Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine

Players Don’t Always Know the Rules

Clarification of some TDA rules

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Mar 18, 2011


I recently spent a week playing in poker tournaments outside of Las Vegas. Several situations occurred at my tables during tournament play that I think are worth mentioning, because there seems to be some misunderstanding of some of the TDA [Tournament Directors Association] rules. In fact, I heard players quoting TDA rules to others at the table that were flat-out incorrect. Since there seems to be so many misconceptions about the TDA rules, I will clarify some of the most commonly misunderstood regulations.

In the first incident, a player exposed one of his cards to an opponent in the middle of a hand. Several of the players at the table told the dealer to kill his hand, because they thought that exposing a card in the middle of a hand should result in the hand being ruled dead. I spoke up and asked the dealer to call the floorman before he did anything, since I knew that this was not the correct rule. The floorman came to the table and explained that hands are not killed in situations like this; instead, the hand plays out, and once the hand is completed, the player who exposed his card gets a penalty. In this situation, it was a one-round penalty, meaning that the offending player had to sit out one hand for every person who was at the table at the time of the infraction. In this case, the player had to sit out eight hands. Posting blinds and antes is still required of the player while he is serving the penalty. Penalties can vary, but the most common is a one-round penalty. Other penalties include a warning, a one-hand penalty, a multi-round penalty, or even disqualification if the offense is serious enough.

I think that a tournament director should have some discretion when it comes to doling out penalties. I believe in the “fairness” rule. For example, I don’t think that a novice player who doesn’t know the rules should necessarily be given the same penalty as a seasoned player who knows the rules and purposely violates them as a form of angle-shooting. In the above scenario,

if I were called to the table and had never before seen the player who exposed the card, and he told me that it was the first time he had ever entered a tournament, I probably would have taken him away from the table and explained the rule, making sure that he missed at least one hand while we were talking. We certainly don’t want to discourage or embarrass players to the point that they might never return to the poker room, simply because they don’t know all of the tournament rules. On the other hand, if a tournament “regular” committed the same offense, I would give him the full one-round penalty. Additionally, I would explain the correct rule to all of the players at the table and advise them that any more similar violations would result in a one-round penalty (or worse in the event of a repeat violation). I also think that the tournament director in a small cardroom who knows all of the players and can recognize a novice has more discretion in giving penalties than, for example, a floorman at the World Series of Poker. In a WSOP event, the rules should be enforced uniformly, since there are so many players that the floorman can’t distinguish the novices from the tournament veterans.

Another incident occurred in which a player did not see that the pot was raised before his turn to act, and he put in the amount required just to call the original bet. The next player folded, at which time the dealer told the calling player that he had not put in enough chips. The player wanted to take back his chips, since he did not know that the pot had been raised. The dealer wasn’t sure of what to do, so he called the supervisor. The floorman correctly ruled that the player could not take his chips out of the pot. His choices were to leave the chips in the pot and fold his hand, or put in the additional amount of the raise and play the hand. Poker is a visual game, and players are responsible for knowing how much the size of a bet is, and must accept responsibility for assisting in the game running smoothly.

I advise anyone who enters a poker tournament to know the standard TDA rules, which can be found at Also, if anything unusual happens at the table, do not allow the other players or the dealer to make a ruling. Ask the dealer to call the floorman, as the players and the dealer often do not know the correct ruling.

Change of topic: There is a new tournament series for women called the Nevada State Ladies Poker Championship, which will take place at the Peppermill Casino in Reno, Nevada, March 11-13. All ladies are invited to join me for a great weekend. In addition to playing poker, there will be some complimentary extracurricular activities, including a wine-tasting party, a Sunday brunch, and a poker seminar given by Jan Fisher and me.

Also, Card Player Cruises still has a few cabins left on the April 24 Caribbean poker cruise out of Galveston, Texas.

For more information on either of these events, please contact me at

Now, let’s play poker! ♠

_Linda Johnson is a partner in Card Player Cruises. She invites you to check out her website at for a listing of exciting 2011 poker-cruise destinations. She is an instructor for WPT Boot Camp, and is available for hosting tournaments, corporate events, seminars, and charity fundraisers. _