Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Monday night at the Venetian the table was joined by an elderly gentleman who spoke with a German accent. I was in seat 2, he in seat 3. He appeared confused at times. For example, when he first sat down, he pulled a bunch of Bellagio chips out of his pocket and looked like he was planning to play using those, until a chip runner came over and offered to get him some Venetian chips. He was also frequently confused about whose turn it was and how much the bet was to him.

He bought in for $300, and gave almost all of it away on his very first hand. He had something like $25 in chips left. He told the dealer that he wanted to buy more chips--"whatever the most I can get is." The dealer told him he could buy another $300.* He said OK.

The next hand got underway. I wasn't in it. A chip runner came to the table, and the player handed him two $100 bills. The dealer did not notice the transaction. I did, but I thought it was highly unlikely to matter in this hand, so I could wait until the hand was over to call the dealer's attention to it. I mean, what are the chances that this guy is going to lose nearly $300 on his first hand, and then get more than $200 deep into the very next hand as well, when typical pots are $60 or less?

But soon after I thought this, one player made a $50 bet at the flop, another player called, and the old guy called. Ruh-roh. Turn card came. Woman bet $50 again, second player called, and action was back to the man on my left. That's when I spoke up, because now it seemed not only plausible but likely that the amount he had behind was going to become an issue in this hand.

So I stopped the action and pointed out to the dealer that the man had seemed to indicate at first that he wanted to buy in for another $300, but had told the chip runner $200, and had handed him that amount. There was a little back-and-forth between the dealer and the player. Fortunately, the dealer was (correctly) firm about holding the guy to the $300 that he had stated before the hand began. During this exchange, the chip runner brought the requested $200. But the guy still seemed confused about what the problem was. Finally in exasperation he asked the dealer, "What do you want me to do?" The dealer said, "Put another $100 on the table." The guy seemed disgusted, but he complied. (Incidentally, he was peeling these C-notes from an ENORMOUS roll of them. So it's not like he was straining his budget here.)

As he did so, he turned to me and snidely asked, "Satisfied?"

I ignored him. After all, there was still a hand in progress. Besides, I couldn't see why he should be irritated at me. I had no dog in the fight. It's just that I was the only one (apparently) aware of a situation that looked like it was about to become a big mess, and I had tried to get it resolved before that happened. I didn't care how it got resolved, other than that it slow down the game and inflame tempers as little as possible. I had no idea who was most likely to win the hand, so I also had no idea whether this guy was better off with the bigger or smaller stack. Heck, maybe he had the nuts and I was increasing his profit by making sure that his opponents could not claim that an all-in from him was just $225 or so.

But he wouldn't drop it. He was looking right at me, and said, with undisguised nastiness, "Sir? Are you satisfied now?" It seemed that he wasn't going to take his turn until I answered him, so I said, "I was just trying to prevent a problem before it started. Everything is fine."

And with that, the guy folded. Obviously, he had to complete his little drama before taking that step. As soon as I interceded, which was when it was his turn, he could have saved everybody a lot of time and hassle by either folding or telling the dealer, "I'm out of this hand now anyway." Then the other people in the hand could have continued it, and he and the dealer could have resolved the issue between hands. That's how a sane and polite person would have handled the situation.

The guy was confused about a lot of things, but my clear impression was that his delay of the hand was an entirely deliberate bit of spite because he was miffed that I had stuck my nose into what he considered to be none of my business. He played one more hand--in which he won a ridiculous sum on a three-way all-in, when his top pair/mediocre kicker was shockingly the best hand--then racked up his chips and left in a huff.

You meet all sorts of weirdos at the poker tables of Las Vegas.

*The posted table maximum buy-in is $300. It is possible, though, that they have a rule that one can add on the full $300 buy-in if one has dropped below, say, $50. I don't know this, but at least some other places have such an exception to the buy-in cap, and that would explain why the dealer told him that he could buy another $300, rather than buying up to a max of $300.


Michael said...

Not sure I agree with the dealer insisting that the player come in for $300. Asking what the most he can buy in for does not mean "give me the max". Verbal when it comes to cash behind is not forcibly binding. When the chip runner took the $200, he should have annouced $200 behind loud enough for the dealer to hear it, and it would stand that he has $200 behind, NOT $300. I cna sit at a table and say I have a million behind, but unless the money is shown, it is not forcibly binding (i.e. I could not play with 1Mil behind unless that money was presented to an employee). Credit is not extended at a poker table.

From the way this hand played out, you should have kept quiet, and the chip runner should have annouced the proper amount behind.

Rakewell said...

To clarify, I don't recall the exact words that the guy used to indicate what he wanted to buy in for. If the words I attributed to him sound ambiguous, then I'm a bad storyteller. It was very clear that what he wanted was the most he was allowed.

I agree that a couple of things weren't handled well. First, as you suggest, the dealer should have gotten the cash on the table rather than just accepting the verbal comment of what the buy-in would be. Second, what you said about the chip runner.

As for my role, well, I suppose reasonable people can disagree. Under what circumstances a player aware of a problem, but not directly involved in the situation, should inject himself is not a completely straightforward one, and I think the correct answer is entirely situation-dependent. I feel fine about what I did--I simply brought the possible problem to the attention of the dealer. I didn't try to prescribe what should happen, or do anything else that was or would appear to be favoring any particular player or outcome. Sure, I could have done and said nothing, but the risk was that there would be a 3-way all in, and only then would the discrepancy be discovered, and you can imagine what a big mess it would be to straighten out at that point.

Philly said...

Sorry, but you exhibited signs of a busy-body/know-it-all there. No need for that. Bad karma.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Philly.

Anonymous said...

Being a fan of clusterfucks, I would have let it go and hoped to have edgy players.

Anonymous said...

If the chip runner would have done his job and said how much the player had behind you would not have had to get involved.

I would have let the situation resolve itself if someone still in the hand chose to make an issue of it.

As an observer, I do not believe that you should have taken it upon yourself to get involved.

Getting involved slowed down the game, which is what you claimed to be concerned about in the first place.

EDakaEH said...

Speaking up there also seemed to make a really bad player rack up and leave as quickly as possible. It sucks that the chip runner didn't do their job. But you still don't want the bad player to feel uncomfortable.

I do agree that it is your responsibility to keep everyone honest in the game so no one gets screwed. However in this spot it sounds like you cost the table thousands of dollars in dead money over $100...

Anonymous said...

You were not involved in the hand and IMO, you had absolutely zero business interjecting your keen observation.

You only THOUGHT this MIGHT cause a problem, but what you did was piss off the one player at the table that was willing and able to lose a very large sum of money. You should have been trying to make fast friends with this guy and butter him up so he could feel comfortable spewing his chips to you.

You placed more value in feeding your ego and need to be recognized as a Mr. Table Know-It-All than you did planning a method to remove the entire wad of C-notes that the confused man had in his pocket.

Let the floor make a decision on what to do AFTER the problem develops. You are nothing more than a player and you had no business sticking your nose in here.