Deck dilemma

November 19, 2007 5:02 AM


Rules of poker, while apparently set in stone, are actually subject to change if the house or floor discovers a better solution. Sometimes, however, the superior rule is not put into force for reasons beyond the play of the game.

While contemplating a new set of regulations, I was analyzing the logic of seven card stud rules. Among the points in question was the best method of handling the confusion when the deck has less than enough cards to provide each player with a last card and who starts the betting when an all-in hand is high.

Yes, I am aware that both of these are fairly standard but the normal approach is not always satisfactory. Since each of these cases occurs with regularity, the best rule should be impartial and fair with little chance for any individual to gain an advantage either through an inadvertent or deliberate dealer maneuver.

The end of the deck in seven card stud is a problem that will never be solved satisfactorily. The house sets each table at eight players for a number of reasons. In California, there is simply more revenue.

But another reason is that the games are better and tend to last longer with eight players, especially in split games. Should a player leave or take a break for whatever reason, there is still sufficient action to keep the game going.

The house would rather make each game seven handed because the hands are delivered faster, more games could be started, and there would be fewer floor decisions regarding the end of the deck.

Given that eight-handed tables are a necessary evil, a consistent rule about the end of the deck should be enforced. If, before the final card is dealt, the stub is checked and found deficient, the dealer should resort to one of two solutions: Shuffle in the burns and then deal or burn and deal a common card.

What determines the choice? Count the stub to match the number of live players plus two cards (one for the burn and one for last card). If there are enough, the dealer just deals. If not, add the burns to the total, shuffle and deal.

Still not enough cards? Then the common card must be used. If there are three or more cards in the stub, the dealer can burn and turn a common card. If there are two or fewer cards, the burns must be shuffled in and then a burn and common card dealt.

Alternatives include dealing down to the last card before shuffling in the burns or always dealing a common card instead of shuffling in the burns. By dealing down to the last card, a dealer keeps the order for most of the players in the hand but two things occur.

Those players who receive cards have a time advantage for decisions over the players yet to receive cards, meaning they can look at their cards and formulate strategy; then check the reaction of players as they receive cards. By delivering all cards at the same time, this problem is reduced. The common card resolution is not popular with the players who prefer private cards instead of a public card.

Splitting the deck by setting cards in order, shuffling the balance, and adding that to the bottom of the original stub is also not satisfactory as a dealer might be able to arrange the final cards for specific individuals. The best method seems to be the one espoused above.

Who starts the betting if the all-in player is high? Standard Las Vegas procedure is to go in order to the next person clockwise. I disagree.

There is an overriding principle of play that is ignored by this practice. The reason high hand starts the betting is to prevent a lesser hand from being jammed into a higher hand. If the high hand cannot act, as in the case of an all-in player, the next highest hand should be first to act. The players left are in a separate pot. The all-in player has no influence in that pot and his hand should not affect any actions for that pot including dictating the order of play.

How easy would this rule be to change? Virtually guaranteed to cause a riot if implemented. Players do not like change. A new operation wishing to move to the fairer rule would have to set down in a brochure the different practices in that club and make each new player aware of procedures.