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Deal Me In: Card down!

12 June 2013

Dear Mark: I have a question regarding Robert's Rules of Poker. A player was playing a Texas Hold'em, 3-6 limit game. After going all in, he picked up his cards and one fell on the floor. I was the floor person and was called to the table. The dealer asked what the ruling is, and my response was, per Robert's Rules, the player must play the card. Another player loudly questioned the call and said it was a dead hand. Because I had the rules printed at my station, I went and got them and told the questioning player to read the rule, which he did, then said, "that's not right." The next week our manager questioned my call. I showed him my proof for the call and he also said that it was not right. My response, show me otherwise, but he couldn't. In summary, I cannot find an Internet site listing this circumstance as a dead hand. Only Robert's Rules of Poker address this irregularity. Your comments, please! Larry S.

The mathematics of gambling are pretty black and white, whereas the interpretation of the rules can be multiple shades of gray. God only knows how many times I'd gone gray when it came to the house rules, mostly to improve customer service. On table games, I overrode the rulebook because it was the house against the player, and I knew that we would get the money back a few hands down the road. Player against player, as it is in poker, is like chalk and cheese.

So to separate civilization from chaos, one in a managerial position refers to the rules of poker that all card rooms have, and by which they conduct their games.

Your scenario, Larry, was that a card fell on the floor, the dealer announced, "card down," you picked it up, and, subject to "your" interpretation of the rules, made the decision that the card that hit the ground was still live.

Your ruling is contrary to my supervisory experience in Nevada card rooms, where any card not in play, like a card being dropped on the floor by either the dealer or an overly excited player, creates a dead hand. The belief here is that once any card leaves the sight of fellow players, there is no way to verify that the card that comes off the floor is the same card that left the table. Calling the hand dead protects the integrity of the game.

Cooke's Rules of Real Poker concurs. Rule 16.12. Cards Remain on Table: "A player's hand which is removed from sight or has a card dropped on the floor shall be declared dead. If a card falls to the floor for any reason other than being dealt off the table by the dealer, that player's hand is automatically dead."

That said, Larry, I believe your decision was made in good faith, and I can buy your side of this barney, especially if Robert's Rules of Poker are exclusively referred to, and used, as house rules where you are employed.

Robert's Rules of Poker is a set of poker rules written by Robert Ciaffone, which covers almost every possible rules issue that can arise in Texas Hold'em. Under General Poker Rules, Irregularities, number 14, it states: "If you drop any cards out of your hand onto the floor, you must still play them." Furthermore, under House Policies, Decision Making, it says: "Management (which would have been you at the time) reserves the right to make decisions in the spirit of fairness, even if a strict interpretation of the rules may indicate a different ruling."

In the future, Larry, if a player throws a vociferous tizzy over a decision you make, think about using this out. Impound the pot, and then get the shift supervisor to make the ruling and let him or her take the heat. That is found in Robert's under House Policies, Decision Making, rule 7.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "I must complain the cards are ill shuffled till I have a good hand." - Jonathan Swift
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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.