Daniel Bekavac, the scammer who ghosted high finishers for tens of thousands of dollars in the debut of his fraudulent Midway Poker Tour series in 2020, has won the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) Main Event at Iowa’s Riverside Casino, south of Iowa City in east-central Iowa. Bekavac collected a $193,391 payout in actual U.S. currency after topping the event’s 1,094-entry field.
Bekavac becomes the first player to win three MSPT main events. His two earlier wins in MSPT mains came in Wisconsin, at 2013 at Baraboo’s Ho-Chunk Casino and in 2019 at Potawatomie Casino in downtown Milwaukee. Bekavic’s MSPT profile claims that he lives in Chicago, but he actually lives in Minooka, IL, near Peoria, an hour south of the Windy City.
Bekavac’s triumph came in a final including several well-known figures. Des Moines, IA-based pro Jeff Fielder finished third. PokerNews’ Executive Editor U.S., Chad Holloway, finished fifth, and well known Illinois pro Joe Landazza finished eighth.
Midway Poker Tour fraud remains Bekavac’s larger legacy
Bekavac, who is generally known as an MSPT regular and has cashed for over $400,000 in that mid-stakes tour’s events, remains rather more known for his Midway Poker Tour disaster in 2020. Bekavac concocted the idea of launching a Chicago-based tour with a $100,000 guaranteed main event.
However, he ran into immediate problems. The few existing Chicago-area casinos with poker rooms weren’t interested, and he was well known to — and actively rebuffed by — the three largest Chicago-area charitable-gaming companies, who collectively offer small daily cash games and tourneys across northeastern Illinois as allowed under that state’s gaming law.
Instead, Bekavac launched his tour solo, booking several days in a hall at Sheraton Suites Chicago Elk Grove, not far from Elk Grove. As for paying players who cashed, Bekavac devised a scheme to evade Illinois’ charitable-gaming laws. He decided to pay winning players in silver and gold bullion, and then was to have a precious-metals dealer on the premises who would immediately re-exchange that bullion for cash.
When Illinois’s gaming regulators heard of the plan, they easily recognized the plan as a law-evading scheme and forbade the planned bullion exchange from taking place. That left the ongoing Midway Poker Tour entering its final day of play with no money on hand to pay the remaining players, while Bekavac took a flyer and never returned to the venue.
He wasn’t the only one. The Midway Poker Tour’s lead tournament director, Jeremy Smith, also didn’t show up for the MPT’s final day, after Smith learned of the no-cash issues and no-pay issues for many of the event’s hired staff. Operationally, a Chicago-area charity that had been designated the recipient of some funds generated by the event, as mandated by Illinois law, stepped in and covered the last day of the event, receiving just a few hundred dollars in tips for their services.
Some Midway players forced to accept bullion at inflated rates, others left unpaid
Since the charity workers were in charge of the payouts, they had access to some of the bullion that was to be used for the law-evading cash exchange. As another part of his scheme, Bekavac highly inflated the supposed value of the bullion, implying a hidden profit was to be carved from the illicit cash exchange. For instance, for the purposes of prizes for the event, he claimed that a one-ounce silver “round” was worth $37 or so, roughly 50% higher than its actual value at the time of $23 – $25.
With few options at hand, the surviving players in the Midway Poker Tour main event voted to play out the tournament, divvy up whatever remaining bullion was on hand, then go after Bekavac for their misappropriated winnings. Days later, Bekavac resurfaced on Facebook, issued an apology of sorts, and promised to make things whole. He never did so, however.
Many of the players who min-cashed or a little more received some of the overpriced bullion, and they probably lost only a few hundred dollars each. Most of the players who made or came close to the final table were entirely ghosted. Bekavac continues to owe 12 of them, collectively, roughly $55,000.
The affected players looked into legal action against Bekavac, but they learned that they were unlikely to gain money after legal fees, even after a victorious judgment. Bekavac also somehow managed to evade indict under Illinois’ charitable-gaming laws, perhaps illustrating nothing more than the shoddy nature of Illinois’ enforcement efforts in that area, given that most such events are actually designed to benefit charities.
Shadows of Bekavac’s Midway fraud reemerged at Riverside
To be sure, Bekavac’s win on Sunday was controversial, though there’s been no reporting (other than this) on his background. PokerNews’ Holloway likely thought of the situation constantly throughout the Riverside event’s final stages. Back at Bekavac’s disastrous 2020 Midway stop, Bekavac reached a deal with PokerNews to provide live coverage, which included an advance promotional piece and banners at PokerNews. Those banners and links disappeared from PN immediately after Bekavac fled the Midway scene.
In 2021, Holloway and Bekavac had a less-than-amicable confrontation at a separate MSPT stop, though that also did not result in getting the owed players paid. In this most recent event, however, there’s no reference to Bekavac’s prior misdeeds, either on Holloway’s own Twitter account or within PokerNews’ live coverage and recap of the MSPT Riverside main.
While many players in the past called for the MSPT to ban Bekavac from their events, that tour has declined to do so. It’s a very defendable position since no poker tour is the police, judge, or jury for matters that happenedwholly outside their reach.
However, whether or not PokerNews’ ignoring of Bekavac’s background during their live coverage of this latest event opens up a different channel of debate. PokerNews appears to have partnered with MSPT to provide live coverage from the Riverside stop, and advancing the tour’s interests is always an important element of such a deal. Still, entirely ignoring the prior Bekavac scandal could arguably represent a disservice to the more generalized poker reader. This is often a problem in the poker world, though it’s rarely displayed so publicly as the MSPT Riverside event has forced to be showcased today.
(Opinions represented here are those of the writer alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the owners and publishers of Poker.org)
Featured image source: PokerTube