January 08, 2016

Always Protect Your Beverage

An axiom of live poker is: "Always protect your hand." If a hand is fouled or mucked by mistake, a player often has no recourse. To protect their cards from misadventure, many players will use a card protector or "capper"—a chip, coin, medallion, or small trinket placed on top of their cards to weigh them down and signal to the dealer the hand is live. 2004 WSOP Main Event champion Greg "FossilMan" Raymer famously uses small fossils as card protectors, and often gives them away to players who beat him.

I got to thinking today about the "protect your hand" rule and card protectors because of a blog post by Rob, over at the cryptically named Rob's Vegas & Poker Blog (here's my memory of one of my first times meeting Rob). Rob may be the last poker blogger left in the wild. He writes regularly, often posting entertaining trip reports (remember those?) about his poker outings in Vegas. With posts filled with wacky hand histories, outlandish characters, and hilarious hijinks, Rob keeps it old school. Nobody consistently puts the "long" in "longform" quite like Rob.

Today, Rob posted a vignette (an "anecdote" by Rob's standards) about having his drink "stolen" from him while he stepped away from the poker table during a tournament at Aria. Now "stolen" is probably a bit of an overstatement. In reality, what likely happened is that a cocktail server saw a glass which appeared abandoned and picked it up in the normal course of her rounds. Look, beverages are free in Vegas poker rooms (though Rob, like most poker players, typically tips the server a buck per drink). So if your glass is picked up with a couple of sips left, no big deal, right? Well, not for Rob, who has—to date—been inspired to pen more than 2,500 words over two posts on the grave injustice of removing his beverage glass before he has consumed every drop of liquid and every cube of ice. 

Given the quirky nature of many poker players, it should not surprise anyone that some poker players can be a little over-protective of their free beverages. Back during our annual Ironman of Poker (IMOP) trip in March 2012, my buddy Santa and I were playing 4/8 Limit Omaha8 at Venetian. As you might expect for such a game, Santa and I were the only players born after World War II. One of the players—let's call her Ruth—reminded me of a raptor; beady-eyed, with talon-like hands that pounced on any pot she drug. 

Ruth, like most of the other players, was a regular in the game. Also like most of the regulars, Ruth complained loudly about everything—the room temperature, the drafty ventilation, her chair, the dealers, the other players, her cards, the board cards, the food and beverage service, the comp system, and whatever topic was brought up at the table. I think it's safe to say that low stakes Omaha8 players are the pettiest, most miserable class of people in any poker room, and possibly in the entire casino.

I had the dubious privilege of sitting next to Ruth. Needless to say, a couple of drunk young guys yucking it up and splashing around did little to lighten the mood at the table. Losing money to a couple of luckboxes who played too many hands and chased (and caught) too many draws was just the latest indignity the regulars had to endure; many of the regulars, including Ruth, were rather vocal in sharing their displeasure at our style of play.

At some point, Ruth ordered dinner. When her food was delivered, it was placed on a side table between us. Of course, we heard a litany of complaints—service was slow, they hadn't gotten her special instructions right, the food was too cold, blah, blah, blah. Nonetheless, Ruth ate her dinner, then got up and went for a walk.

About 15 minutes later, a food server came by and asked if he could remove the dishes from the side table. I told him he could. The server left the side table because I and another player had our drinks sitting on it (the Venetian's tables did not have cup holders).

Another 15 minutes went by, and Ruth returned. Immediately upon sitting down, she snapped: "Where is my soda? Who took my soda?" At that outburst, I remembered Ruth had been drinking a soda with dinner out of a standard glass. When she left, the glass was less than half full, and she had tossed her napkin over it. It certainly had appeared ready to be cleared. But ...

"Why would they take my soda? 

"I told them I thought you were done with dinner."

"I was done eating." Beady eyes glared at me. "Why did you tell them they could take my soda? I put my napkin over it so they wouldn't take it."

Now, I'm not certain if a napkin over a glass is a high society etiquette maneuver which indicates, "please don't take my beverage", or if the Venetian's napkins serve as magical cloaks of beverage invisibility. But Ruth was clearly peeved about her missing soda. So naturally, every server the rest of the evening was given imperious instructions not to touch her beverage glass. And, every time she left the table, the dealer was given strict orders to protect her beverage as though it were an irreplaceable family heirloom. I got the impression—via several glares and snide comments—that Ruth did not find the situation nearly as amusing as I did. Of course, I may have needled her just a little whenever she brought up the topic.

In any event, about a month later I was back in Vegas for a work conference. One night I went over to Venetian to play 1/2 NLHE. As I wandered through the room, I noticed Ruth was back at the 4/8 Omaha8 game. And again, Ruth had a side table next to her to hold her dinner plate and a glass of soda. But this time, Ruth was prepared. Covering her glass was a laminated coaster with a straw hole. Above a large black skull and crossbones on bright yellow background was neatly typed:


Based on Rob's posts, I bet there's an untapped market for poker drink protectors.

"Please Do Not Take This Drink"
--Venetian Poker Room (April 2012)


  1. This is great, Grange. I am honored to have inspired this. Thanks for the tribute.

    I have to get one of those "drink protectors." Actually, I have seen people take a cocktail napkin and put it on top of their drink (and poke the straw, if there is one, thru the napkin). I always assumed it was a signal to not take the drink.

    But these days the waitresses don't give you cocktail napkins. OK, I guess you have to ask for them....then I face the quandary that I would have to take a napkin that's been on a poker table and put the straw through it, and also have the napkin touch my drink. Not very sanitary.

    1. Maybe you could get a fancy reusable water bottle to take with you, and pour your soda into that? Though that might then be stolen. Unless you add an alarm and GPS tracker??

    2. Definitely like the alarm and GPS tracker, Grange.

      I do want to make one thing clear that I meant to put in my original comment, a friend of mine reminded me of it this morning.

      My obsession over this is not due to the fact that I want to squeeze out every last milliliter out of my drink for my buck tip. If the waitresses came around often enough so that I could turn in my 3/4's finished drink for a fresh one, I'd be very happy.

      It's just that I really do have an issue keeping my throat from getting dry, especially in the desert, and like having the option of something to help that in front of me at all times. I actually use a mouthwash to help with Dry Mouth.

  2. Omaha8 players are the pettiest, most miserable class of people in any poker room, and possibly in the entire casino.

    I see you haven't played at the Stud table.

    1. I've only played Stud as part of mixed games. But who could ever be unhappy playing Razz?

  3. Perhaps you don't remember when smoking was allowed in poker rooms. Then in addition to "you stole my drink" we had to hear "you stole my cigarette" anytime someone took an ashtray to be emptied. It didn't matter that the thing had burned all the way down to the filter ....

    And there is another variation. A player orders dinner and eats it, leaving a tiny morsel left somewhere on the plate. It might be one pea, or a scrap of bread. Then after guarding their plate for an hour they go to the bathroom. While they are gone the server comes over and sees what appears to be an empty plate and removes it..... when the player returns he is outraged that someone would take his food before he is done with it..... and is immediately demanding a comped meal. The fact that the meal was originally comped is of no solace ..... they need their comp value returned to the account.......

    1. tru the memories. coming home smelling like an ashtray.