I admit that that may be the lamest post title I've ever come up with, but I'm in a bit of a hurry and didn't have time to wait around for something better to occur to me.
Yesterday I was playing my usual PokerStars $1-$2 razz game. I wasn't in the hand in question. One player was taking quite a while to decide how to respond to an opponent's bet. Another guy who was out of the hand typed in the chat box, "Fold."
When the hand was over, I pointed out that that was against the rules and a quick way to get his chat privileges revoked. He disagreed, and a couple of others at the table piped up on his behalf. In the ensuing discussion, they pointed out that the guy who had written "Fold" didn't disclose what cards he had had, and had no special knowledge of the situation. He just had an opinion as to what the player facing the bet should do.
I didn't know offhand what PS's rules were, but I pointed out that giving such advice would definitely not be allowed in a brick-and-mortar casino. On the other hand, there is certainly no rule against getting advice from just about any source other than the chat box when playing online. I can have a friend standing over my shoulder as I play and telling me what I should do. I can have somebody in contact with me by telephone or online instant messaging. A friend can even fire up his own PS client and be watching my table, shooting me advice by IM. So, logically, why shouldn't he be allowed to do the same using the chat bax (with observer chat on)? And then if that's allowed, why not somebody who is actually seated at the table? In fact, taken to the extreme, if I have a friend at the same table with me, he can be on the phone with me or send me an IM with exactly the same content as he would write in the chat box. As long as he's not telling me privileged information not available to everybody else (like what cards he folded), and as long as our communication is not collusion (e.g., raising and reraising, one of us having the nuts, in order to trap an unsuspecting third player into calling dead), it is no different than what could be accomplished via the chat box.
In other words, since "one player to a hand" is neither enforceable nor an actual rule for online poker, why make a specific exclusion for receiving advice via the chat box? It's an interesting question, and one that I hadn't thought much about previously.
So I emailed PokerStars support about the situation. As usual, they responded very promptly:
It's a direct violation of rule 7.
"In cash games only, players still in
a hand may chat about what cards they claim to hold. This is coffee-housing,
which is common in poker. However, players (in the hand or not) may not coach or
otherwise suggest how another player should play his hand. For example, it is
okay to say You should call; I'm bluffing. It is not okay to say, You should
call; he's bluffing."
The full set of cardroom rules is available at:
So Stars is very clear that this one word of advice in the chat box, "Fold," was a violation of its rules. But should it be?
I guess I'm glad that Stars takes this position, even if it's not entirely logical. I would hate to see the chat box become a free-for-all of talking about the hand in progress and giving advice.
Perhaps the best way to think about it is that Stars is not trying to make or enforce a blanket rule against a player receiving advice on how to play his hand. Rather, they're making a rule about ways in which the chat box may and may not be used. In terms of trying to duplicate the live casinos' rule about one person to a hand, it's not terribly effective (though arguably at least marginally more effective than doing nothing), but at least it accomplishes the goal of not having the chat box dominated by such chat, which I think would happen on some tables if not for the rule.
It's a thorny problem without perfect solutions, I think.
Opinions, observations, etc., always welcome in my chat box, i.e., the comments section.