The Poker Floorman

A Floorman's perspective of the poker world

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.

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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

The “One Player to a Hand” (OPTAH) Poker Rule

OPTAH?  What’s that?

Ahh, yes.  The “One Player To A Hand” (OPTAH) poker rule.  This is another concept that new poker players or poker players transitioning from online poker to B&M poker need to be aware of.  It should seem obvious, but the common rules of poker say that only “one person may play a hand”.  Sounds easy enough.  Poker isn’t a team sport after all.

Online, you really have to go out of your way to “help” a player play his hand.  You could type something in the chat window, but you won’t get real far doing that.  Do that a few times and you’ll get reported and banned.  And I suppose you could talk to a friend on the phone or text him to collude against other players.  But blatant cheating isn’t what I’m writing about here.

As always, there are situations where unintended consequences can cause all kinds of problems in a B&M cardroom because there are 10 people sitting around a table having fun and usually enjoying a few adult beverages.  And the “one player to a hand” rule can cause you some problems if you aren’t careful.  It can be a bit tricky too.

As a basic rule of thumb, you should pretty much keep your comments to yourself about another players’ hand or what’s on the board, at least until the hand is completely over and the pot is pushed (with the exception outlined below).  If you happen to see your opponents’ cards, don’t say anything that will help or hurt that player.  Frankly, it’s none of your business.

Some statements are just a blatant violation of the rules.

For example:
Say you’ve mucked long ago and are just watching the hand play out.  At the showdown you hear your neighbor say something like, “Damn, I missed my straight….” And it looks like he’s about to fold his hand as he holds his cards up for you to see.  You notice that he actually made a flush and say, “Yeah, but I’d table my hand just in case if I were you”.  The player then tables his hand to take down the pot.  Is that fair?  He was about to fold, but you instructed him how to play his cards so he won.  Now his opponent is furious with you.  Whooops….you can’t do that!

So what would happen if you did this and the Flooman got called over?  You would most likely get a warning and a brief lecture on the OPTAH rule.  If you repeated the same violation, you might get something a bit stronger.  But luckily, you are reading this and you won’t ever run into this situation.  🙂

Now, there are some nuances to this rule.

Situation 1: At the showdown a player says to his neighbor, “Wow, I can’t believe you made a runner runner flush there…nice one!”   The neighbor then tables his hand and takes down the pot.

If this a violation of the OPTAH rule?  Not really.  Who’s to say if the guy ALREADY KNEW that he made a flush or not?  He didn’t say that he’s folding or that he lost.  I would award the pot to the guy with the flush in this case.

Situation 2: At the showdown a player say’s “Dammit, I missed”, then tosses his cards toward the dealer like he’s folding.  His neighbor then says, “Wait a minute, you made a flush on the river.”  The player then retrieves his cards quickly before they’re jammed in the muck and tables the winning hand.

Is this a violation of the OPTAH rule?  Obviously, it is.  The player intended to fold and even tossed his cards away, but his neighbor alerted him to the fact that he had a flush before his cards were mucked.  I would not award the pot to this player based on the OPTAH rule.

Situation 3: At the showdown a player tosses his cards into the muck.  He quickly says, “Wait a minute dealer…I want my hand back…I made a flush.”  His cards are clearly identifiable and retrievable from the muck.

Is this a violation of the OPTAH rule and should he get his cards back?  No, there is no rule violation here – nobody gave him any advice about his hand.  And yes, his hand is live if it is clearly identifiable and retrievable from the muck.  There is no “magic muck” pile that instantly renders all cards that touch it unable to play (more on this in another article).

Then there are situations where it’s just really bad etiquette and on the line as far as a rule violation.  Say the river brings out a 4th spade on the board.  Don’t say, “Holy cow!  Four spades on the board!  Who has the Ace of spades?”  That’s just bad etiquette for obvious reasons.

Now, if anyone sees a dealer miscall a hand at the showdown, regardless of what a player says he has, they are obliged to alert the dealer as to the error so the pot is pushed the right way.  This is the exception to the OPTAH rule.  When the cards are face up on the felt, cards speak, and the best hand wins every time…even if the player had no idea that he won the hand.

The bottom line:  simply keep you comments to yourself about another players’ hand if you aren’t involved in the hand and you won’t cause any problems.

For reference, here are a few quotes from Robert’s Rules of Poker:

POKER ETIQUETTE

The following actions are improper, and grounds for warning, suspending, or barring a violator:

  • Reading a hand for another player at the showdown before it has been placed faceup on the table.
  • Telling anyone to turn a hand faceup at the showdown.

PROCEDURES

  • Only one person may play a hand.

THE SHOWDOWN

  • Any player, dealer, or floorperson who sees an incorrect amount of chips put into the pot, or an error about to be made in awarding a pot, has an ethical obligation to point out the error. Please help us keep mistakes of this nature to a minimum.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Da Pimp Is In Da House Ya’ll!

A guy started playing in our room pretty regularly.  He was harmless enough, but it seemed that something was a little off with him.  After a few days he started wearing a giant gold “$” on a gold chain around his neck.  Of course this looked ridiculous, but he never said a word about it.

One day one of our dealers said, “Hey, that’s a pretty cool necklace.”

The guy started rambling, “Yeah, well, I plan to get a real one once I win the WSOP.  This one isn’t real.  I’ll get a solid gold one when I win the WSOP.  Ya know, I’m a pimp and a pimp can’t be wearin fake gold.  I mean I dress real good like a pimp.  I drive a convertible like a pimp.  I try real hard to be a pimp every day.  Pimpin’s a big part of my life.”

The whole time the guy was straight faced and serious.  A few weeks later he walks into the poker room looking like this:

Da Pimp Is In Da House Ya'll!

Yeah, a ridiculous suit complete with top hat and cane, fat wallet in hand…and the necklace of course.  All I could say was “WTF?”

January 20, 2011 Posted by | The WTF Files | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Protect Your Hand!

Protect your cards at all times!

This is a gigantic poker concept that cannot be stressed enough.

When playing poker online, your “cards” are an arrangement of pixels on your computer screen.  They cannot killed or declared dead by accident.  Your cards are “safe” online.

Not so in a Brick and Mortar (B&M) cardroom.  When you have real cards in your possession at a poker table, you need to protect them at all times.  The chips you have placed in the pot are your investment – protect that investment.  A protected hand cannot be taken by the dealer and put into the muck, it cannot be commingled with another players cards when he zings them across the table, it cannot somehow wind up on the floor, etc.

So, how do you protect your hand?  Keep your cards in your hand or have a few fingers pressing them to the felt at all times until the pot is pushed to you or until you voluntarily give them to the dealer.  That’s it.  Pretty simple, right?  Yet I have to make calls all the time about unprotected hands being compromised.

Many gaming jurisdictions and house rules allow for a poker chip, stack of chips or a small item to be placed on a players hand to protect it.  A word to the wise here:  placing a trinket on your cards really doesn’t “protect” them.  For example:  you have a cool WSOP medallion that you use as a “card protector” on top of your cards.  Another player is disgusted and fires his cards across the table when he folds and they slide straight under your “card protector” and mix with your cards.  This leaves the player in a tight spot, and many times his hand will simply be killed because his cards have been mixed with another players cards.  Holding your cards and really protecting them would have avoided this.

Here’s another example that I’ve seen many times, even at the WSOP:  a player goes all-in and there’s action going on between other players.  The dealer accidentally mucks the all-in players cards and they are irretrievably buried in the muck pile.  When the Floorman declares that the all-in players cards are dead, the player protests and says “I didn’t have any chips to protect them with!  I was all-in!”  Well, that player had fingers to protect his hand with but he chose not to use them.  That’s a tough lesson to learn.  No good Floorman likes making these calls, but we are obliged to follow the rules.

I can list dozens of examples of players not protecting their hands and losing the pot when they had the best hand.  One of the saddest examples is when a guy stands up at the showdown and spikes his winning hand triumphantly onto the felt, only to have one of his cards cartwheel off of the table onto the floor.  Many poker rooms regard cards that leave the table or hit the floor as “dead”, so this player ends up losing because of his own over-exuberance.  Simply turning over his hand and placing a finger on them until the pot was pushed to him would have avoided this.

Here’s a “Don’t Do This!” list:

  • Don’t leave your cards on the felt in an ambiguous way – like way out there where the dealer might think you folded.  He might just mix them into the muck.
  • Don’t rely on a trinket to “protect” your cards.
  • Don’t spike your cards or throw them in any way.
  • Don’t even toss your cards into the center of the table at a showdown – simply turn them over in front of you and hold onto them until you have the pot pushed to you.

Bottom line:  always have complete control over your cards and don’t open yourself up to a situation where your hand is compromised.  Do this and you may just save yourself from losing a pot that you should have won.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | For Beginner Poker Players, Going from Online to B&M Poker, Poker Rules, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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