WSOP Player Sorin Lovin Disqualified for Spewing Racial Slur at Maurice Hawkins

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Both Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth are now serious threats to make a deep run in the WSOP Main Event after building healthy stacks on Day 2C. But that was hardly the story of the day on Friday, where a player in one of the post-Main Event tourneys used language at the table that shined a light on how World Series tournament staff handles inappropriate behavior at the tables.

Maurice Hawkins, WSOP
When a player representing “Team Italy” called Maurice Hawkins the N-word in a $1,500 tournament, WSOP officials had to decide what kind of penalty to enforce. (Image: PokerTube)

Ivey, who has yet to appear at a televised feature table in the 2018 Main Event, quietly bagged 434,200 chips — a relatively massive stack, giving him 217 big blinds and putting him in 11th overall chip position when the Day 2 fields converge on Saturday for Day 3.

Hellmuth, with just five small cashes this summer, all for less than $10,000, bagged an 80-big blind stack of 162,700.

CardsChat pro Ryan Laplante also bagged a nice stack of 192,000.

While chip counts mean little at this point — Day 3 began with 2,786 of the 7,874 starting players remaining — at a concurrently running $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament, a player got disqualified for leveling a racial slur at WSOP Circuit superstar Maurice Hawkins.

Adrian Sorin Lovin, a player who’s registration is from Russia but was one of several at the WSOP wearing blue shirts emblazoned with “Team Italy,” had advanced to Day 2 in Event #66, $1,500 NLH, with a relatively healthy stack and the field of 1,351 down to 227, which was 24 spots from the money bubble.

What Did Sorin Lovin Say?

One player Lovin tangled with was Maurice Hawkins, a pro from Florida who has 11 WSOP Circuit rings. In a hand on Day 1, Lovin took a huge bite out of Hawkins’s stack with 9s-over-8s beating an Ace-high flush.

“Thank you, my friend,” Lovin said, scooping in the pot. (Hawkins didn’t reply.) 

But Lovin’s table talk turned ugly on Day 2, when punctuating a conversation with Hawkins by dropping an N-bomb — a violation of WSOP rules that would ultimately disqualify him from the tournament.

There was disagreement about what exactly Lovin said.  Dutch Boyd and Ryan Feldman, both seated nearby, claimed to have heard “What’s up, n*****” while Hawkins and others on social media say he said, “Shut up, n*****.”

Regardless, not surprisingly, the last word mattered more.

How Did WSOP Respond?

The first response by tournament floor staff was to issue a one-round penalty, much to the dismay of Hawkins and many poker fans.

On further consideration, WSOP Vice President and Tournament Director Jack Effel decided to make it clear that overt racism targeting another player was unacceptable, and he disqualified Lovin from the tournament and escorting him out of the Amazon room.

Hawkins would bust out shortly thereafter, short of the money, but expressed appreciation for Effel’s actions after he got the message across to all by perp-walking Lovin out of the tournament area.

What Should Be Appropriate Penalty?

In addition to debate over “what’s up?” or “shut up,” social media also got riled up about what should be the punishment for racial epithets at the table.

Official WSOP rules give tournament staff a wide range of discretion. See Section IV, Rules 40, 41, 42, and 46, and Section VI, Rules 113 and 114.

Doug Polk polled his followers, and with 10,340 votes, a majority said Lovin should’ve received either just a warning or a 1- to 5-round penalty, while 19 percent said he should be banned for life.

Polk’s nemesis Daniel Negreanu was among the group applauding Effel’s decision to boot Lovin from the tournament but not ban him for life.

Dutch Boyd called for something harsher, but less than a lifetime ban.

Hawkins has the second-most WSOP Circuit rings in history, behind Valentin Vornicu, who has 12. He made headlines recently upon resolving a dispute with a backer that had resulted in a lawsuit, since dropped with both parties agreeing their financial disagreement was a matter of simple miscommunication.

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