Friday, August 19, 2016

Lee Jones responds

Lee Jones has an article at PokerNews responding to mine of earlier this week (see post immediately below). As would be expected from him, it's thoughtful, articulate, and comes down on the side of going out of your way to make the game friendly and fun, even at the cost of "a shekel or two less that ends up in your pocket."

I have no quarrel with the position he takes. Moreover, it is perfectly consistent with the general attitude he has shown in a couple of other recent controversies about the intersection of rules, angle-shooting, and generosity to other players--see here and here.

Though Lee addresses all three of my examples, most attention from others has focused on my first one, which has caused me to think about it more. Specifically, I've thought about how the situation is both similar to and different from the common one of a relative newcomer to poker putting out a single oversized chip after another player bets, intending it as a raise, but with no verbal announcement.

The two situations are similar in that an ambiguity has been created by a player's action. Is the tapping a check or not a check? Is the single chip a call or a raise?

The key difference is that in the latter scenario, we have a pretty robust, universal rule that dictates how the ambiguity is to be resolved. In home games or pub poker, the player might be given a chance to explain his intention and let it stand, whatever it may be. But in any other setting that I've experienced, whether tournament or cash game, the dealer will automatically announce it as a call, and, if the player protests that it was meant to be a raise, explain the applicable rule. There's no grace period; the outcome is not dependent on the player's intention or level of experience with live play, nor is it decided by asking the other players whether or not to allow it to stand as a raise. Players tend to make this mistake just once, because the consequences of getting it wrong are politely but consistently enforced.

With the questionable check, though, we don't have a comparable interpretive rule. I quoted Roy Cooke's rule book, and I think he's right to have such a rule, but it's by no means universally treated as such. This means that every time the tapping ambiguity is created, it has to get resolved on some sort of ad hoc basis: The dealer tries to determine intent, perhaps other players are questioned about whether they were misled or whether they want to allow the offending player to still be able to bet if he wants to, perhaps the decision is guided by whether others acted in turn afterward.

If we had a universally enforced rule along the lines of Cooke's wording, and, as with the oversized chip, it were universally regarded as the dealer's job to announce the ambiguous tapping as a check, it would end the need to devise a custom resolution of the ambiguity every time it occurs. It, too, would become a mistake that new players would tend to make just once. Other players wouldn't be put in the position of having to decide whether to extend generosity or protect their own interests.

Perhaps the TDA will deem this worthy of consideration for a new rule at their next meeting?

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