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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Exposed Card but Player Lies

This one was posted on the Mob Forum by ‘peter j s’.

Playing at a local club last week this occurred:
I thought I caught a glimpse of one of the cards dealt to the player to my left. Before any betting started I informed the dealer who asked me what the card was and I replied the ace of clubs. The player holding the cards was asked and he denied he had the ace of clubs so I apologised and said I must have been mistaken. Betting was furious between that player and one other until the holder of the cards was all in prior to river. He then turned over ace clubs and ace hearts (the other player had ace spades and a king which had paired the board). The aces held up. How do you rule it?

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
I HATE this one! I think I would have to back up all the action and declare the hand a misdeal. The player that lied should be warned that that type of behavior will not be tolerated.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
The procedure for the dealer for this situation would be to call the floor who should ask the player if he has the ace of clubs. Because every exposed card on the deal has to be replaced, he can’t keep the ace of clubs. By lying about the card he plays a pot with a card that he is not allowed to have and has to take full responsibility. The consequences would be that he will lose this pot and all the money that he bet in this hand.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
As soon as the dealer was informed by a player that a card may have flashed during the deal, it should have been ruled that the card be turned up and replaced with the top card on the deck. Regardless of whether anyone actually saw the card, a player may have very well seen it, but chose to remain quiet and use the information to their advantage. It turns out, that is exactly what happened. The player should have never been asked if he had the Ace of Clubs. Because he was asked and he lied about it, I would have to rule this as being deceitful to the other player in the hand, since the other player will now be less likely to read him for AA. The player in violation should receive a one round penalty in a tournament. If this happened in a live game, I would take the player off to the side and have a talk with him about why this was wrong.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
The card should have been checked by the floor manager and so the card should have been changed and become the burn card. By the way the player who saw the card has been very honest by saying that he saw a card, the entire table should be informed or should informed each other. Poker players at the table should be solider and say if there are any mistakes during the game. I would make a split pot and tell to the player that it’s not a correct way to act. I would give him a penalty by taking him out of the game at least for one hour.

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
No player is allowed the advantage of knowing another player’s hole cards. However the player only thought he glimpsed the card and must be 100% certain of what he saw before the floor verifies that is the case. If he is uncertain all players share the same information the card may or may not be the ace of clubs and the player holding the card has no obligation to tell him and the hand plays to conclusion. If however the player was 100% certain this would be verified by the floor and as the card was exposed during the initial deal would be replaced by the burn card.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
Tough one, but here go’s….a player has alerted the table and dealer that an Ace/clubs has been flashed. The player denies that this card has been flashed and that he does not have that card. The dealer should at this point have called the floor over to see if the player indeed did or did not have the Ace. But that did not happen and the hand played out. The player with the AA would be awarded the pot, although I would deem this very poor sportsmanship on his part.

The Mob Verdict

First of all it is natural to feel a certain amount of sympathy for a player who has been dealt aces and then feels he is put in the invidious position of having to hand one of them back or lie about his hand. However, his hand cannot stand in these circumstances.

As Jack points out, the dealer mishandled the situation by asking the player if he held the Ace of clubs rather than turning over the exposed card (or cards if the individual card cannot be identified.) Even if only the suit, or any partial information about the card has been revealed to another player, that card must be replaced. This, as Nicolas says, is vital for the fairness of the game. We cannot agree with Dave's opinion that the player who saw the card needs to be one hundred percent certain of what they have seen. This is usually not the case when a card is glimpsed and such an approach would discourage honest players from speaking up and potentially putting themselves in the wrong.

Interestingly, several of our TDs say that the dealer should have called the floor to check the card, but this is with the hindsight of knowing the player lied. Cards are quite often exposed and it would slow the game and be a further disincentive to speaking up if the floor were called ever time a player glimpsed a card. However, once the question has been asked and the player has denied holding the ace we can see the sense of getting the TD to settle the matter. It certainly would have been preferable to what transpired in this case.

In some venues, players are banned from talking about their hands; in some you can say anything except the truth about your hand. However, this is one situation where having been asked the question the player is obliged to tell the truth; and by lying he has forfeited any right to win the pot. So, what should the TD's decision be?

Tab would let the aces win the pot, but that cannot be right for the reasons Jack explains about the unfair advantage the player gave himself in the hand.

Thomas says he should lose all the money he put in the pot and this is entirely logical, particularly when you consider that he might have gone on to win the pot without showing his hand, in which case the deception would have been rewarded. However, because the dealer put him in a position he should not have been in - and in the heat of the moment he did the wrong thing - we prefer Matt's and Nicolas' solution for a first offense. Return all money from the hand and issue a strong warning to the offending player.

Jack would issue a one round penalty in a tournament and we think that is fine. Particularly if you judge that the player knew he was doing something wrong.

Finally, it is interesting to speculate on what would have happened if the aces had lost the showdown. We suspect that his opponent would have taken the pot and this is another reason why voiding the hand is the fairest solution here.

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