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Habits and Procedures

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Sep 01, 2013


Steve ZolotowI was all set to start a column or perhaps even a series of columns about odds. The concept of odds is frequently misunderstood and/or misapplied. I was amused to see that in the newest Star Trek movie the Vulcan scientist, Mr. Spock gets it wrong. But more on that in the next column. Right now I must discuss some strange events that occurred at my table on day 1B of the WSOP main event.

One of the most essential things you can do as a poker player is to know all the rules and procedures for the locations where you play. If you don’t know them, you may unknowingly violate them to your own detriment.

There are two habits you should develop:

1. Always make sure that your intentions are clear to the dealer and the other players, and
2. Always protect you hand. The general rule in most venues is that verbal bets and raises are binding. If a player says nothing, and puts in an “oversized chip” it is deemed to be a call, if there has already been a bet (even after a blind bet) and it is deemed to be a bet if no action has occurred.

In no-limit, if the blinds are 200-400 and you throw in a 1,000 chip without saying raise, that is a call. (If you throw it in and say raise, that is generally ruled as a raise to 1,000, although I have seen it ruled to be only a minimum raise to 800. All those problems and confusions can be avoided by saying, “I raise to 1,000,” before throwing in the chip.

Incident One: In that situation preflop, a woman at our table threw in a 1,000 and didn’t say raise until after the chip had landed. So her intended raise was ruled as a call. The big blind now got in for free. She had Q-Q and he had 4-3 offsuit. He would never have called her raise, but his dream flop of 10-3-3 allowed him to win a very large pot. Notice that the habit of making a verbal declaration would have avoided all this.

Make your declaration as specific as possible. Incident Two: With blinds of 150-300, the hand was three-bet preflop, creating a pot of nearly 4,500. A player now announced “three,” and threw in a 5,000 chip. His opponent released his hand toward the dealer, but it never touched any other cards. The dealer announced his bet as 300 (not the 3,000 he had intended.) The floor was called. The ruling was that since both 300 and 3,000 were legal bets, he was deemed to have made the lower bet and thus his bet was 300.

Second, since his opponent’s cards never touched the muck, he was allowed to take them back and call 300. The bettor went on to win the pot anyway, so his mistake actually gained him 300, but a different card on fourth street could have created an unnecessary disaster. This hand illustrates the importance of both making your intention specific and clear — “I bet 3,000,” and protecting your cards. The dealer could easily have swept his opponent’s cards into the muck, in which case the amount of the bet would have been irrelevant.

The WSOP seems to run a little more smoothly each year. Unfortunately they need so many dealers that some who are inexperienced or from different venues with different rules and procedures are recruited to fill out the rotation. Since they are working long hours under high-pressure, mistakes happen. This makes it even more important that you pay close attention to what they are doing. They may mis-split a pot or make some other mistake you can prevent. Again, let me emphasize that making your intentions clear prevents errors and makes the dealers’ lives easier.

I noticed that many dealers, even some experienced ones, forget to release the deck before cutting. This means that after shuffling they should remove both hands from the squared-up deck, showing players that there is no crimp or jog, and then cut. This happens automatically if there are antes, because the dealer releases the deck to bring in the antes. Some dealers release the deck after cutting, which is unnecessary and a waste of time. Those of us who have been playing poker a long time understand that this procedure was put in place to make cheating much harder. Modern poker rooms have done well at eliminating crooked dealers. Following the procedures like releasing the deck adds another level of safety and security to the game. You, as a player, should insist the dealer release the deck. This procedure, like announcing your intentions and guarding your hole cards, will help protect you from something bad happening.

On the lighter side: I have two suggestions for poker inventions:

1. There are noise-canceling headphones: I suggest that someone invent bad card canceling headphones; these would prevent the wearer catching a bad card.
2. Poker Viagra: This pill will make your good hands stand up. ♠

Steve ‘Zee’ Zolotow, aka The Bald Eagle, is a successful games player. He has been a full-time gambler for over 35 years. With two WSOP bracelets and few million in tournament cashes, he is easing into retirement. He currently devotes most of his time to poker. He can be found at some major tournaments and playing in cash games in Vegas. When escaping from poker, he hangs out in his bars on Avenue A in New York City — The Library near Houston and Doc Holliday’s on 9th St. are his favorites.