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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Last Man Standing and the 'Must Show' Rule

This question was sent to us by Grant after an incident at the BlackBeltPoker live event at The Victoria Casino in London:

After being called down all the way to the river, the other player rapidly throws his cards away and says good call. The dealer mucks these and pushes me the pot and I push my cards over the line face down. Note, I did NOT muck them, merely pushed them out over the line to clear space for the new chips, had I been asked to I would have opened the hand. The dealer then pulls my hand into the muck and I go about building my new stack. No sooner had they been mucked than the other player pipes up that the pot should be split as no winning hand was shown. Floor was called and the pot split (I even lost the extra smallest chip as I had position). The dealers exact words were "I mucked the winning hand".

After speaking with some of the event organisers they agreed it was very close but probably correct, but shouldn't consideration be given to the fact that he clearly surrendered the pot physically and verbally, the dealer had pushed the pot to me and the dealer rather than player mucked the hand? Also the muck and deck had not been shuffled together and had the floor asked I could have identified my cards for them to be reclaimed from the muck and showdown.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
This decision is not understandable to me at all. I accept the rule that the winning hand has to be shown but if this doesn’t happen than it would never result that the player will lose part of the pot. Grant was the last player that had cards so he is entitled to win the pot. Grant released his cards once the dealer pushed the pot to him. If the house rule is like this than the dealer should be responsible to turn over the cards of the winning hand and NOT the player. It is the same like in an All-in situation in a tournament where all hands that are involved in a showdown have to be shown – it is also the dealer’s responsibility to open all cards AND to protect the muck.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
Even if that club has a rule that a winning hand must be showdown I won’t make a split pot. That is a particular case. After being called the player surrendered the pot by mucking his hand. There is no doubt that the other player won the pot. Dealer should have opened the winning hand instead of mucking it after giving the chips. I would give the pot to the last player who still has cards and warn him that he should protect his hand and tell the dealer next time he must open the winning hand.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
In this situation, the dealer was originally correct to push the pot to the last player with a live hand since no cards were shown down. The dealer could not have known if he/she mucked the winning hand, because the winning hand was never shown. Therefore, the last player to muck with a "called" hand should receive the pot. At no time should this pot have been split based off the information given. Note: at the WSOP, a called hand must be shown by either the bettor or the caller to receive the pot.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
I don't see this as a very tough decision. Clearly the player that folded his hand and said good hand was conceding the pot. Clearly the player that was being pushed the pot was the last player with a hand and should receive the pot. If it was mandatory for that player to show his hand, the dealer should or could have turned the hand up or told the player that the hand must be shown before the pot would be awarded. Award the pot to Grant in the interest of fairness.

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
Pretty ridiculous ruling in my opinion, the player had the last live hand and should be awarded the whole pot. I would be in support of the TDA coming up with a standardized rule that make a wining hand shown in called pots but as of now it does not exist.

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
We also operate a rule where the winning hand must be shown at showdown. Two live valid cards must be shown. It is at all times the player’s responsibility to protect his cards and reveal his hand to be entitled to claim any pot. The cards, once mucked are no longer retrievable and since no one was able to claim the pot it would be a dead pot to be played for by only the players remaining at showdown in the previous hand. Only with a 'last man standing' rule could he have been awarded the pot.

Jeff LeighJeff Leigh, card room manager at the Vic made these comments when we asked him about this:
I cannot understand this ruling either. It was a simple scenario that a player concedes the pot; the dealer asks the remaining player to open his cards to claim the pot, he shows his cards the dealer passes the pot to him simple eh? This must have been an inexperienced dealer and a poor decision. Of course as a rule of thumb cards have to be shown to ensure collusion isn't taking place, but dealer error made a simple situation something else.

The other significant point was of course the decision by the inspector to split the pot. If the situation is exactly what the aggrieved party says it was (in many instances there are variations of the story when you arrive at the table) and for the purposes of answering this honestly let's accept they were then 1/ the player who said “you win" had ALREADY conceded the pot by his verbal declaration yes; the other player should show his cards (to offset any collusion possibility) but to then try and claim the pot is as low as you can get. If he says nothing then the other player would have held on to his hand as a matter of course. I do not condone the decision made or defend it, plain and simple it was wrong.

Mob Verdict

Our TDs are in almost total agreement that the pot should have been awarded to the player to whom the dealer originally pushed the pot and it will not surprise anyone that we feel the same way.

The called player has clearly shot an angle by asking for a ruling based on the fact that a hand should be shown to claim a pot. The TD at the time appears to have ruled on this issue alone, but it is in fact a secondary concern. The result is a decision that accords neither with natural justice or the rules of the game.

The moment the called player mucked his hand the issue of who should get the pot was settled.

Most of the TDs refer to the very important principle that the last player with a live hand always gets the pot. This holds true even in situations where a player has been passed a pot and mucks his hand in good faith not realizing an opponent still has cards, or where the dealer pulls in an unprotected hand. In this case the right player was 'last man standing' so what is technically correct is also patently fair.

It should be noted that the 'line' - if it means anything at all - is relevant to betting only, and pushing a hand over it does not necessarily render the cards dead or irretrievable. Therefore even if you were ruling purely on the basis of whether Grant had mucked his hand you would have to say that he had not.

As Thomas says, the dealer had the opportunity to ensure that the winning hand was shown if this was the house rule. Although as Dave says players need to protect their hands, that is not relevant in this case because even if Grant's hand was mucked it was mucked last and only after - as Tab points out - the bettor had quite clearly conceded the pot. If having verbally conceded he had held onto his cards there would have been an issue to resolve, but having mucked first his subsequent stroke would never normally succeed.

A TD can only rule on the question put before them and it seems likely that the situation was not as clearly described as it is here. Perhaps he gained the impression that the hands had been simultaneously mucked

We would allow the called player to keep the pot. We would remind the players that winning hands must be shown and remind the dealer that he should have turned over the hand or asked the player to do so. We would also have issued a warning to the player who called for the ruling, with any further angle-shooting resulting in a likely penalty.

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