How Deaf is Deaf Enough for Deaf Poker Australia?

The Australian version of the Deaf Poker Tour – Deaf Poker Australia – was established more than a decade ago to give deaf and hard-of-hearing players a chance to play poker using sign language. The tournament series caters to members of the deaf community and provides a comfortable environment outside of traditional poker tournaments.

A controversy this month put Deaf Poker Australia to the test. A player who is deaf in one ear and doesn’t do sign language won a tournament, but outrage ensued. An investigation finally verified the winner’s condition and allowed him to keep his trophy.

But it brought up an interesting scenario. How deaf is deaf enough to play on with Deaf Poker Australia?

What is Deaf Poker Australia?

Established as a nonprofit organization in 2008, Deaf Poker Australia (DPA) wanted to promote poker and gather deaf and hear-of-hearing players. This was just after the height of the poker boom, and poker was everywhere.

DPA then became the unofficial governing body of deaf poker groups in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria, not to mention New Zealand. Each group organizes home games and small tournaments throughout the years, but they all come together for the national DPA Championship.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing players are able to communicate using Auslan, which is Australian Sign Language, and English at the tables.

DPA Deaf Poker Australia

The group’s logo was designed with DPA core values in mind.

  • The diamond in the D represents development, a commitment to spreading poker through the Australian deaf community.
  • The club in the P stands for community, a strengthened bond between players and members of the deaf community around the world through the love of poker.
  • The spade in the A represents ambition, which is encouraged in the safe yet competitive environment of DPA. Players are also encouraged to strive to improve their poker skills.

2019 DPA Championship

The action was set for October 17-20 this year at Crown Casino Perth.

The DPA Championship scheduled offered a $200 buy-in tag team No Limit Hold’em tournament to kick things off (open to deaf and hearing players, then a $800 buy-in DPA State of Origin VI tournament with teams of eight players. There was also a $100 hyper-turbo NLHE event, which was also open to hearing players if they chose to compete.

And it all led up to the $150 buy-in NLHE Main Event, playing out on October 19, reserved for deaf players. Registration required proof of eligibility in the form of an audiogram showing deafness or hard-of-hearing status.

That Main Event attracted 100 entries and paid out the top 11 finishers. Winner Chris Smitton took home $3,300 for his victory.

Controversy Ensued

Smitton played well in the tournament, but players were enraged when he won. The anger had been building throughout the tournament, starting with the first time Smitton pointed to a tattoo of a mute symbol near his ear instead of using sign language.

He claimed that he was deaf entirely in his right ear and hard-of-hearing in the other. However, other players felt that he should’ve been upfront about his status. Others said they saw him talking as a hearing person. And more than anything else, players felt that someone who wasn’t far enough on the deaf spectrum took advantage of the group.

The initial reaction of many players and fans of DPA was hurt and anger. They felt as if someone took advantage of their event, much as men have crashed women-only tournaments through the years.

DPA immediately responded that they intended to look into it with respect to all involved.

Investigation Completed

Two days later, DPA’s Board of Directors released a statement.

“Mr. Smitton has been fully cooperating with the Board, providing us with documentation to confirm his hearing loss by way of an audiogram.” It went on to say that Crown Perth’s rules, as well as state and federal laws against discrimination, superseded DPA tournament rules.

That DPA rule for the tournament was that only players with a demonstrated moderate hearing loss of at least 40dB pure tone average in the better ear, three-tone PTA at 500,1000, and 2000 Hz, air conduction, ISO 1969 standard.

DPA responded to its many Facebook supporters who were angry and hurt about Smitton playing the tournament, but the group was also concerned about the “abusive and vitriolic comments” toward Smitton.

“The health and well-being of all our players, administrators and supporters is paramount. DPA has been actively working with all parties to provide this support and will continue to do so.”

Final Ruling

On October 28, DPA released a final statement on the matter.

Smitton was in compliance with the rules and allowed to play the tournament. No one violated any rules.

In addition, Smitton came to an agreement with second-place finisher Michael Wilkie to split the total cash value of the part of the top prize, which was the seat into the 2020 Aussie Millions opening event valued at $1,150. DPA then stepped in to cover the other half of Wilkie’s buy-in for that Aussie Millions event and offered him up to $1,000 in flight and accommodation costs.

The final standings for the last two players in the 2019 DPA Championship Main Event were:

  • 1st place: Chris Smitton – $3,875
  • 2nd place: Michael Wilkie – $2,875

DPA Deaf Poker Australia

Rose Varrelli

Rose Varrelli has always been passionate about online casinos, as she’s been a player at a variety of places for years. Rose turned her personal knowledge and insight into a writing career. She aims to provide readers with the most up to date, informative news in the world of online casinos!


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