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You are the Tournament Director Series 3: Who Wins The Pot and Does the Winning Hand Have To Show?

This one was posted on the Mob Forum by The Reverend.

£1/ £2 live cash game at the Casino at The Empire in London. Somehow I end up with my opponent all-in on the river with a pot of about £285 and I have 5 high. My opponent, embarrassed at his own high card holding (better than mine, obviously) angrily mutters something including the words "I fold" and throws his cards in face up towards but not touching the muck. This is absolutely irrelevant as far as the rules, but not as far as ignorant floor staff, who are thankfully absent from this story, go.

I decline to show my cards and now my opponent insists I do. Someone else, the dealer I think (self deal game) says I need to show my hand to take the pot. Obviously, if opponent's hand is dead I do not, nevertheless I table my 5 high and now my opponent is claiming the pot is his. I explain he already folded and the pot is mine, and call for a ruling.

Floor comes over, someone else explains what has happened quite accurately, floor rules the pot is mine. Further nonsense ensues but that's what happened to get me the pot.

Am I being the proverbial douchebag here by not just tabling cards in the first place after he turns his face up, and just ignoring the verbal declaration of defeat?

As an interesting aside, opponent is son of a WSOP main event winner.

Comments please…

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
I would rule that his verbal declaration of “I fold” in turn was binding and award the pot to the other player. I would then make the player with the called hand show his cards. In a tournament in this situation both players’ cards would have to be shown face up when all-in and called. Hey, how did a question about a live game get into this?

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
If a player declares to fold, his hand will be dead because verbal declarations are binding. If a player releases his hand and it is mucked, it is also a dead hand because a player needs cards to win the pot, in other words, the cards are the receipt for the pot. If the player releases his cards without saying “fold” and cards are not mucked, I would still rule the hand live. Any way, winning hands have to be shown! ”The Reverend” took advantage of the situation by not showing his hand immediately because his opponent didn’t think that he can win the pot but it is within the rules.

Dave LambDave Lamb:
Turning his cards face up with the reasonable expectation of having a losing hand does not negate the players right to win with a bad hand, so douche bag it is…

An opponent who is all-in on the river does not have any more verbalizations to make to change the outcome. Saying, “I fold” is inaccurate and unavailable as an option, the bets and calls are done. Only in a live game, the called player could muck his cards face down and forfeit any claim to the pot, otherwise showdown and give the chips to the winning hand.

Jeff LeighJeff Leigh:
If this was a “showdown” where there was no betting at the end then technically both hands should be shown, however it isn’t unusual for the loser to discard his hand “face down” and then the “winner” is then required to show his cards to claim the pot. I can’t figure out why “your” opponent who is all in would say fold when he isn’t facing a bet . The “fact” that he throws his cards in “face up” is therefore significant as it is a showdown and both hands should be shown. His comment of “fold” is irrelevant as “you” haven’t made a bet and even if he said “you win” but still opened his hand up on the table I would declare his hand “live” . “you” would only be awarded the pot if he had thrown his cards in “face down”……and you would still need to show your hand to claim the pot.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
If all bets are called at the showdown and both hands are turned face up on the table, I’m going to award the pot to the winning hand. The player was not facing a bet when he declared fold. All bets were called, and his hand was turned face up on the table; therefore, the cards speak for themselves. If this had been a tournament, we would have made both players turn their hand face up once the players were all-in, and the best hand would have still won the money.

Thomas LamatschThomas Lamatsch:
Two rulings are bringing to bear here.
First, the player who acted last has to show his card first, also if the action was already on the flop. This player is allowed to muck his hand.
Second, the winning hand, if called, has always to be shown to claim the pot.
Also verbal statements are binding.
In this case, if a player announce “fold” the dealer should muck this hand immediately to avoid situation like explained.

The Mob Verdict

An interesting situation that really happened with a few differences of opinion. Matt and Thomas K both award the pot to the other player declaring the hand of the player that said ‘I fold’ dead. David and Jack both award the pot to the player with the best hand saying that his hand isn’t dead and Thomas L appears to side with Matt and Thomas K.

It all boils down to two things. We know that verbal action in turn is binding but is it binding on the river when there is no more betting because players are all in? The second situation to consider is whether the hand is dead or not.

In a cash game a player is entitled to muck his hand face down and concede the pot and in this situation the other player would win the pot. However in this situation he ‘…throws his cards in face up, towards but not touching the muck.’ In the absence of saying anything his hand is 100% live and can win the pot. Jeff explains the situation very well and likens the situation to saying ‘you win’ but the important thing here is that there is no action. Calling or folding are not real options (verbally speaking). The hand has been exposed face up on the river and all action is complete. We agree with David and Jeff and would award the pot to the player who tried to ‘fold’.

It is worth pointing out that the Reverend doesn't appear to know exactly what happened. He says that the pot 'somehow ended up all-in on the river' and that his opponent 'muttered' something that included the words 'I fold'. He speculates that the player was both embarrassed and angry but cannot even be sure of what he said much less know his state of mind. But even if we were sure that a clear statement had been made, cards still speak in this case.

With regards to showing the winning hand had the other player mucked his hand face down and the winner then mucked his hand without anyone asking to see it then the hand doesn’t have to be shown. However should any player ask to see the winning hand or a house rule be in place that states that the winning hand must be shown in order to get the pot then the winning hand must be shown.

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