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Oversized chip rule when big blind has the option - Steve Brecher
April 30th, 2012
12:58 pm


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Oversized chip rule when big blind has the option

[Of interest primarily to poker tournament rules aficionados. Everything below in square brackets is my own annotations.]

Matt Savage is one of the principals of the Poker Tournament Directors Association. On Twitter, where he is @SavagePoker, Matt is the go-to guy for poker tournament rules issues and questions. Recently Matt tweeted:
#SituationOfDay Blinds 100-200, called in two spots, gets back to BB who pulls out 200 and throws in a single 500 chip?
Matt's ruling on this question is that the big blind's action is a check:
#SituationOfDay Only thing "obvious" is that by pulling out 200 is it's unclear, I will rule it a "call." "Unclear" bets revert to smallest.

#SituationOfDay the final vote [at the time of this tweet] was 30-30 so it has to be "unclear" hence reverting to the smallest bet of 200 (the big blind amount).

#SituationOfDay If intent is to raise it's easy to make clear by throwing out 300 more in 100's or simply say "raise."

#SituationOfDay so as you can see there is much confusion so in this cases "revert" back to lowest action which is call.

#SituationOfDay FWIW I would have no problem calling it a raise if clear majority of players/TD's wanted it that way but it's not the case.

#SituationOfDay Like many rules @PokerTDA uses a majority agreed to rule it one way and we all comply because consistency is most important.

[In response to] RT @Andrewbadecker: so what's your default when there is no posted rule cuz looks like that the case here [Matt says:] <~Exactly...revert to call amount.
Several tweeters mentioned the Oversized Chip rule:
38: Oversized Chip Betting
Anytime when facing a bet or blind, placing a single oversized chip in the pot is a call if a raise isn’t first verbally declared. To raise with an oversized chip, raise must be declared before the chip hits the table surface. If raise is declared (but no amount), the raise is the maximum allowable for that chip. When not facing a bet, placing an oversized chip in the pot without declaration is a bet of the maximum for the chip.
I can't see any ambiguity in that rule: it expressly says that it applies only "when facing a bet or blind." The big blind with the option (to check or raise) is not facing a bet or blind.

The "when facing a bet" language is in the rule in order to exclude cases in which a player who has the option to check silently places a single chip in the pot. A case that has never been in contention is that of a post-flop player who is first to act or whose action is preceded by one or more checks: if the player silently bets a single chip, the size of the bet is the denomination of the chip in no-limit or the current bet size in limit. I assume that it is also not in contention that the big blind can silently raise with an oversized chip if the initial post is not pulled back. (If that assumption is incorrect, i.e., the position is that the big blind is required to verbalize in order to raise with a single chip then I am going to have to slink into the night muttering to myself.)

A couple of tweeters mentioned a request for change, and in fact Matt's ruling that it is a check implies that the action is an implicit request for change. Matt was explict about this in a hypothetical variation of the issue:
#SituationOfDay @BJNemeth @SteveBrecher @tchanpoker let's say he did it before action was on him, is he raising out of turn?

[In response to] RT @BJNemeth: @SteveBrecher @tchanpoker I'd say yes. What other logical explanation is there for the big blind's actions? [Matt says:] <~He wants change
Let's consider the "request for change" position. If the big blind initially, before the cards are dealt, posts an oversized chip, it customarily constitutes a request for change. (Good dealers will cause the change to be made so the pot is right before dealing, but many dealers don't do that and will let the oversized post remain, possibly until after the big blind's turn to act.) So this position is thus that when the action reaches the big blind, pulling out the posted chips and throwing out a single oversized chip is the same as having initially posted only the oversized chip. Note that this position has nothing to do with TDA Rule 38, the Oversized Chip Betting rule. As I said previously, that rule expressly does not apply to the big blind with the option; further, it addresses the question of whether an oversized chip is a call or raise and the big blind with the option has no option to call because one cannot call one's own bet. The big blind with the option can check (not call) or raise.

But the action in question is essentially different from initially posting an oversized chip. Regardless of what chips the big blind posts, after one or more players have called the blind and no one has raised, when action is on the big blind there is an option—a question as to what the big blind will choose to do. At that time the dealer should be looking at the big blind, awaiting action. The fact of its being the big blind's turn is what makes the action different from the initial pre-dealing posting of chips.

Suppose at this time the big blind pulls back the initial post, says "May I please have change?", and throws out an oversize chip. I would consider that bizarre behavior, but regardless, let's continue this fantasy. Suppose the dealer obliges and obtains change for the chip and places it behind the big blind's cards (so it's clearly not in the pot), and the big blind now re-posts the big blind amount in its normal position. Without other physical action (e.g. tapping the table, or pushing the blind amount towards the center of the table) or verbalization would that constitute a check? I don't see how it would; I would think any sane dealer would continue to await the big blind's action.

But now suppose that after the big blind's throwing out the big chip with a verbal request for change, the dealer places the correct big blind amount in the pot, gives the balance to the player, and deals the flop—in other words, the dealer assumes the big blind has checked. This dealer assumption would presumably be regarded as correct by those who say Matt's Situation of the Day action constitutes a check. But what is the basis for this assumption? As discussed above, it can't be the Oversized Chip rule. I can see no basis for the assumption.

Consider another scenario: the big blind pulls back the 200 and silently throws out two 500 chips. Would Matt rule that to be a raise or a request for change? I'm assuming that he would rule it a raise, although I'm open to correction. The only basis for the difference in the two rulings can be the Oversize Chip rule. But it doesn't apply to the big blind with the option. Yet a significant number of players (mistakenly) thinks it applies. Therefore, Matt reasons that because of this widespread (mistaken!) belief the one-chip scenario is unclear; and it is an (unwritten!) principle that in unclear cases bet sizes should be ruled to be the lowest legal amount.

Wouldn't it be better for Matt to use his well-earned Twitter following to educate on an aspect of the Oversized Chip rule—that it doesn't apply to the big blind with the option—rather than to make a ruling that contradicts that rule?

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
I agree with Matt that it is ambiguous and perhaps the wording of the oversized chip rule needs to be changed. I think the biggest issue here is the potential for angle shoot. What about this scenario where it is folded to SB who completes and BB then does the action you purport (changes T200 to a single T500 chip). The SB goes to check raise and the BB then says "No, I only wanted change" and now has gained additional information about the relative strength of SB's hand. Worse still the, the SB could muck thinking it was a raise while the BB has not risked any additional chips at all. Wouldn't you then try this angle every time?

I guess I'm saying I agree with you. I do recall having a similar situation come up in a limit HE tourney some time ago at the Orleans. I was in the T200 BB. Folded to Warren Karp who made it 400. Back to me and I silently took away one of my T100 chips and replaced it with a T500. Raise or call (I now have a T500 and T100 chip in front of me)?

Warren argued it was a call. Obviously I mean to raise. Floor was called and ruled in my favor.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
On the angle shoot: It's clear to me that the BB cannot change his/her action from a raise (which it clearly is) to a call by a statement made after the physical action. This is the same principle that requires a player who is facing a bet or blind and who wants to raise with a single oversized chip to verbalize before the chip hits the felt.

Your situation with Warren is dissimilar because you were subject to the Oversized Chip Betting rule as you were facing a bet, i.e., Warren's raise. I would say it was a call, but I agree that your retrieving the 100 muddies the water and I'm less certain about this case. Which reminds me that...

More generally (H/T to Jack Fox on this) the practice of players (blinds) removing chips from the pot should be banned, but good luck on accomplishing that. It's routine for a blind to put out a raise—multi-chip, no question it's a raise—and bring back the blind amount. The pull-back, if allowed, should be required to be done first. But again, good luck enforcing that.

Edited at 2012-05-01 12:57 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2012 01:16 pm (UTC)
I would agree with you on the angle shoot, but without clarity it will happen and will cause delays and uncertainty. It should be obvious that the better solution is to clarify the rule wording, as you suggested.

I've gone back and forth on the situation with Warren. This was 15 years ago or more, prior to any sort of standardized rules. Today, I make a practice of announcing raise rather than being "cute" and staying silent. I still think it's unclear but if I was the TD I'd rule raise given the fact that once the bet was in front of me it was two chips and was a legal raise amount. I should be clear that I did all of this in one motion (brought a T500 chip out with one hand, dropped it and pulled back a T100 with the same hand). BTW, he called a bet on the flop and folded on the turn. I had KK. :)

Regarding removing chips from the pot, if you dislike the pull-back, don't play poker of any sort in Europe, especially the UK. It is common practice for players to make their own change, especially from other players' bets. I've also seen (many) dealers do this:

Blinds are 200-400. SB puts out 200. BB puts out single 500 chip. The DEALER gives the BB change from the SB BEFORE dealing cards. In some instances they will even bring BOTH blinds into the pot rather than leaving them in front of the players.
[User Picture]
Date:May 1st, 2012 01:42 pm (UTC)
As an aside...
once the bet was in front of me it was two chips
It's well-established that the Oversized Chip Betting rule applies to the small blind. That is, it's not how many chips end up in front, but how many are placed into the pot by the action. The action of a blind is what is done in turn, not including posting the blind.
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