Saturday, June 26, 2010

Action out of turn

I received this email from a reader:

Thank you for the time and energy you put into your blog. I
appreciate your observations and commentary. While I don't always
agree with your approach, I find it refreshing to see another viewpoint.
Also, you knowledge of the game, etiquette and rules is very strong. This
is the reason I am writing you.

I was playing in a tournament
yesterday when the following happened. I am in seat 9 and in the BB.
UTG, seat 10, was pondering what he was going to do. Seat 1 did not
have a great view of him and thought he checked so he checked. Seat 2 saw
seat 1 checked and threw in 3k into the pot (a raise). Seat 10 then spoke
up he had not acted yet. The dealer was waiting on seat 10 and did not see
seat 1 checked but did catch seat 2 raising. Seat 2 tried to take back the
raise but the dealer said he thought he had to keep the raise in there.
Seat 10 then shoved all-in. Discussion ensue about seat 2's
obligation. Floor was called. Floor ruled that seat 2 had to keep
his raise in there and could either call the all-in or fold but lose his
raise. I thought it was unfair since the actions of seat 1 acting out of
turn caused seat 2 to also act out of turn. Floor and dealer both said in
cash games they would allow him to pull it back but not in tournaments.
What is the correct ruling?

Also, have you ever thought of devoting
part of your blog to readers submitting a rule question and you in turn posting
what you thought the ruling should be? Just a thought.


First, thanks for the kind words.

Second, no, I'm not planning to make this sort of thing a regular feature. This may be hard to understand, or even sound harsh, if you haven't tried writing your own blog, but it's a highly personal thing, and as a general rule I'm not interested in writing about what other people suggest. I want to write about what I want to write about. (For my nasty-toned response to somebody complaining that the blog should be about something other than what it is, see here. The message that prompted that rant, however, was of an entirely different tone and nature than the one here.) Please accept what follows as an exception to my general practice rather than as an open invitation for others to submit other questions with the expectation of either a private or public answer.

But to answer your question, the usual rule in both cash games and tournaments is this: Seat 2's action is noted but not yet in effect. He is obligated to it if, when it is actually his turn, the action to him is the same as it had been. (Your description of things is hard to understand, however. If Seat 2 was making a raise, as you said, then how can others have checked? A raise implies a prior bet on that street. I assume you meant that this is after the flop, and he was the first player to make a bet. If so, though, that is not a "raise.") In other words, we return to seat 10 and ask what he wants to do. If he checks, then seat 1's check is also binding; he can't change his mind about what to do at that point. Same with seat 2; his 3000 bet is binding. However, if seat 10 makes a bet of any size, then what seat 1 and seat 2 did out of order is nullified, and their options become the same as they would normally be if they had not acted out of turn.

If seat 10 wants to be sure that seat 2's 3000 is in the pot, he can do that by checking, then putting in a check-raise (all in, or for any other legal raise amount) when the action comes back around to him. But as you describe what happened, the usual ruling would be that seat 2's 3000 bet is withdrawn when seat 10 decided to shove.

For an example of how this works, and how you can manipulate it to your advantage when somebody acts out of turn, see the story I told here, plus the ensuing interesting discussion in the comments.

Note that there's a limit to our patience. Usually if seat 10 lets more than two people past him act before he speaks up to stop things, he will lose the right to have the action backed up to his turn. Just as seat 1 and seat 2 have an obligation to know when it is their turn (and seat 2 does not get a pass just because seat 1 screwed up; he has an independent responsibility to keep track of where the action is), seat 10 has an obligation to know if things are moving past him when they shouldn't be.

Here's Rule 29 from the Tournament Directors Association rules:
Verbal declarations in turn are binding. Players are required to act in
turn. Action out of turn will be binding if the action to that player has not
changed. A check, call or fold is not considered action changing.

As far as I know, this is the same in every rule book. I have read cogent arguments about why it should be done otherwise (i.e., that out-of-turn action not be binding), but this is how it's actually implemented everywhere that I know of.

Unless I'm misunderstanding the sequence of events or something is missing from the story, it looks to me like the floor made a clearly erroneous, non-standard decision, though the reason it's wrong has nothing to do with him having been misled by seat 1's out-of-turn check. If seat 10 shoved, then the action to seat 2 is no longer the same as it had been when he made his untimely bet. I'm curious where this happened--where were you playing?


Pete said...

While I agree that your answer is a common rule. I am not sure that it is the most common and certainly I would disagree with the statement "this is the same in every rule book" I will of course acknowledge that you prefaced that statement with "As far as I know" so i can accept your statement as true.

I would note that the posted sigan at the Sahara poker room clearly states in rule #9 that action out of turn is not binding. Knowing the Sahara I would venture to guess that not one of their dealers or supervisors has read that sign.

But aside from the Sahara a very common version of the rule is that the action will be binding unless the action in front is greater than the out of turn action. In other words if the out of turn action is a raise of $1000, if the player who was skipped now raises to $400, the OOT action is still binding (of course it is silly for the player to make this bet ... but I have seen it more than once).

NoMetal said...

You are correct, it was not a "raise". The action was post-flop, not pre-flop as I initially recalled it - blame it on a tired mind.

Seat 10 was still studying his cards while riffling his chips so he did not even see seat 1 check. When seat 2 threw in his bet, then he realized what happened and looked up.

I sent you an email with the name of the casino. It is a non-Vegas casino, just one of your local Indian (American Native) tribal casinos.

Once again, thank you for responding to this situation. I did send an email to the casino so we will see if they do respond and what they say. I just want them to get it right.

Also, as I mentioned in my email response to you, this casino has dealers that would get your "Grump" going with all the things they allow like talking about hands which action is still pending, players acting out of turn all the time, players not paying attention and having to be reminded constantly that the action is on them, etc...