Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Go To The Tape

In the middle of the chip-shipping insanity that was Saturday night’s 2/5 game, there was an incident that brought together several important lessons about playing live poker.

The hand went down between an average even-tempered player (ETP) and a Crasian* who had been up and down like a yo-yo with ADD, rebuying multiple times. The Crasian was playing any two pre-flop and then betting aggressively if he caught any piece of the board. ETP had been picking his spots and building a nice stack, remaining polite and calm in the wake of a couple of horrendous beats. Again, I can’t remember the exact nature of the action. But the upshot of the matter was that there was tremendous action on a very wet board, with the likelihood of a broadway straight being very high.

The hand went to showdown. ETP announced, “I have an ace,” and flashed it. There was an ace on the board, giving him top pair. The Crasian threw his hand on the table face up. He had paired the river card, which was a ten. He also had a jack. To the inattentive, it might have looked as if he had made a straight, but he had not.

The dealer started pushing the pot to the Crasian, and ETP mucked his hand. Another player and I looked at each other with a questioning glance.

I spoke up. “Why is the pair of tens getting the pot? ETP had a pair of aces.” The other player chimed in to say he had seen the ace as well.

All hell broke loose. Crasian was busily stacking the chips.

ETP says he showed his hand. Dealer didn’t see it, and says it wasn’t properly tabled. Both I and the other player allow as how we didn’t register ETP’s second card.

Everyone at the table suggests that, for the good of the game, it would be sportsmanlike to chop the pot, since there is no doubt that in fact ETP had the winning hand. Crasian starts yelling defensively about how he was cheated out of some other pot at some other game in some other casino and refuses to consider it.

ETP calls the floor and asks them to go to surveillance tape. At this point everyone at the table realizes that he’s doomed. There’s no way the tape is going to have captured him flashing the Ace. Unsurprisingly, the floor comes back and says the pot result stands.

Crasian, who clearly knew he was beat, manages to win the pot on a technicality along with the disrespect of everyone at the table. It will probably cost him money in the long run.

Lessons from this event:
  1. Table your hand.

  2. Read your hand, your opponent's hand, and the board carefully and accurately.

  3. Do not let go of your hand until the pot is awarded correctly.

  4. Do not expect the surveillance tape to capture the action with enough detail to make up for failures of observation by people actually at the table or for your own mistakes.

  5. Don’t be a douchebag.

*I feel a cringe of embarrassment using this stereotyping term, except for the fact that it is exceedingly accurate in describing a small subset of poker players.

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Blogger Rakewell said...

1. Who is "SR"? He or she suddenly shows up in the middle of this story, without prior or subsequent reference. Different tag for "ETP"?

2. I strongly disagree that Crasian did anything wrong or was being a douchebag. First, of all, he had the only live hand. Only live hands win pots. Second, nothing in the account suggests that *he* saw the ace flashed. Why should he take the word of somebody else as to what an opponent had? Third, I completely disagree with the term "technicality." This is far, far more than that. ETP had a decision to make, whether to table his cards or not. He chose not to. The consequence of that is a dead hand and forfeiture of any claim to the pot. This is absolutely standard by every rule book I've seen. He had the world's simplest method of preserving his interest in the pot--turn his cards face up on the table. It's not asking that much of him. If he chooses not to take that minimal step, he deserves to get nothing. IMO, it would be a travesty for him to get the pot, or even half of it. Tabling one's cards is not a mere formality or technicality. It is a crucial and intrinsic part of the play of a hand. It involves a strategic/tactical decision, whether to show or muck. One must live with the consequences of making that decision badly, just as with every other decision made in the course of the play of a hand.

I would feel differently if he had tabled his hand and everybody misread it, or if the dealer accidentally killed it, or something else. But this was his own damn fault, 100%. He did wrong the one thing he needed to do. Crasian did nothing either unethical or against the rules. I, too, would keep the pot in his situation, and not feel a shred of guilt or douchbaggery about it.

For two similar stories from my blog, see

8/12/09 7:27 PM  
Blogger genomeboy said...

Last Thursday at Borgata, a woman mucked the winning hand once, and then tilted off her remaining stack. It came about 10 minutes after a kid at the table sheepishly tabled what he thought was the loosing hand, only to have us all inform him that he won. After that I said "That's why you always table your hand if you're first to act at showdown"...

8/12/09 8:03 PM  
Blogger Cardgrrl said...

@ Rakewell: 1) SR was an editing error. Corrected now, thanks for pointing it out.

2) Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in my description. When the Crasian tabled his hand, it was more in the manner of tossing it face up in concession (although he didn't say anything). His cards landed intermingled with the board, which I think made it even more likely that people would misread them as a straight, actually. I'm pretty sure that both the dealer and ETP misread the hand.

3) Crasian never once claimed to have had the best hand, or even to have the only live hand. All he did was rant in a confused manner about some other occasion when things did not go his way. It truly was obvious that he knew he was getting the pot with the worst hand.

People suggested the chop because the game came to a screeching halt (at 4 am) for fifteen minutes while the floor went to hunt down the surveillance data. The floor's decision was undoubtedly the technically correct one, but I still think that Crasian behaved in a douchebaggy fashion.

8/13/09 3:50 AM  

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