Thursday, July 05, 2012

Magic words at Mirage

A couple of weeks ago I was playing the (AVP) tournament at Mirage. A few seats to my right was a young man who was playing crazy. Within the first few hands, he open-raised to 20 big blinds, then shortly thereafter bet 4000 into a 1300 pot on the flop. This was not the stupid play of inexperience, but the carefree play of a very experienced player in a game being played for stakes he just did not really care about, trying to have some fun. Which is fine with me, but I want to get as much information as I can about what he's doing, because playing with him is going to involve high risk and variance.

He was seated next to a friend of his. One time when he made one of his stupidly big opening raises, his friend folded, then said, "Let me sweat you." So crazy guy showed him his hole cards. I knew right away that I would want to have that hand shown by the dealer if it didn't get exposed in the natural order of play. Furthermore, I was sure that the dealer had not noticed that little interaction, so I would have to be ready to explain to him what had happened. The dealer had a nametag identifying him as David, from Pennsylvania.*

At some point in the hand (I don't remember how far it went, and it doesn't matter), a bet from crazy guy went uncalled, and he won the pot. He traded his cards for the pot. As the dealer was sliding the cards toward the muck, I pointed at the cards and said, loudly and clearly, "Show those, please." I was sitting in the five seat, so the dealer and I were as close and as face-to-face as it is possible to get.

The dealer stopped his motion, the cards paused halfway between the player and the muck, and said, "What?" I repeated: "Show those, please."

The dealer absolutely, unquestionably both heard and understood me that time. But then he reacted in a bizarre way. He deliberately pulled the player's hole cards deep and irretrievably into the muck, gave me a puzzled look on his face, and only then asked, "Why should I show them?" Note that he mucked the cards before asking me that question, and did so entirely deliberately.

This seriously irked me. If he had just been moving too quickly to react in time to my first words, well, OK, such things happen. It's annoying, but I let it go. But this was intentional denial of my request, before he had even asked for, let alone heard, the reason why I was making it. Completely wrong and unprofessional.

So I explained: "That guy showed his cards to the player sitting next to him. That's why I was asking you to show them to the whole table."

The dealer said, "Oh, well you have to tell me that."

My God--can this guy really be this stupid?

I said, "I did tell you. What do you think the words, 'Show those, please' mean?"

He said, "People ask us to show hands all the time, without any good reason to. So you have to let me know that he showed them to another player."

I said--and I trust that the condescension in my tone of voice was perfectly obvious--"So the words, 'Show those, please' does not adequately convey to you that a player is requesting to see the cards?"

He said, "No."

I said, "OK, then, what are the magic words that cause you to actually do your job and show the cards that one player showed to another?"

He didn't have an answer ready for this instantly, but after thinking for a couple of seconds responded, "He showed his cards to another player, so you need to show them to everybody."

I repeated his proposed phrasing exactly, and asked him to confirm that I had it right. He did so. Then I further asked, "And that will get you to show the hand, but 'Show those, please' will not. Do I have that right?"

He was pretty fed up with me by this point, and snarled, "Yes."

I told him that I was glad to learn the magic words, because "Show those, please" worked in every other poker room in town, and it was important to know that the Mirage had a special magic phrase for that purpose. Again, I assume he could not have failed to miss the overt sarcasm in my voice.

So take this as a lesson. If you play poker at the Mirage, and if one player shows his cards to another player, and you want the dealer to enforce the "show one, show all" rule, there is only one specific sentence that you can use to accomplish that task: "He showed his cards to another player, so you need to show them to everybody." If you deviate from this specific formula one iota, the dealer will be obligated to ignore or deny your request.

At least that's what dealer David from Pennsylvania said was the rule and practice at the Mirage poker room. Surely he wouldn't lie about something like that, right?

*I never call out dealers by name for making ordinary mistakes. But this was not a mistake. This was deliberate sabotage of the standard rules and procedures of the game.


Stump said...

I was 2 seats to Grump's left & can confirm this story. It was unreal.

The Poker Meister said...


I'm going to caveat this by saying clearly, you have many more [hundreds of(?)] thousands of hands on me in a live setting. You are far more familiar with live play procedure than I. That being said, I have seen dealers behave in the manner described above; snap mucking the requested cards, eliminating the potential for the requesting player to physically grab and turn over the requested cards. I'd venture that darn near 100% of the time, the dealer is correct in doing so and averting a potential situation because the requesting player has no right to see the cards in the first place.

In the case described above, you were dealt into the hand, he showed his hand to another player, and is obligated to the show one show all policy that I assume is in place at the Mirage. All factors stand for showing the card, except for the fact that the dealer did not see him display his cards to his neighbor, similar to accidentally mucking a player's cards or allowing players to act out of turn.

I'm confident that had you taken a different approach in your request "Show those please," and instead explained the situation which you knew [even in your post admitted to] the dealer had missed the "little interaction," he would have paused for a moment to listen. Instead, you opted to repeat your command, when you were clear that the dealer had heard you the first time. The "What?" is akin to "Excuse me?" or "I don't understand" in this case, and warrants a different request than a repeat of the original request. When the dealer asked "What," you should have explained the situation in better detail rather than repeat the request verbatim and start a situation that could have been easily avoided.

Not that I'm not saying you're wrong here because you're not. However, you could have gotten what you wanted if you had handled the situation differently.

Rakewell said...

I disagree. The first step is to get the dealer to understand what request I am making, and, simultaneously, to try to stop him from mucking the cards, making the request moot. Once things are paused so that we can discuss the situation, then I expect to need to tell him the reason why the request is a valid one. The fault was entirely with the dealer. Had he simply asked his "why" question *before* shoving the cards in the muck, I was ready to tell him the salient fact that he had missed, about one player having shown the cards to another.

The dealer's proposed phrasing has the obvious problem that it's too long. While somebody is trying to repeat those sentences, the dealer's hand is still swiping the cards into the muck. You have to do something quick that stops the dealer in his tracks, *then* explain what is going on. I did the first part of that, and was ready to do the second part, until the dealer sabotaged it.

The Poker Meister said...

The dealer is absolutely wrong for the way he handled the situation post mucking the cards. He's now on the defensive & looking for an out where he's the "winner" of the argument. He's got an ego to protect and no customer of his is going to tell him he's wrong.

That said, in this day & age, "What?" is akin to "Excuse me?" or "Pardon me" which is just the same as asking "Why?" If you're sure that he heard you the first time, and you stated that in your post, then as an English-speaking American, you should be accustomed to answer a question of "What" with a reason of "Why." I think, given your depiction of the situation, he was asking "Why" with his body language while saying "What?"

I've been in numerous interactions (as I'm sure you have) where someone looks at you after listening to whatever you were telling them and says: "What?" Generally, that "What" does not mean "repeat whatever you said last," but "rephrase whatever you said into a more digestible statement." In other words, explain.

"The first step is to get the dealer to understand what request I am making, and, simultaneously, to try to stop him from mucking the cards" You got him to stop mucking the cards when he answered you back with a question of "What?" He paused and waited for an explanation which was not forthcoming from you, so he [wrongly] assumed you were just another player looking to see cards that you were not entitled to see. Again, you did not explain yourself when he paused and asked "What?"

BuzzedSaw said...

I personally think that the time to have raised the issue w/ the dealer was as soon as possible after the cards were shown, "Dealer, when the hand is complete, I'm going to want to see those cards, too, since he showed his friend."

Michael said...

It's a bad situation and I agree the dealer is in the wrong, I realize you don't have to take the extra step of trying to explain it to the dealer and that you were prepared to explain it, once he asked why, but you made an assumption that he would ask 'why'.

This can't be the first time you've seen something like this play out. Maybe not for you, but I have to believe in all the hours at the table, you've seen tourists ask for cards to be shown in instances and where they were wrong and right to do so. And while I'm making an assumption here, I'd guess that there are a fair share of dealers that would handle it in this manner too.

In a case like this, I think your command contributed to the situation. I know you have no obligation to make things crystal clear for the dealer, but I believe it's one of those times when you do have to fault yourself for not doing so.

Christopher said...

I am not sure my first attempt at responding made it through due to an out of date browser, so I am using a different browser this time:

I would like to make it very clear that the dealer's handling of the situation is NOT standard procedure at The Mirage Poker Room and should have been handled much differently.

Given the information in your post I will be able to talk to the dealer in question and get him straightened out.

We pride ourselves in excelling at guest service and this situation falls far short of our expectations.

Thank you for taking the time to bring this to my attention.

Christopher Coffin
Mirage Poker Room Manager

Rakewell said...

Thank you, Chris.

JT88Keys said...

I'll have to rely on you and Stump to explain the tone and demeanor conveyed in the initial request. When I read your account of it, Rakewell, it seems like you were in confrontation mode right out of the gate and looking for an argument with the dealer. It seems like you were expecting him to not comply with the request.

The Poker Meister said...

@JT88Keys - That is exactly how I read the described situation.

Grange95 said...

IMHO, once any player asks to see a hand, at a minimum the dealer should pause and inquire why. "Why?" is not that big of an imposition for a dealer. If the player can't articulate a reason, or the dealer doesn't want to grant the request for whatever reason, then the dealer's proper action is to call for the floor for a ruling, NOT just muck the hand.

I've played quite a number of sessions with Grump. He might be a little bit of a rules nit compared to the average 1/2 player, but he is not the kind to pick fights. And standing up for your rights is not the same as picking a fight. Grump perhaps could have been a little more articulate, but I don't see how he was in the wrong.

Anonymous said...

I had this same experience at the Mirage a few weeks ago. I do not remember the name of the dealer other than he was a tall, lanky guy with sandy brown hair.

In my situation, a new player at the other side clearly showed his hand to several players at the other end of the table before mucking them towards the dealer (his bet won the Pot)
As he did, I asked, "Can I see that hand?" (IMO, there is no way the dealer could have missed him sharing his had.)
The dealer quick pulled them in the muck and mixed them in.
I said, "Hey, I requested to see that hand."
The dealer looked up with a knowing smirk and said, "Sorry."

The Poker Social Contract kicked in and the other players quickly let me know what he held.

I let the whole thing go......

Apollo said...

Once again, everybody is shocked --SHOCKED!!-- that Poker Grump lives up to his name. He can be grumpy. I've seen it!

I think we've all seen dealers do things like this, particularly if it's a player they like whose cards are being threatened with exposure, or it's a player they dislike making the request. But they'll also sometimes do it just because they're cranky or in a hurry and don't want to pause the game for 5 seconds to hear an explanation or engage in debate. They'll pretend they didn't hear the request, or pretend the request came too late to stop the muck. In this case, David just did the worst possible combination--he DID acknowledge he heard Grump, and still took the step of mucking the cards so as to prevent any possible compliance with the request.

The moral of the story: Dealers need to be more clever about willfully dodging legitimate player requests when they don't feel like complying.

There may be other morals, too, but I like mine.

JT88Keys said...

I feel the need to qualify my earlier statement. I've never met Grump in real life. I've interacted with him through his blog and others and a little bit on AVP back before it turned into 2+2 lite. I was asking Stump and Grump (sounds like a wacky morning show) to provide context. The way the story was initially presented made it seem very confrontational. The dealer 100% should have handled the situation better and complied with Grump's legitimate request to see the cards. That isn't in question here I don't think.

Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of dealing with my stubborn teenager. The dealer clearly paused and said 'what" which clearly in the story meant "why". You like a stubborn child decided that you would answer his question with the same exact thing you had said before. You knew he heard you. He paused for more information and you refused to give it so he mucked the cards. If he has said why instead of what, would you have explained the situation to him or simply repeated your same statement again? I agree with most of what you write but this one sounds very, very childish and just plain stubborn on your part.

Gregory said...

What anonymous said...

Luuke said...

Amazing that people are defending your childish conduct in this post.

You said "Show those cards please" twice. You gave no reason. Why don't you just immediately say "He showed his neighbor his cards. Please show the rest of us."

If you had done that I'm sure the dealer would have flipped the hand over. Sounds like you were gunning for a fight right out of the gate. No offense but you sound like the type of player dealers hate to have at the table.

Usually the fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line. Try a more straight forward, less confrontational approach next time and you might get better results.

Gregory said...

What Luuke said.