David Singer surges forward after WSOP ruling

David Singer
David Singer competes in the 2007 Main Event.

The only thing that's flashy about David Singer is the collection of silver rings that choke nearly all his fingers at the tournament table.

Other than that, the Full Tilt Poker pro doesn't attract much fanfare by keeping a low-profile and preferring Stud to today's big-balling No-Limit games.

That's why it came as such as surprise when the native New Yorker, former environmental lawyer and retired commercial fisherman was in the media spotlight this week after being knocked out of the World Series of Poker Main Event on a controversial ruling about cell phone use during a hand.

Singer discussed his disappointing end to this year's Series - not to mention his living situation and bizarre superstitions - with PokerListings.com recently.

So, you had an interesting Series this year.

I did. For the first time in years - I think since 2001 - I wasn't out here for the whole World Series. I planned to be but less than a week before the World Series my father had to have emergency heart surgery. So I went to New York and he had all kinds of complications. He's on the mend now, but he spent four weeks in intensive care and I felt like I should be there. Obviously that was more important than playing poker for me.

Finally when he moved out of intensive care I came back the next day - I'm lucky I have siblings who can look after him. I came back right before the H.O.R.S.E. tournament and I was lucky enough to do well in that and make the final table and finish sixth, in the same position I did last year.

Last year I was disappointed in the sixth place finish because I thought I should have done better at the final table even though it was one of the hardest final tables ever. I feel like I made mistakes. Last year the Rio managed the tournament wrong and they made us play 19 hours before the final day and I only got an hour of sleep. I was kind of out of it for the final table and I made some mistakes.

But this year I finished sixth and I didn't think there was much I could do about it. In Razz I lost with one of the best hands you can have - a six low in Razz at the final table, that was the hand that crushed me. Besides that I didn't get too many cards. So I finished sixth in the H.O.R.S.E. I would have liked to do better but I don't blame myself for my finish; there was nothing I could do at the final table.

And then the next tournament I cashed in - the $2,000 No-Limit. So I had a pretty good World Series. And then I got knocked out of the Main Event on the first day. I didn't play that well, but I got a really bad ruling that led to my ultimate demise.

So tell me about the ruling. Most of us have heard about it now but give us the rundown now.

I've talked about it so much it's probably boring people now. Basically, my opponent bet after the flop and I raised. I raised him all-in. He bet about $3,000 and I raised him all in for about $9,500 or something like that. He was thinking about whether to call and his phone started ringing. He had it in his shirt pocket; it wasn't a flip phone. He pulled it out of his pocket, looked at it, and pressed a button and the ringing stopped and he put it away.

According to everything I heard at the Rio - they make an announcement six or seven times a day telling you not to use your cell phones at the table, telling you your hand will be dead if you do use the cell phone - his hand should have been dead. So I told the dealer his hand should be dead and obviously then my opponent knew I didn't want him to call and he called. I had a pair and a flush draw, so I was semi-bluffing in a hand; I was pretty sure he had me beat.

The floor person ruled his hand was live. I asked to appeal it. Obviously I wouldn't have given away the information about my hand if I wasn't 100% sure his hand should be dead. The floor person was Steve Frazier and I asked if I was entitled to get a ruling from a higher person on that shift. He told me there was no one higher on. Turns out there was a higher person on. Not only that, Jack Effel, the tournament director, subsequently told me that in any kind of controversy like that the floor people are instructed to call him if he's not there. It was around 10:30 at night, so he wasn't there but he should have been called.

So not only do I feel like I got the wrong call, the floor person didn't do his job in letting me appeal to a higher authority before he made the ultimate decision. Anyway, I went on to lose the hand and get knocked out. I feel like I should get my money back from the tournament. I really feel like I should've been allowed to play it on another Day 1, but that didn't happen; I guess I didn't pursue it enough.

At this time I've talked to Jack Effel about it. He said he's not going to do anything for me. I think he just wants to stand by the decision. I don't know, basically to show solidarity to the floor people. He tells me now that he would have made the same decision, but I honestly don't believe it if he would have come to the table. I've also talked to Jeffrey Pollack, the commissioner of the World Series of Poker, about it. He's going to review it. I just have a feeling he may be more fair and give me my money back. I've even told him, I know it looks like I'm angle-shooting or trying to get my money back, so I've offered to give half the money to the Nature Conservancy, a charity that buys up land and tries to protect the environment.

I feel like I really got a bad call. Almost everyone I've asked in poker about it - when I've presented it without saying which side of the controversy I was on - almost everyone has agreed that the hand should have been dead. Almost everyone who's spent time in the Rio agreed the hand should have been dead.

I think it's pretty clear that it's a mistake that the Rio made and for some reason they just don't want to admit it or give me my money back.

What's the next step with this?

I'm supposed to file a report with the gaming commission, but I'd rather not do that. Since I talked to Jeffrey Pollack I said I'd send him an e-mail and I expect him to look into it. He seems like a fair guy and I do expect that they'll give me at least a portion of my money back.

Howard Lederer - he actually was one of the few people who didn't take a side on whether the ruling was right or not - but he was figuring out how many chips I had left and what my equity was in the pot and he was suggesting maybe, since I was below average in chips, that they didn't give me back the full buy-in but some of the buy-in.

I've talked about this a lot in the press and I kind of want to get passed it and get it resolved already. It still does bother me. Obviously, I'd like to still be in the Main Event - the best tournament of the year.

Every player feels terrible after getting knocked out of any tournament, especially the Main Event. Did this make it even worse?

It makes it much worse. I didn't play that well in the Main Event. I misplayed some hands and I played too many hands, but it's pretty disappointing to go out like that.

I had my hand killed in another tournament just for having my cell phone open. Jennifer Harman told me the same thing. Multiple people have come up to me and said they've had their hands killed at other tournaments and it was just a glaring inconsistency there.

Are you a person who believes this was just bum luck, or are you superstitious at all?

I'm superstitious about some things, but not this. A series of bad things had to happen. This particular floor person had to come over - Steve Frazier, who I'm sorry to say, I think is kind of spineless and didn't want to make a tough ruling. When he came over to the table, other players had to tell him my opponent didn't speak English, which I didn't know; I just got moved to the table and I don't think that should have been a factor in the decision. Once I think he made the decision, I think the Rio wanted to stick behind it.

I've heard you are a superstitious guy though. Is this true?

Most of my life I've only had one superstition: I have to put on my left shoe before my right shoe and tie it (laughs) which is pretty silly, I know. Now I have a few more.

It doesn't relate to poker but I always have to... (Laughs.) Believe it or not, I always have to wear underwear with lobsters on them. (Laughs.)


This doesn't come from poker. My dad was in the hospital in intensive care for four weeks and he had some pretty rough times where it looked like he was in bad shape and wasn't getting any better. I had gone to New York because he was having heart surgery and I didn't bring any clothes with me. So I ended up going to the GAP to get clothes and I accidentally got some boxers with lobsters on them. And the first day I wore the boxers with lobsters on them my father finally started showing some improvement.

He had bad pneumonia and was in grave danger and he got better the one day I wore the lobsters. So I had a bunch of pairs of the lobsters and I felt like I had to wear them every day. And so far I haven't stopped wearing them.

How many do you own now?

(Laughs.) I probably own about 50 pairs. Not just boxers - briefs: they come in two different colors. So I change it up, but I wear them every day. That's a superstition I developed. I also started wearing a new shirt every day from June until July. I just needed to buy new clothes when I was in New York and my dad was in the hospital. But I've since stopped that one. I'm not that crazy. I'm getting away from a few superstitions.

I hear you're living with poker player Bill Gazes during the World Series. How's that going?

It's good. Billy's one of my good friends; he was planning on not playing the whole World Series. He actually came the day before my dad had to have the emergency surgery. The next morning he drove me to the airport and it was pretty fortunate that he was there because I made my plane by two minutes. The fact that I made it might have saved my father's life. He was supposed to be transported from one hospital to another to receive surgery. When I landed I found out the arrangements for his transportation were fouled up. I got one the phone and arranged for a cardiac specialist to transport him; had I missed my plane he would have gotten to the hospital hours later than he did. I'm thankful that Billy was there to drive me to the plane. It was just luck.

So you're willing to overlook him leaving his socks on the floor?

Yeah, if he leaves his socks on the floor, that's cool with me. But no, Billy's one of my best friends. We both share an interest in the environment and feel a lot more has to be done on environmental issues and I think we're both trying to use whatever notoriety we have in poker to get people to think more about doing good things for the environment, trying to get our politicians to do more about global warming. Billy's a good roommate.

You should start with recycling around the Rio during the WSOP. There's a lot of waste here.

That's a lot of waste. Las Vegas in general is pretty bad with recycling. I'd like to see some of the hotels start using florescent light bulbs. That's one of the things I've thought of doing - going to the administrators at the hotels and trying to change the way they do things and do things in an environmentally sound way. But Las Vegas has a long way to go. There are a lot of cities in North America that are a lot more proactive in protecting the environment and recycling and using alternative energy.

What are your plans now?

My plans are now, I'm not going to play much poker in the near future. I'm going back to New York to see my father in about a week. He's still in the hospital but on the road to recovery. Then I'm going to go on vacation to Cape Cod, which is one of my favorite places. I'm renting a house with my sister and her family, like I do every year, and I'm going to enjoy the summer and get back to poker around the end of August.

And the next World Series of Poker: Are you going to make any predictions about a third year at the H.O.R.S.E. final table?

Next year I plan to win it.

I still need to work on playing the flop games. The Stud games are my forte and there are three Stud games and only two flop games and a lot of people don't play the Stud games too well. I know a lot of my opponents would say I don't play the Stud games too well (laughs) but I have faith in my Stud game and I think that's why I've done well two years in a row, along with some luck. I don't rank myself among the very top players. I think I've had some good fortune and played well at the time.


* * * * * * * * * *


Whether there is luck involved or not, there's no doubt David Singer is fortunate. He has more than $2.5 million in career tournament winnings and honor of final tabling the most respected tournament in the poker industry two years in a row.

He might have walked from the Main Event to the rail mired in controversy, but his exit this year is hardly his defining moment at the World Series of Poker.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »