Friday, October 29, 2010
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.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Cinderella story. Outta nowhere.
In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, "Au revoir, donkey."
License to kill donkeys by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill donkeys at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They're like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower. And that's all she wrote.
Maybe the best part of having this avatar would be that even if you don't win money, you would receive total consciousness. Which is nice.
There are some posts that I think about writing, oh, 16,000,000 times or so before I actually get around to it. This is one of them. Nothing in particular prompted the timing, except that I'm sitting at home in front of the computer and it occurred to me. My basic message is in the title of the post: Leave the dealer button alone.
The first and most obvious annoyance that results from not abiding by this sage advice is that sometimes a player who is not in the hand gets bored and decides that the button is his personal plaything. He twirls it around, shuffles it from one hand to the other, or whatever. The result is that when others glance around to see where the button is, in order to figure out where action is starting and ending, they can't find it. The button does not become your toy simply because it happens to be sitting in front of you. Leave the damn thing alone.
But now for a subtler problem. Many, many players think they are being helpful by moving the button for the dealer at the end of a hand. I contend that they are mostly wrong. Here's why.
Naturally, the most common thing is that the button moves one seat clockwise when a hand concludes. But once in a while something different needs to happen--it needs to move two spots (e.g., to skip a player who just sat down), or none (e.g., if somebody is buying the button after missing a big blind). Most players who think they are being helpful don't anticipate these exceptions and mess it up.
However, even when things are normal, it's easy to create a problem moving the button. The most common way this happens is that a player moves it without saying anything, when the dealer isn't watching. Then the player who moved it gets distracted by something else (sports on TV, cocktail waitress arriving, or whatever), so the dealer--or sometimes a second player--moves it again, and PRESTO, we have a problem.
On average, it must take a dealer two seconds or less to move the button. So that's the maximum time you're saving the game if you do everything right. (It's probably a bit less, because there's a little time for the dealer to recognize that you have moved the button and process that he or she can skip that step. But let's ignore that factor for now.) If, though, you cause a problem, it's likely to take 30 seconds or so to straighten it out. "I thought he was the button." "No, I was just the small blind." "No you weren't, I was the small blind that hand." "You couldn't have been the big blind, because I put in a straddle." Etc. It's tedious, annoying, and so completely unnecessary, had the meddlers not created the problem to begin with.
In my experience, these situations--either the exceptional case where the button should be moved or not moved differently than usual, or the common case where it gets moved twice accidentally, or at least it is initially unclear whether it got moved twice--happen sufficiently often that the time wasted in solving the resulting messes outweighs the total of the time saved in two-second increments by players "helpfully" moving the button. I submit that the poker world would be better off if no players ever touched the button than we are with the current situation in which so many players think they know how to do it right, but actually don't.
The one obvious exception I would make to the above observation is the situation in which the dealer has difficult reaching the button, usually at the end seats, because the tables are too large, or the dealers are too small (or, sometimes, too fat). In such cases, there should be no problem if a player, seeing the dealer starting to reach for the button, takes the initiative and moves it. (Sometimes a dealer will verbally ask for such help, too.) That way it is done at the right time and with the dealer's knowledge.
If you insist on taking the initiative in situations other than that, here's what I think you should know about the seemingly simple process of pushing the button forward one seat: It is supposed to come at a specific point in the process of concluding a hand. If dealers are following the standard training, the sequence of events is (1) kill the losing hands, (2) push the pot to the winner, (3) move the button, (4) drop the rake, (5) muck the winning hand and begin the scramble/shuffle for the next hand.
So if you're going to move the button, you should anticipate that the dealer will be looking to do so himself or herself immediately after the pot has been pushed. Pushing the pot usually requires the dealer to have his or her eyes on it, and he or she will not be attending to what is happening to the button until that task is completed. If you move it while the pot is being pushed (the most common problem-creating scenario) and do nothing else, the dealer will often miss that fact.
You need to either be ready to move it right at the moment that the dealer's attention is coming to that task, or be ready right then to indicate that you have already moved it. If I'm doing it, I either make sure the dealer sees me do it, or, if he or she isn't watching at the expected moment (some dealers do tasks out of the standard order), I tap the button deliberately when the dealer's attention is finally my way, or announce out loud that I have moved it.
But the point is this: If you take on the responsibility of moving the button, you also thereby accept a sacred duty to (1) not screw it up (e.g., moving it when it shouldn't be moved, etc.), and (2) make absolutely sure that the dealer knows that it's done. If you fail in either of these respects, then you have cost everybody at the table time, rather than having saved time, as you like to flatter yourself that you are doing.
That, of course, is an unforgivable sin.