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Allowing Collusion in Poker Rooms??
by Hollywood Dave Stann | Contact   
Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Hollywood Dave Stann's poker blog.

What??? I just had a nice 2 hour live session interrupted by one of the most bizarre rulings I've ever heard in a poker room. In effect, that collusion is permitted! I know I don't normally get up on my soapbox, but this one has me steamed. Here's how it all went down:

I came in to the Wynn to play a 10-20 Omaha 8 or better with a halfkill to 15 30. Right as I arrived, the game was breaking and only one guy stayed behind to play me heads up. We decided to play an O8 / Razz mix at 15 30 instead of just the O8 halfkill, and started play. Awhile in, we were joined by 2 young guys who were friends & apparently regulars there. Play continued. Finally a razz hand came up that generated the controversy: I had an 8 up (45 in the hole) and brought it in for 5. One of the two friends completed it to 15 with an Ace. The other friend raised to 30 with a 3 up. While my 458 is pretty playable shorthanded, its certainly not facing 2 bets cold, so I obv dumped. Action goes back to the Ace, who re-raises to 45. The 3 calls the 45. And then sh*t got f*cked up.

Before any further action (i.e. before the dealer raked in any chips or dealt 4th street to the 2 remaining players), one of the 2 friends looked at the other and said, "Wanna chop?" to which the other replied, "Yeah, definitely" and in unison, the 2 players pulled their bets back and had the dealer chop up the antes and my bring in!! I immediately objected and called the floorman over & explained what just happened. Two friends had raised and re-raised each other to isolate one another in the pot, then just chopped up my money that had been caught in the middle -- pretty much the definition of collusion. The 2 guys protested (one even threatened me to 'watch what I was saying' about him) -- to which i replied regardless of their intentions, the fact is what they had done was total bullsh*t & the very nature of collusive behavior. Pretty cut and dried. But this is where the floorman issued the sickest ruling ever -- Apparently, he "knew" these guys and vouched for them that they weren't cheating, that they were allowed to chop pots after raising out other opponents in multi-way hands!!!!! I threw a fit, told him it didn't matter if they were ACTUALLY cheating or not (to be honest, I really don't think these guys sat and thought out how to gank people's money, one $5 bring-in at a time) -- but that by allowing them to continue playing that way, they had an advantage over all other players at the table, and one that I did not share. Imagine playing a game of limit poker with a friend where you know you will not play out close hands as soon as you are heads up. Suddenly, you have an incentive to be much more aggressive, raising and re-raising your friend until you have isolated one another. Then you instachop the pot. This is patently unfair to any other player hapless enough to be trapped in the hand with you, whether just as a bring-in or something more insidious, like calling the complete and then getting caught in a raising war.

A lot of people may engage in this line of play with friends innocently enough in intention, but the result remains the same: collusion. So I immediately quit the game, went and cashed in my chips. No way was I playing under those conditions. Regardless of whether or not the floorman believed they were actually cheating or not, the house simply cannot issue a ruling that playing in that manner is acceptable for any kind of fairness and integrity to remain intact in the game. But before storming out, I decided to appeal to the floor one last time, away from the protests of the other players at the table. But this is where it went from bad to worse: I pulled the floorman aside & asked him again if he was going to allow other players to not play out pots once they got the other players in the hand to fold. He was surly and told me, "What do you want me to do, the hand is over?" I responded that I wanted him to tell those players, regulars or not, that they could not play that way. He replied "They play each other heads up all the time, raising and re-raising, then chop pots. Its fine." So I freaked out a bit. I told him that the difference here is that they WEREN'T playing heads up, they were in a multi-way pot. Played in a manner so as to get heads up. And THEN chopped. That this was the very definition of collusion, and whether or not they intended to cheat, that was in fact what had happened & without a clear ruling from the house that this type of behavior was against the integrity of the game, it would only continue to provide an unfair game to players, as well as open the door to unscrupulous players who may ACTUALLY come in with the INTENTION to cheat. His reply? "Oh well, that's your choice to feel that way."

To be fair -- something tells me that if someone higher up on the food chain at the Wynn were to hear about this, they no doubt would do the right thing and put a stop to that type of activity. Even in the best-run tournaments and poker rooms, bad rulings happen and this was certainly no exception. But the scary thing is, I actually BELIEVE everyone involved here: the two players reeeeally believed they weren't colluding. The floorman was most likely dead on the money that these two players were stand-up guys. But unfortunately, that's not the point. Even the most honest players out there, supervised by the most professional floormen, are going to end up gaining a very real and very unfair advantage over the rest of the players in a game if they are allowed to chop multi-way pots without playing the hand out once the action moves to heads-up. The fact is, if you subconsciously know you are freerolling if you isolate with your friend, you are more likely to take a much more aggressive bet or raise, rather than a check or call. And any other player in the hand has that much less folding equity over you or your friend, whether or not you intend to actually cheat that person. Which results in certain players having an unfair advantage over other players, whether or not they intend to have it. It just IS. So what to do about it? A lot of poker rooms have had to adopt special rules, like certain higher-limit games at the Bellagio where chopping is ONLY allowed between the two remaining blinds if all action has folded to them. Hopefully this is something that was just an isolated incident at the Wynn, and those in charge will see to it that it doesn't continue.

Rock on --



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