Friday, October 09, 2009

Protect your cards

This isn't the first time, and it sure won't be the last, but in this week's episode of the World Series of Poker main event on ESPN we have the situation of a player's cards accidentally being mucked by the dealer. The difference here is that it's the rare case where the entire thing is caught on videotape.

Here's the "victim" (one of the last three women left in the field at this point):

The situation is that J.C. Tran had made an opening raise. Ms. Denis moved all in, later claiming that she had pocket aces (but nobody else saw them, so we have only her word on that).

Here you can see her stack forward and the dealer's hand grabbing her cards. Note that she has no card protector, and her attention is elsewhere.

And, predictably, about one second later her cards are mixed into the muck. She still doesn't know what has happened, because she isn't paying attention:

A few more seconds pass before she realizes that her cards are gone. Then begins the predictable sequence of events: She complains to the dealer, tells him what her cards were, floor guy gets called over, he calls over his supervisor, etc.

One unusual step happened that I don't think should have, though in the end it made no difference. When the supervisor arrived, he allowed Ms. Denis to whisper to him what her cards were. He then went to the muck and lifted the corner of what appeared to be the top two cards, after which he declared her hand dead. Apparently, then, the top two cards were not the ones she claimed to have had. This isn't surprising, since the dealer made no effort to place her cards on top of the muck.

This was a bad decision from the supervisor. The WSOP rules make clear that they will not attempt to retrieve cards from the muck in this situation:

73. If a dealer kills an unprotected hand, the player will have no redress and
will not be entitled to his or her money back. An exception would be if a player
raised and his or her raise had not been called yet, he or she would be entitled
to receive his or her raise back.

The Tournament Director Association's rules are nearly identical (not surprising, since the WSOP rules are derived from them):
39. Unprotected Hands
If a dealer kills an unprotected hand, the player will have no redress and
will not be entitled to a refund of bets. However, if a player had raised and
the raise had not yet been called, the raise will be returned to the

(The latter part of both rules was followed. Ms. Denis had to forfeit the chips required for a call of Tran's bet, but got the rest back.)

There are no wiggle-room words there, such as the player "may" have no redress. Her hand was unprotected by any chip or other object, unprotected by her hands, and unprotected by her attention. It should have been declared dead without any attempt by the supervisor to verify whether the top cards in the muck were the ones she claimed to have been dealt. At least he didn't plow through the entire muck looking to see if he could find two aces somewhere in there to give back to her. That would have been a far worse travesty.

I hated how ESPN covered this. Throughout the drama, they commended the player for taking it so well. I disagree. The only way I would give her credit for taking it well is if she uttered words along these lines: "It's my own damn fault." She never did. She placed the entirety of the fault on the dealer.

Of course the dealer made a mistake, and shares in the blame. But players--especially those in the two seats next to the dealer, where this occurs most commonly--have to know of this possibility and take simple precautions against it. Placing a small object of some kind--or just your hand, as long as you don't cover the cards so that others can't see that you're still in--is essentially 100% effective at preventing this dealer error.

Ms. Denis didn't bother taking that simple precaution. She didn't pay attention at the critical moment. She suffered the consequences, as have many, many before.

I'll never understand why some players refuse to learn from the mistakes of others, but I have no sympathy for them. Not even a little bit. Tough noogies. That's what you get for being stupid and careless.

For previous similar stories, see here and here and links therein.


Couga said...

Often times people use a chip from their stack as a card protector. When a player moves all in that chip has to go into the pot. At that point the hand is left unprotected. I suppose one should keep their hands over their cards but this is an intense moment and people often leave their seats. It is a shame that the dealer did this, and I think she handled it very well.

This makes me think that card protectors should be required and issued by the tournament.

The added benefit would be that you don't get piles of crap (seriously) or other disturbing card protectors on the table. Some are huge and get in the way, cover a large area of the cards, and cause action to be played out of turn. Even some of Greg Raymer's fossils are huge.

Also it would give me one more thing to collect. :)

Andrew said...

lol, grump, you really are a heartless bastard. thanks for following up on this!