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Be Careful What You Ask For!

by Jan Fisher |  Published: Mar 22, 2005


It seems that lately I have been the Dear Abby of the poker world. With poker's growth beyond belief and cardrooms scrambling to find qualified help, I have been getting a slew of letters with players asking me to commiserate with them about bad rulings, dealer errors, or other sad situations. At our recent WPDG (Wednesday Poker Discussion Group) meeting, we talked about how tired some players are of being the "table nit" and having to correct errors and provide rules. "He already has had one short buy, dealer," or, "Wasn't that a string bet?" are but a few situations we discussed. I tried to tell my friends at the meeting that it is their duty to assist whenever it is needed. Yes, a cardroom has a responsibility to provide a good environment in which to play, but with poker's rapid growth, the training of new staffs has not kept up with the demand, and there are many inexperienced cardroom employees who are doing the best they can. That is no excuse, but that's the way it is. Until a staff gets up to speed and gets the experience that only time can bring, it is up to us, the players, to assist and make some unpopular corrections when an error has or is about to be made. That being said, here's a letter I received recently from a player.

I must preface it with the fact that I hate it when a reader writes to me to get me to agree with him so that he can show his buddies how right he is, and he is wrong. I just hate that, because I feel very bad. A guy takes the time to write to me, asking for verification and a little sympathy, and I have to tell him he is wrong. Sometimes, the situations involve an external force, such as an inexperienced dealer, or a good one who isn't paying attention. Perhaps a dealer kills a hand that shouldn't have been killed, or something similar. Almost universally, these are situations that could have been prevented had the player known the rules himself and/or properly protected himself until he got the rules presented. Anyway, here is the letter:

Dear Jan,

Can you help me? I need help to prove that I was right in a situation I got into the last time I played in my local game. I had the winning hand, but before I showed my hand, the first person to act threw in his hand (he was angry). It was a pair of treys and they landed faceup by the dealer. The dealer didn't properly put them in the muck. Instead, he left them turned faceup as if they were being played. Then, the only other guy in the hand folded, so I then mucked my hand and tried to retrieve the pot. Both of the hands in front of me were mucked, right? Weren't they both dead? The guy with the pocket treys argued the fact that I had to show the winning hand. I think this is not the case, because he, out of turn, threw his hand in, and … well, you get the point. I am boiling mad, as the floorperson awarded him the pot. I can't believe it!

Can you e-mail me some hard-and-fast rules so that I can rub them in his face tonight?


John Doe

So, can you see why this is hard for me? This player took the time to write and I have to tell him he lost the pot due to his own error and not knowing the house rules where he played. There are many cardrooms that have a forward-motion rule. Whether it be a bet or a fold, if you were moving forward with that action in progress, the action stands. If that was the rule where he was playing, and the other player was in the act of mucking his cards when they flipped up, the hand would have been dead whether or not the dealer properly mucked it. Since the writer didn't know if the cardroom had this rule, and obviously it did not, it was his responsibility to "protect his hand" and wait until the pot was awarded (by the dealer) before tossing in his hand. Had all of the other hands been properly mucked, he would have had to table his hand only if someone in the game requested it or if it was a house rule that a called hand be tabled under any circumstances. The hand that was faceup was still live, and was properly awarded the pot.

This was a tough lesson for my friend to learn, I am sure. I have the feeling that not only was there no rubbing the situation in someone else's face, but some crow was barbecued that night.

A good rule to know that will make all of the other rules seem much less important is this: Protect yourself at all times. A hand is not dead until it is dead. The pot is not yours until it is pushed to you. Only when the pot is being pushed to you should you release your cards. Class dismissed. spades

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