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Deal Me In: 'All in' demystified

25 January 2013

Dear Mark: At our low-stakes Friday night poker game, we have one player who is adamant that anytime someone has an insufficient amount of chips (money), that person is automatically forced out of the hand. This particular player bullies us with his bankroll, which, from what limited information we know about poker, does not make sense, nor fair to the rest of us. Could you please explain why we are right and he is is wrong? Gary R.

The game of poker is typically played as "table stakes," meaning, Gary, that only the chips in play from the beginning of each hand can be used throughout that hand. The table stakes rule has a subordinate element called, "all in," meaning that a player lacking the dough to fully call the bet cannot be forced to forfeit their hand.

Any player, be it in a casino or at your kitchen table, who doesn't have enough wherewithal to call a bet is acknowledged as all in. If the all-in player happens to be the winner of that hand, he or she qualifies only for that portion of the pot as it stood at the time of the all-in player's final wager, and not the whole pot. All further action among the other players, following a bettor's "all in" declaration, takes place in a "side pot," which is unavailable to the all-in player.

Dear Mark: I have two questions regarding gambling and taxes. When using a slot card, are all my winnings totaled together, then reported to the IRS? Also, can my wife's losses offset my winnings and vice versa? Ken W.

The casino does NOT collectively add up your smaller wins and report the total to the IRS. Likewise, the use of a slot card has no effect on your tax liability. If you win $1,200 or more, including the original wager, you are issued a W-2G. Only then, independent of your use of a slot card, does the casino report your win. Apart from your individual slot wins over $1,200, you are on the honor system as to whether to report a net win over the entire year.

And on to your second question, Ken, yes, married couples can combine their wins and losses for reporting purposes, just so long as they file a joint return.

For more information on how gambling winnings are taxed and when they are reported to the IRS by casinos, you might want to check out this easy-to-read $12.95 guide that explains everything gamblers need to know about taxes, "All In Against the IRS: Every Gambler's Tax Guide" by Stephen Fishman, J.D.

The information in this book applies to all forms of gambling, such as slots, blackjack, sports betting, poker, poker tournaments, internet poker, lotteries, raffles, sweepstakes, horse racing, you name it. You can find it at the Gamblers Book Club.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people." - Will Rogers
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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.