Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Going south

There was a little incident last Friday at the T&I Card Room and I wanted to post here to discuss.

First of all, the concurrent cash game/tourney play is a little new to me so I'm still learning. We have had plenty of nights with a cash game after a tournament but having both running simultaneously with the option of going back and forth is a rarity. Last time was the "all-in blind Steve night" and once again there was controversy.

Mistake number one for me was cashing people out of the ring game to play in the sit and go. That was intended to free up chips for any other players but in retrospect I should have just plaqued players up and set their stacks aside. This ended up being a minor issue since Chris cashed out for exactly (to the chip) a full buy-in. Tiffany cashed out short but bought back in full. I cashed out up about a rack but bought back in for the same amount. No harm, no foul.

So I thought I smartened up for the second sit and go and just set chips aside instead of cashing out. But by the time the second sit and go was wrapping up there was controversy on the cash table. One of the players wanted to take chips off the table. From what I understand, he was up some, went to the sit and go, busted out quickly, returned to the cash table, won some more, then wanted to sock away some winnings. For everyone's edification the rule as stated in Robert's Rules is: "7. If you return to the same game within one hour of cashing out, your buy-in must be equal to the amount removed when leaving that game." The rule is in place to allow people to win back their chips but it sounded like this wasn't even an issue since he came back with his original stack. But once he hit a big pot and tried to pull chips of the table, things got sideways quickly as a heated discussion broke out.

I wish I had come over from the other table earlier to try to resolve the situation since, as the default floor manager, I want things to run smoothly for everyone. I would have liked to explained the reasoning behind the rule about going south and offered the player the opportunity to replace all or some of his chips. If he didn't care to do so, I think a fair compromise under that situation would be that the WNP crew, as gracious guests, would allow the player who wasn't aware of the rule to take off all but roughly a buy-in. Yes, that would be bending the rules somewhat but I think it would have been better overall. Not only would it have helped keep the peace but if a player is concerned about locking in profits for the session then I don't think you're going to get much action anyway. By allowing him to move back down to a buy-in, I think there would be more chance to get a bunch of chips than forcing him to have his whole "vault" at risk. And by putting it to the player to play all or nothing, the option of nothing can and did happen as he cashed out and left which provided zero chance of getting any money back.

I'm not saying we should allow going south. I'm just saying that in that particular circumstance, I think it would have been better that we let it happen. And I realize that if a player is not listening then no amount of reasoning is going to do anything. But I also think that more could have been done to prevent the outcome that happened.


Bob Loblaw said...

Well, I wasn't at the Friday night game, but I'd like to propose a modification to Robert's #7 rule for our friendly-game purposes: Rather than putting a one-hour time constraint on whether it's ok to remove chips from a cash table while still being active in the room, I propose we have an unlimited time constraint.

I don't really see this becoming an issue, but it would help avoid confusion/conflict. I think telling people as they sit down at the cash table, "As long as you are in the room playing cards, every cent you put into (or make at) the cash table is going to remain in play until you leave for the night."
This would also prevent players from saying, "I'm not going to play at the cash table any more now that there's a sit and go," and they cash out for more than a buy-in, go play in the sit-and-go, bust out, and immediately try to re-buy back into the cash game.

To free up chips at the cash table, anybody who gets up to play in the sit-and-go should "plaque up" as much as possible.

Marshall said...

The issue was actually that he had already been taking money off the table, and we only noticed on his last stock up move. He had about 3 racks on the floor that he had taken off the table, so the damage was done already. So no Marty, it was an issue because he never had his actual stack at the table it seems.

And I wish you had come over earlier too, except I don't think it would have mattered one bit. The issue was never the rules, it was the person. The rule was explained by 3 people, calmly and fairly. There was no attack or intent to hurt anyones feelings, yet the situation got out of hand anyway.

I agree that the floor person (you) could have made the decision to let him take a buy-in off the table and then tell him he can't ever do that again. That is fair enough, it was just a misunderstanding of the rule/precept about going south.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Oy. It was worse than I thought if he was taking of a rack at a time as he accumulated. Was he playing out of racks?

I would be fine with amending the rule as Mr. Loblaw suggests if the majority agrees. Some players may even WANT to come back in above the buy-in amount even if they had been away for more than an hour. I don't think it will be much of an issue either way but we should decide ahead of time.

Ryan said...

As you say at the end, Martin, the question here is not whether going south should be allowed (it shouldn't, and I agree with loblaw's time amendment), the question is, what is the best way to handle a rule or etiquette breach by a less-informed player playing with the WNP crew for the first time?

If the person breaching the etiquette is reasonable, this really isn't much of an issue. Many people have played "WNP style" for the first time and had questions, rules misunderstandings, etc., and all have been resolved with simple explanations and discussion. This situation became heated only because of one of the persons involved.

One diplomatic resolution, if it hadn't spun so quickly out of "reasonable discussion" range, would have been to suggest that he cash out of the cash game and just play in tournaments. Basically, don't let him break a standard rule (no going south), but overlook the etiquette breach of the hit-and-run so that he can continue to be a part of the poker evening.

Believe me, from an EV standpoint, if the only choices are that he cashes out or gets to go south and only play a single buyin, the best result would have been him continuing to play with a single buyin. And maybe it's the "friendly" thing to do as well. Martin, you go as far as to say it would have been "better" to let him go south in that spot. I understand where you are coming from, but house rules are there for a reason, and it would have been like capitulating to terrorism to let that rule slide because of his outburst.

Some might say the game wasn't under "Martin Rules," though. Technically, I&T were "the house," and it could be argued that the decision about allowing it or not fell to the homeowners, not to Martin. I say, anyone fortunate enough to have Martin supply and bank a poker night at their home should be happy to turn over "house" status to him as well, as I believe I&T were. It is just awesome to have a cleanly-run, casino-like game held at your house like that, and the fact that Martin is willing to be the "floor" is simply more gravy.

I mean, we can imagine all the steps we could have taken to prevent the ruckus (let people know that Martin is the floor, send complete rules out ahead of time, whatever), but in the end, the best prevention would have been for everyone involved to discuss and resolve the issue like rational adults. I don't think we need to tweak the system or bend the rules to account for the possibility of a given guest being incapable of that.

That being said, in mixed-company evenings like that when Martin is running the game, there is certainly no harm in letting everyone know that, regardless of the location, Martin is "the house," and that questions regarding rules, etiquette, and procedure should be directed to him. Knowing who's boss is helpful to anyone adjusting to our more "formal" poker environment.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I think we are all in agreement that the situation last Friday was pretty much destined to happen regardless.

I was thinking of what could have been done as a generalized solution. For example, let's say Andy instead was seen taking a rack of chips off the table and it were pointed out to him that that is not allowed under standard poker rules. Now suppose that he had calmly and rationally explained that it was how his home game had always been played and that he was honestly not aware of that rule. I will certainly defer to the house so see what T&I wanted to do about it in case that was what they had previously allowed. If it came back to me, I would propose to the table that a reasonable compromise would be that he be allowed to continue with the chips remaining on the table or a full buy-in, whichever was larger but to keep all future chips on the table. I think it would be a good gesture on the hypothetical Andy's part to agree to keep ALL chips on the table. And I think it would have been a good gesture on WNP crew's part to be fine with him taking the rack off. No one would need to agree to the compromise but I think it would have been in everyone's best interest to do so. Sure, if there is an Aces versus Kings hand someone could argue that they were "cheated" out of an extra rack but in all likelihood the chips at the end of the night would have been very close to the same. And as I mentioned earlier, probably even more likely that the chips out of the "vault" would migrate to other stacks.

It's not like it is a rules conflict like saying "well I've always played that a flush beats a full house". It seemed like someone who honestly was not aware of the rule and in my opinion it is a somewhat obscure rule to begin with that I'm sure many players are not aware of. We have done compromises before like when Noah showed his hand face up to Chuck (Chuck R. not Chuck M.) and he thought Noah was folding. In that case we just capped betting at before the hand was displayed and awarded the pot based on hand strength. Allowing a rack to go south in my opinion would have had a much less direct impact on stacks than that ruling.

I know that allowing a rack to be taken off is in violation of a rule but one of the first rules in the rulebook is "1. Management reserves the right to make decisions in the spirit of fairness, even if a strict interpretation of the rules may indicate a different ruling." And in this case, I think it would have been best overall to allow a rack to be taken off. If we couldn't reach agreement then I would have to stick with the rulebook but I would hope that a table full of level-headed players could all bend a little in this situation.

Part of what I can do in the future to minimize occurrences of going south is to tell people when they are cashing out what the house policy is on coming back into the cash game later.

sstadnicki said...

I think there's a dramatic difference here between breaches of rule and breaches of etiquette, and going south very definitely (as was pointed out) falls into the former category. As someone who's been guilty of the latter (I've apologized to Martin in person about my behavior the other week, and I've got a post about it brewing somewhere in the back of my head), I think talking to someone post-facto about what happened and what could have been done differently is only appropriate; breaches of rules are another matter, though. The rules are there for a reason -- usually if you're breaking them, it's to the immediate detriment of someone else at the table. Not correctly representing your table stakes, or 'hiding' your winnings from the other players while you play, are actions with a direct negative impact on the current play of the game. IMHO the corrective action for rules violations should be nice, but it needs to be firm. It definitely sounds like that led to an awkward situation in this case, but... decisions, not results? :-)

Marshall said...

I agree 100% with Steven and Ryan here.

On Ryan's point, IMO, Martin is the floor if he is bringing the chips and running the whole thing. He is certainly qualified and does an excellent and fair job at all times. If T&I wanted to have their own (different) home rules, then that would override Martin and he understands that.

On Stevens point, I agree that there is a huge distinction between rules violations and etiquette violations. Leaving without a warning is one thing, but going south is a completely different territory. If someone pulls a hit and run, you can just tell them it's not nice to the other players and that is that. But on going south or other rule violations, you have to be firm I think and stand by the rule. But of course be nice etc.

Martin for prez