the massive wire transfers and cashier’s checks Gon had funneled through the casino over the previous two years.

Gon spent almost a decade fighting extradition from the US. Mexican authorities claimed he was the leader of an organization dedicated to the manufacture of pseudoephedrine, otherwise known as meth.


This week’s ‘small print’ scandal pales in comparison from a financial and ethical perspective, but it has left a sour taste in many poker players’ mouths.

One thing that may be in the Venetian’s favour, as Boski later pointed out, was the $52k put up for the ‘drawing’. A raffle that players get a ticket for, every bullet they fire…

Tournament Director for the Venetian’s cardroom, Tommy LaRosa, failed to convince many with his response on Twitter after well-known pro Matt Berkey tagged him.

…and given that the other events on the schedule seem to have the same dubious rules and aren’t eligible for drawing tickets unless firing multiple bullets, it’s safe to say that the Venetians cash-grab small print is exactly that.

Of course, when you’re only 15th on the Forbes rich list, every $ counts.

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