Sunday, June 12, 2016

He Let This One Off the Hook—But Should He Have?

This post is a little different than usual.  It is basically a long comment in response to a recent blog post on someone else’s blog.

I’m not leaving this as a comment on that blog for two reasons.  For one thing, it will be way too long.  As you have probably figured out by now, when they were passing out instructions for how to write succinctly, I took one look at the instructions, handed them back and said, “Too long, didn’t read.”

The other reason is, this particular blog doesn’t accept comments.  I guess that’s really the major reason.

The blog post is written by Lee Jones and you can find it here.  If the name Lee Jones sounds familiar, it should.  Lee has played poker for a long time and has long been associated with PokerStars.  But he’s also an author, and he wrote what is often considered the definitive book on low limit hold’em, Winning Low-Limit Hold’em.  It wasn’t quite the first book I read when I started getting into poker, but it was the first one that really made sense to me.  I read that book over and over again in my early days (and remember, I started out playing limit).  Last time I touched that book it literally fell apart in my hands from having been paged through so often.  The other books I read at that time not only were weak on strategy but didn’t really explain the rules and the etiquette very well. They weren’t particularly well-written. Lee’s book excelled in all areas.  It really helped me understand the rules, as well as the strategy for low limit games like the ones I wanted to play. And presented all of that in a way that was clear and easy to understand.

So go ahead and check out Lee’s post that I just linked to.  I’ll summarize but it will be better if you read it in Lee’s own words.  He’s an excellent writer and it will give you insight into what he was thinking—and why he did what he did—better than I ever could.

That said, here’s the short version.  Lee was playing a short-handed 1/2 NL game well into the wee hours, and he flopped the nut flush with a suited Ace.  His flop bet was called by one player, a reg.  When he bet the turn, still holding the stone cold nuts,, the remaining player announced “all-in.”  Dealer put the all-in button in front of him, Lee snap called of course and flipped over his hand, announcing that he has the nuts.  And the other player said, “I didn’t say all-in.”

Indeed, the other player insisted that he didn’t say “all-in” and refused to put any of his chips in the pot.  The floor was called, the floor told him he must put his chips in, and the player kept saying he wouldn’t do that.  Just as it was about to get real ugly, Lee left the other player off the hook and said he’d just take the pot as it is (again, it’s worth reading the original post for the full flavor and to get Lee’s reasoning).

Lee’s generosity and class saved the poker room a big, messy scene.  And for sure, Lee is to be totally commended for how well he handled this, and even admired for it.

That said….I cannot agree with Lee’s decision.  I believe it was wrong-headed.

I say this knowing full well that Lee Jones knows has forgotten more about poker than I will ever know.

Lee ultimately decided that $300 wasn’t worth it.

If it had been me, I would not have have accepted that.  And honestly, as nice a gesture as it was, I don’t think Lee should have accepted it either.

It’s not the money—although of course, it is the money.  But beside that, it goes to the integrity of the game.  One of the reasons that we play in a casino instead of a home or underground game is that the house is supposed to protect the players.

Furthermore, even with the house there to protect us, there is an implied agreement we all make with each other when we sit down at the poker table. That agreement is that we will abide by the rules of the game.  For example, when I switched from limit to No Limit, I was surprised to see that “all-in” bets were often not immediately pushed forward.  In limit, the bet is a fixed amount each time, so you put the call or the raise (double the call) in right away. But in NL, all you have to do is say “all-in” and you have given your word of honor that you will surrender all your chips if you lose the pot.

If we allow someone to say “all-in” and not really mean it, the game falls apart.  You would have to change the etiquette and insist that the player shoving literally put all his chips out in front of him.  And therefore, a person couldn’t just say “call” in response—he would have to count out the bet to cover the all-in. 

But we don’t do that because, as we know, “verbal is binding.” 

Of course, the villain in Lee’s story insisted—after he had seen Lee’s hand—that he did not say “all-in.”  Even though Lee heard him say it, the dealer heard him say it, and at least one other player at the table heard him say it.  That should be enough for anyone.

But there’s more.  The dealer, upon hearing the word’s “all-in” come out of his mouth, put the “all-in” button in front of him.  Lee points out that the player had been there for hours and was a regular in the room.  Thus, there is no possible way that he didn’t know what the “all-in” button in front of him meant.  And yet he didn’t immediately object to it by asking the dealer what the heck that button was doing in front of him, and stating that he had not declared himself to be all in.

No, he only said that after he had seen that Lee had the nuts. And when he was called on it, he said, “"Do you think I'm going to go all-in when he has the nuts?”  Umm…..I can’t believe someone didn’t point out the obvious fact that when he went all-in, he didn’t know that Lee had the nuts, did he?  Lee could have had a lesser flush, two pair, a set, or 7-high. 

By the way, this story is a little similar to one that happened to me a few years back, which you can find here.  The big difference was, my villain had made it conditional.  He said,”Oh if you’re betting, I’m gonna call whatever you put out.”  That was a bit of gray area.

Here, the player didn’t make it conditional at all.

Of course, despite three people (at least) hearing him say it, despite the “all-in” button sitting in front of him, he boldly stated that he had not said “all-in.”

He didn’t even try to say something like, “What I said was, ‘I’m thinking of going all-in.’” Nope, he flat out denied saying what three people heard him say.

In other words, he lied to save himself some money.

That’s what he did.

I’m sorry, there is just no way you can let a player get away with that.  Ever.

When you sit down at a poker game, especially in a casino, you have to know that the house will protect you from something like that.  Otherwise, you should never play.

Look at it this way. Suppose the shoe had been on the other foot.  Suppose it was Lee who said “all-in” and it was the villain who snap called and turned over the nuts.  As unhappy as Lee would have been to see his opponent’s hand, would he have honored his bet and sent his chips to the other guy? 

Of course he would have paid him off.  He would have done that because that’s the rules of the game, and because he knows if it was reversed, he would have gotten his opponent’s chips. Well, except for this time, that is.

Besides, Lee called knowing that, despite having the nuts at that point, he could still lose.  Suppose the villain had a set and rivered a full house?  Lee was surely prepared to pay him off in that case.  Notice I said “prepared to” and not “be happy about it.”

That’s why you play poker, right?  To get the other players’ chips.  Lee won them fair and square.  Every decision you make, every bet you make, every call you make, is done with the understanding that the rules will be enforced properly, so that if you win, you win.  If you lose, you lose.  There’s no third option (unless there’s a chopped pot of course). 

Every single player at that table—including the villain—was sitting there with the understanding that if a player makes a verbal bet, it is binding.  Period.  End of statement.

Lee should have said nothing.  The floor person should have insisted the guy put his chips out in front of him (or maybe grabbed them himself).  If he refused, he should have called security.

Lee is a nice guy, and his good-nature about this is to be applauded.  And he’s certainly right that the $300 he was cheated out of (and that’s exactly what happened) is not the end of the world, and would have had little impact on his life.

Nevertheless, for the integrity of poker games everywhere, he should have been awarded all of the villain’s chips.  Because he won them under the rules everyone had agreed to when they sat down.

I’m right, aren’t I?


  1. Yes Rob, you are 100% correct. :-)

    I admit that LJ handled it much better than I would have, I probably would have gone apeshit on the cheating shithead. Then security would have had two problems to deal with, instead of just one.

    But it's amazing to me how some people just, oh so naturally, believe they're oh so special, rules don't apply to them. IMHO not only should they apply, in fact the rules should be *extra strict* against these types of assholes, both at and away from the poker table.

    Just reading the story makes me angry. Again, gotta say, LJ is obviously a better man than I am.

    1. Thanks, Steve,

      I think I would have fallen in between you and Mr. Jones! I think if he kept saying nothing, they would have had no choice but to give him the pot. They didn't ask him to do what he did, he did it voluntarily. My assumption is that after they took Villain's chips and gave them to Lee, the Villain would have left in an unpleasant scene. Because otherwise it would have been unpleasant for everyone if he'd stuck around.

  2. Replies
    1. Hmmm....maybe I need to rethink my position.

  3. Angle shooting a-holes like this guy should absolutely not be left off the hook. Lee made his decision for his reasons, but this guy will almost certainly feel emboldened to try something like this again. Shame on the floor for not adhering to the rules and forcing this d-bag to pay and have security escort him off the premises.

    JO in MD

    1. Thanks, JO!

      To be fair, Lee voluntarily did what he did. My assumption is that if he hadn't said anything, they would have insisted Villain pay up. Of course, we'll never know.

  4. Hi Rob I was in a poker tournament last week. 1st player bets 400, 2nd player calls 400, 3rd player puts out four chips and says all in. I look down and see four chips and say call. 3rd player had put down 3 chips orange and four chip gold ( 5000 ). You are suppose to put high valued chip on top. I had said call so it was my fault for not making dealer or player spread chips. I honored all in rule because it was my fault for not checking stack. I rivered a straight and won the pot but I sure felt stupid. Next time I will be more careful checking on the chips being bet.

    1. Thanks, Ed.

      Yeah that's a tough one. Players need to be vigilant about knowing how much the bet is and how much a player is playing. When someone shoves, unless I have the nuts and will call no matter what, I always ask for a count.

      Nice that story had a happy ending.

  5. Several years ago i was in a cash game in a casino where that happened. The guy that stated "all-in", said he didn't say it, grabbed his stack and made a hasty exit while being chased after by the winner who called his bet. He didn't catch the speedy little bastard.
    Perp was 86d from Casino, and the floor/manager paid off the winning hand. After several months of communication, the losing player, paid off the debt to the casino and was allowed back in; which seemed a bit odd to me.

    I may come back out around the 20th -24th for some wsop action. Hope to see you then, if in town.

    GL sir,
    Big L

    Big L

    1. Wow that's some story, Big L. The other player shouldn't have had to chase the guy down--that's what security is for. And I'm surprised the casino paid the guy, that's great PR but honestly, not sure if they are obligated to.

      Further...surprised they let the guy back in. I guess they wanted the money back and knew that he wouldn't pay them back unless he was un-banned.

      I will be in town then, Big L. If you're there, look me up!

  6. By the way, why no babe pics? As Anger would say, Big F.
    Tighten up sir,

    Big L

    1. Yes.....I decided to give the ladies a day off. They will most likely be back next time. Hey, everyone needs a break now and then.

      Anger was displeased but he'll get over it.

  7. I commented on Grump’s posting about this as well, but I for sure wouldn’t have let the villain off voluntarily like that. If the dealer, another player, and I heard him say all in I’m not just letting him off the hook. Generally when I’m involved in a situation like this I try to let the dealer and floor person work it out without my intervention. I answer truthfully when asked a question by the floor, but I try my best to not let my emotions get the best of me if I think the opposing player is angle shooting….or straight up lying. Truth be told I most likely would have let it play out just for the entertainment value of seeing the floor call security and force the dude to pay up.

    It sounded like they were going to combine the games and send the liar on his way no matter the outcome.

    1. Thanks, Jeff and thanks for letting me know Grump posted this....I had missed that.

      My assumption is if that Lee had kept quiet the poker room would have insisted the guy pay up--unless he ran out like in Big L's story.

    2. Absolutely agree he should have let the dealer and floor person do their job. Intervening like that actually usurpe their authority and hurt the integrity of the game. It also encourage this particular player to continue his inappropriate behavior. Usually if a player would do something like this, they would also do other inappropriate things, some which are less clear cut than this case. If the floor and dealer are any good, they would want to use this to send a clear message to the player to shape up. If I was the floor or dealer, the last thing I want is for Lee Jones to pipe up and take away this opportunity to correct the problem. In the long run, he isn't doing anyone a favor except for the offending player.

    3. Thanks, make some excellent points.

  8. Hi folks -
    I appreciate the discussion, and please understand that I have no objection to anybody who wants to sit and let the situation play out with the dealer, floor, and (ultimately, I suppose) security. I have to admit that part of me wonders how the story ends. I mean, if Pat picks up his/her chips and walks out, what happens? Do they physically restrain the person? Anyway, call me conflict-averse - I just didn't want to go there.

    However, I *did* take a lesson from it all. Quite often, when somebody says "all-in", the dealer doesn't do anything. They just repeat the announcement, or simply sit quietly. In recent years, that announcement hasn't always been followed by chips moving forward.

    Now we're all reminded why the person announcing all-in should put a significant chunk of chips out with the announcement (and even if an all-in disk is thrown too). In short, it's the one visible indication that the *player* has committed a whole bunch of chips to the pot. Note that in the mess we had, we had (1) a verbal statement by the player and (2) a visible physical indication by the dealer.

    Ironically, I often gently chide dealers in this situation and say "Would you please have the player move some chips out". I often get looks, but hey, when you're a table captain, you're used to that.

    So three things are new:

    1. I will basically *always* ask that if a player announces that he's all-in, that player move a substantial chunk of chips toward the center of the table.

    2. If I'm involved in a pot and somebody else says they're all-in, I'm no doing anything until I see a whole bunch of their chips out there. Honestly, one stack of the largest denomination chips they have will do just fine - it needn't be a five-minute process.

    3. If anybody ever gives me trouble about #1 and #2 above, I'll simply say, "Man, let me tell you about that time back in 2016..."

    Regards, Lee

    1. Thank you very much, Lee. I can't tell you how much your commenting means to me.

      Great follow up. I certainly understand your decision and who knows, in a certain frame of mind I might have acted similarly.

      But I doubt it.

      Thanks again and thanks for writing the book that sent me on my way to my poker "career."

  9. Rob .. (Along with everyone else) - I think you handed your situation properly.

    Thus post is less humorous than some but hearing from you and Mr. Jones provides a valuable lesson. Hope to see you Saturday.

    1. Thanks. Yeah, we should be able to get together sometime Saturday, should be available.