Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What's Wrong With a Dead Button?

I had another 1/2 session ($100 max buy-in) in Ventura on Saturday.  It was a good game and I'll get to some hands but first I want to talk about a couple of poker rules type thingies.

I was just getting settled in at the table when I heard the guy on my immediate left say to the dealer, "both hands."  It was the river, I really didn't see it but I knew the guy was asking to see both hands that were alive at showdown, whether or not they voluntarily showed them.  It's the "I want to see that hand" rule...one of the worst rules in poker.

We all know the intended purpose of the rule.  It is to prevent collusion.  In theory, this would expose a player who was calling or raising when he had no chance of winning to inflate the pot for his confederate.  I've never seen the rule actually used that way.

In fact, thankfully, I've rarely seen it used in all the times I've played poker in card rooms.  But when I have seen it, it's always been just for the purpose of gaining information on how a player plays—information that the player should be allowed to keep secret if he so chooses. 

In this case, any doubt I had that the rule was being abused was immediately erased when I heard the person who asked for "both hands" to be shown say to the lady on his left, "I want to see what he raised like that with."  In other words, it is exactly the wrong reason to invoke the rule.  He didn't suspect collusion at all.  He wanted to see if the player was raising with garbage (it turned out he was). 

The player who had his hand exposed didn't complain at all, and for the rest of the session the guy on my left didn't ask to see another hand like that.  Neither did anyone else.  He got the information he wanted with that one hand.

But it was clearly an abuse of the rule.  This is a rule that probably dates back to the rough-and-tumble days of the game and I think is no longer needed.  If you legitimately think two players are colluding, the floor should be notified and they can probably figure it out rather easily.  And if you think a person is raising with garbage, surely that information will be revealed legitimately sooner rather than later.

As it happens, the great poker writer Tommy Angelo has written about this and he agrees with me (or, I agree with him if you prefer).  You can see an article he wrote about it here, and this was recently re-published  somewhere very recently.  When I saw it, I thought, well, it's so rarely invoked, why bring it up?  But then I just saw it Saturday so I guess it's not completely gone.  It should be.

The other thing is something the rooms in the L.A. area all seem to do and it baffles me.  I've seen it at both the Bike & PC and I'm assuming the other rooms around here do it to. It's bugged me forever but I don't think I've ever mentioned it before.  I dunno if there's a name for it but I call it the "No Dead Button" rule.

Let's say the person who is supposed to be the button for the upcoming hand busted out on the hand before and doesn't rebuy.  Or perhaps he just got up from the table because his need to use the bathroom (or smoke) is so great he is willing to pass on being the button.  In Vegas, it's just a dead button, so the person who was in the cut-off seat last time is essentially the button twice in a row.  No big deal, luck of the draw.  If you play long enough, it will happen to you eventually.

In Vegas, that is.  In California, they slide the button over to the person who is suppose to be the small blind.  And that person has the button but he or she still has to post the small blind.  From the button.  But he still gets the last card dealt.

Well it's weird but I guess it isn't a big deal.  It's just a buck and if the small blind/button stays in the hand, he gets to act last the rest of the way.

But what makes it weirder is that, in this situation, they insist on there being two big blinds.  The person who would otherwise be under-the-gun now has to post a second big blind.  So for this hand, there are two big blinds and a small blind.  And the pot starts at $5 instead of $3 for no reason other than the player who was supposed to be the button took off.

Then on the next hand, the button and the small blind move together and this time there are two small blinds and one big blind.

Why the hell should there be two artificially inflated pots (admittedly, inflated by just a buck or two) just because of a the button not being there to play his hand???

And so if you were planning to take off—either for good or for a break—when the big blind came to you, you suddenly have one less hand to play before you have to post the blind, because you're posting that big blind a hand earlier—again for no good reason.

The other thing is that, unlike in Vegas, you cannot have "a single big blind."  Every once in a while the big blind will get up after the hand (or most likely, bust out on that hand) and there's no one to post the small blind.  In Vegas, that's perfectly ok, you just have the big blind posted and the pot is short by a buck.  There dealer will even announce, "There's one big blind." But in CA, you can't do that.  They make the person who was supposed to UTG post a second big blind.  Then on the next hand the same players each post a small blind and there's a big blind posted.  It's weird.  At least that makes a little sense because, since they take the rake off the very top, you'd risk having no pot if you didn't have at least two people post blinds.

I wonder if it's a state law or something?  Or just "tradition"?  I also wonder how it is around the rest of the country.  I've only played poker in Vegas and CA.  Maybe the Vegas way is the unusual way and everyone else does it like CA?

Anyway this happened a couple of times during the game Saturday so I was thinking about it. The guy on my right liked to take cigarette breaks when the button came to him (I could tell by the way he reeked when he came back to the table) so I was the small blind/button a few times.

I said it was a good game and that's because there was a lot more action than you usually find at the 1/2 game at this establishment.  That was mostly due the fellow who's aggressive betting had encouraged the guy next to me to ask to see "both hands."  Let's just say that this guy lived up to the moniker "Crazian."  He liked to make bigger than standard bets preflop and if he stayed in on the flop, he often overbet the pot.  He did it with some air of course, but since even maniacs get Aces, he had his share of big hands too.

In fact, although some of the nits (like the guy on my left and the lady next to him) were getting frustrated by his big raises, the guy on my right was rather happy about it.  "I like this table."  The guy on my left said, "Then take it home with you."  The guy on my right was pointing out that if you hit a hand you'd get plenty of action, unlike some of the games.  All you had to do was catch a hand.  I felt the same way.  But you couldn't really do anything other than wait for a good hand and get value for it.

So, my second or third hand, I got Ace-King offsuit.  Someone had raised to $5, there was a call and I called. I was still getting a feel for the table so I didn't three-bet.  Six of us saw an Ace-high flop.  Some guy donked out a $10 bet, the preflop raiser called and I called.  Same guy bet $15 on the turn and we both called.  The river put a flush out there and this time the guy checked, the preflop raiser checked and I just played it safe and checked behind.  I know I played that really timidly but I just felt more comfortable playing it that way, not having any knowledge of the players.  The donk bettor had a weak Ace and the original raiser had something like 4-5 suited for a missed straight draw.  He was an older gentleman and I was really surprised he raised with that.  But he left the game not long after.

I got pocket Aces and made it $10 and it was four-ways.  The flop was Jack-high, rainbow.  I bet $30 and didn't get a call. The guy on my right showed me one card before he folded, a Jack.  "I believe you," he said. 

With pocket Queens I made it $10 and again had three callers.  The flop was 9-high and I bet $30.  One guy shoved for $27 and the others folded.  All he had was pocket 6's, unimproved and a gut-shot.  He missed and I took the pot.  I was disappointed that he didn't rebuy.

I completed from the small blind with King-Queen and most of Ventura County saw the flop of King-9-8.  I led out with $6 and the guy on my right made it $15 (this was a different guy than the guy who said he liked this table, he had just left). I called.  We were heads up.  I checked the turn, a blank, and he checked behind.  The river was a Queen.  I considered that the Queen completed a straight for Jack-10.  But I thought the guy was unlikely to have raised me on the flop with just a gut-shot.  And I was trying to get some value for my two-pair hand (for a change).  So I went ahead and bet $18 because my $20 stack of $1's was short two chips).  But the guy raised it to $37.  Damn.  Well, it was basically a min-raise and I didn't think I could fold for that.  So I called and sure enough he showed me Jack-10.

I called $6 with Ace-Queen and it was four-ways.  The flop was Queen-10-9.  Someone bet $15 and I just called, as did another player.  The turn was a 7 and it checked around.  The river was another 9.  Again it checked around.  It was a pretty scary board where I had showdown value and I had just been burned with the straight earlier, so I didn't bet.  My Queen was good, one of the players had weaker Queen and the other guy didn't show, I assumed he missed his draw. 

It was good session, I made a few bucks.  Can't complain.


  1. When you have a "Crazian" raising every pot the absolute WORST thing you can do is wait for a big hand.

    1. Well, I said "good hand" not "big hand". The "good hand" could be Ace-high or middle pair in some spots. All I meant was you couldn't steal a pot with a bluff.

  2. We have the same rule in Vancouver, Canada as California. I believe the rule ensures no one get the button (effectively) for two hands in a row,and no one gets to skip their blinds. When someone leaves a table, every player gets to pay the blind "one hand earlier", nothing weird about that.

    1. Well no one gets to skip the blinds under the Vegas rules either, and you aren't just arbitrarily add blinds to pots for what I consider odd reasons.

      I suppose if someone ALWAYS left when it was their button you might suspect some kind of collusion but I've never seen anything like that.

    2. I said "AND no one gets the button twice in a row."

    3. Yeah...but I don't see a problem with that unless it's happening a lot for one particular person at one random game.

  3. Was there 3-way action prior to the "show both" request on the river? It sounded like only two players were involved at the river and for collusion you need a minimum of two villains. When the guy who made the call spilled the beans on his intention he should have been donkey-punched IMHO...

    1. I had just gotten to the table when the question was asked. It was heads up at the time but I dunno if there were more players in earlier.

      The dealer didn't hear the guy explaining his request, he kind of said it under his breath and only meant for the lady next to him to hear. That said, I seriously doubt if the dealer would have said or done anything if he had heard it.

    2. The clearest case if collusion I witnessed took place on the flop. A guy made an all in after his buddy bet and got called on the flop with a draw heavy board. He protected his buddy's hand, and was stupid enough to brag about it.

    3. Wow....did anyone say anything (I mean anyone from the poker room, dealer, floorman?) Or was it just ignored?

  4. On the last hand you describe, the guy didn't raise you with a gut shot, he raised with an open ender- if the flop did come K-9-8 as you say. Makes the way he played his hand more reasonable.

    1. Wow, thanks for that correction. Dunno if I messed up the hand in the re-telling or if I goofed at the time and though it was just a gut shot, in which case I butchered the hand more than I thought. Very possible.

  5. Arizona rooms play with a no dead button rule in cash games. I agree that it's annoying.