Feeling like I was cheated at the poker table

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It was a full table of nine players in a loose-passive $4-$8 limit hold’em game: Lots of players staying in the hand with relatively little raising. I was a bit behind, hoping to get lucky.

Based on my notes, the hands played quite a bit faster than usual – 36 hands in one hour. That’s much less than two minutes per hand – probably because the dealer pushed the game ahead, minimizing delays. (Note: My research indicates the norm is about 30 hands per hour.)

In an early position, I was dealt J-Q offsuit. Eight of us saw the flop: J-J-K rainbow. I had flopped trip Jacks! Now my goal was to build as big a pot as possible. I checked. Then, a middle position bet out.

Six of us saw the turn. I could hardly believe my eyes; it was a big red Queen. I now held a full-boat – Jacks full of Queens. Wow! I was sure this was my pot. Make it a big one!

Passed by

Viewing the colorful board, I didn’t think a check-raise would work in this case; so I decided to make the big bet, expecting several callers. Being as it was a loose table, my opponents were prone to call bets and chase all the way to the river. As I gathered eight chips to make my bet, the player to my immediate left quickly shouted, “Check!” Almost on signal, the next two players immediately 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.”

Of course, I protested loudly. The dealer called over a floorman, and explained her side of the controversy. Meanwhile I had placed my eight chips on the board to make the bet. I started to present my side of the argument, but the floorman apparently was not the least bit interested. He leaned over, picked up my eight chips from the board, and dropped them on my stacks. And that was the end of the dispute. I was out of luck. 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 that extra three bets or so – another $24 to add to my pot.

Did I goof?

Perhaps I should have acted faster or announced I was betting when my full-house hit the board. But, my understanding is the dealer has a responsibility to allow each player to declare before the action passes him. I never said “Check;” but, nor did I announce I intended to bet. Most likely, the dealer was not trying to cheat me. She was just moving the game along as fast as possible.

And, for that matter, I do not believe the player to my left was trying to cheat me. He often bet before me. Perhaps I was too slow to act. (At age 89, our reflexes do slow down.)

Still, I feel I was cheated and did not receive the amount of chips I would have won if I had 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.

I decided to ask three poker experts whose opinions I value: Dr. Alan Schoonmaker (regarded by many as the world’s leading poker psychologist); and Jan Fisher and Linda Johnson who founded and operate the popular Card Player Cruises. I plan to report on their comments in my next column.

Meanwhile, I ask you: What is your opinion? Are there rules that govern such situations?

“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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