The 2023 Irish Open wrapped up in the early hours of Tuesday, April 11, following a week of poker action inside the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland. The series was a huge success as the Irish Open Main Event broke all kinds of records as it became the biggest tournament ever to take place in the country after attracting 2,491 entrants and generating a €2,428,475 prize pool.
However, as the celebrations for the winner David Docherty began to wind down, a sour story began emerging on social media. Leo Worthington-Leese, a British grinder who was at the Irish Open, shared a video on his Instagram account where it is alleged that compatriot Will Kassouf had disappeared from a Pot-Limit Omaha cash game table, along with his chips after getting felted in a three-way pot.
PokerNews reached out to Worthington-Leese to learn more about the situation that allegedly occurred.
“I wasn’t at the table, I was just outside the poker room…it was like 4 a.m., and one of my friends ran up to me and was like, you are never going to believe what Will Kassouf just did, so he [Worthington-Leese’s friend] was at the table. And then I ended up speaking to a guy involved in the pot on Twitter. And I knew another guy involved in the pot, as well as it was a multi-way pot.” Worthington-Leese said.
“Basically, Kassouf had previously been stacked, and then he’d reloaded and sat short, like 300 euros,” Worthington-Leese added. “He then got it all in on the turn after having reloaded multi-way was drawing dead, it turned out, and then the dealer was working out the pots on the river, working out who owed what.
The dealer turned around to grab Kassouf’s stack to pay the winner of the hand. There was no money then, and he wasn’t even his chair anymore.
“There was no money then, and he wasn’t even his chair anymore.”
He had just got up and quick-footed it all the way across the card room out past security. A couple of people saw him leaving, I think. But nobody had really like cottoned on to what had happened yet, so nobody tried to stop him. You know, they thought, I think because it was kind of late, people were tired at end of the week. Nobody really was paying close attention.
So he just picked a stack up and left, and maybe people just assumed he’d got stacked and then just kind of left in it in a hurry. But yeah, several people have confirmed the same thing. People who were in the room and who were watching their hands.”
It then emerged on Twitter that Keith Littlewood, a recreational player, confirmed the above events as he was one of the three players involved in the pot.
@F1nchystryder @DougPolkVids @Joeingram1 It’s true I am afraid.. it was part my pot.. feel very disappointed- it wa… https://t.co/vmfJsymurG
In a statement to PokerNews, Littlewood relayed how the hand in question went down and the following events.
“As you know, the last night of the Irish Open Cash tables are madness – commotion everywhere,” said Littlewood.
“Kassouf was in seat 1 of the 6-card PLO €1/€2/€5 table, and I was in seat 2. We had shared several tables throughout the day and had quite a bit of banter. I am one of those that enjoy his speech play; however, Kassouf was getting quite a lot of grief, some a little nasty from players at the table and the rail – but I guess that’s normal for him, and he was taking it well and giving as good has he got.
Kassouf was reloading for €300 every time and was also getting grief for that as everyone was sat with a minimum of €1k, ‘in for the min out for the max’ was his usual reply when asked why.”
Littlewood then described the events for the hand in question.
“On the turn, Kassouf was all in just over €300. I re-popped it to €1,450 as that is what the other player had left of his in Seat 4. None of the stacks was counted or brought in the middle. Kassouf told the dealer, “Just leave it and sort it after the river.”
“Kassouf had a set of aces with no redraws, whereas I had a straight with a redraw to a heart flush, while seat 4 had a straight with a redraw to the diamond flush. Kassouf pleaded to run it twice, and both I and seat 4 said no. Kassouf continued to plead and said, “Come on, two rivers.”
Littlewood said that he and seat four begrudgingly agreed to run it twice. Littlewood then recalled that the first river came with a diamond which gave seat 4 a flush, while the second river was a brick. This resulted in three-quarters of the pot going to seat 4, while Littlewood took the rest.
“The dealer called the floor, who then got the security guards to go and find him. He had disappeared without a trace.”
“The dealer then counted seat 4’s stack and gave him the €725 from mine (a quarter of the pot). Then [the dealer] went to do the main pot, and just the blinds and antes were there. Kassouf’s stack had disappeared, and so had Kassouf. Everyone was asking where Will’s stack was. The dealer called the floor, who then got the security guards to go and find him. He had disappeared without a trace.”
“It is hard to describe the commotion of the Irish Open final day cash tables unless you have played there – it’s like the Wild West, and the dealers do amazing to keep up with stuff – but the dealer obviously didn’t bring the chips in as he should. But this was normal as every pot was the same with all stacks getting it in gambling and the pots being sorted after.”
“I did not see Kassouf pick up the chips and leave, and neither did anyone else – they just vanished. This, I want to reiterate. I am not saying he picked them up and left. The only facts are that his stack disappeared, and so did he!”
Kassouf’s Response to the Allegations
PokerNews reached out to Kassouf, who denied the allegations wholeheartedly. In a statement, he said:
“Contrary to the vicious rumours and allegations against me, neither did I take any chips from the table nor did I run out of the poker room…
I did absolutely nothing wrong, and the allegations are completely false.”
“I played in a fun €1-2 PLO 6 card game at the Irish Open festival in Dublin. I exchanged €300 cash for chips. I played a few pots but folded post-flop. When I played the hand in question, I had around €250. I was all in on the turn with top set of AA and a gutshot straight draw for around €200. The other two players went all in, and we all agreed to run it twice. One player won one board with a flush on the river, and they both split the second with a straight.
“Keith said that nobody had seen me take any chips off the table. That’s because I definitely did not take any chips off the table.”
All my chips were in the pot on the turn, so I had no chips left in front of me. The dealer then tried to sort out the main and side pots to split them accordingly. I had lost both pots, so I got up to speak to my friend Nikolay Ponomarev at our table and another friend Alex Zeligman at another table (as they were both on my flight back to London) before I walked out of the poker room.
There was no issue at the time when I was there, and nobody called the floor for any reason, either, whilst I was in the poker room.
One of the players, Keith, said that nobody had seen me take any chips off the table. That’s because I definitely did not take any chips off the table. If I had, either the dealer or one of the players would have seen it. I also definitely did not run out of the poker room as per the false allegations against me, as I spoke to two friends there after the hand before I left.”
“If any mistake was made, it was either made by the dealer in not splitting the pots correctly or by a player miscounting their stack or (unintentionally) taking my short stack from the pot as they’d won the hand.
“I have never cheated and never will in a game I love so much,”
The bottom line is that I definitely did not take any chips off the table, as my stack was in the pot on the turn, and I definitely did not run out of the poker room either, as I was still there chatting with a couple of friends straight after the hand before I left. Both Nikolay and Alex have spoken to JP McCann, the Irish Open organiser, directly to confirm this.
I feel I have been very unfairly and wrongly accused of doing something which I definitely did not do. It’s absolutely absurd even to suggest that I grabbed chips from the pot and ran out of the poker room, even more so for just €200.
I have received plenty of messages of support from those who know me well. I have been fortunate enough to have won a significant amount of money in poker. I have never cheated and never will in a game I love so much and have played for most of my life.”
PokerNews also spoke with JP McCann, Tournament Director and Host of the Irish Open, and he confirmed that Ponomarev and Zeligman had spoken to Kassouf after the hand played out.
As reported by Irish poker pro David Lappin in VegasSlotsOnline News, Ponomarev — seated at the same table as Kassouf — told McCann that Kassouf came up to him after the hand to arrange the next day’s travel plans, while Zeligman — at an adjacent table — said to him that Kassouf had spoken to him before he left the building.
Ponomarev, under the Twitter handle @NikoP9393, replied to Littlewoods earlier tweet, which gives his version of events after the hand played out.
In contrast to Littlewood’s account, Ponomarev says Kassouf had told him he had around €200 to start the hand rather than the aforementioned €300. Ponomarev also wrote that Kassouf explained to him that his chips were already in the middle on the turn and that if he had taken chips from the pot, he would’ve been spotted by the dealer.
Disclaimer: This is an ongoing story and investigation, and PokerNews will provide updates as more information emerges.
Who is Will Kassouf?
Will Kassouf is a solicitor and British poker player who became a name in the industry following a deep run in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event. Known for his speech play and actions during the Main Event, Kassouf quickly became a polarizing figure in the community, with some sections loving his style of play while others were less than impressed by the Englishman’s antics.
In the hand that led to Kassouf’s ultimate demise, Griffin Benger and the Brit clashed in a classic aces versus kings that’s still brought up to this day. A heated Benger and Kassouf got into a war of words which you can check out in the video below.
After making a name for himself, Kassouf joined Grosvenor Poker as a sponsored pro. However, that relationship abruptly ended after it was discovered that Kassouf had been caught palming chips from a roulette table in a Grosvenor casino in 2018.
It is with great sadness that I write the following statement but I feel it necessary to clarify the situation now… https://t.co/cab2mYmRMK
Kassouf released a statement regarding the 2018 incident, but other poker players still questioned his behavior in the coming years. Coincidentally, at the 2022 Irish Open, the aforementioned Lappin gave an explosive interview on Kassouf and warned players to look out for his actions.
Top Stories of 2022, #3: Poker Cheating Scandals Everywhere
Editor & Live Reporter
Calum has been a part of the PokerNews team since September 2021 after working in the UK energy sector. He played his first hand of poker in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the game. Calum’s proudest poker achievement is winning the only tournament he has ever played in Las Vegas, the prestigious $60 Flamingo evening event.