Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Do You Have to Bet the Nuts?

This came up in a Binion’s tournament a few months ago.  I’d never seen it before.

In a heads up hand, both players checked the river.  I don’t completely remember the board, but the last person to check flipped over pocket Aces.  With the two Aces on the board, he had quad Aces, a pretty good hand.

I don’t recall what the other player had but it wasn’t close.  We were all oohing and ahhing over the guy having quad Aces but the dealer immediately called the floor over instead of pushing him the pot.

He told the player, “You have to bet the nuts there.”


The dealer explained that it is against tournament rules to check with the nuts on the river.  The key of course, was that the person who had the nuts had to be the last person to act.  Otherwise, a person with the nuts could of course check in the hopes of check-raising.

My impression was that the player at who didn’t bet his quads was either going to get a penalty or a warning—except for one thing.  When the floor came over, he noticed that a straight flush was actually possible with this particular board.  So, no harm, no foul.

Now, the player admitted that he didn’t see the possible straight flush and that wasn’t the reason he didn’t bet.  No, he said, he just didn’t bet because, “What was the point?  He wasn’t going to call.”

Huh?  For the little effort it would take to bet, why would he not bet?  If he didn’t see the straight flush, he had to think his quads were good.  Put out at least a small bet and maybe they bite?

Anyway, I thought this was interesting, and pretty new to me.  When I suddenly remembered this story and thought about doing a blog post about it, I started researching the subject and you know what?  It isn’t clear to me at all that it is indeed a rule that you have to bet the nuts in a tournament situation.

The best I could find that it is up to the TD’s discretion.  He could warn or he could penalize but it is apparently not a rule that you have to bet the nuts in a Hold’em tournament.  I found the 2013 TDA rules and couldn’t see the requirement anywhere.  It would seem to fit under the “Ethical play” category, which states, “Poker is an individual game. Soft play will result in penalties, which may include chip forfeiture and/or disqualification. Chip dumping and other forms of collusion will result in disqualification.

I suppose individual rooms --whether live or online-- could have their own individual rules.  Perhaps there is a “must bet the nuts” rule at Binion’s.  I’ll have to ask next time I’m there.

What say you?


  1. "TDA Rule 61: Ethical Play
    Poker is an individual game. Soft play will result in penalties, which may include chip forfeiture and/or disqualification. Chip dumping and other forms of collusion will result in disqualification."

    Not betting the nuts with the last action is soft play. Soft play "will" result in penalties, not "may" result in penalties. Seems a penalty is mandatory, though I can see a TD using discretion to merely warn a player if the player seems unsophisticated and the action was inadvertent.

    BTW, I've only seen this come up a handful of times in tourneys, and each time the result was a warning rather than a penalty. I think most TDs view this as such a rare occurrence that imposing a penalty is pointless where there is no other indication of collusion or improper motive.

    1. Thanks, Grange, I appreciate the clarification. Probably doesn't come up very often. But is interesting that when you saw it, they didn't actually issue penalties even tho "will" means mandatory.

      A warning isn't the same thing as a penalty. But I agree, discretion is a good thing.

  2. guy's been eating his idiot flakes for breakfast, that's for sure. First for not seeing three to a straight flush on the board when he's holding quads, and second for not betting his quads on the river when he "knew" he was good. He had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. I hope to Yahweh I play him one day.

    1. Thanks, Gary....I certainly agree that he was stupid for not betting there, absolutely no reason not to. But I have seen people miss straight flushes before. I mean, in addition to not seeing the possibility of them, I've seen people have them and not know they had them. I've even seen dealers miss them. But you're right, if you're sitting on quads you would think you'd be on the lookout for the only hand that could beat you.

  3. Here are two videos where the penalty is applied and the rule referenced (although not in detail) one is Darvin Moon at the 2010 WSOP and the other is from WSOP Europe, I believe:



    Moon received a one hand penalty, which isn't much at all. He did have a rationale for not betting "I wanted to see what you had and I knew you weren't going to call." I still think it's a waste of value, but at least it's logical.

    The other one is just a mindless error.


    1. Nice finds, s.i., thanks!

      You know, Moon had a pretty good argument there. It was very unlikely his opponent would call any bet, and this way he would get to some information out of it. I definitely see the logic there. Actually pretty case for that being a bad rule, no? Interesting....

    2. Rob:

      I agree. The argument seems to be that it deters collusion, but how many times would you think you'd see collusion coming down to last-to-act/check/check/stone cold nuts? Not often, I'm sure.

      Regardless, I still would have bet if I were Moon. I think the value he got from seeing that hand would have been far outweighed by a value bet that had perhaps 20% chance of pay off.

      Silly moon.


    3. Yeah, really this is a situation that's not coming up often. But, you know, it's not a bad idea to point it out to the floor in case it is repeated, that would get a bit suspicious.

  4. Even though the dealer missed the possibility of the straight flush, I like that he called the floor on it. Whether it's a rule or not (depending on your interpretation of the rules, house rules, etc...), I like that he wasn't going to let possible collusion slide on his watch... :)

    1. Yes, dealer definitely did the right thing, although obviously he should have saw the straight flush possibility. But straights are the easiest thing to miss on the board. Math is hard.....