Sunday, October 28, 2007

Table Talk

First off, let me say I’m not bringing this up to pick on Jason. I’m only mentioning it because I think it’s something worth pointing out and something we can all learn from. The fact that it happened twice between me and Jason at Friday night’s mixed game just drives the point home more: things you say during a hand, whether you’re in the hand or not, affect everybody’s play in that hand.

Case #1: Pass the trash. Jason, Martin, Marshall and I are in a hand. We’ve seen three out of five cards, and for this betting round Martin leads out for 8 (showing 3 kings, he’s definitely going for high-hand). I raise it up to 16 (showing 3 low rainbow connecting cards, it’s pretty clear I’m going low, based on the apparent flush and the apparent full-house Martin and Jason are representing) Jason raises it up 24 (showing 3 low hearts, including the Ace, it’s unclear whether he’s going for the low- or high-hand) and says something like “It’s up to me and Royal”. Marsh folds (showing 3 clubs, including the Ace), and Martin caps it at 32.

Since I had already raised it up to 16 in this betting round, I surprise Marsh by folding instead of calling. Jason calls Martin’s bet and goes on to finish out the hand and chop between the two. Now, I was totally unclear where I was standing in the hand when I raised it to 16. Does Jason have the flush, and he’s going for the high-hand, even though Martin is hinting at a full house or better? Or does he have the wheel, and is going for the low hand? But when Jason makes it clear that he is only worried about me, I know I’m beat. I can’t beat the wheel — in fact, I have a really crappy low hand (jack high), but I was representing a good low in the hopes that I’d be the only low left in the hand at the end. Since Jason’s only worried about me, I know he’s in it for the long haul, so I fold. If Jason hadn’t said anything, for all he knows, he could have potentially gotten another 48 chips out of me (although I would have folded on 4th street seeing that he didn’t have the flush). He would definitely have gotten another 16 out of me, either way, had he not said anything.

Case #2: Pass the trash. Jason and I are the only ones left in the hand, and with all betting rounds complete, it’s still unclear whether we’re each going for the low-hand or the high-hand. I have 6543 rainbow, Jason has A345c. My down card is a two, giving me a 6-high straight. So, do I a) go for the high hand here, thinking Jason does NOT have the flush, but instead has the wheel, and my 6-high straight will beat him out? b) go for the low, thinking Jason has the flush and hope that his 5th card making his flush isn’t the 2c or 6c (making his low lower than mine)? Or do I go for both, thinking Jason doesn’t have the wheel, doesn’t have the flush, and is only in for, say, a 7-high low hand?

Initially I decide to go for both. I don’t think Jason has the flush, and I’m hoping my low is lower than his. Typing it up here, it’s quite apparent that this is the stupidest decision of the three — God, pass the trash is an elusive game — but, I’ve got both chips in my hand, ready to stake my claim for both, and Jason is sweating over there. He’s not sure what to do. And then he mumbles more to himself than to the table “I’ve got to decide if I have the nutter here”. Oh, duh! He thinks he might be able to get both! I’m screwed. I’ve already made my decision, but Jason’s still deciding. This is where it gets real interesting. I don’t know how calculated this was on Martin’s part, but he says to me (and the table) “You can refine your decision as often as you want until both of you have both landed on a decision.” I don’t know if this warrants a “one player per hand” statement here, as Martin is merely stating the rules to me, but it’s a very poignant statement. I’m pretty sure he heard what Jason said about the “nutter”, and I say “Oh really?! Thanks!” and pull my fist back. Now, I have to decide: does Jason have the flush, or just the wheel? He’s represented it this far, so I think he does, and revise my decision to go only for the low, as it’s my only chance to take half the pot.

Jason sure enough tries for both, and I scoop because my 6-high low beats his 7-high low (he had the 7c). Had I decided to go for both, Jason and I would have chopped. But if I went for both and Jason decided that he’s definitely beat on the low and goes for the high-hand only, then his flush beats my straight and he scoops. Once again, Jason’s table talk caused me to revise my play, to his detriment.

I think we’ve all gotten a little comfortable with our table talk. We know hold-em well enough to be able to use table talk to our advantage, ie “the speech”, asking questions of each other in the middle of a hand, etc. But in these mixed games, we’re not quite there. The table-talk only gets us in trouble. We might get there eventually, saying things like “I’ve got to decide I have the nutter here” knowing that it will affect the other player’s play, but until that time, I’m keeping my mouth shut.


jason said...

Royal, case one was actually a random comment that I totally fear Royal. It is kind of funny that you read into it and came up with the correct read.

Case II I totally blew it. I gave way too much information which cost me chips. You made a great read and I tip my hat to you.

Good comments though. In hold'em we are all comfortable and can use table talk to give information or misinformation. With the rest of these games, we are not quite there yet. I know I am not and I paid the price for it.

I do love the table talk, it makes the game interesting, but I will be much more careful in the future with games I am not yet familiar with.

Bob Loblaw said...

"case one was actually a random comment that I totally fear Royal"

And that's exactly why I folded. If you hadn't been going for the low, you wouldn't have even paid much attention to me, other than to remark that I was going for the low (because I had such a mid-range not-quite-low-enough type hand). But because you were worried about me, I knew that my semi-bluff for the low wasn't going to work.

Sushi Cowboy said...

I was totally out to lunch on both of those hands.

In the first one, I was only concentrating on keeping Ryan in by showing my three Kings first to play off of what Ryan chastised me on before and to run a double reverse. Once I lost him I wasn't worried about the hand - if Jason has a wheel straight flush then I'm paying it off. I did not pick up on his comment.

On the second one, I again missed the comment that Jason said and whatever relevance to the hand that there may be but I did sense that the rules clarification was pertinent in that situation. Usually decisions are pretty quick because it is fairly obvious which way everyone is going. Significant delay in declaration can indicate a decision to go high or low or even a scoop. I have also seen a player change their declaration by pulling their hand back.

Was my comment violation of "one player per hand" protocol? Royal brings up a valid concern. My intuition was that Royal was wondering if he could change his declaration. To me it was similar to looking at someone who announced "raise" and playing with his chips to figure out how much he needs to put in to make a valid raise. Even though nothing was specifically asked, I thought that the rule clarification was relevant and it apparently was.

I think a statement like "you might want to change your declaration if you think Jason is trying to scoop" would clearly be a violation of one player per hand. I think my statement was definitely gray area since it was a rules clarification that could affect play in the hand. Even though we repeatedly told Jason "Zero for low, one for high, two for both" I believe he verbalized his confusion each time.

Either way, it would have been black or white if Royal had asked me first so I apologize for introducing a murky situation into the evening.

Now whether or not it should be allowed to pull your declaration back is another issue. Personally I think it will ironically speed up the game to be able to change your vote. If each person is trying to wait out the other person to try to get a read or whatever then I think we're going to see excessive delays.

As long as the other person has not put out their declaration I think changing your declaration should be fine. If everyone has their declaration out then I think it makes sense to disallow a change at that point. I think there is a flavor of declaration games where it goes in order around the table so the button has a HUGE advantage in being able to see everyone else's declaration before deciding but that's a different story.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Oh and another thing that I should mention is that in the second case, Jason screwed himself over with his comment. However in the first case, I won a smaller half of the pot than I would have due to Royal's fold.

There was another time when I had to remind *someone* to keep his comments to himself because he revealed his holding while there was still action at the table.

I am guilty of this as well but I think that some of us have gotten a little lax on the chatter. So allow me to take this time to reiterate: If your hand is not in play, do not make any comments or actions that may in any way affect the outcome of the hand. Thanks.

Bob Loblaw said...

That’s a really good point. I hadn’t considered that there was a 3rd player in the hand. Bummer. When we’re in a game that has multiple people winning a portion of the pot, table talk becomes a much bigger deal. Granted, it affects hold ‘em hands, too, but it seems more so in hi-lo games.

Marshall said...

I openly encourage rule infringing table talk at all times during a hand.