Tonight was the first time I played poker in more than three months. I entered a $55 NLHE tournament at The Meadows, just to dip my toe back into the pool. Truthfully, I didn't intend to blog about it here because (a) I didn't figure it would be all that eventful and (b) it would be annoying to pop in and yell, "I'm back in the game!" before disappearing again for months. But, of course, it took less than 60 minutes of playtime before a fight broke out right at my table. It was kind of hilarious, so what else can I do? The blog's still here. I must report.
Okay, so this was the situation. There was a table bully. He was an older guy who looked like Tommy Lee Jones. Pockmarks, glasses down on his nose ... the whole deal. As soon as the tournament started, so did Tommy Lee's raising. He was guaranteed to bump it up preflop every second or third hand, and then he'd continuation-bet 100 percent of the time, only ever slowing down once it got to the turn. It was annoying, aggressive ... and it was working. He quickly turned his $30K in starting chips to about $50K.
Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, a young twenty-something dude who looked a bit like will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas (though we'll go with William because screw that punctuation) decided he'd had enough. Tommy Lee raised pre for the millionth time, and William called from a blind. Flop came 9-8-7 rainbow. William checked. Tommy Lee picked up about $5,000 in chips and started bringing them toward the middle of the table to bet. The thing is, the guy was a slow better. He'd often take his time rounding up his chips and getting them in. His betting motion was very relaxed. Tommy Lee had his chips up, across the table's betting line in the air ... and then suddenly William put in a massive raise before Tommy Lee had even set his chips down on the felt.
Tommy Lee froze and looked at the dealer.
William said, "Come on, get 'em in."
"I haven't bet yet, right?" Tommy Lee asked the dealer.
"Of course you did," said William, answering the question himself.
The dealer just shrugged and called the floor. Oh, here we fucking go. The floor manager walked over, and the situation was explained. William was adamant that it had to be a bet and was quite agitated the situation was even being debated. Once the floor manager had the sequence of events explained to him, he ruled that since Tommy Lee had a stack of chips out across the line, he was committed to making a bet. However, since he hadn't yet placed any chips on the actual table, he hadn't yet committed to a bet size and thus was allowed to bet only the minimum (currently $400) if he so wanted.
Suffice to say, William was not happy. Lots of barking about how ridiculous and unfair the ruling was. Tommy Lee just kind of sat there ... the hand holding chips still up in the air! The floor and the dealer tried to calm down William. One player at the other end of the table quickly realized the potential angle-shooting the ruling could open up and wanted it confirmed that players were allowed to carry a big stack of chips over the line and toward the middle of the table but could then pull back all but the minimum bet size any time up until the chips hit the felt. (You could intentionally make a slow betting motion just to see if someone sitting behind you with a monster wanted to make too quick a move to call or raise. The betting line complicates matters because novices could see it and assume it extends upwards to infinity and that anything that crosses the plane is a bet.)
And then, strangely, the floor manager qualified his decision by sternly telling Tommy Lee, "If it was up to me, all your chips would be in, but that's not how we do it here." Shouldn't floor managers just make a ruling and not add additional personal commentary?
Well, that only pissed off William more. "You stepped in some dog shit, and now you gotta wipe it off your shoe," he told the manager. The whole thing turned less funny and more irksome as the minutes ticked by. This particular tournament started with deep stacks, but the blinds went up at turbo speeds -- every 12 minutes. The amount of time play was stopped was starting to become an issue. Eventually, Tommy Lee decided he wanted to just bet the minimum, and then, once William's raise was official, he folded. (For the record, they both showed their cards. William had a set of 8s. Tommy Lee had A-6 for an open-ended straight draw.)
Finally, the next hand was being dealt, but the two players couldn't stop yelling at each other. "Shut up and go back to your phone," Tommy Lee said to William, who had spent most of the tournament up to this point folding and playing around on his iPhone. "Go back to Facebook."
"I don't do Facebook," William said. "I'm on MSNBC."
"You're on losers dot com," Tommy Lee retorted.
"You're on losers dot com," William came back.
I assure you I'm not embellishing or making any of this up. If I was, you'd know because it would be far wittier.
So, anyway, what's everyone think of the ruling? It's not an easy situation, but I guess I'm okay with it so long as The Meadows enforces their betting-line rules clearly and consistently. And, in this case, the rule is that the amount of a bet isn't established until a certain number of chips are dropped on the felt. That's similar to how it works in many other casinos (including Rivers), where you'll often see a player bring out a stack, leave some on the felt, and pull the rest back. As long as it's done in one fluid motion -- and doesn't look like a "string bet" -- it's legal. Just moving chips over the line in the air does not constitute a bet size.
Still, it was obvious to everyone that Tommy Lee intended to bet. And it's always somewhat troublesome when the floor rules against what were clearly a player's intentions. Plus, again, it can allow for angle-shooting, which is why a fair amount of poker players don't like betting lines at all. (Although, honestly, this situation could have still occurred even without one. Does forward motion in the air on a table without a betting line lock in a bet amount? Usually not.) It's just such a strange predicament because how often does a player get a raise in before the bettor has finished physically making his bet? William takes some of the blame. His trap was sound. He just should have waited for Tommy Lee to get his chips fully in before he sprung it.
While we'll here, I might as well report on how I fared. Didn't cash but was happy with how I played. It was Tommy Lee who crippled me as we approached the two-hour mark. With blinds at $1K/$2K, he shoved all-in for ~$55K from mid-position. Yeah, it was a severe over-bet, but that's how this guy rolled. I was sitting fairly comfortably with ~$90K and looked down at pocket 10s. I thought that put me ahead of most of his range. Tommy Lee had never slowed during the tournament and could have been over-shoving here with any pocket pair, any big ace or any suited ace. Plus, the blinds were starting to become a factor. I had only 45 big blinds left despite possessing the second biggest stack at the table! (Stupid turbo levels.) I certainly didn't need to put more than half of my stack at risk here, but since there was a good chance I was ahead, I figured why not take a shot at assembling a massive stack of chips that would likely carry me into the money?
So I called. Tommy Lee said, "Eh, you probably have me crushed," and flipped over pocket jacks. Yeee-uck. My hand never improved, and I was quickly back down to less than 20 big blinds. I ended up shoving shortly thereafter with A-10 and losing to A-Q. No biggie. That's the way these things go sometimes.