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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Does He Get The Extra 1,500 in Chips

On returning from a break at the WPT Marrakech a player informs the dealer that he only has 8,000 in chips and he should have 9,500. He says that he had 1,500 in 25 chips that were coloured up during the break and that he hasn’t been paid for. The dealer calls the floor who tells the player that he will go and get the 1,500 and off he goes.

As soon as he leaves to get them the player with 8,000 moves all in. Eoghan O’Dea asks for a count and then calls the 8,000 but the dealer says he has to put in 9,500 to call. So he puts in the extra 1,500. Eoghan wins the pot and the chips are pushed towards him. The bust player leaves the table. Eoghan asks for the extra 1,500 but a floor then arrives and says that the chip race was done correctly and that the bust player wasn’t due 1,500 more and as a result Eoghan isn’t going to get the extra 1,500. Obviously the bust player is now no longer there to argue for his chips. 


How do you rule?

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
Well since I was there I remember wanting to pull the dealer out of the box and give him a tongue lashing for getting involved in the pot in that manner but since he did not speak English I had to have it done by someone else. Since the color up was done correctly verified by the count, Eoghan was not entitled to 1,500 more and had the player won the pot I would have given 1,500 back to Mr. O’Dea.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
The floor person should have stopped the game if he wanted to check first but he decided to give the extra 1500 and the hand was played accordingly so Eoghan should receive the extra 1500.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
Because the floor person said he would retrieve the extra 1,500 chips, the dealer made the correct ruling by making the other player call the extra 1,500. The floor person made a mistake and should have researched the situation further before agreeing to pay the supposed 1,500 chips the player was missing. It was clear that Eoghan was calling 8,000 or 9,500, and the extra 1,500 chips did not change the outcome of the hand. I would rule that Eoghan is not entitled to the chips. As TD’s, we must make decisions in fairness and in the best interest of the tournament. Since we knew without a doubt that there wasn’t an error due to color-up, the player should not have been entitled to the 1,500 in chips nor should Eoghan be entitled to them either.  Furthermore, any time a mistake can be corrected, it should be. 

Suppose the situation had been reversed and the other player won the pot, once it was discovered that a color-up error had not occurred, I would have ruled that the extra 1,500 chips be returned to Eoghan granted the other player had not busted out of the tournament on a subsequent hand before that ruling could be made.  If the other player played a subsequent hand and had less than 1,500 when this was discovered, I would have awarded Eoghan whatever chips the other player had left and eliminated him from the tournament.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
First thing in a tournament the ‘colouring up’ must always done in front of the players. It should have at least 2 players sit at the table to start the ‘colouring up’. The TD and assistant TD should have a full rack and count all the chips they coloured up. So if there are any problems we could have quickly verified It. So in that case if the colouring up has been done correctly the other player shouldn’t get the 1500 that doesn’t exist. In the other way if the other player would have won the pot he wouldn’t get also the 1500 chips. The action should be stopped until players had the real chip count. What if the chip count is much bigger than 1500?

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
No claimant of missing chips ever receives chips unless proven 100% that is definitely the case. Eoghan does not receive the extra 1500 chips. The floor with correct procedures would have been aware if a problem had occurred and where prior to the tournament recommencing even though on this occasion it was not communicated effectively.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
Since the count was deemed correct and had the other player won the hand, he would have had to give Eoghan 1500 in chips back, it only seems logical that Eoghan can’t win those 1500 in chips.

The Mob Verdict

In a cash game when a player sends for more chips they can come into play before they reach the table. The player tells the dealer he is ‘playing behind’, the dealer announces this - along with the amount - to the table and gives the player a ‘playing behind button’ which is put in full view to remind the other players.

Obviously, this would never arise is a tournament, but the floorman and dealer - working in a venue where cash poker was far more common than tournaments - created an unusual problem by deeming a player to have chips that were not in front of him, and more importantly, that he should not have had.

We strongly agree with those TDs who say that the floorman should have held up play while he - quickly - established whether the colour-up had been done correctly. We find it hard to believe that, rather than checking, the floorman had simply gone to get the ‘missing’ chips. But if that is what he said he was doing then the dealer’s actions would have made perfect sense.

If play continues whilst the player’s claim is checked, then there is no satisfactory way to proceed that would not be liable to produce a problem of this nature if he played a pot. Even if he had not got all his chips in the middle, indeed even if he had not entered a pot, the size of his stack could very well have affected the action. For example, a player may have decided whether to enter a pot based on the size of the stack behind him.

Given that play did continue, then perhaps the least problematic, and certainly the simplest thing to do would be to work with the status quo. That is, the player with the disputed chip stack bets with what he has in front of him. But if he lost all his chips during this period then play at the table would certainly have to be held up and if he were entitled to more chips the TD would then be faced with a messy decision on whether he or anyone else should get any of the ‘new’ chips.

One thing that hasn’t been addressed is whether Eoghan having called one amount should have been compelled to call the higher amount. We feel that the dealer should have offered him the option of taking his call back under these circumstances, but that is a minor detail.

In the end the key mistake was in allowing the play to continue, and the problem the TD then had to resolve was just one of the many that might of arisen from that decision: Should Eoghan be awarded the additional 1,500 chips?

Almost all the TDs agree that, since the 1,500 chips should never have been awarded the position should be returned to what they assume it would have been if that hadn’t happened. But how many hands would have to have been played at the table before this would be untenable, and can you ever really be sure what would have happened?

We are very tempted to agree with Thomas that, having awarded the chips, albeit in error, and having then allowed play to continue on that basis, you have to accept that those new chips were irretrievably in play. This would be our default position. However, in this particular case we are inclined to agree with Jack that it is sufficiently clear that the action was not affected, and that mistakes should be rectified where possible. It’s a mess, but on balance, on this occasion, we would apologise to the rightfully aggrieved Mr O’Dea and decline to award him the chips.

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