OK, I’m going to start this post with a caveat. I don’t know Lee Jones. I know he is a well-known and well respected poker player, and that he has written a very good book about poker, Winning Low Limit Hold’em, which I have purchased twice, once as a paperback and later as a Kindle eBook. So he’s actually made money off of me even though we’ve never met. (Not that this gives me the “right” to make such a bold statement as I did in the title.” And to be fair, the situation of which I’m writing is not one that I experienced, but one that has been talked about much in the poker community, and is one in which Lee Jones was not the only one who was wrong.
But I had to get you to click.
The original story was told in a post by Jones himself titled Letting one off the hook, which was referenced by my fellow blogger friend Rob(vegaspoker) in his own post He Let This One Off the Hook–But Should He Have?
In summary, Jones was playing in a $1/$2 NL game into the wee hours of the morning when the game had gotten short because it wasn’t quite to the point of combining table, and flopped the nut flush with A3 suited. ON a blank turn, the action went bet (by Jones), raise, reraise, and then, by all accounts (except the player, who was in the 9 seat right next to the dealer), a declaration of “all in.”
Jones says he (as well as the dealer and pretty much everyone else at the table heard the “all in” and immediately said “I call. I have the nuts.” and exposed his hand.
At which point the other player claimed to have not said “all in.”
Jones, by all account one of the “nice guys” in poker, ended up just taking what was in the pot after the floor had been called and the player adamantly refused to put a single dollar in the pot. Jones even offered to take just the additional $100 that he had raised, but the player still refused. And as he concluded, “Look, I’m no saint, but when I added it all up, this wasn’t the time or place to bring things to a crashing halt over $300.”
But that conclusion was wrong. Make no mistake, Jones wasn’t the only wrong party here, and I’ll get into that. But first, Jones.
One statement he makes is “Among my multitude of failings at the poker table, slow-rolling is not one of them. I immediately said, “I call – I have the nuts.” And turned up my hand.”
But turning your hand face up at that point is NOT slow rolling. Because it is not your turn to act at that point.
Let’s look at this. One player says “all in.” A second player says “I call.” At that point, the action is on the all-in player. That action is NOT on the caller. It is not holding up the game to wait for the correct action.
So I think Jones made 2 mistakes here. Both common, neither egregious, but both resulted in the commotion (and the loss of revenue).
It is a well-known axiom, even a rule, in poker that “verbal declarations are binding.” But I have seen way, way too many angle shooters over the years. If someone before me says “all in,” I will still wait for accompanying action. That can be the player moving chips into the pot or the dealer tossing an “All In” button to the player’s position.
I was in a small tournament once. We were on break. Seat 9 was under the gun after the break and was approaching his seat as the break ended. As he was sitting down and as the dealer was starting to pitch the cards, he jokingly said “I raise.” It was easy to tell he was joking, both in his tone of voice and in the type of person he is. But, “verbal action is binding,” and the action was on him, and the dealer made him put raisin’ chips in the pot.
Which brings me to the second person I see at fault in this scenario: the dealer. Mind you, I’ve seen plenty of bad dealers in my poker “career,” as well as plenty of good ones who make mistakes. We all do. We’re human. So I can’t put a lot of the blame on the dealer here, especially as it seems Jones acted quite quickly.
But dealers have one job: control of the game. Part of control of the game is the integrity of the game. Sure, it should happen all the time, but especially when the bets start getting big, the dealer has to focus on the action and make sure the action plays out correctly. When the player said “all-in,” the dealer should have been the first to act, not Jones. An “all-in” declaration by a player should be echoed by the dealer so there can be no question of the action. A dealer who is following the action will get this done correctly.
I have seen good dealers who follow the game action routinely hold up players who act out of turn, as Jones did here.
And let’s look at the player who (allegedly) said “all-in” and then denied it. Interestingly, Jones says that he does not believe the player was angle shooting, that he’d been playing with the player for awhile and that the player did not seem like the type. That does not mean that they player does not angle shoot, however, and it just might have been that an opportunity had not come up until that very point.
One of the reasons that Jones gives as believing the player was not angle shooing was that the player was “pegged as the tightest player at the table.” But to me, a player like that won’t typically just say “all-in” without accompanying action. It is for this reason that I think an angle shoot was more likely.
Jones wanting to be the “nice guy” because the player was apparently a regular, and the floor, after hearing the situation, was not going to back down, was not going to let the player stay in the room if the player did not pay off the verbal declaration that everyone heard and that the player claimed he never made.
I find that regulars are often the ones who angle shoot the most. They keep rooms going, they toke dealers, they make the action that brings other players in. But through their actions, from angle shooting to colluding, make the games unfair. Unfair games drive players away from games, especially players who put money into the games.
I know I come across as a bit of a hard-ass here, but I don’t think Jones should have let the guy off here. And it’s not about the money (even though, in poker, it’s always about the money). $300 may not be much to Jones, but you cannot put a price on keeping the games fair. More than anything, I believe that you should not be able to escape the consequences of your actions. They guy clearly said “all-in,” and that statement was clearly corroborated.
I’m also not one for holding up games. But I firmly believe that the correct order of play must be maintained, also to keep games fair, and that this must be orchestrated by a dealer active in running the game. That means not just pitching cards and pushing pots, but making sure players act in turn and act when it’s their turn. Most importantly, when someone bets and I call, the bettor has the action, to expose the hand or to fold. Even if I have the stone-cold nuts, it is not a “slow roll” to wait for my turn to act. If the bettor does not act immediately, I know s/he is angle shooting, and I refuse to support that behavior. Dealers shouldn’t either, and if it is repeated, should be the ones to get the floor involved.
It is never being a bad guy to do the right thing, even if the right thing feels bad.