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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Cards Slide Onto The Floor

This one happened at the Bike and was emailed in by Janice Kim.

Last year, I was playing in a no-limit tournament at the Bike with a $550 buy-in. I was in the fourth seat and I am a little short, so when I muck my cards I usually put a little bit of oomph into it so they make it all the way to the dealer without the dealer needing to reach for them. Since I don't want to expose my cards when mucking, I generally slide them in the direction of the dealer's hand and have never had any kind of problem before.

About mid-way through when the blinds were becoming significant, I mucked my cards by sending them sliding to the dealer, but somehow they managed to slide right though the few inches between where the table bumper ended and the table ended and landed on the floor. The dealer stopped the game and called the director, who ruled that they had a no-discretion rule that if a player's cards hit the floor, the player gets an immediate penalty, in this case it was fifteen minutes. I questioned this rule, since I could see cards by complete accident hitting the floor, and was told that it was to prevent abuse of the dealer by forceful mucking at her. I said that the cards were in contact with the table the whole time until they slid off, they hadn't touched the dealer and that I was clearly not forcefully mucking them at the dealer, which could be verified by any of the other players. I was then told that they could not ask the other players since nobody wanted to be the "bad guy", the players would not accurately report what had happened, so they just had to go with the facts that the cards hit the floor.

Are there such rules and policies anywhere else? I felt that it was handled most unfairly to the point where I won't play in that venue again, but if the card-hitting-the-floor penalty/can't-ask-other-players-what-happened justification has some precedent I'll just consider it a lesson learned by not mucking my cards towards the dealer.

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
This rule is foolish and I removed it from the Commerce as soon as I arrived. Tournament Floor Staff need to be strong enough to control the behaviour of their players so they are not allowed to throw cards at the dealer. This ruling needs to be handled on a case by case basis.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
In a situation like this the TD should always ask the dealer how and why the cards left the table. If the dealer explains that the cards accidentally left the table I would not say anything to the player but if the cards have been thrown intentionally off the table I would also give a penalty to discipline the player. If I am not sure about the dealers’ description of the situation I would always consult other players at the table.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
A player should only be penalized for sliding their cards off the table if it can be determined that the player mucked them forcefully. There is always a chance that the cards caught air or slid across the muck, because the cards or felts being used for play had naturally slick surfaces. I would issue this player a warning if the story was presented same as it was written.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
It could happen sometimes when a player mucks his hand that the cards fold on the floor by accident. The cards should be exposed to other players. I won’t give a penalty if it’s an accident. But if a player did that on purpose I would give him first a warning and if repeat a penalty. Throwing cards outside the table or on the dealer intentionally deserve to get a penalty. But not when it’s not on purpose.

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
Any venue protecting their staff in this manner must be highly commended. A no-discretion rule means exactly that if the cards hit the floor it is a penalty and therefore irrelevant what any player says. The ruling was applied fairly and correctly. I would recommend carrying on playing at this venue with the lesson learned not to pass your cards with oomph and allow the dealer to do his job.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
Different houses have different rules, so if that’s their rule, then you have to live with the consequences.

 

The Mob Verdict

This rule was presumably labelled 'no discretion' in order to avoid endless arguments about the exact velocity and trajectory of mucked cards. But of course, the dealer still had to call the floor, and naturally there was a discussion. And why not?

Why tie the TDs hands behind their backs by tagging a rule 'no discretion' or 'zero tolerance’?

The 'for the good of the game' caveat should by attached to just about every rule in poker. That is why we have tournament directors, to apply the rules fairly and in the interests of the game.

Of course, as Dave says, staff should be vigorously protected; but only when there is something to protect them from.

No-one has put it better than Matt Savage. It was a foolish rule which gave the TD no choice but to make an unfair decision. We commend Matt for dispensing with it.

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