Monday, February 14, 2011

Dumb rule at Orleans

For a few days now I have had a hankering for a live HORSE tournament. The Orleans has one every Sunday night that is reasonably priced ($75), so I decided to give it a go. I finished mid-field after playing not my best. But along the way I learned that the Orleans poker room has a very peculiar rule.

In the first orbit we had two dead stacks reserved for late entries. Blinds and antes were taken from them as needed. I had one of them on my left. The first time it was my small blind (and hence big blind from the dead stack), everybody folded to me. When the button folded, I assumed that that was the end of the matter and I would collect the big blind. But the dealer looked at me expectantly, clearly waiting for me to act. I said, "The hand's over." He replied, "No, you still have to act."

I thought it was stupid, but for the formality of it I added enough to call the amount of the big blind. Then and only then did the dealer push me the pot and collect my cards.

As the next hand was underway, I asked him about this. He was absolutely clear that this was the house rule and they always did it that way. He specifically said that if I had folded, he would have awarded the pot to the dead stack/big blind.

This makes no sense whatsoever. The absent player's hand is killed as soon as the last card is dealt and the seat is unoccupied. If there is any definition of a dead hand, it is one that cannot win the pot under any circumstances. As soon as the button folds, there is only one live hand left on the table--that of the small blind--and the small blind is therefore only player to whom the pot can possibly be awarded.

The dealer clarified that if I had actually folded, he would have called the floor to ask what to do, but he also said that every previous time it has come up, the dead stack gets the pot.

As partial explanation, he pointed out that when playing online tournaments, even if the big blind is sitting out, the small blind has to call in order to win the pot. This is a flawed analogy. First, I'm not completely sure that's true everywhere; I just haven't paid enough attention to the situation to know. But more importantly, during an online tournament there is no "butt in the seat" rule in play. If you have been sitting out, you still get dealt a hand, and you can click the "I'm back" button anytime before it's your turn to act. In other words, your hand is not dead before the other players are taking their turns. But under standard live tournament rules, your hand is declared dead and pulled into the muck by the dealer before the first player acts. That makes all the difference in the world. Even if an online player in the big blind is sitting out, his hand is live until/unless he fails to act on it when required, so if everybody folds to him, he can legitimately win the pot. The site is not awarding the pot to a dead hand, as the Orleans rule apparently says that they will do. Online tournaments do not use dead stacks to hold open places that might later be filled by late arrivals; they create stacks as needed when new players register.

The rule is also stupid because it benefits nobody. All it does is act as a trap for the unwary. The penalty for not knowing that this quirky rule exists is that you lose a pot if you perform the rather natural act of returning your cards to the dealer after everybody else has folded. There's nobody left to play with/against, so why wouldn't you? Worse, the pot is given to a phantom player who did nothing to earn it, didn't even have any cards when the last player mucked, and most likely won't ever collect it, as the stack is taken out of play whenever the entry deadline passes.

I'd like to speak to the poker room manager and ask him or her about this hypothetical situation: "Suppose that the big blind doesn't notice that he's the big blind and mucks his cards, quickly followed by the under-the-gun player doing the same. The discards get intermingled and are therefore irretrievable. Of course the errant player is still required to post the big blind. (Never mind that the dealer should have seen to that before pitching the cards.) Now everybody at the table folds around to the small blind, who has the last live hand. The small blind assumes that the hand is over and returns his cards to the dealer, expecting to be awarded both blinds. What is your house rule and/or floor decision about who gets this pot?" Following the logic of their rule about dead stacks, I think they would have to give the pot to the big blind, even though he mucked his cards before everybody else did.

The two situations are functionally identical, as far as I can discern. But surely everybody can see that it would be insane to give this hypothetical pot to the big blind. My point, in this imaginary conversation with the poker room manager, would be that it is equally insane to award the pot to a dead stack with a dead hand.

Frankly, I can't think of a single good argument for having such a rule in place. It's extremely minor in the big scope of things, but it's among the most ridiculous house rules I've ever encountered.


Anonymous said...

Your hypothetical example seems to even more clearly call for the big blind to receive the pot if the small blind does not call. I do not have a rule book to cite offhand but it seems to me that a basic rule is that the largest bet of the round made by a once-live player must be matched in order to have a claim to the pot. Failing to match that bet is stating that you do not feel confident enough in your hand to compete with a dead hand (as illogical as that conclusion obviously is). While there is no way for the big blind to win the hand if somebody matches his bet (because he has no cards of his own to compete with the other person's hand), I take it that by nobody matching the bet he put into the pot when his hand was alive that he is the only one who has a rightful claim to the pot. None of this means anything without a rule citation, but it seems like a logical conclusion, to me.


Pete said...

Are you sure that the dealer kills the hand when he finishes dealing to the button? I know that the orleans does not use TDA rules. I also know that before the TDA rules it was very common to not kill the hand until the action got to the empty seat. In fact even after the first set of TDA rules many places did not kill the hand of the BB due to a typo in the rules which created confusion.

Rakewell said...

Yes. In fact, the dealers pitch the cards not really to the dead seat, but to a spot just in front of themselves so that they don't have to reach far to get the cards and muck them.

Captain Charisma said...

On Stars, if the BB is sitting out and actions is folded to the small blind, if SB folds, the pot goes to the sit out player.

Anonymous said...

Poker Grumps said:

"But under standard live tournament rules, your hand is declared dead and pulled into the muck by the dealer before the first player acts."

This depends on the card room. I know for a fact that where I play, the hands for dead stacks aren't declared dead until all dealt-in hands have acted.