Mike Leah Addresses “Buying a Title” Controversy Surrounding WPT Fallsview

February 15th, 2018 by Chad Holloway

Last weekend, Mike Leah and Ryan Yu made it to heads-up play in the WPT Fallsview, which took place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Mike Leah

Mike Leah assures fans his five WSOP rings, his WSOP bracelet, and numerous online titles were all won outright without making a deal. (Image: WSOP)

Despite being down in chips, Leah negotiated a deal in which he would be crowned champion.

Since the WPT does not officially facilitate deals, Yu and Leah engaged in a controversial chip dump. Vilified by many for “buying a title,” Leah took to social media to tell his side of the story.

Dealmaker’s Defense

On paper, meaning what was reported by the WPT to HendonMob, Leah’s WPT Fallsview “win” over a field of 517 entries and was good for $358,531 and a seat into the August WPT Tournament of Champions. In reality, the two worked a private deal based on an exact Independent Chip Model (ICM) chop.

“The one thing that stings me is the words ‘buy a trophy/title’ or something to that effect,” Leah said in a lengthy Facebook post. “I have never or will ever ‘pay’ for a win … Not sure why I feel the need to defend myself but I feel my integrity is being attacked which doesn’t feel very good.”

Leah then sets the stage by revealing that, while he was backed for the first six or seven years of his career, he has been playing exclusively on his own for more than three years. He also states that while he has “turned down more chops than most,” he has also chopped many, which is standard in the industry.

“As soon as we were Heads-Up [Ryan Yu] mentioned something about talking deal (Can’t remember his exact words),” wrote Leah. “I hadn’t considered making a deal until that exact moment; I believe my words were something like: ‘Well I wouldn’t consider any deal unless I got the win, trophy, etc.’ I didn’t know how Ryan would respond and honestly didn’t care I would’ve been happy to play for it – HU for a WPT title; not much more exciting than that. But very quickly he responded that he’d be fine with that if we did even ICM.”

Leah follows it up by stating that the two worked out the terms, which included taking the $15K Tournament of Champions seat into consideration and how much they’d tip dealers and staff, before returning to the table. WPT officials informed them that they needed to play it out.

“Ryan & I figured the easiest/quickest way to get it over was just for him to raise fold large portions of his stack,” Leah explained.

“We did this in an extremely obvious way, making a lot of jokes and having fun. We were both extremely happy with the outcome. Now looking back I see how it’s embarrassing/disappointing for the WPT, Reporting staff and even poker players/fans having ridiculous hand histories like that being posted on the website live updates and deciding the tournament that way. There has to be a better way to go about it. We were not trying to disrespect any parties involved but we were celebrating ours ‘wins’ – and made a decision in our own best interests.”

Poker World Scoffs

Reactions to Leah’s statement regarding the WPT Fallsview deal were mixed.

“Majors should be played out,” wrote World Series of Poker bracelet winner Grant Hinkle. “He had you 2-1 in chips so I don’t agree with those saying you deserved the win. Congrats on the money and deal, but hard to consider you a WPT Champ without a sidenote or asterisk.”

Poker fan Lance Williams certainly didn’t hold anything back:

“You’re an embarrassment to poker, and give a slap in the face to all the rest of us who would fight to the end for this kind of opportunity. Pathetic, awkward, disturbing. Basically unethical if you ask me. I hope they ban you from future events.”

While there was a fair share of haters, there was no shortage of players supporting Leah.

“I don’t really understand the huge uproar about this to be honest,” wrote Vanessa Kade. “Chip dumping is for sure cheating when there are multiple people playing who are not a part of what’s going on. When it’s HU though? This really seems like a clear-cut case of a means to facilitate your own deal, which just doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me.”

Alex Keating added his two cents: “Don’t see any issues here. Not good for poker, but no one did anything wrong. As long as you’re not buying trophies and POY points. He didn’t. His opponent got no extra money for forfeiting the trophy.

The World Poker Tour has yet to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the WPT Fallsview. The tour is now headed to California for the L.A. Poker Classic February 24 through March 1.

11 Responses to “Mike Leah Addresses “Buying a Title” Controversy Surrounding WPT Fallsview”

  1. nevadanick says:

    Seems this flies directly in the face of ‘poker is a game of skill’ … unless the ‘skill’ is negotiating a win that includes chip dumping …. [sad].

  2. ZARGA123 says:

    Same opinion as Lance Williams he does not deserve this seat to the WPT

  3. CRStals says:

    I actually disagree with the previous posters here. My beef lies with two parts:

    Assuming that the actual story of how this happen is how it was reported above, this is a loophole in the rules of the WPT. If you play any MTT on Stars, the final table can deal at any time, but a % must be left over to play for. This…to avoid this exact circumstance. Now in most cases, post-deal play tends to resemble a freeroll – all in – but it happens. In this case, there was nothing to play for. Both walked away with 6 figure paydays, Mike got the seat, both were happy, and there was nothing left on the table except a formality of who was going to win. Now – having said that, the two could have made this less obvious, but I don’t blame either given the circumstance.

    Now…my bigger issue is with Ryan. WHY? Why are you not playing for the trophy? Why are you not playing for the trip to the final and the $15k in August? If you get heads up in a major tournament, with a chip lead, why would you throw that away for a couple of more dollars? The trip in itself could be massively profitable. Why even bother entering if you had no intention of playing for first??? I don’t get that part at all. Split the money, but play for the glory. Few remember second, many remember first.

  4. albosaltenio says:

    if the deal was not allowed, both should be sanctioned and the trophy should be left for the third or return to play the final table without them. they broke a rule and they should not have earned a penny.
    really a shame all those who participated in this deal.

    they should be excluded from the tournament of champions

    • Joel says:

      Deals have been made forever in big tournaments. The fact that WPT doesn’t “allow” it is a joke. Deals are arranged a lot and not announced. I like the fact that they did it “face up” and didn’t try to hide a honest and important part of Poker. Instead of making a deal that no one knows about and pretending one guy won more than he did.

      Also when they make a deal to chop and only play for 25k and then you will see some wierd 4bets. That the announcers justify. But honestly iCM would never allow the layer to make the play. So rec players are going to not understand HU spots because so and so did it and so and so explained why he did.

      It is dumb the WPT publicly has a rule against players taking variance out of their salary.

  5. John Cabral says:

    This will be a tarnish on WPT if this is allowed and he stays Champion.
    The WPT Brand is all about the Championship and Champion of Champions. Mike Leah is no Champion here, Fix this WPT. You cant allow this can you? The way he got this , by Ryan Yu throwing it to him.

  6. Ron Hamm says:

    Unless it is proven that they cheated to get to HU then it is no business of anyone else’s how they agreed to split THEIR money . The sense of entitlement among most of you is truly disgusting. The poker world owes you nothing, earn your spot to be in that situation and then you can dictate what happens PERIOD !!! Otherwise you come off as what you are a bunch of whiny , spoiled bitched – Good Day

  7. Gary Reed says:

    Many major tournaments are chopped. Just not in public. Deals made in the men’s room are for the money. Then it is usually played out for the show. Usually the chop comes with about 4 left but I’ve seen it done at 6. We, the public, just never know about it.

  8. prc108 says:

    Imagine watching that on TV and having the announcers try to justify this joke. What if it happened in another sport. Baseball, Football.. you’re watching a game and then for whatever reason the pitcher just starts walking people to load the bases then throws a 65 mph pitch right down the middle.. After the game they say, hey it was 3-2 and if we got to game 7 the club was going to fill the park and make a lot more money so we made a deal because it was best for us. THATS NOT HOW IT SUPPOSED TO WORK. For the INTEGRITY of the game, this should NEVER be allowed. Are we supposed to just TRUST that these 2 did not collude the whole tournament or other times because they say so? In any sport it’s not supposed to happen, plain and simple.

  9. JRNorris95 says:

    Honestly, I dont see what the big deal is. It is nobody elses business how they agreed to chop. When your playing for large sums of cash, it often can be worth while to secure as much as possible without having to take any risks. Continuing to play would of been a risk to both. If they wanted to chop it up, and he wanted to be declared the winner, then good for him. The other player could of just as easily declined or countered that he would take 1st.

  10. Rob says:

    Im shocked what a couple of POS absolutely deplorable

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