PART 1: The Tweet

Someone did something to someone at a table in a WSOP event this week. It was enough to prompt a tweet from someone who doesn’t tweet negatively about others. So, K.L. Cleeton simply tweeted that someone made him feel like he didn’t belong at the table.

Instead of calling that person out, he simply hoped to make a point. “Be a reason the game grows, not a reason it shrinks.” It sounds easy, but time and time again, people prove that it’s not so simple.

When I messaged Cleeton about it, he didn’t really want to call the person out. He didn’t give me a name, and I didn’t push for it.

PART 2: Another Tweet

The next tweet about the situation that caught people’s attention was from Aleeyah Jadavji. She appeared to know who prompted Cleeton’s tweet.

When Kitty Kuo tweeted things that people in poker need to do better, Jadavji added that people should do something about others being assholes to disabled players. That appeared to solve the mystery of the culprit but not what she actually did or said.

PART 3: An Article

Andrew Burnett wrote about the kerfuffle for PokerTube. He put the pieces together and wrote that Kuo appeared to be the source of the offense. Cleeton tweeted with his own comment about his wish to grow the game into one in which everyone feels welcome. He took no personal shots.

Kuo then took to Twitter to defend herself. Many of the tweets were subsequently deleted, but this one stands:

In the case that it doesn’t stand, Kuo acknowledged that Cleeton and his assistant (sometimes his dad, sometimes Veronica Brill or another friend) sat side-by-side, prompting the dealer to make mistakes and deal to both of them instead of just Cleeton.

“I call floor and ask for more experienced dealer who won’t make mistakes or whether one of them should sit a little behind the other person so dealer doesn’t get confused.”

That tweet only included a “sorry but” apology and a complaint about the “drama.”

In a previous tweet, she wrote that “KL is so sensitive.” And in another tweet, she reiterated her apology “if that hurts his feeling.” And then, “No need to cause drama!”

Part 4: An Apology

At some point, Kuo appeared to have understood that her tweets were coming off as insensitive, no matter how well-intended they may have been.

She tweeted directly to Cleeton that she was sorry – full stop. She offered to do a more public apology on PokerNews and offered him 3% of her WSOP Main Event winnings.

What Had Happened Was…

Cleeton took to Twitter late on Friday night to address the situation head-on and explain it.

What had happened was…he was playing the $5K NLHE 6-Max tournament at the WSOP with his dad as his assistant. For those unfamiliar with Cleeton, he is in a wheelchair and is not able to reach the table, pick up cards, or move chips. So, his father assists him and performs the physical movements per his son’s instructions. The dealer at this particular table dealt cards to Cleeton’s dad twice, a mistake that sometimes happens. It results in a misdeal, and the dealer starts over.

According to Cleeton, Kuo said that Cleeton’s father should sit behind him, which they both said was not possible. Kuo responded that if it happened again, she would call a floorperson. Cleeton got ahead of the situation and went to get a floorperson himself. He accompanied Cleeton back to the table, wherein he also explained that her request would not be satisfied. A short time later, Kuo was moved to another table.

“My offense came from the fact that I shouldn’t need to do anything differently because of dealer mistakes especially when we’ve always played that way without issue. By my recollection, the mistakes resulted in only 2 misdeals. Any other error was caught quickly enough by myself or my dad to ensure we just needed to shift the cards which resulted in effectively no slowing of the game.”

Part 5: Apology Accepted

Cleeton’s final tweet of the night indicated that he accepted her apology. He also suggested that she donate that 3% to AbleGamers, an organization dedicated to enabling game play for people with disabilities to combat social isolation and create inclusive communities.

“I wish her no ill will and hope this can be a growing experience.”

Kuo then responded that she would donate that 3% of her Main Event to AbleGamers and offer to be a free poker coach for the organization.

Part 6: Learn

The incident was a distraction for Cleeton at the table and for Kuo, as well as possibly other players at the table. It also stirred up angry feelings on Twitter.

I asked Cleeton is he found this to be a distraction from his game and focus or if he saw it as a teachable moment.

“Bit of both really. I hope this helps people realize that acceptance at the table is still something we have to actively fight for.”

The attention to the matter may have educated some people about how a person can play poker without sitting at the table in a “traditional” manner. As Cleeton has expressed, poker is supposed to be an all-inclusive game. There is no reason that a few adjustments can’t be made to welcome more people to the tables.

It may have also shown that a misunderstanding can blow up if not addressed sensitively. There was a point in the situation wherein a person with concerns about the seating arrangement could have asked why an alternative was not possible…and then tried to understand and accept that. Sometimes it takes a situation to prompt a person to slow down, think outside of their own box, and see the bigger picture.