The Poker Floorman

A Floorman's perspective of the poker world

Seat Changes in the Poker Room

How do Seat Changes work at the poker table?

There are many reasons for wanting to change seats at the poker table and it’s not as simple as just getting up and moving when you want to.  Other players may want to change seats as well.  To keep things under control, the dealer should have “Seat Change Buttons” to keep the order of seat changes clear to avoid arguments.  Players are given these buttons to preserve the order in which a seat change was requested:  the player with the Seat Change 1 button has the first option to move seats, then Seat Change 2, etc.  If you want a seat change just ask the dealer for a Seat Change button.

If there is an open seat at the table, any existing player has preference over a new player for that open seat provided that the existing player move to the seat before the new player becomes active in the game.  In the poker room where I work, the house rule is that once a new player takes the seat and sits down, no other player may claim that seat.  A good dealer will ask the existing players if anyone wants the open seat before a new player takes it.

Once there is an open seat and the player with the Seat Change 1 button is offered the seat, he may take it or or pass.  Then the player with the Seat Change 2 button is offered the seat.  Once a player changes seats, he relinquishes the Seat Change Button and he goes to the bottom of the seat change list if he wants to move again.  House rules do vary here somewhat.  Some poker rooms will make the player who declined the seat change forfeit the Seat Change button.  Other rooms let him keep it.  I prefer that the button be forfeited or one player can have first choice indefinitely, which doesn’t seem fair.

That all seems pretty straightforward, but what about the blinds?  Couldn’t a player repeatedly move seats to avoid paying the blinds?  No.  There are rules in place to combat this.

The generally accepted rule is that if a player moves to a vacant seat that is right next to the seat he’s already in, the game isn’t affected at all, so that player can move with no penalty and get a hand immediately.  If the player moves to a vacant seat that is closer to the blinds than the seat he’s already in (even if he jumps over other players), he can move with no penalty and this player can get a hand immediately as well.  Moving to a vacant seat that is farther away from the blinds incurs a penalty, and this is what keeps players from constantly moving seats to avoid the blinds.

When a player moves away from the blinds, he will be forced to sit out the same number of hands as players he jumped over or he can post the amount of the Big Blind.  For example:  the Button is in Seat 1 and the blinds are in Seat 2 and Seat 3.  The player in Seat 5 moves to Seat 8.  He jumped over 2 players (Seat 6 and 7), so he will have to wait 2 hands before being dealt in or post the amount of the Big Blind and receive a hand immediately.  The number of players that he jumped over is the same as the number of “free hands” he would receive if he was allowed to be dealt in right away.

In general, players are not allowed to move out of a blind position into a vacant seat.  Some rooms will allow the Small Blind to move seats, but the player is then required to post the amount of the Small Blind live.  The penalty here is that the player still pays the Small Blind and he will not be able to play his button on the next hand.


April 13, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State your intentions clearly and precisely

Bet, Call, Raise or Fold

These are the only four words that you really need to ever say in order to play poker.  Yet it seems that many poker players feel the need to use more colorful language to say what they want to do, or they just take shortcuts, use slang,  try to look cool, etc. which is all fine until there’s  confusion on what a players actual intentions are.

When you’re playing poker, it’s always best to state your intentions (bet, call, raise, fold) clearly and precisely so everyone knows exactly what you intended action is.  Saying ambiguous statements can get you into trouble at the poker table in many ways.

Let’s say Jim is in a hand and he’s heads up.  Jim is facing a $100 bet from his opponent and he’s thinking about whether he should call, raise or fold.  Jim is counting his chips and after a few moments he says, “OK…”  Then Jim’s opponent turns his hand face up and states “I have the nuts!  Ship it!”  But Jim really wasn’t calling, he was just thinking…OUT LOUD.  Maybe he was thinking “OK…I gotta fold”.  Jim protests that  he didn’t intend to call, but the whole table heard him say “OK” and they saw that he had chips in his hand.  Jim’s opponent doesn’t buy it and thinks that Jim is angle shooting.  This leaves a Floorman with a decision to make:  either Jim puts in his $100 or he’s allowed to muck. Either way, somebody’s pissed off:  Jim or his opponent.

This whole thing could have been avoided if Jim would have not made an ambiguous statement that any poker might have considered a call.  Players say “OK” then toss in their chips into the pot all the time.  So why not this time?

How about making the statement “You win” at a showdown?  If a poker player says this to you, protect yourself by either waiting for him to muck his hand or just table your cards face up on the felt to see who wins.  Believing that your opponent is mucking can be a big mistake.  Say you do believe him and you muck your cards, thinking that the dealer is going to push you the pot.  But wait…he still has his cards, so he tables them and technically wins.  The Floorman may decide this one way or another but it is in YOUR best interest to protect yourself and be sure that others are really doing what they are saying and not misleading you.  Frankly, someone saying “You win” at a showdown doesn’t mean that you win.  If your opponent shows a better hand, he wins.  (cards speak, remember? :))

The bottom line here is that you should be careful about what you say and be careful that you truly understand what your opponent is saying during a hand of poker.  If it’s unclear what your opponent is doing, just ask.  “Are you folding?”, “Are you all-in?”, etc., are all perfectly acceptable things to ask a poker player when you’re playing.


March 8, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poker Chips in Full View and Asking for a Chip Count

Keep your poker chips in full view; players can ask for a chip count

Poker players have a right to know how exactly how much money other players have in play on the poker table and they may ask the other players or dealer to count down their chip stack for an accurate count. (This is very different than asking how much is in the pot).  In general, larger chip denominations should be stacked in front of smaller chips so players can easily see them and they aren’t hidden behind smaller chips.   When you’re playing poker online each players chip total is displayed at all times and easily visible.  Not so in Brick & Mortar casinos.

I had to make a floor call in the poker room one day that ended up in a heated argument.  Player A (I’ll call her Jill) was heads up against Player B (I’ll call him Mike).  Jill was in Seat 3 and Mike was in Seat 8 and they were playing a 1/2 100 spread limit game.

Jill couldn’t see Mike’s chip stack from her seat so she asked Mike how much he had left when she was contemplating her bet size.  Mike took his right hand and held up the three $5 chips he was holding.  Jill then said, “OK, I’ll bet $15”.  Then Mike lifted his left arm, which was resting on the table, and he had another $50 or so in chips hidden behind his arm.  He was pretty proud of himself for fooling Jill, but Jill was not amused and asked for the Floorman to make a ruling.

After hearing the details, I ruled that Jill can take back her $15 bet and adjust her bet size if she wished to do so based on the fact that Mike was not honest about how much money he had on the table and Jill had the RIGHT to know exactly how much he had.  Jill then pushed out a $100 bet which was more than Mike had on the table.  Mike was furious with me, but he wasn’t honest and I feel that I made a ruling that was fair and in the best interest of the game.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules, The WTF Files | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poker Betting Lines

Poker Betting Lines:  What do they mean?

More and more poker tables these days have a “betting line” (aka: racetrack, betting circle, action line or courtesy line) drawn on them.  It’s an oval drawn on the felt maybe 8-12 inches in from the rail or outer edge of the table.  It’s important for new poker players to realize what these betting lines mean since they can mean very different things in different poker rooms.

A typical “betting line”

In some poker rooms the betting line is a definite boundary that will have concrete consequences if chips or cards cross the line.  In these rooms, if you place chips or even hold chips out in the air beyond the betting line, every chip that crosses that line is committed to the pot.  Similarly, if your cards cross that line they are considered dead and your hand is gone.  There is no room for error here.  If you accidentally toss your cards beyond the line for any reason, you cannot get them back and your hand is dead.

In other poker rooms the line is merely a “courtesy line” where chips and folded cards are to be placed beyond the line so that dealers can reach them.  The line does not kill a hand or commit chips to the pot.  For example, a player could bring out a stack of 20 chips beyond the line and cut off 5 chips to make a bet, then bring the rest of his chips back.  Obviously this is very different from the “concrete” betting line where all 20 chips would be committed to the pot.  Also, if a player mistakenly thinks that all other players have folded and he tosses his cards forward, he can get those cards back if they aren’t buried in the muck first.  Again, this is very different from the “concrete” betting line where those cards would be considered dead.

So the moral of the story here is that new poker players or even experienced players playing in an unfamiliar poker room should ask the Floor Supervisor what the betting lines mean in that room to protect himself before sitting down in a game.

What about poker rooms that have no betting line drawn on the table at all.  How do you know when a bet has been made, a hand folded, etc.?

In many of these rooms the area beyond your hole cards is considered the “betting area” and any chips that go beyond your hole cards are in the pot, just as if they were brought out past an actual “betting  line” drawn on the table.  In other poker rooms, simply a “forward motion” with chips in your hand is considered a bet and is a judgment call.  The same goes for hole cards that are discarded.  Tossing them in a forward motion toward the dealer or the muck pile may be considered a fold.

It’s important to know the specific house rules of the poker room that you are playing in.  Don’t feel intimidated about asking questions about these things when you are in an unfamiliar poker room.  A good Poker Floorman will welcome these questions and be glad to answer them.  It’s better for him and you if he educates you about their specific house rules before you sit down to play than having to render a decision later that may not go your way because you didn’t know the house rule.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poker Floorman Decisions Made “In the Best Interest of the Game”

Poker floor calls should be made “in the best interest of the game”

This may be hard for some poker players to swallow.  Sometimes, following the “letter of the law” rule is not the correct decision if an unfair outcome is the result.  That’s right, sometimes a good Floorman will “bend” the rules to promote what’s “in the best interest of the game” and to ensure a fair outcome.  Some poker players feel that being “fair” is nonsense and that a rule is a rule and should be enforced regardless of the circumstances.  This view itself is nonsense, especially when a player intentionally uses a rule as a weapon for his own disingenuous advantage.

There are times when common sense comes into play and, to be fair, the Poker Floorman needs to make a decision that may not completely conform exactly to a specific poker rule.  There’s usually a sign on the wall of a poker room that has something written on it like “The Floormans decision is final”.  This is one of the reasons for that sign.

Here’s a simple example (in my opinion):
It’s heads up on the river and Player A bets $100.
Player B deliberately counts out $100 in chips, holds them out at arms length as if to call and says “OK man…show me your flush.”
Player A then tables his hand, and he has a flush.
Player B then says, “I thought so.  But I didn’t call – I never released my chips into the pot”, then he withdraws his chips and folds.

So, should Player B be made to call the bet?  If I was called to the poker table my answer would be firm “YES” and here’s why.

I’ve written about “protecting your hand” and “protecting your action” and they are very important concepts for a poker player.  Player A really should have waited for Player B to release his chips into the pot to protect himself.  However, what Player B did is what we call an “angle shot” or “shooting an angle”.  He was deliberately trying to deceive Player A for his own advantage in an unethical and unfair way.  He induced Player A into showing his hand by implying that he called.   If Player B saw that he actually beat Player A, he would certainly have made the call, but he saw that he lost and claimed that he didn’t call.  It’s obvious to everyone involved that he shot and angle here.  Angle shots should not be tolerated or encouraged.

Some poker players feel that all is fair at the poker table and if a player doesn’t know the rules, that’s too bad for him.  To a certain extent this is true, but deliberately deceiving someone and manipulating the rules to your own advantage is unethical.

Sometimes deceiving your opponent is just fine – we’ve all bluffed a time or two.  But “angle shooting” and trying to get an opponent to fold or reveal his cards prematurely is despicable and should be discouraged.  The best hand should win at a legitimate showdown, or if all other players fold their hand.  In the case of the example above, I would do what is in the “best interest of the game” and insist that Player B call.

There are countless examples of “angle shooting”.  Poker players who follow the principles of protecting your hand and protecting your action will avoid most angle shots.  Protect yourself and good luck!

February 18, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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