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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Dealer Mucks Both Hands When Allin and Called

An unusual matter to rule on occurred at the London Live tournament at the Victoria Casino in London in April 2011.

All action is folded to the small blind who raises putting chips into the pot, the big blind reraises putting in more chips, then the following verbal actions happened:

Small blind: "all in"
Big blind: "is that an all in"
Small blind: "yes, all in"
Big blind: "call"

So the small blind turns over his cards - the big blind turns over his cards. Both hands were face up on the table, behind the line and exactly as you would expect at a showdown. Everyone could see them, although the dealer wasn't paying attention.

The dealer leans fowards, turns over the two hands and sweeps up all the other cards on the table, pushes the pot towards the BB (the chips were still seperate from his pile) and starts mixing all cards face down. He did not get to square the deck or riffle, he had just started table shuffling and at this point that's when the BB said (and others quickly followed) with something along the lines of 'what are you doing?'

Both the SB and the BB could remember their exact holdings and there was no disputing this.

The dealer says he doesn't know what happened.

Part 1) How would you rule?

Part 2) If the players could remember the ranks but not the exact suits how would you rule then?

Part 3) Would the players' holdings ever make any difference to your ruling.

Part 1) How would you rule?

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
Even though it is the players responsibility to protect their hands this is not entirely the case here as it is a clear dealer mistake. If the hands are identifiable then they must be retrieved. The remaining cards if already mixed together are then shuffled and the flop turn and river delivered, the winner of the pot is then declared. Of course this is not ideal but it is the fairest way to protect the players.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
Since there was no dispute as to either players’cards, I would find each players, return them to the players, then I would instruct the dealer to shuffle the deck, burn, flop, burn, turn, and burn river. The hand should be played out to completion and this would fall under a random card theory situation.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
Since both players could remember their exact holdings, I would retrieve their cards from the deck, shuffle the remaining cards, and run out the hand... burn flop, burn turn, burn, river. The winner of the hand would receive the pot.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
I will return the cards to the players and shuffle up the deck to make a flop with 3 burn cards


Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
Because the deck is mixed up with the discards I would rule this situation a split pot between the 2 players. It must be guaranteed that no discard (cards that players folded) can come back again otherwise one of the 2 players could technically lose against "Zero-outs". The fact that cards have been mucked doesn't influence at all as they have been tabled correctly but the fact that discards could be on the board (after reshuffling the deck) is an important fact. This situation is an obvious dealer mistake; I haven't seen a situation like this before where you don't have any cards available to deal a board. Normally when the dealer kills the hands, players protest right away and it is possible to save part of the deck which would allow to deal a board and play the hand.

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
The hand must be played to completion. Both players’ cards have been shown and can be verified and retrieved. The pot is also retrieved and all remaining cards are re-shuffled and the hand is played to completion.

The Mob Verdict on Part 1

There are, as Thomas points out, real issues associated with bringing the discards, as opposed to burn card, back into play.

You could imagine an unfortunate situation where one of the players turned over a pair of fours. Other players claimed to have mucked the remaining fours and a four hit the flop. This could indeed leave a player feeling aggrieved, and although there would be no way of verifying what had really been discarded It is certainly true that in such a case a player could technically hit a zero outer.

Because of the pre flop action in this hand you could also argue that bringing back the discards might marginally favor a player with low cards as against for example AK.

But despite such concerns the flop is essentially random, and running it out is an even handed decision.

The overriding principle here is one of fairness. Players need to be protected; hands should be retrieved where possible and mistakes should be rectified where possible. So, is it possible here? We think it is.

If you split the pot you are probably not producing the result that would have occurred if the mistake had not been made. If you deal out the hand you probably are.

There can be no perfect solution, but we would deal out the hand because it is the fairest course of action and is the one most likely to produce the right result.

Although, as Thomas says, it is not ideal to bring discards back into play we agree with all those TDs who would retrieve the two hands and deal out the flop turn and river.

Part 2) If the players could remember the ranks but not the exact suits how would you rule then?

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
I could make a strange ruling here and then declared that the cards are retrieved and then flushes are now ineligible for the winning hand.
 

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
I’ve actually had a similar situation happen recently. Since it was not clear what the suits were, and it would be unfair to both players to not be able to have the ability to win the hand via flush, it was decided to split the pot.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
If we know the ranks of each player's hands but not the suits, my ruling would be to reconstruct both hands but with two different suits in each hand. For example, if the hands were AK vs. AQ, I would randomly pick an Ace and King from the deck, and assign the other two suits to the AQ. That way, both players would have a completely random chance of making two different flushes without beating the other with a higher flush. And all possible outcomes for both hands would be preserved.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
If we don't know the exact suits I will make a split pot because it would not be fair that a player could make a flush...
 

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
This wouldn't change my decision; cards that have been folded must never get back in the game.
 

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
If the players can not state with 100% accuracy the suits of their cards they will be unable to claim a flush unless all five suited cards appear on the board.


The Mob Verdict on Part 2

The TDs get really imaginative here. Matt and Tab would rule out flushes, Jack would pick suits to give both players a fair shot at a flush. (You could just about see how this might work with two hands, but with three or more...forget about it!) Dave appears to be saying that a flush can only be claimed when it splits the pot, although that is not exactly what he says.

Full marks all round for creativity, but in our view once you can’t name the exact cards you are no longer able to retrieve the hands, and along with Nicolas and Thomas we would split the pot. Anything else is simply stretching things too far and we are not convinced that in a real life situation all the TDs would come up the answer they give here.

Part 3) Would the players' holdings ever make any difference to your ruling.

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
Only in one case if they were identical meaning AA's vs. AA's or 22's vs. 22's in which case I think it makes perfect sense to split the pot.
 

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
The players’ cards would not make a difference in any way.
 

Jack EffelJack Effel:
No, as long as we know the rankings of each hand. I would not rule differently based on a player's holdings even if one of the hands had a significantly higher value such as AA v.s. 2-7. The idea is to remain true to the hand, and make a decision that is fair for all involved.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
The player's holding won't make any difference my ruling would be the same in both case.
 

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
No, never.
 
 

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
The players’ holdings are irrelevant, and the hand is played to completion in the same manner regardless of players’ holdings every time.

 

The Mob Verdict on Part 3

We have mixed feelings about this one. We can perfectly well see the simple justice in Matts reply. ( Once you ask for an example where the hands would make a difference to your ruling, this is a very good answer.) By running out a flop where the players have identical pairs, you risk a perverse result. But this is no more or less than the risk they would ordinarily run.

The idea here is to retrieve the hands and run a flop. This is the simplest, most straightforward approach and it doesn't really help to introduce exceptions.

In conclusion. We would always run out the flop where the exact hands were known, and never when they weren't. This is a consistent position which could avoid a lot of soul searching and head scratching if it were generally agreed.

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