Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What Do You Do if You Think The Deck is Fouled?

This happened in one of my last sessions in December in Vegas. It was a situation I’d never encountered before and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

I was sitting at seat 9, right next to the dealer.  The dealer was new.  I had never seen him before and I could tell by the way he was dealing that he was inexperienced.  Not that he made any mistakes, but he was methodical and a little bit unsure of himself.

In this particular hand, I had pocket 7’s.  I think I called a small raise.  There were multiple players in the pot, and the flop missed me and had overcards.  So when there was a bet, I folded.  There were still multiple players in the hand.

The turn was the 7 of diamonds and I started cursing the poker gods.  But not for long.  Didn’t I have two red 7’s?  I really thought that both of my 7’s were red.  I couldn’t be 100% sure, but I was at least 97% sure.

The players were betting and calling and I was wondering what to do.  I figured I had to say something. If the deck was fouled the hand should not continue.  But I couldn’t prove anything right then and there, and I knew there was a possibility I was mistaken.

And if I was mistaken, speaking up then and saying that I folded a 7 would give away valuable information to the players.  If I was right, it wouldn’t matter, since the hand would be dead and everyone would get their money back. But if I was wrong, it would improperly affect the hand in play.

Fortunately I was sitting right next to the dealer, as I already noted.  So I leaned over and whispered to him, “I’m not positive, but I really think I folded the 7 of diamonds.” I added that I folded pocket 7’s and I thought they were both red.  At first he didn’t seem to grasp the significance of this, but then finally the light bulb went off over his head.  “Oh, I see the problem.  Let me think….”  He obviously didn’t know what to do.  Neither did I, but then, I’m not a professional poker dealer.

Finally he said, as the action on the turn was coming to a close, “Well, I’ll just check the deck when the hand is over and we’ll see.”

Sounded reasonable, but…..well the hand played out, there was a showdown and somebody “won.”  And the dealer pushed the pot to the winner.  Really?  What if, after checking the deck, it turned out I was right?  The pot would have to be returned to the center, right?  And by then, the winner would have already mixed the pot in with his own stack.

Well, he looked through the muck.  I think I was the only one who saw what he was doing—he didn’t explain to the other players why he was doing this.  And he found two 7’s right next to each other.  One was a heart, but the other one was black. No extra 7 of diamonds in this deck.  I was wrong.  My memory ain’t what it used to be.  They say that the memory is the second thing to go.  I can’t remember what the first thing is.

Anyway, I was relieved and in the end, no harm was done. Well, except that I felt damn foolish.  But I wondered if I had handled the situation properly.  More importantly, I wondered if the dealer had.

For my part, I was lucky that I was sitting next to the dealer and I could easily whisper my concern (also, in the end, that saved me the embarrassment of the whole table knowing I was so wrong).  But what if I hadn’t been sitting next to the dealer?  What should I have said?  Any thoughts?

Again, if I spoke up so that the other players could hear, I’d be giving away information about cards out of play.  I mean even if I said something semi-vague like, “I think I threw away one of the exact cards on the board,” it would be obvious I was talking about the turn card since I hadn’t spoken up after the flop.

So, if I hadn’t been able to whisper in the dealer’s ear, how should I have handled it?

As for the dealer, I think it was a mistake to push the pot to someone if he was gonna check the deck per my comment.  I think he should have had the winner keep his cards, and say, “Before I push you the pot, I have to check the deck, this player thinks we might have a fouled deck.”  Yeah that would embarrass me if I turned out to be wrong, but better that than giving a pot to someone that has to be returned a minute later.  Perhaps even better, before pushing the player the pot, he should have called the floor over and explained what happened.  Because not only was the dealer new and unsure about what to do, but if there was a fouled deck, the floor is going to have to be involved anyway.

How do you think the dealer handled it and how should he have handled it?

In the end, it was just my faulty memory playing tricks on me, but fouled decks do happen every once in a great while.  What should have happened?


  1. Unless you have a great memory (which you admit you don't) and were 110% sure, then say nothing since you will be mistaken 99.9 of the time.

    1. Thanks for the comment, crazybitch --I've always wanted to say that :-). I didn't feel like I could just ignore it. I was pretty certain I was right, and as long as I had a way of saying something without ruining the hand if I was wrong, I figured I had to speak up.

  2. I'm a little behind on blog reading....

    I think everything you said is exactly right: It's an impossible situation. There's no better solution than the one you came up with. The dealer should have done just what you suggested at the end (including calling the floor to oversee his search).

    And, incidentally, a virtually identical thing happened to me once. I made the same choice, the dealer took the same steps, and the outcome was the same. http://pokergrump.blogspot.com/2008/03/i-couldve-sworn.html

    1. Thanks, Grump. I should have known....every time I run into an oddball situation at the poker table, you already encountered the same thing and blogged about 10 years earlier.

      I read your old post. In both your case and mine, the dealer pushed the pot before checking the muck. I think that's a mistake...what if the pot had to be returned?

      Also couldn't help thinking that you had to get out of your seat to alert the dealer. Surprising because I know your favorite seats are next to the dealer.

      And finally....interesting that you made that mistake with different color cards. Would have been much easier for me to believe you had the Q of clubs, and remembered it as a spade, rather than thinking a red card had been black.

    2. I agree about the pot--seems an obvious precaution. I can't explain why I remembered a red card as black. Maybe I had the Qs on the previous hand, and was remembering that? I'll never know.

    3. That could be it. I know a lot of times after I fold a garbage hand, I'll look at the flop and see it hit me hard...then remember I was thinking of the hand before, not the current one. The mind is always playing tricks on us.