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Decisions, Decisions

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Mar 04, 2015

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Linda JohnsonI am proud to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Tournament Directors Association (better known as the TDA). When something unusual happens at a tournament anywhere in the world, it often sparks a discussion among board members as to how the situation should best be handled. Opinions are sought in an effort to attain the best solution for the issue should it happen again.

Well, just when you think you’ve heard it all, you find out you are wrong. I will summarize a situation that happened at a major tournament recently. Apparently a well-known player got eliminated when his pocket kings were beaten by his opponent’s pocket aces; he re-entered the event. The same thing happened again…his kings ran into pocket aces and a series of back and forth raises resulted in all the money going in preflop. According to live updates from the event, after the cards were tabled, he yelled out “Are you f****** kidding me?” After losing the hand, he “exploded by grabbing a handful of chips and throwing them like a baseball player across the table” at his opponent. Some of the chips bounced on the table; one or two hit his opponent in the chest and a couple more stumbled onto the floor.

The question asked of TDA board members was, “How would you have handled this situation?” Here are my thoughts on the matter: First of all, I admit that I probably am not a good one to ask since my pet peeve is abuse at the table. Abuse is contagious and, if you allow it, it will spread like wild fire. I dealt with a lot of abuse early in my career and it makes my skin crawl. I think it is important to send a message that abuse will not be tolerated. Who wants to play in a hostile environment where you have to worry about being injured by flung chips and cards or subjected to profanity and abuse.

I would not have let the player who threw the chips re-enter the event. Furthermore, I would bar him from the property for at least 24 hours. If he did not show remorse and sincerely apologize, I would have him permanently barred.

I think the cardroom staff must protect the players. Someone could have been seriously hurt by this immature, thoughtless action. I have seen eye injuries resulting from cards being thrown at players and dealers. Allowing him to play right away could rightfully open the cardroom up to possible legal problems if he was to hurt someone, since the staff would now be aware of his “anger issues.”

For what it’s worth, I recently played in a World Poker Tour event and the exact same thing happened to me. I ran kings into aces and went broke, re-entered, and was eliminated the second time in the same way. It never occurred to me to throw cards or chips at my opponent.

Don’t misunderstand though…I don’t think the poker room should be like a church environment. I don’t believe in automatic penalties for most offenses. For example, if someone loses a pot and mutters the F-word under his breath, I don’t think it is worthy of a penalty. However, if someone directs profanity or is abusive to someone at the table, a minimum of a warning (and possibly a penalty) should be issued. I think we will get a lot more people entering the poker world if the environment is a bit more conducive to fun.

Change of topic: I’m also on the Board of Directors for the Poker Player’s Alliance (PPA). It’s going to be extremely important for the poker community to remain vigilant in 2015, as legislation to implement a federal ban on online poker and other online betting is expected to be introduced very soon. This legislation would deny poker players the effective online consumer protections that can only be achieved through a licensed and regulated online poker market. Not only that, it would strip states of their right to authorize and regulate online poker within their own borders and would reverse laws that already exist in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.  

Prohibition is not good public policy, but unfortunately it’s going to be a tough fight. Billionaire casino mogul and political donor Sheldon Adelson has vowed to spend whatever it takes to implement a federal online gaming ban, and he is taking full advantage of his political influence in the new Congress. I encourage you to follow the PPA on Twitter (@ppapoker) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theppa). Stay up to date on the latest developments and please contact your Senators and Representative to tell them not to support legislation that would ban online poker. Your voice and your vote are important!
Now, can’t we all get along at the poker table? ♠

Linda Johnson is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. She is a partner in Card Player Cruises and has a WSOP bracelet and hosts poker seminars and corporate events around the country. She can be contacted at Cardplayercruise@aol.com.