Thursday, October 28, 2010


You may remember this little controversy from the 2008 World Series of Poker. Nikolay Losev moves forward an entire stack of chips as if to bet. But before releasing them, he apparently has a change of heart. He pulls them back, then instead puts out a smaller amount. Brandon Cantu--along with other experienced players at the table--basically says WTF, man? He can't do that! Floor is called, says it's fine because he didn't release the chips. Tournament director Jack Effel is called over, gets what appears to me to be a clear description of what happened, and then confirms that that's the rule: as long as the chips weren't released, it's not a binding bet. (When Michael Carroll acts out for him a hypothetical of moving his stacks forward, pulling them back, then betting a single chip, Effel says that that would not be allowed. But he never explains how Carroll's hypothetical is any different from Losev's actual action.)

See for yourself:

Now we fast forward to the 2010 WSOP, with the installment broadcast this week. Filippo Candio moves forward a bunch of chips as if to bet, but at the last second has a change of heart. Instead of releasing them, he pulls them back to his stack and checks. Dealer calls floor. Floor says forward motion is binding, the chips must stay in. Once again, see for yourself:

As far as I can tell, there are only three differences between the situations. (1) Chips being slid forward versus moved forward in the player's hand, off of the table. (2) Retracted movement being followed by a smaller bet versus being followed by a fold. (3) The betting action in question being a bet versus a call. None of these seems to me to have any bearing on how the decision should be made. That is, I can't imagine any rational set of rules that would make any of these factors the determining criterion in whether the action/retraction should be allowed.

Has there been an intervening rule change? Not that I can make out. I scanned through the WSOP rules for 2008 and for 2010, and noticed nothing in either one that talks about forward motion constituting a bet, with or without release of the chips.

How does a move that is perfectly legal in 2008--with the explicit endorsement of the tournament director--become illegal in 2010, when there has been no change in the published rules? Why didn't the WSOP adopt an explicit rule to govern this situation in either 2009 or 2010, after having received tons of criticism in the online forums for the 2008 ruling? Has Effel or anybody else ever publicly acknowledged that the 2008 ruling was in error and should not be taken as reflecting the WSOP rules and practices?

More generally, as I have asked many times before, why is the officiating at what claims to be the premier event in poker so bad? And why doesn't Harrah's do anything to improve it? The answer to those, I expect is actually pretty straightforward: Because Harrah's wouldn't make any more money by bothering with such apparently unimportant things.


Pete said...

There are three fundamental reasons why floor decisions at the WSOP are being made inconsistently.

1st and foremost is that hiring for the position is not merit based.

2nd the WSOp is a huge event which brings in staff from many different poker backgrounds, who have worked in different casinos, and different jurisdictions. There are not universal rules, and even if they all get together and go over a rule book people will still fall back to their default "knowledge" when unusual situations come up, or when things which have not explicitly been spelled out for them arise. As a poker dealer, I actually have a theory of poker, which explains how I view rules and situations. Other people with different theories may react differently then I do even when given the same rule set. For example on the issue of string betting ..... while I will enforce string bet rules, whenever a player makes one of those really close borderline moves .... I will always give the benefit of the doubt to the player .... while other dealers seem to think that if its borderline calls should be viewed in light least favorable to the player.

Also what some people consider standard rules others think are different. I started a new job once and my rulebook made no mention of tournament rules. I was scheduled to deal a freeroll tournament so I asked the floor about their rules. She told me "your standard tournament rules" So I said "TDA rules" she said yeah. So I said ... "so if a player isn't in their seat when i finish dealing to the button their hand is dead ?"..... she said no of course not .

Later in that tournament when it was time to color up the green chips I set up for a chip race ..... and I noticed all sorts of puzzlement on the players faces .... they don't do a chip race there they just round up.....If you tell me standard rules ... to me that means a chip race.

Lastly rulings will be inconsistent because upper management has a history of being inconsistent. A few years ago we all saw Phil Hellmuth violate rules against player abuse and receive a penalty .... only to have it overturned. Jamie Gold constantly violated rules about exposing his cards and talking about a hand in play .... no penalty was issued...... but a warning was issued to him something like 6 months after the tournament had ended...... How should lower level middle managers know what they are supposed to do when upper management is inconsistent.

Vegas Flea said...

"Because Harrah's wouldn't make any more money by bothering with such apparently unimportant things."


astrobel said...

Good point Grump !

Anonymous said...

Excellent catch. The only explaination I can think of is that the 2008 ruling was discussed by management and the realized they made a mistake. However, Harrahs refused to admit guilt. Come two years later an opposite but correct ruling was made, dispite being a near exact situation to the former.