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You are the Tournament Director Series 4: Who Wins the Pot and Why?

During the Barcelona EPT Roland De Wolfe and Tobias Reinkemeier got involved in a pot when they were both on the blinds. Following action on all streets Tobais check called an 80,000 bet from Roland. Roland said’ king high’ and flashed a king. Tobias sat and waited for Roland to show his second card. Roland did not turn over both his cards but instead pushed them over the line and towards the muck. They went into the muck but the dealer retrieved them and turned them both over. There is no doubt that the two cards were Rolands. Tobais jumped up and turned over Q high (Q6) claiming that Roland had mucked and the pot was his. 

Here is the video of that hand:

Matt SavageMatt Savage:
Here is the long version.

I think that Roland was in the wrong here and should have shown his hand when Tobias asked to see it. Roland also knows better than to stall, and try and muck his hand himself as it is the dealer’s job. I do not think Tobias was that bad but his etiquette certainly was wrong. There are not a handful of players I can name in the world that I think even consider trying to win a pot in this manner.

To the ruling itself, Thomas Kremser and I have the utmost respect for each other and I consider myself lucky to know him and work in this profession in the same level as him but I would have ruled differently for the following reasons.

  1. I want the best hand to win called pots whenever possible.
  2. His cards were both retrievable AND identifiable. If the dealer had simply killed his hand without seeing the other card then his hand would have been dead and I would have awarded you the pot.
  3. As Tournament Directors we are asked to make million dollar decisions on the spot every tournament and not even I realized this for a couple hours but the FACT that you asked to see his hand makes him have to show his hand and if it beats you than you lose your claim to the pot.

There is some talk out there that TK had to rule that way because of a house rule or use of a betting/muck line and if that is the case then I would of had to rule in Tobias’ favor.

Thomas KremserThomas Kremser:
This is my most discussed decision in my career and I wish I would have a video documentation like this more often. Obviously I had to make my ruling without this video but having seen it I would still make the same decision.
Roland wanted to muck his hand and he actually mucked it by pushing his cards face down into the muck. Tobias did nothing wrong technically as he was asking Roland to show his second card, but he refused. Ethically I don’t like Tobias reaction after he won the pot but technically he was the last player with live cards. Players have to take responsibility for their actions and Roland never made a valid showdown by showing two live cards.

Jack EffelJack Effel:
Roland made an error by not showing both of his cards during the showdown; however, all bets were called and the best hand should always win the pot as long as all called hands are turned face up. That said, because Roland’s cards were turned face up, regardless that it was the dealer who did so, Roland should have been awarded the pot.  

Nicolas FraioliNicolas Fraioli:
To get the pot a player should show his two cards. When Roland De Wolfe, after showing only a king, voluntary decided to put it (his cards) into the muck thinking that for sure that he was losing. But the dealer blocked his hand, instantly Tobias Reinkemeier shows both of his cards with a Queen and a 6 high. The dealer turned over Roland De Wolfe’s cards which has the best hand. Sure those cards were Roland De Wolfe I would definitively of given him the pot. If there was any doubt about his hand I would tell him that he should have showed both of his cards to win the pot. But in that case there is no doubt about his hand. And I would tell to Tobias Reinkemeier that’s not a good way to act playing poker and win a pot. 

Dave SimpsonDave Simpson:
Flashing the king does not denote a hand has been tabled and therefore cards speak. Once the cards have touched the muck the hand is dead and therefore irretrievable regardless of who subsequently turns them over. Tobias who check called is entitled to wait his turn to turn his cards over in turn. 

Tab DuchateauTab Duchateau:
Probably the toughest of all the rulings in this series, and a ruling that could go either way. I watched the video of this hand and made the following assessments: 
De Wolfe clearly exposed one card, a King, but did not show the other. He also stated that he had a King to Tobias over and over, and if I’m correct in what I heard Tobias say, which was “I have a King too”…that would make a difference to me, since De Wolfe mucked directly after that. That would mean Tobias misrepresented his hand - which would allow for a retrieval of De Wolfe’s hand -which had been erroneously exposed by the dealer. Tobias, to me, was clearly angle shooting in an effort to win the hand by not exposing his hand after De Wolfe showed him a King earlier. Both players did wrongs, but at the end of the day I would award the pot to De Wolfe, who had the better hand.  BTW…the better question….I cannot for the life of me figure out how and why Tobias called De Wolfe on the river with a Queen high!

The Mob Verdict

Who'd be a tournament director? This is a very tough one and there are arguments either way.

Both cards must be shown to claim a pot at show down. Even though the king Roland exposed before mucking would have been enough to win the pot regardless of his kicker there is no doubt that he elected to muck his hand rather than show it. Showing one card is not tabling your hand.
For some of our TDs that is the end of the story. Dave Simpson says '...the hand is dead and therefore irretrievable...' Dead it may be (that is what we are discussing), irretrievable it patently is not.

We are not fans of the rule that all hands must be turned over at show down. It is a rule that places dealers into unnecessary conflict with players who want to exercise what should normally be their right: To muck a hand that no player has asked to see.

But, that rule does exist, and you might ask if it is not there to ensure that the best hand wins despite what players may wish, then what is it there for? The answer, according to many is that it is there to prevent collusion, soft play or chip passing and it is not necessary to make a mucked hand live when you show it. Indeed it is the practice in many card rooms for a dealer who is asked to expose a hand that has been pushed forward face down to touch the muck with the cards to kill the hand before revealing it.

The dealer acted correctly to enforce the rule that the cards should be shown, and given how close the muck was to the players, he needed to be pretty quick and fairly forceful to make sure he got the cards before they disappeared. So we have a lot of sympathy for Thomas' view that the hand is dead.

However, we have studied the video and what is striking is that Roland did not muck his hand straight away. He showed what he assumed was the key card and there was an exchange lasting several seconds before he mucked. Does it matter what was said? Matt Savage certainly thinks so. He makes the interesting point that if Tobias asked Roland to turn over the other card then he was in effect sanctioning the showing of Roland's hand to complete the show down. We are not sure though, either exactly what was said or whether this is as clear cut a point as it seems. Tobias is entitled to wait for Roland to reveal both cards before showing his hand so by pointing that out, was he really asking Roland to show the other card or simply to complete whatever action he was going to make?

When the world's best tournament directors study the same piece of footage and come to different conclusions there is no question that we are in a grey area and it is in these kind of circumstances that sometimes the letter of the law should be overridden for the good of the game.

Roland was perhaps a little naive; Tobias was arguably a shade unethical. We agree with Thomas' ruling that the hand was technically dead, but we recognise the importance of the principle raised by Matt that the best hand should win a called pot wherever possible. With the rules as they are we would rule the same way as Thomas but we would like to see the rules clarified to reflect Matt's position.

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