If you've played poker for any length of time—well, no limit hold’em, anyway—you’ve no doubt heard a player say something like, “I put you all-in,” or “I’m gonna put him all-in” (it’s usually a “him” but it could be a “her”).
Usually it’s a heads up situation and we all know what it means. It means the player is saying he wants to bet enough so that the other player has to put all his chips in play to call.
Except, there’s no such thing as putting a player all-in. It’s not a bet. No one can put you all in but you. Another player cannot put you all-in. All the other player can do is bet so much that your two options are fold or put your entire stack in play. And that’s what the player saying this means.
The other problem with that statement is that it sorta implies the player saying it actually can force a player to go all-in. Of course, he cannot do that. The player facing the action always has the option of folding and thus not putting any more chips at risk. Well, unless you’re playing in one of those rough and tumble underground games where the guy saying “I put you all-in” actually puts a gun to your head and says “You’re all in, Sonny.”
So we know what it really means, even if, technically, it isn’t a real bet. The dealer will usually say, “all-in” because that’s effectively what it means. But I’ve also heard the dealer say, “You can’t put him all-in. Are you all-in?” That’s actually the right thing for the dealer to do.
But what happens when a player says, “I put him all-in” and it is not heads up? That’s what happened at a game I was in last week in Vegas. I’m not real comfortable with the way it turned out, actually. Let’s hear what you think.
There were four people with hands seeing the flop. A young, incredible talkative player made a bet. I think his bet was the first one. He bet around $40-$50. That was probably a bit less than half his stack. He didn’t have much more than $100 after the preflop action. This guy talked non-stop. He came to the table talking about his bad tournament beat, and saw almost every flop. He’d bet almost every flop too. He talked about what he had, sort of, sometimes lying (he once denied having a flush trying to get a call, and then, when the guy folded, showed his flush). he came close to breaking the rules for talking about the hand but never quite did. I think he even showed a bluff or two,
The next person to act was a very quiet player. He had about $200-$300, maybe a bit more. He had hardly said a word all night. I couldn’t remember him playing too many hands, either. He was as nondescript as the first guy was attention-getting.
So, pretty much the first words I heard him say for the two-plus hours we’d played together was just then, when he said, “I’m gonna put him all-in.”
There was a big problem with this, however. It was not a heads-up situation. There were actually two players with cards behind him, who had to act before it got back to the chatterbox.
Now, what I think should have happened, immediately after the guy said “I’m gonna put him all-in,” was the dealer saying, “That’s not a bet, sir. And there’s two other players with hands. What is your action?” Actually, I’m not sure that the dealer is responsible for telling the player there are players behind him, but the dealer definitely should have asked him to clarify his action. The guy either didn’t realize—or had forgotten—that there were other players with live hands. I can certainly understand his believing that the first guy didn’t have much of a hand.
The problem was, this particularly dealer was new. Very new. I doubt she’s been dealing more than six months, if that. And before she could say anything, before she could process what the guy said and how to react to it, the next player with cards mucked. He tossed his hand away as soon as he heard “all-in.” In fact, it was so fast, I assume he would have folded just in response to the first guy’s bet, without the other guy acting. I don’t recall that guy’s stack, but it doesn’t matter.
What does matter was the stack of the last player with a hand. He had the other two players covered. Easily. He had at least twice as many chips as the guy who said, “I’m gonna put him all-in.”
Now, I have no idea how the dealer interpreted the action thus far. She still could have said to the guy that he hadn’t taken a legitimate action. The problem was the next guy mucked so fast she moved on to the last player—the one with the biggest stack. I’m guessing she took his action as “all-in” but she didn’t throw an “all-in” card in front of him (which, again, might be due to her being new).
Here’s where it gets a little dicey. I know this last player. Know him well. I know him because he works in this very poker room as a floorman. When he isn’t flooring he’s playing poker in the room he works. He plays a lot of poker and he’s very good at it.
I guess he asked the dealer if the player was all-in, and the dealer, though a bit confused, said he was. The off-duty floorman knew the player hadn’t said he was all-in, even though he had used the words, “all-in.” At this point, the player who made the incorrect declaration started to panic, and he immediately denied being “all-in.” By now he had noticed the stack of the off duty floorman’s stack, and clearly didn’t want to risk all that money he’d been sitting behind for all those hours. He was only willing to risk however many chips the chatterbox had because he thought the guy was full of it.
The player started arguing vehemently that he wasn’t all-in….only that he wanted to put the first player all-in. “I’m not all in, I just wanted to put him all-in.” Of course, that’s not possible do, is it? The dealer apparently took the position that he was all-in…period. I suppose it’s possible that the dealer only heard him said “all-in” and not the rest of it, but I really doubt that. This player was sitting right next to the dealer.
I don’t believe the floorman ever insisted that the other player was all-in….only that what he said, and what he now wanted (to be all-in only against the first player) was not legal, or even possible. It didn’t take long for the floorman to ask the dealer to call the floor (it’s possible the dealer thought of this first, not sure).
While waiting for the floor to come by, more debate was taking place, with the player now at risk insisting that he never intended to be all-in—not against the big stack.
It was actually the shift manager who came by. When he heard the story, he wasted no time in saying, “You’re all-in. Once you say all-in, you’re all-in.” He even pushed the guy’s stacks forward in front of him. By now, it was pretty clear that the off duty floorman was going to call the all-in, and he did, even as the guy kept protesting that he wasn’t all-in. I guess it was the shift manager who told him that he has to be careful what he says, and once he says “all-in”, that’s it. He’s all-in.
I don’t really remember the hand much. I’m not sure the poor guy even showed his hand after he saw the off duty floorman’s cards. The floorman won the main pot and the side pot (yeah, chatterbox called, but he didn’t show his hand either). The guy who had just lost $250+ got up, totally dejected, still complaining to the shift manager that what happened to him wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair, he said, and it wasn’t right. Someone—the dealer, the shift manager, another player…not sure…said, “Well, it’s a lesson learned.”
I’m guessing that guy never plays poker in casino poker room ever again.
I want to make one thing clear at this point. In my opinion, the decision of the shift manager was not affected in any way, shape or form by the fact that his ruling benefited his colleague, a fellow employee in the room. I don’t think that for a minute. If anything, I think he would have bent over backwards to rule in favor of the player he didn’t know. Of course, I have no proof of that; it’s just my gut feeling.
But that said, the fact that it did benefit an employee really helped leave a bad taste in my mouth, more than it otherwise would have, I think.
I’m pretty sure the guy who got burned was fairly new to the game. So I can understand him not realizing that you can’t “Put him all-in.” Hell, I’ve seen experienced players try to do that.
But to be fair to the shift manager—it is every player’s responsibility to be aware of the action and there’s no excuse for him not knowing that there were two other players in the hand. Surely he was experienced enough to realize that you can’t put another player all-in if there are players behind you with more chips than the guy you want to put all-in. So he cannot be considered blameless here at all. And it’s also true, if you say “all-in”—even as a joke—you are always at risk of being held to it.
Still, you could look at it this way. He never acted on his hand. What he said cannot be done, it’s not an action. As I said, the dealer should have immediately told him that what he said was not a valid action and asked him for a valid action. He might as well have said, “I’m taking Miami and the points next week.” It isn’t a valid poker action.
Or….he could have said, “I bet 100 Simoleons.” It’s meaningless, since there are no Simoleons at the table. Bad analogy? Maybe, since if he said “I bet…” he’s obligated to put something (real) into the pot.
How about this:. If a card comes out of the deck “boxed” it is considered nothing….it doesn’t exist (a boxed card is one that comes out face up instead of face down). It is not used at all, it might as well be piece of note paper. I’m thinking his saying “I put him all-in” is like a boxed card coming out—it’s meaningless.
His verbal action was also “nothing.” He didn’t say he was all-in. He said he was putting another player all-in—not a valid action. I’ll say it again, you can’t put another player all-in. A player can only put himself all-in. He should have been told immediately to do something he could do. Like call, or fold, or raise (and then figure out how much to raise so he could force the guy to be all-in if he wanted to call).
But the dealer was inexperienced and didn’t do that. And as a result, this guy, who may have been having a really good time up to that point, ended up bitter, upset, and burned for a few hundred bucks. It’s a shame.
All this said, I don’t really know what the right solution is….at least not once the shift manager came by to make a ruling. At that point, it was a little late to say, “OK, the action is on you, you can’t put a player all-in, what do you want to do?”
What do you folks think? What should have happened here? Was the decision right? Or was there another way?