Thursday, June 10, 2010

You make the call--part 1

I played at Imperial Palace tonight. When I had been there just ten minutes or so, a situation came up that required one of the most difficult floor decisions I've ever witnessed. Let me tell you about it, and you can make up your mind what you would do.


Our two contenders for the pot are Smart Local Semipro (SLS) and Drunk Maniac Asshole (DMA). Does that tell you enough about them?

Preflop action doesn't matter, except that the pot was unusually large by that stage. On the flop, SLS moved all in and DMA called. The dealer counted out SLS's chips (he had the shorter stack), matched it from DMA's chips, and made the pot right. Neither player had shown his cards yet. The dealer ran out the board, which ended up being 6-7-8-9-10, with four diamonds.

SLS showed his two black tens just about simulateously with DMA saying, "I think you've got a winner." That is, it's not completely clear to me if DMA was saying that because he felt that he missed what he needed, or because he was seeing and reacting to SLS's hole cards.

DMA then tossed his two hole cards toward the center of the table. It appeared to me that he was trying to table them face up. One landed face up, but the other hit a chip, did kind of a pirouette on its end, and spun around once before landing face down. I saw both of them clearly: an ace and a queen of different suits, neither of them a diamond. The dealer very quickly scooped up both cards, turning the face-up one down, put them either into or on top of the muck (I didn't see which, and as things played out, nobody ever asked him whether he could confidently identify which they were and retrieve them), and pushed the pot toward SLS.

As the pot was being pushed, DMA started protesting: "What are you doing? It's a split pot!" I'll forego the details of the ensuing argument, because they don't matter. But DMA was very hot under the collar.

DMA was in seat 7. I was in seat 2. The players in seats 5 and 8 both independently told the floor person, who was, of course, called to come over to make a ruling, that they, too, had seen both cards. Before I had offered my observations, they independently vouched for having seen A-Q offsuit, no diamond. DMA had not, to this point, ever vocalized what his cards had been, so it was clear to me that these two players really had seen what they claimed to have seen. Besides, if I could see the spinning card from seat 2, it's not surprising that anybody paying attention could have seen it, too. (The dealer said that he did not see it.)

The dealer, incidentally, is one that I know better than almost any other dealer in town. I'm not sure I'd call him a friend, exactly, in that we've never met or talked outside of the poker setting. But he used to deal at the Hilton when I played there, and he also played at the Hilton a lot when he was off-duty, so I may have racked up more hours at a table with him, and over a longer period of time, than with any other dealer on earth. His name is Ricky. He is a kind, gentle man, always 100% professional, unflappable, very low error rate. He is a pleasure to spend time with, whether he's playing or pitching. I have 100% confidence that is honest in how he was describing his perspective, and that he was utterly mortified at having contributed to such a horrendous mess of a situation. Throughout it, he remained absolutely calm, describing what he did and saw objectively and non-defensively.

As he perceived it, he heard DMA give what sounded like a concession speech, and the next thing he noticed was one card up, one down on the table. He did not see exactly how they got to be that way. He assumed that DMA was intentionally showing one but folding, so he scooped the cards up.

The conundrum for the floor, obviously, is whether DMA's hand is live or dead. If it's live, the pot is chopped. If it's dead, SLS keeps it all.

Here's the basic argument for the hand being dead: It is a player's responsibility both to protect his cards and to table them face up. Regardless of DMA's intention, his action was to table his cards one face up, one face down, a situation which, if uncorrected by the player, is universally agreed to constitute a dead hand. He could have just turned them face up; his decision to toss them was taking a risk that one might land face down, or on the muck, or bounce off of the table, etc. Compounding this, just before said action he had uttered words that sounded like he was conceding the pot. It is true that such concession would not be binding if he subsequently tabled a winning (or tying) hand, but it gave the dealer ample reason to assume that his one card down was a further gesture of surrender. I.e., the dealer might (and probably would) otherwise have paused to find out for sure whether DMA's intention was to muck, but the speech made that a foregone conclusion.

Although not directly relevant to the rules question, you might be influenced by this: Within ten seconds or so of the problem becoming evident, DMA was living up to the nickname that I gave him. He was on his feet, belligerent as could be, yelling, swearing. He shouted "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" to SLS perhaps ten times, loud enough that everybody for a long way around heard it. (This was in response to SLS making his case to the floor guy that DMA's hand should be deemed dead, which he did with a reasonable degree of self-control.) Security was called and was standing by in case he got further out of control, because it certainly appeared that that might happen. In DMA's favor, though, the floor guy might have been aware that the other players were secretly (and in one case not so secretly) hoping that the decision would favor DMA, because he was almost single-handedly feeding everybody else in the game, with wild play, frequently going broke and rebuying. It seemed obvious that if the ruling were against him, he would either stomp off in anger or, more likely, be bodily ejected by security.

Here's the basic argument for the hand being live: The player said that his intention was to table his cards face up. Three other players (including me) agreed that that appeared to be what he was trying to do, but he was a little over-vigorous about it and one card took a bad bounce/spin. Three players, spaced all around the table, independently witnessed what the officially-unseen card was, and there is no apparent reason to think that they are colluding or otherwise have any interest in the outcome (other than, perhaps, the consideration mentioned above about wanting to keep DMA at the table). The dealer may have been overly hasty in his action. While a literal or technical reading of the rules might suggest that the hand is dead, general principles of fairness and what is good for the game suggest that the best hand should win the pot if it is at all feasible to make that happen, and in this case that precept means a chop.

Let's add a couple of assumptions here. Assume that if they reviewed the security camera footage, it would show what the player-witnesses reported: an apparent attempt to table the cards face up, but one card accidentally spinning around and falling face down, followed almost instantly by the dealer swiping them away into the muck.

Another assumption: Sometimes in such situations, the player awarded the pot will be asked to voluntarily split it in an effort to end the controversy and preserve good feelings. I did not at any point hear the floor propose this. (At least one player volunteered that that's what he would do in SLS's place, but as far as I could tell this suggestion was disregarded.) So assume, for purposes of forcing you to make the hardest decision possible (ha!) that this request was made and refused; SLS says he did not see DMA's other card, the hand is dead, and the pot will remain his, thankyouverymuch.

So how would you call it?

Comments welcome, of course. I'll go write the conclusion of the story for Part 2, but then have it scheduled to post itself 24 hours from now, to give people a chance to decide how they would act before reading the denouement. (Pirouette and denouement in the same post. Today je suis Le Grump!)

37 comments:

Keiser said...

Well rule #1 as a player, protect your hand, especially a winning one until the pot is pushed to you. Rule #2, one showed card does not a winning hand make. It's obvious what ruling should be made in a literal sense.

The spirit of fairness is an interesting point, but it's to be used subjectively at the floor's discretion. DMA loses all rights to such courtesy when he starts spewing garbage out of his mouth. It's not fair to SMS to have to be called names when he did everything he was supposed to.

JK said...

It's an interesting situation, to be sure. I'm thinking that if DMA had just been an A, the floor ruling would be kill his hand and award the pot to SLS.

Because he was DMA, however, I'm inclined to think the floor gave him the benefit of the doubt and ruled a split pot.

I'm not saying I I would agree with that ruling based on the story that you've told, but it would seem like the "fairest" decision the floor could come up with in this situation.

Conan776 said...

Once SLS shows his cards, which clearly indicate that he's playing the board, DMA should, completely in the spirit of the game, be able to say it's a split pot and not even reveal his hand. This looks SLS was shooting an angle because whether DMA's cards were "live" at a subsequent point in time is irrelevant. The second he showed his black 10s he's automatically lost claim to at least half the pot.

Drizztdj said...

Had a similar situation happen to me but the action was preflop with chips all-in. I attempted to table my two cards (nines) face up and the dealer actually knocked one of them face down while reaching for some of the pot and it hit the muck.

Several players saw my card including railbirds (it was the money bubble of a daily tourney), I described it as the nine of clubs and where it was but the TD/Floor ruled it was dead. No argument, just a sad look from the dealer.

While I could have been the DMA, I instead learned a lesson about protecting a hand that day asI don't get to play live poker that much :)

JT88Keys said...

If I were a betting man (and I am) I'd bet that the floor is going to rule in favor of SMS for two reasons.

1. SMS is probably also a semi-regular in the room and DMA likely is just some over served tourist. Floors always seem to rule in favor of regulars when there's any grey area.

2. DMA is shouting obscenities and security is already there. That never helps you make your case.

I disagree with Conan776 though in that DMA automatically has a claim to half the pot without showing his cards because SMS didn't show a hand that beat the board. Most of the profit made in poker is due to the mistakes of your opponents. One of those mistakes is misreading the board and mucking when you actually had a claim to the pot.

I've seen many times when there are like 5 players left in a hand when the river is dealt. The board wound up with a broadway straight with no flush possible. One player fires a sizeable bet and every once in a while a couple of people left in the hand muck. They didn't recognize that there was no way for anybody to beat the board. Players should have the same opportunity to make a mistake and muck even if it's at the showdown. If they're unsure...GENTLY turn them face up and let the dealer decide who the winners are.

Paboo said...

Nice angle shot. It's a split pot.

Grange95 said...

I disagree with Conan that DMA should be able to just claim a split pot without showing cards. The rules about showing a hand exist for good reasons--prevent collusion, prevent the rare fouled deck angle shoot, and keep the balance of information fair (DMA and the rest of the table got to see SLS's hand, so DMA should be required to reciprocate).

However, I think Conan is on to something important. SLS clearly had no reasonable expectation to more than 1/2 the pot. Any diamond or Jack beat him. Since DMA made a legitimate effort to table his hand and never folded (despite his speech), and because it is difficult for a player to prevent a dealer from making an error like this, I think the "best interests of the game" rule justifies splitting the pot.

As an aside, DMA's behavior shouldn't influence the ruling; a ruling is correct or incorrect, fair or unfair, independent of what we (or the floor) thinks of the players. Back in my reffing days, there were a handful of coaches I didn't care for, but I tried as hard as I could to not let that influence how I called the game. That being said, as a pragmatic matter, it is always tough to keep personalities out of decisions like this.

Anonymous said...

Not a lot of sympathy for DMA, he should have just turned over his cards. Dead hand.

Falstaff said...

Interestingly enough, this reminds me of a similar hand that I was involved in, also at the IP, and I believe that Ricky may have been the dealer then as well (if I'm remembering the name correctly. At the time he was the only African-American dealer at the IP).

In my hand, there were four to a flush on an Ace-high board, and I held AK with no clubs (the suit on board). I moved all in on the flop, and the board went runner-runner to four-flush. I tabled my hand as soon as I was called, and when the last card was dealt, my opponent threw his cards forward, obviously intending to muck them, but the 4c caught air and flipped face up as the other card went into the muck.

In this case, the floor did make the determination, after asking the dealer and the rest of the table what had happened, that his hand was dead. Everyone agreed, except my opponent, that he had intended to muck his hand. The floor then asked if I would be willing to split the pot, but did say that the pot was mine to do with as I wished. My response was that if my opponent hadn't been a lying d-bag, I'd have split it with him, but since he was, gimme my money.

This case is a little different, but not much. He made a noise like he was surrendering, his cards went forward in such a way that the intent could not be readily discerned, and the pot was pushed. Sorry for the trouble, sir, but you should protect your hand at all times.

But that's my worthless opinion :).

The Poker Meister said...

DMA screwed up. The onus is on the player to reveal the winning / splitting hand. He did not.. nor did he did not protest when the dealer scooped his hand and mucked it. He only protested when he realized the split pot situation. Therefore, pot should be awarded to SMS.

Anonymous said...

Having been in the exact same situation before, (and while drunk I was not an asshole, just a Drunk Maniac), the floor ruled it a split pot as players around the table clearly agreed that the DM (me) was trying to show my hand for a split pot and was unlucky in getting one of the cards to show.

The only time I've seen it different was when the SLS did not show his cards, and the DMA threw his cards face down into the muck in disgust, only then for SLS to show his cards. At that point, the DMA (not me in this case!) got upset, but the floor ruling was that his hand was dead and the pot was awarded to SLS.

-JP in Philly

Anonymous said...

i agree with conan.

and if you try to sway a floor person in your favor when you are only playing the board you are being a FC. :)

Jamie said...

I have to vigorously disagree with Conan776's assessment. All cards must be shown at showdown to contest a pot. Even if both of your opponents are playing the board, there is an order of operations to the action. The first player to act shows his hand and the cards 'speak' that he is playing the board. The second player must then show HIS hand in order to contest for the pot, if for no other reason than Player 1 paid to see his cards. A pot should NEVER be pushed when two players are at showdown without both players showing their full hand (both cards). I say full hand because showing a single diamond in this case would STILL not be ample reason for the dealer to push the pot. Both cards must be shown to help prevent cheating and also because your opponent paid for the information on what hand you were playing.

Having said all that, I still think this pot should have been split. DMA's speech, was not a concession, though it seemed that way. There are only 3 words that should be construed as communicating one's intent: 'Raise', 'Call' or 'Fold'. If dealer's would just stick to those 3 words, then we could avoid such nonsense. A player hasn't folded unless they say the word 'FOLD' OR they much their cards. Cards aren't mucked unless they touch the muck. It's true that throwing the cards towards the center of the table can be seen as intending to muck, but since one of them was face up and the player hasn't said 'FOLD', the dealer should have asked the player if he was folding or calling. Then they wouldn't be in this mess.

Michael said...

In situations like this, I tend to fall in line with the intent and since there were a fair number at the table that believed DMA intent was to show and that ultimately it was a split pot rather then a complete loss for the player still in the hand, I'd probably offer to split, move on and hope to pair DMA's stack down further.

Its unfortunate though, because by the rules his hand could certainly be qualified as dead.

afiguy357 said...

@conan776 the thought that a player can say its a split pot without tabling a hand is absurd. You must be the only player left with a live hand or table a hand to get any portion of the pot.

I think that in this situation the rules need to be applied as literally as possible. From reading the situation, it is evident that no collusion was taking place, but you can't open the door with ruling it a split pot.

James said...

This seems identical to the "de Wolfe versus Reinkemeier" case, to me.

In both cases the player showed one card that was enough to "win", but their hand hit the much before both were shown.

Personally I think they should both win, as you should only need to show a five card winning hand (including the board).

But those aren't the rules, you have to show both even if your hand uses neither ... ergo. both lose.

I believe there was a recent poker gem about poker and justice, which comes to mind :)

Pete said...

This is not a difficult call. The hand is dead. I'm not saying that as a nit who screams that every time a card lands face down it is dead and can't be turned up. Especially when it appears the player was trying to turn it up.

Here is the problem...when jackass players fling their cards they take the risk that something is going to happen. Then when a card flips down and jackass player sits by and makes no effort to get it turned up.... they are responsible again.

Then when jackass player watches dealer turn his face up card down they are being given the last warning to speak up. When they don't speak up now they are again responsible.

throw in that jackass made a statement which easily leads the dealer to think he is mucking when the dealer sees a face down card and it is rather clear that the jackass player who flung his cards is entirely in the wrong here...caused the problem...made no effort to mitigate the problem....

He never properly tabled a hand .... he has no claim to the pot and the fact that he is the cause of the problem and had multiple opportunities to keep it from happening argue against any deviation from the rule in the interest of fairness.

Lucypher said...

If I am SLS, I would probably split it since we want to keep the live one playing. A truly smart local semi-pro would know you can shear a sheep over and over but you can only skin him once.

WSOP Floor Supe said...

First in no way would DMA be able to not show his cards to win at least 1/2 the pot (sorry Conan).

As a floor person, This ruling is going to fall under the TDA rule :

http://www.pokertdablog.com/PokerTDABlog/?page_id=107

"Floor people are to consider the best interest of the game and fairness as the top priority in the decision-making process. Unusual circumstances can on occasion dictate that decisions in the interest of fairness take priority over the technical rules. The floorperson's decision is final."

I would verify that the 3 people all saw the cards being tossed face up, and that the one spinned and fell face down.

Given that all three verify the SAME non diamond AQ, I would award a split pot and give DWA a VERY stern last warning that it is his responsibility to protect his hand at all times, and any further profane, abusive or other douchebag behavior will get him an early exit for the night.

Brendan said...

From Robert's Rules.

2 - HOUSE POLICIES

DECISION-MAKING

1. Management reserves the right to make decisions in the spirit of fairness, even if a strict interpretation of the rules may indicate a different ruling.

Everyone at the table knows what should have happened, which is the 2 hands are tabled and the pot is split. The fact that the DMA immediately called the dealer on the mucking shows what his intention likely was, which was to table his cards, though a bit recklessly. Fairness suggests a split pot in my opinion. Maniac's talk was not binding by any means, and though it was misleading in the dealer's mind, that should not disqualify him conclusively from a hand.

Freight Train said...

Given the information presented, I would award all of the pot to SLS.

briggek8717 said...

I don't believe the floor's ruling should have anything to do with what DMA said or didn't say. His/her ruling should be the same whether it was SLS or DMA whose money hung on the decision (however, I think DMA should probably be escorted out after the ruling. No one should have to listen to that). If the roles were reversed, should you expect a different ruling than what was given?

I also don't think that what DMA was holding for hole cards really makes a difference one way or another. If he had a diamond and did this (saying the same thing before attempting to table it), what would the ruling be?

With that said, I think DMA's hand should be dead. Most dealers typically give the person a couple seconds in a scenario like this to flip their card back face up themeselves before mucking it, but they are not required to. It is the player's responsibility.

Let's use this scenario, what if DMA's card had hit the chip and bounced off the table. In the casino I play in, if your card(s) hit the floor, the hand is dead no matter what. I don't see this as anything different. The player did not properly table their hand. It is their fault. It is an expensive lesson a lot of people have to learn.

One last thing. If I was given the option to split the pot in this scenario, I would not. If it was in my local casino against some regulars that I know and play with all the time, I probably would.

briggek8717 said...

The floor's decision shouldn't be based on anything other than the rules. If the situation was reversed, should the floor rule in SLS's favor because they are a nice person? No. It is the floor's responsibility to enforce the rules impartially. Now, I do believe that DMA should be escorted out after the completion of the ruling. No one should be subjected to the name calling.

I also don't think it matters what DMA was holding. Would the ruling be any different if he had said the same thing and actually held a J or a diamond (assuming he said the same thing he did).

It is the player's responsibility to properly table their hand. Usually, a dealer will give the player a couple seconds to flip up their own card in a situation like this, but they are not required to do so. I think it is very similar to what the ruling would be if the card had bounced off the table instead. In the casino I play in, if a card hits the floor, the hand is dead (I've had an opponent do this in a hand I was the benefactor of). This seems no differnt to me. They didn't table their hand correctly, it is dead and SLS keeps the entire pot. It is an expensive lesson that a lot of people end up having to learn and usually aren't going to make more than once.

If I was SLS and was asked to voluntarily split the pot, I would not. If it was in my local casino and was against people I regularly play against, I probably would. In this scenario, I don't know what his true intentions were, so he is not going to get the benefit of the doubt from me.

phrankguy1 said...

The drunk player voluntarily tossed his cards toward the middle of the table, which could rightly be considered a dead hand, since one was face down and the hand was killed by the dealer. The only live hand is the locals hand, the only decision that can be made is that the pot be awarded to the only existing live hand. Protecting your hand is of key importance in poker, and it takes only one oversight for that expensive lesson to be learned.

The spirit of the game would call for the winner to split the pot with the drunk, but this isn't something that can be enforced by the house.

Thats my take!

bogeyeliot said...

I think DMA was trying to make a humorous reference to a split by saying that SLS looks like he has a winner, as in we both have a winner...what ensued was mayhem, but the fairest solution is to award the chop.

Matt said...

I disagree with Conan Whole-heartedly. If Im running a complete bluff at that pot and my opponenet shows what would be a split, I should nto be able to muck my hand and say "give me half the pot." The value that I gain by seeing my opponents hand, and the value he loses by not seeing mine is huge. If I want my half of the pot, the player I'm bluffing deserves to see what I'm bluffing with.

Rakewell said...

Falstaff: This Ricky is about as non-African as one can get--blond, blue-eyed, likely Irish.

Conan776 said...

@Jamie, small point that DMA paid to see SLS's cards, not the other way around: "SLS moved all in and DMA called."

@JT88Keys "Most of the profit made in poker is due to the mistakes of your opponents. One of those mistakes is misreading the board and mucking when you actually had a claim to the pot." I wish I could find such bad players online that they can't even read the board.

Once in a while in the micros some character will open shove on a rainbow Broadway board, and this annoys me to no end. Everyone in the hand just pays more rake. And the real wise asses will sometimes point out that due to the rake, if the pot was originally small enough, players are actually losing money by calling, as if I'm going to actually do that calculation.

If a significant portion of your edge comes from taking pots off little old ladies with bifocals, I can't have much respect.

@WSOP Floor Supe I basically agree, although why the exact suits matter when DMA is already only laying claim to half the pot is baffling to me.

HighOnPoker said...

I'd call it a split pot. This decision is made easier by the fact that the player with pocket Tens is also playing the board. Its a no-harm, no-foul situation. Yes, he should have been more careful when placing his cards, but this was not a situation where both cards landed face-down, the situation was addressed immediately, and his opponent is playing the board. There is no possible way the opponent could win by virtue of the cards, so to stick to a technicality that one card was facedown, even though everyone saw it, is a bit disingenuous. My guess is that rough justice prevailed on behalf of the asshole.

Grange95 said...

Conan, I find this comment baffling:

"[S]mall point that DMA paid to see SLS's cards, not the other way around: 'SLS moved all in and DMA called.'"

This is one of those poker phrases that I think creates unnecessary confusion. A player calling on the river is not paying to see his opponent's cards, he's paying to see if he holds the winning hand. Once all action on the river is complete, if there are two or more live hands, everyone at the table is entitled to see the winning hand tabled. Who called who really only is relevant to determining which player shows first; but to win the pot, the winning player must show his cards (unless all opponents muck first, leaving only one live hand).

Conan776 said...

@Grange95 You are right, but this is a corner-case because the winning hand is the board, or you could say neither player has a winning hand.

Of course, the online re player has me very spoiled -- although, I had an opponent that open mucked on the river last week out of embarrassment, when all I had was bottom pair and a deuce kicker, so more power to him!

Aussiesmurf said...

Split pot.

No matter what DMA's cards were, SMS can't claim more than half the pot. In a situation where his genuine intent was to table his cards, dealer error (in prematurely mucking the cards without checking for intent) should not award SLS the pot.

Anonymous said...

"Cards thrown into the muck may be ruled dead. However, a hand that is clearly identifiable may be retrieved and ruled live at management’s discretion if doing so is in the best interest of the game. An extra effort should be made to rule a hand retrievable if it was folded as a result of incorrect information given to the player."

So no incorrect information given here but it is management's discretion to rule his hand live if doing so is in the best interest of the game. This is the heart of the argument, is it in the best interest of the game? DMA's behavior aside, what would you do if everyone was professional in their reaction?

To me, the best interest of the game is to ensure a pot is fairly awarded. It is obvious based on the other players' accounts that the hand should had been tabled up and not one up, one down. This should be a split pot and then a penalty against DMA for his behavior.

Anonymous said...

Grump, are you SLS in this scenario?

Rakewell said...

No. He was on my right, in seat 1. I have never told a story about myself in this blog as if I were somebody else (like, "Something happened to a FRIEND of mine..."), and I can't think of anything that would prompt me to do so.

Bob@ThreeRiversPoker said...

Dead hand.

Now I'm excitedly off to read part two!

Mark T said...

I would be sad, though I would try hard not to show that, and award a split pot in the interests of fairness.

The overriding factor here, I think, is that it's essentially dealer error in killing a non-mucked hand. Dealer error is nearly always reversible on appeal.

I would also give a verbal warning to the DMA that any further verbal or other abuse will lead to his ejection.