Friday, May 15, 2009

What the Rules Say (2009 WSOP)

2009 WSOP Tournament RulesWas leafing through the “Tournament Rules” for the 2009 World Series of Poker yesterday. When the rules for this year first went online about a month ago, much of the attention was given to the new “Code of Player Conduct” that appears as Rule No. 30 (of the 98 rules). Also getting some reaction at the time was that Rule No. 36 that “prohibits the use of obscene or foul language in any public area of the casino at any time.” If yr interested, click here to read F-Train’s overview of the new rules.

As I was looking back over the rules, there were a few that caught my eye, so I thought I’d share.

In the section covering “Player Likeness and Image” -- the one covering stipulations regarding the wearing of logos -- there is a new rule appearing at the end of the section, one that will most likely be referred to colloquially as the “Phil Laak Rule.”

Rule No. 44 states that “Players may not cover or conceal their facial identity. Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each player at all times and may instruct players to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other players or tournament officials. Players may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if they cannot be identified by tournament officials.”

Phil Laak dressed as an old man at the 2008 WSOP Main EventFor those who don’t remember, Laak played Day 1d of the Main Event last year dressed as an old man, having had a professional makeup artist work five-plus hours help construct for him a full prosthetic mask. Laak went the entire day undetected, and ended up with a fairly intriguing story to tell afterwards about what it was like to be thought of as just another nobody chasing a WSOP Main Event dream. Kind of embarrassed tourney officials, too, I think, not to mention those of us who were reporting on the ME. I did think, however, that gsqwared did a nifty job recapping the stunt at the end of the day on the PokerNews live blog, in a post titled “The Amazing Phil Laak.”

A couple of other rules, neither of them new for 2009, also caught my attention. Both appear in the section regarding “Poker Rules” (i.e., actual play).

Rule No. 72 spells out how “In limit events there will be a maximum of one bet and four raises, even if there are only two players remaining in the hand.” That five-bet cap is similar to what one finds in a lot of live games, but online players may be more familiar with a four-bet cap (a bet and three raises). I didn’t cover too many limit events last summer, and in fact cannot remember ever reporting a hand that actually went five bets. The latter half of that sentence refers to the fact that some poker rooms allow players to continue raising beyond the cap if they are heads up, something that doesn’t happen in WSOP events -- with one possible exception, that is.

The rest of Rule No. 72 reads as follows: “Once the Tournament becomes heads-up, this rule does not apply. There may be unlimited raises at the heads-up level.” Would be interesting to see a hand go down at the end of a limit event this way, although it would take a mighty unique scenario for it actually to occur.

Finally, there’s another rule in here that is not new, but I think might get some extra attention this summer, the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” (Rule No. 88). Reads the same as last year, although officials have put in bold one sentence in particular that wasn’t in bold last year.

Here’s how that rule reads: “Players are allowed to use as approved electronic devices iPods, MP3 and other music players or noise-reduction headsets during Tournament play until they have reached the money in any Tournament, so long as the approved electronic devices can not [sic] access the internet, send or receive SMS texts and are not equipped with any type of communication device. Therefore, iPhones, iTouch, Treos, Blackberrys, and other similar devices will not be allowed at any time. Once players are in the money in any Tournament, all approved electronic devices must be removed. An announcement will be made to players once they have reached the money to remove all such electronic devices. Failure to do so will results in a penalty up to and including disqualification, in accordance with Rule 53.”

Rule No. 53 is the one spelling out the various penalties tourney officials can assess, including verbal warnings, one-hand penalties, one-round penalties (on up to four-round penalties), and disqualification. That’s the rule that also notes how the WSOP will be keeping a log of all penalties throughout the series so as to be able to impose harsher penalties to repeat offenders.

This rule stood out for me because of all the recent buzz about Twitter, with some even suggesting how players sending “Tweets” about their chip counts could somehow challenge (or at least affect) conventional tournament reporting. But reading the rule, it sounds like there really shouldn’t be any logging onto Twitter by the players during play, except perhaps on breaks.

As with the no-profanity rule, I have to wonder how strictly this rule is going to be enforced, especially if a lot of players start Twittering away from the start. If I remember correctly, there were some attempts to stop players from texting at the tables early on, but I think they basically gave up trying to stop ’em after a certain point.

We’ll see if tourney officials take a different approach to the enforcement of the “Approved Electronic Device Rule” this time around. If they do, I think they should probably anticipate a lot of challenges to the no-profanity rule as well.

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