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Rule Number One: Tournament Directors Association

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Dec 04, 2019


The 2019 Tournament Directors Association (TDA) rules are now available. You can access them at

It goes without saying, but if you play tournament poker for a living, or even as a serious amateur, you really should know and understand these rules.

In my opinion, however, the most important rule for tournament directors and players to know and understand is rule number one. I refer to it as the fairness rule. You can find it under the Floor Decisions section.

“The best interest of the game and fairness are top priorities in decision-making. Unusual circumstances occasionally dictate that common-sense decisions in the interest of fairness take priority over technical rules. Floor decisions are final.”

This rule gives the tournament director a lot of flexibility when it comes to unusual situations and circumstances. it allows the tournament director to think outside of the box when necessary. Not everything is black and white.

I am a big advocate of the tournament director giving warnings when possible rather than penalties. Furthermore, I believe that the same violation might get a different disciplinary result depending on who commits it. In other words, a tournament director might be correct to give a first-time player who unknowingly does something wrong a warning, whereas a seasoned tournament player who knows the rules might get a penalty for the committing the same infraction.

Let’s use rule number 67 as an example. It can be found under the Etiquettes and Penalty section.

“Players must protect other players in the tournament at all times.”

Therefore players, whether in the hand or not, must not discuss contents of live or mucked hands. If a novice player were to violate this rule without knowing that it was wrong to do so, as a tournament director, I might give him a warning and explain the rules in an effort to educate him. It would be a shame to lose a new player by embarrassing him and giving him a penalty when he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong.

On the other hand, if an experienced player was deliberately trying to pull an angle by doing the same thing, he should get a penalty.

In closing this column, let me say that it is very important that everyone familiarize themselves with the latest TDA rules. Understanding the rules makes it easier to follow them.

Now, let’s play poker! ♠

Linda JohnsonLinda Johnson is a partner in Card Player Cruises, is a WSOP bracelet winner, and can be contacted at