Last Friday evening at the 2018 WSOP Event #66 $1,500 NLH, something said by a poker player to another fellow player led to his disqualification from the WSOP event.
Adrian Sorin Lovin, a poker pro who registered from Russia but at the WSOP he wore blue shirts emblazoned with ‘Team Italy', had advanced to Day 2 in Event #66 with a fairly healthy stack. At that time, the initial field of 1,351 was narrowed down to 227, which was 24 spots from the money bubble.
What Sorin Said
The one who Lovin metaphorically crossed swords with was Maurice Hawkins, a poker pro from Florida with 11 WSOP Circuits rings to his name. On a round on Day 1, Lovin chomped a huge bite out of Hawkins' stack, with an Ace-high flush beaten down by 9s-over-8s. Lovin said, "Thank you, my friend," as he scooped in the pot. Hawkins did not reply.
However, Lovin's dirty table talk turned even more ugly come Day 2, when he tried to retort during a conversation with Hawkins, dropping the N-bomb in the process - a direct violation of WSOP rules that would eventually disqualify him from the tournament.
There was some disagreement about what were the exact words that Lovin said. Ryan Feldman and Dutch Boyd, who were both seated nearby, stated that they heard "What's up, n*****" while Hawkins and others on social media say he said, "Shut up, n*****."
Well, whatever was truly said, the last word spoken mattered the most.
Empty-handed and Racially Shamed
Much to the disappointment of Hawkins and other poker fans, the initial response made by a tournament floor staff was that they issued a one-round penalty, and that's it.
While Lovin was in the penalty corner, Hawkins ended up busting the tournament. Meanwhile, Lovin was able to bag up 70,100 that made him 40th place in chips out of the surviving 228 players with 203 spots getting a payout.
Later that evening, Hawkins expressed his grievance to social media where he received support from many members from the poker community. Still, he believes that the incident warranted more than just a penalty.
But in the world of poker, Lady Luck works in mysterious ways, because fast forward to Saturday during the Day 2 restart, Hawkins will finally get the justice he asked for.
Hawkins was not at the Rio when he received news from a fellow player that WSOP officials met with Lovin and told him that when Jack Effel learned about the incident, the tournament director had decided to disqualify Lovin for his actions.
Bracelet winner Dutch Boyd shared the news in his Twitter feed.
According to Boyd, Lovin became very quiet after that as players in the area became aware of what transpired.
Lovin admitted to using the racial slur. He claimed what he said was justified because Hawkins had jokingly asked how to say "kiss my ass" in Italian. Also, he claimed he did not understand the significance of the racial slur.
For its decision, Hawkins praised the WSOP:
Hawkins said, "I like the fact that when Jack heard they came to a consensus about what the WSOP stands for, I think that was pretty huge. I saw all the people on Twitter. I've never thought of myself as part of the poker community, I've always kinda felt like an outsider, but today I felt really special by how all the people were supporting me, that they understand how hurtful that word can be. Coming all at once from people I didn't expect, it was nice, almost tearful. That was a unique feeling because I don't get a lot of love from people in poker ever. That was pretty strong."
This particular incident isn't the only one of its kind at the WSOP. In fact, at last year's WSOP, ESPN caught the aftermath of an exchange during the early parts of the 2017 Main Event wherein poker player Lazaro Hernandez dropped the n-word towards poker player Tony Bracy. For that, Hernandez received a three-round penalty.