Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Poker Rules

Recently I was asked the question "In the Red, White, and Blue Poker League tournaments, do you use the same rules as the World Series of Poker?"

The actual situation was that I was chipping up players, I needed to move someone to balance tables, I had a handful of chip racks and I was walking by when someone stopped me and asked a question about how to apply a particular poker rule in the current hand. I don't recall the actual question, but this got several people all asking me questions at once and culminated in a non player who was standing near the table asking first if the poker rules are on the website, and secondly if we use the WSOP rules.

The situation was hectic, confusing, and it was clear to me that he was not going to get the answer he wanted, so I suggested we have the conversation another time. I could not understand what he was looking for and hoped to resolve it later.  It didn't happen that way.  :)

But, the concept of poker rules is of interest to many players.  I'd be happy to provide an answer, but I am just not sure of the question.

The answer to the question - Do we use WSOP rules is difficult to answer because it is a badly worded question.  Do we?  Of course not.  No bar poker game does.  The WSOP rules rely upon dealers and multiple floor personnel.  So do we use the WSOP rules?  Yes, of course we do.  Most bar poker games, the well run ones anyway, use the WSOP rules.

Everyone knows there are very clear rules of poker, and all rules are the same.  Everyone knows that every organization that runs poker tournaments has rules that vary slightly from the next place.  So all rules are different.

So do we use the WSOP rules?  An answer is that when a rule has a variance between the WSOP version of the rule and the WPT version of the rule, we tend to use the WSOP implementation of the rule.  I actually don't know of any variances, but if someone were to bring it to my attention in a contested situation I would lean towards the WSOP version rather than the WPT version.

What I am trying to say is that the actual question, do we use the WSOP rules has little validity unless it is put into context. We use generally accepted poker rules, such as are found in casinos.

Casino poker rules were originally standardized by Bob Ciaffone who setup several major card rooms.  Bob Ciaffone wrote a 38 page document is entitled Robert's Rules of Poker which borrows it's name from Robert's Rules of Order (used as the parliamentary authority for deliberative procedure.)

All the casinos then have their own implementation of the rules.  Harrah's, Showboat, Caesars, and Bally's are all owned by Harrah's Entertainment, as is the WSOP.  The rules vary slightly from Harrah's/Showboat to Caesars/Bally's and then to the WSOP.  On top of all this is the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) which votes on and publishes it's own set of poker rules.

But this is not the gobblygook you were looking for.  You want something solid to go home with.

Our tournaments differ from WSOP rules in the following:
  • We do not have assigned dealers for each table.
  • We "chip-up" rather than "race-off" chips to remove them from the table.
  • We allow blinds to stand if they have been posted.  Casinos do not allow this.
  • We have no roped off area that the spectators must stand behind, we allow them to watch the table.
  • The deal is done by drawing cards at each individual table, not a single deal for high card.
  • Seats are not assigned in our tournaments.
  • Recent WSOP rules require a player to be SITTING in his seat, not standing next to it for his hand to be live. The TDA has voted against this.  Our rule is you look around, if you don't see the player, you may fold him.
  • A bet is chips in front of your cards.  In the WSOP it is chips past the betting line. In some casinos it is chips in front of your cards.
  • We take a constrictive view on the two page WSOP F-bomb rule, but adopt a lenient implementation of the penalties.  The WSOP is more constrictive on their televised tables and less constrictive in general play.  The WSOP uses a penalty of time, the TDA uses a penalty of rounds.  We penalize in rounds.
I'm sure there are a hundred or so other variances, but I'm not going to list them all here.
So an answer is yes, as long as you accept the hundred or so ways our rules are not the same as the WSOP, we play by exactly the same rules as the WSOP.

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