Sunday, January 8, 2017

"I Put Him All-in"

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?


  1. This is a rather complicated situation, one that I've never seen happen in live poker before. I guess everyone would agree that the guy who said "I'm going to put him all-in" didn't execute a valid action when it was his turn. Regardless of what the dealer assumed, he was "skipped" when the action went to the next player.

    I'm not sure what the "right" answer is, but if I were the off-duty floorman in this scenario, I'd ask for clarification of what the player acting in front of me actually intends to do before I acted.

    I had a similar situation the other night at Bellagio. I was in early position with Suited connectors (diamonds). Flop comes such that I have both a flush draw and straight draw. I bet out, get one caller. Turn is a brick. I bet out again - something like $35, and villian throws out a $100 chip without saying anything. Then looks at me, as if he's waiting for some kind of response.

    I look at the dealer, and say "one chip rule, I assume that's a call?" - to which the villain says "NO, NO I raise - I said raise". I didn't hear him say raise, the dealer didn't hear him, no one at the table heard him say "raise".

    The dealer initially was going to allow the raise (which would have been fine with me), but changed her mind and indicated it was only a call. (Villian is very pissed). River comes 5 of diamonds completing my flush, and out of turn villian says "all-in" - which is binding, so I say "all-in" and turn over my flush. Villian mucks and storms off.

    It never ceases to amaze me what people say at the table, when they should know better.

    1. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's what the off duty floorman did,, ask for a clarification, pointing out that what he said is not a valid action.

      That one chip rule gets a lot of players in trouble. Players seem to need constant reminders of it.

      Thanks, DWP.

  2. Another example; during the same game at Bellagio, there were 3 guys at the table who were all friends. They were in town for NFL wild card weekend. One of them (a gynocologist) was seated next to me, on my right. He was the last of his friends to sit down, and had $300 behind while he was waiting for the chip runner to bring his chips.

    He was dealt into a hand right away, and as he recieved his cards, one of his friends joked "I'd like to see how you can bet without any chips" ... and just before he looked at his cards, he said "Oh, I can make it easy, I'm just gonna go all-in". Now, him being directly to my right, I looked at my cards and had junk. HOWEVER, if I woke up with a monster, I'd be within my rights to insist verbal is binding, and ask the dealer/floor for a ruling, yes?

    I know he wasn't being serious, and I don't want to be a jerk, but just another example of people saying stuff they shouldn't say!

    1. Yeah, in that case, I guess it depends on how clear it was he was joking.

      Even tho this was harmless, the dealer should have warned the guy about jokingly making any kind of "all-in" reference--saying that it could be taken as action. "Verbal is binding" and all.

      Not sure I'd want to sit next to a gynecologist tho. Don't know where his hands have been. :)

    2. DWP (or anyone with better knowledge of this than I have):

      Your example is interesting in that it can be interpreted as a "conditional bet", e.g., "If this happens, I'll do this..."

      You quote him as saying, "Oh, I can make it easy, I'm just gonna go all-in." He's saying that he CAN make it easy and that he's JUST GOING TO GO (future tense).

      Your post, and Rob's, refer to cash games, so this may not apply. But the TDA rules state that conditional bets are not necessarily binding and are at the TD's discretion:

      54: Conditional Statements
      Conditional statements of future action are non-standard and strongly discouraged. At TDs discretion they may be binding and/or penalized. Example: “if – then” statements such as “If you bet, I will raise.”

      It's pretty close, in my mind. Do other's feel that was a conditional bet?


    3. Thanks, s.i.....I think DWP's situation was borderline but as reported, I would not make his statement binding....but I would have given him a warning that if he does it again, it would be binding.

      It was more of an obvious joke than a conditional statement, imo.

  3. I think the floorman should have asked the initial player what he had behind him, then made the player who said he was going to put him "all in" bet that amount including the initial bet.

    1. a) Chatterbox's bet might have been MORE than half his remaining stack. In that case, under your scenario, the guy would have had to have made the min raise (double the original bet). Ok, not a major issue. but.

      b) another player had folded before the shift boss came over. He may have felt it was unfair to that player to say that the guy in front of him could effectively change his bet now that the next guy had mucked his hand. He could have reasoned that the next guy might have called a min raise.

  4. I agree with essentially everything Rob said. I also agree with Koala's resolution. Here's why: Other rules establish a principle that when a player's declaration is ambiguous as to an amount, it will be taken as the lesser amount. For example, the oversize chip rule. Also, if, say, "five" can legitimately mean either 500 or 5000, it will be taken as 500. "I'll put him all in" can mean either "I'm all in" or "I bet the amount that he has." Since this is ambiguous, it should be taken as the lesser amount.

    But of course it would be better for the dealer to immediately halt the action and clarify the situation before anything else happens. I hope the supervisor had a word with the dealer at the next break.

    1. Thanks, Grump. I already pointed out the problem with shift boss making that ruling in my response to Koala.

      But I do agree with your general point....interpret is the lesser amount possible.

      I hope the shift boss spoke to the dealer....but I don't know that happened, and sadly, I rather doubt it.

  5. It's common at the brick and mortar casino I play at most for people to say, "I'll put you all in" or "I'm gonna put him all in." My pat response is just, "You can't do that...only I can" and then I either call or fold.

    I think in the spirit of fairness and the best interest of the game I probably would have made the guy bet the amount of the chatty player's stack and then let the off duty floorman act. Then I would have given him a lesson in the semantics of what he said and why it isn't a valid action.

    1. Yeah...except for the fact that another player had acted in response to his initial comment. My interpretation was that he was just waiting to fold anyway, but a) I could be wrong and b) the shift boss making the ruling had no way of knowing that (if I was right).

  6. This was a dealer mistake. The dealer should have said you can't put another person all in. Then ask the person if they want to bet or fold.

    The chatty guy by saying I want to put him all in meant that he was betting the amount that player had. So when the floor guy came over he should have made chatty guy put that much money into the pot.

    1. Thanks, Nappy, I've already addressed the problem with that solution in my previous responses to comments.

      Just to clarify, the chatty was the original bettor, not the guy who said, "I put you all in". The chatty guy was completely silent through this entire story, thankfully.

  7. One key question which I don't think has been covered.. did the guy put any chips over the line? Not enough to cover chattys bet, it's all in. More than chatty and it's a call and return the

    1. Good question Ben. I'm not really sure the sequence, but I do recall when the shift boss came over, there were chips pushed forward in front of the guy. Not sure when he did that. I believe it was just a random stack, not counted, to back up his claim of his wanting to put the initial bettor all in.

      But...not 100% sure on this.

  8. Hi Rob I understand all your comments. This is called a teaching moment. Yes it worked out against the player that said I put you all in. To be fair the dealer and the shift boss did a poor job of handling this. It should be explained to the player why you can not put a player all in. This way even if he loses his money he will understand why and not keep making this mistake. Now this player feels like he is being cheated by the dealer and the head floor person. Simple game. Right???

    1. Thanks, Ed. I agree it was handled poorly. But I believe by the time he left he understand why you can't put a player all in. I just think he felt that the ruling was way too unforgiving for his error and it was a very costly one for him.

  9. A true comedy of errors per se! Dumb Verbal Move Guy should have been corrected immediately by the dealer but since that did not happen the next option would be to cut out the chips to match jabbermouth's stack. Off duty floor coming over the top then give DVMG can either call or fold. DVMG can go back to his smalltown free bar poker game or wherever he learned that dumbassed faux action crap...

    1. Yep. It was pretty much a fustercluck. But I think an good, experienced dealer would have saved a lot trouble.