December 29, 2010

Doing the Hokey Poker-y at the 'Shoe

You put your red chips in.
You put your red chips out.
You put your red chips in,
And you shake them all about.
You do the Hokey Poker-y and you change your bet around.
That's called an angle shot!

This weekend I played a 1/3 NLHE cash game session at the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs. After seven or eight years of playing live poker, I thought I had seen just about every possible poker rules issue.  I was wrong.  There truly is something new under the sun.

To provide the appropriate context, the Horseshoe has two rules which factor into this situation.  First, the 'Shoe uses a betting line, with any money put in the pot while action is pending being required to stay in the pot, even if the player made a mistake (e.g., player puts out a call, not seeing a raise; the call money must stay in the pot if the player folds). Unlike some poker rooms, however, the 'Shoe does not enforce any rule about chips crossing the line in the air; it's only chips in the pot that must stay in the pot. Second, there is this ridiculous house rule:

On called all-in bets, once all action is complete, all live hands must be tabled.  If the all-in action occurs prior to the river, all live hands must be tabled before the remaining board cards are dealt.

During the hand in question, there was a multi-way pot with a small preflop raise.  On the flop (J-9-7 with two to a flush), Yahoo #1 bet, Yahoo #2 raised, and Yahoo #1 was the only caller.  Now the Two Yahoos were two younger guys who had been jousting with each other and a couple of the other young guys at the table in fairly typical aggressive internet hoodie style.  The Two Yahoos clearly had some history and seemed to be gunning for each other.  Also, an important factor in the events was that the two Yahoos were across the table from each other, occupying Seats 3 and 8.

The drama occurred on the turn.  The turn card was a Jack, giving the board two Yaks to go with a variety of straight and flush draws.  Yahoo #1 checked.  Yahoo #2 thought, then grabbed roughly half a stack of red chips and crossed the betting line, started to cut off three red chips as if to bet $45-$60 (three or four stacks of $15 each), then stopped, took back his chips to his stack, and then pushed his entire stack of roughly $175  across the line while saying, "All-in" (he actually cut three chips, then picked up all his chips, put them on top of his stack, and pushed all of his chips into the pot).  Yahoo #1 immediately says, "Call" and triumphantly stands up and slaps down Ace-Jack.  The dealer was still looking at Yahoo #2's bet and says, "I can't let you make that bet."  Yahoo #2 pulls back his stack, and the dealer reaches out and grabs $45 in red chips from Yahoo #2's stack and says, "I'm going to hold you to this amount as your bet." Honestly, I think Yahoo #1 acted so quickly in calling, while the dealer was focused on Yahoo #2's strange action, that the dealer was oblivious to Yahoo #1's "call".  In any event, Yahoo #2 looked at Yahoo #1's hand, laughed, and mucked, taking back his remaining stack.

So, this is a fine kettle of fish.  Yahoo #2's action seems to be a pretty clear string bet.  But, it seems possible that he was angle-shooting, using the betting line rules to gain an advantage.  On the other hand, although Yahoo #2 said "all-in" and pushed his stack across the table, Yahoo #1 did act a bit precipitously in tabling his hand, even though it was required by house rule, prior to the dealer indicating action was on him or clarifying whether the all-in was a legal bet.  On the third hand, the dealer was slow to issue a ruling on a string bet and correct Yahoo #2's action prior to Yahoo #1's "call".

So, dear readers, what do you think?
  • Should Yahoo #2's "all-in" stand?
  • Should the dealer have handled things differently?
  • Is Yahoo #1 at fault for tabling his cards?
  • How should a floor rule if he is called to the table by Yahoo #1?
(Here are Robert's Rules of Poker for basic betting and no-limit betting, though this situation seems not to be contemplated within those rules).


  1. Yahoo #2 is an Ahole and his bet should stand.

  2. All of the above. The bet clearly is a string bet. Without reading the actual rules, betting must always be performed in one fluid motion, unless verbally declared prior to physically initiating the bet (eg. saying "I raise $xxx/all-in" and putting out chips in multiple movements.)

    Yahoo #1 acted too fast before action was really on him, and cost himself money. The dealer could have been perhaps a bit quicker (although is could likely have been hard given how bang bang things likely happened.

    The floor could rule that the all-in stands according to the "integrity of the game" clause in Robert's, but that would not likely happen...

    Anyway, according to Tommy Angelo, one should practice moving all your stack in in one fluid motion to avoid such a scenario...

  3. I have no love lost for either of these guys, but ultimately, the blame falls on Yahoo #1. Yahoo #2 made a classic string bet, and Yahoo #1 was too excited to think before acting. It's a classic premature elation scenario. If he had just taken his time, or at least not instantly exposed his cards, this all could have been avoided.

    Now, if Yahoo #2 was angle-shooting, that isn't cool. But the final mistake that cost Yahoo #1 more money was the snap call/exposure.

  4. I don't think the betting line comes into play. If you cut out $45 that for into the table it will be construed as a bet in most poker rooms. So the ruling should be $45 bet, no all-in because that would be a string raise.

    I'm not even sure the "show your hand on all-in" rule comes into play. It sounds like Yahoo #1 was bragging when he "triumphantly stands up and slaps down AJ."

    It sounds like it was two internet players not all that familiar with live game protocol. (First rule of protocol, don't be a douche) My gut feel is that Yahoo #2 made an inadvertent string bet and Yahoo #1 is not experienced enough to recognize an obvious string bet when he sees it. There is a possibility of an angle shoot, but it doesn't feel like it from the description.

    Final ruling: Yahoo #2 bet $45 and then mucked his hand so Yahoo #1 gets the pot, including the $45.

    On a side note, the dummies in charge of Planet Hollywood decided the tourists weren't getting angle shot enough so they recently introduced a betting line. c.c

  5. @ Tarpie:

    I'm not even sure the "show your hand on all-in" rule comes into play. It sounds like Yahoo #1 was bragging when he "triumphantly stands up and slaps down AJ."

    I may have failed to convey how zealously the dealers enforce this stupid rule. The moment there is an all-in and a call, you are hounded in a very stern manner to flip over your hand. So, any player calling an all-in at this room would naturally be inclined to flip over his hand immediately as he called.

    That all being said, there is no question Yahoo #1 was being a bit of a Phil Hellmuth shove-jerk with how he called.

    Also, I was dead certain it was a string bet by Yahoo #2, enough that I shot a glance at the dealer when he didn't immediately say something. I think any experienced player should have realized something wasn't kosher with the bet; it's not like there hadn't been other string bets called earlier in the session.

  6. Final ruling: Yahoo #2 bet $45 and then mucked his hand so Yahoo #1 gets the pot, including the $45.

    I agree with this, although if I were the floor I'd try to think of some way to make Yahoo#2 lose more of his money.

    On a side note, the dummies in charge of Planet Hollywood decided the tourists weren't getting angle shot enough so they recently introduced a betting line.

    I play in the Tunica casinos and each one that has put a betting line out there has eventually taken it away. All it does is complicate things and annoy the players.

  7. I don't play much, but based on my basic knowledge, I'd have to say Yahoo #1 is at fault here.

    I understand that the house may berate a player for not turning over immediately, at least it's just noise at that point, with no chance to lose anything. Due to mandating all hands involved must be flipped before other cards are dealt.

    Based on that, I think the error here is on Player 1. Is it an angle shoot, I'd guess yet, but I lean to sticking to the rule and even a novice like me would be severely upset if they ruled any other way for a place that uses the betting line regularly and consistently.

  8. Tough one. When no clear ruling is evident, I think the best thing to do is rule according to intent. And it seems to me Yahoo #2 intended to go all-in. (Bonus: This ends up punishing him if he was trying to angle-shoot.)

    But, yeah ... if the string bet was obvious to everyone else at the table and clearly in violation of house rules, it's hard to argue with them ruling the way they did.

    I don't want to blame the dealer for not acting fast enough. It sounds like it was a bang-bang incident. Plus, I'd rather dealers take an extra second or two if that's what they need to get the ruling correct.

    Ultimately, Yahoo #1 let his emotions get the better of him, and it cost him. Although that ridiculous rule stating that both parties have to flip their cards on an all-in didn't help matters.

  9. I think Yahoo #1 should be able to take Yahoo #2 out back and get two kicks with a steel-toed boot to a body part of his chosing (one for each douchey move). But, the dealer should have stopped and clarified the action before Yahoo #1 had a chance to say "call".

    Yahoo #2 keeps his stack (minus $45) but gets glared at until he leaves the table.

    O/T: Did you get the bottle of Surly yet?

  10. Results: After the dealer made his ruling that the bet had been $45, Yahoo #2 folded, Yahoo #1 went crazy. But Yahoo #1 never called for the floor, the dealer pushed the pot and shuffled for the next hand. Yahoo #1 finally got control of his whining and stormed off to the front desk where he accosted a floor about the situation.

    All in all, I don't mind the dealer's decision. Yahoo #2 might have been angle-shooting, but Yahoo #1 acting so quickly and showing his hand really made things difficult to back up. I also would've been fine with holding Yahoo #2 to an all-in in the best interests of the game. Just a weird situation.