Saturday, November 27, 2010


(Toon found at

I just realized that in not just one, but TWO recent posts I have failed to include a story that I had intended to write up. So while everybody is starting to tire of cold turkey sandwiches, it seems an appropriate time to throw at you a couple of poker leftovers. Both involve specific forms of bad behavior I've never seen before, even though I thought I had seen them all.


This happened yesterday. I was in seat 10 and not involved in the hand. The pot was contested between Seat 1 and Seat 8. On the river, Seat 1 checked, Seat 8 bet $55, with four to a straight on the board. Seat 1 grabbed a partial stack of chips, enough for a call plus a little bit--maybe three or four chips extra. He put the stack about halfway between himself and the dealer and said, "Could you count it out for me?" That was an odd request, so I leaned forward to watch, trying to figure out what was going on. I could immediately see that the reason he wasn't trying to count the chips himself was that his hands were shaking like a heroin junkie needing a fix. (We would soon learn that he had pocket aces, which explains why he was experiencing an adrenaline surge.) The dealer counted out $55, pushed the extra few back to the player, but left the stack where it was, in the "staging" area. As she was to explain later to the floorman, she felt that she couldn't push them across the betting line (which the Palms poker room enforces) for the player.

At this point, Seat 8 announced, "I have a straight," and showed his cards. Too late, the dealer tried to stop him. She turned to Seat 1, pointed at the stack of 11 red chips, and asked, "Is that a call?" Seat 1, now seeing that he had lost, said, "No, it's not a call. I fold." He showed his aces and mucked them.

It was pretty clear to everybody that his intention had been to call. Why else would he have the chips cut out? Yes, sometimes a player will cut out the chips for a call in order to see what he will have left if he calls and loses, but (1) that's much more a tournament than a cash game thing, and (2) I got no such vibe from him here. There was no indication that he was mulling over what to do. His failure to push his chips across the line was simply a combination of him being lost in the moment and his not understanding that the Palms relies on the betting line--until the dealer pointed this out to him, and he suddenly realized that he had an escape, a way of saving himself $55. All he had to do was lie about his intention.

Floor was called. The dealer gave an admirably clear, complete, and concise explanation of the relevant facts. (Not all dealers can do this. Floor people often get confused because dealers tell incoherent stories, including irrelevant points and neglecting crucial information. It drives me crazy when I have to sit there and listen to the issues get lost in the jumble.) Floor guy was clearly a bit stymied about what to do, and there followed a period of uncomfortable silence.

This void started to be filled by other players saying things like, "That's not right, dude." "That's wrong--you were calling." This went on for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, with no floor decision yet forthcoming, until finally the tension was broken by Seat 1 resigning himself to the situation. He picked up the $55 in chips and tossed them across the table to Seat 8. Floor left, there being nothing more to resolve.

Interestingly, Seat 8 verbally acknoweldged that he was partly to blame for the mess, as he had not waited for action to be clearly finalized before making his announcement, so he gave Seat 1 half of those chips back. (I'm not sure if it was five or six.)

Indeed, both players were at fault. Seat 8 should have waited to be sure that there really was a call locked in before exposing his cards. (In this post I described two situations in which I had to ask for clarification of whether there was a river call before showing my hand.) But his mistake was just that--an innocent error, with none of what attorneys in the area of criminal law like to call the mens rea, the guilty mind.

Seat 1, by contrast, was being dirty, trying to angle-shoot himself an extra $55. I don't think he had malice aforethought; he didn't ask the dealer to count the chips for him as the first step in an elaborate plan to fake a call and withdraw it if he found out that he had lost. Rather, it was a spur-of-the-moment attempt to take advantage of a situation when he realized that he could. Still, it reveals an ugly personality. A player who is at heart honest and ethical simply would not stoop to that, either by planning or on impulse.

Secondary lesson: Betting lines cause more problems than they solve. Erik Seidel says they are "an angle-shooter's paradise." About all of which, see here.


The second story is an incident that occurred when I was playing with Grange95 at the Venetian, in the session I wrote about here. (I think this was before BWOP joined us.) This pot was contested between a young man in Seat 1 and 40ish woman in Seat 5. On the river, she bet, he called, saw that he had lost, and momentarily lost control of himself. He threw his cards hard, hitting his opponent in the chest with them.

At first glance, it looked like he had deliberately thrown them at her. That was clearly the interpretation placed on the action by the dealer--Sabrina, whom I have known since she worked at the Hilton back in 2007. Sabrina is a no-nonsense type, with zero tolerance for bad player behavior. (That's not a criticism--it's praise. I wish more dealers adopted the same attitude.) She immediately started calling for the floor, and was fully prepared to have Seat 1 thrown out on his ear--no warnings, just gone, BOOM.

(I am torn at this point as to which pop culture reference to incorporate. Option A, Monopoly: "Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200." Option B, Pulp Fiction, with Jimmie, played by Quentin Tarantino, explaining what will happen if his wife comes home and finds all this "gangster shit" going on: "I'm gonna get fuckin' divorced. No marriage counselling, no trial separation, I'm gonna get fuckin' divorced." Go ahead--you pick. I can't decide which one is more amusing and appropriate.)

But something interesting happened. The instant those cards hit the player, Seat 1's face fell. He was aghast. He started apologizing even before Sabrina could react. He said he had been aiming for the muck. Actually, I believe him, not only because of how quickly and sincerely he reacted, but because I had noticed that the cards took a weird sort of trajectory, initially dipping down, then catching some air and rising up again. The fact that the player hit by the flying cards was the woman who had just beat him in the pot was purely a coincidence--they would have struck whoever happened to be in that seat, as it was on the far end of the line between Seat 1 and the muck.

The victim was incredibly cool about it. In fact, it was only her immediate and complete bestowal of forgiveness that got Seat 1 off the hook. He was truly humbled by his gaffe, and ended a profuse string of apologies by noting, "I need to learn to control both my temper and my aim."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rakewell.