Thursday, August 30, 2012

Some jokes you just shouldn't tell at the poker table

When writing up last night's craziness, I was too tired to include one story with a moral and/or practical lesson in it.

The guy in Seat 9, on the dealer's right, was playing poker in a casino for the first time. He made all the classic errors of inexperience, not knowing the rules and protocols. His English also was not too strong, which compounded his difficulties.

There was one strange hand in which four or five of us had called a pre-flop raise, but then there was no betting from anybody on the flop or turn. The river was the king of spades. Seat 9 was first to act, and he jokingly said, "All in!" and laughed. The only deadly-serious, never-crack-a-smile player was in Seat 8 (on the button), and I noticed him perking up with great interest upon hearing those words. The dealer was already starting to react when Seat 8 said something to him about whether Seat 9's declaration was binding.

I was next to act and just waited, not wanting to complicate the situation. The dealer wisely didn't try to adjudicate it, but just made clear to everyone not to do or say anything more until it got sorted out, and then called for the floor. As the dealer was explaining what happened and Seat 9 was trying to talk his way out of being committed to what he had said, Seat 8 would quiet but insistently insert comments like "Verbal is binding." It could have been that he was just being a stickler for rules, but my sense was that he was eager to have that action stand. The floor's ruling was that the all-in was indeed a commitment of the player's chips, as it occurred when it was his turn. That made it a bet of something like $275 into a pot of about $70.

I had third pair. Had I been last to act, I would have had to seriously consider calling, because it was patently obvious that Seat 9 had nothing at all. But with three others yet to act behind me, that would have been too dangerous. Even if I had been ahead before the last card, it was too easy for one of them to have had a king and paired it. Besides, that king was the third spade, and a flush could now be lurking. Finally, there was Seat 8's behavior. He had literally not said a word to anyone before this, and now he was pressing his point.

I folded, as did the next two. Seat 8 called, showed the second-nut flush, and won all of Seat 9's chips.

Seat 9 took the blow with considerable equanimity, given the circumstances. He admitted that he didn't know the rules, so it was his own fault--which it was, but I think most people would still have been far more upset than he appeared to be.

Like joking to the airport ticket agent about having a bomb in your suitcase, making a joke about being "all in" at the poker table is a quick way to get yourself a whole mess o' trouble that you didn't want.


JT88Keys said...

I, like you, can be a real stickler when it comes to rules, but I also think there are grey areas where it's better to show some leniency. I'm sure Caesars has a no cursing rule, but that was ignored for the good of the game, right?

If the guy was an obvious newbie, forcing him to put all his chips in the middle over a clear joke will teach him a lesson, but it also might make him leave and never return to a casino particular Caesars. I think an explanation and a warning were merited this time.

Rakewell said...

I'm inclined to agree. It was the right ruling by the book. However, given the totality of the circumstances--including the fact that the dealer alertly stopped the action so that nobody else had yet acted on the guy's declaration--I think leniency would have been justified.

Those who pay attention to poker news will recognize that during the WSOP there arose an infamous case of very similar outlines during one of the big cash games, and the ruling to make the declaration stand was almost universally panned as a terrible one.

Anonymous said...

I would have min bet. Re-opens his action so he isn't committed. You make him your ally and tilt the other guy. Win-win. As for leniency, I disagree. It is not the floor or the dealers responsibility to judge intent. If you leave it open to judgement you wind up with different floor people making different rulings which is more likely to upset people in the long run. One of the biggest complaints I hear is a lack of consistency among management.

Rakewell said...


I don't understand your plan. "Min bet?" He was all in for about $275. If you mean min-raise, that would mean putting in $550. Not only did I not have $550 in front of me, but it would be crazy to risk that much with the one bad pair that I had, with three players yet to act.

Please explain.

Rob said...

This one really fascinates me, and of course, reminds me a bit of the "verbal is binding" incident I blogged about myself awhile back. But this one seems a lot different to me.

You don't make it clear how you were sure--and how obvious it was--that the guy was joking. Just being an obvious newbie may not have been enough.

That said, I believe I've seen a few players say something similar when the action was on them. And in those cases, it was so obvious that they were joking the dealer just kinda sushed them or put their finger to their lips and basically warned them that verbal was binding--but gave them the out that if they didn't mean it, they could take it back.

It seems to me that if it was really obvious the guy was joking and also that he really didn't understand the rules, I think they should have allowed him NOT to put all his chips in the pot.