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Calling Out A Ridiculous Tournament Ruling

by Linda Johnson |  Published: Dec 29, 2021


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I ended my last column about a tricky tournament ruling promising to write about the most egregious poker penalty I have ever witnessed. I have seen quite a few that I would call “unjust” penalties in my 45 years of playing poker, but this one takes the cake.

In a recent tournament, there had been several bad cards in the deck that had already been replaced. Some of them had a small nick on the side that could potentially cause a paper cut. A woman at my table spotted another nicked card and pointed it out to the dealer, who then called the floorperson to the table.

When the floorman arrived, the dealer handed him the flawed card. He examined it and then said, “I don’t see anything wrong with it. Which player has a problem with the card?” The dealer pointed to the lady in seat four.

The floorman then took the card to seat four and asked her to show him where the problem was. She pointed to the side of the card and explained that it was slightly torn. The floorman still didn’t see it, handed the card to her, and asked her to show him where the flaw was on the card. At this point, the player took the card and said, “It’s torn right here.”

She then proceeded to rip the card in half. Now, bear in mind that plastic KEM cards can’t be ripped in half unless they are already at least slightly torn.

The floorman then gave the player a one-round penalty for ripping the card.

Even though I am a founding member of the TDA, I am very reluctant to speak up about rulings while I am playing in a tournament. However, this penalty was so ridiculous that I felt the need to get involved.

I asked for the main Tournament Director to be called to the table and then described to him what had happened. The TD agreed that the penalty should be rescinded, though he gave a general warning to the table not to tear cards.

Although I like to see poker rules observed, I am strongly against overzealous Tournament Directors. I believe in warnings rather than penalties if at all possible when the infraction is minor.

Note: After a two-year hiatus, I am back on the TDA Board of Directors. Please feel free to write to me with your comments and suggestions as they pertain to tournament poker rules.

Change of subject: Congratulations to Eli Elezra on his recent induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. The selection was announced during the WSOP Hall of Fame Bounty Tournament. This unique, first-time tournament concept was to invite any member of the Poker Hall of Fame to play with a bounty on their head equivalent to the year they were inducted. In other words, my bounty was $2,011.

I enjoyed playing in this event. My table was like a mini-United Nations as I was the only American. Every player was young enough to be my grandchild! I was very impressed with how well-mannered each of them was, and how interested they were in hearing my stories of the “good old days.” I hope the WSOP keeps this event on the schedule every year.

Another change of subject: One of my favorite activities at the WSOP are the bracelet presentations. I love seeing the proud winners on stage as Jack Effel awards them their new, shiny gold bracelets. I especially like the playing of the winners’ national anthems.

When I won my bracelet in 1997, they didn’t have an awards ceremony. What they did do back then (which was very cool), was send a limo to pick up the bracelet winners and take them to Neiman Marcus to get the bracelet engraved.

For that reason, each bracelet was unique. Some had the player’s name, some had the date and the event number. I wanted mine to be distinctive as well. After running around looking at as many bracelets as I could, I opted to have my name and the final hand engraved on the top of my bracelet. I love it to this day!

One more change of subject: Card Player Cruises is back! We recently hosted our first poker cruise in 20 months and it was a big success. Treat yourself or a loved one to the best vacation of a lifetime by calling 888-999-4880 or going to to book a cabin.

I wish you all a very happy and successful 2022! ♠

Linda JohnsonLinda Johnson is a partner in Card Player Cruises. She invites you to join her on one of the 2022 poker cruises. The itineraries can be found at