Friday, September 8, 2017

The Rules Nit

I'm kind of a rules nit when it comes to poker, in case you hadn't noticed.  But the other day I saw someone take being a rules nit to the extreme.  She was basically arguing against her own interest in order to have the rules enforced.

I was playing the Aria $125 1PM tourney on Labor Day.  I will someday write up a full report on the tournament.  Spoiler Warning:  I didn't cash.  But I thought that enough interesting things happened to warrant a blog post.  But I want to isolate this particular story with a separate post, partly because it doesn't really affect my poker result and partly because I can write it quickly.  That second part is especially important when writing blog posts while in Vegas.

Here's the situation:  Player A made a normal opening raise.  Player B (who happens to be yours truly, though it doesn't really matter) called the raise.  Player C went all-in for a little more than double the original raise.  Both players A & B called the shove.  On the flop, Player A made a bet and Player B called, so there was now a side pot.  There was no further betting action.

After the river, the dealer correctly asked both A & B to show their hands to decide the side pot.  Player B showed his hand.  Player A said, "You're good."  She did not initially show her hand.

Before the dealer had a chance to say anything, Player A asked, "Do I have to show my hand?  I think that since it's all-in I have to show my hand.  Do I have to?"

I think Player B may have started to say "No, you don't have to."  Because Player B—again, that's me—didn't want to risk Player A showing her hand and having it turn out that she misread it, or the board, and she actually beat Player B's hand.  As far as I was concerned, if she wanted to concede the side pot (which was larger than the main pot), that was fine with me.  I had nothing to gain from her showing, except the little bit of info as to what she had opened with there.  To me, it was not worth the risk that she missed something, remote as this was.  Note: She appeared to be a regular tournament player at Aria, and it was unlikely she had missed anything.  But from my view, why take a chance?

My vote doesn't count, of course.  But what happened next was weird.  The dealer, ignoring me (as he should have), responded to Player A by saying…"You know….I'm not sure."  I should point out that he seemed to be a new dealer. I didn’t recognize him and he had some issues making sure the blinds and antes were correct a couple of times.  Nothing major, and I may totally be wrong about him being new, but he did seem unsure of himself once or twice.  He let that answer stand for a second or two and the Player A said, "Well, can you call Paul (the tournament director)?  I really want to know. I don't want to show, but I may have to. I want to know what the rule is."  The fact that she knew that Paul was the tournament director was more proof to me that she was a regular.

Well that was just plain weird.  It's like a player calling the clock on herself.  She didn't want to show?  Well, it was pretty obvious that if she had merely mucked her cards the instant I showed my hand, the dealer would have swept them into the muck and no one would have said a thing. (certainly Player B—me—wouldn't have!)  I'd bet anything the dealer wouldn't have given it a second thought. I have seen that exact scenario play out dozens of times, and no one questions it, ever. She was basically asking to have the TD come over and rule against her own interest!

She held her cards face down and the dealer called Paul over.  And it took a short while until Paul came over and then he had to listen to the dealer and understand the situation.  In the meantime, time was ticking away and the other five or six tables were actually playing poker.  It was annoying.  Furthermore, I was absolutely sure that since we were only talking about the side pot—and that neither of the players involved in the side pot was all-in—the ruling would be that she didn't have to show, she could concede the pot without showing, like any other non-all-in hand.

To my surprise, Paul ruled the other way, and said that all hands had to be tabled.  Really? I was surprised, and I actually thought he was wrong.  I thought that somehow he had misheard the situation and got it wrong.  Yes, I doubted him, even though I know that Paul is one of the best TD's on the planet and knows the rules as well as anyone.  I just thought he misheard it.  But since it was of so little significance, I didn't want to take the time to even question it, we'd wasted enough time with such a trivial issue. 

She showed her hand—it was Ace-8, losing to my Ace-Queen (in this hand, the Queen played, we both had Ace-high).  After giving me the side pot, the dealer asked the all-in player to show his hand, and he showed a straight to win the main pot.  I said to him, "Wow, you had to sit there all this time in limbo, waiting for the main pot to be awarded to you.  Well at least you knew you had won."  Of course, he was sitting there all that time and if he hadn't been able to beat my Ace-Queen, his tournament life would have been over.

Thinking about it after the tournament, I became more and more befuddled by the lady's behavior.  She didn't want to show.  Yet she insisted on the TD coming over and basically ordering her to show. And not only did she do that knowing that he was possibly (likely?) rule against her, she did that knowing that it would waste valuable time for everyone at the table while the clock was running.  The more I thought about that, the more pissed at her I became, in hindsight.

I mean, if her only interest was in knowing the actual rule, she could have easily just mucked her hand and gone over and asked Paul during a break.

Or she could have done what I did.  The next day, I actually looked up the TDA rules online.  And guess what?  Paul was 100% right (of course).  If a player is all-in, all players with live hands have to table them at showdown.  No one can muck without showing.  I was fool to doubt Paul.  But again, since the dealer was unsure of the rule, I'm certain there is no way he would have even given it a second thought if she had mucked there after saying to me, "You're good."

But she not only wanted to know the rule, she wanted to have the rule enforced against her own interest!

Now that's a rules nit!


  1. While I did not know that rule (I would have thought that players not all-in should simply table their hands in order), this situation would have been alleviated if the dealer had handled the showdown correctly. That is, instead of just asking the players to show their hands, he directed them to show in the correct order. Because player A was the last to perform any aggressive action and was called, player A should be required to show first. Player B should have waited for player A to show before tabling his hand. (Many players angle shoot by stalling and hoping others table their hands out of turn. Player B is experienced enough to know this.)

    That said, at showdown, I had always thought that it is player A's choice to show or muck. If player A mucks, player B would get the pot if heads up without necessitating tabling his hand because he is the last live hand. Of course, it wasn't heads up here, and player B would still have to show to be eligible for the side pot, but I did not know that this is a difference between tournaments and cash games.

    And while this situation could have been avoided if both the dealer and player B had done the right thing, I do want to make one thing clear: I think it is the honorable thing to do to ensure that rules are applied equally, fairly, and correctly, whether the rules benefit you or not. And I believe it is incumbent of all players in a game to ensure that all rules are followed, a stance that I think most poker players subscribe to.

    1. There was no betting action on the river. The last betting was on the flop. That means that who has to show down is USUALLY the person farthest from the button. But it varies from room to room, some rooms do refer back to who had the last aggressive action. I'm not sure if the TDA rules insist on one way or the other or if it is ok to go with house rule, and I'm too lazy to try to find it.

      Typically the dealer does just what he did in this case, say "let;s see the hands for the side pot first." I wasn't about to wait around for someone to determine whether I should show first or the other player was, I was ready to move on. It was no big deal to me in this situation what she had raised with, I had a pretty good idea.

      I suppose you could accuse ME of angle shooting because I would have preferred she not show so there was no chance I'd lose the side pot.

      I think I did do the right thing...I showed my hand so we could settle the pot and move onto the next hand while precious time was ticking away. The dealer handled it like dealers usually do until Player A made an issue of it.

      There are circumstances when I might insist the other person show first, but this wasn't one of them.

    2. You're right about house rules. In most, it's whoever had the last aggressive act, no matter which round of betting, is supposed to show first. But I've seen the occasional room that does not do that if there is not betting on the river, where, IIRC, it simply goes clockwise starting with the SB. But dealers should enforce room rules rather than let players control the table.

      I understand wanting to "move on," and it is exactly that desire that real angle shooters take advantage of, especially if they have a weak hand they are embarrassed about or don't want to show that they were bluffing.

      I don't think you have any desire to angle shoot at all, and I'm sure you want the right thing don't at the table consistently.

  2. How close to the money was it........Maybe she wanted to burn some time

    1. Good point, Geezer and I should have noted it. But it was a long way from the money, so I don't think that was it at all.

  3. Too many people confuse cash game rules and tournament rules. Especially since cash game rules can differ by a good margin depending on what room you are in.

    Paul is the best TD in Vegas BTW


    1. Thanks, Stan.

      Paul is terrific, I've known him and played in his tournaments for years now.

      However, he's been known to read my blog, and I wouldn't want to give him a swelled head by saying that he's the very best! :)