Sunday, January 13, 2019

He Made The Wrong Argument

I'll get back to my car story next time but I thought I'd take a brief interlude to put a little poker content up here.  Well maybe not poker content but poker etiquette/ruling content.

This happened at one of the tournaments I played last month.  I won't say what venue this took place at, I don't want to identify it.  But let's just say it was at a room that I've played tournaments before.

I'd been playing for a few hours and surviving, and they'd already broken a table or two and I had just recently moved to one of the three remaining tables.  Between my chips, my heavy jacket, my water, I wasn't able to take my diet coke (which was mostly ice) with me to the new table as it was in the middle of a level and I was rushing.  As such, I really needed a new diet coke.  Fortunately I ordered one and was waiting for its arrival.

In the mean time, I had a tournament to survive.  The level had just changed and I was the big blind.  I posted the new amount and then noticed the waitress was back with a load of drinks and it looked like she'd skipped me over.  Damn.  Did she have my diet coke and just forgotten to give it to me or had she forgotten to bring it? 

Meanwhile I looked at my big blind hand, saw it was 7-3 off and assumed that I wouldn't be playing it because there had been no limped pots at this new table since I'd gotten there.  I noticed the guy on my immediate left had put some chips out in front of him and so I was trying to get the waitress's attention.  Before I could get her to notice me, I realized the dealer was telling me the action was on me.  Well that was fast.  I didn't even see the action, but I saw the chips in front of the UTG player, and since the blinds had just gone up it looked to me in that brief nano-second that he had raised.  That made sense because I realized he was the only player had put chips out to bet and if he had just limped in, surely someone else would have limped or even raised.  Knowing I had  a garbage hand, I just slid my cards forward towards the dealer.

And then I heard the dealer say, loudly and pointedly, "Your option."  I realized that she had said this five seconds before, when I wasn't paying attention, to get me to act (but without the emphasis).  And I realized she was telling me that I could see a flop for free if I just didn't fold.

I reacted very quickly and pulled my cards back.  The dealer hadn't touched them and they never got near the muck.  We proceeded to play out the hand, heads-up.  Actually, I would have preferred it if she'd just mucked my hand.  I ended up with two pair and lost to a straight.  I didn't get busted, I didn't lose a whole lot of chips, but at that point of the tournament it hurt to lose any chips above the big blind.  I had bet the turn and reluctantly called the river.

Well that sucked but as the player next to me was dragging in the pot, he asked the dealer, "Why did I have to play that hand?  He folded."  He meant me.

The dealer said that I had the option and hadn't folded. But the player wasn't happy with that explanation.  I chimed in that I had not folded because my cards had not hit the muck, I retrieved them before they were mucked.  But the player was upset and insisted on talking to a floor.  I pointed out that he had won some chips off me and the logical resolution to his complaint would be for him to give me back the chips he'd won (above the big blind, that is).  He scoffed at this, that wasn't the point.  "You're a poker player, you know what I'm saying."  Well yes, but I hadn't technically mucked.  It is my understanding that as long as a hand is retrievable and hasn't touched the muck, it is still a live hand.

The dealer explained to the floor what happened, but I don't think she really said much about how she pointed out to me that—subtly perhaps—that I could see the flop for free.

The player just kept insisting that I folded and the floor confirmed my understanding.  As described to her, I had not folded.  Or as she said, "I can tell you, his hand was not dead."

I have to admit I was totally embarrassed by this, it was just inexcusable for a player with my experience to even for a nano-second start to fold a big blind hand when there had been no raise.  And yes, if the dealer hadn't somehow pointed out to me that there had been no raise, I would have forfeited my big blind and possibly never realized that I just gave away chips for no reason.

But frankly, the guy was making the wrong argument.  Instead of complaining that I had folded, he should have made the case that the dealer had given me some help, a clear violation of all rules and etiquette (one player to a hand).  He would have been on firmer ground there.

When I initially slid my cards to her, she did remind me that it was my option.  It was subtle.  She didn't say, "you're the big blind, there's no raise, you can see the flop for free."  But she knew what she was doing, she knew I would take the hint she gave me.  Of course, I assume if I didn't catch on after she said it again, well, then I'm just too stupid to save 

That said, I'm not really sure the dealer did anything wrong anyway.  I mean, it's been awhile, but I have seen any number of dealers clue the player in the big blind that they could just check and see a flop for free when they tried to fold.  Of course, in those cases that I remember, it was almost always in a cash game and also, it was usually the case that the player attempting to fold was an obvious newbie.  Even if this was the first time I'd ever played poker, we were now in the 8th level and if I'd survived this far I should have been able to figure out the big blind by now. 

I never saw anyone object in those cases, and you want to correct little mistakes newbies make so they enjoy the experience and keep playing.  But this was a tournament, a different animal, and she has to protect not only the player who limped in UTG but the other players at the table and in fact all the players remaining in the tournament at the other two tables.

By the way, I should point out that if he had complained when I initially retrieved the cards, and they said I had folded (or perhaps killed my hand because I had gotten unfair help from the dealer), I wouldn't have argued the point, I would have given away my big blind without a thought.

But now we were just arguing rulings after the fact.  And I really do wonder if it was ok for the dealer to give me that extra little hint.

Of course, if I had not realized the action was on me when I did, and was still trying to get the waitress's attention, and she said "Your option," a second time without my having slid my cards forward, no one would have said anything.  But I did give a physical indication that I was giving up on the hand, and then she repeated it was my option, giving me the chance to pull my cards back.  It took all of two or three seconds.

Anyway, I wonder what you all think?  Was the dealer wrong?  Is that something she should only do in a cash game and only when the player seems like a newbie (making it a judgment call on the part of the dealer)?  If there are any dealers or floor persons out there, please weigh in.  What's your normal way of handling this?  What is your room's policy?  I'd be interested in hearing from you.

From a distance, I think I should have pointed out what the player failed to do, that his argument should have been that the dealer gave me a bit of assistance unfairly.  But at the time, as long as he wasn't making that case, I didn't want to get the dealer in trouble since it wouldn't have affected anything anyway.  Besides, if I had said anything, how could I be penalized for what might have been a dealer's error? Either way, I suspect that dealer will think twice about doing that again anyway.



  1. I can't get past the stupidity of the guy calling for a ruling after he won. Take the chips and move on, dude. If you want clarification on the rules, then wait until the next break and ask the floor when doing so isn't holding up the game.

    1. Thanks, Bob. Yeah, it was a rather pointless argument to make. I would have been happy to have taken my chips back if he thought I had folded pre!

      I'm trying to remember....I don't think the game came to a complete standstill. I believe that since the hand was over the dealer dealt the next hand, and then perhaps slowed it up to explain. Then the player may have slowed it up a bit to tell his side of the story. So the game continued albeit a bit slower than normal. You're right, he should have waited to speak to the floor during the break. Nothing that could have have happened after he complained would have changed anything. Although it would have been so funny if the floor decided in his favor and insisted he give me back those extra chips he won!

  2. Just say , do you know who I am ?

  3. For starters when anyone asks me "don't you know who I am?" depending upon gender I reply with "did I see you on a Jennie Craig commercial?" or Nutrisystems.

    As for our Hero's quandry I will start by saying that the word "fold" did not come out of his mouth. Given that one fact screw not touching the muck or the dealer not touching the cards the word FOLD or phrase EYE FOLD did not come out of Rob's mouth. To argue with the floor after WINNING a hand deserves a donkey punch to emphasize how stupid that stunt was. Top this off with having just moved to the table and getting settled and a waitress putzing around it all turns into give the guy (our Hero) a break and play the hand and move on.

    1. Well, just to be fair, I almost NEVER say "Fold" or "I fold." I just push my cards towards the dealer, as I started to do here. The dealer normally grabs the cards and sweeps them into to the muck. This time she didn't and it's not like putting chips out--you can't take those back--but you can grab your cards if they haven't touched the muck.

      But yeah, the guy was dumb, and I think Grump's suggestion as to what he should have done was correct.

      I mean unless he thought that the dealer was my friend and was actually illegally helping me, that is.

  4. And here I thought the reply should be “ I am trump.......”