Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad etiquette all around

A hand on the PokerStars Big Game concludes with Tony G checking the river, Jason Mercier bluffing his missed draws with 10-high, and Tony G calling. Mercier does not show his cards, just says, "You got it," but doesn't muck. Tony G shows his ace-high and wins the pot. Mercier mucks.

Tony G asks the dealer to open Mercier's hand. Dealer kills it by tapping it on the pot, then shows. Mercier is clearly offended by this request: "Why do you want to see my hand?" Tony G replies, "I just wanted to see what you called the flop with, that's all. I'm sorry. It's nothing personal, right?" Mercier doesn't respond, but makes a face.

At this point, commentator Joe Stapleton adds, "Asking for a hand to be opened is a big no-no in live poker."

Tony G doesn't drop it: "That's fair enough, isn't it?" Mercier says, practically through gritted teeth, "I guess." Tony G says, "I don't want to be nasty or anything." Mercier says, "I don't think it's being nasty, it's just bad etiquette." Antonio Esfandiari repeats Mercier's words: "It's just bad etiquette." (There's also a comment in there from Isaac Haxton which I couldn't make out, but I get the impression he's reassuring Tony G that he did nothing wrong.) Phil Hellmuth pipes up to add his opinion that it was "bad etiquette." Later, Stapleton adds that Tony G's request "was within the rules, but is frowned upon."

Mercier, Stapleton, Esfandiari, and Hellmuth all have a point, but they're also missing a bigger one. The chain of bad etiquette was started by Mercier himself. Tony G called his bet. His obligation then was to either expose his cards or muck them, and to do so quickly. He failed in that duty.

Tony G was well within his rights to ask to see Mercier's cards under the circumstances, but a much better alternative would have been for him to sit quietly, do nothing, and wait for Mercier to take one of his two required actions--waiting until the heat death of the universe, if necessary. Or he could have reminded Mercier of who bet and who called, and therefore who had the obligation to show first.

If he had called and Mercier had insta-mucked, then I would agree that Tony G was out of line to ask for the show. Still technically within the rules, but something I would never do. If a guy mucks without showing after getting called, he had nothing, and the informational value you get from forcing him or the dealer to show his cards isn't worth the bad feelings you engender.

But here, Mercier was the one who created the problem by not showing when it was his turn to do so. Tony G's solution to the problem was not the most graceful, but I assign the greater fault to Mercier for not performing the simple act that he clearly knows is his duty.

Offsetting penalties, no yardage awarded.

I can't say I'm surprised at Mercier's conduct. He was at Cardgrrl's table on the second day of her HORSE event at the World Series of Poker, so I got to observe him from just a few feet away. He basically threw a little hissy-fit at the dealer, who was only doing his job. Mercier had arrived at the table without his identification, and the dealer, following the instructions he had been given, refused to deal him in. He called his supervisor over to handle it. Mercier wanted to play while the problem got sorted out, but the dealer told him he wasn't allowed to deal to him. Mercier got irrationally snippy with the dealer when the problem was one of his own creation!

Then, once that got straightened out, Mercier proceeded to tell another player about his outrage the previous day when a cashier wouldn't violate some protocol for him (I can't remember the details now) in order to get him bought into an event. Again, it was a situation that Mercier had caused by waiting until the very last second to try to register, as I recall.

My amateur diagnosis is that Mercier is a snot-nosed brat who thinks that all sorts of special accommodations should be made for him. His attitude in both stories struck me as the classic, "Don't you know who I am?" sort of thing. Which is why it does not surprise me at all to see him break a rule of play, then accuse his opponent of being the one with bad etiquette. The kid has some serious growing up to do, if you ask me.


Crash said...

Your diagnosis is not amateur. You are, by definition, a pro. If the rules say Tony can ask, he can ask, without complaint,

Ryan said...

Correct me if i am wrong, but didn't Mercier give some verbal indication that G's hand was good? It was a little while ago that I watched it, but I think he said "you're probably good", or something like that.

I would very much state the case that that kind of comment is also in the "unwritten etiquette" book, along with no slow rolling, and, yes, not asking to see a losing hand. The person who has bet, gets called, and says that should have no even remotely reasonable notion to think his hand could possibly be good. The caller shows his hand at that point, the called player mucks, next hand.

I think that you might have let your previous opinion of Mercier bias you on this one a little but. Yes, Tony certainly has the right to see his hand, but also think of the reason that the "see all hands" rule was implemented - collusion. We used to incorporate all casino rules in my home game in the spirit of officiality, but have taken that one out; we know no one is colluding at the game.

Lastly, It's etiquette, not a rule. Often times, bad etiquette is within the rules, but it doesn't mean it's not bad etiquette.

Rakewell said...

Ryan: Reread the first paragraph of the post for what Mercier said.

As for what he did, it's perfectly fine with me (and with everyone else, I believe) if he combines saying "You got it" with mucking his cards. It's when he says "You got it," combined with trying to keep his hand live because maybe it's good, that's the problem. He's trying to make the other guy show first, when the obligation is on him. That is both against the rules and bad etiquette. His obligation to show or muck is not discharged by saying "You got it."

Lord Bodak said...

This happened another week where the loose cannon called a river bet, and then showed the winner and the original bettor mucked. Loose cannon asked to see the hand and Barry G told him it was bad etiquette to ask.

I am in full agreement with you, the proper action if you call the river is to wait for the agressor to show.

Ryan said...

Grump: What a dummy I am. Don't ask me how I missed/forgot that paragraph.

In that case, I completely agree with you. Although, I would have said something, to the effect of "open your hand or muck, don't waste time".

I've been in that situation before, and I did and will always go through the "pre-motions" of what I would do if I was expecting the pot to be pushed to me - slide my cards slightly towards the center (keeping them protected), take my call back if it's still in front of me, etc.

That is the etiquette that I learned in my 11 years playing poker in cardrooms.

I also seem to remember hearing somewhere that it is binding if you tell someone that "they got it", although looking at it now, it doesn't seem possible. Perhaps I just got confused and was being told it was an etiquette issue.

Anonymous said...

The venetian has changed its rule on this matter. A player can request to see a losing hand however the dealer has to call a floor over before tabling the hand. The floor will then ask why the player wants to see the hand. If the player responds with anything other then that they suspect collusion, the floor will not show the hand. This applies to both tournament and cash games. I think once people realize that this is the new rule you will see a lot more of people waiting to follow the order of showdown rather then asking to see the hand after the fact.

Richard said...

Honestly, you can't expect people to give manners more weight than tactics when they are playing for thousands of dollars or more. This isn't a friendly game.

CrabblerK3 said...

I relish few things more than staring blankly waiting for the aggressor to show his/her hand. It's a little inconvenient, but wildly satisfying

Anonymous said...

arent u the older guy who carries around the $1 coins to tip the dealers with? if so i seen u at the IP yesterday

Rakewell said...

Nope, not me.