Experts weigh in on missed poker bet

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Recently, I told you about the $4-$8 limit hold’em game in which I missed the opportunity to bet after making a big full-house on the turn. The game was loose-passive, with five opponents still in the pot, so I expected several would have called. I was a bit behind; this was my golden opportunity to get ahead.

Recall

In an early position, I was dealt J-Q offsuit. Eight of us saw the flop, J-J-K rainbow. Trip Jacks! Now, my goal was to build the pot. So I slow-played, checking so as to keep opponents in the pot. A middle-position bet out. Six of us saw the turn, a big red Queen. I now had Jacks full of Queens. Wow! This was my pot.

I thought a check-raise wouldn’t work in this case, so I decided to make the big bet, expecting several callers. Being a loose table, my opponents were prone to call bets and chase to the river.

As I gathered eight chips to make my bet, the player to my immediate left quickly shouted, “Check!” The next two players promptly did likewise.

“Hey, I’m betting,” I yelled. The dealer glanced my way and announced, “Too late, it’s already been checked by two players. You cannot bet. The check stands.”

Certainly, I protested loudly. The dealer called over a floorman, and explained her view of the controversy. He ruled: The check stands.

The river was a blank. Without hesitating, I made my bet. Only one opponent called, the others promptly folded their hands. I showed my full-house, and the lone caller mucked his hand.

Sure, I won a decent pot, but I was certain I had missed out on several calls had I made the eight-chip bet on the turn. I could well have used those extra three bets or so – another $24 to add to my chip stacks.

Did I Goof?

Perhaps I should have acted faster or announced I was betting as soon as my full-house hit the board. But isn’t the dealer responsible for allowing each player to declare before the action passes him? I never said “Check” but, nor did I announce I intended to bet.

Surely, the dealer was not trying to cheat me. She was just moving the game along as fast as possible. Nor was the player to my left. He often declared before I could. Perhaps I was too slow to act. (At age 89, our reflexes do slow down.)

Still, I could not but feel I was cheated in that I did not receive the amount of chips I would have won had I acted much faster or shouted out “I bet” before the player to my left announced, “Check” – or, if the dealer had held up the action to give me a chance to declare.

Experts Comment

I decided to ask several poker experts whose opinions I value: Dr. Alan Schoonmaker (often regarded as the world’s leading poker psychologist); and Jan Fisher and Linda Johnson who operate the popular Card Player Cruises.

Dr. Schoonmaker assured me I did not goof! “The dealer and floorman did.” The dealer should have given me the opportunity to declare. (Incidentally, an experienced floorman at the same casino, whom I respect, said the same thing, agreeing with Dr. Schoonmaker’s point of view.)

Fisher and Johnson (The First Lady of Poker) have a somewhat different opinion: It was my responsibility to protect my hand and my action. Jan added that I should have shouted “Stop!” as soon as the player to my left checked.

At that point the action must stop so the subsequent checks would not hold; and then I could have made my bet. Both Jan and Linda said the floorman “was not wrong to rule to the letter of the law.” But he does have “wiggle room to make it right in a situation when… the three players behind you acted at such a rapid pace you didn’t have reasonable time to stop the action – as, indeed, was the case here.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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