Thursday, December 1, 2016

Verbal is Binding--Still

OK, this is a another repost of one of my favorite stories.  This was actually a very popular post, but it is over four years old, so hopefully even if you read it back then, you have forgotten enough of it to enjoy it again. I figure it is a solid poker post and besides, I don't have anything else for you at the moment.  Hope you enjoy it again.

In reviewing the post, I see that the two dealers I mentioned, Brent & Jack, have both moved on.  Brent now works at The Wynn, and Jack moved away from Vegas and is out of poker altogether.  Nick, the shift supervisor who made the ultimate decision in my favor, retired soon after this story took place.  


One of the rules of the poker room is this:  “Verbal is binding.”  This means that if a person says “call” instead of putting out his chips in front of him, he is obligated to put his chips into the pot.  If he or she says “raise” he must raise the required amount, regardless of any action he takes with his chips (in a no limit game, without stating an amount, the person saying “raise” would have to put out the minimum required to raise).

But that’s not where it ends.  If a person has yet to act, and the person who will be acting next says something about calling or raising, that too is binding.  Even if he doesn’t realize it.
And that little rule created quite a ruckus at BSC last week.  And it was your humble correspondent who was up against the guy who didn’t know the rules—or at least, claimed not to know them.
I was sitting in seat 4 and had about $250 in front of me.  A brand new player took seat 5 immediately to my left and bought in for $100.  This was his very first hand.  He was coming in right behind the button. 
A bunch of limpers in the pot, the action went to me holding 6/7 suited, so I limped also.  Seat 5 raised to $10.  Two or three called in front of me, so I called as well.
The flop was 865, rainbow I believe.  It checked around to the new player, who had last action from here on.  He bet $30.  A guy in early position called as well.  I had him covered but he had close to $200 in front of him.  I felt with the pair and the open ender it was enough to call, so I did.
The turn card was a beautiful 9, given me the second nuts.  Only a 10-7 could beat me.  First guy checked, and I decided to check too.  If I bet there, it would scream “straight!” and I probably wouldn’t get a caller.  If I checked, I thought the new player might bet and then I could figure out what to do based on whether the other guy called and how much the bet was. 
But the guy disappointed me, tanking for a bit, saying, “Wow, you put a straight out there huh?”  After thinking about it some more, he finally said he was just gonna check.
Oh well, I knew that was the risk.  The river was a totally harmless deuce that didn’t change anything (and there was no flush possible).  First guy checks, and, I knew I had to bet to try to get any more value for my hand. 
I started counting out chips and was trying to figure out what bet would be called. Before I got very far in my thought process of what the right amount to bet would be, the new guy, seeing me reach for chips, said something like, “Oh if you’re betting, I’m gonna call whatever you put out.”
OK, if that’s the case, no more calculating on my part was necessary.  The third guy was a good player; I didn’t figure he’d call the two of us unless he had a 7, or worse for me, 10-7.  If this guy was gonna put his last $60 in the pot, I was satisfied with that.  So I said, “In that case, all-in.” 
The dealer was Brent.  Brent is not just a dealer pal of mine but the very dealer who gave me the great story about “protecting your hand” that resulted in my all time most popular post, located here.  Now, we were about to get yet another lesson in poker rules and etiquette courtesy of Brent.
Brent immediately took out the “all in” card and threw it in front of me, and took out the “call” card and threw it in front of seat 5.  Seat 5 said nothing. Brent posed stoically and the action turned to the third player.  But nothing happened for awhile and I looked at Brent and he was still frozen.  So, for a nano-second, forgetting about the third player, or perhaps thinking he must have folded as I assumed he would, I grabbed my cards and said, “Is that in then?”  I hadn’t come close to exposing my hand tho, when Brent stopped me and pointed to the third guy and said he still had to act.  I immediately slammed my cards face down, no one had seen them.  I had barely gotten them an inch off the table.
I then looked over to the third guy for a second, and he was still tanking.  I looked away.  During all this time, seat 5 said absolutely nothing, made no motion, was totally still.  He was definitely not acting like a guy who had a decision to make.  Finally the other guy says, “Well, I guess at least one of you has me beat,” and mucked.
Brent looks at both of us and says “lets see ‘em” or whatever.  I show my hand, he said, “straight,” and then, and only then, did seat 5 speak up. 
“Call? Who called?  I didn’t call.”  Brent told him he most certainly did call.  He told him that what he said before I bet was binding, verbal is binding, and that he said “I’m gonna call whatever you put out.”  That’s binding.
No, seat 5 said, he didn’t say that.  “I said, ‘I’d probably call.’  I said ‘probably’.  I didn’t say I’d call.”   Brent said he didn’t hear him say “probably.” Anybody hear him say “probably,” he asked the table?
No.  A few people shook their heads and said definitely that they didn’t hear him say “probably.”  I said what I knew to be true, that he never said probably.  The rest of the table said nothing, presumably not hearing what he said.
The guy insisted he didn’t call, so Brent held up the action and called the floor over.  We’ll call the floor person “Bill” and like most anyone who works floor this time of day at BSC (or evening, actually), he knows me by name (and has helped me a few times on comps issues, among other things).  He even knows my last name, which surprised me because I didn’t think he’d ever seen my players card.
Seat 5 started making his case and Bill silenced him.  He got the story from Brent first, who accurately re-enacted what happened.  He also pointed out that his comment affected my action, which was true—just not the way the guy had hoped for.  Brent said he was trying to get me not to bet.
Bill turned back to seat 5 and said that “verbal is binding” and that since he had made the call, he had to put all his chips into the pot, as I easily had him covered.  The guy continued to protest, and rather loudly.  He said, “Why would I call when there was a four-card straight on the board?”
I didn’t say anything, but of course, that four-card straight was on the board when he said he was gonna call whatever I put out.  He had noticed the straight on the turn; that’s why he didn’t bet.  But he still said he was gonna call me.
He continued to talk.  He said, “I’m a man of my word,” and thus was trying to act insulted that he was being questioned like this.  He insisted he said “probably.”  Then he went on to say that this was his first time in Vegas and he just came into BSC to see the show in the main showroom and was trying to have a little fun before the show started. 
Somewhere along the way, Bill took the same survey of the other players that Brent had and found no one who recalled saying “probably.”  When Bill once again asked him politely to put his chips into the pot, he again refused and asked to speak to someone else.
Bill said fine, he would call the Shift Supervisor over.  Which he did.  Of course, “Nick,” the Shift Supervisor, knows me too.  I should point out that during the entire discussion, Brent, Bill and Nick referred to me only as “seat 4” and never by name, even tho they all know it.  I assume this is standard operating procedure, and it is an excellent idea.  Since they were siding with me, it only would have made things worse if the guy knew that I was a regular in the room who everyone knew.  He might have felt that as a regular, they were giving me preferential treatment, although that wasn’t true.  They were calling this one by the book.
Pretty much the same thing happened, Nick asked the other players after hearing Brent’s version of the facts.  Then, after hearing seat 5 tell him he was a man of his word several more times, and how this was his first time in Vegas, and how he said “probably” and why would he call a four-card straight and he was just there to see the show…..Nick very, very politely and calmly told him that he had indeed called my bet and to please put his chips into the pot.
Now I must admit, at some point I seriously considered just saying, “It’s ok, let him keep his chips.”  I really did.  The guy was clearly upset and who knew what would happen if this situation was allowed to escalate.  And it was only $60, even if it was $60 that was rightly mine.
But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. As Brent had pointed out, his words had indeed affected my action.  Plus, he had all kinds of time before seeing my hand to say something about not calling.  The “call” card was sitting in front of him for a couple of minutes. Then he saw Brent remind me that another player, the one following him, still had to act.  Why would we be waiting for him to act if seat 5 himself had not already acted?  Of course, even if he protested as soon as he saw the “call” card placed in front of him, there still would have been an issue as to whether or not he had called, but at least it would have been adjudicated before he saw my hand.
So I said nothing.  My only contribution to the discussion was my statement, several times, to several different people, that he didn’t say “probably”.  He said he would call whatever I bet.
The guy was very agitated and repeated all the things he had been saying several times.  Nick once again told him to put his chips (which he had been holding onto tightly since the ruckus began) into the pot.  He said he wouldn’t because he hadn’t called.  Then Nick said he would have to call security.
“Security?  You’re gonna call security?  Are you serious?” he said.  I envisioned this guy hurriedly getting up from his chair and bolting the room (and casino), chips in hand.  Meanwhile the rest of the players were getting impatient, some complaining that this was holding up the game. Finally, he took his chips and flung them towards Brent.  Most of them landed in the rack in front of him. I don’t think any of them hit Brent. Brent calmly and professionally took them all out of the rack and placed them into the pot, which he then pushed to me.  I tipped Brent $5 for his troubles (it was a nice pot, but it didn’t really justify that kind of a tip—I was tipping him for the aggravation and for taking my side—which of course, was the correct side).  I dunno if the guy saw the tip, as he immediately got up and stormed out of the room, presumably to see his show.  But in hindsight, I shouldn’t have given that big a tip in front of the guy.  I should have given him a normal tip and then given him the rest later in the evening, when the guy was long gone.  I suppose he might have thought there was some collusion going on when he saw that tip.  But in fact, nothing was said, or even noticed.
That was the end of Brent’s down, and he moved on.  The new dealer saw just the end of what happened and asked what all the fuss was about it.  We all filled him in, and of course he agreed that the guy had called my all in bet. It took about 20 minutes for anyone to talk about anything else.  One guy expressed concern the guy was gonna come back later and gun us all down!
In fact, that’s not the last I saw of the guy.  Hours later, I noticed him talking to Nick peacefully, away from all the tables.  I saw them talking calmly for about 20 minutes.  I had already had private conversations with Bill and Brent about the incident, both of whom thought the guy was just angle-shooting and was just trying to pull a fast one.  Bill saw me in the Mens Room and asked, “What were the chances that guy said ‘probably’?”  I told him that the guy definitely did not say “probably.”  Brent said that he said to the guy “that’s binding” when he heard his initial comment and threw the “call” card in front of him.  I didn’t remember that and I didn’t remember if Brent had told that to Bill or Nick.
So I asked Nick if that was the indeed the guy I thought it was and he confirmed it.  He had calmed down considerably, he said, but he still didn’t agree with the decision.  Further—and I have to admit, this bothers me a little—he didn’t think the guy was a sophisticated enough player to be trying to angle-shoot.  He actually thought the guy was totally ignorant that he had done anything wrong or that his comment was even intended to affect my action.  But Nick did thank me for my concern, and I thanked him for making the right decision.
I’m glad he calmed down, but I do feel a little badly if he really wasn’t trying to pull a fast one.  But still, he had more than enough time to correct things—or at least to attempt to—before he saw that he was beat.
Near the end of the night, Jack game to deal.  I asked him if he had heard all the commotion and he said he had, he was actually at the next table over at the time.  He didn’t realize, however, that I was the other player involved in the controversial pot.  Since he hadn’t heard the whole thing, I explained it fully to him.  By now, no one at my table was left over from the incident, so they all chimed in.  Jack said that the decision was an easy one, he makes that ruling every night.  He recalled one time it cost someone over $500.  He said the guy was angle-shooting even if he never heard that term.
And hat-tip to Jack, he reminded me that from the next table over, he heard the guy say, “I’m a man of my word” at least three times.  I had actually forgotten that by this point.  He even suggested I use that phrase as the title of this post (and give him a credit for the suggestion), but, while I liked that idea, I decided to go another way, to make sure that the real point of this post is reflected in the title.
Just another fun night of poker at the BSC.


  1. if hes a man of his word wtf isnt he putting his money in the pot immediately? definitely angle shooting and i wished all rooms enforced this the way ur floorman did. lots of rooms dont make it binding if theres no bet made yet. they should.

    1. Thanks, Tony. Obviously I agree. If he really didn't understand what was going on, he needed to speak up much sooner.

  2. Rob, interesting this would come up now... the very day you posted this, I was playing at Hawaiian Gardens Casino with an idiot who thought it was oh so cute to say 'call,' then ALWAYS put out a raise preflop, at the $40 NLHE table.

    After about the 10th time I saw him do it with NO ONE SAYING ANYTHING (I kept wondering if I was right about his angleshooting), I just went ballistic at him and the dealer, and called out the floor who said yes, if you say 'call,' you've gotta call, NOT raise. Why do some dealers just refuse to enforce the rules?!? Anyway, I've been wondering if I should write a post about it for you.

    1. That's actually unbelievable Steve. I'm sure I would have said something the very first time I witnessed this, whether or not I was in the hand or not. That is just so basic.

      I think some dealers prefer not to say anything unless pressed for fear of hurting their tips. Maybe he knew this guy and knew him to be a good tipper? But they don't realize that people like me not tip at all if a dealer refuses to enforce the rules on his own.

      By all means, if there's more to the story, go ahead and do a guest post. I need the material!