Monday, June 13, 2016

Generous to a Fault? “All In” the Way You Look at It

An interesting “what would you do?”-type poker discussion to share with you, if you haven’t seen it already.

It starts over on the PokerStars blog where Lee Jones, Head of Poker Communications, recently published a post called “Letting one off the hook.”

There Jones describes playing in a $1/$2 cash game and having the good fortune of flopping an ace-high flush versus a lone opponent. His leading bet was called, then after Jones still had the nuts following the turn card, he bet again and this time was raised. At that Jones reraised back, his opponent announced “all in,” and Jones quickly called, showing his cards.

That’s when the story becomes interesting enough to write a post about. Upon seeing Jones’s hand, his opponent then claims not to have said “all in.” Meanwhile the dealer had heard him say it, and after the floor was called another player said he heard it, too.

Skipping ahead a bit, in the face of all the growing hubbub Jones ultimately decides to let his opponent “off the hook” and not be forced to go all in, with Jones just taking what was in the middle as if the player had folded and not shoved. Jones explains he honestly didn’t think the player was trying to angle shoot, but he doesn’t spell out all the reasons why he thinks that way.

It’s a nice story, and like most I tend to like these hearing such tales of good sportsmanship in poker and in other contexts. But yesterday Rob of Rob’s Vegas and Poker Blog posted a response to Jones’s post in which he respectfully suggests Jones should not have been so generous.

In “He Let This One Off the Hook -- But Should He Have?” Rob points out how letting his opponent wiggle his free negatively affects the integrity of the game. “If we allow someone to say ‘all-in’ and not really mean it, the game falls apart,” says Rob. It’s a persuasive point.

As I read both posts, I thought about how in a tournament setting such a situation could never be condoned -- there letting someone call “all in” and then take it back not only affects the players in the hand, but everyone else, too. In a cash game one might argue differently, but as Rob notes it’s still important that everyone abide by the rules, and that the players not be allowed to let each other not follow them when occasions such as this one arises.

When looked at in a vacuum -- i.e., without the session-specific info about the player and situation Jones possessed when making his decision -- I’d lean toward Rob’s way of thinking here when it comes to not letting players “off the hook” like this. Indeed, even imagining extenuating circumstances, I think it’d be hard for me to imagine justifying allowing someone not to have to commit chips after verbally agreeing to do so.

Anyhow, check out both posts and decide for yourself.

Image: “IMG_4600” (adapted), Stewardship - Transforming Generosity. CC BY 2.0.

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