February 21, 2010
Twice in the past two weeks I have encountered a poker etiquette situation that is easily among my Top 5 poker pet peeves (in case you’re curious, I’ve added a sidebar devoted to my poker pet peeves). Although I’m generally an easy going guy at the poker table and let things roll off my back, this particular breach of etiquette is one that irks me enough that I have started speaking up when it occurs.
In both situations, I have been involved in a big pot. In both cases, there were three of us going all-in for substantial amounts on the flop. In both cases, I put my money in knowing I was behind top pair or an overpair, but getting good odds for a call—in one case, I had straight and flush draws, and in the other I had top pair and an open-ended straight draw. In both cases, my draws blanked, and I mucked immediately after the winner tabled his hand.
Of course, in both cases, the same thing happens. Some yahoo who folded preflop pipes up, “I want to see his hand!” pointing to my mucked cards. Slowroll me, Hollywood me, celebrate like Hevad Khan, even berate me for my bad play, and I’ll rarely give any reaction other than a smile (and maybe a sarcastic needling remark later at an opportune moment). But if you aren’t in a hand and ask to see my cards, well, this is one situation where I’ve decided to draw the line. In both cases, the conversation went roughly the same:
Yahoo: “I want to see his hand.”
Me: “Are you accusing me of cheating?”
Yahoo [confused]: “No. I just want to see your hand.”
Me: “I know you want to see my hand. You weren’t in the hand, so the only reason to ask is if you are accusing me of collusion.”
Yahoo: “No, no. I just want to see what you called with.”
Me: “If you weren’t in the hand, the only good reason to ask to see my hand is if you think I’m cheating. So, go ahead. If you think I was cheating, ask to see my hand.”
Yahoo: “I just want to see your cards.”
Me: “I know you want to see my cards. And it’s rude.”
Of course, both times they persisted and the dealer—correctly—showed my hand. Under the most common poker rules, any called hand may be shown at the request of any player. Some poker rooms limit the right to those in the hand, or upon a valid basis for suspecting collusion (two players betting big with marginal holdings to force out a third, better hand). In one case, the requester was a regular player who later apologized. In the other case, the player spent the next three hours muttering non-stop about “etiquette” every time he was involved in a showdown. I guess rules-tilt is appropriate karmic justice.
Although asking to see a called hand is within the rules, doing so when not in a hand and solely to gain information is widely regarded as poor poker etiquette. As with many poker rules, there is a fairly obvious line between proper use and abusive misuse of the called hand rule. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do so. Not surprisingly, my friend the Poker Grump, poker etiquette maven extraordinaire, has already discussed this issue. The Grump helpfully pointed to a longer article on the subject, which I think summarizes the situation nicely:
Players abuse the called-hand rule because they want to know what cards a player had. The original reason for the rule was to prevent collusion. If two players raised back and forth and drove another player out of the pot, other players at the end had the right to see the losing hand to make sure that that hand was actually a legitimate holding, and not an unfair ploy by players who presumably would split their winnings later. Even though the rules permit requesting any called hand to be shown, you'll find that in public cardrooms, players rarely ask. Doing so is often considered a breach of poker etiquette. It's easy online. At the end of any hand in which you had cards, you can just click on the button that presents the hand history. No one knows that you looked. In live play, though, you'll soon make a nuisance of yourself and annoy the others at your table if you keep asking. Reserve doing so for a hand in which you had demonstrable interest, such as one in which you were driven out by a large bet on the river and the winning hand is worse than yours and you want to see if you had the bettor beat. And even then, exercise your right sparingly.
—Michael Wiesenberg, “Rules of the Game: Part VIII—Called hands” (Cardplayer.com, June 11, 2008) (emphasis added).
Remember, curiosity killed the cat. Asking to see my mucked hand merely gets you tasered.