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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Is this Considered a Verbal Fold?

This was posted on the Mob Forum by Tricky:

Anybody seen this before, tonight there were 2 people in the hand, on the river one of them bets $100, the other says "you win", to which the first player takes back the chips and throws in his cards. Now the second player says I call. Imagine the fun after that ... Is the "you win" considered a verbal fold?

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
“You Win” is not a verbal fold IMO and the player will learn a painful lesson to not muck his hand before the other player shows his hand of folds. I would however warn the player that repeated etiquette violations will not be tolerated.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
A player should never release his cards until he is awarded the pot by the dealer. The cards are the receipt for the pot. “you win” is not a verbal fold, ethically this is not ok but technically the hand is live until he says “fold” or releases his cards face down towards the dealer.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
Although player two did not use the word “fold,” his intent to do so was apparent. I would consider this a shot by the player who said “you win,” and award the pot to player one. Had player two said “you win” then said “call” before player one folded his hand, I would have allowed player B to call but then issued him a warning about using unclear language when verbalizing their action in the game.  An experienced player would have told player two to fold their hand before they mucked their own. A player should never relinquish their hand until they have possession of the pot.

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
I would say that the player saying to the other player you win ‘fold his hand’. And I would definitely give the pot to the other player. Any word or action when still two players i.e. small and big blind. Small blind takes his chips and throws them to the big blind I will considered that’s a fold. Some players try to use this trick to make other player fold their hand and because they still have cards they try to get the pot. I will not allow that kind of tricky move.

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
Saying ‘you win’ is not a verbal declaration of intent as is ‘raise’, ‘call’ or ‘fold’. All the bettor needs to do is wait until the other player calls or passes his cards. He has by throwing his cards presumably into the muck provided an opportunity to the other player. However if the players cards have not touched the muck his hand is still alive.

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
I would consider the verbal statement “you win” when facing a bet as a concession, and therefore rule the hand dead. It sounds like a move to me.

The Mob Verdict

This is a perfect example of the difficulties tournament directors face in balancing the letter of the law with the spirit of the game.

Whilst they all agree that the calling player has acted unethically, when it come to who should get the pot the TDs are more or less split down the middle.

Whilst we sympathise with those who wish to take the pot from the offending player we feel that it would open up a can of worms to accept various forms of words as denoting actions in poker. If you accept ‘you win’ as meaning ‘fold’ then how about ‘you got me’ or ‘you’re good’ for example?

It can be hard enough for dealers and TDs to be clear about what has been said when only a tiny set of verbal actions are permissible. Asking them to interpret a wide variety of speech and nuances of tone would make their job all the trickier.

It is also a very important principle in poker that you can’t win the pot without a hand. Thomas puts it perfectly: ‘The cards are the receipt for the pot.’

However this is not the end of the story as far as we are concerned. The player has acted unethically and it would be wrong not to take this into account. At the very least he should receive a warning, but where possible we would consider going further.

In another ruling that divided our TDs Matt Savage affirmed that it was an important principle in poker that ‘wherever possible, the best hand should win the pot.’ He was referring to a situation that has clear parallels with this one.

We think this situation is actually a better case for applying that principle and if the called player’s hand was clearly retrievable we would bring it back into play.

If it were not however, then as he had technically not folded, the only player with cards would have to be awarded the pot.

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