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by Mike O Malley |  Published: May 17, 2005


I am currently in the process of writing a new rulebook, and in doing so, I have come across some rules I don't understand, some I don't like, and some I think should be changed. The more rules that I write about, talk about, and see in use, the more I realize how diverse and inconsistent poker rules are in general.

In most poker room rulebooks, there is a rule that reads: "You must declare that you are playing the board before you throw your cards away; otherwise, you relinquish all claim to the pot." In other words, a hold'em player is allowed to play a hand to the river, announce he is playing the board, throw his hand into the muck, and then claim part of the pot if the other player(s) can't beat the board. That sounds good, until you look at another rule that is also part of most rulebooks, and it reads: "To win any part of a pot, a player must show all of his cards faceup on the table, whether they were used in the final hand played or not."

Here are two rules that seem to contradict each other. I have rarely ever seen a hold'em player announce that he was going to play the board and then muck his hand. It's not a good rule, and I believe it's one that should not be included in any rulebook. All players who are involved in receiving any part of a pot should be forced to show the hand with which they are winning.

On a more action-oriented note, there is an inconsistency as to whether a live straddle should be considered one of the allotted number of raises. I firmly believe that a straddle should be considered a third blind, allowing the player to have last action (as a blind would), and that it should not count as a raise. Straddles were first used in lowball games before they were brought into play in flop games. In the lowball games, a straddle was not considered a raise, and that shouldn't have been changed. I recently made phone calls to many major poker rooms to find out whether a straddle was considered a raise or not. It seems that it is about fifty-fifty. A true straddle is not considered a raise, and because it is allowed to induce action, I believe that the maximum number of raises should be allowed on top of the straddle bet.

Lastly, I want to discuss a rule change that I think should be made in part due to the recent explosion of poker. Historically, a new player who enters a game of $10-$20 and higher has to post a blind in order to start playing. This normally hasn't applied to smaller-limit games, because the thought was that lower-limit players will hop into action quicker and won't take shots at trying to get free rounds of play. With all of the new players the Internet is pushing to poker rooms, and taking into account that even lower-limit players are more sophisticated nowadays, I believe it is time to start making all new players post a blind to start playing. This rule should be universal regardless of the limits. Not only will it make a poker room consistent throughout, it will teach lower-limit players what to expect when they move up in limits.

Those are a few of the rules I have come across recently that made me think. There are many more. If you know of a rule that is being used in your poker room that you don't like, feel free to e-mail me and let me know. I will do my best to offer the pros and cons, and provide my opinion of what I think the best version of the rule should be. ♠