The annual $50K High Roller event at the 2019 World Series of Poker (WSOP) came to an end as British poker pro Ben Heath eventually emerged as the winner and took home a first place prize of $1,484,085. It was a great moment for Heath who claimed his very first gold bracelet.
However, his victory was overshadowed by a controversial hand that has since caused a lot of backlash on social media. The WSOP is a month and a half long tournament and every year there are a few controversial incidents which create a buzz in the poker world. The 2019 WSOP just completed its first week and we have our very first controversy.
Controversy At $50K High Roller – Final Table
When the final table was down to four players, a controversial hand took place, leading to one player’s demise. There are some poker pros who don’t think the controversial hand would have had a major impact on the game but given the fact that there was so much on the line, it has gained the attention of the global poker community.
American poker pro Sam Soverel and Russia’s Dmitry Yurasov were on equal stacks when the former opened for 400,000. Yurasov shoved for 4.93 million, with chip leader Andrew Lichtenberger quickly folding his small blind.
Meanwhile Ben Heath, who was trailing behind Lichtenberger in chips, contemplated his next act and asked Soverel for an approximate count of his stack. Upon knowing the number, Heath then tossed in a red time bank chip so he could get 30 more seconds to act. But Soverel, who was apparently not fully attentive to the situation, immediately tossed his cards out of turn as soon as Heath threw the small time card.
The move gave way for Heath to quickly make a call now that Soverel was out of the hand. Yurasov stood up in anger, and was obviously unhappy with how things were unfolding. A disappointed Yurasov couldn’t do anything but watch as his ace-ten of diamonds got beaten by Heath’s ace-queen of hearts. The Russian player exited the game in fourth place for $458,138.
Call for Soverel’s Disqualification
While Soverel apologized for his mistake saying the move was unintentional, it did not prevent him from taking the heat. A number of poker players and famous high rollers are now calling for Soverel to be hit with a severe penalty.
US poker pro Isaac Haxton couldn’t stay silent on the controversy, expressing his disgust by suggesting that Soverel should take the fourth place money and should be disqualified. Haxton also said Soverel should be prohibited from playing in WSOP events for one year. After watching the replay, the New York native said he’s almost sure Soverel’s out-of-turn fold was intentional.
While Haxton admitted he hadn’t seen Soverel behave in a similar manner in the past, he claimed the 2018 High Roller of the Year has a tainted reputation at the final table. Haxton wasn’t the only one who lashed out at Soverel as the Leader on the All Time Money list Justin Bonomo also backed Haxton. The three-time WSOP bracelet winner said Soverel had a history of pulling angles and he usually never shows any sign of remorse. Bonomo said he’d seen Soverel do this several times and did not believe it was an honest mistake.
Savage: Mistake Does Not Merit Disqualification
Haxton’s tweet about the controversial hand gained a number of replies from fans who sided with him on the issue, but WSOP tournament director Matt Savage does not share the same views. He feels that a disqualification is too harsh a penalty, a view echoed by fellow tournament director Kenny Hallaert who said Soverel could be given 3 orbits as maximum penalty for his inattentive behavior.
Savage’s stand on the controversy did not go well with Dominik Nitsche. The four-time WSOP winner said the enforcement of rules lies in the hands of the tournament director. Nitsche said if Savage won’t do something about it, it would signify that he is allowing cheating in WSOP tournaments. Soverel gained massive equity by folding “unintentionally”, and tournament directors must be surely aware of such moves.
Soverel did get some support as some poker players highlighted the fact that there must be a better way of tossing in time bank cards since Soverel’s mistake stemmed from this move. They believe something needs to be done about time banks, as they could easily be mistaken for a call.
Ben Heath who triumphed in the event earning his second seven-digit score, said the outcome would have been the same regardless of Soverel’s controversial move. In a post-game interview, Heath said he genuinely thought it was an honest mistake and that he would have made the call either way. The British player battled with Lichtenberger in heads-up play until he called an all-in from the 2010 WSOP Circuit champ, which ultimately led to his victory.
Soverel won $640,924 for his third-place finish, while Lichtenberger finished second to Heath, taking home $917,232.

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