Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What chips to take to a new table?

When I did a table change yesterday at Planet Hollywood, it reminded me of something I left out of my room review of Harrah's Atlantic City. They have a strange rule there that I've never seen or heard of anywhere else. If you have more chips in front of you than the maximum buy-in, if you change tables you must pocket the excess. I.e., you can't move to a new table with more chips than if you were joining it as a new player in the room. This is decidedly odd, as it reduces the number of chips in play, and casinos usually have every incentive to keep more chips on the table.

It's a dream come true for players who like to lock up profits and not put their winnings at risk--i.e., the squirrelers or pigeonholers. Instead of having to try to sneak chips off the table and into their pockets when nobody is looking, they can just ask for a table change and management forces them to go south with the amount that is over the table max.

This really makes no sense. You might as well make it a rule that anything you win over the table max must automatically be taken off the table, whether you move or not. Why is it any worse to come to a new table with more chips than the max, but OK to stay where you are with more chips than the max? It is illegal to take your profit off the table if you stay put, but mandatory to do so if you're just moving to a different table of the same game. That may be the single most illogical pair of rules I've ever run across in a poker room.

Incidentally, a couple of months ago I learned for the first time that Mandalay Bay has the opposite rule: If you're changing tables, and you're below the minimum initial buy-in, you have to rebuy to at least the minimum to go to a new table. This makes some sense, because (1) it keeps more chips in action, which is good for both the casino and the players, and (2) when there's an empty seat to be filled, the players at the table have a reasonable expectation that it will be filled by somebody bringing at least the minimum buy-in.

If this rule is in place and enforced at any other casino in town, I have not encountered it. (If readers know of such, please speak up in the comments.) At the time I learned of it, I thought it was unique to Mandalay, but when I came home and looked it up, I was surprised to find it suggested in Roy Cooke and John Bond's Cooke's Rules of Real Poker. On p. 56 they write:

9.02 Minimum buy-in

The minimum buy-in applies to a player's initial buy-in when entering the
game, or a re-buy after going all-in in a pot or when returning to the table
after leaving during a period that would constitute the same playing session. If
a player is transferring from a game of the same type and limits then he does
not need to buy additional chips. (ALTERNATE RULE: A player transferring to
another game of the same type and limits must enter the game he is transferring
to with at least the minimum buy-in, unless he is coming from a broken game. The
logic behind this rule is that insofar as the players at the new table are
concerned, the transferring player is a new player. This alternate rule induces
action and is preferred, but because it is not widely accepted, it is the
alternate rather than the main rule.)

I like the Cooke/Mandalay Bay rule. I hate the Harrah's A.C. rule.


Cardgrrl said...

I thing the Harrah's AC rule is good for the game.

Weak players do not like to be at a table with a huge stack. They are afraid that they will be "bullied" (they don't understand concept of effective stacks). What that actually means is that they don't like being forced to realize that their entire stack is genuinely and actively at risk in every single hand of No Limit Hold'em. And trying to explain to them why some random guy with a huge pile of chips gets to sit down at their table when they were limited to buying in at the supposed "table max" ~ well, I pity the dealers who have to do that. I have seen players stand up and leave when someone with 4 racks of red gets moved to their table. They feel outgunned and outclassed and decide to take their puny little stake and skedaddle.

One reason most poker rooms do not have uncapped buy-ins at lower limits is precisely to avoid that intimidation factor (and to keep casual players from going broke quicker hence earning the house more rake).

Furthermore, "going south" with profits is a) not that big a deal, and b) easy to do already.

A) It's all one big session. The weak player with a big stack is going to give it all back eventually. Most weak players don't have the sense to book a profit, and get up from the table when they've lucksacked a profit. They play until dinnertime (see point B, next) or until they go to bed or until they're broke. Players savvy enough to ask for a table change in order to pocket their winnings are not the fish you are looking for anyway. Donkeys don't do table selection. (With one exception: the only table selection I've ever seen casual players do is AVOIDING tables with huge stacks on them.)

B) Anybody who really wants to go south can do it. Just take a break. Cash out. Have a snack or a meal. Stretch your legs. Poke your head back in the room after half an hour. Is your seat taken? Is the table you were at now full? Fine, buy back in at a new table. No one will have kept track of what you had at your previous table, I promise. Or... take the jitney to the Borgata (or any other nearby casino).

The only bad thing about going south is when you do it and continue to play at the same table. Then you are taking chips that WERE at risk, your table stakes, and taking them out of play. That reasoning simply doesn't apply when you sit down at a new table.

Lag said...


I posted about the security team doing the fills back when you reviewed the room. Now, this time I'm going to write something similar: what is weird to you is routine to me. At both CT casinos, the rule is the same as this AC one. You may not change tables and sit at the new one with a stack higher than the max.

The one exception to the rule is if your table is broken. Then, you can take your stack with you, if you choose.

I always found this rule illogical, for the reasons you mention. But, I just thought of one possible reason for it. Perhaps it is meant to guard against some big stack that now finds himself at a table full of shorter stacks purposely choosing a weak-looking table that has a lot of money on it, then bringing his/her big stack to that table to try to take the big stacks at that new table.

That sounds like a bit of strange reasoning, and I admit that it is. But, I can't think of any other reason why this rule exists!

PQC said...

This rule is quite common in this area of town. Northeast USA games are actually are smaller games, its impossible to make a living paying 1/2 because min 60 max 200 , 2/5 min is 200 to 500. Our games play smaller then Vegas poker. A Vegas 1/2 = 2/5 and a Vegas 2/5 is closer to a 5/10. and a Vegas 5/10 is basically UNCAPPED!!
The Whittle down to maximum rule was created because many players complain that "they put in the "time" to build their stack from the table maximum" and they deserve the right to be the table captain.

When changing tables you have the option in most of the CT casino to buy in for a little or as much as you want. YES if you have 50 dollars left you can change tables with the 50. if you have 2000 in CT you can bring the whole 2000.

IN NJ as little but only up to the max because your robbing him of his table captain status (some casino allow either the MAX allowed buy in, SOME actually allow up to COVER the biggest stack at that table. so if the table chip leader has 800 you can bring 800 over. Some will only allow table max

Anonymous said...

Is this really that hard to understand? What am I missing here? If someone wants to change tables and they not from a broken game, why should they be allowed to bring their greater than max buy-in stack with them to the new table and and thus have an advantage over the other players at the new table? They shouldn't, and that's why the rule is in place. Why have a max buy-in rule at all if you are going to allow people to do a table change with a greater than max buy-in stack?

When you ELECT to change tables and enter a NEW game (regardless if the stakes are the same), you are in fact QUITTING the game. Asking the floor for a table change is asking to start over as a new player at another table and what you did against the previous table you quit should have nothing to do to effect the players at your new table.

If you want to continue playing as the table's big stack player, then stay at the same table.

Matthew Yauch said...

"what you did against the previous table you quit should have nothing to do to effect the players at your new table."

Then as Rakewell suggested they might as well force you to pocket all profit above the max buyin. What if you bust someone and a new player sits down at that table? Why is it ok for your big stack to affect new players at your own table as they join, but not against new players at another table?

Anonymous said...


Easy answer.....they are NEW players. Everyone that sits down has to start with a max number of chips they can buy. It's a very very simple and logical rule. Elect to join a new game (NOT a broken table) you start over in chips. If you are changing tables and had a massive stack at your old table, you pocket the winnings and you start over at max buy in at your new table JUST LIKE EVERY SINGLE OTHER PLAYER AT YOUR TABLE WAS RESTRICTED TO.

Not trying to be an ass, but this is elementry logic as to why these rules are in place. If someone thinks they can just step into a NEW game and buy the table bully position, they are sadly mistaken

Rakewell said...

Anonymous: If the rule is so obviously and indisputably correct and superior, as you seem to think (and as is implied by your "elementry [sic] logic" comment), can you point me to any published rule book that takes your position? Can you name even one of the 55 or so poker rooms in the Las Vegas area that uses the rule as you think it should be?

If not, is it just that every Nevada poker room manager and every author of every poker rule book has missed out what you find so obvious?

Or is it just possible that there are sound, cogent reasons and arguments for the standard rule being the way it is (which, by the way, is not the Harrah's A.C. way)?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you letting me know about this. This is a rule in which will no longer be in place. PLease continue to let me know any irregularities as I am working on changing many rules. bu the way, this is phPokerMgr. Consider this changed.

Rakewell said...

Good to hear it, Joe. I hadn't been aware of PH having this rule when I wrote this. As you can see from the comments, though, it does have its defenders. I remain unpersuaded, however.