In the newest (April 13, 2009) issue of Poker Player newspaper, a page 1 story covers the finale of the Wynn Poker Classic, won by Keith Ferrera. It contains this interesting anecdote along the way:
On the tournament's second day, Scott Seiver presumably learned a costly
object lesson about the importance of not releasing one's hand on a showdown
until the cards are turned face-up when he played a hand against Jimmy Fricke.
At hand's end, the board was K-10-8-K-4 and Seiver moved all-in. After a lengthy
deliberation, Fricke called.
Assuming he was beaten, Seiver pushed his cards towards the dealer, saying
"You win." Fricke flipped over A-Q for nothing more than ace-high. Seiver
screamed that he had pocket deuces, but the dealer had already raked in Seiver's
cards. The tournament director confirmed the dealer's decision and awarded the
pot--along with all of Seiver's chips--to Fricke.
Wow. It's hard to overstate the utter stupidity of this move. What on earth does Seiver have to lose here by the simple act of turning his cards face up on the table? He is an experienced tournament pro, not some noobie taking his first crack at live poker. Sure, most of the time he gets called there he will lose. But if so, he's out of the tournament, meaning that there isn't even the usual argument for keeping secret how one has played a particular hand. Suppose there is only a one in a thousand chance that he is being called by a worse hand--isn't it still worth turning over your cards the 999 times that you lose in order not to be knocked out of the tournament that one time? I just don't get it. How brainless can one get?
Even in ordinary cash games if I have a bluff called on the river I don't just muck, the way I see so many people do. I'm only very mildly embarrassed to get caught, so I might as well get the advertising value out of it by showing the table how out of line I might be, hoping they'll remember it the next time when I actually have the goods. As I expose my cards, I often even say something like, "You called, so I guess you must have the winner." (Note that I'm careful not to phrase this in a way that is actually conceding the pot. It shouldn't matter, because at the showdown the cards speak and verbal declarations of one's hand are not binding. But I still don't want to be unintentionally misleading. Being intentionally misleading is highly unethical and often grounds for various sanctions, and I don't want anybody to mistakenly think that I was doing it on purpose.) But maybe 5% of the time I'm stunned to then see the caller muck without showing, and it turns out that I was bluffing with the best hand (e.g., ace high, or bottom pair, or an underpair). On at least one occasion, the caller misread my hand and accidentally mucked the winner. I don't mind taking the pot that way, either, as long as I did nothing to induce his error.
Mr. Seiver, please explain: What the hell is so difficult or onerous about turning up your cards? What were you trying to accomplish that was worth blowing a $10,000-entry tournament for?