When Illinois native Dan Bekavac announced the launch of the Midway Poker Tour, his aim was for it to become the biggest mid-major poker tour by the end of 2021. But that goal is now unlikely to be achieved after the inaugural event ended in controversy.
The tour made a debut in the Chicagoland area with a $1,100 buy-in Main Event held at the Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove on October 2-4. The event, which featured $100,000 in guarantees, drew a sizable field of 266 players, many of them coming from outside Chicago. The event took place in collaboration with 4 KIDS Sake, Inc, an IRS-recognized charity providing support to children in Northern Illinois.
Precious Metal Instead of Cash
Since it ran primarily as a charity-themed tournament, the Midway Poker Tour had to comply with the Illinois Charitable Gaming Acts and regulations. There are significant differences when it comes to the awarding of prizes compared to events conducted under a standard casino gambling license.
Players cannot receive over $500 in cash payouts (atop their initial buy-in). The remainder of their winnings may be awarded in the form of precious metals which they can convert to cash through a buyer or trader.
This meant that any player finishing in the money at the event would only get $1,600 regardless of the amount of their winnings (the min-cash was $2,300). Some local players knew how things work at charity tournaments but some of those in attendance had no prior knowledge.
Fraud?
The Midway Poker Tour followed the process. They had gold on hand to award to the winners, with a buyer on-site to convert the metal into cash (the same amount as the tournament payout). It will then be reused for the next player who would cash out.
Things initially ran smoothly, but the event encountered a major problem when officials from the Attorney General’s office visited the venue and informed organizers that they wouldn’t allow a trader on-site to buy back the metal. It couldn’t be re-used as well.
In order to comply with the official’s orders, organizers had to scramble for precious metals and fortunately managed to obtain around $200,000 worth of silver coins. During the final day of the event, players expressed frustration as they couldn’t find anyone who would buy the silver coins, contrary to the organizers’ earlier promise that a trader off site was ready to buy them.
Adding insult to injury was the fact that the metals had been overvalued, with several players reporting that each one-ounce coin could only be sold for less than $25, but organizers told them they’re valued at $35. Things went chaotic that the final 10 players opted to temporarily stop the game to sort out things. While they eventually agreed to continue to play, they wouldn’t be receiving the exact amount of their winnings due to the coins’ inflated value.
In the end, it was Lombard, Illinois native Renato Spahiu who walked away with the top prize which was supposedly $55,065 but he didn’t have it in full.
Tour’s Founder Apologizes
Interestingly, the event’s tournament director Jeremy Smith who had worked with the Heartland Poker Tour for several years was notably absent when during the final day when everything had become a mess. Even the tour’s founder Daniel Bekavac appeared to escape.
He later issued a statement, apologizing to everyone who participated for all the inconvenience and payout discrepancies. Bekavac maintained that he didn’t scam anyone and even shelled out more than $55,000 from his own pocket to make the event happen. He blamed the Attorney General for preventing them from having a trader on site to buy the metals, resulting in them having to make last-minute changes that resulted in total disaster.
Bekavac said he invested a lot of time, money and effort to put together a live poker event for players and fans only to have it “blow up in their faces”.

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