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Not Playing Cricket

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Sep 01, 2005


How many of us, I wonder, have suddenly found ourselves in situations in which we've become the jam in the sandwich? If this happens in a cash game, we can, of course, get up and leave. If we feel we're being squeezed out of a tournament, however, we're truly stuck.

Recently, in a high-profile tournament, a gentleman - whom we'll call Mr. X - suffered a self-inflicted conflict of interest. A well-known player had a 50 percent interest in him, but that didn't deter Mr. X from making a separate arrangement with another player (Mr. Y), also exchanging 50 percent. Obviously, if Mr. X had consent from his backer for such an arrangement, all would seem to be well, especially if they had about an equal amount of chips when the second deal was made. However, both Mr. X and Mr. Y got to the final table, with the former the chip leader and the latter struggling to stay on board. Now, an interesting thing happened. Mr. X stayed at the top for some time and Mr. Y slowly began to accumulate chips. At one point, perhaps when there were only three or four players left, Mr. X passed K-Q in the big blind for an all-in raise that amounted to maybe 10 percent of his huge stack. Perhaps our chip leader had a tell on his opponent, and just knew that he was such a huge underdog that the call was not warranted. Whatever the reason, Mr. X was eventually knocked out of the tournament in third place, and his colleague (who got extremely lucky in one pot) finished first. Obviously, Mr. X's backer was the loser in this situation, receiving 50 percent of third-place prize money instead of first or second. As for Mr. X, what a result for him, paying out half of his third-place winnings and receiving half of a massive first prize. It could be that everything that took place at that final table was aboveboard, but if I were the backer, I would definitely have a sour taste in my mouth.

In a similar vein, if an investor wants to back several players - regardless of whether or not he's playing himself - this situation should be announced to the tournament director, who then should make it his duty to see that those players are never at the same table, except when it becomes unavoidable in the last stages of a tournament. The same goes for family members. Tom and I never play in the same cash game, and very rarely enter the same tournaments. When we have competed in the same tournament, we have always asked to be put at different tables. However, once, about 15 years ago, we both got to the final table of a £30 competition and found ourselves in the last three. There were only three prizes. I had by far the most chips, and Tom had the least. Tom told the other player that we were an item - not common knowledge at the time - and asked whether he would like to do an equal three-way split, with each player getting more than second-place prize money. That seemed eminently fair to me, and avoided any suggestions of collusion. But, the third player wasn't interested in a split and wanted to play on. I warned him that I would be doing my utmost to knock him out, but he would not listen. Eventually, when Tom barely had the big blind left, I sent the fellow packing. I think we were very fair with him, especially inasmuch as I had at least three times his amount of chips. However, he obviously was either very rich and the money didn't matter to him or he had a huge ego and something to prove.

Even if other players are not colluding against you, the perception that they are can be enough to upset your composure. I once found myself at a final table of 13 players with 50 minutes of playing time left. Nine of the players were speaking to each other in a foreign language (we were in England), and the cardroom manager was conspicuous by his absence. I didn't win the competition, and as soon as I was dispatched, the nine carved the prize money up between themselves. I never returned to that casino. Obviously, the cardroom manager either favoured this clique or was so weak and ineffectual that he could not look after the interests of all of his other punters.

Dealmaking is fine by me - as long as it's aboveboard and all involved are in agreement. The nine did not include me in their deliberations and conspired to knock me out. When Jack McClelland ran the World Series, he would stop the clock, invite all those involved, along with their backers, into his office, and when an agreement had been thrashed out, he would write down the details so that each player received the correct amount of prize money. Nowadays, because the television people do not condone dealmaking, there is a greater likelihood of collusion. As with all things that are banned or frowned upon, they thrive in the shadows. So, let's all "play cricket" and have everything up-front and out in the open.

Lucy "Golden Ovaries" Rokach has long been one of the most successful tournament players in Europe, with 14 major tournament titles to her name in the last five years alone. She hails from the Midlands in the UK, but can usually be found on the European tournament trail.