Sunday, September 09, 2012

Another strange rule at Mandalay Bay

How many times have I used some variation on that post title? About a dozen, I'd guess. Every time I think I have come across every oddball rule in their book (a book, incidentally, which players are not allowed to see), I'm wrong, and there is another to be discovered. It's like they have an inexhaustible horn-o'-plenty of weird house rules.

I was there last night. I got into a hand against a regular local. I had 5-5 and position. He raised, I called. Flop JJ8. He bet, I called. Turn 2. He checked, I bet, he called. River queen. His check-call on the turn had made me think that he might have missed the flop but still have a higher pocket pair than mine, like 7s or 9s--and if he didn't, then that queen on the end might have done me in, so I checked behind on the river.

I waited for him to show his cards. He didn't, instead pointing at me and saying, "I called your bet." Before I could say anything, the dealer intervened, telling him that since the last round of betting had no action, showdown went in clockwise order from small blind to button. That is indeed the standard rule.

But this guy insisted that Mandalay's house rule is different, and when there is no betting on fifth street, first to show is whoever took the last aggressive action (bet or raise) on a previous betting round. This player has enough time in the chair that I thought he could easily be right, so I kept mum and let the dealer handle it. The player insisted that the dealer call the floor. He did so. Floor confirmed. I have heard that casinos in Europe tend to follow this practice, but it is not the standard way in the U.S.

Anyway, I showed my 5s. He then showed his A-Q and took the pot.

In terms of that hand, my consolation is that at every point where I was ahead, I put money into the pot, and when I wasn't, I didn't. That's how it's supposed to be, right?

In terms of the rule, there's a follow-up discussion to be had. Readers with elephantine memories may recall that I wrote about a similar situation, also occurring at Mandalay Bay, in one of my very earliest blog posts, on November 9, 2006, when this blog had existed for less than two weeks.

But I got things wrong in that post. I've known this for a long, long time. Probably within a year of having written it I had gained enough additional experience at the tables to know that I had made a mistake. Once in a while a situation at the table would remind me of it and I'd think that I should publish a correction, but then I never got around to it. Today I repent of that ongoing neglect.

In that situation, there was no betting on the last round because I had moved all-in on the flop, and my only opponent had called. Back then, my understanding was that such a situation was functionally equivalent of there voluntarily being no betting on the last round, even though both (or all) players still in the hand have chips left and could bet if they wanted to. Furthermore, my reading of Cooke's rule book did nothing to dissuade me from that view. His wording seems to support it, though it's not explicit. (See that old post for the citation.)

Krieger and Bykofsky's The Rules of Poker is also ambiguous about whether these two situations should be handled the same way. From page 135, rule 5.18:
On the final betting round, the last player who actively bet or raised the pot (and was then called) is required to show his hand first. Once he shows his hand, other players reveal their down-cards in clockwise order. If all the remaining players check on the final round, the showdown begins with the player who is seated to the left of the dealer in community-card games such as hold'em and Omaha, and the player whose board requires him to act first in stud games.
I can't tell for sure what these authors' meaning is for situations like the one I described in 2006, when there is no betting on the river because there are no more chips left to bet. The first sentence seems to imply that the question reverts to whoever made the last aggressive action on a previous street. But even that is not really clear because of the introductory phrase, "On the final betting round." It could be that the wording of their rule is unclear because they just didn't anticipate that specific question. (I think that is the most likely explanation for Cooke, too.)

Robert's Rules of Poker, though, is explicit on this point:
If everyone checks (or is all-in) on the final betting round, the player who acted first is the first to show the hand. If there is wagering on the final betting round, the last player to take aggressive action by a bet or raise is the first to show the hand.
So he plainly makes the two situations (i.e., no betting on the last round by choice or because there is no more action possible) equivalent.

My experience, however, is that the uniform practice in Vegas poker rooms is that an all-in and call prior to what would otherwise be the last round of betting means that the showdown order reverts to that final action, and the aggressor shows before the caller. Except, apparently, at Mandalay Bay.

Back in 2006 I was right about the point that this is how Mandalay does it, but I was wrong about that being the standard practice. M.B. is, in fact, the odd man out, as it is on so many other small points of poker order. I have long known that I got that post wrong about what the standard practice is (and I'm now embarrassed to see how I spoke of the benighted fools who were not nearly as savvy as I). I had come to assume that what the floor supervisor told me that day was simply an error. What I learned last night is that he was correct--but only because Mandalay's house rule is different from the standard rule.


NerveEnding said...

I haven't been there in a long time, but The M casino does it this way, too, i.e. last aggressor shows first.

JT88Keys said...

So if you had shown and he decided he was beat and folded his cards would you have asked to see them? Would Mandalay Bay's strange house rules have even allowed you that option?

If he showed you the winner would you have tried to muck without showing? How likely do you think it is that he would have asked to see your hand?

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Why is it such a big deal who shows first? I'd much prefer a rule that says if a hand goes to a show down all hands must be revealed and then these strange standoffs would cease to exist.

Rakewell said...

1. No, I would not ask to see his cards. I'm content with the pot. I don't know MB's rule on that point.

2. If he were required to show first and had me beat, yes, my usual practice is to quietly muck and move on to the next hand. No point giving out information unnecessarily. The exception is two-pair hands. With those, it's easy enough to make a hand-reading mistake that I usually turn it face up just to be sure that a momentary confusion doesn't cost me a pot that could be mine.

3. Poker is, in large part, an information war. Gathering more information on opponents while giving out as little about oneself as possible is an overarching strategy.

4. No standoffs should occur. If all casinos implemented the same, standardized rules, and if all players knew them and followed them, showdowns would never take more than a few seconds.

Pete said...

From discussions with players dealers from other parts of the country I do not believe this rule is terribly unusual in the US. I do agree that it not common in Las Vegas.

--S said...

NerveEnding is correct, the M has always handled is as last aggressive action shows first.

Anonymous said...

OMG you are at a 1/2 table. 9 of 10 people do not know or care enough about the info.

People need to stop doing this. All this does is piss people off. So you have 4 people that are there just for fun and you think protecting what you had is more important than keeping the game happy. LOL Thats just crazy. Be the nice guy at the table and keep people happy while at the same time losing their money.
Also when are you going to step up to atleast 2/5. The 1/2 grind sucks