Verbal Declaration Ruling Event 6

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Navickas 1 year, 3 months ago.

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    Brad Jensen


    I wanted to provide a formalized response to a ruling that occurred this weekend at Event 6 that seemed to cause some disagreement among the players involved. A similar situation occurred last season so I felt it best to outline why the decision was made along with specific citations from the governing rule books (WSOP and TDA rule books). Both rule books are available on the website for your review as well.

    The situation:

    Player A moves all in. Player B, thinking they are opening the pot, indicates verbally that they “call”. Upon learning that there was an all in, Player B indicates they didn’t want to call an all in and attempts to muck cards. The dealer in the hand, acting quickly, stops the cards from being mucked and indicates that a call of the all in has occurred. The TD was brought over and upheld the dealer’s ruling at the table. Both hands are turned up and a full board is run and a winner declared.

    An additional note is that the action and ruling in this hand would have been the same if Player B indicated “Raise” instead of “Call”. The only difference would be that if Player B had more chips than Player A and their all in bet, Player B would be on the line for at minimum double Player A’s raise (ie the amount between the BB and their all in bet), which in many cases would commit all their chips with action still open to any hands behind them left to act.

    The ruling:

    In line with the basic rules of poker, this ruling was 100% correct. Verbal declarations are binding. When you announce “call”, you are calling the most recent betting action. In blind games, the betting action begins with the posted Big Blind (BB). Any action that takes place by the Under the Gun player (UTG, first player free to act) will be a call of the BB, a raise of at least twice the amount of the BB, or a fold, and so on in turn through the Small Blind (SB) and back to the BB.

    If a raise has taken place, and a player verbally indicates “call” in turn, they are calling the amount of that raise. If the verbal declaration occurs out of turn, the verbal declaration will hold if no change in action (ie a player between the first raise and the out of turn call makes a raise) and if there is a change in action, the declaration may be upheld at the discretion of the dealer.

    From the TDA Rule Book:

    37: Verbal Bet Declarations / Acting in Turn / Undercalls A: Players must act in turn. Verbal betting declarations in turn are binding. Chips put in the pot in turn stay in the pot. An undercall (betting less than the current call amount) is a mandatory full call if made facing an opening bet multi-way on any betting round, or facing any bet heads up. In all other situations, TD’s discretion applies. For purposes of this rule, in blind games the posted BB is the opening bet on the first round.

    Another important part of this rule is the “undercall”. Just putting a chip in the pot after a raise can constitute a call. This is a departure from past rules to some extent so it warrants discussion. In the past a player would just be responsible for the chip they put in but not they may now responsible for the full raise.

    From the WSOP book:

    89. Verbal Declarations / Action in Turn: Verbal declarations in turn regarding wagers are binding. Participants must act in turn at all times. Action out of turn will be binding if the action to that participant has not changed. A check, call or fold is not considered action changing. If a participant acts out of turn and the action changes, the person who acted out of turn may change their action by calling, raising or folding and may have their chips returned. Participants may not intentionally act out of turn to influence play before them. A player skipped by out of turn action must defend his right to act. If the skipped player has not spoken up by the time substantial action occurs to his left, the out of turn action is binding. The Floor Person will be called to render a decision on how to treat the skipped hand. All-in buttons will be utilized in all WSOP Bracelet Events. Violators will receive a penalty in accordance with Rules 39, 107 and 108.

    This is further discussed in the TDA rule book:

    39: Methods of Calling Standard and acceptable forms of calling include: A) verbally declaring “call”; B) pushing out chips equal to a call; C) silently pushing out an overchip; or D) silently pushing out multiple chips equal to a call under the multiple-chip betting rule (Rule 43). Silently betting chip(s) relatively tiny to the bet (ex: NLHE, blinds 2k-4k. A bets 50k, B then silently puts out a single 1k chip) is non-standard, strongly discouraged, subject to penalty, and will be interpreted at TDs discretion, including being ruled a full call.

    Additionally, using other verbal and non-verbal types of declaration are discussed in the WSOP book:

    59. Non-Standard and Unclear Betting: participants use unofficial betting terms and gestures at their own risk. These may be interpreted to mean other than what the participant intended. Also, whenever the size of a declared bet can reasonably have multiple meanings, it will be ruled as the lesser value. For example, “I bet five.” If it is unclear whether “five” means 500 or 5,000, the bet stands as 500.

    60. Conditional statements regarding future action are non-standard and strongly discouraged; they may be binding and/or subject to penalty at Tournament Director’s discretion in accordance with Rules 39, 107 and 108. Example: “if – then” statements such as “If you bet, then I will raise.”

    One thing from the ruling at the table I wanted to point out, and encourage when you are acting as the dealer, is quick action to preserve a hand. The dealer made what was already going to be a contentious issue for Player B from becoming disastrous by keeping the cards identifiable and away from the muck. had the cards reached the muck and become unidentifiable, Player B would still have to call the all in but not even have a chance to win at showdown. If you are Player B, I suggest that you thank the dealer in that hand for saving you from losing all or a lot of chips in that hand without any chance to win.

    69. Face up for All-Ins: All cards will be turned face up once a participant is all in and all betting action for the hand is complete. If a participant accidentally folds/mucks their hand before cards are turned up, the Tournament Staff reserves the right to retrieve the folded/mucked cards if the cards are clearly identifiable.

    One item to add here is player responsibility. It is the player’s responsibility to understand action that has occurred in front of the them. If you are unclear, its best to simply ask the dealer before acting so that you do not commit chips in a manner outside of your intent.

    Always be careful when speaking in turn on hands as the manner in which you say something can be construed as verbally binding you to an action.

    My strong recommendations and final comments:

    -Be mindful of the action in front of you. Don’t act until you are clear on it and ask the dealer if necessary to clarify the action that has occurred.
    -Be aware of what saying things like “call”, “raise”, “fold”, “All in”, etc mean in a hand at that they can and usually do bind you. I have seen spots where a player asks a question with these words and the dealer misconstrued them and then you have some mayhem.
    -The concept of “common sense” often doesn’t apply to poker. The rules of poker have often been put in place with the lay person in mind to protect them from predatory pros and seasoned players as well as prevent collusive action. Sometimes that means that common sense goes out the window. The rules are generally applied black and white. I see it all the time in WSOPC, HPT, and WPT events that I play as well as the local dailies in the Bay Area.

    In closing, the dealer made the correct call of the action at the table, and acted in the best interest of both Player B and the game in general by preventing the cards from becoming unidentifiable in the muck. The TD upheld the correct ruling. All players involved and in witness of the hand should thank them both for properly upholding the rules of the game.


    Bill Sims

    Clearly the ruling was correct, but I think we should acknowledge that applying it in the Piranha context can sometimes be unusually harsh.

    With no professional dealers, we were lucky the callers hand didn’t make it into the muck. If I had been dealing, I almost surely would not have reacted in time to prevent it.

    With small tables, no betting line, no all in button, distractions at the table, and a premium on fast play it can be tougher to notice the all in.

    Just saying – not suggesting a change to the rules.


    PS I’m still bitter about your runner runner suck out against my KK.


    Rod Flora

    If that’s the case, then the correct call was made last weekend based on rule #69. Player A went all in and player B calls. Player B didn’t mean to call the all in and folded. However, thanks to the quick action of the dealer, the mucked card was separated quickly. It was an instinct reaction by the dealer based on the experience on a similar call last season. I saw one of the two cards only touched the mucked card, but was quickly grabbed by the dealer (who ended up winning the tourney btw) and was clearly identifiable.


    Brad Jensen


    We do operate with quite a bit of leniency in my opinion on a lot of issues that would definitely get called out on in a more formalized event. We clearly operate in the middle between a truly formal event and a garage game. I can’t count the number of times we’ve had players on the phone at the table, really pressing the issue on talking during hands, players announcing someone’s raise out of turn, etc that would warrant warnings and in some cases penalties at the WSOP and other events.

    There are some situations where you have to be black and white because you cannot know a person’s true intent by their action. If you say “call”, you’ve called. Neither the dealer or anyone else can clearly know the intent. Its very easy to say “call” of an all in, thinking it was for 8 BB, only to find it was 20 BB and then say I meant to only call the BB. Taking away the gray area and gamesmanship that can happen is why the rule is in place. It allows the decision to be made without the dealer having to guess intent. I’ve seen professional dealers have trouble grabbing cards in time but can still identify them, which is why that part of it is in the rules to allow for the miss and pull the cards so long as they are indentifiable.

    Its much better to have this as a learning opportunity for a player in 1 of 12 possible satellites than in a $1,500 WSOP event. Part of what we do it to prepare players for these events, not just in terms of competition, but of what is going to transpire at the tables.

    The biggest takeaway is that the player needs to be responsible for their hand and their action. I can’t really stress that enough. Its why I think that headphones, all phone activity, sunglasses, etc should be banned from play. Take away as many possible distractions as possible. If aren’t sure anything has happened, just ask if there is any action when your turn comes up. Also, keep your hand capped until a decision has been made if you get into this kind of the thing. Let the dealer and the floor make a final call. If they say you have to continue the hand, at least you have your cards and have some chance to win. If they say you can fold, you can then safely fold under the instructions of people enforcing the rules.

    P.S. still tilting over set over set


    Mark Navickas

    As the player who was affected by this I’m fairly upset because the description didn’t match the events. The player in the small blind said call and completed the blind upon seeing that I’d shoved did in fact muck their cards in the middle. The players cards were pulled from the muck and tabled if that was in fact their hand. The result of which is obviously I lost.

    On numerous occasions in our tournaments I’ve seen people pull back their calls and fold with no argument or penalty after completing a call of the blind. What I am most upset about is that the people at the final table told the TD what the rule is and he agreed with them as they were people who’d TD’d before Instead of using his own judgement on the intent of the call. The people at the table I feel were in fact biased of wanting this result. Because the points had already been reached and another player out means more points for them. The table should remain quiet and the TD should rule alone, especially at a final table with points up for grabs.

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