Poker is a game of skill combined with chance. The game has rules to sort out confusion. Many of us learned the game sitting around with friends or family playing by what would be called “House Rules”. Unfortunately, house rules are just that, house rules.
The game of poker does have established rules that casinos and professional players use universally. Robert’s Rules of Poker are widely recognized as the standard rules of play. There are times when rule interpretation has to be decided by whom-ever is overseeing the game, tournament, or play in general. Casinos have put in place one person, called “The Floor” to make these decisions. These people are experts in the game of poker with an extreme knowledge of the rules.
The Mucked Hand is one hand where often a rule interpretation has to be made. Take the following scenario, for example. One player may see this as a mucked hand, while another does not. To get a ruling from an expert in the game of poker, I have enlisted Mr. Christopher Gawlik, the Poker Room Manager from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Mr. Gawlik has given a well-rounded and clear explanation of the hand, the rules, and how it would have been handled in his poker room.
The Example Hand
In tournament play with 9 players seated at the table. The Big Blind is in seat 3. Player in seat 7 calls the big blind. All other players fold. Flop comes out J 10 J. Big Blind bets 400, player 7 just calls. Turn is a 6. Big Blind bets 400. Player 7 just calls. River is a 5. Big Blind bets 800. Player 7 calls. In this example, the question about this hand being a “Mucked Hand” comes into play.
Big Blind says, "I have a pair". Player 7 tosses his cards face-down on the table, no-where near the muck pile. Big Blind then turns over their cards pairing nothing on the board, and having only the pair on the board, saying ''On the Board".
Player 7 says, "I had a pair of threes." Dealer reaches out and flips over Player 7's cards. He does, in fact, have pocket 3s. Dealer awards pot to Player 7, saying it was not a “Muck”, because the Big Blind verbally miss-called their hand and because Player 7 called the bet and was there-fore was supposed to see Big Blinds cards without delay.
The Correct Ruling
The following is Mr. Gawlik’s expert analysis of the hand and the ruling that would be made at Planet Hollywood, and also in the WSOP where Mr. Gawlik is a Live Action Supervisor.
Mr. Gawlik quoted two rules before going into specifics about this hand.
Management reserves the right to make decisions which are as fair and equitable as possible. Therefore, under extreme circumstances, it may decide to award a pot or decision to a player who is clearly entitled to it in the spirit of the rule rather than using the literal interpretation.
Cards thrown into the muck may be ruled dead. However, a hand that is clearly identifiable may be retrieved and ruled live at management’s discretion if doing so is in the best interest of the game. We will make an extra effort to rule a hand retrievable if it was folded as a result of dealer error or incorrect information given to the player.
"As you can see, management reserves all rights to make a fair ruling that is in the best interest of the game. Sometimes using the literal interpretation of a rule may not be the fairest ruling depending on the circumstances.
Based on the second rule that I quoted, this is a black and white situation. Although seat 7 threw his cards in; they were never mucked. Technically the big blind did not misrepresent his hand; he did have a pair. It could be argued that the big blind was shooting an angle; although he did tell the truth.
Based on the fact that seat 7’s cards were clearly identifiable, I would award him the pot as he had the best hand. I would also take a moment to educate seat 7, and let him know, never throw his cards in until he has confirmed that he has the winning or losing hand. The cards are his ticket to the pot. By throwing his cards into the center of the table, he risked losing his ticket. He is lucky that the dealer did not muck his cards.
To take it a step further; had seat 7’s cards been mucked and UNRETRIEVABLE, I would not have awarded seat 7 the pot. Although, what the big blind said may have been a bit “misleading”, he did not lie about the contents of the hand. This would have certainly been a learning experience for seat 7."
So, there you have it players. Protect your hand at all times, until a winner is declared. When a situation comes up where you have questions, ask for an answer from the floor. Not asking may cost you money.
I would like to thank Mr. Gawlik for his analysis. The next time you are in Las Vegas, I recommend a visit to Planet Hollywood’s poker room. You will not be disappointed. The staff is well-trained, accommodating, and professional.
If you have questions about a poker hand or situation, email J. Brackston at email@example.com, I will do my best to get you an answer.