Gaming – Tournament Tales: Tournament Rules Part V

In this, the fifth of this series, we’ll address a topic which in my tournament life I’ve seen the most violations, mistakes and errors. This concerns “Play: Bets and Raises.” Rule 41 of the Tournament Director’s Association (TDA) rulebook begins by stating: “Poker is a game of alert, continuous observation” and so it is; by not being alert and observing the action, errors and mistakes are made by players who then, when confronted with the rule(s) affecting their play, very often come out of the event worse for the experience. Allowing oneself to be distracted during play rarely has a positive outcome; there is on the other hand much that can be lost by inattention.

It is obvious and universally understood (as stated in Rule 34): “Players must act in turn. Verbal declarations in turn are binding.” And yet so many players, acting out-of-turn, telegraph their actions and/or intent prior to it being their turn to act: A ‘tell’ of the highest magnitude and a leak in the integrity of the player’s game which contributes to their demise. I have seen it happen that a player says or indicates something out-of-turn, then when it’s their turn they do something opposite to what they said earlier. This is ‘angle-shooting’ players ahead in an attempt to get them to do something different with their hand than they normally would. When at a table with someone like this, watch them closely taking note of what they say and what they really do. Of course, at all times play your own hand as you see best.

This brings us to Rule 35 that potentially may be used to the angle-shooter’s detriment: “Action out of turn will be binding if the action to that player has not changed. A check, call or fold does not change action.” So, if some angle-shooter says “I’ll raise” out of turn and the action has not changed when it becomes his turn, he therefore must raise even if he then just calls. Calling the floor over to insist on this rule being followed will stifle the angle-shooter right quick and he won’t do that again, at least not while you are at the same table.

Rule 36: Methods of Raising – details exactly how a raise can be made. The old Hollywood move (“I’ll see your bet…” and chips go into the pot “…and raise you the deed to your ranch” then more chips go into the pot) isn’t allowed – that’s a ‘string bet’ (two distinct moves) and illegal in tournament play; live action as well, for that matter. Raises must be made either in one continuous motion or “verbally declaring the full amount of the raise prior to the initial placement of chips into the pot.” The salient sentence in this rule reads: “It is the player’s responsibility to make his intentions clear.” Best way to make a raise in either tournament or live action play is to verbalize the fact you wish to raise – “I raise” – then state the full amount of the raise – “Total of one hundred thousand.” That way there is no ambiguity or misunderstanding at all as to your intentions.

Another mistake I’ve seen players make as to their real intentions is throwing in one over-size chip without verbalizing their intention of raising. Rule 38 states “…placing a single oversize chip in the pot is a call if a raise isn’t first verbally declared.” That is another reason why verbalizing one’s intention – and doing so loudly enough so the table and especially the dealer hear you – is so important. You don’t need to startle the players ten rows away with a loud “I RAISE!”, but the players at your table should never be in doubt as to what you intend to do. Another facet of this concept is covered in Rule 39: Multiple chip Betting. If two (or more) oversize chips are placed in the pot which exceeds the current bet but no verbal indication of a raise is made, the assumption will be that the action is just a call. Once more: It is so very important to verbalize – when it’s your turn – what you intend to do before you do it. That way there is zero confusion over what your intentions are and you aren’t giving away to the opponents more information than what they can fathom only by themselves.

Next issue we’ll finish up the review of the TDA rules; again, I have chosen just those worthy of comment in this publication. You can read them all by visiting the website:

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